The LORD spoke to me again: “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”
Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered;
give ear, all you far countries;
strap on your armor and be shattered;
strap on your armor and be shattered.
Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;
speak a word, but it will not stand,
for God is with us.
For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness. (Isaiah 8:5-22 ESV)
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17 ESV)
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
“I will put my trust in him.”
“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2 ESV)
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2 ESV)
Of the things the nations hate the most is the fact that the Father has given a particular people to the Son. Only for them was he born into this world. For some the Christmas story is very good news, for others it means judgement and doom. This little babe was set for the rising of the ones that the Father gave him as an inheritance, those whom he rightly calls brothers, not of this world, born as he, from above. At the same time he is set for the fall of many, a consuming fire, the Judge of all and warrior King. As we read in John 3 this is the way that God loves the world: that the believing ones would be saved, but the unbelieving ones would be condemned. And it was in this way that the world is not judged, that is destroyed, in his first coming, but as we find also, it was by his being born of a virgin, of being Immanuel, that the nations are judged by that coming and will be destroyed because of the world’s rejection of him. In light of the Lord’s name, Jealous, we recall that it is his to take vengeance upon his enemies for the release of his own from their captivity. It was for this purpose, as John 3 reminds us that he was given, a son, whose name is Wonderful, the Mighty God, Teacher, whose government knows no end, who crushes his enemies underfoot and presents to the father (John 17) all those who the Father had given him before the world began.
It is this that Christians celebrate, if indeed they celebrate at all the birth of the Christ. It was this message of dread and fear, and of hope and good news, that bowed the shepherds down and drew them to the Lord’s dawn. On this remembrance of his first advent, what then must be the Christmas message for this world that is perishing, that is being prepared for destruction at his next advent? Is it not this, that today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts, but fear and dread the Lord and not those things that the world fears? Is it not good news that you should repent and believe in this child who was born, lived and died and was resurrected in holiness on your behalf, and show forth that you were in him from the beginnings of the world, prepared as children of the king, given to the Christ child? It is, unless of course you are of those whose condemnation was written about long ago, who are condemned already, who John said hate this light because they love evil, in which case, you will only rage.
Max (August 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm) as SBC Voices said,
When it comes to the current theological debate in SBC ranks, it’s increasingly clear that both sides can’t be right. But it could be that both sides might be wrong. In such case, the Scripture cited by David Rogers would be appropriate: “Joshua looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand,” and asked him, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” and he replied “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” (Joshua 5:13-14)
There is a vivid example of the Lord taking sides as recorded in Ezekiel 9. Only those who escaped His “slaughter weapon” were those “that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” When the Lord decides to put an end to the SBC war of words, it would be best to be in the ranks of those who carry a burden for the lost that we’ve been called to reach.
Actually, that wouldn’t be right at all, unless Joshua wasn’t fighting against the enemies of the Lord of Hosts. But, he was. The negative answer isn’t neither, but “no, you’re either on my side or against me.” As Rogers notes we see this again out of the mouth of the Lord of Hosts in the NT. As Matthew Henry says: “Christ’s sword drawn in his hand, denotes how ready he is for the defence and salvation of his people. His sword turns every way. Joshua will know whether he is a friend or a foe. The cause between the Israelites and Canaanites, between Christ and Beelzebub, will not admit of any man’s refusing to take one part or the other, as he may do in worldly contests. Joshua’s inquiry shows an earnest desire to know the will of Christ, and a cheerful readiness and resolution to do it. All true Christians must fight under Christ’s banner, and they will conquer by his presence and assistance.”
The quintessential, perennial problem with the SBC wars is the kind of extra-biblical inference that David Rogers made. It is imposed upon the Scripture rather than taken from it. The entire context argues against his interpretation.
In Corinthians, Paul is not saying that we shouldn’t take sides with Christ, exactly the opposite. Paul’s admonition is not that it is wrong for one to say he is of Christ, that would be foolish. And, that would divide Paul against himself. For Paul said there is no other foundation but Jesus Christ. So, to the contrary, there is a party which one must belong to and others that one must not. It is neither, Paul nor Apollos, Peter or any other, but Christ, for he is not divided.
Paul further reminds the teachers of this, that there is one truth and not many. All who teach not according to that truth destroy the temple. All have received the same truth and all should follow Paul’s example and not go beyond what is written. If Paul is incorrect in what he teaches, the rest of Corinthians is a sham. In fact, all that Paul writes is a sham. He finds himself in need of being rejected if he were to teach another Gospel than what Christ had delivered to him. And he instructs his readers in that very thing.
The question is, is the Gospel contained only in the evangel, or is it the entire corpus of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints? Did Jesus only send his Holy Spirit to lead us in to some truth, or all that Jesus taught, OT and NT? What Paul teaches in Corinthians and elsewhere goes far beyond the evangel. All he teaches is meant to be adhered to for the very reason that any deviations from it leads to the divisions found in Corinthians. There is no triage of primary, secondary or tertiary doctrines according to Paul’s Gospel.
Here is the issue: There can be only one truth. Want to end the SBC wars, or any divisions in a church? Either declare that yours is the truth and all others are false and the teachers of them false teachers, or admit that you don’t know what the truth is. Clarity in doctrinal teaching will admonish, convict and convert, or it will drive away those who are not of us:
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1 John 2:18-27 ESV)
John, obviously, did not think that the truth in Jesus Christ was just the evangel. The scope of the teaching which is the truth and not a lie is about everything. It is not a shame to admit that you might be wrong. It is a shame and condemnable to lead others to believe that your opinions which may be wrong are doctrine. In the latter case Paul is clear, you are to remain silent, for all that you teach which has not been proven to be the truth is nothing more than vain babble and arguing over words which do not profit. What is not truth, and proven such, is only destructive to the hearers.
Such worthless words Jesus held is the highest contempt as words which do not work and for which he said that such as teach them would be judged severely. For those who hold to truth and pursue it, eternal life, to those who hold to opinions of men and teach them, there is eternal condemnation. His warning is in connection to blasphemy. What higher blasphemy is there to claim that what one teaches is the truth when it is not and thereby makes the Holy Spirit unclean? Let God be true and everyman a liar and let it be that when you speak you speak as an oracle of God. Remain silent, and even though you might be considered a fool, you are far wiser than the wisest man who opens his mouth and reveals foolish things. Be sure then that what you teach is truth if you say that it is what Scripture teaches. For that one Holy Spirit is the one who according to Peter spoke through men of old as he carried them to write such. It is that same Spirit, John said, which now abides in you to teach you the truth about what the Scripture means. Don’t make Him a liar by making Him say what he did not.
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:22-37 ESV)
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21 ESV)
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
(1 Corinthians 1:12-13 ESV)
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:16-23 ESV)
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:1-7 ESV)
Paul and Peter understood the critical duty of being faithful stewards of the word of God. The admonitions of the Lord were there with them each time they spoke. By their words they would be judged in the Day. The danger is real and deadly, that those who upon pretense feign to speak in the Lord’s name yet bring bad fruit forth are making the Holy Spirit out to be unfaithful to the promises of God.
Paul said that it was God who made believers to be in Christ. There is no other way to get there. Some have taken it upon themselves to make Christ accessible by another means. In doing so they make Paul who spoke by the Spirit to be unfaithful to his charge. Even to the extent that they have not waited until the Day, as he said they should. That Day will expose every man’s words to the fire. It is not enough, it seems, that Paul doesn’t allow for error and men violate his teaching, but men even make Jesus to be a liar when he has said that every word which is unworkable will be brought into judgement.
The fact is that Paul didn’t say that we shouldn’t call ourselves of Christ. He is not an option, he is the only party where in life is found. We either believe and teach what he taught or we teach against him. His strict warning is to those who teach error. Error is destructive to the foundation. It is both wrong to build upon sand and to build upon rock with corruption. Both lead to death. Many think that peripheral teaching, secondary and tertiary doctrines, those things built upon the foundation, are not important. However, Paul says that those things which are added to the foundation which men teach do indeed seek to undermine the first and establish another foundation. They deny Christ and set themselves up in his place, as John would say, they are antichrists.
The apostles connected false teaching to the judgement Day. There is a way, Paul concludes, which insures that what is taught is of the proper materials. Peter and John conclude the same. Timothy was instructed along with Titus to keep themselves and their doctrine pure, teaching only that which accords with sound doctrine. In todays church, there is a liberty which is taken which Scripture does not allow. That is to build with whatever is at hand without having put it to the fire to assay its purity. You see, if you put wood, hay and stubble to the test before it is taught, it will not come into judgement. This was Paul’s way, to test everything establishing its worthiness before adding it to God’s temple.
What a simple thing it is to teach only what you know is truth, yet men go beyond that, even so far as to grant themselves what God has not, the freedom to decide for themselves what is true.
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16 ESV)
I. Speak with authority and instruct your flock with these truths.
Paul wants Timothy’s proclamation to be authoritative. The first point that Paul makes to Timothy is that his ministry should be authoritative. He’s talking about authoritative proclamation. Notice what he says in verse eleven: “Prescribe and teach these things.” Some of your translations may say “command and teach these things.” That’s a perfectly good translation. It’s a military word that’s being used. “Command” or “prescribe” here is the word that is used to speak of the orders that are given by a superior officer to inferior officers. Paul is saying to Timothy that his proclamation needs to be authoritative.
Do you realize how counter-cultural that is? I’m told by everybody around me today that the pattern of ministry in the Christian church needs to be changed because people don’t like to be “preached at.” They don’t like a sermon. They like dialogue. They like advice. They’re more into the give and take of therapy than they are in the direct proclamation of a lecture or a sermon. And so we’re told on every side the way we go about doing church needs to change, because people don’t like that. Well, I’ve got some news for you: people have never liked this!! There’s never been a time when people liked to have their hearts probed. There’s never been a time where people liked to have somebody discover where they have been weighed in the balance and found lacking. There’s never been a time where people liked to be told ‘you’re dead wrong; you need to go another direction.’
And Paul says that’s exactly what people have always needed, whether they like it or not. So he says, “Timothy, prescribe and teach these things.” In other words, in your preaching, be authoritative. You’re not speaking for yourself. You’re not sharing your opinions. You’re not burdening people with your own idea about life. You’re speaking God’s word to them, so be authoritative about it! And you know what? Because all faithful Christian teaching has with its view the production of a life of fellowship and obedience to God, it’s got to be authoritative because we’re not just speaking the word in order to tell you something new or interesting. We’re not just giving you some fun facts to know and tell. Christian teaching has in view the transformation of life. And so it’s got to be authoritative.
And as Christians, we ought to want to sit under a ministry that is faithful in the authority of its proclamation. That’s something that, if the Lord moves you from this place to another place, that’s something you ought to look for. Not a ministry that’s ‘dialoguing’ with you; not a minister that’s doing a late-night talk show chat on a bar stool; but someone who’s proclaiming authoritatively God’s word. That’s what Paul says we ought to do. This isn’t the opinion of up-tight Presbyterians: this is Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit telling you what God wants in ministry.
The sum of Paul’s teaching to Timothy is the faithful transmission of God’s authoritative, inerrant word. One simply cannot claim Christian fellowship with a doctrine of soul competency and liberty of conscience which allows another faith to be held other than that one once and for all delivered to the saints. Personal interpretation is condemned in Scripture. Opinions breed quarrels, and so we see the out working of that in the SBC where war between brothers is the scourge of a peace found only in the freedom to hold a personal opinions as doctrine rather than that one faith held out by Scripture.
This is no other than what Paul taught elsewhere. There is one mind of Christ, he is not divided and what one has received, all have received. The Holy Spirit does not deliver to the saints a double-minded Christ. He delivers to us the thing freely given to us to understand. We have the mind of Christ, not ours.
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2 ESV)
The preaching of truth has to be authoritative. The words are life changing, or they are life destroying. It is a serious charge, one that carries with it the greatest weight and will be judged the harshest in those who call themselves shepherds of the flock.
We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Opinions are not from God, and Paul’s teaching to Timothy was to command silence of vain babbling which brings shame and does not edify but can only tear down. The pulpit is to remain pure, and it was this that Paul was addressing, that the sheep are weak and long for those words that tickle the sensuous mind so the shepherd must be ever watchful with a clear eye. A good shepherd knows what is good food and what is not. And a good shepherd knows how to transmit the sound doctrine once and for all delivered to other faithful men who will tender the flock likewise. All those who teach contrary to the doctrine that was received are thieves, killers, liars, whose god is their belly, who flee at the sound of trouble, whose reward is only condemnation. Take care, then, to not go beyond what is written, proving what is good, as a man who is stable, holding to it without wavering, as one approved of by God. The reward of the good race belongs to such. Teach these things, and your progress will be known to all.
Bob Hadley, Pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Chancellor of Atlantic Coast Bible College and Seminary, contends that everyone can hear the Gospel.
It is crystal clear; the Bible does not speak of nor even support a salvific possibility of God regenerating an individual outside of the work of the Word of God and its proclamation. It is the proclamation of the gospel that causes lost men to see their sin and their need of a Savior and to hear God’s promise to save those who believe. Calvinism errantly seeks to establish new birth as the sole result of God’s predestined will and subsequent effectual calling, which is not contingent at all upon the proclamation of the gospel because prior to that effectual calling, the gospel has no effect at all on the lost, unregenerate person.
We could ask, if it is the Gospel that causes one to see, why do not all men who hear the Gospel see their sin and repent? Isn’t it the power of the Gospel to those who believe, not the power of the Gospel to make one believe? No Calvinist makes the new birth to be caused by God’s will. It is the Holy Spirit who causes one to be born again. The subsequent effectual calling is two parts. One the equipping of an individual to hear with understanding, and second, the hearing of the Gospel with an enabled understanding.
Hadley misuses Romans 1:16, if indeed it is the Gospel which is the power of God for salvation to those who believe, as he makes the power of God to salvation to those who do not believe. Believing does not follow the Gospel in Romans 1:16, but must precede it if it is the power of God to those who believe, and not to those who do not believe. After all, the Gospel is received by those who have been born again, John 1:12-13, not by those who are not.
Faith has many nuances in Scripture. The substance of faith is what is believed, but the power of faith is something else. Faith and all it entails, being a gift, it is operated in all by the Holy Spirit. And it is bestowed to whom he chooses. Faith is knowledge, conviction and trust, but all three are not effectual without power, that is enablement. There is not just the noticia, assentia, and fiducia, but the potentia of faith. In the Greek potentia is dunamis. It is the power of God which works all things in all which causes us to work, energeo, out our salvation according to his good pleasure. All of which Hadley denies. For Hadley, it is the Word which works all these things.
Hadley mixes and matches terms to satisfy the moment. There are varying uses of born again, salvation, faith, conversion, sanctification, throughout Scripture and in Reformed literature. Regeneration is not conversion, necessarily. Salvation is not conversion, necessarily, either. Neither is sanctification faith, and so on. Yet, they are all involved in the salvific process of those for whom Christ died, those who are a chosen generation. So often we see the terms used interchangeably and sometimes not when they have a limited scope of meaning.
Generation, by the way, can mean creation. It also means an inheritance, or offspring. It can mean dispensation. To say we are a chosen generation is to say that those outside it are not chosen. Choseness is a necessary component of salvation, then, as Jesus said to the disciples, that they and not others were privy to the Gospel’s power to make them hear, understand and be converted. Only the chosen can offer up the sacrifice of praise to God. Hadley would even deny the priesthood of the believer, then, and make it a priesthood of unbelievers, if the Gospel (what he means by Gospel is only the preached word and not Gospel in all its biblical nuance) is power of God for salvation of the generation of unbelievers. Instead Scripture speaks of the chosen generation as a new creation, anagennao, or anothen gennao, a recreation. Jesus specifies that it is necessary that one is recreated a new generation to be able to hear, see, understand and so enter the kingdom of God.
According to Hadley, no child who has not heard and accepted the Gospel can be saved. We need not remind Hadley that it is the synergists who condemn Calvinists for Biblically allowing the possibility that some unregenerate infants might not be regenerated and saved. Though that is a Biblical possibility, no Calvinist contends that they know the estate of infants. But here, Hadley condemns all infants as if he knows, It is crystal clear; the Bible does not speak of nor even support a salvific possibility of God regenerating an individual outside of the work of the Word of God and its proclamation. We need to remind Hadley of John the Baptist who was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb, without the preaching of the Word. We must ask him, when did he hear the Gospel? Could he understand it? At the moment of conception? During gestation? When? This is not just the testimony of Scripture to John, but to Jeremiah, David, and even Paul.
Saddest is Hadley’s blasphemy of Jesus. John has Jesus saying:
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 ESV)
The word see comes from the root eido. It means to perceive with the eyes,
to perceive by any of the senses, to perceive, notice, discern, discover, to see
i.e. to turn the eyes, the mind, the attention to anything, to pay attention, observe, to see about something, i.e. to ascertain what must be done about it
to inspect, examine, to look at, behold, to experience any state or condition, to see i.e. have an interview with, to visit, to know, to know of anything, to know, i.e. get knowledge of, understand, perceive, of any fact, the force and meaning of something which has definite meaning, to know how, to be skilled in
to have regard for one, cherish, pay attention to…
To complement this John will later say:
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” (John 12:37-40 ESV)
John testifies by way of the Isaiah: who has believed what he heard from us…
John understood what eido meant. The hearing of the spiritual ear, as far as the Gospel is concerned, must be regenerated before one can enter the kingdom, for one must first be enabled to understand, that is to hear and comprehend the things of the kingdom before one can turn (repent) and believe and be converted and enter in. Who can believe the report, John utilizes Isaiah to ask? Only those who can hear, and who can hear? Only those who have been born again, Jesus says.
We find this elsewhere when Jesus is instructing on the parables and explaining why the Word is not effectual on everyone:
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ (Matthew 13:10-15 ESV)
Again we have definitive proof that hearing in a spiritual sense is not the common property of all people. It is a gift given to some, not all. Hadley has Jesus saying, “Except that one can hear he cannot be born again.” He makes Jesus a liar and opposed to the Scripture which is supposed to testify of Jesus, not against him.
“The Jews as a race were no more or less blameworthy than the Gentiles.”
In fact John MacArthur quotes Acts 2:23 in which the Spirit places the greater blame on the Jews- “you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. You is the operative word, it is the Jews set over against lawless men. That both acted with evil is indisputable. The contrast made is those who have the Law and those who don’t. But this is in keeping with “to whom belong the covenants,” and who alone could sacrifice the paschal. To confuse the blame by making blameworthiness unilateral confuses the reason why Israel was chosen to bear the testimony to the nations. Israel alone had that responsibility, and Israel alone bears the responsibility for crucifying their Lord even though he was crucified by them on behalf of all men.
I know it is politically incorrect to say we worship Christ crucified by the Jews, but that is a historic reality without which there is no remission of sin. For only they were given the promise that by the shedding of blood is there remission. Ours is a historic faith with Israel the representative center of all it promises. They alone could perform the necessary sacrifice. Even in the Law, the Jews sacrificed the passover for the strangers among them. The strangers could not do that for themselves. We should pay heed, Acts 2:23 makes clear that it was by the hands of evil men that the Jews put to death the Christ, not that they joined hands in doing so. That there is the confluence of Jew and Gentile to carry out the required sacrifice doesn’t negate the fact that only Israel could offer a sacrifice acceptable. Even Saul could not offer sacrifice, to the contrary, it required a priest and so it is that Christ was delivered up by the council of Priests to the Romans, particularly, the High Priest (Hebrews 8:3), and this specific sacrifice was made according to the his council:
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:49-52 ESV).
The Jews involvement is not coincidental, it is instrumental and required by the Law that one should die for all, for that was meaning of the Passover. And though Rome is the sacrificial knife used, they were merely a tool in Israel’s hand, just as the Jews were a tool in the hand of the Father to carry out the determinate will of God.
JM further compounds the error by stating:
This was, in essence, a corporate act of sinful humanity against God. All are guilty together.
Again, not quite. The Jews bear their own blame, the Romans their own. Outside that, we must part with the corporate guilt trip. This is the way liberals speak when they want to incriminate all for the acts of a few and justify themselves. We were not there, in fact, the vastness of humanity was not there for the most part. There were a historic people in a historic place at a historic time, who were. To conflate it is to confuse the historicity of it and undermine it. We are all guilty of sin, but we do no bear the sins of others as culpable for their acts. It is feel-good commiseration, but not the faith once and for all delivered to the saints:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3 ESV)
We do well if we hold the full council of the Word of God “in accordance with the Scriptures.” JM’s emphasis on the corporate prayer blinds him to a verse he himself has quoted. And shackles others such as: “‘What are these wounds on your back?’ he will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’” Jesus was the victim of his friends (see Matthew 26:50 ESV).
Why, we might ask, is it so important to share this “All are guilty together” guilt for the acts of a few? We are all guilty of being sinful, and of being the reason that Christ had to be crucified. That is one thing. But to say that we were participants? There is nothing in Scripture which makes that claim and nothing could be further from the truth. To spiritualize the historic claims of the Gospel puts in danger the whole of the history, including the resurrection, of being spiritualized. No, we believe in God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ in a historic frame of reference, who was crucified by a specific people for a specific reason, according to a specific revelation, and we are better off to exalt Him who has stepped out of eternity into his creation rather than massaging our egos in such a way that we not only void the revelation but make a mockery of the historic events which have direct bearing on our salvation. For, if Jesus was not crucified by the Jews according to Scripture for our sins, then neither did he rise from the dead. And if he did not rise, our faith is in vain.
This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life: there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…
Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them…
…and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection that they can not endure the severity of God’s judgement…
…Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him, not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.
Derek Thomas, (opens MP3) who will be here in Cheyenne for a weekend conference at Northwoods Presbyterian, explains how depravity is in every part a wholly corrupting influence, even as believers.
How then can we bear such a burden?
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
We all know the temptation to reach out and steady the Ark of God when by all appearances God’s providential care of his promise is about to fail. What an error it is to reach out, however, and touch what alone belongs to God. His sanctification of us, is alone his work, a work given to the Spirit by the Father on the account of Christ’s perfected work on our behalf through Jesus our Mediator and High Priest. Hear the writer of Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
He is there now, ever making intercession on behalf of the saints. The throne of Christ is now our home, nestled in the Holy of Holies. We have boldly entered there through the veil of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, who is our holiness. Other than that, we have nothing with which we can stand before God. No holiness, no hope:
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:12-14 ESV)
This then is your spiritual service of worship, that knowing yourself to be a sinner, you offer yourself as a servant of Righteousness, to obey him and not your flesh. The problem, however, is that we often think we have achieved, and when that happens, we either display the woeful effects of Christian Pharisaism, going on for what is often a long time in our self-assurance and exaltation above others, or we fall to despair in the hopeless morass of seeking to please God by our own efforts.
The unfortunate case with much Christian depression is found in those who live under the heavy hammer of self-sanctification. There is a hopeless futility in laboring to no lasting good, exercising the external man, perfecting only the white-washing of the outside of the sepulchre. Inside is still a dead man’s bones- Christian bones. The inward circumcision of the heart is a fine work, accomplished by the Sword of the Spirit, not the bloody mess of hammering out ones own circumcision of the flesh by the flesh. It is a finished work, too, one that is becoming evident, though it may seem ever so slow in the life of one who has made God’s hand the wielder of the Machaira and has laid down his own blunt instrument. Slow, but the inevitable promise is that when we see him, we will, without doubt, be like him.
The fact is, that if it were not for God’s restraining grace in the life of believers, we would fare much worse than we do. It was his Spirit who raised us while we were dead and gave us life while we were yet sinners. And it is his Spirit that continues to work in us the willing and doing of his good pleasure. Indeed, the Spirit wars against the flesh, so that we do not do as we will. And it is a good thing that we do not have free-will. If it were not for the Spirit, all Geenah in us would break out. Even in the world we find the Spirit is now restraining evil, 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and just so, he works in us the very same, restraining the evil that we would be, but with a precious promise attached:
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 ESV)
As the confessions rightly acknowledge, all good that we do, which has any standing before God, is done by the Spirit. All the good we do, in as much as it is we who do it, is sin-mixed, for the same reason that before we were regenerated we could do nothing of which God approved, for it issued out of a nature wholly against the righteousness of God. We, who have no righteousness of our own, can do no good, by the very definition, that we are without righteousness. We have received a righteousness which is not of our doing, not of us, which does not issue out of our being, and all of what it does, from our first inkling of faith and repentance towards God, and the subsequent exercises of good works, whatever is acceptable by God is not a righteousness that is our own, but a righteousness which is found in Christ and works through us by the same Spirit which raised him from the dead. So it is written, that by his resurrection we are given newness of life to walk in holiness.
As Ezekiel relates:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.(Ezekiel 36:22-27 ESV)
Paul finalizes the hope:
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
It is he and not we who do good. In our hearts we honor Christ the Lord as Holy, alone, by the Spirit, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us. For it is not we, our works, nor our righteousness that we exalt, but the hope of the ages promised before time who has made us fit for good works that we might walk in them. We do not have a righteousness of our own, but a righteousness which is from God, and by God, to the glory of God alone. That’s why we sing:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
[originally When my eye-strings break in death]
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
Here is a section out of Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 10:
12. Salute it. As they could not distinguish the devout worshippers of God from despisers, he enjoins them to address in a friendly manner any family which they may have occasion to meet. The act of saluting is a kind of opening to a conversation. They had already been warned to look out for persons to entertain them, whose religious zeal was generally known and believed. But as it sometimes happens that persons of lofty reputation, when they are brought to a serious trial, discover their impiety, it was proper that this rule should be expressly laid down. The meaning therefore is: “Make trial, when you first enter, whether your entertainers will cheerfully submit to hear you. Whoever shall willingly embrace your doctrine, remain in their house, that your salutation may be confirmed. If any shall reject, depart from them immediately, and, so far as lies in your power, withdraw your salutation.”
13. If it be not worthy. The import of this mode of expression may be thus stated, — “As their ingratitude makes them unworthy to enjoy the blessing of God which you have supplicated for them, break off every bond of communication.” The word peace refers to the mode of salutation which generally used among the Jews. As the Hebrew word שלום, (shalom,) peace, denotes prosperity, when they desire that any one may be well and happy, and that his affairs may succeed to his wish, they pray that he may have peace I do acknowledge that the apostles brought to men a different kind of peace, but it is too great a refinement of speculation to make this passage refer to the free reconciliation which takes place between God and men.
14. And whoever will not receive you. This awful threatening of punishment against the despisers of the gospel was intended to animate his disciples, that they might not be retarded by the ingratitude of the world. He directs the apostles, indeed, what he wishes them to do if they meet with despisers. But his principal design was that, wherever their doctrine was rejected, their well-founded grief and distress might be relieved by consolation, that they might not fail in the middle of their course. And we see how Paul, relying on this consolation, boldly sets at naught all the obstinacy of men, moves on steadily in the midst of hindrances, and boasts that he is
a sweet savor to God, though he is the savor of death to them that perish, (2 Corinthians 2:15,16.)
Now, this passage shows in what estimation the Lord holds his gospel, and, indeed, as it is an inestimable treasure, they are chargeable with base ingratitude who refuse it when offered to them. Besides, it is the scepter of his kingdom, and therefore cannot be rejected without treating him with open contempt.
Shake off the dust As the Lord here recommends the doctrine of the gospel, that all may receive it with reverence, and terrifies rebels by threatening severe punishment, so he enjoins the apostles to proclaim the vengeance which he threatens. But this they cannot do, unless they burn with very ardent zeal to make known the doctrines which they preach. We must therefore hold that no man is qualified to become a teacher of heavenly doctrine, unless his feelings respecting it be such, that he is distressed and agonized when it is treated with contempt.
To shake off the dust from the feet was probably a custom then prevalent in Judea, as a sign of execration; and was intended to declare that the inhabitants of the place were so polluted, that the very ground on which they trod was infected. That it was an ordinary custom I conjecture from our Lord’s manner of speaking of it as a thing well known. This form of execration confirms still more what I lately mentioned, that no crime is more offensive to God than contempt of his word:
for he does not enjoin them to make use of so solemn a mode in expressing their detestation of adulterers, or murderers, or any description of malefactors.
Verily, I say to you That they may not imagine this to be an idle bugbear, Christ declares that those who reject the gospel, will receive more severe punishment than the inhabitants of Sodom. Some view the word judgment as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem. But this is foreign to our Lord’s intention: for it must be understood as referring to the general judgment, in which both must give their account, that there may be a comparison of the punishments. Christ mentioned Sodom rather than other cities, not only because it went beyond them all in flagitious crimes, but because God destroyed it in an extraordinary manner, that it might serve as an example to all ages, and that its very name might be held in abomination. And we need not wonder if Christ declares that they will be treated less severely than those who refuse to hear the gospel. When men deny the authority of Him who made and formed them, when they refuse to listen to his voice, nay, reject disdainfully his gentle invitations, and withhold the confidence which is due to his gracious promises, such impiety is the utmost accumulation, as it were, of all crimes. But if the rejection of that obscure preaching was followed by such dreadful vengeance, how awful must be the punishment that awaits those who reject Christ when he speaks openly! Again, if God punishes so severely the despisers of the word, what shall become of furious enemies who, by blasphemies and a venomous tongue, oppose the gospel, or cruelly persecute it by fire and sword?
There is more to charity toward those outside the church and in than a universal credit card. For example, try his commentary on Matthew only a few chapters later. Mix that in with loving your neighbor and it will not be just anyone to whom you show favor. There is a catch. True enough, compassion in certain, let me say that again certain, circumstance dictates another approach, but even in that, our obligations are not carte blanc, but must be balanced with the full spectrum of wisdom found in Scripture. Having taken on a burden we pay our vows, but just what burdens is a more nuanced matter altogether.
For example, the Samaritan Story isn’t about the Samaritan, not his needs, but Christ who bears man’s whole person of desperation upon his own shoulders. It is about those who do what is right and good by nature and not out of religious zeal. It is about those who do so, not out of pretense because of commandment, but because theirs is truly a heart of compassion. Typically, those who act from command tend to exalt other legalisms above charity. Such was the case with the priest and Levite whose religious purity rose above the common dictates of conscience. But if it were just about treating the needs of neighbors, it should be noted just who the players were.
They were brother neighbors, not stranger neighbors. Those who passed by were from Judah. The victim from Jerusalem, likely a Jew. As Calvin notes, greater care, more specific and special care is to be taken with a brother as was commanded in the second great commandment. The Samaritan’s were their disenfranchised brothers. As brothers, the Law prescribed treatment of them and it was this which was specifically what the Jews were not showing, and which the Samaritan, outlaw such as he was, did. There is one Law for both, true, but the distinction between brother neighbors and those outside the covenant are clear. And if we just read the Scripture we can find out that the Samaritans were not irreligious. Take Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well. She was waiting for Messiah. She was one of those who Christ expected would need succor and would receive it. More than that, he expected his disciples to render it despite appearances or traditions.
Beside these tidbits, the parable is in answer to a trap set by a lawyer. It had specific parameters, a specific case, and not a general charge. And the fact is it was meant to show the religious hypocrisy of the workers of the law who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. To maintain their religious purity they were willing to hate their brother. The irony sticks like blood to clay, the cries of Abel to the ears of the brother who slew him. Yet, these men, like the lawyer who asked the question, were willing to go to law to justify themselves in their neglect of the weightier matters of the meaning of mercy in the law of sacrifice, by following the rules of cleanliness instead of showing mercy to one just like them- a sinner in need of help. In short, they denied the meaning of the very vestments that they were protecting from stain. They would by-pass the obligation of the blood covenant, for a high seat and the approval of men rather than God.
It is not the case that Jesus healed, or fed everyone. He did not come to do so. Rather he was sent to the house of Israel, to his brothers, to supply what they needed. To do likewise is to show forth Christ as he was displayed in the Law. To universalize the Samaritan story is to make Jesus a liar. It is not about generalized charity, or our neighbor in general. That there are other sheep, sojourners and strangers, that revelation is grounded in the Law also, for such were the Jews at one time. On the other hand, the Law is selective and exclusivistic in its requirements. From the first sacrifice of Abel to the last jot and tittle, exercising the word of God produces discernment of what is right and good and winnows the wheat and allows the wind to carry away the chaff. As is clear in the second portion of Calvin’s take on charity, it is all about the edification of the Church, her adding to her numbers and her self-preservation through love specially for believers. Doing good to all men requires building fences, actually, to keep the neighbors dogs from eating the lambs and causing offense to Christ. Even when the purpose of charity is outreach to community, the reason for that is always evangelism and the requirements for continued charity clear and unequivocal. The Gospel divides, it does not unify, neighborhoods. There are rules, reasons to deny the needs of others. Unless the “neighbor” eats of the flesh of the Son of man and drinks his blood, there is no part of him left give them, and we must make that clear. Therefore Calvin says, we excommunicate them.
Also, historic context must be factored in when trying to proof text so called authorities. The American landscape has been one where there were assumptions of who our neighbor is. The base assumption had been that we were a Christian nation and we assumed Gospel acceptance in our neighbor. In the past century, who should be the recipients of social justice has changed considerably. Ideas of the deserving poor versus the unworthy have been done away with. In their place the assumptions now solidified in the modern mind is that everyone short of the richest are deserving of their neighbor’s help. And so governments driven by the civil religion aid this perversion of the Samaritan’s purse by picking the pockets of neighbors to give to neighbors, usurping the authority and responsibility of the individual believer to determined what is right and good in the sight of God. But more than that, it robs from the church the necessary resources entrusted by God to those individuals who are its members for the mutual benefit of the body of Christ.
The social milieu of Luther and Calvin was a broad assumption that nearly everyone was a Christian. In that context, Luther didn’t, and wouldn’t have stepped outside those boundaries. It was not likely that he would have rendered servitude to a Jew. Or even a papist. Calvin likewise would not have rendered succor to those who were outwardly oppositional to the Gospel. There were tests that both men applied. And as Calvin notes, there are tests that must be applied, requirements that must be addressed, or the Gospel falls short of its intentions of separating out of the world those called to Christ. In short, both would have assayed the right way to address the situation. They would not have just willy-nilly become social workers, or any manjack neighbor, they would have tapped into the full wisdom that Scripture affords.
Calvin relays that the judgement is coming and that judgement is held over against the compassion that is found in Christ’s Gospel. He would say that our judgement must likewise be so severe as to demonstrate the value of the grace that is offered. In other words, even though it may not seem to be the kindliest of overtures to turn away a neighbor or stranger in need, when it comes to the Gospel, the severity of the example is the very kindness that leads to repentance.
For those who would like to go to Calvin’s address in the Institutes on charity to disclaim this I suggest that you pay close attention to his distinctions. While he invokes the image of God in all men he is exacting when speaking of the use of the endowments of the creator in the believer for the work of the church. For in its members, uniquely, has that image been renewed. That there is general consideration paid to all men is subordinated to the needs of the church and its members specially, because they are of their Father in heaven, and not of the spirit of this world.
The formulaic “application” section at the end has the danger of ending God’s speech to his people on a note of uncertainty. The pastor’s “application” question, “Does this describe you?”, cannot be the last word. By all means, use the first use of the law to draw hypocrisy and unfaithfulness out of the shadows, but then remind even believers that they cannot find peace with God by redoubling their efforts. In assuring their trembling conscience, they have to throw their whole confidence on the gospel, without any appeal to the law. By all means, press home the exhortations of the text (i.e., the third use). In any case, though, the gospel must have the last word. The problem is not application coming at the end, but application of the law coming at the end, especially in such a way as to revert back to the first use without then actually holding up Christ as the believer’s only hope.
We preach Christ crucified MP3, D. A. Carson.