Zechariah 13, God’s Discerning Refined People

Zechariah 13:1-6

The difficulty of interpreting this passage stems from the phrase “on that day” used three times in these verses. Adamant premillennialists take this to be a reference to the era before the second advent ushering in the millennium. I think this refers to the first advent of Christ. The first reference to “on that day” in v. 1 clearly refers to Christ’s shedding of His blood for the redemption of His people. As they mourned the one whom they pierced (12:10), so God will open for them a fountain “to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” Even dispensationalists admit that this clearly refers to Calvary but believe the promise of this verse has yet to be fulfilled.[1]

We can reasonably conclude that if the first reference to “on that day” refers to Christ’s work on the cross (at His first advent), then it seems entirely appropriate to assume the other two “on that day” references also denote the first coming of Christ. Using the language and imagery contemporary readers would have understood, the effect of Christ’s coming, death and resurrection is to cleanse His people from the two major sins which always plagued Israel, namely, idolatry (v. 2) and false prophets (“spirit of uncleanness” v. 2). God’s people will be discerning enough to root out the false prophets. Baal worshippers often cut themselves (cf. the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel in 1Kings); those false prophets will be exposed and cut off.

This does not mean that the New Covenant community will never face false prophets or teachers (they will continue to exist and molest the people of God, 1Jn. 4:1) but because we have the anointing to teach us all things (1Jn. 2:26-27) as prophesied in terms of the New Covenant (“they shall all know me” Jer. 31:34), we will be better equipped to recognize and resist them. Webb suggests that this was written “to assure us that on the last day all lying in God’s name and all compromising with the truth on the part of his people will be over.”[2]

 

Zechariah 13:7-9

Before our Lord was betrayed, Jesus told his disciples that they will fall away from him and he cited v. 7 (Mt. 26:31, 32). This verse therefore refers to Jesus Christ. Whereas in ch. 12, Israel will mourn for the one they pierced, here God is the one who strikes the Shepherd, the Lord Jesus. It is God (“Declares the Lord of hosts”) who says “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me [that is, God].” The “sword” represents the Lord’s own judgment against His Son and it will scatter and purify the sheep (vv. 8-9).

Some believe vv. 8-9 refer to the ethnic Israelites for the future in the “great tribulation,”[3] just before the supposed Messianic age (i.e. Millennium).[4] Surely what is said here in vv. 8-9 refers to God’s new covenant people. They will be refined; over time, through persecution, trials, difficulties, adversities, etc. the Lord will have His people persevere. Remember, it is the one who endures unto the end who shall be saved. The glorious future of God’s people (already mentioned in Zechariah) must be seen in conjunction with her afflictions (cross before glory).

Malachi also mentions this refining: “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.” (Mal. 3:2, 3)[5] Zechariah’s vision of the future accords with Malachi’s.

The prophecy ends this chapter with the comforting words of covenant promises: The refining will enable His tested people to call upon God. God will declare them to be His people and they will say, “The Lord is my God.”

Lesson: The Lord knows those who are His and through the refining, all God’s children will persevere. God will own us because He has saved us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Kenneth Barker (EBC Revised) admits that New Covenant community of Jews and Gentiles received the “benefits promised to Israel.” That is, we only received the benefits of this by God’s grace but we are not the heirs of these promises in Christ. He says, “These blessings will yet be experienced by ethnic Israel at the second advent of their Messiah (Ro 11:25–29)…” See Kenneth L. Barker, “Zechariah,” in Daniel-Malachi (vol. 8 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised Edition, ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 819. M. Unger says that the “cleansing fountain was opened potentially for Israel and the whole world. But because Israel has rejected this fountain, it will not be open to her experientially until in that [future] day…” (Zechariah: Prophet of Messiah’s Glory, 222).

[2] Webb, The Message of Zechariah, 167.

[3] M. Unger, Zechariah: Prophet of Messiah’s Glory, 235.

[4] For example, K. Barker in the EBC Revised series.

[5] Cf. Michael Bentley, Building for God’s Glory (Haggai & Zechariah), Welwyn Commentary Series (Durham: Evangelical Press, 1989), 212.

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Zechariah 10 – God’s People Gathered Together as One

Zechariah 10

[We have been covering Zechariah in our OT Reading during Sunday morning worship services. I have not posted all the comments I make after the reading but I am posting this ahead of time for this coming Sunday 3/30/14 since I won't be able to cover all of it. The notes up to this chapter will be uploaded sometime in the near future.]

Verses 1-5

Many in the ANE (Ancient Near East) believed that certain gods and goddesses gave rain but Israel must remember God alone gives rain (v. 1). The “household gods” indeed “utter nonsense” (v. 2) which their leaders seemed to have consulted. God will punish these leaders and will Himself care for his flock (v. 3). God’s flock will be transformed to a “majestic steed” and the replacement leaders will be like the cornerstone, tent peg, and a battle bow (v. 4); the leader may in fact be the Messiah. These new leaders will triumph over their enemies “because the Lord is with them” (v. 5).

Verses 6-12

God will reunite Judah (the southern kingdom) and Joseph (the northern with Ephraim and Manasseh – or all the ten tribes of Israel) (v. 6). God will gather His people because He redeemed them (vv. 8-10). “As a shepherd whistles for his flock, the Lord will whistle for his people (v. 8), bringing them back from the nations where he scattered them.”[1] When Israel broke the covenant, most of the tribes of Israel disappeared but this prophecy indicates a reunited people will emerge — a new Israel.

His people will return from their exile (v. 10).[2] God will strike down the enemies of the North (Assyria) and the South (Egypt) (v. 11).[3] All the obstacles (like the sea and the Nile) will be removed (v. 11) – something like a new exodus will occur. God gives his people this promise: “I will make them strong in the LORD, and they shall walk in his name,” declares the LORD.” (v. 12)

Something seemingly impossible will happen. A strong renewed and united people of God, a new Israel will materialize. A return that looks a new exodus will occur. As one writer said, “The new exodus produces a new Israel, in which all exiles will be included.”[4]

When will this happen? In Zech. 9, we read of the Messiah’s coming on a donkey into Jerusalem (9:9) and His coming will trigger all of these events (restoration of God’s people, the judgment of the nations, the rebuking of bad leaders, etc.). It is when Christ comes into Jerusalem all this will happen — “That will be the time for false shepherds to be judged, for the dispersed flock to be regathered, and for a new Israel to be created. Not everything would be fulfilled then, for Jesus himself spoke of a yet future coming of the kingdom, for which his disciples were to pray.”[5]

As the same commentator astutely stated, “The essential point is that the fulfillment would come through him [Jesus], and his arrival in Jerusalem would be the sign that it was beginning to happen.”[6]

There are some who believe that God will resurrect real Jews who died over two thousand years ago to come back to the land (drawn from phrase “they shall live and return” in v. 9b).[7] Others believe literal Jews will especially go through Assyria and Egypt. Again, we need to be careful here. The point here is that God gave a vision of Israel returning in the language and context fitted for them. God fulfills that in a greater degree by bringing many nations to Himself through Jesus Christ (beginning in Acts 2 where the various nations were present) — one united people. The fulfillment exceeds the prophecy. God’s elect people do come from their spiritual exile and at Christ’s second coming, all the nations will be subdued and judged.


[1] ESV Study Bible

[2] Dispensationalists say, “Judah’s return will be from all directions, but according to the tenth verse Ephraim will be brought back from Egypt and Assyria” (A. C. Gaebelein, Studies in Zechariah). Another writer says, “While the regathering is to occur from around the world, there will be a special emphasis upon the Middle East nations” (vv. 10-11)” (Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, revised ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2001), 798.

[3] Curiously, Ryrie takes Egypt and Assyria to be representatives of “all the lands of Israel’s present worldwide dispersion…” (Ryrie Study Bible). How can these two nations “represent” something that is not literally Egypt and Assyria when they will not permit others to represent “Israel” as the people of God. However, we take Egypt and Assyria to be representatives of the nations opposed to God’s people, i.e., the church (much like how the Great Babylon of Revelation represents the world). Eugene Merrill also does the same as Ryrie.

[4] Webb, The Message of Zechariah, Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 20003), 142.

[5] Webb, Zechariah, 143.

[6] Webb, Zechariah, 143.

[7] Cf. Eugene H. Merrill, An Exegetical Commentary – Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Minor Prophets Exegetical Commentary Series (Biblical Studies Press, 2003), 244; Merrill Unger, Zechariah (cited by Eugene Merrill).

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Proverbs 11:12

Proverbs 11:12

11:12 — Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.

We gain nothing in belittling someone. At the very least, it certainly reveals a lack of wisdom. The wise man will not say anything; silence can do much good while speech can do much harm (all things being equal – though the opposite can be just as true). Albert Barnes says, “None but the man “void of wisdom” will show contempt for those about him. The wise man, if he cannot admire or praise, will at least know how to be silent.” We must remain silent in the area of belittling or despising the neighbor. The fool verbally abuses his neighbor (he destroys him, v. 9); the wise will keep silent from saying such things. He has the sense not to blurt out what is in his thoughts or feelings. He waits for the right time to speak (cf. 12:23; 15:2) – a word in season or “as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

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Proverbs 11:10-11

Proverbs 11:10-11

11:10 — When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.

The influence of the wicked or righteous can be quite extensive. “This proverb makes this observation by saying that the presence and prosperity of the righteous and the languishing of the wicked are good for a city.” (Longman)

The righteous fear God, and live in the practice of justice and charity towards men. These virtues procure the esteem, even of those who have no experience of the power of religion; and therefore, when it goes well with them, their neighbours rejoice; but when the wicked fall, there is shouting, because they were living plagues, and employed their prosperity and power for the gratification of their own selfish and unrighteous passions.… Righteous men are actuated by nobler motives than the applause of men, and yet they must regard the good-will of others, as a means of being useful Wicked men, on the contrary, are like swine, of no use till they die; and their fall is not a misfortune to others, but a relief. (Lawson)

 Verses 9 and 10 give us two ways to check ourselves. Do we influence our neighbors for good? Will our welfare cause our neighbors to rejoice? Will our departure even be missed? Though we do not live for the praise of man, we nonetheless can see something of our positive or negative impact on others by their responses to us. “Rome rejoiced at the death of Nero, and the public rejoiced in the French Revolution at the death of Ropespierre.” (Waltke) This proverb must be kept in balance with 24:17, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles…”

 

11:11 — By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.

Similar to v. 10, we see the community or corporate effect of the godly. The godly are blessings to the city — their character, prayers, example, etc. all have a positive impact. The community is exalted on account of all the blessings the righteous bring to the people.  The wicked, on the other hand, destroy their neighbors with their mouths (v. 19) as well as the city (v. 11). Their advice, words and outlook, etc. destroy many. They do not benefit society. “Their mouth is a pestilence, which infects their neighbours, till the fatal venom of iniquity corrupt the body of the community, and ruin become inevitable; or else their counsels prove destructive to its welfare or existence.” (Lawson)

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Proverbs 11:5-9

Proverbs 11:5-9

11:5-8 — 5 The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. 6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust. 7 When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.[1] 8 The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead.

These verses continue the theme found in vv. 3-4. The wicked fall “by his own wickedness” and they “are taken captive by their lust.” His wealth will not protect him (v. 4) and all his hopes will also perish with him (v. 7). His wealth will neither protect nor deliver him (v. 7). The wicked look to their wealth for deliverance and protection (expectation = hope). All that he has used to protect himself from the impending calamity will fail; his fears will be realized.

The righteous, on the other hand, will walk in a straight (smooth) path and will be delivered from trouble (v. 8). Each one will reap the fruit of his actions. The wicked walks into trouble while the righteous are delivered from it. Haman is hanged; Mordecai escapes; Daniel survives the lions; his enemies fall prey to them.

 

11:9 — With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.

This is not an exact parallel but quite close. Solomon once again contrasts the godless and the righteous. The godless (or the deceiver) uses his mouth for evil; the righteous, on the other hand, utilizes his knowledge for good. The godless destroys his neighbor with his mouth while the righteous delivers himself (and presumably his neighbor) with his knowledge. “We are likely to understand this to mean that the speech (advice, counsel) of the godless leads to harm for those who are close to them because it lacks knowledge. And then in the second colon, the knowledge of the righteous when spoken allows not only the righteous but also those around them (their neighbors) to navigate life’s difficulties.” (Longman) Perhaps we should ask ourselves, “Does my advice help or harm? Do my words destroy or deliver? Are my neighbors or friends better off on account of my words or are they worse off?” What does our past history indicate?

I’ve seen a record of destroyed or strained relationships because of something a person said. The person seems oblivious to it and engages in the next relationship only to sour it. Their counsel, conversations, etc. did eventually ruin relationships. Unfortunately, I have in mind people who are members in churches. Though not godless in their lives, their words appear to be no different than the godless on account of its impact on people. Do we know of anyone truly blessed by the words we have spoken (not advice concerning decoration, how to fix a car, input regarding vain interests, etc.)? Has our knowledge delivered anyone?


[1] Many textual and philological issues complicate our understanding of this verse. I will simply use the text as offered by ESV.

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Proverbs 11:3-4

Proverbs 11:3-4

11:3-4 — 3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. 4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

Security comes through righteousness. The godly live with integrity (wholeness, completeness, etc.) and this leads or guides them to their desired goal. They will be safe in the “day of wrath” or “death” (parallelism between the two). The wicked live crooked lives and it will destroy them and ultimately, even their wealth won’t help them in the day of God’s wrath. “The wealth that the subversive and treacherous accumulate in defiance of the Lord’s rule and at the expense of others will backfire and not save them in the time of God’s wrath (vv. 3b-4a).” (Waltke)

A path of integrity in the Lord will have consequences. If we escape notice in our duplicity, if we avoid punishment in our treachery, then we are assured that this course of life will not last. Eventually, it will come back on the person. Though riches can preserve a person in some things (cf. 10:15), it cannot help in the sure things (God’s judgment). The righteous generally escape difficulties while the wicked generally invite them (v. 8).

Christologically interpreted, Christ’s righteousness enables sinners to escape death and the day of wrath because the Son of God delivers us from the wrath to come. His own death secured life for us and His righteousness delivers us from death.

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Larger Catechism, #79

The Larger Catechism

Question 79

79.       Q. May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace?

A. True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God,[342] and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance,[343] their inseparable union with Christ,[344] his continual intercession for them,[345] and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them,[346] can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace,[347] but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.[348]

Scriptural Defense and Commentary

[342] Jeremiah 31:3. The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. [343] 2 Timothy 2:19. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. Hebrews 13:20-21. Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 2 Samuel 23:5. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow. [344] 1 Corinthians 1:8-9. Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. [345] Hebrews 7:25. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. Luke 22:32. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. [346] 1 John 3:9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 1 John 2:27. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. [347] Jeremiah 32:40. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. John 10:28. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. [348] 1 Peter 1:5. Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 

Introduction

This instructive question ponders something we have all considered — “Will I make it to the end?” The question also assumes the sad failures all believers have experienced. Our imperfections, the numerous temptations that confront us, and the actual grievous sins into which we fall make us wonder if any one of us will make it unto the end. Given these experiences, the answer, if left to ourselves, would be an unequivocal NO! None of us will persevere.

The question addresses “true believers” and not gospel hypocrites. The Larger Catechism does not ask, “Will any of those who profess faith in Christ fall away from the state of grace?” If this were the question, then the answer would be an unequivocal YES. Some in the church will fall away from the state of grace. The question assumes the existence of true believers in the midst of many professors of faith (pretenders, self-deceived, ignorant, etc.).

 

Our Personal Observations?

For some, this question seems to contradict what appears to be patently obvious. Surely, we have all met with loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and members of the church who fell away from the faith. No one can deny these observations. But our observations cannot determine the genuineness of someone’s faith. Were they “true believers”?

Many have argued as a theological axiom that the possibility of apostasy (falling) always remains in believers. Philip Limborch stated,

We maintain that, notwithstanding divine grace, by which a believer may persevere in faith, there remains in man a power of falling away, and, therefore, that a believer may totally lose his faith and regeneration, and may continue in apostasy to the end of his life, and so eternally perish.[1]

 Limborch does not emphatically state “true believers” (though he no doubt had them in mind).  Other Arminian statements more emphatically affirm the genuine possibility of apostasy among true believers.

True believers may apostatize from the true faith, and fall into such sins as are inconsistent with true and justifying faith; nay, it is not only possible for them to do so, but it frequently comes to pass. True believers may by their own fault become guilty of great and abominable crimes, and may continue and die in the same, and consequently may finally fall into perdition.[2]

 No consolations can be gleaned from such statements. These Arminians fear carnal security so the threat and reality of apostasy must be published to warn believers. For some, the nature of being human (created in God’s image) necessitates the possibility of falling away (freedom of the will).[3]

 

True Believers and God’s Love

The LC begins the answer with, “True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God…” Those who are God’s elect, the true believers, will not totally and finally fall away because of God’s unchangeable love. The answer does not focus on the special powers of the true believers but on God’s unchangeable love. The temptations and falls of believers are sufficient enough to undo us. We do not keep ourselves in God; He keeps us. Jeremiah 31:3 states, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” God’s covenant faithfulness (his dRs`Dj) continues in spite of their unfaithfulness. God’s everlasting love stands in stark contrast to the other “everlasting” references in the previous chapters: “eternal dishonor” (20:11) and “everlasting reproach” (23:40) — these God threatened against those who opposed Him. But God’s everlasting love serves as the basis and reason for His people’s continuance — on account of his unchangeable love, they will not fall away.

 

True Believers and God’s Decree and Covenant

In God’s great everlasting love, He decreed that genuine believers would persevere. This gift of perseverance comes to us as true partakers of the covenant of grace: “True believers, by reason of … his decree and covenant to give them perseverance…” In 2 Tim. 2:19, Paul declares something that can be easily downplayed or overlooked (because the context is neglected): “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal:  “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”” The false teachers were upsetting the faith of some (v. 18) but God’s foundation stands, namely, His church (cf. 1Tim. 3:15) or most likely His eternal decree (as our divines seems to have taken this verse to mean): “The apostle’s assertion is, that, notwithstanding the existence of such cases as he had just mentioned of defection from the truth and the consequent loss of salvation, there is a firm or strong foundation of God which remains steadfast.”[4]

That foundation bears God’s seal — “Seals were used commonly to identify legal ownership of property and, like signatures in modern practice, to guarantee authenticity, genuineness and integrity or to preserve the secrecy of the contents of a letter or of some product.”[5] In this context, God’s seal represents those who are His and those who are not. The phrase Paul uses echoes Numbers 16:5 (Korah’s rebellion) — in the midst of defections, God’s eternal foundation will stand bearing His seal which states that God knows who are who are not His people.

God’s known people are in an “everlasting covenant” through Christ’s shed blood (“Now  may the God of peace  who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,  the great shepherd of the sheep, by  the blood of the eternal covenant,  equip you with everything good that you may do his will,  working in us  that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ,  to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Heb. 13:20-21; cf. 2Sam. 23:5) and God will enable them to live holy lives well pleasing to Him. God has made them His through Christ who died and rose again for them in terms of the everlasting covenant — the fruit of which is that they would be sanctified (equipping them to do His will). Believers will not fall away from the state of grace because the eternal covenant will enable them to persevere by equipping us “with everything good that [we] may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight…

 

True Believers and the Union with Christ

“True believers, by reason of … their inseparable union with Christ” will not fall away. God has called them into fellowship with His Son and will them us to the end (1 Cor. 1:8, 9, “who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”) Believers have fellowship or union with their Lord and on account of that, Paul taught that they will be sustained to the end and “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God will sustain them to the end because He is faithful — faithfully enabling them to have fellowship with Christ. This vital fellowship with Christ will keep believers — Ridgley states that in this union, Jesus is the believer’s “vital head, from whom they receive spiritual life and influence; so that as long as they abide in him, their spiritual life is maintained as derived from him.”[6]

 

True Believers and Christ’s Intercession

“True believers, by reason of … his continual intercession for them” will not totally and finally fall away. Our living Lord intercedes for us. [See our study of Christ’s intercession in previous studies on the LC.] Verses used to support this are Heb. 7:25 and Lk. 22:32: “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Luke records these words of our Lord, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

We will not fall away since God will save us to the uttermost. We are told what means God uses: “because Christ intercedes for us.” “The direct result of his intercessory activity is the sustaining of the people and the securing of all that is necessary to the eschatological salvation mentioned in the previous clause.”[7] John MacArthur helpfully stated the following:

 The security of our salvation is Jesus’ perpetual intercession for us. We can no more keep ourselves saved than we can save ourselves in the first place. But just as Jesus has power to save us, He has power to keep us. Constantly, eternally, perpetually Jesus Christ intercedes for us before His Father. Whenever we sin He says to the Father, “Put that on My account. My sacrifice has already paid for it.” Through Jesus Christ, we are able to “stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). In His Son we are now blameless in the Father’s sight. When we are glorified we will be blameless in His presence.[8]

 

True Believers and the Holy Spirit and the Seed of God

“True believers, by reason of … the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them” cannot finally fall away. God’s seed remains in us (1Jn. 3:9, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”) as does His Spirit (1Jn. 2:27, the Holy Spirit is the “anointing”). The principle of life (“seed”) exists in us on account of the new birth (“he has been born of God”). We have all received the Spirit (1Jn. 2:27, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”).

The “seed” language suggests parentage and genealogy. A new life principle from God came into us and now operates within us. Boice says that “God’s seed” (spe÷rma aujtouv) refers to “the very nature of God abiding in the Christian.” MacArthur writes of “the principle of His divine life.” He says, “Just as a human birth results from an implanted seed that grows into new physical life, so also spiritual life begins when, at the moment of regeneration, the divine seed is implanted by the Spirit within the one who believes.” God would not give birth to children He will not keep; He neither has bastards nor rejects. If we are born of God, then we will endure unto the end.

The Spirit implanted the principle of life and also dwells in us. His presence means He is the “down payment” of the eternal inheritance to come. If we have Him in us, we will endure unto the end. Ridgley offers further reflections on what is implied from having the Spirit dwell in us.

We may add, that there are several fruits and effects of the Spirit’s dwelling in the soul, which afford an additional proof of this doctrine. Thus believers are said to have ‘the first-fruits of the Spirit;’ [Rom. 8:23] that is, they have those graces wrought in them which are the beginning of salvation; and as the first-fruits are a part of the harvest which will follow, these are the foretastes of the heavenly blessedness which God would never have bestowed upon them had he not designed to preserve them from apostasy. Moreover, believers are said to be ‘sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of their inheritance.’ [Eph. 1:13, 14] The earnest, as given by men, is generally deemed a part of payment; and upon any receiving it, they are satisfied that they shall, at last, receive the full reward. And shall believers miss of the heavenly blessedness, who have such a glorious pledge and earnest of it? Again, if we consider ‘the Spirit’ as ‘bearing witness with their spirits, that they are the children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;’ and that ‘they shall be glorified together’ with him; [Rom. 8:16, 17] is this testimony invalid, or not to be depended on? Yet it could not be depended on were it possible for them to fall from a state of grace.[9]

 

Neither Totally nor Finally

The last part of the answer states, “can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” Why do the divines state “totally and finally”? Why not one or the other? Believers can fall partially but not totally. They can go away for a time (or temporarily) but they will not finally fall away. Johannes Geerhardus Vos said,  “These words imply that true believers may partially and temporarily fall away from the state of grace. As a matter of fact, this partial and temporary falling away is taught in the Bible as a possibility,
and it can be observed among Christian people in our own day.”

John Dick says that these two phrases counter the Arminian scheme: “but they are intended to oppose the doctrine of Arminians, who affirm, that although a saint may fall totally from grace, he may be restored by repentance; but that since this is uncertain, and does not always take place, he may also fall finally, and die in his sins.”[10] Whether the divines had this in mind or not, we cannot be certain but the two words are required to explain the final preservation of the saints.

God’s everlasting covenant ensures that we cannot totally and finally fall away — “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them.  And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.” (Jer. 32:40) The verse first teaches us not that we won’t turn away but rather, God will not turn away from us. And in turn, as God does us good, God Himself will enable us not to turn from Him. Jesus’ statement irrefutably teaches us that believers will never perish: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (Jn. 10:28) We are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Pet. 1:5).

The LC answer emphasizes God’s role in preserving us. We should be comforted and encouraged by these truths. If this truth produces laziness and carnal ease and security, then we can be assured that we have not rightly understood this doctrine. We may be in danger of indicating that we are not true believers. “Let us endeavour not only to persevere, but to grow in grace. These two blessings are joined together; as it is said, ‘The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.’[Job 17:9]” (Ridgley, 2:193-4)



[1] Limborch, Theol. Lib. v. cap. lxxx, cited in Dick’s Lectures on Theology, 2:283.

[2] Confession of Remonstrants, as quoted in Brandt’s History of the Reformation in the Low Countries, vol. iii. p. 89, cited in Dick’s Lectures on Theology, 2:283.

[3] See F. Leroy Forlines, Classical Arminianism (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2011), 314ff.

[4] Patrick Fairbairn, The Pastoral Epistles: The Translation With Introduction, Expository Notes, and Dissertations (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1874), 348.

[5] Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (NICNT; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 531.

[6] Thomas Ridgley, A Body of Divinity, Volume 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1855), 172.

[7] William L. Lane, Hebrews 1–8 (WBC 47A; Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. Dallas: Word Books, 1991), 190.

[8] John MacArthur, Hebrews (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary; Accordance electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 201.

[9] Thomas Ridgley, A Body of Divinity, Volume 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1855), 174.

[10] John Dick, Lectures on Theology, 2:284.

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Proverbs 11:1-2

Proverbs 11:1-2

11:1 — A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.

Solomon also has something to say about business or commerce. It is well known that men can cheat each other in various transactions. In ANE culture, some carried two sets of weights. One by which they bought (heavy) and another by which they sold (light). Like today, dishonest merchants attempted to make money any way possible. Solomon teaches us that God well observes of our business transactions. In that light, we are encouraged to be honest. We must not cheat people by false advertisement, misleading advertisement, deceptive transactions, half-truth transactions, etc. God notices all these activities and despises these deceptions.

In cheating, we assume no one sees. By using these false balances, we believe profit is more important than piety. God delights in integrity and that should guide us in all our transactions. The end does not justify the means and simple profit is not the same as honest gain. Better to have made little in obedience to the Lord than to make a fortune in disobedience; God’s delight is better than gold.

 

11:2 — When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

A number of places address this theme (3:5, 7; 6:17; 11:2; 15:25, 33; 16:5, 18, 19; 18:12; 21:4, 24; 22:4; 25:6-7, 27; 26:12; 29:23; 30:1-4, 13). Fools are the proud ones; humility is found among the wise. “The wicked invite pride to come as their guest, but, like an inseparable twin, disgrace comes along with her as an uninvited guest.” (Waltke) This proverb does not explicitly spell it out but it assumes that God regulates the moral universe and He humbles the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1Pet. 5:5). “The whole principle is paradoxical. When people hold themselves in high estimation, they will be denigrated; but the more they are aware of their weaknesses, the more they will achieve a success that will bring them glory.” (Longman)

 

Pride and Humility

In Proverbs, humility and wisdom go together (11:2). Riches, honor, and life will come to the humble as they fear the Lord (22:4, The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.) Repeatedly, Proverbs teaches us humility precedes honor (15:33;[1] 18:12; 29:23) “Pride is joined with folly, and ends in shame. The humble man is wise, and shall be exalted to honour.” (Lawson)

The humble do not seek to exalt themselves;[2] they are well aware of their abilities, gifts, etc. as well as their own inadequacies. Genuine humility is always rooted in the fear of the Lord: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.” (3:7) It is indeed paradoxical. They receive what they do not seek (honor). Humility is a right assessment of oneself in the sight of God. The humble trust in the Lord and do not lean on their own understanding (3:5). It is even better to be poor and humble than to “divide the spoil with the proud.” (16:19)

Consistently, the Bible teaches that God hates those who have “haughty eyes” (6:17). God will tear down the house of the proud (15:25). The Bible is adamant about this (16:5): “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”

Whereas wisdom and honor are promised to those who are humble, destruction and dishonor are guaranteed for the proud: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (16:18; cf. 18:12) The proud man has a name, it is “Scoffer” (“‘Scoffer’ is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.” 21:24) and he fills his life with “sin” (21:4, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.”) The arrogant are wise in their own eyes and the Bible says, “There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (26:12) The proud seek to exalt themselves but they will be brought low (29:23 One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.)

Genuine humility comes from those who know God. They not only understand themselves but they entrust their souls to their heavenly Father. He will lift them up at His time; they seek to walk humbly before God and men. The arrogant seek to take matters into their own hands. They demand to be noticed; they make every effort to be exalted; they believe themselves to be wise and well-deserving of all exaltation. God opposes them and will bring them low.

How does one become “humble”? The humble will know himself in the presence of God and will know who God is. He is well aware of the verse: “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (2Cor. 10:18)  The humble “in humility count others more significant than” themselves (Phil. 2:3).  If the saint is not “comfortable” (content) with who God is and what God has done with him, he will seek to exalt himself. He must look to the Lord and entrust himself to His gracious heavenly Father who will do all things well. If there is no God, then he has to take matters into his own hands.



[1] 15:33 The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

[2] 25:27 It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.

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Proverbs 10:23-32

Proverbs 10:23-32

10:23 — Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.

What brings us pleasure will often reveal more about our character than anything else. The wicked find pleasure in wicked activities and words (“spoke” “like a joke”).[1] “The idea is that doing evil is something that fools actually relish, not something that circumstances force on them.” (Longman) Man’s heart can harden over time and fall head long into this. “Sinners at first feel much uneasiness from the operation of fear and shame, but they are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, till at length they not only cast off all restraints, but become impudent in sin, and think it a manly action to cast away the cords of God, and to pour insult and abuse on their fellowmen.” (Lawson)

But pleasure for the righteous is wisdom. The contrast is clear. One delights in mischief and the other in wisdom. Something in each one makes them relish either wickedness or wisdom. In what do we find pleasure?

 

10:24-25 — What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever.

As fools take pleasure in wickedness (v. 23), anxieties also plague their hearts. The end result of their dread and desires is nothing good — their fears will be realized. The righteous on the other hand will ultimately receive what they long for. The idea is not so much over what the righteous wants or receives but rather, because he is a man of God, steeped in God’s Word and thus filled with wisdom, he will desire what God wants and in the end will receive it.

Though God is not explicitly mentioned, Proverbs assume it because the Holy God of Israel governs the moral universe. In this life, the truths of these proverbs generally prevail but in eternity, it will most certainly prevail.

Verse 25 expands upon this point. Some sort of calamity will visit the wicked while the righteous endure forever. It does not mean that every one who falls under some kind of natural disaster is particularly wicked. Rather, the righteous will always endure and the wicked will always perish, either in some fashion in this world or in the world to come. Prov. 12:7 states the same, “The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.” We also know of Ps. 1.

 

10:26 — Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.

This is almost humorous. The first part of the verse is understandable (perhaps something sour can be used to replace vinegar here, as one writer noted, the drinker expected sweet wine but instead received sour vinegar — furthermore, their dental care was not the best). These are not the most comforting experiences. We will always tend to avoid them (vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes).

In ANE culture, the messenger served a very important purpose. Critical matters could be concluded by these messengers. Those who sent sluggards would have been be sorely disappointed; they harm themselves in utilizing them. Might as well experience smoke in your eyes than use sluggards.

Sluggards are often morally bankrupt and they overlook their social obligations and personal responsibilities. Ancient Israel had just as many of them as we do now and the book of Proverbs says nothing good about them (Prov. 6:6-11; 10:4; 12:11, 24; 24:30-34; etc.).

 

10:27 — The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.

As the fear of the Lord is foundational to wisdom (1:7), so fearing the Lord can only help us. It does not mean that only the righteous will live long but all things being equal, the righteous will live a pleasant and long life because it pleases the Lord. The wicked can be judged at any moment and their lives will indeed be shortened eternally.

 

10:28 — The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

This is just like v. 24. Both have an expectation of the future. Neither one of them can control what will come upon them but only the righteous can hope for good because they have God as their God and His Law as their guide. All this is generally true. In terms of eternity, this proverb makes more sense.

 

10:29 — The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the blameless, but destruction to evildoers.

“The “way of the LORD” refers to God’s providential administration of life. Thus divine justice will be security for the righteous and disaster for the wicked.” (EBC) The “way” most likely refers to the manner in which God morally rules and determines events in the world. Therefore, it serves two purposes.

In addition, the wicked do not follow the Lord’s way (what He has revealed) and as a result, the Lord’s way (God’s providential workings) will bring harm to them. God’s ways (both providence and precept) serve as the source of light, hope, and comfort for the wise. The righteous rests in Lord’s way as his stronghold; he does not take refuge in his own wisdom or in the ways of the world. The wicked have defied the Lord’s way and as a result, they will suffer the consequences — the Lord’s way will bring destruction to them. One follows the Lord’s way and the other does not. Both will reap what they sow.

 

10:30 — The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not dwell in the land.

See v. 25. One thing needs to be noted in this verse. This proverb clearly notes that the wicked will not dwell “in the land” (i.e. the promised land). They will not inherit what God has promised. The impermanence of the wicked is once against contrasted with the permanence of the righteous.

 

10:31-32 — The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.

Once again, the righteous and the wicked are contrasted. This time, the proverb focuses on the tongue. Solomon has already spoken about the function and fruit of the tongue (vv. 17-21). Now the two images (the fate of the righteous/wicked and the fruits of the tongue) coalesce. The enduring righteous will bring forth wisdom and what is acceptable with his mouth. The wicked tongue will be “cut off” because he brings forth perversity.

When our speech is with grace, and seasoned with salt, it ministers grace to the hearers, and keeps ourselves from mischief; whereas the forward tongue shall be cut out. It provokes God, and it oftentimes provokes men. Forward speeches may escape punishment from man, but they shall not escape God’s righteous judgment, who will cut out their tongues, and make them fall upon themselves. (Lawson)


[1] The word often denotes “an outward audible expression of inner mirth and pleasure” like laughter.

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Larger Catechism, #78

The Larger Catechism

Question 78

78.       Q. Whence ariseth the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

A. The imperfection of sanctification in believers ariseth from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins,[339] are hindered in all their spiritual services,[340] and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.[341]

Scriptural Defense and Commentary

[339] Romans 7:18, 23. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not…. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Mark 14:66. And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest. Galatians 2:11-12. But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. [340] Hebrews 12:1. Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. [341] Isaiah 64:6. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. Exodus 28:38. And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.

 

Introduction

Whereas justification is immediate, sanctification is a process. Sanctification remains imperfect until we are glorified. This question answers why sanctification remains imperfect.

The Remnants of Sin

The LC answers, “The imperfection of sanctification in believers ariseth from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit…” This answer makes three important points:

1. Our imperfections arise from the remnants of sin.

2. The remnants of sin abide in “every part” of us.

3. The remnants of sin perpetually lusts against the spirit.

 

1. Our imperfections arise from the remnants of sin.

Though regenerated and completely justified, each believer still has indwelling sin (“sin that dwells within me” Rom. 8:17) or the remnants of sin dwelling in him. Paul states that believers “mortify” or put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13, “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body”). This statement assumes the existence of the remnants of sin in believers. In Romans 7:18, 23, Paul describes personally (and universally descriptive of all believers) the presence of this indwelling sin, these remnants of sin. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not…. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

We cannot enter into debate over how Rom. 7 ought to be interpreted (is Paul talking about a Christian’s experience, an unbeliever’s, a Jew from a ‘salvation history’ perspective, etc.?). We take the traditional interpretation and agree with John Murray who says that Rom. 7:14-25 “is the delineation of Paul’s experience in the state of grace.”[1] Paul is saying that nothing good dwells in his remaining flesh (his sinful nature). Verse 17 says, “So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwell within me.” Paul is not excusing or disavowing his responsibility. He is explaining how this indwelling has been foiling him.

 

2. The remnants of sin abide in “every part” of us.

The phrase “the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them” does not mean that believers are totally depraved. Rather every part of the regenerate believer is still affected by the remnants of sin. Total depravity means the pervasive effects of Original Sin; there is no part in fallen man not tainted by sin. The believer, once regenerated, still has the effects of the fallen nature dwelling in him. As an unbeliever, no part is regenerated and set free from sin; no part of our fallen condition truly improves and nothing renews itself. On the other hand, as a believer, each part is being renewed day by day though not perfectly.

An illustration may help here. A drug addict is completely under the power of his narcotics. This addict represents the unbeliever. On the other hand, a recovering drug addict is free from drugs but the residual effects and habits still molest him. The former is under its power (representing total depravity) while the latter is free from it but not absolutely — his entire existence after coming free reminds him of his addiction (“remnants of sin abiding in every part of them”).

Paul says in Romans 7:23, “but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Here, Paul suggests that the “law of sin” is always present. In v. 21, Paul says “evil lies close at hand” teaching us that the remnant of sin never departs. We cannot believe that some “safe zone” dwells in us from which the remnants of sin cannot assault us. Our spiritual thinking, affections, emotions, appetites, may be new and genuine but they are not immaculate.

 

3. The remnants of sin perpetually lusts against the spirit.

Gal. 5:17-18 teaches that the flesh and the spirit oppose each “to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Similarly, in Rom. 7:23 (cited above), Paul says a continual war is waged against us. Murray helpfully explain Rom. 7:23:

The “members” in which the law of sin is said to reside will have to be taken in the sense of the same term in 6:13, 19. If the thought is focused on our physical members, as appeared necessary in the earlier instances, we are not to suppose that “the law of sin” springs from or has its seat in the physical. It would merely indicate, as has been maintained already, that the apostle brings to the forefront the concrete and overt ways in which the law of sin expresses itself and that our physical members cannot be divorced from the operation of the law of sin. Our captivity to the law of sin is evidenced by the fact that our physical members are the agents and instruments of the power which sin wields over us. But again we are reminded, as in 6:13, that, however significant may be our physical members, the captivity resulting is not that merely of our members but that of our persons—“bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members”.[2]

We find our bodies, our members, our flesh, etc. continually opposing us. It never stops; the struggle is ongoing and unrelenting.

 

The Effects of the Indwelling Sin

The effects of this indwelling sin are many — “whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.” The text used to support the answer appears strange at first. Yet, once again, the use demonstrates the divines’ perception and accuracy. In partial proof of some of the statements in the answer, they cite Mark 14:66 & Gal. 2:11-12. Mark 14:66 reads, “And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest.” Galatians reads, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

Peter’s fear of man emerged when he denied Christ to a “servant girl” and once again in Antioch as recorded in Galatians. In both cases, Peter was foiled by temptations, “often foiled with temptations.” The supposed “Rock” of the Roman Catholic group served as the perfect specimen of what the effects of indwelling sin looked like. These weighty sins occurred not once but twice. Also, the regenerate King David fell into may sins (adultery, murder, lies, etc.). In both cases, genuine believers continue to fall here and there.

On account of the remnants of sin, we cannot perform the spiritual services in the way we like (“are hindered in all their spiritual services”). As a result our best works are always imperfect and defiled in God’s sight. Ridgley says that the believer

finds his heart disposed to wander from God, and his thoughts taken up with vanity. On this account it may be truly said, that his best works are not only imperfect, but defiled in the sight of God, who searcheth the heart, and observes the various steps by which it treacherously departs from him. Nor can the believer find any way to recover himself till God is pleased to revive his work, take away the guilt which he has contracted, recover him out of the snare into which he has fallen, and so cause the work on grace again to flourish in the soul as it once did.[3]

If the remnants of sin gain too much ground, the effects can be extensive and extremely humbling.

 

Why we are allowed to be Imperfect

We should not be surprised by the prevalence and power of the remnants of sin in us. Though God could have gotten rid of all our sins in an instant, He chose not to. Therefore, He has reasons for allowing these imperfections to exist in us. Ridgley gives three possible reasons but I’ve added a few more and changed one of his.

1. This helps us to be sensible of our past sins, to repent of them, and also to presently humble and compel us to depend more on our God on a daily and moment by moment basis.

2. By the continuous struggles with our sins and then through eventual victories (by God’s grace), we can, Ridgley says, “be qualified to administer suitable advice and warning to those who are in a state of unregeneracy, that they may be persuaded to see the evil of sin, which at present they do not.”

Perhaps even better, with these imperfections and failures, we are enabled more to help our brethren who also might be going through similar struggles, temptations, and sins.

3. God allows it to help us to hate it, to mortify it, etc. There was a time when we did not care about sin and righteousness but now we do and it greatly bothers us.

4. God allows it so that we will yearn for absolute holiness, heaven, and glory. Were we comfortable with our sins (a believer ultimately cannot), then we would not see the benefit of glory!

5. God allows it so that we might see how wonderful Christ is and the glories of our justification.

 

Some Practical Inferences

Using a few writers to help us here, let us draw some helpful inferences.

1. Let us not be too harsh or censorious at the imperfections of others.

Since sinless perfection is not attainable in this life, we should take occasion to give a check to our censorious thoughts concerning persons or things, so as not to determine persons to be in an unconverted state, because they are chargeable with many sinful infirmities, which are not inconsistent with the truth of grace. Some abatements are to be made for their being sanctified but in part, and having the remnants of sin in them. Indeed, the greatest degree of grace which can be attained here, comes far short of that which the saints have arrived at in heaven. (Ridgley, 162)

2. Let us be sensible of our own imperfections so as to remain humble.

3. Let us give God the glory for any victories we might have.

From the opposition which corrupt nature makes in believers to the work of grace, we may infer that the standing of the best of men, or their not being chargeable with the greatest sins, is owing not so much to themselves as to the grace of God, by which we are what we are; that therefore the glory of our being preserved from such sins belongs entirely to him; that we have reason, when we are praying against our spiritual enemies, to beg that God would deliver us from the greatest of them, namely, ourselves; and that he who has a sovereignty over the hearts of all men, and can govern and sanctify their natural tempers and dispositions, would keep us from being drawn away by these; and that we ought to walk watchfully, and be always on our guard, depending on the grace of God for help, that indwelling sin may not so far prevail as to turn aside and alienate our affections from him. (Ridgley, 163)

4. Let us recognize that being unsettled by our sins bodes well for us.

James Fraser made a very helpful observation. He argued that the holier the person, the “more his heart is sanctified, it is reasonable to suppose he shall have the more quick sense and painful feeling of what sin may remain in him…” Furthermore, a wicked person would remain untouched by his small sins – he is hardened to them and “his sins give him little or no uneasiness, not even the unholiness of his outward practice; much less the unholiness of his heart.” Fraser then observes:

A person unholy, and impenitent, fixes his attention on any good thing he can observe with himself, whereby he can in any degree support a favourable opinion of his own state, and be somewhat easy in an evil course. On the other hand, a person truly sanctified is ready to overlook his own good attainments, to forget the things that are behind in this respect, and rather consider how far he is behind, and defective in holiness; and to fix his attention with much painful feeling, on his remaining sinfulness, for matter of godly sorrow, or serious regret to him. With a just view of the majesty and holiness of God, he is ready to say with Job, chap. 42:6. I abhor myself.[4]

5. Let us not secretly give up ourselves to sin simply because the remnants of sin dwells in us and often can and do foil us.

Again, we might infer from the consequences of the prevalence of corruption, as we are liable hereby to be discouraged from duty or hindered in the performance of it, that we ought, if we find it thus with us, to take occasion to inquire whether some secret sin be not indulged and entertained by us, which gives occasion to the prevalence of corrupt nature, and for which we ought to be humbled. Or if we have lived in the omission of those duties which are incumbent on us, or have provoked God to leave us to ourselves, and so have had a hand in our present evils, we have occasion for great humiliation. And we ought to be very importunate with God for restoring grace, not only that our faith may not fail, but that we may be recovered out of the snare in which we are entangled, and may be brought off victorious over all our spiritual enemies. (Ridgley, 163)



[1] John Murray, Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959-1965), 1:259. William Young argued that a misunderstanding of this passage will cultivate “a superficial religion.” See Joel R. Beeke and Ray B. Lanning, eds., Reformed Thought: Selected Writings of William Young (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011), 255-258. This position has been maintained by Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Charles Hodge, John Brown of Wamphray, James Fraser of Alness, Chalmers, Haldane, Shedd, etc.

[2] John Murray, Epistle to the Romans, 1:267-8.

[3] Thomas Ridgley, A Body of Divinity, Volume 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1855), 161.

[4] James Fraser, The Treatise on Sanctification (London: Bliss, Sands & Co., 1897), 266-7.

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