The Privileges and Responsibilities of Being Christ’s Freedman

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For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. (1st Corinthians 7:22 NKJ)

In the New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, Rogers and Rogers highlight the following observations in their comments on 1st Corinthians 7:22 (p. 363). I reproduce their list with a small amount of editing.

There were certain obligations the freedman had to the one who purchased his freedom:

  • He bore the family name of the one providing the freedom
  • He lived in the house (paramone) of the one providing the freedom
  • He rendered service (operaeto the one providing the freedom
  • He received gifts (munera) from the one providing the freedom
  • He rendered respect (obsequium) to the one providing the freedom

The wise will understand the applications to the Christian life. What privileges are ours because of the finished work of Christ!

Women Who Embrace Godward Ministry

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In the book Paul the Counselor [Focus Publishing, ISBN 978-1-936141-25-8], Ruth Froese and Shirley Crowder highlight women in connection with Paul’s ministry. They provide a non-exhaustive summary (with a couple of reference corrections) of Godward ministry for women as recorded in the New Testament.

Women who provided a welcoming home where the Word of God was spoken:

  • Lydia–Acts 16:14-15
  • Philip’s daughters–Acts 21:8
  • Priscilla/Prisca–Acts 18:26

Women with a helpful, responsive spirit:

  • Phoebe of Cenchrea–Romans 16:1-2
  • Priscilla/Prisca–Romans 16:3
  • Mary–Acts 12:12
  • Tryphena and Tryphosa–Romans 16:12
  • Euodia and Syntyche–Philippians 4:2
  • Junia–Romans 16:7
  • Chloe–1st Corinthians 1:11

Women who nurtured:

  • Eunice and Lois–2nd Timothy 1:5; 3:15
  • Rufus’ mother–Romans 16:13

I am thankful to God for women in the congregation among whom I serve as pastor who are willing to embrace such Godward ministry.

Should We Forgive the Unrepentant?

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Allow me to illustrate a widespread problem within Christianity concerning forgiveness of others. A pastor with whom I am familiar received a rather confusing message similar to the following:

For any perceived or actual wrongdoing, I ask forgiveness.

“Perceived or actual wrongdoing”? What exactly does that mean? How can perceived wrongdoing be forgiven if it is not actual wrongdoing? Isn’t it true that only actual sin can be forgiven. Nowhere in Scripture is this alleged “perceived sin” said to be forgiven. But this does illustrate my point: people are ignorant of the Biblical teaching on forgiveness.

Another illustration is that of people who claim that we must forgive those who never ask for forgiveness. “Unconditional forgiveness” is their mantra. But is this Biblical? Are we not taught to forgive one another even as God in Christ has forgiven us? (Ephesians 4:32) If this is so, then it begs the question: what does the Father’s forgiveness of us actually look like? Does God actually forgive those who do not repent and ask His forgiveness? And if He did forgive the unrepentant, what are the ramifications of such a forgiveness?

Unless they repent

Four times in the NT we find the phrase “unless you/they repent. (cf. Luke 13:3, 5; Revelation 2:5, 22). Luke 13:3, 5 indicate that repentance is the condition on which the perishing hinges. If you don’t repent, you will perish. No unconditional forgiveness here.

Revelation 2:5 shows us that if the repentance does not take place, Jesus will come and remove their lampstand from its place. Revelation 2:22 shows that there are severe consequences for people not repenting. No unconditional forgiveness here.

Jesus taught that forgiveness of a brother is conditioned on their repentance (Luke 17:3-4). No unconditional forgiveness here.

Conditional forgiveness

Jesus taught us that the Father’s forgiveness of us is conditional (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 6:37; 11:4). John teaches us the same truth (1st John 1:9).

Confession and repentance are essential for the bestowal of our forgiveness, just as it is with God. We must be sure that our hearts are prepared to forgive, so that when the sinning brother confesses to us and tells us of his repentance, forgiveness may be granted graciously. This is how the Father forgives us.

Meditating at the Lord’s Supper

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The next time your local congregation observes the Lord’s Supper, consider these wise words from John Owen (1616-1683). The following is a summary of his teaching from Sacramental Discourses (Works, 9:558-560).

  1. The horrible guilt of sin and the payment on the cross
  2. The purity, holiness, and severity of God that would not pass by sin, when it was charged upon His Son
  3. The infinite wisdom and love of God that found this way of glorifying His holiness and justice
  4. The infinite love of Jesus who gave Himself for sinners
  5. The reason Christ gave Himself to the cross—to glorify God by reconciling sinners to God

Preaching Only Christ and Him Crucified Revisited

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Some time ago I posted about those who attempt to reduce Christian teaching to Christ crucified and nothing else. I have personally been attacked by certain people who grossly misunderstand what Paul says in 1st Corinthians 2:2.

I recently came across John Frame’s explanation of this concept that I found worthy of reproducing for you.

So we should not take “Christ and him crucified” in a reductive sense, as if our preaching and teaching must be confined to the person of Christ and the atonement. Indeed, Paul in 1 Corinthians and his other writings, as well as his sermons in Acts, discusses many other subjects: factionalism (1 Cor. 1:10–17; 3:1–23), wisdom (1:18–26), the nature of the apostleship (4:1–21), sexual immorality (5:1–13; 6:12–20), lawsuits (6:1–11), marriage (7:1–29), food offered to idols (8:1–11:1), worship (11:1–34; 14:1–40), spiritual gifts (12:1–31), love (13:1–13), our own resurrection (15:1–58), collections for the saints (16:1–4), Paul’s personal plans (16:5–21). “Christ and him crucified” is not a boundary, but a center. Though Paul speaks of many things, in the end it all traces back to Christ. (John M. Frame (2014-09-05). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Kindle Locations 22831-22837). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

And again:

So to be “Christ-centered” is not to speak only of Christ, ignoring all the effects and applications of his work. Christ-centered preaching is not preaching that limits itself to the events of the history of redemption and eschews the applications of his work to marriage, suffering, anxiety, wealth, and poverty. Neither Jesus nor Paul restricted the gospel in that way, and we should not do so either. Christ is a great light that shines into every corner of human life, because he is Lord of all. (John M. Frame (2014-09-05). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Kindle Locations 22842-22845). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Thank you, Dr. Frame.

Psalm 42-43 part 2

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Last time we looked at Psalm 42:1-5. In this post I would like to look at Psalm 42:6-11. In the first part of the psalm the anonymous Levite was parched. In the second part he feels like he is drowning.

First, the psalmist indicates he has a sense of the loss of God’s presence (42:6). For some unknown reason the Levite is in the hills surrounding Mt. Hermon. He can’t get much further away from the visible manifestation of God’s presence in Jerusalem than he currently is.

Second, this leads him to have a sense of being incessantly overwhelmed (42:7). If you have been to Israel, and specifically to Mt. Hermon, you have heard the water gushing out of the ground. Notice how the psalmist has lost perspective by claiming that ALL of God’s breakers and waves have gone over him. This is certainly not true, but there are times when it feels like it. If you take the time, turn over to Jonah 2:3.  Jonah seems to be quoting this psalm as he is within the creature’s belly.

Third, the Levite reminds himself of two things that God does (42:8). It is no accident that God demonstrates His loyal kindness. It is no accident that God’s song is with His children in the night.

Fourth, the psalmist asks God two questions (42:9). The first addresses God’s seeming forgetfulness. It does feel at times as though our Refuge is not available. Songs in the night do not always remove the darkness or take away our suffering. The second question addresses the psalmist’s mourning. Why is he responding this way when he knows the enemy can’t really harm him?

Fifth, he retells his story of some intensely painful circumstances (42:10). This is not complaining; it is reality. The mocking words of our adversaries are excruciatingly painful.

Sixth, the Levite asks his soul two questions (42:11a). When the psalmist stares his troubles squarely in the face from a Godward perspective, they don’t seem so overwhelming after all.

Seventh, he commands his soul (42:11b). The psalmist recognizes that hope/waiting is a matter of obedience, not merely a feeling.

The psalmist, as do we, needed to learn to be grateful for God’s mercy toward him. There are at least six manifestations of God’s mercy to be noted here.

  1. He has a thirst for God (and not spiritual complacency or indifference).
  2. He has only a temporary exile (and not total destruction).
  3. He is being mocked (and not the one who is mocking others).
  4. He has actual memories of God’s past faithfulness (God allows us to remember).
  5. He has spiritual sensitivity (and not spiritual dullness).
  6. He is able to practice self-rebuke (he can challenge himself).

Next time I want to wrap this up with Psalm 42:1-5.

Psalm 42-43 part 1

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I have been teaching through Psalm 42-43 recently during our morning service. I thought it might be helpful to share an abbreviated outline from my teaching notes. I am reminded of the helpful book by pastor David Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Spiritual Depression. In the early chapters of this book he addresses Psalm 42-43.

Psalm 42-43 can be divided into three parts. In part 1 the Levite expresses his longing to be in God’s presence in light of drought (42:1-5). In part 2 the Levite expresses his longing to be in God’s presence in light of drowning (42:6-11). In part 3 the Levite expresses his requests to God (43:1-5). I would like to introduce 42:1-5 in this post.

This anonymous Levite was assigned to lead the people of Israel in the worship of God in the tabernacle/temple. At the time of writing he is found in the northernmost part of the land of Israel near Mt. Hermon.

First, he has an intense longing for God’s presence in the face of prevalent drought (42:1-2). He compares his longing for God as a deer in desert country longs for water. His soul is agonizingly parched. If he doesn’t get moisture soon, he may die. He knows that only the living God can satisfy that spiritual thirst brought about oppression and grief.

Second, he has an intense sorrow in the face of prevalent mocking (42:3). Rather than quenching his thirst in a stream of refreshing water, he has only tasted the salty tears brought about the the discouraging talk of others. The persistent scoffing questions concerning his God have brought grief to his soul.

Third, he remembers his past experiences in God’s presence (42:4). This Levite is learning that adverse conditions in life are an optimal context for reflecting on God. His memories of previous pilgrimages to Jerusalem lead him to pray. The Godward bias of his soul moves him to pray.

Fourth, he regards his grief and struggle with doubt (42:5). He initially questions his soul. Why does my soul sit as a mourner? Why is my soul restlessly grumbling within me? But then he wisely commands his soul to wait on God. He demonstrates that while we listen to ourselves regularly, we must learn to talk to ourselves in a Godward manner.

Next time I want to look at Psalm 42:6-11 and the intense longing for God’s presence in light of drowning.

Receiving and Returning the Father’s Love

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John Owen (1616-1683) reminds us that the primary way in which we relate to God the Father is through love. This love must be both received and returned. Consider carefully how Sinclair Ferguson summarizes Owen on this matter.

Our problem has been that our gaze has been fixed either on our own sin (we are unlovely and unlovable), or like a person with a squint, we have looked past, rather than at, the love of our Father. Instead, we are meant to fix our eyes on Christ, so that they may be raised through Him to the Father’s love that is demonstrated in Him. To change the metaphor, we are to drink so deeply of God’s love in Christ that we reach the head of the waters found in the heart of the Father. When the eye of faith sees the Father’s love, the mouth of faith will drink deeply of the streams of grace. As we do so, we not only receive His love, but we also find ourselves inevitably, irresistibly, returning His love. And, wonderfully, just as Christ is the One through whom the Father’s love comes to us, so in Christ our love is returned to the Father.

It should not escape our notice that this, in turn, takes place through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Here, the choreography of the Trinity brings love down from heaven to earth, and then, as though the music accompanying the dance of grace now indicates that the direction of the dance is reversed, our love is returned to the Father through the Son by the inner ministry of the Spirit.

Yes, the Father’s love for us, and ours for Him, differ. His is a love of bounty; ours is a love of duty (albeit love, not duty, is its motive). His love is antecedent to ours; our love is consequent to His. Our love goes to Him although we were once haters of God; His has come to us because He is a lover of man. We love the Lord because He has first loved us. His love is, like Him, unchanging and unchangeable; ours is mutable. He may not always smile out His love to us, but He never ceases actually to love us. (The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen, 58-59)

Ordinary Mothers

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Michael Horton, in his helpful book Ordinary, writes concerning ordinary mothers. I agree with the gist of what he says here.

Nowhere is the ordinary more important to culture and yet less valuable in our society than in relation to motherhood. I’m not saying anything pro or con here about women working outside the home. I’m only suggesting that the burdens we place on women–even from childhood–make them anxious about life and drive them to expect dissatisfaction with the normal and everyday aspects of life that are so crucial for the development of deep roots, wisdom, and nurture for the whole family.

Many of the things that mothers do in the home are not even measurable, much less stupendously satisfying on a daily basis. Much of it can be tedious, repetitive, and devoid of the intellectual stimulation found in adult company. In a myriad of ways, the daily calling of dying to self is felt more acutely by mothers. What they need is fewer guilt trips and expectations and more encouragement as they invest in ordinary tasks that yield long-term dividends.

In other vocations, we can often follow best practices, with the general expectation of successes that can be evident to us and to others. Yet there is no promotion in motherhood. Successes are measured in years, not days or even months, and you can never be quite sure of all the things you did each day that made a difference. Mothers stand at the core of that gift exchange as it radiates into ever-wider concentric circles, from the home to the neighborhood and church, and to society at large. Precisely because they are gifts and not commodities, domestic labors sustain communities that cannot be measures or valued in the marketplace. That is their strength, not their weakness. (192-193)

I am thankful for my wife who exhibits this daily, and who has done so for the decades of her role as an ordinary mother. A woman who has poured herself out for the goal of glorifying God through her interactions with the children whom she birthed.

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