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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Behold the Cross!

Look steadily at the cross of Christ by faith, and you shall be kept in peace. Fix the eyes of your mind firmly on Jesus crucified and He will deliver you from all your fears. Though you walk through a dark time, He will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Always sit under the shadow of the cross. Bishop J. C. Ryle lays before us the answers to many of our spiritual questions:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Are you desirous to get to heaven, and perplexed and brought to a stand-still by difficulties in the Bible which you cannot explain? To you also I say this day, “Behold the cross of Christ.” Read there the Father’s love and the Son’s compassion. Surely they are written in great plain letters, which none can well mistake. What though you are now perplexed by the doctrine of election? What though at present you cannot reconcile your own utter corruption and your own responsibility? Look, I say, at the cross. Does not that cross tell you that Jesus is a mighty, loving, ready Savior? Does it not make one thing plain, and that is that it is all your own fault if you are not saved? Oh, get hold of that truth, and hold it fast!

Are you a distressed believer? Is your heart pressed down with sickness, tried with disappointments, overburdened with cares? To you also I say this day, “Behold the cross of Christ.” Think whose hand it is that chastens you; think whose hand is measuring to you the cup of bitterness which you are now drinking. It is the hand of Him who was crucified! It is the same hand which in love to your soul was nailed to the accursed tree. Surely that thought should comfort and hearten you. Surely you should say to yourself, “A crucified Savior will never lay upon me anything that is not for my good. There is a needs be. It must be well.”

Are you a believer that longs to be more holy? Are you one that finds his heart too ready to love earthly things? To you also I say, “Behold the cross of Christ.” Look at the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual. As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As honey tasted makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world. (“The Cross of Christ”)

Behold the Cross of Christ

The cross tells us that Jesus is a mighty, loving, and complete Savior of men. Surely this should improve our confidence in Him. Believer, you will learn holiness at Calvary. Bishop J. C. Ryle offers us these words:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Are you living in any kind of sin? Are you following the course of this world, and neglecting your soul? Hear, I beseech you, what I say to you this day, “Behold the Cross of Christ.” See there how Jesus loved you! See there what Jesus suffered to prepare for you a way of salvation. Yes—careless men and women, for you that blood was shed! For you those hands and feet were pierced with nails! For you that body hung in agony on the cross! You are those whom Jesus loved, and for whom He died! Surely that love ought to melt you. Surely the thought of the cross should draw you to repentance. Oh, that it might be so this very day! Oh, that you would come at once to that Savior who died for you, and is willing to save! Come, and cry to Him with the prayer of faith, and I know that He will listen. Come, and lay hold upon the cross, and I know that He will not cast you out. Come, and believe on Him who died on the cross, and this very day you shall have eternal life. How will you ever escape if you neglect so great salvation? None surely will be so deep in hell as those who despise the cross!

Are you inquiring the way toward heaven? Are you seeking salvation—but doubtful whether you can find it? Are you desiring to have an interest in Christ—but doubting whether Christ will receive you? To you also I say this day, “Behold the cross of Christ.” Here is encouragement if you really want it. Draw near to the Lord Jesus with boldness, for nothing need keep you back. His arms are open to receive you—His heart is full of love towards you. He has made a way by which you may approach Him with confidence. Think of the cross. Draw near, and fear not. (“The Cross of Christ”)

Christ Crucified

J. C. Ryle reminds us that the church cannot be the Church unless the doctrine of the cross is central in its teaching:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

The cross is the foundation of a Church’s prosperity. No Church will ever be honored in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up – nothing whatever can make up for the lack of the cross. Without it all things may be done decently and in order; without it there may be splendid ceremonies, beautiful music, gorgeous churches, learned ministers, crowded communion tables, huge collections for the poor. But without the cross no good will be done; dark hearts will not be enlightened, proud hearts will not be humbled, mourning hearts will not be comforted, fainting hearts will not be cheered. Sermons about the Church and an apostolic ministry – sermons about baptism and the Lord’s supper – sermons about unity and schism – sermons about fasts and communion – sermons about fathers and saints – such sermons will never make up for the absence of sermons about the cross of Christ. They may amuse some—they will feed none. A gorgeous banqueting room, and splendid gold plate on the table, will never make up to a hungry man for the lack of food. Christ crucified is God’s ordinance for doing good to people. Whenever a Church keeps back Christ crucified, or puts anything whatever in that foremost place which Christ crucified should always have, from that moment a Church ceases to be useful. Without Christ crucified in her pulpits, a church is little better than a cumberer of the ground, a dead carcass, a well without water, a barren fig tree, a sleeping watchman, a silent trumpet, a speechless witness, an ambassador without terms of peace, a messenger without tidings, a lighthouse without fire, a stumbling-block to weak believers, a comfort to infidels, a hot-bed for formalism, a joy to the devil, and an offence to God. (“The Cross of Christ”)

The Cross is the Strength of the Minister

The cross is the secret of the churches’ success. Nothing but the cross has ever moved the hearts of pagan men. When the cross is lifted up the church has prospered. This is the weapon which has won victories over the hearts of mankind. Bishop J. C. Ryle writes:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

The cross is the grand peculiarity of the Christian religion. Other religions have laws and moral precepts, forms and ceremonies, rewards and punishments. But other religions cannot tell us of a dying Savior. They cannot show us the cross. This is the crown and glory of the Gospel. This is that special comfort which belongs to it alone. Miserable indeed is that religious teaching which calls itself Christian, and yet contains nothing of the cross. A man, who teaches in this way, might as well profess to explain the solar system, and yet tell his hearers nothing about the sun.

The cross is the strength of a minister. I for one would not be without it for all the world. I should feel like a soldier without weapons—like an artist without his brush—like a pilot without his compass—like a laborer without his tools . . . . [G]ive me the cross of Christ! This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made people forsake their sins. And if this will not, nothing will. . . . Never was there a minister who did much for the conversion of souls who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Rutherford, Whitefield, M’Cheyne, were all most eminently preachers of the cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Spirit delights to bless. He loves to honor those who honor the cross. (“The Cross of Christ”)

Tell Satan to Look at the Cross

What will hold us firm when temptations come? J. C. Ryle has considered this question and answered:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Shall I look at my own graces and gifts? Shall I take comfort in my own faith, and love, and penitence, and zeal, and prayer? Shall I turn to my own heart, and say, “this same heart will never be false and cold”? Oh, no! God forbid! I will look at the cross of Christ. This is my grand argument. This is my main stay. I cannot think that He who went through such sufferings to redeem my soul, will let that soul perish after all, when it has once cast itself on Him. Oh, no! what Jesus paid for, Jesus will surely keep. He paid dearly for it. He will not let it easily be lost. He called me to Himself when I was a dark sinner — He will never forsake me after I have believed. When Satan tempts us to doubt whether Christ’s people will be kept from falling, we should tell Satan to look at the cross.

“The believer is so freed from eternal wrath, that if Satan and conscience say, ‘You are a sinner, and under the curse of the law,’ he can say, ‘It is true, I am a sinner; but I was hanged on a tree and died, and was made a curse in my Head and Lawgiver Christ, and His payment and suffering is my payment and suffering.'” — Rutherford’s Christ Dying. 1647.

And now, will you marvel that I said all Christians ought to boast in the cross? Will you not rather wonder that any can hear of the cross and remain unmoved? I declare I know no greater proof of man’s depravity, than the fact that thousands of so-called Christians see nothing in the cross. Well may our hearts be called stony — well may the eyes of our mind be called blind — well may our whole nature be called diseased — well may we all be called dead, when the cross of Christ is heard of and yet neglected. Surely we may take up the words of the prophet, and say, “Hear, O heavens, and be astonished O earth; an astounding and a horrible thing is done,” — Christ was crucified for sinners, and yet many Christians live as if He was never crucified at all! (“The Cross of Christ”)

Holy Living and Contentment

Look to the cross of Christ; the cross is the key to the way we should live before God and man. According to J. C. Ryle:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Would I find strong reasons for being a holy man? Where shall I turn for them? Shall I listen to the Ten Commandments merely? Shall I study the examples given me in the Bible of what grace can do? Shall I meditate on the rewards of heaven, and the punishments of hell? Is there no stronger motive still? Yes! I will look at the cross of Christ! There I see the love of Christ constraining me to “live not unto myself—but unto Him.” There I see that I am not my own now—I am “bought with a price.” (2 Cor. 5:15; 1 Cor. 6:20.) I am bound by the most solemn obligations to glorify Jesus with body and spirit, which are His. There I see that Jesus gave Himself for me, not only to redeem me from all iniquity—but also to purify me, and to make me one of a “peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14.) He bore my sins in His own body on the tree, “that I being dead unto sin should live unto righteousness.” (1 Pet. 2:24.) There is nothing so sanctifying as a clear view of the cross of Christ! It crucifies the world unto us, and us unto the world. How can we love sin, when we remember that because of our sins Jesus died? Surely none ought to be so holy as the disciples of a crucified Lord.

Would I learn how to be contented and cheerful under all the cares and concerns of life? What school shall I go to? How shall I attain this state of mind most easily? Shall I look at the sovereignty of God, the wisdom of God, the providence of God, the love of God? It is well to do so. But I have a better argument still. I will look at the cross of Christ. I feel that “He who spared not His only-begotten Son—but delivered Him up to die for me, will surely with Him give me all things” that I really need. (Rom. 8:32.) He who endured such agony, sufferings, and pain for my soul, will surely not withhold from me anything that is really good. He who has done the greater things for me, will doubtless do the lesser things also. He who gave His own blood to procure me a home in heaven, will unquestionably supply me with all that is really profitable for me by the way. There is no school for learning contentment that can be compared with the foot of the cross! (“The Cross of Christ”)

When I Look at the Cross

Looking at the cross helps us to remember that we no longer live for our own selfish pleasures, but now we live for Christ’s love and we live gladly unto Him. J. C. Ryle writes:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Would I know how exceedingly sinful and abominable sin is in the sight of God? Where shall I see that most fully brought out? Shall I turn to the history of the flood, and read how sin drowned the world? Shall I go to the shore of the Dead Sea, and mark what sin brought on Sodom and Gomorrah? Shall I turn to the wandering Jews, and observe how sin has scattered them over the face of the earth? No! I can find a clearer proof still! I look at the cross of Christ. There I see that sin is so black and damnable, that nothing but the blood of God’s own Son can wash it away. There I see that sin has so separated me from my holy Maker, that all the angels in heaven could never have made peace between us. Nothing could reconcile us, short of the death of Christ. If I listened to the wretched talk of proud people, I might sometimes fancy sin was not so very sinful! But I cannot think little of sin, when I look at the cross of Christ.

Would I know the fullness and completeness of the salvation God has provided for sinners? Where shall I see it most distinctly? Shall I go to the general declarations in the Bible about God’s mercy? Shall I rest in the general truth that God is a “God of love”? Oh, no! I will look at the cross of Christ. I find no evidence like that. I find no balm for a sore conscience and a troubled heart, like the sight of Jesus dying for me on the accursed tree. There I see that a full payment has been made for all my enormous debts. The curse of that law which I have broken has come down on One who there suffered in my stead. The demands of that law are all satisfied. Payment has been made for me, even to the uttermost farthing. It will not be required twice over. Ah, I might sometimes imagine I was too bad to be forgiven! My own heart sometimes whispers that I am too wicked to be saved. But I know in my better moments this is all my foolish unbelief. I read an answer to my doubts in the blood shed on Calvary. I feel sure that there is a way to heaven for the very vilest of people, when I look at the cross. (“The Cross of Christ”)

The Story of the Cross

Do you know a lot about Christ? Do you know who He was, and where He was born, and what He did? You say that you know about His miracles, His teachings, and prophecies and how He lived and died, but unless you know the cross of Christ by experience – unless you know the blood shed on the cross has washed away your sins – unless you confess that your salvation depends entirely on the work of Christ upon the cross, you will die in your sins. Bishop J. C. Ryle shares a warning:

“Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

This is the subject he [Paul] loved to preach about. He was a man who went to and fro on the earth, proclaiming to sinners that the Son of God had shed His own heart’s blood to save their souls. He walked up and down the world telling people that Jesus Christ had loved them, and died for their sins upon the cross. Mark how he says to the Corinthians, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins.” (1 Cor. 15:3.) “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2.) He, a blaspheming, persecuting Pharisee, had been washed in Christ’s blood. He could not hold his peace about it. He was never weary of telling the story of the cross.

This is the subject he loved to dwell upon when he wrote to believers. It is wonderful to observe how full his epistles generally are of the sufferings and death of Christ—how they run over with “thoughts that breathe and words that burn,” about Christ’s dying love and power. His heart seems full of the subject. He enlarges on it constantly—he returns to it continually. It is the golden thread that runs through all his doctrinal teaching and practical exhortations. He seems to think that the most advanced Christian can never hear too much about the cross. . . .

This is what he lived upon all his life, from the time of his conversion. He tells the Galatians, “The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galat. 2:20.) What made him so strong to labor? What made him so willing to work? What made him so unwearied in endeavoring to save some? What made him so persevering and patient? I will tell you the secret of it all. He was always feeding by faith on Christ’s body and Christ’s blood. Jesus crucified was the food and drink of his soul.

And we may rest assured that Paul was right. Depend upon it, the cross of Christ—the death of Christ on the cross to make atonement for sinners—is the center truth in the whole Bible. This is the truth we begin with when we open Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified. This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the Law of Moses, and the history of the Jews. The daily sacrifice, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood in the tabernacle and temple, all these were emblems of Christ crucified. This is the truth that we see honored in the vision of heaven before we close the book of Revelation. “In the midst of the throne and of the four beasts,” we are told, “and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain.” (Rev. 5:6.) Even in the midst of heavenly glory we get a view of Christ crucified. . . .

Let every reader of this paper mark what I say. You may know a good deal about the Bible. You may know the outlines of the histories it contains, and the dates of the events described, just as a man knows the history of England. You may know the names of the men and women mentioned in it, just as a man knows Caesar, Alexander the Great, or Napoleon. You may know the several precepts of the Bible, and admire them, just as a man admires Plato, Aristotle, or Seneca. But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, an arch without a key-stone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, and a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from hell. (“The Cross of Christ”)

Joint Heirs With Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. . . . (Ephesians 1:3-5)

It is totally amazing to me that there is this change that is brought about in us by the Holy Spirit that allows God to see us the same as Jesus Christ. In the verse above and the verse below, Paul first teaches and then illustrates what this means:

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:1-7)

Therefore, we are now held firmly in the hands of Christ the Son, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit from Whom no one is able to snatch us away. Now we are sons and daughters of God; we are adopted into the household of Christ. We are children of God! We are joint heirs with Christ! We are heirs of all that Christ has in God! If we are Christians, our position is secure! It’s sure! We are rooted and grounded in Christ.

Knowing this should in and of itself change the way we live. God is now our Father in the same way that Jesus spoke of Him as “Abba” Father. It is a word that is used as if a child were speaking to his earthly father. Our hearts go out to our own sons and daughters when they speak to us in this way. Yet, we too may now address God in this way. It should bring us great joy that God will hear us as His own dear children.

Wandering From The Right Path

Jean Calvin at fifty-three years old

John Calvin

Paul gives a bold defence of his teaching in Galatians. His defence is not based on human arrogance or presumption, but on the Word given by God. Paul is not seeking a reputation for himself. Instead, Paul puts himself in the category of all believers. He warns us to embrace our entire Master’s teaching to which we must all submit our way of living. John Calvin has preached more on this subject:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-8)

When we are first taught from the Word of God, if we are not genuinely touched, we find it the strangest book in the world; for the teaching of the gospel is always foolishness to the human mind, as we have seen on previous occasions (1 Cor. 2:14). And the reason for this? Because we are vanity: our hearts have wandered and gone astray, our natures incline and tend to falsehood, and we almost willfully desire to be beguiled. Because our minds are thus corrupted, we should not be surprised if we do not desire the Word of God and if it does not become a part of us. For our only activity is in rebelling against God. . . . God has granted us the privilege of being drawn to himself, and of realizing that his truth is what we must hold to. He has so mastered us that we are no longer full of guile, but willing to be completely subject to him. Even so, the devil is still able to lead us astray at any moment, because we are so fragile and inconstant! We have seen this happen to those who were mirror-images of holiness (as it were). We have been shocked to see them change so quickly and wander from the right path. What causes this? As I have already said, even when we are in good form, we cannot remain in this state long before we travel in the opposite direction; that is, unless God works in us and strengthens us in our weakness.

This is why Paul upholds the teaching of the gospel in such a forceful way (occasion having been given him by the Galatians, who had gone astray because they had been taught to observe the ceremonies of the law). Seeing such an example and such a picture of man’s great weakness and fickleness, Paul states that the truth of the gospel must supersede anything that we may devise. . . . He does not simply speak of the gospel of Christ, but of the gospel which he had preached to them. And can he be superior to the angels from heaven? Well, in the first place, we see that it is nothing to praise the gospel in a general and vague sense; you must know its teaching. After all, there are many who will . . . speak often enough in general terms about how we must preach the gospel, and yet they do not know what it is! In order to correct such a sin, Paul speaks of the gospel which he preached to them. By this (as I have said), he is showing us that we ought to know the substance of the doctrine which is brought to us in the name of God, so that our faith can be fully grounded upon it. Then we will not be tossed about with every wind, nor will we wander about aimlessly, changing our opinions a hundred times a day; we will persist in this doctrine until the end. This, in brief, is what we must remember. (Sermon: “On Perverting the Gospel of Christ”)

Unless God Works In Us

Portrait of John Calvin (1509-64) (oil on canv...

John Calvin

Our salvation is by grace and by grace alone. Why is it that so many reject the Word of God at first glance? Why do others believe and follow Christ? John Calvin offers the explanation as he preaches in this excerpt on Galatians 1:6-11:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-8)

When we are first taught from the Word of God, if we are not genuinely touched, we find it the strangest book in the world; for the teaching of the gospel is always foolishness to the human mind, as we have seen on previous occasions (1 Cor. 2:14). And the reason for this? Because we are vanity: our hearts have wandered and gone astray, our natures incline and tend to falsehood, and we almost willfully desire to be beguiled. Because our minds are thus corrupted, we should not be surprised if we do not desire the Word of God and if it does not become a part of us. For our only activity is in rebelling against God. Although we think we are doing right, we are, in fact, blind. In short, the Scriptures do not say without cause that all men are ‘vanity and leasing’ (Psa. 4:2). We are in rebellion against God, pulling in the opposite direction when he calls us. God has granted us the privilege of being drawn to himself, and of realizing that his truth is what we must hold to. He has so mastered us that we are no longer full of guile, but willing to be completely subject to him. Even so, the devil is still able to lead us astray at any moment, because we are so fragile and inconstant! We have seen this happen to those who were mirror-images of holiness (as it were). We have been shocked to see them change so quickly and wander from the right path. What causes this? As I have already said, even when we are in good form, we cannot remain in this state long before we travel in the opposite direction; that is, unless God works in us and strengthens us in our weakness. (Sermon: “On Perverting the Gospel of Christ”)

A Fickle Trust

John Calvin

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-8)

Do you love God and cherish your salvation? Are you happy that you are sharing in the blessings of heaven? Consider carefully then your response whenever you are approached by those who would detract from the majesty of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and even our salvation. Such people should be shunned. We must cling to the gospel, and not allow anyone to corrupt it in any way. Avoid those who would confuse our faith by claiming to bring us a new revelation or alternative view. John Calvin writes concerning the Scriptures above:

Let us observe, then, that when Paul tells us there is no other gospel, he wants us to abide in the Lord Jesus Christ and to remain faithful to him, now that we realise the gospel has come from him, rejecting anything which is contrary to its teaching. If we have such maturity, we will be equipped to do battle with Satan, and to oppose all the various opinions that are in the world today. We will never be shaken, whatever troubles come our way; nor will we ever lack the assurance of faith. However, if we waver, we will be just like little children: if they are offered an apple in one hand, sure enough, they will run to it. If they are then offered some other pleasant thing in the other hand, they will reach for that in the same way! Having deserted the first thing, they will rally around the second. If, I say, we are as fickle as this, then it is a sure sign that we are completely unfaithful. Know, therefore, that there must be harmony between our faith and the gospel. Having given ourselves totally to it, we will never turn aside, because we fix our faith on what is contained therein, as we have already said. Not that we can all be as well-versed as each other; for it is certain that most of those whom the Lord Jesus Christ has in his flock do not understand the tenth part of the Holy Scriptures! Yet, whatever else we do not know, we should have the following beliefs in common: that, (1) There is one God the Father, in whom we all believe, who has adopted us out of his pure mercy. (2) There is only one Jesus Christ, through whom all blessings are given to us. (3) We are made regenerate by the Holy Spirit.

Concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, we must also be aware that he is our Advocate, and that without him we cannot approach God. We would not dare to say ‘our Father’ unless we were members of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ —unless he spoke on our behalf as our intercessor and friend, guiding us, as it were, by the hand to bring us to God the Father. If we do not know these things, then we cannot obtain salvation. Paul accuses the Galatians of failing to recognise that there is only one gospel, which cannot be altered. He does not want them to grieve our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone is to be heeded. He also warns us of seducers, who seek to turn us from the pure simplicity of the gospel of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. He teaches us to regard them as abhorrent, for (as we shall soon see more clearly) they pervert the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. How dreadful it is that the gospel, the foundation of our salvation, and the key that opens the gates of paradise, should be perverted! It is our only treasure. We were banished from the kingdom of heaven and could not come near to it, until God made a way, through the gospel, for us to be his people and for him to be our King, so that we can be led and governed by his authority. Inestimable treasures are contained in the gospel. God is reconciled with man; the gates of heaven are opened to us; our Lord Jesus Christ has been given to us as our inheritance; we are made partakers of all the good things that he has bestowed upon us; and we are assured of our eternal salvation.

Many Are Addicted To Strange Fire

John Calvin

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-8)

In thinking about the verses above we should not forget the grievance Jeremiah had against the Jews. He says, in effect, “Go to distant lands, run to the isles, observe what is done by other people. Each one keeps to his own idols”, adding, “which are yet no gods” (Jer. 2:10-11). Satan had deceived them by calling this worship, and they were so set in their ways that they could not be moved. The same can be said of us nowadays: for we have seen how unbending the members of a variety of strange heresies and cults are. They burn with such mad passion to maintain their blasphemous practices. When the devil beckons us, will we too be enticed away? Modern man is on the lookout to find anything new and strange. Almost any strange doctrine will immediately attract us and lead us astray. John Calvin says of this:

At this point, Paul states that the cause behind all this is that, ‘there be some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Here, Paul is asserting that anything which we may add to the gospel is nothing but mere smoke. Eventually we will discover that it is the devil who has conceived such nonsense in order to deceive miserable fools who cannot adhere to God’s truth at all. ‘This is nothing other than some people troubling you,’ he says. . . . Paul is saying that the Galatians were wrong to be troubled by those from Jerusalem and Judaea, who told them they must not separate the law from the gospel. ‘No, no,’ he says, ‘there is only one Jesus Christ. There is only one doctrine that will lead us to him, and give us faith, through which we may obtain salvation. If we wish to have and maintain a pure knowledge of the gospel, we must realise that this is where we find perfection; those who go further are simply trouble-makers throwing everything into disarray.’ This text is well worth noting. We learn from it that if our Lord has given us the privilege of being taught in his school, we must no longer have weak faith which can be blown here and there. We must have resolute determination, so that we can say, ‘Here is the faith by which we are going to live and die.’ We meet many who do not openly oppose the teaching of the gospel, and who even suffer us to preach the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, if we were to ask such people what they disagree with in the gospel, [their answer would be] ‘Nothing!’ But then, if they were to see an altar adorned with grotesque statues, sure enough, they would flock to it. . . . And if all this is set before them as error, they still cannot see that it makes any difference. Take good note — such base behaviour reveals that they do not have faith. How? Well, this is how we can know, and even feel, if we ourselves are believers: when we have discernment about the gospel, and conclude that it is the infallible truth of God, and that it cannot lead us astray if we follow it. . . . It is written that we can only obtain justification and salvation through faith, when we embrace Jesus Christ as the one who communicates all blessings. (“On Perverting the Gospel of Christ”)

Faithful To The Gospel

John Calvin

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-8)

Do you find it amazing that the Galatians, who had been taught from the lips of the apostle Paul, fell so quickly from the teaching of Truth? They began by mixing false teachings with God’s truth within Paul’s very lifetime. Yet, even had Paul died prior to their failure, our faith should not depend on the life or death of men; it must be anchored in heaven. In fact, the “itching ears” of the Galatians are too much in evidence today. We frequently see the gospel taught only to see it later distorted by some novel idea. People too often seek some new thing to feed their foolish imaginations. Others grow dissatisfied when they see that the gospel has not brought them any of this world’s goods. John Calvin writes:

To make the Galatians even more ashamed of themselves, he speaks to them of the calling of grace. We can relate the words, ‘from him that called you’, as much to Jesus Christ as to God the Father, there being no great significance in this. We can, however, understand what Paul is saying. He is criticizing the Galatians for their base behavior; for they had even less excuse for going astray, considering they had experienced the goodness of God. For if God calls us, even if he summons us in order to put us to shame, we are still his creatures, and, therefore, owe him our obedience. We must always submit to his authority, whatever he decides to do with us. It is our duty to say to him: ‘Here I am. What do you require of me?’ Whereas, if we make excuses when God calls us, we are perverting the proper order of things. But God not only calls us to himself, he gives us all the treasures of his goodness in our Lord Jesus Christ. He gives himself willingly to us, asking of us only that we should be his own. Since God treats us with such kindness, and ravishes all our faculties with admiration for him, this should render us most unwilling to draw back. Nevertheless, if we do happen to wander to and fro after we have come to him, we will have much less excuse, and will therefore suffer a more severe and a more terrifying condemnation, as I have already suggested.

We see now why Paul mentions the grace into which the Galatians had been called. In fact, we are more guilty today than our fathers were under the law, if we fail to abide in the pure doctrine of the gospel, without swerving from it. For although God led our forefathers to salvation under the law, yet that calling was not accompanied by such open and abundant displays of the riches of his mercy as we now have in our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us examine ourselves. If God has already made his grace known to us, may this inspire and encourage us to have even greater boldness and invincible strength, so that we may continue in our calling, until we reach the place to which he is calling us. When we compare ourselves with wretched, ignorant unbelievers, our ingratitude is all the more apparent, in that we have had fuller and nobler grace shown to us. We know that many poor souls stray far and wide. They are, however, subject to condemnation: ‘For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law’ (Rom. 2:12). Now, as for us, God has declared his will to us in such familiar terms, and has given us the opportunity to learn the doctrines of the gospel (if we would only apply ourselves to them); therefore, our condemnation will be even greater than theirs, if we do not make every effort to devote ourselves entirely to God, as I have already said. This makes our responsibility all the greater. (On Perverting the Gospel of Christ)

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