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CMF eZine


The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


'Useless' Faith?

Is there such a thing as ‘useless faith’ from a Christian worldview? Does the Bible answer the question?

First of all, I think it fair to say that we (professing believers) almost always think about faith in a positive light, as does scripture. The Old Testament is full of men and women of faith. The New Testament tells us we are saved “by grace through faith”. On occasion, Jesus commended individuals for their faith. In the book of Hebrews there is a long list of notable men and women of faith, as well as heroic deeds that were the result of their faith in a great God.

So what’s this about “useless” faith? Is it even a ‘thing’ from a biblical perspective?

I suggest to you that it is, and that ‘useless faith’ is a serious topic at least twice in the Bible, once from the perspective of the Apostle Paul, and once from the perspective of James, the brother of Jesus, in the book bearing his name. The Apostle Paul addresses the topic from something the Bible claims is a historical fact, while James approaches it with human works in view.

For a look at what Paul had to say about “useless” faith, we need only take a look at 1Corinthians, chapter 15, his great treatise on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the final resurrection of believers:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:12-19)

Apparently there were some in the Corinthian church who were denying the future resurrection of the dead, although it was being preached that Christ indeed rose from the dead, a fact attested to by witnesses.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul then states that if Christ has not been raised, his (Paul’s) preaching and the faith of Believers in Corinth is in vain (useless) (v 14), a point he reiterated in v. 17.

Moving on to what James has to say about “useless” faith, we’ll turn to James, Chapter 2.

 

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.\

First Janes asks his listeners if want to be shown that faith apart from works is useless (v. 20) and then says very clearly that faith part from works is dead (v. 26). Clearly he is saying that faith without works is useless and dead, but in what context? We need only go back to an earlier verse (v. 14) to see that James’ conclusion is based on someone professing faith but never displaying works did not have saving faith. He is saying that if claims o having faith do not produce works, it was personal faith professed, but NOT saving faith possessed, and completely “useless”.

So yes, there is such a thing as ‘useless’ faith according to the Bible, from at least two perspective:

1.  If Christ died but was not resurrected, our faith and indeed Christianity itself is useless (1 Cor 15). This is a serious doctrinal issue.

2. If we say we have faith, but our faith does not result in works to the glory of God, we never had the ‘gift of God’ faith (See Eph 2:8-9) that actually saves (James 2:14-25). This is a serious personal issue.

So we all have good reason to follow some sound advice from the Apostle Paul:

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor 13:5, ESV)

Are You Plugged In?

That question is directed mostly toward young Christians serving our country in the military. No, I’m not asking if you have an ‘electric’ personality! I’m asking you if you are plugged in to good, Bible believing fellowship, whether it’s a local on-base Chapel, local church, Bible study or fellowship group, or maybe just a good Bible study.

I’m asking because this last weekend I spent some time thinking about the years spent as a Christian serving on active duty in the Army’s Special Forces. How that scenario developed is another story for another time. Suffice it to say that when the Shepherd found the lost sheep and brought him back into the fold, the scenario was already in place, and I knew keeping my faith personal was not an option. But that’s not today’s story either.

This is about the question “Are you plugged in?” I ask you that because not being plugged in to Christian fellowship and Bible study can really stunt spiritual growth. We live in a fallen world surrounded by all sorts of influences detrimental to growing in our shared faith. We are also saddled with what some call a ‘sin hangover’, to use a somewhat crude analogy. It would be great if God just eradicated all of the sinful tendencies we have when we come to believe in Christ, but he doesn’t.

It goes without saying that if we are plugged into ‘power sources’ that can sustain us, we’ll not only be strong, we can be used of God in the furtherance of his Kingdom on earth. It’s the ‘plugging in’ part that I want to talk about. I don’t know about you, but I learned some things that were true when I was on active duty and are true now. They were true when I was single (living in the barracks or separated from my family because of travel), and true when our family was together. They are true now, for a couple of grandparents and empty nesters. Here are a few good principles, or rules to live by, or something in between.

  • Plug in! Connect to 1) on-base Chapel, local church, 2) Bible study or fellowship group, 3) one other believer, or 4) just a good individual Bible study. I would suggest all four, if possible.
  • Don’t wait to get invited to something, take the initiative, whether you are changing duty stations, on temporary duty or on a deployment. It says a lot about you and your desire to keep growing in faith.
  • When introducing yourself to a congregation or small group you visit, keep it simple and offer to serve. Don’t talk a lot about you have served in other places, or you might be considered a divine answer to prayer. Trust me. Be willing to serve, but take it slow.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this church or small group more about serving God, or getting stuff from God.
  • Listen more than you speak. You can learn volumes.
  • Keep a Bible handy and don’t leave home without it!

Just some tips from an old soldier. Experience is a great teacher. I assure you, NOT plugging in is always hazardous to your spiritual health. I also know that there are some of you that might be a bit apprehensive about getting connected when you find yourself in new or unfamiliar territory. CMF can help with that. We maintain a worldwide directory of CMF members, military friendly churches and other military ministries on or near military bases all over the world. There are also Bible study resources available online. Visit our Web page and look around!.

The Chief End of Man and the Purpose of the Church

The first question asked by the Westminster Shorter Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?”. Some of us know the answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” In the Catechism itself, there are nearly a dozen passages of scripture provided to support the answer.

If you visit many of today’s evangelical churches, or even visit their websites, you might come away thinking that the chief goal of most believers is to find one’s special purpose, dream destiny, or most fulfilling life while occupying planet earth. If you doubt my assumption, just listen to some of the sermons from the most popular broadcasters on Christian television, or visit church websites. Listen to almost any sermon/sermon series and what hear is all about you. Even when scripture is used to support a lot of these sermons, they still end up being all about you instead of expositing/exegeting/explaining the actual text of scripture.

And then there are church web site ‘vision statements’. I can’t tell you how many vision statements I’ve seem that set as a goal of the church to help you find your ‘purpose’, or discover your ‘destiny’ on earth. While you might find a ‘What We Believe’ section with sound statements of belief, sometimes you have to dig deep to find them. The church vision statement is often boldly stated on a home page while a belief statement is several layers deep. The church vision is clearly a higher priority than the core beliefs of the church. I suggest that what we believe is far more important than a ‘vision statement’.

While the find your purpose/dream destiny goal sounds great and definitely attracts people, is it a biblical goal for the church? What does the Bible have to say about priorities in the life of the church and in the lives of individual believers?

Interestingly enough, we have a particular passage that dates back to Pentecost, when 3,000 heard the gospel proclaimed, repented and believed in Jesus as the Messiah (were ‘saved’).

Acts 2:42 describes the principle activities of these new believers;

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (KJV)

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (ESV)
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NASB)

Note the three activities of these new believers ‘continued steadfastly in’ or ‘were devoted to’:

  • The apostles doctrine/teaching
  • Fellowship
  • Prayer

Is it a stretch to assume that all three of these activities glorify God? The purpose of the church, made up of individual believers, is described in Ephesians, Chapter 4:

" 11And he (God)gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We are told that God gifted the church with apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers (sometimes called the five-fold ministry) for specific reasons:

“…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all (saints/believers)) attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood ,to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”(emphasis mine).

Note for whom the gifts are given; “the saints”, believers in Christ. Note also that the gifts given to the church are “for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” There is nothing here, or anywhere else in scripture (trust me) about the church existing for non-believers. There is also nothing here, or elsewhere in scripture, that even remotely suggests that those with the aforementioned gifts are to help folks in the pews (or theater seats) have their best lives now, discover special purposes, or achieve dream destinies.

Would it be a stretch to assume that the purpose of those so gifted might be to teach the ‘doctrine of the apostles’, the object of devotion for the new believers in Acts? I think not.

How does that translate to today – the apostle’s doctrine? A no-brainer? It must refer to what is contained in scripture, that which was inspired (breathed out by God)!  

So, getting back to the chief end of man and the purpose of the church. When the subject matter being taught by evangelical leaders becomes all about you, who exactly is being ‘glorified’? I’ll leave it right there.

Oh, there’s one other little thing. Something that Jesus said:

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’.” (Matthew 16:25)

I’ll leave that one there too. Any questions?

_________________

P.S. If you don’t know much about church catechisms, here is a link that lists some, along with additional links to the actual texts.

Who is the Father?

WHO IS FATHER? 

In Exodus 3:13, Moses is inquiring of God as to 

how to answer the people of Israel about who sent Him to them, and what is His name.

Exodus 3-14-15--"God said to Moses, I AM who I AM.  And He said, say this to the people of Israel:  I AM has sent me to you.  God also said to Moses, Say this to the people of Israel: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob has sent me to you."

How often do we as believers in Jesus Christ refer to the Father God as "I AM?"  Jesus referred to Himself as the "I AM" as he was dialoging with the Jews in John Eight:

John 8:58--"Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."

There are many names for God used by Christians.  Daniel referred to God as the "Ancient of Days" in his vision in Daniel 7:9.

Jesus would refer to His Heavenly Father as Abba Father, a Hebrew name.   There are other Hebrew names used for God today:  Elohim, El-Shaddai, Yahweh, Jehovah and Adonai.

As you read through the book of Psalms you will identify many verses on God's protecting care of us:  

Psalm 18:1,2-- "I love you Lord, my Strength.  The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer, my God, my Rock in whom I take Refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my Stronghold."

Psalm 118:14-- "The Lord is my Strength and my Song; He has become my Salvation."

How comforting it is to think about God as our Father!  I was blessed to have a loving earthly father, while many of you may not have had the privilege of having such a father.   I hope you will begin to embrace the thought of God as your heavenly Father!   

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

I pray that you will embrace God as your heavenly Father.

EXTRA: The Name of Jesus is So Sweet I love the name of him whose heart knows all my griefs and bears a part.  Who bids all anxious fears depart.  I love the name of Jesus.  That name I fondly love to hear, It never fails my heart to cheer.  Its music dries the falling tear.  Exalt the name of Jesus.

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years.  Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

http://accts.org/our_team.html

The Christian Risen With Christ in Newness of Life

The Christian Risen With Christ in Newness of Life

By Charles Simeon

Rom. 6:8–11. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Gospel in every age, when freely and faithfully delivered, has been calumniated as injurious to morality.  But St. Paul, though he well knew how his doctrines would be misrepresented, did not on that account mutilate the Gospel, or declare it less freely than it had been revealed to him: he proclaimed salvation altogether by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, without any works or deservings on our part: but at the same time he showed that good works, though excluded from any share in justifying the soul, would of necessity be practiced by every believer; because the believer, by his very profession, was, and could not but be, “dead unto sin, and alive unto righteousness.”  He showed, that there would of necessity be in the believer’s soul a conformity to his Lord and Savior, since he bound himself to it in his baptismal engagements, or rather professed to have the actual experience of it before he was baptized; so that he must be a hypocrite, and no true believer, if he was not holy both in heart and life.  To this effect he speaks in the whole of the preceding context; (ver. 1-7)—and in the words which we have just read, he confirms the idea, and founds upon it an animated exhortation.

To elucidate this difficult, but important subject, we shall consider,

I. The truth he assumes—

In close connexion with this is,

II. The persuasion he intimates—

“We believe,” says he, “that we shall also live with him.”

This persuasion is founded on a firm and solid basis—

From hence is deduced,

III. The duty he inculcates—

In this subject we may see,

1. The proper tendency of the Gospel—

2. The true criterion whereby to judge of our faith in Christ—

[We will not disparage other parts of Christian experience; but the only safe test whereby to try ourselves, is, the degree in which we are dead to sin, and alive to God—“The tree must be known by its fruits”—]

3. The connection between our duty and our happiness—

About the author:  Charles Simeon, (Sept. 24, 1759-Nov. 13, 1836), Anglican clergyman and biblical commentator who led the Evangelical movement.  Simeon was educated at King’s College, Cambridge, where he became vice provost (1790–92).  In 1782 he was presented to the living of Trinity Church, Cambridge, where he remained until his death. Renowned as a preacher, Simeon helped found the Church Missionary Society (1797).

 

By Grace Ye Are Saved

By Grace Ye Are Saved by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

It is by the grace of God that ungodly men are preserved from instant death.  The sharp axe of justice would soon fell the barren tree if the interceding voice of Jesus did not cry, “Spare him yet a little.”  Many sinners, when converted to God, have gratefully acknowledged that it was of the Lord’s mercy that they were not consumed.  John Bunyan had three memorable escapes before his conversion, and mentions them in his “Grace Abounding” as illustrious instances of long-suffering mercy.  Occasionally such deliverances are made the means of affecting the heart with tender emotions of love to God, and grief for having offended him.  Should it not be so? Ought we not to account that the longsuffering of God is salvation? (2 Peter 3:15.)  An officer during a battle was struck by a nearly spent ball near his waistcoat pocket, but he remained uninjured, for a piece of silver stopped the progress of the deadly missile.  The coin was marked at the words Dei Gratia (by the grace of God).  This providential circumstance deeply impressed his mind, and led him to read a tract which a godly sister had given him when leaving home.  God blessed the reading of the tract, and he became, through the rich grace of God, a believer in the Lord Jesus.

Reader, are you unsaved?  Have you experienced any noteworthy deliverances?  Then adore and admire the free grace of God, and pray that it may lead you to repentance!  Are you enquiring for the way of life?  Remember the words Dei Gratia, and never forget that by grace we are saved.  Grace always presupposes unworthiness in its object.  The province of grace ceases where merit begins:  what a cheering word is this to those of you who have no worth, no merit, no goodness whatever!  Crimes are forgiven, and follies are cured by our Redeemer out of mere free favor.  The word grace has the same meaning as our common term gratis:  Wickliffe’s prayer was, “Lord save me gratis.”  No works can purchase or procure salvation, but the heavenly Father giveth freely, and upbraideth not.

Grace comes to us through faith in Jesus.  Whosoever believeth on Him is not condemned.  O, sinner, may God give thee grace to look to Jesus and live. Look now, for today is the accepted time!

Harness The Good, Release The Bad

Harness The Good, Release The Bad

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things."  Philippians 4:8

Years ago there was a television comedy sketch where a comedian played a psychologist and his phrase he kept repeating was “harness the good, release the bad” and even though this was done in humor there is much truth to it.

Dwelling on junk that drags you down will drag you further down. This is a tactic of the enemy as he knows how to push our buttons on weak areas in our life. For instance, trying to get people to like you who have no interest is futile, and continuing to hound them and beg them sends them further away. Instead cherish friends who really like and care for you and don’t try to figure out why the others one don’t. It is a waste of time.

Release those things in your life that are not bringing you closer to Jesus. If something is causing you constant stress and turmoil it is obviously not of God. Pray and ask God to handle it.

PRAYER: Lord I thank you for helping me break strongholds that keep my mind occupied on areas that take me away from you. Help me let go of hurtful things and embrace the good things in life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Becky Juett Miller
God's Lemonade Stand
https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/
https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

The Resurrection

The Resurrection by C. I. Scofield

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.” Matthew. 28:6.

Three Vital Truths

Next to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, His resurrection is the most important event in human history.  Indeed it may be said that three facts concerning Jesus Christ are so intimately related as to be of equal importance—His incarnation, His crucifixion and His resurrection.

Without the incarnation neither the crucifixion nor the resurrection would have been possible; (Luke 19:10) without the crucifixion the incarnation would have been of no avail for the salvation of a guilty world; (Hebrews 10:5-10) without the resurrection the fact of the incarnation, (John 12:24, 32, 33) and the efficacy of the (John 3:14) crucifixion would have lacked the attestation to which (Hebrews 9:22) Jesus Himself appealed as the final (Matthew 12:38-40) “sign.” (Romans 4:23-25)

The fact—Jesus rose

That Jesus rose from the dead has been called the best attested fact in human history. It rests upon the following concurrent testimony:

First, the personal witnesses of the resurrection were numerous, (1 Corinthians 15:5-8) they saw Him repeatedly, (John 20:14-29) knew Him intimately, knew His stature, features, (Matthew 28:16-17) the tones of His voice.  They were the holiest men the world ever saw, (Mark 16:9-11) incapable of falsehood. (Luke 24:10)  They were incredulous, hard to be convinced. (John 20:24-28)  They bore witness to the fact immediately, when their testimony, if false, could have been refuted.  Every true Christian is a personal witness that Jesus is alive.

The resurrection of Jesus proves His deity, “Declared to be the Son of God with power, (Romans 1:4) according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:”

Completes our justification, (Romans 4:25) “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification;”

Makes the believer’s own resurrection sure, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, (1 Thessalonians 4:14) even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him;”

Gives to the Church a living head, “And gave him to be the head over all things to the Church;” (Ephesians 1:22)

Restores to the sheep of God their great Shepherd, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, (Hebrews 13:20) that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will;”

Establishes His High Priestly office, “Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

Gives the sinning believer an Advocate, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” (1 John 2:1)

Gives the Church a blessed hope, “Looking for that blessed hope.” (Titus 2:13)

And the earth a coming King, “And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, (Luke 1:30-33) and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Acts 15:14-16)

Preach the resurrection

Surely it is well that the tremendous fact of the resurrection of Christ should be restored, in our faith and motive, to its biblical prominence.  No one can read the Acts and the Epistles without seeing that the resurrection was, next to the cross, the central theme of the Apostolic preaching.

Modern denial

Today both the incarnation and the resurrection are denied by men who claim that such denial is possible within evangelical lines; but the Scriptures say that if Jesus did not rise there is no resurrection, our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins, and they who sleep in Jesus are perished. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

No wonder that around this truth the Apostles, by the Spirit, threw the sternest sanctions, as in the case of Hymenæus who, (1 Timothy 1:20) erring at this vital point, was delivered unto Satan that he might learn not to blaspheme. (2 Timothy 2:17-28)

Perhaps Peter best expresses the effect of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, when he says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3)

That it was the rebirth of Christianity is, of course, patent to the reader of the Gospels and the Acts.  Nothing is more evident than that Christianity went into the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, with the body of Christ. (Luke 24:19)

But something occurred which suddenly lifted that group of sorrowing men and women into an ecstasy of faith and joy, and they said it was the coming again to life and activity of their Lord and Master.

The final proof

The fact that Christianity exists today proves that Jesus rose, but the final and unanswerable proof is the appearance of Jesus to Saul.

Harnack, the greatest of patristic scholars, contends that Saul was converted within ten years after the crucifixion.  The resurrection had been, during all those years, the very central subject of controversy.  This means that upon the denial of the resurrection all the dogmatism of Saul’s strong, positive nature had concentrated.

The slow years passed. (Acts 26:12-20)  Then, not to some credulous, wonder-loving peasant or myth-dreamer, but to the very arch-denier himself, scholar, thinker, man of action, man of strong tenacity of belief, of inflexible will—the unanswerable demonstration was given.

The man who, after this, doubts the fact of the resurrection is not accessible to conviction by proof concerning any fact which he does not wish to believe.

What the risen Christ is doing

The ministry of the risen Christ is in three parts:  He is Shepherd of the sheep of God, according to Psalm 23 and John 10; the High Priest of the redeemed, according to John 17 and Hebrews 7–8; the Head of the Church, “Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)

As such He baptizes with the Spirit all who believe, (1 Corinthians 12:12-23) thus uniting them to His body, (1 Corinthians 12:8-11) endues them with gifts, guides them in service, (Acts 16:7) renewing their life from His own, and procures for them the mercies (Hebrews 7:25) needful for a pilgrim body in the world.

A caution

Never can the believer know the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, nor enter into spiritual rest and joy, until he comprehends, in some measure at least, this three-fold resurrection work of Christ.

There is a disproportionate attention given to the Jewish earth-ministry (Matthew 10:5-6) of our Lord during three and one half years in Judea and Galilee; (Matthew 15:24) and a consequent neglect of the mighty and varied ministry of the ascended Christ, (Romans 15:8) which has already lasted over nineteen hundred years.  “This ought ye to have done, and not to have left the other undone.”

About the Author: 

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (August 19, 1843 – July 24, 1921) was an American theologian, minister, and writer whose best-selling “Schofield Reference Bible” popularized futurism and dispensationalism among fundamentalist Christians.

Scofield produced several major theological works. First, he wrote a book called Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, which expresses the principles of dispensational hermeneutics. Second, his annotated reference Bible became the standard for a generation. Finally, his Bible correspondence course made his teaching readily available around the world. All three of these works are still available today. Scofield’s impact has been magnified by his influence on Lewis Sperry Chafer, who founded Dallas Theological Seminary. DTS became the most prominent dispensational seminary in the world; its many high-profile graduates include Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, David Jeremiah, J. Vernon McGee, Hal Lindsey, and Bruce Wilkinson.

 

Thoughts on the Incarnation

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Editor’s Introduction

The season of the church calendar that begins, as Christmastide ends, is called Epiphanytide and continues until Lent begins.  The three main events focused on during the Epiphany season are the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’ miracle at the marriage at Cana.  The visit of the Magi is traditionally interpreted as symbolic of God’s revelation of himself to the Gentiles, and so one of the themes of the season is mission. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity also falls within the season, allowing another seasonal theme to be that of unity.

The Wise Men and the Incarnation

As soon as the wise men came to Jerusalem, they enquired, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?”  They were fully convinced that He was the King of the Jews, and that He had been but recently born, so they asked, “Where is He?”

In the case of these wise men, we see ignorance admitted.  Truly wise men are never above asking questions, because they are wise men.  Persons who have taken the name and degree of wise men, and are so esteemed, sometimes think it beneath them to confess any degree of ignorance, but the really wise think not so; they are too well instructed to be ignorant of their own ignorance.  Many men might have been wise if they had but been aware that they were fools.  The knowledge of our ignorance is the doorstep of the temple of knowledge. Some think they know, and therefore never know.  Had they known that they were blind, they would soon have been made to see; but because they say, “We see,” therefore their blindness remains upon them.

The wise men were not content with admitting their ignorance; but, in their case, there was information entreated. They thought it likeliest that Jesus would be known at the metropolitan city.  Was He not the King of the Jews? Where, then, would He be so well known as at the capital?  They probably asked the guards at the gate, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?”  But the guards laughed them to scorn, and replied, “We know no king but Herod.” Perhaps they met a loiterer in the streets, and to him they said, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” and he answered, “What care I for such crazy questions?  I am looking for a companion who will drink with me.”  Possibly, they asked a trader; but he sneered, and said, “Never mind kings, what will you buy, or what have you to sell?”  “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” said they to a Sadducee, and he replied, “Be not such fools as to talk in that fashion; or if you do, pray call on my religious friend, the Pharisee.”  They passed a woman in the streets, and asked, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” but she said, “My child is sick at home, I have enough to do to think of my poor babe; I care not who is born, or who beside may die.”  When they went to the very highest quarters, they obtained but little information; yet they were not content till they had learned all that could be known concerning the new-born King.

They were not satisfied with merely getting to Jerusalem.  They might have said, “Ah! now we are in the land where the Child is born, we will be thankful, and sit down contentedly.”  They heard that He was born at Bethlehem, so they journeyed thither; but we do not find that, when they reached that village, they said, “This is a favored spot, we will sit down here.”  Not at all; they wanted to know where the house was in which they could find the King whom they had come so far to seek.  They saw the star stand still above the village inn, and they knew by that sign that the new-born King was there, but that did not satisfy them.  No; they rested not till they saw the Child Himself, and worshipped Him.

The Wise Men, What They Teach Us

There is much to be learned from the action of these wise men; so let us, in thought, follow them.  They have come to the house where the young Child is.  What will they do?  Will they stand still, and look at the star?  No; they enter in.  The star still shines, but they are not afraid of losing its radiance, for they have come where they can behold the Sun of righteousness.  They lift the latch, and enter the lowly residence of the Babe.  They see the star no longer, and they have no need to see it, for there is “He that is born King of the Jews.”  Now the true Light has shone upon them from the face of the Child; they behold the incarnate God.

How wise you will be if, when you have been led to the place where Christ is, by any man, you do not rest in his leadership, but resolve to see Christ for yourselves!  How much I long that you may enter into the fellowship of the mystery, pass through the door, and come and behold the young Child, and bow before Him!  Our sorrow is that so many are so unwise as to be content with seeing us.  We are only their guides, but they are apt to make us their end.  We point the way, but they do not follow the road; they stand gazing upon us.  It was not so with the wise men.  The star had done its work, and passed away; but Jesus remained, and they came unto Him.

These men proved that they were wise because, when they saw the Child, they worshipped Him.  Theirs was not curiosity gratified, but devotion exercised.  We, too, must worship the Savior, or we shall never be saved by Him.  He has not come to put away our sins, and yet to leave us ungodly and self-willed.  Oh, you who have never worshipped the Christ of God, may you be led to do so!  He is God; therefore, adore Him.

Was God ever seen in such a worshipful form before?  Behold, He bows the heavens; He rides upon the wings of the wind; He scatters flames of fire; He speaks, and His dread artillery shakes the hills.  Who would not adore the great and terrible Jehovah?  But is it not much better to behold Him here, allied to your nature, wrapped like other babes in swaddling-clothes, tender, feeble, next of kin to your own self?  Will you not worship God when He thus comes down to you, and becomes your Brother, born for your salvation?

You cannot properly worship a Christ whom you do not know; but when you think of Jesus Christ, whose goings forth were of old, from everlasting, the eternally-begotten Son of the Father, and then see Him coming here to be a man of the substance of His mother, and know and understand why He came, and what He did when He came, then you fall down, and worship Him.

“Son of God, to Thee we bow, Thou art Lord, and only Thou; Thou the woman’s promised seed; Thou who didst for sinners bleed.”

We worship “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”  Our faith sees Him go from the manger to the cross, and from the cross right up to the throne; and there, where Jehovah dwells, amidst the insufferable glory of the Divine presence, stands the very same Person who slept in the manger at Bethlehem; there He reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords.  Our souls worship Him. Thou art our Prophet; every word Thou sayest, we believe, and desire to obey. Thou art our Priest; Thy sacrifice hath made us free from guilt, we are washed white in the fountain of Thy blood. Thou art our King; give Thy commands, and we will obey them; lead Thou on, and we will follow. Thou art God, and we worship Thee.

After worshipping Christ, the wise men presented their gifts to Him.  One broke open his casket of gold, and laid it at the feet of the new-born King.  Another presented frankincense,—one of the precious products of the country from which they came; and others laid myrrh at the Redeemer’s feet.  All these they gave to Him to prove the sincerity of their worship; they gave substantial offerings with no stingy hand.

These wise men, when they worshipped Christ, did not permit it to be a mere empty-handed adoration; and truly wise men are still liberal men.  Consecration is the best education.  It is thought, by some, to be wise to be always receiving; but our Savior said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

God judges our hearts by that which spontaneously comes from them; hence, the “sweet cane bought with money” is acceptable to Him when given freely.  He doth not tax His saints for His offerings, nor weary them with His demands for incense; but He delights to see in them that true love which cannot express itself in mere words, but must use gold, and frankincense, and myrrh,—works of love and deeds of self-denial and generosity,—to be the emblems of its gratitude.  We shall never get into the heart of happiness till we become unselfish and generous; we have but chewed the husks of religion, which are often bitter; we have never eaten of the sweet kernel until we have felt the love of God constraining us to make sacrifices for Him.  There is nothing in the true believer’s power which he would not do for his Lord; nothing in our substance which we would not give to Him, nothing in ourselves which we would not devote to His service.

 

Grace - Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer

Grace by Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer

Author's Preface

THROUGH false emphasis by many religious leaders, Christianity has become in the estimation of a large part of the public no more than an ethical system. The revealed fact, however, is that the supreme feature of the Christian faith is that supernatural, saving, transforming work of God, which is made possible through the infinite sacrifice of Christ and which, in sovereign grace, is freely bestowed on all who believe. God has given instruction to those who are saved, it is true, as to the manner of life which is consistent with their new heavenly calling and standing in Christ; but in its spiritual blindness, the world, led by its blind leaders, sees in Christianity only the rule of life which is secondary. The blindness of the world at this point, with the consequent neglect of all that is vital in the Christian faith, is both anticipated and explained in the Word of God.

The two foundation truths which determine all spiritual perception are that, by divine arrangement, (1) the Spirit is given only to those who are saved, and (2) spiritual understanding is made to depend exclusively on the presence of the Spirit of God in the heart.

The precise body of truth which may be understood only through the ministry of the indwelling Spirit is described as, “things” related to the Father, “things” related to the Son, “things” related to the Spirit, “things” to come, and “the kingdom of God”. We read:

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually [by the Spirit] discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (John 14:17).

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ … should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3, 4).

“The world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21).

“He that is spiritual judgeth [discerneth] all things, yet he himself is judged of no man” (1 Cor. 2:15).

“Now we have received … the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12).

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13–15).

“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” (1 John 2:27).

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9, 10).

“Through faith we understand” (Heb. 11:3).

Spiritual understanding is not, therefore, dependent upon human sagacity or learning; it depends only on the teaching of the indwelling Spirit. Possessing this Biblical testimony, misunderstanding at this point is without excuse.

Likewise, the terms upon which men may now be saved and thus receive the Spirit are as clearly defined in the Scripture. Salvation is by grace through faith. It is the result of the transforming work of God for man, and not the result of the work of man for God. It is that which God does for the one who trusts the Saviourhood of Christ. By that trust, Christ is personally received as the divine Redeemer who shed His blood as a sufficient ransom for the guilt and penalty of sin, as the One who reconciles by having taken away the sin of the world, and as the divine Propitiation who, as Substitute, met every indictment brought against the sinner under the holy government of God.

Since the Spirit is given only to those who are saved through faith in Christ, they alone are able to receive the particular body of truth which the Spirit teaches. Neglect of this fundamental, unalterable fact is the key-error of all modernism.

It is assumed by the modernist that any person whose education has qualified him to be an authority in matters of human learning, regardless of the new birth and the indwelling Spirit, is also qualified, because of that learning, to speak with authority concerning the things of God.

That the leaders of modernism are unregenerate men and therefore themselves spiritually blind is self-revealed by their attitude toward that truth which forms the only basis upon which, according to the Scriptures, a soul may be saved. When men avowedly disbelieve that the death of Christ was vicarious and substitutionary, they have rejected the only grounds upon which, according to the Word of God, the saving work of God righteously can be wrought for the sinner. Rejecting the saving truth of the Gospel, these men could not be saved upon any promise or provision of God. Though educated, religious, and sympathetic to the ethical ideals of the Bible, such men, being unregenerate, are of necessity totally blind to all that body of truth which is said to be imparted by the indwelling Spirit. Preaching and teaching under these limitations, Christianity is represented by these men as a system of ethics only.

The first step in spiritual understanding is the knowledge of God as Father. “Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Mt. 11:27). “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Until God becomes real to the heart by the direct ministry of Christ as Saviour, all His ways and works are unreal. Not knowing God, the unregenerate mind is not satisfied with the explanation of the origin of things which declares that God directly created things as they are. To such a mind, it is actually easier to believe in a supposed natural development from nothing to something, and to hide all attending problems resulting from this theory behind the mists of a measureless past. If God is not real, there could be no inerrant Book; the Bible must be fallible as man; nor could God be manifest in the flesh; the Son of God must be of illegitimate birth, and though the greatest of all teachers, to them, He is really no more divine than ordinary mortals. These blind guides are forced to give some explanation to the meaning of the death of Christ. They therefore contend that He died as an heroic martyr, a loyal patriot, as a wonderful moral example of fortitude, or to show the wickedness of sin. They utterly reject the only reason given in the Word of God for the death of Christ—He died that others might not die. They brand this saving truth as “immoral,” and “unworthy of the goodness of God.” They understand little of the resurrection of Christ, His present ministry in heaven, and nothing of the revelation that He is coming again. To these religious leaders, there is no supernatural; for God is not real. There could be no immediate salvation through the Spirit. The salvation in which they believe is assumed to be the result of a self-created character, and the life to be lived is represented only as an heroic struggle of the flesh. If unregenerate men could understand anything better than this, the Word of God would be proven untrue.

It is equally true, that, those who are spiritually blind are unconscious of their blindness until they are saved by the grace and power of God through Christ. Coming thus into the light, they testify, as all who have ever been saved have testified: “Whereas I was blind, now I see.” They, like all the unsaved, could be aware of their blindness if they would receive the testimony of God concerning their own limitations; but this is precisely what they will not do. Therefore, a notable neglect of the most vital truths of Scripture and the denial of the essential glories of divine grace is to be expected from these religious leaders who reject the only grounds of salvation through the substitionary death of Christ.
Modernists content themselves with borrowing some ideals from the Bible while reserving the right to reject whatever is not desired. Those portions which are acceptable to the unregenerate mind are received and taught as being authorative on the basis of the fact that these ideals are in the Bible. Here, indeed, is strange inconsistency on the part of men who pride themselves on their scientific reasonings.

The unsaved preacher or teacher, being able to comprehend only the ethical teachings of the Scriptures, is a living proof of the truthfulness of the divine Testimony. He cannot see the kingdom of God. He sees nothing of the glories of divine grace—the things of the Father, the things of Christ, the things of the Spirit, and things to come. He blindly ignores every dispensational division of the Word of God and is, therefore, free within himself to draw material from the kingdom teachings of Christ and from the law of Moses while constructing his world-improvement, sociological theories which he imposes on a Christ-rejecting world.

Men of this character are sufficiently numerous in this day of apostasy to be responsible for the present-day impression that the sole objective of Christianity is the improvement of human conduct. Being blind to the real principles and purposes of saving grace, they teach that it makes little difference what is believed, it is the life that counts. Against this is the overwhelming testimony of the Word of God that every aspect of salvation and every blessing of divine grace in time and eternity is conditioned only on what is believed.
Influenced by these misunderstandings concerning the Truth, few serious-minded young men will choose to enter the ministerial profession; for it would mean the assumption of the role of a mere moralist. Common modesty generally precludes such an assumption. On the other hand, when the essential message of Christianity is seen to be the measureless, transforming grace of God with all of its eternal glories in the new creation in Christ, it is a challenge to the deepest impulses of the heart, and offers a ministry for which one may well sacrifice all.

Christians are ambassadors for Christ and are commissioned to preach the Gospel to every creature. This ministry does not consist in either the education or the moral improvement of lost men while they are on their way to hell; it is the proclamation of the mighty, redeeming, transforming grace of God which offers eternal life and eternal glory to all who will believe.
If it shall please God to use this exposition in any measure to the unfolding of the riches of His grace, the labor expended in its preparation will not have been in vain. This very inadequate treatment concerning the grace of God is committed to Him that He may in some way use its message to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

LEWIS SPERRY CHAFER.  March, 1922. (Public Domain)


Chafer, L. S. (1922). Grace (pp. vii–xiv). Philadelphia, PA: Sunday School Times Company.


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