Agonizomai: May 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Particular Redemption

Here we find Thomas R. Schreiner of SBTS speaking at the C.H. Spurgeon Conference in 2006. His subject is the "Limited Atonement" or, as some have come to call it, "Particular Redemption" or even "Specific Redemption". The basic idea is the Calvinistic belief that Christ died ONLY for the elect of God and for no others.

Of all the tenets of the "TULIP" this is the one most often under attack, or upon which many falter. It seems so unfair. It has implications about the character of God which, if not treated carefully and accurately, seem to make Him something less than we would like - less loving, or less just.

In this session, Schreiner addresses these issues, as well as coming to grips with most of the so-called "universalistic" passages which today's populist Arminians enlist to "prove" their view.

I don't publish this in order to get embroiled in controversies that have long been answered by people more competent than I. These differences have been around at least since the 16th Century and the dissenters to orthodox Reformed thinking on this topic have been answered again and again.

I publish this for other reasons, not the least of which is my own need to hold onto this truth in view of the surrounding influences to abandon it. I need to be reminded occasionally that the plea to abandon a proper contextual interpretation of words like "all" and "world" is strongly urged upon us by some who do not accept the long-held truth in this matter.

I am a bit of an odd fish in that I do balk at terminology such as "the free offer of the gospel" - not because I don't believe that we are to preach to all, and not because I don't believe we have a warrant to say that all who repent and believe will be saved, but because the idea of a free offer implies to me that men are all free to accept or reject the gospel in an absolute sense. They aren't. They are culpable for their choice, but their choice is entirely controlled by their nature. Unregenerate men will NEVER choose Christ.

And if regeneration is a necessary prerequisite IN ORDER for Christ to be beautiful in the eye of a person, then no one comes to Him in response to a "free offer" in the sense that all people are ABLE to accept out of a libertarain free will. R.L. Dabney rightly observed of the so-called "free will" in his Systematic Theology that "Freedom is properly predicated of a person, not of a faculty (such as the will)."

So, though we Calvinists may understand all that is implied in the "free offer of the gospel", I think the term can be confusing if it is allowed to soften the moral inability which the "T" of "Total Depravity" rightly brings forth. But, as I said, I am an odd fish. Enjoy this one...


Thomas R. Schreiner

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Intellectual Balance
An overemphasis on reason is as dangerous as an outright denial of it. I'm for reason redeemed by God and corrected through His authoritative Word.

Gleanings 16.106

Friday, May 29, 2009

Rev 2:28b - Thyatira the Doctrinally Compromised Church
Christ IS the Reward of the Faithful

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Rev 2:28b And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

The Christ making the promise to the church(es) through John is the same Christ that is also the fulfillment of His Own promise. He is the bright and morning star. {Re 22:16} In this we see the Lord is truly all in all - that all things are from Him and through Him and to Him. He stands at one end of our existence as the source; He stands in the midst as our Way and our power; He stands at the end as our reward. He is not merely one thing or the other but all things - for all things are found in Him. Salvation, whether justification, sanctification or glorification is truly understood to be a monergism - created, enabled, wrought and finished by God Himself for His people - and worked out in and through them.

There is no attempt to deny that we must work out our own salvation - but only that, in seeing it come to pass in us, we the true saints of God understand when we witness the changes occurring in us that it is all of grace, and all due to God’s riches of mercy and power in Christ Jesus. There is no explaining this. God commands us to strive to enter in at the strait gate and we will answer to Him if we do not. For, unless we do, we shall never enter in at all. But once having entered in we see at once that it was all God’s doing in us. Someone once said something like this...
Before we come to salvation we see a sign on the gate of heaven saying. "Strive to enter in," and after we have passed through we look over our shoulder and see a sign on the inside of the same gate that says, "You are saved entirely by the grace of God."
The whole truth is that we moved because it was God Who moved us (or we should never have moved at all) - but that it was we who moved; God did not move for us, but He moved us to move. We repented. We believed. But it was all in God’s gift to us as His elect children. There is no glory for us in that.

This truth - the fact that God alone is the source and the mover of all that is good in us, including our repentance and faith - including our endurance and our eventual overcoming victory - is the most blessed, humbling, liberating, joyful revelation to the human heart. To finally understand that all that we are and ever shall be in Christ finds its source in the lovingkindness of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ sets us free from reliance upon any human effort to gain God’s approval and delivers us into the rest and security of now and forever trusting in the love and power of God for all things.

And again, this is why it is for "he who has an ear to hear". The world cannot hear these truths. The false professor cannot receive them. It is bread for the children of the kingdom, whose eyes and ears have been opened purely by the mercy and grace of God.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Title Humor
The Origin of the Specious by Means of Natural Election.
(Preservation of favorable racers in the struggle for eternal life)

An Anthology
Modern Arminians

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rev 2:24-28a - Thyatira the Doctrinally Compromised Church
How God Knows and Rewards the Unsullied

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Rev 2:24:28a But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star.

There are "deep things of God." And then there are the teachings that pretend to offer deeper knowledge through special "revelation" and secret things. This is what the church calls “Gnosticism”. It is at the heart of much of the heresy that still exists in the church. The same heresies keep on coming around dressed in different garments. To the casual glance they look different, but on closer examination they are the same old decaying bodies underneath.

Anything that offers a secret knowledge that reveals understanding that is not plainly given in scripture, and that has not been clearly received by the orthodox understanding of believers down through the ages since the time of Christ and the Apostles is most likely gnostic heresy. This includes the teaching that believers need to be "delivered" from demons (whether the language is "hedged" to call it "oppression" or not - regardless of the catch-phrase that says, "Don’t ask if a Christian can have a demon - ask if a demon can have a Christian"). It includes the concept of generational curses and the inhabitation of objects by demons. This is all gnostic heresy that sets up the so-called "deliverers" as middle-men between God and the believer.

If a person has been born again of the Spirit of God he is a new creation and He that is in Him is able to bring him to completion unto the Day of Jesus Christ. It is by grace we are saved through faith. Faith in the finished work and the resurrection power of Jesus Christ at work within us. What people therefore need is not some incantation pronounced over them, but the Word of God plainly spoken and preached to them. A Word that exhorts, admonishes, reproves and rebukes them. The Word of the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation for them that believe. They need to be looking to Christ, to be looking at Christ - and not looking under every stone for a demon. Finding demons won’t help people - looking to Christ in faith will.

It seems to me that we now have a church in which there are larger and larger proportions of people who are not saved at all. And if there is any demonization and deliverance going on, it is in these "professors" that have been attracted to the church through the dilution of the gospel message and the corruption of the picture of true Christian life that is preached from the pulpit.

None of this is said in order to deny that we are all engaged in spiritual warfare. It is to deny the method by which warfare is waged. The Christian is given defensive armour in which to advance against the foe. This is consistent with the helplessness of our humanity and the harmlessness of our calling. Christ is our armour and we trust in Him. We advance not because we have the power to wield, but because we abide in Him who is the power in us. The Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare gurus get this entirely wrong and, through the invention of increasingly complex dominions and warfare rules, become virtual Nicolaitans themselves. And the sad part is that none of it is necessary.

So the "deep things of Satan" here are similar Gnostic heresies of John’s day. Secret knowledge claimed to have been discovered by a few - knowledge not taught by the Apostles - is propagated for the purpose of having power or dominion over the flock - or for garnering admiration or reputation. It may - it most likely is - knowledge that purports to be spiritual and that appears to the undiscerning glance to be helpful - even loving. Satan does not come with red skin, horns, scales and a forked tail to deceive. He comes as an angel of light. And there are many sweetmeats covering the hidden drop of poison.

But what does the Apostle record that Christ says? He commends those who are not taken in by the false teaching and exhorts them to do what? To hold fast to what they have until He comes. Plainly implied is that there is nothing new that is going to come along. What they have received is complete. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is the plain Truth given by Christ and delivered to the church by the Apostles to which nothing - absolutely nothing - is to be added. There is no new teaching. No new revelation. No secret truth beyond what is contained in the gospel. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ and it is the work of God in the human heart.

Conquering, therefore, becomes not bossing demons around, but abiding in the words of Christ and doing them - faithfully. It is enduring to the end. It is taking what has been given and trusting in it regardless of what circumstance or feelings might say. And what has been given is the Truth, the Spirit, the Son - which are all the same God, for God is truth and the Lord is One. Jesus is therefore rightly called, "Wonderful Counselor (a title often referring to the Spirit), Mighty God (though God is One), Everlasting Father (yet He is the Son), Prince of Peace." {Isa 9:6} It is all about Him and not us. It is all about trusting in what He has done. It is about believing that He has done it all - that all things pertaining to life and godliness are (already) ours in Christ Jesus. It is about abiding in the truth in the face of the lie. It is holding fast to, defending and contending for the gospel in our own hearts and in the world wherever God puts or sends us. It is about tearing down strongholds that, by the propagation of the lie, oppose the truth.

The Spiritual Warfare Movement makes it all about "power encounters" with the forces of darkness. It is actually all about overcoming the darkness (lies) with truth, which is Christ and which is in Christ. That this is true is plain to any unbiased reading of the text here. Holding fast to what we (already) have - a defensive posture - and not receiving false and deceptive teachings - a battle for the truth about God as revealed in Christ - is the "conquering" of which Christ Himself speaks. It is a conquering by Christ in and through us - an application of His finished work - that takes place defensively, but not standing still.

The armour of Christ is all protecting the front of the saint because he is expected not only to face the enemy, but to advance against him. It is the advance of the powerless against the fierceness of the roaring lion while trusting that Christ in us, the hope of glory, has overcome for us what we cannot, and will grant to us out of His glorious riches of character the attributes and the power of life necessary to overcome in the face of evil - after the same manner that He Himself did. The most offensive weapon in the armoury is the sword, which is clearly said to be the Word of God. Jesus came and delivered the Word of Truth because He is the Word of Truth. This is what we also are to do.

The promise to us that we shall have authority over the nations and rule them with a rod of iron is to be seen in the context of Christ Himself. His incarnation was not about ruling with a rod of iron, but about seeking and saving that which was lost. It was about grace and mercy and the message of the gospel of peace and goodwill from God towards men. It was about living a life in the light of this - a life of submitted, non-dictatorial "weakness" - allowing the forces of evil to overcome Him and, by that very deed, using that destructive evil to accomplish the most amazing, glorious and wonderful work of God that we could ever begin to conceive - namely, the salvation of dead and lost souls.

And we ourselves are called to walk as He Himself walked. In meekness, humility and love. We are called to fill up the sufferings of Christ. We are called to be transformed into His image while being used to accomplish His work. We are held helpless in a hostile world so that our faith for eternity in the God of all power can be proven to us by Him. This is endurance - not that we of ourselves imitate God, but that He is in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure and we will endure because of Him - not because of us. All true Christians surely understand this. They are (saved and) kept by the power of God.
See a stone hang in air, see a spark in ocean live -
Kept alive with death so near. I to God the glory give.

John Wesley (An Arminian, but an old-style one)
But, just as the meek and lowly Christ Who came to suffer, to serve and to save will return in power to judge and to punish and to rule, so we who have died with Him will return with Him to participate in that process also. There will be a time for saints to display the ruling power of Christ overtly to the nations. It is not now. That belief belongs to the evil corruption and the false doctrine of Dominionism and the Latter Rain heresy. For now, we overcome after the nature of Christ’s overcoming - love and meekness in delivery of the gospel truth.

See that we just "hold fast until He comes." See that then and only then is the outward, visible, corporeal, physical manifestation of God’s sovereign power unleashed upon the world in such a way that all people can actually see it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ida the Lemur and Scientistic Hyperbole

From the news this week we gather that the long-sought after Darwinian missing link between primates and humans has at last been found. It is, we are told, 47million years old and resembles a modern Lemur in all but a few points of anatomy. It has been dubbed "Ida".

This is being hailed as the crossroads, the turning point, the watershed, the momentous ne plus ultra of paleontological/anthropological truth. Pictures of this fossil, it is believed will be the definitive illustration of the Darwinian view of human evolution in future textbooks for years to come. Though let us hope that it is more authentic than Piltdown Man, more honest than Haeckel's embryological drawings and more logical that Leakey's Zinjanthropus Boisei (AKA Paranthropus Boisei, AKA Australopithecus Boisei. The use of the Latin names does sort of lend an aura of credibility while, at the same time, making it both mysterious and daunting to the average non-scientistic reader, don't you think? [/aside])

Piltdown Man was a fraud perpetrated by someone unknown, but with suspected complicity by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (amongst others). This hoax, which took years to fully expose (from 1916 until 1955), never received the same publicity to the general populace in its debunking that it did in its so-called discovery.

Haeckel's drawings were a subtle deception perpetrated through a deliberately false record of supposed observations in the development of fetuses of various living things, including man. This con was never properly repudiated by the scientistic community and STILL TO THIS DAY can be found in some high school textbooks, utterly unredacted.

Zinjanthropus Boisei comprises of the partial skull and jawbone of an extinct ape dated to millions of years ago, and said to be an early hominid. This despite it being found in strata immediately beneath the fully articulated skeleton of a modern human discovered decades earlier (1913) by Hans Reck. Modern Darwinians naturally dispute the veracity of the find as an "intrusion" or a "burial", though most of the skeleton has conveniently disappeared.

One really needs to step back from all the scientistic double talk and purge the mind of the years of gobbledy-gook that have infiltrated one's thinking on the basis of evolutionist assumptions foisted off on the public and reinforced by the "academy" and the popular media. Looked at with sane eyes and common sense, and with a little digging (pardon the humor) the paleontolical/archeological "evidence" is a house of cards - shaky interpolations teetering upon the unsound presuppositions of Darwinism.

A case in point is the traveling road show/circus from about a decade ago which was towed around to various museums purporting to show the evolutionary transition of whales from land based mammals. Now, admittedly I was, at the time, on a day release from the mental hospital - granted escorted travel as part of a group to the Royal Ontario Museum; it was part of the therapy. But even in my then confused mental state I was amazed to see people thronging to see this "marvel" and baa-ing like sheep at the abysmal paucity of science as if they were witnessing the holy grail of evolution itself.

The actual display consisted of three things; a badly got up, stuffed, wolf-like creature (Pakicetus), a cheesy plaque blindly outlining the massive jump in logic from Pakicetus to the whale, and a picture of a whale bathed in revelatory light. Only the mood music was missing. Now, I admit that I wasn't firing on all cylinders at the time - but how many cylinders were firing in those who were so enthused by the cheap shell game?

Make no mistake, just as Zinjanthropus is most certainly an extinct ape forced to fit the presuppositions of Darwinian evolution and falsely labeled as an early hominid - so Ida is variation of a Lemur which, because it was found in rocks purported to be 47 million years old, Darwinism requires to be a missing link in human evolution without a shred of supporting evidence. This is scientism par excellence. Alas, there is no end to the gullibility of the fallen human mind.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rev 2:21-23 - Thyatira the Doctrinally Compromised Church
Patience and Punishment in Due Course

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Rev 2:21-23 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.

Notwithstanding the fact that this woman - this Jezebel - is perpetrating evil upon Christ’s church, leading many astray, teaching another gospel - one of libertinism, contrary to the instructions of the Apostles - notwithstanding all this, now see the mercy and patience of God. He gave this Jezebel time to repent. One is reminded of God’s dealings with Pharaoh in the time of Moses. God raised Pharaoh up in order to show His power to deliver His people, yet afforded every opportunity for Pharaoh to repent. Though God did indeed harden Pharaoh’s heart, it was only after Pharaoh had 5 times hardened his own heart in the face of God’s commands. Though God destroyed two of Egypt’s main crops, He left the other two untouched.

Such is the nature of God. Though He abhors sin, He is often longsuffering with the sinner. He is patient, gentle and merciful as He was with Jonah and with Nineveh in Jonah’s time. Yet again, Nineveh was nevertheless raised up for the purpose of chastising Israel - as they most certainly did in 722BC. God is able to multitask in ways that we cannot, which is why He is Almighty God and we are creatures under His omnipotent will. Without being the cause of evil, God can use our own evil ways to achieve His righteous purposes - all the while displaying that righteousness through forbearing patience, love and goodness towards the undeserving.

This is the history of God’s dealings with the world. It always has been. It is the situation today. God delays and forbears while men rebel and sin. God calls and commands all men everywhere to repentance and men, unless they are moved by God Himself, universally ignore God’s call - preferring to fritter away their lives eating corn husks in a foreign land, when they could dine sumptuously at their Father’s table.

But there is a time in the life of every sinner, which only God knows - a time when divine patience and forbearance is exhausted. This is why God says that, "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion..." {Heb 3:7-9,15} We must watch and wait. We must not be found asleep when the Master comes, or without lamp oil when the Bridegroom arrives. The door is open today, but God may close it at any time. For some - for most - He waits a lifetime. For many the door closes unexpectedly. They refuse to hear the admonition to the man who was enlarging his barn to make more room for his worldly treasure, when God said to Him, "Thou fool! Tonight thy life is required of thee."

Therefore all Christians absolutely must include in the gospel witness the admonition to believe while there is yet time - and to overlay the loving grace and forbearance of God with warnings regarding the impending judgment, and its uncertain (to mere humans) time of arrival. God can, will and does shut the door on individuals as He sees fit. And once the door is closed in death the judgment is sealed and there will never ever be any going back throughout all eternity. Preaching judgment, hell and (eternal) death is, seen in this light, the most loving thing that can be done. Regrettably, in many modern churches and in much post-modern witness God’s love is the only thing put forward - and it is put forward outside of the context of His sovereign, holy Being which demands justice for all sinners.

Nothing serves the enemy of God so well as a church that ignores, minimizes or even denies the horrors of the end of unrepentant sinners. By these wicked devices, and by co-opting many in the church to follow them, Satan and his minions bring shame upon the cross of Christ and bring upon their human cooperators the blood of untold numbers of the lost.

Towards this Jezebel at Thyatira God displays both aspects of the gospel of grace. He gives her time to repent, but when repentance is not forthcoming there is the terrible anger of God to contend with. She will become sick and her children will be struck dead. Can you preach such a message? Do you believe in such a God? Do you fear Him? Can you tell sinners that God will by no means justify the guilty, which all are unless they are trusting in Christ as their substitute? It may be that, in the preaching of this warning, she will be granted repentance. Who can know what God will do? Even the direst warnings and threats, coming from a God of love, spring from a heart that takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and would that they would turn and be healed. They can be the very means He uses to turn the wicked from his way.

Sickness, tribulation and the loss of dear ones can be signs of God’s judgment on specific sins. Or they can be the effect of untold sin in the world, which God allows to touch us. But however terrible such temporal losses and setbacks can be, they themselves serve as a mere shadowy warning of the unspeakable terrors of hell. While there is yet breath on this side of the grave there is hope that all tribulation rained down under the watchful and kind forbearance of God (He would be just in consuming sinners immediately) will actually lead to repentance. They are a loving call to repentance.

In the final analysis, God sometimes visits dreadful temporal judgment on people so that they will serve as an example to others. We spoke of Pharaoh. Verse 23 threatens to make a similar example of this Jezebel and all who unrepentantly side with her. Whatever befalls her at God’s hand, we are told, will serve as a testimony to all the churches of God’s piercing, all-knowing, searching eye that beholds perfectly the hearts of all His creatures. He knows how to reward every one’s deeds. Those who live rightly will receive commendation from God and those who, in wicked rebellion and despite all God’s forbearance and warnings continue in evil will be rewarded with everlasting death in the lake of fire - a conscious and unending suffering that will be both just and without mercy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Getting to the Marrow

This week it's the mellifluous Sinclair Ferguson - another Scot - preaching about an old battle from the history of the church, from which we all need to learn, so that we don't fall into the same trap.

In the early 18th Century there arose a controversy in the Scottish Church which became known as the "Marrow Controversy". At stake was the very nature of the grace of the gospel and the character of God.

Making a long story short, suffice it to say that much of Reformed and Calvinistic leadership in the church of the time had lost the essence of God's free grace, even though they preached it. Their theology was "just so" but their practice lacked something. The preached the free grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ without necessarily having experienced it. And they virtually made grace conditional upon upon some act of hearer before it could be extended to him.

This may have appeared to be a subtle distinction at first, but the true importance of it was seen by Thomas Boston and others, who undertook to reset the course.

On a personal note, Sinclair Ferguson's accent alone is worth the price of admission to me. But he is also a man full of grace and with sound Reformed theology (except in matters of ecclesiology and baptism [/smile]). And I like to get a good dose of somebody like Ferguson right after I listen to somebody like Paul Washer and others like him.

I'm not necessarily criticizing Paul Washer, but I am rather criticizing myself. So easy do I find it to fall off one side of the horse or the other that I need to hear both sorts of preaching to keep me roughly centered.

The Marrow Controversy Part 1 - Historical Details

Sinclair B. Ferguson

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For those who are interested, here are the other two Ferguson sermons on the subject.

Part 2 - Danger of Legalism

Part 3 - Danger of Antinomianism

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sucking the Marrow Out

The following is an extract from Part II of the book "The Marrow of Modern Divinity" attributed to Edward Fisher, and comes from the section called "The Difference Between the Law and the Gospel":


Law: The law says, "Thou art a sinner, and therefore thou shalt be damned," (Rom 7:2, 2 Thess 2:12).

Gospel: But the gospel says, No; "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"; and therefore, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, (1 Tim 1:15, Acts 16:31).

Law: Again the law says, "Knowest thou not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God; be not deceived," &c. (1 Cor 6:9). And therefore thou being a sinner, and not righteous, shalt not inherit the kingdom of God.

Gospel: But the gospel says, "God has made Christ to be sin for thee who knew no sin; that thou mightest be made the righteousness of God in him, who is the Lord thy righteousness," (Jer 23:6).

Law: Again the law says, "Pay me what thou owest me, or else I will cast thee into prison," (Matt 18:28,30).

Gospel: But the gospel says, "Christ gave himself a ransom for thee," (1 Tim 2:6); "and so is made redemption unto thee," (1 Cor 1:30).

Law: Again the law says, "Thou hast not continued in all that I require of thee, and therefore thou art accursed," (Deut 27:6).

Gospel: But the gospel says, "Christ hath redeemed thee from the curse of the law, being made a curse for thee," (Gal 3:13).

Law: Again the law says, "Thou are become guilty before God, and therefore shalt not escape the judgment of God," (Rom 3:19, 2:3).

Gospel: But the gospel says, "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son," (John 5:12).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rev 2:20 - Thyatira the Doctrinally Compromised Church
Infection of Compromise and Ecumenism
Rev 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

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The use of the name "Jezebel" is generally believed to be figurative. She is a woman with influence in the church who is of the same spirit as the ancient Jezebel, wife of Ahab, persecutor of the true prophets of God, corrupter of Israel with idolatry, supporter of false religion and murdering schemer par excellence. She was the poster girl for perdition.

One struggles to resist the idea that there is some reference here to women in general in positions of authority in the church. Nevertheless, of the very few women called "prophetess" in the whole counsel of scripture it is clear that only the two false prophetesses are mentioned without reference to their male spiritual heads (that is Naodiah in Ne 6:14 and Jezebel here). In every other instance, wherever a woman is depicted as a prophetess (whether on account of a song, like Miriam or something more substantial, like Deborah), her male spiritual head is always mentioned within the context.

This Jezebel of Revelation calls herself a prophetess, but she is not. Could it equally well have been an Ahab? I think not. A woman does not need to have an actual position of authority over a man in order to influence matters. A man is enslaved to whatever his heart cleaves to. If Christ - then Christ. If Satan, then Satan. And if an ungodly woman, then whatever influence the evil one may exert through her upon him. This was Ahab’s flaw. He was king of Israel, but he listened to his wicked wife. She exerted influence through his weakness of attraction to her. By this, he gave her authority over him. And by tolerating this latter Jezebel, the pastor of the Thyatiran church was giving her an authority she was not entitled to.

The fact that all scripture is God-breathed and that every jot and tittle has a reason for its existence determines the fact that God purposed to speak against this woman specifically. For this very purpose he raised her up. He did not raise up an Ahab for this situation, but a Jezebel. It’s hard to think of a better example of how an ungodly woman can wreak havoc when left unchecked. Or how ungodly feminism can sap the strength and light out of an unwatchful ministry or congregation. Women are not to have authority over men and men are not to permit it. It cuts both ways. People will do what people do, for we are all sinners - but God decreed an order in His church and it is this - that men must be in authority and must serve the women in love. Women must not be elders or pastors and they must not teach men.

Here it is doubtful if the attack of this Jezebel is as direct as an open play for power. She is more subtle. She exercises power through a combination of false claims to being “something”, by using a counterfeit gift to sway the weak and undiscerning, by preaching a compromised faith and a broad way theology that itself tolerates compromise with the world, and the relegation of clear Apostolic teaching. It is a "popular" way. It is classic subterfuge. It is textbook demonic infiltration. If persecution itself will not work then there is always seduction. Satan has no preference. What he cannot accomplish with the gallows and the whip he will accomplish with smooth words of compromise and the harlot’s kisses.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Apples and Oranges


Allah never changes a people's state unless they change what's in themselves (13:11).

The Word of God the Son

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

"No man comes to me unless the Father draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rev 2:19 - Thyatira the Doctrinally Compromised Church
Growing in Grace and Bearing Fruit
Rev 2:19 ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.

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See that these Thyatirans have works and have works that are commended by Christ. They are works wrought in and through Him. They are works committed to Him for His purposes and to achieve His will. True, the address of Christ is first to the pastor of the church - thus recognizing in him these fruits unto obedience - but there is reflection also upon the faithful in the congregation. At the very least, the Thyatiran congregation has supported and maintained a pastor who stands for Christ, and who produces the fruit of obedience to His indwelling Spirit. Had they been unfaithful themselves they might well have despised and ejected such a shepherd, for none hate so much the spiritual graces of a man than those who reject them themselves.

So what are the works? What can they be if not love (Biblical love, which is an act of the will and not a reaction to a feeling), faith (implying a trust in God through all difficulties), service (from the Greek diakonos implying acts of helping to meet the needs of those in lack) and patient endurance - such as that spoken of in 2Pe 1:5-8. In fact, Peter’s reference to such things being in us and "abounding" (meaning increasing) is precisely what the Lord is commending here, for there is growth rather than stagnation. Where Ephesus stagnated into losing their first love, so here the latter works (fruit of love) exceed the first - proving a devotion that has grown and abounded.

James summed it all up when he wrote, "You say ‘Show me your works and I will show you my faith.’ But I will show you my faith by my works." True faith produces fruit. Christ’s children will all grow, thus proving themselves Christ’s children. They will be diligent to make their calling and election sure. They will examine themselves to be sure they are in the faith - to know that He is indeed in them." They will do as they ought - to walk as He Himself walked.

The pastor and the faithful at Thyatira were fruitful and growing in grace. Yet, as we shall see, there was even then something against them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Getting the Cart Behind the Horse

Natural religion in all its forms presupposes holy character and conduct as the essential antecedent condition of God's favor. Christianity in all its genuine forms presupposes the favor of God as the essential antecedent condition of holy character and conduct.

A.A. Hodge

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rev 2:18 - Thyatira the Doctrinally Compromised Church
The Christ Who Sees All and Judges All
Rev 2:18 And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

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We shall see that the main criticism leveled at the Thyatiran church was toleration of "that woman," Jezebel. It is, therefore, fitting that the Christ speaking to the pastor of this church is pictured as having eyes like a flame of fire and feet like burnished bronze. These are symbols of penetrating anger, purity and judgment.

The eyes of flaming fire not only produce light to see, but also fire to consume. God will in no way pardon the unrepentant wicked. Rather He will judge them with a terrible judgment. Hence verse 23... "...And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve." True religion is a matter of the mind and heart. As a man thinks, so is he. And what a man thinks will spring from what a man is at the very core, which is why God Himself puts a new heart within His children.

All of God’s true children have the heart of Christ at their core - the heart after Christ’s own heart, begotten of God unto newness of life - a new creation. It is this life within that springs forth into eternal life and which produces the fruit of the Spirit of God, through faith. It is us, yet not us, but Christ living in us. It is His gracious gift working in us towards completion at the Day of Jesus Christ.

God knows those who are His. His eyes see the hearts of all people and He knows their minds. He knows those in whom He has planted the Holy seed - and He knows those who are working from their own dead flesh, conformed to the world even though they may make outward professions and demonstrations of faith. They may have a form of religion covering the spectrum from the merely ritual to the outwardly pious. But their ways are based upon the ways of men and rely upon their own deeds. They either serve their own lusts or they try to justify themselves before God by their own human "goodness".

Nothing is hidden from His flaming fiery eyes. And those who live by works or who inhabit the deeds of the flesh will be judged accordingly - by their works. But by the deeds of the law is no man justified. Their judgment will be swift and terrible. And nothing can escape the purity of He whose feet are like burnished bronze - pure, strong, beautiful. He walks in holiness. It is His absolute holiness that undergirds his judgments. "Be thou holy, for I am holy..." Holiness - the forgotten nature of God.

Today God is reduced in the minds of many to nothing but love. And not just love, but that sort of love that is mushy, undiscriminating, tolerant of evil and all-encompassing. It has been forgotten that the love of God emanates from His holiness - it hangs upon His holiness. Love does not overpower or negate the demands of His holiness. Love satisfies those demands, in Christ.

God is indeed love. And Christ is indeed the supreme evidence of this. But He is evidence also of the infinity of the gap between the holiness of God and the horror of all sin, and all who, by their unwillingness to be freed, are captive to it. He is evidence of the stupendous cost of reconciliation and, thereby of the dreadful degradation, corruption and wickedness of all humanity.

And so, let us see that, along with His commendation to the true church, the Lord holds forth imminent judgment for those who are not His own, and chastisement for those of His who tolerate through a lack of discernment the corruptions of the world and the devil in their midst. More than a place of "tolerant love," Christ’s church is to be a place of purity and holiness, free from worldly influence, teaching and corruption.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sermon of the Week - Idolatry
This is a session by Tim Keller from the 2009 Gospel Coalition Conference. In it, Keller explains the nature of idolatry - particularly as it is manifested in the present age.

His presentation explains both the harmlessness of idols and the virulent danger that they also present, due to the demons behind them. He warns that being unaware is dangerous to one's soul, but that opposition to the idols of the culture will unleash the hatred of those who are captive to the evil spiritual propagators behind the idol's deception.

The Grand Demythologizer: The Gospel and Idolatry

Tim Keller

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Scotching the Snake of Pelagianism

'If anyone makes the assistance of grace [to believe the gospel] depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" {1Co 4:7}, and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" {1Co 15:10}.'

Second Council of Orange 529AD

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rev 2:17 - Pergamum the Morally Compromised Church
Rewards for the Overcomers

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Rev 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

If the church fails to do the job of keeping herself pure through separation, then Christ will do it for her. This can neither be good for us, nor for those false teachers and their adherents whom we tolerate, uncorrected, in our midst. Ecumenism is abhorrent to God as the scriptures delineate both in figure (from the Levitical laws) and directly in numerous places - forbidding the intermixing of that which is holy with that which is unholy.

Wearing garments of mixed cloth, intermarrying with Canaanites and so forth are antitypes of the principle that God is a holy God and that we ourselves must be holy - unalloyed with the world even as we walk in it. The church must be unworldly even as it testifies to the work of Christ. We walk amongst the world without judgment, without prejudice, without favor towards any - and above all without being of the world. We do not walk in the smug and superior thought that we are better than they, yet we strive to be holy and uphold holiness as the unalterable standard of God. A standard not to be arrived at by works, but received through faith and evidenced by works.

So we come to this statement. "Who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Not all can hear. It is, after all, the Holy Spirit speaking. It is the Spirit of Christ - for they are One God, with the Father. Who can hear, but the one whose ears have been opened? Who is it that in acted parables during His ministry actually opened the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind? It was Christ. Has anything changed? No! It still takes a gracious act of God for a person’s ears to be opened to the truth and to the leading of the Spirit.

The kingdom among and within is a kingdom of the spirit. It is inhabited only by the spiritually reborn. It exists as a domain in and among the believers even as they walk upon the earth. It is the kingdom of light and life in the midst of a dark and dead world. This is no mystical, secret, inward, higher learning, gnostic sort of thing. It is the life of Christ the King in the believer. Wherever the King is - there is His kingdom seen. He is in and among His children in a special way. No special rites or secret ceremonies or higher knowledge is needed. The knowledge of Christ is enough. He confers citizenship upon the lowliest. From beggars to brain surgeons, all qualify the same way - by grace through faith.

But when we come to the phrase, "To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna etc..." then many will at once collapse into a worldly understanding of the means of continuing in what they originally received as a gift. Though light and knowledge and salvation and understanding and faith and the desire to obey came by grace from God as a gift wrought for them by Christ "while they were yet sinners" many seek to go on from there conquering in their own strength. It is true that the plain language implies that we must now conquer - but by what means is this victory to be arrived at? Why, simply by faith in the finished work of Christ! Faith in the power of God at work in us.

To regard sanctification as "God has done His part by justifying me and now I must do my part by overcoming the world, the flesh and the devil" is so close to true that it hurts. But it is not the whole truth. We can no more "conquer" apart from Christ than we could be born again without Him. We must abide in Him for all things. We must come to Him for the light, the truth, the motivation, the will, the power to do anything in the kingdom whatsoever. If it isn’t wrought in Him it is of no avail to the purpose of conforming us to His image. He will undoubtedly use it for good somewhere, but we shall be left holding an empty bucket.

Does this mean we wait around until we have some supernatural gasoline poured into our motors, or until we see writing in the sky? No! It means that we strive in all things to abide in the realization that we need to be doing His will in His way and in His power. We desire to be walking in the Spirit yet, at the same time, we humbly take the posture that, apart from Him we cannot do it. We ask for help and light and then we proceed according to the best understanding we can muster. We know that we shall fail unless He is in us to do it. Yet we know we must go forth in our weakness, trusting that He will be gracious in us. We understand that in some ways God is the "hard master" of the parable, but we also see that He regards it as more commendable to be willing to be wrong, though sincerely seeking to honour Him, than it is to refuse to budge for fear of making a mistake. The worldly saying "damned if you do and damned if you don’t" has no real application to the true Christian. All things work together for his good - even His failures. And even chastisement for these is itself a sign of God’s love.

The reward of the hidden manna is probably a contrast with the food sacrificed to idols spoken of earlier. Obedience and faithfulness will be rewarded - though the true believer will surely give all the glory to Christ, even for his own obedience and faith. The real bread from heaven is indeed hidden from the world. It is hidden from the disobedient and the faithless. But the children dine at the table of the Master and feast on Christ, the true bread of heaven. To him who has more is given.

And the white stone is symbolic, and probably conformed to an ancient custom of awarding such a thing to a victor. There is a suggestion by some commentators that a diamond is contemplated - similar to one of the stones upon the sacred ephod, which covered the heart of the high priest. The name written on the stone, one hopes, is the Name of Christ. All overcomers are Christ’s, for it is in Him that they overcome.
I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. {Isa 56:5}

The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. {Isa 62:2}

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Delight Yourself in the Lord

Here once again is a piece by Roxylee. Other posted pieces on this site by this wonderful Christian artist can be heard here and here.

Also I encourage you to visit her site and leave her a word of encouragement. Her Creative Commons license terms can be found here.

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Delight Yourself

Delight yourself in the Lord
He placed all the stars in the sky
He knows where every flower is
He knows what makes you cry

Do what is right in his sight
And if you don’t know it, then wait
Humble yourself under his mighty hand
And he will make all your paths straight


Glorious Father
Most precious Jesus
Holy Spirit, living in me
All thing are made new
How I adore You
Even when life gets rough
You see me through

Delight yourself in the Lord
Worship Him all the day long
Joyful reliance and trust in his plan
Will create in your heart a new song

Do what is right in his sight
In faith and repentance be free
The wind of the Spirit will carry you home
Like the breeze on a peaceful sea


And when my life ends here,
I’ll still be with You

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rev 2:15-16 - Pergamum the Morally Compromised Church
False Teachers Wrongly Tolerated

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Rev 2:15-16 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

The Nicolaitans have been mentioned elsewhere. The word means "power over the people" from the two Greek components "nicao" (=victor over, destroyer of) and "laos" (=people, like our word "laity." Also, note the similarity between the meaning of Nicolaitan and Balaam, the latter meaning "a ruler of the people".) The idea would then be that certain leaders put themselves forward not as servants, but with the idea of lording it over people and exercising control over them. Nothing clearer comes to mind than the rise of the priesthood of the Catholic Church, though this is well before that time. Or the much more recent rise of New Apostolic Reformationism under C. Peter Wagner and others. Or the neo-Gnostic Strategic level Spiritual Warfare movement with its elitism, its special knowledge and its disdain for the historic Christian faith.

Nevertheless, the Roman church is merely representative of the way that man corrupts true spirituality with humanistic religion. Form controls substance. Authority becomes despotic. So-called servanthood perpetrates greater and greater atrocities on the "name of love". We, the true children of God, are sent forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. We are the children of light. The children of this world are wiser in their generation than we. Fallen human nature is constantly manifested in the church, either through the sins of the faithful or through the infiltration of false professors.

Neither are Protestant churches immune from hierarchical abuse. There are despotic Baptist ministers and monolithic organizations benevolently dictating right and wrong doctrine to flocks everywhere. Such things are at the root of the question as to how the church is to be governed. And the answer is that it is not to be governed at all. The church is to be overseen by servant leaders who are brought forward by the people of God under the prayerful guidance of the Holy Spirit. The real problems arise when the people themselves are ignorant or unlearned in God’s ways and His Word. Many churches are full of the worldly and the unsaved, along with Christians who have never graduated from the milk. And so they make worldly decisions and appoint worldly or unqualified leaders who govern them in worldly ways, perpetuating and exacerbating the cycle.

This is not universal. God always saves for Himself a remnant. Consider the full frontal attack on the early church - both from without and from within. Did the church fold? No! Christ said that He would build His church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. His church is not always the visible bits. It is not the prominent, obvious, popular, noisy, clamorous bits. It survives and marches on despite the rot and the tribulation. Nicolaitans are ever with us up to the modern day. They are subtle, as ever - but because Christianity is largely so dumbed-down in this age, that subtlety is needed less and less. People today will swallow just about anything.

Another aspect of the Nicolaitan heresy was its seduction of people into the error of Balaam who taught Balak the Moabite how to corrupt Israel through immorality and intermarriage. Similarly, the early Christians were forbidden to partake of things offered to idols - a sometimes difficult thing that prevented them from partaking in local festivals. But it was an edict of the Lord’s Apostles. The Nicolaitan heresy encouraged this and other forms of license as compromise with the society in which the Christians lived. Instead of, "Come ye out from among them," the cry of the heretics was, "What harm can it do to participate?"

But what does the Lord say? Remember that the pastor and the church were being upbraided for tolerating these things. How does that stack up with today’s cries for tolerance in the church?! The opposite is actually what is required. The church is to hate what Christ hates and to deal with it accordingly. Gentle Jesus, meek and mild is the same Jesus who made a whip of cords and drove the money-changers out of the temple. And if you think He wasn’t angry when He did it you have a skewed understanding of scripture. The Lord is saying that worldly compromisers and worldly leaders are to be disciplined and/or tossed out of the church.

This is all concerned with what goes on "within the church". Towards the outside world we are to be loving, merciful and gracious. They are as we once were, before God’s grace enlightened us. We are to be in the world while not being of it. The only way for the church to be "not of the world" is to be itself separated from its values and practices. That means that within the church the most exacting standards of holiness, purity and conformity to the word of God are to be insisted upon. We are to be different. How this is to be achieved is laid out for us in scripture. Preaching and teaching the unadulterated truth. Loving the brethren. Encouraging, reproving, rebuking and disciplining as required.

We are to be different from the world both as to appearance and as to conduct. Our mission is not to change the world, but to change the church - to disciple. Now, we are, of ourselves, unable to change anything, of course - but unless the church is markedly different from the world what is there to recommend life in Christ? If we import the ways of the world into the church in an effort to attract the worldly we are shooting ourselves in the foot. We are counter-Christian - which is another way to say that we are anti-Christ. So what does Jesus think of all this?

He abhors the toleration of human self-authority, false teaching and the use of grace as a cover for licentiousness. Again - it is held to the account of the saints if they tolerate such things among them. But what does the Lord say? If the saints don’t repent of tolerating this stuff, then He will come and execute judgment on - not the faithful saints, not the truly reborn children - but those in error amongst them. Far from being a threat of punishment, it is a plea for loving witness. Christ is calling the church to love enough to correct, reprove, rebuke and discipline so that He will not have to come and judge the wayward in person. Church discipline, the preaching of separation and purity - these are for the good of all. Who knows but that, by it, some might not be turned from their evil way and saved?

It is the pastor and the true church that are to repent. They are to repent of tolerating error. Yet when they do repent and vigilantly guard the purity of the faith, they actually display true love to those whose errors need correction. They do this by “delaying” the judgment of Christ. When the church acts as the church then the church and the world are preserved. God is somehow in it to restrain His Own ultimate judgment. But the less faithful the church is in keeping itself pure then the closer it and the world come to that Day when He Who has been restraining all will be removed altogether - and the beginning of the end will be at hand.