A sermon from August 16, 2009
Howe will argue that we must “yield” ourselves to God. Therefore, he next underscores aspects of God’s relationship to us which would necessitate such a yielding. Thus, he notes that God is our Creator and Sustainer. Our very existence depends upon God, he “who renews your life unto you every moment.”
This matter of being our Creator and Sustainer will imply certain aspects which pinch our flesh.
Since God is our Creator and Sustainer, he holds additional relationship to us. He is our Owner. In recognizing such we add nothing to God’s rights:
Your yielding yourselves adds nothing to his rights in you; you therein recognize and acknowledge the right he had in you before; but it add to you a capacity and qualification, both by the tenor of his Gospel-covenant, and in the nature of the thing, for such nobler uses as wither wise you cannot service.
Recognizing his right in us, makes us more serviceable, but it is nothing other than what we owe. If we refuse this acknowledgement, we are no better than “brutes and devils”.
God is also our Teacher:
There is another sort of teaching, which if you yield yourselves to him as your great Instructor, he will vouchsafe unto you. The things you know not, and which it is necessary you should know, he will teach you, i. e. such things as are of real necessity to your true and final welfare, not which only serve to please your fancy, or gratify your curiosity; for his teaching respects an appointed, certain end, suitable to his wisdom and mercy, and to the calamity and danger of your state. The teaching requisite for perishing sinners, was, what they might do to be saved. And when we have cast about in our thoughts never so much, we have no way to take but to yield ourselves to God, who will then be our most undeceiving Guide. To whom it belongs to save us at last, to him only it can belong to lead us in the way to that blessed end.
John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 386. This teaching of God is not new revelation. Rather, God makes the existing revelation effective, it becomes teaching we receive from him:
He will so teach you, as to make you teach yourselves, put an abiding word into you, that shall talk with you when you sit in your houses, and walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up, and whereby you shall be enabled to commune with your own hearts upon your beds while others sleep; and revolve, or roll over in your minds, dictates of life.
John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 390. His teaching will not leave you unchanged.
Third, since God is our Creator and Sustainer, God is our Sovereign Ruler:
Though teaching and ruling may be diversely conceived of, they cannot be separate in this case. The nobler and final part of God’s teaching you, is teaching you your duty; what you are to practise and do. And so when he teaches you, he commands you too; and leaves it not arbitrary to you whether you will be directed by him or no. What is his by former right, and by after-consent, and self-resignation, shall it not be governed by him, if it be a subject capable of laws and government, as such consent shows it to be? Your yielding yourselves to God is not a homage but a mockery, if you do it not with a resolution to receive the law from his mouth: and that whereinsoever he commands, you will to your uttermost obey. But in this and the other things that follow, my limits constrain me unto more brevity. Only let not this apprehension of God be frightful; yea, let it be amiable to you, as in itself it is, and cannot but be to you, if you consider the loveliness of his government, the kind design of it, and how suitable it is to the kindest design; that it is a government first and principally over minds, purposely intended to reduce them to a holy and peaceful order, wherein it cannot but continue them, when that kingdom comes to be settled there, which stands in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and all the laws whereof are summed up in love; being such also as in the keeping whereof there is great reward.
John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 392.
Finally, we must consider God as our Benefactor. Now, we often think of a benefactor as someone who does us good by our own sights and according to our own inclination. God is a greater benefactor, because he government and his goodness to us are one. He does us good by being our teacher and sovereign:
The very business of his government is in the first place to alter the temper of your minds; for, continuing carnal, they neither are subject to the law of God, nor can be, as the same place tells you. Therefore if his government take place in you, and you become subject, you become spiritual, the “law of the Spirit of life” having now the possession and the power of you. Nor was it possible he should ever be an effectual Benefactor to you, without being thus an over-powering Ruler; so do these things run into one another. To let you have your own will, and follow your carnal inclination, and cherish and favour you in this course, were to gratify you to your ruin, and concur with you to your being for ever miserable; which you may see plainly if you will understand wherein your true felicity and blessedness must consist, or consider what was intimated concerning it, in the proposal of this head; that he is to be your Benefactor, in being to you himself your supreme and only satisfying Good. He never doth you good effectually and to purpose, till he overcome your carnal inclination.
John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 393.
Finally, we must consider ourselves in this transaction: If God is our Creator, Sustainer, Owner, Teacher, Sovereign and Benefactor, who are we? We are his creatures, but sadly creatures who are apostate and unfit for communion with God; and yet, under the Gospel, we are “sinners invited and called back to God.”
Dr. Lloyd-Jones in his sermon on Romans 6:1-2 comes to the point where he says, “That is what Paul is saying, that we died to the reign and the realm and the rule of sin.”
‘But wait a minute,’ says someone, ‘I still have a final objection. If what you say is true, it if it is true, as yo have been emphasizing so much, that in Christ we are really dead and have finished with the rule and the realm of sin once and forever, how is it that we can still fall into sin?…’
He then gives three analogies: First to slaves freed during the American Civil War. “They were free, they were no longer slaves; the law had been changed, and their status and their position was entirely different; but it took them a very long time to realize it. You can still be a slave experimentally [in experience], even when you are longer a slave legally.”
He gives the example of a child and servants.
Finally, he gives the example of someone moving from one field who then crosses a boundary and live in another parcel.
The whole object of the Apostle in this sixth chapter is to get us to realize it. ‘Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin.’ You are therefore to realize it, to reckon it. Realize also that you are alive unto God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ It in not yet true perhaps in your experience; but though it is not yet true in your experience it is true as a matter of fact. We have got to believe it…
‘But I cannot believe that,’ says someone, ‘it is too staggering, it is almost incredible. Here am I on earth, and I listen to the voice of Satan, and fall into sin; and yet you tell me that I am dead to it.’ You are! And I ask you to believe it. I know it is staggering ….Whatever you may feel, whatever your experience may be, God tells us here through His Word, that if we are in Christ we are not longer in Adam, we are longer under the reign and rule of sin. We are in Christ, we are under the rule and under the reign of grace.
Romans 5:1–5 (ESV)
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
This is a seemingly confused passage: why and how does Paul jump from justification to suffering?
Note the argument:
A.Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have
B. peace with God
C. through our Lord Jesus Christ.
C’. Through him we have also obtained
B’. access by faith into this grace in which we stand,
A’ and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God — being justified — is the subjective state of the one justified. Col. 1:27. This hope of glory is a great subjective benefit of the Christian life. Paul next turns to, how does one have more of this hope? The next section which discusses suffering, actually answers the question of “So how then do we obtain more hope, now?”
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings,” — but not because suffering is good (it is not, if it were “good”, it would not be suffering), but because of what suffering does:
suffering produces endurance, 4
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
This, however, is not the sum total of Paul’s argument. Paul makes a similar argument in chapter 8, but this time he develops more of the psychology which produces home. Using language deliberately allusive to Ecclesiastes (all is vanity), Paul explains that present suffering is unavoidable in this world (the creation has been subjected to futility), but this suffering can cause us to long for the age to come (glory):
Romans 8:18–25 (ESV)
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
(The following is the rough draft of a manuscript sermon to be preached on October 9 in Fountains Hills, Arizona. At the end are some application questions for small groups discussion)
Walk With Christ
I have a duty this morning, to teach you what is called a “distinctive” of Harvest Bible Chapel. That means it is something which we emphasize and something which may distinguish our fellowship from other Christian groups.
My point is very simple: God saves us so that we will walk with him. We are saved from sin to obedience. We are saved to walk with Christ. I am going to say something similar over and over: We are saved to walk with Christ.
A week ago, my family and I went to the see the Space Shuttle at the Science Center in Los Angeles. We looked at the tires, and the computers, and control panels and cockpit. We watched movies of take-offs and looked at exhibits, and then walked under and around the actual shuttle. We spent an hour looking at and around the space shuttle, but it was alway the space shuttle which had our attention.
This morning will be like that: we are going to look all sorts of passages and ask all sorts of questions, but in the end our position will be the same: You must walk with Christ. I must walk with Christ. It is our duty, our destiny, our honor and our joy. There is going to be a lot of repetition, but there will also be many parts. Just remember this will be like walking around the great space shuttle exhibit: Here we are looking at the space suits, there we are looking at the giant thrusters, but we are always looking at the space shuttle.
I am going to come back to this idea that we must walk with God. First, I am going to show you that we must walk with God. Then I am going to consider some objections to walking with God. Some people think this is legalism. Some Christians are ignorant of the need to walk with God. Some other Christians — probably most of us — know that we are to walk with God, but it seems beyond us and struggle with hope and despair.
Therefore, I am going to prove all that we must walk with God. I will tell the legalist that walking with God is not error: instead it is the entire point of salvation.
The Christian who just doesn’t know about holiness, who has been confused: for you, I will try to un-confuse you.
And finally, for those who veer between hope and despair, I will seek to bring some comfort and stability.
So on to our main point: You must walk with Christ if you are a Christian.
There are areas where Christians can be distinguished from one-another and still be Christians. Some Christians baptize the infants of believers; some do not. Some Christians believe we are now in the millennium; some think the millennium is still to come. These distinctive are important, but they do not distinguish between those who are Christians and those who are not.
This morning we are going to discuss the distinctive of “walking with Christ”. No Christian can be a Christian who does not walk with Christ. I not know how one can claim to be Christian, a follower of Jesus, if she does not walk with Christ. This must be an emphasize of a Christian Church, but it is sad that it might actually make a Christian Church “distinct” in any manner.
You see, the idea and command to walk with Christ is everywhere in the Scripture. Jesus gave the Church one command, make disciples. You can see this in Matthew 28:19-20, the Great Commission:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)
Do you see that language, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. That means that disciples of Jesus have to do something. It is inherent in the idea of being a disciple: one who is a learner and a follower. A Christian knows Christ, loves Christ and follows Christ:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:22 (ESV). To be a Christian is an active, passionate pursuit of holiness:
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14 (ESV). Or John:
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16 (ESV). Or Paul in Ephesians:
4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
Ephesians 4:1 (ESV). It is in the Old Testament also:
1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 1:1–2 (ESV). All of these passages and dozens more besides make the point that being a Christian is very much a matter of how we live. Being a Christian is a matter of holiness, of leaving behind sin, or walking with God.
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:13–16 (ESV). You must be holy, you must walk worthy; there is no option, there is no wiggle-room on this point?
Grayling then goes onto describe her sense of “otherness” in some detail. Ehrenreich took the experience to be some sort of divine intervention. He also critiques her understanding of this Other as a true objective event:
Religious people, of course, attribute them to encounters with the divine, and it may well be that experiences caused in these ways lie at the root of humankind’s impulse to create religion. But the fact that empirical science today so well explains the causes and nature of these disturbances of normal neurological function is reason to guard against the supernaturalistic attempts at explanation, which were once the only resource our forebears had.
I have no opinion about the natural or source of Ehrenreich’s experience. The very subjectivity of such an experience makes it impossible to affirm or deny or perhaps even understand. For the Christian, even an event which others experienced is alone insufficient to ground faith. Peter specifically directs our attention elsewhere:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”
18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.
21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Peter who had a supreme experience, a sight of the transfiguration of The Lord, refuses to rest faith there. Rather he directs us to something else: God speaking. This may seem an odd ground for faith, and yet there it is:
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:14-17. This is so, because all that we can know of God can only come through revelation. God must disclose himself to us, for we cannot come to him any other manner. The self-disclosure of God coming in its final form as God speaking in his Son (Hebrews 1:2a, in these last days he spoke to us in his Son):
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. John 1:18.
Thus, we do not ground our faith in some subjective experience but rather in God’s objective self-disclosure.
The prior post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/of-communion-with-the-father-son-and-holy-spirit-digression-2a/
Owen’s second digression concerns three elements of wisdom:
The sum of all true wisdom and knowledge may be reduced to these three heads: —
1. The knowledge of God, his nature and his properties.
2. The knowledge of ourselves in reference to the will of God concerning us.
3. Skill to walk in communion with God: —
The knowledge of God being addressed in the previous post, we most to the knowledge of ourselves, which Owen breaks down into three elements which he takes form John 16:8: Our Savior sends his Spirit to convince the world of, — even “sin, righteousness, and judgement,” John 16:8.
Knowledge of Sin
Scripture affirms that all human beings have some sense of law (Romans 2:14-15, “15. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”). All cultures show some sense of divine sanction and law.
This understanding of sin may be improved by teaching of God’s law. Yet, however, much training one may receive, such training alone will never be sufficient to give sufficient understanding of sin.
In Christ we see two things plainly (1) the true nature of sin, and (2) salvation from the judgment due for sin.
How Christ Shows the True Nature of Sin:
First, Christ shows what sin deserves. We see this first in who was punished for sin. That the justice of God could be propitiated by nothing than the death of Christ demonstrates the extraordinary guilt and evil of sin. Christ’s death also demonstrates the sinfulness of sin in the punishment suffered by sin:
Would you, then, see the true demerit of sin? — take the measure of it from the mediation of Christ, especially his cross. It brought him who was the Son of God, equal unto God, God blessed for ever, into the form of a (Philippians 2:8) servant, who had not where to lay his head. It pursued him all his life with afflictions and persecutions; and lastly brought him under the rod of God; there bruised him and brake him, — (1 Corinthians 2:7) slew the Lord of life. Hence is deep humiliation for it, upon the account of him whom we (Zechariah 12:10.) have pierced. And this is the first spiritual view of sin we have in Christ.
Second, the atonement of Christ demonstrates our inability to save ourselves.
No sacrifice could suffice to make atonement:
Romans 3:24-26, by setting forth his only Son “to be a propitiation,” he leaves no doubt upon the spirits of men that in themselves they could make no atonement; for “if righteousness were by the law, then were Christ dead in vain.” To what purpose should he be made a propitiation, were not we ourselves weak and without strength to any such purpose? So the apostle argues, Romans 5:6, when we had no power, then did he by death make an atonement; as verses 8, 9.
An implication of Owen’s argument was raised in a recent essay on the Gospel Coalition website:
If Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and all the other world religions are true paths to God, then why did God kill his Son, Jesus, in order to make a way for men to come to him? The very notion is absurd and insulting to God. It paints a portrait of a God who is just plain cruel. He sent Jesus into the world to live a miserable life of scorn, rejection, poverty, betrayal, humiliation, sorrow, and ultimately, torture and death, in order to create a path whereby men can come to know him. Yet all the while he knew that following the Five Pillars of Islam or the Noble Eight-fold Path could accomplish the same thing. What a waste! Jesus’ life—God’s plan of salvation— is completely in vain, for the same result could be achieved by simply adhering to the tenets of any world religion. God is not only cruel but also incompetent for putting into effect the worst salvation plan possible.
It also demonstrates our inability to render the obedience due God under the law:
Our disability to answer the mind and will of God, in all or any of the obedience that he requireth, is in him only to be discovered. This, indeed, is a thing that many will not be acquainted with to this day. To teach a man that he cannot do what he ought to do, and for which he condemns himself if he do it not, is no easy task.
Since teaching human beings their inability to render obedience sufficient to satisfy God is no easy thing, we must look to the cross to see this truth:
The law can bring forth no righteousness, no obedience; it is weak to any such purpose, by reason of the flesh, and that corruption that is come on us. These two things are done in Christ, and by him: — First, Sin is condemned as to its guilt, and we set free from that; the righteousness of the law by his obedience is fulfilled in us, who could never do it ourselves. And, secondly, That obedience which is required of us, his Spirit works it in us. So that that perfection of obedience which we have in him is imputed to us; and the sincerity that we have in obedience is from his Spirit bestowed on us. And this is the most excellent glass, wherein we see our impotency; for what need we his perfect obedience to be made ours, but that we have not, can not attain any? what need we his Spirit of life to quicken us, but that we are dead in trespasses and sins?
Third, Christ’s cross also demonstrates the death of sin. Owen notes that one can see the killing effects of sin without the need of seeing Christ’s death on the cross. But it is only by means of Christ’s cross that one can learn dying to sin:
Sin is a thing that of itself is not apt to die or to decay, but to get ground, and strength, and life, in the subject wherein it is, to eternity; prevent all its actual eruptions, yet its original enmity against God will still grow. In believers it is still dying and decaying, until it be utterly abolished. The opening of this treasury [mystery] you have, Romans 6:3-6, etc.
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
This is the design of the apostle in the beginning of that chapter, not only to manifest whence is the principle and rise of our mortification and the death of sin, even from the death and blood of Christ; but also the manner of sin’s continuance and dying in us, from the manner of Christ’s dying for sin. He was crucified for us, and thereby sin was crucified in us; he died for us, and the body of sin is destroyed, that we should not serve sin; and as he was raised from the dead, that death should not have dominion over him, so also are we raised from sin, that it should not have dominion over us. This wisdom is hid in Christ only
Fourth, There is a glorious end whereunto sin is appointed and ordained, and discovered in Christ. Sin itself tends only to the destruction of human beings, their condemnation, death and hell. Yet, in Christ, something new is seen. The law can only condemn. But in Christ, God manifests forgiveness and mercy:
In the Lord Jesus there is the manifestation of another and more glorious end; to wit, the praise of God’s glorious (Ephesians 1:6.) grace in the pardon and forgiveness of it; — God having taken order in Christ that that thing which tended merely to his dishonor should be managed to his infinite glory, and that which of all things he desireth to exalt, — even that he may be known and believed to be a (Hebrews 8:6-13.) “God pardoning iniquity, transgression and sin.”
Next we will look to the second aspect of knowledge of ourselves brought by the Spirit and mentioned in John 16:8:
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Romaine answers a troublesome question: It is a not uncommon experience for a Christian to seek “victory” over a sin, to strive and fight and yet obtain no advantage. If anything, the exertion of will power seems to leave the poor saint in a worse position than he was at first. He sincerely desires to end the sin. He even seeks to help from Christ in prayer. How is it that God could permit the sin to persist?
Here is a great trouble: The striving Christian thinks that the whole trouble begins and ends with a behavior. However he forgets, obedience matters only to the extent it is grounded in love. Indeed love is the thing which God seeks. God does not need behavior — he did not need sacrifices and he does not need us. If it were obedience he sought, he has legions of beings in many ways greater than us at his call.
What then is the striving believer seeking? Earned glory from God. There is the trouble, as Romaine explains:
Or, perhaps, Christ does not appear on your side, because you are proposing some wrong end [you don’t have the correct goal]. You are working and striving against sin to establish a righteousness of your own own [Romans 10:3 — those who sought to establish a righteousness independent of Christ], which is to be some part of your acceptance before God [you are trying to be righteous before God based upon your own effort] and you have been trying in your own strength to get your corruptions quite subdued, but they were too strong for you, and therefore now you are glad to make use of Christ’s help [since you couldn’t do it alone, you expect Christ to help you].
And if he would do the work for you, then you would have confidence in the flesh [if Christ helped you, then you would have confidence in yourself] and this your fancied [imagined] holiness would be the ground of thy rejoicing before God. Is it not so? If it be, you will never succeed upon this plan, Christ will not give his glory to another, nor put the crown of his gospel grace upon the head of your legal dependance.
William Romaine, A Treatise Upon the Life of Faith
In short, the poor believer sought the wrong end. The believer thought he would be entitled to Christ’s help and reward because he was so good. Romaine explains the believer has got it all wrong. God can destroy sin, but that is a means to an end. Then end is worship: we, in fellowship with God, in the dependance of faith, worship The Lord.
The Christian who seeks merely to alter behavior seeks not God’s glory but rather his own. That believer is not coming to God in worship and faith. Such a one does not seek God’s glory, but his own:
1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?
2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Biblical Counseling, Grief, Ministry, Mortification, Mortification of Sin, Practical Theology, Quotations, Romans, Romans 6, Romans 7, Romans 8, Satan, Sin, The Believer's Victory Over Satan's Devices, William Parson
“It evidently does come to pass, that many who are hopefully converted to Christ, soon after leaving the depot for their heavenly destination, do strangely leave the track; they fail on the up-grades of duty; (heir movements are irregular; the wheels of their faith slip on the rails of promise; they do not promptly obey the will of the Divine Engineer. It is the sore grief of the ministry and church, and the general complaint and stumbling-block of the world, that professed Christians fall so far below the standard of character presented in the Bible — that they so manifestly fail in running the Christian race. Christ proclaims liberty, and yet many of his people are slaves to the world and their lusts. The gospel professes to open fountains in the desert, and rivers in dry places; and yet we fail to find “the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter,” of which Zophar the Naamathite writes (Job 20:17), and drink, instead, at those transient streams of which Job himself speaks, which dry up and vanish when the heat comes, and go to nothing (6: 15-18). We lack the “tongue of fire,” the baptism of the Spirit, “the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” And the worst of all is, that the church is extensively paralyzed with the fatal idea that this state of bondage and spiritual weakness is practically incurable; and, as the inevitable consequence, men abandon themselves to a current of most unsatisfactory and bewildering experiences.”
Excerpt From: William Leonard Parsons. “The believer’s victory over Satan’s devices.” 1876, Nelson & Phillips.
Pride and Repose
A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF DAVID. 1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 131 (ESV)
Translation and Notes on Psalm 131
Our desires disquiet the heart. Resignation to God’s will makes the soul still.—Pride separates men from fellowship with God. Humility strengthens that bond. The one makes the heart restless; the other imparts quietness and peace.—A childlike disposition, humble, patient and satisfied in God, as the fruit of severe conflict.
Spurgeon, “The Weaned Child” (vol. 121, page 2):
I was once conversing with a very excellent aged minister, and while we were talking about our frames and feelings, he made the following confession: he said, “When I read that passage in the psalm, ‘My soul is even as a weaned child,’ I wish it were true of me, but I think I should have to make an alteration of one syllable, and then it would exactly describe me at times, ‘My soul is even as a weaning rather than a weaned child,’ for,” said he, “with the infirmities of old age, I fear I get fretful and peevish, and anxious, and when the day is over I do not feel that I have been in so calm, resigned, and trustful a frame of mind as I could desire.” I suppose, dear brethren, that frequently we have to make the same confession. We wish we were like a weaned child, but we find ourselves neglecting to walk by faith, and getting into the way of walking by the sight of our eyes, and then we get like the weaning child which is fretting and worrying, and unrestful, and who causes trouble to those round about it, and most of all, trouble to itself. Weaning was one of the first real troubles that we met with after we came into this world, and it was at the time a very terrible one to our little hearts. We got over it somehow or other. We do not remember now what a trial it was to us, but we may take it as a type of all troubles; for if we have faith in him who was our God from our mother’s breasts, as we got over the weaning, and do not even recollect it, so we shall get over all the troubles that are to come, and shall scarcely remember them for the joy that will follow. If, indeed, Dr. Watts be correct in saying that when we get to heaven we shall “recount the labors of our feet,” then, I am quite sure that we shall only do it, as he says, “with transporting joy.” There, at least, we shall each one be as a weaned child.
That there is a fundamental opposition between pride & humility surprises no one. Yet, a deeper correspondence lies than mere opposition. Pride, as shown in this psalm, comes with anxiety and trouble. Thus, a peaceful rest upon God gives rise to humility.
The movement from pride to humility comes through peace. One would think that pride would abate by thinking mean thoughts of oneself – such a course is nonsense. To think bad about oneself is still to think about oneself. That is why up and down on self-esteem does little good. Two species of the same vermin are both vermin.
The Biblical model of humility is not self-debasement as much as it is repose upon God the work of God:
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6–7 (ESV)
Here humbling oneself and casting one’s troubles upon God stand in parallel – by giving God’s one’s anxiety, one comes to humility.
That is why trials may directly lead to humility. Bunyan has this in Pilgrim’s Progress: Christian descends into the Valley of Humiliation, only to be met by the archfiend. Apollyon asks Christian if he thinks that he will actually be admitted when he comes to the Celestial City: for, Christian has failed along the way. The temptation is a temptation to pride: can Christian be admitted on his merits? Christian answers:
Chr. All this is true, and much more which thou hast left out; but the Prince whom I serve and honour is merciful, and ready to forgive; but, besides these infirmities possessed me in thy country: for there I sucked them in, and I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.
Then Apollyon broke out into a grievous rage, saying, I am an enemy to this Prince! I hate his person, laws, and people, and am come out on purpose to withstand thee
The rest and repose flows out of a profound understanding of grace. The trials of this life force us to seek rest in this world. George Herbert’s poem, The Pulley, illustrates this well:
When GOD at first made man
Having a glass of blessings standing by;*
Let Us, said He, pour on him all We can:
Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie,
Contract into a span.
So strength first made a way:
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure:
When almost all was out, GOD made a stay,
Perceiving that alone, of all His treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.
For if I should, said He,
Bestow this jewel also on My creature,
He would adore My gifts instead of Me,
And rest in Nature, not the GOD of Nature,
So both should losers be.
Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness:
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, then weariness
May toss him to My breast.
The Christian may repose without fear and without pride (which is merely self-defense, seen in this light), for God is the one who justifies:
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, Romans 4:5 (ESV)
In Romans 5:1-5, Paul ties together the access given to the justified believer with repose – even joy in trials – because the trial can merely make one more fit for the Lord’s service and company – it is the love of God poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, the very gift of the risen Lord, which makes room for rejoicing in the time of loss.
Then, in Romans 8, Paul ties the surety of God’s love for his redeemed to the fearless repose of the believer in God’s will:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31–39 (ESV)
1שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּֽעֲל֗וֹת לְדָ֫וִ֥ד
Title: a song of assents, of David.
Psalms 120–134 all have a title in the Hebrew text which is translated by RSV as A Song of Ascents (TEV does not include this title). The collection is also called “The Book of Pilgrim Songs.” The Hebrew word translated Ascents comes from the verb “to go up,” but other than this there is no agreement as to what the phrase means. Some take it to indicate the return of the Hebrew exiles from Babylonia; others take it to refer to a stylistic feature found in some of the psalms, in which the order of the statement progresses in a step-like fashion from one verse to the other; others take it to refer to the steps in the Temple precincts which led from one court to the other; the majority take it to refer to the ascent up the mountain on which the Temple was built (Mount Moriah, known as Mount Zion). Thus understood, these psalms are songs which the pilgrims sang as they came to Jerusalem for one of the three major annual festivals (see GECL).
Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 1047.
לֹא־גָבַ֣הּ לִ֭בִּי וְלֹא־רָמ֣וּ עֵינַ֑י
Not high my heart
And they are not high, my eyes.
Delitzsch, vol. III
It is in the heart that haughtiness has its seats; it is specially in the eyes that it finds its expression, and great things are the sphere in which it purposefully moves. (302)
Ver. 1. LORD, my heart is not haughty. The Psalm deals with the Lord, and is a solitary colloquy with him, not a discourse before men. We have a sufficient audience when we speak with the Lord, and we may say to him many things which were not proper for the ears of men. The holy man makes his appeal to Jehovah, who alone knows the heart: a man should be slow to do this upon any matter, for the Lord is not to be trifled with; and when anyone ventures on such an appeal he should be sure of his case. He begins with his heart, for that is the centre of our nature, and if pride be there it defiles everything; just as mire in the spring causes mud in all the streams. It is a grand thing for a man to know his own heart so as to be able to speak before the Lord about it. It is beyond all things deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it? Who can know it unless taught by the Spirit of God? It is a still greater thing if, upon searching himself thoroughly, a man can solemnly protest unto the Omniscient One that his heart is not haughty: that is to say, neither proud in his opinion of himself, contemptuous to others, nor self righteous before the Lord; neither boastful of the past, proud of the present, nor ambitious for the future.
Nor mine eyes lofty. What the heart desires the eyes look for. Where the desires run the glances usually follow. This holy man felt that he did not seek after elevated places where he might gratify his self esteem, neither did he look down upon others as being his inferiors. A proud look the Lord hates; and in this all men are agreed with him; yea, even the proud themselves hate haughtiness in the gestures of others. Lofty eyes are so generally hateful that haughty men have been known to avoid the manners natural to the proud in order to escape the ill will of their fellows. The pride which apes humility always takes care to east its eyes downward, since every man’s consciousness tells him that contemptuous glances are the sure ensigns of a boastful spirit. In Psalm 121 David lifted up his eyes to the hills; but here he declares that they were not lifted up in any other sense. When the heart is right, and the eyes are right, the whole man is on the road to a healthy and happy condition. Let us take care that we do not use the language of this Psalm unless, indeed, it be true as to ourselves; for there is no worse pride than that which claims humility when it does not possess it.
Spurgeon, The Treasury of David.
Not will I go in great ways
And [not] in ways too difficult, too wonderful, for me.
Delitzsch, vol. 3:
The opposite of [great] (Jer. 33.3, 45:5) is not that which is mean and platry, but that which is small, and the opposite of [too wonderful for me] (Gen. 18:14) is not that which is trivial but that which is attainable (302)
Ver. 1-2. Our Father is our superior; it is fit therefore that we be resigned to his will. “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12); how much more our heavenly Father! (Hebrews 12:9). See David’s spirit in the case: “LORD, my heart is not haughty”, etc.: Psalm 131:1-2. As if he had said, “I will keep within my own sphere; I will not stretch beyond my line, in prescribing to God; but submit to his will, `as a weaned child’, taken from its dear breasts”: intimating that he would wean himself from whatever God removed from him. How patiently did Isaac permit himself to be bound and sacrificed by Abraham! Genesis 22:9. And yet he was of age and strength sufficient to have struggled for his life, being twenty-five years old; but that holy young man abhorred the thought of striving with his father. And shall not we resign ourselves to our God and Father in Christ Jesus? —John Singleton (—1706), in “The Morning Exercises.”
Ver. 1-2. It has always been my aim, and it is my prayer, to have no plan as regards myself; well assured as I am that the place where the Saviour sees meet to place me must ever be the best place for mo. —Robert Murray M’Cheyne, 1813-1843.
אִם־לֹ֤א שִׁוִּ֨יתִי׀ וְדוֹמַ֗מְתִּי נַ֫פְשִׁ֥י
Surely I have made and I have caused to be calm my soul
Whereas the first verse mentioned resulted achieved, this one shows how they were attained. It wa not without an inner struggle. The writer had to take himself in hand: he ‘stilled and quieted’ his soul. There may have been a time when great plans and mighty projects surged though his thoughts and drove him onward along the road of ambition. In some way he came to see that it is wrong for a man to seek great things for himself and to aim at that type of fame. Leupold, 908-909.
As usually in life, so here, too, humility is the prerequisite of genuine trust. The poet humbly confesses that he has learned to forgo his own lofty projects and proud thoughts; not as if he wanted acquiescently to abandon his claims upon living a full life, but he has found the balance of min that enables him to be satisfied with what has been granted to him. And this balance of mind arises from the fact that his soul is at peace with God. This is all the happiness he needs. Weiser, The Psalms, 777.
Does not open a conditioning protasis; for where is there any indication of an apodosis? Nor does it signify “but,” a signification which it does not have even in Genesis 24:38, Ezekiel 33:;6 – in these passages, as well as the one befor us, it is derived from the well-known formula used in swearing, and is asservating: verily I have …. Delitzsch, vol. III, 302.
It goes back upon the primary notion, to flatten, to make smooth, equal. He has leveled and stilled his soul, so that humility is its uniform and constant condition; he has quited it, so that it is silent and rests and lets God speak and work in it: it like a level plain, a calm expanse of water. Delitzsch, vol. III, 303.
כְּ֭גָמֻל עֲלֵ֣י אִמּ֑וֹ
Like a weaned (child) before his mother
The figure is beautifully expressive of the humility of a soul chastened by disappointment. As the weaned child no longer cries, and frets, and longs for the breast, but lies still and is content, because it is with its mother; so my soul is weaned from all discontented thoughts, from all fretful desires for earthly good, waiting ins still upon God, finding its satisfaction in His presence, resting peacefully in His arms.
“The weaned child,” writes a mother, with reference to this passage, “has for the first time become conscious of grief. The piteous longing for the sweet nourishment of his life, the broken sob of disappointment, mark the trouble of his innocent heart; it is not from the bodily suffering; he has felt that before, and cried while it lasted; but now his joy and comfort are taken away and he knows not why. When his head is once more laid on his mother’s bosom, then he trusts and loves and rests, but he has learned the first lesson of humlility, he is cast down, and clings with fond helplessness to his one friend” Perowne, The Book of Psalms, A New Translation, with Explanatory Notes for English Readers 1898, 627-628.
He follows the three denials with an emphatic assertion (But here indicates emphasis).1 Like the calm surface of a lake, he has stilled and quieted his soul.2 He compares himself to a weaned child with its mother (131:2). Because this child is no longer breast feeding, it can lie contentedly in its mother’s arms, desiring less what the mother can give than the mother herself. An end to self-centered demands means the child can enjoy the mother’s comfort.3 To approach God, not for what He can do for me but because He is my God and Father, is to enjoy a deeper, more satisfying level of contentment.
Stephen J. Lennox, Psalms: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 1999), 391.
Fostering a quiet faith (131:2). This state of spirituality has been attained only by struggling with his headstrong self. Many an outburst of self-will has had to be quelled. Here the psalm draws on motifs found in laments and psalms of confidence (cf. Pss 42:6 ; 62:6 ; Beyerlin, Wider die Hybris, 73–75). Eventually the speaker has learned the lesson of dependence on God. His metaphor for such dependence, that of the parent carrying a child, is well attested in the OT to describe the supportive care that Yahweh had ever given the covenant people since the wilderness period (Deut 1:31; Isa 46:3–4; Hos 11:3, as generally emended).
Leslie C. Allen, vol. 21, Psalms 101–150 (Revised), Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 260.
1. It was not self-produced. No child ever weaned itself. 2. It has been the Lord’s work. By his Holy Spirit and his providence he has wrought this wondrous change. Hence we have come to find that what once delighted us so much fails to do so now. The world has become embittered to our taste. Our God has separated us from what we loved and clung to; there was no chance of our voluntarily giving it up, and so God took it away. And he has given us what is better far than that which we have lost (cf. Ps. 63). Higher, purer joys are ours. Also he has blessed our own endeavours after self-denial and renunciation; he has “worked in us to will and to do,” etc. 3. And the result is most blessed. The calm quiet and stillness of the soul; its freedom from fret; its heavenly peace.
IV. WHAT THIS EXPERIENCE LEADS TO. A delight in God, and a conviction of his love and faithfulness, which make him call upon all his countrymen to hope in the Lord. When the soul has this experience, it cannot but commend the Lord to others. It must bear its testimony.—S. C.
Psalms Vol. III, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 255.
כַּגָּמֻ֖ל עָלַ֣י נַפְשִֽׁי
Like a child unto me is my soul
For דוממתי, domamtee, is formed from דום, dum, and has the active sense of reducing to silence. The quiet of soul he alludes to is opposed to those tumultuous desires by which many cause disquietude to themselves, and are the means of throwing the world into agitation. The figure of childhood is elsewhere used in another sense, to convey reprehension. (Is. 28:9.) “Whom shall I teach knowledge? them that are weaned from the milk? and drawn from the breasts?” where the Prophet censures the people for their slowness of apprehension, and being as incapable of profiting by instruction as infants. In the passage now before us, what is recommended is that simplicity of which Christ spake, (Matt. 18:3,) “Unless ye become like this little child, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of God.”2 The vain desires with which men are carried away, originate in their seeking to be wise and careful above what is necessary. David adds accordingly, my soul over me is quieted, not as expressing the language of self-confidence, but speaking as if his soul lay sweetly and peacefully on his bosom, undisturbed by inordinate desires. He contrasts the wayward and tumultuous agitation which prevails in those of a discontented spirit, with the peace which reigns in the man who abides in the calling of the Lord. From the verse with which the Psalm closes, we see the reason why David asserted his having undertaken nothing in the spirit of a carnal ambition. He calls upon Israel to hope in the Lord, words which must have been abrupt had it not deeply concerned the common safety of the Church, to know that he sat upon, the throne of the kingdom by Divine appointment, in which case the faithful would be certain of the bestowment of the promised blessing. Our hope is of the right kind when we cherish humble and sober views of ourselves, and neither wish nor attempt anything without the leading and approbation of God.
John Calvin and James Anderson, vol. 5, Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 141-42.
יַחֵ֣ל יִ֝שְׂרָאֵל אֶל־יְהוָ֑ה
Hope Israel unto/in the LORD
From this time until forever.
Rosscup on Zephaniah 3:12:
God’s restoring of a remnant (12). When God does this work, He will leave intact those receptive to Him to enjoy blessing (cf. Isa. 4:2; Matt. 13:43; 24:40–41). These will be humble and lowly, poor in spirit in having their values in God, not in worldly pride touting self-sufficiency. Their submission to the Lord stands out in their taking refuge in His name, i.e. His power, honor, and will. Fleeing to God as a haven of the soul takes the shape of prayerful, trusting dependence on Him (Ps. 18:2), and this will be the spirit in that final time.
God’s restfulness for a remnant (13). A godly life of victory over deceit (cf. 9) frees the blessed of many burdens guilt can bring. At peace with God and people, they shall feed to their content and enjoy rest without having to deal with unjust exploiters present to make them shake with fear (cf. 3:3, 4). At the same time, they will be free of terror felt in an invasion by enemies (15).
James E. Rosscup, An Exposition on Prayer in the Bible: Igniting the Fuel to Flame Our Communication With God (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 1401-02.
Almighty FATHER, suffer us not to be lifted up with worldly pride; but Thou Who art meek and lowly of heart, teach us to agree in that holy conduct which is pleasing unto Thee, Who livest.
Grant, O LORD, that we, stayed up by the power of Thy holy Majesty, may not be haughty of heart, nor proud of eyes, nor walk in things too great and wonderful for us, but alway be lowly in thought, that we may please Thee throughout the ages evermore. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end. Amen.
J. M. Neale and R. F. Littledale, A Commentary on the Psalms from Primitive and Mediæval Writers, Volume 4: Psalm 119 to Psalm 150 (London: Joseph Masters, 1874), 238-39.
 John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, Carl Bernhard Moll et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Psalms (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 626.
STARKE:—Humility, the most lowly virtue, is the highest in value, for it brings grace; rain moistens the deep valleys; lowly violets are fragrant. Pride, the portrait of Satan, and an abomination to God; a poison which mars and corrupts whatever is good. Flee, soul, from this serpent, which has bitten many saints, and, as it were, cast them out of heaven.—Art thou high, God is higher; strong, God is stronger; mighty, God is more mighty; eminent, God is majestic. Thou art under (less than) God, humble thyself under Him. Sir. 3:20.—We must suffer before we can come to honour, and God tests our humility by suffering, to see whether it be worthy of honour, Prov. 15:33.—Humility is not a meritorious cause of exaltation, but a way to it, Col. 3:3, 4.—We must cast our care upon God not only in things temporal but also in things spiritual, especially in what belongs to the state of grace. Then we may feel assured that in God’s might, through faith, we shall be preserved unto salvation, ch. 1:5.—Man is like a pilgrim passing through a forest inhabited by bears and lions, and lodging at a place which is the home of robbers and murderers. Satan, holding unbelievers already in his power and in his claws, directs his most earnest endeavours against the godly.—
John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, G. F. C. Fronmüller and J. Isidor Mombert, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 Peter (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 92.
He more fully sets forth here the providence of God. For whence are these proverbial sayings, “We shall have to howl among wolves,” and, “They are foolish who are like sheep, exposing themselves to wolves to be devoured,” except that we think that by our humility we set loose the reins to the audacity of the ungodly, so that they insult us more wantonly? But this fear arises from our ignorance of divine providence. Now, on the other hand, as soon as we are convinced that God cares for us, our minds are easily led to patience and humility. Lest, then, the wickedness of men should tempt us to a fierceness of mind, the Apostle prescribes to us a remedy, and also David does in the thirty-seventh Psalm, so that having cast our care on God, we may calmly rest. For all those who recumb not on God’s providence must necessarily be in constant turmoil and violently assail others. We ought the more to dwell on this thought, that God cares for us, in order, first, that we may have peace within; and, secondly, that we may be humble and meek towards men.
But we are not thus bidden to cast all our care on God, as though God wished us to have strong hearts, and to be void of all feeling; but lest fear or anxiety should drive us to impatience. In like manner, the knowledge of divine providence does not free men from every care, that they may securely indulge themselves; for it ought not to encourage the torpidity of the flesh, but to bring rest to faith.
John Calvin, 1 Peter: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), 1 Pe 5:7.