A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful. In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Pro 14:25-26
Exegeting Scripture involves looking at all the different parts of God’s word. You whittle each line down and examine each and every word. Each phrase is scrutinized. But as you look at the individual trees (and even individual leaves!), you should never forget to step back and see the forest.
Each of these proverbs contains good lessons. You can learn a lot from each line. But it is important to notice their juxtaposition too.
We could talk about the excellency of a truthful witness. We could enshrine the bold advocate of Biblical truth as one who is a savior. And we could talk about how wonderful it is to know the fear of God and possess a good self esteem (confidence). But you have to understand that these ideas are not separate and independent of each other. They are intertwined and the first is absolutely dependent upon the second.
A truthful witness saves lives. He is one who stands up against the tide of unbelief and is willing to be known as a kook. He’s not afraid to speak out against the issues of his day, despite being the minority—perhaps even the lone voice. But how is it that he has that boldness? His confidence comes from his fear of God. When you are not anchored in the fear of God, you will end up pandering and capitulating to the masses.
Think of Athanasius. He was exiled three times for his standing against the rank heresy of Arianism. There is no doubt that there was the temptation to succumb to the falsehood that was becoming more and more mainstream. Life in exile was certainly not a pleasant thing. Yet, despite his persecution, he remained faithful to the word of God.
Martin Luther is a good example too. We romanticize Luther’s life. We tend to forget that people didn’t much care for his speaking out against purgatory, the Roman establishment, and such. We forget that he cowered at times in his home, to the point of being almost mad.
What was it that made these stalwarts so persevering? It was their fear of God.
Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, think of the Apostle Peter. He betrayed Christ three times. What was the grand pressure that he faced? It wasn't anything much. He got rolled over by a little girl. Why did he cave? Why did he lack the confidence to speak up? Because he didn’t know the fear of God.
What about our day? What would it be like if you spoke up against the sacred cows of our day? If you dared to pipe up about feminism, and talk about things like Titus 2 or 2 Tim. 2:14. Or if you had a crazy thought like: You know, children are leaving the faith in droves and becoming atheists and agnostics almost en mass. Perhaps it is because they are going to schools that are atheistic and agnostic? Maybe we should do something completely off the wall and reconsider the way we raise and educate them.
What would it be like if you attempted to broach these kinds of issues? Imagine the kind of blowback you’d get. I would suppose some of your jobs would be on the line. You’d likely be thought of as a kook. You might not be physically exiled like Athanasius, but you might experience an exile of sorts as people leave your church or say things like, “there goes Crazy Uncle Matt again!”
That’s why the fear of the Lord must be your confidence. The best summary of what that is goes like this: The fear of God is when your biggest fear is breaking God’s command and offending him. God is so loved, so enjoyed, so reverenced, so enjoyed that His will, and it alone, is what matters.
Only when He comes first will you be able to be a savior...and an oddball.
Every culture has its temples. The are places of worship and learning. They are places where the gods of the age are enshrined and promoted.
Above all, they are places where the priests and prophets promise a future and a glorious golden age of prosperity.
Today's temples are the government schools. They worship the god of self and espouse the doctrines of Darwin, Rousseau, Marx, and Sartre. They posit that their tolerance, materialism, and existentialism will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.
Unfortunately, many Christians have believed the lie and been duped into thinking that these sacred places really are the key to the future. Instead of recognizing the importance of fearing God and building a world and life view on the basis of Scripture, they rally to the synagogues of agnosticism and atheism.
But without the fear of God, they are temples of doom. Those who hate Him (as they demonstrate in their epistemology & metaphysics) love death. How can the hopelessness of existentialism produce a future? It posits that there is no future for which we live! Darwin himself saw the end of his worldview and slid into a despairing mental state! Without Christ at the center, there is no future.
Call to Confession: Pro 28:13
“He who covers his sins shall not prosper: but he who confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.”
Gracious and merciful God,
Once again we limp to you and we cast ourselves down at the footstool of your grace.
We do not hide the fact that we are unworthy servants, who have transgressed your law in many ways and at many times.
What’s more, we confess the secrets of our hearts, for we know that you see what we hide in the labyrinth of our souls. You know the pride, anger, impatience, lust, vanity, profaneness, and distrust. Although these are kept from the public eye, they all alike are plain to you. For you are the Searcher of Hearts.
And it would be foolish (and even reckless) to try and conceal them or disavow their existence. So we admit them, and hold to the promise of your word.
Lord, we pray that, you might now grant us mercy and forgiveness. We ask that you would pardon us and free us from the guilt that we have incurred and the penalties that such things require.
We pray that you would grant us the benefits of Christ’s life and bitter death. May we be numbered among those who have been washed in his blood and cleansed by his atoning sacrifice.
And may your Spirit be that which lifts our heads and confirms us in this sweet salvation.
Lord, hear our prayer, for it is in the truthfulness of your word that we set our hopes. Amen
Assurance of Pardon: Psa 103:10-12
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Great and Mighty God,
We give you praise for this joyous occasion and for the marriage of Lyle and Alexandra.
We look to you, asking that you, in the abundance of your favor, would strengthen and uphold them in this sweet union. May it be as unassailable as that union that exists betwixt Christ & his church. May they be one, even as the Godhead itself is one.
We pray that you would fill their home with rivers of love and cause joy to daily grace their service to one another.
May you grant them many years of happiness together and allow them to enjoy the delight of many children.
May it always be that they are faithful to their vows, ready to forgive, patient with each other’s infirmities, tender in speech, and firm in devotion.
Above all, may this relationship that you have fashioned be strong in the service of Christ.
And Lord, we ask your blessing upon these evening hours. May our celebrations be pleasing in your sight and a testimony to the depths of our gratitude for all your benefits.
Christmas gets a lot of attention. That's to be expected being that it is the birth of the Son of God!
But sometimes it casts a shadow over other great doctrines of the faith. This is most especially true of the Ascension of Christ.
In this issue of Providence's e-newsletter, we carve out some time to "set our minds on things above, where Christ is." (Colossians 2:2). We'll take a few moments to consider the practical implications of Christ's having been raised up to the Father's right hand.
Salvation would not be effected without Christ’s having come down to earth and enduring all the indignities that he did. This abasement is typically expressed as his humiliation. The Apostle’s Creed summarizes it as his being conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, sufferings under Pontius Pilate; crucifixion, death, burial and descent into hell. Let us look at each of these briefly.
Holy Conception & Birth
Of course, the conception and birth of Christ seeks to emphasize that Christ really did have a human nature. From Mary he received actual DNA and the composition of humanity.
On the other side, the miraculous nature of his birth expresses the divinity and distinction of the Christ. In being conceived by the Spirit, without the means of a human father, he diverts the normal process of sinful generation. He becomes a second Adam, who has no corruption.
Yet, we must not miss the ignominy that is associated with this.
1. He was born in a low condition: This is to recognize that Christ’s taking flesh was a radical break with his former state of being. In heaven he had a “high” condition, in that he was comforted with its peace and prosperity, enjoyed the servitude of angels, was shrowded with infinite glory and had perfect rule and dominion of all. In his birth he shunned these, preferring instead to be in a helpless state (as all babies are) and without any nobility.
His lowly state was also expressed in his life-long state of poverty. It was one thing to take a state of humanity (to be born in the form of a worm), but the state of that humanity was the lowliest of its kind. His parents had to offer the offering of the poor (Christ’s escape to Egypt was likely funded by the gifts from the Maji). He himself during his ministry had no where to lay his head. He had no tomb of his own, and even the few clothes he had were taken from him.
2. He was made under the law: This was a humiliating act because he himself was not by nature under it. As the Soveriegn Lord and Lawgiver he was above the law and not subject to it. He could make and change the laws as he chose (so to speak). His coming to earth in human form meant that he must now submit to the earthly governors. In sum, the King of kings and Lord of lords became the subject of kings and lords.
3. He faced the indignities of the world: When you bring a girl home to meet your parents, you want your siblings to be on their best behavior, and you try your best to keep her from meeting crazy Uncle Bob, who is renown for his crude jokes, lack of manners, and disgusting bodily noises. What you are trying to do is save her from having to face the indignities of your family.
Christ faced the indignities of this world in that he was surrounded by profane people and all the disgrace that is entailed with that.
4. He was challenged by Satan & his temptations: In the book of Job we read that Satan had to get permission from the Lord to do anything. He was no threat to the Lord. In his humiliation he was made liable to Satan’s attacks and experienced the full enticement of those temptations. The NT does not describe how horrible it must have been for Christ to experience this. Yet we cannot underestimate how horrendous this experience must have been.
5. He suffered the associated pains of earthly life: Christ had new sensations that were not becoming of his divine nature: hunger, fatigue, thirst. Physical pain was more than simply a cruel sensation (He deserved to be treated well and nobly pampered. He also experienced emotional pains associated with slander, repudiation, looming execution, etc.
Suffered under Pilate
As with his holy conception and birth the creed’s statement of his suffering under Pontius Pilate is synecdoche. It represents all his earthly sufferings that lead up to his death and that for which we may call him the “Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief”. These include…
1. His being betrayed by Judas and forsaken of his disicples: Christ, in his humanity, had friends. Close friends at that. They were his confidants and the ones with whom he experienced camaraderie. We must not think that Christ had a stoic attitude towards his earthly associates. He loved them, laughed with them, and bonded with them as any mortal would. We likely have experienced a friend forsaking us or turning his back on us. Christ experienced this on a grand scale.
2. He was scorned & rejected by the world: He came to his own, but his own did not receive him. We often see Christ in conflict with the Religious leaders. We must not think that his rebukes were out of anger only. They were no doubt accompanied with tears. To be run out of towns and ridiculed by throngs would have no doubt multiplied his grief.
3. He was condemned by Pilate: To have a sentence passed against you is distressing. But it is different if you are innocent. Since Pilate knew that Christ was innocent (and even sought to persuade the audience and be something of an advocate for Christ’s release), it would have been even more troubling.
4. He was tormented by his persecutors: This should be obvious enough. Let us not forget though that Christ suffered numerous beatings, perhaps 4 altogether (one the hand of the Jews, one at the hand of Pilate, one at the hand of Herod, one at the hand of the crowds as he was led to Galgotha—it was their custom to “get their digs” as they were being led to the place of execution).
5. He conflicted with the terrors of death: Besides suffering the brutality of men, he experienced the mental anguish over his impending execution in the Garden of Gethsemene. This was of such an extreme degree that his pores began to seep blood (in other words, his capalaries were under such stress that they broke and released blood).
Was Crucified, dead, and buried.
It is not the intent now to detail the humiliating depths of crucifixion. It is enough for our purposes to say that it was a painful and shameful way to die. The Creed does not fail to mention that Christ actually died and, to prove such, was buried. In this we are reminded that Christ became “maximus peccar,” the supreme sinner, and bore the wages of sin.
His Descent into hell
This phrase has been the subject of much dispute. Some take it to mean that Christ, subsequent to his death, went to the locality of hell, where OT saints were said to be waiting and set them free so that they may, at long last, enter heaven. This interpretation, which is held by RCC and some Protestant churches, is based on an errant understanding of 1 Peter. 3:18f). Some take this statement to be a reiteration of Christ’s sufferings on the cross, this time pertaining to the mental agonies that he endured.
Perhaps the best way to understand this phrase is that Christ remained under the power of death for a time. The word hell is the word Gehenna, which indicates the grave (i.e. he remained in the realm and under the power of death). It’s positioning in the Creed, after buried, seems to indicate such. It then reminds us that the full penalty of death was paid by Christ.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.