Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Ten Theses on Genesis 2:24

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother 
and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” 
Genesis 2:24

This verse is a key text regarding humanity, marriage, and family. It comes at the conclusion to the account of creation and is quoted at least four times in the New Testament. It continues to play a role in many discussions today, and so I propose the following ten theses, along with ten sub-theses, regarding some of its meaning and implications.

1. This verse teaches God’s intention for marriage to be a lifelong union of one man and one woman, bound exclusively to each other.

2. This verse asserts the priority of the marriage bond over all other human relationships, even over the relationship between parent and child.

3. This verse asserts that a child’s relation to his or her parents will change, and that parents should raise their children towards the responsibility and freedom of maturity.
  a. Other passages expect men to assume adult responsibilities when they reach the age of majority. In biblical Israel, men reached the age of majority at age twenty and were then responsible for military service, voting, and the head tax (Num. 1:2-3, 1 Chron. 12:38, Ex. 20:13-14).

4. This verse teaches that marriage is a normal part of reaching adulthood.
   a. Indeed, it is the duty of those of marriageable age to find a spouse and get married, unless they have a gift of continency (1 Cor. 7:2-9, 1 Tim. 5:13-14).
   b. As man and woman came from one flesh, so they naturally are designed to become one flesh, and unless this is consummated in marriage, fallen humanity will normally seek an illegitimate outlet for this natural design.

5. The context of this verse teaches that parents have a duty to help their children find callings and spouses when they reach adulthood.
  a. God provided a calling and bride for Adam, the “son of God” (Luke 3:38), just as he later provided a calling and bride (the church) for his only-begotten Son (John 6:38-39, Rev. 21:2). This pattern is reflected in the duties of human parents (Jer. 29:6, Ruth 3:1, Gen. 24:2-4, Eph. 6:4).
  b. Therefore, parents should prepare their children with the skills and character necessary for these responsibilities. 
  c. Parents should make these decisions in communication with their children. The initial suggestion of a spouse can come from parent or child. Both the couple and their parents should consent to the marriage; parents should not force marriage without the son or daughter’s consent, nor withhold consent without just cause.
  d. While the Bible certainly recognizes occasions when parents cannot afford it, it is expected that parents will help provide a financial basis for the new couple and their family (Prov. 19:14, 2 Cor. 12:14). 

6. This verse and its context (Gen. 2:15-24, 3:12) teach that the man leaves his parents and receives his wife, in distinction from the woman who is given to the man.

7. This verse does not require the man to stay at his father’s house until marriage.
  a. A man might leave home to prepare for marriage and find a spouse. Isaac sent Jacob away to Laban to find and win a wife (Gen. 28:1-5). The heavenly Father sent the Son to earth to win his bride, the church (John 6:38-39, Rev. 21:2).
  b. As children mature and transition into adulthood, parents may delegate some of their authority to others for a temporary period of further training, such as in apprenticeship (one type of “slavery” in Ex. 21:3 and Deut. 15:12-18) and discipleship (1 Kings 19:19-21, Matt. 4:21-22, Acts 16:3).

8. This verse does not require a man to physically leave his father’s house when he gets married.
  a. This can be seen from numerous biblical examples, it being quite common, though not required, for three or four generations to live in one household under the authority of the patriarch. “Secession” from this arrangement was possible and sometimes for the best (Gen. 31), but it was often to everyone’s advantage to stay together. This is an uncommon arrangement today in America, but it is not an arrangement forbidden by Scripture. 

9. The context of this verse (Gen. 2:15-20) teaches that a man should be proven as a responsible worker and have a sense for his mission and his need for a helper before he gets married.

10. This verse does not teach that a man’s responsibility to honor and support his parents ends when he gets married (e.g. Prov. 23:22, 1 Kings 2:19, Matt. 15:1-9).

Friday, January 17, 2020

2020 Men’s Advance: Keep the Faith!

Check out the new video below, in which I talk about the upcoming Men's Advance, which our church will host on May 2nd, 2020. In the video below I explain this year's theme, which is "Keep the Faith." The speakers this year will be myself and Christian McShaffrey, pastor at Five Solas Church (OPC). For more information about the event and to register, follow this link.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Egalitarianism vs. Christian Hierarchy

It may seem like the victory of egalitarianism is now complete. As one article has declared, “Turning back this half century of feminist advance is impossible (leaving aside the fact that is deeply undesirable).”[1] While conservatives may try to make a stand for traditional values, they seem inevitably just one step behind the progressives. Yet, those who would declare the victory of egalitarianism do not account for one thing: that God may yet arise and scatter His enemies. “As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God!” (Psalm 68:2) There is a God in the heavens and He laughs at the rebellion of the nations.

This may seem like harsh words for egalitarians. Perhaps it would be good to explain what I mean by egalitarianism. Nearly all Christians agree that individuals are of equal value and importance. They agree that every individual is made in the image of God. The point at which egalitarians differ from Christian orthodoxy is that they claim for every individual the same rights, privileges, duties, and authority.

Christianity, though, recognizes the importance of “preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 65). This does not refer to superiority and inferiority in worth or importance, but rather in authority, privilege, age, and gifts. The catechism’s footnotes refer to the human relations of husband and wife, parent and child, and master and servant. These relations are the basic types of biblical hierarchical relations (Col. 3:18-4:1) and are foundational for other hierarchical relations in society. As the Westminster Larger Catechism explains in one of its eleven questions on the fifth commandment, "By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God's ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth" (Q. 124).

Christian hierarchy is not to be confused with other forms of hierarchy. Christian hierarchy is covenantal. The superior and inferior are connected and both have duties and privileges, even if they are different. For the superior to abuse the inferior is to hurt himself. For the inferior to rebel against the superior is to undermine his own authority. The biblical picture of the body and its interrelated parts is vital to this understanding (Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Cor. 12). Also, a certain equality under the sovereignty of God is a moderating factor, as we see in Job 31:13-15 and Ephesians 6:5-9.

Egalitarianism seeks to undermine and flatten these biblical relations. Feminism, youth rebellion, and radical individualism are expressions of this movement. Eventually a leveling of society, as found in communism and revolutionary democracy, is the end. The theory that all individuals are naturally born with the same rights, privileges, duties, and authority led to the social contract theories of Hobbes and Rousseau. This led to the French Revolution and centralized tyranny. As he faced this revolution of egalitarianism, John Randolph of Roanoke (1773-1833) declared that “I love liberty, I hate equality.” Egalitarians sought to destroy the mediating institutions, like the household and church, and left all men equal under the the single will of the people as declared by the state. In a feudal or hierarchical arrangement there were various relations that limited each other and were limited under God. This system of checks and balances leads to liberty. There might be someone under your authority, but you are also under authority (e.g. a man might be head of his family, but he also must submit to his elders at church).

The Bible does not teach egalitarianism. It does teach harmony, unity, and mutual honor and duties, but this is different than sameness. This biblical hierarchy has two reinforcing reasons. When Paul argued against women teaching or exercising authority over men in the church he appealed to creation and the fall: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:12-14). These are universal truths about humanity, not limited to some particular situation. As Genesis 2-3 recounts, man and women were created differently, and then they sinned differently and were cursed differently. This is an true today as it is in Paul’s day. If man had never fell, there would still be “inferiors, superiors, and equals,” yet sin and the curse has made these distinctions even greater. Slavery, for example, is a result of sin and the curse. Some kind of slavery is inevitable in society during this age, though it is not desirable. God’s grace and redemption does not obliterate differences between people, but it does lessen the effects of sin over time. Thus slavery is softened and progressively minimized among Christians (1 Cor. 7:21-24). But our duties towards “inferiors, superiors, and equals” are more established by God’s grace, rather than lessened. Rebellion against God’s appointed order is a sign of rebellion, not grace.

Do not try hammering nails with a screw driver. Submission to God requires that we realize our created nature. We are not whatever we want to be. We are what God has created us to be. We are not inferior in worth just because we cannot do anything we want. The very traits that unfit us for one task may make us especially fit for another. Submission in faith to God’s order is the first step towards harmony and productivity.

A proper response to egalitarianism is not merely reactionary, but biblically principled, holding everyone to account and showing honor to all, especially to those who are weaker or inferior (1 Peter 3:7, 1 Cor. 12:21-25). It requires men and women who are converted by God's grace and equipped by God to fulfill their station in godliness. This revolution is real and must be met by words and deeds.

It is easy to underestimate or compromise with this revolution. Not only is it powerful in our culture, but it also sounds so nice. Yet egalitarianism is deadly. Egalitarianism undermines the authority of the household, the basic unit of society. It strikes at the root of civilization. It leaves the individual at the mercy of the state and the will of the people. Egalitarianism has resulted in bloody revolutions and tyrannical administrations. Egalitarianism in the form of feminism is primarily responsible for the holocaust of abortion. May God arise and scatter this revolt! And may we look at the destruction around us and seek to rebuild by taking responsibility for those around us, “preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.”

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

R.J. Rushdoony on Reading Scripture

At the beginning of a new year, many people set out with a new plan to read the Bible. This is a good practice, since Scripture was given not only for the conversion of the unbeliever, but also for the continual discipleship of the believer. Christians should be ready, though, to be personally challenged by the Bible. Reading is important, but how we read is also important. We must read it as the word of God, with faith and submission, ready to obey it. In "The Use of Scriptures in the Reformed Faith," R.J. Rushdoony helpfully comments on how we should prepare to receive Scripture when we read or hear it.
"The offense of Scripture to the unregenerate is that it tells him that he is not a god but a sinner under the judgement of God. To the regenerate, the Bible is the good news of his salvation, but, to the extent that he is unsanctified, to that extent the offense of Scripture remains. This side of heaven, therefore, the believer must contend with an unwillingness in himself to read and to submit to God's Word. Behind this fact of offense is our reluctance to keep on growing; we tend to be satisfied with a few drops of faith in the ocean of our sin. We are unwilling to change, to see our faults, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to hate only what God hates, and to love as we have been loved. Hence the necessity of Scripture: we need the open and sure Word of God as a corrective, a guide, and as commandment." (R.J. Rushdoony, Faith and Action: The Collected Articles of R.J. Rushdoony, p. 1160)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Guarding Against Falsehood in the New Year

"You shall not spread a false report.” (Exodus 23:1)

Perhaps for the new year, we can commit to not sharing false, misleading, and fake news? Perhaps we can be proactive in this regard by fact-checking memes, quotes, and stories before sharing them, rather than depending on others to do that work for us?

It is usually not difficult to get more information with the resources available online. Usually a brief internet search is all that is needed. And if you don’t have time to verify what you share on social media or in conversation, perhaps you should share less? And if you share something that is possibly true but not verified and without a source, then perhaps you can at least include a disclaimer to that effect?

We and the news articles we share will continue to be fallible, but by proactively guarding against false reports, you will contribute to the well being of society and do good to “your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you” (Prov. 3:29). Preserving truth and honesty is a shared project. We are in this together. It both requires you to be discerning with the reports you read and hear, as well as discerning with the reports you share. It not only forbids slander rooted in malicious intent, but it also forbids negligence in the effort to guard against falsehood and preserve the good name of others.

This year will be an election year, and if it is like the last one, it is sure to bring with it misinformation, falsehood, half-truths, misleading claims, and fake stories designed to provoke outrage. And this is in addition to the regular temptation to spread a false report. So be on your guard, love your neighbor, and take responsibility for your communications, remembering the ninth commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Ex. 20:16).

"Q. 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
"A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor's good name, especially in witness bearing."
(Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas and the Covenant

When we consider the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas time, it is natural to wonder what it means and what practical significance it has for our lives. Preachers all over the world seek to answer this question as people gather in the hope to discover some deeper meaning behind their traditions and celebrations. And indeed, the incarnation of the Son of God gives preachers plenty of material - many things can be said about this pivotal event. Today I want to make the point that to fully understand and properly respond to the birth of Jesus, you must understand how this birth is connected with God's covenant with his people.

The prophetic song of Zechariah the priest in Luke 1:67-79 places the birth of Jesus in this covenantal context. While the occasion for the song is the birth of his son John, the song (like John) is primarily focused on the coming of the Lord. And Zechariah states that the incarnation of the Lord is an expression of "the mercy promised to our fathers" and "his holy covenant" (Luke 1:72).

What is this covenant? Zechariah says that in this covenant, made with Abraham and his offspring, God promised "to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days" (Luke 1:73-75). This is a summery of the covenant promises God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, 17, and 22.

God continued to renew this covenant with Abraham's descendants, with Isaac (Gen. 26:2-5) and Jacob/Israel (Gen. 28:13-15). Most dramatically, God renewed this covenant with the children of Israel in the days of Moses. In those days, according to his covenant promise, God delivered Israel from the hand of their enemies (i.e. Pharaoh) so that they  serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all their days (Exod. 4:22-23, 6:2-8, Deut. 7:7-11). This covenant was formally renewed with the children of Israel at Mount Sinai (20:1-17) and again in the promised land under Joshua at the beginning and end of the conquest (Joshua 8:30-35, 24:1-28).

After Israel had settled down in the promised land, God continued to renew his covenant with them and made it clear that a greater fulfillment of this covenant would be brought about through the king of Israel, specifically, through King David and his heirs (2 Sam. 7, Ps. 72, 89, Is. 9:1-7). It would be through the line of David that would arise the promised one who would deliver God's people from their enemies and lead them in righteousness and peace, bringing all the nations under his blessed reign.

A thousand years after King David, God had not forgotten his covenant, nor had his promised mercy come to an end. In order to keep his holy covenant and to practice his promised mercy, God took on human nature and was born as the promised heir of David. Just as God had visited his people in Egypt and delivered them from bondage (Gen. 50:24, Ex. 3:7-8, 16-17), so now God "visited and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68). Just as God had delivered Israel from Egypt because of his covenant promise to their fathers, so now he delivered his people through the birth of Jesus for the same reason (Luke 1:72). God acted in the incarnation because of his oath to Abraham (Luke 1:73). And God had fulfilled this oath by raising up "a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David" (Luke 1:69), that is, a Davidic king who would powerfully save his people. This king would deliver them by giving them the forgiveness of their sins and by guiding their feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:77-79).

This means that Jesus was born to confirm the covenant, to fulfill God's oath "to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days" (Luke 1:73-75). The birth of Jesus was the first act of the final battle against the ancient foe. Jesus came as an atonement for his people's sins so that he might transfer them from the domain of the evil one into the kingdom of God (Heb. 2:14-15, Col. 1:13). As John Milton wrote of Christ's nativity,
    "And then at last our bliss
    Full and perfect is,
But now begins; for from this happy day
    The old dragon under ground
    In straiter limits bound,
    Not half so far casts his usurped sway,
And wrath to see his kingdom fail,
Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail."
What does this mean for our part? How should we respond? My point is that if Jesus was born to confirm God's covenant, then we should respond by embracing this covenant and living accordingly. Jesus sets believers free from the dominion of sin and Satan, enabling them to keep covenant and grow in holiness. The proper response to the Christmas story is, through faith in Christ, to cast aside our fearful bondage to the fallen world, our sinful passions, and the devil, and to serve God in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

God sent redemption to earth to bring people into covenant with him. Jesus was born to free all those who trust in him that they might walk in his ways in fellowship with him. Do not be as the generation who experienced the exodus but perished in the wilderness because they broke the covenant by rebelling against the Lord. Do not despise the work of the incarnation and turn back to bondage and death. Remember the works of the Lord, trust in his mercy and faithfulness, and follow the Lord as his loyal servants. Forsake the darkness, and walk in his light, for he will guide our feet into the way of peace.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Beatitudes: Persecuted Disciples

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

What does this persecution look like? This is not any persecution, but persecution for righteousness’s sake and for Jesus’ account. Mere persecution is not a sign that you are righteous. For persecution to be a sign of blessedness, it must be provoked by your righteousness or your connection to Jesus. Christians should not be like the soccer players who fake injuries to get the other side in trouble. You should pursue righteousness and faithfulness to Jesus, not victimhood. Leave it to others to provide the persecution - do not seek it as a goal.

What does suffering for righteousness’ or Jesus’ sake look like? It is the suffering you receive because you refused to join others in doing evil or to give them your approval. It is the suffering you receive because you stood up for what is righteous by defending the rights of God and man. It is the suffering you receive because you shared the gospel. It is the suffering you received because you persisted in confessing and serving your Lord, or simply because you are known as a Christian.

Persecution tests the quality of your righteousness and your faith in Jesus. If your righteousness and faith is merely done to gain the favor of man, then it will fade away when persecution arises. If your righteousness and faith is the true and heartfelt repentance described in these beatitudes that looks in hope to the promises of God, then it will remain steadfast amid trials.

This persecution can be expressed in variety of ways: you may be insulted, ridiculed, or slandered (“revile you … utter all kinds of evil against you falsely”); you may be rejected, disliked, or discriminated against; you may be hurt, punished, jailed, or even killed.

Why are those who are persecuted in this way blessed? They are blessed because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. This brings us back to the first beatitude, which includes the same blessing. The kingdom of heaven is the summary of all the other blessings. The disciples of Jesus have entered the kingdom of heaven and begun to enjoy its blessings. And Jesus goes on: rejoice and be glad! This is a matter of joy! Why? Because your reward is in heaven. This means that it is (1) from God, (2) eternal, (3) beyond this mortal life, and (4) incorruptible.

Furthermore, you shall prove to be true heirs of the saints of old. This is the way they treated the prophets before you, this is the way they treated Jesus, this is the way they treated the apostles, this is the way they treated the martyrs, the Reformers, the Puritans, the Covenanters and Huguenots, the missionaries of more modern times, your brothers and sisters across the world today - indeed Christians of all eras. Some have been more notable in their suffering, but something we generally share in common with all the saints is rejection by men.

How has your righteousness and faith in Jesus been tested by persecution? Do you remain faithful under trial? Is your commitment to righteousness and to Jesus such that it can bear the insults of the world?

In the last beatitude we learned to pursue peace. In this beatitude we are reminded to seek after righteousness as well, even when it provokes persecution. Not only should you pursue righteousness, but also joy. Jesus tells the disciples, "rejoice and be glad!" Rejoice not in the pain of the suffering, but in the blessings that are yours and the fellowship in suffering that you share with your Master and your fellow disciples. Do all of this as disciples of Jesus, holding fast to Him through trials, temptations, and ridicule. And know that your reward far surpasses all the blessings that men may seek in this life. As Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” concludes,

“And take they our life,
Goods, fame, child and wife,
Let these all be gone,
They yet have nothing won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.”

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Beatitudes: The Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Who are the peacemakers? Peacemakers are those who make peace. This can be broken down into four aspects. First, peacemakers have a peaceable disposition. Second, peacemakers do not cause strife with bitterness or malice (they are not "peace-breakers"). Third, peacemakers pursue reconciliation and harmony with others. Fourth, peacemakers pursue reconciliation and harmony between others.

Peacemaker make peace by being patient, forgiving, generous, and just. They make peace by restraining the violent and unjust, by encouraging patience and generosity, by deescalating situations with gentle, fair, and careful words. They do not always avoid conflict (they are not "peace-fakers"), but when they engage in a conflict it is with the goal of peace and in a manner that fits that goal.

Peace is a beautiful thing. As Thomas Watson (1620-1686) remarked, "It is not fairness of rooms that makes a house pleasant, but peaceableness of dispositions." A shabby house with peace is more beautiful than a fine house with discord and bitterness.

Where there is no peace, the Spirit is not active, since peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Where there is no peace, the kingdom of God is not present, since peace is of the essence of the kingdom (Rom. 14:17). Where there are no peacemakers, there are no disciples of Jesus.

The world loves the idea of peace, but it does not know peace nor does it make peace. It is not enough to admire peace - they are blessed who make peace, not merely admire peace. The disciples of Jesus know peace with God, and are therefore able to share this peace with others.

Why are peacemakers blessed? They are blessed because in this way they prove to be true sons of the God of peace. He is long-suffering, generous, forgiving, and on a mission of reconciliation, pursuing peace with His world (2 Cor. 5:19). The children of God are like Him by being peacemakers; the children of the devil are like him by being murderers, hating and being hated.

God shows His grace by taking the disciples of Jesus as His children. He adopts them, giving them access, fatherly care, and an inheritance in His household. He begets them spiritually so that they begin to resemble Him.

Consider then, whether you a peacemaker. Do you make peace? Do you words generally promote peace or initiate strife? Do you seek reconciliation with the brother who has offended you (Matt. 18:15) and the brother whom you have offended (Matt. 5:23-24)? Do you seek peace with all men (Rom 12:18), even your adversaries (Matt. 5:25)?

Seek and pursue after peace. Do not treat it as a nice by-product, an accessory, but rather as a goal. Cultivate a peaceable disposition rooted in God’s grace. Put away bitterness and malice, and seek harmony and fellowship with your brother and your neighbor.

Peace is a sign of God’s grace, of His kingdom come to earth, of His likeness being imprinted on yours. Blessed are you peacemakers, disciples of the Prince of peace, for you are children of God. He is your loving Father and He cares for you.


For prior posts in this series, see:
1. "The Beatitudes: Introduction"
2. "The Beatitudes: The Poor in Spirit"
3. "The Beatitudes: Those Who Mourn"

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Beatitudes: The Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

What does it mean to be pure in heart? Something that is pure is not diluted with impurities, but is genuine and true. This who are pure in heart are sincere and single-minded. This is what sets apart Jesus’ path of discipleship from the way of the Pharisees. It demands righteousness in the heart, not merely in externals. There is a purity of heart that is possible for His disciples to attain in this life. Even though it is not a perfect purity, it is a purity which is comprehensive (the whole person), definitive (begun in conversion), and growing (growing throughout this life). The apostle Peter appealed to this purification as a past event with present consequences when he said,
"Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…" (1 Peter 1:22-23). 
Why are the pure in heart blessed? They are blessed because "they shall see God." They shall see God's glory and enjoy His favor. Those who are purified in this life shall see the Lord. As Hebrews 12:14 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

Even in this life, the pure in heart see God by faith. The saints are transformed by this revelation, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” The vision of the Lord transforms us, making us shine with glory even as Moses’ face shone with glory.

The pure shall more immediately see God when He appears at the end of the age. As 1 John 3:2 says, “we know that when [God] appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” They shall see God’s glory in Jesus Christ, as the apostles saw Him on the mountain at His transfiguration.  The pure shall see God’s glory by gaining an overwhelming impression of His true glory, holiness, and love. And then we shall be perfectly purified, transformed according to His purity. No sin shall disrupt our satisfaction in God’s beautiful holiness and love.

Are you pure in heart? Have you purified your heart through faith in the gospel? Have you been born again by the Spirit? Do not expect perfect purity, as if sin did not also dwell within. But have you turned to God without reserve, undergoing a change of heart, so that from the heart you hate sin, love God, and desire holiness?

And as disciples of Jesus, pursue purity of heart. Strive after holiness in soul and body. Religion is not merely an external thing - it is especially a matter of the heart. Reform your actions, but also cultivate the affections and thoughts of the heart. Fight sin and impurity there. Pray for God’s mercy upon your heart, to give you a clean heart, a faithful heart, a pure heart.

If you find this seed of purity begun in your heart, take heart, you are blessed. The seed of grace results in the flower of glory. You shall see God. You shall receive the blessed vision of God in all His glory. You shall enjoy eternal and unbroken communion with God. This communion is begun now - and how good this union is! Yet it shall be even more direct and overwhelming when faith gives way to sight.


For prior posts in this series, see:
1. "The Beatitudes: Introduction"
2. "The Beatitudes: The Poor in Spirit"
3. "The Beatitudes: Those Who Mourn"

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Beatitudes: The Merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

What is it to be merciful? Thomas Watson (1620-1686) put it this way:
“What is meant by mercifulness? I answer, it is a melting disposition whereby we lay to heart the miseries of others and are ready on all occasions to be instrumental for their good.” 
Mercy involves sharing in the afflictions of other with sympathy and compassion. It is something that begins on the inside. The opposite of mercy is a hard heart. The blessed disciple is not the disciple who is detached from the world, who cares for himself by distancing himself from the suffering of others. The blessed disciple is the one who feels for others, who has compassion on others and desires to help them. It is provoked by the afflictions and needs of others in body and soul. This disposition results in action. It leads you to help others and forgive others. It leads to charitable giving, charitable opinions of others, care for the sick and injured, hospitality, encouraging words, and a helping hand.

Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). The priest and the Levite hardened their hearts, walking on the other side of the road. What made the good Samaritan different? When he saw the half dead man, he had compassion (v. 33) and then showed him mercy (v. 37) by caring for his wounds, bringing him to the inn, and giving money for his care. As Jesus said at the end of that parable: "You go, and do likewise."

Why are the merciful blessed? They are blessed because "they shall receive mercy." Those who do not forgive, will not be forgiven (6:14-15). Those who have no mercy for their fellow disciples will be shown no mercy on the day of judgement (25:31-46). But those who forgive others and show mercy to others are those who will be forgiven and shown mercy by God. God will pardon them even in this life as soon as they turn to Christ with faith and repentance. God will show them His fatherly favor and compassion even now - providing for their needs, directing all things for their good, giving them strength and deliverance. He will also acquit them in the day of judgement, passing over their sins for Christ’s sake and praising and rewarding their good deeds, delivering them from all their misery.

Are you merciful? Do you find yourself having compassion on those who suffer? Does this “melting disposition” motivate you to be helpful to them?

In what ways can you be more merciful? As a disciple of Jesus, you ought to be merciful. Do not insulate yourself from the suffering of others, especially the suffering of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Call out to God for a more merciful heart. Let not your heart be hardened. Show mercy by encouraging the weak, evangelizing the lost, patiently correcting the wayward, forgiving one another, practicing hospitality and sharing your selves and stuff, giving charitably and helping those in need.

If you are a merciful disciple, then take heart! Even if your acts of mercy seem small and pitiful, you shall be shown the great and marvelous mercy of God. Blessed are you, the merciful, for you will receive comfort in weakness, help in troubled times, deliverance from evil, and favor in the day of judgement.


For prior posts in this series, see:
1. "The Beatitudes: Introduction"
2. "The Beatitudes: The Poor in Spirit"
3. "The Beatitudes: Those Who Mourn"

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Beatitudes: Thirsting for Righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

What is it to hunger and thirst for righteousness? Hunger and thirst are strong desires for food and water, things which are both needful and satisfying. Jesus is saying that His disciples will have a craving for righteousness. They will value righteousness like food and water. Righteousness will bring them satisfaction and delight.

This hunger for righteousness includes our desire for a righteous status before God and our desire to see righteousness prevail in the world, but judging from the use of righteousness in the surrounding context (5:10, 20), it primarily refers to our desire to be righteous in heart and deed. This is part of repentance. Not only do you recognize your poverty (5:3) and mourn over your sins (5:4), but you turn to God and a desire for renewed obedience. Jesus had shown this hunger for righteousness in the temptation in the prior chapter when He told the devil that He would live not by bread alone, but by the words of God (4:4). In John 4:34, Jesus said His food was to do the will of the one who sent Him. In a similar way, the disciples of Jesus hunger and thirst to do the will of God and to be righteous in every respect. They treasure righteousness. They are attracted to righteousness. They crave righteousness.

Why are they blessed? Usually we consider the full blessed, not the hungry and thirsty. But those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, because God shall satisfy them by giving them righteousness. God gives them Christ’s righteousness through faith, reckoning it as their own. God is putting all things to right, and will do so definitively at the end of the age. God is infusing Christ’s righteousness into His people, making them more righteous by their union with Christ. Our conformity to righteousness is imperfect in this life, but it shall be complete in the age to come, and we shall delight in "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13). But woe to those who are full and satisfied now, who do not long for this perfect righteousness. Those who do not hunger and thirst for righteousness shall not be satisfied.

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? I do not ask if are you righteous in everything you do, but I ask: do you desire righteousness? Do you seek after righteousness? Do you prize the righteousness of Christ, imputed to your account and infused into your being?

May you hunger and thirst for righteousness, more and more! Having mourned for your sins, earnestly desire what is right and just. Love righteousness and delight in its beauty. Crave righteousness like food and drink, desiring to satisfy yourself with it. The craving may be frustrating, for you will not gain it all at once. But keep your eye on the goal. Seek it as a disciple of Christ, and you shall find it by grace.

And if you hunger and thirst after righteousness with faith in Jesus, you are blessed, for you will be satisfied. Even now, you enjoy the righteousness of Christ and stand before God justified and accepted. Even now, that indestructible seed of righteousness has been implanted in you and is growing. One day, not sinful desire, not corruption, but pure righteousness shall be yours.


For prior posts in this series, see:
1. "The Beatitudes: Introduction"
2. "The Beatitudes: The Poor in Spirit"
3. "The Beatitudes: Those Who Mourn"