Monday, November 11, 2019

The Message of the Prophets

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

Very often the New Testament speaks of “the Law and the Prophets,” which leads some people to think that these were opposed to one another. Indeed, much of liberal theology is based on the notion that the prophets were at war with the Law and with the priests who maintained the Law. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The biblical perspective states that God is sovereign, and every word He speaks has the force of law. Thus, whether God speaks through Moses or Isaiah, His Word is law. Preeminently, the Law, the five books of Moses, is the foundation of God’s revelation. The prophets God raised up throughout the Old Testament had as their fundamental mission the task of calling the people back to the revealed Law of God. We see this most fully in Jesus Christ, the greatest Prophet, when He says that He has no intention of abolishing either Moses or the prophets, but rather that He is going to fulfill them. Immediately after saying this, Jesus began calling the wayward people back to the true meaning of the Mosaic law in His Sermon on the Mount.

The prophets denounced Israel’s social sins when the nation departed from the social aspects of God’s law. Most notably, however, the prophets denounced Israel’s religious sins, for worship is the heart of society. They decried such ecclesiastical abuses as ritualism, externalism, and formalism. They told the people that God hated their merely going through the motions of worshiping Him. They told the people that true worship expressed fearful love for God and love-filled fear of Him.

But the prophets never attacked the Law, either in its social or in its ecclesiastical dimensions. After all it was God who set up the rituals, externals, and formalities in the first place. Too often today we throw the baby out with the bathwater. We don’t want any forms or any liturgy. However, we cannot worship without some kind of forms. The prophets knew that it is possible to have externals without the internal, but it is never possible to have the internal without the external. If our heart-attitude does not issue in external obedience to God’s laws, including His rules for worship, we have nothing.

The Protestant Reformers sought to reform the church, not to reject everything from the past. This was true of their approach to worship as well. How well do you know the great forms and structures of worship that God has given the church through the ages? How does your worship properly honor the biblical forms for the church?

Strengthened by Grace Podcast - Ep. 9 - "God's Attributes - Part 1"

In episode 9 of the SBG podcast, host Matthew Dowling begins a discussion of the attributes of God, the perfections of God's being as apprehended by human beings.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

When the Gospel Goes, What Else Goes?

Atheists like Richard Dawkins have come round to the idea that getting rid of Christianity is a bad idea. It would “give people a license to do really bad things.” In other words, secularism fails to provide a coherent moral framework for good and evil. 

Douglas Murray recently admitted that the idea of human rights cannot long survive being cut off from its Christian roots. Western society has been living on the inheritance of a Christian heritage but now the capital is running out. This is what Murray describes in his book The Strange Death of Europe. These benefits derive not just from Christian influence but from the gospel itself. The Bible warns that when a people send the gospel into exile, it will not be long before their own exile follows.

Thomas Brooks drew attention to this at a time when he along with thousands of other gospel preachers were being silenced by the state. He asks the question: “When the gospel goes from a people, what goes?” He also helps us to go beyond the bleak reality of answering that question. He highlights both encouragements and challenges that arise from this. It should make the gospel even more valuable to us. We also need courage and zeal to proclaim the gospel faithfully in the face of opposition.


In the northern kingdom of Israel, they were without the law and the true God. They had no teaching priests, only Jeroboam’s false priests (compare 2 Chronicles 15:3 with 2 Chronicles 13:9). The following verses go on to show that there was no peace in the nation but rather disorder, destruction and adversity (2 Chronicles 15:5 and 6).


When the Ark was taken away, their strength and safety was gone (2 Chronicles 15:6). When the Jews rejected the gospel, the Romans came and took away both their place and nation. About forty years after Christ’s crucifixion, Titus and Vespasian took away the Jews’ city. They had cried, if we do not deal with this man [Jesus] the Romans will take away our nation (John 11:48). But to do so was the quickest way to bring the Romans on them.


When the Jews slighted the gospel and turned their backs on it, they quickly became bond slaves to the Romans.


When the gospel goes, the honor, glory, splendor, and beauty of a nation go. It is the gospel that is the honor and beauty of a nation. When that goes, all the glory goes. When the Ark was taken away, the glory was departed from Israel (1 Samuel 4:22). When a people exchange the true worship of God for things that do not profit (the traditions of men) they abandon their glory (Jeremiah 2:11-13).

What is it that lifts up one nation above another, but the gospel? Our nation has been lifted up to heaven above all nations of the earth because of it.


When the gospel goes, all soul-happiness and blessedness go. The gospel is the means appointed by God to bring souls to acquaintance with Christ, to acceptance of Christ, to a claim to Christ, to assurance that He is theirs and they are His. Now when this goes, all soul-happiness and blessedness go.


When the gospel goes, the spiritual presence of God goes, for that always goes with the gospel. There is a general presence of God which the Psalmist speaks of (Psalm 139:7-8). This presence of God reaches from heaven to hell; in that sense, God is included in no place, nor excluded out of any place. 

But what is the benefit of this general presence when the gospel goes? When it goes, the special presence of God goes.


(a) The Gospel cannot be taken out of our hearts.

It is in the understanding, affections, and consciences of sinners as well as saints. It has got so deep a root in the hearts of many thousands that it is beyond the power of hell to pull it out.

(b) The Gospel still has preachers.

There are many of God’s servants in this nation to preach the everlasting gospel. They would be glad to preach it on the hardest terms. They will keep God and a good conscience to preach it freely as the apostles did. God has deposited this treasure for a purpose.

(c) The Gospel has not been destroyed.

All previous attempts to destroy the gospel have been ineffective. They have only helped the gospel to advance, flourish and spread.

(d) The Gospel does not go till a people reject it.

God never takes the gospel away from a people until the body of that people have thrust the everlasting gospel away from them. Although God’s messengers were abused, He continued to provide the Jews with the everlasting gospel until they thrust it away from them (2 Chronicles 36:15-23; Jeremiah 25:1-14 and Acts 13:45-47).

(e) The Gospel is promised to the children of believers.

Will God not fulfill His engagements to them (Deuteronomy 30:6; Psalm 112:2)?


(a) Make sure of your salvation.

Make it your great business, your work, your heaven to make your claim to salvation in Christ sure and secure. This is not an age or hour for someone to be between fears and hopes, to be between doubting and believing. Do not depend on outward practices or privileges. Make Christ and Scripture the only foundation for your souls and faith to build on (1 Corinthians 3:11; Isaiah 28:16).

(b) Rejoice in the Gospel.

Rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2:11). Rejoice that God has done your souls good by the everlasting gospel. Rejoice that He did not leave you until He brought you to accept it and to commit your souls to Christ. Rejoice that you have had the everlasting gospel in so much light, purity, power, and glory as you had had. Rejoice in the riches of grace that has brought it to you in such a way. But weep that you have provoked God to take away the gospel and that you have not made best use of it.


Brooks also addresses the issue of why there is such opposition to the gospel that people want rid of it. People hate plain, powerful and faithful preaching of the gospel. This is because it shows up the nature of their lives. They hate the light and do not want to come towards it because their sinful actions and lifestyle will be exposed (John 3:20). Sinners also hate the gospel because their sin is restrained where the gospel shines in power and glory.

The gospel also requires things that sinners consider too hard. They must abandon darling sins to live according to it. This is hard for them even to hear (John 6:60).

The effect of the gospel is different. It softens one and hardens another sitting right beside them. It wins one and enrages the other. It is like the sun which has different effects on the things on which it shines (living things flourish, corrupt things increase in corruption).

Opposition to the gospel ultimately comes from Satan himself. He knows that the tendency of the gospel is to shake his kingdom. Thus, he and those of his kingdom do all they can to oppose and show their hatred against the everlasting gospel. This makes them to be in such a rage against the gospel.


This brings an implicit challenge to us. Is the gospel we proclaim faithful enough to stir up inevitable opposition? Or have we toned down the aspects that stir up such antagonism? Are we in danger of helping those who want rid of the gospel because we do not present it fully? Have we prized the gospel or just taken it for granted? Is it so personal for us that we rejoice in it and live in the light of it?

SERMON: "The Gospel of God: Described" (Romans 1:2-4)

If you are not able to worship at your own local church this morning, or your congregation does not have a second service in the evening, you might enjoy my sermon today from Romans 1:2-4 titled "The Gospel of God: Described." This is the second sermon in an expository sermon series from the book of Romans.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Song of Songs: Delighting in Beauty

"Your navel is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine. Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies" (Song of Songs 7:2).

The Song of Songs progresses from Solomon’s courtship of his bride through the early days of their marriage. In chapters 1–2 we find Solomon wooing the Shulamite maiden, and her affectionate response to his advances. In 2:4 and 3:6 we find Solomon taking her to the palace to present her to the court.

Then in chapter 4 Solomon praises her beauty as she stands fully dressed and veiled. He mentions her beautiful eyes, her raven hair, and what he can see of her body as it moves beneath her garments (4:1–5). He even says that she smells good to him (4:10–15—a locked garden is one that captures good scents).

Chapter 5:1 says that the marriage has been consummated. The new wife yearns to be with her husband, but he is about his business (5:2–6:3). Later in the day Solomon remembers her beauty and longs to be with her also (6:1–9). Next we find her public presentation before the people as their queen. They fall in love with her and want to see her more often (6:10–13). In chapter 7 the newly married couple is alone, and Solomon admires her physical beauty in privacy. The language in chapter 7 is naturally more intimate.

What we see throughout the Song is the delight that both the husband and the wife take in each other and in each others’ bodies. There is no hint of comparison here, as if the husband compares his wife’s body to other women he has known. His eyes are for her alone. Happy is the man who has never known another woman intimately, and so has no basis for unwanted comparisons.

The negation and depreciation of the human body, which is still present among some Christians, is characteristic of pagan culture, but not of the Bible. The Bible teaches us that God made human beings in His own image, as the crown of His creation. While God is a Spirit without a physical body, in some ways our physical bodies do reflect His beauty and glory. We should delight in this and in one another within the strict confines of marital privacy. Both clothed and unclothed, adorned and unadorned, scented and unscented, married couples should regard the loveliness of one another.

The abundance of exposed flesh in our public marketplace today makes it difficult for most spouses to believe their spouse only have an eye for them, and vice versa. With Job, covenant with your eyes (Job 31:1) that you will not gaze or long for someone outside of your marriage partner.