The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Called To Be Saints (Part 3): Called Unto Liberty

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

Galatians 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty

Liberty is a concept that Americans easily identify with. Our Declaration of Independence was a notice to the King of England that we, as colonists, claimed the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The declaration lists the grievances against the King, which include “Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us,” “protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States,” “cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world,” “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent,” “depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury,” “plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

Mutually pledging to each other “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor,” the signees made the break by declaring their liberty, that is, their freedom from the tyranny of the English crown:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America.... by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.

The liberty that our American forefathers sought was a liberty from the tyrannical rule of a Crown, which essentially had little interest in the welfare of its colonial subjects, using them for its own good,or at least, for the good of the homeland.

Paul writes that the saints of the New Covenant “have been called to liberty.” What is the liberty that he has in mind? Is it anything like the liberty that the signers of the Declaration had in viewmen who were compelled to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The liberty that Paul is speaking of and the liberty sought in the Declaration of Independence have this in common – they are both a breaking away from or a dissolution of aauthority that once heldabsolute dominion over the one that is freed. What is the authority from which the New Testament believer has been freed?

It was the Old Testament cultus that Israel was bound to. It was the strict and exacting system of worship, animal sacrifice, priestly ritual; the regulations of food, sanitation, dress, social relations, etc.Paul explains that the real purpose of the Law (Old Testament system) was as a tutor (Gal 4:24) which had a pedagogical role in underscoring man’s inability to keep the law, and the necessity of a substitutionary sacrifice for the remission of sins. This role was in place until the fulfillment of all that it typified and anticipated in Christ was met in Christ’s first advent. Hence, the liberty that Paul is speaking of is a breaking away or release from the Old Testament religious system because of Christ who fulfilled the Law. There is no more need for an earthly temple, priesthood, or animal sacrifice because Christ became the great sacrificial lamb and high priest who opens the way into the heavenly holy of holies.

John has this same role in mind when he writes, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). It is an underlying thesis of the letter to the Hebrews.

To require one to keep any part of the Law’s ritual (circumcision, ceremonies, feasts, sabbaths, etc) was to require meritorious work in addition to faith, and thereby to seek justification not by faith in Christ alone, but by a mixture of faith and works.

Paul speaks of false brethren who came into the congregations of Galatia to spy out their liberty in Christ for the purpose of bringing them into bondage (Gal 2:4). Their identity as false brethren would make these men out as professing believers, seemingly brothers in Christ, but who really were not because the gospel they put forth was a false gospel.

This false gospel was the requirement of Christians, in addition to faith, to keep the law. Obviously, it was not a complete relapse into the Old Testament system, which included animal sacrifice, seventh day Sabbath-keeping, circumcision, feasts, holy days, and an adherence to a multitude of case laws. These false brethren must have placed some worth in the sacrificial character of Christ’s death as there seems no hint of their rejection of it, or a requirement to revert to the old way of animal sacrifice. It is probably for that reason they claimed to be Christians and why so many of those in the Churches of Galatia were so quickly turning away to another gospel. Those who were turning saw some similarities between the doctrine of the false brethren and Paul’s teaching, but were not fully examining it in light of everything that Paul taught.

It is a mistake that is made today. There are those who would claim to be true brothers and use language that is similar to the language of sound doctrine, but whose meaning is different.

The Christian Universalist provides an example for us. A Christian Universalist is one who believes that the only way of salvation is through faith in Christ, but that all will eventually come to faith, even those who have died in unbelief. Those in hell now will some day come to their senses, repent, believe, and be rescued from hell. Thomas Talbott (The Inescapable Love Of Godand Robin A. Parry (The Evangelical Universalistunder the pen name, Gregory MacDonald) are advocates of this.This view forces them to redefine or disfigure biblical concepts such as divine love (God’s love is of his essence and therefore cannot fail to save all whom he loves, which is everybody), punishment (which is really mercy because it brings those in hell to their senses at which time they will relent and give in to God), and justice (which sees an infinite punishment of finite sins as unjust).

Rob Bell (Love Wins)views hell to be as much as our living contrary to God’s ways now as it does with something yet to come. The identity of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life is wrenched from it exclusivistic moorings and twisted to mean, people come to Jesus in all sorts of ways.... They drink from the rock without knowing what or who it was.” (p 158) The gospel is the good news that:

“begins with the sure and certain truth that we [all without exception] are loved. That in spite of whatever has gone horribly wrong deep in our hearts[morally broken but not totally depraved] and has spread to every corner of the world, in spite of our sins, our failures, rebellion, and hard hearts, in spite of what’s been done to us or what we’ve done, God has made peace with us[reconciliation universally and presently applied]. We are now invited to live a whole new life [conversion, taking new direction in which we begin tofulfill our potential] without guilt or shame or blame or anxiety. We are going to be fine.” (p 172)

In Christ there is liberty, a breaking from a harsh, laborious system into a life in which the heart istransformed, the mind renewed, and Spirit of God enables to pursue holiness. It is freedom to keep God’s law enthusiastically because they are no longer a burden (1 John 5:3; Matt 11:28). It is coming under the authority of pastors and teachers so that we are no longer tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men (Eph 4:14). It is learning from Christ so that we put off our former behavior and put on a new man which is created in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:21-24).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Who Is This Child? A Hymn

Who is this Child?
A hymn by: Andrew M. Gilhooley
Set to the tune of 'Londonderry Air’ ( at ♪ (eighth note) = 80

Who is this child of whom angels sing great laud?
    Born in the humble town of Bethlehem?
Could this one be Jacob's long awaited rod?
    The king who springeth forth from Jesse's stem?
This is the Christ, Yahweh's Anointed Servant;
    The Holy One of chosen Israel,
Who'll bring salvation to kin near and tribes far;
    This is the Word made flesh, Immanuel.

Why did he come forth in such humble array?
    Laid in a trough and dressed with pauper's clothes?
Why was this prince born void of man's accolade?
    Visited by base shepherds, men of loathe?
For He came not for pomp but to bear our curse
    By being hung on the damned Roman tree,
And so redeem His elect from Adam's curse,
    And grant Abraham's blessing to the Greeks.

Why did He come to ransom wretches as I?
    Why was He born to suffer for my sins?
I cannot grasp such awful love from on high
    And joy'fly join the heav'nly choir a-kin:
"Glory to God who's enthroned in the highest!
    And peace on earth with those whom Thou delight!
We give Thee thanks, Triune God, the Lord brightest!
    For the greater Joshua born that night!"

Lyrics © 2012 by Andrew M. Gilhooley

--Andrew M. Gilhooley is currently a sophomore at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. Among his hobbies are fishing, archery, playing piano, writing, and reading classic literature. Upon graduation, Andrew plans to attend graduate school and possibly enter into bible translation ministry.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Eternal Benefits of a Gentle Witness

By: Nathan Fox

The Wrong Way to Witness
Several years ago as a freshman at N.C State I saw something (or should I say someone) that has changed my perception on how to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ. On that day as I was walking through the main courtyard on campus, I heard a middle-aged man loudlyblasting people as they passed by, all in “the name of Jesus,” which were his own words.Intrigued by his yelling and ranting, I (along with a great crowd of people) began to assemblearound him to listen to what he had to say to each of us. Looking back now I realize I wasted 20 minutes of my life that I can never get back. What he said and how he said it has still to this day been etched into my mind in the most negative of ways.
As we were walking up, he was addressing an African-American male who just so happened to have dreadlocks. This “preacher” for Jesus told this dreadlocked student that he was going to hell for (and this is no exaggeration of words) “looking like Bob Marley.” This man insinuated that since this student looked like Bob Marley, he must have been a “pothead.” He told this student that since he was a “pothead”, he must have been a daddy of a baby somewhere.And if he was a daddy out of wedlock, then God was going to condemn him to hell. Left and right this man went on condemning people, and even got into verbal arguments with those whom he was accusing. Oh, he definitely spoke of sin; he made sure that each person was verbally assaulted about their shortcomings. But he never spoke of Jesus! He never told these people the cure to their sins! He never possessed a heart of love that is very much needed to reach people who are lost. As we will see, a heart of love is an absolute necessity in giving the Gospel.

Paul’s Heartfelt Witnessing
If you have been following my posts at all, you know that Paul has had a rough go of it. He has been beaten, assaulted, and ridiculed for following his faith. It is no different in chapter 24 of the book of Acts. Here we find Paul standing trial before the governor of the area, whose name is Felix. During this trial, Paul’s accusers are allowed to speak first on the matter. Theyproceed by calling the Apostle Paul a plague (5), a “creator of dissension” (5), and a man who “profanes the temple.” (6) In a nutshell, they wanted the Apostle to be punished for spreading the Gospel of Jesus in the synagogues.
There accusations are nothing new to someone who has been reading throughout the book of Acts, but I want us to take a look at Paul’s response to their allegations. I think in the following verses you will see the kind of man that Paul was as he witnessed to people. Paulclaims in verse 12 that he was not in the temple “disputing with anyone and he was not inciting the crowd.” He goes on to say in verses 16 and 17 that “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. Now after many years I have brought alms and offerings to my nation…” Take a note of this please! Paul had every opportunity throughout his lifetime to blast into his accusers for their mistreatment of him as a Roman citizen. He had every opportunity to call out their sins against him throughout the years, but he never does. In all actuality, he does the complete opposite. He loves by bringing alms and offerings, even to those who have hurt him and done wrong to him. What a stark contrast to the guy I saw at N.C State, who blasted people he didn’t even know for sins they never did against him.
Going on, Paul says in verse 14 of chapter 24 in Acts that he worshipped God by worshipping Jesus. Even in this trial, this trying moment of Paul’s life, He makes mention ofJesus! In front of the governor, his accusers, and all else in the room, Paul gives them the greatest news of love that he can by speaking of Jesus! Oh he could have stood in there and lashed out loud against his accusers, but he stood in there and loved out loud to all people. And boy did it have an impact on people in that room. Look at the end of verse 26 in chapter 24. It says that “he (Governor Felix) sent for him (Paul) more often and conversed with him.” Now, what do you think the two of them could have been conversing about? Knowing Paul, there was always one thing at the forefront of his mind, and that was Jesus. I assume through my reading of the text that the Governor of the area was in constant conversation with Paul about Jesus. Think about that for a second; Paul had a profound impact for the Gospel, even in the political realm.And it was all because Paul never lost his heart of love for the people.

What it Means
There is so much impact from this chapter of Acts. In it, we see the proper attitude that we should have when we witness. We can see that in all his efforts Paul made it a priority to stand at peace with people, and in all things to present a message of love not only through word but through action. Should it be any different for us today? I would say absolutely not! Unlike that man at the beginning who drove people away from Jesus with his verbal abuse, I declare that we must present the entire Gospel out of love. When we speak to someone regarding their sin, tell them with love. This does not mean we sugarcoat the sin, but we certainly don’t want to run them off before we get to the best part of the talk. We want to make sure that they understand that though God is not ok with sin, He still came to save. When we give the Gospel, have a heart of love for the person! I don’t care if you are Calvinist or not regarding this matter. I don’t care what theological background you have in this issue. You still must always under every circumstance make it a priority to give the Gospel in an attitude of love.
Do not be antagonistic like the man at N.C State. Only God knows who was turned away from Jesus that day because of his hate speech. Be like Paul, and give the entire message in the most pure heart of love possible. You never do know who is watching. Who would have guessed that in his defense, Paul would have gained the heart of the governor (all because of what the governor saw in Paul’s words and actions). I guarantee that if you give the Gospel out of love, someone will take notice. And that someone could be the next person that God brings into your life for the presentation of the Gospel to be given. And therein lies the eternal benefits of the gentle witness.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Called To Be Saints (Part 2): Called in the Grace of Christ

By: Thomas Clayton Booher (The Elder)

Galatians 1:3-6

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel---

J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), was Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1906-1929. In 1929, he led a conservative movement out of the Northern Presbyterian Church to form the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the new school Westminster Theological Seminary. Machen taught at Westminster in the same chair he held at Princeton until his death.

Machen was unusually erudite in the original language of the New Testament. He wrote a beginner’s Grammar, which was used in my first year of Greek. I still have it – it brings back the fascination I felt when I first opened its pages and began to study the words and grammar Paul wrote in.

Machen remarks[1] that Paul added something in his greeting to the Galatians that he did not include in his other letters, and that was a forthright clarification of who Jesus Christ is. He is the One who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.

There was good reason Paul made that point at the forefront without delay, for the whole letter is a defense of the true gospel against Judaizers who were preaching a different gospel. They were teaching that salvation was obtained not through Christ alone but by additionally observing certain Old Testament rites (circumcision) and holy days (Gal 4:10; 5:2, 3). To state it another way, Christ did not completely do away with Old Testament ritual. Salvation was not by grace alone through faith alone. In addition to faith, salvation required the keeping of certain practices of Old Testament religion.

Giving the Judaizers their due, they seemed to have no requirement to continue animal sacrifices, presumably because they conceded that Christ’s sacrifice was the end of any further need for sacrifice. But this did not appease Paul who recognized that if the keeping of any part of the Old Testament cultic practice was necessary to be saved, then salvation comes not by grace, but at least in part by works. It is to make Christ and his sacrifice without effect, Gal 5:4; Cf 1 Cor 1:17.

Paul then expresses his surprise and wonder of how so many in the churches of Galatia were turning away from the One “who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.” It is not that Paul assumed that the Christians of Galatia would eventually turn away, and that he was caught off guard by it happening so soon. His wonder is that they so easily and so quickly turned an attentive ear to a message that was so contrary to the one he preached to them and which they, apparently, gladly received at one time (cf Heb 10:32-35). This was not a matter of adiaphora (such as whether or not eating meat offered to idols was a sin, 1 Cor 10:23-31; or as today when we differ over premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism). It was not an issue around the periphery of the Christian faith, but at the heart. It struck at the core principal of grace, the very thing that God calls us in.

We are called by God, and the calling does not come to us in wrath and condemnation; how awful if that were the character of God’s calling – a calling in which God would take his people through the very sufferings of the One who gave himself for our sins and bore God’s wrath for us. That is the grace! He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Rom 8:32; For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Cor 5:21.

Our calling is in grace, and Paul specifically identifies it as the grace of Christ. The prepositional phrase, of Christ, could be interpreted in two ways. It could mean that the grace is the possession of Christ who exercises it toward us. Or, it could mean that the grace is Christ himself. Given Paul’s pointed statement in verse 4 that Christ gave himself for our sins, it is more likely that the grace Paul has in mind is the grace that is summed up in Christ – Christ is the essence and epitome of grace because he bore the wrath that we might bear the blessing.

This grace in which we are called, that is, this sphere of unearned favor and blessing, which God purposed to bestow on us through the suffering of Christ, has a purpose behind it. It is for deliverance ....that He might deliver us.... Consider the thing from which we are delivered, how it is such a monstrosity that anything we may encounter in the transience of life – sickness, pain, poverty, violence, betrayal – is mild and gentle by comparison. We are delivered from the present evil age. Paul does not speak of a nondescript, innocent age. Rather, it is an age that is inherently, intrinsically, through and through, evil. It is a world in which men drink iniquity like water (Job 15:16), where every intent of the thoughts of the heart are evil continually (Gen 6:5), and the heart is so deceitful it is unpredictable in its expression of sin (Jer 17:9), in which the Devil himself is the prince and power of the air (Eph 2:2), and the sons of men are sons of disobedience fulfilling the base desires of the flesh and mind (Eph 2:3). It is an age in which everything is in some manner the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15),  an age which is passing away (1 John 2:17) and will some day be consumed by fire and be no more (Rev 21:1; 2 Pet 3:7-10). It is a world in which each one born into the human race is a slave of evil (John 8:34; Rom 6:6, 16-18, 20; 2 Peter 2:19).

Our calling is in grace, which implies a calling to utter humility. We can do nothing and have done nothing to get ourselves into this grace and we can do nothing to keep ourselves in it. It is all of God, from beginning to end. We have nothing to offer, we can only receive. If there is any worth, it is an alien worth, not our own and we should never forget it. We should live in the light of it, looking unto God for continual help as he alone is our strength and shield (Ps 28:7), who works in us both to will and to do his good pleasure (Phil 2:13).

Are you a sinner still under God’s condemnation? Do not be proud. Do not think there is something you must do. While in Bible college I worked in the kitchen of the Lourdsmont nunnery and a school for troubled young ladies. It was located across the road from the college. Our site was once a monastery and the companion to Lourdsmont. Every day I ran into and had wonderful conversations with Sister Helen. We talked about everything: history, teaching, reading, cooking... life in general. She even gave me her class notes she used to teach her students English. We also talked about the gospel. When I finally pared it down to the essentials, that it is by grace alone, through faith alone, she looked at me in wonder and said, “But we have to do something.” That was a typical Roman Catholic response. It is akin to the Judaizing theology in which something was added to faith.

But it is by faith alone because it is all of grace. Again, are you a sinner under God’s condemnation? There is no time in which you can prepare yourself for God to accept you. You have nothing to offer which is not tainted by unlawful desires, greed, self-aggrandizement, or falsehood. The best you have to offer, the cream, is as a filthy rag before God, Is 64:6. But that is the beauty of grace. It requires no preparation on our part. It requires only a humble and contrite heart (Ps 51:17), and when your eyes are opened to the holiness of God and the sinfulness of your heart, humility and contrition follow – you flee to Christ who alone can forgive, cleanse, and transform you.

Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

[1] Skilton, John H., Machen’s Notes On Galatians, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1973, p 27.