Seven Signs of a False Teacher

Thomas Brooks (1608 – 1680), an English Puritan, gave the church an excellent work on the tactics of Satan: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (which can be read online here). One chief way in which Satan spoils the soul is through false teaching, taught and spread by false teachers. Brooks provides seven signs of a false teacher:

1. False teachers are men-pleasers.

“Such smooth teachers are sweet soul-poisoners. “This is my warning to my people,” says the Lord Almighty. ‘Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for the Lord! They keep saying to these rebels who despise my word, ‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’ And to those who stubbornly follow their own evil desires, they say, ‘No harm will come your way!'” (Jer. 23:16, 17).”

2. False teachers are notable in casting dirt, scorn, and reproach upon the persons, names, and credits of Christ’s most faithful ambassadors.

“Yes, Paul, that great apostle of the Gentiles, had his ministry undermined and his reputation blasted by false teachers: ‘For his letters,’ say they, ‘are weighty and powerful—but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible’ (2 Cor. 10:10). They rather condemn him than admire him; they look upon him as a dunce rather than a doctor. And the same hard measure had our Lord Jesus from the scribes and Pharisees, who labored as for life to build their own credit upon the ruins of his reputation.”

3. False teachers are venters of the devices and visions of their own heads and hearts.

“Are there not multitudes in this nation whose visions are but golden delusions, lying vanities, brain-sick fantasies? These are Satan’s great benefactors, and such as divine justice will hang up in hell as the greatest malefactors, if the physician of souls does not prevent it.”

4. False teachers easily pass over the great and weighty things both of law and gospel, and stand most upon those things that are of the least importance and concern to the souls of men.

“1 Tim. 1:5-7: ‘Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith sincere; from which some having swerved, have turned aside unto vain jangling, desiring to be teachers of the law, and understand neither what they say nor whereof they affirm.’ Matt. 23:23: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for you pay tithe of mint, and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.’ False teachers are nice in the lesser things of the law, and as negligent in the greater.”

5. False teachers cover and color their dangerous principles and soul-deceptions with very fair speeches and plausible pretenses, with high notions and golden expressions.

“Many in these days are bewitched and deceived by the magnificent words, lofty strains, and stately terms of deceivers. As strumpets paint their faces, and deck and perfume their beds, the better to allure and deceive simple souls; so false teachers will put a great deal of paint and garnish upon their most dangerous principles and blasphemies, that they may the better deceive and delude poor ignorant souls. They know sugared-poison goes down sweetly; they wrap up their pernicious, soul-killing pills in gold! (Gal. 6:12; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Rom. 16:17, 18; Matt. 16:6,11,12; 7:15.)”

6. False teachers strive more to win over men to their opinions, than to better them in their lives.

“Matt. 23:15: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves!’ They busy themselves most about men’s heads. Their work is not to better men’s hearts, and mend their lives; and in this they are very much like their father the devil, who will spare no pains to gain proselytes.”

7. False teachers make merchandise of their followers.

“They eye your goods more than your good; and mind more the serving of themselves, than the saving of your souls. So they may have your substance, they care not though Satan has your souls (Rev. 18:11-13). That they may the better pick your purse, they will hold forth such principles as are very indulgent to the flesh. False teachers are the great worshipers of the golden calf. “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.” (Jer. 6:13).”

(The above was taken from Appendix 2, pages 142 – 144, in the PDF version linked above.)

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Five Prayers for Family Worship

Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714), famous for his Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible, wrote numerous other tracts and treatises which are very helpful and edifying. One such treatise was A Church in the House or Family Religion (available online here). In this work, Henry lists five things that should be prayed for by families (I paraphrased the headings):

1. Acknowledge the Dependence of your Family upon Christ.

“Give honor to the great Redeemer as the head of all the churches, even those in your houses; call him the Master of the family, and the great upholder and benefactor of it ; for he it is in whom all the families of the earth are blessed (Gen. 12 : 3). All family-blessings are owing to Christ, and come to us through his hand by his blood. Own your dependance upon God, and your obligations to Christ for all good things pertaining both to life and godliness ; and make conscience of paying homage to your chief Lord, and never set up a title to any of your enjoyments in competition with his.” (27)

2. Confess Family Sins to God.

“In many things we all offend God and one another; and a penitent confession of it in prayer together will be the most effectual way of reconciling ourselves both to God and to one another. The best families, and those in which piety and love prevail most, yet in many things come short, and do enough every day to bring them upon their knees at night.” (29)

3. Thank God for Family Blessings.

“When the whole family comes together safe in the morning from their respective retirements, and when they return safe at night from their respective employments, there having been no disaster, no ‘adversary,’ no evil occurrence,—it is so reasonable and as I may say so natural for them to join together in solemn thanksgivings to their great Protector, that I wonder how any who believe in a God and a Providence can omit it.” (30)

4. Bring to God Family Petitions.

“There are family-cares to be cast upon God by prayer, family-comforts to be sought, and family- crosses which they should together beg him to sanctify and remove. Hereby your children will be more effectually possessed with a belief of, and regard to the divine Providence, than by all the instructions you can give them; which will look best in their eye when thus reduced to practice by your daily acknowledging God in all your ways.” (32)

5. Intercede for the World and the Church.

“Our families should be witnesses for us that we pray daily for our land and the prosperity of all its interests; that praying every where we make supplication for our rulers and all in authority (1 Tim. 2 : 3, 8). That we bear upon our hearts the concerns of God’s church abroad, especially the suffering parts of it. Thus keeping up a spiritual communion with all the families that in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus.” (35-36)

I hope these words encourage us in prayer with our families daily. Also, I would highly recommend reading the whole thing (linked above).

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Should Christians Celebrate Easter?

Perhaps the question itself strikes you as bizarre, odd, or novel. Why would this question be raised? What could be wrong with celebrating the resurrection of Christ? If you’ve run in Reformed circles for any length of time, you’ve probably heard these arguments repeated every year. Hopefully you have given them consideration, and hold your convictions based upon a study of the issues. My own views have been reforming on this issue, and I hope this post will be an “introduction” to the reasons why some Reformed Christians do not recognize Easter (or the other “evangelical” holidays, for that matter.) I am going to list out the argument, as I understand it, for not celebrating, followed by a danger to consider if you chose to celebrate.

Why Not? 
 
The basic argument hinges on what the church is authorized to do by Christ. Jesus alone is Head of the church, and this means that the relationship which church authority has to Christ is instrumental, or ministerial. If you consider the issue of doctrine, this relationship becomes plain. All Protestants ought to confess that the church has no authority to declare, teach, or confess doctrines which are not taught in the Scriptures, the Word of Christ. The Bible alone is authoritative, and the pastor is a minister of Christ–he has no right to invent or teach his own doctrine, but only what Christ has taught in His Word.

Likewise, the church has only a ministerial authority when it comes to the public worship of the church. Christ has not given the church the authority to practice anything in worship that they please. The Scriptures, with worship as well as doctrine, are the sole infallible rule for the church. Historically this doctrine has been known as the “regulative principle of worship”–Christians ought only to worship God in the way He has commanded. The church has no authority to bind the conscience with practices and ceremonies not instituted in the Word of God. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for adding their own human traditions to the worship of God: “in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9, KJV).

Now, it is the conviction of all Reformed Christians that God has set apart one day in seven–the Lord’s Day–for His worship in public, private, and families. The reason why we worship God on the first day of the week under the Gospel administration is because Christ was resurrected on the first day. In other words, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ on every Christian Sabbath. God has given us one day every week for this celebration–not one day per year. Hence, Easter is wholly inadequate for what it seeks to accomplish.

A Danger to Consider
 
Let me explain the chief danger I see in celebrating Easter. Easter is a man-made tradition. There is no command in Scripture to set aside day X every year to specifically celebrate the resurrection. The Lord’s Day is a divine institution, established by God in His Word. With that said, here is the danger I see:

Christians often place a greater emphasis on Easter than on every other Lord’s Day during the year. What does this mean? Well, it means we are placing more importance upon what has been established by men, then by what has been established by God. Many people who skip public worship throughout the year show up on Easter. Many people who fail to rejoice in the Gospel every Sabbath will celebrate on Easter. Many businesses which would be gladly open for commerce every Lord’s Day will be closed on Easter. 

We give more weight to the traditions of men than the commands of God.
 

 

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On Feeding Your Wife

Men know instinctively that they are required to provide for their families. Whether they attribute this instinct to societal constructs, cultural tradition, or the inward revelation of the law of God in their hearts (cf. Rom. 2:15), makes little difference. The reality remains the same: as men, we know it is our responsibility to provide for our wives and children. The Scriptures testify that, not only is this a result of God’s law written on our hearts, the provision required by husbands and fathers extends beyond the mere physical—it includes the non-physical elements of life, too.

My contention is that the church of Christ will not see reformation in our time until husbands and fathers recognize the totality of their responsibility to provide. Now, let me qualify that statement, so that my Calvinistic credentials are not revoked by the Committee Appointed to the Defense of Sovereignty. I am not saying that revivals can be manufactured. I am not saying that, by men providing for their homes, revival can be demanded or squeezed out of God somehow. All true revival is a sovereign act of God’s Spirit, who moves like the wind (cf. Jn. 3:8). In fact, depending upon the way one looks at it, men taking up the responsibility to provide for their homes may be one fruit of true reformation itself. In either case, God uses means in the accomplishment of His purposes, and this is surely one of those means.

Okay, but didn’t I already say that men know instinctively that they are responsible to provide for their families? Yes, well, and no. The law of God is assuredly written on the heart, yet because of our sinful condition we do not understand that law as we ought. We know we are guilty of breaking it, but we are now entirely sure how we are to fulfill it. The propositional revelation of God in Scripture helps us in our sinfulness, and it helps husbands and fathers know how they ought to provide for their families.

Provision, according to Scripture, is holistic. It most assuredly includes material provision (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8), but it also includes more than this. Particularly, it includes a provision of the Word in the context of worship.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

(Ephesians 5:25-28)

 

Christ died for the church, in order that the church might in turn be sanctified through the Word. If you are in the church for which Christ died, you are being sanctified by the Word. That is the basic theological premise here, but the reason Paul brings this up is for the purpose of exhorting husbands. Husbands are called to love their wives sacrificially, as Christ, and for the same purpose as Christ. Christ sacrificed himself for the holiness and salvation of His church. Men are to sacrifice themselves for the holiness and salvation of their wives. The command here, if I can frame it like this, is simple: husbands are to sanctify their wives by the Scriptures.

How are husbands to do this? First and foremost, if husbands are required to provide the Word in the context of worship, they ought to take their wives to hear the Word proclaimed in corporate worship on the Sabbath. Note how the command to keep the Sabbath is directed at the heads of households.

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.

(Exodus 20:10)

The Westminster Divines keenly picked up on this language, and pointed out the imperative here for the head of the household—i.e. the husband and father.

Q. 118.   Why is the charge of keeping the Sabbath more specifically directed to governors of families, and other superiors?

A.    The charge of keeping the Sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge; and because they are prone oftentimes to hinder them by employments of their own.

(Westminster Larger Catechism)

Without getting into all the details here, let the basic point stand. Husbands, are you taking your wives to hear the Word taught faithfully? Are you taking your wives into the assembly of the saints? Are you honoring the Lord’s Day in your home? This is the first place to start providing the food of God’s Word for your family (Matt. 4:4).

Secondly is family worship. The obligation of men to teach the Word in their homes does not only fall on the Lord’s Day, but rather is obligatory every day of the week (Deut. 6:4-8). The home is to be an environment permeated by Scripture. Whenever you sit down to feed your family physically, remember that you are likewise privileged with feeding them spiritually. Open the Bible. Read Scripture. Exhort from Scripture. Teach about the great salvation that God was wrought in Christ, and call your family together at appointed times for singing, prayer, and Scripture teaching.

Husbands are to love their wives as they love themselves, as Paul said in Ephesians. So, let me ask you this. Do you find quiet time for prayer and meditation on God’s Word? Do you read the Scriptures for the nourishment of your own soul? I hope you can answer yes, to those questions. If you can, let those times of personal worship—a demonstration of devotion to God, and the care you take for your own soul—remind you to feed the soul of your wife as well.

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A Table in the Mist

Jeffrey J. Meyers. Ecclesiastes Through New Eyes: A Table in the Mist. Athanasius Press; Monroe, Louisiana. 2006. Kindle Edition (2013).

A Table in the Mist starts to teach, in keeping with Solomon’s wisdom, what living by faith in an unpredictable world looks like. Meyers’ writing is not academic, but rather incredibly practical. He teaches, illustrates, and walks with the reader through the book of Ecclesiastes, following where Solomon leads. Along the way several key themes are developed. Each of these, when taken together, build Solomon’s argument for fearing and obeying God—the pinnacle of wisdom. Here are some major themes from the book:

Control

The key term used throughout Ecclesiastes is the Hebrew word hebel. Poor translations render this word as “meaningless” or “vanity.” A better translation, Meyers’ suggests, is vapor, “shepherding the wind.” The point of Solomon’s lament (“vapor of vapors, all is vapor”) is not that life is meaningless or vanity. Solomon is saying, as he will develop throughout the book, that all man’s attempts to gain leverage, to get an advantage over nature and the world, are like attempting to shepherd the wind. Man is not in control. God is in control. Man does not govern the course of history and events. God does. Wisdom is recognizing the all-encompassing providence of God, and to stop trying to grab it for ourselves. This reality is freeing—God is in control, and we cannot manipulate His creation through our efforts.

Wisdom recognizes that the world is unpredictable. From a human perspective, the world often makes no sense. The wicked prosper, and the righteous suffer. Even wisdom can be disregarded and spoiled. How does the mature Christian, acting in faith toward God, understand these things? Wisdom reminds us that God is in control, and that all men will be judged. Either in this life, or the next, God is just. There is cosmic justice. Furthermore, God has a plan that we cannot see. His was are inscrutable, and they exist none-the-less, and His purposes are good. The eye of faith sees these truths, and is at peace living in light of them.

Place

Another important aspect of wisdom is knowing our place. Solomon makes this point repeatedly throughout Ecclesiastes. We are to know our place before God as His creatures; He is our Maker. We are to know our place before others, as we participate in community. We are to know our place in the worship of God, and act appropriately in the presence of His people. We are to know our place before kings, knowing when to speak and when to remain silent. There is much wisdom in recognizing, first that God is in control of our lives, and second, how we are to respond to the places and positions God has placed us in. Knowing our place does go beyond the community and how we interact with others, however. A major theme in Ecclesiastes in recognizing that our work, our vocation, also comes from God. Because it comes from God, we are to engage in it with all our might and leave the rest to God. No job is too menial for the Christian to perform with all his or her might, and more importantly, to enjoy. While the world is constantly worrying about their status and position, the Christian can rest in God’s sovereignty for those things, and simply work hard and enjoy the fruit of their labors. Here is wisdom on Monday morning.

Perspective

A recent trip into a local used book store surprised me. There was a small shelf labelled, “preparing for death.” I was surprised the shelf was there at all, and certainly less surprised to find only two or three books on it. People today do not think about death. We don’t like to think about death, and this is because, Solomon would tell us, we are fools. Wisdom contemplates death, not in a morbid way, but in order to gain perspective. Wisdom looks at the reality of the sinful world in which we live. Wisdom is not self-deceived about the shortness of life, and the complete unpredictability of it. People do not control their own death, nor can they honestly predict it. God controls these things. Wisdom, however, recognizes the inevitability of death and lives in light of it—learning to make the best use of time, for the days are evil (Eph. 5:16).

Perspective on the shortness of life, the hebel-ness of it, is a great motivation for living in wisdom. Recognize your place in the world. Trust God’s control of all things. Enjoy your work and fruit of your hands; eat, drink, and be merry (not because “tomorrow we die”) for God rules and reigns, and has given you good gifts to enjoy. Meyers’ makes this point emphatically, and it is a good one. Solomon makes it repeatedly. Enjoy life as a gift from God.

Faith

Throughout the entire book, Meyers’ is making the argument that Solomon is recommending, above all else, the life of faith. Because the world is unpredictable, because man cannot manipulate it, man is to trust God. God created the world, governs the world, and gives purpose to the world. Man does none of these things apart from almighty God. Man’s attempts to give purpose to the world are like shepherding the wind. Ecclesiastes is a full blown assault on humanism. Rather than placing faith in man, which is an evil under the sun, place faith in God. Faith in God, not only means recognizing His control, power, and justice, but also means recognizing that God’s law must govern our lives. Live joyfully under God, working hard, enjoying life, and following His law. Therein is true wisdom.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to you. Read it, but more importantly, read Ecclesiastes. Read and reread that. This book, while I had some minor concerns, was very helpful in laying out the major themes I discussed above. Ecclesiastes can make Christians uncomfortable, and Meyers’ emphasizes those points (gently) in order to help us begin to think less like Westerners and more like Christians. That, too, is wise.

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Limited Atonement and the Unity of Purpose

These thoughts arose out of discussing the Covenant of Redemption with a good friend, who can be read here.

Out of all the things we Calvinists believe, the doctrine of “limited atonement” quite possibly comes under the heaviest opposition. What this doctrine teaches, by its most basic definition, is that Christ died for the Church. The “limit” therefore is in terms of the purpose and scope of Christ’s atoning work. Jesus did not die to offer the potential of salvation to all. He died to save specific men.

Jesus explains this doctrine clearly in the Gospel of John chapter 10. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (verses 14-15). The sheep here aren’t all men, for Jesus goes on several verses later to tell the unbelieving Pharisees that they are not His sheep (verse 26). The only conclusion is that Christ did not lay down His life for those Pharisees. They were not His sheep.

What struck me recently about this doctrine, however, is the unified nature of the Godhead in the salvation of sinners. Particularly John 10:27-30:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (ESV, emphasis mine)

Often John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one”) is quoted to demonstrate the deity of Christ; His equality with the Father ontologically, or in His being. While that is true, Christ is fully God and equal with the Father in His God-ness, I don’t think that is the primary meaning of what Christ is saying here. The context is all about the mission Christ is on in the world. It’s about Christ’s duty to save those people whom the Father gave Him, by fulfilling the task (think: laying down His life) that the Father gave Him. Based upon this bedrock, Christ’s sheep can be confident that the Son will protect them until they attain everlasting life—after all, it is the purpose of the Father that He do so. Christ therefore says, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is obedient to His Father’s will, so much so that they will the same thing.

The Father gave a people to the Son. Paul writes in Ephesians 1 that the Father “chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (verse 4). The Father chose a people, according to the good pleasure of His will. Christ went to the cross in order to redeem those people. The Father and the Son are acting together on the same mission, with the same purpose. These people, those whom the Father chose and for whom Christ died, are called out by the Holy Spirit, through the Word. The Holy Spirit, acting in unison with the Father and the Son, applies the work of redemption to God’s elect. There is full unity in the Godhead here—the Triune God saves sinners completely.

Be encouraged by this, Christian. Be assured in the faith. After all, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” The purpose of the Father and the Son is the holiness and perseverance of the elect. God is for you. He is saving His people, cleansing His people, and persevering His people in the Word.

 

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The Shepherd Leader at Home

The Shepherd Leader at Home by Timothy Witmer (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).

Marriage is not in trouble. Perhaps this statement seems bizarre, especially given the amount of discussion surrounding marriage in secular and Christian circles. Isn’t marriage what all the fuss is about these days? Sure, but from the Christian perspective, marriage cannot be in anymore “trouble” of disappearing, or being redefined, than the law of gravity. God has made the thing, defined it, and graciously given it to His creatures for His glory. The rub comes in when, by rebellion against God’s law, men perish for lack of knowledge (see Isa. 5:13). The law doesn’t change any more than God changes, but in our sin we reject God’s plan and purpose for our lives, suffering the tragic consequences.

In this short little book, Dr. Witmer writes clearly and honestly to husbands and fathers about their God given task of shepherding their little flocks. The shepherding motif runs throughout Scripture, and Dr. Witmer applies it aptly to the home. The book is broken down into four main categories, which follow the four main responsibilities of the shepherd: knowing, leading, providing, and protecting. The man of the house is to take responsibility in each of these categories, not as the sovereign lord of his home, but under the law and guidance of his Great Shepherd, who laid down His life for His sheep (see John 10:11).

Knowing

Truth be told, oftentimes the most obvious things are often overlooked. Dr. Witmer discusses many different aspects to knowing ones family. He explains how foundational this knowledge is, for if a man does not know his wife and kids, how can he lead them, provide for their needs, and protect them from danger?

Knowledge requires presence. In order to know about someone intimately, you must spend time with them. You must pray with them, discuss their needs and weaknesses, and be able to build them up for their strengths. All of these things require time. Make it. Nothing, husbands, should be a higher priority than spending quality and quantity time with your family. When husbands take the time to know their wives well, they are speaking truth about the way Christ relates to His church. He knows His sheep, and He leads them in paths of righteousness (see Psalm 23, John 10:14).

Leading

Both the husband and wife have different roles and responsibilities within the marriage covenant. Dr. Witmer necessarily, and wisely, reminds us that it “is a grave error for a husband to misconstrue his place of leadership as a position of superiority” (Kindle Location 1028). The role of the husband is to lead his family toward the glorious end of worshipping and obeying God. He can do this for no other reason than that he is himself being brought along by the Great Shepherd in the paths of righteousness (see Psalm 23:3). Christ loved the church by laying down His life for her; husbands, your “number-one responsibility, humanly speaking, is to love your wife to the extent that she has absolutely no doubts about it” (Kindle Locations 1138-1139).

Husbands, one major way in which we lead our families is by example. This is a heavy burden, but one in which God is gracious to strengthen us for. Because of the first principle of knowing, there are serious implications here. Our wives know us better than anyone, do we want them to follow our example? Do we want our children to respond the way we do? Certainly, if anything, this means we must lead by example in asking for forgiveness. A good husband will not be a perfect husband, but rather one that seeks to lead his family into the grace of the Lord Jesus, and submit to His authority.

Providing

Men generally just know they are responsible to work and provide materially for their families. Even when, for whatever reason, men abdicate this responsibility they feel it. More often than not, however, the husband and father’s obligation to provide spiritually for their flock is neglected—to the harm of the entire family.

God has ordained men to lead their families in worship and the study of the Word. Simply taking your family to worship on the Lord’s Day is not sufficient here—husbands are to be creating Scripture saturated homes where their flocks can be nourished in the Lord. This takes time and diligence. How often do you read the Word of God with your family? How often do you pray for the family needs with your family? Praying for needs with the family is important, and it helps teach the family that God is the ultimate source of all things that you have. The Good Shepherd is the ultimate provider for His sheep.

Protecting

Dr. Witmer wisely recognizes that inappropriate sexual desire, found within the heart, is “one of the greatest dangers to your family” (Kindle Locations 1728-1729). This section of the book is direct straight-talk to husbands on this important issue from the book of Proverbs. Adultery is a serious issue within the church, and it has devastating consequences in families. The first step, husbands, is protecting your own hearts from this gnawing evil. Are you guarding your heart? Are you taking steps to prevent temptation, and to bolster your defenses for when it comes? Memorize Scripture. Be vigilant.

The role of a husband and father extends beyond this, especially in regards to children, and includes the father protecting his children from worldly influences that will lead them astray. At this point, the previously established discipline and nurture in the Word of God becomes essential. Children must learn what God requires in His law, and what the consequences are for neglecting God’s word. Discipline must be brought about consistently, with love toward the child that they may learn to live in accordance with God’s word for His glory.

Summary

Dr. Witmer brings a helpful, practical contribution to the Christian bookstore on marriage. Since the issues surrounding marriage are vast, and the teaching of the Scriptures on this subject often neglected, this contribution is good and necessary. One book cannot possibly cover all the ins-and-outs of the husband’s role in his marriage and family. Read more than this book, but read this book none the less. Dr. Witmer brings a refreshing approach to the issue by applying the shepherding motif from Scripture, as well as many personal anecdotes and pieces of “learned” wisdom. Better to learn by sound counsel than by personal experience; the stakes in this one are high.

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The End of God’s Law in Society

“For he [the civil magistrate] is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” Rom. 13:4b

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Rom. 13:10

Many today criticize theonomy—the idea that God’s law should be the standard of justice in a society—out of a severe misconception. That misconception says that God’s law, as contained in the Old and New Testaments together, is barbaric and uncivilized. They say, furthermore, that such a situation would be the worst form of religious tyranny. These are strong claims, for sure. But do they accurately represent the theonomic vision? I say no, they do not.

The End of Law

Jesus was emphatic. The greatest commandment in the law is to love God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second commandment is like this one, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matt. 22:37-39). What law of God is Jesus talking about? A different law than what had been given already? No, Jesus is referring to the law contained in the Old Testament Scriptures. He goes on to say that on the commands to love God and neighbor “depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:40)—a clear reference to Old Testament law.

My point in saying all this is simple: theonomy is based upon love. Love for God causes us to reverence and honor His holy law. Love for my neighbor stirs up my desire to see justice done for the oppressed. But what is justice apart from the law of God? God is just, and His law defines justice for human relationships—even the civil magistrate.

Law of Liberty

Christianity is about freedom—freedom in Christ from sin and death. Freedom to worship God for eternity, to the praise of His glorious grace (Eph. 1:6). Freedom to live at peace with men because God in Christ has restored His elect to Himself, and He alone can restore the lives and relationships that are broken around us. James says that, “the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (v. 1:25). In God’s law there is liberty—liberty founded upon love. Any other system will ultimately promote hatred and oppression.

John Calvin was correct when, writing to the King of France, he said the following:

“It will then be for you, most serene King, not to close your ears or your mind to such just defense, especially when a very great question is at stake: how God’s glory may be kept safe on earth, how God’s truth may retain its place of honor, how Christ’s Kingdom may be kept in good repair among us. Worthy indeed is this matter of your hearing, worthy of your cognizance, worthy of your royal throne! Indeed, this consideration makes a true king: to recognize himself a minister of God in governing his kingdom. Now, that king who in ruling over his realm does not serve God’s glory exercises not kingly rule but brigandage.” [1]

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. by Ford Lewis Battles, (Philadelphia, PA: 1960), 11-12.
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Jonathan Edwards, New Creation, and the Christian Sabbath

Every once in a while I come across a quote worth saving, and I figure that makes it also worth sharing. Consider this one of those.

The ancient churches, being commanded to keep a seventh day in commemoration of the work of creation, is an argument for the keeping a weekly sabbath in commemoration of the work of redemption, and not an objection against it.

We read in Scripture of two creations, the old and the new, and these words of the fourth commandment are to be taken as of the same force to those that belong to the new creation, with respect to that new creation, as they were to them that belonged to the old creation, with respect to that old creation. We read that God in the beginning “created the heavens and the earth” [Genesis 1:1], and the church of old was to commemorate that. But when God creates “a new heaven and a new earth” [Revelation 21:1], those that belong to that new heaven and new earth by a like reason are to commemorate the creation of their heaven and earth.

The Scriptures teach us to look upon the old creation as destroyed and, as it were, annihilated by sin, or as being reduced to a chaos again, without form and void, as it was at first; Jeremiah 4:22–23, “They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.” I.e. they were reduced to same state they were in at first: “the earth was without form, and void,” and there was no light, but “darkness was upon the face of the deep” [Genesis 1:2].

And the Scriptures teach us to call the gospel restoration and redemption, a creation of a new heaven and a new earth; Isaiah 65:17–18, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be you glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy”; and Isaiah 51:16, “And I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundation of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people”; and Isaiah 66:22, “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I shall make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.” We in these places are not only told of the creation of new heavens and new earth, but we are told what is meant by it, viz. the gospel renovation, the making Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy, saying unto Zion, “Thou art my people.” The Prophet in all these places is prophesying of the gospel redemption.[1]

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. From Edward’s sermon, The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath, available online here.
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On the Reality of Meaning

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Postmodernism has done a number on American culture, and resultantly upon the Church. These effects are drawn out in many different ways, and through many different avenues. Underlying all of them, however, is the same conflict between man and God since Genesis 3; the authority behind words. Eve questioned what God really said, and placed the authority to choose between God and the crafty serpent in her own mind. She made herself autonomous; she decided not to follow the authority and command of the Creator.

One impact of modern thought on the Church has been at this very juncture. The Bible, it is claimed, cannot be allowed to speak dogmatically to modern life. The categories are simply different, and modern man must make his own decisions about morality, social justice, and civil government. Science has progressed far beyond anything God ever spoke regarding the world, and the Scripture all around is simply outdated. Not only is this so, but the Bible is also impossible to interpret. This, most of all, is the fall back argument of modern liberal Christianity. What the Bible says about homosexuality, for example, is outdated and there are various interpretations, so we just can’t know for sure.

One way to address this sort of error is to simply let it play out. Fundamental denials of the way in which God created the world will, necessarily, prove themselves absurd. This fact doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call such things absurd, but it does mean that the course cannot be trodden indefinitely. The image of God in man means something, no matter how else we may label it. One thing which it means is that man was created with the ability to both communicate and understand communication. God created humanity in order to enter into covenant relationship with them. God created us with the ability to communicate. The fact that you are reading this post proves the point. Humans communicate, and we understand words.

The claim that words are meaningless, or that we can’t really know what an author intended to convey, is absurd. Especially when that author is God; the one who both created us with the ability to communicate, and decided to communicate His Word to us.

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