The Bible Thoughts Blog has become "Grace Abundant", exalting the grace and glory of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17, The Bible).

Monday, 23 July 2012

Solitary and Community Life (For Singles)

Here are 2 of my favourite quotes from the early church fathers on singleness. Whilst I do not agree with their view that it is superior to marriage, their theology of singleness is very well developed and so much truth is contained with:

And what is virginal chastity but purity free from stain? And whom can we judge to be its author but the immaculate Son of God, Whose flesh saw no corruption, Whose Godhead experienced no infection? Consider, then, how great are the merits of virginity.

I am not indeed discouraging marriage, but am enlarging upon the benefits of virginity. "He who is weak," says the Apostle, "eats herbs." Romans 14:2 I consider one thing necessary, I admire another. "Are you bound to a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Are you free from a wife? Seek not a wife." 1 Corinthians 7:27 This is the command to those who are. But what does he say concerning virgins? "He who gives his virgin in marriage does well, and he who gives her not does better." 1 Corinthians 7:38 The one sins not if she marries, the other, if she marries not, it is for eternity. In the former is the remedy for weakness, in the latter the glory of chastity. The former is not reproved, the latter is praised. (St. Ambrose (340-397), Bishop of Milan, Concerning Virginity, Book 1. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf210.iv.vii.ii.v.html)

A great thing is virginity, and celibacy, and being ranked with the angels, and with the single nature; for I shrink from calling it Christ’s, Who, though He willed to be born for our sakes who are born, by being born of a Virgin, enacted. Enacted by his religious rule, or as some say by a treatise on Virginity. the law of virginity, to lead us away from this life, and cut short the power of the world, or rather, to transmit one world to another, the present to the future. Who then paid more honour to virginity, or had more control of the flesh, not only by his personal example, but in those under his care? Whose are the convents, and the written regulations, by which he subdued every sense, and regulated every member, and won to the real practice of virginity, turning inward the view of beauty, from the visible to the invisible; and by wasting away the external, and withdrawing fuel from the flame, and revealing the secrets of the heart to God, Who is the only bridegroom of pure souls, and takes in with himself the watchful souls, if they go to meet him with lamps burning and a plentiful supply of oil? Moreover he reconciled most excellently and united the solitary and the community life. (Gregory Nazianzen, Archbishop of Constantinople in the fourth century,
Oration XLIII., http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.iii.xxvi.html)

I particularly love the last sentence about reconciling the solitary and community life.  The Lord Jesus often went into the desert to pray but he also ministered to the crowds and loved spending time with his disciples.  This is a challenge for all, particularly for single Christians. 

Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey
For There is No Other Way
To Be Happy in Jesus
Than to Trust and Obey

These words are simple and yet so powerful. There is simply no greater place to be than in the centre of God's purposes. I have been struggling with fears for the future, with an uncertain economy, a job that can be stressful and having the typical struggles associated with being single. There has been a strong temptation to give up the faith.

But God knows what is best for everyone, and to reject God's providence, to whinge about drawing the short straw and seek to fulfil and meet our desires our own way is the heart of rebellion. In going this way, we will gain lose more than we will gain and there is peace, joy and love in knowing Jesus that is independent of our external circumstances. I have not yet experienced the severe testing that men like Paul or Job had, and I hope I never will. Paul said that he had learned to be content in all circumstances, and Job blessed God despite losing everything in his life. May we all be respond like this if we ever face such trials.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

This blog is undergoing maintenance and so for a brief while some of the old posts will be unavailable. 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Irresistable Grace: Can a Gift Be Forced?

Some words from J. Sidlow Baxter in his excellent book on John 3:16:

A gift may either be received or refused. It is never forced upon an intended receiver, or it ceases to be a gift in the real sense of the word. Not even in the giving of salvation will God violate the responsible freedom of the human will. None of those who finally perish will be able to allege that salvation was not made free enough. Nay, it is a gift! God grant that each one of us may simply, truly receive, and then rejoice in the proven reality of that salvation.

God So Loved, p69. Zondervan 1960.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Did Jesus Have "The Gift of Singleness"?

In some earlier posts the traditional Christian view of “the gift of singleness”, that is, the belief in a supernatural empowerment to live a celibate life free from temptation, was debunked as a myth. The Biblical view of singleness is that it is the grace that God given to some people, and marriage is the grace that God has given to others. In other words, I believe that the gift of of singleness is the state of being single regardless of whether you like it or not.

In this post I want to examine the traditional view against the example of Christ. The the vast majority, if not all, Christians agree that the Lord Jesus Christ never married. This being the case, did Jesus have the supernatural empowerment to stay single and not be tempted?

If the answer is yes, then the humanity of Jesus Christ has been underestimated. If Jesus did not suffer sexual temptation in this way, and he had no desire for companionship, then how can he sympathise with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4)?

If the answer is no, and I believe that this is the correct answer, then how can we expect to have such a gift? Single and married people will suffer temptation and trials in this life. Jesus, being human, most likely desired companionship and whilst he was pure, I dare say that he struggled with various temptations that we have never and will ever know. As his followers, whether single or married, he expects us to suffer with him. He can support single people in their struggles (Hebrews 4) and expects married men to love their own wives in the same self-sacrificial way in which he loves the Church (Ephesians 4) .  So in answer to the question as to whether Jesus had the gift of singleness, the answer depends upon how you define the gift. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

What Does Foreknowledge Mean?

Foreknowledge and Predestination appear in the Bible in several places and many people are confused about the meaning of these terms. The word “foreknowledge” is taken from the Greek word “proginōskō ”, meaning exactly what the word says: foreknowledge.  It appears in several places in the New Testament

Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. (Acts 2:22-23)

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. (Acts 26:1-5)

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Peter 3:17)

There are other instances of this word “foreknowledge” and it simply means “to know in advance”. Objects of foreknowledge can be events or people as in the above instances. Some Calvinists affirm though that foreknowledge means foreordination. This is not the case – the terms are totally distinct. Certainly in the last passage cited above it cannot mean “seeing that you ordain these things before”. In the English foreknowledge is composed of the two words fore and knowledge. The same is true in relation to the Greek words pro and ginōskō . The latter word, meaning knowledge, is used in the New Testament to mean simply that. It is used for example, in 1 Corinthians where is says that “knowledge puffs up but love edifies”. It cannot mean “ordination puffs up but love edifies”.

In Acts 2 the foreknowledge of God is linked to his ““determinate counsel”. This is further proof that they are not the same thing, as if that were the case the adjoining of the terms would be completely unnecessary. The link between Gods foreknowledge and his fore-ordination means that with his foreknowledge he arranges everything to fit into his overall plan and purpose.

Chosen To Salvation? (2 Thess 2:13)

The second letter to the Thessalonians is used to support the Calvinistic understanding of election: But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13). The meaning of the Greek phrase “from the beginning” is in dispute with some Greek scholars. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown state that:

Some of the oldest manuscripts read as English Version, but other oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, "as first-fruits." The Thessalonians were among the first converts in Europe (compare Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:15).  (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible).

If it were granted that the phrase “from the beginning” was the correct understanding, it deserves consideration. It cannot mean initial salvation upon believing, for then it would say that “God from the beginning chose you to belief of the truth through sanctification and belief of the truth”. This would not make sense. Their belief is the means by which they are saved. In verses 10-12 Paul says that God appoints a strong delusion upon those who reject the truth, and in parallel he appoints salvation to those who accept the truth. What is the salvation to in this passage? Verse 14 provides the answer: to the obtaining of the glory of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, final salvation, or glorification is in view. Paul was reminding the Thessalonian believers about the future they have to look forward to because of their faith.