No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus

The title of this short post comes from Romans Chapter 8, which follows Paul’s discussion of the struggles that Christians have with remaining sin. In chapter 7, Christians acknowledge that the Law of God (summarised in the 10 Commandments) is good, holy, just and spiritual, but Christians see that they are still not living consistently with this good law. They do not do what they now want to do, but do the things that they now do not want to do. After describing this tension, Paul (at the end of Chapter 7) points Christians again to Jesus Christ, who alone is their hope. Chapter 8 continues with an explanation.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was unable to do, in that it was weak on account of the flesh, God did. He sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin condemned sin in the flesh so that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh regard the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace. In fact, the mind of the flesh is enmity toward God. For it does not submit to the law of God, for it is not able. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

This is Paul’s (and the Spirit’s) reassurance that Christians — those who are born again (live by the Spirit) — are not condemned even though they have remaining sin in their lives They are sinner-saints. To walk (live) according to the Spirit is to be a saved person. They certainly have new attitudes and behaviours, but the main point is that they trust Christ as the one who has, on our behalf, met the righteous requirements of the law. To walk according to the flesh is to remain a non-Christian and to retain that position of rebellion and enmity toward God and Christ. For the Christian, remaining sinfulness is to be fought against, but it cannot condemn or separate the Christian from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

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Relief for troubled hearts

John 14:1-11

Our Lord Jesus Christ  does not want people to be troubled. He wants us to be free from trouble.

There are many different things that trouble different people. Some people are troubled by clutter (the random stuff that we collect over the years), other people can’t live without clutter and they are troubled by the thought of losing it. Some people are troubled my cats, others are troubled if there are no cats around.

This passage is not about those sorts of troubles. As serious as those other troubles might be, they tend to be individual troubles affecting different people differently.

The trouble that Jesus is talking about is the trouble that we experience because of unbelief, particularly because we do not trust Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel.

The Lord Jesus wants people to be free of this most serious of troubles.

These disciples of Jesus had a serious faith problem. They had been called to follow Jesus, they had followed him through three years of his teaching ministry, they professed their loyalty to him, but they did not yet trust him as they needed to trust.

When our Lord Jesus said to them, “Do not let your heart be troubled, believe (trust) in God and trust in me,” he was addressing a serious lack of faith in these men.

As yet, they did not trust his words, they did not know Jesus as they should have known him, and they were most uncomfortable about the message of his impending death and resurrection.

These words were spoken to the disciples during or just after the last supper, where Jesus had spoken explicitly of his imminent betrayal and death. These coming events, he told them, were necessary so that human sin could be forgiven.

He had said at that last meal that the bread represented his body broken for them, and that the cup represented his blood shed for them – this indicated that his death was essential for their salvation. His death was to deal with their sins.

This was at least the fourth recorded occasion when Jesus spoke to his disciples about the necessity of his death. How did his disciples react to this message?

Each time they became troubled and they quickly changed the subject.

Most often, they changed the subject to a discussion as to which of them would be the greatest in the coming kingdom of God. They wanted to skip the cross and go straight to the glory.

In this they agreed with the Devil, who suggested the very some policy to Jesus in his temptation.

Jesus’ reply to Satan and to Peter was the same — get behind me Satan, that is, get out of my way. In Matthew 18, Jesus told these disciples that unless they were converted — changed — there was no way that they could enter the kingdom of God.

Again the disciples did not believe Jesus when he pointed out the desperate natured of their sinfulness.

When he told them that one would betray him and that the rest of them would abandon him, they did not believe him. Peter explicitly contradicted Jesus and declared that he instead would willingly die with him. We know how badly that turned out.

In this passage, Jesus speaks to his disciples in stunning ways. When Philip asks to be shown the Father, Jesus said, Have I been with you so long, and you do not know me?

“If you (plural) had known me, you would have also known the Father.” V.7

These men who had been with Jesus over three years did not really know Jesus. This is most significant. In chapter 17 of John’s gospel, Jesus said that eternal life was to know the Father and the one (Jesus) whom the Father had sent.

At this point in time, these disciples were not converted. They were not Christians. As yet, they were merely disciples — leaners — and pretty inattentive ones at that.

But they understood enough to be troubled by Jesus’ words regarding his betrayal and death. They were troubled that Jesus had pointed out their sin.

To alleviate this trouble of heart, this same trouble that they all felt, Jesus said:

“Let not your heart be troubled. Trust God and trust me. In my Father’s house there many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.”

What the disciples needed to do was to trust Jesus. To receive his words and believe that he knows best, that Jesus is both God and man, and that his death and resurrection are essential if they were to be reconciled to God.

“Trust God and trust me” — These are not two distinct statements, but the second particularises the first (v.7). Jesus is identifying himself as God. He reaffirms this in vs. 7ff.

In my Father’s household there are many mansions. This means the was lots of room in God’s household already!

“I go to prepare a place” — Jesus was not going somewhere to make more room. As Jesus says, there is already plenty of room. Rather, he was going to make disciples fit for one of those places. Remember Matt 18.

The preparation that Jesus was speaking of was the same death that Jesus had spoken of and which had troubled his disciples so much.

Jesus death was the issue. By it the innocence Jesus took legal responsibility for the wrong doing of all his people. In fact, without Jesus taking responsibility for our sin, there was no way he could have died. The word of God says “the soul that sins shall die.” Jesus died because he bore the sins of other people. He willingly became their substitute.

The principle of a substitute dying in the place of a sinner is reinforced throughout the Old Testament in the temple services.  Jesus would be the fulfilment of those temple sacrifices (John 2:19)

By his death, he finished condemnation for his people.

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is the great confirmation of this truth. If even one sin of his people remained unpaid for, Jesus would not have risen from the dead. But Christ is risen (14:19).

So he could say that, if he goes (to the cross), he will come again and receive (take) them to himself. Here Jesus again speaks of his death and resurrection, but adds the effect that his death and resurrection will have on these men.

He will take them to himself. (Like prisoners taken in battle, like a husband taking a wife.)

Jesus takes his people to himself

  1. In regeneration by the Spirit of God – changing their minds, wills and attitudes by the new birth.
  2. At death they enter his immediate presence.
  3. In the last day he will take them to new heavens and new earth.

So that where Jesus is, those who trust him will be also.

In vs. 5 and 6, Thomas tells Jesus that he doesn’t know where Jesus is going, and he cannot know the way. Jesus answer shows that the “where” and the “way” are intimately related.

Where was Jesus going? To the cross. Remember, Jesus had spoken of this to the disciples at least four times.

What is the way? Only Jesus brings sinners to God. He is the way. He opened the way to God by his own actions.

“I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but by me.”

Jesus is the narrow way. “Narrow” because he is the only way back to good relations with our Creator.

Jesus is trustworthy because he not only tells the truth, but he is the one who establishes truth.

Jesus also gives life as the creator and sustainer of all things, but most particularly as saviour. By his resurrection from the dead he shows that sin (which brings death) has had its condemnation completed in him.

For this reason, Jesus has the right and ability to raise those who trust him from the dead.

Is your heart troubles by your own sin? Are you troubled by the message of the gospel, that Jesus had to die if sin and death were to be defeated? Are you afraid to die?

Jesus meant it when he said, “Do not let you heart be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me.”

Our Lord Jesus has made sinners fit for a place in His Father’s household by his good life, by his death in our place, and by his resurrection from the dead.

If you trust him as he is presented to you in the gospel, you can know that he has done this for you.

Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

The way to the Father is open through faith in Jesus Christ. Trust him.

Christ emptied himself

The word ‘kenosis’, which means ‘an emptying or depletion’, does not appear in the New Testament.

The related verb, ‘kenoo’ is found in Philippians 2:7. There it takes a reflective pronoun ‘heauton’ which is usually translated as ‘emptied himself’.

There are several other usages of the verb kenoo. One interesting one is to ‘empty out or pour away’, and other is to ‘expend’ (Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon, p. 938b).

Some people think that Jesus emptied himself of something, such as his divinity or his glory. This is not likely. Jesus did not stop being God when he became a man: Jesus, being in the [morphe] form of God (i.e. He still was God when he) … took on the form of a slave, Phil 2:6-7. For example, Jesus showed his divine glory, which he still possessed, to Peter, James and John on a mountain (Luke 9).

Phil 2:7 does not say Jesus emptied himself of something. It just says that He emptied or poured out or expended himself.

How did Jesus pour himself out? By taking the form of a servant, coming as a man and so humbled himself as to die on a cross. On the cross Jesus took responsibility for the sins of all his people so they might go free.

Two other random notes:

Matt 1:21 tells us that Jesus (Yahweh saves) will save his people from their sins. Yahweh-Jesus saves Yahweh-Jesus’ people from their sins. Jesus is God with us (Matt 1:23). Compare Isaiah 43:11( I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no Saviour.)

Luke 2:11 the shepherds were told that ‘Today, in the City of David, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the LORD.’ The Saviour is the LORD (Yaweh) who is born as a man.

Psalm 91

This Psalm is about God’s favour and protection toward a particular individual. The Psalm is addressed to a solitary male person. This favour and protection comes to that person in a confessedly dangerous world. All sorts of things threaten this individual’s life – disease, secret enemies, open war.

The Most High, the God of heaven and earth, pledges his safety, and the human being described here trusts God in the midst of great danger and risk. This person will pass through it all safely.

This is not a Psalm by a crazy person who has no grip on reality. This Psalm tells it like it is. It is our job to think carefully about the promises made here and to understand them in the light of all that the Bible tells us.

The key to this Psalm is the first verse. The Psalmist says this:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, will abide in under the shadow of the Almighty.

The word ‘secret place’ or ‘shelter’ suggests a hiding place, and safe haven, one that is not known or understood by the enemy.  Again, the word ‘shadow’ implies protection. If the Almighty is covering you, you are safe.

Looking at the situation in another way, one may say that the safety experienced by this person is a cause of wonder and confusion to his enemies.

  • How can this person be calm in such situations?
  • How can this person remain alive in such situations?

Let me say up front that the only way a person can be safe like this is if that person is in a good relationship with God. To be in a good relationship with God, one must be completely free of sin.

Our God, we are told, loves the righteous but hates the wicked (Ps 11:5 and 7).

That would seem to place people like us in a very uncomfortable place. We are not good people. We have broken God’s law. We have sinned.

So, is God making fun of us in this Psalm?

No. The one that this Psalm refers to, that particular individual, is our Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the good man who is under the special protection of the Almighty, and He is the hope of sinners. This Psalm is pointing us to Christ. And because it points us to Christ, it makes clear that this Psalm is not promising a trouble-free life here and now.

Some well-meaning but mistaken Christians will tell you that for the Christian, faith will remove all our problems in this present world. No money problems, no health issues, no family break down, no worries. They might also tell you that, if you suffer any of these things, there is something wrong with your faith.

But, if I am correct in saying that Jesus is the person referred to in this Psalm, then this idea — that the truly faithful person is trouble-free in this life — must be regarded as non-sense.

Verse 2 says (and it is ultimately our Lord Jesus speaking)

I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust!’

Jesus Christ perfectly trusted his father. He perfectly obeyed as man. This was one of the reasons why Jesus, the eternal Son of God, became a human being. So he could live a truly good life to replace our bad lives. But he came to do more.

Jesus, the perfectly good and faithful Son of God, suffered in this life more than any other human being. He was betrayed; he was beaten, he was deprived of justice, he was nailed to a Roman cross and he died. All this happened to the good and faithful Jesus.

If anyone were to receive the absolute protection promised in this Psalm, it would have been Jesus.

The point of the Psalm is that Jesus really did receive that absolute protection.  But is was hidden from the sight of his enemies. They thought that God had abandoned Jesus. They thought that all the things that Jesus suffered proved that God did not love him.

But they were wrong. Let’s look at v. 3-4

For He (the LORD) delivers you from the trap of the trapper, and from the deadly pestilence (disease). He will cover you with His feathers, and you will trust under His wings. His truth is a shield and buckler.

Jesus was betrayed, he suffered and died, but God raised Jesus from the dead because Jesus really was good. Ultimately, none of the things that Jesus suffered changed his relationship with his father. Through all that suffering Jesus knew that God was with him.

How did Jesus know this? Because none of the things he suffered was a surprise to him (Isaiah 53 and Ps 16). Jesus came to suffer and die and rise again for the salvation of his people according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15).

Now Jesus is alive and free of suffering forever.

But what about the feathers? Remember the secret place. There was in the old testament system, a very secret place in the temple. In this secret place was a gold covered box, and at each end of that box were statues of two angels. The wings of these angels overshadowed a plate on the top of the box, and the plate was called the mercy-seat.

On a special day, once a year, the high priest would take the blood of a bull that had been killed and sprinkle that blood over the mercy-seat under the wings. This was to symbolise the fact that God forgives sins by means of the death of a substitute. The bull was regarded as dying in the place of people who deserved to die.

This was done in secret. None but the high priest could go into the secret place, and he could only go there once a year and he had to go with the blood of the substitute or he would die.

The people of God knew about this symbolic act only because of the description of it in the writings of Moses. It was the word of God that told them of their defence – the sacrifice for sin that set them free from the death that they deserved.

The temple act foretold of the work of Jesus Christ.

The innocent bull that was killed pointed to the innocent Jesus who would die for his people. The mercy-seat indicated the propitiation of the sins of God’s people — that the death of Jesus did all that was necessary to deal with sin and its just punishment. It indicated that peace with God is restored, and righteousness imputed to the sinner.

The mercy-seat, under the wings of the angels, was that safe, secret place. Just as the work of Jesus assures those who trust him, that their sins are forgiven and they are regarded by God to be good people.

Those who trust Jesus are under his absolute protection. Nothing that happens to a Christian in this life, whether it is sickness, poverty, war, famine, the attack of secret enemies, can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8).

Christians suffer all the common ills that come from living in a world blighted by sin. But we have a sure and perfect protection in Christ. He will keep his children until they meet him in heaven. When Christians die, they die in the knowledge that Jesus will raise them to life on the day of Judgment and declare them not guilty.

This hidden, unseen protection is for those who trust Jesus, vs. 5-8:

You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that walks in the darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right-hand; but it will not approach you. You will look on with your eyes, and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because Christ has saved forever those who come to him by faith, Christians can meet and endure the troubles of this life with confidence. We might lose everything here and now and know that we are kept by Jesus for a good eternity. Paul says that the sufferings of this present age cannot compare to the good that God has in store for his people (Rom. 8:18).

But this safety only comes to a person on God’s terms.

Christ will protect his people, but He will also see the recompense – the judgment  — of his enemies. Those who do not trust Christ will fall on the day of Judgment. To face God without the righteousness of Christ is to be condemned for sin and to receive recompense, that is, the punishment that sinners deserve for their sin – eternal separation from God’s favourable presence.

But, if you trust the Lord Jesus Christ there is certain hope, v.10:

For you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, you dwelling place, no evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.

Because of Christ, those who trust him may regard these promises as coming to themselves.

This is perfectly reasonable because Jesus is both God and man. As God he is the LORD, and as man he became the propitiation for our sins. As God and man he is the saviour of his people.

As we trust Jesus we enter the secret place of the most High, and come under the shadow of the Almighty.

If anyone trusts Jesus Christ, that person is regarded by God as a righteous person simply because of Christ. Christ has established for them a new relationship with God.

Jesus Christ is the secret place of safety for Christians.

Just so that we will remember it, the Psalmist repeats the reason for the Christian’s hope in versus 11-13:

For He (the LORD) will give his angels charge concerning you, to keep you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, lest you strike you foot against a stone.You will tread upon the lion and snake, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

These verses do not mean that the Christian becomes a super hero. They refer to the work of Christ for the Christian.

You might recall that the Devil, in his tempting of the Lord Jesus, quoted part of this Psalm. He tried to make Jesus to do something foolish. That attempt failed, but what Jesus came to do did not fail. He came to deal with a snake and a lion.

In Genesis 3:15, after Adam had disobeyed and brought sin and death upon himself and the world, God promised a saviour who would crush the head of the Devil (who had taken the form of a snake) yet he would wound his own heel in the possess.

The idea is that when Jesus came to live and die and rise for the salvation of his people, at the same time he destroyed the work of the evil one. When Jesus died on the cross, and rose again, he crushed the head of Satan. He defeated both Satan and death.

Peter refers to the Devil as a Lion, prowling and seeking whom he might eat. For the Christian, the Devil is a beaten enemy. Satan cannot break the relationship that Jesus has established between himself and the Christian. Because Jesus died and rose, every Christian is eternally safe.

This is confirmed in the last few verses:

Because he (Jesus) has loved me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known my name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him, and let him behold my salvation.

Only Jesus has lived the perfectly good life, and he alone faithfully and fully relied upon his Heavenly Father. He deserved to be honoured by the Father, and, after he suffered for the sins of his people, he deserved to be raised from the dead. He has, as man, un-losable eternal life.

The Lord Jesus did all that he did, and suffered all that he suffered, to bring sinners like us back to  God. As a person trusts Jesus Christ, the secret safety — the presently unseen safety — belongs to that person.

To be in Christ is to be in the secret place of the Most High, and to be under the protection of the Almighty.

Are you afraid of life? Are you afraid of death?

Coming to Jesus won’t make your life trouble-free here and now.

As a Christian you might suffer more than the common troubles of life, but Christ has promised that there is plenty of space in his father’s house. He has prepared a place for any who will come to him. If it were not so, he would have told us.

If you trust yourself to Christ you might suffer the loss of all sorts of things, but you will never be separated from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. With him is eternal life.

“Judaizing” in the church

Paul warned the Galatian church against judaizing (Gal. 2:14), that is, the adopting of Old Testament Jewish practices, whether willingly or by force. This was not a racist warning, as Paul himself was an Israelite. The truth of the Gospel was at stake. Those Old Testament practices were suitable for the time before the coming of Christ. They acted as a tutor to a church under age (Gal. 3:24), and they pointed to the Saviour to come. But, when Christ finished his work of redemption, these practices were abolished. The issue with the Galatians was primarily circumcision. Paul said that if they adopted circumcision, they were bound to keep the whole ceremonial law (Gal. 5:3). Paul said, ‘Don’t do it!’  Christ has come and fulfilled those shadows.

Well, you might say, we don’t do circumcision as a religious thing in our Christian Churches. That’s fine, but how does this sound? For its first 18 centuries, the western church – with one significant exception – had seen the use of musical instruments in public worship as judaizing.

This is the Biblical picture. God established the use of musical instruments in temple worship in King David’s day (1 Chron. 16:4-5, 23:5, 25:1-7). The Levites alone were appointed to do this temple work (2 Chron. 8:14-15, 29:25, 30:21 & 35:15). After the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the temple worship was abolished. The letter to the Hebrews explains why the Levitical service had to end (Hebrews 7:12-16). There is now no valid use for a Levitical priesthood or its services in the Christian Church. When the Levitical priesthood was abolished, so was the use of musical instruments in public worship.

This is why there is no evidence for the use of musical instruments in the New Testament church. Read the apostles’ letters to the churches. There is no mention of instrumental music in association with church gatherings. The singing of Psalms is to be accompanied by melody made in the heart (Eph. 5:19). The only mention of musical accompaniment to worship is in the Book of Revelation (5:8), but its apocalyptic language and its temple imagery are no safe guides to New Testament church practice. The absence of any mention of musicians in respect of church worship – while administrators as well as pastors and teachers are spoken of (1 Cor. 12:28) – strongly suggests that musicians had no role in New Testament worship.

A further thing to consider is that western church history gives no instance of musical instruments in public worship until about AD 800 (a singular case), and the wide use of them is only attested from about AD 1300 (1). Before the 14th century, the western church had consistently regarded the use of musical instruments in public worship as judaizing. Furthermore, it appears that Greek Orthodox Church never has used musical instruments in worship (2).

Clement of Alexandria (3rd century) wrote that ‘the tongue is the psaltery of the Lord’ and ‘we no longer use the ancient psaltery, and trumpet, and timbrel and flute’ (3). Basil (4th century) had no time for musical instruments. Commenting on Ps 33:2, Basil interpreted the lyre as the Christian’s body, by which the Lord is to be praised, and the ten-stringed harp as representing the Ten Commandments, which Christians are to obey in the newness of the Spirit (4). Again, writing on Isaiah 5:12, Basil referred disparagingly of musical instruments, and noted that the end of such things is destruction (5). Chrysostom (4th century) commented on Ps. 149 and 143, saying that ‘musical instruments were only permitted to the Jews’, like the sacrifices, but ‘now, instead of organs, Christians must use the body [e.g. their good deeds] to praise God.’ He explicitly said that musical instruments were suitable only for the ‘child’ phase of the church (6). Augustine (4th century) also said that the instruments had only symbolic meaning for the Christian church. The church was not to use a literal ten-stringed harp as if it were a theatre, but was rather to show its love for the Saviour by keeping the Ten Commandments (7).

Thomas Aquinas (13th century) wrote that ‘the church does not use musical instruments to praise God, lest she should seem to judaize’ (8). In the early 16th century, Erasmus wrote of the babble of musical instruments that intruded upon the church services in his day, making the church look and sound like a theatre (9). At the reformation, musical instruments were removed from the reformed churches for biblical reasons. John Calvin regarded the use of musical instruments as wholly an Old Testament thing. It would, he argued, ‘bury the light of the Gospel, should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation’. (10). Even the Church of England, during the 16th century, ceased to employ musical instruments in worship and published a homily to explain why this was a blessing (11). John Willison, a Scottish Presbyterian, wrote in 1744 that the church was committed — among other things — to resisting the ‘Popish’ practice of using musical instruments in the public worship of God (12).

I offer this historical meander simply to show that the biblical teaching — that using instrumental music in public worship is judaizing — is not merely the result of post-reformation protestant prejudice.  Clement, Basil, Chrysostom, Augustine and Aquinas all wrote before the Reformation, and Erasmus was certainly not a rabid reformer.

The biblical teaching had been recognised in the west for about 18 centuries. The change that occurred in protestantism during the 19th century was not the result of faithful Bible teaching. It came at a time when the church’s confidence in the Scriptures was in decline. After the introduction of musical instruments, generations of Christians have grown up with the practice, and now even people with real confidence in the Bible accept this practice without question.

Paul said that the Christian church is not to judaize. The church to which I belong says plainly in its Confession of Faith that nothing is to be introduced into the worship of God except that which God has prescribed in the Bible (WCF 21:1). We most certainly are not to do what God forbids. The use of instrumental music was a Levitical and thus temporary feature of temple worship. It is now abolished along with circumcision and animal sacrifices. To continue to use these Old Testament shadows is to cloud the fact that Christ has come to bring salvation. That was part of Paul’s burden when he wrote to the Galatians urging them not to judaize (Gal. 2:14 and Gal. 3:23-25). Christ has come, and we have no further use for a school-master. I suggest, therefore, that the modern Church needs to reconsider its ways.

Notes:

  1. http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/when-did-churches-start-using-instrumental-music.html (accessed 1 June 2016)
  2. https://oca.org/questions/parishlife/musical-instruments (accessed 3 June 2016)
  3. Clement https://archive.org/details/writingsofclemen01clem p. 216.
  4. Basil, https://archive.org/details/p1operaomniaquae01basiuoft, pp. 285-287.
  5. Basil, https://archive.org/details/operaselecta01basi pp. 534 & 536.
  6. Chrysostom, https://archive.org/details/operaomniaquaeex05johnuoft pp. 601, 604 & 560.
  7. Augustine, https://archive.org/details/expositionsonboo01auguuoft pp. 311-313.
  8. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, [II-II, Q. 91, Art. 2]. See Objection 4 and Reply. https://ia600200.us.archive.org/34/items/summatheologicap18755gut/18755.txt
  9. Erasmus, Opus Omnia Tom V. https://books.google.com.au/books?id=VwnU9rhV3sMC&pg=PR58&lpg=PR58&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false pp. 731-732.
  10. See Calvin on Psalm 92:3, The Ages Digital Library Commentary on the Psalms, Vol. 2, p. 179.
  11. Homilies (Oxford, 1802), pp. 293-294. https://archive.org/stream/sermonsorhomilie0a0chur#page/292/mode/2up
  12. John Wilison, https://archive.org/details/fairimpartialtes00will p.189.

1 Timothy chapter 1

The first letter to Timothy gives the Apostle Paul’s instructions to a young pastor. Timothy’s job was to teach people the gospel and urge people to trust Jesus Christ and live thankful lives in obedience to the one who rescued them from sin and death.

In reminding Timothy of his responsibilities, Paul first deals with false ideas that must be corrected.

These false ideas embolden people to abandon the good news (and so becoming ‘shipwrecked’), and instead to trust in their pedigree or their keeping of God’s law. This is why Paul refers to the vanity of genealogies (my mum/dad was so-and-so, and so I’m fine) and the unlawful use of the law (I did such-and-such, and so I’m fine).

Paul indicates that the law is not for good people, because the only person whose whole life may be called ‘good’ is our Lord Jesus Christ. The law is for bad people like us.

Paul then gives a list of bad behaviour of which the law is intended to convict us. We need to know our ‘bad’ before we can see the ‘good’ in the gospel.

In this list, Paul identifies bad attitudes and actions: disrespect for God, lack of submission to him, slanderous talk, murder of parents (the extreme end of ‘not honouring’), sexual sins, kidnapping, lying and the rest.

Paul says that church people who are indulging any of these sorts of sins are acting against pure teaching. That is, either they do not really believe that the law applies to them, or that they think God’s free mercy in Christ is a licence to do any wicked thing that they might wish.

In opposition to this, Paul says that God’s mercy to bad people like him (Paul called himself the ‘chief of sinners’) creates real changes in the attitudes and behaviours of those who are in Christ. While we are still sinners, we become saints by the new birth. We should be people who keep confessing and turning from our sins, not people who glory in our sins.

If the Lord Jesus Christ, who became a man to live a truly good life to replace our bad lives, to die in order to take responsibility for our sin, and to rise to give us righteousness so that we are pleasing to God — if Christ did all that for us, and we know it — then our lives ought to be conformed more and more to his pattern. He saves bad people that they might do good in this world for his glory.

As Paul writes elsewhere, there is no room for Christian boasting, except boasting of Christ and his doing, dying and rising for us. Timothy’s job was to remind church people of these things.

Finding the day for Easter?

It is reported that the disagreement between the eastern and western traditions of the Christian Church (regarding the right way of finding the true day upon which to celebrate Easter) is soon to be settled.

When I read this I was immediately reminded of a comment of an old Free Church (Presbyterian) theologian, who, having explained the grounds for the dispute over the day, finished the matter with the following comment:

“the truth all the while being, as we are firmly persuaded, that [the apostles] John and Peter and Paul did not keep Easter on any day, any more than we do.” (William Cunningham, Theological Lectures, p.488)

Meaning that the old school Presbyterians held firmly to the Biblical principle of observing in the worship of God only those things explicitly required in the Scripture. To do otherwise was to surrender the authority of Scripture to human tradition.