“Then those who feared the Lord spoke often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard; and a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord, and thought upon his name.” Malachi 3:16
Christians are called the light of the world and the salt of the earth — their influence is enlightening and preservation. Hence their influence is always valuable. It appears so especially in dark seasons — -when religion has declined, and when few enjoy it.
Christians are always dear to God, in every state and circumstance. If he sees his image in them; if they fear him and think upon his name, and love his cause — then “the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” At the time the prophet wrote these words, there were few of this character. Even the priests were corrupt, and they had corrupted the law. They were enemies to true religion, and nearly all the people were like them. They said it was “vain to serve God.” The text contradicts such a statement.
I. The Character of God’s People.
1. They feared the Lord. While all around them were practical atheists — they felt the importance of true religion. This fear is not a slavish fear, but a filial one. The former is destroyed by faith in Jesus the Savior, who delivers the soul from guilt and condemnation, etc.; the latter is induced by adopting love, which gives confidence in God, assurance of his constant care and mercy and love, Romans 8:15.
True Christians are like . . .
Obadiah, who “feared the Lord greatly;”
Abraham, of whom the angel said, “I know that you fear God;”
the primitive church, “they walked in the fear of the Lord;”
Cornelius, who was “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house.”
This divine principle, far from being the produce of the barren soil of nature, is wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, according to the promise of the new covenant, “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me!” Jeremiah 32:40
The saints fear and reverence the majesty of God — and the authority of God, Matthew 10:28. This authority is so extensive, that it reaches to our present existence, and to our eternal destinies. They are afraid of displeasing him. They “stand in awe, and sin not.”
2. They delighted in Christian conversation and fellowship. “They spoke often one to another.” They loved the sanctuary where their brethren worshiped; and all the means for social prayer and praise.
“They took sweet counsel together,” etc. No doubt they spoke of the best things. They spoke of Christ, and the glories of his kingdom — of his delivering power, and said, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul!” They spoke of his precious promises of everlasting glory.
The brother in adversity was cheered;
the sick and the languid were animated and resigned,
the tempted were succored and fortified,
those ready to halt were induced to persevere and to hold fast, etc. Romans 15:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
3. They thought upon the name of the Lord. His name was sacred to them — a fruitful source of profound and edifying meditation. The name of the Lord, is God himself in the plenitude of his power, omniscience, justice, goodness, mercy, and truth.
The Lord’s name was dear to them; they were concerned for its glory, and grieved for its dishonor.
(1.) To think on the name of the Lord, also implies a deep solicitude for the prosperity of God’s cause in the world. The name of the Lord is intimately connected with this. When David thought of his name, his heart was fixed on the prosperity of the Messiah’s kingdom. Here God is glorified in the highest.
(2.) To think on the name of the Lord, also implies the employment of our individual instrumentality to promote the Divine glory. We may be zealous in holy duties, etc., in order to raise our own name. This is vanity. A true Christian consecrates his talents and powers to promote the glory of God, and he feels that, after having done all, he is but an unprofitable servant. “Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, but unto your name be all the glory.”
II. The Divine Approbation of the Righteous. “The Lord hearkened and heard; and a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord, and thought upon his name!”
1. He graciously noticed them and their services. “He hearkened and heard.” They met together, perhaps privately, as the sorrowful disciples did for fear of the Jews; but there was one that hearkened heard and approved.
Christians may be poor and illiterate;
their services very imperfect;
they may be despised, and ridiculed by the world
— yet the Lord “hearkens and hears” all their ministrations, their breathings of prayer, and their lispings of praise. Miserable may be the place where they assemble, but the Lord loves the gates of Zion, etc. He takes pleasure in the prosperity of his servants. Graciously he attends to the groanings of the prisoners, to the cries of the needy, and the conversation of pilgrims bound for Heaven.
God knows and approves the way of the righteous.
2. He granted them a share in his affectionate remembrance. “And a book of remembrance was written before him.” Here is an allusion to the records kept by kings of all that was done for their honor, Esther 6:1. And so God will “render to every man according to his works.”
What a glorious privilege for Christians to have their names and their deeds written in the book of remembrance — never to be forgotten!
They merit not such an honor, but grace gives it to them. To be remembered by one who is unable to do us any good, would answer but little purpose. Pharaoh’s butler could do but little for Joseph while he was in prison; but, said he, “When it is well with you, remember me.” To have a friend in the king’s presence would be of some advantage. Hence the prayer of the dying thief, “Lord, remember me when you come in your glory!”
God is all-sufficient, having at his command all the blessings of nature, by which he can amply repair every loss we may sustain for his sake; and all the blessings of grace, by which he can abundantly recompense and console us under all our sufferings. He has Heaven and glory at his disposal. Prophets, apostles, martyrs, all the servants of Christ, have been remembered.
At the great last day, he will produce the book that was written before him, and read it in the presence of an assembled world, Matthew 25:19-23, 34, etc.
The following verse declares that then he will own them as his most valued treasure; “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my jewels. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him!” Malachi 3:17. As base as they have thought themselves to be, they shall be mine — mine forever!
1. The nature of true religion. It consists not in pomp and splendor, nor in rites and ceremonies — but in filial reverence of God — fellowship with his people, and love to his name. All other religions are false.
2. Let your conduct, through Divine aid, be such as will bear the scrutiny of God, and such us he will remember.
3. Anticipate the day for “the manifestation of the sons of God.” Then all those who are accounted by the wicked as the offscouring of all things, and the filth of the world — will be owned by Jehovah as his jewels, a figure expressive of infinite and everlasting endearment!
William Nicholson, 1862
This is Ingrid Schlueter, a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, former talk show host, columnist, and author. Although she no longer writes a personal blog, God has given her other ways to share her thoughts and insights. Ingrid lives in Wisconsin with her family and has been used of the LORD to stand up for the Truth of Jesus Christ in the battle of life. (Click on to the words in the upper left hand corner of the video box if her picture does not readily appear to see her piece here.)
For weeks, the US-backed regime in Kiev has been committing atrocities against its own citizens in southeastern Ukraine, regions heavily populated by Russian-speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. While victimizing a growing number of innocent people, including children, and degrading America’s reputation, these military assaults on cities, captured on video, are generating pressure in Russia on President Vladimir Putin to “save our compatriots.”
The reaction of the Obama administration—as well as the new cold-war hawks in Congress and in the establishment media—has been twofold: silence interrupted only by occasional statements excusing and thus encouraging more atrocities by Kiev. Very few Americans (notably, the independent scholar Gordon Hahn) have protested this shameful complicity. We may honorably disagree about the causes and resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, the worst US-Russian confrontation in decades, but not about deeds that are rising to the level of war crimes, if they have not already done so.
* * *
In mid-April, the new Kiev government, predominantly western Ukrainian in composition and outlook, declared an “anti-terrorist operation” against a growing political rebellion in the Southeast. At that time, the rebels were mostly mimicking the initial Maidan protests in Kiev in 2013—demonstrating, issuing defiant proclamations, occupying public buildings and erecting defensive barricades—before Maidan turned ragingly violent and, in February, overthrew Ukraine’s corrupt but legitimately elected president, Viktor Yanukovych. (The entire Maidan episode, it will be recalled, had Washington’s enthusiastic political, and perhaps more tangible, support.) Indeed, the precedent for seizing official buildings and demanding the allegiance of local authorities had been set even earlier, in January, in western Ukraine—by pro-Maidan, anti-Yanukovych protesters, some declaring “independence” from his government.
Considering those preceding events, but above all the country’s profound historical divisions, particularly between its western and eastern regions—ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural, economic and political—the rebellion in the southeast, centered in the industrial Donbass, was not surprising. Nor were its protests against the unconstitutional way (in effect, a coup) the new government had come to power, the southeast’s sudden loss of effective political representation in the capital and the real prospect of official discrimination. But by declaring an “anti-terrorist operation” against the new protesters, Kiev signaled its intention to “destroy” them, not negotiate with them.
On May 2, in this incendiary atmosphere, a horrific event occurred in the southern city of Odessa, awakening memories of Nazi German extermination squads in Ukraine and other Soviet republics during World War II. An organized pro-Kiev mob chased protesters into a building, set it on fire and tried to block the exits. Some forty people, perhaps many more, perished in the flames or were murdered as they fled the inferno. A still unknown number of other victims were seriously injured.
Members of the infamous Right Sector, a far-right paramilitary organization ideologically aligned with the ultranationalist Svoboda party, itself a constituent part of Kiev’s coalition government, led the mob. Both are frequently characterized by knowledgeable observers as “neo-fascist” movements. (Hateful ethnic chants by the mob were audible, and swastika-like symbols were found on the scorched building.) Kiev alleged that the victims had themselves accidentally started the fire, but eyewitnesses, television footage and social media videos told the true story, as they have about subsequent atrocities.
Instead of interpreting the Odessa massacre as an imperative for restraint, Kiev intensified its “anti-terrorist operation.” Since May, the regime has sent a growing number of armored personnel carriers, tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships and warplanes to southeastern cities, among them, Slovyansk (Slavyansk in Russian), Mariupol, Krasnoarmeisk, Kramatorsk, Donetsk and Luhansk (Lugansk in Russian). When its regular military units and local police forces turned out to be less than effective, willing or loyal, Kiev hastily mobilized Right Sector and other radical nationalist militias responsible for much of the violence at Maidan into a National Guard to accompany regular detachments—partly to reinforce them, partly, it seems, to enforce Kiev’s commands. Zealous, barely trained and drawn mostly from central and western regions, Kiev’s new recruits have reportedly escalated the ethnic warfare and killing of innocent civilians. (Episodes described as “massacres” soon also occurred in Mariupol and Kramatorsk.)
Initially, the “anti-terrorist” campaign was limited primarily, though not only, to rebel checkpoints on the outskirts of cities. Since May, however, Kiev has repeatedly carried out artillery and air attacks on city centers that have struck residential buildings, shopping malls, parks, schools, kindergartens and hospitals, particularly in Slovyansk and Luhansk. More and more urban areas, neighboring towns and even villages now look and sound like war zones, with telltale rubble, destroyed and pockmarked buildings, mangled vehicles, the dead and wounded in streets, wailing mourners and crying children. Conflicting information from Kiev, local resistance leaders and Moscow make it impossible to estimate the number of dead and wounded noncombatants—certainly hundreds. The number continues to grow due also to Kiev’s blockade of cities where essential medicines, food, water, fuel and electricity are scarce, and where wages and pensions are often no longer being paid. The result is an emerging humanitarian catastrophe.
Another effect is clear. Kiev’s “anti-terrorist” tactics have created a reign of terror in the targeted cities. Panicked by shells and mortars exploding on the ground, menacing helicopters and planes flying above and fear of what may come next, families are seeking sanctuary in basements and other darkened shelters. Even The New York Times, which like the mainstream American media generally has deleted the atrocities from its coverage, described survivors in Slovyansk “as if living in the Middle Ages.” Meanwhile, an ever-growing number of refugees, disproportionately women and traumatized children, have been fleeing across the border into Russia. In late June, the UN estimated that as many as 110,000 Ukrainians had already fled to Russia and about half that many to other Ukrainian sanctuaries.
It is true, of course, that anti-Kiev rebels in these regions are increasingly well-armed (though lacking the government’s arsenal of heavy and airborne weapons), organized and aggressive, no doubt with some Russian assistance, whether officially sanctioned or not. But calling themselves “self-defense” fighters is not wrong. They did not begin the combat; their land is being invaded and assaulted by a government whose political legitimacy is arguably no greater than their own, two of their large regions having voted overwhelmingly for autonomy referenda; and, unlike actual terrorists, they have not committed acts of war outside their own communities. The French adage suggested by an American observer seems applicable: “This animal is very dangerous. If attacked, it defends itself.”
* * *
Among the crucial questions rarely discussed in the US political-media establishment: What is the role of the “neo-fascist” factor in Kiev’s “anti-terrorist” ideology and military operations? Putin’s position, at least until recently—that the entire Ukrainian government is a “neo-fascist junta”—is incorrect. Many members of the ruling coalition and its parliamentary majority are aspiring European-style democrats or moderate nationalists. This may also be true of Ukraine’s newly elected president, the oligarch Petro Poroshenko. Equally untrue, however, are claims by Kiev’s American apologists, including even some academics and liberal intellectuals, that Ukraine’s neo-fascists—or perhaps quasi-fascists—are merely agitated nationalists, “garden-variety Euro-populists,” a “distraction” or lack enough popular support to be significant.
Independent Western scholars have documented the fascist origins, contemporary ideology and declarative symbols of Svoboda and its fellow-traveling Right Sector. Both movements glorify Ukraine’s murderous Nazi collaborators in World War II as inspirational ancestors. Both, to quote Svoboda’s leader Oleh Tyahnybok, call for an ethnically pure nation purged of the “Moscow-Jewish mafia” and “other scum,” including homosexuals, feminists and political leftists. And both hailed the Odessa massacre. According to the website of Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh, it was “another bright day in our national history.” A Svoboda parliamentary deputy added, “Bravo, Odessa…. Let the Devils burn in hell.” If more evidence is needed, in December 2012, the European Parliament decried Svoboda’s “racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views [that] go against the EU’s fundamental values and principles.” In 2013, the World Jewish Congress denounced Svoboda as “neo-Nazi.” Still worse, observers agree that Right Sector is even more extremist.
Nor do electoral results tell the story. Tyahnybok and Yarosh together received less than 2 percent of the June presidential vote, but historians know that in traumatic times, when, to recall Yeats, “the center cannot hold,” small, determined movements can seize the moment, as did Lenin’s Bolsheviks and Hitler’s Nazis. Indeed, Svoboda and Right Sector already command power and influence far exceeding their popular vote. “Moderates” in the US-backed Kiev government, obliged to both movements for their violence-driven ascent to power, and perhaps for their personal safety, rewarded Svoboda and Right Sector with some five to eight (depending on shifting affiliations) top ministry positions, including ones overseeing national security, military, prosecutorial and educational affairs. Still more, according to the research of Pietro Shakarian, a remarkable young graduate student at the University of Michigan, Svoboda was given five governorships, covering about 20 percent of the country. And this does not take into account the role of Right Sector in the “anti-terrorist operation.”
Nor does it consider the political mainstreaming of fascism’s dehumanizing ethos. In December 2012, a Svoboda parliamentary leader anathematized the Ukrainian-born American actress Mila Kunis as “a dirty kike.” Since 2013, pro-Kiev mobs and militias have routinely denigrated ethnic Russians as insects (“Colorado beetles,” whose colors resemble a sacred Russia ornament). More recently, the US-picked prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, referred to resisters in the Southeast as “subhumans.” His defense minister proposed putting them in “filtration camps,” pending deportation, and raising fears of ethnic cleansing. Yulia Tymoshenko—a former prime minister, titular head of Yatsenyuk’s party and runner-up in the May presidential election—was overheard wishing she could “exterminate them all [Ukrainian Russians] with atomic weapons.” “Sterilization” is among the less apocalyptic official musings on the pursuit of a purified Ukraine.
Confronted with such facts, Kiev’s American apologists have conjured up another rationalization. Any neo-fascists in Ukraine, they assure us, are far less dangerous than Putinism’s “clear aspects of fascism.” The allegation is unworthy of serious analysis: however authoritarian Putin may be, there is nothing authentically fascist in his rulership, policies, state ideology or personal conduct.
Indeed, equating Putin with Hitler, as eminent Americans from Hillary Clinton and Zbigniew Brzezinski to George Will have done, is another example of how our new cold warriors are recklessly damaging US national security in vital areas where Putin’s cooperation is essential. Looking ahead, would-be presidents who make such remarks can hardly expect to be greeted by an open-minded Putin, whose brother died and father was wounded in the Soviet-Nazi war. Moreover, tens of millions of today’s Russians whose family members were killed by actual fascists in that war will regard this defamation of their popular president as sacrilege, as they do the atrocities committed by Kiev.
* * *
And yet, the Obama administration reacts with silence, and worse. Historians will decide what the US government and the “democracy promotion” organizations it funds were doing in Ukraine during the preceding twenty years, but much of Washington’s role in the current crisis has been clear and direct. As the Maidan mass protest against President Yanukovych developed last November-December, Senator John McCain, the high-level State Department policymaker Victoria Nuland and a crew of other US politicians and officials arrived to stand with its leaders, Tyahnybok in the forefront, and declare, “America is with you!” Nuland was then caught on tape plotting with the American ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, to oust Yanukovych’s government and replace him with Yatsenyuk, who soon became, and remains, prime minister.
Meanwhile, President Obama personally warned Yanukovych “not to resort to violence,” as did, repeatedly, Secretary of State John Kerry. But when violent street riots deposed Yanukovych—only hours after a European-brokered, White House–backed compromise that would have left him as president of a reconciliation government until new elections this December, possibly averting the subsequent bloodshed—the administration made a fateful decision. It eagerly embraced the outcome. Obama personally legitimized the coup as a “constitutional process” and invited Yatsenyuk to the White House. The United States has been at least tacitly complicit in what followed, from Putin’s hesitant decision in March to annex Crimea and the rebellion in southeastern Ukraine to the ongoing civil war.
How intimately involved US officials have been in Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation” is not known, but certainly the administration has not been discreet. Before and after the military campaign began in earnest, CIA director John Brennan and Vice President Joseph Biden (twice) visited Kiev, followed, it is reported, by a continuing flow of “senior US defense officials,” military equipment and financial assistance to the bankrupt Kiev government. Despite this crucial support, the White House has not compelled Kiev to investigate either the Odessa massacre or the fateful sniper killings of scores of Maidan protesters and policemen on February 18–20, which precipitated Yanukovych’s ouster. (The snipers were initially said to be Yanukovych’s, but evidence later appeared pointing to opposition extremists, possibly Right Sector. Unlike Washington, the Council of Europe has been pressuring Kiev to investigate both events.)
As atrocities and humanitarian disaster grow in Ukraine, both Obama and Kerry have all but vanished as statesmen. Except for periodic banalities asserting the virtuous intentions of Washington and Kiev and alleging Putin’s responsibility for the violence, they have left specific responses to lesser US officials. Not surprisingly, all have told the same Manichean story, from the White House to Foggy Bottom. The State Department’s neocon missionary Nuland, who spent several days at Maidan, for example, assured a congressional committee that she had no evidence of fascist-like elements playing any role there. Ambassador Pyatt, who earlier voiced the same opinion about the Odessa massacre, was even more dismissive, telling obliging New Republic editors that the entire question was “laughable.”
Still more shameful, no American official at any level appears to have issued a meaningful statement of sympathy for civilian victims of the Kiev government, not even those in Odessa. Instead, the administration has been unswervingly indifferent. When asked if her superiors had “any concerns” about the casualties of Kiev’s military campaign, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has repeatedly answered “no.” Indeed, at the UN Security Council on May 2, US Ambassador Samantha Power, referring explicitly to the “counterterrorism initiative” and suspending her revered “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, gave Kiev’s leaders a US license to kill. Lauding their “remarkable, almost unimaginable, restraint,” as Obama himself did after Odessa, she continued, “Their response is reasonable, it is proportional, and frankly it is what any one of our countries would have done.” (Since then, the administration has blocked Moscow’s appeal for a UN humanitarian corridor between southeastern Ukraine and Russia.)
Contrary to the incessant administration and media demonizing of Putin and his “agents” in Ukraine, the “anti-terrorist operation” can be ended only where it began—in Washington and Kiev. Leaving aside how much power the new president actually has in Kiev (or over Right Sector militias in the field), Poroshenko’s “peace plan” and June 21 cease-fire may have seemed such an opportunity, except for its two core conditions: fighters in the southeast first had to “lay down their arms,” and he alone would decide with whom to negotiate peace. The terms seemed more akin to conditions of surrender, and the real reason Poroshenko unilaterally ended the cease-fire on July 1 and intensified Kiev’s assault on eastern cities.
The Obama administration continues to make the situation worse. Despite opposition by several NATO allies and even American corporate heads, the president and his secretary of state, who has spoken throughout this crisis more like a secretary of war than the nation’s top diplomat, have constantly threatened Russia with harsher economic sanctions unless Putin meets one condition or another, most of them improbable. On June 26, Kerry even demanded (“literally”) that the Russian president “in the next few hours…help disarm” resisters in the Southeast, as though they are not motivated by any of Ukraine’s indigenous conflicts but are merely Putin’s private militias.
In fact, from the onset of the crisis, the administration’s actual goal has been unclear, and not only to Moscow. Is it a negotiated compromise, which would have to include a Ukraine with a significantly federalized or decentralized state free to maintain longstanding economic relations with Russia and banned from NATO membership? Is it to bring the entire country exclusively into the West, including into NATO? Is it a vendetta against Putin for all the things he purportedly has and has not done over the years? (Some behavior of Obama and Kerry, seemingly intended to demean and humiliate Putin, suggest an element of this.) Or is it to provoke Russia into a war with the United States and NATO in Ukraine?
Inadvertent or not, the latter outcome remains all too possible. After Russia annexed—or “reunified” with—Crimea in March, Putin, not Kiev or Washington, has demonstrated “remarkable restraint.” But events are making it increasingly difficult for him to do so. Almost daily, Russian state media, particularly television, have featured vivid accounts of Kiev’s military assaults on Ukraine’s eastern cities. The result has been, both in elite and public opinion, widespread indignation and mounting perplexity, even anger, over Putin’s failure to intervene militarily.
We may discount the following indictment by an influential ideologist of Russia’s own ultra-nationalists, who have close ties with Ukraine’s “self-defense” commanders: “Putin betrays not just the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Lugansk but himself, Russia and all of us.” Do not, however, underestimate the significance of an article in the mainstream pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, which asks, while charging the leadership with “ignoring the cries for help,” “Is Russia abandoning the Donbass?” If so, the author warns, the result will be “Russia’s worst nightmare” and relegate it to “the position of a vanquished country.”
Just as significant are similar exhortations by Gennady Zyuganov, leader of Russia’s Communist Party, the second-largest in the country and in parliament. The party also has substantial influence in the military-security elite and even in the Kremlin. Thus, one of Putin’s own aides has publicly urged him to send fighter planes to impose a “no-fly zone”—an American-led UN action in Qaddafi’s Libya that has not been forgotten or forgiven by the Kremlin—and destroy Kiev’s approaching aircraft and land forces. If that happens, US and NATO forces, now being built up in Eastern Europe, might well also intervene, creating a Cuban missile crisis–like confrontation. As a former Russian foreign minister admired in the West reminds us, there are “hawks on both sides.”
Little of this is even noted in the United States. In a democratic political system, the establishment media are expected to pierce the official fog of war. In the Ukrainian crisis, however, mainstream American newspapers and television have been almost as slanted and elliptical as White House and State Department statements, obscuring the atrocities, if reporting them at all, and generally relying on information from Washington and Kiev. Most Americans are thereby unknowingly being shamed by the Obama administration’s role. Those who do know but remain silent—in government, think tanks, universities and media—share its complicity.
“Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it!” Matthew 13:45-46
Jesus Christ was a wise and impressive Teacher. The parables which he delivered, are replete with instruction, and calculated to rivet important truths on the mind.
The pearl in Scripture is used to indicate:
1. the precious truths of the Gospel, Matthew 7:6
2. the glory of Heaven, Revelation 21:21
3. Christ himself, as in our text.
1. Pearls, as naturalists say, have a mysterious origin. They are the wonderful production of a Shell Fish, found chiefly in the East Indies. The shell, at a certain time of the year, opens itself, and pearls form when a microscopic intruder settles inside the shell. The mollusk, being irritated by the intruder, secretes materials to cover the irritant. This secretion process is repeated many times, thus producing a pearl.
So the origin and birth of Christ are wonderful and mysterious. God manifest in the flesh, is the admiration of angels. A virgin (the Mother of this Pearl, according to the flesh), being overshadowed with the Holy Spirit, travailed in birth, and brought forth Christ, the Pearl of great Price. Luke 1:35.
2. Those who would find Pearls, must search diligently for them, and encounter many dangers by diving into the sea, etc.
And those who would find Christ the Pearl of groat Price, must search and seek after him diligently, as for hidden treasure. They must resolve to pass through all the troubles and difficulties connected with the profession of Christ.
3. It is not an easy thing to find Pearls. They are generally found on rocks submerged in deep water; and it requires considerable skill in those who dive for them, to discover them.
Just so, it is no easy thing to find Christ, and obtain a real saving interest in him. This difficulty arises from the pride of the heart, which revolts at being stripped of all its pretensions to self-righteousness.
The requisitions of the Gospel are too self-denying, too mortifying for the sinner. He will not stoop to them.
Besides, he has never dived into his own heart, to perceive his wretchedness — nor into the Scriptures, to perceive Christ’s glory.
4. Pearls are very valuable. “They are richest merchandise of all,” says Pliny, “and the most sovereign commodity throughout the whole world.” And he speaks of one pearl that Cleopatra had, which was valued at £80,000 sterling. The Persian Emperor had one worth £110,000; and Philip II of Spain, had one valued at 144,000 ducats. They have ever been highly valued, and men would part with all to possess them.
Just so, Christ is of inestimable value, and may well be called the Pearl of great Price. The worth and excellency of Christ, far exceed the riches of both Indies. He is the rarest Jewel the Father has in Heaven and earth — more precious unto believers than rubies. All that can be desired, cannot be compared unto him. What Job says of the value of wisdom, is strictly applicable to Christ: “It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver. It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir, with precious onyx or sapphires. Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it, nor can it be had for jewels of gold. Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies. The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it; it cannot be bought with pure gold!” Job 28:15-19
Those who have Christ, have enough. They have the true riches — the greatest prize! They are rich for time, for death, and for eternity. This Pearl of great Price invests them with infinite and everlasting wealth, dignity, and glory!
5. Pearls possess a splendid brightness, shining in splendor. Their beauty is as much within, as without.
Just so, Christ is beautiful, fair, and shining. His glorious beauties, his splendid brightness, surpass the glorious splendor and brightness of the sun shining in his strength. “He is the brightness of his Father’s glory,” etc. Hebrews 1:3. He is the light of the world the light and glory of Heaven!
6. It is said that pearls possess medicinal value; being an antidote to poison, and melancholy, and tending to preserve bodily strength.
Just so, Christ possesses healing and strengthening power. There is no cordial so rich and efficacious to the wounded soul, as Christ. The power of his sacrifice and Spirit revive immediately the contrite ones. We are strengthened with all might by his Spirit in the inner man. By him, we destroy the poison and power of sin and Satan.
7. Pearls are so firm, strong, and compact, that fire cannot consume them, nor ordinary strength break them.
Christ is called a Stone, a tried Stone, and sure Foundation. No fire can consume him — no atheistic, infidel, or Satanic power can break or injure him. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against him.
8. Pearls are a rich ornament, and those who bear them are accounted the honorable of mankind.
Just so, Christ is the believer’s richest ornament. Those who are adorned with this Pearl, are the most renowned and honorable ones in the world. “The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor.” Proverbs 12:26.
Saving religion dignifies man. It has also a friendly influence over secular affairs. It would be cruel to intimate that every instance of failure in trade, originates in vice — but it may be said with propriety, that the generality of these deficiencies, even in good men, are not pure afflictions; but have been caused by the neglect of some of its duties, or the violation of some of its properties.
Real religion makes a man punctual, and diligent, and economical. It makes him liberal — and he who sows plentifully shall reap plentifully. True religion . . .
saves him from expensive vices and amusements;
raises his character by the exercise of the moral virtues,
gains him the confidence of his fellow-creatures;
contributes to his health, and to the improvement of his understanding;
secures him the favor of Providence; and “the blessing of God makes rich and adds no sorrow;”
“has the promise of the life which now is, and also the life to come,” etc.
9. Notwithstanding the excellence and value of pearls — yet many are ignorant of them, and many esteem them no more than pebbles. Swine tread them under their feet.
The Lord Jesus Christ, though so precious as to be adored by saints and angels, is despised and rejected by men of the world, who have their portion in this life. They see no beauty nor loveliness in him. The eyes of their understanding are darkened.
10. Pearls are found one by one, or one at a time.
Just so, Christ is singular. There is but one Christ the Savior, one Mediator between God and man. 1 Timothy 2:5. It is the “one pearl of great price,” and there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12.
But though the glory and excellency of Christ as the Savior are admirably set forth by the figure of the text — yet observe the following DISPARITY.
1. Pearls have an earthly origin.
Jesus Christ is the Lord from Heaven.
2. Pearls are of a perishing nature — they may be defaced, broken, dissolved, and come to nothing.
Christ is durable. This Pearl of great Price can never be spoiled or dissolved. Nothing can diminish his beauty or glory. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
3. Men may find a rich and precious pearl, and yet may remain miserable. Riches may prove a bane to them.
He who finds this Pearl can never be miserable. Jesus supplies all the wants and necessities of believers. He makes them rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. “All things are yours!”
1. Bless God for bestowing his chief and best Pearl upon you!
2. Be willing to part with all, for the possession of this Pearl. Go and sell all that you have. Surrender the world, with all its fascinations and pleasures. Surrender . . .
your possessions, etc. etc.
— to possess this invaluable gem!
3. See the folly of those who prefer earthly vanities to Christ, the Pearl of great Price. Death will soon cause them to surrender all that they idolize on earth, and then they will lack the only substantial wealth — Christ, the Pearl of great Price!
William Nicholson, 1862
~~I received a call from Brannon Howse, late last week, asking me to listen to several video clips of Glenn Beck speaking at this year’s final convocation at Liberty University and to give him my take on them.
First, it exceeds my capacity to understand how one of the “great” Christian universities with a steadfast commitment of “Training Champions for Christ” could invite an elite cultist to stand before its entire student body and give them spiritual instructions for life.
Is it that, as educated as they seem, they just don’t know that Mormons worship an exalted man/god, serve a different Christ, offer a different salvation, stand on the foundation of false prophets and seek to earn their own godhoods?
My mind went back to 1979 and the days of the “Moral Majority” when Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University and father of the present chancellor,
joined hands with Mormon Cleon Skousen and his Freeman Institute to further his political cause.
“Like father, like son,” was my initial thought. But I know it goes deeper.
Not wanting to be one who has made a judgment based on selective sound bites, I sat through a video of Glenn Beck’s message offered by Liberty, itself. All 32 professional minutes of it.
I have to say that Beck is good; real good. If the University President gave the core of Beck’s message, I would have applauded him. But he would have probably not called Joseph Smith an innocent martyr who died for his faith in Christ.
Glenn Beck started off great. He cried as he shared how the Lord had given him the message and how he had prayed over the message. Tears came several times during the 32 minute message. He was so good, I almost cried.
He turned to President Falwell, Jr. and humbly gave the university a $50,000 gift. He then told the crowd that he was a Christ centered Christian of a different denomination, a Mormon and added that some people may not be happy with that. All the bases were now covered. The crowd, for the most part, loved him.
Before I turn this into a 40 page thesis, let me go into several specific Mormon zingers that Beck dropped in the midst of his message that need to be addressed.
Beck talked about what a great man Joseph Smith was. He talked about his dying a martyr for Christ, dying for his faith. He said Smith was an honest man; so honest he gave his pocket watch to pay a sheriff for a debt he didn’t owe. Beck failed to explain how he now had Smith’s watch.
He also ignored the historical fact that Smith wasn’t quite as innocent as Beck claimed. He was in jail for leading his militia into town and destroying a newspaper press and burning the place down. He didn’t like what the paper had said about his many, well known adulteries.
It was probably his thirteenth run in with the law. Earlier charges included bank fraud, glass-looking , treason, conspiracy to commit murder, fornication and adultery.
Joseph Smith was in the unlocked upstairs of Carthage Jail with several of his leaders, arriving there with a small, armed group of his private militia, most whom went home after he assured them all was well.
He was armed with a six shot pistol. Beck told the gathering that Smith told his followers in a note to lay down their arms and act in peace. He forgot to mention Smith’s loaded pistol or the gunfight.
Smith was eating and drinking wine with his friends when a small group of Masons and anti-Mormons gathered outside. As several came up the stairs firing into the room, Smith discharged the pistol into them, killing two, wounding a third.
He ran to the open window, cried out the Masonic Distress call, O Lord, my God, Is there no help for the Widow’s son? Apparently, not that day. He was shot and fell dead through the window.
I have to believe Beck is smart enough to have known exactly how the founder of his religion died and the circumstances surrounding the death. Either Beck is a brain dead heliograph controlled and operated through mirrors or an arch deceiver. I suspect the latter.
Beck later went into the need to be responsive to the spirit speaking within us. He told the audience to heed the voice of the spirit; to draw in that feeling one should get when the spirit talks to you.
When I joined the Mormon Church those many years ago, I was told to pray about its truthfulness; that I would know it was true through a burning in my bosom
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must astudy it out in yourbmind; then you must cask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your dbosom shall eburn within you; therefore, you shall ffeel that it is right. Doctrine and Covenants 9:8
I did as they said and I did receive a very real burning in my bosom. It took me 20 years to get that fire out.
The Bible, God’s actual Word, never tells us to test a spiritual thing that way. We are told to test all things.. through the Scripture. Not through any subjective experience.
Further, If Beck believes in the very unbiblical godhead, three separate gods.. What spirit indwells him and turns his head. Not the Holy spirit of the trinity.
Of course, while he a waved the Bible around quite a bit, he did not display the “other Scripture” that he lives by, The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants.” Mormons are taught that the Bible has many errors of translation and omission.
Beck talked about his Take a Stand trip to Israel. He told his audience that he asked Jesus “What do you want me to say to them?’
He told them that Jesus, filled with wrath, answered him and said to tell the people “I am Coming and I will settle scores!”
Glenn Beck’s Jesus is a god of wrath. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus brought death and destruction with him to the Cross. In 3 Nephi, Chapters 8 and 9, it details the events testifying of Christ’s crucifixion. It describes the desolation and death of all the people in the great city of Zarahemla by fire, and the city of Moroni “did sink into the sea and the inhabitants thereof were drowned… the earth was carried up upon the city of Mornihah..”
3 Nephi, Chapter 9, tells of further wrath as the Lord also destroyed a total of 16 major cities the cities and inhabitants thereof. This is the Jesus he serves.
Strange that the Chancellor did not cut the mike about the time Beck shared Christ’s wrathful return. But he just smiled and nodded at this great thing. Shame on him!
Funny thing is.. Beck knows that the Jesus he serves isn’t coming back to Israel and those Jews. He is returning to a Mormon temple in Missouri where he will reign for a thousand years. You see, Beck is a Jewish Mormon. During baptism, he, like all Mormons, got a spiritual blood transfusion in the baptismal waters and rose up as a true Jew.
Mormons have their own doctrine of Replacement Theology. The Mormons are the real Jews, not the ones in Israel. In fact, Beck has a teaching on YouTube where he teaches that America is the Modern Israel.
Finally, Beck praised his god as his true father, his dad who brought him and each of us to earth for a special purpose. He spoke of the great council above, from where we were sent to earth..
Beck was talking Mormon-speak here. He was speaking of Kolob, where the Mormon god of this world met with the head of all the gods and other notable gods and concocted the plan for earth.
He forgot to talk about his heavenly mother who gave birth to us as spirit beings there before we were sent to earth. Mormons are told that they are a special people, chosen by God for such a time as this. Beck offered that same word to his audience.
You see, what we have here is a University with a weak Christian backbone, allowing a cultist to speak his babble to its own ‘spiritual children. Shame on them!
The most shocking thing to me as I listened to the entire presentation was Beck’s quoting this scripture from 2 Corinthians, Chapter 4.
2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
Rarely has there been a more perverse use of that scripture, as Beck manipulated his audience in the polar opposite of that word.
Someone aptly said that the devil is in the details. The common words of biblical truth were surely spoken by Beck, but with totally different and malicious meanings, hidden by deceit and craftiness by a master player.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4: 3-4
Heaven Is For Real
Heaven Is For Real is written by pastor Todd Burpo and it tells the story of his son Colton who, at age 4, visited heaven. His visit came while he was on the operating table after suffering a burst appendix. He told his parents his story several months later and his parents then waited 6 or 7 years to record it in a book. That book has shot to the top of the charts, resulting in many of you sending me emails to ask, “Have you read it?” So I went ahead and read it. Because that’s the kind of guy I am.
You will probably not be surprised to learn that this is not a good book. What I want to do here is offer a very brief review and then I want to tell you why you can legitimately dismiss this book and all the others like it, because I think that’s where many of us feel the tension—what gives me the right to dismiss another person’s experience?
I’ve already given you the broad outline. Colton dies (or something close to it) and visits heaven for an unknown period of time. He returns to his body and over the months and years that follow tells his parents about his time in heaven. He tells about spending time with Jesus, about meeting the sister he never knew he had, about fluttering around with wings, about the pearly gates, and on and on. Along the way you’ll get descriptions of Todd’s various afflictions and you’ll read the fine details of Colton’s battles with constipation and the great relief he experienced passing gas. Riveting stuff, this.
Every one of Colton’s experiences, or very nearly every one, follows a pattern. He tells his father some little detail. His father experiences a gasp or feels his heart skip a beat. “I could hardly breathe. My mind was reeling. My head was spinning.” A Scripture verse comes to dad’s mind that validates the experience. Colton gets bored and runs off. Repeat.
The story is told with short chapters and grade school-level writing. Fine literature it is not. The point of it all is to encourage you that heaven is a real place. Colton went there and his experience now validates its existence. Just like Don Piper went there and his experience validates its existence. Just like Bill Wiese went to hell and can speak with authority to tell you that you really, really don’t want to go there. Just like the Apostle Paul went there and told us all about it in order to…oh wait.
either the boy (and/or his parents) is a liar or he genuinely believes he experienced something that he did not actually experience.
Now, what do I do with a book like this one? It seems to me that there are only a couple of options available to me. I can accept it, agreeing that this little boy is legitimate—he went to heaven and is now telling the tale for our edification. Or I can reject what this boy is saying—he did not go to heaven and this book is fictitious. If I go with this second option (which is exactly what I am doing) I now have two choices before me: either the boy (and/or his parents) is a liar or he genuinely believes he experienced something that he did not actually experience. I know which way I would lean, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there.Either option is very uncharitable and each one leaves me with a further problem: on what grounds can I dismiss this as fiction, as a book that is completely unprofitable?
If I wanted to disprove Colton’s experience on grounds of logic or consistency I might point in a couple of different directions. In the first place, Colton is a toddler who speaks like an adult. His verbatim quotes sound nothing like a 4-year old, and I think I can say this with some authority as the father of a 4-year old. I’d also point to the fact that dad routinely remembers circumstantial detail that there is very little chance he would remember 6 or 7 years after the fact, something that, at the very least, tells me that he is filling in details where he feels he needs to. But there are better grounds.
The better strategy, I think, is to look to the Bible.
I offer two ways of going about this. First, the Bible gives us no indication whatsoever that God will work in this way and that he will call one of us to heaven and then cause us to return. It is for man to die once and then the resurrection. To allow a man (or a boy) to experience heaven and then to bring him back would not be grace but cruelty. The only biblical example we have of a man being caught up to heaven is Paul and it’s very interesting that he was forbidden to tell anything about it. And the reason he even mentioned this experience was not to offer encouragement that heaven exists, but to serve as a part of his “gospel boasting.” He saw heaven and was told to say nothing about it. This was a unique experience in a unique time and for a unique reason.
The second ground refers to the reason each of these authors offers—that through their experience we now find confidence that what God says is true. This kind of proof is exactly the kind of proof we should not need and should not want. Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe. Don Piper insisted that he was called to be the Minister of Hope. If hope is to be found in any person, it will be found in the person of Christ. It is the Spirit working through the Word who will give us confidence in our faith. And what is faith? It is simply believing that what God says in his Word is true. We do not need tales of heaven or stories of those who claim to be there.
So reject this book. Do not read it. Do not believe it. And do not feel guilty doing so.
‘Heaven Is for Real’ rises above Johnny Depp’s ‘Transcendence’ at box office
Faith-based film “Heaven Is for Real” soared at the Easter weekend box office, earning a stellar $21.5 million from 2,417 theaters to bury big-budget sci-fi epic “Transcendence,” which opened to a dismal $11.5 million from 3,455 locations.
Produced by influential pastor T. D. Jakes, director Randall Wallace and Hollywood veteran Joe Roth, “Heaven Is for Real” stars Greg Kinnear and earned an A CinemaScore. The drama did its biggest business in the country’s Bible Belt, but appealed to mainstream audiences as well.
The movie is based on the real-life story of Nebraska pastor Todd Burpo, whose young son said he found himself in heaven during emergency surgery. The film is adapted from the pastor’s book of the same name, co-written by Lynn Vincent.
“It’s really a terrific result,” said Sony’s distribution chief Rory Bruer. “And Easter was certainly a date that was in the wheelhouse of the film.”
Note: It is interesting to me to read these articles. Tim Challies is a well-known and respected commentator grounded in the faith of Jesus Christ and reputable. He knows
the Bible and practices sound doctrine. So I value his opinion. T.D. Jakes is a well-known evangelical who is part of the health and wealth crowd. I do not agree with his theology and teachings as many are unbiblical. Is he a true believer? I don’t know but God does. I would rather line up with Scripture what I see and read and ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me. I hope you will do the same. . .
By Dr. Scott Lively, President, Defend the Family International www.defendthefamily.com
What comes next is a full-on homosexual blitzkrieg against “homophobia” and “hatred” in the church, and a concurrent culture-wide advocacy of “gay theology.” Gone, of course, will be all concern for the “separation of church and state” as the secular powers work hand-in-hand with the “gays” to shame and “correct” the Bible-believing church, using Scripture that has been deviously twisted to fit their goals. The only defense will be Biblical literacy backed unshakable faith. To be blunt, we will be all be vilified and only the strong of faith will endure.
“Who makes you differ from another?” 1 Corinthians 4:7
What made the difference . . .
between Cain and Abel,
between Esau and Jacob,
between Judas and Peter?
What makes the difference . . .
between believers, and unbelievers;
between the righteous, and the wicked;
between the elect, and the reprobate;
between the godly, and the ungodly;
between one who has saving knowledge of God, and a heathen infidel?
It is not “what,” but “who.” “WHO makes you differ from another?” It is the God of all grace who makes one man to differ from another!
Contrary to popular opinion, men do not make the difference in salvation–God does.
He loves some, but hates others.
He chooses some, but passes by others.
He blesses some, and curses others.
He saves some, but destroys others.
This is God’s sovereign right as God. “Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” Romans 9:21.
God always does with men as He pleases. Who are men to reply against God? “Shall the thing formed say to him who formed it: Why have you made me thus?” Romans 9:20.
Will not the all wise God do what is best, just, and good? How dare fickle ignorant men call the most high God into question! “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter: What are you making?” Isaiah 45:9.
“Why do you strive against Him? For He gives not account of His matters.” Job 33:13.
It is we who must answer to Him–not He to us.
He is on the throne–and we are but His footstool.
He is the Potter–and we are the clay.
He is the Creator–and we are His creatures.
He is God–and we are not.
The God of all grace made the difference between His people and the reprobate from eternity. Before the foundation of the world, God the Father justly elected some of humanity to salvation–and passed by all the rest.
The Lord Jesus made the difference between His church and the world, at Calvary where He laid down His life, poured out His blood, and effectually redeemed all whom the Father elected to salvation.
The sovereign Spirit makes the difference between the souls of His people and the souls of the ungodly in regeneration, effectually calling chosen redeemed sinners to life and faith in Christ.
The triune God does this, not because His people are better, more deserving, or more worthy of salvation–but because He will, because He is pleased to do so.
In all things God makes the difference, not us. There is no difference between God’s saints and the wicked by nature, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. The only difference is the difference that God makes by His distinguishing grace. We, as God’s elect, have . . .
nothing to boast of,
nothing to be proud of, and
no reason to look down on others as being inferior to us.
We were born just like everyone else–dead in trespasses and sins. By nature we lived in rebellion against God, just like everyone else. We walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, living to fulfill the lusts of our flesh, and were by nature children of wrath even as others. We have nothing to brag about–but much to be thankful for!
In sovereign grace . . .
He loved us,
He chose us,
He blessed us,
He set His affection on us,
and He saved us.
In distinguishing mercy our Savior . . .
was born for us,
lived for us,
suffered for us,
bled for us, and
reigns for us.
In discriminating love He . . .
sought us out,
chased us down,
subdued our hearts,
gave us spiritual life, and
blessed us with the gift of everlasting salvation!
Thank God for His sovereign, discriminating grace!
Excerpts from GRACE GEMS
April 17, 2014
PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSING FLOW
Coninuing Studies in Ephesians- part four
Let me begin by asking you what you believe your greatest blessing from God might be?
Paul wrote this letter while in prison in Rome. Probably from the same jail cell from which he wrote his epistle to Colossae. Epaphras, who planted the Colossian church was acquainted with Paul (or in prison with him) and informed him of a heresy infiltrating the Colossae and Laodicean churches (Read, Col.2:8,18).
To combat the heresy troubling the Colossians, Paul argued that Christ alone is to be worshipped as the Divine Creator and Head of the Universe thus the Divine Creator of the Universe and Head of the Church. Then, he adds that since Jesus is the Head of the Universe and the Church, then Christians as members of Christ’s Body, the Church, have an intimate and very personal relationship with Him.
These two letters, Colossians and Ephesians resemble closely one to the other that of the 105 verses in Colossians, 75 are found in Ephesians. It is possible that they were written at the same time.
When the Scriptures refer to the Body of Christ, we understand that they are not referring to a universal collective and unseen bunches of churches, without unity, limit, exception, or purpose, but to specific churches in specific locations, with specific doctrines that are apostolic in nature and New Testament in reputation. Every letter Paul wrote was to churches local and visible, not a Church (capital C) universal or invisible.
We see this in his letters specific churches in various places, for example when he begins all his epistles with, to…
“all that be in Rome,’ to “the churches in Galatia,” “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth and with all the saints in all Achaia,” “to the saints in Ephesus,” “all the saints in Christ Jesus which art at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons,” “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which art at Colossae,” “unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ,” and the structured assemblies of 1Timothy and Titus? Not one mention of a Universal and Invisible church in the lot!
The Ephesian letter is no exception. Let’s examine it again, beginning at Verse three. The title of this message, Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow, is a reminder that all blessings from God are conducive to true and lasting happiness, they are spiritual in nature, and are all in heavenly places.
Paul puts things in proper perspective. He starts with God then proceeds to the “covenant of eternal purpose”, ‘then he comes down to our level dealing with the actual blessings. Martyn Lloyd Jones
Finally these spiritual blessings are in Christ so Paul points us to Christ before giving even a hint of what the blessings might be. Why does he do that? Because we have no spiritual blessings apart from Jesus Christ.
For the next few minutes let’s look at the words Paul uses in verse three of chapter one: Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.
First, Paul, uses a word that means ‘to speak well of’—BLESS-ED! Our word Eulogize means the same thing, to speak well of. Most of us are all familiar with eulogies. We eulogize, or speak well of the departed at funerals. We speak well of a departed persons character and honor his reputation.
Rarely in these times do we dare to be honest, preferring to be hypocritical. He may have been a cheat, adulterer, common thief, even ungodly in all his ways, but now that he is dead, somehow we find words that speak well of him and his reputation —Eulogize.
Paul, eulogizes the living God. He speaks well of Him, making reference to His glorious character and impeccable reputation. Paul tells us what prompted this high praise –saying: BLESSED be the God, noting that in my Bible the word is in all caps, it may not be so in yours but it is of no real importance to the thought Paul is expressing. BLESSED be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.
When God blesses spiritually or materially we feel encouraged and experience a sense of His approval, believing that he blesses us with a desire that we be encouraged. As children of God we certainly do not want his disapproval.
Secondly, Paul again says that God hath ‘blessed us.’ Note hath Blessed, meaning something He has already done. It has is the same pronunciation but with a different meaning.
Paul’s moves from the One who is Good, namely God, worthy to be spoken highly of; The One ‘to be praised,’ to the ones who profit/benefit by God’s blessing, to those to whom God has done good.
God has called (kletos),—His (eklektos)- meaning those whom He has chosen. Called – Chosen! To the called and chosen He has blessed with all spiritual blessings.
Some frown, squint, roll their eyes, sniff and snort at the idea that God calls some and chooses some—calls but does not choose.
Matthew 22:14 Jesus uses both kletos -called and eklektos –chosen, and reminds us that while many are called, few are chosen. Does this mean that God blesses only the called and chosen? No.
The rain (blessings) does fall on the just and the unjust (the blessed), but these blessings (all good that God does for everyone) refers to blessings earthly and physically enjoyed, received daily by all God’s creatures. But, does not refer to blessings spiritual which are bestowed only on the Called and the Chosen and received daily understood and recognized as current blessings possessed, but are in heaven, in Christ, confirmed and made knowable by God’s word but not empirically observed or empirically experienced that is to mean not fully observed and fully experienced. That will one day change when we are gathered as Christ’s church in heaven then as one Universal Visible Body, then all spiritual blessings will be empirically fully observed and empirically fully experienced.
Someone has cleverly coined a phrase which I’m not convinced totally reliable but says: All of the blessings of God, spiritual or material Christians do in fact have NOW, BUT NOT YET!
The third word Paul uses in verse three is ‘blessings,’ meaning in this case all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. Blessings which God has generously bestowed to those previously mentioned and to New Testament churches in other localities.
Would that all His people here below praise Him! Do not all the heavenly host above praise Him? Surely, they are! Should not all of us praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? All God’s people says: Amen!
Paul loved this church. Some believe it is the only church that Paul actually planted, We know from Acts that Paul worked his craft of tent making there.
He enters in to a state of bliss; His heart aflame, wanting to set a fire in the hearts of the Ephesians and writes this letter compelled by a force higher than himself saying:
Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.
There are any number of teachers today who will tell you that God’s “blessing” is always physical or even always monetary. However, “if the blessings of God are only material or monetary, God has nothing to offer us any more than what a good financial investment might result in a satisfactory return.” This is no means is to deprecate earthly blessing. The New Testament places all the emphasis on the spiritual…
(2 Corinthians 4:18) While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
(Matthew 6:11) Give us this day our daily bread. And…
(1 Timothy 4:1-5) Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
However, we at this time are more earthly minded than spiritual and more easily recognize and appreciate the blessings God showers upon us in this life every day, thinking more of these that on those we cannot yet see, touch or sense physically or intellectually but learn to experience by faith.
Unfortunately, though we Christians have these spiritual blessings we mainly give them little thought or giving no thought to them at all.
Peter, for example 1 Peter 1:3-5 speaks of blessings reserved in heaven and ready to be revealed in the last time. While Ephesians 1:3 gives the distinct impression that we already have these blessings. Perhaps this is because in 1 Peter the language indicates that the apostle is speaking to Jewish minds, though Christian, reminding them of their ancestral wanderings in the wilderness for 40 years, while in Ephesians Paul is writing to Gentile believes with no remembrance or knowledge of any such wanderings.
Paul, in verse three and beyond hurries to help us see the higher value in higher blessings.
God’s blessings, as we shall see as we progress in our study of this treasured letter, are far more lasting than material blessings. These represent the Return on the investment God has afford toward us —His own Son, begotten, not created, eternal…
`One God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all thins visible and invisible,’ and `One Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God; begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God; begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father,’ and `the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified.’
Paul’s desire is for the church to know that God’s blessings are eternal in the heavens and that they are in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are of greater worth. They include blessings of hope, peace, wellbeing, and an abundant life. Spiritual Blessings are far better than natural blessings as they are supernatural; Better than earthly they are heavenly; Better than temporal they are eternal; Better than incidental they are essential.
When Paul says the blessings are “spiritual” he means they are spiritual in administraton in that they are bestowed upon the church by the Holy Spirit. Note…
The Father imparts the blessing;
The Spirit communicates the blessing;
The Son embodies the blessing.
The Tri-unity of the God head is apparently displayed here in full unity of purpose.
When God gives such blessings, it is with the view of blessing His people and making them happy. God delights in granting the desire of His heart. His blessings are always for our profit and because He glories in the giving. They are designed to give us a sense of security, a sense of joy, and a sense of hope (expectation) knowing that God loves us, cares for us and meets the deeper needs of our souls.
To hear further that he hath blessed us means something that God has already done! He ‘Hath’ blessed! we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, as opposed to the temporal blessings that are fleeting, that approach with a promise like a welcome breeze then leave as quickly as it came.
Unlike temporal blessings that are in the main earthly. These Blessings are in the heavenlies, that is the Heavenly Sphere. These are reserved in heaven, they remain in heaven, they are ours now and will be fully retained for us in heaven. (See verse 14)
These are eternal blessings are bestowed according to or in conformity to the will and purpose of God. And bestowed in eternity before the foundation of the worlds, with a view to the will and purpose of God which is that we be a moral people of good reputation having been foreordained by the Love of God, having been foreordained, determined beforehand to be the children of God!
IV. ADOPTED (BORN INTO)
The word ‘adoption’ is mentioned just 5 times in the New Testament and it is a figurative word meaning, the Placing as sons which we become when having been “born again from above.” Which does not mean in “place of the Son,” or in the “Son’s place,” but placed as sons. It means, Placed as sons, in the Son, in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And, as Paul writes we are sons of God placed in Christ because it pleased God to do so to the praise of the glory of His grace! Glory being the out-flashing of His grace. The result of our being placed as sons by his grace and for his glory is that we have been accepted in the beloved! In Christ we are placed and therein accepted in Him!
As accepted in Christ we by his grace and for his glory, have redemption through the blood of Christ, Redemption which is explained as the forgiveness of sins, again conforming to the riches of his grace.
Paul continues in verses 8-11 (read) which he refers back to the argument that Christ is the Divine Creator and the Head of His church and sums up by saying this is all in Christ, both redemption and forgiveness in heaven and which are on earth; even in HIM!
These are heavenly blessings in Christ. And not merely through Christ. Someone may ask, “OK, our spiritual blessings are in Christ but how are we to enjoy them?” Some cry O’ so mournfully: If I could only see God! Just a glimpse! I could enjoy Him and all His spiritual blessings. All spiritual blessings are in Him, and we being in Christ enjoy them in him. We enjoy Christ! 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And, again
Hebrews 1:3 (Jesus) Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Having been adopted in Christ we are Accepted in the Beloved One. This has been done before redemption became necessary.
Robert Hawker offers: The text is clear: what is said of choosing, and predestinating, and accepting, is said to be before the foundation of the world, and, consequently, before sin was known upon earth, or redemption from sin needful.”
The capstone supporting these unspeakable blessings of God the Father comes as the result of his own free and sovereign grace; before the foundation of the World; and, consequently, before the Church had its being, and before sin benighted Adam.
VI. TEN THINGS:
One, we know what kind of blessings is meant, “Spiritual.”
Two, we also know their Giver and administrator, God the Father through The “Holy Spirit.”
Three, we know that they were given in love.
Fourth, We know where they are in heaven.
Fifth, we know where they are to be found, “in Christ.”
Sixth, we know when they were given, in Eternity.
Seventh. we know to whom they were given, to the Elect churches. Eighth, we know there purpose, to the praise of his glory.
Ninth, we know why they were given, for our acceptance in the beloved. And Tenth, we know the number of the Spiritual Blessings we own, all of them!
You would find it profitable, as I have, to read through Ephesians counting every blessing you find and know that they are all part of the SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS held in Christ for you all.
But now we experience the results of them all. We have the blessing of first, being chosen and predestinated and in the heavenly places where our citizenship truly is and where we are holy and without blame and where our inheritance awaits (I believe our inheritance to be Jesus Christ).
Surely there is blessing in knowing we have been welcomed into the family of God by being born into it, I prefer that to “adopted.”
Is there not blessing in knowing that He hath abounded in us all wisdom and prudence. Is not ‘in Christ’ to mean in all His wisdom and prudence which is the wisdom of God which is Christ and the prudence or knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and having such bestowed should we not be growing, progressing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord?
Has he not blessed us by revealing his will, pleasure, and purpose in Himself.
That in the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; in him.
While we are “counting our blessings” we have in earth, we want to recall that have obtained an inheritance, again that has been predestinated…according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. And, that we should be to the praise of his glory.
We will not forget that we have been given the Spirit of Promise, the security earnest guarantee of all that we have in Christ. When realized redemption, that glorious day when we shall be introduced as Christ’s purchased possession and stand before him unto the praise of his glory. Paul writes that we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies— Revelation 22:1-2 we read…
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river , was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
For us? Two things—One, as a church we are predestinated to be a holy church without blame. As of this moment we have not much notoriety, good or bad, in this area. We are not well known. The people of this area have been given little cause to evaluate our true character. A character of love and caring and concern for one another is obvious to me and surely to you as well. But outside of this building, not much is known of us. We will work on this.
Secondly, When our true character is expressed by our good works folks will see our love and concern for them. Putting feet to our prayers, seeking the physical and spiritual welfare of the people around us, our love will be obvious, it will not take long for people to know that we are a church that cares and will begin to take notice…that is how a reputation is formed!
This will not come without effort. Christian character is expressed in effort and effort becomes a reputation. A church at rest tends to stay at rest while a church that is active tends to say active.
I say that our church must become, in every meaning of the word, a New Testament Church. If we are to be a true church then we have work to do, character to express, reputation to build. What we have to gain is worth whatever losses we may endure gaining it.
I love the saying of Nate Saint, the missionary killed several years ago by the Auca Indians in Bolivia. Brother Saint said: “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose”.
VIII. CHARGE TO THE CHURCH
As your pastor I’m asking each of you to stand with me in prayer and work. With a view to building a godly and loving character and a reputation for our church that honors our Lord. In time, I will be suggesting specific things each of us can do individually, and things that we can do collectively as people of a true New Testament church to reach this community,’ to see people come to know Christ as their Savior and serve as their Lord – TO LOVE GOD AND ENJOY HIM NOW AND FOREVER!
We are few in number, but consider this, it took just 13 disciples to turn the world upside down. Few in number, oppressed, persecuted but fully committed to the Resurrected Savior. Many of us are not as physically active as we used to be, however, we still can actively pray putting our faith, if not always our feet to the work.
I am asking you WHO ARE CHRISTIANS to live every day for Christ, to put on the whole armor of God, and stand for the greatest cause the world has ever known –Folks, Our Lord has commanded and conscripted us to come along side of ONE ANOTHER to evangelize this community, this city, this world for Christ! Matthew 28:19-20 says: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
We can do all things through Christ which strengthen us. God has begun a good work in us, surely He will finish it. For our part we must gain back our first love – a love for Him; a love for each other; a love for the souls of men. Will you stand ? I ask again will you stand for Christ? If you will, I ask you to call me THIS WEEK and say, Yes, brother Bob, I will stand for Christ, I will do all that he enables me to do and will always pray for God to be glorified in me. Amen.
INVITATION: Whenever people gather in church there are a few who have not yet come to Christ. These know only the temporal, earthly, blessings of God and nothing of his spiritual blessings in heaven. You may be one of them. Your soul still in darkness, dead in trespasses and sin, you know of Christ but you have no personal relationship with him.
God knows who you are and has in times past spoken to your spirit saying, come unto me and I will give you rest. You have heard but not responded. Your salvation is as near as the one sitting next to you this morning, praying for your soul. The way to all spiritual blessings is in and through Jesus Christ.
Blessed is he whose transgression is covered.
Blessed is the one unto whom the Lord
Imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit
There is no guile (deceit, deception). Psalm 32
COME TO CHRIST AND RECEIVE ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSING IN CHRIST. AMEN.
WHAT’S IN A WORD?
Purpose: My purpose this morning is two-fold: One, show how that the translators of our King James Bible have done their level best to “dress up the original cloth in clothing we recognize,” and do so without losing the original meaning, so that nothing is not lost in translation. We should be grateful for their efforts in bringing to us a trusted copy of such an ancient text.
And Two, remind you of who you are and what you have become and what you have gained in Christ.
Ephesians 1:1-3 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Notice that there is a colon at the end of the word “Christ.” This means that there is more to come, and there is a lot more to come in this awesome letter. Today however, after our discussion on translations we will place our attention on just four words found in these three verses: Grace, Peace, Blessed and Blessings.
I must by necessity touch somewhat at length, on the doctrines of Inspiration and Preservation.
Words, as someone has said, are not simply, “lovely little things”, but are about the circumstances in which they were first uttered arising in, their history, their culture.
The Oxford Dictionary, one of the most respected English Dictionaries has updated its self only three times since 1879 and since then 60,000 new words have been added to the English language, not counting thousands of words that did not pass inspection and not added to the Dictionary. Sixty thousand new words added to a dictionary already over twenty volumes, containing over a half-million words…words that are being updated and in the process of changing every day.
With such changes it is comforting to know that my KJV version of the Holy Inspired Word of God, has withstood the test of time, without change or addition for over 400 years!
I use commentaries but prefer word studies because words as they were originally spoken reveal much more than the interpretations of whole sets of verses, paragraphs, and chapters in a commentary format. In fact one word in a verse may have hidden within itself richer meaning that helps understand the whole context in which the word is framed.
Words flesh out meanings that the speaker originally intended, whereas commentaries are interpretations of language mainly by well meaning, good men, well educated, but “uninspired.” Often the commentator uses idioms – words that were particular and specific to the his generation—along with metaphors also familiar to his dispensation, which may or may not match up to the idioms and metaphors of the generation in which the original author lived. This may result in too much or too little influence impacting the reader who must depend solely on the accuracy of a commentary and may indeed diminish the original meaning altogether. This is especially risky when it is the inspired Word of God they are playing with! It cannot be assumed or even implied that the commentator was in any way “inspired,” but it is fair to assume he can be guided!!
A commentary is not inspired. It is the product of theological minds, some trained in linguistics and some not so well trained. Too many books that claim to be “biblical commentaries” are biblical in name only. Many are simply dressed up devotional stuff without any real meat on which to chew. Sometimes, an understanding of the meaning embodied in one word can define an entire context, and an entire passage of Scripture.
A word study must be driven by a knowledge of languages or at the least having at hand a dictionary containing the words of the original language that has been translated into one’s own.
This is especially important. A translation may not reveal the essence of what the speaker wanted to convey to his reader—a language specific dictionary will! A Bible that is a word for word translation is also trustworthy while one that is thought for thought will have serious flaws.
What’s is a ‘word?’
A word is a part of speech that stands alone and cannot be divided. What it says is what it means. It can say what it means but be wrong in what it is saying. That’s like saying ‘a man can be sincere, but be sincerely wrong.’ Translations can say what a word or text means but all the while what it is saying is or is not necessarily true to the ancient language, thus not meaningful.
What God has said, past tense, is trustworthy because each and every word is God Breathed. However, if the book I hold in my hand contains only what men think God has said, then it is not a version of the original inspired manuscripts. This book I hold in my hand, if not the inspired, breathed word of God, it is immediately rendered worthless, heretical, dangerous to my soul, and should not be read, meditated, studied, preached or taught.
I am willing to put my very soul on the line using this KJ Bible. Why? Because the KJV is a word for word translation of the Hebrew and Greek whereas all other English language translations are at best paraphrases of the KJV, including The Revised Version, The Revised Standard Version, The NASB (very popular among the young Turks), The corrupted New International Version, even the New King James is suspect. These are in the main, thought for thought translations, or what the translator thinks the author was thinking when he wrote it! How can anyone say he knows what another person thinks? That’s guess work. Word for word is what God said. No guessing required.
Are you as willing to do the same?
The original manuscripts were inspired, yet as of today the originals have not been found. The Vellum or hides of Deer and Antelope have probably turned to dust, but the copyists must at some time had possession of the originals otherwise from what did they copy? If there were no originals then what was available to translate? If they were not translated from originals even the copies are corrupt thus all Bibles are corrupt. And the Bibles we own are humanistic, man-determined moral initiatives designed to make us feel that they are reasonable and thus better thus making the world a better world.
Folks, I would not want to live in a world trusting only in the humanistic moral initiatives springing the dry wells of minds suffering spiritual draught.
How can I say this when I know that this Bible is a translation and not an original manuscript? Because the Word of God is not only Divinely inspired; It is Divinely preserved. If inspired but not preserved
how can it said that “God’s word will endure forever” or having any redemptive effect on sinful human hearts as in the following passages?
Luke 21:33 Heaven and earth shall pass away : but my words shall not pass away.
Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God .
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
1 Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God , which liveth and abideth for ever.
Why is this so hard for some to believe? Is this too hard for God? Is anything too hard for God?
Why would he give or trust his word to men to record His utterances knowing and preserved knowing that all He has really said would be one day forever lost? If lost, then we have nothing trustworthy—we have no infallible or inerrant Word from God, and without such we will all perish! If His word has not survived intact then our translations cannot be of any real worth, and what is said as written in Psalms 138:2 cannot be true …reading I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving kindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified (that is infinitely honored) thy word above all thy name. What can be magnified if it no longer exists? If God has not preserved His inspired word then even His name is lost its trustworthiness.
Our English translation of the copied originals were written in the ancient tongue—Hebrew and Greek mainly. Still, while the original manuscripts have not been found, and may never be found, the language spoken at the time of the original manuscripts lives on in our Authorized Version of the King James Bible—both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
I will say this in defense of what I have already said: The King James version, was ‘not meant to be a newer version of the original, but rather to make a good version (The Bishop Bible) better.’ It is “better” because it has survived vicious attacks and remains the most read Bible by Christians for well over 400 years!
This is not to imply that people can be saved only by the use of the KJV version. In the first place people are not saved by translations but by the application of inspired truth in a preserved translation and applied by the Holy Spirit to the hearts and minds of men.
I am not saying that other translations do not carry certain elements of Scriptural truth, or that people cannot be saved through their usage, because many do contain elements of inspired truth and people are, I’m sure brought to Christ through them. But taken in the whole I will say that the KJV of the Bible is THE inspired Word of God for English speaking people, and until the originals are discovered proving the KJV wrong, I live and die by the KJV.
Southern Baptists used to say, and I’m sure many still do, especially the Old Timers that the KJV of the Bible is the one trusted for faith and practice. My, how things change over time.
In Matthew 4:5 (KJV) Jesus said this of the Word of God: It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Word comes from the Greek and means every utterance-we are to live by every utterance of God! There are three ways we live by the utterances of God: 1. By reading it. 2. By hearing it. 3. By applying it. This is to assume that the Word of God is inspired AND preserved, else what good is it?
Once reading or hearing an utterance of God we are to “keep” it. That is to say, we are to observe it and save it– Notice David in Psalms 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
And we are to “do” what it says. We are to abide by it, agree with it, appropriate it, take possession of it, and when and if necessary avenge it, that is to say, we are to defend it from those who would handle the utterances of God deceitfully. And it must be added we are to proclaim it to others!
EXPLAINING THE TEXT
Ephesians 1:1-3 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
I. Grace be to you—
God’s grace is not limited in quality, quantity, or time. Romans 5:20-21 Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
John Bunyan speaks of God’s Grace in his preface to his sermon Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners and describes the sermon as “a brief and faithful relation of the exceeding mercy of God in Christ to his poor servant”. Bunyan, in regards to himself says: Grace Abounding unto the chief of sinners. wherein is particularly showed the manner of my conversion, my sight And trouble for sin, my dreadful temptations, also how I despaired of God’s mercy, and how the lord at length through Christ did deliver me from all the guilt and terror that lay upon me.
Men in their wisdom have decided that the best definition of Grace is “undeserved favor” and while true, it appears to be unfinished and a bit wanting. That is like looking at a newly constructed home and saying “that is a house.” We are not told who designed and built the house, what materials were used, how big or small is its size and more importantly, what was its cost?
To leave Grace as simply ‘undeserved favor’, while not wrong nor is it particularly offensive, it remains in my view, far from sufficiently defining the great doctrine of Grace.
Grace in the New Testament reveals its greatest meaning when it is viewed in the sphere in which God’s Grace is best observed. And in what God purposed to do and was willing to give to the whosoever’s who would believe, which is specifically, that which Jesus accomplished on the cross.
When we understand the high cost of what was paid to bring to us to salvation, we see a much clearer picture of the magnitude of God’s Grace. The Personal sacrifice of Jesus Christ by submitting to humiliation, pain and suffering, for the remission of our sin we see the fullness of God’s Glory in Divine love and Grace, and realize how totally undeserving we were of any consideration from God.
In Christ Jesus’ death at Calvary, we quickly realize that He, the Beloved, died because of and for our sin, and that we through Him have received what we did not deserve, namely, eternal life and forgiveness of our sins–and did not receive what we did deserve namely. Eternal death and separation from our Creator God, forever!
Jesus, being obedient to suffer and die, placed himself in our place on the altar of sacrifice and accomplished what He came to do…to do the will of His Father. He stood in the gap for us!
Our salvation which is through faith in Jesus Christ came as the result of the super-abounding Grace and infinite love of God… without any expectation of a return on his awful investment. (Read: 2:8-10)
God’s Grace is so against the idea of merit by ‘good works’ that Paul concludes in Romans 4:4-5 saying: Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
This does not mean that in God’s Grace there is no room for our ‘good’ works. On the contrary, as children of God our lives must reflect to others a proper vision of Christ formed in us? Is this not our chief end to glorify God in our lives?
(Read Titus 2:11-14) For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
The mortification of our carnal appetites; the “keeping” of our bodies under subjection; the “putting away the filth of the flesh; the “putting off the “old man” and putting on the “new” is not simply dressing the old man in a new suit of clothes. He blesses stable-minded men and women who live moderately without showy, unnecessary, or any kind of unbecoming pretense or expression of carnality.
II. Our Second Word: And Peace—. (Read 2:13-16)
Peace implies a “joining” together. When we join a church we expect peace (Psalms 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!) When a man and a woman are joined together in Holy matrimony peace should accompany them through life.
Apart from Jesus Christ there is no peace between God and man. There is only dis-joining; a lack of harmony and a loss of any sense of well-being. Christ established a peace so deep in meaning we find difficult to fully comprehend. We need to know only that Christ through His atoning work has reconciled what was dis-joined and brought the twain—God and man–together again resulting in a Eden like harmony and well-being.
We read in Colossians 1:20-22 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight…
The death, resurrection of The Anointed One, satisfied the just demands of the Law, making it possible for God to bestow upon a believing sinner peace without violating His lawful demand for Justice!
The Law can make no more demands on those whom Christ has redeemed from its “curse,” having in himself fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law.
We, being “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6) can now approach the throne of His grace, look upon the face of His God and our God, His Father and our Father (whereas before that would mean certain death) without an ounce of fear or shame. Why, because “through (Christ) Him we have access by the Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18).
This idea of access is understood with saying, “God the Son provides the way into the Father’s presence through the blood of His cross, God the Spirit conducts the saint (holy one) in and presents him, and God the Father is the One into whose presence the believer is brought.”
(Read: 2:18-22) We have Peace with God!
Our third word this morning is…
Three times in chapter 1:3-4, the words Blessed or Blessings are used to describe the giver, the giving and the receiving of spiritual blessings.
We read: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.
Three words spelled and sounding the same but each with a different meaning.
In verse three the first usage of Blessed is a word that applies to God’s character and is used only in the New Testament—Blessed be the God and Father… this word “Blessed,” we know well, hearing it often when eulogizing someone who has departed this world. We eulogize his life, speaking well of him. To say “blessed be God” is to eulogize God saying God is wonderful and to be adored for what he has done for us.
In the second usage: God…who has blessed us…has a different but meaning. In the first example where we eulogize God by speaking well of Him and praising Him for blessing us. In this second consideration of the word blessing it is not God speaking well of us but refers to what good things God does for us! He blesses us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.
We get an idea of this in Matthew five-3-11 –the Beatitudes, Nine times Jesus uses a Greek word in our English, “blessed.” His meaning is, happy in the sense of being spiritually prosperous. “blessed-happily prosperous” while being poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“blessed-happily prosperous” are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“blessed-happily prosperous” are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
And so on…
Thirdly, We read that God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places…This speaks of things God has done for us and who has given us that which benefits us, which is he has blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, or in the heavenlies…where He abides.
Let’s understand that these “blessings” are not of a temporal sort, but eternal; they are not simply given but are being perpetually given; they are not bodily blessings, but spiritual blessings; they are not of the flesh of men but of the Holy Spirit of God.
Next time, God permitting, we will consider these Spiritual blessings at some length.
A Personal Word: As people consecrated, devoted to God, belonging to God, secure in God’s Son, Blessed by God’s Spirit, assured of our inheritance, we are as in (Read:1 Peter 2:9-10) a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy people, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
What’s In A Word? When it applies to the Word of God we believe that All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
When we read as Paul writes, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ we are eulogizing Him by “speaking well of Him, when God blesses us He is doing good to us and the blessings we receive are spiritual in nature.
David writes: Psalms 103:2-5 Bless the LORD, O my soul , and forget not all his benefits: 3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; 4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; 5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Have you the confidence that you have been accepted in the beloved? Perhaps God the Spirit has opened the eyes of your understanding this morning enabling you to see that Jesus Christ in Lord and that you need a Savior. If so come to Him today by faith and He will receive you. You must be born again. Confess to him that you are a sinner and that you truly want to have your life changed for the better and that by faith and acknowledgement of His Lordship you will endeavor to live your life for his glory.
I leave you with these thoughts:
1. You can trust your KJ Bible. It is admittedly not the easiest translation to read but you can count on it to be authoritative and infinitely authentic.
2. Adore God for He alone is good and does goodly things for you.