Saturday, December 5, 2009

Romans - Reviewing Chapters One - Three

This post is part of a study in Romans, whereby we identify keywords and phrases for each chapter with the goal of having a handle on the subject matter and flow of thought within Romans whereby we can preach the gospel to ourselves and others every day. See here for a introduction and description of our study in Romans.

The following is a handout I made to review the previous seven weeks of study and to introduce chapter four with new Keywords and Memory verses.


Chap 1: Without Excuse
Chap 2: The Law Condemns
Chap 3: There is none righteous
Chap 4: Imputation/Logizomai

Alternate Keywords:
Chap 1: The Indictment Begins (Rom 1:18)
Chap 2: (open for suggestions)
Chap 3: All have sinned, Total Depravity
Chap 4: Counted Righteous

Memory Verses:
Rom 1:20
Rom 2:13
Rom 3:10
Rom 4:3

Extended Memory Verses
Chap 1: Rom 1:1, Rom 1:8, Rom 1:16-20
Chap 2: Rom 2:12-16
Chap 3: Rom 3:10-12, Rom 3:18, Rom 3:21, Rom 3:23, Rom 3:28-29
Chap 4: Rom 4:23-25

Chapter One showing us that we were all WITHOUT EXCUSE. That what can be known of God has been made MANFEST IN us and shown to us by GOD. Even the invisible things of God being clearly understood ever since the creation of the world, from the things that are made, even his eternal power and GODHEAD. God is. Who can deny? No one! All are without excuse. As my little girl almost 10 years old at the time said, “There had to be someone that wasn’t made to make all that was made.”

Moving on to Chapter Two, we find that the there is no law to empower us unto the making of our own righteousness. No standard we can erect will ever serve to justify us in the end before a holy God. Having the standard is never enough we must from the first breath uphold all things perfectly and at all times, for it is not the hearers of the law that are just before God but the doers of the law that shall be justified. Again from the mouth of my little girls: “The law tells you what to do, but it doesn’t give you the power to do it.” And if we might assert “We had no standard to guide us, we had no law written on stone to show us the way, how can we then be judged?” We also learned that we evidence all the time the work of the law written on our hearts, we have a conscience, we look at the actions of one another and say approvingly ‘that was good’ or ‘that was bad.’ We have law enough, which if we sin without law we shall also PERISH without law. So then the Law cannot save us, but only condemn. The Law Condemns, either that law which the Jews were under or even which standard is a “work of the law written in our hearts.”

Then in Chapter Three, the case against us having already been made , yet there is more. We hear an argument from Holy Scriptures written long before the book of Romans. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” A number of scriptures are cited, humbling us, showing us our hopeless state without remedy in ourselves. Some of which are:
Psa 14:1-3, Psa 53:1-3, Psa 5:9, Psa 140:3, Psa 10:7, Isa 59:7-8, Psa 36:1

The charges are numerous, our own inability plainly stated: “None that understands,” “none that seeks after God,” Everyone unprofitable, no one doing GOOD. My Throat like an open grave is a man-eater. (note: I said “my” not “their” for the difficulty for me is to see my own place in this dreadful list, to see these holy charges falling upon me, but they do if I attempt to stand on my own person, ability and goodness.) My tongue has used deceit, and the deadly poison of an asp is under my lips. Mouth full of cursing - (too well do I know that truth.) Destruction and misery in my way. Not knowing the way of peace with my wife, my fellow, my friend, and especially MY GOD. The one true cause of all the previously mentioned is summed all up in the greatest of all sins, “There is no fear of God before my eyes.” Had I feared God aright, my entire passion would be for him, my thoughts always running to him, I would have diligently read His book, prayed without ceasing, this Holy Fear would have flavored my every action. Fear that doesn’t cower but cries out “who do I have in heaven but thee and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.” Not the fear of cowardice but the Holy fear that COMES to God.

Matthew Henry:
The fear of God is here put for all practical religion, which consists in an awful and serious regard to the word and will of God as our rule, to the honour and glory of God as our end. Wicked people have not this before their eyes; that is, they do not steer by it; they are governed by other rules, aim at other ends.

How PRECIOUS therefore is the good news that follows this dreadful list, the righteousness of God without the law, being freely justified, Christ set forth by God to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, and so God is JUST and the JUSTIFIER to him which believeth in Jesus. How can we conclude otherwise except this: “A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” So well am I made to see THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS NOT EVEN ME.

Rom 3:21
Rom 3:22
Rom 3:24
Rom 3:25
Rom 3:26
Rom 3:28

AND So the question arises and is yet more fully answered in Chapter Four, “What righteousness is there then by which I can stand in the day of Judgment?”

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress - SHAMGAR

As we read through Pilgrim's Progress it is very often this that strikes me, the fullness of Bunyan's entire grasp of the Word of God. Shamgar being a great example. Who is Shamgar? I confess, though I've read Bunyan for a long time, I had not properly internalized Bunyan's use of Shamgar, why I couldn't even recall his mentioning of Shamgar, nor could I remember this Shamgar's appearance in the Word of God, even though I've read of him many times. Spurgeon remarked of Bunyan, "Prick him anywhere — his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him." Through my not recalling Shamgar, I must admit my blood is not yet Bibline so much as I desire, no not even close.

Today my girls and I read the following passage from The Pilgrim's Progress. I've bold faced a couple of things we spent time on.

"The next day they took him, and had him into the armory, where they showed him all manner of furniture which their Lord had provided for pilgrims, as sword, shield, helmet, breastplate, all-prayer, and shoes that would not wear out. And there was here enough of this to harness out as many men for the service of their Lord as there be stars in the heaven for multitude.

They also showed him some of the engines with which some of his servants had done wonderful things. They showed him Moses’ rod; the hammer and nail with which Jael slew Sisera; the pitchers, trumpets, and lamps too, with which Gideon put to flight the armies of Midian. Then they showed him the ox-goad wherewith Shamgar slew six hundred men. They showed him also the jawbone with which Samson did such mighty feats. They showed him moreover the sling and stone with which David slew Goliath of Gath; and the sword also with which their Lord will kill the man of sin, in the day that he shall rise up to the prey. They showed him besides many excellent things, with which Christian was much delighted. This done, they went to their rest again."

This section of our book drawing at least from the following biblical passages, I invite you to read these scriptures and look into the armory of Palace Beautifual and see the "furniture" of war, and the "engines" employed by God's servants:

The various armor: Eph 6:10-20
Moses’ rod: Exo 4:1-5, Exo 7:8-12
Jael’s hammer and nail: Judges 4:17-22
Gideon’s pitchers, trumpets, and lamps: Judges 7:16-23
Shamgar’s oxgoad: Judges 3:31 - see also Judges 5:6
Samson’s jawbone of an ass: Judges 15:14-17

Ever considered the two words from this passage from Eph 6:18 "Praying always with all prayer.." "All-Prayer" as a weapon in and of itself? ALL-PRAYER, a suitable weapon indeed. But Shamgar's oxgoad, not so suitable against Philistine soldiers or Philistine Bandits armed with swords, and bows, and armor. Yet, this oxgoad, only a famer's stick used to prod oxen along in their work is WEAPON APLENTY when yielded by Shamgar full of GRACE and the SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD. Shamgar, Only twice mentioned in all of scripture, yet this twice mentioning is for our learning and admonishment, is also at least twice mentioned by Bunyan. I found him also here in the last stanza of a poem by Bunyan called, "A Book for Boys and Girls or Temporal Things Spiritualized"
click here for online version
And for the inconsiderableness
Of things, by which I do my mind express,
May I by them bring some good thing to pass,
As Samson, with the jawbone of an ass;
Or as brave Shamgar, with his ox’s goad
(Both being things not manly, nor for war in mode),
I have my end, though I myself expose
To scorn; God will have glory in the close.
George Cheever in his book Lectures on the Pilgrim's Progress explains for us what we might learn from considering and looking upon the "engines" that God's Servants used in time past:

"The communion of saints was never more sweetly depicted, than in Christian's sojourning in the House Beautiful. But he staid not there for pleasure; that was not the end of his journey, nor the object of it; nor did he there, as in the Arbor, use for an indulgence to the flesh what was meant for the encouragement and refreshment of the spirit. He was up by day-break singing and praying, and then they had him into the study, to show him the rarities of the place ; and the next day into the armory, to show him all manner of warlike furniture, which the Lord of the way had provided for pilgrims, where also he was made to see ancient things, which, if Bunyan could be here to interpret, he would doubtless tell us were intended to symbolize that divine grace by which the servants of the Lord have done so many wonderful things, that grace which, though to the world and the Goliaths in it, it looks as foolish as David's sling and pebble stones against a giant in full armor, is yet stronger than death, and shall overcome every thing ; for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. "
Click here for online version or see link in the right margin of this blog.

Don't you love it? - Bunyan's description and Cheever's explanation of what our fellowship in the local church should be, could be, and for many of us very happy ones truly is, praise be to God!. Communion sweetly depicted, pilgrim's equipped with such truth as to be a belt around our waist, examples of grace to make our hearts soar to heavenly heights in joy and trust and faith in Jesus Christ our Savior, the Son of the Ancient of Days, who as Bunyan says came of Eternal Generation.

For Brevity I will leave you only with Matthew Henry's concluding remarks on Shamgar from Judges 3:31, but I urge you if you can, to read his entire commentary on this passage which supplies also good background:

Matthew Henry's Commentary, Judges 3:31:
"See here, (1.) That God can make those eminently serviceable to his glory and his church's good whose extraction, education, and employment, are very mean and obscure. He that has the residue of the Spirit could, when he pleased, make ploughmen judges and generals, and fishermen apostles. (2.) It is no matter how weak the weapon is if God direct and strengthen the arm. An ox-goad, when God pleases, shall do more than Goliath's sword. And sometimes he chooses to work by such unlikely means, that the excellency of the power may appear to be of God." Click here for Matthew Henry on Judges Chap 3 - and then scroll down for v31.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Gospel in a Box of Love

It was my joy today to lead in praying, dedicating to God's purposes the Christmas Boxes so lovingly prepared by my brothers and sisters in Christ and delivered to our church today soon to be sent off for parts around the world. Praying for our great savior to receive all the glory, for his gospel to enter into the ears and sink down into the hearts of the little boys and girls receiving these boxes. It's exciting to to think what blessing the recipients may enjoy. Some knowing Christ, comforted a little, finding some joy that though we do not know them yet we are loving them for Christ's sake. Others, hearing for the first time the name of Jesus and discovering the glorious gospel revealing just who is Jesus and what great things he has done. With this blessing in mind, my three little girls enclosed brief notes of encouragement to be read by whomever receives their particular box.

So today I want to present to you as a guest blogger, an excerpt from the words which my 13 yr old daughter penned and enclosed in her box hoping to bring eternal joy and present comfort in the 10-14 year old girl soon to be opening the Christmas box.

In the beginning God created us, and we loved Him and served Him. God made a rule, too not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Adam ate it and disobeyed God. When Adam sinned, we sinned. His sin was counted as ours. We are cursed to sin, we are in bondage of sin, slaves of sin. We have to pay for our sins, by dying and going to hell forever.

But there is a second Adam. His name is Jesus. He is our Savior. He can set us free from sin. We don’t have to be in bondage of sin. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life

Our God is so wonderful, sending his son to die for us sinners. Ones who mocked God, disobeyed God, wanted to do evil against God.

And Jesus came to earth willingly. He became flesh, human. He lived a perfect life, without sin. He bore the cup of God’s wrath, for us. He died on the cross and paid for our sins. He was counted sinful even though he never sinned.

That is the Gospel.

I am so thankful that Jesus died for those who believe in Him and will believe in Him. I am so thankful that he can come in us and work in us to want to believe, and to want to be a child of God, and call him, Abba, Father.

Related Posts:
Gospel Thinking - Jim gives a summation of the gospel. click here
Summarizing the Gospel - Gospel in a paragraph. click here

For more on Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child, including videos and pictures click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Romans - Chapters 1 and 2

(Pictured above is a word cloud on the entire book of Romans. click here to see word clounds for the 66 books of the Bible. )

This post is part of a study in Romans, whereby we identify keywords and phrases for each chapter with the goal of having a handle on the subject matter and flow of thought within Romans whereby we can preach the gospel to ourselves and others every day. See here for a introduction and description of our study in Romans.

Below is a handout plus a few added notes to summarize the previous four weeks in Romans Chapters one and two, and to introduce the memory verses and keywords for Romans Chapter 3.

November 15, 2009

  • Chap 1: Without Excuse
  • Chap 2: The Law Condemns
  • Chap 3: There is none righteous

Alternate Keywords:
  • Chap 1: The Indictment Begins (Rom 1:18)
  • Chap 2: Jews having a Law, Gentiles not having a Law Answered
  • Chap 3: All have sinned, Total Depravity

Memory Verses:
  • Rom 1:20
  • Rom 2:13
  • Rom 3:10

Extended Memory Verses
  • Chap 1: Rom 1:20, Rom 1:1, Rom 1:8, Rom 1:16-20
  • Chap 2: Rom 2:13, Rom 2:12-16
  • Chap 3: Rom 3:10, Rom 3:10-12, Rom 3:18, Rom 3:21, Rom 3:23, Rom 3:28-29
In the summaries below the idea is to cement in yourself what is meant by "Without Excuse" and "The Law Condemns." It is not so important to memorize a script as to grasp how these two keywords begin to explain the truth that everyone stands in need of a savior--that outside of Christ there is no salvation. And to remember the flow of the presentation the apostle Paul by the Spirit of God is setting forth.

Romans Chapter One - Without Excuse:

Everyone is without excuse. No one is a victim who is innocent because of ignorance. That which may be known of God has been plainly-made-known or manifest in us, God has showed it to us. Having the truth yet suppressing it. Everyone is without excuse. The invisible things of Him from the very beginning of the world are clearly seen. They are understood by the things that are made. EVEN his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are WITHOUT EXCUSE. Creation evidences a creator. Everything that exists owes for it’s origin ultimately to a self-existent one. Every flower dependent upon the bee, every bee dependent upon the flower, every woodpecker dependent upon the superior strength of his beak that can peck and upon his tongue and every woodpecker’s tongue dependent upon the sheath in his head and every woodpecker’s head dependent upon the incredible shock absorbers surrounding his brain, --- every symbiotic relationship showing forth the glory and wisdom of it’s creator. God’s power is on display. If we would just open our eyes and marvel and worship HIM, Marvelous creator, MARVELOUS GOD. (For more on the woodpecker example click here.)

Romans Chapter Two - The Law Condemns:
The gentiles can make excuse saying, “but we have no law to guide us -- we don’t know -- how can we be blamed?” and the Jews can boast saying “but we have the law, we hear it, we read it, we are Jews, we will escape judgment.

In this chapter, both parties are answered and both are shown to be undone. For the gentiles show the work of the Law written on their heart when they see and value something as either right or wrong. When they are incensed at an injustice, or when they make excuse to justify someone’s action they are clearly showing that God has placed his law on their hearts, though they know it imperfectly, yet even their conscience testifies to the truth of this and their thoughts making excuses on the one hand and accusations on the other. The Jews have the law, but it is not the hearing of it that counts. And as to both parties, whether the law is only what they have by nature written on their hearts, or as do the Jews having a written law, yet it is not the having of it that counts, or the hearing of it that counts but only the doing -- and only the perfection of that doing. As Gal 3:10 says, Cursed is everyone that does not CONTINUE in ALL. The word “continue” pointing to the required continuous perfect adherence to the law - at all times, and the “in all” showing that all parts of the law must be kept moment by moment. You must at all times always with every breath love God with all of your being, ever fiber perfectly or you fail. And if you fail the law condemns.

The law is very good to show you what must be done but it has no power to enable you to do what it requires. The law condemns. And this word “Condemns” is a very grave word speaking of very serious and eternal consequences concerning an eternal judgment. If you hope for the good to outweigh the bad, if you hope to meet some standard, if you hope for some merit by living by some code that seems right in your own heart -- know this - you will fail. The Law Condemns - it does not enable - it shows no mercy and offers no grace. It demands perfection, perfectly all the time. (see commentary at the bottom of this post.)

I often remember this poem, generally credited to John Bunyan, as a further explanation of how in the Law there is no grace, no promise of enablement, no mercy extended but rather to expose our sin and condemn us.

Run, John, Run, the Law commands
But gives me neither feet nor hands
Far Better news the Gospel Brings
It bids me Fly and gives me wings
(click here for possible alternative author and slightly modifed version)

I should add here, that Christ Jesus is our perfect law keeper. That as we continue our study through Romans we will find one who did in all points at all times perfectly keep the law. And he did it not for himself but for us whom he represented. So that, in his life, Christ fulfilled all righteousness and he did so FOR US who are in Christ, who believe. And in his death, our sins were imputed to him, so that he died in our place, in the place of his people and to satisfy the judgment and wrath of God which was against us. Christ Jesus made atonement for sin. He made satisfaction. What a savior! Hallelujah to God for the grace of faith to believe and partake in "so great salvation."

Summary of previous Blog Posts containing Expanded notes of our Study in Romans:
Paul an Apostle, Verbal Plenary Inspiration
Rom 1:1-8
Rom 1:18 Faith is a Gift
Rom 1:20 Without Excuse
Rom 1:17-20 Questions

From here to the bottom is a blog bonus feature offering an opportunity for the more inquiring to read from Calvin's Commentary on Rom 2:12-15.

John Calvin's Commentaries: (click here for online version)

12. Whosoever have sinned without law, 69 etc. In the former part of this section he assails the Gentiles; though no Moses was given them to publish and to ratify a law from the Lord, he yet denies this omission to be a reason why they deserved not the just sentence of death for their sins; as though he had said — that the knowledge of a written law was not necessary for the just condemnation of a sinner. See then what kind of advocacy they undertake, who through misplaced mercy, attempt, on the ground of ignorance, to exempt the nations who have not the light of the gospel from the judgment of God.

Whosoever have sinned under the law, etc. As the Gentiles, being led by the errors of their own reason, go headlong into ruin, so the Jews possess a law by which they are condemned; 70 for this sentence has been long ago pronounced,

“Cursed are all they who continue not in all its precepts.” (Deuteronomy 27:26.)

A worse condition then awaits the Jewish sinners, since their condemnation is already pronounced in their own law.

13. For the hearers of the law, etc. This anticipates an objection which the Jews might have adduced. As they had heard that the law was the rule of righteousness, (Deuteronomy 4:1,) they gloried in the mere knowledge of it: to obviate this mistake, he declares that the hearing of the law or any knowledge of it is of no such consequence, that any one should on that account lay claim to righteousness, but that works must be produced, according to this saying, “He who will do these shall live in them.” The import then of this verse is the following, — “That if righteousness be sought from the law, the law must be fulfilled; for the righteousness of the law consists in the perfection of works.” They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children. It is therefore improper and beyond what is needful, to introduce here a long discussion on the subject, with the view of exposing so futile a sophistry: for the Apostle only urges here on the Jews what he had mentioned, the decision of the law, — That by the law they could not be justified, except they fulfilled the law, that if they transgressed it, a curse was instantly pronounced on them. Now we do not deny but that perfect righteousness is prescribed in the law: but as all are convicted of transgression, we say that another righteousness must be sought. Still more, we can prove from this passage that no one is justified by works; for if they alone are justified by the law who fulfill the law, it follows that no one is justified; for no one can be found who can boast of having fulfilled the law. 71

14. For when the Gentiles, etc. He now states what proves the former clause; for he did not think it enough to condemn us by mere assertion, and only to pronounce on us the just judgment of God; but he proceeds to prove this by reasons, in order to excite us to a greater desire for Christ, and to a greater love towards him. He indeed shows that ignorance is in vain pretended as an excuse by the Gentiles, since they prove by their own deeds that they have some rule of righteousness: for there is no nation so lost to every thing human, that it does not keep within the limits of some laws. Since then all nations, of themselves and without a monitor, are disposed to make laws for themselves, it is beyond all question evident that they have some notions of justice and rectitude, which the Greeks call preconceptions προληψεις, and which are implanted by nature in the hearts of men. They have then a law, though they are without law: for though they have not a written law, they are yet by no means wholly destitute of the knowledge of what is right and just; as they could not otherwise distinguish between vice and virtue; the first of which they restrain by punishment, and the latter they commend, and manifest their approbation of it by honoring it with rewards. He sets nature in opposition to a written law, meaning that the Gentiles had the natural light of righteousness, which supplied the place of that law by which the Jews were instructed, so that they were a law to themselves. 72

15. Who show the work of the law 73 written, etc.; that is, they prove that there is imprinted on their hearts a discrimination and judgment by which they distinguish between what is just and unjust, between what is honest and dishonest. He means not that it was so engraven on their will, that they sought and diligently pursued it, but that they were so mastered by the power of truth, that they could not disapprove of it. For why did they institute religious rites, except that they were convinced that God ought to be worshipped? Why were they ashamed of adultery and theft, except that they deemed them evils?

Without reason then is the power of the will deduced from this passage, as though Paul had said, that the keeping of the law is within our power; for he speaks not of the power to fulfill the law, but of the knowledge of it. Nor is the word heart to be taken for the seat of the affections, but only for the understanding, as it is found in Deuteronomy 29:4,

“The Lord hath not given thee a heart to understand;”

and in Luke 24:25,

“O foolish men, and slow in heart to believe.”

Nor can we conclude from this passage, that there is in men a full knowledge of the law, but that there are only some seeds of what is right implanted in their nature, evidenced by such acts as these — All the Gentiles alike instituted religious rites, they made laws to punish adultery, and theft, and murder, they commended good faith in bargains and contracts. They have thus indeed proved, that God ought to be worshipped, that adultery, and theft, and murder are evils, that honesty is commendable. It is not to our purpose to inquire what sort of God they imagined him to be, or how many gods they devised; it is enough to know, that they thought that there is a God, and that honor and worship are due to him. It matters not whether they permitted the coveting of another man’s wife, or of his possessions, or of any thing which was his, — whether they connived at wrath and hatred; inasmuch as it was not right for them to covet what they knew to be evil when done.

Their conscience at the same time attesting, etc. He could not have more forcibly urged them than by the testimony of their own conscience, which is equal to a thousand witnesses. By the consciousness of having done good, men sustain and comfort themselves; those who are conscious of having done evil, are inwardly harassed and tormented. Hence came these sayings of the heathens — “A good conscience is the widest sphere; but a bad one is the cruelest executioner, and more fiercely torments the ungodly than any furies can do.” There is then a certain knowledge of the law by nature, which says, “This is good and worthy of being desired; that ought to be abhorred.”

But observe how intelligently he defines conscience: he says, that reasons come to our minds, by which we defend what is rightly done, and that there are those which accuse and reprove us for our vices; 74and he refers this process of accusation and defense to the day of the Lord; not that it will then first commence, for it is now continually carried on, but that it will then also be in operation; and he says this, that no one should disregard this process, as though it were vain and evanescent. And he has put, in the day, instead of, at the day, — a similar instance to what we have already observed.

69 Ανόμως commonly means unlawfully, wickedly, lawlessly; but here, as it is evident from the context, it signifies to be without law. The adjective ἀνόμος is also used once in this sense in 1 Corinthians 9:21. — Ed.

70 The word “condemned” would be better in the text than “judged;” it would then more plainly correspond with the former part, where the word “perished” is used: and that it means “condemned” is evident, for those who have “sinned” are the persons referred to. — Ed.

71 On the expression “hearers of the law,” Stuart has these remarks — “The Apostle here speaks of οἱ ἀκροαταὶ τοῦ νόμου, because the Jews were accustomed to hear the Scriptures read in public; but many of them did not individually possess copies of the sacred volume which they could read.”

72 As to the phrase, “these are a law unto themselves,” Venema adduces classical examples — πᾶν τὸ βέλτιστον φαινόμενον ἔστω σοι νόμος ἀπαράβατος “Whatever seems best, let it be to thee a perpetual law.” — Epict. in Ench., c. 75. “τὸ μὲν ορθὸν νόμος ἐστὶ βασιληκός What is indeed right, is a royal law.” — Plato in Min., page 317.
The heathens themselves acknowledged a law of nature. Turrettin quotes a passage from a lost work of Cicero, retained by Lactantius, which remarkably coincides with the language of Paul here — Ed.

73 By the work of the law, τὸ ἔργον τοῦ νόμου, is to be understood what the law requires. The “work of God,” in John 6:29, is of the same import, that is, the work which God requires or demands; and the same word is plural in the former verse, τὰ ἔργα — “the works of God.” So here, in the former verse, it is τὰ τοῦ νόμου — “the things of the law,” where we may suppose ἔργαto be understood. The common expression, “the works of the law,” has the same meaning, that is, such works as the law prescribes and requires. — Ed.

74 Calvin seems to consider that the latter part of the verse is only a expansion or an exposition of the preceding clause respecting “conscience:” but it seems to contain a distinct idea. The testimony of conscience is one thing, which is instantaneous, without reflection: and the thoughts or the reasonings — λογισμῶν, which alternately or mutually accuse or excuse, seem to refer to a process carried on by the mind, by which the innate voice of conscience is confirmed. This is the view taken by Stuart and Barnes, and to which Hodge is inclined.
Another view of the latter clause is given by Doddridge, Macknight, Haldane, and Chalmers The last gives this paraphrase of the whole verse, — “For they show that the matter of the law is written in their hearts — both from their conscience testifying what is right and wrong in their own conduct, and from their reasonings in which they either accuse or vindicate one another.”

But to regard the two clauses as referring to conscience and the inward workings of the mind, appears more consistent with the context. The Gentiles are those spoken of: God gave them no outward law, but the law of nature which is inward. Hence in the following verse he speaks of God as judging “the secrets of men,” as the inward law will be the rule of judgment to the Gentiles — Ed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress - Where am I now?

WHERE AM I NOW? sang Christian as he awakened at the break of day.

I'm a little ahead of myself. Christian now welcomed in to Palace Beautiful or House Beautiful is further questioned by Charity concerning his family. To paraphrase she asks him whether he has a family, and why didn't he bring them along. At which, Christian wept saying he would willingly have done so but they wouldn't.

Charity didn't stop there, she asking further if he didn't warn them of the danger of staying behind. Christian did warn them but they only mocked.

So Charity asks again if he did pray for God to bless his counsel to them.

And this gave me pause, it is not enough to give counsel to your children and your wife - but did your PRAY for that counsel to be blessed of God and effective.

Which Christian answers that he did pray and prayed "with much affection."

Charity pushes on asking again if he told his family of his own sorrow and fears concerning the coming destruction - which she said he must have seen these things well-enough in himself. Christian said yes: "Over and over and over," in fact they could not just hear of the fears but see them in his very countenance and in his tears.

Then going even deeper Charity asks a very probing question: "But did you not, with your vain life, damp all that you, by words, used by way of persuasion to bring them away with you?"

I'm thinking now that this conversation between Charity and Christian is very probing indeed within my own conscience. What about my relatives, my friends, my family? Do they see such concern in my countenance? Do I over and over and over tell them of what I have seen laying ahead in the future? And did I pray all my words and counsel towards them would be blessed of God. Are my children fittingly prepared - did I consider the eternal seriousness of this matter as Charity is seeking to learn from her trying of Christian? AND ESPECIALLY is my vain life throwing water on all the words I use to persuade? Is my life and profession consistent with one another?

But finally lest we lay too much upon ourselves, both Christian and Charity's final words to Christian on this matter are a comfort:

Indeed, I cannot commend my life, for I am conscious to myself of many failings therein. I know also, that a man, by his conversation, may soon overthrow what, by argument or persuasion, he doth labor to fasten upon others for their good. Yet this I can say, I was very wary of giving them occasion, by any unseemly action, to make them averse to going on pilgrimage. Yea, for this very thing, they would tell me I was too precise, and that I denied myself of things (for their sakes) in which they saw no evil. Nay, I think I may say, that if what they saw in me did hinder them, it was my great tenderness in sinning against God, or of doing any wrong to my neighbor.

Charity: Indeed, Cain hated his brother, because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous, 1 John, 3:12; and if thy wife and children have been offended with thee for this, they thereby show themselves to be implacable to good; thou hast delivered thy soul from their blood. Ezek. 3:19.

So they ate their supper, and so they talked together into the night enjoying that rich fellowship that only belongs to those who are true brothers and sisters in Christ. Their subject was gospel-centered, Christ-Centered: Who he was and what he has done; And why he did what he did; And why he built this Palace Beautiful.

"This house was built by the Lord of the hill, and he built it for the relief and security of pilgrims."

"Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; this house was built by the Lord of the hill on purpose to entertain such pilgrims in. "

And so he retired for the night:
"The name of the chamber was Peace, where he slept till break of day, and then he awoke and sang, “Where am I now? "

Here as my three little girls were reading, 10 yr Old, following our previous example was inspired to insist that her 13 yr old currently-reading-out-load-to-the-rest-of-us-sister should sing this song not read it. Failing in this effort, 10 yr old proceeded to sing the song herself. And since she made such a good effort I insisted the rest of us should give it go as well. So alternately taking our turns to sing, my own thoughts reflected back upon Christian's progress thus far:

Which thoughts were mainly this, that up to this point Christian had experienced a fairly solitary journey. Musing and reflecting I recalled that at first he had a book, which reading of it brought great fear upon him as well as a heavy burden upon his back. Evangelist exhorts him to flee the wrath to come and run for yonder bright shining light - keeping it always in his eye. As he ran, in order not to hear the "come back's" of those calling after him, Christian plugged his ears and cried out, "Life, Life, Eternal Life." Pliable and Obstinate meet up with him, but not for good reasons. Though Pliable accompanies Christian a ways - he is not good company and Christian taking his eye momentarily off the light they both fall into the slough of despond. Christian cries for help and help comes. Once again on his way but without Pliable he meets Worldly Wiseman who almost sends him to his death. And with Christian trembling next to Mount Sinai, Evangelist once again points him to yonder wicket gate and bright shining light. Christian goes straight for it, and upon arriving and knocking, Goodwill opens and grabs Christian with a great yank in the door - while we hear the thud, thud, thud of Beezelbub's arrows seeking his life. Christian spends a great deal of time in the Interpreter's House, I'm sure gaining a great deal that will help him on his way. Which finally he resumes alone coming to the cross, receiving great gifts from the shining ones. Alone he goes on headed for the Celetial City, meeting first Simple, Sloth and Presumptions then later with Formalist and Hypocrisy. None of these coming to any good end. Then up Hill Difficulty, Christian sleeping in the Arbor, losing the roll, retracing his steps back down to Arbor, finding the roll and then up the Hill Difficulty a second time. But now night overcomes him and he must face the lions in darkness. But Porter offers good help and advice and he is met at Palace Beautiful. Examined by Porter and then Discretion and Piety and Prudence Christian is welcomed in as one blessed of the Lord. A lonely journey thus far, but now welcomed into the Local Church, Christian resides in that place made for the relief and security of Pilgrim's. SWEET FELLOWSHIP, BLESSED COMPANIONSHIP, Precious Help, from Precious Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Not so alone as he was before. Finally Sleeping in the CHAMBER OF PEACE.

How can he not sing?

“Where am I now? Is this the love and care

Of Jesus, for the men that pilgrims are,

Thus to provide that I should be forgiven,

And dwell already the next door to heaven!”

When the local church is this as described in Bunyan's wonderful book, how can he not sing?

Where am I now? I'm here in the body with brothers who care for me, under the instruction of the word which will bring Relief and Security. O' gracious God who has provided such a PORTER as this! And such a Palace as This! This is the place of the LOVE AND CARE OF JESUS. That has been made for MEN who are PILGRIMS --- BELIEVERS.



And so Sunday morning, with these thoughts still fresh in my own mind, gratitude and praise filled my heart and what a worship I had. This is the Next Door to Heaven!!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress - Preaching the Gospel to Yourself Everyday

Again and Again I am struck by the sound practical insight and advice offered up by John Bunyan in his wonderful book. For the last three weeks my three little girls and I stayed on but TWO simple sentences. Which are actually presented as one question and a four-fold answer. My desire for my girls was to see these two sentences through to a full understanding on the one hand, but on the other especially to remember the message here which I believe will prove so useful to myself and my little girls as we grow older in Christ towards the goal of preaching the gospel to ourselves every day with sanctifying results.

The setting at this point in our reading, is this: Christian has arrived at Palace Beautiful, a picture of the local church. He has been questioned by Watchful the Porter, a picture of the Pastor. He has been interviewed first by Discretion, then Piety and now Prudence. All three young ladies of great virtue, wisdom and purity; representing not specific individuals within the local church but the qualities and graces of those who might be able to undertake both examining for admission and assisting along the way, the new believer. Referred to as "virgins of the place" because of the pure and holy faith embraced by this local assembly.

Barry Horner in his online commentary describes the virgins like this:
"What is intended, it seems, is the portrayal of the Palace Beautiful, and therefore a biblical local church, as a fellowship of holy and pure faith that is illustrated by means of virginal purity and undefiled feminine virtue (11 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:27; Col. 3:12)."


To Set the context the passage begins with this interrogation:

Prudence: Do you not yet bear away with you some of the things that then you were conversant withal?

Christian: Yes, but greatly against my will; especially my inward and carnal cogitations, with which all my countrymen, as well as myself, were delighted. But now all those things are my grief; and might I but choose mine own things, I would choose never to think of those things more: but when I would be a doing that which is best, that which is worst is with me. Rom. 7:15, 21.

She is asking, "so as a believer now - what about those former sins you knew so well? Do they still have a hold upon you? Do you ever see them rising up? They once were your daily life - what about now?"

Which Christian answers: "Yes -- I still know these sins, but I know them against my will, and the worst of my enemies are those in my inward parts, in my thoughts, in my musings, I used to delight in those inward thoughts (cogitations) with everyone else - NOW THEY ARE MY GRIEF. If I could choose -- I would choose never to think on them."

Now, I'm thinking, "Oh, I can identify with that - may they be MORE GRIEVOUS to me than they are. " And it is a good sign in Christian, 1) that he recognizes the present continued battle with such sins as he knew before as opposed to someone who thinks, "ah, now that I'm saved I can sin no more, so whatever these things are that I'm thinking - that's not sin - maybe it's liberty - or a mistake." and 2) Their presence in him yet is a GRIEF to HIM. Both observations are a very good sign.

Prudence: Do you not find sometimes as if those things were vanquished, which at other times are your perplexity?

Christian: Yes, but that is but seldom; but they are to me golden hours in which such things happen to me.

But Prudence didn't leave it there. She digs deeper,"but is it not that sometimes those things are defeated - that you do rise victorious over them - even though as you describe at other times they win the day?"

And Christian answers humbly: "YES .... but seldom .... but when it is the case THEY ARE TO ME GOLDEN HOURS."

SO that brings us to the point of this article, and the two sentences that captivated my three little girls and I for the last three weeks.


Prudence: Can you remember by what means you find your annoyances at times as if they were vanquished?

It's like Prudence has noted and underlined back to Christian, "Christian you said that sometimes even though seldom yet at times these sins are defeated. BUT HOW? How is it that this is sometimes done? What method or means did you use that this end was accomplished? If you can identify that perhaps the 'Yes, but seldom' will increase and become 'Yes, though not always.'"

AND WHAT MEANS WERE GOOD FOR CHRISTIAN MAY ALSO BE GOOD FOR US. Chrisitian identifies to Prudence four means or methods that work, "that will do it:"

Christian: Yes: when I think what I saw at the cross, that will do it; and when I look upon my broidered coat, that will do it; and when I look into the roll that I carry in my bosom, that will do it; and when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it."

Thinking...Looking...Looking and Thinking again ---- THAT WILL DO IT. That's Christian's four-fold answer and Bunyan's four-fold solution to defeating those sins I knew only too well in my former life.
When I THINK what I saw at the CROSS ....... that will do it. click here for Christian at the cross
From Taste-That-Which-Is-Good

Thinking upon what he saw is a considering of all that was done there? Who is Jesus that there died? Why did he die there? How is he there in my place? How is it that my sins were imputed to him there? He who loves me, who knew no sin, there as my Head and representative counted sinful with the stain and guilt of my own sins laid upon him there to suffer and die and make an atonement. When I think upon that cross there - that will do it. There is sanctifying power in embracing this truth and much in meditating upon the imputation of my sins upon Christ and the His purchase of my forgiveness. Col 1:20

When I LOOK upon my broidered Coat ... that will do it.
This coat was given to Christian at the cross where it says:
"the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment..."

Bunyan here citing the biblical reference to Zec 3:4
Zec 3:4 And he answered and spoke unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

Looking upon that Righteousness of Christ my Head which righteousness is counted as mine ... THAT WILL DO IT, the imputation of righteousness rather than being an encouragement to sin - was the very means cited by which sins are defeated. Oh, Christ my righteousness, cover me! This is gospel truth, precious truth and sanctifying truth. Barry Horner in his commentary quotes from Bunyan's treatise, "A Desire of the Rightoues Granted," as follows:

So then, the righteousness of Christ covereth his, as a man's garments cover the members of his body, for we are 'the body of Christ, and members in particular' (1 Cor 12:27). The righteousness therefore is Christ's; resideth still in him, and covereth us, as the child is lapped up in its father's skirt, or as the chicken is covered with the feathers of the hen. I make use of all these similitudes thereby to inform you of my meaning; for by all these things are set forth the way of our being made righteous to justification of life (Matt 23:37; Eze 16:8; Psa 36:7).
(click here for the entire treatise)

So in the first two parts, Christian has already noted the sanctfying benefit of meditating upon both the imputation of my sins to Christ for forgiveness and the imputation of his righteousness upon me by faith.

When I LOOK into the roll that I carry in my bosom...that will do it.

(click here for more on "What is the Roll?")

Assurance, the witness of the Spirit, the Earnest of my Inheritance, Christian states: "When I look into these things those former sins are vanquished?" Eph 1:13-14
Looking into the Holy Spirit spoken assurance that I do belong to Christ, that I have been purchased by his blood and chosen unto adoption is here cited as a sanctifying method. Though Matthew Henry rightly spoke that a holy fear of falling short is a good means of perseverance so also is a Spirit-wrought assurance of salvation a good means of killing sin.

when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it.

So my thoughts go heavenward. There to be with Jesus, there to be in the presence of the savior, there where death will hold me no more. To realize this world is not my home, it's pleasures are not my pleasures, I am going heavenward and as my thought grow hotter and hotter thinking upon my future place... that will do it.

1Pet 1:3-4
Phil 3:20-21

As illustrated by Passion and Patience: (click here)
"Things to come and carnal sense are such strangers one to another"

Let your thoughts WAX WARM
about whither you are going and because things-to-come is such a stranger to carnal sense, meditating there will discover new sanctifying strength. As Christian did, I should do likewise, thinking upon where I am going... THAT WILL DO IT.

I will leave us with an extract from Bunyan's, "Heavenly Footman," one that I often refer to myself, and one which is in accord to this Preaching-The-Gospel-To-Yourself-Everyday illustration:


The Second Direction. As thou shouldst get into the way so thou shouldst also be much in studying and musing on the way. You know men that would be expert in any thing, they are usually much in studying of that thing, and so likewise is it with those that quickly grow expert in any way. This therefore thou shouldst do; let thy study be much exercised about Christ, which is the way; what he is, what he hath done, and why he is what he is, and why he hath done what is done; as, why 'He took upon him the form of a servant,' why he 'was made in the likeness of men' (Phil 2:7). Why he cried; why he died; why he bear the sin of the world; why he was made sin, and why he was made righteousness; why he is in heaven in the nature of man, and what he doth there? (2 Cor 5:21). Be much in musing and considering of these things; click here for full text

THINK - LOOK - LOOK and THINK some more --- upon these things and THAT WILL DO IT.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress - Meeting The Porter


Having retrieved his roll, retracing his steps up the hill, more nimbly this time having his evidence in hand, Christian is tested by the lions before Palace Beautiful. The Porter, whose name is Watchful, provides the needed encouragement and Christian now stands on the right side of the lions face to face with The Porter.

The Porters Encouragement:
... perceiving that Christian made a halt, as if he would go back, cried unto him, Is thy strength so small? Mark 4:40. Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that have none: keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee. Then I saw that he went on, trembling for fear of the lions, but taking good heed to the directions of the Porter; he heard them roar, but they did him no harm. Then he clapped his hands, and went on till he came and stood before the gate where the Porter was.

And so The Porter probes Christian a little:

The Porter also asked whence he was, and whither he was going.

Christian: I am come from the city of Destruction, and am going to Mount Zion: but because the sun is now set, I desire, if I may, to lodge here to-night.

The Porter: What is your name?

Christian: My name is now Christian, but my name at the first was Graceless: I came of the race of Japheth, whom God will persuade to dwell in the tents of Shem. Gen. 9:27.

We do not rightly know our own name prior to conversion. It is only after the Spirit of God has begun a work in us do we perceive truly what we were before "Graceless," "Dead," "Enemies of the Most High God." And the longer I walk in Christ, the more I see how true these words are of me prior to the day-dawning within. My name is now CHRISTIAN, but my name at the first was GRACELESS. Thanks be to God! 2Pet 1:19 also Rom 8:15

The next part of Christian's response to the Porter stumped me.

"I came of the race of Japheth."

The biblical reference coming from this portion of scripture:

Gen 9:19-28
Gen 9:19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread. 20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: 21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. 23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. 24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.

Bunyan's point in mentioning this can be explained from the Geneva Bible Notes, or even Calvin's, or later also Poole's and John Gill's Commentaries, which explain that this is prophecy from the lips of Noah by the Spirit of God teaching us that:

Japheth is standing for his descendants the Gentiles of which Christian says "I am of their race."

Christian adding: "whom God will persuade to dwell in the tents of Shem" AND God did bring both the sons of Shem, which are the Jews, and the sons of Japheth, which are the Gentiles, together in one common household of faith.

Eph 2:11-20
Eph 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

What can I say? More and More my enjoyment of God's Word increases as does my enjoyment
of Bunyan teaching it to me through his little book, how true Bunyan's own encouraging Apology:

May I not write in such a style as this?
In such a method too, and yet not miss
My end-thy good? Why may it not be done?
Dark clouds bring waters, when the bright bring none.
Yea, dark or bright, if they their silver drops
Cause to descend, the earth, by yielding crops,


Art thou for something rare and profitable?
Or would’st thou see a truth within a fable?
Art thou forgetful? Wouldest thou remember
From New-Year’s day to the last of December?
Then read my fancies; they will stick like burs,
And may be, to the helpless, comforters.

I strongly encourage if you haven't to click here to read the whole Bunyan's Apology

Geneva Bible Notes:
He declares that the Gentiles, who came from Japheth, and were separated from the Church, should be joined to the same by the persuasion of God's Spirit, and preaching of the gospel.

Calvin's Commentary: -- Click here for full text
27....the meaning will be, that the posterity of Japheth, which for a time would be scattered, and removed far from the tents of Shem, would at length be increased, so that it should more nearly approach them, and should dwell together with them, as in a common home. But I rather approve the other version, ‘God shall gently bring back, or incline Japheth.’302 Moreover, whichever interpretation we follow, Noah predicts that there will be a temporary dissension between Shem and Japheth, although he retains both in his family and calls both his lawful heirs; and that afterwards the time will come, in which they shall again coalesce in one body, and have a common home. It is, however, most absolutely certain, that a prophecy is here put forth concerning things unknown to man, of which, as the event, at length, shows God alone was the Author. Two thousand years and some centuries more, elapsed before the Gentiles and the Jews were gathered together in one faith. Then the sons of Shem, of whom the greater part had revolted and cut themselves off from the holy family of God, were collected together, and dwelt under one tabernacle.303 Also the Gentiles, the progeny of Japheth, who had long been wanderers and fugitives were received into the same tabernacle. For God, by a new adoption, has formed a people out of those who were separated, and has confirmed a fraternal union between alienated parties. This is done by the sweet and gentle voice of God, which he has uttered in the gospel; and this prophecy is still daily receiving its fulfillment, since God invites the scattered sheep to join his flock, and collects, on every side, those who shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. It is truly no common support of our faith, that the calling of the Gentiles is not only decreed in the eternal counsel of God, but is openly declared by the mouth of the Patriarch; lest we should think it to have happened suddenly or by chance, that the inheritance of eternal life was offered generally to all. But the form of the expression, ‘Japheth shall dwell in the tabernacles of Shem,’304 commends to us that mutual society which ought to exist, and to be cherished among the faithful. For whereas God had chosen to himself a Church from the progeny of Shem, he afterwards chose the Gentiles together with them, on this condition, that they should join themselves to that people, who were in possession of the covenant of life.

Footnotes taken from Calvin's Commentary:
302 See marginal reading of English version, “God will persuade Japheth.” — See also Schindler’s Lexicon, sub voce פתה, and Ainsworth in loco. It is however objected, and not without reason, that the word here rendered persuade is rarely, if ever, used in a good sense, that it generally means to entice, or allure to evil; and, therefore, the most judicious critics seem rather inclined to fall back upon the version given in the text of our translation, than to accept the marginal reading, with which Calvin agrees. See Professor Bush’s note on this place. Dathe gives the preference to the Arabic version, which signifies that God will prosper Japheth; but for this there is no sufficient authority. — Ed

303 Allusion here seems to be made to the words quoted by James from the prophecy of Amos: “I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof and I will set it up.” — Acts 15:16. — Ed.

It is not clear whether the original really means that “Japheth,” or that “God,” “shall dwell in the tents of Shem.” If the former, then this is a plain prediction of events which have been in a remarkable manner fulfilled, by the conversion of the Gentiles, and by the diffusion of a vast European population over those regions which were originally occupied by the descendants of Shem. If the original really means the latter, then it has been fulfilled by the manifestation of God’s glory among the Israelites, first through the Shechinah which appeared in the tabernacle and temple, and then more especially through the advent of the Messiah, of whom St. John says, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14.) — Ed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gospel for Real Life

A few years ago I had the privilege a long with a few others friends to have lunch with Jerry Bridges. During our dining time together I asked him of all the books you have written, which is your favorite. His response: "The Gospel for Real Life." Finally, I have a copy in my hands as my 13 year old is about to begin reading and studying this book with a few other young ladies in a study led by our Pastor's daughter. I'm excited for my daughter and I'm excited for myself as I plan to be reading along with her.

The Preface has already got me excited. Jerry Bridges writes:

...preaching the gospel to yourself every day is what this book is about. It is intended to answer three questions:
  • What is the gospel we should preach to ourselves?
  • Why do we, who are already believers, need to preach it to ourselves?
  • How do we do it?
And like Jerry who wrote in his preface: "Some years ago I heard someone say that we should 'preach the gospel to ourselves every day.' though I had already been doing that to some degree, that statement brought clarity and focus to my own practice..." When I first heard this phrase "Preach the Gospel to Yourself everyday," for me also that statement brought clarity and focus to my own practice. Excitedly I look forward to discover if that focus will become even sharper as I read together with my daughter, "The Gospel for Real Life."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress - What is the Roll?


WHAT IS THE ROLL that the Shining ones gave to Christian at the cross?

I've been reading and listening to Pilgrim's Progress for many years and I never really felt that I grasped the allegorical meaning of Christian's sealed roll.

Let's review what we know about this roll (or scroll):

It was given by the third Shining One at the cross.

It had a seal upon it.

He was directed to look on it as he ran.

He must give it in at the celestial gate.

He described it thus to Formalist and Hypocrisy: "I will tell you, moreover, that I had then given me a roll sealed, to comfort me by reading as I go on the way; I was also bid to give it in at the celestial gate, in token of my certain going in after it:"

He was often reading it upon going before Formalist and Hypocrisy towards Hill Difficulty.

He read from it at the arbor partly up Hill Difficulty.

He lost it there at the arbor when he fell asleep and then ran on without it.
The roll can be lost.

He kept it in his bosom.

After the fright Timorous and Mistrust gave him with their running back down the Hill Difficulty he reached into his bosom in order to read from it for some comfort as Bunyan describes: "But thinking again of what he had heard from the men, he felt in his bosom for his roll, that he might read therein and be comforted; but he felt, and found it not."

The roll can be found again, which Christian did once he retraced his steps back to the arbor repenting all the way for his sinful sleeping even in the daytime even in the midst of difficulty ... even easing his flesh in a place where the Lord had only purposed a little relief of the spirits of pilgrims.

Upon arriving back at the arbor Bunyan paints the following description of both Christians sorrow and then joy he had at finding once again his precious roll:

"Now by this time he was come to the arbor again, where for a while he sat down and wept; but at last, (as Providence would have it,) looking sorrowfully down under the settle, there he espied his roll, the which he with trembling and haste catched up, and put it into his bosom. But who can tell how joyful this man was when he had gotten his roll again? For this roll was the assurance of his life, and acceptance at the desired haven. Therefore he laid it up in his bosom, gave thanks to God for directing his eye to the place where it lay, and with joy and tears betook himself again to his journey."

When Prudence quizzes Christian we learn also that this roll is useful in the vanquishing of those things that trouble him.

Prudence: Can you remember by what means you find your annoyances at times as if they were vanquished?

Christian: Yes: when I think what I saw at the cross, that will do it; and when I look upon my broidered coat, that will do it; and when I look into the roll that I carry in my bosom, that will do it; and when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it.

Christian later spoke of losing his roll when communing with his new friend Faithful as the told of their various experiences one with another.

Finally Christian presented this roll at the gate of the celestial city: "and then the pilgrims gave in unto them each man his certificate, which they had received in the beginning: those therefore were carried in unto the King, who, when he had read them, said, Where are the men? To whom it was answered, They are standing without the gate. The King then commanded to open the gate, “That the righteous nation (said he) that keepeth the truth may enter in.”


Knowing this is an allegory it is difficult always for me to make the connection between the figure and the real to which it points. But this roll sounds like something I could very much use and hope to have. Something to which I can read from often for comfort, encouragement, refreshment for I very often am in need of these very things. Something which I should guard over carefully since it appears that it is possible to lose it, at least for a time.

Another clue we have in Bunyan's book is the biblical reference given when the Shining one first passed this roll with a seal into Christian's hands:

EPH 1:13-14
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

This morning I asked my girls, "What is the Roll?" 11 yr old bubbled over with the following explanation. She talked fast, I tried to write it down word for word. I asked her to repeat it again a few times and so to the best of my ability below is what she said. Read it fast, excitedly and with a happy ring to it and you will recapture our conversation this morning.

"The roll is the call of God in your life, as you sense that and look at that then the wonders of God's word are opened up to you, and they amaze you and excite you, and make you so happy that you run faster for heaven. And each time you look into that call of God in your life his word is speaking to you, and you are being thrilled so that you should do this often for refreshment. But if you are lazy, slothful, and sinning you can lose that sense of the call of God in your life. It becomes dull to you, you look and it's not there because of sin. So you need to go back in your thoughts to the place where you lost it and through all that laziness and sloth and sin, repenting of it, sorry for it and find again God's call in your life. And once more have the wonders of God's word opened up to you and making you happy and excited so that you run fast for heaven again."

I don't think she was to far off from Bunyan's intention. Upon finding the roll we read this description from Bunyan: "For this roll was the assurance of his life, and acceptance at the desired haven. "

The scriptures tell us plainly that after we believed, we "were sealed with that Holy Spirit of Promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance. " Eph 1:13-14

The spirit of God bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. Rom 8:16

An earnest - that is a foretaste of heaven - heaven begun in our hearts now. An assurance of the inheritance to come made known in us by the Holy Spirit and to us by the Gospel and the promises of God contained in it. For therein the righteousness of God is revealed. Rom 1:17

We can lose that comfort through neglect, sleeping in the light, sin and sloth. And if we upon reaching into our own bosom for some comfort and assurance of salvation find it lacking we may very well be in a place where we need to "go back in our thoughts" to the sin that brought this upon us - to the root of the sin, and now having an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, confess our sins and he will indeed cleanse us from all unrighteousness - and once again we are refreshed, we are made glad, and know the sweetness of communion with our God and Father through Jesus Christ. 1John 2:1, 1John 1:9

Let's guard our roll of assurance carefully. And enjoy and rejoice to the uttermost that daily sweet communion with our dear Saviour. Looking unto Jesus, who bore in himself the guilt and punishment of our sins, satisfying to the fullest our debt and purchasing us to himself. We are his, we belong to him and he will in no wise cast us out. Be killing sin or it will be killing you and robbing you of the sweet and precious roll of assurance, that heavenly witness.


Below is an excerpt from Lectures on the Pilgrim's Progress by George Cheever where he discusses at length Christian's Roll.

PAGE 292-293

But the Lord does not forget to be gracious. About midway of the Hill there was a pleasant arbor, for the refreshment of weary travellers, where Christian with thankfulness sat down to rest him. And now he began to look over his evidences, and to regard with great comfort and delight the garment that the Shining Ones had given him, so that he almost forgot that he was to go any farther, or that there was any more work for him to do. He forgot the exhortation to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, and to press forward towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; and he was so well satisfied with himself, his roll, his robe, his acceptance with God, that while he was resting, the spirit of slumber came over him, and what at first he intended should only be a moment's nap, like a man asleep during sermon time in church, became a thorough deep sleep, which endured even till the twilight; and in.this sleep, Christian's roll fell out of his hand. Ah, if the great adversary had been there, ill would it have fared then with poor Christian. He is fast asleep, and his roll has fallen, and the night is coming, and he is only half way up the hill, and still he sleeps on. He that sleeps is a loser, says Bunyan in the margin; that arbor was never designed to sleep in, but to rest in. But there is One who watches over him, who will not leave him, who helpeth our infirmities. This gracious Being whispered in his ear, Go to the ant, thou sluggard ; consider her ways and be wise ! Ay, that was a timely awakening and warning—so great is the Holy Spirit's faithfulness and mercy, even when we lose ourselves in slumber.

Christian could now say, in that very striking verse of Watts, which those who have such a passion for altering our familiar hymns to make them correspond to their self-constituted musical judgment, have dephlogisticated in the hymn-book :

The little ante, for one poor grain,

Labor, and tug, and strive;
But we, who have a heaven to obtain.

How negligent we live!

Awakened thus by the Spirit of God, Christian started up, and ran as fast as he could, not yet knowing that he had lost his roll, till he came to the top of the hill. We sometimes fall into a state through our own heedlessness, in which assurance is gone, and the way is prepared for great gloom and anguish, if circumstances of trial come on. And yet we may run well, even without our roll, so long as there is nothing special to alarm us. Poor Christian had to endure a great deal of sorrow by that indulgence in sleep. As he was running on, Timorous and Mistrust met him, running full of terror the other way. What is the matter, said Christian, you run the wrong way ? Why, said Timorous and Mistrust, the farther we go, the more danger we meet; we had but just conquered the Hill Difficulty, when just before us we discovered two lions in the way ; so we turned, and are hurrying back as fast as possible. With that they ran down the hill.

Now was Christian himself greatly afraid, for there is nothing so takes away the courage as the consciousness of guilt; and Christian, on feeling for his roll, that he might have that to comfort and sustain him amidst these dangers, found that he had lost it. And now what should he do ? What had become of it! Examining himself on this point, he remembered that he had slept in the arbor, and then at once falling on his knees, he asked of God forgiveness for that foolish sleep, and then with great heaviness and sorrow of heart went back to look for his roll. Thus, when the Holy Spirit brings to mind the sins of the Christian, as he is asking himself why he has so little heavenly evidence, there is no way for him to do but to seek forgiveness, confessing his guilt. But it is a fearful thing, when the night comes on, when danger and perhaps death are drawing near, and yon need all the comfort, consolation and support that you can possibly derive from a good hope in Christ, to find that that hope is gone from the soul, to find darkness where there ought to be light.

It is not to be doubted that Bunyan was writing this experience of Christian out of his own heart; it is almost the counterpart of his own inward trials about the time of his commitment to prison, when you will remember there was great gloom upon his soul, and the things of God were hidden from him, and neither sun nor stars appeared for many days. Then there were dreadful lions in the way, nor could he see that they were chained ; then he felt afraid to die, because he had no spiritual comfort. Bunyan resolved to die for Christ, whether comfort came or not, whether he found his roll or did not find it. But Christian could not go on without his roll. Oh how did he chide himself for being so foolish as to fall asleep in that place, which was erected only for a little refreshment of his weariness. When he came back to the arbor, the very sight of it renewed his sorrow and shame for that foolish sleep in the day-time and in the midst of difficulty; that he should have used that arbor of rest for ease to the flesh, which the Lord of the hill had erected only for the relief of the spirits of the Pilgrims. Alas, cried he, that I should have to tread those steps with sorrow, and thrice over, which I might have trodden but once, and with delight? This is what Christians are often doing, and this evil is certainly a great one, of using for indulgence and ease to the flesh what God has given us to minister to the advancement of our spirits. We are not anxious enough to be making progress towards heaven ; we are too fond of comfort, and too averse from labor.

Oh, said Christian, that I had not slept! Oh that God would have mercy on me ! And now the fifty-first Psalm came into his mind, and he cried out with David, Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee. But oh, thought Christian, without my roll I can never have the heart to speak to another person as long as I live. What shall I do, what shall I do ? He knew now that it was an evil and bitter thing to depart from the living God ; yea, this experience was as dreadful to him as that under Mount Sinai. Yea, says Doddridge, in his Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, the anguish of broken bones is not to be compared with the wretchedness of a soul that has departed from God, when it comes to be filled with its own way. Oh that God would have mercy upon me, said Christian. Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me! Oh that I knew where I might find him, said Christian. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there ; and backward, but I cannot perceive him. This must always be the case, when a child of God departs from God ; and if it be not so, then there is great reason to believe that the person so wandering, and yet not troubled on account of it, is not a child of God. If Christian had said within himself, when he found his roll was missing, Well, it is not essential, or I shall find it again by and by, and so had gone on, indifferent and easy, it had been enough to show that either he was not Christian, or that much sorer evil awaited him, and sharper discipline to bring him to repentance. But he could not go on in this manner, his conscience was too tender, and his sense of divine things too vivid; and so the sorrows of death compassed him, and the pains of hell gat hold upon him; he found trouble and sorrow; and back did he go, weeping and looking for his roll, and crying, O Lord, I beseech thee deliver my soul. Now God sees all this in his children, and permits them to endure this distress, that they may gain a lesson from it, which will last them as long as they live. But he knows what he does unto them, and just what they need. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my way. And just so, when Christian had well nigh given up in despair, and was sitting himself down to weep, disconsolate and broken-hearted, as kind Providence would have it, looking through his tears beneath the settle, there he espied the roll, and with what trembling, eager haste did he catch it up and secure it again in his bosom ! Oh, who can tell how joyful he was when he had gotten his roll again ! And now returning thanks to God for directing his eye to the place where it lay, (and ever should the Christian who has been wandering from God, and so has gotten into darkness, be thankful for the least ray of returning light, and ever will he, for no deliverance is so grateful to the soul as that,) Christian did with joy and tears betake himself again to his journey. But he had lost a great deal of time, and it was now growing dark....

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If you read this far, you might be wondering, what does "dephlogisticated" mean. From Websters' 1828 Dictionary:

DEPHLOGISTICATED, pp. Deprived of phlogiston. Dephlogisticated air, is an elastic fluid capable of supporting animal life and flame much longer than common air. It is now called oxygen, oxygen gas, or vital air.

PHLOGIS'TON, n. [Gr. to burn or inflame.]

The principle of inflammability; the matter of fire in composition with other bodies. Stahl gave this name to an element which he supposed to be pure fire fixed in combustible bodies, in order to distinguish it from fire in action or in a state of liberty. But the theory has been proved to be false and is generally abandoned.