Notes On Mark’s Gospel (146)

“On Your Mark” – Day 146

‘Taken Up’ (Chapter 16 Verses 9-20)

The ascension of our Lord into heaven (v19), is a glorious doctrine and carries with it some very useful out-workings. Notice what Mark says in the verse the “he was taken up.” Now any of the Biblical references to the Lord’s ascension all have passive verbs, he was taken or carried or received. See the implication? After having triumphantly accomplished everything the Father gave him to do, after completing the way of salvation for every believer, how could heaven possibly shut its doors to the Son of God? Not possible. The implication is, he did not force his way, barge back into heaven and take his place as right. Rather heaven threw its doors open wide. Can you imagine it? Those doors opening wide, a great fanfare of trumpets, as Jesus enters victoriously, and then silence as he sits down in his rightful place of power and authority given him by his Father (Philippians 2.6-11). You see angels are truly exalted beings, but they are created just like us. Not so the Son of God, he is uncreated, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, there never was a time when he was not and never shall be a time when he will not be. But Jesus has returned to heaven, not in the way he came from it. He has returned, as we say, with a human brow. There is now in the glory, glorified human flesh, the man Jesus has ascended into heaven bearing the glorified scars of Calvary. Because he became lower than the angels (Hebrews 1.4-7), a man, human flesh (1Timothy 3.16), and endured all that we have witnessed in Mark’s gospel, God has exalted him, made him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2.36), Prince and Saviour (Acts 5.31).

But what are the practical implications of this for us? This, he is there in heaven as our advocate (1John 2.1-2), taking up our case at the throne of heaven. The author of Hebrews tells us he sat down (Hebrews 1.1-3), well you do not sit down till your work is done, you get up, have breakfast, get the children ready for school, do the dusting, the hoovering, then and only then do you sit down and have your coffee break. When the work is done you sit down. So too with Jesus. He has finished the work on earth given him by his Father, he suffered once and will never suffer again, it is finished (Hebrews 7.27; 9.12; 9.26). That one sacrifice prevails for us over our every sin, past, present, and future. It means he prevails for us over even over our silly old selves. That position of power and authority gives him the prevailing power.

Notes On Romans (60)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Comfort Divine (Chapter 8 Verses 18-27)

The truth is we are not alone in this hopeful struggle we have the assistance of the Holy Spirit (v26). And so it is no longer a marvel that we more than cope, that we in fact triumph in our trials (v37). This is the divine Comforter promised us by Jesus Christ (John 14.16), who comes alongside us to help, to teach, to strengthen, to heal, to build up and so on. We are weak but he is strong (1John 4.4). At times so weak we do not know what to pray for, but he does, he steps in and takes over, taking our part as a true advocate and he speaks on our behalf, when we pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6.18; Jude 20). There is great encouragement here, we have the prayers of Jesus on our behalf, sealed by his redemptive work (Hebrews 7.25), and we have the prayers of the Holy Spirit working on our behalf (v26), double comfort, two members of the Trinity, the God-head praying for you! How can you fail, with God’s empowering presence in the midst of your weaknesses due to the sufferings of this present age. The same Person aligns our prayers with heaven, drawing us into close harmony and communion with the Holy Trinity, perfect in the will and love of God. You must never forget, the Christian life is not simply about a sheer disciplined life, it is life in the Spirit, in all the fullness of what is taught about him and his operations here in this chapter. The Christian life cannot be lived without the Spirit of God (John 3.3; John 7.37), and the Christian Church cannot be built up, and sustained without him and his gifts.

     Therefore, let us worship and adore this third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, for he is God the Lord. He is to be respected and honoured, who graciously and kindly sympathises with us. He is to be worshiped and he is the more and more to be submitted to. He is to be obeyed at his every prompting and command, his still small voice. We must be acutely aware of his love, his grace, his faithfulness to us in all our trials. More than sympathy, empathy even. We are commanded to be filled (Ephesians 5.18), we are instructed to be careful not to offend his sensitivity (1Thessalonians 5.19), to desire and know his presence with us continually. Jesus prays from heaven and the Spirit prays from within, our inmost being, knowing our deepest needs, understanding us totally, even when we do not know and understand ourselves. God knows, loves and cares, what provision!

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

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Nepal’s Just One Effect!

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

That man should reign God made it plain,
Through all the world, his allotted domain;
To rule and conquer, and to subdue,
In all this cosmos, in every avenue.

All to man, was put into subjection,
His task so easy, none would dare to question;
The ground and beast, to man, did yield,
Nothing to hurt in land or sea, in mount or open field.

Alas, sin entered in, that’s when the roof fell in,
Mankind’s domain abused at every turn;
Seeking to hurt and destroy God’s man,
This was all part of the original plan.

Polluted and violated, its every resource,
The ground itself rages, it’s the dreaded curse;
Human sin throughout the nations,
Its far-reaching effects through all of creation.

God gets the blame for the likes of Nepal,
But that’s not fair, the cause is man’s fall;
Earthquakes and floods, the death-toll’s up,
For the world with its sin is filling the cup.

God in his grace is restoring the order,
Running salvation from border to border;
Calling his folk, till the last one’s brought in,
Remaking, renewing, man and his domain.

So sin is the cause, of all that is bad,
But redemption in Jesus makes the heart glad;
A broken world with an ache and a groan,
Will one day be made, brand new, all over again.

(© James R Hamilton, written 29th, April, 2015)

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Notes On Mark’s Gospel (145)

“On Your Mark” – Day 145

‘Gifts of the Spirit’ (Chapter 16 Verses 9-20)

Perhaps in the area of the supernatural working of God’s Spirit, as with other Christian truth, it is a question of balance, that point needs to be made often in many areas of truth. We would not in any sense want to limit God as to what he can or cannot do in the supernatural realm, neither would we say that God cannot or does not heal people today, that would be contrary to what the Lord tells us to pray for in the Bible, particularly in the Book of James (James 5.13-16), and elsewhere. No, God does, but according to his sovereign will and purpose, he can and does heal today, without question. There was a Puritan, a Calvinistic Baptist preacher, called Hansard Knollys (1599-1691). Now this man delivered two lectures saying that these supernatural gifts and operations of the Spirit had ceased with the Apostolic age. Now you might not agree with that. Some would say there is nowhere in Scripture that actually says that I would disagree. However, in 1630 this man was sorely tempted by Satan concerning the integrity of God’s word concerning a sick woman’s life, so he felt compelled to go and pray for her, which he did, and she was, completely restored.

On another occasion, the same man in 1689 took himself to prayer over a leading Baptist preacher called Benjamin Keach, who sought the Lord and asked him to add to his life the years he gave Hezekiah the king in the Old Testament (Isaiah 38). He left his friend telling him he himself, would be in heaven before him. And true it was too, Knolly’s died two years later and Keach lived another fifteen years, dying in 1704. Now I would not question that. I would put it down to the sovereign operations of God’s Spirit. Knolly’s, as a result of what happened, did not begin to hold healing meetings or lay hands on everyone he met who was sick. People are always wanting to put labels on things and people, the New Testament Church is essentially a charismatic Church, essentially, but with a small ‘c’, it was created, and is developed, built up by and sustained through the gifts given to it by the Holy Spirit, preaching and teaching are charismatic gifts. The Church is a supernatural entity, we are a supernatural people born of the Spirit. It is the extremes that cause the problems, seeing the supernatural around every corner, or at the other end, virtually no Holy Spirit activity at all. The one I declare is as bad as the other. Avoid the extremes at all costs. Again, Dr Lloyd-Jones said, it is better to be credulous than to have a grudging, critical attitude, for that quenches the Holy Spirit.

Notes On Romans (59)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Hope That Keeps Us Going (Chapter 8 Verses 18-27)

We were justified by faith, and brought into this glorious hope, we were not ushered straight into the glory of heaven, simply given the hope of it (v24-25). And from that point forward we learn to walk by faith, not by what we see around us (2Corinthians 5.7; Romans 1.17), the corruption of creation, remaining sin, the groaning of childbirth pains (v22). But with our eyes fixed on the prize we press on in faith, just like Jesus did (Hebrews 12.2b). But this surely is the great thing about the Christian, he or she is a person who has hope, and that hope is centred on Jesus, the author of our faith (Hebrews 12.2), he is the beginning of it, the centre of it, the end, the perfecter of our faith. All our hope is in him. Are you at your wits-end today? Fretting because of the future and what maybe it holds for you? Lean upon Jesus, more and more, in all his fullness of love for you, in all his tenderness for you, whose love for you is as full now as ever it was, never grows cold, never diminishes, who has no condemnation for you (v1). May God fill you with hope as you trust more and more in Christ (Romans 15.13). The point I am trying to make concerning triumphalism that expects everything now, is here vindicated by Paul, if we already have what we hope for, we no longer hope. But that is not the case (v25) we wait patiently for the fullness of our redemption.

     

     This patience with which we wait is important too, with brave perseverance, we do not simply put up with, but bravely, and hopefully travel through this world of sorrow and pain. It is the life of faith which brings courage to the heart, it is the life of hope that enables us to endure cheerfully and the love of God poured into our hearts (Romans 5.5) that keeps us free from bitterness and cynicism. It is the life of faith, hope and love that enable us to take the sufferings of this present world and turn them to our good (Romans 8.28). It is in that school of discipleship that we learn to be like Jesus. We are a marvel to ourselves sometimes, we wonder how on earth we are able to keep going we wonder how on earth we ever came through some situations. But it is with hind-sight we look back and see the Lord’s hand there with us in it, strengthening, encouraging even carrying us. We do not know how, but we are the better for it, our faith is proved to be genuine (James 1.2ff), and stronger, we have grown in spiritual stature, and we are still hoping. He who brought us into this confidence, who conceived the plan in eternity (Ephesians 1.4), will bring it to full fruition (Philippians 1.6).

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

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Notes On Mark (144)

“On Your Mark” – Day 144

‘Signs Following’ (Chapter 16 Verses 9-20)

The account of Matthew adds the promised presence of Jesus with his disciples, here the miraculous gifting and signs of Jesus disciples is spoken of (vv17-18). These were promised of course with their ordination (Mark 3.15; Matthew 10.1). We have already seen these signs accompanying them as they proclaimed the gospel (Luke 10.17). The book of Acts, of course, is permeated with the signs of his disciples as they evangelise in Jerusalem, Samaria and Asia Minor. These signs accompanying them were a demonstration of the power of God’s Spirit and presence amongst them, a sign, symbol of the Kingdom, the power, the rule of God breaking into hearts and lives to save. They were gospel credentials (Hebrews 2.4). We see this authenticated under Paul’s ministry in Acts, driving demons from a young girl who was bound by the forces of evil (Acts 16.16-21). The tongues were manifested with the outpouring of God’s Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2; 1Corinthians 12-14) when people heard the gospel being proclaimed to them in their own languages. There is only one recorded example of a person picking up a serpent and not being harmed, that was Paul (Acts 28.3). Of deliverance from deadly poison, there is no Scriptural testimony to. And of course of Divine healings, there can be no argument as to their taking place under the ministry of the disciples, not just the Apostles.

Now the arguments rage still today, do these signs still accompany the gospel? There are good arguments for and against. Some scholarly articles have been delivered that would cause you think it must be the last word, but it will not be, no. There are good people on both sides of the divide. Both sides can claim support, even from some of the Puritans and the Reformers. The use of Church history by both camps has served to convince some, both have produced evidence. Both would claim to have Biblical grounds for their arguments. When we claim to know everything there is to know about the Holy Spirit’s operations we are saying we have examined all of it from every angle, that we have full knowledge of him and his working. Now honestly, I do not think that is the case with any of us. That is really a rather arrogant statement if you think about it. We need to go on studying the Scriptures and from that source alone, through the help of God’s Spirit to come to a settled conviction concerning these and other matters pertaining to our faith. With a willingness to be taught by God’s word and Spirit.

Many people, especially in recent days have made claims of miracles, and I think in many instances great harm has been done to the cause of the gospel. Claims that have been ridiculous, disgraceful, even blasphemous, I leave you with the wise words of the Puritan, John Owen; “it is not unlikely but that God might on some occasions, for a longer season, put forth his power in some miraculous operations; and so yet may he do, and perhaps doth sometimes. But the superstition and folly of some ensuing ages, inventing and divulging innumerable miracles false and foolish, proved a most disadvantageous prejudice unto the gospel, and the means to open a way unto Satan to impose endless delusions upon Christians; for as true and real miracles, with becoming circumstances, were the great means that won and reconciled a regard and honour unto Christian religion in the world, so the pretence of such as either were absolutely false, or such as whose occasions, ends, matter, or manner, were unbecoming the greatness and holiness of Him who is the true author of all miraculous operations is the greatest dishonour unto religion that anyone can invent”.

Notes On Romans (58)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

All Creation Waits (Chapter 8 Verses 18-27)

The whole of creation, the universe waits (v19), desiring our final deliverance (Joel 1.10-20), and along with us will shout with rejoicing, and celebrate the revelation of our glorification (Psalm 98.4-6; Isaiah 49.13). Now if the creation is so eager for our future glory, should not we be? Ought we not to be living more for that glory? Should we not be, in a Biblical sense, other-worldly? And would not that cure us of much of the worldliness we see in the visible church today? Would it not bring a renewed repentance of the idolatry of which God’s own people are so often guilty of today? The idol of reason that puts mind over God’s revelation, the Bible and the idol of consumerism, must have, must buy, the market values as opposed to God’s value system. What about the idol of false gospels, the therapeutic religion that strokes and pampers the modern self-adulation of a middle-class church, certainly in the West at least (Joshua 24.15)? Would it not bring us back to our senses if we grasped again the reality of living for heaven and the glory God promises us here in these verses?

     The reason that creation is waiting is because of the catastrophe in Adam’s day (v20), the fall. Humanity was supposed to rule the domain in which God placed them, it was in subjection to them, but the failure of sin resulted in a failure to accomplish the intended purpose of God in giving this responsibility to us, his creatures. A world full of sinful people, with God’s displeasure revealed against it (Romans 1.18-32), could not possibly accomplish its God-given task in a God-ordained way. That domain is abused at every turn, polluted, violated, drained of its resources. The fruits of that domain are harboured by some at the expense of others. The very ground itself is cursed because of human sin (Genesis 3.17), the animals everything is against us, tearing at us, seeking to hurt and destroy us. The far-reaching results of human sin, but God in his grace has put this into reverse gear, he has begun the restoration program, it will run until every last child of God is revealed, is called and brought safely into the Kingdom. Then the end will come. Then everything will be restored completely, even creation itself. As you look at the brokenness of your surroundings, the ravages of pollution, the abuse of resources, it is a stark reminder to us all of our being fallen creatures, our sin. It is sin that is the ultimate cause of everything bad in our universe. But God will set creation free from its bondage (v21). In Jesus only is freedom, within God’s family (John 8.36).

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

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