According to the Scriptures, the totality of the sin of the saints is said to be separated as far as the east is from the west and indeed at the bottom of the ocean and forgotten forevermore (Psalm 103:12).  But, what does this mean?  It is certainly not that we have earned a certain favor with infinite holiness that this be so.  Nor is it that we have simply grown in enough knowledge of God, the scriptures, holy things and that now we are holy and desire to be so.  How does one who is so flawed and sinful begin to utter the thought of coming boldly to the holy One who judges in perfect righteousness?

Consider the Davidic covenant in contrast to the establishment of King Saul’s reign.  Saul was the choice and handsome son of Kish (1 Sam. 9:2).  In that time, there was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel.  From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.   In the midst of all the children and tribes of Israel, it was eternally decreed that Saul be anointed King.  Indeed the spirit of God moved Samuel to do so (1 Sam. 10:6).  It seems that Saul would be more fit than all others to fulfill the role of king over the Israelites since he was chosen by God (1 Sam. 10:19).

The rebellion of Israel during this time ultimately brought Saul to be king over the nation.  While the Israelites flounder in unbelief and fail to obey their fathers and the law of Moses, they simply requested to have a king to reign over them.  God granted their request and gave them Saul through the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 8:6-8).  From the tribe of Benjamin, the biggest and strongest in all the land of Israel became the king and ruler of God’s people.

Saul’s unbelieving and unlawful sacrifice in the midst of the Philistine battle would very soon provoke the rebuke from God by Samuel to Saul by demonstrating that he was never truly fit to be king.  “But now your kingdom shall not continue.  The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (1 Sam. 13:14).  So began the decline of the reign of King Saul.  He had not in mind the righteousness and holiness of God.  He ultimately cared not to please and worship God himself with his heart, mind and very life.  “Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, ‘I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments’” (1 Sam. 15:10-11).

Saul’s apparent brokenness over sin caused him great emotional distress due to his knowledge of rebellion in heart and what God has spoken through Samuel.  So distressed was he that he claimed to be repentant of heart and desired pardon from sin that he may worship God (1 Sam. 15:25).  Being a king in desperate need for a turn of events in his favor, Saul heard the worst possible news from the prophet of God.  “And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore.  So Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you” (1 Sam. 15:27-28).  Everything that seemed to be in favor of Saul in the beginning of his reign would no longer be kept, honored and blessed by God.  He proved to be an unfit, sinful, selfish, unbelieving and ultimately worthless king.  But God would soon again prove faithful to his people.

Although Saul was no longer king over Israel, the scriptures say that he continued to worship God during this time (1 Sam. 15:30-31).  Samuel, the prophet, seer and man of God, even continued to mourn the loss of Saul as king.  But, God soon comforted, rebuked and commanded Samuel to fill his horn with oil, and go to Jesse the Bethlehemite.  Soon after the consecration of Jesse and his sons, they sacrificed a heifer to the Lord.  The most seemingly unfit and unlikely of men would be chosen by God to be the anointed king of Israel.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him.  For the Lord  does not see as a man sees ;  for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).  God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27).  The small, weak and otherwise pathetic people in the world are those whom God has chosen to bear his name and wear a crown of glory.  The spirit of the Lord was with David from the day he was anointed king and indeed forevermore.

It is evident throughout history and is demonstrated through particular historical events that Yahweh is king of all creation.  David is one of the many sinful human instruments that God has used to establish his people on earth to ultimately triumph over evil and sin and into an everlasting covenant for the glory of his infinite name.  God had instilled this truth and knowledge in David so that all battles and wars to win and the lands and people to acquire were God’s according to his eternal plan and not the temporal affairs of man.  Therefore, only God’s power is able to triumph over evil and establish vindictive judgment over the unbelieving and uncircumcised nations surrounding beloved Israel.

The dichotomy is presented to all of Israel that David’s kingdom shall continually flourish and Saul shall continually grow weaker and weaker (2 Sam. 3:1).  Throughout the numerous battles between David and Saul, it is David who continually prevailed because the Lord was with him and, “gave his enemies into his hands.”    The true impotence of man is demonstrated by the events that God has orchestrated to care for and protect the children if Israel despite continual oppression, developed enemies and even the sin of Israel and David in particular.  So shall David be established with complete dominion over all his enemies.  “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  ‘I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.  If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.  ‘But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you.  Your throne shall be established forever’” (2 Sam. 7:13-16).

When God’s people enter battle under their own strength, they shall be utterly lost and defeated without the power of Yahweh handing them their enemies.  The omnipotence, sovereignty and grace of God is perhaps most greatly displayed when man is recognized as nothing at all and “as a drop in a bucket,” compared to the holiness of the Most High.  It is when man humbles himself and made into nothing that he shall be exalted.  It is when he sees that God must be a savior in order to be a deliverer. Then his enemies will be given into his hands. David had this in mind:  “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.  I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies (2 Sam. 22:2-4).”

Under the old covenant and the law, God wrought recompense for the sins of his enemies through condemnation and death.  This is even true for those included among the children of Israel who were not part of true Israel.  In other words, there are those who dwell among the people of God, attend worship, pray, read the scriptures and yet otherwise perish in their sins because they are ultimately enemies of God.  King David was not more or less of a sinner than any other born from women, for “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).  It was David who committed adultery with Bathsheba and consequently ordered the death of her husband Uriah.  After the adulterous affair, it was David’s son who consequentially died within seven days of birth.  God was displeased with the sin of David, king of Israel and servant of the Most High (2 Sam. 11:27).

Nevertheless, it is David who was known for worshiping God freely in the spirit which even causes an envious heart in Saul’s daughter, Michal, for his intimacy with God (2 Sam. 6:14-16).  Enemies of surrounding nations, including the Philistines, were continually handed over to David.  His name was progressively made more great and famous throughout the land of Israel.  Those who read of the life of David are left only to realize the infinite power of God to glorify his own name in the midst of the most tumultuous scenarios in the lives of his people.  It is perhaps the infinite mercy of the Lord to not only give all things to David, including delivering his enemies that are greater in size and multitude, but to ultimately deliver him from the power of sin and death.  It is God’s chastisement of David’s sin that proves he is a son of God and not David’s ability or even longing to be a great king and warrior.  It was for the sake of God’s own name.  “O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.  Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled.  My soul also is greatly troubled;  But You, O LORD-how long?  Return, O LORD, deliver me!  Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake!  For in death there is not remembrance of You;  In the grave who will give You thanks?” (Psalm 6:1-5).

The power of indwelling and public sin casts a dark shadow upon the soul of every believer.  It has the power and ability to change the direction of one’s life and wreak havoc on daily circumstances, believer or unbeliever.  It can create seemingly unbearable and unthinkable consequences, such as Bathsheba becoming pregnant with David’s son while she is married to someone else.  The greatest and most permanent consequence of sin is death.  A sinner left to himself, like Saul as king, will only lead to destruction.  The Lord says in proverbs, “But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36).  How can we distinguish the sin of those who are sons of God and those who will go down to the Pit (Prov. 1:12)?

The gospel that Paul preached began with acknowledging the law.  It was made because of transgressions and the law in itself is good.  We would not know sin if not for the law (Romans 7:7).  However, since Adam, our federal representative fell into sin, all others, including David, have inherited it by nature. Therefore, we are not justified by the law but rather condemned.  Nor are we made right with God by trying to keep it under our own righteousness and power. “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith” (Gal. 3:5).  Paul is suggesting something perhaps foreign and outrageous to the church at Galatia as a former teacher of the law and a pharisee of pharisees.  The biblical truth of being justified by faith is probably most greatly realized by the apostle Paul.

“Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).  Both Abraham and David believed God for their righteousness because of promise.  So must we, in Christ  They also knew specifically of the righteousness and holiness of God.  So must we, in Christ. But, perhaps more precisely they believed by faith that God forgave their sins and would not remember them anymore despite the sin that they continually committed against infinite holiness.  So must we, in Christ.  All the forefathers could not manifest even by faith, “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (Col. 1:26).  It is something that even angels desire to look into (1 Peter 1:12).  This mystery is also hidden from the world, from those who are are rich and well learned and from those who will not inherit the grace of eternal glory.  It is something so manifestly and unutterably glorious that it is, “according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith” (Romans 16: 25-26).  The mystery of the gospel is realized in what we know as the covenant of grace when the now indwelling holy spirit of God enables believers to have the belief, power, knowledge and ability to obey God in Christ.

Understanding the glorious depths of the gospel comes primarily by understanding the purpose of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ given in the new birth .  Paul understood that all of the promises made by God to his people of old were ultimately fulfilled in Christ.  All of the sin of Adam, David, Israel, Moses and those who are yet to be saved must be nailed to the cross.  There is no other way to be saved from sin and the omnipotent wrath of God.  “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still dead in your sins!” (1 Corin. 15:17).  Where the blood of calves and spotless lambs do not ultimately forgive sin, the judicial power of the blood of Christ is supremely enough to satisfy the ransom for the infinite payment required for sins.  The death of Christ satisfied the debt for sin but the resurrection of Christ turns death and all evil to life and hope.  The sinner that was once dead can now live by faith in Christ. Jesus says in the Revelation of John, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18).

Thanks be to God for all the promises of old that are completely fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the new covenant.  “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second” (Hebews 8:7).  The writer of Hebrews explained the promise, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.  In that He says, ’A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete.  Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (vv.12,13).  The all-consuming majestic power of God is seen when the visible image of the invisible God in his humiliation came to be, “the cursed who hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).

Now, our completely depleted account of self- righteous filthy rags is completely filled by Jesus Christ due to his perfect obedience to the law.  His righteousness is now ours because he gave or imputed it to us, by grace and infinite mercy.  Our confidence is now not how close we can obey the law (which is judicially impossible at every moment due to depravity and fallen sinful nature), but our belief by faith in what only Christ has already done for us.  Therefore, our obedience to the law is really obedience to Christ because the law is only our tutor that leads to him (Gal. 3:24).

The great name of King David was passed on through each successive generation until the new covenant, beginning with his son, King Solomon, the richest and wisest man who has ever lived and ever will live.  But, perhaps the greatest theological reality of the Davidic covenant (besides being a type of Christ and in which his direct lineage leads to the birth of Christ, Matt. 1) is that before the great name of David was the great name of Noah, Abraham and Moses.  These great men of God served and loved God with all of their hearts.  God knew them and loved them.  He called them by name and made them what they were in his sight.  Nevertheless, none of these foundational spiritual forefathers were without sin and unbelief.  One may take only one look through the scriptures at each one of these men to find that by nature they are no different than any other born from woman.  The only difference between these men and any other is that they ultimately were justified by faith, in Christ.

“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”  Galatians 2:21

 

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”  Luke 14:26

 I love and adore the wife and son the Lord has given me to great lengths.  The affection and love for my wife far surpass my affections for any other on earth.  My dearest son the Lord has chosen to bless me with provokes a spirit of jealousy and covetousness as a male lion defends his cubs because of his vulnerability and my newly found love for him.  I feel I would gladly lose my life for either one of my wife and son because of my love for them (my wife primarily).  Because of the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus, I treasure each moment I spend with them as I know it may be my last.  Because I do not know the minute or hour that I should pass into glory, God has chosen part of the fruit of my labor to be in the mutually transacting love and affection portrayed the immediate family that he has given me.  Although a strong passion to display the glory of God in relationships on earth is part of God’s wisdom and decree, it cannot and should not ever surpass the affectionate love for the savior and pursuance of holy thoughts that comes directly from the eternal throne of grace.

Being a disciple of Christ seems to be a flippant idea tossed to and fro by professing believers and unbelievers alike.  The causality of such ideas seems to have preeminence in contemporary cultural man-pleasing doctrines and thoughts.  The essentials of Christianity and basic biblical doctrine is easily forsaken and gladly replaced with carnal affections and desires.  Rather than seek the meekly wisdom and godly fear of what being a disciple of Christ means, we seek to at least publicly acknowledge that we are disciples of him and privately, however, we concede to our sinful desires that indeed denounce the very implication and profession of being his disciple.  That being said, there is a great deal of joy that can be expressed in the drastic claim of our Lord himself that we must, “hate our mother, father, wife, children, and self,” to be his disciple.

Firstly, we will be married to Jesus Christ for all eternity.  The apostle John states, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of The lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints (Revelation 19:7-8).”  Although the affections that my wife and children and even family may stir upon my emotions and a spirit of joy, it is not of an eternal kind.  Because I will be eternally married to Jesus Christ and not my wife, only he can provide the sustenance that produces spiritual fruit to worship with a mind that is in preparation for the marriage supper with the Lamb.  While loving my wife as Christ loves the church as I am biblically commanded is indeed a vital part in producing this spiritual fruit, it is nevertheless a preparatory effort for the eternal marriage that my (and my wife’s) soul was created for.  All of those whom God has effectually called in eternity past to be justified and married to him, he knits them in their mother’s womb to be drawn to him at a particular moment while on earth through irresistible mercy, grace and for eternal glory. 

The voice of Christ, therefore, will be or become like no other on this side of eternity and will be perfected when we see him as he is.  The life-giving aroma that effectual grace provides leaves us only to be in desperation of more of it and indeed are caused to covet the source of which it is derived.  “My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.  You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed you forever.  Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One, With Your glory and Your majesty. And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness; And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things.  Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; The peoples fall under You. (Psalm 45:1-5).”

Secondly, only Christ can and will ultimately forgive my sins.  If I discuss matters of crucifying the flesh and its emanations as I participate in heavenly fellowship with the brethren of whom I have great love for, it cannot replace the replenishment that I receive from pure grace that only comes from Christ alone.  In fact, all acceptable connotations from the brethren must direct any sinner to remembrance of the blood that fell from the tree that our savior was hung upon.  If lust has entered the mind and proceeded throughout the flesh, we will be reminded of grace yet again because of the nails that were driven to even allow one to supernaturally overcome sin and temptation.  In the midst of a disagreement with the wife that I love, it is innate knowledge that on the horizon there may or must be the virtue of forgiveness portrayed from one to another and if not both to each other.  But, even if this were to happen, it is only by and through a mere glimpse of the ultimate grace of forgiveness in Christ that must be truly known and experienced prior to my sins being forgiven by my wife or my brother. 

Thirdly, God decreed procreation and family to worship and glorify him in abundant freedom with the love that only stems from his ever-flowing graces that provokes holiness and the realization these graces can only come from him.  It is not as if God, in his infinite perfection and majesty, was in desperate need to create anything.  He lacks nothing.  Creation and procreation are decrees of wisdom that were enacted to display the perfect glory and holiness (among other things) of God on earth.  Due to the presence of sin and thus sinners, any and every family in the history of mankind is naturally tainted and indwelt with sin, ruin, death and hopelessness, apart from grace.    

Because of our lowly state of being and existence of potential self-destruction, the Lord has organized every facet of life to exalt only him as the, “chief among ten-thousand (Song 5:10).”  There is none like him.  The new birth defines and unveils the only grace the universe knows.  In our self-seeking desperation, we are led away from the sting of eternal death and rottenness, where the worm never dies, to the wonders of inexpressible and undeniable grace that supplants eternal life.  A sense of gratefulness is effectually enabled by the spirit in the believer that causes all idols, people, worldliness, sensuality, self-satisfaction and pride to be set aside and put to death so as not to glory in the flesh and this life.  If we are continually putting on the new man and putting off the flesh, then we lose all confidence in anything to do with this world that is promised and guaranteed to pass away along with its lusts (1 John 2:17). 

In conclusion, I believe Luke 14:26 is a verse of perspective from our Lord.  It is not as if we are declared to hate in the most literal sense our fathers, mothers, husbands and wives.  That would directly oppose the great commandment to, “love our neighbor as ourselves.”  Rather, a distinction is being made that our love, subjection, reverence for Christ as savior and Lord over all things, must in all cases supersede our love and affection for family members.  To reiterate, it is clear in the scriptures that relationships serve as and are in fact a conduit of the grace of God to sinners and common men.  However, to divulge, Paul states, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;  that I may know Him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being confirmed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:7-11).”

It is not my family or friends to whom I must give an account of my life (2 Corin. 5:10).  It is not my wife that I will be married to in eternity (Matt. 22:30).  Rather, the holy spirit has, in the infinite sense, sealed my soul to respond to Christ alone to know that he provides all things, including a wife, children, family and friends on earth.  For, he created all things by the word of his power.  It is in our subjection to the eternal will of God that in grace we will see his wisdom behind all family and relationships.  When we are in grace, then we must and will consider all things as loss for the sake of knowing and following Christ above everything else.  It is for the imperative sake of our own souls and the glory of Christ.

 photo credit

The Perfect Murder

January 27, 2010

I was recently released by the judge to potentially be a juror in a high-profile murder trial [I presume one of the reasons was because my wife is very pregnant].  The effect of this experience was tremendous on my spirit.  Not only was it very much outside of my normal every day “Christian bubble” routine, but I was surrounded by people that I would never purposefully seek out in a lifetime unless it was directly affiliated with the preaching of the Gospel.  Although it was a very short-lived involuntary experience in which I was not ultimately selected as a juror, it is an experience that I will never forget as long as I live on earth.  I was not only specifically reminded of the utter depravity of man during this time, but of my own fallibility [depravity] as a Christian in my own corruption apart from the Sovereign Grace of God in my life.

            I am sure there are official statistics that would prove the average person has not and probably will not physically take another person’s life, i.e. murder someone.  Although murders take place every day around the world for seemingly various different reasons, they are few and far between when compared to the general population.  Therefore, the general population, as well as the law, evaluates murder as the most heinous crime that one can commit against another human being.  It seems that, no matter how often it happens, murder is always a shock to society and the community whenever it is plastered all over the television screen and newspapers.  It is a headline because it is an unthinkable crime.  Everyone seems to think about it as if it could hopefully be the last murder ever.  Indeed, to commit this crime is punishable by death.  If you have murdered someone or know someone that is very close to you, then you know murder perhaps more closely than you ever wanted to.

            But, the more I looked into the eyes of the alleged murderer while being within feet, the more I understood that he was really no different than I am.  Sure, he may not be as educated.  He also probably spent more time in the streets than I have growing up because I did not grow up in a Christian home either.  I am most positive that he “ran with a different crew” than I did as a child and teen.  His parents, assuming he knew them, probably did not care about his life as much as mine did [although they were not very orthodox].  Looking into someone’s eyes that has physically taken another person’s life is really no different than looking into anyone else’s eyes. 

As a human being, my natural inclination is to think that I could never, under any circumstances, take another person’s life.  I feel like, “nothing is ever that bad.”  I feel like if I physically murdered someone, it would utterly destroy my own life.  And it probably would.  It is such a heinous crime in that I believe it is an impossibility that I could ever do it.  If I hear that someone else murdered someone, I naturally think of how horrible that person is and wonder how they could ever perform such an atrocity.  Then, I think about the fact that I have never murdered anyone and lift myself above that person in reproach of them.  Perhaps if I had murdered someone, I would understand it better and seek justification for it elsewhere. 

However, I cannot evaluate the treatise of the crime of murder according to the U.S. judicial system as originally derived from our Constitution.  It is not because I am not a human and the rights do not pertain to me.  It is not because I do not approve of the Constitution.  It is because I am a sinner that I must evaluate it in light of Scripture.  Sitting in a courtroom and listening to lawyers, prosecutors and the judge himself discussing the issue of a particular murder as if Scripture does not apply caused turmoil in my spirit.  It was an exclamation to me that we live in a fallen world. 

Consider the first murder that took place in the history of mankind.  It was nothing like a CSI episode that we watch on television today.  There was not a plethora of cameras and media surrounding the alleged defendant.  There was not a prosecutor or a lawyer involved.  Although, there was a judge.  It is a story of two brothers, named Cain and Abel.  One was a tiller of the ground and the other was a keeper of sheep.  I suppose that both of them worked very hard throughout each day given them by God.  The issue between the two was that God accepted Abel’s offering but not the offering of Cain (Genesis 4:4-5).  The Scriptures describe Cain as being angry because of this.  “So the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry?’  And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it. [v. 6, 7]” The very next verse states that Cain talked with his brother and it came to pass that Cain rose up against his brother and killed him [v.8]. 

Even though this was the first murder that took place in the history of creation, there was certainly no surprise to God that it happened [in His absolute Sovereignty and decree].  Since the murder of Abel was decreed to happen, the purpose of it was not to declare Cain as the most evil person on earth, so far.  Although, he was evil and the murder was declared to be a sinful and evil act.  God did curse Cain from the earth and declared him to be a fugitive and vagabond for the rest of his days [v. 11, 12].  I believe the first murder serves for at least two purposes in which I will elaborate upon for the rest of this exposition.

1.)  It was to publicly demonstrate man’s fallen sin nature and the repercussions of human depravity in being separated from perfect fellowship with God.  “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).”  It is to remind us of our fallen condition and our desperate need for grace and a savior.

 2.)  That although murder was clearly not common prior to the first murder happening, the root cause of it was.  The Scriptures did not simply say, “Cain will murder his brother soon because his offerings are not being accepted by God.”  Nor did it say, “Murder will soon be a vengeful act of mankind as demonstrated by Cain on his brother Abel.”  But, God Himself asked Cain, “Why are you angry [v.6]?”  He immediately followed up with, “And why has your countenance fallen [v.6]?”  God defined the terms of Cain’s murder as derived from anger or hatred that was already in his heart and mind.

In evaluating the Scriptures regarding human nature, everything that was in man had instantly changed the moment of the fall.  “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.  She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”  Genesis 3:6 It is eternally imperative that we understand what the fall means for man.  It is not a hopeful condition that was made a little less hopeful by simply eating of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  It was not just that perfect fellowship and communion with our Creator was slightly thwarted by our disobedience.  Most certainly, it is not perfection that was made a little less perfect.  In other words, according to the description of man’s fallen condition in Holy Scripture, we are not basically good with a slightly evil bent.  In fact, after the fall, we are described as completely dead in sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1).  Therefore, we are so thoroughly evil and sin has so penetrated  the core of our souls and conscience, it is indeed impossible for man to do any good at all until God enables him to do so through the new birth and the granting of the Holy Spirit through grace, which gives life (Ephesians 2:5).  We are dead.  To clarify, prior to man’s salvation, he only does pure evil and sins in thought and deed pervasively. 

Pervasive sin is relatively defined as the doctrine of total depravity or radical depravity.   Only those who are born-again by the Grace of God have any conception whatsoever of the evil and indwelling sin that has corrupted the soul of every human being as a result of the fall.  The doctrine of total depravity as defined in the Doctrines of Grace in “Calvinist” or “Reformed” Theology is one that is generally completely embraced or completely rejected by Christians and specifically professing Calvinists.  In fact, many respected preachers and teachers of this doctrine will say that the other four parts of the acronym, “T.U.L.I.P,” otherwise known as the Doctrines of Grace hang on what is believed about total depravity.  It is a doctrine that the world knows nothing of because they do not know the perfect holiness of God.  Neither do they know the utter evil that dwells within them at any given moment.    If man claims to be basically good, then he believes that he has moral power within himself to respond to God. 

Consider the apostle Paul, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand.  For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  If then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”  (Romans 7:14-20) I merely mention the doctrine of depravity and Romans 7 (among others) to establish a guideline of what is historically reflected in the human flesh since the fall.  Paul speaks of two laws that are warring within his soul.  As one who is a believer in Christ and justified by grace, it is the Holy Spirit that wills him to do good and to obey God’s commands, for they are not burdensome.  The other law that wars within him and all sinners is the doctrine of indwelling sin.  He follows up with, “O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me form this body of death? [v. 24]” Because of the dichotomy of the two laws, Paul acknowledges both as a perpetual reality within his soul, and that he also is depraved.

In the Old Testament law, anyone who committed any form of murder was put to death: 

“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.”  Exodus 21:12

“But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by   treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die [v. 14].”

“He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death. [v.16]”

“And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death [v.17]

If a man were to strike another man so that he dies, the law states that that person should also be put to death.  There were no questions asked because that was the law.  No one could rise against the law and attempt to prevail over it or prove innocence.  If you murdered someone, you were put to death.  Since God made the law in His sovereign decree, infinite wisdom and omnipotence, then He is clearly witness to all public acts of sin as well as those that dwell within each of our wicked hearts.  He is, after all, the creator of all things.  Although each man may be out for himself and try to cover his sin any way he can, as David did, God Himself is the one who judges in perfect righteousness and holiness according to the law of our public sin and indwelling sin in the depths of our hearts. 

Although public acts of murder in the OT were immediately judged by putting the transgressor to death, that did not in any way negate from the judgment of indwelling “premeditations” (Exodus 21:14) of anger, envy or hatred (among all other secret acts of sin) after death [Romans 2:16, Hebrews 9:27].  It is clear by these particular judgments that murder is merely the full growth or the “birthing of sin” that James speaks of regarding the indwelling sin of someone being fully led astray and enticed by his own desires (James 1:14-15).  In the case of public murder, it is the full voracity or complete sinful demonstration and enactment of selfish and vengeful hatred.

Lastly, Jesus Christ himself divulges by ascertaining the law and proving with his very words in the flesh that murder [among other sins] begins in the heart.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, but whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.  And whoever says to his brother, ‘Racai!’ shall be in danger of the council.  But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.’”  Matthew 5:21-22 

Jesus did not only claim guilt by one committing the public act of murder.  He already declared that judgment by those who committed such acts in the law of old.  Because of our depravity, the vile nature of a sinner has a complete perversion of what love is.  Due to the effects of sin and the ruling of Satan in the hearts of men apart from grace, hatred dwells within each soul as naturally as each man is born from woman.  Much of the time, we are so consumed with our own self-righteous acts of supposed obedience to the law or Jesus Christ, they we are not even aware of the thoughts and intentions that are already upwelling within our soul to emit to the world at the slightest spark that nears the wick of the dynamite of our indwelling sin.  We haven’t an idea what we could be without the restraining hand or (common) grace of God himself preventing us from causing a public uproar of sin the first moment we are feasibly able to.  Therefore, even John the apostle boldly proclaims regarding the professed love of a believer that, “he who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).  The extreme example is merely a differential statement between a believer and unbeliever. 

One who has not been rescued by the grace of God and blood of Jesus Christ has no idea of the hatred he is capable of and therefore hates as he pleases, giving birth to culpable murderous thoughts.  However, one who has regenerate knowledge of grace and the glory of Christ is enabled by the Holy Spirit to recognize the eternal deliverance from the complete dominion of indwelling sin and death itself.  Spiritual warfare has raged within in his faculties in the recognition of upwelling wickedness that will always attempt to overthrow the mind, body and soul and pervert the glory of God in the flesh.  Hence, only the believer knows the true heinousness of a fallen and sinful heart apart from grace.  He knows what he was delivered from.  He knows what he is saved unto.  And until he passes from this life to glorification, he knows that he and any given fallen heart is capable of the perfect murder.

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“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Hebrews 5:12-14

When a newborn baby proceeds from its mother’s womb, it is a rather helpless being. It is completely dependent on someone to take care of it in all ways. Mother’s in particular attest to the truth of all the time and effort that is required to raise a child from infancy. Namely, a child cannot proceed from the womb expected to devour any solid food. The stomach and digestive system is sensitive and delicate as it cannot absorb hard or non-liquid substances. In fact, it does not even go past the mouth, for an infant has no teeth. It cannot chew anything. The baby is born only able to drink milk or purely liquid substances. Since it is unable to consume or “take in” anything else, milk is the only thing that satisfies and nourishes the child. It is the same with all other mammals of other types on the planet. Without milk, there is no life. With milk, there is potential to satisfy the desire of hunger that also provides the ability to grow and develop into other types of foods to consume. Eventually, the baby will no longer need only milk as the majority of its diet, but other more solid foods will be the majority.

Spiritually speaking, the difference between milk and solid food demonstrates the progressive stages of spiritual maturity in the Christian. The writer of Hebrews beautifully and harmoniously portrays the spiritual and physiological contrast that humans [Christians] face daily. As even an atheist would tend to agree about the requirements for the nourishment of an infant, so it is regarding the Christian and the progressive stages of maturity. In essence, the level of maturity divides Christians [professors] in the form of doctrine. According to Hebrews, it is in the exercising of the spiritual faculties [the Holy Spirit] to discern good and evil that differentiates one who eats solid food and a babe who drinks mostly or only milk.

One who is ‘unskilled in the word of righteousness,’ may typically be one who has developed itchy ears and purposefully diverts the word of God to believe and practice fables and lies developed by men.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4
Upon conversion [if truly converted], although this person is perfectly aware of the truth of the word of God, he needs to be taught the basic principles. Because milk is the majority of the spiritual diet, he delights in the basics. His soul produces very minimal effort to seek to understand the deep things of God. If a man has an adult physical body, a diet consisting mostly of milk does not provide the nutritional value it needs. An adult would be malnourished very soon after consuming only milk. As milk is the necessary means for a baby to develop into an adult since it is a sign of birth, so it maintains that solid food is the necessary means for an adult to survive and be nourished enough to continue and thrive. In the same way, a man who delights in the basic spiritual principles cannot thrive. His own sin will be the stumbling block that prevents him from discerning good from evil. His judgment of the sinful nature will be like sap running down a tree. It is not quick, but drips slowly while soaking up everything in its way. He may even delight in his sin for a season, not recognizing how heinous it is before the infinitely Holy God.

“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”

Hebrews 6:1-6

Those who have been truly wrought of the Holy Spirit cannot and do not ultimately forsake the faith. The pendulum of the Christian faith in the sinner sways whichever way the Sovereign Lord wills. It is the Lord who grants the precious gift of repentance as well is well as unveiling the eyes and ears to have faith. The production is the eternal salvation of the soul. A man alone cannot believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, but it is the efficacy of the Holy Spirit alone that transforms the heart to have affections for God. Therefore, the only true enlightenment is by the Spirit and what God alone has done. Man is able to foster mimics of the same effects, but these effects are not ultimately produced by the righteousness of the Spirit. One who is religious cannot and will not ultimately come to true faith, apart from God bringing the soul to life. They, like Judas Iscariot, may walk with Jesus’ people for a time. They may also appear righteous before men. But, in the end, they crucify the Son of God and put Him to an open shame by the way they live their lives. It is their true hatred for God that dominates the affections to the eternal ruin of the soul.

However, to the chosen vessels who truly bear the name of Jesus Christ and whose names are written in the book of life, solid food [by Grace] dominates the spiritual diet. Solid food rejoices in sound doctrine and the soul consisting of this diet is never satisfied with only milk. Although milk plays a role at the beginning of every Christian life, the ever increasing sanctification provided by the Spirit causes the diet to shift. This is none other than the Grace of Our Lord alone, providing the way. The religious self-effort of man ends him up in utter despair and ruined in sin. That is the natural tendency of every man. Hebrews exhorts, “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.” Hebrews 6:9 Our earthly glorifying of The Lord is viewed dimly due to the presence of sin in and among God’s people. But, in the things that accompany salvation, the emission of sound doctrine provided by the Spirit and the Word is the cross hairs nearing the bulls eye.

Spiritual milk initiates the basic understanding of the word of God. Words like prayer, reading, God’s will, seeking, knowing and being obedient are probably understood most often in the predominately milk diet [not that these are less important or ever become that way]. Words like, propitiation, expiation, justification, mediation and reprobation are more likely to be understood and theologically practiced in a predominately solid food diet. The purpose of Paul and the writer of Hebrews speaking about ‘solid food’ is not to cause a believer or new believer to feel inadequate in knowledge or spirituality [although we truly are]. Neither is it to exalt or glory in the knowledge of man. Eating solid food or practicing sound doctrine is what best reflects the Glory of God in the accuracy of the teaching of His inspired Word.

What we say about our Creator is either true according to His Word, or it is false, according to His Word. The way we grow more intimate with our Father is by understanding more of who He is. Like our earthly fathers, we know more about them by spending time in communion with them. We find out how they think, react and respond to certain situations. In the end, we grow to love them more by knowing them more. It is the same with our Creator. The more time we spend in communion with Him, the more we understand how He thinks and the more intimate the relationship becomes. Thus, it creates a greater understanding of His infinite glory and our eternal worthlessness. As we grow to understand of the true Character of God in that, he hates as well as loves and he condemns as well as justifies, the effects produced are the breaking of the hearts of feeble men where they stand, in humility. The more we see and understand His Holiness, the more we see our unholiness and thus desire to be Holy. The more we see and understand His hatred for sin and rebellion, the more we see our sin and rebellion and learn to hate it, etc.

The lifelong blessedness of solid food, i.e. practicing sound doctrine, provokes an orthodox [biblical] view of the illumination of the person of Jesus Christ. The blessed ability to see the eternal counsel of God in the person of Christ is indeed an anointed understanding. It is not only an understanding, but a multitude of facets are sought to be treasured and understood because of their eternal worthiness. These spiritual facets are the simultaneous understanding of particular doctrines and the role that Jesus Christ plays in each. Eternality, Love, Sovereignty, Hate, Mercy, Grace, Glory, Justification and Reprobation are all biblical doctrines that explain Jesus Christ and His eternal counsel in redemptive history. Only the illumination caused by the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to see the blessedness and eternal reality of the Glory of God and His fame. We understand this by seeking God in His word with a humble heart, moving on to perfection and laying aside the temporal desires of this world that fade before our very eyes.

“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.”

Hebrews 6:10-11

In the history of Christendom, baptism has played a significant role in the church. The purpose of this post is to not discuss the history of circumcision in the Old Testament, beginning with Abraham. Nor is it to discuss the differences between credobaptism and paedobaptism. Since I am a protestant believer and was born-again in a Baptist church, I was nevertheless personally ‘immersed in water’ after my conversion. I am not a proponent of infant baptism and will simply defend ‘believer’s baptism’ or ‘credobaptism’ based off the New Testament Scriptures on what the Apostle Paul teaches as well as Jesus Himself. Ultimately, the purpose should highlight the importance and commandment of a [new] believer to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.

Although baptism reflects newness of life, it is clearly not what saves the soul. It is merely a symbol or outward reflection of the inward change of life. Water itself cannot save the soul or forgive sin as much as it cannot become a pig and fly. There is no more power in water [sprinkled or immersed] than there is in a tree or stone. Immersion is the sacrament in the New Testament that publicly displays that a believer’s heart has been circumcised and is indeed ‘putting off the sins of the body.’
“In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
Colossians 2:11-13

In the task of baptism, the purpose and evidential power clearly lies solely in Jesus Christ. According to the whole counsel of Scripture and of God, it is only He who can forgive sins [John 1:29]. It is only Christ who laid His life down and took it back up again with His own power; so we trust and depend on that very act to ‘die’ to our flesh and this life to be raised by Him in the last day. In the process of immersion, the submersion represents our death and burial to sin and flesh in this life and the ascension out of the water represents our resurrection to a new life in Christ.
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-6
Just as Christ was glorified as well as the Father in His resurrection, so will we be glorified in our resurrection because of what Christ gave us access to by His death and resurrection. Baptism represents our death to sin [and its dominion] and union with Christ, just as marriage between a man and woman represents the sacrificial relationship between Christ and the church.

Perhaps the most convicting commands for baptism in the New Testament are from Jesus Himself as He correlates it with the Great Commission.
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’” Mark 16:15-16
I do not want to exaggerate baptism over the importance of preaching the gospel or believing. Without the preaching of the gospel and the Holy Spirit illuminating the eyes and ears of the heart to the stark truth of its wretched and hopeless condition without the new birth, there would be no belief or repentance. There would be no cause or concern for the need of baptism. Without belief and the repentance of sins that causes regeneration, baptism may only serve to rinse the body of a little dirt. It would therefore be impossible to truly display the glory of God in the public declaration of the forgiveness of sins if you are indeed dead in them. If one is baptized without true repentance or regeneration [the indwelling of the Holy Spirit], then it merely blasphemes God by claiming a miracle that has never taken place [that you are saved when you are really not]. It does indeed represent an earthly and sensual proclamation to do what one could never do on one’s own. To publicly claim to have died to your flesh and have been in union with Christ through the act of your baptism, and truly be dead in sins, is nothing other than Judas kissing Jesus on the cheek prior to delivering him to the Romans. Unless the Grace of God in His goodness snatches the soul out of the miry clay and the pit of hell, an unregenerate baptism is simply a publicized betrayal.

On the other end of the spectrum, there may be true believers who have never been baptized. Or, they may have been baptized at one point as an unbeliever, but then were truly converted at a later date. According to God’s word, I do not believe there is justification to not be baptized again. To reiterate, if one is truly converted by the Spirit and ultimately lead to repentance, then the fact that one is baptized [again] does not affect the justification process. But consider the humbling and conscience provoking example of Jesus Christ Himself.
“When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, then heaven was opened.”
Luke 3:21
This event set the perfect example for the rest of New Testament believers. The only difference is that Jesus Christ did not need baptism. Hence, John responded to Jesus’ request to be baptized by asking, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me? [Matthew 3:14]” According to the eternal decree of God for the purpose of John the Baptist, he was a righteous man. He was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb [Luke 1:15]. He baptized sinners in the Jordan daily as well as commanded them to repent. Yet, he first exclaims to Jesus that it is he who needed to be baptized by Him. John’s reverence for the Lord displayed Jesus’ true glory and power to forgive sins. For the first time among John’s many baptisms, he baptized One who has never sinned. This public act not only demonstrated Jesus’ perfect righteousness, but now John was physically reminded that he was truly not worthy of unloosing the Savior’s sandal.
“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He said the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”
Matthew 3:16-17

In the infinitely proficient sustenance of Jesus’ baptism, His light continued to shine in the darkness. He explained in the Gospels that he did not come to be served, but to serve. Just as it is a great miracle and unfathomable gesture of Mercy for the Son of God to wash the feet of His disciples, so it is exactly what He explained His character and purpose to be. Just as Jesus physically washed the feet of His disciples as a perfect example, so we are to spiritually wash each others feet in sacrificial love and care for one another [John 13:14-15]. The same applies in the public baptism of Jesus. He justly and righteously does not need to be cleansed of any sin, for He knew no sin. Just as the King of Kings should justly and righteously have His feet washed all day by his disciples, He perfectly displays His own righteousness by the infinite kindness of His character to do as He did; to serve in such a way that fallen sinners do not naturally desire. If the eternal Son of God, who knows not sin, humbly came as a God-Man from the perfect Eternal counsel of the Trinity to be subjugated in the hands of sinners and ultimately nailed to a cross, what word do we bring against Him as infinite and justly condemned sinners? It is impossible to be changed by Him and not desire to serve and wash the feet of others. Just as the very act of the baptism of the sinless Christ weighs heavy on the conscience of those who have infinitely transgressed His name, so we should eagerly desire by the Spirit of God to perfect all righteousness by our baptism in demonstration of our union with Christ and unrelenting public gratitude for His infinite forgiveness of our sins.