Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Prayers for the Dead in a Free Church?

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The death of Dr Gordon Wilson, former leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, who took a public stand for Christian moral values in society, was mentioned in the BCN (7 July).

A memorial service for him was held in St Peter’s Free Church, Dundee, on 5 July. It was conducted by the minister, the Rev David Robertson. Prominent figures in the Scottish Parliament were present, including the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Deputy First Minister, Mr John Swinney, who gave the eulogy. The service followed the modern fashion of fulsome praise of man, informality and a degree of humour and laughter. Hymns, readings and prayers were intermingled with the tributes from the family and others but there was no sense of solemnity.

The most disturbing aspect of the proceedings was the participation in the service of a Roman Catholic clergyman, Bishop Vincent Logan. He began his read prayer by praying for the soul of the departed. Towards the end of the service, Mr Robertson spoke briefly on Christ as the only way to the Father but later, on his blog, he had to give a kind of an apology for the contribution of the Bishop as follows:

‘The Roman Catholic view of salvation is not as full as the Protestant (Biblical). Bishop Vincent Logan is a lovely man who has served Christ for many years but in his prayer, he reflected something that was really quite sad. He prayed that Gordon being called from this world would be brought safely home to God’s kingdom and that he would be cleansed and given a place at the heavenly banquet. In this he was reflecting the Catholic doctrine of purgatory and that believers don’t go directly to heaven. But the biblical view is “today you will be with me in paradise.” He was praying for something that Gordon already has. When he came to believe in Jesus he was given eternal life.’

How?

This sad incident calls for several observations: (1) How was a Roman Catholic clergyman permitted in the first place to take part in the service? In this year of the commemoration of the birth of the Reformation in 1517 are we saying it was all a mistake? (2) How can the Bishop be described ‘as a lovely man who has served Christ for many years’ when by his teaching he has been dishonouring Christ by withholding the glory due to Him as the only Saviour of Sinners? (3) This is not the first time that Mr Robertson has revealed his ignorance of the nature of the papacy. On the 16 September 2010, on BBC radio Scotland, he welcomed Pope Benedict to Scotland as ‘a fellow Christian’ (see What Would John Knox have to Say to Us Today? (2014 p4). When will Mr Robertson’s associate ministers and colleagues in the Free Church of Scotland recover from their apparent laxity in dealing with those who deviate from the Westminster Confession? (5) The entire proceedings lacked a vertical dimension and therefore virtually no impression of the things of spiritual and eternal could have been left on the minds of the state dignitaries and others. Oh for a John Knox-like voice in  Scotland again!

(By permission of the author: Rev John Murray, Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)

(Jimmy Hamilton aka The Street Preacher, posted 24th July 2017)
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# Footnote is mine: This is what happens to churches, denominations when they let go of their Confessional foundations.

God’s Revelation!

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“The Bible must be accepted as absolutely inerrant and authoritative on all matters with which it deals at all. Otherwise, it is not really the word of God! If any man, or group of men, are empowered to tell us authoritatively what God’s word means, then we may as well entrust them with a commission to write the Bible altogether. Man seeks to become God if he (whether he is a theologian or scientist or anyone else) insists that his word must be accepted authoritatively as to what God’s word means.

We do not question that God “speaks” through his creation, but such natural revelation must never be considered equal in clarity or authority to his written revelation, especially as it often is “interpreted” by fallible human scholars, many of whom do not even believe the Bible. The Scriptures, in fact, do not need to be “interpreted” at all, for God is well able to say exactly what he means. They need simply to be read as the writer intended them to be read, then believed and obeyed. This applies to their abundance of “factual” information as well as to their religious and practical instructions.
By the same token, we must also recognise that God’s world must always agree with God’s word, for the Creator of the one is the Author of the other, and ‘he cannot deny himself’ (2Timothy 2:13). God’s revelation in nature can often amplify and illustrate his word, but his written revelation must always inform and constrain our interpretation of nature.
With such premises to caution us, we soon see that the Bible contains numerous statements affirming that God does, indeed, speak to us through his creation. A few of these, for example, are abstracted from such scriptures as the following:
 
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens and they will tell you, or the bushes of the earth and they will teach you, and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Whom among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? Job 12:7-9).
“The heavens declare the glory of the God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
“Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).

God’s revelation in nature, therefore, must always supplement and confirm his revelation in Scripture. It cannot be used to correct or interpret it. If there is an apparent conflict, one that cannot be resolved by a more careful study of the relevant data of both science and Scripture, then the written word must take priority….Even though the Bible is not a scientific textbook, it does speak authoritatively on the fundamental principles of science. Furthermore, it speaks correctly even on details of science whenever it refers to them at all.” (Henry M. Morris)

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Notes on the Exodus! (133)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The God of Mercy!  (Chapter 15 Verses 15-1-22)

The constant theme of this beautiful song of triumph is God himself. Who he is, his uniqueness (Deuteronomy 6:4). His majesty and his activity on behalf of his people whom he has redeemed. It is a call to us to consider much the God with who we have to do with, “the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). It is not just the past, the present but the future also that is his. There is prophetic vision here (v13-18). This is the reason we ought must trust him because all is in his good and strong hand. What God has done in the past is a guarantee of the promised land to the people of Israel. And is a guarantee of the real promised land, heaven itself, of which Canaan is a type, for us today. Already the nations are a tremble because Israel is on the march (v16). Remember when the spies got to Jericho and were hidden by Rahab and what she told them? “Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt” (Joshua 2:8-10). Just as declared here (v16). All that is required of us to trust him, “he delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him, we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:10). Because it is impossible for his enemies and ours to separate us from him (Romans 8:35-39). We can all as God’s people join in heartily and sing this song, with a resounding finale, “The LORD will reign forever and ever” (Exodus 15:18). The song has a very definite purpose, as should all that we sing in praise to God. This is not just to give the congregation an emotional fix until they gather again to praise God. Nor it’s purpose so Miriam and the other musicians can get their gear out and use their “gifts.” It is theologically sound, it is sober, it is thrilling, it fits the occasion, their foes have just been overthrown, once and for all. When they were faced with what they thought was an impasse, and there was no hope, and why? Because they did not exercise faith. To live with a God-consciousness takes the effort of faith. It is only when we do so we can live in peace. The sovereignty of God is not just a theological concept, it is a practical reality. If we truly believe God is sovereign that will affect how we react to all the stuff life has to throw at us.

So this is a proper response (v20-22). Worship! It was Miriam and the other women-folk with their tambourines that led this particular offering of praise. It is worth noting that the Old Testament worship of Israel is cultic, this is not New Testament worship, neither can you project this into the New Testament church. But you certainly can project the heart response into the New Testament church. Surely if the Lord has redeemed us at the cost of his Son’s precious blood, then our call as his gathered folk, is to stand up and bless the Lord. For we are the people of his choice, and so with heart and soul and voice to praise and thank the Lord. Not just simply going through the motions of a worship service, but as the New Testament has it, in Spirit and truth (John 4:24). This is our reasonable service, our spiritual worship, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). Because the Lord has delivered us from our worst enemy, our sinful selves. Alas God’s temporal blessings, as we walk through this vale of tears, doesn’t remove all our trials, there is always more to come. In fact, they may well increase, they often do. He saves us now in the midst this earthly scene, but then he begins to teach us, to discipline us. As we come to the concluding verses of this chapter we see Israel faced with yet another test of their faith. Three days into the desert and no water is a serious situation. What will they do, what should they do, what would you do? It seems as they violently assail Moses they demand of him what only God can provide.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Daniel! (5)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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The Courage of Faith  (Chapter 1 Verses 8-21)

As the young Daniel makes this courageous stance we might as the question, what’s wrong with the food and drink of Babylon? Do we all need to be vegetarians, vegans and teetotallers? Doubtless amongst the Jewish community some would have deemed Daniel to be somewhat Pharisaical, over scrupulous. You’ll recall from the New Testament how tight the Pharisees were, yet still they were defiled. They were so religiously particular while at the same time plotting murder. No, it’s not that with Daniel. Remember what the agenda is here with the Babylonians. The plan is get rid of the tradition of the fathers out of the minds of Daniel and his colleagues. They want to eradicate the biblical worldview, mindset. The is the reason for the change of names, cultural norms, even their diet. Babylon wouldn’t be acquainted with the modern mindset today, that religion is a private matter, to be kept to oneself. The life of Daniel is permeated with religion, he walks, talks and breathes it. God has his hand on this young man. The Babylonian culinary delights offered to Daniel is food that was first offered to idols. Each meal would have been a ‘holy’ meal, offered to the gods of Babylon. Of which of course, there were many. An idolatrous sacrament. So to both eat and drink this food offered to them would have been to eat and drink to the glory of Babylon’s gods. It is for this reason that Daniel refuses, he is consecrated to God, devoted to the true and living God. This is a biblical attitude after all is not? And not just within the four walls of a church building. Whether we buy or sell, whether we build or plant, whether we eat or drink, whatever and wherever we do it, we do it all to the glory God (1Corinthians 10:31). It is the devotion of our entire lives to God, this is our reasonable, or spiritual service. “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

The attitude is wrong that says we recognise the church is God’s domain, but what goes on, or what we do outside is our own business. Business is business, it’s our own lives, keep off. There can be no compartmentalising of the life of faith, Jesus Christ is Lord, and Lord of all, or Lord of nothing at all. Wonderfully and amazingly Daniel, though just a youth, about fourteen at this time, recognises the danger of compromise. You mustn’t compare today’s fourteen-year-olds in the West with a fourteen-year-old Hebrew lad back then. At the age of twelve, a Hebrew lad would be expected to be mature enough to be about his father’s business. The immaturity we see in Western youth is the result of the madness of sin. Daniel will know no compromise, he does not want to be estranged from his God by offending and breaking his commandments. Thus his faith is put into action at the dining room table, both sensibly and compassionately too, I might add. For Daniel would be aware that this man, appointed to be his tutor, his life could well be at stake (v9-10). The compassion note was God-given.  So Daniel empathises with the man, he lets him know that he appreciates his dilemma and suggests an alternative. “Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see” (Daniel 1:11-13). The young Daniel acts according to his faith, but not rashly, foolishly, but with wisdom and maturity beyond his years. O for God to raise up young men and women such as this in our churches in the West today.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus (132)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The God of Justice!  (Chapter 15 Verses 15-1-22)

The history of redemption is often called a drama. This here is the original soundtrack. The first three verses are about God and his glory. The next verses, four to twelve are about what he has done. The king’s very own words condemn him (v9). He was God-defiant, self-centred, note the repetition of the word ‘I’ in verse nine. He was the one who ended up destroyed, everlastingly. And so God’s people sing triumphantly of the divine perfection in his administration of justice. Take note will you, that it was God’s work, he drowned them in the sea (v4-5). It wasn’t natural causes as some liberal scholars would have us believe. Neither was it human causes, it was a divine act of judgment. But before you accuse God of being harsh remember this was a man who was spoken to by God, who saw the mighty, miraculous works of God. This was the man who was responsible for the harsh, oppressive, unjust treatment of the Hebrews. This was the man commanded the Hebrew children to be drowned, was it not fitting that God should drown him? A pretty fair transaction don’t you think? In Egypt, the natural order was deified. They worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars, the river Nile, the entirety of creation but not the Creator. It was the natural order that became Pharaoh’s death. The nation that embraces false religion is a nation facing death. This was a ruler and nation that stood in defiance of God (v6-9). The majesty of God was violated. The original language here expresses that of a demolition job, God brought down the entire structure of the nation of Egypt. There was nothing but dust and rubble left. God had pledged to his people freedom and the promised land. Pharaoh in his defiance dared to say no. We must understand how black this sin is, it is a great evil. Every sin is, but to stand in deliberate, conscious defiance of the Almighty when he is clearly speaking to you and demonstrating his mighty power, is to invite serious trouble, very serious trouble. This Pharaoh did, and this Pharaoh got.

The wrath of God against the ungodly is a constant state of mind, “for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). It’s not a case of God getting uptight, flying into a rage and lashing out. That’s how we sinners operate. No, it is a constant, even attitude of holy displeasure that hangs over the ungodly. The only thing that will remove that wrath is the all atoning blood of God’s Son Jesus Christ (John 1:29), nothing else. This holy displeasure was displayed here in the Red Sea in this act of justice upon the Egyptian forces, and the same wrath hangs over natural born sinners today. This is an act of divine vengeance, retributive justice (v10-12. And we, as Christians, ought not to be making excuses for God’s justice nor denying it. Lest he deny us (Matthew 10:33). The evil is displayed as strong, but God simply blew upon it (v10). This should be a great comfort to the believer, especially in times of much evil. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). For many Christians in our day, their God is way too small, their Jesus is too nice. Believe me, he is good, always, but he is not always nice. And our God is strong, mighty, almighty to deliver his people in the day of evil, and he will deliver. He is majestic (v11). His holiness is an awesome concept, “and one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3-5)! For those who believe in his Son, have experienced his lovingkindness, who love him, his character inspires awe, fear i.e., deep respect, worship, and trust. Worship him, the Triune God today, fall down before him, love and adore him!

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Daniel! (4)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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Faith in the Dining Room  (Chapter 1 Verses 8-21)

Daniel is listed as one of the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:33). When we think of Daniel in the lion’s den we think, what an amazing example of faith! But we never think of his amazing faith in the palace dining room. Because Daniel’s resolve in the kitchen took as much courage as did the lion’s den (v8). Daniel sees the lion’s den coming from across the dining room table already. And he knows that he is not faithful here he will not survive the lion’s den. A great faith begins with the little things, “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). It is in the small things that you see the courage that is rooted in faith. It’s godliness in practice. The lion’s den is for the minority. It is today we need to live out our faith, not in the future, we don’t know what it holds, God alone does. It’s in the dining room, the living room, the bedroom, the school, the office, the factory we need to be resolved to be faithful. The question would we be faithful if we were faced with the lion’s den is completely inappropriate if we are not resolved not to be defiled in the place where we are now. It would appear that only these four were faithful, was Daniel the initiator? Where were the rest of the royals, nobles (v3)? Were they already defiled, compromised? Of course, there would be those among the Hebrews who would criticise Daniel and his comrades. Too rigid, too narrow. We’re in a different culture now, we need to be flexible, what we eat and drink is of no real consequence. We need to get on with the world, show them that we can be like them. The church in the West has been bending over backwards these last sixty years to make that very point, and look at us now. More worldly than the world. The young Daniel has decided that if God will not bless it then he does not want it (v8). Whatever it is if it will not add to our life of faith and obedience to God, then it has no place in our lives. If there is a danger that it will take us away from God or compromise our testimony, then we will do without it.What others, even older Christians think, or if it costs us, friends, what does it matter? Daniel’s only concern is what pleases God.

It was very soon made clear to Daniel that God was with him (v9). That must have sent a thrill through his soul. His stand was a costly one, but he was soon seen to be the healthiest and happiest of the young men. Both physically and spiritually. This was in his youth that he made this resolve, and he went on in the same vein into old age, growing in grace and fruitfulness all the way. How sad it is that many are past their spiritual best before they’re twenty. Daniel was resolved from the start he was going to be God’s man, and he was in for the long haul (v8). He stood before God before he stood before the king. Doubtless, he would have had his critics, many their faith would have just collapsed in Babylon. What’s the use of believing anymore, it’s all over, God is not with us, it’s time to just accept the inevitable? Daniel will not succumb to unbelief, he holds the high ground, faith. He holds to the hope of his fathers, he clings to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who he believes will not fail his people. He is firmly resolved (v8). It is hope not despair in the worst circumstances that marks the life of this young man. He is God’s man in God’s place at God’s time. Seventy years down the line when it came time for Israel to return to Jerusalem, there were not many who returned, just a remnant. The rest had become Babylonianised, the world’s culture had consumed them a long time ago. While Daniel from the start, in faith, humbled himself, was content to wait on the Lord, and not rebel. What a remarkable young man is this Daniel. Who would dare to be like Daniel today?

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus! (131)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The God of Glory!  (Chapter 15 Verses 15-1-22)

A glorious song of praise is offered up to God for this mighty deliverance. And for God’s judgment upon Israel’s and God’s enemies. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Psalm 58:10-11). They express themselves in a way that is very natural to their Hebrew culture. It is praise as praise should be, there is nothing man-centredness, no glorification of man. All the praise is to God alone. It is in recognition of the personality, the supremacy and holiness of Almighty God. It is in praise of his vindictive, retributive justice. It is a Divinely inspired song, for it is not in squeamish man to write such concerning the justice of God. The glorified saints in heaven, they know better (Revelation 20:1-6). It is for us the people of God confirmation and remembrance also. It is prophetic in that it reminds the church of its final victory of Satan and the defeat of the AntiChrist (Revelation 15:1f). It is a reminder for the church too as she also struggles and battles with her enemies through the wilderness of this barren world. The victory over Satan is ours and Golgotha assured us of that, “having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15). This song of praise unto the Lord is for this victory over Egypt, the then world-power, Pharaoh who is a type of the Antichrist, and Satan who is the architect of all evil (v1). The first thing they do when delivered, they sang a song of praise to God. This is fitting. All inanimate creation sings (Job 38:7). The king of Israel does (Psalm 40:3). The ransomed of the Lord do, their sighing and sorrowing us turned to singing (Isaiah 51:11). How has Israel’s victory been wrought? By the blood of the Lamb and the power of Almighty God. The latter most conspicuously displayed in both the land of Egypt by signs and wonders and lately by means of the Red Sea.

They sing of the trustworthiness of their God (v2). He proves able to deliver, again and again, giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13). He alone is our salvation and does not the experience of such salvation lead us to glad, grateful confession of God as our deliverer and our salvation. This God is our God, he is the God of all history, he is our faithful covenant Lord, never changing, always the same. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). He acts for his own, takes issue with our foes, deals with the powers arrayed against us, both persons and powers of evil. Our God is a warrior God (v3). To his enemies, he is a terrible, fearsome warrior (v3). This is an aspect of God’s character ignored by and large, seldom made mention of. The often sickly sentimentality expressed as love is of the flesh, not faith. Israel is looking and singing from a divine perspective here, this is Spirit inspired praise! God is the faithful performer of what he promises, “the Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14). And did he not? Here is the practical proof, Israel has, as he promised, been delivered. As Joshua would tell Israel much later on, “and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof” (Joshua 24:14). Nor ever shall. Trust him!

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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