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Outline XIII

Fasting

 

Matt. 6:16-18—“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you,They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou ap­pear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall re­ward thee openly.”

 

I.  Fasting in General:

A.  The practice of fasting is frequently re­ferred to in the Scriptures, both in the New and in the Old Testament. The Old Testament makes mention of Moses fasting, Ex. 34:28; Elijah fasted, I Kings 19:8; Nineveh fasted, Jonah 3:6; Israel fasted at Mizpeh, I Sam. 7:6: David fasted, II Sam.12:16, etc. But also, the New Test­ament speaks of it: Jesus fasted, Matt. 4:2; John’s disciples, Luk. 5:33; the Christian Church at An­tioch, Acts 13,2,3. See also I Cor. 7:5: II Cor. 11:27, etc.

B.  Fasting consists in the practice of abstain­ing from certain (partial fast) or from all (total fast) food, for a longer or shorter time (one day, seven days, forty days), with a view to mortify the appetites, to express grief or to deprecate an expected evil. In so far as it con­sisted of the abstinence from food, it is comparable to the present day “dieting”, advocated by many. However, in so far as the purpose of this abstinence is concerned, a great difference must be noted. The purpose of dieting is bodily health and a “slim figure”; the purpose of fasting, as a religious rite, was spiritual.

C.  Fasting as a distinct rite was done:

1.  Primarily to express sorrow over sin, and thus denotes humiliation. I Sam. 7:6; Jonah 3:6. Great grief frequently robs men of their appe­tites; bitter sorrow makes food re­volting. It is easy to see, that fast­ing became a common method employed to express sorrow and humiliation.

2.  To mortify the appetites of the body and to devote one’s self the better to prayer. See Acts 13:2; I Cor. 7:5. The fundamental notion of fasting is that a continually stuffed body cannot devote itself wholly to spiritual things. E.g. a minister is not at his best to preach, nor the audi­ence to hear, after a heavy meal. Hence fasting was primarily a means to an end, not something of value in itself.

D.  Must We Fast?

It is noteworthy that although Scripture fre­quently speaks of fasting, it nowhere makes fast­ing obligatory, except in Lev. 23:26-32. Israel, under the influence of its teachers, introduced many fasts. But these were only traditions of men, not ordinances of God. The Pharisees fasted twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays). Zechariah 7:3, 5ff. speaks of fasts in the fourth, fifth and seventh months. None of these fasts, however, were ordained of God. The only fast that Israel was required to keep was that of the Great Day of Atonement, Lev. 23:26­32. This fast was fulfilled in Golgotha and the Atonement of Christ, and has therefore ceased to be binding for the church since Pentecost. Hence, we conclude fasting is not required.

However, neither does Scripture condemn fast­ing. Fasting is permissible, provided it be more than merely an empty form. It is no sin to fast. If it were, then Christ would not have fasted, nor Paul, nor the Christians at Antioch. We might even add, that fasting either from some or from all food, is at times a very good thing. Over-eating is always sin. But even on Sundays a partial fast observed by Christians would make it possible for many a mother to come to church in the morning who is now busy with the preparation of a hearty meal. A little more fasting on Sundays would find less sleepers in church also. And so, it would be con­ducive to our spiritual welfare.

Although we admit that Scripture does not prescribe a ritual fast, not even once a year, for the New Testament church, fasting in its spiritual significance is required. Consult Isaiah 58:3-7. We must fast from sin, we must deny the lusts of the flesh, we must keep the body under and not allow its appetites to lead us away from wholehearted attention on the spiritual things.

 

Questions: What similarity and what great difference is there between fasting and dieting? May we diet? Does Scripture require fasting? If not, is fasting sinful? Did our Reformed fathers of the Reformation times and afterward practice fasting? Do the Catholics practice fasting? If so, is it a partial or a total fast, and when do they practice it? Should Christians today fast in any sense? Should Christians practice self-denial in respect to eating, smoking, etc?

 

II.  What Christ Said About Fasting:

A.  Christ condemned the fasting of the hypocrites- Vs. 16

1.  The Pharisees fasted “to be seen of men’’. Their object was the honor of men.

They were “hypocrites”. They appeared pious, but were not. They “played”, acted pious. It was only pretense. Their heart was evil and not in it at all.

2.  Because they sought the praise of men, they “disfigured” their faces. Perhaps unshaved, hair uncombed, faces unwashed.

 

Questions: Why did the Pharisees fast on Mondays and on Thursdays? Which was the lesser sin: the out­right wickedness of the publicans and sinners who re­vealed themselves as they were, or the pious hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees? If someone piously sits in church to leave the impression of piety, but in his heart hates God and His Word, does he commit the same sin the Pharisees committed?

 

B.  How the Citizens of the Kingdom are to Fast, vss. 17, 18:

  1.   Fasting must be from the heart, sincere, and not mere “outward show”. Only such true fasting has a reward.

2.  “Anoint thy head, and wash thy face”. This means: Your fasting must be before God, not outward show. Don’t tell the world about it. Only God need know it. Let your fasting be true humiliation over sin, and self-denial to God’s glory.

 

Questions: Should Christians put on a black shirt, go without a tie, etc., to show humility? Should we fast on Prayer Days, etc?

 

Outline XIV

Undivided Service vs. Mammon Worship

 

Matt. 6:19-24—“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if there­fore thine eye be single; thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil; thy whole body shall be full of dark­ness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”

 

The righteousness of the kingdom in respect to the service of God demands two things: (1) It demands true service from the heart, and not mere outward show, vss. 1-18. (2) It demands further wholehearted, undivided service, vss. 19-­34. The present outline treats of whole-hearted, undivided service, and shows how Mammon wor­ship is incompatible with the righteousness of the kingdom.

 

I.  Laying Up Treasures, vss. 19-21:

A.  The Meaning of the Exhortation Itself:

1.  By “treasures” are to be understood all man sets his heart on, trusts in, and seeks as his good.

2.  “Treasures upon earth” are all the earthly things, such as silver and gold, raiment, and even honor, pleasure and power.

3.  Note that the Lord does not say. Do not lay up many treasures upon earth, or something simi­lar: but, don’t lay up any treasures at all upon earth. No earthly thing may be a treasure for us.

4.  The citizens of the kingdom must, indeed, lay up treasures, but they must lay them up in heaven, only in heaven. This implies that Chris­tians are to serve God and Him alone, and do His will also in connection with all earthly things. Earthly things and possessions may only be the means, the capital, with which to serve God.

B.  Why this Exhortation:

1.  Because also the citizens of the kingdom so long as they are still in the flesh have dire need of it. They, too, are by nature earthly minded, carnal, prone to lay up treasures on earth.

2.  Because it is sure to lead to disillusion. The treasures on earth are subject to corruption and decay, “where moth and rust doth corrupt”. Yea, frequently, these treasures are gone before the elements of nature have done their destructive work, for “thieves break through and steal”. Earthly goods, earthly honor and pleasure perish. They endure but for a season. Earth’s banks are never safe. Besides, men are but for a moment, and then they go on to their eternal reward and must leave all behind.

3.  Because treasures laid up in heaven en­dure. Heaven alone is moth-proof, rust-proof, thief-proof. Heaven’s banks alone are safe. The fear of God endures forever, and brings a rich reward. The heavenly in­heritance is incorruptible, undefiled and fadeth not away, I Pet. 1:14.

4.  Because “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. Where you lay up treasures reveals where your heart is. From the heart are the issues of life. This is principally true, but also rela­tively. In so far as anyone lays up any treasures on earth, in so far his heart is still earthly and sinful.

 

Questions: May Christians save money? What is Christian stewardship? What did Christ teach in the parable of the covetous fool, Lk. 12:13-21? Can one lay up treasures on earth and in heaven at the same time? Show how people who spend their goods for pleasure are guilty of laying up treasures on earth?

 

II.  The Eye, the Light of the Body: vss. 22, 23

A.  General Remarks:

1.  For a better understanding of the verses it is well to bear in mind that as God created man He flooded man with light,

a.  God created physi­cal light and the human eye to be the lamp or medium through which the whole body should have light. Physical light is very important, and the eye essential to give the body contact with it.

b.  God created logical light, and the human reason is the God-given medium that makes it possible to apprehend, interpret, and understand.

c.  God created spiritual light, and the image of God in the narrower sense (know­ledge, righteousness and holiness) is the means whereby we have contact with it. As God created man he was filled with the light of God, and walked in the light.

2.  Secondly, we should bear in mind that sin came.

a.  Sin did not make man physically blind, although the consequences of sin also affect his physical eye-sight. Death also works in the physical eye, so that he needs glasses, etc. But sin did not mean that man became physically blind. Neither did sin make man insane.

b.  It is true that by reason of the curse man lost his powers of intuition, by which he could simply read into the essence of things before the fall, and that in comparison to what he once possessed he has only a ‘few glimmerings left of this original light of reason, but it is equally true that man did not lose his reason. He did not become in­sane, nor did he become a beast.

c.  But man lost spiritual vision. His spiritual eye became evil (vs. 23), perverse, wicked. Walking in the midst of the light of God’s revelation, yea, knowing that God must be served, man is totally corrupt. All the light that is in him is darkness! He holds the knowledge of God under in unrighteousness. He is willfully blind, imagining he sees, Jon. 9:40, 41.

3.  Grace changes this. Not our physical eye-sight and not our mental eye-sight are in this life delivered from the consequences of sin — this waits until hereafter. But our spiritual eye-sight is restored. Christ opens the eyes of the blind, so that they say, “Once I was blind, but now I see”. They can discern the things of the kingdom of God. They are prin­cipally delivered from their blindness.

B.  The Meaning in the Context:

1.   Christ emphasizes this because while physical blindness is bad, mental blindness (in­sanity) is worse, spiritual blindness is infinitely the worst of all. The latter is fatal.

2.  Eye-sight is a very important thing. If the little eye is “single”, i.e. good, so that it sees straight, then the whole body has light. This is true physically — the blind man’s whole body is deprived of light; it is true mentally — the mentally blind man, the insane, are deprived of the normal light of reason in all their activity, and wander aimlessly in a world of their own; it is true spiritually — the spiritually blind man as well as the insane wanders about in a world of his own making, a world which exists in his own mind alone. Spiritual blindness is fatal, for it cuts man off from the communion of the living God, from all that is truly life.

3.  When men lay up treasures on earth, there is something wrong with their eye-sight. Something radically wrong. Men only lay up treasures on earth when their spiritual eye is diseased with sin. People act insanely, foolishly, only when their reason is affected. People only lay up treasures on earth when their spiritual eyesight is perverse.

4.  Hence, above all watch your spiritual eye­sight, as Christians. All life’s activity depends upon it.

 

Questions: What three kinds of blindness can be spoken of? Is man’s spiritual eyesight merely dimmed? How does vs. 23b prove “total depravity”? How is physical eyesight affected by sin? How is mental eyesight af­fected by sin? Can the unregenerate see the things of the kingdom, Jon. 3:3? What does spiritual eyesight have to do with laying up treasures?

 

III. God or Mammon, vs. 24

A.  Also, this vs. contains an argument against laying up treasures on earth. Such laying up of treasures is Mammon worship.

1.  Note the Following:

2.  The word Mammon, a word of Hebrew origin, was the term commonly employed in Jesus’ day to denote money, goods, possessions. In idiomatic American it might be fit­tingly rendered: the Almighty Dollar.

3.  Material things, especially the Almighty Dollar as the medium of exchange, is conceived of as a Master. And indeed, money is powerful: it brings honor and prestige, it buys a name, sup­plies the pleasures of life, etc. Generally, it is used in the service of sin, when Lk. 16:11 speaks of “unrighteous Mammon”. It is the Idol of the world, to which all men since the fall render obeisance.

4.  Notice, that Jesus speaks of serving Mam­mon. Men think their money serves them: in fact, however, the wicked are servants of it. The word “serve” refers to such service as a bond slave renders to his master and owner, and de­notes utter subjection to the master’s every wish. To be God’s servant is not slavery, but true free­dom.

5.  Men serve either God or Mammon. It is an “either-or” question, never “both-and”, nor “neither-nor”. This is true in respect to the deepest attitude of our heart generally, as well as of every single action.

Christ emphasizes the utter impossibility of serving both God and Mammon. This is the emphatic point of the text. There is also need of emphasizing the impossibility of a synthesis of the two. Such emphasis is not necessary for the wicked world, since it always merely serves Mammon and makes no attempt to serve God. But the church of God as it historically ex­ists in the world repeatedly makes itself guilty of wedding God and Mammon, of seeking both. The danger of synthesis always threatens the church, through the sin that remains in us. So, the Pharisees tried to harmonize the worship of God and Mammon, Lk. 16:14. It is this attempt to fuse the two that mars the church’s life here below. For remember, although God and Mam­mon cannot be wed, the fact remains that men ever anew attempt it. It always ends in spiritual failure, for no more than light and darkness can be harmonized can the service of God be fused with the service of Mammon. God requires whole­hearted, undivided service.

 

Questions: Does the natural man look upon the service of Mammon as a bondage from which he seeks to be delivered? May a Christian ever seek wealth? Is the service of God slavery? What shows that God’s people today often seek to serve God and Mammon? How can Christians fight against the prevalent Mammon worship of the world in its influence upon their own lives, in the church, etc?

 

Outline XV

Trust in God Versus Worry

 

Matt. 6:25-34—“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not so much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall-we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gen­tiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

 

There is a close connection between this sec­tion and the preceding, which is suggested by the “therefore” of vs. 25. The thought runs as fol­lows: Because the citizens of the kingdom are to render wholehearted service and trust to God, therefore also they should not worry. Undivided trust in God precludes worry.

 

I.  The Carefree Spirit to Which Christ Exhorts, vs. 25. “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. . . .”

A.  “Take no thought” is, in our present day English, an unhappy translation. Scripture does not condemn the legitimate thoughtfulness which Scripture elsewhere commands, Prov. 6:6; 11 Cor.12:14; 1 Tim. 5:18, etc. Christians owe legitimate thoughtfulness to the supply of their material needs and those of the church. But Christ condemns all that goes beyond that, and especially worry. The Revised Version trans­lates, “Be not anxious’’, and this correctly so. Anxiety about the bread-question Christ con­demns. Christians must not worry, must never worry, for worry is sin. Christians should be carefree in the Lord.

B.  Christ mentions food and raiment, but this does not mean that Christians may be anxious about other things. All worry is sin. However, Christ is here thinking of our material needs. These things are generally the main cause of worry.

 

Questions: What does I Tim. 5:8 make very evident? Is indolence a sin? Do we usually worry about our actual material needs, or about our imaginary needs?

 

II.  Considerations that Demand Such a Carefree Spirit, vss. 25c-30.

Tenderly and lovingly Jesus points out that there is no need at all for worry. On the con­trary, there is every reason for such a carefree, trusting and happy bearing. The world may speak of a “bread-question”, but for the Christian there is no question. It is a question answered in advance.

A.  First Argument — vs. 25c, “Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Jesus here reasons: If God gave life, will He then not also give the wherewithal to continue to live? Most assuredly! No more than an em­ployer will hire a man to work in his shop and then give him no work to do, no more will God give life and then withhold the means whereby to live.

B.  Second Argument — vs. 26, “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?”

If God supplies the needs of the birds, who have no instinct to lay up provision for a future season, shall God not certainly supply the needs of His dear children? Notice, “your heavenly Father” feedeth them. Certainly, that Father will also take care of His children which are of much greater value to Him.

C.  Third Argument — vs. 27, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?”

The Greek allows a twofold translation. It can be rendered as our version has it, but it may also mean, Who by taking thought can lengthen the span of his life? The meaning is: You cannot worry yourself into growth or a longer span of life. Worry is fruitless, as well as useless. You can, humanly speaking, only worry yourself to death.

D.  Fourth Argument — vss.28-30, “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet 1 say unto you., That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you..”

The word translated “lilies” simply means wild flowers, and does not say exactly which is meant. Undoubtedly Jesus had in mind the lilies for which Palestine was known. What a marvel­ous beauty God lavishly bestows upon the flowers of the field, which are but for a short time! Even the grass of our lawns, how beautiful this green carpet is. Under the microscope, the beauty of a single stem of grass is so marvelous, that if we realized it as we were mowing our lawn, I’m afraid we would grieve too much to go on. If God so lavishly bestows beauty upon the field, how much more he will clothe His children. Yes, God fre­quently not only clothes, but gives us much more raiment than we really need. Why then should Christians worry, with such a God as their Father?

 

Questions: Should Christians be interested in the beauty of nature? Why does Jesus compare the glory of the lilies to the glory of Solomon?

 

III.  The True Character of Worry:

A.  Worry is “little faith”, and therefore Christians should not worry, vs. 30c and 31. “O ye of little faith. Therefore take no thought saying, what shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or. Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”

1.  Men continually are talking about these questions. Even the citizens of the kingdom wor­ry about them; but they should not.

2.  Worry is “little faith”. Little faith is not the same as no faith. By no means; it is faith, but faith mixed with sin. The Bible speaks of “weak faith”, “faith as a mustard seed”, “great faith”, etc. Instead of “little faith’.  Lk. 112:29 speaks of a “doubtful mind”. Hence little faith is a faith not wholly resigned to and trusting in God. It is a faith that needs to increase and grow.

3.  Hence growth in the faith is the only way to attain to the carefree spirit Christ calls us to. It cannot be attained by laying up treasures, for a sense of security based on things comes and goes with them. It can only be attained by growth in faith. The only antidote for worry is faith; the root of all worry is unbelief.

B.  Worry is also conformity to the world, vs. 32, “For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: for your hea­venly Father knoweth that ye have need of them.”

1.  The Gentiles are first of all the heathen as opposed to Israel as nation, and then also the children of the world as opposed to the true citi­zens of the kingdom.

2.  Instead of serving God the wicked world seeks the temporal things. Think of the parable of the covetous fool. You can expect this of un­believers. You can also expect them to worry, for they do not confess an Almighty God and Father.

3.  When Christians worry they are guilty of conformity to the world. Not only theater attendance, dancing, etc. are worldly-mindedness, but also worry is worldly-mindedness. Christians must be transformed also in this respect.

4.  Neither is there any need at all for this anxiety, “for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things”. That He knows the needs, means also that He ‘will supply them.

 

Questions: What four kinds of faith do Reformed people speak of? Is “little faith” true faith? How only does “little faith” grow? Discuss what is meant by con­formity to the world, and mentions various forms of it? Is worry a common one? Does worry ever seriously affect the church?

 

IV.  The Only Right Way of Living for Christians, vss. 33, 34

A.  Positively, vs. 33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you.”

1.  Christians are to seek the kingdom of God. The word “to seek” means “to strive after”, and implies strenuous effort. Neither must we forget that although the kingdom of God remains from beginning to end a gift of God in Christ, the grace of God in Christ operative in the believers makes them seek and strive. They must work out their own salvation, just because God works in them to will and to do, Phil. 2:12, 13.

2.  They must seek the kingdom of God by seeking righteousness, the righteousness of God. Such is the meaning of the appendage, “and his righteousness”.

3.  They must seek it first. This does not mean in point of time, but logically, principally. Lk. 12:3 omits the word “first” altogether. As a matter of fact, the thought is that Christians must only, and always, be seeking the righteous­ness of the kingdom.

4.  But what about our material needs then? “And all these things shall be added unto you”. They are guaranteed to us, God will most certain­ly supply all we really need as long as we live. Therefore, Christians can wholly attend to the righteousness of the kingdom, and need never worry and thereby sin.

B.  Negatively, vs. 34, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

1. Once more Christ exhorts against anxiety. He adds “for the morrow”, since anxiety is always looking into the future, and weighed down by it. God is there tomorrow also.

2.  The curtain of evening is a curtain which God draws between today and tomorrow. We may not attempt to push it aside. Besides, the evil of every day is sufficient for the day; why should we by worry load on ourselves what may be in the morrow?

3.  From the last part speaking of the evil of every day, it is evident that Christ does not mean to promise that God will always give His people prosperity.

 

Questions: May Christians seek material things at all? What does Christ mean by “seek”? Just how must Christians seek righteousness? May Christians hanker after luxuries and abundance? If we go to church on the first day of the week, may we then the rest of the week seek the material things? What should come first in our lives: Christian education for our children or a new home and car? Is a job that requires absence from catechism right for Christian young people to take? May Christians feel free to leave the Prot. Ref. Churches if they can get a job in another city?

 

Outline XVI

Captious Criticism and Spiritual Discernment

 

Matt. 7:1-6 — “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, hut considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother. Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye: and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

 

The previous chapter spoke of the righteousness of the kingdom in respect to God; this new section (vss. 1-12) treats of that righteousness in respect to our relation to men. Some inter­preters of the Sermon believe there is no unity of thought at all in these verses — they consist only of several unconnected sayings. Although we admit the connection is more loose than in other parts of the Sermon, we refuse to admit that there is no connection between these verses. The entire Sermon is one grand whole, every part related to the other, and there­fore we also expect that here. Besides, after the Sermon has in chapter 6 spoken of the right­eousness of the kingdom in respect to our relation to God (the first table of the law), we expect Christ to speak of our relation to men (the second table of the law). The latter is also the case. Vss. 1-5 speak of judging the brother, vs. 6 of recognizing men who are dogs and swine. Be­sides, vs. 12 is the so-called Golden Rule according to which we are to treat the neighbor. The there­fore with which the vs. is introduced also points to a conclusion from the preceding. As we go on with our outlines, we expect to trace the unity of thought more exactly, but sufficient has been shown to warrant the statement that the under­lying thought of these verses is: the righteousness of the kingdom in respect to our relation to men.

 

I.  Captious Judging, vss. 1-5:

A.  Judge not, vs. 1a.:

1.  From vss. 3, -1 and 5 it is evident that Christ means judgment of the brother. It is a judgment of persons, yes, even of brethren.

2.  When Christ says, “Judge not” He does not mean that in no instance, never, are we to judge the brother in any sense. This cannot be for then Scripture conflicts with Scripture which cannot be. The magistrates, whether of church or state, must judge, according to God’s Word. Christ cannot therefore be condemning such of­ficial judgment. Furthermore, Christians are told by Christ in John. 7:24 to “judge righteous judgment”, and this implies judgment also. And, finally, vs. 5 itself when it shows the proper way to judge implies that Christ does not condemn all judging.

3.  What Christ does condemn? All sinful judging, all love-less uncharitable, hypocritical judging. He condemns all judgment that is with­out mercy and love, that is exercised in a spirit of self-righteousness and haughtiness. This inter­pretation is sustained by: (1) The parallel passage from Lk. 6:38-42, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven”. (2) It is sustained by the consistent teaching of Scripture, as well as by other passages of the Sermon itself (5:7; 5:21-25: 6:14, 15. etc.)

B.  Reasons why Christ warns against such Judging, vss. 1b-5:

1.  Because such captious criticism brings sure punishment. Vss. 1b, 2, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again”. This means that as you treat others, others will treat you. Christ, in harmony with the consistent refer­ence of the Sermon to future punishment also surely refers to the judgment to come. However, it is frequently true that people who are always criticizing and condemning others receive a like return from men. See Lk. 6:37, 38 for proof that it is the return reward of men that is on the foreground.

2.  Because such captious criticism reveals that the person himself is guilty of gross sin, vs. 3. Anyone who always goes about condemning other Christians for their faults, may well take inventory of his own spiritual life. His loveless, uncharitable attitude shows there is something radically wrong with himself. He sees the mote (a little chip or sliver) in his brother’s eye, but he is entirely forgetful of the beam in his own eye. The beam is a large rafter, and stands for a large fault. What is this fault? Perhaps some certain gross sins the man may be guilty of himself? I don’t think so. If that were the case vs. 5 would mean that one would have to get rid of all his own great faults first before he could speak to the brother. Dare anyone ever say that he is rid of all great faults? In my opinion the beam in his own eye represents not any great fault, but the one fault of self-righteousness, of loveless, merciless criticism. The attitude revealed in condemning a brother to destruction, the attitude that has no room for mercy and forgiveness, that destroys but does not seek to save is the beam.

3.  Because such hateful criticism makes it utterly impossible to aid the erring brother, vss. 5, 6. A judgment of love is demanded by Scripture. The Bible does not mean that we shall not see the brother’s faults, but we shall see them in connection with Christ and in mercy. To help the brother out of his sins — and this is our Chris­tian brotherly duty — demands that the beam of merciless, uncharitable, unfor­giving criticism be cast out. Then there is mercy, love, forgiveness, and one can “see clearly” to cast the little sliver out of the brother’s eye. Not a haughty spirit of self-righteousness, but a humble spirit of love and mercy only can help the brother overcome his faults. Such a spirit of love is the only spirit compatible with the righteousness of the kingdom.

 

Questions: In what sense must Christians judge one another, and in what sense may they not do it? Are Christians bound to help one another overcome faults? Is self-righteous judging a prevalent sin in the midst of the church? How can it be counteracted, if it is there? How does captious criticism undermine society life very frequently?

 

II.  Discrimination in the Exercise of Holy Things: vs. 6

In the above section, Christ warns against self-righteous judgment and by implication exhorts to love and mercy in judgment of the brother. This verse, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you”, in our estimation, limits the (previous warning. The proper use of the brotherly-admonition has its limits — it must not become a casting of the holy pearls to the swine and dogs.

A.  The Holy Pearls — What are They?

1.  The word “pearls” suggests things that are precious. Notice, that Christ speaks of them as “your” pearls, i.e. they belong in an especial manner to the citizens of the kingdom and are esteemed highly by them.

2.  The term “that which is holy”, or simply “the holy thing” (as in the Greek), implies that these things are separated in an especial manner for the service of God. The Old Testament speaks of holy bread, the holy temple, the holy place, the holy land, the holy Sabbath, the holy oil, the holy seed, the holy city, the holy covenant, the holy angels, etc. In every instance, it means that these (persons or things have been set apart from the common sphere to be conse­crated to the Lord and His service. In the same way, we today speak of holy baptism, holy com­munion, holy apostles, holy offices, holy Sabbath, holy table of the Lord, holy Gospel, etc.

3.  Hence, it is evident from the analogy of Scripture that by “that which is holy” and by “your pearls” Christ means all those sacred things that are of great value in our Christian religion. The preaching of the Word is a holy thing, and must not be despised as a common thing. The Lord’s Supper is a holy Supper and must be so treated.

B.  The Dogs and the Swine:

1.  As such: Dogs were in Palestine held in very low esteem. They were street scavengers: ran wild as our present-day wolves. To be called a dog or to be eaten by the dogs was the worst possible thing that could happen to one. See I Kings 14:11; 16:41; 1 Sam. 17:43; II Kings 8:13; Is. 56:10. Swine were unclean animals, and the eating of swine’s flesh was an abomina­tion. Cf. Lev. 11:7; Deut. 14:8; Is. 66:3, 17.

2.  Jesus refers to some men as swine and dogs. From the viewpoint of the Old Testament the heathen were dogs and swine, Matt. 15:27. Very likely Jesus here means wicked people who creep into the church for other reasons than the faith, and destroy the church. In Phil. 3:2 Paul warns the church for false teachers and calls them “dogs”. Peter in II Pet. 3:22 speaking of those who fell away from the faith says, “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire”. Hence “dogs” and “swine” are not the true children of God, but those people in the midst of the church visible that reveal themselves as outright wicked. They want the world, and the things below. Spiritually they rut in the mire of sin.

C.  Don’t give the Holy Pearls to the Dogs and the Swine:

1.  If men become wicked, and show that they want sin, don’t continue admonishing them. Don’t keep on warning one that goes on cursing who perhaps will only curse the more if you warn him. Don’t keep in the on preaching the gospel to them, but shake the dust off your feet and let them have their mire. Don’t open up the Lord’s Table to them, the Table which is only for the children of the kingdom. Don’t keep them on the rolls as bap­tized members. Don’t make them ministers, elders and deacons.

2.  Why Discrimination must be Exercised:

a.  Because these things are holy!

b.  Because they are “your pearls”, in­tended for you!

c.  Because it is dangerous to cast pearls before swine. Swine want garbage, not pearls. If you give them pearls, they’ll tear you. This is also true in the church. If you let them be members of your church, they will use their in­fluence to undermine the church. If you make them ministers, they will by false doctrine lead the church astray. If you make them elders, they will drive out the true people of God. Such evil men always destroy the church. Don’t give your holy things to them.

 

Questions: What are holy things, and why are they holy? Is the dog ever spoken of favorably in Scripture? How can we tell which men are dogs and swine? Are erring children of God to be treated as “dogs and swine”? In what ways can the church of today learn a lesson from this verse?

Summary of a Convention Speech given by Rev Peter De Boer reported by Marilyn Vos.

 

The topic given to Rev. De Boer was: “The Possibility of Possessing the Power of Godliness”. He spoke at the banquet of our convention.

The speaker posed the following ques­tion: How may I, a covenant youth, be Godly?

First Rev. De Boer pointed to the fact that there is no possibility for godliness outside of the Covenant of Grace. It is only in Christ through His Spirit that true godliness may be pos­sessed by us. In answer to question posed above, a selection from 1 Timothy 4 was read, the verses 7 and 8. The speaker emphasized especially two words of the first verse, namely, exercise and thyself. Elaborating further he explain­ed, the etimology of the word exercise as training or preparation, as for a battle. And the word thyself shows that the training unto the acquirement of the much desired quality of godliness is very personal. Watching others train is of no avail, although we do need helpers and coaches.

Then he followed with the cataloguing of several do’s and don’ts.

Do not lose self in bodily exercise.

Do not believe false doctrines.

Do take an active part in the preach­ing of the Word.

Do take an active part in society life. In conclusion, he stated, that essen­tially we are godly in Christ Jesus, and the acquiring of this virtue of godliness is by grace alone. We should exercise ourselves on bended knee.

It was a very interesting speech and was well received.

Easter is the time of new garments.  Fifth Avenue in New York has its Easter Parade: Los Angeles has a similar show of new finery and spring array.  Every church building on Easter will offer its display of new hats and coats and other things.

Garment, new garments!  Many of them.  Thousands upon thousands.  Ad nauseam.

But there is and remains only one Easter garment.  Ever old and ever new.  Never going out of fashion, never coming into fashion.  Always it is the only one, besides which there is none.

And this Easter garment is the righteousness of Christ.  With this garment of righteousness, Christ arose.  Yes, it was because He had by the suffering of the cross atoned for the sins of His people, had established perfect righteousness that He could be and was raised from the dead.  Romans 4:25.

That righteousness of Christ alone can cover our nakedness before God.  No cloak of man-made worship, no array of man-made garments of whatever hue or color can cover the sin and iniquity that is ours by nature.  The blood of Christ alone cleanseth from all sin.  And His finished work is the righteousness that God bestows upon us and with which He clothes His people.

No, new spring apparel is no sin in itself.  Of course not.  But to focus our attention upon it and to forget the robes of righteousness which Christ fashioned for us is fatal.

As Christian young men and women, let us not forget the one and only robe of righteousness, the Easter garment that never grows old, that endureth unto all eternity.

Let the world prate of its finery and set its heart upon that which perisheth.  They are fools.  But let us not be fools, but wise.  For we are clothed with garments of salvation.

Easter morning.  Bright and early, before the sun rises above the eastern horizon, people will be going in their cars to join in one of the annual “sunrise services”.  Not all, but many at least.

Not far from Redlands, in the neighbouring city of Riverside, a crowd climbs Mount Rubidoux.  There the first sunrise service of this country was held several decades ago and there annually such a service is held.  The view of the fair city of Riverside is beautiful from Mount Rubidoux, especially on a clear day.  A wooden cross stands at the top of the mount, visible from far.  It must be an impressive sight to see the sun rise over the distant mountains from the top of this mount.  Thousands will see it again this Easter.

And, yet, such sunrise services are a vain attempt of a nominal Christendom to make something of an Easter that should be, not a rising sun, but the living Christ of God.  Sunrise services are evidence that our day and age has lost the heart of the gospel, Christ risen.  It is a resurgence of heathendom’s spring festivals and worship of the sun.  To my mind the entire practice roots in sheer heathenism and is no better than heathen Japan’s worship of the sun.  The whole thing belongs in the category of easter eggs, baby chicks and rabbits, the heathen’s symbol returning life.

When Christians (so-called) need more than the simple preaching of the living Word of God, when they hanker and cry after such things as “sunrise services” it is evident that they have left the true message of Easter and now seek a substitute.  Form is substituted for the essence.

Thus, Christ is pushed out of Easter and a rising sun takes its place.

The living church of God will turn to the Word that is the Scriptures, will not be offended by the simplicity of the narrative and be satisfied with the blessed gospel: He is Risen!

Sunrise services may play on the emotions, may provide a pleasant excursion, but it is the Word, the Word of the resurrection we need.  That can be administered in our churches.  And in general, it certainly is not administered in any of the sunrise services, at least not here in Riverdale.

We must see and hear the Risen Christ, not a rising sun.  A rising sun certainly sets; Christ lives forever!

Do you know that more money has been spent last year in our fair country for liquor than was spent for education in all its branches?  Though we cannot on the basis of Scripture teach prohibition, nevertheless, it is well in this “drinking age” to remember the words of Scripture warning against the misuse of wine.  Think only of Eph. 5:18 “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit”.  Temperance in all cases, abstinence in many, remains the rule.  May our young folk not forget it—for the church’s sake, for God’s sake, for their own sake.

Do you know that more money was spent last year in the United States for cosmetics than was spent for education, higher and lower?  For beauty, mind you, that is only skin deep and not even that.  Peter’s exhortation to Christian women of his day rings true always, “Whose adorning let it not be of that outward adorning of plaiting the hair and of wearing of gold or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”  I Peter 3:3. 4.

In the name of our consistory and church it is my privilege to welcome back into our midst our returned servicemen.  They are by name: John Bouma, Everette Franken, John Kimm, Marvin Paauwe, Abel Vander Veen, James Vander Veen, Andrew Van Voorthuyzen, Everett Van Voorthuyzen and I add the name of Clifford Doney.  These nine have served our country, both here and overseas: five of them in the army and four in the navy.  Two more of our “boys”, Marvin Noordmans and William Pieksma, are still in the service.

We welcome you, returned servicemen, most heartily.

It is far more pleasant to welcome you back than it was to say farewell to you.  When you left, we realized that God in His providence and inscrutable wisdom called you away from us.  It was only the assurance that God’s ways are the best ways, always, even though they appear otherwise to us, that strengthened us and enabled us to say good-bye.

But now, we may welcome you back, one and all.  You have passed through difficult ways.  You have gone through blood and battle.  Not one of our number fell on the battlefield.  The Lord has been pleased to spare you and bring you back.  Had it pleased the Lord to take any of you away on the field of battle, we would by faith submit to His will, but it is much easier to rejoice now that He has been pleased to return you safe and sound.  Fellows, let us give God the thanks and Him alone!

But, fellows, your battle days are not over.

Yes, to be sure, the physical combat in which you were engaged is over.  You have laid your uniforms and weapons of war aside.  You have donned civilian garb and returned to the life of the ordinary citizen.

And yet your battle days are not over.

I am thinking of the great, spiritual battle, of which the Scriptures speak from Genesis to Revelation.  This warfare goes on about us and even in us.  The church on earth is the militant church and its members are soldiers in the service of Christ the King.  This combat is a mortal combat between the hosts of sin and the people of God, twixt the true church and the wicked world, between faith and unbelief, righteousness and unrighteousness, Christ and the Devil.  It is not a battle waged with weapons of steel and iron, but with the spiritual weapons of Scripture and prayer.

You, fellows, are covenant young men and are called to be of the party of the living God.

While you were in service you were called to remember that you were Christians.  We sent you our church papers, we sent you radio sermons, we sent you meditation booklets: our prayers ascended to the throne of grace for you.  Your letters showed that this battle was frequently very hard.  We well understand, for army life cares little about the things of God and Christ the King.

Now you are back, back amidst all the opportunities of church and church life.

May you fight the good fight of faith and continue faithful in this battle.  That is our wish and prayer.

Thanks be to God, we have the victory!  It is rooted in God’s eternal counsel.  It is promised in the Scriptures!  It lies fast in the finished work of Christ the King, who founded the Kingdom of God in His precious blood and lives and reigns forever.

May we go on together shoulder to shoulder fighting the good fight of faith—until Jesus comes!

Repeatedly one hears reports that at present there is in the making, or that there already is, a great religious awakening throughout our nation, a revival of interest in things spiritual, a real “back to God” movement among civilians and members of the armed forces alike.  Many, so we hear, that had forsaken God and His Word are returning to the ways of faith and repentance.

Various things are suggested in support of this claim.  There is the fact that religious items are receiving more space in the columns of the daily newspapers of this nation than for a long time.  Individuals write, even in the Reader’s Digest, of returning to the family altar and daily home worship that had long been neglected.  Another calls attention to the enormous sale of Bibles during the past few years.  A prominent speaker of the Gideons recently stated that the boys in the camps were turning to the things of God by the thousands.

Indeed, it would make one’s heart rejoice if there is a real religious awakening on a grand scale.  But….for there is a “but”….is it true?

The fact that daily newspapers are allotting more space to news items from the church world, the fact that here and there, there is renewed interest in the family alter, the fact that the sale of Bibles has increased so considerably—all these things do not yet mean that there is a large scale return to the things of God.  It certainly is not of national scope.  Do you in your daily contacts see any difference in the great mass of men?  Do they not curse the Name as much now as heretofore?  Is not immorality and divorce on the increase?  Is not juvenile delinquency a testimony to the contrary?  Is the attendance at worship in the American church world at large any better than a few years ago?  The home front gives little evidence of any large scale awakening, let alone a movement that could be called national.

Among the armed forces it is little better!  Perhaps even worse.  The services held by the chaplains in the camps at home are very, very poorly attended.  Many of the chaplains are merely serving the purpose of “morale builders”, so I don’t blame some of our own boys if their chaplain serves them such “food” that they seek their spiritual comfort otherwise, either with a few of their buddies together reading and praying (as one of them told me they did while in Africa) or alone with the Word of God and religious literature from their own churches at home.  Sad to say, but by and large the army is interested in the chaplaincy only as a morale builder.  If “wine, women and song” build the morale, give it to them.  If “pin-up girls” do it, let them have them.  If “chaplains” do it, let them have them.  A pastor, who has visited many camps during the past few years, had spoken there frequently and contacted thousands, told me he saw nothing that augured a religious awakening.  On the contrary, he saw much spiritual defection, “wine, women and song” with all that goes with it.

We must not expect a large-scale, nationwide “back to God” movement.  God has never promised “national conversions.”  He has never told us to expect it.  And, indeed, it is He that must give repentance.  Otherwise it will never take place.

We do believe that also now in this war all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose.  Undoubtedly, through this great distress, the people of God will be drawn closer to their God, and are lifting up their heads “on high.”

But much of the renewed interest in altar worship, much of the prayer offered up in distress on sea or in the heat of battle, is a passing emotion.  When the smoke of battle clears away, it is gone.  The prayers of the wicked are abomination to God.  Only when the prayer arises from the heart, only when the interest shows itself to be enduring, only then is it pleasing to God.  God searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins.

Under the above caption I read an article in a religious paper that, to my mind, contained sentiments with which we ought to agree.

The article had reference to those of the church that are in the service of their country, away from home and regular church life.  It emphasized that there are things that can happen that are worse than not coming back home.

Perhaps we think that the worst news that could be brought to our door is a telegram stating that our dear one was killed in action.  For our flesh that indeed would be very difficult news, as those that have been so informed know from bitter experience.  It is difficult to hear that a dear one is missing in action, but then there is still the hope that he may after all be located and return.  It is difficult to hear that a dear one is wounded, but then he may recover.  If he has been killed….well, it seems that no worse news could be heard.

But there is worse news.  That is the information, however it comes, that a young man has forsaken the way of God, that he lives in iniquity and sin, and that when he returns he will be “through” with all that has to do with God and His Word.  We are not referring to sins into which someone stumbles to arise again.  We refer to someone that makes “shipwreck of the faith,” that will return an infidel and unbeliever; spiritual casualties.  Oh, I know if they so return they never were of Israel.  Nonetheless, if any should so return and by his attitude show that the fruit of his experience has been only hardening of heart, if he has been swept away by the pleasures and cares of the world….is this not worse than not coming back?

It is better to enter life halt and maimed than having one’s limbs to be cast into hell fire.

There are things that are better than life.  “Thy loving kindness is better than life.”

Young men and young women of our number that are in the armed forces, our continual prayer for you is your salvation.  Yes, if it may please God that you may return in health and strength and that soon.  But above all, yes first, that you may remember your Creator, that you may not forget that also your battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual powers of darkness, that you may keep the faith and stand fast in the Lord.

The message of spiritual casualty would be harder than even the message of your death.

May God be gracious to you!  And to us!

“But Daniel purposed in his heart, that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8.

An immediate temptation!

An immediate temptation faced Daniel and his three friends in Babylon, the land of captivity to which these boys of not over sixteen or seventeen were carried away.

Already the mere fact that they were among those of the royal seed chosen to enter the king’s college-implied circumstances that would bring repeated temptation. For it was the worldly monarch’s purpose to make of these young men thorough going Babylonians who in the future as tools of the state would devotedly serve the monarch and his purpose. In the three-year training course, they were to receive a Babylonian training that intended to draw them

away from allegiance to their native land and religion. Hence the lads received Babylonian names, names that had reference to idol gods and idol worship. It therefore took grace, daily grace, for these lads in the midst of it all to remember their God, the God whom they had learned from early childhood. Some might call theirs a great opportunity, since it opened the way to future prominence in world-affairs: really it was a daily temptation, better avoided had this been possible. The latter was not possible, nor was it God’s purpose, for they were captives and treated as such.

But Daniel and his friends purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves. From the very beginning. The temptation concentrated itself at the outset about their food. Undoubtedly the food of the king’s table was food connected with idol worship, and to partake of it meant to have part in idol-worship. Whatever the case was, it is plain that Daniel and his friends faced a definite temptation. As the young man in the service finds the temptation of his environment concentrate itself about drinking and gambling, etc….so Daniel and his friends met it at once in the food and drink that was set before them. It was a severe temptation. They were young, others of the royal seed partook, and if they refused what hope of mercy could they expect from the despot?

A bold faith!

Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. At once it is evident that Daniel belongs to the line of election, the faithful remnant. Not only Daniel, the leader, but also his friends loved God and His precepts. They were a foursome of those that loved God; a friendship of God that meant so much to them, that helped them on. Especially in youth our friends mean so much. Daniel is- the leader, though they do not passively follow. Notice, Daniel purposed, he determined, he decided that he would not defile himself, cost what it might. He purposed it in his heart: such purposes are not born in the mind, in the will, much less in the flesh, nor in expediency and convenience — they are born in the heart, the heart from which are the issues of life. As a man’s heart is so is he. The decisions of faith always arise from the regenerated heart. And so, he went to the eunuch, submitting himself as far as possible, and requested pulse and water, i.e. a simple vegetable diet. For God’s sake they must not defile themselves, for God’s sake they would not. No matter what jaunts and jibes, what punishment would have to be borne.

Surely youth, youth that by God’s grace purposes in its heart can be faithful. Even when it regards food and drink, something for which people are so easily tempted to defile themselves. For the bounty of the king’s table men who claim to love God will bear the mark of the beast rather than eat the bread of affliction. Dare to be a Daniel. Dare to stand alone. With God.

Divinely prospered!

Such was Daniel s experience. For God caused Daniel to find favor with the master of eunuchs, and he was willing to try them ten days. God was with them, for they thrived upon their simple though complete diet, thrived more than those that partook of the king’s bounty, of winebibbing and carousing. And they were allowed daily to eat their simple fare and maintain their spiritual identity. Daily they manifested when they sat down to their frugal meal that though in the world they were not of the world.

The faithful always are divinely prospered. Not always in this way. With Daniel and his friends in Babylonia God had a very special purpose. But even in respect to daily bread God does remember His people: He will feed and clothe them, be it with a frugal diet, as long as He calls them to walk as strangers and pilgrims on earth. Without defiling themselves. And in the end life eternal, for God blesseth the righteous while the way of the wicked perisheth.

Young man, young woman, dare to be a Daniel. By the grace of God. Purpose in your hearts not to defile yourselves.

Outline 30

MANASSEH’S WICKEDNESS AND REPENTANCE

2nd week of May

II Chronicles 33:11-13—Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.  And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his father, and prayed unto him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom.  Then Manasseh knew that the Lord, He was God.

“Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth”.  Thus Solomon the wise king enjoins youth.  The vitality, enthusiasm and zeal of youth ought to be employed to the glory of God.  Because of the appeal and power of sin youth may easily be tempted to stray.  Youth is an important period of life; it is the time life’s choices are made—the choices which in after-life we merely live out.  What is lost in youth cannot easily be regained, what is done cannot easily be undone.  A wasted youth even though conversion later takes place, leaves its stamp upon one’s after life.  The consequences of youth’s deeds follow us throughout life, e.g. an evil marriage in youth means that we will be burdened with its consequences.

The illustration of Manasseh seems to illustrate very pointedly the above assertion.  It is partly with this in view that we treat of Manasseh’s wickedness and his repentance.

HIS GREAT WICKEDNESS

The Bible both in the book of Kings (II Kings 21:1-18) and in the book of Chronicles (II Chron. 33) gives a description of Manasseh and his acts that declare him to have been a very wicked king during the large part of his reign.  Although only twelve years old when he ascended Judah’s throne, he seems at once to have departed from the good ways of his father Hezekiah and to have gone into ways of sin.  Absolutely nothing good is said of him.  The whole picture of his reign from its very beginning to his conversion (which seems to have been late in his life) is that of a very godless king.

So godless was he that Scripture says, “He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.”  This description is most telling.  It means his wickedness exceeded that of the kings of the northern kingdom who walked “in the sin of Jeroboam who made Israel to sin” (referring to the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan), it exceeded that of the kings of Israel and those of his predecessors in Judah who walked in the ways of Ahab.  His wickedness only compares with the sin of the heathen who inhabited Canaan before the children of Israel: in other words, it was sin in its full measure.

The Bible informs us wherein this great wickedness consisted.  It tells us: A. That he rebuilt the high places Hezekiah had broken down and reared up altars for Baalim, and rebuilt the groves. b. He also introduced the worship of the host of heaven, perhaps star-worship. c. What no king before him had dared to do, he did: he built altars for the host of heaven in the very temple of God itself. d. Besides, he caused his children to pass thru the fire (Moloch worship), which means that he sacrifices some of his children to Moloch. e. Further, he observed times, enchantments and all sorts of witchcraft, against which God has so emphatically warned Israel.  f. Yes, he even set up a carved image, an idol, in the house of God. g. Add to this that the book of Kings says that he filled Jerusalem with the blood of the saints, from one end to another.  Tradition says Isaiah was sawn asunder by this king.  What an array of godlessness!

Neither can any excuse be offered for this wickedness.  First of all, Manasseh must have known the way of God very well.  Hezekiah had opposed all idolatry and sought the Lord with all his heart.  Manasseh deliberately changed the religious policies of Judah’s royal house.  When he became king everything was in his favor to fear God and continue the good work of his God-fearing father.  It would have been only deliberate wickedness that motivated Manasseh to turn Judah to sin.  Secondly, vss. 10 and 18 of II Chron. 33 clearly state that Manasseh was repeatedly warned by the prophets of God.  These warnings left him the more without excuse.  The accusing prophets he silenced with execution.  From all this it is evident that knowledge is not virtue, and that it is not enough to know the way.  One must desire it and love it, which Manasseh did not.

HIS SINCERE REPENTANCE

Manasseh was surely an elect child of God, a vessel of mercy ordained unto life.  We gather this from the fact that God brought Manasseh to repentance.  God brings his own to repentance in the day of His power.  The Lord brought this wicked king to his knees.  However, it was a hard and bitter way in which the Lord led him.  In cases of gross wickedness, in cases where covenant children depart from the Lord and walk in great sin, it is usually along a hard and difficult way that they are brought to repentance.  God brought this man in fetters to Babylon.  Why the Assyrian king came against him and led him away at this time is hard to say, but God’s purpose is quite evident.  Neither do we know how long this king was in captivity, whether for a few months or even years, but we do know that in captivity Manasseh came to himself and humbled himself deeply before his God.

That Manasseh’s repentance was sincere, I take it, is evident from the following: 1. He humbled himself deeply before the God of his fathers.  In captivity his early training (God of his fathers) lived before his mind as never before and took on a new meaning.  He humbled himself before his God. There was sorrow after God, and such sorrow is true and lasting repentance. 2. His prayer shows sincere repentance.  True repentance issues in prayer, it seeks God, implores His mercy and asks forgiveness.  Manasseh thus prayed “for God was entreated of him”.  God does not hear the prayer of the wicked and unrepentant.  3. His after-life proves it.  True repentance implies a change of heart and life; it brings forth fruits of gratitude and newness of life.  Manasseh’s after-life as king in Jerusalem shows an earnest attempt to undo what he had done and to do what was pleasing in God’s eyes.  Read vss. 15-17.

ITS PERMANENT SIGNIFICANCE

There is, first of all, a profound warning here; a warning to seek God early.  The lesson is not at all; as some would imply that everyone must experience such a shocking conversion as Manasseh experienced.  David did not, Timothy did not.  Neither is it by any means ideal.  To grow up from childhood in the fear of God is the norm in the sphere of the covenant, and the ideal.  The case of Manasseh is a warning to seek God early.  His way was far from desirable.  It was a terrible way in which he was brought to his knees.  And it is quite evident that what Manasseh had so long done evilly he was unable after his conversion to undo and mend.  His son Amon was a wicked king from the outset, and was very likely brought up before Manasseh’s conversion.  When Manasseh was converted it was too late to train his children in the right way.  Besides, Judah had been led on the wrong way so far, that Manasseh’s few remaining years as king could not right what had been done.  As a matter of fact the Scripture lets the emphasis fall upon the wickedness of his reign—the large part of his life had been amiss.  Manasseh’s helplessness to undo what he had so deliberately done must have been a source of deep sorrow and grief for him.  But isn’t this often the case with those who lead lives of forthright wickedness for a long time? The evil they have done brings consequences that remain to the end.  What a warning to seek God early.

However, there is here also a glorious testimony to God’s great grace.  Certainly God’s grace is able to change the most wicked. And he does.  He does it in grace, and grace along.  By grace Manasseh was saved, not of works.

QUESTIONS: How old was Manasseh when he became king? Does his youth excuse his wickedness? Mention various evils of which Scripture says Manasseh was guilty? Does repentance mean that the consequences of former sins do not follow in later life? Prove that Manasseh’s conversion was sincere and true repentance?

 

Outline 31

THE CONVERSION OF LYDIA

3rd week of May

Acts 16: 14, 15.—And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken by Paul.

And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there.  And she constrained us.

“The Lord our God build up His church. He seeks her wandering sons.” Thus one of our Psalter numbers so beautifully says, and thus it is indeed.  This fact receives emphasis also in the book of Acts, for Luke there emphasizes what Christ from heaven continued to do for His church and in His church through His servants the apostles and by His Spirit.  It is the Son of God who builds up His Church and gathers her sons and daughters.

Paul must have realized this very well.  For, first of all, while it had been his intention to visit the churches established on his first journey in Asia Minor and seek to strengthen them by further labors in the vicinity of those churches, the Lord did not allow it.  When Paul assayed to go into Bithynia, the Spirit forbade it.  Finally Paul and his company came to Troas on the sea, and everywhere the Spirit had made it known to Paul that he might not labor there.  Yet Paul had intended to.  Now he had come to the coast of Asia Minor, and was at the coast of Asia Minor, and was at a loss what to do.  Then the Lord sent him the vision of the Macedonian man with the injunction, “Come over into Macedonia and help us”.  Paul correctly understood that God called him to cross the sea and invade the continent of Europe with the gospel of Christ.  While he had intended to labor closer at home, God wanted him to go farther away.  It was in Europe that the Lord wanted Paul to labor—man proposes, but God disposes.  And Paul went.

Furthermore, that the Lord builds up His church and seeks His wandering sons, is made clear by the conversion, first of Lydia and later of the jailer, the two families that became the nucleus of the strong church at Philippi, the first Christian church in Europe.

It is Lydia’s conversion that interests us in this outline.

THE CHARACTER OF HER CONVERSION

It was Paul’s adopted custom always to begin his labors among the Jews first, and so in this instance he had gone to the riverside where the few Jews of that city were gathered.  It seems there were not enough Jews in the colonial city to possess a synagogue, for the gathering was held here at the riverside.  Paul only found a group of women gathered there, and he sat down in their midst and informally reasoned with them preaching Jesus the Christ.  This seemingly unimportant little gathering was the most important meeting ever held in Europe, for it was the beginning of the Christian church there.

Among these women was a certain Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God.  This latter clause, “which worshipped God” means that she was a proselyte, i.e. a heathen that had embraced the fear of God.  She hailed from Thyatira, a city of Asia Minor, which was the center of the cloth dyeing industry.  A seller of purple she was, comparable to a seller of rich fur garments in our day.  Undoubtedly a widow making her own living, and apparently a successful business woman since she constrained Paul and his company to live off her hospitality as long as they labored in Philippi.  Had she been a poor woman the apostle and his company certainly would not have burdened her by accepting her hospitality.

This woman, this woman alone, was converted under the preaching of Paul that day.

How must we view her conversion? What kind of a conversion was it? We can speak of temporary faith, and apparent conversion, and of a genuine conversion in a narrower or in a broader sense.  In a broader sense it includes the process of sanctification that continues all our life, while in the narrower sense it refers to the breaking through of the new life into more or less clear consciousness for the first time.  But we may also speak of conversion from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  Such a conversion is not found today.  During the days of Christ’s sojourn on earth and immediately after, there were God-fearing Jews who lived as though the Christ had not yet come.  They feared God as in the Old Testament, without knowing that the promise of God had been fulfilled.  At the time of Pentecost many of such Jews became converted to the Christ and from the Old Testament to the New Testament fullness.  It is undoubtedly in the latter sense that Lydia’s conversion must be construed.  The text mentions that she worshipped God prior to her conversion; this means she was a proselyte and feared God without yet knowing the Christ prior to Paul’s preaching.  That day she embraced Jesus as the promised Messiah, and so vs. 15 speaks of “being faithful to the Lord,” i.e. to the Christ.

THE MANNER OF HER CONVERSION

Notice, “whose heart the Lord opened.”  In these words Luke ascribes all the glory to God.  He does not say, “Paul convinced her,” or even simply, “she believed,” but specifically, “whose heart the Lord opened.”  Luke sees the Christ gathering the sons and daughters of his church.

Not the following: a. The Lord opened her heart, the heart from which are the spiritual issues of life. B. He opened her heart, which implies that it was closed and needed as the word suggests, to be “cracked open.” C. The Lord did it, i.e. the Christ.  D. Opened her heart, i.e. not of all but hers, free sovereign grace.

Perhaps you ask, but if Lydia really feared God as an Old Testament believer prior to her conversion here, was not her heart already opened? The answer must be a simple yes.  But as far as the fulfillment of the gospel is concerned, that Jesus is the Christ, her heart needed to be opened to it.  After all, God must always every time anew open our hearts to receive the Word that is preached.

The effect of this inner spiritual operation was “that she attended to the things Paul spake.” This does not mean that God opened Lydia’s heart, and now Lydia on her part did not resist it and set this operation at naught.  That is Arminianism.  It means that due to those operations she willingly, by reason of them listened and received the Word of the Christ spoken by Paul.  Whoever heeds the Word of God does so because of the inner saving operations of the spirit of the Risen Lord.

SIGNIFICANCE

What was the significance of this conversion?

For Lydia, that she and her household received the sign and seal of baptism, and salvation in all its New Testament glory came to her and her house.

For Paul, that God established his church in Europe.  It is true it was as yet only one family, but soon the second family (the jailer and his household) were added.  Paul rejoiced in the Lord, for the Lord had given him an open door.

QUESTIONS: Who was Lydia? How did Paul happen to go to Europe? What does it mean that Lydia “worshipped God?” What does Arminianism teach as to man’s conversion? What is the sound Reformed view? Seeing only one woman was converted, was Paul’s work worthwhile that day?

 

Outline 32

REDEEMING THE TIME

4th Week of May

Ephesians 5:15, 16—See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

REDEEM—WHAT?

This passage speaks of redeeming the time.  We are children of time, hemmed in on every side by time, and each fleeting moment brings its opportunity to utilize it to the highest possible end.  The word used here for time is translated in Galatians 6:10 “opportunity,” and it is from that viewpoint that the apostle views time.  Time carries us all on to the shores of eternity, but in the meantime it gives us opportunities of church attendance, catechism attendance, Bible reading, letting our light shine, etc.

Those opportunities must be redeemed, i.e. bought out, made full use of, and used to the best possible advantage.  In the days of childhood and youth there are opportunities to build for true manhood and we must not let them slip by.  On the Sabbath as long as we are at home we have the opportunity of using the means of grace, and we must take full advantage of them.  When society meets, there is an opportunity to study God’s Word and to profit thereby.

REDEEMED—HOW?

How must we redeem the time? Paul answers, Walk circumspectly. Our walk comprises our entire life in relation to God’s commandments.  It includes our inner life of thoughts and aspirations, our external deportment and behavior.  It includes our speech and conduct, our seeing and hearing: in short, all our life.  This must all be lived as before God’s face.  Circumspectly means: exactly, carefully, strictly.  We must not stumble along, be dragged along, but walk carefully, filling our allotted time as God would have us, seeking the things above.

Therefore the apostle also adds, “not as fools but as wise.” Wisdom is the ability to seek the highest end and pursue the best possible ways and means to that end.  The business man, e.g., organizes his shop the best he knows how to attain success.  The farmer sows when it is time, where the seed will grow best, cultivates it when it is best, harvests at the right time, and knows when to sell.  The fool always does the wrong thing, and labors at the wrong time.  Spiritual wisdom is from above, and takes God and eternity into account, and utilizes the opportunities of life with God in view.  It is to such spiritual wisdom that the apostle exhorts us.  We are so often foolish, wasting precious moments and opportunities.  The foolish man uses his time foolishly, in the service of sin to his own destruction: the believer is only too often yet so foolish—he ought to be wise.

REDEEM—WHY?

“The days are evil.” That could be taken to mean that the best of this life is sorrow and trouble.  The meaning, however, is a bit other.  The apostle suggests that the days are spiritually evil, i.e. the world in which we move from day to day is filled with bitter enemies that would destroy our soul; the days are filled with temptations.  How true that is today! How well some of you realize it!

You must be armed, armed to the teeth.  Redeem the time. Walk circumspectly, and make the best possible use of your opportunities and time.  Serve God, put on the whole armor of God that you may stand.  Don’t be caught off guard.

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