Saturday, February 28, 2009

In Him is all our rest

1 – When Jesus would His grace proclaim,
He calls the simple, blind, and lame
To come and be His guest;
Such simple folk the world despise;
Yet simple folk do realize
In Him is ALL their rest!

2 – They view the truth of Jesus’ light,
Of Jesus’ blood, and Jesus’ might,
Which others cannot view;
They walk in Christ, the living Way
And trust no other righteousness
Which others cannot do.

3 – They all declare, I nothing am,
My life is bound up in the Lamb,
My strength and might are His;
My worth is all in Jesus found,
He is my Rock, my anchor-ground,
And all my hope of bliss.

-- J. Berridge

Friday, February 27, 2009

Qualifications of elders

After noting the character traits mentioned in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, Nathan White of Berean Baptist Church in Powder Springs, GA writes,
“By observing this list, we can clearly see that the qualifications for an elder are centered on personal character, reputation, faithfulness, and sanctification, as just a basic summary.

Interesting that the scriptures do not mention a man’s:
* Educational level, as if a seminary degree is somehow a necessary asset to enter the ministry (it does mention that an elder must be ‘able to teach’ and ‘refute those who contradict’.)
* Popularity, as if a man’s ability to attract large crowds, demand a large hearing, or ‘change a lot of lives’ has anything to do with the holy office.
* Results (pragmatism), as if we are to look at the response to his message and determine if he is qualified. (Example: “Lot’s of people are getting saved, and God is moving, thus this man must be anointed!”)
* Likability, rhetorical skills, ability to be culturally-relevant or creative in presentation, etc.”

He makes a good point. Read the entire article at the link above and also Bart Barber below.

"What's missing today is an application of biblical standards for evaluating churches and elders/pastors/overseers. We grade according to wordly, material standards. There are biblical standards; we just ignore them. Churches draft "job descriptions" for jobs already described in the Bible, and do so with little or no reference to those biblical materials. Character is not measured; performance is. This is, in my study of the Bible, a flawed and carnal approach. The implications are far-reaching." -- In his comments re his post An Exemplary Pastor

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Sum and Substance of Religion, By J. C. Philpot

"There is no true religion independent of the inward work and witness of God the Spirit in the conscience. Take away the Spirit’s work, and what is left? Nothing but a dead carcass of forms. If a man deny the inward teachings of the Spirit of God to be the sum and substance of religion, he has no other refuge but Popery; and, to be thoroughly consistent, he should declare himself a Papist at once; for there is no real stopping–place between vital religion wrought in the heart and conscience by the power of God the Spirit, and that which stands in external forms, rites and ceremonies." -- As printed in the “Old Faith Contender”, November 1965

Joseph Charles Philpot (1802-1869) was an English Baptist minister born in Kent. According to "Gospel Standard, he was the son of a clergyman (evidently Anglican), and "he became a fellow of Worcester College Oxford. In 1828 he was appointed a curate at Stadhampton. He seceded from the Church of England in 1835 and cast in his lot with those who later became known as the Gospel Standard Baptists, becoming sole editor of their magazine in 1849."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The exorcists

The exorcists. Acts 19:13-16

When the apostle wonders wrought,
And healed the sick, in Jesus' name;
The sons of Sceva vainly thought
That they had pow'r to do the same.

On one possessed they tried their art,
And naming JESUS preached by Paul,
They charged the spirit to depart
Expecting he'd obey their call.

The spirit answered, with a mock,
"Jesus I know; and Paul I know;
I must have gone if Paul had spoke;
But who are ye that bid me go?"

With fury then the man he filled,
Who on the poor pretenders flew;
Naked and wounded, almost killed,
They fled in all the peoples' view.

John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The threat of ecumenism

On a recent blog one brother wrote, "I think anything organized with participation by different religious groups or individuals of different religious groups is ecumenical." Is anything organized with participation by different religious groups ecumenical? Does presence and organization define ecumenical? What part does intent play?

What is ecumenical? According to The Merriam Webster Dictionary, ecumenical means "promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity." The Random House Unabridged Dictionary gives a further refinement of it as "of or pertaining to a movement (ecumenical movement), esp. among Protestant groups since the 1800s, aimed at achieving universal Christian unity and church union through international interdenominational organizations that cooperate on matters of mutual concern." According to American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, this could also include "promoting worldwide unity among religions through greater cooperation and improved understanding." So ecumenism might be something as innocuous as promoting Christian unity, or as dangerous as uniting the world’s religions in one organization.

In dealing with the concept of ecumenism, perhaps it’s hard for Baptists to strike a happy medium. One sees something scurrying out from every rock he turns over, and every stick looks like a snake. Another needs prescription glasses so badly he couldn’t see ecumenical compromise if it were staring him in the face. There is a real threat of ecumenism as some attempt to unite the denominations by abandoning the faith once delivered to the saints. "Let’s ignore the Bible & truth and just be one big happy family." Then there is a trivialization of ecumenism which fears a Baptist and a person of another denomination standing in close proximity are engaged in "an ecumenical movement". The challenge is to walk the path in the center, without falling into the ditch on the right or left; to pursue unity of the faith and love of the brethren without dispensing the Scripture and its truth.

The threat of ecumenism – the attempt to falsely unite
Christian unity is not wrong. The modern ecumenical manner of achieving it is. The ecumenical movement seeks to break down denominational barriers and just worship together as "Christians". The movement is alive and well. A worldwide promoter among Christian denominations is the World Council of Churches, whose aim is to proclaim the oneness of the church of Jesus Christ and to call the churches to the goal of visible unity. By methods such as dialogue, study documents, common prayer and worship, churches from the Anglican Church to the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church to the Waldensian Church (yes, you read that correctly) unite in the WCC and seek for unity. Again, unity is not wrong. But abandoning the faith once delivered to the saints is! It seems clear to me that the methodology of the WCC, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, and all such movements do not hold a high view of the Scriptures or the once-delivered faith.

The trivialization of ecumenism – seeing ecumenism under every rock
Like Chicken Little who believes the sky is falling or the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf, the “ecumenist-behind-every-non-denominational-gathering” mentality trivializes real ecumenism. When the sky really is falling and when the wolf really comes, no one believes us because we have lost our credibility.

There are some gatherings that are not ecumenical that attract various brands of Christians. One obvious example is pro-life rallies. Because of agreement on the sanctity of life, these rallies attract Baptists, Protestants, Catholics, Jews and others. But the intent is not to unite all these people in one denomination. The intent is to unite in a social and political way to rally support for the sanctity of life. Is working in a Rescue Mission "ecumenical"? Many churches seem to work together to supply food and service for the homeless, etc., without compromising any of their standards or seeking organizational union.

Realize also that something does not have to be ecumenical to be wrong. Some Baptists I know seem to struggle to find the proper way to frame an argument against certain things they believe are unscriptural and/or inadvisable. If they can’t define it clearly some other way, they frame it under the specter of ecumenism. Surely everyone will shy away from it then! Yet something can be wrong for reasons other than ecumenism. False worship can be just that, without any ecumenical trappings. For example, a friend might want you to attend church and worship with him. He has no intention of ecumenism. He intends rather to convert you to his belief.

The challenge – the pursuit of unity and love without disposing of scripture and truth
Unity is a command, a privilege, and a goal. The pursuit of unity is not an evil, but rather a good. The pursuit and proclamation of unity on a false basis is an evil. Is it too simple to ask that we simply be Christians?

With the multitudinous clamoring voices claiming to be Christianity, many declare unity impossible. But the Jerusalem church exhibits the possibility of unity. The divine voice pronounces they were "with one accord in prayer and supplication" and "of one heart and of one soul." We might say that the accord has been broken and cannot be recovered. Nay, rather amidst the discord in Corinth, Paul beseeched his brethren in the name of the Lord Jesus, "that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."

"With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; [Endeavour] to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," remembering "they that worship [God] must worship him in spirit and in truth."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Levels of fellowship

Related to the next post I will be making on ecumenism, I have been thinking about the different types of fellowship Christians might have with their fellow men. Here are a few thoughts, and I would appreciate your input on the correctness (or not) of this.

Human fellowship (our commonness as fellow creatures in God's creation)
Social fellowship (those with whom we interact on a regular basis)
Political fellowship (those with whom we share in a political cause)
Familial fellowship (those with whom we share a family bond; perhaps a natural family, a spiritual family, etc.)
Ecclesial fellowship (those with whom we share a common church bond)

We should be careful to not go to seed on this, recognizing that a Christian is one person in whom all these must coincide and not result in confusion. But, for example, if there is such as thing as a spiritual familial relationship, wouldn't that suggest that we could have some fellowship with a person who is a part of this same family even though he or she might differ on church matters, making it unlikely or impossible for us to have ecclesial fellowship?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Should Holmes have been more tolerant?

Rev. Obadiah Holmes by Sam Behling
The Persecution of Obadiah Holmes in America by J. M. Cramp
Our Baptist Heritage Obadiah Holmes: A Baptist at His Best by Barry W. Jones

"Obadiah Holmes remained adamant that his worship of Christ should not be under the control of a priest or bishop, or a magistrate or government. He and his Baptist contemporaries in Rhode Island opposed any government interference in religion and vice versa. Holmes believed this so strongly that he once took 30 lashes at the hands of magistrates and clergy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, rather than be denied his right to worship as he saw fit."

At the above links you can read a little about Obadiah Holmes, an early American Baptist who felt so strongly about freedom of religion that he was willing to suffer for it. Men and women of that caliber were the forerunners of obtaining legal freedom of religion in the United States of America.

Today freedom of religion is often confused with tolerance. The modern tolerance seems to hold that all religion is equally valid, and for that reason folks ought to "tolerate" all sorts of beliefs.

Holmes was not "tolerant". He stood for freedom of religion, not tolerance. Tolerance implies someone is superior and in a position to tolerate an inferior. Holmes wanted equality of religion before the governmental authorities. This idea is not based on the equality of all religions, but on religion being between God and man -- not God, man and his government.

Holmes was not ecumenical. He would not be forced to worship with the Puritan Congregationalists, and so signaled by keeping his hat on when hauled into their sanctuary. His freedom of religion required him to believe others should be free to consort with other beliefs if they so wished, but it also meant those who did not so wish should not be forced to.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Union, by Trott

"Does union consist in being mingled together as the opposite parties of a controversy? For my own part I am free to acknowledge that I admire the spirit manifested and the course proposed by Abraham, when he said to Lot, "Let there be no strife between me and thee and between my herdmen and thy herdman; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself I pray thee, from me." Genesis 23:2-9. This example I would recommend to my brethren in Virginia and elsewhere, so far as the strife has extended; not for the purpose of of disunion, but to prevent strife.

"Let us say to those whom we have called 'brethren', but who are only our brethren's children, let us not remain together to keep up controversy, let us separate.

"I certainly think with the wise man that; "It is better to dwell in a corner of the house top, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house." - Proverbs 21:9. Whether this course is not more congenial with the spirit of the Gospel than to continue together in strife, judge ye.

"We urge upon our brethren to take the Bible as their only standard both of faith and practice, to turn to it for instruction, and to practice what and as the Master has said. We go to no higher antiquity than Christ and His apostles for authority, neither stop we short of that."
-- Samuel Trott in Does Union consist in being mingled together? 1833

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Disagreeing with tolerant liberalism

"What is paraded before the public as 'Liberalism', is anything else but liberal. Disagree with that mentality, and you will immediately find that these folk are not liberal at all! They are a bigotted, narrow-minded, and arrogant group of people." -- Stanley Phillips in "Creationism vs. Darwinism (Evolutionism or Longitudinalism)", an e-mail, Wed, 18 Jun 2008

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Practical benefits of sound doctrine

The practical benefits of sound doctrine are:
1) It pleases God (Gal. 1:10)
2) It leads to biblical practices (2 Pet. 2:14, 15)
3) It builds spiritual strength (Rev. 3:8)
4) It builds influence for witnessing (Rev. 3:8)
5) It promotes faithfulness (Eph. 1:1)
6) It gives glory to God through a NT church (Eph. 3:21)
7) It refuses to be led astray by hearing false preachers, false teachers (Rev. 2:9; 3:9)

Posted by Arch Bishop at In Defense of Landmarkism, but no longer available on the site.

Monday, February 16, 2009

State Convention this coming Saturday

The Texas State Sacred Harp Convention with be held (d.v.) this coming weekend -- Saturday February 21 and Sunday February 22, 2009.

The Convention will meet at the Wellborn Community Center on 4119 Greens Prairie Road West in College Station, Texas. Singing will start at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday and 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. The Sacred Harp Revision to be used is the 1991 Revision (Denson/Red book). Hope to see you there Saturday, Lord willing.

Click link above for map and contact information.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thomas Bradbury said...

"I may preach to the ear, but I cannot reach the heart. My words are but as empty vapour without the Spirit’s power. Joseph Irons' hymn is painfully, yet pleasantly, true:--

'We have listen’d to the preacher,
Truth by him has now been shown;
But we want a greater Teacher,
From the everlasting throne;
Application is the work of God alone.'"

-- From The Masters of Assemblies, by Thomas Bradbury, April 13, 1879

Friday, February 13, 2009

Systematic theology

Systematic theology and the Bible.

Anyone who purchases and peruses a Systematic Theology will recognize a vast difference in structure, appearance, style and organization between it and the Bible. Why? Is that good, bad or indifferent?

What is Systematic Theology?
A sampling from the internet indicates a hodge-podge of ideas that have a core agreement. For a concise definition,
Norman Manzon says the goal of systematic theology "is to address and arrange all Bible subjects topically in a formal, systematic arrangement."

"Systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that attempts to formulate an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the Christian faith and beliefs. Inherent to a system of theological thought is that a method is developed, one which can be applied both broadly and particularly." --
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

"Systematic theology is any study that answers the question, 'What does the whole Bible teach us today?' about any given topic.

"This definition indicates that systematic theology involves collecting and understanding all the relevant passages in the Bible on various topics and then summarizing their teachings clearly so that we know what to believe about each topic." --
Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology, pg. 13)

According to
John Stevenson, systematic theology is "the study that follows an analytically devised scheme to organize into a single system all of the truth that we have about God and His universe."

"The word theology means 'study of God'. Systematic refers to something being put into a system. Systematic theology is, therefore, the division of theology into systems that explain its various areas. For example, many books of the Bible give information about the angels. No one book gives all the information about the angels. Systematic theology takes all the information about angels from all the books of the Bible, and organizes it into a system - angelology. That is what systematic theology is all about - organizing the teachings of the Bible into categorical systems." --

The benefits of Systematic Theology
The practical benefit of systematic theology is the collecting of all the information on any particular topic and studying it as a unit -- all the Bible says about creation, all it says about redemption, all it says about the church, all it says about baptism, &c. In that sense systematic theology is Bible study and based on the Bible. When placed in book form there is usually a summarization of the various subjects by chapter. It is ordered and presented in a logical (and sometimes "chronological") fashion to attempt to make it easy for the human mind to grasp.

The pitfalls of Systematic Theology
When we describe a Systematic Theology as a presentation that makes it easy for the mind to grasp, that brings up a question. Given the vast difference between a Systematic Theology and the Bible, do we then conclude that God has presented the Bible in a way that is difficult for the human mind to grasp? If the answer is no, then why do we need systematic theology? If the answer is yes, then (1) did God intend to present His truth in a comprehendible fashion, but did not, or (2) are we foolishly trying to make easy something God has purposefully made difficult? I'm not sure I have the answers to these questions.

Perhaps the most dangerous element of systematic theology is not the system itself, but how the individual Christian responds to it. The individual may allow the theologian to do his or her studying of the entire range of the Bible on any given subject. Once he falls into that trap, he may then study the Bible not with a "what does this mean" attitude, but with a "how does this fit my (adopted) theology" attitude. (And this can even be a problem if we have our own systematic theology.) John Stevenson wrote, "We must recognize that God and the Scriptures rule over our theology and not the other way around." For many individuals, their system rules the Scriptures, rather than the Scriptures forming their system. Sometimes this happens by forming a system without taking into account all the Scriptures have to say on a given subject. With the preconceived ideas in tow, each verse or paragraph or chapter is forced through the theological grid we've developed. We effectively inoculate ourselves from the Scripture rule as we hide safely behind our system. "It can't mean that!" "That would contradict what I believe about ...." (Maybe what I believe about .... needs to be contradicted.)

Probably speaking of other systems, Alfred Lord Tennyson nevertheless speaks truth to the fate of our theological systems:
Our little systems have their day,
They have their day and cease to be.
They are but broken lights of Thee,
And Thou, O Lord, are more than they.
("In Memoriam", 1850)

May our systematic theology be the theology of the Bible.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Are your beliefs sincere enough?

According to this story, New York parents, based on religious grounds, can opt out of vaccines that public schools require children to have. But the attorney for the Bayport-Blue Point Union Free School District decided the beliefs of Ron and Rita Palma "were not 'sincere' enough."

How long will it be before we all have someone else telling us what we believe?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thou Art the Man by M.L. Vaughn

In the Book of books we read of two of God's chosen men who committed great crimes, yet condemned those who committed them as being worthy of death until the guilt was placed on them.

In Genesis 38 we read of Judah, the son of Jacob, who condemned a woman to be burned until she proved him to be the guilty man. Then he declared her to be more righteous than himself.

David the Psalmist, declared to be a man after God's own heart, committed the great crime of having Uriah put in the front in battle that he might be killed and that he might get his wife, II Sam. 11 and 12. God sent Nathan to David with his parables, and when David heard the parable he said, "The man must die." Then Nathan said to David, "Thou art the man." Then David confessed to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Later he said, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight." (Psalms 51:4)

How careful we should be in passing judgment on others. We should first get the beam out of our own eye before trying to get the mote out of the other fellow's eye. None of us should set himself up as being more honourable than Judah or David to whom it was said, "Thou art the man."

This old selfish nature of ours is so prone to condemn faults in others, but often the verdict comes ringing back, "Thou art the man."

Psalms 19:14 : "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer." May this be the prayer of us all.

By Elder Marshall Lewis Vaughn (1858--1947), Mt. Enterprise, TX. First printed in 1940 in The Baptist Progress. Reprinted in The Baptist Waymark June 1986.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Literal or figurative

"But in addition to the foregoing rule, which guards us against taking a metaphorical form of speech as if it were literal, we must also pay heed to that which tells us not to take a literal form of speech as if it were figurative. In the first place, then, we must show the way to find out whether a phrase is literal or figurative." (Augustine, Book III)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Providences of God recorded

C. M.

Providences of God recorded.

Let children hear the mighty deeds
Which God performed of old,
Which in our younger years we saw,
And which our fathers told.

He bids us make his glories known,
His works of power and grace;
And we'll convey his wonders down
Through every rising race.

Our lips shall tell them to our sons,
And they again to theirs;
That generations yet unborn
May teach them to their heirs.

Thus shall they learn in God alone
Their hope securely stands;
That they may ne'er forget his works,
But practise his commands.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
The Psalms of David, 1719.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Can't believe it

President Obama rejected arguments that the spending in the $819 billion (now 937 billion; now ...) stimulus bill should be replaced by tax cuts.

"What do you think a stimulus is?" Obama asked incredulously. "It’s spending — that's the whole point! Seriously.”

How much for ACORN, Mr. President, a group under investigation for election fraud? How much for the digital television converter box coupon program? How much to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees? How much for "smoking cessation activities"? How much for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film? How much for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters? Tell us, Mr. President. Stimulus? Seriously?

Speaking of stimulus and spending...
Remember the Congress blasting corporate executives who came to Washington on corporate jets asking for money? And the complaints about how some companies are spending their bailout money?

Well, I think they were right to complain, but...

...this weekend Democrat House members are meeting at the Kingsmill Resort and Spa in Williamsburg, VA. Quess who's paying?

"Democrats spend taxpayer money on their retreat but do not permit lobbyists to accompany them. The public pays for a charter train from Washington to Williamsburg for many of the 200 members who attend, as well as conference rooms, security and catering."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Word for today

wind·throw: (noun) the uprooting and overthrowing of trees by the wind
Pronunciation: \ˈwin(d)-ˌthrō\

In forestry, windthrow refers to trees uprooted or overthrown by wind. By extension, sometimes used to refer to associated things, such as the ground-hole left by the windthrown tree. Breakage of the tree bole instead of uprooting is sometimes called windsnap. --,, etc.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

More than a hypocrite

"Am I am pharisee?" Have we ever asked ourselves that question? If we are, we probably haven't!! If we haven't, we should. Every aspect of our lives must be held up for inspection under the light of God's Word. This examination will not hurt us -- it can only help us.

What is a pharisee? To us the word is usually synonymous with hypocrite -- one who feign qualities, virtues, or religious devotion he does not possess. A pharisee is certainly a hypocrite, but more than just a hypocrite. Not the common variety -- but a religious hypocrite; not the lukewarm, but the fanatical. All hypocrites are not pharisees, but all pharisees are hypocrites. To define and understand the pharisee, we must examine the biblical record.

The implication from the Gospels is that the Pharisees were the most numerous and influential sect of the Jewish religion in Jesus' day. The Pharisees were divided from other factions chiefly because of differing positions concerning the law of Moses (Phil. 3:5). By observing their practices, doctrines, and attitudes, we may notice the distinguishing traits of the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were zealous (Rom. 10:2), though their zeal was misguided. They were devoted to their religion. They worked hard and traveled far to make converts (Matt. 23:15). Their devotion to their sect, its tenets, and its traditions was greater than their devotion to God (Mark 7:7,9). Their religion was a false one that shut men out of heaven (Matt. 23:13,15). In their blind zeal for their sect, they carried on a relentless campaign against Jesus and His work. The Pharisees' system of man-made doctrine was not compatible with Jesus' teachings. They impugned His character (Matt. 9:34; 12:24), denied His miracles (John 9:13-18), laid snares for His speech (Matt. 19:3: 22:15), threatened Him (Luke 13:31), attempted to stone Him (John 8:59), and eventually obtained agreement to His death (John 18:3; Matt. 27:20-22; Luke 23:13). Their devotion to their cause and their antagonism towards those who opposed it was so great they could justify the crucifixion of Jesus, and consent to the death of Stephen.

The Pharisees emphasized ritual and outward observance -- washings (Mark 7:3,4), fasting (Matt. 6:16; 9;14), strict Sabbath observance (Matt. 12:2), tithing (Matt. 23:23), public prayers (Matt. 6:5; Luke 18:11), etc. The hypocrite must necessarily have the outward in order to appear religious and righteous before men. Outer form replaces inner character as a sign of who is religious and right.

Doctrinally, Pharisees were strait and narrow (Acts 26:5). If the Sadducess were the religious liberals of Jesus' day, the Pharisees might be called the fundamentalists. They believed in a literal resurrection, angels & spirits (Acts 23:8), and were painstaking in their devotion to law-keeping (with their traditions, of course). Due to their lack of the Spirit, they were doomed to follow the letter. They were so sure they were right, everybody else must be wrong. They were the only scholars (John 7:15). They were self-righteous, covetous, treacherous, merciless -- even bloodthirsty -- but with skillful manipulation of the scriptures, they could justify every action (e.g. Mark 7:7-13).

The Pharisees were no mere hypocrites. They had so refined hypocrisy into a religious system, that Jesus identified their doctrine as hypocrisy (Luke 12:1 with Matt. 16:6, 12). They had a reputation for righteousness (Matt 5:20), but it was a self-heralded righteousness. The Pharisees feigned a religious devotion they did not possess. In the final analysis, they sought to exalt themselves and impress men rather than please God (Matt. 23:5). [Note: they did not necessarily try to please men, but tried to impress them; e.g. Matt. 6:2,5,16].

Jesus did not condemn their keeping of the law, but rather their exalting traditions above God's commands. He did not condemn their scrupulous observance of the details of the law, but rather their failure to observe its major themes. He did not condemn their zeal, but rather the misguided direction of it. Jesus' renunciation of the Pharisees shows that they exalted tradition over commandment, letter over spirit, seen over unseen, minor over major, ritual over spiritual, and that they condemned others while condoning themselves. Every single doctrine and practice was not bad, but their system moulded it all into a deadly combination. Their religion was a farce which outwardly continued that which was once inwardly meaningful to others.

Realize that any keeping of God's commands will be dubbed pharisaical and legalistic by some. Christianity has certain ritual (e.g. baptism, communion, etc.) and certain outwardly visible demands (e.g. modest dress, plain speech, etc.). These should be obeyed without concern for what one might be called. But Pharisees felt that these kinds of things alone marked them as righteous. Some outward things will be part of righteous separated living, but only an inward change of heart -- a washing in the blood of Christ -- makes one righteous. Realize also that claiming one way/doctrine/religion is right and another is wrong is not necssarily pharisaism. The apostles claimed their faith was from God and that both Judaism and paganism were wrong. But Pharisees found their rightness in being a Pharisee. Christians found their rightness in God.

Let's not worry about pharisaism among others. The question before us is, "Am I am pharisee?" If I travel far and wide to convert others to a religious affiliation rather than preach the gospel -- I am a Pharisee. If I exalt my forefathers, history and traditions above the commands of God -- I am a Pharisee. If I relentlessly, though insidiously, attack the words of God -- I am a Pharisee. If I observe outward motions without inward movement -- I am a Pharisee. If I follow the letter but not the Spirit -- I am a Pharisee. If I major on minors and minor on majors -- I am a Pharisee. If I feign righteousness and devotion -- I am a Pharisee. If I use the Bible to try to convict others, and it never condemns me -- I am a Pharisee.

The result of Pharisaism in Judaea was the existence of a self-righteous religionist who thumbed his nosed at sinners. I wonder if one reason Pharisees compassed land and sea to make one proselyte was that they would not reach down to the masses under their feet? And perhaps they could not, because the masses knew what they were. Maybe they had to find someone who didn't know them!! The failure of the Pharisees, though, did have the effect of highlighting the One who spoke "not as the scribes," and "the common people heard Him gladly."

The problem of pharisaism is not just one of legalism, ritual and tradition. These are symptoms of the problem. When religious affiliation and doctrinal correctness become more important than relationship with God, then religion becomes a clean-swept shell of a house which is completely empty inside. The outside must be kept freshly painted and beautifully adorned -- that it may appear someone dwells within. Sepulchres, however lovely, merely hold dead men's bones!

When presented with this challenge, we usually look at someone else (Matt. 23:29-35). The publicans and harlots had an advantage over the Pharisees -- they knew they were sinners (Matt. 21:32; Luke 5:30-32). The Pharisee will not get what the publican got until he gets where the publican was. Read Luke 18:9-14. May we, like Nicodemus, seek Him even if we must come by night. May I not say "I thank Thee that I am not as other men are," but rather, "God be merciful to me a sinner."

(A slight rewrite of an article that appeared in The Baptist Waymark, March-April 1995, page 1)

Note: In an e-mail on February 6th, Brother Hoyt Sparks called attention to two references that add information to show the totality of who the Pharisees were: John 8:23, "Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world"; and John 8:44, "Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of you father ye will do."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Can't help it

According to the AP, "President Barack Obama warned on Thursday that failure to act on an economic recovery package could plunge the nation into a long-lasting recession that might prove irreversible..." Why hasn't someone called this "scare tactics"?

And this "recovery" plan includes $70 million for super computers to research climate change, $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $335 million to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, $150 million to insure honeybee farmers, and on and on. But we find that certain politicians who want to spend our tax money aren't willing to pay theirs!! If these people think more taxes are the cure for our nation's problems, why, oh why, wouldn't it behoove them to pay their taxes instead of avoiding them??

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Isaiah 42:1-4

Isaiah 42:1-4. "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law."

(Common Meter)

Behold my SERVANT, whom I love,
My chosen ONE in Time.
HE is the ONE my soul desires,
My SPIRIT dwells in HIM.

HE shall bring judgment to the Earth
Himself HE will abase.
No glory seek nor self proclaim
Till HE hath run HIS race.

A bruise’d reed HE shall not break,
Nor, quench the smoking flax.
HIS judgment show in all HIS TRUTH
And in HIS Righteous acts.

HE shall not fail nor be dismayed,
Nor, let his judgment fall.
Till HE shall reign in all the earth
And manifest HIS law.

Ye trembling saints upon your knees,
Ye mourners at sin’s door;
HE is the ONE who trod your path,
HE, all your burdens bore.

Come unto HIM without delay.
HE bids you rise and come,
Shall such an ONE who bled for you
Not safely bring you home?

Let those who cannot hear HIS voice
In darkness travel on;
But you, who hear this sound of grace,
Come gather at HIS throne.’

HIS tenderness, HE will display
To every sinner called.
Provide their every need and want
For CHRIST is ALL in all.

Hymn by Mike A. McMinnis 7/28/2008

Monday, February 02, 2009

A secure job?

In Jobs That Will Never Go Away, writer Romy LeClaire Loran lists the following as "jobs that will never go away": Accountant, Computer Support Specialist, Entrepreneur, Mechanic, Paramedic, and Teacher. Assuming things don't get too far out of sorts, that may be so. Regardless, some of you might find the article interesting.