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  1. Romans 11:18-36

    February 27, 2015 by Pito

    We have arrived at a text that has at least two opposite interpretations in the reformed world. But first let us divest ourselves of the dispensational error of Zionism. What is Zionism?
    It is the belief, initiated more or less by C.I. Schofield in the early 1800’s that said that the nation of Israel would return to the land given to them by God through the promise to Abraham. Many evangelicals today see the modern Jewish state as a part of the messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ.
    However, contrary to present dispensational interpreters, it cannot be established from Scripture that the birth of the modern state of Israel is a prophetic precursor to the mass conversion of the people who call themselves Jewish.
    OT prophecies that predict a “return to the land” would be better understood in terms of the restoration of the whole creation at the final resurrection than a geopolitical re-establishment of a nation called Israel.
    As to the inheritance of land, even Abraham, the father of the faithful, looked beyond the dirt of Canaan for his hope.
    Heb. Hebrews 11:9-11 (ASV)
    9 By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
    10 for he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

    There is much more that could be said to counter dispensational arguments that support Zionism, but since we are not dispensationalists, at least not as to our formal creeds, let us move on to two Reformed interpretations of Romans 11.
    The two basic interpretations are these:
    1. “…the Jews will in fact return to Christ. Israel according to the flesh must receive the blessings of the Kingdom of Christ.” This statement is directly out of one of my favorite commentators’ sermon on this passage. I have no doubt that at least several Reformed pastors in the CREC agree with him. We will call this the “National interpretation.” This interpretation is a good illustration of making the text fit the theology rather than the theology fitting the text. In this case, making Romans 11 fit post-millennial theology.

    2. The other basic interpretation is that this passage does not teach that Israel according to the flesh will receive the blessings of the Kingdom of Christ. Rather, it teaches that those who follow Judaism are grafted back in big time in 70 A.D and also, to some extent, during the Church age as they repent and turn to Christ as individuals, not as a nation. We will call this the Universal interpretation.

    Here are the arguments for the second against the first, the universal against the national. From these biblical arguments we can learn how to be more consistent in our handling of the Scriptures. Exegesis has to trump theology.
    Biblically speaking, a Jew is someone who is covenanted into the people of the Jews by circumcision, for better or for worse. When Abraham was commanded to circumcise, he was told to circumcise his entire household, including his 318 fighting men and his other domestic servants(Gen.14:14; 17:10-14).

    Competent scholars imagine that Sheik Abraham’s household probably in-cluded at the very least 3000 persons. These servants multiplied as the years went by, and Jacob inherited them all (Gen. 27:37).

    Although only 70 from the loins of Jacob went down into Egypt, so many servants went along that they had to be given the whole land of Goshen in which to live. All these people were Jews, but only a small fraction actually had any of Abraham’s blood in them. Later on we see many other people joining the Jews; indeed, the lists of David’s men include many foreigners, of whom Uriah the Hittite is the best known.

    What this demonstrates is that covenant, not race, has always been the defining mark of a Jew (as it also is of a Christian). Genealogical records were kept for the immediate family, of course, since the Messiah had to be of the actual blood of Abraham, and later of David; but this could not have applied to more than a fraction of the total number of people.

    So when Paul says that God has not abandoned Israel, who is he talking about? Did not Paul say in verse 1 and 2 of chapter 11 that his own conversion was an illustration of that fact?

    Romans 11:1-2
    1 I say then, Did God cast off his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
    2 God did not cast off his people which he foreknew.
    Paul’s individual conversion is evidence that God has not cast off His people. This is important to remember as we move along this passage. Every time an ethnic Jew turns to Jesus, the promise to Israel in this passage is fulfilled.
    Christians should minister to national Jews, and try to convert them, and show them all kindness as fellow human beings; but Christians should understand that during the Church Age, the ethnic Jews are not the people of God. Rather, the Church is the people of God today.
    Christians have the responsibility to minister to all nations until the day comes that God conquers them all through the Church, putting Satan under our feet in history.
    “Christians who fall prey to anti-Semitism are trying to disrupt the grace of God for the whole world. It is counterproductive; it is anti-gospel. At the same time, loving the Jews … is not the same thing as approving of what the Jews do, or agreeing with Zionism, or agreeing with the present position of the current administration of the Israeli government. That is not the point. The point is that animus against the Jews is out, and to give way to it is to rebel against God’s gospel strategy.”
    I quote this to point out that interpretation number two, the Universal interpretation, should not be regarded as anti-Semitic. God has sent us to make disciples of all nations , all peoples. Interpretation number two should also not be interpreted as denying the post-millenial hope. In line with this, I believe that many who call themselves Jews will, at the end of the church age, turn to Christ. I just don’t think that today’s passage teaches this, however convenient or fitting it might be to interpret it that way.
    The kingdom of the Messiah is continuing to realize its fullness as elect Jews and elect Gentiles are added to the community of the redeemed in every generation. A day should not be anticipated in which Christ’s kingdom will manifest Jewish distinctives by either its location, “the land,”or by its constituency, or by its distinctive Jewish practices.
    Another important aspect of Paul’s argument is seen in verses 13, 14.
    Romans 11:13-14
    13 But I speak to you that are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I glorify my ministry;
    14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy them that are my flesh, and may save some of them.
    It is clear that Paul’s reference point here is the ministry that he was then involved in, not some undetermined event in the future. Paul is describing the desired consequences of his ministry to the Gentiles. As a result of his current ministry, he hopes to see Jews moved to jealousy when they see Gentiles believers sharing in the blessings of the messianic kingdom.
    Paul’s query, “Has God rejected His people?” is often read to mean “Has God rejected ethnic Israel with respect to His special plan for their future?”
    This interpretation, of course, prejudices the argument from the outset. A better approach is to ask if God has rejected ethnic Israel altogether. Have they stumbled in a way that they will fall, altogether?
    Again, Paul says that God has not done so and he is the proof of it. Gentiles during Paul’s ministry, were being grafted in and Jews were being grafted back in at that time, In I Thessalonians 2 Paul says,

    14 For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus: for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews;
    15 who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and pleased not God, and are contrary to all men;
    16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always: but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. ‘
    “The wrath of God is come upon them to the uttermost,” does not mean that some Jews after the flesh won’t embrace the Messiah of Israel. It means that Israel as a nation will no longer be the conduit for covenantal blessings. Individual converted Jews after the flesh are in, but corporate Israel is out, forever, to the uttermost, completely. God divorced her and destroyed her in 70 A.D.
    Before we put all this to bed, there is a thorny passage that must be explained because, on the surface, it looks like it supports Interpretation number one, the National interpretation,
    Here it is, Romans 11:25-26
    25 For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in;
    26 and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

    There are three aspects of this passage that we should note:
    1. “Hardening in part has happened to Israel. In part is often interpreted as having temporal meaning, like “for a while.” Context dictates that the phrase “in part” declares that either “partial hardening” or a “part of Israel” has been hardened. Either of these understandings would fit with Paul’s earlier discussion of a remnant of Israel that would be saved. In either case, ‘in part” does not have a temporal meaning.

    2. The next term to be considered is “until.” By itself it cannot settle the question of a distinctive future for ethnic Israel either.
    So what is the precise force of “until,” in this passage? It is essentially terminative. The phrase brings matters up to a certain point or until a certain goal is reached. Paul persecuted Christians until, up to, the ultimate point, death.
    In I Corinthians 15, Paul declares that Christ must reign “until” He has put all enemies under His feet. The point is not that a day will come in which Christ will no longer reign. The point is that He will must continue reigning until the last enemy is subdued.
    Thus we understand this passage to mean, Up until 70 A.D. hardening continued in part of Israel. During the destruction of Jerusalem, many Jews saw the truth and embraced their Messiah as God brought to pass the fullness of the Gentiles. “Hardening until” does not by itself indicate whether God will in the future deal with ethnic Israel in a new and distinctive manner.
    Verse 26 begs an explanation. It says, “ And then all Israel shall be saved” What can this mean? The National Interpretation says that the Greek phrase for “then,” is temporal. Hardening has happened in part, but then, after that, after all the Gentiles have come in, all Israel shall be saved.
    Not knowing Greek, you will have to accept my expertise in translating for you. If you want the Greek phrase so you can look it up in a Greek Lexicon, talk to me later. To translate it as “then” is incorrect. It should be translated, “and in this manner.”
    John 3:16 uses this same construction. For God so/thus loved the world. God loved the world in such a manner, that manner is “He gave His own Son.”
    The meaning of “In such a manner” Paul has already described in Romans 9-11. The promises and the Messiah were given to Israel. Israel rejected her Messiah and they were cut off from their position of distinctive privilege. All the Jews who embraced Jesus as the Messiah were grafted back into the olive tree. This process continued up to when the “fullness of the Gentiles “ came in, that is 70 A.D.
    The idea that “All Israel” refers to ethnic Jews is fraught with problems. It overlooks the biblical definition of Israel, circumcision of the heart, and we know that God does not guarantee salvation because of external qualities.
    “All Israel shall be saved,” refers to all the elect of God, whether Jew or Gentile. Gentiles were grafted in and ethnic Jews were grafted back in. Believing Gentiles have become Israelites, for circumcision is that of the heart and not of the flesh.”
    There are at least two things we can take home from this message.
    1. When faithful Christians disagree on issues that are not clearly proclaimed in Scripture, such as our passage today, we must grant liberty and not get too exercised about it. Though I know all things and have not love, it profits me nothing.
    2. Paul also says,
    17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
    The old creation has passed away. Israel after the flesh was part of that old creation that passed away in 70 A.D. when the final nail was put in the coffin of dead Israel.
    The “fullness of the Gentiles” began in 70 A.D. when the new creation completely replaced the old creation in history.
    Post- biblical Jews are simply one people group among all the rest. Today, there are no Israelites in the biblical sense, and there are no Gentiles. There are only people, people in Christ or people not in Christ.
    And here is our hope and our joy:
    Ephesians 2:1-10
    1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
    2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
    3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
    4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
    5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
    6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
    7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
    8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
    10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
    Give glory to God. Salvation is wholly of the Lord. Grace prevails. Yes, God has saved and will continue to save some who call themselves Jews during the Church age, but they will be joined by a great multitude from every tribe, kindred tongue and nation. For of him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. And in this manner all Israel shall be saved. Amen.

     


  2. Little Things Micah 5:2-5

    December 26, 2014 by Pito

     

    We know, when God began to create, there was a progression. He went from disorder to order, from the stuff of creation, like quarks and electrons and atoms and molecules to planets, stars, then to animals and to man. He made big stuff from small stuff. So what is the significance of size?

    Outside of us there are some really big things. Inside of us there are some really small things. For instance, each one of us is quite small when compared to the earth and yet, when compared to a red corpuscle, we are quite large. There are 4.8 million red corpuscles in a cubic mm of our blood. Compared to a speck of dust, to an ebola virus, to an amoeba or to a strand of DNA, we are huge.

    Outside of us, besides the earth, is a universe of space and large objects. For instance, it would take 109 earths to go from one edge to the other on our sun, and 1,300,000 earths to fill it up. The largest star in the universe that man has discovered is 2,800,000,00 km in diameter and an airplane traveling at 900 miles an hour would take 1100 years to circle that star.

    A father and mother look really big to a child and a deer tick looks really small to the same child. If you’ve seen the movie Men in Black, you remember that the aliens were searching for the Belt of Orion, which led us to believe that they were looking for something very large because Orion is a constellation in the heavens. We were astounded to learn that a cat named Orion had a collar around its neck with a galaxy twirling around in a transparent marble.

    In the economy of God, small things are just as important as large things. Large things are made up of small things. Each has its place in the plan of God. Children, you are smaller than your parents, but that does not make you of less importance. One day you will have children smaller than you. Do not forget where you came from.

    Remember what Jonathan, the son of King Saul, said when he and his armor bearer attacked a Philistine garrison of twenty men,

    “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.” It didn’t matter to Jonathan that his force was much smaller than the Philistine force. The two of them attacked by faith and defeated the enemy on about ½ an acre of land.

    Small things played a major part of salvation in the OT. Gideon defeated the 135,000 Midianites with 300 men. David defeated Goliath, the Philistine giant, with a small stone from a leather slingshot. Moses defeated the Egyptians with a shepherd’s rod. Jael defeated Sisera with a tent peg.

    None of us should ever think that we are too small or too insignificant to make a difference for our King and His Kingdom. God used stutterers, supplanters and farmers to bring the mighty to destruction and to bring salvation to His people. We should not think too highly of ourselves, but we also should not think too lowly of God. Believing that He is King should lead us to the battlefield with confidence and faith that He will continue to defeat and save through small things like us.

    Micah, a prophet of God to Judah during the time of Hezekiah, came from a “small,” rural town named Moresheth in Judah. He was an agrarian stranger to the rulers he prophesied to. He had no reason to suspect that his message would be received with open arms and open ears and it wasn’t for many years.

    In an attempt to convince the rulers, both spiritual and political, Micah described a big God. He is not referring to physical bigness but to the overall power, wisdom, justice and mercy of God.

    He says in chapter 1,

    “He comes down and treads on the high places making them melt like wax before the fire, like waters poured down from a steep place.”

    Why was God going to do this? Because of the transgression of Jacob and the sins of the house of Israel. Chapter two begins to tell us specifically what they were doing.

    1 Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand.
    2 And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.
    Instead of seeing Yahweh as large, they were exalting themselves in the eyes of men, in the eyes of the culture and in their arrogance they were oppressing the poor and middle class, making them poor also. The national leaders were insensitive to the plight of their people. And there is nothing new under the sun.

    Micah preached for 16-25 years with no positive results. Micah’s opposition came from the religious leaders who were defending the corrupt political rulers of the southern tribe of Judah. Sound familiar?

    God is no respecter of persons or cultures or nations. His judgment is perfect justice down to the smallest detail. Israel reaped the reward of idolatry and so does everyone else.

    Having shown how low the house of David was to be brought and how vilely that mighty family was to be cast into slavery, he adds an illustration to confirm that though the people fail utterly, God’s promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. God will keep His covenant word and the house of David will one day be established forever.

    Notice how Micah describes the Messiah.

    It is that He is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting, from days of eternity. This is a description of Christ’s eternal generation as the Son of God, begotten of His father before all worlds. This prophecy belongs to Him and to no other.

    Psalm 90:2 “From everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” And from John 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I am.” He was the Word of God that was in the beginning with God.”

    The second aspect of this coming Divine ruler was that He was to rule in Israel. He is King of the Church who will reign over the house of Jacob forever. It is the spiritual Israel that He reigns over, the children of promise, all the followers of believing Abraham and praying Jacob.

    He reigns by His Spirit of grace over us, in us and through us, by His Word and ordinances administered through the Church, His body on earth. He manifested His Divine power on our behalf as He commanded the winds and waves and as He forced legions of devils to submit. It was this ruler who commanded diseases to flee and called the dead out of their graves. Only He who was from everlasting to everlasting was fit to be ruler over Israel, head over all things to the Church.

    After exalting Jesus’ Divinity, Micah goes on to give specific details of the coming Messiah.

    First, He is to be born in Bethlehem, a “small” town in Judah. It was widely known by the Jews of that day where the coming Savior of Israel would be born. They told this to King Herod when he wickedly asked about the new King of Israel.

    Bethlehem means house of bread, the fittest place for Jesus, the bread of life, to be born. Once again God exalts things of low degree in the minds of men as Mary sang in her song, Luke 1:52
    52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
    Christ would give honor to the place of His birth and not derive honor from it. Matthew remarks how Jesus touch magnifies even the smallest as seen by the world. A relation to Christ magnifies those that are little in the world.

    The efficacy of small things is a favorite theme of God. Christians are like Bethlehem. That city was not worthy of the Messiah being born there and neither are we worthy of the Messiah being born into our hearts. We see Jesus as John did, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. And we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” May we ever behold Jesus with eyes of faith and exalt His name together.

    Second, Micah says that in the fullness of time, this eternal, divine Son of God would be born of a woman. The fullness of time as reckoned by men is, “We want what we want, now.” But God leaves Israel to her distress and trouble for many years, until the time is just right according to His comprehensive, divine plan. They wanted to be rescued immediately, but God said, No, Israel will have to wait about 400 years. The Messiah will be brought forth in the place appointed and in the time appointed. All Israel should have been like Simeon, waiting for the consolation of Israel.

    Like Simeon, we wait with patience for the conquering of the world through the Church. We have the promise, but the time is not yet. We know the place, the whole world will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, but the time is not yet. We patiently wait and we work as we wait.

    1 Corinthians 15:58
    58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
    We recognize the importance of small things in the plan of God. We rest in that plan. Our smallness in the eyes of the world is no handicap, but rather an advantage because God uses small things for His glory. We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the glory may be of God. What do we have that we have not received?
    Small things are special to God. He conquers by many or by few.
    Third, Micah says that the remnant of his brethren shall then return to the children of Israel. The remnant of the Jewish nation shall return to the spirit of true genuine children of Israel, a people in covenant with God.
    As Malachi prophesied, the hearts of the children shall be turned to the fathers. Of course we know from the NT that the Gentiles as well as the Jews will become true Jews by the circumcision of their hearts. Jesus is not ashamed to call any His brethren, who call upon him in truth.
    Continuing with Micah’s prophecy we see that the Messiah shall be a glorious prince and His subjects shall be happy under His government.
    He shall stand and feed…He shall both rule and teach as a good shepherd with wisdom, care and love. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd who embraces the lambs in His arms and protects them from the wolves of this world.
    Let’s dwell in this image for a few moments. What does it mean that we are sheep and Jesus is our Shepherd? Here are a few observations. See if you don’t see yourself in these descriptions.
    1. In order for sheep to lie down, four things must be true. Owing to their timidity, they
    refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear. They will not lie down unless they are
    free from friction with the other sheep. If tormented by flies and parasites, sheep will not lie
    down. As long as they feel a need for finding food, they will not lie down.
    A flock that is restless, discontented, agitated and disturbed never does well. The only
    thing that can reassure sheep is to see their Shepherd in the field. The presence of our
    Master, Provider and Protector puts us at ease.

    2. Sheep are easily spooked by turbulent water, like large waves and rushing waterfalls, sometimes even gurgly creeks. Sheep appreciate still water. It calms their spirits. Jesus leads His sheep beside this kind of water. The wicked are like the troubled sea that cast up its dirt and mire, but the righteous graze confidently beside water that has been stilled by the voice of our Lord. “Peace, be still,” He said to the crashing waves and it was so—and it still is.
    When we are anxious, we undermine Jesus’ peace for us. When we worry and fret because of evildoers or whatever, we have our eyes on ourselves and not on Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
    Philippians 4:6-7
    6 Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your re-quests be made known unto God.
    7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
    3. A fallen sheep often lies on its back, thrashing around erratically, its feet in the air, struggling to stand up without success. Even the fattest, largest, strongest and healthiest sheep can become cast down and be a casualty. Often the fattest sheep can fall because of losing their center of gravity as they try to get comfortable in a shallow depression. Our confidence is in our Shepherd who vigilantly watches over his flock to restore us to our feet when we fail, to lift us up when we fall, and to resurrect us as we die.

    4. Sheep left to themselves, left to their own way, left to their own destructive habits, destroy the very pastures they need. They may gnaw the grass to the very ground until the roots are damaged. They may engrave deep ruts, graze the same hills into desert wastes, and pollute their own ground, giving rise to disease and parasites. “All we like sheep have gone astray.”

    The key to life for the sheep is for the Shepherd to keep His sheep on the move, leading them to new and flourishing pastures. The Bible calls this sancti-fication. May we this day follow our Lord as He leads us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith as we make our way together to that city not made with hands.

    As His remnant people, we follow our Shepherd without reservation or hesitation.

    Next, Micah proclaims that the Good Shepherd shall secure the peace and wel-fare of His church against all enemies. The immediate context is the rescue of Israel from the Assyrians, but the shadow is a promise to the Church for deliver-ance from all the designs and attempts of Satan, the powers of darkness, all the demons that seek to devour the Church.

    These powers of darkness, the Sodomites, the abortionists, the femininist, the atheists and such, seem to be making much progress in our culture, but we are assured that God will prevail against them, as He always does.

    Observe that the danger trod across their borders and crept into the palaces in an attempt to destroy God’s people. And like the Assyrians, Satan surrounded the holy city, even Jesus, to try to defeat His purposes of salvation, but he failed, again.

    Even though there are fightings without and fears within, Jesus Himself is our peace. He is our hiding place. He made atonement for sin, reconciling us to God, and as King, He conquered all our enemies. He is our Protector and Defender.

    Jesus Himself is our peace. When the enemy rails against us and attacks us with ruthless cruelty, Jesus is our hiding place.

    Isaiah 32:1-2
    1 Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.
    2 And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
    “In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, be at peace, for I have overcome the world.”
    X2 Micah then portrays the proper instruments for Israels’ rescue from the Assyrians. He says,
    “The shall we raise up seven shepherds and eight principal men,” to oppose the enemy. God uses human agencies like ministers of the gospel and godly magistrates to protect His people. Your elders are here to protect you, the Church, to watch out for your souls and to defend you against the powers of sin and Satan in the world no matter how they may come. We are for you and not against you. Do you believe this?
    And what shall happen to those who oppose the Church of Jesus Christ? Micah says that the opposers of the church shall be brought down. Those who threaten to ruin the Church hasten ruin to themselves. Their destruction is the church’s salvation.
    When Satan fell as lightning from heaven under the preaching of the gospel , when Christ’s enemies who would not have Him rule over them were slain before Him, this prophecy of Micah’s was fulfilled. Jesus defeated death on the cross and in 70 A.D He destroyed those who had crucified Him. That Israel was to be no more.
    The Great Shepherd of the sheep, the son of David, the King of Kings brought salvation to His people as He destroyed the enemy’s main weapon of mass destruction, death itself.
    Hebrews 2:14-18
    14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
    15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
    16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
    17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
    18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
    As King David ascended the mountain with his sheep, he cleared out the debris that had gathered around the watering holes. He plucked up plants that would be poisonous to his flock. With rod in hand, he kept a close watch on predators who were as watchful for a stray sheep as was the shepherd. The table lands of the high mountains were choice pastures for hungry sheep, and the shepherd led them to green pastures, even as their enemies like roaring lions watched from afar, ready to pounce and devour at the first opportunity.

    When we come to the King of Kings Table, we must appreciate all His preparations. He laid aside His glory, being subject to ridicule, false accusations and malicious charges. He was branded a glutton, a drunk, an imposter, a blasphemer, yet he opened not His mouth. He identified with us when He was led as a sheep to the slaughter. But most of all He prepared His Table for us in the presence of our enemies, being forsaken by His Father as
    He paid for our sin.

    Jesus is not like the shepherds of Israel, the Pharisees, the scribes who fattened themselves on the flesh of the sheep and warmed themselves with their wool. To the scattered sheep, the lost sheep, Jesus the Good Shepherd issues a call to follow. Exalted into the highest heavens, he invites us to a meal, a meal where the sick are healed, the broken bound up, the prisoners are set free, and the weak are strengthened. He offers His flesh and blood as true food and drink. He leads His Flock into green pastures and beside still waters.

    Children, if your hands are washed, come and sit at His Table and feast for eternity. Remember that David was a warring king. Picture him in the thick of the battle, swords and armor clanging all around him, men dying on his right and his left – and what does he do? He sits down in the midst of all the bloody chaos of his enemies and has a cup of wine. Let us now join him in this meal on the battlefield.

     


  3. Faithworks

    February 15, 2014 by Pito

     

     

     

                                                                                                                            Faith works.

     

          There are certain things that go together that should not be separated. For instance, a husband and his wife. “What God has joined together let no man put asunder.” Of course, sinners that we are, we regularly make the mistake of doing just that. The United States has the highest divorce rate in the entire world and evangelicals are among the most guilty.

        Without going into a lot of detail, other things that should not be separated are a person from his body. We call that murder except for capital punishment or self-defense,. In addition, the Bible is clear that there should be no separation of the sign and the thing signified.

       WCF on signs of the covenant. “There is in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.”

      Illustrated by Genesis 17:10  :This is my covenant…every man-child shall be circumcised.”

       Mt. 26:27   “For this is my blood of the new testament…”

    And Titus 3:5  “…by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit…”

      As a result of this error of separating the sign from the thing signified, we have Baptistic deformations and we have Presbyterians and Reformed who keep their children from the table. As a Christian culture we have been saturated with Greek thinking. We are predisposed to abstract thinking that regularly separates what God has joined together.

       I say all of this as an introduction to our thought for today. “Faith works” should not be separated any more than a husband and his wife should be separated. Unfortunately, faith/works are separated and the American church is floundering around like a fish out of water on this. Until the church gets this right, we will continue to confuse the world about salvation and judgment because the church herself is confused.

        While it is good to appeal to the Confession and we have already done this, it is ultimately to the law and to the testimony that we must appeal.

        Our title says it all “Faith works.” Notice I didn’t say “Faith and works,” for that can imply that they are two separate things and no I am not playing with trifles. I have a point, a biblical point to make, so stay with me.

       Biblical authors have a lot to say about “faith works” and on the surface, they may seem to disagree. For instance, Paul says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

      But James says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith only.”

       There have been volumes written about this and explanations a many. Today in the Reformed world the debate rages and could it be that the confusion is caused by some folks embracing of Greek ways of thinking? Thinking that separates faith from works in an unbiblical way?

       I think so. Let’s look at a few other passages that handle this subject in a straightforward way.

      Remember what the Confession said about signs and the thing signified. “the names and effects of one are attributed to the other.”

    Check out this passage and see if something similar is not true in the Bible’s teaching on “faith works.”

    Matthew 19:16

     
    16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
    17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
    18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
    19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
    21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
    22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

     

      Notice in verse 17 that Jesus said, “if thou wilt enter life, keep the commandments.” This is in answer to the rich young rulers question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

        Surely Jesus knew that we are justified by faith. How could he have made such a big mistake? I say this in irony because Jesus made no mistakes, ever. So how could he say to this man that to enter life, he must keep the commandments?

        Remember our interpretative principle, “the names and effects of one are attributed to the other.” Many times in Scripture this is so and we now look at a few of them.

        “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”

       How can a man enter into the joy of the Lord? He did good works. He was good and faithful, full of faith.

       Notice how Hebrews 11 handles this. No abstract separation of faith/works.

     By faith Abel offered…

    By faith Abraham obeyed…

    By faith Noah prepared an ark…

    By faith Moses forsook Egypt…

    Listen to what Jesus said to the Churches in Asia Minor.

    Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.

    Remember to do the first works or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place…

    To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat…

    And he who overcomes and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.

    He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments…

    He who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of My God…

    To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with me on My throne…

    In all of these blessing is dependent on overcoming, on good works flowing out of true faith.

          You may not have thought of this, but unbelievers also illustrate the unity of “faith works.”  

        By faith in his power, Pharoah pursued the Israelites….

       By faith in himself, Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem…

    It’s everywhere.

    People act on what they believe. Their conduct flows out of their presuppositions. Their faith and their actions are one, inseparable in real life.

     Let me illustrate this in this room. If I told you there was a bomb under your pew that was going to explode in 3 seconds, if you believed me what would you do? If you didn’t believe me, what would you do? You would do something.

       So what is necessary to enter into eternal life? Faith works. “Faith without works is dead.”

    Be assured that we are not saying that our works merit God’s favor. We are not saying that our good works obligate God in any way.  Jesus says what we should confess that “when you have done all your duty, say to yourselves, we are unprofitable servants, for we have done only what was required.”

       With Scripture, we are saying that all of our righteousness is filthy rags. We are saying that there is none righteous, no not one.

       While works are not meritorious, they are absolutely necessary to enter heaven. Because “faith without works is dead,” and a dead faith does not lead to eternal life.The Biblical evidence for this is overwhelming.

       Hebrews 12:14  Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

       Revelation 21:7,8  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.  But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. . . “

         Inheriting all things is dependent on overcoming.  Notice that unbelieving is included in this list of inheritance excluding sins.  Believing is something we do.  There is no more merit for believing that for doing good works.  Without believing, no eternal life.  Without good works, no eternal life.  Faith and works are one and inseparable in real life.

         At the abortuary, how do we approach those who are murdering babies?  We bring to bear the law of God.  We remind them of the 6th commandment, that they are doing evil works.  If we can get someone to talk with us, we assure them that we are concerned for their lives, not just the lives of the babies.  Eventually, we want them to hear the full gospel.  This is our ultimate goal, but we begin with the law, just like Jesus did with the rich young ruler.

         Let us then return to the rich young ruler for a moment.  In answer to the question, “What can I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus gave him five imperatives, “Go, sell, give, take up, follow.”  He could have said as He did to the disciples, “You believe in God, believe also in me,” but He didn’t.  He  could have said, “Justification is by faith alone,” but He didn’t.  He pointed out their failure to keep God’s law.  This is a pattern that occurs frequently in the gospels during Jesus earthly ministry.

         Paul also sets forth the “faith works” unity in Galatians 6 when he says, “. .  he who sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life. . . “  The rest of chapter 6 explains what he means.  Sowing to the Spirit means . . .

         Restore a trespasser in the spirit of gentleness. .

         Let him who is taught in the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

         Do not grow weary in well-doing. .

         Let us do good to all . .

         In summary, sowing to the Spirit means keeping God’s commandments thus,

         “. . . he who keeps God’s commandments shall of the Spirit reap eternal life. . . “

         This may sound like meritorious works salvation, like what Luther faced in the Reformation, but it is not.  Jesus said to the rich young ruler and to all of us, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

         Again, Jesus could say this because He did not artificially or theoretically separate faith from works.  I encourage you to be a Berean and search the Scriptures to see if this is not so.

         In II Corinthians 5 we read, “For we shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

         What we do counts.  We are charged to persevere in the faith, to persevere in good works for the glory of God and for our own good.

         Remembering the warnings of Hebrews, we trust in the keeping power of our Lord.  We keep our spiritual eyes on Him to keep us, to enable us to overcome, to incline our hearts to keep His law.  Like the rich young ruler was commanded, we go, we sell, we give, we take up the cross, we follow Jesus.  We have no confidence in our flesh, but in Jesus only.

         God said to Abraham, “I am your exceeding great reward,” and John said in his gospel, “ . . . to know Him is life eternal. . . “

         At the same time Jesus said this,

         “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake,

        “but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

    Leaving all for the gospel’s sake is rewarded with eternal life.  This is what it says.

    This is how we lay up treasure in heaven.

         We rightly believe in justification by faith alone.  But we also rightly believe that faith is never alone.

         Because we believe that He is and that He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, we come to His table to enjoy the bread of life and the wine of forgiveness.  We do this because He said, “Do this. Do this in remembrance of me.”  We come out of duty and we come out of love.  “We love Him because He first loved us.”  We obey Him because we love Him.  We trust and we work.  We work and we trust because He alone is worthy, because without Him we can do nothing.  He is our life, our joy and our future.  Thank you Father for sending us your Son.


  4. Glory to God in the Highest (Luke 2:8-20)

    December 29, 2013 by Pito

     

                                     

       Christ the Lord became a man. He therefore knows what it’s like to be a human, from the inside. He told us that unless we become like little children, we cannot enter the Kingdom. He showed us what this means as He became a baby in Bethlehem.

       When He arrived the heavenly hosts of angels announced Him to the shepherds in the fields. Contrary to the world’s view, shepherds have a high place in the economy of God because God’s people need to be led into green pastures and beside still waters.

      Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, raises up under-shepherds to care for His flock, those who protect the sheep from their enemies, be they wolves in sheep clothing or sheep acting like wolves.

       The angels who announced His arrival are instrumental in our world. They protect God’s people. They minister to them.  Angels delivered the law. They were called to train human beings to rule the world. They surrounded the Father at the first creation and they surrounded the Son at the new creation.  They brought heaven to earth as they sung to the shepherds.

       While the shepherds in the fields were faithfully watching their flocks, the angels appeared and told them not to be afraid. Good news drives out bad news as light drives out darkness. With peace in their hearts they marveled and so did everyone they told.

       God has clearly directed us to go into all the world to proclaim this marvel of Immanuel, God with us in human form. We are to imitate the shepherds and the angels. We are the army called to declare that the light has come, life has come, the King has come.

       May our hearts be so full of the joy of the Good News that no one can look at us and not see the wonder of this King in our hearts.  Let us go together to the manger and partake of this bread from heaven. Come and eat God’s glory and know peace on earth and good will towards man.


  5. Jesus,Our King (The Entire Bible)

    December 8, 2013 by Pito

     

                                                     

       Our King is faithful. He has done mighty things for us. He is doing wonderful things for us. He will do even greater things for us.

       Our King is calling a people unto Himself, bestowing grace upon grace on them. Whereas once we were dead, now we live. Our King died for us, in our place and turned aside the wrath of God from us. He is being faithful to build the church through the centuries and He has adopted us into His family. What a glorious thing! Our King has come!

       He has given us officers by which He governs the church. The officers preach and teach His law and His grace, binding and loosing according to the Scriptures. Let us be thankful for faithful officers, a gift of God to the Church.

       Our King rewards us for our obedience, both in this life and the next. Our labor in the Lord is not in vain. Our King blesses us and rewards us. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift, our King Jesus.

      Our King corrects us for our sins. Let us be thankful that we have a King who does not leave us in our sin and rebellion. He is faithful to discipline His sons when and how much we need. Thanks be to God for our caring King.

      Our King supports us in our trials and tribulations. He knows how to help us because He has been there. He was tempted in all points as we are, but without sin. He is ready to comfort the afflicted and to lift up the downtrodden. He has come to us and He is not leaving.

      Our King overcomes all our enemies. We serve a King who has defeated Satan and death. There is none to compare to Him. He shall reign until His kingdom covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. Our King reigns!

      Our King orders all things for His glory and for our good. He has promised to work all things together for our good and we believe Him. With eyes of faith we look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

       Our King has done many mighty things for us whereof we are glad. We deserve none of it and yet we have blessing upon blessing. Our King is full of grace and truth.  King Jesus calls us to a meal, His meal, and we ascend to meet Him in heavenly places, that we may be one with Him and He one with us.

     


  6. Praise is Comely (Hebrews 13:15,16)

    December 3, 2013 by Pito

     

      We know God through His deeds and through His Word and they are both mighty, glorious and wondrous. In the Older Testament David praised God saying,

        “One generation shall praise thy works to another and shall declare thy mighty acts.”

       In the New Testament, Paul adds his praise for the mighty works done through the Lord Jesus, saying,

        “In whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His will, that we should be to the praise of His glory…”

        We show forth the glory of God as we speak the truth in love, as we encourage the weak, as we trust Him through our trials, as we provide for the oppressed.

       We also praise God by singing as we march to battle against His enemies and ours. God expects enthusiasm.  As we joyously sing together, we image the Holy Trinity.

       When the Lord judges, it is to deliver His people, to put the world to rights, to manifest His goodness, His mercy and His faithfulness. God’s plan is to draw all nations to Himself and He will do it, accomplishing His will on earth as it is in heaven.

       May the Lord be pleased with the praise of our lips and may He be pleased with the praise of our lives as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

       This morning we eat and drink from His table of Joy. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him and we endure our crosses for the joy that is set before us, to know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings. Let us now be delight to Him, as we remember His death until He comes again.

     


  7. Acceptable Worship (Hebrews 12:18-29)

    September 15, 2013 by Pito

     

       We are to recognize that we have been called to another mountain; not a mountain that can be touched, but a mountain that cannot be shaken. Israel was shaken at Sinai, but God shook the heavens and all the nations at Mt. Zion. God fulfilled His promise that when He did that, the nations would come to the Desire of the nations, even Jesus.

       We are citizens of that Kingdom that will grow and advance until it fills the earth. After the shaking which began on the cross and continues through history, it will be the only one standing. This brings us to the importance of worship as the appointed means that God has assigned to bring about the manifestation of this Kingdom.

       The key note of godly worship is reverence and godly fear. Our worship must not be breezy and casual. God is not our “buddy” in the skies. Even though we have a liturgy that promotes reverence and godly awe, we too can become casual as we come before God. The world can become casual before God with a Rock band and we can become casual without a Rock band. Our danger is familiarity.

       While there are many Christians who prefer private worship, the Bible teaches that worship belongs primarily in the congregation. Psalm 22:22 “I will tell of your name to my brethren. In the midst of the assembly I will praise you.”

       God has given the Church many gifts, including public officers, the Holy Spirit in the assembly, and one day in the week to rest together in the truth of the New Covenant, to rest in Jesus.

      We can be in the building, but fail to go to heaven in our worship. Understanding what Jesus did when he shook the nations should move us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Understanding what godly worship is should evaporate all flippancy and impertinence.

       May the Lord grant that we love our Mother, the Church, another gift from God bought for us on the cross. May we keep our vows to her and to Him as we come to His table. May He grant repentance for our failures to worship Him with godly fear and awe.


  8. Pursue Holiness (Hebrews 12:11-17)

    September 8, 2013 by Pito

     

      In our race of life, the Lord has promised to discipline us so that we might win the race, not looking back but pressing forward. He encourages us to strengthen our determination, to use our full energy to reach the goal.

       As we face the temptation to get weary and to get despondent, He says, pursue peace and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. From God’s point of view our race is a short race of momentary vapor, but from ours, it is a marathon.

       Knowing this we exert effort. We vigorously lift up our hands and feet, we pump them hard for we are in a race with great rewards. We expect agony, conflict and discipline, realizing that the goal of it all is an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

       We expect victory. We expect that a tried and proven faith will receive glory at the revelation of our Lord. The Lord says that to receive His reward we must not be spiritually paralyzed. We must pursue righteousness with all our might for there are but a few laps to go before crossing the finish line.

      The Hebrew people of our letter were considering a foolish thing indeed. They were thinking about turning around and heading back past the starting line. They were rejecting the heavenly Jerusalem for the earthly Jerusalem. They were rejecting the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God without spot or blemish, for the blood of bulls and goats. Their sacrifices were not acceptable to God.

        How about ours?  Are we willing to sacrifice our bodies, our time, our resources, for each other? Are we in the habit of making sacrifices for our families? Are we in the habit of making sacrifices for our wives? Are we willing to manifest our faith by running the race by faith. Esau’s faith was in himself and his agenda, his goals. He wanted forgiveness without repentance. He didn’t want to change.

       The Church in America is a lot like Esau. The church fears everything but God. The Church in America is heading back towards the starting line instead of pressing on in the truth. Pray for the Church.

      The Lord’s Table gives us the strength we need to persevere in the race. It supports our weak knees and straightens out our dislocated bones. We revel in His passion and declare that  “We will be ravished only with His love.”
    Therefore, let us ascend and feast with our risen Lord. Through Him we conquer all.


  9. Examples, Not Comparisons (Hebrews 11:30-40)

    August 18, 2013 by Pito

     

       All these Old Testament saints serve as reminders of what God accomplished in the past through men and women of faith. They remind us that God is still at work today, fighting for us against the spiritual forces that would destroy both body and soul in hell.

      When we acknowledge our weakness and sinfulness, then we are on the right path to true humility and greatness in the Kingdom of God. Heroes of the faith were men and women just like us. They struggled against the same things we struggle against. We have the same challenge to persevere through humanly hopeless situations.

       They were not great because of anything in themselves, their gifts, talents or resources. What got them through it all was their knowledge that God is faithful to His promises.

       May their examples inspire us to greater faith and may we also do great deeds for God by faithful obedience.

       All these saints died in faith, but what about Jesus, the true Hero of the faith, did He die by faith? Did He live by faith? In Romans 3 we read, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all them that believe.”

      Yes, He did live and die by faith. He obeyed when the Father sent Him into this world to become a man, to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness, to teach the teachers when he was twelve years old. He defeated Satan in the wilderness and on the cross. He came to reveal to us the Father, to endure the persecutions of wicked men and abandonment by His friends. He trusted the Father. He did all this in obedience to the Father. And what was He rewarded with? He received all the nations as His possession. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him and He now rules and reigns over all the earth.

       While we should learn from the example of these OT saints mentioned in Hebrews 11, and from the examples of the godly in our own day, we must not come to His table comparing ourselves to others. No one here should be worried about how other moms have their act together more than you do. No one should be tormented by the sins of their youth. When you come to the Lord, no comparisons. This is the table of no comparisons, no condemnation. Jesus died once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous.

    So come and welcome to Jesus Christ.


  10. By Faith Moses… (Hebrews 11:23-29)

    August 11, 2013 by Pito

     

     

      Faith protected Moses at his birth, led him to leave the riches of Egypt, and by faith he conquered Egypt, kept the Passover and led the children of Israel to freedom.

         When Pharoah made war against God’s children,  God made war against him. God won. We are to continue to war against the seed of the serpent for the battle has already been won, on the cross, and our calling is to mop up the defeated enemy.

        Because we love life and not death, we keep God’s’ commandments, which are life, as we manifest the love of God shed abroad in our hearts through the work of the Lord Jesus. 

      Like Moses we protect our children by loving them and by delighting in them. We lead them out of the darkness of their own hearts by faithfully admonishing, teaching and protecting them from all harm. This includes our own propensity to sin by our lack of self-control.

       Like Moses, we reject the sophisticated, death-loving  philosophy of the world. We reject the seductive attractions of Egypt and embrace their reproach rather than sleep in their beds or eat their demonic food.

       Jesus conquered Egypt on the cross. The church keeps the Passover through the Lord’s Table and your pastors and elders lead you to freedom by faithfully preaching the Word of God to your listening ears.

      Our challenge is to clearly and boldly exegete  and preach the Word. Your challenge is to not to be dull of hearing, but awake, listening intently and not be day-dreaming.

       By the grace of God, let us press on, together. Let us purpose to explore God’s Word together and to live it together so that the world will turn to the Lord and be healed. Let us partake of this meal together in peace and joy. Let us approach the throne of grace that we may find mercy and grace to help in time of need.


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