Friday, March 30, 2012

Evangelicalism Minimizes the Evangel

One of the saddest ironies in American Evangelicalism today is how strongly its leaders profess that the Bible is the very word of God—inspired, inerrant and infallible—yet how little of the Bible they actually preach or teach.  I suspect that a major cause of biblical illiteracy among American Christians is that the Bible has been replaced in America’s pulpits with popular topics and church programs.  Sometimes it seems that Evangelicals can hear anything but the Bible in church.

Todd Wilken, Issues, Etc. Journal, Fall 2011

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Paralytic and Four Friends: Revisited

I have been thinking a bit more on the subject of becoming saved as a result of another's faith.  (See my previous post here.)  That led me to do some searching in the Church Fathers concerning the account of the men letting down the paralytic through the roof in Capernaum (Matt 9:2-8; Mark 2:3-12; Luke 5:18-26).  There were several references to Jesus' proclamation that the man's sins were forgiven—generally given in the context of his willingness and authority to forgive.  Two authors had a more complete exposition.

John Chrysostom in Homilies on St. Matthew took the position that all five men had some measure of faith.
Now Matthew indeed says, that “they brought him,” but the others, that they also broke up the roof, and let him down.  And they put the sick man before Christ, saying nothing, but committing the whole to Him.  For though in the beginning He Himself went about, and did not require so much faith of them that came unto Him; yet in this case they both approached Him, and had faith required on their part.  For, “Seeing,” it is said, “their faith;” that is, the faith of them that had let the man down.  For He does not on all occasions require faith on the part of the sick only: as for instance, when they are insane, or in any other way, through their disease, are out of their own control.  Or rather, in this case the sick man too had part in the faith; for he would not have allowed himself to be let down, unless he had believed.
That is certainly possible.  Preachers have stated the same in the centuries following.  We have no way of knowing whether or not the invalid man had any faith in Jesus before arriving, however reasonable that conclusion might be.

Cyril of Jerusalem had a somewhat different understanding.  In a treatise on faith, exegeting Hebrews 11:1-2, he states:
Indeed, so much power has faith, that not the believer only is saved, but some have been saved by others believing.  The paralytic in Capernaum was not a believer, but they believed who brought him, and let him down through the tiles: for the sick man’s soul shared the sickness of his body.  And think not that I accuse him without cause: the Gospel itself says, when Jesus saw, not his faith, but their faith, He said to the sick of the palsy, "Arise!"  The bearers believed, and the sick of the palsy enjoyed the blessing of the cure.
Cyril attempts to bolster his argument with Jesus' statement to Mary, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:40) as the example of supplying faith which saved Lazarus from the grave.  That seems to be outside the bounds of his argument.  Though the parallel of death between the physical and spiritual are certainly present, the former is temporary and the latter eternal.  Cyril was better served to let his point stand on its own merit.

For now, I will stay with the plain meaning of the text: the Lord saw the faith of the friends and healed the paralytic both spiritually and physically.  The man responded in faith by rising and going home.

Boasting in the Ultimate Benefactor

Now it is from him that your life is in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

He used the phrase from him to refer not to the process of creation but to the process of salvation.  Scripture says, remember, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."  Since he had said that God chose the foolish things of the world and the weak and lowly, of necessity he added, it is from him that your life is, highlighting the manner of the birth by saying in Christ Jesus: you are not named after so and so.  Rather, you have been thought worthy of rebirth in Christ.  It is he who has given you true wisdom, he who has granted you forgiveness of sins, accorded you righteousness, and made you holy by ransoming you from the devil's tyranny.  Accordingly, you ought glory not in human beings but in the God who saves.

Theodoret of Cyrus, "The First Letter to the Corinthians" on 1 Corinthians 1:30-31

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Choosing the Foolish and Weak Because They Have Nothing to Contribute

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

By foolish, weak, and lowly he referred to people's opinion.  Real folly is not lack of verbal skills but absence of faith, weakness and lowly birth are not poverty but impiety and vicious habits.  The God of all, at any rate, overcame the learned through the unlearned, and the rich through the poor, and through fishermen he snared the world.  If from the outset he had chosen those equipped with wealth and taking pride in rhetorical skill, and made them preachers, not only their adversaries but also the preachers themselves would have come to harm, thinking they prevailed over error through their own power.

Theodoret of Cyrus, "The First Letter to the Corinthians" on 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Monday, March 26, 2012

Letting the Gospel Work on Its Own Terms

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel.

Actually, he gave both directions: "Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  But preaching is more important than baptizing.  Baptizing is easy for those thought worthy of priesthood, whereas preaching is proper to a few who have received this gift from a divine source.  At this point he then represses the sense of importance of those who pride themselves on their eloquence, saying, not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  If I were to have inclination to wordiness and cleverness, the power of the crucified would not be demonstrated.  Everyone would get the idea that believers had been snared by rhetorical skills, whereas the preachers' lack of expertise proves superior to those taking credit for eloquence and thus clearly reveals the force of the cross.

Theodoret of Cyrus, "The First Letter to the Corinthians" on 1 Corinthians 1:17

Theodoret was an ardent adherent to baptism as a work of grace and effectual in salvation (see his comments on Romans 6).  However, he recognized that the true power was God's word.  No unique or extensive rhetorical training is necessary.  No extraordinary measures used to draw crowds or manipulate for decisions.  Churches or preachers who use these actually strip the gospel of its power by making the message about what man can do.  No, the gospel is to be clearly and simply given, so that men may see the extent of the great work that was accomplished by Jesus death for the sin of the world, his burial, and his resurrection demonstrating that the work was fully accomplished.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Loving and Hating at the Same Time

Does God hate sin but love the sinner?  Most reading this post will answer that God certainly hates sin but loves the sinner because of the sacrifice of Jesus for the atonement of sin.  The typical expectation of God is that he is loving to all.  That hatred should never be attributed to his character manifests itself when dealing with the passage "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated" (Mal 1:2-3; Rom 9:13).  This disturbs the naïve believer and is generally softened by meaning teachers who say this is just a rhetorical device meant to compare God's intense love for the elect with his general love for the world at-large.

This comparative, though popular, is built on partial knowledge of scripture with buttressing of subjective reasoning.  Let's begin with a familiar passage.
Proverbs 6:16-19
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
Solomon appears to be making a clear delineation between the person and the act as the latter falls under God's condemnation, and rightfully so.  On the other hand, here are two passages that will give pause:
Psalm 5:4-6
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
Psalm 11:5-6
The Lord tests the righteous,
    but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
    fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
Notice the difference.  No longer does the deed alone fall under condemnation, but the person who carries it through.  The texts are clear.

One attempt to harmonize the apparent dissonance is to say that this may have been true before the cross, but afterward, the Lord has a different outlook because sin has been dealt with.  God simply does not hate those who have not believed but lavishly demonstrates his patience and forbearance until they do.  This sounds good but is just a variation of wrong teaching espoused by Peter Abelard in the twelfth century: Jesus is the example of the fullness of God's love, not a substitute for sin.

There is no question that the "soft" divine attributes are actively used by the Trinity today, however that does not detract from the harsh realities of wrath and judgment that all men live under who do not believe.  The apostle Paul describes unbelievers as children of wrath (Eph 2:3) and enemies of God (Rom 5:10)—the latter expressing "not our enmity for God, but God's enmity toward us." *  We are left with the paradoxical state the God both loves and hates unbelievers.  How can this be resolved, if at all?

We are born into this world disobedient and living in our passions (Eph 1:2:3), giving no thought for God or his precepts.  All unbelievers are objects of wrath, though they may not comprehend their condition and need for a savior.  Conversely, we know God loves the world.  John 3:16-17 is a clear indicator that his love extends beyond the confines of his elect, resulting in the ultimate sacrifice for sin.  As mentioned before, God is long-suffering.  He waits to execute his full wrathful judgment until the person dies or the Lord Jesus returns to earth.  Yet for those who know the truth and yet still disbelieve, God shows himself to be openly hateful and yet patient until the proper time.  It is to these that God shows himself as a foe in full indignation and promise of retribution.

In the end, we need to understand that God hates sin and both loves and hates the sinner.  Scripture clearly teaches that those who remain in their sin die and are judged, while those who believe the love and grace available through Christ live eternally.

* Walter W. F. Albrecht, Does God Hate Sin or Sinners?, Essay Delivered To The Springfield Circuit Pastors’ and Professors’ Conference, April 20, 1953.  Accessed at SoundWitness.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Luther's Suggestions for Prayer

I have heard messages on prayer wherein helps were given to organize prayer and keep ones mind on track.  The most well-known is based on a summary pattern in the Lord's Prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Adoration (or ACTS).

Recently, a resource for prayer came to my attention via podcast interview (I forget which).  Martin Luther was asked by his barber, Peter Beskendorf, for help with prayer.  Dr. Luther produced an open letter for a broader audience.  His suggestions came from the basics of what a Christian should know: Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, and Apostle's Creed.  He recommended using each petition, commandment, or doctrine as a basis of forming prayer.

The Ten commandments section has an interesting method that might be used in a devotional way for any portion of scripture.  Here is how Luther explains his pattern using the first commandment as an example:
If I have had time and opportunity to go through the Lord's Prayer, I do the same with the Ten Commandments.  I take one part after another and free myself as much as possible from distractions in order to pray.  I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands.  That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly.  Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.

I do so in thoughts or words such as these: "I am the Lord your God, etc.  You shall have no other gods before me," etc.  Here I earnestly consider that God expects and teaches me to trust him sincerely in all things and that it is his most earnest purpose to be my God.  I must think of him in this way at the risk of losing eternal salvation.  My heart must not build upon anything else or trust in any other thing, be it wealth, prestige, wisdom, might, piety, or anything else.

Second, I give thanks for his infinite compassion by which he has come to me in such a fatherly way and, unasked, unbidden, and unmerited, has offered to be my God, to care for me, and to be my comfort, guardian, help, and strength in every time of need.  We poor mortals have sought so many gods and would have to seek them still if he did not enable us to hear him openly tell us in our own language that he intends to be our God.  How could we ever―in all eternity―thank him enough!

Third, I confess and acknowledge my great sin and ingratitude for having so shamefully despised such sublime teachings and such a precious gift throughout my whole life, and for having fearfully provoked his wrath by countless acts of idolatry.  I repent of these and ask for his grace.

Fourth, I pray and say: "O my God and Lord, help me by your grace to learn and understand your commandments more fully every day and to live by them in sincere confidence.  Preserve my heart so that I shall never again become forgetful and ungrateful, that I may never seek after other gods or other consolation on earth or in any creature, but cling truly and solely to thee, my only God.  Amen, dear Lord God and Father.  Amen."
To his credit, Luther gave an admonition to not approach the matter of prayer, especially when using the Lord's Prayer for a pattern, of vain repetition:
You should also know that I do not want you to recite all these words in your prayer.  That would make it nothing but idle chatter and prattle, read word for word out of a book as were the rosaries by the laity and the prayers of the priests and monks.  Rather do I want your heart to be stirred and guided concerning the thoughts which ought to be comprehended in the Lord's Prayer.
Neither did he wish that the pattern be held slavishly:
These thoughts may be expressed, if your heart is rightly warmed and inclined toward prayer, in many different ways and with more words or fewer.  I do not bind myself to such words or syllables, but say my prayers in one fashion today, in another tomorrow, depending upon my mood and feeling.  I stay however, as nearly as I can, with the same general thoughts and ideas.  It may happen occasionally that I may get lost among so many ideas in one petition that I forego the other six.  If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them.  The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers.  Many times I have learned more from one prayer than I might have learned from much reading and speculation.
The whole tract is freely available.  It can be found by searching for either title: How One Should Pray or A Simple Way to Pray.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Banishing Sinners but Welcoming Heretics

Let me say up front that the management of any medium presenting itself as Christian is welcome to decide who should or should not be interviewed by any of the staff.  Public service spots are welcome to help understand local government agencies and officials or various ministries.

In the same way Bible teachers should be interviewed to draw out solid Biblical teaching and application.  (Those who are in Christian media take note.  The format works.)  There is also a benefit of interviewing those who consider themselves orthodox but are not.  I have heard excellent interviews of authors and teachers being asked to explain why that person is pursuing a certain course.  This is usually followed with commentary by someone who understands the issues needing to be addressed offering correction for the errant teaching.  This format is good and productive for the consumer.

Having said this, I must highly object to a recent interview by a host of a local Christian radio station of one member of the singing group Phillips, Craig, and Dean as if they were fellow brethren in Christ.  These men are heretics—pastors who do not believe in the Triune God as defined by the Nicene Creed.  These men are not worshiping the same God as true Christians, but a completely different god.  Their god is one in both being and person, manifesting himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the need dictates.  Christians hold that God is one being having three persons.  The difference is major and worth fighting over.  In the fourth century Athanasius fought for the truth of trinitarian doctrine for years though exiled repeatedly.

How could the station authorize this interview the way it was presented?  The obvious answer is two-fold.  First, this is primarily a music station.  As a result, they are expected to interact with any nationally known figure whom might be in the area singing Christian music.  Second, there is little or no discernment within the organization or its parent.  The station promotes itself as being uplifting and family-friendly.  Whatever therapeutic notion or sentimentalism which draws or keeps listeners will be used.

Are station personnel obligated to interview these people?  No.  As a matter of fact, this same station has banned singers from the playlist for falling into sexual sins.  The message is that the act of a person who sinned badly cannot be tolerated, yet doctrine that can lead straight to hell is not an issue.  This is alarming and wrong.  Where are our priorities?

Perhaps I should not be so critical.  After all, the station is just reflecting the state of the American church and reacting to the market forces of the local membership rolls.  Isn't that a sad thought.  But rather than dwell on spiritual apathy, the proper response is to continue teaching sound doctrine.  The more who are able to rightly divide the word of God, the better the condition the local church.

Fight the good fight.

Monday, March 12, 2012

In Pursuit of Purity: Who Pursues Whom?

Recently, I heard a message on purity (Eph 5:1-10).  While listening, I had the uneasy feeling towards the end that the emphasis was being placed on the idea that a spiritual battle in this area can be won only if I put forth far more effort.  You might ask if that is such a bad thing, and my answer would be yes.  You see, no matter how much effort is put forth, I will fall short, and that daily.  If it's up to me, it will never happen.  The messages I heard did nothing more than heap hopelessness on my head, though that end was not intended.

I began being wary at the fourth and final point, which was: when we choose purity, it unleashes freedom in our lives  (Eph 5:7-10).  This does have a nugget of truth in it, as Paul alludes to a similar idea when he tells Timothy to flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, etc. (2 Tim 2:22), but the stated goal there is to be a testimony to others (2 Tim 2:25-26), not build up ourselves.  The sermon I heard was clearly directed at Christians to make themselves better.

The preacher clearly stated that purity without Christ is impossible.  True enough, but then he turned around and said that "purity is possible because it flows from identity."  Wait!  I thought purity was possible (and actual) by the atoning blood of Christ.

At this place in the sermon we were told that we "were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."  That is our identity: absolutely true as it is directly from God's word.  But then he went on to say that purity and my pursuit of purity is a matter of faith in three things:
1.  Since God created me, he knows how I am wired
2.  God knows what is best for my life
3.  God's standard of "not even a hint" is a more satisfying way than being ruled by the passions of our flesh
And here I thought faith was to be in the good news of Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again on the third day according to scripture, all for my sin.  Who knew the truth was otherwise?

Following this was a call for each to change his ways and pursue purity.  Again, this seems pious and all, but on whom is the burdened placed?  It is on the Christian.  Why am I being told to do what Christ has already done?  Isn't the better instruction to trust in what God has done in Christ and subsequently walk in it as a finished work?

The theme of the message was wrapped up this way: the pursuit of purity pulls us toward Jesus.  This is backwards.  My pursuit of purity pulls me toward disaster.  Jesus is the pursuer seeking my purity.  He draws me (and us) to himself by being lifted on a cross.  It is God who changes me from glory to glory and is conforming me into the likeness of his son, not me changing myself.

Do I need to be an active participant concerning purity?  Of course.  The passage in question states this.  Added to this, God is holy, therefore the elect are to be holy (1 Pet 1:14-16).  But as I said above, I fall short of this: I sin.  As a result, repentance and confession are in order * with continuing attention to God's word and prayer.  I do not pursue purity: I let the Holy Spirit use what I receive to work purity out as fruit of my salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12-13).

* There was a plea in the sermon to repent and confess where needed, but it was given as a preparatory measure to the real work, rather than the first response.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Why Impostors Love the Church

My thanks to Roger Pearse who directed readers to this blog post by Russell Moore.  I found this to be quite applicable:
But a notion of “grace” apart from lordship can provide excellent cover for spiritual impostors.  That’s why virtually every sex predator I’ve heard of compares himself, or is compared by one of those on whom he’s preying, as a latter-day King David.  This is often the case even while this person continues to run rampant in his sin against the Body of Christ.  Those who seek to hold accountable, or even just to warn the flock, are then presented as “unmerciful” or “graceless” or unwilling to help along the “struggling.”

This often leads to a church that then loses its ability to be the presence of Christ.  The church, desiring to be seen to be merciful, loses any aspect of the merciful ministry of Christ because we don’t do what he called us to do: to tend the flock of God.  Or, we are so burned over by the presence of predators among us that we lose the ability to trust anyone.  Yes, there is Demas, and yes, there is Alexander the Coppersmith.  But there’s Timothy and Titus too.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Saved by Grace Through Another's Faith

How much does your faith or my faith play in the salvation of another?  Mark 2:1-12 speaks to this in a rich way as demonstrated through the determination of four friends.
And when [Jesus] returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. *  And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door.  And he was preaching the word to them.  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
Though early in his ministry, Jesus' reputation was already established, attracting those who desired good news of the kingdom or a healing touch, as well as those hoping to satiate their curiosity of this new rabbi.  On this occasion many were crowded around the door of the house, so much so that entry was impossible.  A person has to appreciate the tenacity and temerity put forth by these four men to get the paralytic to him.  Roofs at this time were flat and covered with tiles: time and energy were required to make an opening large enough to lower a person.  The paralytic, having been unable to come before Jesus on his own, was brought by his friends.  Upon seeing their faith, not that of the paralytic, Jesus pronounces his sins forgiven.  The man's greatest need was met first.  This is also our need.  Scripture tells us that we are dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1) and completely unrighteous (Rom 3:10).  There is no ability you and I have in order to gain God's favor.  In ourselves, we are unclean, so that any attempt is no better than a polluted garment (Isa 64:6) having the same worth as rubbish (Phil 3:8).  It is only the Lord Jesus who has atoned for sin and whose righteousness is imputed to our behalf.

Is my faith the catalyst for this great work of grace?  How often we hear well-meaning or so-called Bible teachers tell us that the individual desiring a blessing must have the faith.  Not so.  Here we have a clear word that the faith of another is honored.  How does this truth manifest itself today?

An explicit reference is found concerning the family where one spouse is a believer, but the other is not:
For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband.  Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.  (1 Cor 7:14)
Here we see the faith of the believing spouse has a sanctifying effect on the entire household.  All are touched as God honors the union because of one.

An implicit reference can be made to the act of spreading the gospel.  Unbelievers are brought to Jesus any time we expose them to the word of God.  When doing so, do we have the assurance of their sins forgiven?  Sadly, not, because the gospel may be rejected.  The promise we do have is that God has said of his word that
it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.  (Isa 55:11)

Reading the rest of the Mark 2 passage, did the paralytic have faith?  Apparently he did at the end when he got up and walked out.  Before that we have no idea, but we would expect this.  God gives faith through his word on account of Jesus' finished work on the cross.  The one who, like the paralytic, has had his sins forgiven needs only live in the certainty of the promise delivered to him and exercise the faith given him through the Savior who promised.

* Early in his ministry, Jesus used this house in Capernaum as his base of operations.  From Luke's account, only Peter, Andrew, James, and John had been called to follow him at this time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Belittling Jesus Through Vain Speculations

Theologians in the academic realm are as susceptible to vain speculations as any other scholar.  Knowing the truth does not guarantee that it is believed, taught, or confessed.  The latest venture into this tomfoolery comes from Dr. Susannah Cornwall of Manchester University’s Lincoln Theological Institute, who is making the insinuation that Jesus may have been a hermaphrodite.  She admits that it is impossible to test this with scientific certainty:
However, I suggested, Jesus' maleness is simply a best guess.  We can't analyze Jesus' chromosomes, measure his hormone levels, examine his gonads and so on.  The majority of people who live, identify and are recognized as men are male, so in all likelihood, that was also the case for Jesus.

However, there is simply no way of being certain.
Dr. Cornwall is investigating the rhetoric "surrounding gender roles in the Christian churches" which assumes that "humans are clearly and definitively male or female, and should therefore have gender roles which appropriately 'match' their physical sex" and comparing that to her own studies of intersex conditions.  Her conclusions is to posit that Jesus' alleged maleness has no merit in the gender debate.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools … (Romans 1:22)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Living Sacrifices Are Dead to Sin

[Paul] begins this way: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God.  He lays down laws, keeps authority under cover, proposes teaching along with entreaty, and calls to mind the divine lovingkindness on which he had spoken at length in the preceding section.  Now, to what does he urge them?  To present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  He had already recommended them to turn their members into instruments of righteousness and to present themselves like those raised from the dead.  But here he urges the bodies to become also a sacrifice, and calls it the living sacrifice.  He does not bid the bodies to be slaughtered, but to be dead to sin and not to accept any of its operation.  He named this sacrifice, holy, reasonable, pleasing, comparing it to the sacrifice of unreasoning animals and showing the Lord God pleased with it.  In all the prophets, so to say, remember that God finds fault with the sacrifices of unreasoning animals and lays down this single requirement, "Offer to God the sacrifice of praise," and "A sacrifice of praise will glorify me."  And you can find countless such statements in the divine scripture.

Theodoret of Cyrus, "The Letter to the Romans" on Romans 12:1

Friday, March 2, 2012

God's Providence Points to Himself

For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen.

He made everything personally, as controller he personally brings to completion all things that have been made.  It behooves everyone to look to him, giving thanks for what they have, and asking for providence in the future.  They ought also offer him due praise.  Through these expressions the divine apostle showed that he did not acknowledge a difference in purpose between from whom and through whom, the former (as though indicating something greater) belonging to the Father, and the latter (as conveying something less) referring to the Son: he applied both to each person.

Theodoret of Cyrus, "The Letter to the Romans" on Romans 11:36

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We Cannot Help But Preach the Truth

Worldly people and all false Christians cannot help but attack those who teach a faith and doctrine different than theirs.  These fake Christians regard those with sound doctrine as "disturbers of the peace"—peace-hating, quarrelsome, and nasty people.  These unfortunate people have no idea of the blindness that surrounds them.  They do not know how gladly the boldest champions of Christ wish to keep peace with all people, how much they would prefer to keep silent.  These fake Christians do not know how hard it is for the bold champions to go public and become targets for the hatred, enmity, slander, scorn, and persecution of people.  However, they cannot help but confess the truth and at the same time oppose error.  Their conscience forces them to do this because such behavior is required of them by the Word of God.

C.F.W. Walther, Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible,
(trans. Christian C. Tiews; St Louis: Concordia, 2010), 293