Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Strengthened By Grace Podcast - Episode 45 - "The States of Christ"

Our host, Matthew Dowling, begins an interesting discussion of Christology by looking at the two "states" of Christ: His humiliation and His exaltation.

What about the Apocrypha?

"As for the other events of the reign of Ahaz, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah?" (2 Kings 16:19).

We do not have the Annals of the Kings of Judah, but we do have some ancient Hebrew writings that are not part of what the Protestant church regards as the Bible. The Apocrypha is the term we use to describe a set of books which comes down to us from the ancient Hebrews. Jewish writers beginning in the first century, most notably the Jewish historian Josephus, made it clear that these books were not deemed inspired, as were the canonical books.

As we read yesterday, the Alexandrian canon of the Old Testament, in Greek, seems to include the Apocrypha. While we can dig up copies of the Greek Old Testament in Alexandria and find included with them copies of the apocryphal books, this does not mean the Alexandrian Jews believed these books were inspired. Our Bibles today often contain introductory articles and guides, but we know these are not part of the Word of God. While we cannot be sure how the Alexandrian Jews regarded the apocryphal books, we know for certain that the Palestinian Jews regarded them simply as edifying literature.

The Roman Catholic Church has declared eleven of the fourteen apocryphal books to be canonical. This was stated at the Council of Trent and again at the First Vatican Council in the nineteenth century. While these decisions are in error, it is unfortunate that Protestants have come to disregard totally the Apocrypha. The Protestant Reformers, while declaring that the apocryphal books were not inspired, still maintained that they were very valuable and important specimens of literature. They provide the closest view we have of the period between Malachi and John the Baptist. Many of the Reformers believed that apart from the Scripture the second most important body of literature in the world was the Apocrypha.

Nowhere does the New Testament quote the Apocrypha, and beyond this there are questionable teachings and fantastic magical acts in some parts of it. For these reasons, the Apocrypha is clearly uninspired literature, but it is important and Christians should be familiar with it.

Your education is not complete if you have never read the Apocrypha. You will find some marvelous stories and some interesting wisdom, as well as some things to reject. Consider taking a quarter in Sunday School in your church to survey it.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Strengthened By Grace Podcast - Episode 44 - "Christ as King"

Our host, Matthew Dowling, finishes the discussion of the three-fold offices of Christ by discussing the work of Christ as King.

The Old Testament Canon

"The gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures" (Romans 1:2).

The books written by Moses were the first “canon” or list of authorized and inspired books of the Old Testament. They were placed in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, next to the ark of the covenant, as a memorial before God. These were the books by which the people were to live, and it was these to which God would call them to account. In a large sense, these five books were the covenant between God and His people.

Other books were written later. Over time, through common use combined with study and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, certain books gained authority as inspired. We do not know exactly at what point the complete list of Old Testament books came into being, but we do know that by the New Testament era there were three different Old Testaments in circulation. At one extreme was the Samaritan version, which included only the five books of Moses. Jesus said the Samaritans did not understand God’s revelation (John 4:22) and quoted other books of the Old Testament as God’s Word, so we know the Samaritan canon is not correct. At the other extreme was the Alexandrian canon, which was based on the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), and which seems to have included the Apocrypha (which we will study tomorrow).

The orthodox Hebrew canon is the Palestinian canon. It is identical to the Old Testament used in Protestant Bibles; that is, it does not contain the Apocrypha. It is probable that this canon was fixed by the time Jesus was preaching.

The Hebrew Old Testament contains 24 books, while our Christian Old Testament contains 39. The difference is simply in how the books are put together. We divide Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles into two books. In the Hebrew Old Testament, Ezra-Nehemiah is one book and the Twelve Minor Prophets are considered one book. The Hebrew Old Testament has three parts: the Law (the five books of Moses), the Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and The Twelve), and the Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles).

Most Christians would readily agree with the traditional canon of Scripture. In practice though we often set up our own personal “canon within the canon.” This includes certain favorite books while excluding others we dislike or do not understand. This week challenge yourself to read a book of the Bible you usually ignore.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Who Do You Trust?

Ours is a world of distrust. Besides commerce and community, our most meaningful relationships depend on trust. But it has imploded. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer tracks the decline in confidence in institutions and the media over the years. It shows how a crisis of truth has brought this about. “Without trust, the fabric of society can unravel to the detriment of all.” Of course, the problem is that we need some shared values so as to establish trust. Who do you trust? God’s faithfulness is of absolute importance. We depend entirely on it (Malachi 3:6; 1 Corinthians 1:9). We can encourage each other with the truth that God’s faithfulness is so great that His mercies are renewed every morning (Lamentations 3:23). But what makes God’s faithfulness great? How would you measure God’s trustworthiness?

David Dickson deals with this question when opening up Lamentations 3:23. He notes that the Lord’s kindness and compassion is the effect of His Word and covenant with His people. Jeremiah praises God for His covenant keeping. He calls Him a faithful God and one who is exceedingly mindful of His Word. Thus, he gets a sight of God’s compassion through His covenant and promise being performed.

God’s Faithfulness is Seen in Relation to His Promises

This shows that God’s kindness is only rightly seen by the light of His Word and promise. The wicked get their food, drink, and health from God and say that God is good, but they do not see how this is received by virtue of promise. They do not, therefore, make good use of these blessings. But the godly see God keep His promise, and that every gift they get is by virtue of a covenant. If they lack the gift they are sure to keep a fast hold of the covenant.

Keep the Lord’s promise frequently in mind. Thus, when the Lord hears our prayers we may know that our prayers are heard by virtue of such a promise. When we are heard in trouble, we know we are heard by virtue of that promise (Psalm 50:15). Thus by marking the promise being fulfilled two benefits are received. First, the benefit itself. Second, a better hold on the promise and a foundation laid to get a benefit at another time. Those who lack the promise cannot look for the benefit. The man who has the promise can go to God and tell Him that by virtue of such a promise He heard him before and therefore He must hear him again.

Those who look to the benefits they get by the light of the Word get many advantages. When they see their children like plants around their table (Psalm 128:3), they may say, “these are the benefits of those that fear God”. They will, therefore, strive to fear Him more. When God lets them see how He is displeased with their behavior yet gives them grace to turn to Him, the promise that God in wrath remembers mercy (Habakkuk 3:2) is fulfilled. This would be a way to grow in faith – connecting every work of God with one of the Lord’s promises.

What Makes God’s Faithfulness Great?

1. He Promises Great Things and Delivers

Not only does the Lord do many things by virtue of His promise. He does exceeding great things. He has great things and therefore He gives things that are as great as what He has promised. If a man promises great things and keeps his vow, he is much more faithful. He has promised a great thing and kept his promise. Such is the Lord’s faithfulness.

2. He Performs More Than He Has Promised

God’s faithfulness is great in performing more than He has promised. If the Lord promises a pound, He gives two pounds. His faithfulness is the greater, so the Lord’s works pass His Word, and He performs more than can be taken up in His Word. Therefore, He is said to magnify His Word above Himself (Psalm 138:2).

Then be sure that all that is promised in the Word will be performed. More, in fact, for the Word cannot express the things that God will perform. Thus, it is said that eye never saw, ear never heard, neither entered into the heart of man to conceive what God has laid up for them that fear Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

3. He is Faithful to the Unfaithful

God’s faithfulness is great in being steadfast and sure in His promise to such unfaithful persons. If a great man made a promise to an untrustworthy person, who is likely to challenge him for breaking that promise? If he keeps the promise to such, his faithfulness is great. But God’s faithfulness is greater because not only does keep promises to unfaithful but to wicked and unworthy persons.

4. He is Faithful When He Has Reason to Break His Promise

His faithfulness is great in that when we give Him reason to break His promise, He does not. When a mutual agreement is broken on one side, the other side usually counts themselves free of obligation. But although God might often and justly take advantage of our breach of covenant, yet He does not break it. We often promise to believe more firmly, repent more seriously, pray fervently, obey God’s will readily and submit ourselves to Him. Yet we have broken it all and He shows mercy not only beyond, but contrary to our deserving. Do not, therefore, let our undeserving break our confidence, for although we are undeserving, the Lord’s faithfulness is great. He keeps fast to His promises and will surely perform them, even when He might justly break them.


As we have seen, the voices of authority in our world have lost credibility. In relation to the media, people say: “I am not sure what is true and what is not”. They complain that they don’t know which politicians or organizations (even charities) to trust. We certainly need trust at the basis of our relationships but trust in sinful man will always be undermined. As the Bible often reminds us, there is an inherent weakness in depending on human strength. Confidence in the trustworthiness of God can never be undermined, however. If we find that our trust in others is weakened to an extent, let us only strengthen our confidence in God’s faithfulness.