David Westerfield

Gospel. Culture. Technology.

Tag: Commentary

Political, Civil, and Ceremonial Righteousness versus the Righteousness of Faith – An Important Distinction From Martin Luther

This is an excerpt taken from the preface of Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians. He writes:

St. Paul sets about establishing the doctrine of faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness. His purpose is that we may understand exactly the nature of Christian righteousness and its difference from all other kinds of righteousness, for there are various sorts of righteousness. There is a political or civil righteousness, which emperors, princes of the world, philosophers, and lawyers deal with. There is also a ceremonial righteousness, which human traditions teach. This righteousness may be taught without danger by parents and schoolteachers because they do not attribute to it any power to satisfy for sin, to please God, or to deserve grace; but they teach such ceremonies as are necessary simply for the correction of manners and certain observations concerning this life. Besides these, there is another righteousness, called the righteousness of the law or of the Ten Commandments, which Moses teaches. We too teach this, according to the doctrine of faith.

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Come Attend Yet Another ‘Life-Changing’ Event!

Why is it that many times, whenever some special guest comes and speaks at a church, business or any other kind of special organizational event, it is pitched as a ‘life-changing’ event? Can’t it just be merely informative or helpful?

I believe the label ‘life-changing’ actually has the reverse intended effect and reduces groups of people to passivity (or mere short-term conformity) toward the objective the leaders have set for the event, mainly as a result of setting the expectation bar so high by labeling it ‘life-changing’.

If every event is life-changing, then (generally speaking) no event will be life-changing, which inevitably produces stagnation and complacency in the group. I mean if it really is a life-changing event, well then okay, maybe it is.

But how often do you generally walk away from a meeting of this kind with a complete paradigm shift in your perspective or understanding (apart from radical conversion by the work of Christ)? You may walk away informed or even affected, given new ideas on how to approach something, or change some area in your life. But is your life generally radically changed by some motivational speaker? 95-99% of the time, I would say probably not. Maybe in the short-run to be sure. But after this wears off, it’s business as usual.

Why can’t we just be honest and call an event what it is in reality, not what we want to project it or market it as (in this case ‘life-changing’)? If every event is described in these terms, people will catch on to the truth of what these kind of events are and begin coming with the expectation that it’s just another okay, mediocre or poor event as a result of having the bar set to an extreme. Just a thought …

David, the Bread of Presence and the King of Glory

Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. – 1 Samuel 21:1-6

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Matthew Henry on Jesus’ Prayer Life

I thought this was a timely quote from Matthew Henry’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, since our church is going through a study on prayer in the believer’s life. I pray this encourages you to seek private communion with the Lord. In our fast-paced, entertainment-driven, constantly distracted culture, it is very easy to neglect this practice, because there is always something else you could be doing. But it is necessary for the joy of our souls to be daily absorbed in God’s presence by His Holy Spirit, made possible by the cross of Christ. This is taken from here at CCEL.org.


He went up into a mountain apart to pray (Matthew 14:23). Observe here,

1. That he was alone; he went apart into a solitary place, and was there all alone. Though he had so much work to do with others, yet he chose sometimes to be alone, to set us an example. Those are not Christ’s followers that do not care for being alone; that cannot enjoy themselves in solitude, when they have none else to converse with, none else to enjoy, but God and their own hearts.

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Lord, Have Your Way in Me

This is the last line in the chorus of a song we sing at church entitled, Lord, I Give You My Heart, by Reuben Morgan. I enjoy the song (though I typically have a hard time worshiping the Lord in singing about what I’m going to do for Him instead of what He has already done on my behalf at the cross, but I digress). Many times, it is very easy to just say the phrase “Lord, have Your way in me,” without meditating upon its implications in our lives.

When we ask the Lord to have His way in us, it may be that He sovereignly decides to allow that which happened to Job to happen to us, or at least something comparable. Youch. Are we preparing now spiritually for this, before it happens, through Scripture studying, prayer, communion with God, and fellowship with other believers, which should all spill over into the unbelieving world around us through love and good works? And trust me, at some point trials will come, if they haven’t already.

The lyrics right before this line, at least to me, can tend to soften this implication when they say, “Every breath that I take, every moment I’m awake … Have your way in me.” In no way am I criticizing the intention of the artist, Reuben Morgan, for I believe the intention in this lyric is good, and is a decent literary way of displaying our relationship with Christ. But it’s just so nice and fluffy to sing about the air we breathe, the moment by moment nature of our relationship with God in Christ and what we’re going to do for Him (you know, the whole WWJD/WHJD distinction – “What Would Jesus Do?” versus “What Has Jesus Done?” as a motivator for holiness?). Yet that last phrase in the chorus has vast implications in our lives. And these implications are thoroughly talked about in Scripture.

Here are just a couple of examples amongst many (including the whole book of Job):

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

In contradistinction to an understanding I recently read on a forum pertaining to this verse, in no way do I believe this is talking about the mundane, day to day, light-weight trials we pampered Americans go through on a daily basis, like work, traffic, school, etc. Please.

We American Christians are in the minority of total Christians in the rest of the world. And a majority of the rest of these Christians are being persecuted in ways we cannot even dream of in America. There is pure hatred for the people of God in the world and I do believe there is a time coming when it will be here as well. I highly doubt those persecuted Christians, as well as the history of the whole church’s understanding of this text, would come to this same, “three inch deep” conclusion.

It’s so easy to read a text of Scripture through the filter of our own experience, our own cultural point of view and our own socio-economic vantage point. This text is talking about Trials with a capital T, because Paul’s audience was a group of believers who were experiencing exile, imprisonment, beatings, torture, death, and financial distress of a kind we have not even seen in our life time, let alone in America. It can definitely mean trials such as family-related issues, natural disasters, all kinds of other things that we do experience here in America. But in context, Paul had a specific intention to his readers.

And not only this, but it says to rejoice in those very sufferings! Rejoice! How? Only by God’s Spirit working in us is this possible. We need Him desperately to supernaturally work this kind of divine affection and love into us, for it is foreign to our sinful natures and our flesh. When we consider that as the people of God we are like gold that is refined through fire, it is only in this mindset and perspective that we can rejoice in trials, for they are God’s work in us to make us like Himself.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” – James 1:2-3

The result of these trials and the reason we should rejoice in that which the Lord has sovereignly ordained for our lives, is that in them, the Lord produces in us steadfastness. And as those verses in Romans say above, in sequential order, we know “that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

“Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The reason we can rejoice is that in the trials God mercifully brings (being that they are making us into the image of Christ) we see God’s faithfulness to sustain and stoke our faith (in the same way you stoke fire with more wood and blowing air into it) when everything else gives way around us. And this in itself is confirmation that we are chosen of God, elect, the predestined people of the Lord, whom He has unconditionally set His loving favor and affection upon, made effective through the cross of Christ, sealed in His resurrection.

We can be assured of our salvation and His choosing of us for it when trials come and we continue trusting in and holding onto God’s promises in the midst of them, for this itself is the working of God in us and the visible evidence of our conversion, started by God in our spiritual birth, who will then bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). And in this we greatly rejoice, for our final hope and the ultimate goal of all this is sharing in the glory of God forever with all of His people!

My whole point in all of this is that the words we sing to the Lord carry weight and should not be taken lightly. And many times, I fear they are in many evangelical congregations. Sometimes the words carry more weight than we’re willing to admit and it is so easy to glibly gloss over their real meaning. This line is just one example.

If we really ponder the sustaining power the Lord has over our lives, for both blessings and trials, I believe we would fear the Lord properly, not a fear that shrinks away from Him, but that reveres Him for His awesome sovereign might and find peace and solace in His grace alone that sustains us in the midst of blessings as well as trials.

It is perfectly within His power to lift His hand and allow us to undergo suffering of all kinds and I believe we need to keep this in mind when singing these kinds of songs in particular. It should humble us and make us stop to think about what we’re really asking of the Lord.

Thoughts on the Day After an Historic Election – James White

R.C. Sproul on Abortion, Voting and Christianity

“I’m reminded of the work of William Wilberforce in England. You may recall that in debate after debate after debate, and in election after election after election, Wilberforce was soundly and roundly defeated when he sought the abolition of slavery in the British Commonwealth. But if ever there was an exercise in perseverance, it was by Wilberforce. Wilberforce refused to give up. He simply would not walk away from being the conscience of the English nation. And he publicly testified that slavery was wrong and he promised to oppose it as long as he had breath in his body. And finally in the providence of God, Parliament woke up and abolished this unethical practice that was a plague on the English speaking world.

We’ve gone through the same plague in the history of America, and thanks be to God slavery has finally been abolished in America. But I believe that slavery is the second most serious ethical issue that our country has ever faced. From my perspective the number one ethical issue that this nation has ever faced is the issue of abortion. Abortion is not a matter of private choice–not for the Christian who understands anything about the sanctity of life. The first century church made it very clear in their day, explicitly stating that abortion is murder.

I’ve written over 70 books. The book that had the shortest shelf life of all of my books was my book on the case against abortion. I talked to pastor after pastor and sought to understand why they weren’t using this material (for which we also made a video series). They told me, “Well, we agree with it but we can’t do it in our church.” And I said, “Why?” They responded: “It will split the congregation.” And I said, “So be it!” A million and a half unborn babies are slaughtered wantonly in the United States of America every year in the name of women’s rights. If I know anything about the character of God after forty years of study, I know that God hates abortion. And I could never vote for a candidate who supported abortion–even if I agreed with that candidate on every other policy position. If he supported abortion I would not vote for him and I urge you to do the same.

I know that abortion is not the number one issue in this campaign because it has become acceptable. Just like slavery became acceptable. But it cannot be acceptable to ethical people. The people of God have to rise up and say ‘NO’! We are not asking the state to be the church but we must say to the state, “Please be the state. God ordained you to protect, maintain, and preserve the sanctity of life, and you are not doing it.” So that has to be on your mind when you walk into that voting booth.”

Taken from this article: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2008/10/pr … -text.html

R.C. Sproul on the Redistribution of Wealth, Voting and Christianity

“We have an income tax structure today that is inherently unjust. We almost never hear anybody discuss this injustice. But when God set up a system of taxation, He did things differently. God said I’m going to impose a tax on my people and it’s going to be ten percent from everybody: The rich man and the poor man are not going to pay the same amount. The rich man’s going to pay much more than the poor man, but they’re both going to pay the same percentage. They’re both going to have the same responsibility. That way the rich man can’t use his power to exploit the poor man, saying, “I’m going to pay five percent, but you’re going to pay fifty percent.” The rich weren’t allowed to do that. Nor were the poor allowed to say, “We’re going to pay five percent and the rich are going to pay fifty percent because they can afford it.” What that is ladies and gentlemen is the politics of envy that legalizes theft. Anytime you vote a tax on somebody else that is not a tax on yourself, you’re stealing from your brother. And though the whole world does it and though it’s common practice in the United States of America, a Christian shouldn’t be caught dead voting to fill his own pocketbook at the expense of someone else. Isn’t that plain? Isn’t that clear? And until we get some kind of flat tax, we’re going to have a politicized economy, we’re going to have class warfare, and we’re going to have the whole nation’s rule being determined by the rush for economic advantage at the polls. Don’t do it. Even if that means sacrificing some benefit you might receive from the federal government. Don’t ask other people at the point of a gun to give you from their pockets what you don’t have. That’s sin.

It is, of course, the American way. But we Christians should not be involved in that sort of thing. Rather we should be voting for what is right, what is ethical. And our consciences on that score need to be informed by the Word of God, not by our wallets. And so I plead with you: When you enter the voting booth, don’t leave your Christianity in the parking lot. And be bold to speak on these issues, even if it means somebody picks up a rock and throws it in your head. Because it is through tribulation that we enter the Kingdom of God. I pray for you, beloved, and for our nation in these days to come.”

Taken from this excellent article: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2008/10/pr … -text.html

If We Go on Sinning Deliberately

Excerpt taken from http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue65b.htm

Recognizing allusions may also prove helpful in casting light on passages that are often considered “difficult.” This turns out to be the case with the warning found in Hebrews chapter 10:

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29)

While there are several issues evident within this complex passage, I wish to focus on the term “sinning willfully” in verse 26. Many have struggled with what exactly the author of Hebrews is trying to convey with this term. The confusion proceeds from the fact that every “sin” is indeed done “willfully” in the sense that all who “sin” do the act of their own volition, thus “willfully” in one sense of the word. Furthermore, the Apostle John makes it quite clear: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Thus, if we are to maintain that the Scriptures are consistent in its unified message, “sinning willfully” must have some other meaning than that noted above. The question then is: “What does the author of Hebrews have in mind when he writes the term: “sinning willfully”?

Light is cast on this difficult passage when we realize that the author of Hebrews is most probably alluding to a distinct yet similar warning found in the Old Testament. In Numbers 15 we find that those “under the law of Moses” were given instruction and warning regarding “sinning unintentionally” and “sinning willfully.” Note the following:

Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one year old female goat for a sin offering. The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him (Numbers 15:27-31).

Therefore, since the author of Hebrews clearly notes that he is making an analogy to the punishment of those who “set aside the law” (vs. 28-29), we get a somewhat clearer picture of what he means by “sinning willfully.” Since there was a distinction in the Old Testament regarding those who had received the revelation of the Lord through Moses of “sinning unintentionally” and “sinning defiantly,” the author of Hebrews makes the following point analogous to the Old Testament instructions and warning: If those who defiantly spurned the Law after receiving the knowledge of its truth were put to death, how much greater will be the punishment of those who defiantly spurn the Gospel of Jesus Christ after receiving the knowledge of its truth.

After carefully examining the passage and the roots that the author of Hebrews is relating it to, it becomes evident the definition of “sinning willfully” carries with it the meaning of one who defiantly blasphemes the Gospel after accepting the concept that it is indeed true. When this is done, only a fearful expectation of the eternal judgment of God remains for that individual.

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