God Word

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“Westminster Theological Seminary: Its Purpose and Plan” was delivered by the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen at the first convocation address at the Seminary on September 25, 1929. Dr. Machen’s address was subsequently published on the pages of The Presbyterian, in its October 10, 1929 issue (pages 6-9) and later reprinted in What Is Christianity?, edited by Ned B. Stonehouse (Eerdmans, 1951). The most recent reprint of this address appears on pages 187-194 of J. Gresham Machen: Selected Shorter Writings, edited by D.G. Hart (P&R, 2004):—

machen03Westminster Theological Seminary, which opens its doors today, will hardly be attended by those who seek the plaudits of the world or the plaudits of a worldly church. It can offer for the present no magnificent buildings, no long-established standing in the ecclesiastical or academic world. Why, then, does it open its doors; why does it appeal to the support of Christian men?

The answer is plain. Our new institution is devoted to an unpopular cause; it is devoted to the service of One who is despised and rejected by the world and increasingly belittled by the visible church, the majestic Lord and Savior who is presented to us in the Word of God. From Him men are turning away one by one. His sayings are too hard, His deeds of power too strange, His atoning death too great an offense to human pride. But to Him, despite all, we hold. No Christ of our own imaginings can ever take His place for us, no mystic Christ whom we seek merely in the hidden depths of our own souls. From all such we turn away ever anew to the blessed written Word and say to the Christ there set forth, the Christ with whom then we have living communion: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

The Bible, then, which testifies of Christ, is the center and core of that with which Westminster Seminary has to do. Very different is the attitude of most theological institutions today. Most seminaries, with greater or lesser clearness and consistency, regard not the Bible alone, or the Bible in any unique sense, but the general phenomenon of religion as being the subject matter of their course. It is the duty of the theological student, they maintain, to observe various types of religious experience, attested by the Bible considered as a religious classic, but attested also by the religious conditions that prevail today, in order to arrive by a process of comparison at that type of religious experience which is best suited to the needs of the modern man. We believe, on the contrary, that God has been pleased to reveal himself to man and to redeem man once for all from the guilt and power of sin. The record of that revelation and that redemption is contained in the Holy Scriptures, and it is with the Holy Scriptures, and not merely with the human phenomenon of religion, that candidates for the ministry should learn to deal.

There is nothing narrow about such a curriculum; many and varied are the types of intellectual activity that it requires. When you say that God has revealed Himself to man, you must in the first place believe that God is and that the God who is is One who can reveal Himself, no blind world force, but a living Person. there we have one great division of the theological course. “Philosophical apologetics” or “theism,” it is called. But has this God, who might reveal Himself, actually done so in the way recorded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments? In other words, is Christianity true? That question, we think, should not be evaded; and what is more, it need not be evaded by any Christian man. To be a Christian is, we think, a truly reasonable thing; Christianity flourishes not in obscurantist darkness, where objections are ignored, but in the full light of day.

But if the Bible contains a record of revelation and redemption, what in detail does the Bible say? In order to answer that question, it is not sufficient to be a philosopher; by being a philosopher you may perhaps determine, or think you can determine, what the Bible ought to say. But if you are to tell what the Bible does say, you must be able to read the Bible for yourself. And you cannot read the Bible for yourself unless you know the languages in which it was written. We may sometimes be tempted to wish that the Holy Spirit had given us the Word of God in a language better suited to our particular race, in a language that we could easily understand; but in His mysterious wisdom He gave it to us in Hebrew and in Greek. Hence if we want to know the Scriptures, to the study of Greek and Hebrew we must go. I am not sure that it will be ill for our souls. It is poor consecration indeed that is discouraged by a little earnest work, and sad is it for the church if it has only ministers whose preparation for their special calling is of the customary superficial kind.

J. Gresham Machen “Westminster Theological Seminary: It’s Purpose and Plan,”The Presbyterian 99 (October 10, 1929): 6-9.

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 39. — What is the duty which God requireth of man?

A. — The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.

Scripture References: Deut. 29:29. Micah 6:8. I Sam. 15:22.

Questions:

1. Why do believers have duties toward God?

(1) God is the Creator and Preserver of all men, but believers belong to Him also by right of redemption and have added reason for obedience.
(2) God has made it very plain in His Word that the duties of the believers are the responsibilities that go with the privileges. In our catechism we have studied the privileges, now we o come to the responsibilities.

2. What is the revealed will of God?

The revealed will of God is found in the scripture of the Old and New Testaments.

3. Could not the Holy Spirit lead a believer to act apart from the Scriptures ?

Any leading by the Holy Spirit will be consistent with the Word of God. A Bible teacher put it this way: There are three main characteristics of the leading of the Holy Spirit:
(1) It is controlling, not compelling.
(2) It is continuous, it always “Puts to death”.
(3) It is mediate, always by and with the Word, “Into the truth”.

4. Should believers obey God rather men?

There is a responsibility on the part of believers to “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake”, (I Pet. 2: 13) but if the duty required of us by man would cause us to disobey God (according to His revealed will) we must obey God. (Acts 5:29).

5. Does God require of the believer what is impossible for the individual believer?

No, God only requires of the believer what he will give the believer the strength, wisdom, courage and power to perform. (Ezekiel 36:27. I Cor. 10:13).

HOLINESS AND TRUTH

We learn in this question that our duty is obedience to the revealed will of God. This brings forth the teaching that we as believers need to be reminded of again and again: to simply know the truth is not enough, there must be a working out of the truth in our lives every day. This teaching is vital, for the real test of Christian discipleship is continuance in Christ and in His Word. (John 8:31, 32).

In this day and age, among conservative circles, there is much teaching about the Truth. Well should there be for the battleground today is over the Truth, whether it is verbally inspired or not, whether or not it is the authority for the believer. We recognize the importance of the Word and are always ready to do battle for it. But are we: ready, always ready, to live it day by day? Possibly our trouble is that of making the process too difficult. We feel it is too hard to do and so end up doing little or nothing. Would it not be good for us·to get back to the simple principles of obedience to the revealed will of God? Let us check a few of them again, all to the glory of God.

First, remember that we are God’s children. Since we have been born into His family we should no longer seek to do our will but His will. If we will but settle right now, once and for all, the important principle that we are to do all to the glory of God we will avoid many difficulties. Remember that doing His will in no sense depends on feeling, it is simply a self-discipline.

Second we should be steadfast Christians. We can do this by always abiding in the vine. The Spirit of Christ dwells in the true believer and is ready every moment to impart wisdom, courage, patience and give victory over sins from within and without. Keeping close to. Him will help us to be steadfast.

Third, honor God’s Word. It would be better to give up one meal a day than to miss one day without reading the Word. Remember ever to turn to the authoritative Word of the sovereign God, remember it is our objective authority and from it we learn how to live.

Fourth, pray without ceasing. Prayer can . lay hold of the throne and spiritual forces are set into motion far beyond the understanding of man. It is an offensive weapon.

Fifth, be faithful in the little things. Faithfulness is the great test of true discipleship. He that is faithful in that which is least will be faithful also in much.

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 39 (March, 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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He Wrote for the Ages
His name was John Ross Macduff. Born this day, May 23, 1818, in Bonhard, near Perth, Scotland, John received all his education in Edinburgh. Ordained into the Church of Scotland, he went on to serve in three Presbyterian churches, including one fifteen year ministry in Glasgow, Scotland. And while he was faithful in the pulpit to proclaim God’s Word, yet he also had a further ministry through the writing of devotional and practical books, many of which are still available by means of the Internet. And we are talking here around 200 years later. As my title puts it, he wrote for the ages.
It was in 1857 that his fellow elders in the Church of Scotland appointed him to the Hymnal Committee of the Church. He went on to write 31 hymns, all of which were then widely used in the Church of Scotland. While his hymn on the Second Advent of Christ was not republished in the Red Trinity Hymnal, it was found in the old Blue Trinity Hymnal on page 238.  Read its words found in the four stanza hymn:
Christ is coming! Let creation from her groans and travail cease;
Let the glorious proclamation Hope restore and faith increase;
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Come, thou blessed Prince of Peace.
Earth can now but tell the story Of thy bitter cross and pain;
She shall yet behold thy glory, When thou comest back to reign;
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Let each heart repeat the strain.
Long thine exiles have been pining, Far from rest, and home, and thee:
But, in heav’nly vestures shining, They their loving Christ shall see;
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Haste the joyous jubilee.
With that blessed hope before us, Let no harp remain unstrung;
Let the mighty advent chorus; Onward roll from tongue to tongue;
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!” Amen.
Unlike ancient hymns of the second advent, this one by John Macduff focused in on the Second Coming as an occasion of triumph and joy. It was based on Scriptures like Romans 18:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Titus 2:13; Revelation 1:7; and Revelation 22:20.
John Macduff would retire from the ministry of the preached Word in 1871 and lived until 1895.
Words to Live By:
To still have sermons and devotional classics available to read is a remarkable testimony for our instruction from his heart and lips.  He truly wrote for the ages.  And of course, it is as we faithful pastors preach the inexhaustible riches of God’s Word that our sermons become timeless in their comfort and instruction.  Lay people! Treasure  pastors who are faithful to proclaim the whole counsel of God to you.  They are few and far between in our generation.

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Eighty years ago, on June 30, 1934, there was an observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Korean mission started by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Other denominations had their own missions in that land. The Southern Presbyterian Church (properly, the Presbyterian Church, U.S.) had a substantial mission there as well, one which was greatly blessed of the Lord, and we may speak of the PCUS mission later.

But for today, reading briefly in The fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Korea Mission of the Presbyterian church in the U.S.A., June 30-July 3, 1934 by the Rev. Harry A. Rhodes, we come to what is for us the heart of the subject, a paper presented by the Rev. Herbert E. Blair, under the title of “Fifty Years of Development of the Korean Church.”

The Role of Missionaries
According to the Rev. Herbert E. Blair, three main principles undergirded the PCUSA mission to Korea in the period between 1884-1934. These were: (1) the supreme place given the Bible, with its simple Gospel message as the inspired, authoritative Word of God. (2) the common determination to make the Korean Church an indigenous church from the beginning, self-propagating, self-instructing, and self-governing. And (3) a spirit of comity and cooperation.

Persecution
But Blair also notes that there was great opposition to the gospel ministry in Korea in those days. “Men were imprisoned and flogged and threatened with death for helping the foreigners bring in the Gospel. Terrible persecutions were inflicted by hostile communities or privately by families or by fathers and husbands. Young widows of the Church were snatched and sold by heathen relatives and terribly abused. Wives were beaten, dragged out of churches and through the streets by their hair and cursed, and their clothes hidden so that they could not go to church again. Some were locked up and food denied them. They were cast off for Christ’s sake. Young boys suffered terrible beatings at the hands of brothers and fathers and were driven from home. Young girls were dragged away to heathen marriages and tortured if they protested. If they fled they were arrested and forced back into weddings they could not escape.”

The Bible and the Korean Church
Rev. Blair continues: “But by God’s grace, the Korean Church grew and became established—established upon the very best and only true Foundation. Writing from his vantage point in 1934, Dr. Blair states, “Bible study has been magnified in the Korean Church. The Bible has been ever at the side of leaders and followers alike. The Bible has been a passion with many pastors and teachers. Rev. Kil Sun-chu [or, Kil Son-ju, 1869-1935], the blind preacher of Pyongyang, has been first of all a diligent Bible student. He had studied all the old cults, but nothing brought peace till his soul began to feed on the Word of God. Pastor Kil has been an inspiring model before the eyes of the whole Church. His sight failed him but Dr. H.C. Whiting operated and enabled him to read again. This past generation pictures Pastor Kil always standing in the midst of great Bible classes, holding up his Bible close to his big, round, radiant face so that through his immense lenses he could himself read the Scriptures and then pour out his great soul in vision and plea. He has so studied and taught the Bible that he can repeat whole books. He has repeated the Revelation hundreds of times. Similarly, most of the leaders of the Church have been good Bible students. Their Bibles are filled with notes, worn and black from Genesis to Revelation. Some of them know their Bibles so well that they are veritable concordances. Such examples have helped the whole church to become a Bible-studying, Bible-loving church. Even old grandmothers and ignorant farmers have been inspired to learn to read so they too could know God’s Word.”

“One can tell a Christian home by the Bible on the floor or on the box at the window or the little table. In their homes family prayers have not only been for daily devotion but they have also been the family schools where the fathers and mothers, aged parents and little children, have gathered in circles about the little oil lamps on the floors, with their Bibles open before them, reading around, verse after verse, the fathers often pronouncing syllable after syllable for the little children to repeat till all have learned to read. Probably all who have spent any length of time in Syen-chun, have been impressed when late at night or earlyt in the morning, while going through the street, passing house after house, they have heard the sound of family prayers or the muffled tone of song. The open Bible is the family altar. All over Korea for years, in multitudes of homes, they have had such family prayers.”

Words to Live By:
Much of this account seems so similar to accounts of other times of God’s great blessing upon His Church. And consistently in each case, a faithful devotion to the Word of God and to prayer undergirds each of those times of blessing. Christian, where is your Bible? Is it gathering dust? Or is it your daily companion? And are you constant in prayer, seeking your Father’s face, drawing near not just with your daily burdens, but also with groanings and petitions for the Church at large, that the Lord would be glorified before a watching world? Be constant in God’s Word and in prayer, and watch expectantly to see how the Lord will work. Pray that once great denominations in the U.S.A. would again be seized with the truth of the Bible and return to a faithful proclamation of the Gospel. Pray too that we who consider ourselves orthodox would indeed maintain our first love in all humility and obedience.

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What Should Be Done by Christian People Who are in a Modernist Church?
by Dr. J. Gresham Machen

[The following article was originally published in The Presbyterian Guardian, vol. 1, no. 2 (21 October 1935): 22.]

machen03What is the duty of Christian congregations or Christian individuals who find themselves in a church that is dominated by unbelief? Shall they remain in such a church, or shall they withdraw from it and become members of a consistently Christian Church?

That is certainly the question of the hour for the orthodox part of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Various attempts are being made to answer the question. Various considerations are being urged on one side or the other.

If we separate from the existing church organization, it is being said, shall we be able to retain any of our congregational property, or will that all have to be abandoned to the uses of the existing organization?

On the other hand, if we remain in a church that is dominated by unbelief, does that not mean that we are simply heaping up greater resources for the Modernists in future years to use? Will not every gift that we make, every church building that we put up, be turned over ultimately to the uses of unbelief?

No doubt such considerations on one side or the other of this question are very interesting. I am bound to say in passing that the considerations in favor of separation seem to me to be much stronger than the considerations on the other side.

But I propose to the readers of this page that we should now approach the question in an entirely different way. I propose that we should see what the Bible has to say about the matter. Does the Bible permit Christian people to live year after year, decade after decade, in a church that is so largely dominated by unbelief as is the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.?

The answer to that question is surely not difficult. I am not thinking just now so much of individual texts directly bearing on the question, though those texts are not difficult to find and though they are not really balanced by any texts on the other side; but I am thinking of the Bible’s whole teaching about the Church and what the Church ought to mean in the individual’s Christian life. If we read what the Bible says about the Church and then examine the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., can we really put our hands upon our hearts and say in the presence of God that the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. even approximates being what the Bible says a church of Jesus Christ must be or provides that nurture which the Bible says every Christian ought to have?

Now I know very well that we ought to be careful when interrogating the Bible on this point. Sometimes, when the Bible speaks about the Church, it is speaking about the Church as it will finally be when it appears without blemish before Christ. We have no right to demand of the Church militant a perfection that will belong only to the Church triumphant to the Church in its final, glorious state. When the Bible speaks of the Church militant, the Church as it actually appears upon this earth, it detects always the presence of error and sin in that Church, and it does not permit a Christian to withdraw from that Church or any branch of that Church just because that Church or that branch of it is not perfect.

All this is true. But it really does not apply to the situation in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The point is that that Church is very largely dominated by unbelief. It does not merely harbor unbelief here and there. No, it has made unbelief, in the form of a deadly Modernist vagueness, the determinative force in its central official life.

Such a body is hardly what the Bible means by a church at all. The Bible commands Christian people to be members of a true church, even though it be an imperfect one. It represents the nurture provided by such a true church as a necessity, not a luxury, in the Christian life. There must therefore be a separation between the Christian and the Modernist elements in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. That is perfectly clear. The only question is how the separation shall be effected.

Unquestionably the best way would be the way of reform. If Modernism should be removed from the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., and that church should be brought back to conformity with its constitution and with the Word of God, all would be well.

The other way is the way of separation from the existing organization on the part of the loyal part of the church. Only, if the separation comes, it ought to come in such fashion as to make perfectly clear the fact that those who are separating from the present Modernist organization are not founding a “new church,” but are carrying on the true, spiritual succession of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.

Something will no doubt be said regarding both of these possibilities on this page in future issues of The Presbyterian Guardian.

Words to Live By:
It should always be a fearsome thing to propose division or separation, even for reasons such as stated above. And I am quite certain that separation was never a light matter in Dr. Machen’s consideration. In our daily prayers, we ought to regularly pray for the unity of the Body of Christ, the Church. As long as we are in this sinful flesh, there will always be divisions, for our understanding of God’s Word is imperfect. But the way to greater unity rests not in pushing aside the truth of God’s Word, but rather, in pressing forward to know more and more of God’s will, as revealed in the Scriptures.

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It’s August and it seems that everyone is away on vacation. So now for something completely different:

Samuel Miller as you’ve never seen him.

Dr. Samuel MillerIn the biography of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, we find this snippet from a letter he wrote, dated August 7th, 1801. Miller’s son, who served as his biographer, writes that this letter “will give an idea of some of the expedients of the city clergy of that day, for bodily and mental recuperation:

“On Wednesday week last, I went down with a large party of gentlemen, (twenty-six in number,) to amuse myself with fishing on the sea-bass banks. These banks are in the ocean, about twelve or fifteen miles to the southward of Sandy Hook, and nearly opposite Long Branch. The company was pleasant, the fishing delightful, the bathing highly refreshing, and the mirth and jollity of the party, notwithstanding the presence of several clergymen, so great, as almost to border on being excessive. We returned the next evening; and I think I felt ten per cent, at least, better for the jaunt. Contrary to all my expectations, I escaped sea-sickness; though my wish was, for the sake of its salubrity, to experience that painful disorder.”

Words to Live By:
For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8, NASB)

It would be a mistake to understand Paul as saying that bodily exercise is of no use. Rather, he is making a comparative statement, that bodily exercise is of little profit when compared with the eternal gain of godliness. Even the most physically fit person will eventually die, whereas godliness holds promise for the present life and for the life to come. A corollary verse would be Mark 8:36: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” If the benefit of living a healthy life and getting some regular exercise is so obvious, can’t we see the vastly greater benefit of first trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and then living out that faith in accordance with God’s Word, the Bible?

Source: The Life of Samuel Miller, (1869), vol. 1, p. 142.

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A Faithful Pastor, Serving the Lord in all humility.

Just ten years ago now, the Rev. Lawrence R. Eyres entered his eternal rest on this day, January 23, 2003, at the age of 91. Lawrence was born on an Iowa farm on November 14, 1911, raised by godly parents during the Depression, was educated at Wheaton College (1934) and prepared for the ministry at Westminster Theological Seminary (1937).

In 1936 he had become one of the founding members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and following his graduation from Westminster, was ordained in 1938 and installed as pastor the OPC church in Deerfield, New Hampshire. Moving to the other side of the nation, his next pastorate was in Portland, Oregon, and then in 1958 Rev. Eyres became the pastor of what is now Faith Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Long Beach, California, a church founded in April of 1941. The Rev. Lawrence Eyres was the third pastor of this congregation, and the church grew greatly, numbering some 500 members growing in grace under his ministry. In 1970, Rev. Eyres left Faith OPC and worked to plant churches in Ohio, South Dakota, Alaska and Wisconsin before retiring in 1993.

Among the honors accorded Rev. Eyres during his long ministry, he served as Moderator of the OPC General Assembly in 1950, and he is perhaps most remembered for The Elders of the Church, a work which has proven to be of great use. To read a review of this book, click here.

Of Rev. Eyres, one obituary noted that “Lawrence was a gentle, gracious man, who loved His Lord and loved people, whose life’s work is summed-up by the word “pastor” – stalwart for the truth of the Bible as God’s Word, vigorous in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, committed to the truths of the Reformed faith, and sacrificial in giving his life to Christ’s Church.

Words to Live By: Alongside humility, love and a heart for the truth of God’s Word, self-sacrifice is a quality essential in the life of anyone who would seek to live out their Christian life in way that would matter. Give me a pastor who will expend himself on behalf of his flock. Give me Christians who will live sacrificially, giving freely of themselves to others, not holding back when they see a need that must be filled.

For Further Study:
Click here to read an article by Rev. Eyres, “Live in the Fear of God.”

Sources:
http://eyres.home.texas.net/bios/scrapbook/LawrenceREyres.htm
http://eyres.home.texas.net/bios/LawrenceEyres.htm
http://www.faithopc.org/our-history/

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Handling the Word of God Aright

Finding  historical sites on American Presbyterianism scarce, we turn to the Catechisms of the Westminster Standards, and for a change, to the Larger Catechism. Question No. 157 asks “How is the word of God to be read? and gives this answer, “The holy Scriptures are to be read with an high and reverence esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer.”

We are assuming, dear reader, that you are a reader of Holy Scripture, indeed, that you have made it a habit to read the daily portions of Scripture noted each day in our blog, which will take you through the Bible in one year. But it is not enough to simply read, but we must read God’s Word, as the Catechism says, “with an high and reverent esteem of it.” The Bible is God’s Word to us and to our generation, to say nothing of the last or the future generations.  We must be firmly persuaded that it is the very word of God. Yes, human authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit, but what they wrote and indeed the very words they wrote were by God.  Our Reformed and Presbyterian churches believe in plenary and verbal inspiration.

As a result of the Bible being the Holy Word of God, only the Lord can enable us to fully understand it. This being the case, we should always approach the Word with prayer, asking the Author of it to illuminate our hearts to read and understand it.

Now, what is the motive in reading the Word of God? In one phrase, it is to “know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed” in it. Every once in a while, there is a newspaper article about the average American’s knowledge of the Bible.  It is appalling to realize the ignorance of the Bible, even among church folks. This is why this one year reading schedule and doing it chronologically is so important. Many Christians have never read the Bible through once in their spiritual lives.

Then our motive in reading it is to believe and obey the will of God revealed in it. It is God’s Word and will for our lives yesterday, today, and always. Paul spoke of it in 2 Timothy 3:16 as being for “teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.” (NAS)  We need the solid doctrine of theology as our teaching. The reproof in the Bible tells us the wrong paths we have strayed  in faith and life.  The correction tells us the right path of life and doctrine. And the training in righteousness is a gradual process of holiness which all believers need until we get to heaven.

The manner of reading the Bible is summed up in a series of descriptive words, like “diligence, meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer.”  Diligence is needed, dear Christian.  We must not be content to be spiritual babes forever, but mature thinking Christians.  Meditation, or thinking carefully and seriously, is needed when we read the Bible.  In other words, take time to read the Word.  Too many believers spend more time reading the newspaper than they do reading the Word of God. Application is most needed.  What does the Word I have read today mean, and most important, mean to me, to where I am in my walk with Christ.  Self-denial and prayer tells us to humble ourselves under the Word of God and depend upon Him to reveal what our souls  need this day from God.

Words to live by:  It is estimated that countless Christians have more than one Bible in their homes today.  Sometimes they represent various stages of their spiritual life, like a new Christian, a growing Christian, or a mature Christian.  Sometimes they are various versions and translations, bought according to the recommendation of the church or this Bible teacher.  But this writer is not so much interested in how many Bibles you own, but rather in whether you read daily from one of them.  The Through the Bible section of this guide is designed to help you do that at least once a year, and hopefully every year for all of your lives.  Handling the Word of God correctly is a habit which you want to keep in your lives.

Through the Scriptures:  Haggai 1, 2; Zechariah 1, 2

Through the Standards:  The duties of Christians to the government

W.C.F. 23:4 

“It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience sake.  Infidelity, or difference in religion, does not make void the magistrates’ just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less has the Pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and, least of all, to deprive them of their  dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretence whatsoever.”

 

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Purpose of the Bible for Unbelievers and Believers

Finding little of significance in Presbyterian history, we return to the magnificent answers of the Shorter Catechism, and specifically No. 80.  It asks and answers, “How is the Word made effectual to salvation?  A.  The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching, of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.”

We now arrive at the first outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption, namely and especially “the Word,” or the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Focus in with me  on the first five words of this answer,  “The Spirit of God makes.”   We must never limit the work of the Holy Spirit, for He is God.  Yet the means which the Triune God has appointed is the Holy Spirit working through and by the Word of God to make it effective for salvation.  Thus, it behooves us to always pray that the Holy Spirit apply the reading and preaching of the Word to ourselves and others.

Our Confessional fathers then reminds us of the two methods associated with the Bible, namely, that of reading and preaching.   Every time we read and hear the Bible, we need to ask and answer three questions, namely, what does it say, what does it mean, and what does it mean to me?.

The way of the Word being an effectual means is two-fold.  First, the Word “convinces and converts sinners.”  It convinces us that we are sinners.  It humbles our proud thoughts with respect to ourselves.  It convinces us that we cannot save ourselves.  It convinces us that Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life. In short, it drives sinners out of themselves and draw us and others irresistibly to the Redeemer.

The Word through the Holy Spirit then converts us.  We are changed from a child of the devil to a child of God.   We go from death to life, from a hater of the holy God to a lover of God.  We have a change of mind which leads to a change of action.

What this convincing and converting should produce in us at the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word of God, is a prayer for the effectiveness of the Bible in the lives and souls of the elect.  Let us not simply sit at “zombies” in the chairs of our homes, or the pews of the church, when the Word of God is read in family devotions, or Sunday worship.  Let us constantly be in prayer when the Bible is read, that it might bring forth spiritual fruit unto salvation, and holiness of life, and preparation for service.

The Word also is an “effective means” of “building us up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.”  There is a construction process going on around the Word of God.  The Spirit of God is building spiritual stones in the temple of our hearts.  Holiness of God is aimed at by the reading and hearing of the Word of God.  Comfort from the troubles of life is the direction by the reading and hearing of God’s Word.  What sins are we to be putting to death? What encouragement are we to receive, not only for ourselves, but to others who need the comfort of God.

In summary, the reading and listening to God’s Word, the Bible, should never be a rote experience in our lives.  It is to be a living, changing progression in conversion and conduct.

Words to live by:  As a retired Presbyterian and Reformed  pastor, I once challenged the people of an evangelical and Reformed congregation by giving them a paper bag, so that they could smuggle their personal Bibles out of their homes on the Lord’s Day, use them in the church service, and then smuggle them back into their homes at the end of the Lord’s Day!  It was an extreme suggestion (which no one did actually), and a humorous suggestion to get them to bring their Bibles to church.  I then followed it up with a Through the Bible reading plan in a year (the one I am using in this devotional guide) to make their Bibles a constant in their hearts and lives.  It had its effect on the congregation, as some of them were saved, and others began to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.  Keep the Word of God before God’s people, by believing and living it yourselves, and encouraging others to be much in God’s Word, the Bible.

Through the Scriptures Daniel 7 – 9

Through the Standards: Guidelines in taking vows

WCF 22:6
“It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and, that if may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want, whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties: or, to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

God’s Crowning Work in creation

With scant information available for this day, March 16, we return to another exposition of the Shorter Catechism. Question number 10 asks and answers, “How did God create man?  A.  God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.”

We already had a question and answer on the general subject of creation.  That was the theme of February 27 in these historical devotionals.  Our Confessional Fathers gave us another catechetical answer on God’s crowning work in creation, namely, the creation of man.

Man’s nature is distinguished in Genesis chapters 1 and 2.  In Genesis chapter 1, we have the description of man as being “male and female.”  In the summary of creation in Genesis chapter 2, we have the reference to his soul and body.    How contrary to this divinely stated truth is that of humanistic  evolution.  How we need to pray and work for a return in our culture of the majestic truth of special creation.

Notice especially the original character of our created parents as being “after the image of God.” There, of course, is no truth to the popular idea that this image created was some sort of physical resemblance to God.  God is a Spirit and doesn’t have a body like man. Our confession fathers immediately define what they mean by God’s image, by stating that the image consists in “knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.”  Our first parents had a conformity to the moral perfections of God.

Adam had knowledge in his understanding of God’s revelation of His creation.  That was proved when he gave names to all of God’s creatures in Genesis 2:19 and verse 20. Second, Adam possessed righteousness in his will.  Righteousness simply means obedience to God.  Man was capable of this, though also capable of disobedience, as we sadly see in the fall into sin. Last, Adam was holy in his affections.   He could love God and His creation, and especially his soon to be created wife, Eve.

It is true that sin marred that image deeply.  Yet in Christ, that image can be restored by the grace of God.  Paul in Ephesians 4:24 speaks of our new creation in Christ which we have “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (ESV)  And the same apostle wrote in Colossians 3:10, “and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of God.” (ESV)   Knowledge, righteousness, and holiness is being restored in the life of the believer.  One day, in our glorification, it will be restored perfectly.

Last, man’s dignity is seen in the fact that he was given “dominion over the creatures.” Since he was God’s crowning creation, he was given the authority over the world of nature, not just animals.  Here is the basis for the cultural mandate, or the view that the Christian  has a mandate from God to bring all spheres of life under conformity to God’s Word.

Words to Live By: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”  Psalm 8:9 (ESV)  Do you praise God for creation all around you?

Through the Scriptures: Joshua 16 – 18

Through the Standards: Christ Executes the Office of a King

WLC 45 — “How does Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executes the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.”

WSC 26 “How does Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executes the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.”

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