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    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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THE BIBLE

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

We are warned by the Word both of our duty, our danger, and our remedy. On the sea of life there would be many more wrecks if it were not for the divine storm-signals which give to the watchful a timely warning. The Bible should be our Mentor, our Monitor, our Memento Mori, our Remembrancer, and the Keeper of our Conscience.

 

 

Spiritual Blindness Removed

God has established in ordinary cases a link between the word and regeneration. Through the experience of your own salvation you should be able to see the importance of sending the gospel into the entire world. It glorifies God when we assist to plant the true seed of the Word as much as possible in every soul. According to Archibald Alexander:

There is need of a quickening influence on the dead soul of the sinner to render it capable of apprehending and appreciating the truth. In the order of causation life must precede action, but in the order of time the communication of life and the acts of the new creature are simultaneous. Lazarus was called from the dead by the voice of Christ, but he must have been inspired with life before he could hear that voice. But still it is proper to say, that he was called into life by the omnipotent voice of our Savior. So when the gospel is preached, the dead hear the voice of the Son of God and live. Or we may illustrate the instrumentality of the word by the case of the blind man whose eyes our Lord opened. This man, when he first looked up, saw objects indistinctly, “men as trees walking;” but when he looked a second time, he saw things clearly. Christ caused this man to see by the light of heaven which shone around him; but the power causing him to see was exerted on the eye, removing the obstacles to vision, or supplying what was defective in the organ. As soon as this was done, the light was the medium of the perception of surrounding objects. Thus the soul of every man is by nature blind. The light may shine around him, but he comprehendeth it not. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.”

By the energy of the Holy Spirit this incapacity of spiritual vision is taken away; the eyes of the understanding are enlightened. The blindness is removed, and spiritual objects are perceived; but alas! With most, very indistinctly at first. “The light of the just increaseth more and more unto the perfect day.” Truth is just as necessary to every spiritual act and exercise, as light is to vision. Where the truth is not apprehended there can be no faith, for faith is a belief of the truth; there can be no love, for it is by the truth that the excellencies of the character of God and Christ are made known. Without the knowledge of the truth, there can be no repentance, for this is the light which shows the holiness and extent of the law and the evil of sin. Thus it is evident that without the truth there can be no holy exercise and no true obedience. Therefore, we never find the Holy Spirit operating on adults but as accompanying the word of truth. We can conceive of a preparation of the heart to receive the truth before it is known, as in fact the knowledge of the truth is acquired very gradually. Thus we can conceive of a divine agency on the heart of a heathen, by which he would be disposed to receive the truth as soon as it should be made known. Such a divine influence does probably prepare the way for the success of the gospel; but where the word is never sent; there we have no evidence that the Spirit exerts his renovating influence on the minds of men. (“A Practical View of Regeneration”)

Do You Prize Preaching?

In the words of Thomas Watson:

[Concerning the Word preached:] “Do we prize it in our judgments? Do we receive it into our hearts? Do we fear the loss of the Word preached more than the loss of peace and trade? Is it the removal of the ark that troubles us? Again, do we attend to the Word with reverential devotion? When the judge is giving the charge on the bench, all attend. When the Word is preached, the great God is giving us his charge. Do we listen to it as to a matter of life and death? This is a good sign that we love the Word.

The Waning Pulpit

Quoting J. Wilbur Chapman (1859-1917):

This opinion may or may not be correct; the one who gave it evidently thinks it is, and unquestionably he represents a certain element in the Church. Whether true or not, it is the sort of criticism facing the preacher today. It is claimed that we have failed to give sufficient emphasis to the importance of prayer, and we read that this was the secret of true greatness in the pulpit of other days. It is said we have lost our power because we have not given sufficient attention to Bible study; not Bible study in the preparation of sermons, but Bible study in the development of our own spiritual life. Unquestionably the secret of Spurgeon’s power was found just here. During the days of the week we must become saturated with the Scriptures so that on Sunday the message comes flowing forth like the current of a mighty river. Men tell us we have lost this, that we preach about God’s Word, but not the Word itself.

It has been said that we have given up personal work, and depend too much upon our pulpit efforts to turn men to God. “How do you like your minister?” said one of my friends to a plain woman in the mountains of Kentucky. She hesitated a moment and replied: “We don’t like him so very well. He preaches well enough, but he has the college habit, and studies so much that we do not see him except on Sundays,” “and,” she said, “you know a minister must speak to you out of the pulpit as well as in it if he is to influence you. . . .”

[W]e must have a message to preach, not for the sake of preaching, but for the sake of convincing men of their sins, as the Spirit of God may lead us. When asked one day his opinion regarding sermons of ministers, Hon. William J. Bryan said: “I desire my minister to preach every Sabbath the simple gospel. The old, old story never wearies the average congregation, if it comes from a devout mind with preparation in the message. My ideal sermon is one which has an appeal to the unconverted and a spiritual uplift for the Christian. I want my minister to be abreast of the times on all new theological questions and research, but I do not want him to bring them into the pulpit. I have formed certain fixed views of Christ, His gospel, and the inspiration of the Bible from a careful reading of that Book of books and of the Shorter Catechism, and it will not make me a better Christian or profit my spiritual life to unsettle these views by a discussion in the pulpit of new theories of Christ and the Holy Scriptures. Finally, I want my minister to act on the belief that Christ’s gospel is the surest cure of all social and political evils, and that his best method of promoting temperance, social morality, and good citizenship, is to bring men into the Church. In a word, I want my minister to emphasize in the lifework the declaration of the most successful preacher, Paul: “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

The Comfort Of A Reproof

Thomas Watson (1620-1686) was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views but in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on June 30, 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. Watson obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher. Below, he writes about the godly man and his willingness to receive the reproof of the Word of God:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 ESV)

A corrupt heart loves the comforts of the Word, but not the reproofs: ‘They hate the one who rebukes in the gate.’ (Amos 5:1O). ‘Their eyes flash with fire!’ Like venomous creatures that at the least touch spit poison, ‘When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.’ (Acts 7:54). When Stephen touched them to the quick, they were mad and could not endure it.

How shall we know that we love the reproofs of the Word?

When we desire to sit under a heart-searching ministry. Who cares for medicines that will not work? A godly man does not choose to sit under a ministry that will not work upon his conscience.

When we pray that the Word may meet with our sins. If there is any traitorous lust in our heart, we would have it found out and executed. We do not want sin covered, but cured. We can open our breast to the bullet of the Word and say, ‘Lord, smite this sin.’

When we are thankful for a reproof: ‘Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.’ (Psalm 141:5). David was glad of a reproof. Suppose a man were in the mouth of a lion, and another should shoot the lion and save the man, would he not be thankful? So, when we are in the mouth of sin, as of a lion, and the minister by a reproof shoots this sin to death, shall we not be thankful? A gracious soul rejoices when the sharp lance of the Word has pierced his abscess. He wears a reproof like a jewel on his ear: ‘Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to an obedient ear.’ (Proverbs 25:12).

To conclude, it is convincing preaching which must do the soul good. A nipping reproof prepares for comfort, as a nipping frost prepares for the sweet flowers of spring. (The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson, published by the Banner of Truth)

Thomas Boston: A Guide For Reading The Bible

Thomas Boston was born at Duns in Berwickshire. At the age of seven he began to read the Bible. At the age of eleven, he began to think about the state of his soul after hearing a sermon by Henry Erskine. He attended the University of Edinburgh. He was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Duns and Chirnside. In 1699, he was ordained and held a pastorate at Simprin until 1707. He was an extremely popular preacher, but he was extremely self-effacing, considering that he had but “small talents.” He was reluctant to publish his works, although he wrote out completely all of his sermons before they were preached. Below are some excerpts from his guidelines on “Reading and Searching the Scriptures”:

1. Follow a regular plan in reading the Scriptures, so that you may become acquainted with the entire Bible; and make this reading a part of your private devotions. . . .

2. Be sure to mark those passages you read, the ones which you find most fitting to your situation, condition, or temptations; or those that you have found which touches your heart more than other passages. It will be most profitable for you to often review these marked passages.

3. Compare one Scripture with another, the more obscure verses with those which are more clear. This is an excellent means to find out the sense of the Scriptures; and this is the best use of the notes found in the margins of most Bibles. . . .

4. Read the Bible with a holy attention, always remembering the majesty of God, and the reverence that is due Him. This must be done with attention, first, to the words; second, to the sense; and, third, to the divine authority of the Scripture, and the obligation it lays on the conscience for obedience. . . .

5. Let your main purpose in reading the Scriptures be for application to your life, and not just to gain knowledge, James said, “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”. . . (James 1:22)

6. Beg God and ask Him for the help of His Holy Spirit. For it is the Holy Spirit that inspired the Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who will give us the understanding of it. . . .

7. Beware of a worldly, fleshly mind: for fleshly sins blind the mind from the things of God. . . .

8. Labor to be disciplined toward godliness, and to perceive your spiritual circumstances. For a disciplined attitude greatly helps us to understand the Bible. . . .

9. Whatever you learn from the Word, labor to put it into practice. For to him that has, more will be given. . . .

Read more here. . . .

Transcription and updates copyright © Tony Capoccia, 1998

Do You Love The Word Of God?

Do you sit under a ministry that works upon your conscience? Are you grateful and humble when the Word of God strikes at the sin in your life? In the excerpt below, Thomas Watson continues this line of questioning:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 ESV)

Do we love the Word preached? Do we prize it in our judgments? Do we receive it into our hearts? Do we fear the loss of the Word preached more than the loss of peace and trade? Is it the removal of the ark that troubles us?

Again, do we attend to the Word with reverential devotion? When the judge is giving his charge from the bench, all attend. When the Word is preached, the great God is giving us his charge. Do we listen to it as to a matter of life and death? This is a good sign that we love the Word.

Again, do we love the holiness of the Word (Psa. 119:140)? The Word is preached to beat down sin and advance holiness. Do we love it for its spirituality and purity? Many love the Word preached only for its eloquence and notion. They come to a sermon as to a performance (Ezek. 33:31,32) or as to a garden to pick flowers, but not to have their lusts subdued or their hearts bettered. These are like a foolish woman who paints her face but neglects her health.

Again, do we love the convictions of the Word? Do we love the Word when it comes home to our conscience and shoots its arrows of reproof at our sins? It is the minister’s duty sometimes to reprove. He who can speak smooth words in the pulpit, but does not know how to reprove, is like a sword with a fine hilt but without an edge. ‘Rebuke them sharply’ (Titus 2:15). Dip the nail in oil, reprove in love, but strike the nail home. Now Christian, when the Word touches on your sin and says, ‘You are the man’, do you love the reproof? Can you bless God that ‘the sword of the Spirit’ has divided between you and your lusts? This is indeed a sign of grace and shows that you are a lover of the Word. (“A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word!”)

Are We Lovers Of The Word?

Thomas Watson

The Word of God is spiritually pure. By the Word of God, we are convicted. People who love the Word will seek to be a part of a heart-searching ministry. A Christian soul rejoices when God’s Word has pierced his sin. Thomas Watson shares his perspective on this subject in the excerpts below:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 ESV)

A godly man loves the Word preached, which is a commentary upon the Word written. This day-star has risen in his heart, and ushered in the Sun of righteousness. The Scriptures are the sovereign oils and balsams; the preaching of the Word is the pouring of them out. The Scriptures are the precious spices; the preaching of the Word is the beating of these spices, which causes a wonderful fragrance and delight. The Word preached is ‘the rod of God’s strength’ (Psa. 11O:2) and ‘the breath of his lips’ (Isa. 11:4). What was once said of the city of Thebes, that it was built by the sound of Amphius’ harp, is much more true of soul conversion. It is built by the sound of the gospel harp. Therefore the preaching of the Word is called ‘the power of God to salvation’ (Rom 1:16). By this, Christ is said (now) to speak to us from heaven (Heb. 12:25). This ministry of the Word is to be preferred before the ministry of angels.

A godly man loves the Word preached, partly from the good he has found by it – he has felt the dew fall with this manna – and partly because of God’s institution. The Lord has appointed this ordinance to save him. The king’s image makes the coin current. The stamp of divine authority on the Word preached makes it an instrument conducive to men’s salvation.

  • Application: Let us test by this characteristic whether we are godly: Are we lovers of the Word?

Do we love the Word written? What sums of money the martyrs gave for a few pages of the Bible! Do we make the Word our bosom friend? As Moses often had ‘the rod of God’ in his hand, so we should have ‘the Book of God’ in our hand. When we want direction, do we consult this sacred oracle? When we find corruptions strong, do we make use of this ‘sword of the Spirit’ to hew them down? When we are disconsolate, do we go to this bottle of the water of life for comfort? Then we are lovers of the Word! But alas, how can they who are seldom conversant with the Scriptures say they love them? Their eyes begin to be sore when they look at a Bible. The two testaments are hung up like rusty armor which is seldom or never made use of. The Lord wrote the law with his own finger, but though God took pains to write, men will not take pains to read. They would rather look at a deck of cards than at a Bible. (“A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word!”)

A Godly Man Loves Talking About God’s Word

When you need sound advice, do you consult the Word of God? When evil is strong in the land, do you take up the ‘sword of the Spirit’ to hew it down? When all seems against you, do you drink from the fountain of life? If so, you are a lover of God’s Word! However, most people could not carry on a conversation about the Word of God for five minutes. Thomas Watson explains the need for witnesses who can talk about Christ:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 ESV)

Never did a man take such delight in a dish that he loved as the prophet did in the Word. And indeed, how can a saint choose but take great pleasure in the Word? All that he ever hopes to be worth is contained in it. Does not a son take pleasure in reading his father’s will and testament, in which he bequeaths his estate to him?

‘Your word I have hidden in my heart’ (Psalm119:11) – as one hides a treasure so that it should not be stolen. The Word is the jewel; the heart is the cabinet where it must

Thomas Watson

be locked up. Many hide the Word in their memory, but not in their heart. And why would David enclose the Word in his heart? ‘That I might not sin against you.’ As a man would carry an antidote about him when he comes near an infected place, so a godly man carries the Word in his heart as a spiritual antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin. Why have so many been poisoned with error, others with moral vice, but because they have not hidden the Word as a holy antidote in their heart?

A wise man will not let his land be taken from him but will defend his title. David looked upon the Word as his land of inheritance: ‘Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart.’ (Psalm 119:111) And do you think he will let his inheritance be wrested out of his hands? A godly man will not only dispute for the Word but die for it: ‘I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God.’ (Rev 6:9)

‘I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.’ (Job. 23:12). ‘The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.’ (Psalm 119:72). Memorable is the story of King Edward the Sixth. On the day of his coronation, when they presented three swords before him, signifying to him that he was monarch of three kingdoms, the king said, ‘There is still one sword missing.’ On being asked what that was, he answered, ‘The Holy Bible, which is the ‘sword of the Spirit’ and is to be preferred before these ensigns of royalty.’

‘My tongue shall speak of your word.’ (Psalm 119:172). As a covetous man talks of his rich purchase, so a godly man speaks of the Word. What a treasure it is, how full of beauty and sweetness! Those whose mouths the devil has gagged, who never speak of God’s Word, indicate that they never reaped any good from it.

The Word is his compass, by which he sets his life, the balance in which he weighs his actions. He copies out the Word in his daily walk: ‘I have kept the faith’ (2 Tim. 4:7). St Paul kept the doctrine of faith, and lived the life of faith.

Question: Why is a godly man a lover of the Word?

Answer: Because of the excellence of the Word.

The Word written is our pillar of fire to guide us. It shows us what rocks we are to avoid; it is the map by which we sail to the new Jerusalem. The Word is a spiritual mirror through which we may see our own hearts. The mirror of nature, which the heathen had, revealed spots in their lives, but this mirror reveals spots in the imagination; that mirror revealed the spots of their unrighteousness, this reveals the spots of our righteousness. ‘When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died’ (Rom. 7:9). When the Word came like a mirror, all my opinion of self-righteousness died.

The Word of God is a sovereign comfort in distress. While we follow this cloud, the rock follows us. ‘This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.’ (Psalm 119:50). Christ is the fountain of living water; the Word is the golden pipe through which it runs. What can revive at the hour of death but the word of life (Phil. 2:16)? (“A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word!”)

Vanity And Human Wisdom

Human wisdom does not satisfy our real needs. We may know many wonderful things and not realize how many things we do not know. I could perhaps write down everything I know and it would produce a small book. If I could just make a list of the things I do not know; what a great library the pages would fill. The fact is that simple human knowledge does not answer the questions of our deepest needs. So what if we gain all this knowledge and do not learn the two things most worth knowing: 1) We are sinners in need of a Savior and 2) Jesus Christ is the only savior. Robert G. Lee helps us to find the rest needed in our hearts:

“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Thirty-seven times the word “vanity” occurs in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Moreover, vanity is the key word of the Book of Ecclesiastes; the keynote to its dirge like message.

“Vanity of vanities…All is vanity!” Now these words are not due to a fit of temporary depression. They are not given utterance because of some passing adverse circumstance. They were not born of the quick and passing bitterness begotten by the foul play of some friend who turned traitor. Subtle pride did not prompt this language of Solomon. They are, according to our judgment, the result of experience arrived at after mature and deliberate thought.

They are not the words of a man who walked a few paths, but the words of a man who walked many paths. Nor the words of one bored with the routine of some prosaic task. Nor the words of a man whose courage failed in some steep ascent of toil. Nor the words of one in prostrate rebellion against the tortures of some couch of pain.

Rather let us say that these are the words of one who sailed over many seas of human experience and made, with deliberate care, special notes and charts of his voyages. Words they are of one who drank of every cup and wrote a label for each. And in these words Solomon the wise, Solomon the rich, Solomon the mighty, has left the testimony that even a king could not find and cannot find genuine satisfaction in things finite, in things perishing, in things of the earth.

By what path shall I go to find the home of perfect happiness? Which road must I take to compass heart satisfaction? What must I do to find contentment? What must I do to have a “good time”? What must I do to be superior to the habitations in which I am domiciled? What must I do to have the merry heart within the stern war of things? What must I do to know the intoxication of pleasure without the dissipation of the soul’s finest resources . . . ?

But with all this, he missed the one essential and found no rest for his heart. It is he, this great Solomon with all his glory, who, after roaming through all the realms of thought and imagination, of human wisdom and human knowledge, cried “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!” (“Paths of Disappointment”)

Loving The Written Word Of God

Thomas Watson

We should do our best to meditate on the Bible every day. The true Christian meditates on the truth and holiness of the Word. He endeavors to saturate his mind with the Scriptures. Thomas Watson explains the importance of loving God’s Word:

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. (Psalm 119:97-98 ESV)

Chrysostom compares the Scripture to a garden set with ornaments and flowers. A godly man delights to walk in this garden and sweetly solace himself. He loves every branch and part of the Word: He loves the counseling part of the Word, as it is a directory and rule of life. The Word is the direction sign which points us to our duty. It contains in it things to be believed and practiced. A godly man loves the directions of the Word.

He loves the threatening part of the Word. The Scripture is like the Garden of Eden: as it has a tree of life in it, so it has a flaming sword at its gates. This is the threatening of the Word. It flashes fire in the face of every person who goes on obstinately in wickedness. ‘God will wound the head of His enemies, the hairy scalp of the one who still goes on in his trespasses.’ (Psa. 68:21). The Word gives no indulgence to evil. It will not let a man halt half-way between God and sin. The true mother would not let the child be divided (I Kings 3:26), and God will not have the heart divided. The Word thunders out threats against the very appearance of evil. It is like that flying scroll full of curses (Zech. 5:1). A godly man loves the menaces of the Word. He knows there is love in every threat. God would not have us perish; he therefore mercifully threatens us, so that he may scare us from sin. God’s threats are like the buoy, which shows the rocks in the sea and threatens death to such as come near. The threat is a curbing bit to check us, so that we may not run in full career to hell. There is mercy in every threat.

He loves the consolatory part of the Word – the promises. He goes feeding on these as Samson went on his way eating the honeycomb (Judges 14:8, 9). The promises are all marrow and sweetness. They are reviving to us when we are fainting; they are the conduits of the water of life. ‘In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.’ (Psa. 94:19). The promises were David’s harp to drive away sad thoughts; they were the breast which gave him the milk of divine consolation.

A godly man shows his love to the Word written by diligently reading it. The noble Bereans ‘searched the Scriptures daily’ (Acts 17:11). Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:12). The Word is our Magna Carta for heaven; we should be daily reading over this charter. The Word shows what truth is and what error is. It is the field where the pearl of price is hidden. How we should dig for this pearl! A godly man’s heart is the library to hold the Word of God; it dwells richly in him (Col. 3:16). It is reported of Melancthon that when he was young, he always carried the Bible with him and read it greedily. The Word has a double work: to teach us and to judge us. Those who will not be taught by the Word shall be judged by the Word. Oh, let us make ourselves familiar with the Scripture! (“A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word!”)

God Comes To Bethlehem

The first Christmas morning may be hard for us to imagine in our 21st century culture. It does deserve our attention, however, because it is a miraculous day. It is the day that God entered our world. Leonard J. Vander Zee approaches this event from the perspective of the Apostle John in the following excerpts from a Christmas sermon:

We don’t know what Mary did that morning in the cave-like stable at Bethlehem. Was she cold? Was she afraid? Did she weep with worries about what they were going to do, this homeless couple, so far from family? The bible tells us just one thing about Mary on that morning of that birth that changed the world. All that the Bible tells us is that “she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart”. . . .

This morning we read John’s version of the Christmas story, if you can call it that. It’s not much of a story. At first glance it seems more like a heavy theological treatise. But if you read it well, it sings along with the Christmas angels. It begins; well it begins in the beginning; in the vast reaches of eternity, where God is all that exists. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

Already John confronts us with the mystery that stands at the heart of the church’s doctrine and worship, the plurality of God, the community of divine persons that is before all things, the Trinity. The splendid loving isolation of this divine community was not enough. God created a creation that was an extension of the love that is God’s very being. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5)

But then, a few verses later, John moves us from the splendid far reaches of eternity to the soil of this planet, the flesh and bones of our mortal bodies. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

At Bethlehem the Word, the logos, the origin and destiny of the whole creation came to us encased in our flesh. God comes to us as a baby. God comes into the world he created just the way we all come into the world. . . .

So we must truly say that God was born at Bethlehem. The Godhead crowned as Mary labored, and one of the divine persons was expelled into the cold night air of the stable. God was lifted lovingly by human hands, cleaned and wrapped in rags. God was laid at Mary’s breast to suck with hunger and contentment. God slept while angels sang to shepherds in the field. God joined the human race. . . .

This is the staggering uniqueness of the Christian faith. This is the good news. The word became flesh, God became human. . . .

As Mary pondered that morning, as she fondled her newborn baby, she could hardly imagine all this. But as we ponder the same event this Christmas morning so many centuries later, we begin to touch the fringes of the mystery. It’s the mystery of God’s love come down to us, the mystery of the Word made flesh. It all began on that cold night in a stable at Bethlehem. . . .

James Montgomery Boice On The Working Of God’s Saving Grace

James M. Boice

I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I also believe that it is only when it is preached and taught as the Word of God will it bring the fullness of spiritual blessing. James Montgomery Boice discusses this in relationship to salvation:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

There are many moving images for the Word of God in the Bible. We are told in the Psalms that the Bible is “a lamp” to our feet and “a light” to our path (Ps. 1 19:l05).Jeremiah compares it to “a fire” and to “a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces” Jer. 23:29). It is “milk” to the one who is yet an infant in Christ (1 Peter 2:2) as well as “solid food” to the one who is more mature (Heb. 5:11-14). The Bible is a “sword” (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17), a “mirror” (1 Cor. 13:12; James 1:23), a “custodian” (Gal. 3:24), a “branch” grafted into our bodies (James 1:21). . . .

In the first chapter Peter has been talking about the means by which a person enters the family of God. First, he has discussed the theme objectively, saying that it is on the basis of Christ’s vicarious death that we are redeemed. “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (vv. 18, 19). Second, he has discussed the theme subjectively, pointing out that it is through faith that the objective work of Christ is applied to us personally. “Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (v. 21). Finally, having mentioned these truths, Peter goes on to discuss the new birth in terms of God’s sovereign grace in election, this time showing that we are born again by means of the Word of God. . . .

What does this teach about the way in which a man or woman becomes a child of God? It teaches that God is responsible for the new birth and that the means by which he accomplishes this is his living and abiding Word. We might even say that God does a work prior to this, for he first sends the ovum of saving faith into the heart. Even faith is not of ourselves, it is the “gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Afterward, when the sperm of the Word is sent to penetrate the ovum of saving faith, there is a spiritual conception.

The same ideas are in view in James 1:18, which says, “Of his own will he brought us forth [‘begot he us,’ KJV] by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”

The point of these verses is that it is by means of the very words of God recorded in the Scriptures and communicated to the individual heart by the Holy Spirit that God saves the individual. It is as Calvin says, in speaking of faith:

Faith needs the Word as much as fruit needs the living root of a tree. For no others, as David witnesses, can hope in God but those who know his name (Ps. 9:10)…. This knowledge does not arise out of anyone’s imagination, but only so far as God himself is witness to his goodness. This the prophet confirms in another place: “Thy salvation [is] according to thy word” (Ps. 119:41). Likewise, “I have hoped in thy word; make me safe” (Ps. 119:4,40, 94). Here we must first note the relation of faith to the Word, then its consequence, salvation.

Is it really the Word that God uses in the salvation of the individual? If it is, if God chooses so to operate, then the preacher can hardly fail to give the words of God the fullest measure of prominence in his preaching. He will revere them as that super natural gift without which nothing that he desires to see happen within the life of the individual will happen.

We conclude that the texts of the Bible should be preached as the very (and therefore inerrant) Word of God if for no other reason than that they are the means God uses in the spiritual rebirth of those who thereby become his children. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123 -143)

Salvation’s Need Of The Scripture

James Montgomery Boice

There is no doubt that faith needs the Word of God just as fruit needs the living root of a tree. The knowledge of God is not the product of anyone’s imagination, but only what God reveals to us in the Bible. So there is a relationship between faith and the Word which leads to salvation. The Word is used by God in the process of salvation. How then can the preacher led anyone to God without preaching the whole Word of God? James Montgomery Boice gives a more complete explanation:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

Divine truthfulness was the rock beneath [the Apostles’] approach to Scripture. Their study of the Bible led them to this conclusion, and thereafter they approached the difficulties of biblical interpretation from this premise. This approach has characterized the majority of their heirs in the Reformation churches down to and including many at the present time, although not all inerrantists feel obligated to use this approach. In fuller form, the argument has been presented as follows:

The Bible is a reliable and generally trustworthy document. This is established by treating it like any other historical record, such as the works of Josephus or the accounts of war by Julius Caesar.

On the basis of the history recorded by the Bible we have sufficient reason for believing that the central character of the Bible, Jesus Christ, did what he is claimed to have done and therefore is who he claimed to be. He claimed to be the unique Son of God.

As the unique Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ is an infallible authority. Jesus Christ not only assumed the Bible’s authority; he taught it, going so far as to teach that it is entirely without error and is eternal, being the Word of God: “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).

If the Bible is the Word of God, as Jesus taught, it must for this reason alone be entirely trustworthy and inerrant, for God is a God of truth. Therefore, on the basis of the teaching of Jesus Christ, the infallible Son of God, the church believes the Bible also to be infallible. . . .

Not only does God exalt his name and his very words in the Scriptures and likewise in the preaching of that Word, but he also exalts his Word in the saving of men and women. For it is by his Word and Spirit, and not by testimonies, eloquent arguments, or emotional appeals, that he regenerates the one who apart from that regeneration is spiritually dead. Peter states it thus: “You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123-143)

Do Not Measure Your Condition By The Condition Of Others

Bishop J. C. Ryle

Why die in your sins? Is sin so sweet that you cannot give it up? Is worldliness so satisfying that you cannot forsake it? Is being a servant of Satan so pleasant? Does your soul mean so little to you? Come to Christ now before it is too late! God is grieved when He sees you in your folly! Was it not Christ who wept over wicked Jerusalem? He said, “I would have gathered you—but you would not be gathered.” Bishop J. C. Ryle writes the following out of concern for your soul:

“And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

You do not know! Yet all around you is uncertainty. You are a poor frail worm—your body fearfully and wonderfully made—your health liable to be put out of order in a thousand ways. The next time the daisies bloom, it may be over your grave! All before you is dark. You know not what a day might bring forth, much less a year. Oh! Why not bring your soul’s business to a point without delay?

Let every reader of this paper begin the great business of self-examination. Rest not until you know the length and breadth of your own state in God’s sight. Backwardness in this matter is an evil sign. It springs from an uneasy conscience. It shows that a man thinks ill of his own case. He feels, like a dishonest tradesman, that his accounts will not bear inquiry. He dreads the light.

In spiritual things, as in everything else, it is the highest wisdom to make sure of your work. Take nothing for granted. Do not measure your condition by that of others. Bring everything to the measure of God’s Word. A mistake about your soul is a mistake for eternity! “Surely,” says Leighton, “they that are not born again, shall one day wish they had never been born.”

Sit down this day and think. Commune with your own heart and be still. Go to your own room and consider. Enter into your own closet, or at any rate contrive to be alone with God. Look the question fairly, fully, honestly in the face. How does it touch you? Are you among the living or among the dead?

“If your state be good, searching into it will give you the comfort of it. If your state be bad, searching into it cannot make it worse; nay, it is the only way to make it better—for conversion begins with conviction.” (Hopkins. 1680) (“Alive or Dead?”)

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