Monday, December 24, 2012


 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

In the preface to his work, “The Glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ”, page 30 (which can be downloaded from Google books), John Owen quotes Maxentius, with words which we need to grasp hold of as we think of this season we call Christmas.

It is something I've noticed missing in the many essays and articles about the season, which regale many internet pages and publications. 

As I wrote recently, the hype about giving and getting, surrounding the commercialisation of Christmas, seems to have top billing, even among those who claim to belong to Jesus Christ.

We do not confound the diversity of natures, howbeit we believe not what you affirm, that Christ was made God; but we believe that God was made Christ. For he was not made rich when he was poor; but being rich, he was made poor, that he might make us rich.He did not take the form of God when he was in the form of a servant; but being in the form of God, he took on him the form of a servant. In like manner, he was not made the Word when he was flesh; but being the Word, he was made flesh.

Down from His glory
Ever living story,
My God and Savior came,
And Jesus was His name.
Born in a manger,
To His own a stranger,

A Man of sorrows, tears and agony.
    O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
    My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
    The great Creator became my Savior,
     And all God’s fulness dwelleth in Him.
    What condescension,
    Bringing us redemption;
    That in the dead of night,
    Not one faint hope in sight,
    God, gracious, tender,
    Laid aside His splendor,
    Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul.
    Without reluctance,
    Flesh and blood His substance
    He took the form of man,
    Revealed the hidden plan.
    O glorious myst’ry,
    Sacrifice of Calv’ry,
    And now I know Thou art the great “I AM.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Reading the internet recently I've noticed that a large number of writers are very concerned about what is perceived as “the church”, and developing some worrying definitions, which often denigrate other fellow believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and His finished work.

Those, whom I have no right to identify in any other way than genuine believers in Christ, whether traditional in practice or otherwise, are voicing concerns about the other.

Many religions are known to emphasize orthopraxy (correct action/activity), which is a system of meriting the favor of deity, whether that deity is the God of the Bible, or some other god.

In other words they are more concerned with what they regard as the “right way” to “do church”,and become very legalistic about the matter, heavily condemning those who don't do what they think ought to be done.

They have developed a legality of manner of acting or function.

As opposed to the orthopraxy of cults and false religions, the scriptures reveal a system of orthodoxy, whose first concern is with right belief.

There can be no doubt in my mind that right belief, if genuinely held,will lead to a manner of acting or function, which glorifies God and honors Christ .

When a group of people begin to meet on a regular basis, whether they like it or not, they are developing a ritual. Orthopraxy says that the developed ritual, is the only right way to practice that religion.

On the other hand orthodoxy can accommodate, a wide range of manner of acting or function, as long as the ministries of the people, in the many fields of "one another" mentioned in the New Testament, holding to that faith are not negated or prevented.

Orthodoxy, on the whole, subscribes to the Nicene Creed:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
If the truths in that creed have become living realities in your life and mine, then that is what binds us together as members of the Body of Christ, His Church, and NOTHING else.
Of one thing I'm certain, everything else flows from that!
I have some strong views which have developed during more than fifty years of preaching and teaching, and experience among congregations. These views regard  traditional church practice as well as the practice of other more modern expressions of the church, yet the conversations I'm reading make me very sad, and convince me we haven't learned very much
Whether you are part of a traditional church, a home church, or some other expression of the church gathered, you are my brother or sister in Christ, regardless of the expression of the church you belong to.
Regardless of what expression that is remember who you claim to be, and represent.
I think Paul's words to the Roman Christians are very relevant:
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Season for giving and getting”....??

The year has literally disappeared into history, so quickly that one is reminded how short a human life is, in God's economy of time. As fleeting as time is, so is realization of the reality of this time of year, as the general populace focus their attention on so many things which are far removed from the reality we use as an excuse to do what we do.

The reality is the Messiah, Jesus the Christ!

Put yourself in the shoes of doubting Thomas when Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. (John 14:6) ?

These are amazing words which must have caused Thomas to raise his eyebrows. What would your reaction be?

Again, when speaking to the religious fundamentalists of the society into which he came, Jesus said,You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies”. (John 8:44)

Imagine the course of your thoughts upon hearing these words, as Jesus personifies Himself as “the truth” in contrast with Satan “your father the devil”, who is the very antithesis of truth, the original “liar”, the very foundation of falsehood, whose great desire is to turn attention away from the One we know as Jesus.

The radio announcer's words were loud and clear, “We are now in the season of giving and getting....”. This mind set, which the retailers love to promote, rankles me every time I come across it.

I want to shout in response, “You are so wrong! This is the season of rejoicing in, and celebrating the incarnation! This is something we need to celebrate every day of the year!”.

From August onwards,at least in Australia, retailers are doing their utmost to remind us that Christmas is coming, and we need to acquire all the paraphernalia which they have on display. The gifts, the glitz, and the colourful displays, which are designed to have an effect on us. All without engendering much thought about how amazing this act of God is, as He took upon Himself human form.

Overwhelmed by the razzamatazz, we find the occasional nativity scene giving, as it were, lip service to what the season is, supposedly, really about.

The historic fact of God assuming the form of humanity as Jesus Christ the Son, surely must cause us to consider, and rejoice in the fact that He really is, the one who is personified in many verbal images, such as already mentioned above, which add so much to what the humble family scene in the manger of nativity scenes is telling us, and whom the nativity baby truly is:

"I am the bread of life"(John 6:35,48,51). The only true sustenance throughout eternity
"I am the light of the world"(John 8:12). The only true illumination of eternity in God's presence
"I am the door of the sheep"(John 10:7,9). The only entrance into eternity with God
"I am the good shepherd"(John 10:11,14). The only pastor for now and eternity
"I am the resurrection, and the life"(John 11:25). The only way through which resurrection to
eternal life is possible
"I am the true vine"(John 15:1,5). The only one with whom to be in familial relationship, makes
eternal life a certainty

To use an Australian colloquialism, He is the only fair dinkum, genuine article!  He is the long awaited Messiah. The very Person of the New Covenant promise!

Speaking to a people who put great importance on religious buildings, (sounds rather familiar) the Lord Jesus referred to His body as the temple, creating quite some consternation.

He was speaking of the amazing time in history when the promised New Covenant would become a reality and the traditions surrounding the temple and worship would be replaced by something He explained to the woman at the well,

““Woman, believe me,the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)

This is the very fact which caused Stephen to be murdered by these same religious people, when he mentioned the temple made with stone, he told them, "Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, Heaven is my throne,and the earth is my footstool”.(Acts 7:48).
In chapter 8 of the Letter to the Hebrews, we see,Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent (tabernacle, place of worship) that the Lord set up, not man. (Hebrews 8:2)

To read this Letter to the Hebrews, and miss the import of this point the writer is making, is to miss everything:

The Sovereign, Almighty God, became a man, in Jesus Christ.

As one of my favourite hymns says,
O what a wonderful, wonderful day - day I will never forget;
After I'd wandered in darkness away, Jesus my Saviour I met.
O what a tender, compassionate friend - He met the need of my heart;
Shadows dispelling, With joy I am telling, He made all the darkness depart.

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Saviour made me whole;
My sins were washed away -
And my night was turned to day -
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!

Born of the Spirit with life from above into God's fam'ly divine,
Justified fully thru Calvary's love, O what a standing is mine!
And the transaction so quickly was made when as a sinner I came,
Took of the offer of grace He did proffer - He saved me, O praise His dear name!

Now I've a hope that will surely endure after the passing of time;
I have a future in heaven for sure, there in those mansions sublime.
And it's because of that wonderful day when at the cross I believed;
Riches eternal and blessings supernal from His precious hand I received.

I don't have the words to express my thoughts regarding a gift such as this!

This is what the incarnation was about!

Is not this a good enough reason to rejoice, and to do so always?

Does not this overshadow anything the world has to offer, with all of its gaudy displays?

God working out His will in the most unimaginable act of love and grace, where, as the long prophesied Messiah, He put in place an immediate, heavenly and spiritual personal relationship with Him.

This gift of Himself as the sacrificial Lamb, rather than a legalistic earthly and temporal struggle to do what most religion expects, something which the Son already accomplished, as He lived and died, and rose again, in the place of all who would come to Him as Saviour and Lord .

His Kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, and, "the true tent (tabernacle, place of worship) that the Lord set up, not man." is a Person, and those for whom He died, who are joined with Him through death, burial and resurrection, and "baptized into one body by one Spirit" (1 Cor.12:13), a Body which Peter calls a “spiritual house”, the very church (ekklesia) Jesus is building (Matt.16:18), and to which all who believe He is whom He said, and trust His finished work, belong, by His Holy Spirit!

Those who are His have an eternal certainty which is a spiritual, and yet, very present possession, with all that implies.

For those who remain in their sin, it's another matter, and so very sad. They also have an eternal certainty! Will they rejoice away from His glorious presence? I think not!

Now, being past my three score years and ten, I have extra reason to rejoice, as it is the first anniversary since having triple bypass surgery. But for the grace of God and His gift of the skilled hands who operated on me, I would still be rejoicing, but in the presence of The King!

Our Sovereign God, revealed to man in the Lord, Jesus Christ, rested the whole issue of the quality of our inevitable eternity upon Himself as the essential central element of the spiritual entity which He is building, so secure and indestructible that Satan, with every ounce of his malevolence, is powerless against it.

I rejoice, also that, as Jesus explained to the woman at the well, in this age of grace, there should be no way of Him becoming located in a place, a building, a denomination, a system, or any other invention of man.

There would be only one criteria by which this spiritual entity would be known, His personal presence, by His Spirit, in the “spiritual stones”, with which He is building.

If we are going to isolate a season, then, above all else, may Jesus truly be the reason for the season. The God who loved so much that He voluntarily took upon Himself the form of His creature, to suffer in that form, to satisfy His own justice, that those who are His may have eternal life, and that abundantly.

For those who know Him, there is no better reason to celebrate, and with the angels sing, “Hallelujah!”
What a Saviour!

May you be richly blessed as we daily celebrate the greatest gift that any person can receive, a living relationship with our great God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom.10:4)

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness”:

What does that mean?

Religious people, and I use the term deliberately, often believe, and hold forth a doctrine which is proclaimed as truth, yet without proof. Have you noticed that?

We could use any number of current secular discussions as a good illustration. I'll leave that to your wise counsel.

One such doctrine is contained in our passage above, “Christ is the end of the law”, and which, by itself, seems to contradict the historic use by most Reformed Theology, of what is called “The Third Use of the Law”, but, concurrently speaks one of the qualities of New Covenant Theology.

Reformed theology has maintained that there are three uses of the law:

    1.Use of the law to convict men of sin,
    2. Use of the law to restrain evil, and
    3. Use of the law as the biblical (and eternal) standard for Christian behavior.

    Take the time to search and you will find authoritative Reformed documents, affirming the three uses. At the same time we would find different opinions among those who follow New Covenant Theology, which,generally does not support the third use of the law as being supported from Scripture.
Regarding the above passage,Vincents Word Studies says:

The end of the law (telov nomou). First in the sentence as the emphatic point of thought. Expositors differ as to the sense.
  1.  1.  The aim. Either that the intent of the law was to make men righteous, which was accomplished in Christ, or that the law led to Him as a pedagogue (Gal. iii. 24).
    2. The fulfillment, as Matt. v. 17.
    3. The termination. To believers in Christ the law has no longer legislative authority to say, "Do this and live; do this or die" (Morison).
    The last is preferable. Paul is discussing two materially exclusive systems, the one based on doing, the other on believing. The system of faith, represented by Christ, brings to an end and excludes the system of law; and the Jews, in holding by the system of law, fail of the righteousness which is by faith. Compare Gal. ii. 16; iii. 2-14.

There is no doubt in my mind that the last is the correct way to understand it!

A greater, much wiser man than I agrees. C.H.Spurgeon:

Now, what has our Lord to do with the law? He has everything to do with it, for he is its end for the noblest object, namely, for righteousness. He is the "end of the law." What does this mean? I think it signifies three things: first, that Christ is the purpose and object of the law; secondly, that he is the fulfillment of it; and thirdly, that he is the termination of it.

If this is so, and I believe with all my heart it is; why do so many preachers, of every persuasion, continue to put their congregations under the burden of the law, Old Covenant as well as their own legal inventions?

Can it be that they, themselves, haven't yet understood the full import of what Christ has done?

John Calvin says:

For the end of the law is Christ, etc. The word completion, seems not to me unsuitable in this place; and Erasmus has rendered it perfection: but as the other reading is almost universally approved, and is not inappropriate, readers, for my part, may retain it.
The Apostle obviates here an objection which might have been made against him; for the Jews might have appeared to have kept the right way by depending on the righteousness of the law. It was necessary for him to disprove this false opinion; and this is what he does here. He shows that he is a false interpreter of the law, who seeks to be justified by his own works; because the law had been given for this end, — to lead us as by the hand to another righteousness: nay, whatever the law teaches, whatever it commands, whatever it promises, has always a reference to Christ as its main object; and hence all its parts ought to be applied to him. But this cannot be done, except we, being stripped of all righteousness, and confounded with the knowledge of our sin, seek gratuitous righteousness from him alone.

What is it that causes such preachers to want, in essence, to be Jews spiritually?

In his book "The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal", pp. 56-57, NCT pastor Blake White puts it well,

"Although this tripartite distinction is historically rooted and held by many men more respectable and learned than the present writer, it must be rejected. this distinction simply will not hold up to exegesis. It is a theological construction imposed on the Text of Scripture. For Paul to accept circumcision is to obligate oneself to keep the whole law (Gal. 5:3). for James, to fail in one point of the law is to become accountable for all of it (Ja. 2:10). Everything God demanded from Israel was moral. The law is a unit."

By the time the second letter to the Corinthians is written, the church had a problem with Judaizers.

This congregation, mainly Gentile, with little understanding of grace, if any, would not be thought to have a problem with the matter of rules and regulations? Yet! This is what Paul is seeking to deal with in chapter two (near the end) and with chapter three.

What makes it possible for the legalism of Judaism to get a foot in the door in this community of people? Sin!  Sin had raised its ugly head.

How do you think the human heart and mind, one unchanged by God's grace, comes up with an answer to such a problem? What does such a mind, quite naturally, think of to fix such a problem, or any problem regarding sin?

The answer: The power of control! Make it illegal according to law, and, impose that law on the people who are the church, such as this one at Corinth!

Can you think of a better way for the Judaizers to contradict Paul's words, whilst, at the same time, ignoring the rest of what he said, "all things are lawful" ? 

Such thinking says to itself," Let's just add a few codicils!" ( a testamentary instrument intended to alter an already executed will) added to the last will and testament of God.

Legalists have never understood grace, and look at a church, such as the one at Corinth and focus on particular, more obvious sins, and think to themselves, “These people have far too much freedom. They need rules!”

In the case of the church in Corinth, the Judaizers opinion of Paul would be that he had been weak and allowed the Corinthian Christians too much freedom. This is utterly abhorrent to such spiritual sheriffs. He not only allowed them to think for themselves, he expected them to do so, as responsible members of God's family. Paul understood the difference between authoritative control, and teaching towards maturity!

To the spiritual sheriffs among us, the cure is obvious! Well? Isn't it?

These Corinthian Christians needed more law. They needed to have the moral demands of the law slammed into their brains. They needed a sheriff who could exercise authority, and demand obedience.

Sadly, such legalists do not have the heart and mind of the Apostle Paul, an expert in the law, who had heeded the inspiration of God's Spirit, and “saw” that the rule of religious law had been "brought to an end" (2 Cor. 3:11). These Corinthians, who were living in a law induced darkness, needed to “see”, needed light shed upon the situation.

Exactly as it is today, “the god of this world” (2 Cor.4:4), who, according to Paul, had kept the Corinthians from understanding the "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." (2 Cor. 4:4), is keeping people, even religious people, from “seeing” that marvelous light in all it's majesty..

Paul, of all people, knew what C.H Spurgeon calls our attention to, the basic precept that the only way to escape being conformed to the world, is to be transformed. The word Paul used is metamorphoo (Rom.12:2), meaning the transformation of an individual away from the customs of a society, even a religious one, which will inevitably, lead us away from God, unless, we are allowed to “see” by His great love and grace (such grace being our instructor according to Paul in Titus 2:12-13) in an exercise of His divine power.

Until this happens the world, including many who claim to be Christian, will never see the evidence of what the mind of God is, nor the power of His gracious work in us through Jesus Christ, by His Spirit.

This amazing transformation doesn't come through obeying the moral demands of the law, and the codicils introduced by spiritual sheriffs, can never do so. Transformation into the image of Jesus comes through the Holy Spirit giving grace to “see”, spiritually perceiving, “seeing” Jesus Christ for whom He is and in His work of Redeemer and Sacrificial Lamb , as Paul says in 2 Cor. 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. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

By the power and working of the Holy Spirit!

This is why Paul is not proclaiming the Old Covenant, lord-ship of law, faded-glory, message, which the Judaizers were promoting. Paul had seen the risen living Lord, with his own eyes. He had also “seen” with spiritual eyes, "Jesus Christ as Lord" (2 Cor. 4:5).

This is the only message through which the people will receive life, and, this is the message which sustains that life, only in those who are genuine followers of Christ!

This is the message that causes the body of people Peter referred to as “living stones” to be the church which Jesus is building, and, becoming a demonstration of the gracious love of a Father to His own, and in which is revealed "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ".

What this means for those who really are Christian, is that the relationship with the law is in the past, prior to their receiving the truths of the Gospel! They have been redeemed (Gal. 4:5) or 'set free' (Rom. 7:6) from the law. In fact, as far as the law is concerned, they are deceased, they have died to the reach of the law (Rom. 7:4, 6, cf. Gal. 2:19).

Those who are dead are not, under any circumstance, 'under law' (Rom. 6:14-15; cf. 1 Cor. 9:20). The work of the Lord, Jesus Christ has brought an end to the law's jurisdiction over all, who are “in Christ”. Death doesn't only bring an end to parts of the law, but the entire law. When the demands of a law is fulfilled, that law has been starved, and becomes useless for its original purpose. Jesus Christ fulfilled all of the judicial requirements of the law to its greatest, and most far reaching extent on behalf of those who are truly “in Christ”, so they would be free from the dominion of law and its legitimate threat of punishment, or retribution.

Sadly, it isn't only in modern days that understanding the New Covenant promises and fulfillment in Jesus Christ, is labelled “Antinomian”. As Douglas Moo says,

"when the 'antinomian' implications of Paul's teaching were raised as an objection against that teaching, Paul responded not by introducing a 'new law' but by pointing to the Spirit (Gal. 5:16ff) and to union with Christ (Romans 6)...any approach that substitutes external commands for the Spirit as the basic norm for Christian living runs into serious difficulties with Paul." (Douglas Moo, pp. 217-218, in "Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments")

The Lord, Jesus Christ, is not only the fulfillment of the Law, but everything the Old Testament was about. He was the goal of the law, and from the very beginning, the Father's intention for it's end.

Christ is the extreme point, at both, beginning and end (Rev.1:8; 21:6; 22:13). Christ is the full and final communication of whom God is, (1 John 4:16) which, to the fullest extent possible, bears on our understanding of law and the New Covenant.