Sunday Meditation – The Throne of Pride

Sunday Meditation – The Throne of Pride

“The true throne of pride everywhere, is the heart of man. If, my dear friends, we desire, by God’s grace, to put down pride, the only way is to begin with the heart. Now let me tell you a parable, in the form of an eastern story, which will set this truth in its proper light. A wise man in the east, called a dervish, in his wanderings, came suddenly upon a mountain, and he saw beneath his feet a smiling valley, in the midst of which there flowed a river. The sun was shining on the stream, and the water as it reflected the sunlight, looked pure and beautiful. When he descended, he found it was muddy, and the water utterly unfit for drinking. Hard by he saw a young man, in the dress of a shepherd, who was with much diligence filtering the water for his flocks. At one moment he placed some water into a pitcher, and then allowing it to stand, after it had settled, he poured the clean fluid into a cistern. Then, in another place, he would be seen turning aside the current for a little, and letting it ripple over the sand and stones, that it might be filtered, and the impurities removed. The dervish watched the young man endeavouring to fill a large cistern with clear water; and he said to him, ‘My son, why all this toil? —what purpose dost thou answer by it?’ The young man replied, ‘Father, I am a shepherd; this water is so filthy that my flock will not drink of it, and, therefore, I am obliged to purify it little by little, so I collect enough in this way that they may drink, but it is hard work.’ So saying, he wiped the sweat from his brow, for he was exhausted with his toil. ‘Right well hast thou laboured,’ said the wise man, ‘but dost thou know thy toil is not well applied? With half the labour thou mightest attain a better end. I should conceive that the source of this stream must be impure and polluted; let us take a pilgrimage together and see.’ They then walked some miles, climbing their way over many a rock, until they came to a spot where the stream took its rise. When they came near to it, they saw flocks of wild fowls flying away, and wild beasts of the earth rushing into the forest; these had come to drink, and had soiled the water with their feet. They found an open well, which kept continually flowing, but by reason of these creatures, which perpetually disturbed it, the stream was always turbid and muddy. ‘My son,’ said the wise man, ‘set to work now to protect the fountain and guard the well, which is the source of this stream; and when thou hast done that, if thou canst keep these wild beasts and fowls away, the stream will flow of itself, all pure and clear, and thou wilt have no longer need for thy toil.’ The young man did it, and as he labored, the wise man said to him, ‘My son, hear the word of wisdom; if thou art wrong, seek not to correct thine outward life, but seek first to get thy heart correct, for out of it are the issues of life, and thy life shall be pure when once thy heart is so.’ So if we would get rid of pride, we should not proceed to arrange our dress by adopting some special costume, or to qualify our language, by using an outlandish tongue, but let us seek of God that he would purify our hearts from pride, and then assuredly if pride is purged from the heart, our life also shall be humble.”

Charles Spurgeon

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How Do You Know Hebrews Is Canonical?

How Do You Know Hebrews Is Canonical?

When Catholic apologists are up against the wall and don’t know how to respond to objections against their beliefs raised by Protestants, their favorite question to ask is, “How do you know the Book of Hebrews belongs in the canon of Scripture?” Catholics believe this is an unanswerable question for Protestants because they don’t believe in an infallible papacy which defines what books Catholics consider to be God-breathed Scripture. Catholics argue that only an infallible church can produce an infallible list of inspired books. But since Protestants don’t believe in the infallibility of the church, they can’t know for certain what books of the Bible belong in the canon. But not only is this argument impossible to defend historically based on church history and the many errors in the Apocrypha, but there are good reasons to believe Hebrews is canonical without appealing to the opinion of a man who doesn’t even believe people need to believe in Jesus to be saved:

1. Hebrews was written before the close of the canon of Scripture during the first century when Timothy was still alive and before the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 AD. The author refers to “our brother Timothy” being recently released from prison confirming the first century date of his letter (Heb 13:23). Hebrews was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD because the author is completely silent about the destruction of the temple. If Hebrews was written after the temple was destroyed, the author surely would have used its destruction as a reason not to return to Judaism since there is no longer any animal sacrificial system to go back to. He refers to the Old Covenant as “becoming obsolete” in Hebrews 8:13 because there were still animal sacrifices going on which had not yet vanished away but would soon with the destruction of the temple. The author speaks as if the animal sacrificial system and priesthood in Jerusalem was still going on (Heb 10:11). He describes himself as a second-generation Christian who heard from those who heard from the Lord (Heb 2:3). The date of Hebrews is in contrast to the writings of the apostolic church fathers which were written after the Book of Revelation was completed. 1 Clement, regarded as the earliest writing of the apostolic church fathers written around 95 AD, quotes from Hebrews 1:3-5 in 1 Clement 36:2-5 proving the early date of Hebrews.

2. Hebrews was regarded by Christians living at the end of the first century to be canonical. They received Hebrews as canonical Scripture and the Holy Spirit testified to the genuineness of the letter as coming from himself. 1 Clement quotes from Hebrews 1:3-5 in 1 Clement 36:2-5 as Scripture. If the elders of the church in Rome at the end of the first century who wrote 1 Clement quoted from Hebrews as Scripture, that is strong evidence that the rest of the church did as well. In addition, every major canon list of the early church fathers includes Hebrews as Scripture.

3. The earliest manuscript tradition of the New Testament includes Hebrews in it. P46, also known as the Chester Beatty papyrus written around 200 AD, includes the letter with other New Testament letters. Hebrews is included in every complete copy of the Greek New Testament that we have prior to the invention of the printing press.

4. The letter is self-attesting to its own inspiration. No Christian can read the letter without being amazed at the glory of Christ in it. It is in a different category than the writings of the apostolic church fathers. The Holy Spirit testifies to the inspiration of the letter in the hearts of those who believe in Christ as they read it. The entire church testifies together to its inspiration because they all share the same Holy Spirit who authored the letter.

Based on the early date of the letter before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and the closing of the canon, the testimony of 1 Clement at the end of the first century to its canonicity, God’s providence in preserving the letter for us today, its inclusion in the Greek manuscript tradition of the New Testament, and the universal testimony of the church to the canonicity of the letter based on the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit to the church, there is every reason to accept Hebrews as canonical and no good reason to reject it.

Sunday Meditation – Eternity Awaits You

Sunday Meditation – Eternity Awaits You

“Come, my hearers, look to the eternity which awaits you. I charge you, remember that if you take the mess of pottage and barter away your birthright, you will bemoan yourselves at the last. In your dying hours you may find no place for repentance though you seek it carefully with tears. In another world there will be no hope of reformation or of escape from the result of sin. In eternity you will look up from under the fierce wrath of God and see no way of escape; for you will then be too wedded to evil to be able to escape from it. In that day which shall burn as an oven, what will you say to yourself for having sold your Lord? Oh, do not for the sake of a man’s frown or a woman’s smile forego eternal life! If God go, all is gone. To lose your Savior is to be lost yourself. Oh, my beloved, take the roughest road rather than part company with your best friend.”

Charles Spurgeon

How Do You Know Matthew Wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

How Do You Know Matthew Wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

There was once a debate between two Catholic apologists and two Protestant pastors over the topic of sola Scriptura. During the cross-examination, one of the Catholic apologists asked, “How do you know Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew?” The pastor opened his Bible and pointed to the title “Matthew” in it and claimed that was the reason why he knew Matthew wrote Matthew. But how do we know that the English titles in our modern Bibles are accurate? While that might be an acceptable answer for the average Christian, it doesn’t go over very well in a debate. But there is a reason why our English Bibles have Matthew as the title:

1. There are no Greek manuscripts of Matthew which assign authorship to anyone else besides Matthew. This is strong evidence that Matthew’s Gospel originally had Matthew’s name in its title. If the Gospel had been anonymous, then it is likely that we would see at least some manuscripts with different titles or no title at all. Based on the textual evidence, there are no other candidates for its authorship.

2. The testimony of the church fathers is unanimous that Matthew was the original author of the Gospel. Papias, Irenaeus, Pantaenus, Origen, and Eusebius of Caesarea all claim that Matthew was the original author of the Gospel which bears his name. I am not aware of any ancient writer who argues otherwise. Based on the testimony of the church fathers, there are no other candidates for its authorship.

3. An internal study of the Gospel itself is consistent with Matthean authorship. Matthew alone uses the more precise term nomisma (state coin) in Matthew 22:19 whereas Mark and Luke use the more common term dēnarion. This could show that the author of Matthew had a financial background since Matthew was a tax collector (Matt 9:9).

In light of the unanimity of the title of Matthew in the Greek manuscript tradition and the universal testimony of the church fathers, there is no reason to think that anyone else wrote Matthew besides Matthew.

Sunday Meditation – Where Love Was Born

Sunday Meditation – Where Love Was Born

“Let me tell you where love was born. Love was born in the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus sweat great drops of blood, it was nurtured in Pilate’s hall, where Jesus bared his back to the ploughing of the lash, and gave his body to be spit upon and scourged. Love was nurtured at the cross, amid the groans of an expiring God, beneath the droppings of his blood-it was there that love was nurtured. Bear me witness, children of God. Where did your love spring from, but from the foot of the cross? Did you ever see that sweet flower growing anywhere but at the foot of Calvary? No; it was when ye saw ‘love divine, all loves excelling,’ outdoing its own self; it was when you saw love in bondage to itself, dying by its own stroke, laying down its life, though it had power to retain it and to take it up again; it was there your love was born; and if you wish your love, when it is sick, to be recovered, take it to some of those sweet places; make it sit in the shade of the olive trees, and make it stand on the pavement and gaze, while the blood is still gushing down. Take it to the cross, and bid it look and see afresh the bleeding lamb; and surely this shall make thy love spring from a dwarf into a giant, and this shall fan it from a spark into a flame.”

Charles Spurgeon

Does Numbers 5 Sanction Abortion?

Does Numbers 5 Sanction Abortion?

A newer argument by atheists against the Christian pro-life position is that Numbers 5 gives approval to the practice of abortion since the passage describes the death of an unborn child after his mother is intentionally given a mixture of bitter water that causes her to miscarry. This is known as the “water ordeal” where a woman accused of adultery would drink a special mixture of water, ink, and dust and she would miscarry her child if she was guilty of adultery.

While there is some debate as to whether the passage is even describing a miscarriage, I believe the Hebrew terminology the passage uses is a euphemism to describe a miscarriage. This is also the interpretation of the majority of biblical commentators. The answer to the atheist’s argument is not to deny that the passage is describing a miscarriage, but, just as with God commanding the killing of women and children, we have to remember that what is allowable for God is often not allowable for us. The shedding of innocent blood is an abomination in God’s sight and therefore the intentional killing of an unborn child is forbidden to us (Prov 6:16-17). But God, who is the creator of all life, has the authority to give and take life as he sees fit (1 Sam 2:6). God’s causing of adulterous women to miscarry their unborn children is a punishment for their sins, not the willful choice of the woman to have an abortion. It is God who causes the miscarriage, not the bitter water since nothing happened in the case of women who were innocent.

If Numbers 5 gives approval to the practice of abortion, then 2 Samuel 12 gives approval to the practice of infanticide because God struck dead David’s child for his adultery. It would have been murder if David had killed his own child. But it is not murder when God takes the life of David’s child. God’s killing of people does not sanction our killing of people because we are not God. These passages teach us that our sins have consequences for our entire family, including our children. God ordained these events to teach his people the great evil of sin because it cost them the life of their innocent children. Other people had to die for their sins foreshadowing the death of Jesus for our sins.

Sunday Meditation – Repentance by the Spirit’s Power

Sunday Meditation – Repentance by the Spirit’s Power

“Have you ever tried to repent? If so, if you tried without the Spirit of God, you know that to urge a man to repent without the promise of the Spirit to help him, is to urge him to do an impossibility. A rock might as soon weep, and a desert might as soon blossom, as a sinner repent of his own accord. If God should offer heaven to man, simply upon the terms of repentance of sin, heaven would be as impossible as it is by good works; for a man can no more repent of himself, than he can perfectly keep God’s law; for repentance involves the very principle of perfect obedience to the law of God. It seems to me that in repentance there is the whole law solidified and condensed; and if a man can repent of himself then there is no need of a Savior. He may as well go up to heaven up the steep sides of Sinai at once.”

Charles Spurgeon