Verse of the Day

Monday, December 24, 2007

Incarnation Truths Celebrated In Music

Memory Verses[1] From G. F. Handel’s Oratorio, “The Messiah”[2]

Is 40:1-5 - Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Hag 2:6-7 - For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.

Mal 3:1-3 - Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. 2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' sope: 3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

Is 7:14 (Mt. 1:23) - Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Is 40:9 - O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

Is 60:2-3 - 2For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. 3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

Is 9:2 - The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Is 9:6 - For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Lk 2:8-11 - And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Lk 2:13-14 - And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Zech. 9:9-10 - Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10 And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from river even to the ends of the earth.

Is 35:5-6 - Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

Is 40:11 - He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

Mt 11:28-30 - Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Jn 1:29 - The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

Is 53:3 - He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Is 50:6 - I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

Is 53:4-6 - 4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Ps 22:7-8 - All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head saying, 8He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

Ps 69:20 - Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.

Lam. 1:12 - Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.

Is 53:8 - He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

Ps 16:10 - For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Ps 24:7-10 - Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

Heb 1:5-6 - For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

Ps 68:18 - Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.

Ps 68:11 - The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.

Rom 10:15 - And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Rom 10:18 - But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

Ps 2:1-4 - Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

Ps 2:9 - Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Rev. 19:6 - And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

Rev. 11:15 - And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

Rev. 19:16 - And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Job 19:25-26 - For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

1 Cor. 15:20-22 - But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Cor. 15:51-57 - Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rom 8:31 - What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

Rom 8:33-34 - Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Rev. 5:12-13 - Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

[1] The verses are listed here in the order of their occurrence in The Messiah. The complete text of the Biblical passages are cited, even where the composer may only have included a portion. A few of these passages may not be found in modern performances, but are included here where they were originally located by the composer.
[2] The Messiah, An Oratorio For Four-Part Chorus of Mixed Voices, Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass Soli and Piano, by G. F. Handel, ed. T. Tertius Noble, Revised According to Handel’s Original Score by Max Spicker (New York: G. Schirmer, Inc., 1912), 252 pp. “The Messiah, Handel’s most successful and best-known oratorio, was composed in the year 1741 in twenty-four days, from August the 22d to September the 14th. It was first performed at a concert given for charitable purposes at Dublin, Ireland, on April the 13th, 1742, Handel conducting the performance in person.” Op. cit., pg. iii. The following work was also consulted - Handel’s Messiah: A Devotional Commentary, by Joseph E. McCabe (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1978), 120 pp. “Our souls soar with Handel, while…we plumb the depths of the love of God as set out for us in the Biblical passages.” “These glorious solos and choruses, forever wedded and welded now to the Biblical material, have sung themselves into the consciousness of a grateful humanity….The secret of its power lies in the depths of the human heart as well as on the pages of the musical score.” Op. cit., pg. 9. “The longtime and greatly beloved conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham, writes of Handel in his memoirs: “Since his time mankind has heard no music written for voices which can even feebly rival his for grandeur of build and tone, nobility and tenderness of melody, scholastic skill and ingenuity and inexhaustible variety of effect.”” Op. cit., pp. 11-12. “When Biblical truth is joined to music that reaches the soul, then the human spirit soars. May it be so with Messiah lovers for years to come.” Op. cit., pg. 12.

Pastor's Sermon Notes - December 23, 2007

The First Noel [note 1]
Shepherds Quake at the Sight [note 2]
The Beginning of the Good News
Luke 2:8-20

[8] And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
[9] And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
[10] And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
[11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
[12] And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
[13] And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
[14] Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
[15] And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
[16] And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
[17] And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
[18] And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
[19] But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
[20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.


1. A “Harmony” of the Gospels?

Study guides for the Gospels are available which display the four Gospel accounts in parallel columns to show the similarities and differences between them for comparison studies [note 3]. There are so many differences between them that some may question the idea of a "harmony", but they are all viewing the same historical event, the life of Christ, although from different perspectives, and with various purposes. Some authors throughout the subsequent history of the Church have even attempted to combine them into one fluid account. However, that is not the way it was originally recorded by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel accounts were recorded as they were for specific reasons. These four vantage points are the way God wants us to view this history.

2. How the Gospel accounts begin -

The Gospels of Mark and John both open with the baptism of Jesus, not the birth of Christ, although John's prologue is unique in its revelation of the preincarnate Christ as the Creator (Jn. 1:1-11). Matthew and Luke do not get to the baptism of Christ until their third chapters (Mt. 3:13 and Lk. 3:21).

Mark 1:9 - And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

John 1:1-11 - [1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] The same was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. [4] In him was life; and the life was the light of men. [5] And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. [6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. [7] The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. [8] He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. [9] That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. [11] He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Matthew 3:13 - Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

Luke 3:21 - Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,

Matthew & Luke both begin their Gospels with the birth of Jesus, including His genealogy, the announcements of His conception and birth, and the events precipitated by His birth.

3. The differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts –

Matthew is alone in recording the account of the angelic appearance to Joseph (1:18-25), the wise men coming as joyful worshippers (2:1-12), and Herod as a hateful murderer (2:3-16), including the flight into Egypt by Joseph and Mary with the young Christ child.

Matthew also has a unique emphasis on the birth of Christ as the fulfillment of prophecies found in the Old Testament Scriptures: Mal. 2:7; Hos. 11:1; and Jer. 31:15.

Matthew 2:6 - And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Matthew 2:15 - And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Matthew 2:17-18 - [17] Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, [18] In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Luke goes into much more detail about the events surrounding the birth of Christ than any other Gospel, and Doctor Luke, as a historian, probably interviewed Mary for much of his information. Luke alone records the following [note 4] :

1) The angel Gabriel appearing to John the Baptist's father Zacharias (1:5-22).
2) The annunciation to Mary (1:26-38).
3) Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, John the Baptist's mother (1:39-56).
4) The birth of John the Baptist (1:57-80).
5) The birth of Jesus (2:1-7).
6) The angelic announcement to the shepherds, and their visit to the manger (2:8-17).
7) The presentation of Christ at the Temple by Joseph and Mary (2:22-24).
8) The reactions to the infant Jesus at the Temple by Simeon and Anna (2:25-38).

4. The Star and the bit parts –

There is only one "Star" actor in this great drama, and it is the Son of God, who has now become also the Son of Man. However, there are many others who have what we may refer to as "bit parts", that are nevertheless significant in their own right. For example, considering the Gospel according to Luke alone attention must be paid to what is revealed about the angels, Zacharias, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, Simeon, and Anna.

5. The Significance of the Part the Shepherds Play –

One of the unique features of Luke's Gospel account that is worthy of our consideration is the part the shepherds play, what they experienced, and how they responded to those experiences in Luke 2:8-20. Many have focused on this unusually dramatic and movingly beautiful aspect to the history of Christ's birth in the past, as may be easily seen by a survey of the legacy we have in our hymnology. (see Appendix)

Let us consider the responses of those who played these "bit parts" to the Incarnation, the First Noel, the Beginning of the Good News:

I. The Initial Response of Wondering (Marveling, Astonishment, Amazement)

Throughout the Gospel accounts of the events surrounding the birth of Christ we encounter words translated as "wondering", "marvelling", "astonishment", and "amazement". This response of "wonder" involved fear, and a failure to understand:

Luke 2:9 - And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

These shepherds were not wimps. They, like David, even as youths, could take on bears, lions, and anything that threatened their flocks with slings, knives, or even their bare hands if necessary. They were outdoorsmen, who worked 24/7 at providing for and protecting their flocks. They did their jobs day in, and day out, one day following another, until....until one day, unlike any other day before or since, until their working, and believing, and thinking was stopped and shaken, interrupted and rattled, by a visit that defied expectation or rationalization. What they saw and heard took them totally by surprise, and could not be explained away through any of the antisupernatural schemings of modern man. Only one initial response was appropriate, and they responded accordingly.

Consider also the response of those who were informed of these events by the shepherds:

Luke 2:18 - And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Joseph and Mary themselves shared in this response:

Luke 2:33 - And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

Notice the response to the youthful Jesus in the Temple later in this chapter:

Luke 2:47-50 - [47] And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. [48] And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. [49] And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? [50] And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

Is there not something here that should elicit a sense of wonder and awe, that should cause us to marvel, to react in amazement, and with astonishment? If we are ever going to respond in wonder, is it not here at the birth of the Son of God come as the Son of Man in a manger? This day that changed all of human history, this central event in the ongoing Creation, ought to cause our jaws to drop, our eyes to bug out, and our minds to spin! If it does not, we should at least share in the shepherds' fear, and be "sore afraid", for there is something wrong with us otherwise! Where are the "wise guys" of our age? Where is the know-it-all skeptic and the humanistic philosopher who spoof at any suggestion of the supernatural when confronted by the glory of God, and the preaching and praising of angels? How would they have responded if they had been in those fields with the shepherds? And, now, when they sit in their armchairs in the ivory towers of academia, and lounge in their studies as Monday morning critics, they may find it easy to explain away this history, but in so doing they demonstrate their inability to wonder, and the numbness of their infidelity. This is no time to nit-pick, this is a time to stand in awe!

The shepherds did not stop there, they did not stand there in residual fear when the angels departed, but sought out the sign that had been revealed to them. And this elicited:

II. The Followup Response of Glorifying (Praising)

The shepherds could not help but tell others what had happened, what they had seen and heard:

Luke 2:17 - And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

They became the first witnesses to the Incarnation, worshipping God for what He had done, and praising Him to others for what they had experienced and learned:

Luke 2:20 - And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Anna's response when she saw the Christ child in the Temple was precisely the same:

Luke 2:38 - And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

When confronted by the wonders of God, our awe, our astonishment and amazement should produce worship, glorying in God, glorifying him in praise, praising him to all who would hear! This is not something that we can or should keep to ourselves. There should be a joyful excitement, an enthusiastic reporting, a bubbling over in worship in response to this greatest gift in history! This will not be kept a secret any longer! Christ is born, the Savior has come, the Son of God has become the Son of Man, the King of kings and Lord of lords is here!

And yet, there is still in that wonder and awe, in that amazement and astonishment, those things that we do not understand. There is that which transcends human knowledge, reasoning, and thought here, and there always will be. The greatest mystery of mysteries is how God could become Man, how the Person of the Son of God could take on flesh, and live as the Son of Man. There is that here which defies explanation and rationalization. We face the frontier of human ability to know here, or nowhere. Human intellectual pride is here humbled like nowhere else. And it is well that we acknowledge this limitation, this inability, even while we proclaim the tremendous facts that we can be sure of from God's own revelation of this mystery.

But, we may still include that which we do not now comprehend in the third phase of our responding to the revelation of the Incarnation to us by God, even as the "bit players" of that history did. We may join with Mary in:

III. The Reserved Response of Pondering (Keeping)

Luke 2:19 - But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

We should remember, and remembering we should ponder. We should meditate on mystery, and meditating we should grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We should expect always to ponder, and never to arrive at a full understanding of the depths of such a mystery. We are finite, and the depths here are infinite.

We do not need to understand, or to be able fully to explain, every aspect of such a wonderful revelation in order to be able to worship God by glorifying Him, and praising Him to others. We are not so different from the shepherds, or Joseph the carpenter, or Mary herself. They knew fear and wonder; they knew what it was like to be astonished, and to question. We should share in all of these responses. We should place ourselves into their places in these Gospel accounts, and understand that we have much in common with them. Our responses to the records of these events should be no different than their's were. We should respond to the Incarnation, the mystery of mysteries, by wondering, glorifying and pondering. All of these responses should be part of the ongoing experience of the Christian life for every child of God.


The angel said to the shepherds that day: "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)

Let us join in the praises of the angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Good tidings! Great joy! Christ the Lord is born a babe and a Savior! Glory to God, glory to God in the highest! Thank Him, and praise him for the Prince of Peace come to earth, and for His good will toward men in making peace with those who were at war with Him [note 5] in the only Way it could be made [note 6]! Only God could do this, this Wonder of wonders! Glorify Him! Ponder what is worthy of eternal contemplation!

Appendix: The Revelation to the Shepherds in Hymnology

“Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong?
Say what may the tidings be, Which inspire your heavenly song?”

[“Angels We Have Heard on High”, source unknown, verse 2.]

“Shepherds, in the fields abiding, Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing, Yonder shines the infant Light:”

[“Angels, from the Realms of Glory”, by James Montgomery, verse 2. Note: The truth may be more accurately represented “…God as man is now residing…”. See J. Gresham Machen’s The Virgin Birth of Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1930), pg. 391, “To these modern men the incarnation means that God and man are one; to the New Testament it means rather that they are not one, but that the eternal Son of God became man, assumed our nature, by a stupendous miracle, to redeem us from sin.”]

“The first Noel the angel did say,
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay a-keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.”

[“The First Noel”, old English carol, verse 1.]

“While shepherds watch’d their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around, And glory shone around.
“Fear not, “ said he; for mighty dread,
Had seized their troubled mind,
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
To you and all mankind, To you and all mankind.””

[“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”, by Nahum Tate, verses 1-2.]

“Shepherds saw the wondrous sight, Heard the angels singing;
All the plains were lit that night, All the hills were ringing.”

[“Gentle Mary Laid Her Child”, by Joseph Simpson Cook, verse 2.]

“Who is He in yonder stall, At whose feet the shepherds fall?”

[“Who Is He in Yonder Stall?”, by B. R. Hanby, verse 1.]

“Come, all ye shepherds, ye children of earth,
Come ye, bring greetings to yon heavenly birth.
Hasten then, hasten to Bethlehem’s stall,
There to see heaven descend to us all.
Angels and shepherds together we go,
Seeking this Savior from all earthly woe.”

[“Come, All Ye Shepherds”, Bohemian folk song, trans. Mari Ruef Hofer.]

“so toiling men and spirits bright, A first communion had,”

[“A Thousand Years Have Come and Gone”, by Thomas Toke Lynch, verse 2.]


[1] Old English Carol.

[2] Joseph Mohr, “Silent Night, Holy Night”, verse 2.

[3] An interesting history of Gospel harmonies was done by M. B. Riddle in his "Introductory Essay" published with Augustine's work The Harmony of the Gospels, trans. S. D. F. Salmond, ed. M. B. Riddle, in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.; reprint of 1886 original by Christian Literature Publishing Co., New York), Vol. VI, St. Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels, pp. 67-70. Riddel traces this history of harmonies of the Gospels from Tatian's "Diatessaron" (circa A. D. 153-170), through Eusebius' "Canons" (4th c. A. D.), Augustine's work (early 5th c. A. D.), and the work of Calvin and others during the Reformation (16th c. A. D.), to those being done in his own day in the 19th century. This is available online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library,

Harmonies of the Gospels are available today in English, Greek, and both (Greek-English). The English editions vary as to the English translation they use, whether they harmonize just the three Synoptic Gospels, or all four, and whether they set up their harmony as parallel columns or as a running account. The following are examples of some prominent English harmonies in use today: Synopsis of the Four Gospels, English Edition, ed. Kurt Aland (n.p.: United Bible Societies, 1982); A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ, by Archibald Thomas Robertson (New York: Harper, 1950); and A Harmony of the Gospels with explanations and essays, by Robert L. Thomas and Stanley N. Gundry (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978). Many Gospel harmonies are now available on the internet, and may be located by simply entering "harmony Gospels" in a search engine.

[4] The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed., ed. Frank Charles Thompson (Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbride Bible Co., 1988), pg. 1679, "Condensed Cyclopedia of Topics and Texts", #4308-a, "Key to the Tree of Jesus' Life and Harmony of the Gospels".

[5] Romans 5:10 - For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 8:7 - Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

[6] John 14:6 - Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Can a Christian Deny the Virgin Birth? Mohler and Machen

Below are some quotes from J. Gresham Machen’s monumental work, The Virgin Birth of Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1930), to complement Al Mohler’s most recent blog entry:

“Can a Christian Deny the Virgin Birth?”, Wednesday, December 05, 2007

All of the following excerpts are from Machen’s final chapter, number XV, “Conclusion and Consequences”:

“The story of the virgin birth is the story of a stupendous miracle, and against any such thing there is an enormous presumption drawn from the long experience of the race.

As it is however, that presumption can be overcome; it can be overcome when the tradition of the virgin birth is removed from its isolation and taken in connection with the whole glorious picture of the One whom in this tradition is said to be virgin-born. What shall we think of Jesus Christ? That is the question of all questions, and it can be answered aright only when the evidence is taken as a whole. It is a fact of history, which no serious historian can deny, that in the first century of our era there walked upon this earth One who was like none other among the children of men. Reduce the sources of information all you will, and still that mysterious figure remains, that figure who is attested in the Epistles of Paul, that figure who walks before us in lifelike, self-evidencing fashion in the Gospels, that figure upon whom the Christian Church was built. Many have been the efforts to explain Him in terms of what is common to mankind, to explain Him as a product of forces elsewhere operative in the world. Those explanations may satisfy the man who treats the evidence, in pedantic fashion, bit by bit; but they will never satisfy the man who can view the whole. View Jesus in the light of God and against the dark background of sin, view Him as the satisfaction of man’s deepest need, as the One who alone can lead into all glory and all truth, and you will come, despite all, to the stupendous conviction that the New Testament is true, that God walked here upon the earth, that the eternal Son, because He loved us, came into this world to die for our sins upon the cross.

When you have arrived at that conviction you will turn with very different eyes to the story of the virgin and her child. Wonders will no longer repel you. Rather will you say: “So and so only did it behoove this One, as distinguished from all others, to be born.”” (pg. 381)

“To our mind, the story of the virgin birth, far from being an obstacle to faith, is an aid to faith; it is an organic part of that majestic picture of Jesus which can be accepted most easily when it is taken as a whole. The story of the virgin birth will hardly, indeed, be accepted when it is taken apart from the rest; but when taken in connection with the rest it adds to, as well as receives from, the convincing quality of the other things about Jesus which the New Testament tells.” (pg. 382)

[Note: At this point Machen enters footnote number 1, where he cites B. B. Warfield’s relevant article, “The Supernatural Birth of Jesus: Is It Essential to Christianity?”, American Journal of Theology X (Jan., 1906), pp. 21-30. This article has been reprinted in Warfield’s Christology and Criticism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1932), pp. 447-458; in his Biblical Foundations (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1958), pp. 117-128; and in his Biblical And Theological Studies, ed. Samuel G. Craig (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1968), pp. 157-168. Source: A Bibliography of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield 1851-1921, by John E. Meeter and Roger Nicole (n.p.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1974), pg. 35.]

“From the beginning Christianity was the religion of the broken heart; it is based upon the conviction that there is an awful gulf between man and God which none but God can bridge. The Bible tells how that gulf was bridged; and that means that the Bible is a record of facts. Of what avail, without the redeeming acts of God, are all the lofty ideals of Psalmists and Prophets, all the teaching and example of Jesus? In themselves they can bring us nothing but despair. We Christians are interested not merely in what God commands, but also in what God did; the Christian religion is couched not merely in the imperative mood, but also in a triumphant indicative; our salvation depends squarely upon history; the Bible contains that history, and unless that history is true the authority of the Bible is gone and we who have put our trust in the Bible are without hope.

Certainly, whatever we may think of it, that is the view of Bible authority which the Bible itself takes. The authors of books like the Gospels are not intending merely to give their readers inspiring poetry or an instructive philosophy of religion; they are intending to narrate facts.” (pg. 385)

“The Bible, in other words, does not merely tell us what God is, but it also tells us what God did; it contains not merely permanent truths of religion and ethics, but also a gospel or a piece of good news.

An integral part of that piece of news, to the authors of the First and Third Gospels, was the fact that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary. If that fact is rejected, then the witness of these writers – and hence the witness of the Bible – is in so far not true.

If, therefore, the virgin birth be rejected, let us cease talking about the “authority of the Bible” or the “infallibility of Scripture” or the like. Let us rather say plainly that that authority and that infallibility are gone. We may indeed hold that many things which the Bible says are true, even though this thing that it says are untrue. Many earnest souls – if we may for the moment speak in general terms and without reference to the virgin birth – adopt such a mediating position. They hold that, although the Bible is wrong in many particulars, although it displays no supernatural freedom from the errors that beset other books, yet it contains some things that are true, and upon those things we can ground our hope for time and for eternity. Far better is it to say these men are right, to say that the Bible is not infallible but only partly true, than to say that the Bible is infallible in the sphere of religion and ethics, and that the external happenings that it relates are matters of indifference to our souls. Many earnest Christians hold the former position; but a man who really holds the latter position cannot logically be a Christian at all. Christianity is founded upon the redeeming work of Christ which was accomplished in Palestine nineteen hundred years ago; to be indifferent to the record that sets forth that work is to reject the gospel in which Christ is offered as our Saviour from sin and wrath.

But even if the former position is taken, even if we do continue to rest for salvation upon part of the record of facts which the Bible contains, still, if we reject other parts, our belief in the authority of the Bible is gone.” (pg. 386)

“…there are scarcely any limits to the confusion of religious discussion at the present day. The Bible teaches the virgin birth of Christ; a man who accepts the virgin birth may continue to hold to the full truthfulness of the Bible; a man who rejects it cannot possibly do so. That much at least should be perfectly plain.” (pg. 387)

“If a man affirms that Jesus was born without human father, being conceived by the Holy Ghost in the virgin’s womb, it is difficult to see how he can escape the plain meaning of such terms; and thus when he makes that affirmation, he has taken the momentous step of affirming the entrance of the supernatural into the course of this world.…the question of the virgin birth brings us sharply before the question of the supernatural, and…a man who accepts the virgin birth has taken his stand squarely upon supernaturalistic ground.” (pg. 390)

“…the two elements of Christian truth belong logically together; the supernatural Person of our Lord belongs logically with His redemptive work; the virgin birth belongs logically with the Cross. Where one aspect is given up, the other will not logically remain; and where one is accepted, the other will naturally be accepted, too. There may be halfway positions for a time, but they are in unstable equilibrium and will no long be maintained.

Certain it is that men who reject the virgin birth scarcely ever hold to a really Christian view of Christ….In the overwhelming majority of cases those who reject the virgin birth reject the whole supernatural view of Christ….Seldom does any real belief in the incarnation go along with a rejection of the miracle of the virgin birth.” (pg. 391)

“…a man cannot reject the testimony of the New Testament at this point without serious peril to his soul.” (pg. 392)

“…without the story of the virgin birth our knowledge of the Saviour would be impoverished in a very serious way.” (pg. 393)

“Our knowledge of the virgin birth, therefore, is important because it fixes for us the time of the incarnation. And what comfort that gives to our souls! Marcion, the second-century dualist, was very severe upon those who thought that the Son of God was born as a man; he poured out the vials of his scorn upon those who brought Christ into connection with the birth-pangs and the nine months’ time. But we, unlike Marcion and his modern disciples, glory just in the story of those things. The eternal Son of God, He through whom the universe was made, did not despise the virgin’s womb! What a wonder is there! It is not strange that it has always given offence to the natural man. But in that wonder we find God’s redeeming love, and in that babe who lay in Mary’s womb we find our Saviour who thus became man to die for our sins, and bring us into peace with God.” (pg. 394)

“Deny or give up the story of the virgin birth, and inevitably you are led to evade either the high Biblical doctrine of sin or else the full Biblical presentation of the supernatural Person of our Lord.” (pg. 395)

“…if we are to help our fellow-men we must give counsel on the basis of the best knowledge that we in our weakness can obtain. And certainly even with that weakness we can say that perhaps not one man out of a hundred of those who deny the virgin birth today gives any really clear evidence of possessing saving faith. A man is not saved by good works, but by faith; and saving faith is acceptance of Jesus Christ “as he is offered to us in the gospel.” Part of that gospel in which Jesus is offered to our souls is the blessed story of the miracle in the virgin’s womb.

One thing at least is clear: even if the belief in the virgin birth is not necessary to every Christian, it is certainly necessary to Christianity. And it is necessary to the corporate witness of the Church.” (pg. 396)

And with these words Dr. Machen ends his colossal contribution to the apologetic literature in the treasury of the Church:

“The New Testament presentation of Jesus is not an agglomeration, but an organism, and of that organism the virgin birth is an integral part. Remove the part, and the whole becomes harder and not easier to accept; the New Testament account of Jesus is the most convincing when it is taken as a whole. Only one Jesus is presented in the word of God; and that Jesus did not come into the world by ordinary generation, but was conceived in the womb of the virgin by the Holy Ghost.” (pg. 397)

“…Christianity…the religion of the broken heart….couched…in a triumphant indicative…”! (pg. 385) What an affirmation that is!

Machen’s work is unquestionably a difficult read. I dedicated one Christmas break during undergraduate studies at Lancaster Bible College in the late 1970s to digesting this work. It was time well spent. While many probably will not follow this example, perhaps the quotes above will be valued, or better yet, may whet their appetite for more! The Virgin Birth of Christ was nicely reprinted in a hardbound edition by James Clarke Company in 1987. My 1975 reprint of the Harper & Row original in Baker’s “Twin Brooks Series” is a well-worn paperback!

If you have never read Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ may not be the best place to start, however. I would recommend his God Transcendent (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998), What is Faith (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1996), or The Christian View of Man (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965) as better starting points.

John T. "Jack" Jeffery
Pastor, Wayside Gospel Chapel

Monday, December 17, 2007

Change of Sunday morning Worship Service start time

Effective December 23, 2007, and until further notice, the start time for the Lord's Day Worship Service at Wayside Gospel Chapel will be 10:00 a.m. This information has been released to all available media outlets to ensure wide distribution. Feedback on this change, either negative or positive, is welcomed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Matthew Bible Study: Matthew 6:25-34

This Tuesday, November 13, we will be having our Matthew bible study. We will be discussing Matthew 6:25-34, though I doubt we will make it through the entire passage. Remember also our new format. Come ready to share what you are learning about God and/or what He has been teaching you. Here are some thoughts/comments/observations to help you prepare for Tuesday night.

  1. Verse 25 starts with "for this reason." What is the connection being made between vv 25-34 and vv 19-24?
  2. "Worry" is the central theme of this passage. This is evidenced by the fact it is found no less than 6x in this passage (if you are using the NASB you will only count "worry" 5x; this is due to their translating "worry" as "concern" in v. 34). Is Christ prohibiting all "worry"? It would be valuable to look up "worry" in a good bible dictionary and in the concordance.
  3. In Matthew 6:29 Solomon is mentioned. Take time now to review the "glory"of Solomon.
  4. Another major theme of this passage is the knowledge and sovereignty of God.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Matthew Bible Study: Matthew 6:22-24

Greetings. This Wednesday we will be having our Matthew Bible Study on Matthew 6:22-24. We are in the midst of a section where Jesus uses three metaphors to illustrate the principle of "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." The first metaphor is treasures in heaven versus treasures on earth in Matthew 6:19-21. The second metaphor is the eye and light in Matthew 6:22-23. The third metaphor is two masters in Matthew 6:24. Come ready to discuss these last two metaphors. Here are some comments/thoughts/questions to help you prepare for Wednesday night.

  1. The overwhelming theme of this section is wholehearted service to God.
  2. What is to be understood about the eye and lamp? What is the point Christ is making by using this metaphor? More specifically, to what does Christ refer when he speaks of "the light within you...."
  3. Is Christ condemning rich people or material possession in Matthew 6:24? Why or why not?

Also remember our new format. We will open with prayer requests and then give time for each to share what they are learning and how they are growing more in the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Matthew 6:16-18

This Wednesday night, October 10th, we will have our Matthew bible study. Last time we met we wrapped up Matthew 6:5-15. Tomorrow we will be discussing Matthew 6:16-18. This passage gives us instruction upon fasting. As I mentioned Sunday morning, this passage has changed my mind on fasting. I used to believe that fasting was not necessary for NT believers. It is nowhere commanded of us in the NT. However, this passage assumes as a disciple of Jesus Christ you will practice fasting as it says, "when you fast" not "if you fast." It must be observed however that while he expects his disciples to fast, he radically changed the way fasting was to be carried on as well as the relative importance of it. Here are some comments/thoughts/questions to help as you prepare for tomorrow night:

  1. What is fasting? Is it ascetic or spiritual?
  2. Grab a bible dictionary off your shelf and look up "fasting" in it. It is well worth your time. Or if you have a bible concordance handy, look up all the references to fasting. Then, catalogue why the people fasted. My conclusion from doing this is fasts were generally in response to calamities and to demonstrate humility and repentance.
  3. Matthew 9:14-17 is an important cross-reference to study
  4. The weight of textual evidence is against the inclusion of references to fasting in Mt. 17:21; Mk. 9:29; Acts 10:30; 1 Cor. 7:5, though the presence of these references in many manuscripts in itself indicates that there was a growing belief in the value of fasting in the early church.

I will see you Wednesday night!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Matthew 6:5-15: Part Three

This Wednesday, September 26, we will be having our Matthew bible study. Come ready to discuss Matthew 6:11-15. Last week we discussed Matthew 6:9-10, the first half of the "Disciple's Prayer." Here are some thoughts, comments, observations, questions to help you prepare for Wednesday.

  1. Last week we divided Matthew 6:9-15 into two units. The first unit is Matthew 6:9-10. This unit is concerned with the glory of God. The second unit is Matthew 6:11-15. This unit is concerned with the disciple's needs and his relationship with other persons.
  2. What is the significance of the word "daily" in verse 11?
  3. To what does "bread" refer in verse 11?
  4. When reading verse 12, read vv 14 -15 with it, as they are both teaching the same idea.
  5. "and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" at first strikes us as a very strange request. Why should we have to ask God not to lead us into temptation? Isn't that something we can take for granted? What are we to make of such a petition? To help you on your way, may I suggest to you that this is a litotes.

See you Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Matthew 6:5-15: Part Two

This Wednesday, September 19th, we will be having our Matthew bible study. Please come ready to discuss Matthew 6:9-10. Jesus, in Matthew 6:5-8, taught us how not to pray. We are not to pray as the hypocrite or as the babbling pagan. Now in Matthew 6:9-15 Christ will teach us how to pray. Matthew 6:9 begins with, "this, then, is how you should pray." Here are some thoughts/comments/observations/questions to help you prepare for this Wednesday.

  1. This is a model prayer. It is a guide or pattern for the disciples to use. It is not a prayer that we are to repeat word for word. We would then be guilty of what Christ has forbidden in the preceding verses. “This does not mean that the Lord’s prayer may not usefully and meaningfully be used exactly as it is enunciated, but it points us to the truth that Jesus is giving us a model that may be employed in fashioning other prayers” (Morris, Matthew, 143).
  2. Many refer to this passage as the “Lord’s Prayer.” It is not the “Lord’s Prayer,” it is the “Disciple’s Prayer.” If we were to give any prayer in Scripture the title “Lord’s Prayer” it would be John 17.
  3. Notice again it is assumed that as a disciple of Jesus Christ you will be regularly committing yourself to the practice of prayer.
  4. What is the significance of Jesus telling us to address God with "Our Father in heaven?" More specifically, how do "Father" and "heaven" relate to each other? What do they teach us about God?
  5. What does "hallowed" mean? How do we participate in this?

While we are on the subject of prayer, may I strongly recommend these books on prayer – “Teach us to Pray” by DA Carson and “The God Who Hears” by W.B. Hunter.

God Bless and see you Wednesday!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Matthew 6:5-15: Part One

This Wednesday, September 12, we will be begin our study of Matthew 6:5-15. Come prepared to discuss Matthew 6:5-8. Last week we discussed the importance of having a pure motive in our acts of righteousness (Matthew 6:1), specifically as it relates to our giving. That pure motive is one that has God's glory at its center. We must not commit acts of righteousness to be seen by others. This week we will continue with that theme as it applies to our prayer. Here are some thoughts/comments/observations to help you as you prepare for Wednesday.
  1. Each of the discourses on giving, prayer, and fasting follow the same essential pattern. The pattern is as follows: 1. Warning concerning motive 2. Reward for false motive 3. Secret actions with a pure motive 4. God sees. Notice however Jesus discourse on prayer breaks this pattern with an extended discussion.
  2. Notice the text does not begin with "if you pray" but it says "when you pray." It is assumed that as a disciple of Jesus Christ you will be praying.
  3. What does it mean to "babble like a pagan?"
  4. Why do we pray to God if he already knows what we need before we ask him?

See you Wednesday!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Matthew 6:1-4

This Wednesday, September 5, we will be studying Matthew 6:1-4. As always, come prepared with observations. Take the time to read all of chapter six to get the context. Here are some comments/thoughts/observations to help as you prepare.
  1. Compare Matthew 6:1 with Matthew 5:16. Is Jesus contradicting himself? What are we to make of these seemingly contradictory statements?
  2. Compare Matthew 6:1 with Matthew 23:1-12.
  3. What is the "reward" that Christ refers to in Matthew 6:2?

See you this Wednesday!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Matthew Bible Study: Matthew 5:48

This Wednesday, August 29, we will have our Matthew bible study. We will be studying Matthew 5:48. Although it is only one verse, it is more than enough. It packs a punch all by itself!

  1. This verse is not, in my humble opinion, the conclusion to Matthew 5:43-47. It is rather the conclusion to the preceding six antithetical statements. It summarizes the essence of what Christ has been teaching all along. Take some time to stop and think about how this verse summarizes all of what Christ has been saying so far in the "sermon on the mount."
  2. We are commanded to be "perfect" as God is "perfect" Perfect means "end, goal, limit, mature, complete." Can we attain this in our lifetime? Are you striving for this? Is this important to you?

I will see you Wednesday night!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Matthew Bible Study: Matthew 5:38-42

We will be having our bible study this Wednesday, August 15, at 7:45 pm at Joel and Renay's house. Our passage of Scripture we will be studying is Matthew 5:38-42. As always, come with three observations/questions/thoughts that you want to share with the group. Here are some thoughts to help you as you prepare for tomorrow night:
  1. What is "Lex Talionis"
  2. Look up Ex. 22:21-27; Leviticus 24:19, 20; Deuteronomy 19:19. Read them in context!
  3. This passage is concerned with personal vengeance, not public order. This passage is not teaching that we should let "evil triumph."
  4. What are some points of application our society would do well to glean from this passage?

I will see you tomorrow night!

Andrew Manwarren

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Matthew Bible Study: Matthew 5:31, 32

This Wednesday, August 1, we will be having our bible study on Matthew 5:31, 32. This text is expressly concerned with the sanctity of marriage and the issue of divorce. As discussed last week, divorce is a volatile issue and needs to be handled carefully and thoughtfully. Too often emotions, feelings, and personal opinions hinder one from giving Scripture the authority it has in this issue. In light of that fact, we are going to limit our discussion of divorce explicitly to what Christ says in Matthew 5:31, 32, as opposed to a full blown discussion of everything the bible has to say in regards to divorce. When we get to Matthew 19 where Christ discusses more fully the issue of divorce, we will spend a great deal more of time on the issue. Therefore, as you study Matthew 5:31, 32 for tomorrow, keep in mind we are dealing only with Matthew 5:31, 32 and of course the text he quotes from, Deuteronomy 24:1-4.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Matthew Bible Study: Matthew 5:27-30

This Wednesday, July 25, we will be discussing the rest of Matthew 5:27-30. Last week we wrapped up Matthew 5:21-26 where Christ likens murder without a just cause as murderous and began our discussion of Matthew 5:27-30 where Christ likens lustful thoughts as adulterous. Please see the following link for some questions/observations/thoughts concerning Matthew 5:27-30. I will see you Sunday!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Matthew Bible Study: Matthew 5:21-30

This Wednesday, July 11, we will be having our Matthew bible study. Last time we met we did not finish Christ's words on anger. This Wednesday then we will wrap up Matthew 5:21-26 and move on to Matthew 5:27-30. Here are some thoughts/comments/observations to help you prepare:

  1. As noted last time, Matthew 5:23 begins with "therefore" marking a logical connection between what was just said (v. 21-22) and what follows (v.23-26). What is the logical connection? To state it simply, what are two responses we are to have in light of Christ's teaching concerning anger? Additionally, can you think of one word that sums up the basic idea of vv. 23-26?
  2. Matthew 5:27 marks the beginning of Christ's second antithetical statement. Just as before in regard to murder, Jesus is not concerned with mere outward conformity to the law, he is concerned with the real direction toward which the OT Scriptures point. Jesus is concerned with the motive and purity of the heart. A heart filled with malicious anger and insults is a murderous heart. A heart filled with lustful intent and desire is an adulterous heart.
  3. Are women or unmarried people made exempt from lust and adulterous acts in these verses?
  4. Matthew 5:29, 30 certainly gain your attention quick! It is certainly a favorite saying of Christ also (c.f. Mt. 18:8, 9). Many having read these verses here and later in Matthew 18:8, 9 have quite literally cut-off body parts to hinder themselves from sinning(Origen being the most common example given)! While their desire to be pure and holy before God is admirable, do you think Christ here advocates self-mutilation? Let me ask this in another way. Can or cannot a blind and crippled person still lust in his heart? If tomorrow you were to lose eye-sight and/or by some tragic incident lose the use of your hands would you never lustfully desire at all?
  5. If self-mutilation is not the answer, what is the point Christ is making in these verses? How can we effectively guard against the lust of the flesh?
  6. Key Cross references - Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-24; Job 31:1; Galatians 5:16; 2 Timothy 2:22.

See you Wednesday


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Pastor's Book Review - "The Universe Next Door"

Book Review:
James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1976).

The 2nd edition of this work was published in 1988, the 3rd ed. in 1997, and the 4th ed. in 2004. University students in classes dealing with worldviews and philosophy sometimes are assigned this work as required reading. The fact that it has gone through four editions with over a quarter million copies in print in the first three may be an indication that its claim to be "the premier textbook on worldviews" (back cover, 4th ed.) is found to be plausible by some. The author is a former editor of InterVarsity Press, and campus lecturer for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The obvious popularity of the book, and the prominence of the author, makes the following critique that much more difficult, but also that much more necessary.

The following are problems I found with this work. These are all very serious errors, or at best, very poor theological writing. I have arranged them as they occur in the book, and not in order of importance.

1. Teaching the complexity of God - Denial of the simplicity of God (pg. 24; 4th ed. pg. 27) -"He is a unity, yes, but a unity of complexity."

He does not mention God's simplicity, and then refute the doctrine from Scripture. He simply ignores it, and teaches the opposite. Reference some of the better Reformed systematics like Herman Bavinck's The Doctrine of God (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), pp. 113-172 (cp. esp. pp. 168-172) for the expose of the error in Sire's statement.

Compare John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), pp. 225-230, s.v. “Simplicity” - Is Frame saying the same thing as Sire regarding the essential complexity within unity of God, and the primacy of God’s attribute of goodness (pp. 229-230), or is he saying something quite different?

2. Elevation of God's goodness over His other attributes without Scriptural basis (pg. 26; 4th ed. pg. 28) -"This is the prime statement about God's character. From it flow all others."

I don't see any Scriptural basis for this prejudicial statement, any more than the one usually encountered regarding His holiness. He may need to do this to shore up his sublapsarianism, but he does it by way of opinion, and not sound Biblical doctrine. This error flows naturally from a denial, or ignoring of the doctrine of God's simplicity (for which see Bavinck, op. cit.).

3. Teaching non-determinism, sublapsarianism - Denial of the decree, predestination, and God's absolute sovereignty (pg. 28; 4th ed. pg. 31, cp. also pg. 30!) -"If the course of events were determined, our decisions would have no significance. So theism declares that the universe is orderly but not determined."

I don't know what "theism" he is referring to. It is not the "theism" of the Bible, or either Testament, or of the God who reveals Himself there. This is blatant anti-decreetalism, and extreme sublapsarianism.

4. Theologically confusing language regarding God's "environment" involving an implicit denial of God's omnipresence and immanence (pp. 29-30; 4th ed. pg. 32) -"God is totally unconstrained by his environment....nothing external to God can possibly constrain him."

God's "environment" and "externals"? Environment external to God? What in the "world" is he talking about. God's "environment"? What, pray tell, is that?!?! "External to God"??? What is "external to God"? If he is even considering this hypothetically, it bears with it an implicit denial of God's omnipresence and immanence.

5. Teaching man's transcendance of his environment (pg. 30; 4th ed. pg. 32) -"So man participates in part in a transcendence over his environment. Except at the very extremities of existence - in sickness or physical deprivation (utter starvation, cooped up in darkness for days on end, for example) - a person is not forced to any necessary reaction."
"In short, man has personality and is capable of transcending the cosmos in which he is placed in the sense that he can know something of that cosmos and can act significantly to change the course of both human and cosmic events."

My, he certainly has a very high view of man! That should not be surprising to find in such an extreme sublapsarian. However, I fail to see the relevance of this "partial transcendence" he refers to. We are still subject to the absolute necessities of eating, drinking, sleeping, and obeying gravity. How, pray tell, does man transcend his enviroment? If you consider the actual examples he cites between the two statements above, they just do not get him where he wants to go. They show that man is a responsible and personal being, but not transcendent. And what about man's environment called "God", in whom we live and move and have our being? I think Sire has not factored God into this pseudo-theological equation!

His issue seems to be that man is an "actor", and not just a "reactor" (" a bell ringing when a button is pushed.". What he insists on referring to as "self-transcendence" (pp. 29), renders the usage of that terminology useless regarding the Creator. This would seem to be the ultimate theological error of those whose objection to the sovereignty of God issues forth in protestations that they are not robots or puppets.

If he is correct that "partially self-transcendent" men are capable of changing "the course of both human and cosmic events", then man is sovereign, not God, and the wrong ruler is seated on the throne of the universe.

6. Teaching of partial or relative depravity - Denial of total depravity and utter inability (pp. 35-36; 4th ed. pg. 38-39) -" has lost his capacity to know himself accurately and to determine his own course of action freely..."
"...he became more a servant to nature than to God."
"Man's intelligence also became became less able to discern good and evil."

The language Sire uses here falls short of the expressions one would expect if the author affirmed the total depravity and utter inability of fallen and unregenerate man. He qualifies man's fallenness with language like: "accurately...freely....more...than....impaired...less able...". Such relativizing of man's fallen condition does not square with what one finds in Scripture, especially in Romans, and specifically in the first three chapters of that book. It would appear to me that there is an inherent semi-Pelagianism driving such qualifiers.

7. Teaching the non-contingency of man - Denial of man's dependence or creatureliness (pg. 83; omitted in 4th ed.) -"...if man is contingent, he is inherently meaningless."

I would object that, if man is not contingent, i.e., non-contingent, then he is God! There is only one non-contingent being, and that is the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe. Man, by virtue of his very creatureliness, is contingent. If Romans 9 teaches anything, it teaches this very fact! Here is Sire's semi-Pelagian sublapsarianism at its essence, and this theological error is inherently naturalistic. Here he loses his first objection to naturalism. He has cast off supernaturalism, and thus has nowhere to stand as a basis for objecting to naturalism.

He objects that "...naturalism does not supply a basis on which man can act significantly." Sire, on the other hand, does not supply a basis on which God can act significantly, because he presents us with a transcendent creature, and a God who is not the sovereign determiner of events in His creation. He may attempt to qualify this error with the word "partial" as he has before, but this cake cannot both be had and eaten. That dog don't hunt!

He has yielded the high ground, and it is open season for the naturalist. I would like the opportunity to take the naturalist's side in a debate against Sire! He needs to come prepared to chew his sublapsarianism thoroughly, and swallow his anti-decreetalism without the water of the Word to wash it down!

'Nuff said?

Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria,

John T. "Jack" Jeffery
Pastor, Wayside Gospel Chapel
Greentown, PA

July 4, 2007

Book Review:
James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1976)
by John T. Jeffery

Copyright 2007 by John T. Jeffery.
All rights reserved.
The use of excerpts or reproduction of this material is prohibited
without written permission from the author.

Contact the author at:

722 South Main Ave.
Scranton, PA 18504
Home phone:  (570) 342-5787

Monday, June 25, 2007

Matthew Bible Study: Matthew 5:21-26

This Wednesday, June 27, we will be discussing Matthew 5:21-26 for our Bible Study. Here are some thoughts/comments/questions/observations to think about in preparation for the bible study.

1. Take the time to read carefully Matthew 5:17-48 many times through in one sitting. Remember Matthew 5:17-20 introduces the main body of Jesus "sermon on the mount." Matthew 5:21-48 is the "fleshing out" of what was introduced in 5:17-20. Matthew 5:21-48 can be divided into six antithetical statements by Jesus (some say five, I am undecided though I lean closer to five). They begin with "you have heard" and end with "but I say to you." For further thought, what is the connection between Jesus "but I say to you" and his statements in Matthew 5:17-20?
2. Anger is the main emphasis of this passage of scripture. Take the time now to cross-reference Genesis 4:5,6; 37:4, 8; 1 Sam. 20:30-33. What is the connection made here between anger and murder?
3. Is Jesus here forbidding all manner of anger? In other words, is all anger the first fruits to murder?
4. How are we to understand "brother?" Does he mean your physical "brother," or is he speaking figuratively?
5. Verse 23 begins with "therefore." What logical connection are we to draw from vv. 21-22 and 23-25? What kind of responses are we to have should we have malice in any personal relationship?


Pastor's Sermon Notes - June 24, 2007

Time to Return
Amos 4:6-11

[6] And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,
and want of bread in all your places:
yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord
[7] And also I have withholden the rain from you,
when there were yet three months to the harvest:
and I caused it to rain upon one city,
and caused it not to rain upon another city:
one piece was rained upon,
and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.
[8] So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water;
but they were not satisfied:
yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
[9] I have smitten you with blasting and mildew:
when your gardens and your vineyards
and your fig trees and your olive trees increased,
the palmerworm devoured them:
yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord
[10] I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt:
your young men have I slain with the sword,
and have taken away your horses;
and I have made the stink of your camps
to come up unto your nostrils:
yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord
[11] I have overthrown some of you,
as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning:
yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord


You’ve got to ask yourself, "Why now? Why slap them in the face with that sarcasm now? Isn’t it too late? By His oath hasn’t he shut the door on any hope of avoiding this judgment? What is this about? Who is this for?"

God doesn’t take sin lightly.
God doesn’t take judgment lightly, either.

When bad things happen to good people - Jobs
When bad things happen to God’s people - Jonahs
When bad things happen to bad people - Judas’s

It is "time to return"!

"Reprobate" and "contumacy" defined:

Reprobate = 1. Not enduring proof or trial; not of standard purity or fineness; disallowed; rejected. Jer. vi. 2. Abandoned in sin; lost to virtue or grace. Tit. 1. 3. Abandoned to error, or in apostasy. 2 Tim. iii. [footnote 1]

Contumacy = stubbornness; unyielding obstinacy; inflexibility. 2. In law, a wilful contempt and disobedience to any lawful summons or order of court;... [footnote 2]

I. The Reprobate Maintain Their Contumacy Despite Repeated Warnings - Yet
II. The Reprobate Exhibit Their Contumacy By Their Failure To Repent - Have Ye Not Returned
III. The Reprobate Finalize Their Contumacy In Their Enmity Against God - Unto Me, Saith The Lord

I. The Reprobate Maintain Their Contumacy Despite Repeated Warnings - Yet

Yet = "Nevertheless; notwithstanding; however." [footnote 3]

Leviticus 26:18-19 - [18] And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. [19] And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:

2 Chron. 28:22 - And in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord: this is that king Ahaz.

Jeremiah 3:10 - And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.

Haggai 2:17 - I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord.

1. They did not respond after Famine - 4:6

And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,
and want of bread in all your places

Deut. 28:47-48 - [47] Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; [48] Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.

Lament. 2:12 - They say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers' bosom.

2. They did not respond after Drought/Selective Drought - 4:7-8

[7] And also I have withholden the rain from you,
when there were yet three months to the harvest:
and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city
one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.
[8] So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water;
but they were not satisfied

Deut. 28:23-24 - [23] And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. [24] The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.

Deut. 11:17 - And then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.

Jeremiah 3:1-3 - [1] They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord. [2] Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness. [3] Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.

Jeremiah 5:23-25 - [23] But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. [24] Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest. [25] Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.

Haggai 1:6 - Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

Another kind of drought coming!
Amos 8:12 - And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.

3. They did not respond after Blasting/Mildew/Palmerworm
(crop failure)
- 4:9

I have smitten you with blasting and mildew:
when your gardens and your vineyards
and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them

Deut. 28:22 - The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.

Deut. 28:38-42 - [38] Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it. [39] Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. [40] Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit. [41] Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity. [42] All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume.

Psalm 105:34-35 - [34] He spake, and the locusts came, and caterpillers, and that without number, [35] And did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground.

Joel 1:4 - That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.

Joel 1:7 - He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.

Joel 1:12 - The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.

Haggai 2:17 - I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord.

4. They did not respond after Pestilence/Defeat in war (disease/slaughter) - 4:10

I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt:
your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses;
and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils

Leviticus 26:25 - And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.

Deut. 28:21 - The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.

Deut. 28:27 - The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.

Deut. 28:60-61 - Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee. [61] Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the Lord bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.

Cp. Exodus 7-12

5. They did not respond after Burning - 4:11

I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning

Genesis 19:24-25 - [24] Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; [25] And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

Jeremiah 23:14 - I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.

Jeremiah 49:18 - As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it.

Lament. 4:6 - For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her.

Jeremiah 50:40 - As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the Lord; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein.

Cp. esp. Deut. 29:19-29

"The writer passed through the California earthquake of April 18, 1906, and was an eye-witness of its horrors. Not the least solemn thing noticed was the persistent efforts of the preachers of all denominations to quiet the fears of the populace by assuring them that God had no part in the calamitous events that had taken place. Natural causes explained everything! This the Christless were only too ready to believe; and thus were their partially awakened consciences lulled to rest and their ears closed against the voice of Him who through Amos said, "I have overthrown some of you!"
From vers. 11 and 12 of this chapter, it was my solemn opportunity to press the truth upon many at that time, and not altogether, I trust, without fruit; but "the day" will declare it." [footnote 4]

Jude 1:23 - And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

How do we know that God was behind these disasters, these tragic events?

Matthew 10:29-30 - [29] Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. [30] But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Luke 21:18 - But there shall not an hair of your head perish.

Dan. 4:34-35 - And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

Eph. 1:11 - In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

Rom. 11:36 - For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

What is God's purpose in chastening His people? Consider especially Hebrews 12:4-11.

What is the proper response to these disasters, natural and otherwise?

II. The Reprobate Exhibit Their Contumacy By Their Failure To Repent - Have Ye Not Returned

What is it that they should have done, and failed to do?
We will come back to this question again, but their overall failure ends up being a failure to repent of their sin.

Their indictment is identical to that found in Romans 2:
Rom. 2:3-5 - [3] And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? [4] Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? [5] But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God

The Definition of Repentance

What should a good definition of repentance include?

1. After-knowledge
2. Change of mind consequent on after-knowledge
3. Regret for the course pursued
4. Displeasure with oneself
5. Change of conduct for the future [footnote 5]

In Scriptural usage it came to mean "...a change of mind, taking a wiser view of the past..., a regret fo the ill done in that past, and out of all this a change of life for the better..." [footnote 6]

"...that mighty change in mind, heart, and life wrought by the Spirit of God (‘such a virtuous alteration of the mind and purpose as begets a like virtuous change in the life and practice,’ Kettlewell),..." [footnote 7]

Notice that repentance is not merely a bare "change of mind" as some imagine who fail grossly to consider context and usage in their study of this word group!

Consider especially the great repentance passage in 2 Cor. 7:8-11 -
[8] For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. [9] Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. [10] For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. [11] For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

It is important to notice from this passage:

1. There are two kinds of sorrow, godly and worldly, one that brings salvation and an end to sorrow, while the second brings death and eternal sorrow. (vv. 9-10)

2. True, evangelical repentance is produced only by godly sorrow. (vs. 10)

3. True, evangelical repentance involves the following seven ingredients (vs. 11):
1) carefulness
2) clearing of yourselves
3) indignation
4) fear
5) vehement desire
6) zeal
7) revenge

4. True, evangelical repentance results in a righting of wrongs that is here referred to as "approving yourselves to be clear in this matter". (vs. 11)

The Opposition to the Preaching of Repentance

There is a great deal of opposition to the preaching of repentance, along with a serious lack of teaching concerning repentance, in our day involving a theological position that has been characterized as "anti-Lordship". This is a very serious error that divorces faith from life, and belief from behavior. Such a severing of faith from repentance would have been unthinkable in the first century A.D. The basis of the contemporary opposition to this doctrine comes from what I can only characterize as simplistic etymological nonsense that flies directly in the face of the fine teaching from Scripture of others like Trench above. An unrepentant easy-believism has no warrant in God’s Word!

Consider the teaching of the New Testament on this subject:

Luke 15:7 - I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Mark 2:17 - When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Notice that the only ones who may claim "exemption" from God’s command to repent, are those who don’t see themselves as sinners! There is joy in heaven when there is repentance!

Acts 17:30 - And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Notice that in reality no one is exempt from God’s command to repent! He commands all men everywhere to repent! Any preachers who do not preach repentance as part of the Gospel, are failing to preach the Gospel according to the Word of God! This is no light matter! All men! Everywhere! No exceptions! Preach it!

The Christian Life as a Life of Repentance - Returning, Turning and Conversion

1 Th. 1:1-10 - [1] Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. [2] We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; [3] Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; [4] Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. [5] For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. [6] And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: [7] So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. [8] For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. [9] For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; [10] And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

We need to think of the Christian life as one that begins with a conversion, a turning, involving repentance, and as one that does not stop there, but may be characterized as a life of repentance, a continual turning and converting each and every time we sin!

The Opposite of Repentance

Now let us return to the original question, "What is it that they should have done, and failed to do?"

Consider the following five verses recording God’s accusations of contumacy, a stiff-necked, hard-hearted refusal to repent:

Jeremiah 3:10 - And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.

Jeremiah 5:3 - O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.

Jeremiah 15:7 - And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways.

Haggai 2:17 - I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord.

2 Chron. 28:22 - And in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord: this is that king Ahaz.

We need to be heeding the teachings of the following New Testament passages!

2 Tim. 2:23-26 - [23] But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. [24] And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, [25] In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; [26] And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

Hebrews 6:4-8 - [4] For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, [5] And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, [6] If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. [7] For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: [8] But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

Hebrews 12:17 - For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

III. The Reprobate Finalize Their Contumacy In Their Enmity Against God - Unto Me, Saith The Lord

Isaiah 9:13 - For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts.

Jeremiah 3:7 - And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

It is unto the Lord that we need to return.
It is His goodness which should lead us to repentance.
His providential blessings should humble us, and draw us to love and serve Him.

Consider the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism on the providence of God. How would you answer these catechism questions?

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10
Q27: What do you understand by the providence of God?
A27: The almighty, everywhere-present power of God,[1] whereby, as it were by His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth with all creatures,[2] and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink,[3] health and sickness,[4] riches and poverty,[5] indeed, all things come not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.
1. Acts 17:25-26
2. Heb. 1:3
3. Jer. 5:24; Acts 14:17
4. John 9:3
5. Prov. 22:2; Psa. 103:19; Rom. 5:3-5a

Q28: What does it profit us to know that God created and by His providence upholds all things?
A28: That we may be patient in adversity,[1] thankful in prosperity,[2] and for what is future have good confidence in our faithful God and Father, that no creature shall separate us from His love,[3] since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.[4]
1. Rom. 5:3; James 1:3; Job 1:21
2. Deut. 8:10; I Thess. 5:18
3. Rom. 8:35, 38-39
4. Job 1:12; Acts 17:25-28; Prov. 21:1; Psa. 71:7; II Cor. 1:10

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1
Q.1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A.1: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death,[1] am not my own,[2] but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,[3] who with His precious blood [4] has fully satisfied for all my sins,[5] and redeemed me from all the power of the devil;[6] and so preserves me [7] that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head;[8] indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.[9] Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,[10] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.[11]
1. Rom. 14:7-8
2. I Cor. 6:19
3. I Cor. 3:23
4. I Peter 1:18-19
5. I John 1:7; 2:2
6. I John 3:8
7. John 6:39
8. Matt. 10:29-30; Luke 21:18
9. Rom. 8:28
10. II Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:16
11. Rom. 8:1


What is your only comfort in life and in death? Is this your confession?

Has the goodness of God led you to repent of your sins, and to live a life of repentance?

Will you right now, before you leave this place today, hear His call to repent, heed His command to repent, and turn from your sin to Him?


1. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, 2 vols. (New Haven: S. Converse, 1828), reprinted in 1 vol. as Noah Webster’s First Edition Of An American Dictionary Of The English Language, 4th ed. (San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1967), s.v. "reprobate".

2. Ibid., s.v. "contumacy".

3. Ibid., s.v. "yet".

4. H. A. Ironside, Notes on the Minor Prophets (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., Bible Truth Depot, n.d., 1983 printing of 1909 1st ed.), pg. 159, footnote.

5. Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, 9th ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.; 1976 reproduction of 1880 London ed.), pp. 257-258.

6. Ibid, pg. 259.

7. Ibid., pg. 260. John Kettlewell was an English author who died in 1695.