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Calvin commentary – John 20:27 – Doubting Thomas

March 20, 2013 Comments off

John 20:27

27.Reach hither thy finger.

We have already spoken once about Christ’s entrance, and the form of salutation which he employed. When Christ so readily yields to the improper request of Thomas, (218) and, of his own accord, invites him to feel his hands, and touch the wound of his side, we learn from this how earnestly desirous he was to promote our faith and that of Thomas; for it was not to Thomas only, but to us also, that he looked, that nothing might be wanting which was necessary for confirming our faith.

The stupidity of Thomas was astonishing and monstrous; for he was not satisfied with merely beholding Christ out wished to have his hands also as witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. Thus he was not only obstinate, but also proud and contemptuous in his treatment of Christ. Now, at least, when he saw Christ, he ought to have been overwhelmed with shame and amazement; but, on the contrary, he boldly and fearlessly stretches forth his hand, as if he were not conscious of any guilt; for it may be readily inferred from the words of the Evangelist, that he did not repent before that he had convinced himself by touching. Thus it happens that, when we render to the word of God less honor than is due to it, there steals upon us, without our knowledge, a glowing obstinacy, which brings along with it a contempt of the word of God, and makes us lose all reverence for it. So much the more earnestly should we labor to restrain the wantonness of our mind, that none of us, by improperly indulging in contradiction, and extinguishing, as it were, the feeling of piety, may block up against ourselves the gate of faith.

My Lord and my God! Thomas awakes at length, though late, and as persons who have been mentally deranged commonly do when they come to themselves, exclaims, in astonishment, My Lord and my God! For the abruptness of the language has great vehemence; nor can it be doubted that shame compelled him to break out into this expression, in order to condemn his own stupidity. Besides, so sudden an exclamation shows that faith was not wholly extinguished in him, though it had been choked; for in the side or hands of Christ he does not handle Christ’s Divinity, but from those signs he infers much more than they exhibited. Whence comes this, but because, after forgetfulness and deep sleep, he suddenly comes to himself? This shows, therefore, the truth of what I said a little ago, that the faith which appeared to be destroyed was, as it were, concealed and buried in his heart.

The same thing happens sometimes with many persons; for they grow wanton for a time, as if they had cast off all fear of God, so that there appears to be no longer any faith in them; but as soon as God has chastised them with a rod, the rebellion of their flesh is subdued, and they return to their right senses. It is certain that disease would not, of itself, be sufficient to teach piety; and hence we infer, that, when the obstructions have been removed, the good seed, which had been concealed and crushed, springs up. We have a striking instance of this in David; for, so long as he is permitted to gratify his lust, we see how he indulges without restraint. Every person would have thought that, at that time, faith had been altogether banished from his mind; and yet, by a short exhortation of the Prophet, he is so suddenly recalled to life, that it may easily be inferred, that some spark, though it had been choked, still remained in his mind, and speedily burst into a flame. So far as relates to the men themselves, they are as guilty as if’ they had renounced faith and all the grace of the Holy Spirit; but the infinite goodness of God prevents the elect from falling so low as to be entirely alienated from God. We ought, therefore, to be most zealously on our guard not to fall from faith; and yet we ought to believe that God restrains his elect by secret bridle, that they may not fall to their destruction, and that He always cherishes miraculously in their hearts some sparks of faith, which he afterwards, at the proper time, kindles anew by the breath of his Spirit.

There are two clauses in this confession. Thomas acknowledges that Christ is his Lord, and then, in the second clauses, (219) he ascends higher, and calls him also his God. We know in what sense Scripture gives to Christ the name of Lord. It is, because the rather hath appointed him to be the highest governor, that he may hold all things under his dominion., that every knee may bow before him, (Phi_2:10,) and., in short, that he may be the Father’s vicegerent in governing the world. Thus the name Lord properly belongs to him, so far as he is the Mediator manifested in the flesh, and the Head of the Church. But Thomas, having acknowledged him to be Lord, is immediately carried upwards to his eternal Divinity, and justly; for the reason why Christ descended to us, and first was humbled, and afterwards was placed at the Father’s right hand, and obtained dominion over heaven and earth, was, that he might exalt us to his own Divine glory, and to the glory of the Father. That our faith may arrive at the eternal Divinity of Christ., we must begin with that knowledge which is nearer and more easily acquired. Thus it has been justly said by some, that by Christ Man we are conducted to Christ God, because our faith makes such gradual progress that, perceiving Christ on earth, born in a stable, and hanging on a cross., it rises to the glory of his resurrection, and, proceeding onwards, comes at length to his eternal life and power, in which his Divine Majesty is gloriously displayed.

Yet we ought to believe, that we cannot know Christ as our Lord, in a proper manner, without immediately obtaining also a knowledge of his Divinity. Nor is there any room to doubt that this ought to be a confession common to all believers., when we perceive that it is approved by Christ. He certainly would never have endured that the Father should be robbed of the honour due to him, and that this honor should be falsely and groundlessly conveyed to himself. But he plainly ratifies what Thomas said; and, therefore, this passage is abundantly sufficient for refuting the madness of Arius; for it is not lawful to imagine two Gods. Here also is declared the unity of person in Christ; for the same Jesus Christ (220) is called both God and Lord. Emphatically, to, he twice calls him his own, MYLord and MY God! declaring, that he speaks in earnest, and with a lively sentiment of faith.

Bunyan’s inward man faint, but revived by Jesus Christ – Grace abounding exerpt

March 23, 2012 Comments off

255. Upon a time I was something inclining to a consumption, wherewith about the spring I was suddenly and violently seized, with much weakness in my outward man; insomuch that I thought I could not live. Now began I afresh to give myself up to a serious examination after my state and condition for the future, and of my evidences for that blessed world to come: for it hath, I bless the name of God, been my usual course, as always, so especially in the day of affliction, to endeavour to keep my interest in the life to come, clear before mine eyes.

256. But I had no sooner began to recall to mind my former experience of the goodness of God to my soul, but there came flocking into my mind an innumerable company of my sins and transgressions; amongst which these were at this time most to my affliction; namely, my deadness, dulness, and coldness in holy duties; my wanderings of heart, of my wearisomeness in all good things, my want of love to God, His ways and people, with this at the end of all, Are these the fruits of Christianity? Are these tokens of a blessed man?

257. At the apprehensions of these things my sickness was doubled upon me; for now I was sick in my inward man, my soul was clogged with guilt; now also was my former experience of God’s goodness to me, quite taken out of my mind, and hid as if they had never been, or seen: now was my soul greatly pinched between these two considerations, Live I must not, die I dare not. Now I sunk and fell in my spirit, and was giving up all for lost; but as I was walking up and down in the house as a man in a most woeful state, that word of God took hold of my heart, Ye are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Rom. iii. 24. But oh! what a turn it made upon me!

258. Now was I as one awaked out of some troublesome sleep and dream; and listening to this heavenly sentence, I was as if I had heard it thus expounded to me: Sinner, thou thinkest, that because thy sins and infirmities, I cannot save thy soul; but behold My Son is by me, and upon Him I look, and not on thee, and shall deal with thee according as I am pleased with Him. At this I was greatly lightened in my mind, and made to understand, that God could justify a sinner at any time; it was but His looking upon Christ, and imputing His benefits to us, and the work was forthwith done.

259. And as I was thus in a muse, that scripture also came with great power upon my spirit, Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He hath saved us, etc. 2 Tim. i. 9; Tit. iii. 5. Now was I got on high, I saw myself within the arms of grace and mercy; and though I was before afraid to think of a dying hour, yet, now I cried, Let me die: Now death was lovely and beautiful in my sight, for I saw We shall never live indeed, till we be gone to the other world. Oh! methought this life is but a slumber, in comparison with that above. At this time also I saw more in these words, Heirs of God, Rom. viii. 17, than ever I shall be able to express while I live in this world: Heirs of God! God Himself is the portion of the saints. This I saw and wondered at, but cannot tell you what I saw.

Source: Grace abounding to the chief of sinners, by John Bunyan

Touch the hem of his garment

May 29, 2011 Comments off

Gospel lessons from the healing of the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:24-34)

* This woman who was hemmoraging blood is a picture of every sinner. She was considered unclean by the Law of God and was, in fact, slowly dying of her condition. The Scripture tells us: We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6). Our position is actually far worse that this woman’s. She contracted her disease involuntary.  We, on the other hand, have rushed into our sins and therefore must carry the guilt of voluntary involvement.

* This woman had sought healing from many physicians. However, despite doing the rounds of the greatest and best and spending all her money, she not only failed to regain her health, but actually grew worse. Now she was not only ill, but bankrupt also and the future was as bleak as ever. Many folk who are aware of the deadly nature of their sin are most anxious to find pardon nevertheless seek it in the wrong place. Many seek it in religion and even go from church to church, hoping to find relief. Others try self help groups with their various philosophies but when all is said and done, the guilt remains and they are still held captive by the Devil at his will (2 Timothy 2:26). Is my reader such a person?

* This woman saw that only Jesus Christ could give her what she was looking for. Salvation is not in any other person or group of people. Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone. He proclaimed Himself alone as the door by which we can enter in and be saved (John 10:9). His alone is the name whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

* This woman came in an act of simple faith. She considered that but touching the hem of His garment would lead to her healing. Why the hem of His garment? Usually the hem is the last part of the garment to be made. It represents the finished work. Christ’s last cry but one from the Cross was exactly this: “It is FINISHED” (John 19:30). All that is required by the law of God for our salvation is bundled up entirely in the Life and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our righteousness before God (Jeremiah 23:6). Saving faith simply lies hold upon this fact and applies it to the need of the soul.

* Her healing was immediately effected by her touch. The virtuous power left Christ and straightway she was made whole. There was nothing progressive about this. He that hath the Son, hath  [present tense] everlasting life (1 John 5:12).

* Her faith was not particularly strong. When asked to reveal herself, she came in fear and trembling. We are not saved on the basis of our faith, but through the instrumentality of our faith. In other words, the strength lies in the One to whom faith is directed, rather than faith itself. Even a weak faith saves, if placed in the Almighty Saviour.

* Many thronged the Saviour, but only one touched him with the touch of faith. Many throng him today through their religious duties. Be the one though who touches him  by faith and experiences his eternal salvation.

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Philpot – Of faith, by grace

March 7, 2011 Comments off

“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace.” Romans 4:16

Of faith we read expressly that “it is the gift of God.” This is the grand master-grace of the soul; it is the grand wheel which moves every other wheel in the heart; it is the eye, the ear, the hand of the new man of grace. Only so far as we have faith, and the Lord draws out this faith in exercise, have we any true spiritual feeling. But what makes me prize the gift of faith? It is knowing so much and so painfully the inbeing and inworking of unbelief. Is not this the case naturally? What makes me prize health? It is having a poor, weakly tabernacle. What makes me prize rest? Fatigue. What makes me prize ease? It is pain. What makes me prize food? It is hunger. What makes me prize the cup of cold water? It is thirst. By these feelings, I not only know the reality by the want of it, but also enjoy the blessing when communicated.

It is just so spiritually, as naturally. What can I know of faith, except I am exercised (and exercised I am more or less daily) by the workings of unbelief, infidelity, questionings of the reasoning mind, and all the spawn of an unbelieving heart? As the soul is tossed up and down, (and often, it is tossed up and down on this sea of unbelief,) it learns to prize the harbour of faith.

And when the Lord mercifully communicates a little faith to the soul, and faith begins to realise, feel, experience, and feed upon the truth as it is in Jesus, then we know what faith is by the possession of it.

What a mercy it is that the Lord has the gift of faith to bestow! Here are poor souls toiling, troubling, labouring, groaning, sighing, oppressed with unbelief, that great giant in the heart, who has slain his thousands and tens of thousands. How our souls sometimes sink down under this wretched unbelief! But how we prize the faith all the more when it comes! How all the sinkings make the risings higher, and all the sadness makes the change more blessed! As the tossings to and fro of the sailor upon the sea, with all the perils and sufferings of the voyage, make the calm harbour so pleasant; so all the tossing up and down of unbelief endears the holy calm of living faith to the soul.

JC PHILPOT – 1802-1869

 

Hindrances – JC Philpot

September 28, 2010 Comments off

“To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:79

What was it that moved the divine Father to send his own Son into the world? Was it not the free mercy of God flowing forth from his bosom to his family? Then, what merit, what claim can his family ever have? Their misery is their claim. Their worthlessness, their sunken state, the depth of their fall–these things call forth God’s compassion. It is not what I have done for the glory of God; not what I am doing, or trying to do; not my wisdom, my strength, my resolutions, my piety, my holiness. No; my misery, my helplessness, my worthlessness, my deeply sunken state, my fallen condition; which I feel only because of interest in the blood and love of the Lamb–this it is that makes me need God’s mercy; and this it is that qualifies me to go to God through Jesus to receive mercy: for “he is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by him.” Are you sitting in darkness and the shadow of death–far from the way of peace, troubled, perplexed, exercised, confused? You are the very characters for whom Jesus came. Are not unutterable mercies locked up in the bosom of God for you? What is to exclude you? Your sins? No; God has pardoned them. Your worthlessness? No; there is a robe of righteousness prepared for you. Your demerits? No; the merits of Jesus are upon your side. Your unholiness? No; “He of God is made to you sanctification.” Your ignorance? No; “He of God is made to you wisdom.” These are no barriers. I will tell you what is a barrier–self-righteousness, self-esteem, self-exaltation, pride, hypocrisy, presumption; a name to live, a form of godliness, being settled upon your lees, and at ease in Zion–these are barriers. But helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, misery–these are not barriers; they are qualifications; they shew, when felt, that your name is in the book of life, that the Lord of life and glory appeared in this world for you; and sooner or later, you will have the sweet enjoyment of it in your heart; and then be enabled to adore him for his grace, and admire and bless his name for glorifying his love and mercy in your free and full salvation.

JC PHILPOT – 1802-1869

True grace may ebb and flow, but never die – Joseph Caryl

July 18, 2010 Comments off

Job’s complaint ended in the former chapter: in this a hot dispute began. Job having cursed his day, as was indeed a wounding, such as almost at every word, drew blood; and was not only a rod upon his back, but a sword at his heart. Job was wounded first by Satan, he was wounded a second time by his wife, a third time he was wounded (not as it is spoken in the prophet, “in the house of friends, but) in his own house by his friends. these last wounds are judged by all good physicians, in soul afflictions) his deepest and sorest wounds.

Everyone who faileth or declineth or falleth off from what formerly was,or held forth, is therefore an hypocrite or hat his graces are false, and but pretences; there may be many declining’s and failings, many breaches and backsliding’s, and yet the spirit upright. Indeed, falling away and quite falling off, are an argument of insincerity and hypocrisie.; for true grace is everlasting grace, true holiness, endures forever. Therefore we are here to consider whence these failing were occasionined in Job, and how a failing maybe exprest, and continue so, as to conclude insincerity or hypocrisy.

First, it was from a sudden perturbation, not for a settled resolution. Job was not resolvedly thus impatient and unruly: an unexpected storm hurried his spirit so violently, that he was not master of his own actions; Job had not his affections at command, they got the bridle (as it were) on their necks, and away they carried him with such force, that he was not able to stop or stay them.

Secondly, it came from the smart and sense of pain in his flesh, not for the perverseness of his spirit. If the taint had been in his spirit, then Eliphaz, had a ground, a certain ground to have argued thus against him.

Thirdly, Job’s graces were hid and obscured, they were not lose or dead; the acts were suspended, the habits were not removed; when grace which hath been shewed, is quite lost, that grace was nothing but a shew of grace, painted fear, and painted confidence; but in Job’s case there was only a hiding of his graces or a vail cast over them.

Last we must not say, he falls from grace who falleth into sin; nor must it be concluded that he hath no grace who falls into a great sin: it follows not, that grace is false or none, because it doth not work like itself, or because it doth not sometimes work at all. True grace works not always uniformly; though it be always the same in itself, yet is is not always the same in its effects; true grace is always alive, yet it doth not always act, it retains life when motion is undiscerned Wherefore they who not work like themselves, or do not work at all (for a time) in gracious ways, are not to be concluded as having no grace, or nothing but a shew of grace.

Vol 2 Chaptaer 1

The way of the weak is the only healthy way

March 2, 2010 Comments off
By J. I. Packer
“It’s a grand life if you don’t weaken,” says the British platitude. It’s a good life only when you do weaken, says the Bible. Once more the wisdom of God upsets the conventional wisdom, the wisdom of this world. Christians must always be alert to points at which God’s thoughts cut across what society takes for granted and must dare to be different when loyalty to their Master so requires—which is frequently. With regard to strength and weakness, the antithesis between the world’s way and that of Christ is total and stark and may not be toned down.

The world’s stance—that is, the view of mankind in the mass, without God and under sin—is not in doubt. Ever since Lamech and the tower of Babel the world has worshipped successful strength—the physical strength of Goliath, the executive strength of emperors and generals, the strength of purpose that explorers, go-getters, and tycoons display, the mental strength of thinkers and teachers. Individuals have sought to emulate these forms of strength by gestures of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. But Scripture shows that weakness, known and embraced as such, is of the essence of right living.

The world continues as it was. That explains why body-building (gaining an intimidating physical presence) and assertiveness training (learning, by verbal push and shove, how to get your way) and the “success syndrome” are so prominent in North America today; just as it explains why an Englishman feels that his home is his castle and why an Asian cannot contemplate losing face. Our proud world, thus tuned to seek strength, sees personal limitations somewhat pitiful and its compassion for handicapped humans often has a touch of contempt mixed in. It was so when the Corinthians said of Paul, “his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible”(2 Cor. 10:10, NKJV) and therefore declined to take him seriously. The world never has time for weakness in any form.

In its dictatorial way, the world tries to make Christians revere successful strength. When people’s spiritual quality is measured by whether they are good speakers or outstanding athletes or great money-makers or popular TV personalities, rather than by their character as it appears in non-official relationships, the world is making headway in this. When preachers present salvation as God’s gift to us of power to use, whether in maintaining a type of euphoria called victorious living or in effectively claiming health and wealth or in ministries of evangelism and healing or in any other acknowledged type of Christian effectiveness, the world’s strategy is advanced again. To say that God gives us power to use is not at all what Scripture means when it affirms that God’s power works in us and the Christian life is distorted when it sets forth as a use of strength in this way.

Certainly, God strengthens the weak—but understand how! Strength means ability to do something that requires effort. Scripture tells us that God gives strength for three things: endurance of strain and pressure, fidelity in serving God and others, and resistance to Satanic wiles. The Lord Jesus, who showed this threefold strength to perfection in the days of his flesh, now from his throne imparts it to those who are alive in him. In them the moral and spiritual instincts of Jesus’ holy character now seek active expression, and the Holy Spirit acts in their actions to work in them the good works in which the expression of these instincts is seen.

But, and this the crucial point to grasp, what I have just formulated only becomes reality when Christians feel too weak, mentally, morally, and spiritually, and maybe physically too, to rise to the demands of each situation. Then they extend the hand of faith to God as drowning men stretch for the lifebelt. “Help!” is prayer at its truest, as it is weakness at its most explicit. And it is a prayer that God answers!

Why does God shape his children’s lives in a way that keeps them feeling weak and swamped? Why do believers constantly find thorns in their flesh and in their beds? Why does the God of sovereign love periodically plunge his beloved ones in to suffering and strain? Paul’s testimony tells us partly why. “We were under great pressure . . . this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.” “We who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” “For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 1:8 f., 4:11, 12:10). Exactly!

What the world never understands and those who think that the good Christian feels strong and powerful and has life easy never understands is that only consciously weak souls ever lean hard enough on the Lord to stand steady or walk straight in his risen power. Weakness is the true path, the only healthy way.

How weak, I wonder, are you today?

J.I. Packer is professor of historical and systematic theology at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

This article was previously published in Eternity Magazine, November 1987.

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