Prayer

A. W. Pink, “…what is now being taught on the subject of prayer, and the deplorable thing is that scarcely a voice is lifted in protest. To say that “human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man” is rank infidelity—that is the only proper term for it. Should any one challenge this classification, we would ask them whether they can find an infidel anywhere who would dissent from such a statement, and we are confident that such an one could not be found. To say that “God has ordained that human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man”, is absolutely untrue. “Human destiny” is settled not by “the will of man,” but by the will of God. That which determines human destiny is whether or not a man has been born again, for it is written, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. And as to whose will, whether God’s or man’s, is responsible for the new birth is settled, unequivocally, by John 1:13—”Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD”. To say that “human destiny” may be changed by the will of man, is to make the creature’s will supreme, and that is, virtually, to dethrone God. But what saith the Scriptures? Let the Book answer: “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Sam. 2:6-8). Link

John Gill provides a proper theological background to prayer, “…it should be said that God’s will is immutable, and cannot be altered by our crying. When the mind of God is not toward a people to do them good, it cannot be turned to them by the most fervent and importunate prayers of those who have the greatest interest in Him—”Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth” (Jer. 15:1). The prayers of Moses to enter the promised land is a parallel case.

Our views respecting prayer need to be revised and brought into harmony with the teaching of Scripture on the subject. The prevailing idea seems to be, that I come to God and ask Him for something that I want, and that I expect Him to give me that which I have asked. But this is a most dishonoring and degrading conception. The popular belief reduces God to a servant, our servant: doing our bidding, performing our pleasure, granting our desires. No; prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need, committing my way unto the Lord, and leaving Him to deal with it as seemeth Him best. This makes my will subject to His, instead of, as in the former case, seeking to bring His will into subjection to mine. No prayer is pleasing to God unless the spirit actuating it is, “not my will, but thine be done”.

“When God bestows blessings on a praying people, it is not for the sake of their prayers, as if He was inclined and turned by them; but it is for His own sake, and of His own sovereign will and pleasure. Should it be said, to what purpose then is prayer? it is answered, This is the way and means God has appointed, for the communication of the blessing of His goodness to His people. For though He has purposed, provided, and promised them, yet He will be sought unto, to give them, and it is a duty and privilege to ask. When they are blessed with a spirit of prayer, it forebodes well, and looks as if God intended to bestow the good things asked, which should be asked always with submission to the will of God, saying, Not my will but Thine be done

Sin

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It is not the absence of sin but the grieving over it which distinguishes the child of God from empty professors”  A.W. Pink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yours in the Lord,

jm

Effort in the Flesh

burden“In the great majority of cases, professing Christians are too puffed up by a sense of what they suppose they are doing for God, to earnestly study what God has promised to do for and in His people. They are so occupied with their fleshly efforts to “win souls for Christ” that they feel not their own deep need of the Spirit’s anointing. The leaders of “Christian” (?) enterprise are so concerned in multiplying “Christian workers” that quantity, not quality, is the main consideration. How few today recognize that if the number of “missionaries” on the foreign field were increased twenty-fold the next year, that that, of itself, would not ensure the genuine salvation of one additional heathen? Even though every new missionary were “sound in the faith” and preached only “the Truth,” that would not add one iota of spiritual power to the missionary forces, without the Holy Spirit’s unction and blessing! The same principle holds good everywhere. If the orthodox seminaries and the much-advertised Bible institutes turned out 100 times more men than they are now doing, the churches would not be one bit better off than they are, unless God given a fresh outpouring of His Spirit. In like manner, no Sunday School is strengthened by the mere multiplication of its teachers.

O my readers,

face the solemn fact that the greatest lack of all in Christendom today is the absence of the Holy Spirit’s power and blessing. Review the activities of the past 30 years. Millions of dollars have been freely devoted to the support of professed Christian enterprises.

Bible institutes and schools have turned out “trained workers” by the thousands.

Bible conferences have sprung up on every side like mushrooms.

Countless booklets and tracts have been printed and circulated.

Time and labors have been given by an almost incalculable number of “personal workers.” And with what results? 

Has the standard of personal piety advanced? Are the churches less worldly? Are their members more Christ-like in their daily walk? Is there more godliness in the home? Are the children more obedient and respectful? Is the Sabbath Day being increasingly sanctified and kept holy? Has the standard of honesty in business been raised?

The Need:

Those blessed with any spiritual discernment can return but one answer to the above questions. In spite of all the huge sums of money that have been spent, in spite of all the labors which has been put forth, in spite of all the new workers that have been added to the old ones, the spirituality of Christendom is at a far lower ebb today than it was 30 years ago. Numbers of professing Christians have increased, fleshly activities have multiplied, but spiritual power has waned. Why? Because there is a grieved and quenched Spirit in our midst. While His blessing is withheld there can be no improvement. What is needed today is for the saints to get down on their faces before God, cry unto Him in the name of Christ to so work again, that what has grieved His Spirit may be put away, and the channel of blessing once more be opened.

Until the Holy Spirit is again given His rightful place in our hearts, thoughts, and activities, there can be no improvement. Until it be recognized that we are entirely dependent upon His operations for all spiritual blessing, the root of the trouble cannot be reached. Until it be recognized that it is “‘Not by might, (of trained workers), nor by power (of intellectual argument or persuasive appeal), but by MY SPIRIT, says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6), there will be no deliverance from that fleshly zeal which is not according to knowledge, and which is now paralyzing Christendom. Until the Holy Spirit is honored, sought, and counted upon, the present spiritual drought must continue. May it please our gracious God to give the writer messages and prepare the hearts of our readers to receive that which will be to His glory, the furtherance of His cause upon earth, and the good of His dear people.

Brethren, pray for us.”

A. W. Pink

Is this an option?

“Be ye not unequally yoked together.”pink

This applies first to our religious or ecclesiastical connections.

How many Christians are members of so-called “churches,” where much is going on which they know is at direct variance with the Word of God—either the teaching from the pulpit, the worldly attractions used to draw the ungodly, and the worldly methods employed to finance it or the constant receiving into its membership of those who give no evidence of having been born again.

Believers in Christ who remain in such “churches” (?) are dishonoring their Lord.

Should they answer:

“Practically all the churches are the same, and were we to resign, what could we do? We must go somewhere on Sundays,”

such language would show they are putting their own interests before the glory of Christ.

Better stay at home and read God’s Word, than fellowship that which His Word condemns. (end quote)

Is it an option to withdraw from unbelieving churches and just stay home?

Leave your comments, thanks.

jm

Interpretation of the Scriptures

a. w. pink

Arthur Walkington Pink is one of my spiritual fathers. His work the Interpretation of the Scriptures really helped me iron out issues I’ve had with biblical interpretation. I still refer to his works when needed (especially his commentary on Hebrews) when studying the word. He is far from perfect but always enlightening and I thank God for devout men such as him who display such careful handling of the word of God with a real zeal for truth. For every rule he provided in the “Interpretation of the Scriptures” I provided the amen. His refutation of Dispensational theology was instrumental in helping me shed some of that interpretive framework and become more biblical in my management of God’s word.

A brief outline of A. W. Pink’s work published by Baker.

Chapter 1: The first chapter highlights the need and importance of interpreting scripture without falling prey to two common extremes.  One extreme would be the idea held by Rome and other denominations that teach the scriptures are too difficult to understand and therefore need to be presented to the average person by someone with special authority.  The other extreme teaches that we are simply to read and believe without any interpretation needed at all. Pink gives three reasons for interpretation: 1) explain seeming contradictions, 2) to seek the meaning and sense of the words and 3) inserting of an explanatory word into the text.

Chapter 2:  To understand scripture Pink tells the reader that we must have both the tools and the skill.  We must be humble when we approach the word and avoid arrogance when we seeking an interpretation.  Being a regenerate believer does not guarantee we will be able to understand all things perfectly or even well but that we must continue to work on it.  We understand the Bible through reason that is impressed by the Holy Spirit. Pink gives five elements needed to interpret the word: 1) a mind illumined by the Holy Spirit 2) an impartial spirit 3) a humble mind 4) a praying heart 5) a holy design.

Chapter 3:  Expository preaching is covered in this chapter with the emphasis on preaching solid doctrine.  To quote Bible verses is not enough, the student of the word must labour to gleam a meaning from the text to feed self and others.  The lessons learned are not taught through diligent study alone but through experience.  Pink writes, “No one can learn what humility is by means of the concordance, nor secure more faith by studying certain passages of Scripture. The one is acquired through painful discoveries of the plague of our hearts, and the other is increased by a deepening acquaintance with God.”

Chapter 4: The Bible is described as the sole textbook for the student with the author using the Authorized Version.  Commentaries are viewed as useful only when you have exhausted a concordance.  Pink takes a dig at Dispensational theology on pages 25 – 26 for their unbiblical focus on things that differ instead of unity.  Pink gives us the first three rules of biblical interpretation in this chapter: (1) there is a need to recognize the “inter-relation and mutual dependence of both testaments,” (2) to carefully study scripture when it quotes scripture, and to (3) “conform all interpretations to the analogy of faith.”

Chapter 5: Rule 3 is explained in further detail at the beginning of this chapter.  Here the author introduces two more rules, that of (4) context and (5) scope.  It is mentioned that “proof texting” is quoting scripture outside of its context to support the theologians thoughts rather then scripture.

Chapter 6:  Continues with examples of proper and improper use (4) context and (5) scope with Dispensationalism once again in his cross hairs.  The next rule offered is to (6) interpret scripture by scripture or “comparing spiritual things with spiritual things.”

Chapter 7:  The thoughts expressed in chapter 6 are carried over and explained in full detail before recommending the next rule, that being, (7) briefer statements are to be interpreted by fuller ones.   Little is written but common sense agrees with Pink.

Chapter 8:  Collecting and collating (8) scripture is explained as the next rule.  The author goes on to give examples, one being the term “born again.”  It is used in scripture to describe regeneration but idea is found elsewhere with such as “passing from dark to light,” “renewing,” and “resurrection.”  By collecting and collating passages the doctrine will become clear.

Chapter 9:  The rule of (9) simple negative is briefly touched upon as well as (10) interrogative form and the proper use of (11) reason.  It is explained that negative conclusions can be used to infer the opposites, rhetorical questioning of the Socratic method proves useful and human reason does play apart in understanding divine things, although it is subject to divine things.

Chapter 10: Pink gives us an idea of how we find (12) limitations of general statements in this chapter.  The example being “judge not,” being considered in light of “judge righteous” and “thoroughly judge.”  We cannot make a universal truth statement from general truth statement.  In the same line of thought we are told that (13) positive statement with a comparative force, or, seek the context of absolute statements keeping our understanding within the analogy of faith.  This will help to remain consistent.

Chapter 11:  (14) Non-literal language must be viewed as such.  Both translators and expositors must be aware of the finer nuances of the languages.  The wooden literalism found in the more classic schools of Dispensationalism are to be avoided since they remove the original meaning from the text and fail to (15) understand types.

Chapter 12:  The use of the analogy of faith is mentioned in connection with the next rule, to seek a proper (16) exposition of the parables, which are supplementary to direct teaching.  Pink’s sharp mind then directs the Bible student to be aware that words are not translated uniformly so we are to seek other (17) or different meanings that each word might have.

Chapter 13:  The idea is carried forward from the previous chapter with a different emphasis, this being, (18) the Holy Spirit’s use of the words.  We are to note the actual use of the word in scripture alone and not to rely on classical literature to seek a meaning.  The author sites his suggestion of a concordance rather then a dictionary.  Although we find a dislike of Dispensational theology in this work (19) distinguishing between things that differ is still important, and well explained, just not the crux of our theological grid.

Chapter 14 & 15:  The next rule we are instructed to follow is to seek (20) the spiritual meaning of scripture, that scripture often has a double purport, a natural and a spiritual.  Chapter 15 explains this concept in great detail giving plenty of examples.  Anyone familiar with A. W. Pink’s work will know he does implore this rule often and takes care to fully detail its use and importance.

Chapter 16: (21) Double reference and meaning is now taken on and explained. In this chapter, to my surprise, the author confuses a belief that man is tripartite!  Using the rule of double reference Genesis 1:26 is used as support for this belief.  Interesting.

Chapter 17:  The author enlightens the reader to the (22) the law of order, meaning, the position the idea is found within scripture and how it relates to what follows it.

Chapter 18:  (23) The law of cause and effect traces the steps and connection between events.  The example of Peter’s fall is given; self-assurance (Mark 14:29), failed to pray and watch (Mark 14:38-40), disregarded the warning to be sifted (Luke 22:31-33) and trying to take control by force (John 18:10).  This is explained to be a law of cause and effect.  The next canon is that of (24) emphasis.  What God has placed emphasis on, should be well noted to the believer.  The Companion Bible written by the famous Ultra Dispensationlist is mentioned.

Chapter 19:  The (25) origin of a word is understood as being of some use but we are direct back to rule 19 where we are instructed to seek out the Holy Spirit’s use of the words.  (26) The law of comparison and contrast was written to be of interest but of less importance overall.

Chapter 20 & 21:  The first use of a word, (27) the law of first mention, should guide our understanding of it.  (28) The law of progress or progressive revelation is explained in detail and we are reminded that the Bible is full of life.

Chapter 22:  We come to the last chapter and the last interpretive rule given to us by A. W. Pink.  We are reminded of the (29) law of full mention with examples given of John 17 where Christ is interceding for believers, the total inability of man in Romans 3 and election and reprobation in Romans 9.

(more detail)

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The Need for Interpretation

Pink opens this work with a warning:

“Man is notoriously a creature of extremes, and nowhere is that fact more evident than in the attitude taken by different ones to this subject.”

O Lord how true this is!  In my own life I wish someone had warned me to avoid the “notorious” extremes that permeate natural man and our understanding of the simple things God has revealed.  “…obscurity is not in them” but in us.

“Since the imagination of man, like all the other faculties of his moral being, is permeated and vitiated by sin, the ideas it suggests, even when pondering the Divine oracles, are prone to be mistaken and corrupt. It is part of our sinful infirmity that we are unable of ourselves to interpret God’s Word aright; but it is part of the gracious office of the Holy Spirit to guide believers into the truth, thereby enabling them to apprehend the Scriptures.”

We find the light of God’s word so bright at time we turn away and hide the truth or hide from it.  I am guilty of trying to obscure the truth using a manmade scaffold that, by the Grace of God, could not support the word and I was eventually convicted of this sin leaving Dispensationalism forever.  We are to test what we find in theology and give thanks for both the milk and the meat we find therein.

We must seek rules or canons for interpretation because interpretation is needed to understand the deeper things that God has revealed.  These rules guide us and help us to be consistent with the word and we read they will help to:

1) explain seeming contradictions

2) find sense of the words

3) inserting of an explanatory word to assist in our understanding

We gain a deep knowledge of God by using these canons as tools to develop skills of interpretation.

“To declare that I need none but the Holy Spirit to teach me may sound very honoring to Him, but is it true? Like all human assertions that one requires to be tested, for nothing must be taken for granted where spiritual things are concerned.”

When helping to instruct new Christians this is often the idea many have, that since they are born again, it’s all done.  The important work is complete, finished so don’t argue with me but argue with the word of God!  “Study to shew thyself approved” seems to have to slipped their minds if they have even gone that far in their Bibles.  I wonder if we can blame Post Modernism for this idea, that since they have “experienced” the goodness of God in the regeneration of their souls, nothing is left for them.  It is assumed that everything will be given them including a perfect interpretation of the word of God.  Perhaps I’m going too far but the false idea remains and I have personally encouraged this dozens of times in person and on the internet.  I really like the point A. W. Pink makes against this misunderstanding, he points out that God has supplied Pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, the Holy Spirit uses these men and their instruction to aid the believer in understanding the scriptures.  To believe all we need is the Holy Spirit is to possess a low view of the Body of Christ.  This, of course, does not lessen our reliance upon God, but should humble us before Him.  God found it pleasing to use man.

While listening to “Christian radio” recently one of the speakers said she was, “waiting for God to speak to her, just resting in His will…”  God has give us His word and has spoken to us.  We must interpret it and interpret correctly.

Avoiding Extremes

Although we gain an understanding of scripture through reason and understanding our understanding must be impressed or influenced by the Holy Spirit.  I believe Thomas Manton is quoted as writing, “Our hearts are overcast with strong affections of the world, and so cannot clearly judge practical truth.”  This quote is offered along with a few preliminary points that I believe offer the student of the word sound, spiritual direction:

1) a mind illumined by the Holy Spirit

The sinner must be brought to a place, by God, where we can understand divine revelation.  Christ tells in Matthew, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”  And, “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:” Ephesians 4:17-18

J. K. Popham who was a minister of the word for over 50 years in the United Kingdom has delivered some of the most powerful, experiential sermons I have ever read.  He tells us of the Holy Spirits work;

“One end, one covenant to open, one mercy to give, one life to impart, one justification to bring, one salvation to work, one heaven to give to those who deserve hell.”

The work of the Spirit is in building a united Body of Christ.  This is the beginning and not the end as some believe.

2) an impartial spirit

It is a commonly held idea that we can approach a subject with a spirit of impartiality, that we can understand the world around us from a neutral standpoint, which is contrary to scripture.  “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7  Even after we have come to faith in Christ the old man remains.  We seek to find what we want in scripture and ignore the often weightier or more difficult passages.

3) a humble mind

I will quote Pink on this point given that he is so crystal clear, “The knowledge of a proud man is the throne of Satan.”  Charnock put it this way, “A proud faith is as much a contradiction as a humble devil.”  How many times has the church proclaimed the Gospel, answered the objections using evidence and presuppositionalism only to have a far more “educated” person proclaim us “ignorant!”  A servant shall not be greater then his master.  Pink warns the Bible student to be humble before God by studying His word from a position of a beggar asking for the riches of God’s knowledge and not a rich man.

4) a praying heart

We approach the inspired work with a humble heart, a heart that realizes we do not deserve what we have in our hands, that being the thoughts of God.  If we are to “think God’s thoughts after Him” we must place our vanities aside and seek Him and His will.  Our minds must be open to the impressions of the Spirit and the way this is accomplished is with a prayerful heart.  Pink refers to the “prayerless scholar” who uses the word of God as he would use a work made by the mind of man ultimately failing to understand the need for a divine assistance.

5) a holy design

Lastly, we must not seek the answers to our curiosities but to learn truth from the scriptures.  Not too long ago God has gave me the opportunity to aid a fellow believer in setting his house in godly order, whose background is in the The Gospel Hall churches or Brethren Assemblies.  After one evening of discussing scripture I was astounded at how little practical truth, day to day truth, his previous church had equipped him with.  Instead of understanding his role as a father and leader of the home in all matters he was taught about the Rapture.  Instead of learning from God’s word how to raise children for the Lord he was instructed about pre-flood giants that walked the earth who were the offspring of Angels and man!  This is not following “a holy design” to seek truth but a feeding of the curiosities and vanities of the old man.  More then a thought or form of entertainment the truth of scripture is truth to live by.

A Note to Ministers

Having laid a preliminary foundation in the first two chapters Pink now explains the need to be faithful to seek the pure word of God and to be faithful to what we find.  The emphasis is on preaching with the warning too many have failed to heed:

“Every minister of the Gospel will yet have to render a full account of his stewardship unto the One whom he claims called him to feed His sheep (Heb. 13:17), to answer for the souls who were committed to his charge. If he fails to diligently warn the wicked, and he dies in his iniquity, God declares “his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezek. 3:18).”

Much of this chapter applies to anyone proclaiming the truth of the Gospel and should serve as a reminder to keep subservient to the word. The exposition of the word is hard work so Pink tells the reader to work hard at it.  It must be expounded and applied not simply read from the pulpit, or in the case of the layman quoted and dismissed, it must be explained for as quickly as the minister delivers truth Satan takes great pains to obscure sound doctrine.  The truth of the word is to be proclaimed in all its wonder and beauty, not for the adulation of the flesh or for the praise of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but for God’s glory alone.

Our Textbook

A. W. Pink reminds the Bible student that his textbook for study is the Bible.  Only after he has exhausted his abilities in exegesis of the sacred text does the student go beyond the covers of his Bible.  It might sound simple but in our time, when many commentaries are free online, it is far more tempting to read a commentary instead of the word or to read the word with a commentary open beside it.  It can be more tempting to quote an authority then take the time to dig deeper into scripture.  The Bible and the Bible alone contains the direct revelation of our Triune God and therefore should be studied before any human work is consulted.

“The Bible is to be his sole text-book, and from its living waters he is to drink deeply and daily. Personally, we use nothing else than the English Authorized Version and Young’s concordance, with an occasional reference to the Greek Interlinear and the American Revised Version. Commentaries we consult only after we have made a first-hand and exhaustive study of a passage.”

Amen.  This is solid advice to all those new Christians who are given or purchase “study” Bibles.  The damage done by Scofield’s notes is incalculable.  The struggle to understand a difficult passage is where the blessing is.  The struggle to see how it relates to the greater context of scripture is where godly wisdom is found, but many today prefer the word to be opened for them, the work already done.

“The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” Proverbs 13:4

“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” 1 Corinthians 3:14

The Evangelical church has been lulled into a lazy stupor and distracted by the world.  From Pink’s other writings it is clear he saw the beginnings of it in his day.  The father no longer leads the home but feels the influence of an ungodly world and delegates his job to the wife.  The mother no longer has time for the children believing she could better serve them by planning a getaway to have “me time.”  The children are left to their own devises without much guidance.  This is in the “Christian” home.  I write without much guidancebecause, after all, they do have their televisions, internet and video games.  The church has become lazy and distracted foregoing the difficult task of handling God’s word and have been left with only a shadow of truth.  It is at this point Pink begins to outline the principles to guide the Bible student as they study.

The Principles of Interpretation

It total there are 30 principles varying in their importance listed in Arthur Pink’s work “Interpretation of the Scriptures.”  It was truly a blessing to read this work and find confirmation to some of the principles I was using previously.  It was also convicting because I had learned where I need improvement.  Instead of trying to deal with all 30 principles I will try to interact with what I believe are some of the most important and useful rules to understanding scripture.

The Analogy of Faith

Some suggest the “analogy of faith” should be called the “analogy of scripture” and for the sake of clarity and I must agree.  The church has seen the misuse of this rule as an ecclesiastical tool wielded like a club in the hands of the Roman Catholic magisterium.  I believe this is one of the most important, but often misunderstood and inconsistently used, rules describes by A. W. Pink.  (It can be found at the closing of chapter 4.)  My own understanding of this principle hindered my ability to properly handle God’s word and continues to a lesser extent today and I wish the author would have spilled more ink on this subject with emphasis on its importance in sound interpretation.  What he did give us is sound advice,

“The exposition made of any verse in Holy Writ must be in entire agreement with the Analogy of Faith, or that system of truth which God has made known unto His people. That, of course, calls for a comprehensive knowledge of the contents of the Bible—sure proof that no novice qualified to preach to or attempt to teach others.”

Again, Pink reminds us of our need to have a comprehensive understanding of our textbook, the Bible.  This analogy or rule of faith is gleamed from the scriptures themselves:

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;” Romans 12:6

“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” Galatians 6:16

This rule is explained in the London Baptist Confession of 1689 as follows:

1.9 The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly.  ( 2 Peter 1:20, 21; Acts 15:15, 16)

To illustrate the importance of applying this principle with consistency I would like to point out a few verses from Acts 15,

“And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.”

If we use the analogy of the scriptures expressed in the Reformed confessions it is easy to see the apostle Luke referring to Amos 9,

“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old”

The passage from Acts 15 is alluding to Amos 9 in reference to the assembled church.  A common Dispensational interpretation of Amos 9 misses the meaning completely and regulates a complete fulfillment of these verses to a future Israel and millennial reign of Christ.  Instead of using the analogy of the scriptures we see a system of belief forcing a literalistic understanding of Amos 9 and gives us with a clear case of dogma influencing the interpretation.  The mind of God is then subjective to exegesis and not objective truth revealed.

_______________________________________

Arthor Walkington Pink has given the church so much to think about in this tiny volume on interpretive principles.  He worked in what must have seemed, at times, in utter obscurity but he remained faithful to the God that saved him, working for His glory, a worthy servant of the truth.

[details; Interpretation of the Scriptures, published by Baker 1996, ISBN: 0801070252]

jm

X-Mas

Posted in 2012

I read posts on the net and see cute little pics on facebook, made by well meaning Christians, who want to keep “Christ in Christmas.”

Why is it so important?

I’m not sure what to think about “Christmas” but Christmas seems to be about consumerism and is embraced by believers, unbelievers and false religious teachers. Should Christians fight to keep “Christ in Christmas?” I enjoy Christmas for cultural reasons (food, family, friends) but I find the season as reason for gluttony and if anything, contrary to Christian principles.

Is there biblical support for this holiday?

Am I just being a Scrooge?

I know the Puritans banned Christmas but I wouldn’t, I don’t really care enough either way, keep it or don’t.

XMAS (Christmas)
by A.W. Pink

“Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen…for the CUSTOMS of the people are vain” (Jer. 10:1-3).

Christmas is coming! Quite so: but what is “Christmas?” Does not the very term itself denote it’s source – “Christ-mass.” Thus it is of Roman origin, brought over from paganism. But, says someone, Christmas is the time when we commemorate the Savior’s birth. It is? And WHO authorized such commemoration? Certainly God did not. The Redeemer bade His disciples “remember” Him in His death, but there is not a word in scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, which tells us to celebrate His birth. Moreover, who knows when, in what month, He was born? The Bible is silent thereon. It is without reason that the only “birthday” commemorations mentioned in God’s Word are Pharaoh’s (Gen. 40:20) and Herod’s (Matt. 14:6)? Is this recorded “for our learning?” If so, have we prayerfully taken it to heart?

And WHO is it that celebrates “Christmas?” The whole “civilized world.” Millions who make no profession of faith in the blood of the Lamb, who “despise and reject Him,” and millions more who while claiming to be His followers yet in works deny Him, join in merrymaking under the pretense of honoring the birth of the Lord Jesus. Putting it on it’s lowest ground, we would ask, is it fitting that His friends should unite with His enemies in a worldly round of fleshly gratification? Does any true born again soul really think that He whom the world cast out is either pleased or glorified by such participation in the world’s joys? Verily, the customs of the people are VAIN; and it is written, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” (Ex. 23:2).

Some will argue for the “keeping of Christmas” on the ground of “giving the kiddies a good time.” But why do this under the cloak of honoring the Savior’s birth? Why is it necessary to drag in His holy name in connection with what takes place at that season of carnal jollification? Is this taking the little one with you OUT of Egypt (Ex. 10:9-10) a type of the world, or is it not plainly a mingling with the present day Egyptians in their “pleasures of sin for a season?” (Heb. 11:25) Scripture says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Scripture does command God’s people to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), but where does it stipulate that it is our duty to give the little one a “good time?” Do we ever give the children “a good time” when we engage in anything upon which we cannot fittingly ask THE LORD’S blessing?

There are those who DO abstain from some of the grosser carnalities of the “festive season,” yet are they nevertheless in cruel bondage to the prevailing custom of “Christmas” namely that of exchanging “gifts.” We say “exchanging” for that is what it really amounts to in many cases. A list is kept, either on paper or in memory, of those from whom gifts were received last year, and that for the purpose of returning the compliment this year. Nor is this all: great care has been taken that the “gift” made to the friend is worth as much in dollars and cents as the one they expect to receive from him or her. Thus, with many who can ill afford it, a considerable sum has to be set aside each year with which to purchase things simply to send them out in RETURN for others which are likely to be received. Thus a burden has been bound on them which not a few find hard to bear.

But what are we to do? If we fail to send out “gifts” our friends will think hard of us, probably deem us stingy and miserly. The honest course is to go to the trouble of notifying them – by letter if at a distance – that from now on you do not propose to send out any more “Christmas gifts” as such. Give your reasons. State plainly that you have been brought to see that “Christmas merrymaking” is entirely a thing OF THE WORLD, devoid of any Scriptural warrant; that it is a Romish institution, and now that you see this, you dare no longer have any fellowship with it (Eph. 5:11); that you are the Lord’s “free man” (1 Cor. 7:22), and therefore you refuse to be in bondage to a costly custom imposed by the world.

What about sending out “Christmas cards” with a text of Scripture on them? That also is an abomination in the sight of God. Why? Because His Word expressly forbids all unholy mixtures; Deut. 22:10-11 typified this. What do we mean by an “unholy mixture?” This: the linking together of the pure Word of God with the Romish “Christ-MASS.” By all means send cards (preferably at some other time of the year) to your ungodly friends, and Christians too, with a verse of Scripture, but NOT with “Christmas” on it. What would you think of a printed program of a vaudeville having Isa. 53:5 at the foot of it? Why, that it was altogether OUT OF PLACE, highly incongruous. But in the sight of God the circus and the theater are far less obnoxious than the “Christmas celebration” of Romish and Protestant “churches.” Why? Because the latter are done under the cover of the holy name of Christ; the former are not.

“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto perfect day” (Prov. 4:18). Where there is a heart that really desires to please the Lord, He graciously grants increasing knowledge of His will. If He is pleased to use these lines in opening the eyes of some of His dear people to recognize what is a growing evil, and to show them that they have been dishonoring Christ by linking the name of the Man of Sorrows (and such He WAS, when on earth) with a “MERRY Christmas,” then join with the writer in a repentant confessing of this sin to God, seeking His grace for complete deliverance from it, and praise Him for the light which He has granted you concerning it.

Beloved fellow-Christian, “The coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (Jas. 5:8). Do we really believe this? Believe it not because the Papacy is regaining its lost temporal power, but because GOD says so – “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). If so, what effects does such believing have on our walk? This may be your last Christmas on earth. During it the Lord may descend from heaven with a shout to gather His own to Himself. Would you like to be summoned from a “Christmas party” to meet Him in the air? The call for the moment is “Go ye OUT to meet Him” (Matt. 25:6) out from a Godless Christendom, out from the horrible burlesque of “religion” which now masquerades under His name.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). How solemn and searching! The Lord Jesus declared that “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). If every “idle word” is going to be taken note of, then most assuredly will be every wasted energy, every wasted dollar, every wasted hour! Should we still be on earth when the closing days of this year arrive, let writer and reader earnestly seek grace to live and act with the judgment seat of Christ before us. HIS “well done” will be ample compensation for the sneers and taunts which we may now receive from Christless souls.

Does any Christian reader imagine for a moment that when he or she shall stand before their holy Lord, that they will regret having lived “too strictly” on earth? Is there the slightest danger of His reproving any of His own because they were “too extreme” in “abstaining from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11)? We may gain the good will and good works of worldly religionists today by our compromising on “little (?) points,” but shall we receive His smile and approval on that day? Oh to be more concerned about what HE thinks, and less concerned about what perishing mortals think.

“Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” (Ex. 23:2). Ah, it is an easy thing to float with the tide of popular opinion; but it takes much grace, diligently sought from God, to swim against it. Yet that is what the heir of heaven is called on to do: to “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2), to deny self, take up the cross, and follow a rejected Christ. How sorely does both writer and reader need to heed that word of the savior, “Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11). Oh that each of us may be able to truthfully say, “I have refrained my feet from EVERY evil way, that I might keep THY WORD” (Psa. 119:101).

Our final word is to the pastors. To you the Word of the Lord is, “Be THOU AN EXAMPLE of believers in word, in deportment, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Is it not true that the most corrupt “churches” you know of, where almost every fundamental of the faith is denied, will have their “Christmas celebrations?” Will you imitate them? Are you consistent to protest against unscriptural methods of “raising money,” and then to sanction unscriptural “Christmas services?” Seek grace to firmly but lovingly set God’s truth on this subject before your people, and announce that you can have no part in following Pagan, Romish, and worldly customs.

The Duty of Children

A. W. Pinkpink

1. The Duty Itself: “Obey Your Parents.” This means a humble subjection to their authority and control, with a ready performance of what they require. It is the same as giving “honor” to your parents (Exod. 20:12), which connotes valuing highly and revering one’s parents (Lev. 19:3, 14). The disposition of a godly child is a combination of love and fear which moves him to obedience. We may further describe four elements. The first three are active obedience, while the fourth is passive obedience.

A. Reverence. Begins with reverence for God, the Parent of us all (Acts 17:28). True reverence results in an earnest desire to behave yourselves in everything you do with a view toward pleasing your parents.

1) With respect to your speech. You should speak reverently of your parents both in their presence and absence. Give them honorable titles like “father” and “mother” and “lord” because these recognize the dignity of their office. Good examples include Isaac (Gen. 22:7), Jacob (Gen. 27:18), David (1 Sam. 24:8; 26:18), Solomon (1 Kings 2:30), Rachel (Gen. 31:35). You should speak when spoken to, wait to hear your parents speak first, and never to speak in their presence without a good reason for it. When they are not around, speak of them in such a way that all who hear conclude that you regard them highly.

2) With respect to your behavior. Rise for your parents, as for the elderly (Lev. 19:32). Although king, Solomon bowed to Bathsheba; and although a prince, Joseph to Jacob (1 Kings. 2:19; Gen. 46:29). Seek your parents’ prayers for blessing. Avoid rude and haughty looks. The eye that mocks his father and scorns obedience to his mother shall be picked out by ravens and young eagles (Prov. 30:17). Even when parents are deceased you should give them honor.

B. Obedience proper. Not only reverent speech and conduct before parents is required, but a heartfelt submission to their authority and hearty compliance with all their commands. Even Jesus submitted Himself to His mother and step-father (Luke 2:51). He who was their Creator, and to whom angels were subject, was subject to Mary and Joseph!

1) Pay close attention to their teaching. Love for your parent’s joy should move you to listen carefully to all they teach, whether spiritual or otherwise. This applies equally to both sons and daughters. A foolish child is a grief to his parents.

2) Perform their commands. Don’t talk back! This immediate and silent obedience is the main duty of the text. You should obey as the centurion’s men (Matt. 8:9). Examples include Samuel (1 Sam. 3:5-8), David (1 Sam. 16:12; 17:17, 20), Jacob and Joseph (Gen. 28:5; 37:14; 42:2-3), Isaac (Gen. 22:6); the Rechabites (Jer. 35:8-19), Abraham’s children (Gen. 18:19), and Solomon (1 Kings 2:3; 3:3; 1 Chron. 22:11). Yet this is not to be a blind obedience (Prov. 14:15), especially as you grow up to exercise some moral discernment of your own. Then your obedience should be reasonable, such as is according to God’s Word. That is, you should comply in everything that does not involve sin.

3) Depend upon their advice. Parents naturally have more experience, ability, and a right to rule their children than the children themselves. The prodigal son would not listen to his father’s advice until he had learned by experience of the bad consequences of his foolish choice and had grieved his father. Therefore, as a child you cannot spend money without your parents’ consent, you cannot choose friends disagreeable to your parents, and you must be content to dress the way your parents want.

a. In your choice of a career. Your parents should guide you in this, as the examples of David and the children of Jonadab prove (1 Sam. 16:11, 19; 17:17; Jer. 35). Generally this means following in your parents’ footsteps.

b. In your choice of a spouse. Parents should “sway much” in this matter. Examples include Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 24:6-7, 63-67; 28:1-3; 29:11, 18-19), Ruth (Ruth 2:21-23; 3:1-6, 18), Ishmael and Samson (Gen. 21:21; Judg. 14:2), Tamar and Shechem (2 Sam. 13:13; Gen. 34:11-12). Parents are wiser than you, more objective than you, and should not have their children taken away without their consent. This would be a kind of stealing. To take a wife against her father’s will is a disparagement of him. This is the most important decision you will make in your life; how can you leave your parents out of it? In the case of their choosing someone for whom you have no feelings, be sure that your lack of feelings are not without reason. If after much prayer you still find yourself unwilling to marry their choice for you, then try to persuade your parents in a reverent way to seek someone else for you to marry. Surely you cannot be expected to marry someone whom you do not love. In the case of parents choosing an ungodly partner for you, you must humbly refuse. The best counselors agree that though you do not have the right to choose a partner for yourself without your parents’ consent, you do have the right to refuse one chosen for you.

4) Follow their good example. Imitate whatever is good in them. This is why the wise man charged his son to observe his ways (Prov. 23:26). Follow them as they follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Do not follow them in their errors as an excuse for your sin. Mere tradition received from parents is no reason to sin against God (Ezek. 20:18-20). Solomon, Asa, and Timothy are your examples here (1 Kings 3:3; 2 Kings 22:2; 1 Kings 15:11; 2 Tim. 1:5). In other words, try to be like your dad. This is the way you pay greatest honor to him.

C. Heartfelt gratitude and endeavor to repay them. You owe much to your parents.

1) Respecting their benevolence. Show a gratefulness for their kindness and supply of your needs. Be eager to repay their provision in any way that you can. The smallest thing you can do is to acknowledge their parental love and care. Without this you are not truly spiritual but wicked. Piety must begin at home by showing your appreciation for your parents. Treasure their wise sayings, rehearse before others what they have done well, and choose their religion, if it be right. Preserve their good name.

2) Respecting their poverty. Cover or bear with their faults, do what you can to supply their needs, and defend their reputation. Noah and Lot, Isaac and Jacob had their faults as parents, and their children covered them (Gen. 9:21-23; 27:12; 28:5; 37:10). So did Jonathan, Jesus, Jacob, Ruth, Joseph have parents with faults and needs, and they moved to their aid. Philo says that old storks who cannot fly any longer are brought food by their brood, and we should imitate their example. Especially should you be concerned about your parents’ spiritual needs, so that if they are not Christians, with all humility and prudence you should use fit means to lead them to Christ. The best you can do for your parents will not be sufficient to repay them for their love. When your parents die, see that they have an honorable burial in a decent Christian manner.

D. Submission to parental discipline. As a child, you must bear your parents’ rebukes with humility. Because you were born sinful, you need them.

1) Their admonitions. Nothing should shame you more than your father’s reprimand, and you should amend in response to it. Even when they rebuke you wrongly in matter and manner, you should bear with it, as Joseph did (Gen. 37:10). Moses heeded his father-in-law’s advice (Exod. 18:13-24), but Eli’s sons slighted his (1 Sam. 2:25). Only fools will not hear rebuke (Prov. 13:1; 2:23, 34-35; 15:5). Be patient with parental restrictions on your food, drink, clothing, and recreation. Learn self-denial and patience. Isn’t it inappropriate to rage against those who love you best?

2) Their corrections. I mean real punishments inflicted upon you. Realize they do this out of love and aim for your good. There is biblical warrant for corporal discipline (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 19:17; Heb. 12:9), and if you will not be reformed by it, your parents have a right to call in the magistrate (Deut. 21:18-21). When you are corrected, you should be too ashamed even to look into your parent’s face. Though you need not tolerate others to spank you, your parents have this right for the purpose of delivering your soul from hell. Pray that God will bless this means of grace to your good. Do not become bitter toward your parents for disciplining you. Your parents have a responsibility with God’s authority to maintain His government in your life.

2. The Extent of This Duty: “In All Things.” This must not be understood as universal and absolute obedience to parents, for that is our duty to God alone. God is the only One free to give whatever laws He pleases which all are absolutely bound to obey. You are to obey your parents in all things acceptable to the Lord (Eph. 6:1, 5-6; Col. 3:22-23). If parents were not sinful, absolute obedience could be rendered them, but they are fallen and fallible. This text proves that the only obedience to be rendered parents is that which is consistent with the Lord’s pleasure, and He cannot be pleased when you choose to obey them rather than Him. Yet even in wrong things they command you to do, you may show your submission by suffering the penalty with cheerfulness (1 Pet. 2:19-20). In all legitimate things, you must honor your parents as much as you can.

3. The Motive to This Duty: “For This Is Well Pleasing to the Lord.” This is the best motive possible for anything. The Lord vigorously enforces the fifth commandment here and elsewhere (Eph. 6:1-3). Our heavenly Father has supreme authority. Anything He requires is eminently reasonable and good. Those who seek His pleasure above all things are not only pleasing, but well pleasing, to Him. In pleasing the Lord you will ultimately please your parents and yourself besides. This is the way to your true happiness. In keeping God’s commandments there is exceedingly great reward (Psa. 19:11; Gen. 15:1). All parents due to their high and holy office deserve the obedience of their children. Disobedient children are unworthy of being considered Christians, and are worse than ordinary unbelievers and brute beasts. Obedience to parents is not an arbitrary thing, but a solemn divine commandment with the greatest of rewards and punishments attached. As children of Christian parents, having high privileges, you have greater responsibilities to fulfill your duty. Lack of natural affection of your parents is so monstrous that it is severely punished by God (1 Sam. 4:11; Deut. 21:20-21). The old Romans would put those who murdered their parents into a large ox-hide bag together with a live dog, a rooster, a poisonous snake, and an ape. Then they would beat them bloody, throw them into the Tiber River. That shows how abominable parricide was even to the heathen.

Does loving our enemies…establish God’s love for them?

love_of_god

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 King James Version (KJV)

Prof. Herman Hanko on Matthew 5 and God’s Love:

In general, there is no question about it that this is a key passage in the defense of God’s attitude of grace and love towards all men. Every defender of common grace that I have read or listened to has quoted this text as decisive in the debate. And all defenders of common grace assure us that this passage ought to mark the end of all debate.

The text itself reads: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and unjust.”

The argument as I understand it goes like this. God sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The common rain that God sends is proof of His favor, love, kindness, etc. towards the unregenerate. Rain is God’s common grace.

Sometimes the argument is turned around, in the interests of showing that all who receive rain actually do receive favor. The argument goes like this: We are called to do good to the just and to the unjust. For us that doing good to the just and unjust includes all men without any distinction, or, at least, includes elect and reprobate alike, for we are unable to distinguish between them. Because we are imitating God as His children, in doing good to all, God also does good to all.

We may not, however, argue from our calling to love our neighbor as ourselves to God’s attitude of favor towards all men. We are creatures, living here in the world, in the world though not of the world. God is God, sovereign over all who does all His good pleasure. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning. We do not know who are God’s elect and who are reprobate. But God does know, for He determines it all. We ought to keep this in mind.

An important question that arises from the text is: Whom does Jesus mean by “the just and unjust” upon whom God sends rain? Does Jesus mean: good men in this world and bad men in this world? That is, men who deserve rain and sunshine and men who do not? The answer, very obviously, is: The text cannot mean that, for there are no just people in the world, for “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10).

Does it then mean to distinguish between those who are righteous because the perfect satisfaction for sin earned on the cross has been imputed to them, and those who are still in their sins and not righteous in Christ? That is, is the distinction between just and unjust a distinction between elect and reprobate? It would seem that the latter would have to be the meaning. But then the text means only, as we have repeatedly observed, that God manifests that He is a good God by giving good things to men, something no one denies. The question still remains: What is God’s attitude and purpose behind these good gifts? And then Psalm 73 and Proverbs 3:33 give us the answer.

But the whole idea that God loves the reprobate is an imposition on the text of man’s own devising.

A positive explanation of the text would, I think, be helpful.

Actually, I dealt with some of the issues in this verse in my last letters and I ask the reader to consult what I wrote there. There is some repetition here, therefore, but perhaps the points are worth repeating.

Before I take our journey through this text, it is necessary to put the text into its context. In the broader context Scripture gives us Jesus’ words in His Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is spoken to the disciples and, more broadly, to all citizens of the kingdom of heaven. The Sermon on the Mount has frequently and rightly been called, “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven.” After describing the characteristics of the citizens of the kingdom in the Beatitudes, the Lord lays down fundamental principles that govern the lives of these citizens while they are still in this world. Note this: Jesus is laying down principles of conduct to be observed by those who are citizens of the kingdom.

In the section of which verses 44, 45 are a part, beginning with verse 21, Jesus is explaining how He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. And in connection with His calling and work to fulfill the law, He condemns the keeping of the law as it was explained by the scribes and Pharisees. They saw the law only as an external code of conduct and paid no attention to the spiritual demands of the law: Love God, and love thy neighbor. Even to the command, Love thy neighbor, the Pharisees had added the command, Hate thy enemy (verse 43). This interpretation was indeed what the Pharisees taught, for in verses 46 and 47 the Lord adds, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans the same?”

The evil interpretation of the law by the Pharisees was basically a self-centered conceit: I will be nice only to those who are nice to me . . . .

In other words, the command of God to love our neighbors as ourselves had been corrupted and abused by the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes. They had interpreted “neighbor” as referring to their brethren, and, even more narrowly, to those who loved them. The Lord warns the citizens of the kingdom not to do as the Pharisees, for that is not the law of God.

But the Pharisees forgot that the command to love our neighbor is rooted in and flows from the command to love God. We cannot love our neighbor without loving God. And, indeed, our love for our neighbor is a manifestation of our love for God. Furthermore, the love the citizens of the kingdom who love God must show to others is a manifestation of the fact that they are loved by God (I John 4:19). The Pharisees, when they interpreted the command, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” and interpreted it to mean that we are to love those who love us, immediately had to face the question: Does God love those who love Him? What a foolish question to ask. The answer obviously is, He does not! Jesus’ answer demonstrates that God loves those who hate Him, though they be elect.

The term “neighbor” in the law of God is broader by far than our brethren and those who love us. That it has a broader connotation is evident from the parable of “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37). In this parable Jesus explains that we are neighbors to anyone whom we meet or walk with on our life’s pathway, who is in need of our help. That means that our neighbors are not only those who unexpectedly cross our pathway and need our help, but also those with whom we walk on life’s pathway every moment of our lives, but who need our help: our wives or husbands, our children, out fellow saints . . . . Quite frankly, I have a great deal of difficulty accepting the hypocritically pious prating of the ministers who are continuously telling us to love our neighbor, but who divorce their own wives and marry others. Let them first love their neighbor nearest to them, their wives and their children.

For all that, we are also called to love the neighbor who is quite obviously an unbeliever. That is, we are called to love our neighbor without discriminating between those who love us and those who persecute us. We are not to love those only who love us. God does not love those who love Him. God does not love those who make themselves worthy of His love. He loves us, the worst of sinners. If we are children of our Father, therefore, we love those who do not love us. But those whom God loves are those wicked and undeserving people who are nevertheless those for whom Christ died.

The point of comparison between God’s love and our love is: God loves unworthy sinners (though they are the elect whom God knows) and we are to love unworthy sinners (though we do not know elect from reprobate.) In doing so we imitate our Father in heaven.

We may very well ask the question: Why does God want us to love our neighbor and not only our brethren? The very obvious answer to that question is: We do not know who are our brethren (or will become our brethren), and who are not. That is why the Pharisees interpreted the command to love our neighbor as referring to those who love them. If, said the Pharisees, a person loves us, he must be one of our brethren and we ought to love him.

This was very perverse and wicked. We do not even know with absolute certainty who among our brethren are truly people of God; much less do we know of those outside the circle of our brethren who are true people of God. Luther was right when he said that there would be many in heaven who surprised him by their presence, and there would be many he thought to meet in heaven who were not there. Hypocrites are to be found in the church and God’s people are to be found outside the circle of “brethren”, though they may as yet be unconverted. God knows who are His own; we do not know with absolute certainty. Nor need we know. It is enough for us to live in fellowship with those who manifest themselves as faithful servants of Christ, with whom we live in our homes and in the communion of the saints. Going back all the way to Calvin and our Reformed fathers after him and following them, we must exercise towards those who profess to be believers “the judgment of charity,” or “the judgment of love.”

But God is pleased to save His church from the world of unbelief. He is pleased to save His church by the preaching of the gospel. The effect of the preaching of the gospel is that God’s people are His witnesses in the world of sin; and the witness of God’s people is itself the power of the preaching within them. God uses the witness of Christians to bring His people outside the church into the fellowship of the saints and under the preaching. This is God’s reason for the command to love our neighbor.

As Jesus makes clear, our neighbor is anyone who comes in our pathway: our wives or husbands, our children, our fellow saints, the man next to us in the shop, the man who knocks on our door to ask for food, the man who threatens us with harm, the man who persecutes us – these and all the rest who, if only fleetingly, enter our lives. God brings them there. God has His purpose in bringing them there. That purpose is to hear our witness of what God has done for us. We do good to those on our pathway whom God has put there.

We who are husbands surely seek the salvation of our wives. We do all we can to help them fulfill their own calling in the home and in the church. We surely seek the salvation of our children, for we teach them the ways of God’s covenant and insist that they walk in those ways. We surely seek the salvation of our fellow saints, for we earnestly desire to go to heaven with them.

The command to love our neighbor is broader than showing love to our acquaintances. We are to love those whose pathway crosses our pathway and who, like the wounded Samaritan, block our path so that we have to go around them if we are to ignore them. God put him on our pathway and did so for a good purpose.

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A. W. Pink concurs:

“‘Thou hatest all workers of iniquity’—not merely the works of iniquity. Here, then, is a flat repudiation of present teaching that, God hates sin but loves the sinner; Scripture says, ‘Thou hatest all workers of iniquity’ (Ps. 5:5)! ‘God is angry with the wicked every day.’ ‘He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God’—not ‘shall abide,’ but even now—‘abideth on him’ (Ps. 5:5; 8:11; John 3:36). Can God ‘love’ the one on whom His ‘wrath’ abides? Again; is it not evident that the words ‘The love of God which is in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:39) mark a limitation, both in the sphere and objects of His love? Again; is it not plain from the words ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’ (Rom. 9:13) that God does not love everybody? … Is it conceivable that God will love the damned in the Lake of Fire? Yet, if He loves them now He will do so then, seeing that His love knows no change—He is ‘without variableness or shadow of turning!’” (A. W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God)