Drinking Deeply

Thursday, August 31, 2006 at 6:56 PM

Attributes of God (14)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 14: The Mercy of God-

In the last post on ch. 13 of Pink's book, the topic was the grace of God. Pink made the claim that grace is a special, saving grace given only to the elect. Of course, being a negative claim, was rather hard to prove, but he did give a lot of verses that supported the idea that grace was saving and sovereign.

What is the difference between mercy and grace?

Wherein differs the "mercy of God from His grace"? The mercy of God has its spring in the Divine goodness. The first issue of God’s goodness is His benignity or bounty, by which He gives liberally to His creatures as creatures; thus has He given being and life to all things. The second issue of God’s goodness is His mercy, which denotes the ready inclination of God to relieve the misery of fallen creatures. Thus, "mercy" presupposes sin.

Though it may not be easy at the first consideration to perceive a real difference between the grace and the mercy of God, it helps us thereto if we carefully ponder His dealings with the unfallen angels. He has never exercised mercy toward them, for they have never stood in any need thereof, not having sinned or come beneath the effects of the curse. Yet, they certainly are the objects of God’s free and sovereign grace. First, because of His election of them from out of the whole angelic race (I Tim. 5:21). Second, and in consequence of their election, because of His preservation of them from apostasy, when Satan rebelled and dragged down with him one-third of the celestial hosts (Rev. 12:4). Third, in making Christ their Head (Col. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:22), whereby they are eternally secured in the holy condition in which they were created. Fourth, because of the exalted position which has been assigned them: to live in God’s immediate presence (Dan. 7:10), to serve Him constantly in His heavenly temple, to receive honorable commissions from Him (Heb. 1:14). This is abundant grace toward them but "mercy" it is not.

Definitely a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around. It seems that grace is freely given. Elect angels receive grace. Elect humans receive grace. And all things (all creation) receives mercy (Psalm 145:9).

Pink makes the distinction between a general mercy given to all creation to help them survive, a special mercy given to all humans (sun to rise on the evil and the good, rain on just and unjust Matthew 5:45). And finally a sovereign mercy, akin to the saving grace, given to the elect.

The mercy given to the reprobates is a temporal mercy, confined to this present life. And in response to the question, “but doesn't God's mercy last forever?” Pink answers “yes, but how God dispesnses that mercy is up to Him.” God has mercy on whom He has mercy.

So here's the question that I have. With these temporal mercies (rain, sun, existence), isn't the fact that the non-elect don't respond with thanksgiving a further condemnation upon them? Like when Jesus goes into some towns, heals some people and gets thrown out, he pronounces woes upon them. Matthew 11:20-24.

20Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."

Can we argue the same thing for those lesser gifts of mercy through the sun and the rain? I don't see why not, since they are, according to Romans 1, demonstrations God's divine nature that leave us without excuse. Is it still mercy? Well, if the Bible says so =p. Certainly similar to the act of patience.

Steve Hays posted an interesting and related post on common grace.

But going back to the chapter itself, there was something here that I thought was rather brilliant. Pink writes, “Even the casting of the reprobate into the Lake of Fire is an act of mercy.” He points us to three viewpoints: 1) From God's side, it is an act of justice, vindicating His honor. From the side of the reprobates (the non-elect), it's an act of equity, when they are made to suffer the due reward of their iniquities, but from the side of the elect, it's an act of mercy, whereby the elect are rescued from the blasphemy and filth of the reprobates. This was awe inspiring (and a little scary!), but definitely biblical. I was immediately reminded of Lot's rescue in 2 Peter 2:4-10. Wow!

Pink also draws on a large amount of biblical support for the above inference as well. God's judgment upon Pharaoh, David's enemies, the great whore of Babylon, all as examples of his mercy.

let us note how vain is the presumptuous hope of the wicked, who, notwithstanding their continued defiance of God, nevertheless count upon His being merciful to them. How many there are who say, I do not believe that God will ever cast me into Hell; He is too merciful. Such a hope is a viper, which if cherished in their bosoms will sting them to death. God is a God of justice as well as mercy, and He has expressly declared that He will "by no means clear the guilty" (Ex. 34:7). Yea, He has said, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, all the nations that forget God" (Ps. 9:17). As well might men reason: I do not believe that if filth be allowed to accumulate and sewerage become stagnant and people deprive themselves of fresh air, that a merciful God will let them fall a prey to a deadly fever. The fact is that those who neglect the laws of health are carried away by disease, notwithstanding God’s mercy. Equally true is it that those who neglect the laws of spiritual health shall forever suffer the Second Death.

Terrifying. Reminder to self: don't presume upon God's mercies. Flee to Christ. Take care of my spiritual health.


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Tuesday, August 29, 2006 at 10:13 PM

Reading Deeply

It's been quite a while since I've had one of these, so some of these links are a little dated.

Over at Pure Church, before Thabiti Anyabwile left, he did a series of posts on things he learned while at Capitol Hill. This one was on living evangelisticly and I thought was particularly great.

Everyday Musings refutes the, "you can't put God in a box" fallacy. Read it. It's good. (HT: Jollyblogger)PS, the link in the HT is worth reading too.

Theocentric always has a lot of good posts. Bonus points for being someone I know too. Here's one on properly understanding the Fruit of the Spirit passage. And here's a post I wish I would have posted weeks ago. Is God the author of sin? I may still do one on Isaiah 45:7 before he gets to it =p.

John Macarthur is such a great guy. I love what he has to say, especially about preaching. Here he remarks on the dangers of poor preaching. And here he answers the question, "what doctrines of are fundamental?" Here he calls people to preach the Word. Man, we don't need blogs, just buy Macarthur books!

Tim Challies has an excellent post commenting on a King of the Hill episode.

Nathan White has an excellent post reflecting on God's sovereignty in the midst of a car wreck and an unjust policeman. He also has an amazing post on fad-driven Calvinism. I fear he's right on the money. Praise God for men like this.

Faith and Practice has an excellent checklist for church music.

Centuri0n put up an amazing post responding to someone complaining about superficial church. Convicting.

Here's an article on sexual purity while dating. Some great guidelines and suggestions.

Godward Thoughts has some very excellent thoughts regarding church growth and personal holiness.

Here's an article about Reggie White's (re)conversion. An inspiring read. I wonder if he was Reformed. Well, he was certainly reforming, and that's what's important.=)

Here is a great post for the women who read my blog. And no, it's not about wife-beating.
(HT: Dan Phillips)

Trinitarian Don posts on the necessity of homeschooling. (HT: Godward Thoughts)

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at 9:27 PM

Attributes of God (13)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 13: The Grace of God-

Grace is a perfection of the Divine character which is exercised only toward the elect. Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New is the grace of God ever mentioned in connection with mankind generally, still less with the lower orders of His creatures. In this it is distinguished from mercy, for the mercy of God is "over all His works" (Ps. 145-9). Grace is the alone source from which flows the goodwill, love, and salvation of God unto His chosen people. This attribute of the Divine character was defined by Abraham Booth in his helpful book, The Reign of Grace thus, "It is the eternal and absolute free favour of God, manifested in the vouchsafement of spiritual and eternal blessings to the guilty and the unworthy."

So if Pink is correct, (and I'd have to see the next chapter, the mercy of God, to see), there is a distinction between mercy and grace, that being that grace is a specific, saving grace. The source of God's love, goodwill, and salvation for God's chosen people. Sounds good. But how is this different from mercy? Mercy is “over all His works.” Ok, I need to read the next chapter.

But anyways, taking Pink's premise. He continues to point out that grace is unearned, unmerited, unbought, and undeserved. That's what makes it grace! Comes as pure charity, at first unasked and undesired.

Grace is given before the world began (2 Tim. 1:9), free and sovereign.

Interesting that grace is pictured as “sovereign” because it reigns and has a throne. What exactly does grace being sovereign mean? It means that the Lord gives grace as the Lord gives grace. Of His own free will.

As a side note, I'm reading Bondage of the Will (still!) and I've greatly enjoyed the points that Luther makes on this very same topic. He rightfully chastises Erasmus for claiming that we “prepare ourselves for grace.” (And there's a distinction here from “utilizing means of grace” which I will not get into).

Grace distinguishes. Some get it, some do not. Simple enough, but so hard for today to understand. “But that's not fair.” But if we got what was fair, we'd all get hell. Nobody really wants fair except in the sense that it works in their favor. But then it's not fair at all!

Father is the Fountain of grace, for He purposed in Himself the everlasting covenant of redemption. God the Son is the only Channel of grace. The Gospel is the Publisher of grace. The Spirit is the Bestower. He applies the Gospel in saving power to the soul.

Good old Trinity. I love the Trinity. It makes me happy.

Thus we may say with the late G. S. Bishop,

Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen that they cannot lift the axe of justice, so corrupt that they cannot change their own natures, so averse to God that they cannot turn to Him, so blind that they cannot see Him, so deaf that they cannot hear Him, and so dead that He Himself must open their graves and lift them into resurrection.



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Monday, August 28, 2006 at 11:13 AM

Book Review: How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth

As I was sitting at someone's house, I noticed that on their bookshelf they had a book, How to Read the Bible for All it's Worth. Authored by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, I was very glad that I was able to borrow and read it. That book has been one of the more informative books I've read.

The purpose of the book is simply to teach Christians how to read their Bibles and interpret it properly. Pointing out various poor interpretive habits I myself had, it pointed me to understanding different genres in a whole new light. Begining with some basic principles on translation and interpretation, the book proceeded with a chapter on each genre and rules for interpreting them. Particularly informative were the Gospels, Parables, Epistles, Prophecy, and Wisdom chapters. The chapter on Law was not as great, simply because it only presented one (of a few possibile) interpretation of the OT Law.

As I read the book, there certainly were a number of light bulbs that went on over my head. One thing in particular that jumped out at me is understanding the Gospels. For us, we have four Gospels, and my first instinct when I come across a story in the Gospels is to look it up in the other Gospels and come up with a "Grand Unified Story." I had mistakenly assumed that each of the Gospels was part of a whole, an incomplete picture. The book pointed out that each of the Gospels was written for a specific audience, and to accomplish a specific purpose (alongside presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ). So the key to interpreting the story is to compare the stories to see what this Gospel has distinct, and use those distinctions as our interpretive lens through which we understand the author's intent. I was like "whoaaaa ... duh!"

All in all, the book is an excellent read. There are (as with almost all books) a few areas where I would disagree. The chapter on parables uses the common mistake of assuming that the parables were so that the listeners could relate and understand better. Their attempt at explaining away passages like Matthew 13:13-15 are unconvincing. Another issue I had was with the authors' treatment of the women in ministry issue. The authors attempted to deal with the issue as an "example" of utilizing good hermenutics, but they decided to break one of their very first rules and instead of looking at the text first and examining the argument, they decided to go with other texts first and say "well, it obviously couldn't have meant this" and reject the whole command in 1 Timothy 2 as "cultural." I found that rather dissapointing for a book that was so solid otherwise.

Apart from those two exceptions, the rest of the book is definitely a treasure, one that I'm considering buying for my own personal library for reference.

The A-Team Blog also has had a series of posts on Bible interpretation. I'm linking to part 1, and you find links to the other posts within. They're pretty solid. Read through the posts if you want to get a taste for what the book itself is about. It references the book a great number of times.

My recommendation: Own it

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Sunday, August 27, 2006 at 9:51 PM

Attributes of God (12)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 12: The Patience of God-

Tied in with everything thus far is God's patience. This chapter made a distinction between God's patience and God's mercy. Even though they are often closely tied together, Scripture warrants a distinction. This was certainly a hard chapter to grasp for me, so I'll mostly be quoting things and giving thoughts on them.

Pink quotes Steven Charnock in saying,

[Patience] differs from mercy in the formal consideration of the subject: mercy respects the creature as miserable, patience respects the creature as criminal; mercy pities him in his misery, patience bears with the sin which engendered the misery, and giving birth to more.

This is certainly a hard distinction to draw! Patience seems to be something directed at a person in spite of what they are, and mercy directed at a person because of what they are.

Personally we would define the Divine patience as that power of control which God exercises over Himself, causing Him to bear with the wicked and forebear so long in punishing them. In Nahum 1:3 we read, "The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,"

This is certainly a little bit clearer. An exercise of God's power over Himself. But how does this fit in with the unity of God? If God is one, then is it appropriate to speak of God withholding Himself, as if there was one side of Him that really wanted to do something and another that didn't? We as humans “hold ourselves back” because we know what we're doing (getting angry) is pointless (and likely sinful). This certainly isn't the same with God... so what is it exactly?

Though the creature is benefited thereby, the patience of God chiefly respects Himself, a restraint placed upon His acts by His will; whereas His mercy terminates wholly upon the creature. The patience of God is that excellency which causes Him to sustain great injuries without immediately avenging Himself.

Maybe the difficulty is picturing God responding “in time.” So in time, as we act, when we sin, we store up wrath. And in time, God is perfeclty just and righteous in smashing us. But outside of time, for His glory, He withholds that, as a power upon Himself, part of His immutable plan? That seems to make more sense, though it is hard to picture God as “patient” in that sense, but if Scripture speaks of God as patient, then He's patient, who am I to quibble?

Again, in Romans 9:22 we read, "What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. . . ?" Were God to immediately break these reprobate vessels into pieces, His power of self-control would not so eminently appear; by bearing with their wickedness and forebearing punishment so long, the power of His patience is gloriously demonstrated. True, the wicked interpret His longsuffering quite differently—"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Eccl. 8:11)—but the anointed eye adores what they abuse.

This certainly makes a bit more sense. Patience is out of a desire to show His power. Ok. I think that's probably something I've missed before, and looking back at the previous passages it does seem to be there.

So it seems my earlier distinction does seem to fit, patience is shown not only to the elect, but to the reprobates (non-elect), and mercy is shown to the elect. Maybe? Kind of?

"The God of patience" (Rom. 15:5) is one of the Divine titles. Deity is thus denominated, first, because God is both the Author and Object of the grace of patience in the saint. Secondly, because this is what He is in Himself: patience is one of His perfections. Thirdly, as a pattern for us: "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering" (Col. 3:12). And again, "Be ye therefore followers (emulators) of god, as dear children" (Eph. 5:2). When tempted to be disgusted at the dullness of another, or to be revenged on one who has wronged you, call to remembrance God’s infinite patience and longsuffering with yourself.

Thus it is in view of God's patience that we depend upon Him for our patience. Knowing that vengeance is the Lord's, we wait. Give us patience to endure this sinful world! Give us patience to deal with our own sins and the sins of others. Definitely something I need more of. Yike. Patience is one of His perfections. Wow. Yet another thing I fall short in.

May our meditation upon this Divine excellency soften our hearts, make our consciences tender, and may we learn in the school of holy experience the "patience of saints," namely, submission to the Divine will and continuance in well doing. Let us earnestly seek grace to emulate this Divine excellency. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48): in the immediate context Christ exhorts us to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us. God bears long with the wicked notwithstanding the multitude of their sin, and shall we desire to be revenged because of a single injury?



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at 5:58 PM

some followup thoughts on spiritual gifts

Someone directed me to this essay by Vern Poythress, entitled, "Modern Spiritual Gifts As Analogous To Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit Within Cessationist Theology"

I am in general agreement with more or less all of it, though I do find his distinction in "prophet, priest, king" spiritual gifts to be rather unhelpful. If it's not explicitly biblical, and there exists much overlap, what's the point?

But anyways, Poythress is a self-affirmed cessationalist, and he makes some excellent points regarding the continuation of miraculous workings of spiritual gifts, whatever you call them.

Do also check out theocentric's two entries regarding spiritual gifts and revivalism. I agree with most, but not all his points. I' m still not sold on the 1 Cor. 13 point, though I do see how one comes to the conclusion about the closure of the canon.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006 at 2:44 PM

Crowns (9) - God is Gospel

A final post on the topic of crowns.

Do some Christians get more rewards in heaven than others?

Personally, I'm led to say "no." The Scriptual support does not seem to be conclusively for at all, and it seems clear that the treasures we're asked to store are ultimately not stored by our good works ourselves, but rather by Christ's works.

Ultimately, the greatest treasure, as argued by John Piper in his book, God is Gospel, is God Himself. Christ's death not only rescues us from hell, grants us sinless bodies, promises us an eternity of bliss and joy, but brings us into perfect and complete fellowship with God Himself. And that's the true treasure of all.

Revelation 20:
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
Compared to this, additional treasures seem... silly, if not irreverant. If we're promised God, what more motivation do we need? If we're promised God, why would we seek anything else?

No, our joy will not be found in what wealth, friends, influence we gather on this world or the next, but our true steadfast joy will be found in God and God alone.

As I am fond of saying - Soli Deo Gloria! (To God alone be the glory)

(end of series)

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Friday, August 25, 2006 at 10:55 PM

Some thoughts on spiritual gifts

The other day, I decided I wanted to put together a post detailing my beliefs on various things, and I figured it would be nice to have posts to reference to regarding those various things, and I was like "I've never posted on spiritual gifts before."

And then a few things have happened in the past few weeks that have gotten me thinking.
1) I've been working through a commentary on 1 Corinthians, and got through the spiritual gifts section.
2) Dan Phillips (2 l's 1 p, reversing Philippians) posted a criticism of modern day tongues, and then proceeded to respond to Adrian Warnock's response in a four part series.
3) I had a conversation with a friend about modern day worship and how much of it comes out of a charismatic background (vineyard is of prime example).
4) Someone posted a question about it in a forum.

What follows are some thoughts on the whole issue.

1. The "closure of canon" argument for cessationalism does not seem to hold up exegetically. Yes, it is true that gifts were most clearly evidenced when Scripture was being written, but could it not have been simply because Scripture was being written at those times and thus they were recorded? How do we know that miraculous happenings didn't occur at other times? And the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 referring to the closure of the canon does not seem to be very well exegetically supported. If I was already convinced by the closure of the canon argument, it might hold water, but I am currently not.

2. I am, however, in general agreement with many of the cessationalist interpretations of Scripture. There are many verses that I find the cessationalist interpretation to be much more solidly grounded in Scripture. Not that cessationalists are completely right, but I've found that many verses that a charismatic uses is taken out of context. If you have a chance to read through the 5 posts I linked to above in the discussion between Dan Phillips and Adrian Warnock, there is one which Dan (a cessationalist), deals with a whole number of verses that Adrian brings up. I find each of his interpretations to be Scriptually compelling and each of Adrian's to be... rather not.

3. I do also, like I think all cessationalists would agree with, believe that God is not some deist God, and He is still active today, sustaining, upholding the world, sending His Spirit. It convicts hearts, opens eyes, illuminates believers, sanctifies, prays, grants gifts for the building of the body.

4. Where I do depart from the cessationalist is that I see nothing wrong with God also, as part of the gifts for the building of the body, providing gifts of prophecy, tongues, and the like. Not too convinced that He still inspires Scripture. If God is sovereign, and the body is still being built up, I see no reason why it can't also be built up via tongues, healings, prophecy.

5. I am unconvinced that "tongues" is anything but human tongues. I find Dan Phillips first post to be convincing on this case. I also wonder at how come so many people claim the gift of tongues, but I've never heard of people claiming the gift of interpreting tongues. Not that I think this is a biblical airtight case, but one might expect that if tongues existed, so would interpreting tongues.

6. I am unconvinced that prophecy is anything but a "Thus saith the Lord" type statement. It may not necessarily predict the future, but it carries with it authority, the type that is dangerous to one's health to disobey.

7. I am unconvinced that the sort of impressions that say, "I feel the Lord leading me to pray for..." can really be classified as prophecy, though I will affirm that the Lord may use inclinations and feelings to guide us at times. It is also appropriate to attribute those feelings and inclinations to the Lord (as God is sovereign), but I don't think these carry with it authority (I understand that most charismatics would agree here, so it's more a disagreement with what we should label such occurances). I would also say that it is certainly also within Satan's power to give us those feelings and impressions, so they shouldn't just be blindly followed.

8. I am also unconvinced by much that is attributed to the gift of healing today. While I don't doubt the Spirit's power in curing smaller aches and pains, I see healings manifested in Scripture in the form of, "get up and walk" and not too much of the form, "your headache is gone."

9. With regards to other claims of holy spirit manifestation (holy laughter, slain by the spirit, uncontrolled dancing, the like), I think they are rightfully disowned by conservative cessationalist and continuationalists alike for completely throwing Paul's words about order in the church out the window.

10. A personal criticism of mine of many of the more "Holy Spirit" oriented churches is that the Holy Spirit never came to glorify Himself, He came to point to Christ. So when a church points to how the "Holy Spirit" is especially present here, something seems wrong in the focus of the church, and if the Holy Spirit is there, He's being misinterpreted and misunderstood.

11. I think biblically, church services should be ordered and focused upon the preaching of the Word. I have been greatly encouraged by the Sovereign Grace denomination, which is essentially reformed, but also committed to charismatic practice as biblically defined. Though I disagree with them on the meaning of prophecy, I find their commitment to be governed and ruled by Scripture something I would hope all churches (charismatic or non) would aspire to.

Ultimately, whether tongues, prophecy, healings, etc. exist or not, it is appropriate to pray for spiritual gifts for the edification of the body. I would encourage people to pray for the gift of humility (which is something I lack greatly, and something I see lacking in many churches, to our shame), the gift of wisdom (applying and rightfully interpreting the Word), gift of teaching and encouragement... things like that. I see nothing wrong with laying hands upon a person and praying for healing. I do think elders of a church should anoint the sick with oil and pray for them as well, something I think is lacking today in many churches (some of them don't even have elders!).

Of upmost importance, I think we must read 1 Cor. 12-14 as not just about tongues, prophecy, healing, and other outward and clear manifestations of the holy spirit, but in the context of building the body. Too often we long for these clear signs of the Spirit without any effort on our parts, when we are unwilling to pursue the basic groundwork necessary to Christian discipleship. Let's get together and pray for biblical fellowship, grounded on the Word, rooted in love, bound by faith. Let's get together to encourage one another, read the Word together, worship God together. Let's get together to share insights from Scripture, to learn from one another, to rebuke sins and seek righteousness.

If we do that, we won't need miraculous signs of the Holy Spirit, we'll already have the Holy Spirit working powerfully within us, and the revival we've all been longing for will already be here.

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at 9:08 PM

God never lets go

I've realized that I have often been negative about contemporary Christian music. There have, however, been some songs that I've been really blessed by, even if the "rock" style doesn't suit my taste (I don't find a biblical prohibition against it, I'm just "eh" about it).

Here's one

Never Let Go - Matt Redman
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know You are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

Chorus:
Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We’ll live to know You here on the earth

Chorus:

Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You
I love how the focus is on God, even in the midst of darkness and despair. It is God who holds on, it is God who never lets go, and that's what leads the singer to worship. It's because he hopes in what's to come. I think the biggest difference between a song like this and the songs I have criticized is that this song gives us the reason why we're praising. This son't isn't about just what I'm doing in response, but it's about who God is, and why I worship.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006 at 8:51 PM

Reflections on "A wife's submission to an abusive husband"

I've just gone through what I originally posted, and per a few suggestions made a few changes. The organization is modified a little bit and the introduction (where I disagree with the premise that physical harm is automatically abuse) is clarified a little bit. For the most part the argument remains the same, though the question and answer section is now far better.

A few thoughts on the whole dealio.

So the three posts on submission to an abusive husband resulted in the most hits in a day I've ever had (cracked 100 two days in a row), and certainly the most comments on a post as well. I've discovered that the easiest way to rack up hits is to take a controversial topic and take a controversial opinion. Have lots of comments so that people consistently check back (they can't check comments through an RSS reader). Voila, hit explosion. Great... I think?

It is a little dissapointing for me to look back on the three part post. I was initially prompted by a discussion with a mother dealing with that very issue. In discussing it, I was nearly lead to tears by just the greatness of God and the glory of the cross. I lost focus of that over the course of the replies and the comments. That's really my fault and not the fault of the commenters. The challenges are necessary to sharpening my views and I do need to be able to exegetically defend what I believe. Unfortunately I lost sight of what I was defending in some of my responses. A friend graciously reminded me of that and I'm thankful for that.

As one of the commenters mentioned, this is a very difficult topic, and guys express their opinions on this at their peril. A few people questioned (in private) what I was saying in part because I was a young, single, and male. How I tell someone something that I would probably never endure myself.

For the most part, their criticisms of me are accurate. I am not married. I am not female. I do not know what it is like to submit to an unjust authority. The closest thing to persecution for doing good for me would probably be one of the comments left on my original post (and a lot of people would question the "for doing good"). And Peter and Paul, even though they were male (and Paul was single), lived out their faith, paying for their words with their lives. I most likely would never do that.

Yet, I was a little saddened by how quickly I was dismissed on the basis of my (lack of) experience. I wish that didn't happen, but we're all sinners. I still have the hardest time taking biblical correction. It usually takes me at least a full day before I can admit I'm wrong, and sometimes even longer.

Some positives did come out of the whole ordeal. Through some correspondence with a few of the commentors, I've been able to get to know a few people more on the blog-o-sphere. That has been an encouragement and a blessing.

Through reading and rereading 1 Peter, I have been continually encouraged and convicted by the example of Christ. Passages like this continue to remind me of the great cost my freedom comes:

1 Peter 2
22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
I pray that we would never forget that.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006 at 10:05 PM

Attributes of God (11)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 11: The Goodness of God-

God is Good. How simple. His goodness pervades all creation, all decree, all life, to not only man, but to all the animals as well. Providing abundantly, patient in wrath, slow to anger, abounding in love. God is a good God.

This chapter was simply an excellent reaffirmation of the divine nature of God being so completely different from myself. I'm a sinner, by nature a child of wrath, hostile to God, still unable to completely will good. God is good, defining good by His very actions, His very nature. Wow.

God is not only the Greatest of all beings, but the Best.” Indeed. God is our surpassing treasure, the chief end, the ultimate goal. I love how this chapter dovetails perfectly with my upcoming final crowns post, because I intend on posting on the greatest treasure of all: God.

Sometimes those simple chants are great reminders. God is good, all the time. It doesn't matter my circumstance, it doesn't matter what day of the week, it doesn't matter who I'm talking to. God is still the good God. And He's good, all the time.

When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same. (C. H. Spurgeon).

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at 9:01 PM

Names of Jesus

Someone sent me this list. Can we add anything?

Advocate (1 John 2:1)
Almighty (Rev. 1:8; Mt. 28:18)
Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8; 22:13)
Amen (Rev. 3:14)
Apostle of our Profession (Heb. 3:1)
Atoning Sacrifice for our Sins (1 John 2:2)
Author of Life (Acts 3:15)
Author and Perfecter of our Faith (Heb. 12:2)
Author of Salvation (Heb. 2:10)
Beginning and End (Rev. 22:13)
Blessed and only Ruler (1 Tim. 6:15)
Bread of God (John 6:33)
Bread of Life (John 6:35; 6:48)
Bridegroom (Mt. 9:15)
Capstone (Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:7)
Chief Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20)
Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4)
Christ (1 John 2:22)
Creator (John 1:3)
Deliverer (Rom. 11:26)
Eternal Life (1 John 1:2; 5:20)
Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11)
Faithful Witness (Rev. 1:5)
Faith and True Witness (Rev. 3:14)
First and Last (Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13)
Firstborn From the Dead (Rev. 1:5)
Firstborn over all creation (Col. 1:15)
Gate (John 10:9)
God (John 1:1; 20:28; Heb. 1:8; Rom. 9:5; 2 Pet. 1:1;1 John 5:20; etc.)
Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14)
Great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20)
Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14)
Head of the Church (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23)
Heir of all things (Heb. 1:2)
High Priest (Heb. 2:17)
Holy and True (Rev. 3:7)
Holy One (Acts 3:14)
Hope (1 Tim. 1:1)
Hope of Glory (Col. 1:27)
Horn of Salvation (Luke 1:69)
I Am (John 8:58)
Image of God (2 Cor. 4:4)
Immanuel (Mt. 1:23)
Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42)
King Eternal (1 Tim. 1:17)
King of Israel (John 1:49)
King of the Jews (Mt. 27:11)
King of kings (1 Tim 6:15; Rev. 19:16)
King of the Ages (Rev. 15:3)
Lamb (Rev. 13:8)
Lamb of God (John 1:29)
Lamb Without Blemish (1 Pet. 1:19)
Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45)
Life (John 14:6; Col. 3:4)
Light of the World (John 8:12)
Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5)
Living One (Rev. 1:18)
Living Stone (1 Pet. 2:4)
Lord (2 Pet. 2:20)
Lord of All (Acts 10:36)
Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8)
Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16)
Man from Heaven (1 Cor. 15:48)
Mediator of the New Covenant (Heb. 9:15)
Mighty God (Isa. 9:6)
Morning Star (Rev. 22:16)
Offspring of David (Rev. 22:16)
Only Begotten Son of God (John 1:18; 1 John 4:9)
Our Great God and Savior (Titus 2:13)
Our Holiness (1 Cor. 1:30)
Our Husband (2 Cor. 11:2)
Our Protection (2 Thess. 3:3)
Our Redemption (1 Cor. 1:30)
Our Righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30)
Our Sacrificed Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7)
Power of God (1 Cor. 1:24)
Precious Cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:6)
Prophet (Acts 3:22)
Rabbi (Mt. 26:25)
Resurrection and Life (John 11:25)
Righteous Branch (Jer. 23:5)
Righteous One (Acts 7:52; 1 John 2:1)
Rock (1 Cor. 10:4)
Root of David (Rev. 5:5; 22:16)
Ruler of God’s Creation (Rev. 3:14)
Ruler of the Kings of the Earth (Rev. 1:5)
Savior (Eph. 5:23; Titus 1:4; 3:6; 2 Pet. 2:20)
Son of David (Lk. 18:39)
Son of God (John 1:49; Heb. 4:14)
Son of Man (Mt. 8:20)
Son of the Most High God (Lk. 1:32)
Source of Eternal Salvation for all who obey him (Heb. 5:9)
The One Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5)
The Stone the builders rejected (Acts 4:11)
True Bread (John 6:32)
True Light (John 1:9)
True Vine (John 15:1)
Truth (John 1:14; 14:6)
Way (John 14:6)
Wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24)
Word (John 1:1)
Word of God (Rev. 19:13)

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006 at 5:06 PM

Crowns (8) - The Bride of Christ

Returning to a month old question, do "better" Christians get more treasures in heaven?

This series of posts on crowns would not be complete without a peek at Revelation. Once again, I must freely confess that my interpretive ability of Revelation is rather weak. Here are some verses and guesses at what that means.

We can all agree that Christians do good works while here on earth (Ephesians 2:10). We can also agree that we don't need a reason to do such good works apart from the fact that God told us to. Same for prayer and evangelism. We don't necessarily need a "practical" reason to do them, God has asked us, and it is our joy to serve.

That said, the book of Revelation does give us a glimpse of something else in addition to the simple command of God -

Revelation 19:6-8:
6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

"Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure"--

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Notice specifically verse 8. The Bride of the Lamb is clothed with fine linen, which is the righteous deeds of the saints.

In chapter 21:9-27 we see a more detailed picture of the Bride:
9Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb." 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed-- 13on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16The city lies foursquare; its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia.[a] Its length and width and height are equal. 17He also measured its wall, 144 cubits[b] by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. 18The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. 19The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.

Whatever figurative or literal interpretations we ascribe to the Bride of Christ, we know that it's beautiful and glorious. Somehow it's "pure gold, clear as glass." I think this beauty, this richness, comprise of some of the treasures in Heaven. It's also interesting to notice that the 12 apostles and 12 sons of Israel do get special mention. Their names are inscribed on the foundations and gates of the New Jerusalem. Not too sure what exactly that means, but, great! =) Heaven's gonna rock.

**addition, (I got so carried away with the picture of heaven that I forgot what I was going to say and just posted it)**

Since the Bride of Christ is clothed with the good works of the righteous, maybe it's the case that we do store treasures in Heaven by good works. Except those treasures aren't stored just for ourselves, but rather they're stored for everyone and their enjoyment. That certainly sounds reasonable, but who knows? And I'm sure whatever happens in Heaven will be far better than I can imagine.

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at 11:26 AM

A wife's submission to an unjust husband (3)

A few more clarifications in light of the last comment by wyu on my last post, and if you're new to this series of posts, check the first one too.

1) I am not dealing with what those in authority (government, masters, or husbands) ought to do. I am in general agreement that if they are abusing their authority (though physical abuse, unjust laws, or what have you), they are sinning. These posts are not encouraging husbands to go demand that the wife go and do this, go and do that, forcing them to submit. If that happens, they are sinning. I'm also not saying that the wife must check every decision against her husband.

2) I am concerned about how we respond under unjust authorities. What should a wife do if the husband hits her? What should citizens do if the government decides to start jailing and executing Christians? What should a slave do if the master gets physically violent?

3) My call for submission to such authorities does not imply I support what those authorities are doing or that I would encourage what they are doing. As Theocentric pointed out in an earlier comment:
We need to remember that a godly wife staying with an unjust husband does not condone her husband's actions. That might be the psychological implication, but it's not a logical/biblical/theological one. If fact, theologically, a godly wife submitting to her unjust husband may condemn him all the more. It may also save him... (But I would much rather that God condemn him to hell. But that's my unmerciful side talking)
I am in full agreement. One's submission, just like all good things that God gives, will call the regenerate and harden the reprobate.

4) My call for submission is an attempt to answer the question, "how may we glorify God while under an unjust authority?" Yes, it is difficult, but as difficult as it is to carry this cross, it is far lighter than the cross Christ bore.

wyu's comment prompts the question, "when may we disobey?" From the examples cited as well as the fact that it is Christ who is above all authorities and powers and it is by God's will that they exist, I think the simple answer is, "we may disobey when to obey would involve breaking one of God's commands."

This isn't to say that we can't appeal to the authorities if they've given us the means to do so (like Daniel does when commanded to eat the wines and food, and like I might encourage a wife to when physically abused).

But sometimes we don't have that means. Daniel's companions were commanded to pray to an idol. They refused. The midwives were ordered to murder. They lied about it (and I would argue that lying in this case was sinful as well.) The Apostles were ordered to stop speaking the Gospel, they obeyed Christ's commands to preach instead.

Notice as well with Daniel's companions submitted to the punishment, which was to be thrown into the furnace. They submitted, even at (possible) cost of their lives. James and John the Baptist were jailed and executed for their words. Tradition has it that most of the rest of the apostles were executed as well. Physical danger was not in their minds. It was glorifying God that they were concerned about. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name.

Notice as well that the escapes of the Apostles and Daniel's companions are supernaturally effected. They didn't write letters to the people asking them to dig tunnels or to help them escape. They trusted the Lord. Some of them God delievered, some of them He did not. That's His perrogative. This doesn't mean we don't take advantage of the means that exist - appealing to the government, voting, speaking up, preaching the Gospel, prayer, etc. But it does mean that when physical means don't seem to work, we can trust God.
1 Peter 4: 19Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
It may be that in our submission God supernaturally rescues us. He may strike the husband/master dead. He may convert the husband/master and effect a change of heart. He may do all sorts of things. But our call here is to submit, suffer, and rejoice.

The general view expressed in many comments and private opinions expressed has been that submission only extends until there is physical danger. I don't think that view is supportable by Scripture, especially here in 1 Peter.

I'm basically repeating myself now, so I'm tempted to move on. I will continue to respond to comments that are posted, and if something new comes up I will post a new post up.

Once again, Peter's words to slaves -
19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
We submit while being "mindful of God." We endure while being "mindful of God." This is a gracious thing in the sight of God. It's not about my rights, it's not about how they're violating me and how I'm being beaten, it's "how do I respond?" And Lord willing, we could all say, "we submit mindful of You, Lord. You will repay. And we trust You that You have placed us under these authorities for Your glory. So we submit to them. It hurts us physically, but You've given us that example to follow. Thank You, we are not worthy in ourselves of sharing in the sufferings of Your Son, but thank You for counting us worthy."

All - I'm sorry that a topic that I intended to be encouraging to people has required me to go back and forth in discussion. My original intent was simply to discuss how a wife may glorify God in an abusive relationship. This can also be applied to citizens and children today. The general call is to submit and trust in the Lord, emulating Christ. In a prior comment, it was pointed out that this issue should be handled with sensitivity and care, and that my original post was lacking in such. I am sorry for that. I will be going through my original post and revising it in the next day or so.

**edit, someone suggested that I put a hold on my personal responses to comments for a period of time. I am going to take his advice. Feel free to continuing commenting. You are also free to email me (via profile)**

Longing to emulate Christ with you all,
Mickey

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Monday, August 21, 2006 at 9:42 PM

Attributes of God (10)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 10: The Faithfulness of God-

This was a refreshing chapter. Focused upon God's faithfulness, it reminded me that God is so unlike man. People are prone to change their minds, people are prone to forget their promises. People break covenants, people don't deliver. Even the best of Christians are faithless at times.

Yet, God is the faithful one. The unchanging. God is faithful even when we are faithless, for he cannot deny himself. Great is thy faithfulness. Great is thy faithfulness. His faithfulness is demonstrated in all the promises he's already fulfilled. His faithfulness is shown through Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and finally, in Christ. So we have a God we can trust, not a capricious one that changes at a whim, but one that will fulfill His promises, no matter what. It may take a few generations, but God is faithful. He's got a plan.

Do I trust the Lord? I preached a sermon on God's faithfulness and Joshua 1:1-5 (that'll go up after some modifications after Sept. 10), and the call I made was “trust God.” Do I? Do I trust Him that He has a good plan even in the midst of controversy and disapproval? In the midst of a broken and lost world? In the midst of a broken and lost family? Do I trust the Lord when He says that all things work together for good for those who love Him?

Or do I question, “why Lord? How long? I don't understand.”

Too often it is much more the latter. That saddens me and humbles me. Here was a passage that brought tears to my eyes:

There are seasons in the lives of all when it is not easy, no not even for Christians, to believe that God is faithful. Our faith is sorely tried, our eyes bedimmed with tears, and we can no longer trace the outworkings of His love. Our ears are distracted with the noises of the world, harassed by the atheistic whisperings of Satan, and we can no longer hear the sweet accents of His still small voice. Cherished plans have been thwarted, friends on whom we relied have failed us, a profest brother or sister in Christ has betrayed us. We are staggered. We sought to be faithful to God, and now a dark cloud hides Him from us. We find it difficult, yea, impossible, for carnal reason to harmonize His frowning providence with His gracious promises. Ah, faltering soul, severely-tried fellow-pilgrim, seek grace to heed Isaiah 50:10, "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God."

When you are tempted to doubt the faithfulness of God, cry out, "Get thee hence, Satan." Though you cannot now harmonize God’s mysterious dealings with the avowals of His love, wait on Him for more light. In His own good time He will make it plain to you. "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter" (John 13:7). The sequel will yet demonstrate that God has neither forsaken nor deceived His child. "And therefore will the Lord wait that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him" (Isa. 30:18).

God is faithful in His promises, and He's also faithful in His wrath. He's faithful with what the fall has done. He's faithful in His solution. He's faithful in telling us the only way out. He afflicts us in faithfulness. He chastises us in faithfulness.

Faithful Lord. So unchanging.

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at 11:46 AM

A wife's submission to an unjust husband (2)

Wow, my original post was a bit more exciting than I expected.

To reiterate a few points -

I am not addressing husbands. I am not addressing whether or not it is right for the husband to beat his wife. That is another topic, and I agree in most cases it's sinful because of the underlying heart condition.

I am addressing what a wife should do under an unjust husband who does end up beating her.

My encouragement to stay is based off of 3 points in Scripture.

1) Peter's encouragement to slaves and wives - In 1 Peter 2, Peter encourages slaves to submit to their masters, not only the good and kind, but also to the unjust. In a relationship which may not have been entirely voluntary (I am of the understanding that people would sell themselves into slavery to repay debt), the exception of "but if the beatings ever get to a level..." is never mentioned. Peter, after addressing slaves, transitions to the topic of a wife's submission to her husband again not mentioning a "beating" exception. I find that omission to be a very telling sign. It is hard to concieve of a circumstance where Peter would not mention such an exception, especially if the relationships are of a different order to be governed by different rules.

2) The example of Christ - In 1 Peter 2 and 3, Peter points to Christ as the great example of someone who endured in submission to an unjust authority. He did everything right, and even inspite of being rejected by the world, He entrusted himself to God. Peter calls Christians to emulate Christ in times of suffering under authorities, masters, and husbands. And we can't say that Christ stuffered under authority but not a husband because Peter cites Christ's example after the topic of slaves. Then it is reasonable to apply Christ's example (submission under authorities) to slaves and wives, especially in light of Peter's reemphsis of the example after he finishes with husbands and wives.

3) The encouragment of Paul for a believer to remain married to an unbeliever if the unbeliever is willing in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14. He makes a very specific promise to these such people, and I hope it would be a promise that they would treasure, even in the midst of difficulty and suffering.

"For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy."

lj also posted the following comment -
some things to consider:
-read Malachi 2.

-i believe you're simplifying the issue a bit much. you need to explore a few things...
-the nature of a covenant
-the nature of the relationship between a husband and wife (not just the headship/submission part, but their oneness and the fact that they reflect the union of the trinity)
-the nature of the relationship between master and slave
-the nature of the relationship between child and parent
-the effects of spousal abuse. that is...can the husband's abuse toward the wife cause her to grow resentful, bitter towards her husband? you say that the woman ought to "joyfully submit" as if it were an easy thing. bear in mind that a master and slave are not one. a child and parent are not one either. there are some different relational dynamics going on.
-i would look at some more OT passages too (you mostly stuck around the NT)
-i would also be wary of your statement that it pleases God when she sticks around for her husband's beatings. if the marriage is to reflect the glorious trinity, i'm not sure how great of a reflection it is when the suitable helper is getting beat to a pulp.
-your essay is packed with assumptions and simplifications.
-if the beatings she receives tempts her to sin (yeah like planning a murder--it's really not beyond women), should she remain in that household?

let me know if you've considered any of the above issues...
Many of the topics you bring up I am unsure about, so if you could clarify it, I'd appreciate it. With regards to your question, I think my answer would be "yes, so far as I thought it was relevant to the topic. Is there something I missed?"

Some of the topics I will address specifically below in hopes of giving a better answer-

The effects of spousal abuse - Yes, abuse can cause someone to be bitter and resentful, but it doesn't have to. Can we take delight in the commands of the Lord? Can we say with Paul (Philippians 4) that we've learned to be content in plenty or in want? In suffering and in injustice? Entrusting to God that in Christ we can do (endure) all things?

The Trinity - you brings up an excellent point that the marriage reflects submission in the trinity. May I point to Christ's gracious submission to His Father, knowing that suffering, pain, and death were on the way? Yes, the wife doesn't believe the husband is infallible, loving and just (rather, he's a sinner, just like she is, just like we are), but she's called to submit anyways, entrusting herself to God.

What if it tempts her to sin? - Well, that's difficult. I hope the wife would see not only murder as sin, but resentfulness and anger as sin. In that sense, I'm sure even the beginnings of abuse (or even kindness itself) can tempt someone to sin. Yet, is this temptation enough to justify divorce? I'm unconvinced that this is the case. The call to cut off one's own hand seems much more a command to wage war against our sinful natures than a command to break a covenant.

Is this glorifying to God? - I would say it pleases God so far as she submits knowing God. Once again, I would point us to 1 Peter.
2:20) But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
3:14) But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,
3:17) For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
4:19) Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
As to the OT - I mostly stuck with the NT (and specifically 1 Peter) simply because that's what prompted the post. I am unaware of specific OT references that run contrary to my line of thought, but am open to passages. I agree that the OT is relevant as it is one Bible, inspired by one God.

All in all, I think if I am to be convinced otherwise, I would request these three points addressed. I think they are reasonable, and if they aren't, let me know.

1) Why Christ's submission to the death is not to be an example for all believers. Alongside this, what aspects of Christ's submission are we to emulate?
2) Why Peter does not have a "beatings" exception. This does not necessarily have to be Scriptual, but at least a plausible story. And if it includes an appeal to history, dig up a source or two.
3) An agreement that I'm not encouraging that husbands beat their wives.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006 at 4:57 PM

A wife's submission to an unjust husband

The following was put together for a homework assignment. Comments appreciated. (Modified 8/24/06)

May a believing wife divorce a husband that physically hits her?

Whenever the issue of biblical submission is raise from such text as 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5, the question always seems to arise, “but what if the husband is physically abusive?”

The purpose of this essay will be to lay down a biblical reason why I would encourage such a person to stay. There are four parts to it. The first part will deal with a popular cultural assumption that is commonly made, the second part will be my biblical response to the original question, the third part will be an attempt at answering some challenges and questions, the last part will be an examination of why this question comes up all the time.

I. On physical discipline

One assumption that is always brought to the table in these discussions is that when a man hits his wife he is always abusing her. I wish to challenge that assumption as I don't think it's biblical. I can concede that many of the times that it happens it is in fact abuse, but I can conceive of one possibility where it would not necessarily be wrong.

If the wife is willfully disobedient, determined to subvert his authority to the point that she interferes with the sanctification of the family, and she's unresponsive to private and public rebuke, then it may be appropriate for him to physically discipline her.

I am not arguing that a man ought to hit his wife, but I am simply arguing that I can conceive of a reasonable situation where it would be appropriate and within his authority to physically discipline his wife. I am not currently convinced that there is a biblical prohibition against such discipline, but I certainly am open to that possibility.

So we can acknowledge that the husband, as the head of the household, may have the authority to physically discipline the wife in response to disobedience. I'm not saying that he's commanded to (like he is with children), but that the Bible (as I see it) doesn't forbid it, and from my understanding, there are some cultures that see it as normal. In this case, the biblical call for the wife would be submission to just punishment.

Of course, if the human law forbade a husband physically disciplining his wife, then the law forbids it and it is the delight of the husband to obey the authorities. Note that if the law forbade the disciplining of children, it would be necessary to break the law in cases of disciplining children and endure the punishments because to obey the law would be to disobey God.

Once again, I am not arguing that a husband should hit his wife, but only arguing that it is unclear there is a prohibition against physical disciplining her. I'm still open on this view though, and some people have put forth arguments which I'm thinking about.

II. An abusive husband

But what if the husband is abusive? This may be the case (if physical discipline is wrong always) the first instance of physical contact, or it may be the case (if physical discipline is not necessarily wrong) when physical discipline becomes excessive. What is the wife to do then? I would still say that the general principle is to stay married and submit. This may have different applications in different circumstances (to come at the end), but as a general rule it's submission as to the Lord.

I point to 1 Peter to establish my point.

To establish the context a little bit of 1 Peter, Peter is addressing the persecuted church. After laying down a theological foundation of their election and salvation in Christ Jesus, he encourages them to to be witnesses for Christ, especially in a culture that accuses them of being rebellious.

1 Peter 2

11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

This starts Peter's discussion on submission. He encourages believers to submit to those in authority (2:13-14), slaves to masters (2:18), and finally, wives to husbands (3:1-6), that by their conduct those who oppose the Gospel would be silenced.

1 Peter 3:1-6

1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-- 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

What is submission? Submission is certainly not less than obedience, but it's more. It is a submission that sees the Lord's laws behind human institutions, and thus a joyous obedience rendered to the Lord. It is not a sullen, “I'll do what you say, but I don't like it” attitude. Sarah “obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” It was an obedience clothed with imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, and this is pleasing to the Lord. Notice as well that it's a submission not conditioned upon the state of the husband. The husband could be a perfect model of 1 Peter 3:7, or the husband could be an unbeliever. The call for submission is the same.

Returning to the original question, what should a wife do with a husband whose physical discipline seems excessive?

Well, I would encourage a person to stay with the same arguments that Peter makes for slaves. He says to them “2:18Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” Notice the phrase, “not only... but also.” Not only the good and gentle masters, but also to the unjust ones, the ones who weren't good or gentled. Presumably, some masters would beat their slaves. What does Peter say to the slaves?

19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

He doesn't encourage the slaves to flee the unjust masters, but rather to endure while being mindful of God. This was a gracious thing in the sight of God. From this, Peter transitions to looking at Christ's example. Christ endured unjust suffering at the hands of the authorities, and is the example for slaves and everyone else.

21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

This is the example that Peter gives for believing slaves, and this would be the example I would give to those who ask about abusive husbands as Peter immediately transitions from Christ's example to a wife's submission to her husband.

3:1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-- 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

Notice a few things:

  1. The wife's call for submission is even to those husbands who are non-believers - “even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.”

  2. There is not exception clause, “but if your husband beats you...”

It is necessary to take Peter's words at face value, simply because that's how Peter presents them. He does not envision an exception in submission (are we to assume that Peter was so unaware of the culture that he didn't know that husbands beat their wives? Or that first century husbands never beat their wives?). He sees submission for the wife to be similar to that of the slave or the citizen. Not that there isn't a distinction, but Peter doesn't make one here.

The biblical call is simply submission. Peter isn't alone in these words. Paul encourages believers to stay in a marriage with a non-believer if the non-believer is willing (1 Cor. 7:12-14). Jesus says that the only exception is adultery when the Pharisees ask if they can divorce for any reason (Matthew 19:1-9).

Thus instead of divorcing an abusive husband, if the believing wife stays and submits, knowing God, even in the midst of abuse, we know that is pleasing to the Lord. She is imitating Christ, who was abused unjustly, even to the death, and obeying God, which is what matters more than life, death, and physical pain.

In the same way that Peter encourages slaves to serve unjust masters and to hold up under unjust suffering, we can encourage wives who are called to the difficult role of submitting to an unjust and abusive husband. Their submission, even in the midst of physical abuse, is something that is pleasing to God, that they are following Christ. This is beautiful to the Lord and a true sign of their conversion.

Of course, if the husband wishes to leave, she should let him, per Paul's commands in 1 Cor. 7:15, but if he is willing to stay, the wife should continue to submit, clothing herself in good works by the grace of God. I'm not saying this is easy, but sometimes glorifying God is hard.

This is what Christ came to do, and this is what Christ did. He was abused, reviled, slandered, and beaten, all unjustly. But Christ, who had all the rights in the world to avoid this kind of treatment bore it, and bore it for God. He's our great and beautiful example and as we look forward to the great reward in heaven, we're able to endure everything for Christ.

So in conclusion, my advice to such a woman would be to stay and submit. This would be pleasing to God and imitating Christ. While she stays and submits, she should preach the Word, let the husband know why she is staying, that he's sinning that God will judge him for it, and if he doesn't repent there will be hell to pay. After that, she should joyfully submit. Not a begrudging submission, but a joyful one, as to the Lord. The Lord has made special promises to those who stay in unbelieving households, that their husbands and children are made holy (1 Cor. 7:14). So have faith, trust the Lord, and your rewards will be in heaven.

Now, as to direct applications, I'm not saying that the wife is to be silent through the whole ordeal. She should be clear why she's staying (for the Gospel's sake, in order that she might serve him, in hopes that one day he might become a model of 1 Peter 3:7), she can also be just as clear that he's sinning (if indeed he is). But after saying such, I'm not too sure continual complaints is appropriate (after all, isn't that what 1 Peter 3 is talking about?). The wife can ask the church to make an appeal to the (presumably) unbelieving husband with her. In all of this, it must be recognized that the husband is the head of the household and the wife is called to submit to such a fallible authority.

If the husband does become so physically violent that she feels her life is in danger, it does seem appropriate to flee temporarily, until he calms down, but there is to be no divorce, submission and reconciliation is the call. I say temporarily to prevent the idea of being “divorced in all but name” where the wife prevents the husband from carrying out his own duty of providing for the family.

III. Answering possible questions

What follows are some possible questions and answers. Some of them are better than others (I would still say that all of them are wrong), but for the sake of completeness, I will address all the ones I've come across and some I'm making up.

Question) With that interpretation of 1 Peter 2 and 3, you're encouraging husbands to beat their wives, masters to beat their slaves. What about human rights?

Answer) I think it's necessary to make a distinction between what Christian slaves are to do and what slave masters are to do. Even though I would agree that physical abuse in many cases is wrong, submitting to it does not imply that we support it. In fact, biblically speaking, such submission only increases their condemnation.

Question) Peter was dealing with a different culture. We apply his words differently.

Answer) For one, it is hard to conceive of a time and culture when all husbands did not beat their wives. If that truly is an exception, you'd think that Peter would address it. Instead, we see his encouragement to slaves to submit under unjust masters, with Christ as the example. In the same way, a wife is called to submit to even an unjust husband, with Christ as an example. Yes, submission can look different in a different context, but I'm unconvinced how something that is not an exception to Peter can now be an exception today.

Question) Doesn't the wife have rights as well? Rights to health. Rights to free living.

Answer) If those rights are strong enough to encourage a wife to divorce an abusive husband, then why aren't they strong enough for Peter to encourage slaves to flee? And if those rights existed, you'd think Peter would make mention of them, especially if they were such an exception? The call is always to use your rights to serve others. Now that you're free from the law, don't use it as an excuse to live licentiously, but rather love. Now that you're really under only God's authority, use that freedom to serve the king.

Question) When can we disobey our authorities then?

Answer) The biblical answer is that we disobey when to obey involves a disobedience of God. This is not what we think God is saying but rather what God has explicitly commanded. We aren't called to follow them into sin, but sometimes we follow them even when they are sinning (so long as that does not cause us to sin ourselves).

Question) This is too simple. There are other factors. Isn't the husband breaking the covenant? The relationship between a slave and his master is very different than the relationship between a husband and wife.

Answer) The reason why I present it so simply is because that's how Peter presents it. While we can agree that the relationship is different, that doesn't mean that our response to abuse is necessarily different. Peter treats them the same and he asks them all to submit, even to an unjust authority. Christ is the example for all of them.

Question) What about the husband? Isn't he supposed to love the wife just like Christ loved the church? Why are they supposed to submit to a husband that doesn't do that?

Answer) Well, the short answer is, “because God said so.” Peter encourages submission for slaves to unjust masters, and for wives to husbands who don't believe the word. While we can agree that the husband is called to love the wife just as Christ loved the church, laying down their life for her sanctification, his behavior is independent of her call. And if you really think about it, a conditional submission (I'll submit to you only if you love me completely and sacrificially) isn't really a submission at all. It's a demand.

IV. Why does this issue come up?

As for the question of “what about when...?” itself, there seem to be a number of reasons that it is always asked when the subject of submission comes up.

First off would be because the feminist movement has placed the blame upon the Christian model of marriage for all the wrongs that women suffer. Of course, the issue isn't with the Christian model of marriage, the issue is with sinners who've taken a biblical model and twisted it.

Another reason would be that we know of someone who was hurt/abused and we want to know how to encourage them. But to tell them that they should flee would simply be telling them what they want to hear when God says the very opposite. Rather, we should encourage them with the promises of God, that to stay would glorify God, remind them of Christ and point them to eternity and God's nature. Christ reminds us that the road is hard.

The third big reason is that we've become humanists. We're more concerned with the rights of the individual than the glory of God. God calls us to submit and we're more concerned with our own rights than God's glory. We ask first “but what if...?” and we wonder about our own rights and we forget God's call. His call for us is to submit in a humble and God-glorifying manner. Of course, this submission does come with one exception – submit unless it contradicts God's commands. And instead of finding that God commands us to leave in the face of unjust abuse, we find God encouraging people to stay and submit, that this is pleasing to God. That's what Jesus did, that's what the Apostles did, that's what martyrs did.

The underlying reason is simply that we're rebellious. We hear authority and we immediately want the exceptions. This is the same trap that Adam and Eve fell into, “Did God really say?” Rather than joyfully submitting in faith to the commands God gives us, we immediately ask for all the times when we can disobey such commands. The solution to that is simply repentance. We're sinners and we need Christ.

In summary, while we lament the condition of today's world that necessitates such advice and long for the day when all those who abuse their authority will get what they deserve, we can also encourage those under abusive authorities to stay and submit, thus living lives pleasing to God. Looking to glorifying the Lord, following His lead, for His glory. It is in His Name we trust and place our hopes in.

Hebrews 12:1-3

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.


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Friday, August 18, 2006 at 9:59 PM

Crowns (7) - The strongest argument yet

Ok, so this is going to be my third to last post (Lord willing), and it's going to bring up the strongest argument I could find.

The question I'm answering is still, "Are there additional rewards in heaven for those who are more obedient than other people who are also in heaven?"

Thus far, we've looked at a number of passages dealing with "crowns" as well as with some passages that deal with "treasures in heaven" and finally some parables. I've found them all to be rather inconclusive.

The strongest passage in support is 1 Corinthians 3:1-15 -
1But I, brothers,[a] could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human?

5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.

10According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- 13each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Briefly on the context, Paul is addressing different divisions in the church, specifically one that seems to have people in the church saying, "I follow Paul, I follow Apollos" (either explicitly or implicitly). Paul refers to the Corinthians as "God's building" and then launches into this passage. Look specifically at v.10-15

v.10) Paul is a skilled builder, laid the foundation and now someone else is working on it.
v.11) Only Christ is the true foundation
v.12) It is possible to build upon that foundation with stronger or weaker elements
v.13) What happens to that church will be revealed by testing in fire.
v.14) If the work survives, the person building will receive a reward.
v.15) If the work does not, he will suffer loss, though the person himself will be saved.

This meets all the qualifications. It distinguishes between two classes of people - Those who use strong materials and those who use weaker material, and it affirms that both classes of people will be saved and that the one using stronger material will have his reward.

The only question I have about this text is, "does that reward come in this life or the life to come?" and I do think it is possible for this reward to come in this life, as Paul speaks elsewhere of boasting in the church of Philippi. Could that be the reward he is speaking of? The encouragement of seeing a church grow up and mature in faith? I'm not sure.

While I am still unconvinced by the passage itself (and I'll explain why in the last post), it does present a very strong possibility. Any comments?

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Thursday, August 17, 2006 at 3:15 PM

Attributes of God (9)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 9: The Power of God-

This passage builds upon all the other chapters and talks about the power of God. Without God's power, His judgments are impotent, His promises are fallible, and His word is empty.

Everything happens by God's power and authority. If God did not want something to happen, He would stop it. “Let there be light.” “Be clean” “Arise, take up your mat.” The calming of the storm, the multiplying of bread. Over and over we see God's power revealed throughout Scripture.

Check out this beautiful quote from C. H. Spurgeon -
God’s power is like Himself, self-existent, self-sustained. The mightiest of men cannot add so much as a shadow of increased power to the Omnipotent One. He sits on no buttressed throne and leans on no assisting arm. His court is not maintained by His courtiers, nor does it borrow its splendor from His creatures. He is Himself the great central source and Originator of all power (C. H. Spurgeon).
That is such a great reminder. Independent, self-existent, self-sustained. God is a powerful God. Compared to God, we are nothing. God laid the heavens. God formed the earth from dust.

This reminds me of that one amusing story floating around. I can't find a link, but basically it's a fictional conversation between a scientist and God and the scientist is boasting, “God we've explained everything about you, we don't need you, we can form man from dust, we can move mountains, we can perform miracles!” and God responds, “oh yeah? Let's see.” The man bends over to gather some dust and God stops him, “Make your own dust.”

Just cracks me up =) such a good reminder. God created everything. His power upholds the universe. He created everything. He preserves and sustains everything. He will one day judge everything, nothing escapes His notice, nothing escapes His will.

And ultimately His power is utilized not in a capricious and arbitrary manner, but in accordance to His great love. Now there's rest, security, and hope.
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

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