The Fight of Faith

We will face dark and desperate times in this life, but it is during these times that something else begins to happen in the heart of the Christian.

The following is from The Fight of Faith Blog.

The sky has turned dark. It has not always been this way, but now it is frightening. Not long ago it was bright and sunny as was the disposition of my heart, but now the thunder crashes are similar to the war drums of an enemy telling me that I will never survive. When the skies were clear I always imagined that I had the strength to handle whatever would come my way, but now as I stand here I realize how weak I am compared to the power of this storm.

Somehow the darkness that has surrounded me has begun to make its way into… Click the following link to continue reading: The Fight of Faith

The Priesthood of the Old Testament as understood through Jesus Christ

The Old Testament Priesthood as Understood through Jesus Christ

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=112152246135

“Christian Counseling and Culture” – Christopher Neiswonger at The Bahnsen Conference 2015

Christopher Neiswonger JD, MA lectures on “Christian Counseling and Culture” at “What of Christ and Culture? The Bahnsen Conference 2015”

What are we supposed to do on Sunday?

What are supposed to do on Sunday?

Q. 57. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Q. 58. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself.

Q. 59. Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?
A. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath.

Q. 60. How is the sabbath to be sanctified?
A. The sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Q. 61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.

Q. 62. What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the sabbath day.

From: “The Westminster Shorter Catechism”

Scriptural proofs and evidences:

Exodus 20:8-11. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

[142] Exodus 31:13, 16-17. Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you…. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

[143] Genesis 2:2-3. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. Exodus 20:11. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

[144] Mark 2:27-28. And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. Acts 20:7. And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. 1 Corinthians 16:2. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. Revelation 1:10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet

[145] Exodus 20:10. But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: Nehemiah 13:15-22. In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath. And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. Isaiah 58:13-14. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

[146] Exodus 20:8. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Leviticus 23:3. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. Luke 4:16. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. Acts 20:7. And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

[147] Matthew 12:1-13. At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day. And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.

[148] Nehemiah 13:15-22. In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath. And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. Isaiah 58:13-14. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. Amos 8:4-6. Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?

[149] Exodus 20:9. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: Exodus 31:15. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Leviticus 23:3. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.

[150] Genesis 2:2-3. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. Exodus 20:11. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 31:17. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

Kentucky State Clerk Kim Davis and the Christian moral conscience

In regard to the Kim Davis imprisonment the matter is much simpler than some imagine:

  • A Christian is under a constant and invariable duty to the moral law of God (as fallibly as we live that out).
  • That law is summed up by Jesus as loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
  • The laws of men are subsidiary interpretations and applications of this higher law.
  • When they are contrary or contradictory to the laws of God, the laws of men are invalid.
  • They are false assertions of power without the authority of law.

Here’s a great example of this kind of moral thinking from one of the most influential American Christian ethicists:

“One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.” Martin Luther King – Letter from Birmingham Jail

But Christians can disagree about what the laws of God entail in regard to a particular matter civil of law.

There are two reasons that Christians are falling on both sides of this issue:

1) They might think obedience to the given law falls within that which is allowable within the scope of obedience to the moral laws of God. In other words, that there is no real disobedience to God in obedience to the laws of the land. That, unfortunately, is arguable and not in itself obvious. When that happens reasonable people can disagree. They aren’t disagreeing on principle but on the application of the principal. Most disagreements happen this way and give a lot of latitude to the Christian conscience in regard to arguable matters. So Christians that affirm the priority of the moral laws of God can differ on if some action is indeed a violation of those laws.

For example, there are a lot of Christians that are for and against abortion.

2) They might think that under certain circumstances we are to obey men rather than God. That if there is a contradiction between the moral laws of God and the laws of the land that our duty is obedience to the laws of the land. This is Enlightenment religious ethics and is often exhibited through thinking in terms of the separability of the religious from the civic life, the separation of church and state as a metaphysical doctrine, or the idea of civil and spiritual spheres.

For example, “two Christians who hold the same beliefs about marriage as Christians may appeal to neighbor-love to support or to oppose legalization of same-sex marriage.” (Horton)

Notice that in the first case, whether what someone does is legal or illegal is not the most important issue.

In the second case, that is the most important issue.

So those that hold to the first, are arguing about whether or not Davis is being caused to violate the laws of God and conscience while the later are arguing about whether or not this is something allowable by the state of Kentucky, the Constitution of the United States of America and the effects of certain recent decisions of the SCOTUS.

Of course you can argue about both but without clarifying what you’re arguing “for” it will be confusing.

Is there room for disobedience to the laws of men for the sake of the laws of God? When? Under what circumstances?

Now here, I’m a bit of an absolutist in that I would say one never violates the moral laws of God in order to obey the laws of men; thankfully, God’s laws are that we love God and love our neighbor as ourself and so it should be rare that we need to violate one to keep the other. At the same time, it does come up; the Puritans (who are veritable heroes of civic and political freedom) left England because they were under constant persecution for the sake of obedience to the laws of love.

The difficulty isn’t in recognizing the duty, it’s in identifying the scope. If the state asked you to physically murder the innocent it would be so easy to say, “this is not a loving act, and so it violates good conscience and the moral laws of God, and so I shall not participate and will oppose this action of the state.” But it almost never looks like that. It usually looks something like a minor state government official being asked to participate in the legal procedure of issuing a license for someone else to do something that she thinks is against the moral laws of God. That… is hard. What exactly is her duty here? Where is the line? It can’t be as simple as to do her job because what her job is is part of the debate. It can’t be as simple as to obey “the government” because she is the government and governments are wrong all the time. It can’t be as simple as to obey the moral laws of God because there is a good measure of interpretation involved in getting from the circumstances to the violation of the moral law.

I think we can all agree that an immoral law is no law at all, so we will assume that and pass it by in confidence.

The Bible speaks to this issue quite a bit, and one famous consideration takes place when, “Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

I understand that this leaves the Christian in a particularly difficult situation. On the one hand they have the duty laid upon them by God that they should obey the civil authorities in all good things (Romans 13). This is why Christians make such good citizens wherever they go. They subject themselves to the government of any land (Christian, pagan or secular) with God’s own command. Submission to these governments is thus submission to God in as far as it is not also disobedience to God. But there is the rub; submission in all things up to but not in contradiction too, the laws of love for our God and our neighbor. When we take the full breadth of scripture into account it’s clear that “all things” means all “good” things and not in anything that is not good. We are not to obey governments in doing evil, worshipping other Gods, murder, adulteries, prostitution, drug abuse, even if such things are legal under the laws of the land they are not legal for the Christian.

The examples in scripture are so many as to overwhelm the conscience from the stories of David’s disobedience to Saul to why Daniel ended up in that lion’s den (the book of Daniel is fat with the theme of disobedience to the contrary laws of men by those obedient to the laws of God). But in the New Testament also from Jesus to Peter and Paul their disregard for unjust or contrary laws is powerfully consistent.

We should remember that the very Gospel of Jesus Christ is woven through with the fact of his accusation, conviction, imprisonment, punishment and execution in accord with the laws of the Jews and the Romans, acting in concert.

Should Jesus have submitted Himself to the duly ordained authority of the state? Well, He did of course. That’s a powerful example of obedience with a cost. But He did not do so in agreement with them or because they were right. And they took him by force. He did not resist but that’s a different situation. He could have resisted and won but he was submitting his guiltless self for our guilty selves, submitting to a punishment that we did deserve. Through the rest of the Bible he destroys men and nations regardless of their religious bias for violations of the moral laws of God. He doesn’t ask their permission nor does he seem to have an objection to measuring and judging Jews, Gentiles, Pagans, Atheists or Empires. The presumption of scripture is that he is over all of them and judges them all according to a perfect rule of righteousness. He plainly expects all governments to exercise their granted, inferior authority according to justice, and that justice is neither arbitrary nor left to the nations to choose.

And this is one of the most difficult things for Enlightenment Christians to come to terms with; Jesus had light regard for the laws of the state. He was almost dismissive of its presumed authority. Sure, He asked, “Whose face is this on this coin…” and it was Caesar’s and He said give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s but some people miss the powerful intent of the statement. The coin has Caesar’s face on it so we give the coin to Caesar but everything is God’s including Caesar and the coin, and everything else, so give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. The idea that Jesus was affirming Caesar’s independent authority and relegating the authority of God to the “spiritual’ backwaters of the universe is a horrible misreading of the text.

Jesus, the Apostles, Daniel, Jeremiah and whomever else you might have going were always innocent (morally) of any crime but guilty under the laws of men. They broke them willingly and without regard to conscience because they were doing the right thing. A great deal of the biblical message is about disobedience to civil authority when it is wrong.

So here is that very uncomfortable rub in that a Christian has an always present duty to love God before men and to obey the laws of God when contrary to the laws of men, and yet to obey the laws of men in whatever might be conformable, though sometimes that hard to figure out.

Sometimes it’s hard to say whether or not some law allows something the Christian does not think should be allowed or demands something that they may not obey.

So how do we decide?

Well, let each one of us be certain in our own conscience between ourselves and God and take the consequences as they come.

So Kim Davis must do what she is doing. She has no other Christian choice. In any case, every matter should be decided according to principal and not pressure.

She might even be wrong but “to act against conscience is neither right or safe.” Luther

Neiswonger

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The Waning Influence of the American Church

The sub-christian pietism, social pacifism and cultural docetism that pervade the American church might be the primary reason for her waning influence.

People can’t believe a gospel of no consequence. Jesus’ gospel carried an immediate effect upon all of life. Without that, it becomes a merely theoretical gospel accurate in sentences but devoid of power. A lively faith is reduced to the singing of songs and a series of rituals. A reading of dusty books and dead theologians.

Some set James and Paul at odds and war against Luther’s gospel “with hands and feet”; Calvin’s gospel productive of a “Christian life”. We can’t have Paul without James or James without Paul if we demand the full counsel of God.

James wrote, “…If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”

Our Justification is by grace alone through faith alone – but faith is never alone in the truly regenerate soul; neither in a true Christian church, where there are duties to attend in the temple of God and we share in the sufferings of Christ.

And this makes us happy…

Neiswonger

There is Grain in Egypt (Sermon)

This sermon looks at the story of Joseph’s brothers who came to buy grain from him in Genesis 42. Like the brothers, even when it seems all things are against us, we must remember that there is grain in Egypt.

The audio file for this sermon can be downloaded here.

It is also available in the Bethel Grace Baptist Church Podcast.

God Bless,

Doug