The Preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ over Angels

Isaiah 6:1-3; Colossians 1:16-18

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Isaiah saw not Jehovah, the essence of God―no man has seen that, or can see it―but Adonai, His dominion. He saw the Lord Jesus; so this vision is explained, John 12:41, that Isaiah now saw Christ’s glory and spoke of Him, which is an incontestable proof of the divinity of our Saviour.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): John, therefore, saying that it was the glory of Jesus, shows that he considered Jesus to be Jehovah.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” It is there expressly said to be the glory of the Lord, Jehovah, the Supreme God…“Holy”―This is repeated thrice, to intimate the Trinity of persons united in the Divine essence.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): I have no doubt that the angels here describe One God in Three Persons―and, indeed, it is impossible to praise God without also uttering the praises of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit.

MATTHEW HENRY: See God upon His throne, and that throne “high and lifted up,” not only above other thrones, as it transcends them, but over other thrones, as it rules and commands them…Above the throne, as it were hovering about it, or nigh to the throne, bowing before it, with an eye to it, the seraphim stoodthe holy angels, who are called seraphim―“burners;” for He “makes his ministers a flaming fire,” Psalm 104:4…Whether they were only two or four, or―as I rather think―an innumerable company of angels that Isaiah saw, is uncertain.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): How many angels are there? The answer of the Scriptures is that they are very great, that they are countless in number…You remember that we are told that the shepherds at His birth heard “a multitude of the heavenly host,” suggesting almost an innumerable company, Luke 2:13. And indeed, the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation tells us that such is the case, for “the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,”―a great mighty host, a myriad of these angelic beings…Read again the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation, and you’ll find that they’re singing His praise, worshipping and adoring Him―that’s the thing they delight in.

JOHN CALVIN: Now, when we are informed that the angels are employed in uttering the glory of God, let us know that their example is set before us for imitation.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): The holy angels make their addresses unto Him with greatest reverence and self-abasement; for they know that He humbleth Himself to behold things in heaven, Psalm 113:4-6.

MATTHEW HENRY: The earth is full of his glory,” the glory of his power and purity; for He is “holy in all His works,” Psalm 145:17. “Holy, holy, holy”―this bespeaks the zeal and fervency of the angels in praising God; they even want words to express themselves, and therefore repeat the same again. It is God’s holiness which, above all His attributes, the angels celebrate―the superlative excellency of God’s holiness, above that of the purest creatures. He is holy―thrice holy, infinitely holy―originally, perfectly, and eternally so.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Though there are holy men and holy angels, there are none holy as the Lord.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews draws a distinction between the Son of God and the angels―the angels, while they are spiritual beings, are nevertheless created beings; they have not existed from eternity, as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit have existed. Indeed, Paul in Colossians 1:16 very definitely teaches that the angels were created by the Son. So, as we think of the angels, we realize that they are inferior to the Godhead, inferior to the Son in particular.

JOHN GILL: Christ is not only above them, as He is God, being their Creator Who has made them―but also as He is man, in union with the Son of God; and chiefly in Hebrews 1:13, He is said to be above them on account of place, being at the right hand of God, where they are not: “To which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Christ having the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily, is Head unto the good angels in regard of His excellency and eminency above them, who are far below Him in perfection, Ephesians 1:21 Hebrews 1:4; the best of them are “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14), and “subject unto Him” (1 Peter 3:22), and so under His authority and at His command, (Matthew13:41; 24:31).

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Clearly, the angels are divided into two groups…There are good angels, and bad angels―there are some angels that can be described as the elect angels, and others not.

JOHN CALVIN: The elect angels are always obedient to Him, and the devils are compelled to obey His command, although they strive in the contrary direction. We know how strongly the demons resist God, but yet they are compelled to obey Him, not willingly, but by compulsion.

JOHN GILL: The holy elect angels―good angels―are subject to Him, as appears by their attendance on Him at His incarnation, ascension, and second coming; by their ministration to Him in the wilderness, and in the garden; by their employment under Him, for the good of the heirs of salvation; by their dependence on Him, as their Creator and Head, and by their adoration of Him as their Lord and God. Evil angels, the devils, are also put under His feet, as is evident from His overcoming Satan, and baffling all his temptations; by His dispossessing the devils out of the bodies of men, and giving His disciples also power over them; by His spoiling them at death, and triumphing over them in His ascension; by delivering His people out of their hands, and power, in conversion; and by His binding of Satan during the thousand years, and by casting him and his angels into everlasting fire prepared for them.

JOHN CALVIN: It hence follows that none of the angels should stand in the way of His preeminence, Who alone possesses supremacy.

 

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The Existence & Attributes of God Are Evidenced by Creation

Romans 1:18-20

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): We argue from the creation to the Creator; and this very argument is one proof of the existence of God.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): By what they see created, they may easily collect or understand, that there is an eternal and almighty Creator; they may argue from the effects to the cause—but the plain sense is this: that God hath given all men such means of knowledge as sufficeth to leave them without excuse.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): How they knew it? By the things that are made―which could not make themselves, nor fall into such an exact order and harmony by any casual hits; and therefore must have been produced by some first cause or intelligent agent, which first cause could be no other than an eternal powerful God. The workman is known by his work. The variety, multitude, order, beauty, harmony, different nature, and excellent contrivance, of the things that are made, the direction of them to certain ends, and the concurrence of all the parts to the good and beauty of the whole, do abundantly prove a Creator and his eternal power and Godhead.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892):The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork, Psalm 19:1. He who looks up to the firmament and then writes himself down an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar.

JEREMY TAYLOR (1613-1667): Can anything in this world be more foolish than to think that all this rare fabric of heaven and earth can come by chance, when all the skill of art is not able to make an oyster? To see rare effects, and no cause.

PHILIP MAURO (1859-1952): The theory of Evolution, as a universal or cosmic process, requires us to believe that the entire organic world emerged, at some past era, from the inorganic. Surely, if such were indeed the case, then the latter would contain abundant evidences thereof, showing how individual entities, with their characteristic life changes, came into existence. And not only so, but we should also find everywhere inorganic groupings of atoms gradually reaching forth towards organic existence; and most certainly it would be possible by laboratory methods to transform the one into the other…Going on further we come to creatures having that mysterious thing called “Life.” Does Evolution account for the origin of that? Quite the contrary; Darwin himself declared that spontaneous generation is “absolutely inconceivable.”

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): To create requires infinite power. All the world cannot make a fly.

JAMES SAURIN (1760-1842): How absurdly have the philosophers treated of the origin of the world! How few of them have reasoned conclusively on this important subject! [The Psalmist] solves the important question by one single principle; and, what is more remarkable, this principle, which is nobly expressed, carries the clearest evidence with it. The principle is this: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth,” Psalm 33:6. This is the most rational account that was ever given of the creation of the world. The world is the work of a self-efficient will, and it is this principle alone that can account for its creation. The most simple appearances in nature are sufficient to lead us to this principle.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The manifestation of God, by which He makes His glory known in His creation, is, with regard to the light itself, sufficiently clear.

MATTHEW POOLE: That which may be known of God”―or, that which is knowable of God by the light of nature.

MATTHEW HENRY: Which implies that there is a great deal which may not be known.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): There are some things which could not be known of God by the light of nature; as a trinity of Persons in the Godhead; the knowledge of God in Christ as Mediator; the God-man and Mediator Jesus Christ; His incarnation, sufferings, death, and resurrection; the will of God to save sinners by a crucified Jesus; the several peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, particularly the resurrection of the dead, and the manner of worshipping of God with acceptance―but then there are some things which may be known of God, without a revelation.

MATTHEW POOLE: The apostle tells us afterwards what he means by the “invisible things of God”―His being and His attributes, particularly His eternity and almighty power.

ADAM CLARKE: His eternal power―That all-powerful energy that ever was, and ever will exist; and Godhead―His acting as God in the government and support of the universe. His works prove his Being; the government and support of these works prove it equally. Creation and Providence form a twofold demonstration of God―First, in the perfections of His nature; and, Secondly, in the exercise of those perfections. His invisible perfections are manifested by His visible works, and may be apprehended by what He has made; their immensity showing His omnipotence, their vast variety and contrivance, His omniscience; and their adaptation to the most beneficent purposes, His infinite goodness and philanthropy.

JAMES SAURIN: Now, this is the reasoning of the Psalmist in Psalm 33:5: “The Lord loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.”―that is to say, it is impossible to consider the works of the Creator, without receiving evidence of His goodness.

MATTHEW POOLE: To which we might add, His wisdom. These things, though invisible in themselves, yet are discernible by His works.

MATTHEW HENRY: Atheists are the greatest fools in nature; for they see there is a world that could not make itself, and yet they will not own that there is a God that made it.

C. H. SPURGEON: To say there is no God is to belie the plainest evidence, which is obstinacy; to oppose the common consent of mankind, which is stupidity; to stifle consciousness, which is madness―As denying the existence of fire does not prevent its burning a man who is in it, so doubting the existence of God will not stop the Judge of all the earth from destroying the rebel who breaks His laws; nay, this atheism is a crime which much provokes heaven, and will bring down terrible vengeance on the fool who indulges it.

 

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Job’s Answer to Satan, Arminianism & Roman Catholicism

Job 1:8-12; Job 2:3-10; Job 19:25-27

The LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD…

And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes. Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): In all ages this doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints has been opposed and denied. Satan himself believed in the apostasy of Job and had the effrontery to avow it unto Jehovah.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The devil will also pervert the doctrine of final perseverance…he tries to pull and tear the poor soul on that great and comforting doctrine. The same nail on which a sinner must hang his hope the devil tries to drive into the very temples of his faith, that he may die like Sisera in the tent of Jael.  “Look,” says Satan, “the children of God always hold on their way: they never leave off being holy; they persevere; their faith is like the path of the just, shining more and more unto the perfect day; and so would yours be if you were one of the Lord’s. But you will never be able to persevere―therefore, you cannot be one of the Lord’s.”

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): Observe from Job’s way of answering, in granting what is true and denying what is false, that in every temptation readily there are two things: (1) A true ground; (2) A false conclusion from it.  Satan will say, “You are in such a condition, therefore you are not a child of God.” Learn then with Job to grant the ground, but to deny the conclusion.

C. H. SPURGEON: Oh, poor soul, tell Satan that thy perseverance is not thine, but that God is the author of it; that however weak thou art thou knowest thy weakness, but that if God begins a good work He will never leave it unfinished.

RICHARD SIBBES (1577-1635): He that keeps heaven for us will give us necessary graces to bring us thither.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Let us defy the devil, because we are in the protection of our God, who is of invincible power, and because our Lord Jesus Christ has taken upon Him the charge of our salvation and promised to be a faithful keeper of our souls to the end. When we are once at that point, then we shall beat back the darts of the devil.

C. H. SPURGEON: There are in the world certain people who teach that Christ gives grace to men, and tells them, “Now, you shall be saved if you will persevere; but this must be left to yourself.”

A. W. PINK: These are what are known as Arminians, for James Arminius or Van Harmin, a Dutchman of the sixteenth century, was the first man of any prominence in orthodox circles who opposed the theology taught by John Calvin—opposed it covertly and slyly and contrary to the most solemn and particular promise and pledge which he gave to church governing bodies before he was installed as professor of divinity at Leyden in 1602. Since then, for the purpose of theological classification, non-Calvinists and anti-Calvinists have been termed “Arminians.” The one man who did more than any other to popularize and spread Arminianism in the English-speaking world was John Wesley.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): The Calvinists hold that a true believer in Christ cannot possibly fall from grace.  The Arminians hold that a true believer may “make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience;” that he may fall, not only foully, but finally, so as to perish forever.

C. H. SPURGEON: This reminds me of an old Puritanical illustration: “The Duke of Alva having given some prisoners their lives, they afterwards petitioned him for some food. His answer was that ‘he would grant them life but no meat.’ And they were famished to death.” The deniers of final perseverance represent the Deity in a similar view―“God promises eternal life to the saints if they endure to the end, but He will not secure to them the continuance of that grace without which eternal life cannot be had!”

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): God deals not as that cruel Duke of Alva did in the Netherlands, governor there for the Spaniard, infamous for his inhumanity. For he roasted some to death, and starved others. “These are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families, after their places, by their names; duke Timnah, duke Alvah… Genesis 36:40. We had a Duke d’Alva in the Netherlands―this was a right Romish Edomite―sure I am, if they be not of the natural descent, they are of the spiritual.

A. W. PINK: We need not be surprised then to find that [Roman Catholicism] repudiates most vehemently this precious truth and pronounces accursed all who hold it. That Roman Catholics and Arminians walk hand in hand may be seen from the ‘decrees’ issued by the Council of Trent. Among the ‘decrees’ of the Council of Trent (1563), which is the avowed standard of Popery, we find the following: “If any one shall affirm with positive and absolute certainty, that he shall surely have the gift of perseverance to the end let him be accursed!’

C. H. SPURGEON: Our hope for the final perseverance of the believer lies in the final perseverance of believer’s God. If the Lord begins to build, and does not finish, it will not be to His honour.

A. W. PINK: One of the outstanding glories of the Gospel is its promise of eternal security to all who truly believe it…It proclaims no feeble Redeemer, but One who is “mighty to save:” though the world, the flesh and the Devil, combine against Him, He cannot be frustrated. He who triumphed over the grave cannot be thwarted by any feebleness or fickleness in His people. “He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him,” Hebrews 7:25. Those whom He pardons He preserves. Therefore each one who trusts in Him, though conscious of his own weakness and wickedness, may confidently exclaim “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day,” 2 Timothy 1:12.

OCTAVIUS WINSLOW (1808-1878): Oh, what a crown of glory will Christ have in that day when He presents His people, whom He not only redeemed and bought with His precious blood, but kept by His power! We need as much the power of Christ to keep us, and finally to preserve us to eternal life, as we need the atonement of Christ to save us.

 

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The Growth of Grace, Part 7: The Full Ear in the Corn

Mark 4:28; I Corinthians 15:10; 2 Timothy 1:12

First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

By the grace of God I am what I am.

For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Our Lord taught His disciples gradually; their knowledge advanced as the light, or, according to His beautiful simile, first the blade, then the ear; first green corn, then fully ripe…

I can think of no single word more descriptive of the full corn in the ear than contemplation. His eminence, in comparison of the new convert, does not consist in the sensible warmth and fervency of his affections: in this respect many of the most exemplary believers have looked back with a kind of regret upon the time of their espousals, when, though their judgments were but imperfectly formed, and their views of Gospel truths were very indistinct, they felt a fervour of spirit, the remembrance of which is both humbling and refreshing; and yet they cannot recall the same sensations. Nor is he properly distinguished from a young believer by a consciousness of his acceptance in the Beloved, and an ability of calling God his Father; for this I have supposed a young believer has attained to―the mature believer, having had his views of the Gospel, and of the Lord’s faithfulness and mercy, confirmed by a longer experience, his assurance is of course more stable and more simple, than when he first saw himself safe from all condemnation. Thus, though his sensible feelings may not be so warm as when he was a new convert, his judgment is more solid, his mind more fixed, his thoughts more habitually exercised upon the things within the veil…His contemplations are not barren speculations, but have a real influence, and enable him to exemplify the Christian character to more advantage, and with more consistence, than can be expected either from a new convert or a young believer

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Young Christians are like little rivulets, that make a great noise, and have shallow water; old Christians are like deep water, that makes little noise, carries a good load, and gives not way.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content,” Philippians 4:11. You notice that Paul says: “I have learned,” or better, ‘I have come to learn.’ I thank God that Paul said that. Paul was not always like this any more than any one of us. How did he come to learn?―It was by sheer experience. I need only direct your attention to Second Corinthians 12, verses 9 & 10, about “the thorn in the flesh.” Paul did not like it. He struggled against it; three times he prayed that it might be removed. But it was not removed. He could not reconcile himself to it…But then he was taught the lesson: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” He came to a place of understanding as the result of sheer experience of the dealings of God with him. He had to learn, and experience teaches us all. Some of us are very slow to learn, but God in His kindness may send us an illness―sometimes He even strikes us down―anything to teach us this great lesson and to bring us to this great position.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Nor is this, as a rule, obtained through a single episode, any more than a nail is driven in securely by one blow of the hammer.  No, we have to learn, and re-learn, so stupid are we.

JOHN NEWTON: Assurance grows by repeated conflict, by our repeated experimental proof of the Lord’s power and goodness to save; when we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again, have given up all hope, and have been suddenly snatched from danger, and placed in safety; and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the word and power of God, beyond and against appearances: and this trust, when habitual and strong, bears the name of assurance.

F. W. KRUMMACHER (1796-1868): Does anyone inquire wherein consists the Christian’s sanctification? It consists in this, that Christ increases in us, and we decrease.  Does any one desire to know whether he is advancing in the way of salvation? Observe whether Christ increases, while you decrease, in your own estimation.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem.

JOHN NEWTON: As he knows most of himself, so the mature believer has seen most of the Lord. The apprehension of infinite Majesty combined with infinite Love, makes him shrink into the dust. From the exercise of this grace he derives two others…One is submission to the will of God. The views he has of his own vileness, unworthiness, and ignorance, and of the Divine sovereignty, wisdom, and love—teach him to be content in every state, and to bear his appointed lot of suffering with resignation…

A union of heart to the glory and will of God is another noble distinction of the mature believer’s spirit. The glory of God, and the good of His people are inseparably connected. But of these great ends the first is unspeakably the highest and the most important, and into which everything else will be finally resolved. Now, in proportion as we advance nearer to Him, our judgment, aim, and end will be conformable to His, and His glory will have the highest place in our hearts.

HOWEL HARRIS (1714-1773): This must surely be our strong desire, as we become more acquainted with Him.

JOHN NEWTON: At first it is not so, or but very imperfectly. Our concern is chiefly about ourselves; nor can it be otherwise. The convinced soul inquires, “What shall I do to be saved?” The young convert is intent upon sensible comforts―but a mature believer has attained to more enlarged views: he has a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which would be importunate if he considered only himself; but his chief desire is, that God may be glorified in him, whether by his life or by his death…And though he loves and adores the Lord for what He has done and suffered for him, delivered him from, and appointed him to; yet he loves and adores him likewise with a more simple and direct love, in which self is in a manner forgotten, from the consideration of God’s glorious excellence and perfections, as He is in Himself. That God in Christ is glorious over all, and blessed forever, is the very joy of his soul; and his heart can frame no higher wish, than that the sovereign, wise, holy will of God may be accomplished in him, and all His creatures. Upon this grand principle his prayers, schemes, and actions, are formed. Thus he is already made like the angels; and, so far as is consistent with the inseparable remnants of a fallen nature, the will of God is regarded by him upon earth as it is by the inhabitants of heaven…He sees that the time is short, lives upon the foretastes of glory, and therefore accounts not his life, or any inferior concernment, dear, so that he may finish his course with joy.

 

 

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Seeking God’s Special Guidance by Fasting & Prayer

Ezra 8:21,23; Daniel 10:1-5,11,12; Acts 13:1-3

[Ezra] proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance…So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel…In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel; then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz…And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee…Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set think heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers…As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Note here that fasting is not abolished with the ceremonial law, but still to be used as a duty of the gospel…Weighty businesses are best dispatched fasting―to edge our prayers and give wings to them; for fasting inflameth prayer, and prayer sanctifieth fasting; hence they go coupled for the most part, Luke 2:37, Matthew 17:21, 1 Corinthians 7:5.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Our seasons of fasting and prayer at the Tabernacle have been high days indeed; never has heaven’s gate stood wider; never have our hearts been nearer the central Glory.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Prayer is extraordinary when fasting is joined to the duty of prayer.

ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER (1772-1851): One special occasion on which the apostles and their companions were accustomed to fast, was when ministers were to be ordained and sent forth. Thus we read in Acts 13. And again, Acts 14:23, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”  Is this practice now followed by those who ordain?

E. M. BOUNDS (1835-1913): One great need of the modern church is for leaders after the style of Ezra.

ALEXANDER COMRIE (1706-1774): They “wait upon” God in their fasting.

HUDSON TAYLOR (1832-1905): It is not lost time to wait upon God. May I refer to a small gathering of about a dozen men in which I was permitted to take part in November 1886? We, in the China Inland Mission, were feeling greatly the need of Divine guidance in the matter of organization in the field, and in the matter of reinforcements, and we came together before our conference to spend eight days in united waiting upon God—four alternate days being days of fasting as well as prayer…We had a thanksgiving, for the men and the money that were coming, in November, 1886, and they were all received and sent forth before December, 1887.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): How often we are exercised about some important matter, some critical step in life, some change in our affairs involving momentous issues.  We distrust our own wisdom, we want to be sure of God’s will in the matter, we spread our case before the throne of grace, and ask for light and guidance. So far, so good.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Bring thy condition to Christ in this solemn ordinance of prayer and fasting; this hath at last been the happy means to strengthen many a poor Christian.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): There is nothing which God hath promised to give or bestow on any but faith will obtain from Him, if attended by a fervent prayer, to which fasting is subservient, as preparing us to it. There are some things which are obtained by a stronger faith, and by more fervent and importunate prayers, than others are―fasting was always used in extraordinary cases.

JOHN TRAPP: Fasting and prayer are like Jonathan’s bow and Saul’s sword, that never turned back or returned empty (2 Samuel 1:22). God is a liberal rewarder of all such as in this sort diligently seek Him. He will turn their fasting into feasting, their prayers into praises, Zechariah 8:19. They shall have out their prayers either in money or money’s worth; either in the very thing they desired, or at least strength to stay themselves upon God, with good assurance that His grace shall be sufficient for them, and that He will be their shield, and their exceeding great reward.

WILLIAM GURNALL: When the Christian is in the dark concerning any truth, and cannot satisfy his judgment by humble and diligent inquiry he hath made after it―now is a fit season to take up this extraordinary duty as an excellent means to be led into the knowledge of the mind of God therein. Prayer is the proper key to unlock God’s heart, and he alone can open our understandings and satisfy our scruples.

JOHN TRAPP: It is a help to the understanding of heavenly mysteries, as Daniel found it.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Daniel, no doubt, had often visited the throne of grace, and been a long trader in that duty; but God reserved the fuller manifestation of His love, and the opening of some secrets to him, till he did, to ordinary prayer, join extraordinary fasting and prayer…This course Daniel took, and got more understanding by his fasting and prayer than by all his study, for a messenger is sent from heaven to “give him skill and understanding,” Daniel 9:20-23, and again, in chapter 10:12. In both he sped. And the angel is careful to let him know that it was his extraordinary praying that procured this extraordinary favour, and also how acceptable his motion was, by the easy access and quick despatch it found with God; and therefore tells him in both, that he had no sooner set upon this course of afflicting his soul but he was heard, and the messenger ordered to give him an answer to his prayer.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Thus Cornelius, in Acts 10, came to be instructed in the mystery of the gospel, upon his extraordinary seeking of God by fasting and prayer. It is very probable this good man in those divided times, wherein he saw many zealous for the old way of Jewish worship, and others preach up an new way, stood in some doubt what to do; and this might stir him up by fasting and prayer to ask counsel, and beg further light of God to direct him in the way of truth, as may seem by the tenor of the message sent him from God in the vision while he was at prayer, which bade him send to Joppa ‘for one Simon, whose surname is Peter…and he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do,’ verses 5, 6.

 

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Watching for God’s Answers to Our Prayers

Psalm 5:2, 3; Psalm 130:5

Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892):Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King and my God.” Here is a grand argument why God should answer prayer―because he is our King and our God. We are not aliens to Him: He is the King of our country. Kings are expected to hear the appeals of their own people. We are not strangers to Him; we are His worshippers, and He is our God: ours by covenant, by promise, by oath, by blood…Above all, we should cultivate the habit of expecting answers to our prayers. We should do like the merchant who sends his ships to sea. We should not be satisfied unless we see some return.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): True faith looks to a promising God, and expects Him to be a performing God, too.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): We must look after our praying, and see what answer God gives.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up, Psalm 5:3—“I will look up.” The prophet, in these words, makes use of two military words. First, he would not only pray, but marshal up his prayers, he would put them in battle-array; so much the Hebrew word gnarach imports. Secondly, when he had done this, then he would be as a spy upon his watchtower, to see whether he prevailed, whether he got the day or not; and so much the Hebrew word tsaphah imports. When David had set his prayers, his petitions, in rank and file, in good array, then he was resolved he would look abroad, he would look about him, to see at what door God would send in an answer of prayer.

C. H. SPURGEON: We may expect answers to prayer, and should not be easy without them any more than we should be if we had written a letter to a friend upon important business, and had received no reply.

THOMAS BROOKS: He is either a fool or a madman, he is either very weak or very wicked, that prays but never looks after his prayers; that shoots many an arrow towards heaven, but never minds where his arrows alight. When children shoot their arrows, they never mind where they fall; but when prudent archers shoot their arrows up into the air, they stand and watch where they fall.  You must deal by your prayers as prudent archers do by their arrows: “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, Habakkuk 2:1―the prophet who, in the former chapter, had been very earnest and very fervent in his supplications, gets now upon his watchtower, to see what becomes of his prayer. He stands as a sentinel, and watches as vigilantly and as carefully as a spy, a scout, earnestly longing to hear and see the event, the issue, and success of his prayers.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): To pray, and not watch what becomes of our prayer is a great folly, and no little sin. What is this but to take the name of God in vain? Yet thus do many knock at God’s door, and then run away to the world and think no more of their prayers.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): It is more than trifling [with God]; it is even insulting Him, to awaken His attention when we never mean to regard His benefits. Yet thousands never think more of their prayers when they have once offered them. They knock, but never stay to see whether the door of mercy is opened.  They send an address, but never wait for a reply, or read it when it comes. And will God remember prayers which we ourselves forget, or regard prayers which we ourselves despise?

F. W. KRUMMACHER (1796-1868): Too often we omit to notice God’s answer to our prayers, otherwise how often should we find to our glad astonishment that at the time of our supplication, the commandment had gone forth to help us.

THOMAS BROOKS: Certainly there is little worth in that man’s heart, or in that man’s prayers, who keeps up a trade of prayer, but never looks to see what becomes of his prayers.

WILLIAM JAY: Yet as prayer is answered, it is proper and important to attend to it; and whoso is wise and will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord, Psalm 107:43.

C. H. SPURGEON: Answers to prayer should be noted and acknowledged…Answers to prayer serve in no small degree to illustrate the goodness of God; and confirm our faith in it.

WILLIAM JAY: How desirable to know that He has not forgotten to be gracious, or turned away our prayer from Him. How confirming to our confidence to be able to say with Moses, The Lord heard me at that time also, Deuteronomy 10:10. What excitement to praise and prayer does David derive from the persuasion, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications; because he hath incline his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live,” Psalm 116:1,2.

C. H. SPURGEON: The Psalmist not only knows that he loves God, but he knows why he does so. When love can justify itself with a reason, it is deep, strong, and abiding―David’s reason for his love was the love of God in hearing his prayers―Answered prayers are silken bonds which bind our hearts to God. When a man’s prayers are answered, love is the natural result. According to Alexander, both verbs may be translated in the present, and the text may run thus, “I love because Jehovah hears my voice, my supplications.” This also is true in the case of every pleading believer. Continual love flows out of daily answers to prayer.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): Now this was the frame and temper of David’s spirit when he came off from praying; he falls into waiting for a gracious answer…Carefully watch what happens to your private prayers. Look at what door, in what way, and by what hand the Lord shall please to give you an answer to the secret desires of your souls.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): But how few—how very few—watch the hand and doings of God! And lacking this, they continue blind to His great goodness and His unceasing care.

 

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The Gift of Utterance & its Effects

Colossians 4:2, 3; Ephesians 6:19

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same, with thanksgiving; withal praying for also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ.

And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Observe, Paul had a great command of language; they called him Mercury, because he was the chief speaker, Acts 14:12, and yet he would have his friends ask of God the gift of utterance for him. He was a man of great courage, and often signalized himself for it; yet he would have them pray that God would give him boldness. The chief speakers need prayer, that God would give them a “door” of utterance―to this there is a further gift requisite, even the gift of utterance.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Utterance; the word may be translated, “in everything,” or, “in all speech.”

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): But we come to a more particular inquiry into these words, what the apostle means by ‘utterance,’ which he desires may be given him. When the apostle desires “utterance” to be given him, he may mean that he may have a word given him to preach—according to that which Christ promiseth, Matthew 10:19: “It shall be given you in that hour what he shall speak.”

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): There you see this great idea of prophesying comes in—this word from God. Now, this brings us a little bit nearer still perhaps to this whole idea of preaching. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that a man has a revelation from God in the sense of some new truth—I’m not saying that. But to me, when a man is truly preaching, he has been given the message.

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): Heavenly wisdom creates heavenly utterance.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Then I would add to that “the gift of speech.”

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): If a man be called to preach, he will be endowed with a degree of speaking ability, which he will cultivate and increase. If the gift of utterance be not there in a measure at the first, it is not likely that it will ever be developed.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Preaching is a gift. It cannot be learned by industry and imitation only, as a man may learn to make a chair or a table: it comes from above.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: So if the candidate has not got the gift of speech, whatever else he may have, he is not going to make a preacher. He may be a great theologian, he can be an excellent man at giving private advice and counselling, and many other things, but by basic definition, if a man has not got the gift of speech he cannot be a preacher.

ROWLAND HILL: There is something in preaching the Gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven I long to get at. If we deal with Divine realities, we ought to feel them such, and then the people will in general feel with us, and acknowledge the power that does wonders on the heart.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I think this is an absolutely vital element in true preaching.  A man cannot preach in cold blood—it’s impossible! He can offer a sermon, he read an essay, he can recite an essay, he can give a Bible lecture, but you can’t preach in cold blood. The man is taken up! He’s in this realm of the Spirit, and God is giving a message through this man to the people. It isn’t an inspired utterance in the sense that the Scriptures are, but in another sense it is an inspired utterance, because the Spirit is giving it and using it in that way. So a vital element in preaching is a reliance upon the Spirit.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Not only “the preparations of the heart,” but “the answer of the tongue,” both are “of the Lord,” Proverbs 16:1. God keeps the key of the mouth as well as of the heart.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Of ourselves we are but unprofitable instruments, and when He has given us utterance, He must also make it effectual, in accordance with the saying that he who plants is nothing, and he who waters is nothing, but it is God that gives the increase.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Do ministers depend thus on God for utterance?

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Be chiefly solicitous to obtain an unction upon what you do say.

E. M. BOUNDS (1835-1913): It is this unction which makes the word of God “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It is this unction which gives the words of the preacher such point, sharpness, and power, and which creates such friction and stir in many a dead congregation. The same truths have been told in the strictness of the letter, smooth as human oil could make them; but no signs of life, not a pulse throb; all as peaceful as the grave and as dead. The same preacher in the meanwhile receives a baptism of this unction, the divine inflatus is on him, the letter of the Word has been embellished and fired by this mysterious power, and the throbbings of life begin.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: How does one know it? It gives clarity of thought, clarity of speech, ease of utterance, a great sense of authority and confidence as you are preaching, an awareness of a power not your own thrilling through the whole of your being, and an indescribable sense of joy.

E. M. BOUNDS: It inspires and clarifies his intellect, gives insight and grasp and projecting power; it gives to the preacher heart power, which is greater than head power; and tenderness, purity, force flow from the heart by it. Enlargement, freedom, fullness of thought, directness and simplicity of utterance are the fruits of this unction.

JOHN CALVIN: Whence we may learn, that the faculty of speaking freely is no more in our power than are the affections of the heart. As far, then, as God directs our tongues, they are prepared for ready utterance―a contrast is always to be observed between that knowledge which springs from performance and that arising from utterance.

E. M. BOUNDS: This divine unction is the feature which separates and distinguishes true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting the truth, and which creates a wide spiritual chasm between the preacher who has it and the one who has it not. It backs and impregnates revealed truth with all the energy of God.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: You cannot be filled with the Spirit without knowing it…What about the people? They sense it at once; they can tell the difference immediately. They are gripped, they become serious, they are convicted, they are moved, they are humbled. Some are convicted of sin, others are lifted up to the heavens―they know at once that something quite unusual and exceptional is happening. As a result they begin to delight in the things of God and they want more and more teaching.

JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): Preaching in the demonstration of the Spirit, which men so much quarrel about, is nothing less than the evidence in preaching of unction.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): The gift of utterance is a high favour.

 

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Do the Angels of God Have Bodies?

John 20:11,12

Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): She knew these to be angels by their white and glistening robes.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Their garments were bright and glittering like lightning, to set forth the glory and majesty of these celestial spirits, and that they might be known to be what they were.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Now another point that has often been discussed in the long history of the church is the question as to whether the angels have bodies. Have the angels bodies? The question arises because they are often referred to as spirits in the same way as men as referred to as spirits after their death. You remember that reference in 1 Peter 3:19, “the spirits in prison.” There are people who are not in the body, and that has led some people to think that the angels do not have bodies.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): They imagine them to have been mere specters, and not endued with real bodies. But, in my judgment, the thing is far otherwise.

A. A. HODGE (1823-1886): Angels are called in the Scriptures “spirits” πνευματα, Hebrews 1:14, a word which is also used to designate the souls of men when separate from the body. There is however nothing in that word, nor in the opinions of the Jews at the time of Christ, nor in anything which is told us of the nature or the employments of angels in the Scriptures, which prove that angels are absolutely destitute of proper material bodies of any kind.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: On the whole, I am entirely in agreement with those who say that is probably false teaching. The angels have bodies.

A. A. HODGE: How are the apparitions of angels to be accounted for?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: They have spiritual bodies, as you and I will eventually have spiritual bodies, and as our Lord’s human frame became a spiritual body, a glorified body, so it is certain that the angels have a body which is appropriate for their spiritual condition, and thus you can account for what are called apparitions to different people.

A. A. HODGE: Indeed, as the Son of God is to have “a glorious body,” and “a spiritual body” forever, and since all the redeemed are to have bodies like His, and since the angels are associated with redeemed men as members of the same infinitely exalted kingdom, it may appear probable that angels may have been created with physical organizations not altogether dissimilar to the “spiritual bodies” of the redeemed.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: But at the same time we must remind ourselves of this: that the angels can appear in the form of human beings. You remember, for instance, the three men which appeared before Abraham in the eighteenth chapter of Genesis, and there are other examples of the same thing.

A. A. HODGE: One of the three men who appeared to Abraham at Mamre and who ate the meat he had prepared, was Jehovah, the second Person of the Trinity, Who had no body till He acquired it many centuries afterwards in the womb of the Virgin. If the apparent human body of one of these angels, was not a real permanent human body, there is no ground to argue from the recorded phenomena that the others were.

JOHN CALVIN: Though Christ appeared in the form of an angel, we must remember what the apostle says to the Hebrews, Hebrews 2:16, that “he took not on him the nature of angels,” so as to become one of them, in the manner in which he truly became man; for even when angels put on human bodies, they did not, on that account, become men…God clothes them for a single day or a short period in bodies, for a distinct purpose and a special use.

A. A. HODGE: In certain situations the angels “appeared” precisely like common men, and in other situations they acted very differently in passing through stone walls, appearing and disappearing at will, (Acts 12:7-10; Numbers 22:31; Judges 6:21).

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: In the case of Samson’s father and mother (Judges 13), there was obviously something unusual about the angel’s physical appearance.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): The angel “ascended in the flame,” Judges 13:20, to manifest his nature and essence to be spiritual, and celestial, because it was not capable of being hurt by the fire.

A. A. HODGE: The bodily appearance of angels, therefore, must have been something newly assumed, or something preexistent and permanent greatly modified for the purpose of enabling them to hold, upon occasion, profitable interaction with men.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: So that, we decide―on the whole―that the angels probably have a spiritual body which is appropriate for their spiritual condition.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): There was an amusing incident in my early Waterbeach ministry which I have never forgotten.

One day, a gentleman, who was then mayor of Cambridge, and who had more than once tried to correct my youthful mistakes, asked me if I really had told my congregation that if a thief got into Heaven, he would begin picking the angels’ pockets. “Yes, sir,” I replied, “I told them that if it were possible for an ungodly man to go to Heaven without having his nature changed, he would be none the better for being there; and then, by way of illustration, I said that were a thief to get in among the glorified, he would remain a thief still, and he would go round the place picking the angels’ pockets!”

“But, my dear young friend,” asked Mr. Brimley, very seriously, “don’t you know that the angels haven’t any pockets?” “No, sir,” I replied, with equal gravity, “I did not know that, but I am glad to be assured of the fact from a gentlemen who does know. I will take care to put it right the first opportunity I get.”

The following Monday morning, I walked into Mr. Brimley’s shop, and said to him, “I set that matter right yesterday, sir.”

“What matter?” he enquired.

“Why, about the angels’ pockets!”

“What did you say?” he asked, in a tone almost of despair at what he might hear next.

“Oh, sir, I just told the people I was sorry to say that I had made a mistake the last time I preached to them; but that I had met a gentleman—the mayor of Cambridge—who had assured me that the angels had no pockets, so I must correct what I had said, as I did not want anybody to go away with a false notion about Heaven. I would therefore say that, if a thief got among the angels without having his nature changed, he would try to steal the feathers out of their wings!”

“Surely, you did not say that?” said Mr. Brimley.

“I did, though,” I replied.

“Then,” he exclaimed, “I’ll never try to set you right again!”―which was just exactly what I wanted him to say.

 

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The Growth of Grace Part 6: The Maturing Believer

1 Peter 5:10; Hebrews 13:9; 2 Timothy 2:1

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace.

Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): The loss of all confidence in himself is the first essential in the believer’s growth in grace.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): All grace is from God; it is He who restrains, converts, comforts, and saves men by His grace.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): It is a mighty manifestation of His grace indeed, when it can live, and act, and conquer in such hearts as ours; when, in defiance of an evil nature and an evil world, and all the force and subtlety of Satan, a weak worm is still upheld, and enabled not only to climb, but to thresh the mountains; when a small spark is preserved through storms and floods. In these circumstances, the work of grace is to be estimated, not merely from its imperfect appearance, but from the difficulties it has to struggle with and overcome; and therefore our holiness does not consist in great attainments, but in spiritual desires, in hungerings, thirstings, and mournings; in humiliation of heart, poverty of spirit, submission, meekness; in cordial admiring thoughts of Jesus, and dependence upon Him alone for all we want.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): To grow in poverty of spirit is truly to grow in grace: “Without me ye can do nothing,” John 15:5.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): The more of humility the more of grace.

JOHN NEWTON: A measure of this grace is to be expected in every true Christian: but it can only appear in proportion to the knowledge they have of Christ, and it styles himself “less than the least of all saints, and of sinners the chief,” Ephesians 3:8. A new convert, and a young believer, know that they ought to be humbled; but the older believer is truly so, and a young believer’s character, in my judgment, is complete, and he becomes a mature believer when the habitual frame of his heart answers to that passage in the prophet Ezekiel 16:63, “That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more—to boast, complain, or censurebecause of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): This is the Spirit’s work alone, and this only will make us go softly all our days.

JOHN NEWTON: Neither has the mature believer, properly speaking, any more strength or stock of grace inherent in himself than a young believer, or even than a new convert. He is in the same state of absolute dependence, as incapable of performing spiritual acts, or of resisting temptations by his own power, as he was at the first day of his setting out. Yet in a sense he is much stronger, because he has a more feeling and constant sense of his own weakness. The Lord has been long teaching him this lesson by a train of various dispensations; and through grace he can say, that he has not suffered so many things in vain. His heart has deceived him so often, that he is now in a good measure weaned from trusting to it; and therefore he does not meet with so many disappointments. And having found again and again the vanity of all other helps, he is now taught to go to the Lord at once for “grace to help in every time of need,” Hebrews 4:16. Thus he is strong, not in himself, but “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): Nothing can be done aright without grace.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Grace in Christ is what believers should always have recourse unto, and exercise faith on; and not only believe that there is such a fullness of grace in Christ, which they have both heard of and seen, and which they know is laid up for them, and given to them, and is sufficient for them; but they should go forth out of themselves unto it, and draw water with joy out of the full wells of salvation in Christ: and this grace is of a strengthening nature—to be strong in it, is to be rooted and grounded in it, and to have a strong sense and firm persuasion of interest in it, and that nothing can separate from it.

JOHN NEWTON: Oh, it is a great thing to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus! but it is a hard lesson: it is not easy to understand it in theory; but, when the Lord has taught us so far, it is still more difficult to reduce our knowledge to practice.

A. W. PINK: None of us knows how weak he is till God withdraws His upholding grace―as He did with Peter―and we are left to ourselves. True, the Lord has plainly told us that “without me ye can do nothing.”  We think we believe that word, and in a way we do; yet there is a vast difference between not calling into question a verse in Scripture, an assenting to its verity, and an inward acquaintance with the same in our own personal history.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): What, for example, is the great lesson that Paul learned in the matter of the thorn in the flesh? It is that “when I am weak then am I strong,” 2 Corinthians 12:10. Paul was taught through physical weakness this manifestation of God’s grace. I must regard circumstances and conditions, not in and of themselves therefore, but as a part of God’s dealings with me in the work of perfecting my soul and bringing me to final perfection.

MATTHEW HENRY: The perfecting, establishing, strengthening, and settling of good people in grace, and their perseverance therein, is so difficult a work, that only the God of all grace can accomplish it; and therefore He is earnestly to be sought unto by continual prayer, and dependence upon His promises.

JOHN NEWTON: Whatever outward changes a mature believer may meet with, he will in general be the same man still. He has learned, with the Apostle, not only to suffer need, but which is perhaps the harder lesson—how to abound, Philippians 4:12. A palace would be a prison to him, without the Lord’s presence; and with the Lord’s presence, a prison would be a palace. From hence arises a peaceful reliance upon the Lord: he has nothing which he cannot commit into His hands, which he is not habitually aiming to resign to His disposal. Therefore he is not afraid of evil tidings; but when the hearts of others shake like the leaves of a tree, he is fixed, trusting in the Lord, who he believes can and will make good every loss, sweeten every bitter, and appoint all things to work together for his advantage.

OCTAVIUS WINSLOW: Such a soul is maturing in holiness and is becoming fitted for the inheritance of the saints in light, Colossians 1:12.

 

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The Growth of Grace Part 5: Experiential Heart Knowledge

Romans 7:21-23; 2 Chronicles 32:30, 31

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Hezekiah prospered in all his works. Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Since the Lord hates and abhors sin, and teaches His people whom He loves to hate it likewise, it might seem desirable that at the same time they are delivered from the guilt and reigning power of sin, they should likewise be perfectly freed from the defilement of indwelling sin, and be made fully conformable to Him at once. His wisdom has, however, appointed otherwise.

EDWARD PAYSON (1783-1827): He could, if He pleased, render them perfectly holy at once; and they are often ready to imagine, that this would be much the better way, both for His glory and their own good. But instead of adopting this method, He grants them, at first, but small degrees of grace, and increases it in a very slow and gradual manner. He leads them round for many years, through a wilderness beset with temptations, trials and sufferings, with a view to humble them, prove them, and show them all that is in their hearts.

JOHN NEWTON: The Lord would not allow sin to remain in them, if He did not purpose to over-rule it, for the fuller manifestation of the glory of His grace and wisdom, and for the making His salvation more precious to their souls. It is, however, His command, and therefore their duty—yes, further, from the new nature He has given them, it is their desire to watch and strive against sin; and to propose the mortification of the whole body of sin, and the advancement of sanctification in their hearts, as their great and constant aim, to which they are to have a habitual persevering regard. Upon this plan the young believer sets out…

But a depraved nature still cleaves to him; and he has the seeds of every natural corruption yet remaining in his heart. He lives likewise in a world that is full of snares, and occasions, suited to draw forth those corruptions; and he is surrounded by invisible spiritual enemies, the extent of whose power and subtlety he is yet to learn by painful experience…He knows that his heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17:9, but he does not—he cannot know at first—the full meaning of that expression. Yet it is for the Lord’s glory, and will in the end make His grace and love still more precious, that he should find new and mortifying proofs of all his evil nature as he goes on, such as he could not once have believed had they been foretold to him, as in the case of Peter, (Mark 14:29,30).

WILLIAM TIPTAFT (1803-1864): We need restraining grace as well as saving grace.

ATHANASIUS (276-373): We need grace alike to keep us from breaking the weightiest commandment of the law, and from falling into the most trifling vanity of the age.

JOHN NEWTON: The exceeding sinfulness of sin is manifested, not so much by its breaking through the restraints of threatening and commands, as by its being capable of acting against light and against love. Thus it was with Hezekiah. He had been a faithful and zealous servant of the Lord for many years; but I suppose he knew more of God, and of himself, in the time of his sickness, than he had ever done before. The Lord, who had signally defended him from Sennacherib, was pleased likewise to raise him from the borders of the grave by a miracle, and prolonged the time of his life in answer to prayer. It is plain, from the song which he penned upon his recovery, that he was greatly affected with the mercies he had received; yet still there was something in his heart which he knew not, and which it was for the Lord’s glory he should be made sensible of, and therefore He was pleased to leave him to himself. It is the only instance in which he is said to have been left to himself, and the only instance in which his conduct is condemned.

JOHN BERRIDGE (1716-1793): Oh! what is man! But how easily we spy the vanity and inconsistency of the creature in another, and how hardly we discern it in ourselves.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): Oh, the aboundings of sin there which no eye discerneth but God’s, until He, by increasing light, declares it to us little by little!  How have I to mourn and weep before Him, while He shows me to myself—poor wretched, sinful, and yet washed and justified from all things! What can I say to these things?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Experience teaches us all—everything is of grace in the Christian life from the very beginning to the very end.

JOHN NEWTON: For a season after we have known the Lord, we have usually the most sensible and distressing experience of our evil natures. I do not say that it is necessary that we should be left to fall into gross outward sin, in order to know what is in our hearts; though I believe many have thus fallen, whose hearts, under a former sense of redeeming love, have been as truly set against sin, as the hearts of others who have been preserved from such outward falls. The Lord makes some of His children examples and warnings to others as He pleases. Those who are spared, and whose worst deviations are only known to the Lord and themselves, have great reason to be thankful.

MARY WINSLOW: To be well acquainted with our own hearts is to bring us nearer to Jesus, and to make us more firmly cling to the cross. Your poor heart is the same as it was years ago, but there was no light to show its evil. But as you grow in grace you will see more and more the goodness of God in the gift of His dear Son, to make an all-sufficient atonement for sinners so vile and utterly helpless as we are. It is a great mercy that, while the Holy Ghost opens up the deep fountain of iniquity within to our view, He also, at the same time, shows us the Fountain open, always open, in which we may wash and be clean.  This makes Jesus so precious to the deeply-taught Christian.  To be well acquainted with your own heart is worth all the pain you may be called to suffer.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): Let us not be discouraged by any humiliating discoveries we may make of the evils of our hearts. God knows them all, and has provided the blood of Jesus Christ His Son to cleanse us from all sin.

 

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