The Churches of Galatia

Call To Worship December 2 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 20:40-47

“Let us observe in this passage — what striking testimony to Christ’s divinity, the book of Psalms contains. We read that after patiently replying to the attacks of His enemies, our Lord in turn propounds a question to them. He asks them to explain an expression in the hundred and tenth Psalm, where David speaks of the Messiah as his Lord. To this question the Scribes could find no answer. They did not see the mighty truth — that Messiah was to be God as well as man; and that while as man, He was to be David’s son — as God, He was to be David’s Lord.

Their ignorance of Scripture was thus exposed before all the people. Professing themselves to be instructors of others and possessors of the key of knowledge — they were proved unable to explain what their own Scriptures contained. We may well believe that of all the defeats which our Lord’s malicious enemies met with — none galled them more than this. Nothing so abashes the pride of man — as to be publicly proved ignorant of that which he imagines is his own particular department of knowledge.

We have probably little idea how much deep truth is contained in the book of Psalms. No part of the Bible perhaps is better known in the letter — and none so little understood in the spirit. We err greatly, if we suppose that it is nothing but a record of David’s feelings, of David’s experience, David’s praises, and David’s prayers. The hand that held the pen was generally David’s — but the subject matter was often something far deeper and higher than the history of the son of Jesse.

The book of Psalms, in a word, is a book full of Christ — Christ suffering — Christ in humiliation — Christ dying — Christ rising again — Christ coming the second time — Christ reigning over all. Both of Christ’s advents are here: the advent in suffering to bear the cross — and the advent in power to wear the crown. Both of Christ’s kingdoms are here: the kingdom of grace, during which the elect are gathered — and the kingdom of glory, when every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. Let us always read the Psalms with a particular reverence. Let us say to ourselves as we read, ‘A greater than David is here!’

The remark now made, applies more or less to all the Bible. There is a fullness about the whole Book, which is a strong proof of its inspiration. The more we read it — the more it will seem to contain. All other books become threadbare, if they are constantly read. Their weak points, and their shallowness become more apparent every year. The Bible alone seems broader, and deeper, and fuller — the oftener it is studied. We have no need to look for allegorical and mystical meanings. The fresh truths that will constantly spring up before our eyes, are simple, plain, and clear. Of such truths, the Bible is an inexhaustible mine. Nothing can account for this, but the great fact, that the Bible is the word — not of man, but of God!

Let us observe, secondly, in this passage — how abominable is hypocrisy in the eyes of Christ. We are told that in the presence of all the people, Jesus said unto His disciples, ‘Beware of the teachers of the law! They like to walk around in flowing robes — and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses — and for a show make lengthy prayers.’

This was a bold and remarkable warning. It was a public denunciation, we must remember, of men who ‘sat in Moses’ seat,’ and were the recognized teachers of the Jewish people. It teaches us clearly, that there may be times when the sins of people in high religious places, make it a positive duty to protest publicly against them. It shows us that it is possible to speak out, and yet not to despise authority.

No sin seems to be regarded by Christ as more sinful than hypocrisy. None certainly drew forth from His lips such frequent, strong, and withering condemnation, during the whole course of His ministry. He was ever full of mercy and compassion for the chief of sinners. ‘Fury was not in Him’ when He saw Zacchaeus, the penitent thief, Matthew the tax-collector, Saul the persecutor, and the sinful woman in Simon’s house. But when He saw Scribes and Pharisees wearing a mere cloak of religion, and pretending to great outward sanctity, while their hearts were full of wickedness — His righteous soul seems to have been full of indignation. Eight times in one chapter (Matthew 23.) we find Him saying, ‘Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees! You hypocrites!’

Let us not forget that the Lord Jesus never changes. He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Whatever else we are in religion–let us be true. However feeble our faith, and hope, and love, and obedience may be—let us see to it that they are real, genuine, and sincere. Let us abhor the very idea of play-acting and mask-wearing in our Christianity. At any rate, let us be genuine.”

The Moon and Stars Shall Lose Their Light

The moon and stars shall lose their light,
The sun shall sink in endless night;
Both heaven and earth shall pass away;
The works of nature all decay.

But they that in the Lord confide,
And shelter in his wounded side,
Shall see the danger overpast,
Stand every storm, and live at last.

What Christ has said must be fulfilled;
On this firm rock, believers build;
His word shall stand, his truth prevail,
And not one jot or tittle fail.

His word is this (poor sinners, hear);
“Believe on me, and banish fear;
Cease from your own works, bad or good,
And wash your garments in my blood.”

Gadsby’s Hymns #352 by Hart; tume LM

The King Who Bears the Curse

Call to Worship November 25 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
J.C. Ryle Luke 20:19-26

“We see in these verses — what an old thing unbelief is. We are told that ‘Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.’ Even in the Jewish Church, the Church of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, the Church of Moses, and Samuel, and David, and the prophets — we find that there were bold, avowed, unblushing skeptics. If infidelity like this existed among God’s people, the Jews — then what must have been the state of heathenism? If these things existed in a green tree — what must have been the condition of the dry?
We must never be surprised when we hear of infidels, deists, heretics and free-thinkers rising up in the Church, and drawing away disciples after them. We must not count it a rare and a strange thing. It is only one among many proofs, that man is a fallen and corrupt being. Since the day when the devil said to Eve ‘You shall not surely die’ — and Eve believed him, there never has been lacking a constant succession of forms of unbelief.

There is nothing new about any of the modern theories of infidelity. There is not one of them, which is not an old disease under a new name. They are all mushrooms which spring up spontaneously in the hot-bed of human nature. It is not in reality an astonishing thing that there should rise up so many who call in question the truth of the Bible. The marvel is rather, that in a fallen world — the sect of the Sadducees should be so small.

Let us take comfort in the thought that in the long run of years, the truth will always prevail. Its advocates may often be feeble, and their arguments may appear to be very weak. But there is an inherent strength in the cause itself, which keeps it alive. Bold infidels like Julian, and Hobbes, and Hume, and Voltaire, and Paine — arise from time to time, and make a stir in the world. But they produce no lasting impression. They pass away like the Sadducees — and go to Hell, their own place. The great evidences of Christianity remain like the Pyramids — unshaken and unmoved. The ‘gates of Hell’ shall never prevail against Christ’s truth!

We see, secondly, in these verses — what a favorite weapon of skeptics is a ‘supposed case’. We are told that the Sadducees brought to our Lord a difficulty arising out of the case of a woman who had married seven brothers in succession. They professed a desire to know ‘whose wife of the seven’ the woman would be in the resurrection. The intention of the inquiry is clear and plain. They wished to
pour contempt on the whole doctrine of a life to come.

The case itself is one which we cannot suppose had really arisen. It seems the highest probability, that it was a story invented for the occasion, in order to raise a difficulty and found an argument.
Reasoning of this kind will often meet us, if we are thrown into company with people of a skeptical turn of mind. Some imaginary difficulty or complication, and that connected probably with some imagined state of things in the world to come — will often prove the stronghold of an unbeliever. ‘He cannot understand it! He cannot reconcile it! It seems to him revolting and absurd! It offends his common sense!’ Such is the language which is often used.

Reasoning of this kind, should never shake us for a moment. For one thing, we have nothing to do with ‘supposed and imaginary cases’. It will be time enough to discuss them, when they really arise. Enough for us to talk and argue about facts as they are.

For another thing, it is mere waste of time to speculate about difficulties connected with a state of existence in the world to come. We know so little of anything beyond the visible world around us — that we are very poor judges of what is possible or not possible in the unseen world. A thousand things beyond the grave, must necessarily be unintelligible to us at present. In the meantime, it is our wisdom to wait patiently. What we do not know now — we shall know hereafter.

We see, thirdly, in these verses — something of the true character of the believers’ existence in the world to come. We read that our Lord said to the Sadducees, ‘But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead, will neither marry nor be given in marriage. And they can die no more. In these respects they are like angels.’

Two things are abundantly clear from this description, respecting the saints in glory. For one thing, their happiness is not a physical happiness, but a spiritual one. ‘They neither marry nor are given in marriage.’ The glorified body shall be very unlike what it is now. It shall no longer be a clog and a hindrance to the believer’s better nature. It shall be a fit habitation for a
glorified soul.

For another thing, their happiness shall he eternal. ‘They can die no more.’ No births shall be needed, to supply the constant waste caused by death. Weakness, and sickness, and disease, and infirmity — shall be no more at all. The curse shall be fully removed. Death himself shall die.
The nature of what we call ‘Heaven’ is a subject which should often engage our thoughts. Few subjects in religion are so calculated to show the utter folly of unconverted men, and the dreadful danger in which they stand. A Heaven where all the joy is spiritual, would surely be no Heaven to an unconverted soul!

Few subjects are so likely to cheer and animate the mind of a true Christian. The holiness and spiritual-mindedness which he follows after in this life — will be the very atmosphere of his eternal abode. The cares of family relationships shall no longer distract his mind. The fear of death shall no longer bring him into bondage. Then let him press on and bear his cross patiently. Heaven will make amends for all!

We see, lastly, in these verses — the antiquity of belief in a resurrection. Our Lord shows that it was the belief of Moses: ‘That the dead are raised — even Moses showed at the burning bush.’
Faith in a resurrection and a life to come — has been the universal belief of all God’s people from the beginning of the world. Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham and all the Patriarchs — were men who looked forward to a better inheritance than they had here below. ‘They looked for a city which had foundations.’ ‘They desired a better country — that is, a heavenly one.’ (Hebrews 11:10-16.)

Let us anchor our own souls firmly on this great foundation truth, ‘that we shall all rise again.’ Whatever ancient or modern Sadducees may say — let us believe firmly that we are not made like the beasts which perish, and that there shall be ‘a resurrection of the dead — both of the just and unjust.’ (Acts 24:15.)

The recollection of this truth will cheer us in the day of trial — and comfort us in the hour of death. We shall feel that though earthly prosperity fails us — there is a glorious life to come where there is no change. We shall feel that though worms destroy our body — yet in the flesh we shall see God. (Job 19:26.) We shall not lie always in the grave. Our God is ‘not a God of the dead — but of the living!’”

Forgiveness and Image Bearing

The Church: Covenantal Image Bearers – Starting our Study in Galatians

Call to Worship November 11 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 20:9-19

“The parable we have now read, is one of the very few which are recorded more than once by the Gospel writers. Matthew, Mark, and Luke — all give it at full length. This three-fold repetition is alone sufficient to point out the importance of its contents.

The parable, no doubt, was specially intended for the Jews to whom it was addressed. But we must not confine its application to them. It contains lessons which should be remembered in all churches of Christ, as long as the world stands.

In the first place — the parable shows us the deep corruption of human nature. The conduct of the wicked ‘farmers’ is a vivid representation of man’s dealings with God. It is a faithful picture of the history of the Jewish church. In spite of privileges, such as no nation ever had; in the face of warnings such as no people ever received — the Jews rebelled against God’s lawful authority, refused to give Him His rightful due, rejected the counsel of His prophets, and at length crucified His only-begotten Son.

It is a no less faithful picture of the history of all the Gentile churches. Called as they were out of heathen darkness by infinite mercy — they have done nothing worthy of the vocation with which they were called. On the contrary, they have allowed false doctrines and wicked practices to spring up rankly among them, and have crucified Christ afresh.

It is a mournful fact that in hardness, unbelief, superstition, and self-righteousness — the Christian churches, as a whole, are little better than the Jewish church of our Lord’s time. Both are described with painful correctness in the story of the wicked farmers. In both, we may point to countless privileges misused, and countless warnings despised.

Let us often pray that we may thoroughly understand the sinfulness of man’s heart. Few of us, it may be feared, have the least conception of the strength and virulence of the spiritual disease with which we are born! Few entirely realize that ‘the carnal mind is enmity against God,’ and that unconverted human nature, if it had the power — would cast its Maker down from His throne! The behavior of the farmers before us — is only a picture of what every natural man would do to God, if he only could! To see these things is of great importance. Christ is never fully valued — until sin is clearly seen. We must know the depth and malignity of our disease — in order to appreciate the great Physician.

In the second place — this parable shows us the amazing patience and long-suffering of God. The conduct of the ‘owner of the vineyard’ is a vivid representation of God’s dealings with man. It is a faithful picture of His merciful dealings with the Jewish church. Prophet after prophet was sent to warn Israel of his danger. Message after message was repeatedly sent — notwithstanding insults and injuries heaped on the messengers.

It is a no less faithful picture of His gracious treatment of the Gentile churches. For eighteen hundred years He has born with their sinful behaviors. They have repeatedly tried Him by false doctrines, superstitions, and contempt of His word. Yet He has repeatedly granted them seasons of refreshing, raised up holy ministers and mighty reformers for them — and not cut them off, notwithstanding all their persecutions. The churches of Christ have no right to boast. They are debtors to God for innumerable mercies, no less than the Jews were in our Lord’s time. They have not been dealt with according to their sins, nor rewarded according to their iniquities.

We should learn to be more thankful for God’s mercy. We have probably little idea of the extent of our obligations to it, and of the number of gracious messages which the Lord of the vineyard is constantly sending to our souls. The last day will unfold to our wondering eyes — a long list of unacknowledged kindnesses, of which while we lived, we took no notice.

Mercy we shall find was indeed God’s darling attribute. ‘He delights in mercy.’ (Micah 7:18.) Mercies before conversion, mercies after conversion, mercies at every step of their journey on earth — will be revealed to the minds of saved saints, and make them ashamed of their own thanklessness. Sparing mercies, providential mercies, mercies in the way of warnings, mercies in the way of sudden visitations — will all be set forth in order before the minds of lost sinners, and confound them by the exhibition of their own hardness and unbelief. We shall all find that God was often speaking to us, when we did not hear — and sending us messages, which we did not regard. Few texts will be brought out so prominently at the last day as that of Peter, ‘The Lord is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish.’ (2 Peter 3:9.)

In the last place, this parable shows us the severity of God’s judgments when they fall on obstinate sinners. The punishment of the wicked farmers is a vivid representation of God’s final dealings with those who continue living in wickedness. At the time when our Lord spoke this parable, it was a prophetic picture of the approaching ruin of the Jewish church and nation. The vineyard of the Lord in the land of Israel, was about to be taken from its unfaithful tenants. Jerusalem was to be destroyed. The temple was to be burned. The Jews were to be scattered over the earth.

At the present time, it may be feared — it is a mournful picture of things yet to come on the Gentile churches in the latter days. The judgments of God will yet fall on unbelieving professors, as they fell on unbelieving Jews. The solemn warning of Paul to the Romans will yet receive an accomplishment, ‘Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell — but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.’ (Romans 11:22.)

We must never flatter ourselves, that God cannot be angry. He is indeed a God of infinite grace and compassion. But it is also written, that He is ‘a consuming fire.’ (Hebrews 12:29.) His Spirit will not always strive with men. (Genesis 6:3.) There will be a day when His patience will come to an end, and when He will arise to dreadfully judge the earth. Happy will they be who are found hidden in the ark, in the day of the Lord’s anger! Of all wrath, none can be conceived so dreadful as ‘the wrath of the Lamb!’ The man on whom the ‘stone cut out without hands’ falls at His second coming, will indeed be crushed to powder! (Daniel 2:34, 35.)

Do we know these things, and do we live up to our knowledge? The chief priests and elders, we are told, ‘perceived that this parable was spoken against them.’ But they were too proud to repent, and too hardened to turn from their sins. Let us beware of doing likewise.”

Fear Not, Fear God In Peace