God’s Decrees Are… (Boston)

Christians don’t spend enough time meditating on the character of God. Below are some good thought from one of my favorite authors (Thomas Boston) on God’s decrees…

The Reformed Reader

The Works Of Thomas Boston: Volume 1 by [Boston, Thomas] The Bible teaches that God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11 NIV). This means that whatever God decrees comes to pass and whatever comes to pass God has decreed.  This includes the details of creation, predestination, providence, and so forth.  I like how Thomas Boston defined the properties of God’s decrees using Scripture.  He said the following about God’s decrees:

  1. They are eternal.  God makes no decrees in time, but they were all from eternity. So the decree of election is said to have been ‘before the foundation of the world,’ Eph. 1:4.  …If the divine decrees were not eternal, God would not be most perfect and unchangeable, but, like weak man, should take new counsels, and would be unable to tell everything that were to come to pass.
  2. They are most wise: ‘According to the counsel of his will.’ God…

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Who Was Obadiah?

The questions below come from Chapter 1 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

1. Who was Obadiah?

He was an prophet of Judah, whose name means “Servant of Jehovah”.  Nothing
else is known about him.

2. What the theme of his prophecy?

That Edom would be punished for taking advantage of Judah while Judah was
under attack by a foreign invader.

3. What the date and circumstances of this prophecy?

This is debatable.  Some think it takes place very early when the Philistines
and Arabians plundered Jerusalem because of the sins of Jehoram (2 Chron
21:16-17).  Other believe this prophecy came about during the initial stages
of the Babylonian captivity.

4. What was the attitude of Edom toward Israel and what the history which evidences this attitude?

The Edomites held hostility against the Israelites from the time of the split
between Jacob (father of Israel) and Esau (father of Edom); to the time when
the Edomites would not allow the Israelite slaves to travel from their land
after the exodus from Egypt.

The LORD says, through Obadiah, that the Edomites are full of pride and have
taken advantage of Israel during her distress by taking prisoners and
stealing her goods.

5. What of the general character of the book?

According to Carroll, “The style of Obadiah is remarkably original. …The
language is full of thought and pregnant with meaning. It has a vigor,
terseness, and rapidity which carry the reader along and place him by the
prophet’s side in fullest sympathy.”

6. What other passages of Scripture should be studied with Obadiah?

Jeremiah 49:7-22 and Ezekiel 35 both describe the arrogance of Edom and
God’s judgement against her.

7. Give a brief analysis of the book.

– vss 1-14:  God’s Judgement Because of Edom’s Arrogance and Treatment of Israel
– vss 15-21: The Day of the LORD and the Kingdom of God

8. What is the summary of verses 1-2?

God calls the nations to rise up against Edom to destroy her.

9. What was the character of the Edomites and what was the place of their security?

– The Edomites were proud and arrogant.
– The dwelt securely in the tops of the mountains

10. How is the completeness of the desolation described?

– Nothing will be left – it will be a complete desolation.

11. What reason did the prophet here assign for such desolation?

Edom sided with Israel’s enemies, plundered Israel, and rejoiced in her calamity.

12. What hope for Israel’s victory does the prophet here hold out to the people and how is it to be realized?

Israel will have final victory.  She will be as a flame and Edom will be as
stubble that will be burned and destroyed.

13. When were Obadiah’s prophecies fulfilled?

Edom was destroyed in the 6th Century BC by the Babylonians.  The survivors
pushed into the Negev region of Southern Judah – an area known as Idumea in
the New Testament.  These Idumeans were forced into Judaism and incorporated
into the Kingdom of Judah in the Second Century BC.

The LORD’s kingdom and Israelite posession of the Edomite land (modern
Jordan) will be fulfilled in the last days.

14. What are the lessons of the prophecy of Obadiah?

Love your brother
Pride goes before the fall
Beware of false confidence
Fear God’s wrath

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

Thanksgiving thoughts from 2015…

Abraham's Seed

Today is, in the United States, the national observance of Thanksgiving to God for all his blessings in 2015 and commemoration of the first American Thanksgiving which took place in the Plymouth Colony in 1621.

Background

Special days of fasting and mourning for sin and special days of feasting and celebration were common and frequent elements in the life of the 17th Century Puritans. What made that first recognized Thanksgiving celebration on US soil, in 1621, to be such a notable event is the fact that it is the first that was thoroughly documented. Those Plymouth Pilgrims suffered so many great difficulties in their first year in the New World, in their quest for religious freedom, that the first great harvest that God bestowed upon them was incredibly sweet.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year! It is the quintessential Protestant Holiday! It is the hearty, sincere, and humble…

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Happy Reformation Day 2016

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany.  There were certainly many reformers within the church both before, during, and after Martin Luther, but the unintended consequence of this seemingly insignificant event sparked a debate that would eventually roar across the Western Church like a wild fire.  For this reason, Christians celebrate the reformation of the church on October 31st every year.  Next year, of course, will be the 500th anniversary of this momentous occasion!

knox

Our reformation hero for 2016 is John Knox.  Knox was born in Scotland in 1505.  He was well educated as a child and taught at both the University of Glasgow (his Alma matter) and the University of St. Andrews.

The details of Knox’s conversion are not known.  It is known, however, that by 1543, Knox was preaching the free gospel of grace and supported reformed movements within the church.

In 1546, Knox’s friend and fellow reformer George Wishart was burned at the stake at St Andrews castle by Cardinal Beaton.  Shortly after, reformers stormed the castle and killed Beaton.  Many protestants, including Knox, took refuge in the castle.  Knox preached and taught in the castle for a year until he was captured by the French during the Siege of St. Andrews Castle.

ben-hur_1959a

As a French prisoner, Knox was sentenced to be chained to an oar as a galley slave.  Knox labored as a slave for 19 months (nearly dying from the harsh conditions).  He was freed as a condition negotiated by Protestant King Edward VI of England.  Knox was returned to England in 1549 where he preached and worked with the English reformers.

Knox had to flee to Frankfurt, Germany when “Bloody” Queen Marty ascended to the throne in 1554.  Later, Knox moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he befriended John Calvin and pastored an English church.

In 1559, Knox returned to Scotland to lead the reformation of the church there.  In his home country, Knox developed a Presbyterian form of church government (as opposed to the hierarchical form of the church of England).  Knox stood up to the Queen of Scotland (at great peril to his own life) and eventually won all of Scotland to the reformed cause.

In 1570, Knox suffered a stroke, but continued his prolific preaching schedule (having to be carried to the pulpit to preach).  Finally, by November of 1572, Knox was spent and the Lord took him home.  His influence on the Scottish reformation, the Westminster Assembly, and American and English religion could never be understated.

john_knox_statue_new_college_edinburgh

“Although I never lack the presence and plain image of my own wretched
infirmity, yet seeing sin so manifestly abounds in all estates, I am
compelled to thunder out the threatening of God against the obstinate
rebels.”
― John Knox

Matthew Henry’s “Notes”

Shane Lems has a great post today encouraging the use of Matthew Henry’s commentary.

…I appreciate Henry because he had such a great knowledge of Scripture that he constantly alluded to other Bible passages in his commentary. Also, I like Henry because he understood the doctrines of grace and highlighted them in his comments. One other reason I keep on using Henry’s commentaries is because he always worked to apply the text…

Read the Whole Article Here: Matthew Henry’s “Notes”

How Can God Be Known?

“Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job 11:7)

Theologians have always distinguished between two different sources of knowledge about God – general revelation and special revelation.  Those things that have been revealed to man through nature and by virtue of being made in His image are called general revelation.  Those things that must be specially revealed to man (such as God’s plan of Redemption) in order to be understood are called special revelation.

Can God be known by general revelation?  The Apostle Paul answers in the affirmative:

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse (Rom 1:19-20)

Here, Paul teaches us that unbelievers have no excuse for not believing in God because he has manifested that knowledge “in them” and the creation of the world testifies to that truth.  See also Psalm 19 on the same point.

In light of this, why is it that not all men have faith?  Paul goes on to state:

…when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  …Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, …God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient (Rom 1:22-28)

According to Paul, then, men would rather serve sin and idols than God.  Because of this, God has given mankind over to do as their reprobate minds please.

So, in spite of what has been revealed to every man, man continues blindly suppressing this knowledge because of his slavery to sin.  Therefore, there is a special, personal work of God that is necessary to overcome this blindness and reveal man’s condition to him.  This revelation includes everything that cannot be known through nature – man’s sinfulness and God’s grace and way of salvation.  “neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matt 11:27).  This special knowledge must come to man by the working of the Holy Spirit:

…the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:11-14)

 

neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matt 11:27). 

Happy Thanksgiving 2015!

Today is, in the United States, the national observance of Thanksgiving to God for all his blessings in 2015 and commemoration of the first American Thanksgiving which took place in the Plymouth Colony in 1621.

Background

Special days of fasting and mourning for sin and special days of feasting and celebration were common and frequent elements in the life of the 17th Century Puritans. What made that first recognized Thanksgiving celebration on US soil, in 1621, to be such a notable event is the fact that it is the first that was thoroughly documented. Those Plymouth Pilgrims suffered so many great difficulties in their first year in the New World, in their quest for religious freedom, that the first great harvest that God bestowed upon them was incredibly sweet.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year! It is the quintessential Protestant Holiday! It is the hearty, sincere, and humble acknowledgement that every good gift comes from the Father above (Ja 1:17) and it is a day to remember the great history and great blessings that we have as a free people in this country.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (Ja 1:17)

Necessity of Thanksgiving

Christians are commanded by Scripture to be thankful people. No people have received as much as we have, and consequently, no other people should feel as compelled as we are to live our lives in a state of constant gratitude and prayer.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (I Thes. 5:18)


Elements of Thanksgiving Worship

Some traditional elements of Thanksgiving worship that you can use in your family gathering today include: the recitation of Psalm 100, recitation of Puritan Minister Edward Reynold’s Prayer of Thanksgiving from the 1662 BCP, and hymns of Thanksgiving.


Psalm 100

A Psalm of Praise; or rather of thanksgiving. This is the only psalm bearing this precise inscription. It is all ablaze with grateful adoration, and has for this reason been a great favourite with the people of God ever since it was written (Charles Spurgeon).

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness:
come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the LORD he is God:
it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the LORD is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his truth endureth to all generations.

On this Psalm, Charles Sprugeon comments:

In all our public service the rendering of thanks must abound; it is like the incense of the temple, which filled the whole house with smoke. Expiatory sacrifices are ended, but those of gratitude will never be out of date. So long as we are receivers of mercy we must be givers of thanks. …Be thankful unto him. Let the praise be in your heart as well as on your tongue, and let it all be for him to whom it all belongs. And bless his name. He blessed you, bless him in return; bless his name, his character, his person. Whatever he does, be sure that you bless him for it; bless him when he takes away as well as when he gives; bless him as long as you live, under all circumstances…

Prayer of Thanksgiving

;Almighty God,
Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.

We bless you
for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.

And, we pray,
give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up ourselves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Thanksgiving Hymns

In honor of that first great Pilgrim harvest in Plymouth, let us sing “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” and as we remember the great harvests the Lord has brought in our own lives this Thanksgiving, let us also remember the great harvest which is yet to occur at the last day (Matt 13:24-30).

Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest home!

We ourselves are God’s own field,
Fruit unto his praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown
Unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear;
Grant, O harvest Lord, that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come,
And shall take the harvest home;
From His field shall in that day
All offences purge away,
Giving angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store
In the garner evermore.

Then, thou Church triumphant come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All be safely gathered in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In God’s garner to abide;
Come, ten thousand angels, come,
Raise the glorious harvest home!

 

We Gather Together

This Dutch hymn was written in 1597 to celebrate Dutch independence and freedom from Wicked Roman Catholic oppression.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 5:19-20)

Reformation Sunday

Hopefully you took time today to reflect on the rich heritage that has been handed to us as heirs of the Reformation! In the spirit of Reformation Sunday, here is a clip from the 1953 movie Martin Luther.

Sola Scriptura et Semper Reformanda

For more on Protestantism, see What Protestants Believe.

Luther at Speyer

The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.  (Ps 16:6)

Bach’s Reformation Day Cantatas

Reformation500

Luther “wrote [the 95] theses on indulgences and posted them on the church of All Saints on 31 October 1517,” wrote Phillip Melanchthon. Protestants have celebrated this event since the late 16th century, and October 31th became Reformation Day in the Protestant areas of Germany in the early 18th century.

The famous composer J. S. Bach wrote cantatas for Reformation Day. For the one in 1727, he wrote the following cantata, based on Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is our God (“Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott”).

And for the Reformation Day of 1725, he wrote this one.

Let us, with Bach, rejoice and be glad.

Post Tenebras Lux

For more information on these cantatas, see here and here.

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John Erskine’s “The Nature the Sinai Covenant”

Contrast

Owen

Owen’s work on the Mosaic Covenant is tremendous. He was bold enough to recognize that the Old Covenant was separate from the Covenant of Grace (New Covenant), that it was made with the nation of Israel, that it was based upon works, and that it was limited to temporal life in the land (not eternal life).

However, when it comes to the question of what type of obedience was required, I think Owen can be improved upon. He noted:

owenThis is the nature and substance of that covenant which God made with that people; a particular, temporary covenant it was, and not a mere dispensation of the covenant of grace.

That which remains for the declaration of the mind of the Holy Ghost in this whole matter, is to declare the differences that are between those two covenants, whence the one is said to be “better” than the other…

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