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Spurgeon Sermon #1955: Jesus Declining the Legions (Matthew 26: 53,54)

Spurgeon Sermon #1955: Jesus Declining the Legions (Matthew 26: 53,54)

Let us learn from our Master to rely on invisible forces. Let us not trust in what is seen by the eye, and heard by the ear, but let us have respect for spiritual agencies which evade the senses, but are known to faith. Angels play a far greater part in the affairs of providence than we know about. God can raise up friends on earth for us, and if he does not do so he can find us abler friends in heaven. There is no need to draw the sword with which to cut off men’s ears; for infinitely better agencies will work for us. Have faith in God, and all things shall work for your good. The angels of God think it an honour and a delight to protect the least of his children.

But if the Scriptures are only the writings of men, there is no necessity that they should be fulfilled. If they are merely the fallible utterances of good men, I see no particular necessity that they should be fulfilled. Our Lord Jesus Christ insisted upon it that the Scriptures must be fulfilled, and the reason was that they are not the word of man, but the Word of God.

Holy Scripture is the transcript of the secret decree of God. We do not believe in fate, a blind, harsh thing; but we believe in predestination, the settled purpose of a wise and loving Father. The Book of Fate is cruel reading, but the book of divine Foreordination is full of charming sentences, and those lines out of it which are written in the Scriptures we joyfully choose to have fulfilled. It is the will of our Father who is in heaven who settles the things which must be; and because of this we cheerfully yield ourselves up to predestination. Once being assured that God has appointed it, we have no struggles, no, we will not even breathe a wish to have the matter otherwise. Let the will of the Father be the supreme law. It ought to be so.

Desire no other forces for God’s work than God himself ordains to use. Do not desire that the Government should come to your rescue to support your church. Do not desire that the charms of eloquence should be given to ministers, so that they may with it command listening ears, and so maintain the faith by the wisdom of words. Do not ask that learning and rank and prestige may come to the side of Christianity, and so religion may become respectable and influential. Means that God has not chosen to use should not be looked upon by us with covetous eyes.

When you are in argument for the truth, do not grow angry; for this would be to fight the Lord’s battles with the devil’s weapons. Do not wish to oppress a person whose views are erroneous or even blasphemous. The use of bribes for the propagation of opinions is base, and the refusal of charities to those who differ from us in sentiment is detestable. Let no threat escape your lip, nor bribe pollute your hand. It is not like this that the battles of truth are to be fought. If you ever feel inclined to shut a man’s mouth by wishing him banishment, or sickness, or any kind of evil, be grieved with yourself that so unchristly a thought should have entered your head. Desire only good for the most perverse of men. Fighting for Christ would be wounding him severely.

The Lord Jesus desires you, my brethren, to fight for him by your faith, by your holy life, by your confidence in truth, by your reliance upon the Spirit of God; but whenever your hand begins to itch for the sword hilt, then may you hear him say, “Put up your sword into its sheath.”

Would you like to be throughout life screened from all affliction? I think I hear a great many say, “I should.” Would you? Would you be always free from sickness, poverty, care, bereavement, slander, persecution? How, then, could that word be true, “I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction!” What would that text mean, “What son is he whom the Father does not chasten?” Jesus said, “Unless a man takes up his cross and follows me, he cannot be my disciple.” Are you to be an exception to the rule? Oh, do not kick against suffering, for in so doing you may be fighting against God. When Peter drew his sword he was unconsciously fighting to prevent our redemption. When we struggle against tribulation or persecution we may be warring against untold benefit. Do you desire to ride through the world like princes? Do not desire such a dangerous fate; for how then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that the disciple is not above his Lord? Bow your spirit before the majesty of Scripture, and patiently endure all things for the elect’s sake.

The Cheerless Attic

The Cheerless Attic

One of the books that has had a great influence on me is The Days of the Fathers in Ross-Shire by Dr. John Kennedy of Dingwall, Scotland. I first read it when our entire family (about nine of us, I think) went to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and stayed in a rented house for a few days back in 1993.

Dr. Kennedy wasn’t converted until in college, sometime after (and because of) the death of his father. He was to have a very fruitful and influential ministry in the Scottish highlands during the late 1800’s through his preaching and writing.

I think this is his best book because of stories like these that he includes. The Minister of Killearnan (included in Days of the Fathers) is about his father’s ministry. In it, he relates visiting some old women who remembered his father:

I cannot forget a trying scene, into which a streak of light of those days [of my father’s ministry] was once cast to cheer my heart.

Being called to see a dying woman, I found on reaching the place to which I was directed a dark filthy attic, in which I could observe nothing till the light I had carried in had quite departed from my eye. The first object I could discern was an old woman crouching on a stone beside a low fire, who, as I afterwards ascertained, was unable to move but “on all fours.” Quite near the fire I then saw a bed, on which an older woman still was stretched, who was stone blind, and lying at the very gates of death.

The two women were sisters, and miserable indeed they seemed to be; the one with her breast and face devoured by cancer, and the other blind and dying. They were from Lochbroom; and we had spoken but little when one of them referred to the days of my father’s labours in their native parish, and told of her first impression of divine things under a sermon which he preached at that time. The doctrine of that sermon was as fresh in her mind, and as cheering, as when she first heard it half a century before. Such was the humble hope of both of them, and their cheerful resignation to the will of God, that I could not but regard them, even in their dark and filthy attic, as at the very threshold of glory.

I left them with a very different feeling from that with which I first looked on them; nor could I, after leaving them, see among the happy and frivolous whom I passed on the street, any who, with all their health, cheerfulness, and comforts, I would compare in point of true happiness with the two old women in the cheerless attic.

Why Study Theology?

Why Study Theology?

Everyone should study theology because everyone has some belief about God. Even the atheist cannot deny God’s existence without reference to some sort of belief in God. And since the idea of God always deals with questions of creation, existence, law, ethics, morals, sin, the nature and purpose of mankind, and, ultimately, what happens after we die, then it is important that we know what we believe about God.

The Christian particularly needs to study theology because Jesus has commanded that we go into all the world teaching and making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). And there’s no way one can teach without first knowing the subject matter. One reason for this is that all teachers know that the best way to learn your subject matter is to teach it – we learn as we teach. Or, we learn as we talk about it, not necessarily in a formal teaching setting. But the idea is that of communicating these idea about God to others and in the process, we learn, too.

Studying theology and doctrine has a very practical benefit to us. It helps us overcome wrong ideas and helps us make better decisions as a result. You can’t do better if you don’t know better. And in the Word of God we have the help of the One Who knows everything. The Bible teaches us that we shouldn’t lie and we see the negative effects of lying all around us. We actually have laws on the books that match up with the Ten Commandments and we ignore those at our own peril! Or take the Biblical view of monetary debt. How many heartaches and heartbreaks would couples and individuals be spared if they only stayed within their means? But why did they spend more than they made? Could it be because they weren’t patient? Or, maybe they were coveting something and really wanted it, even though others warned them about it? A Biblical doctrine of contentment or a Scriptural view of work would certainly have had an effect if only heeded.

Theology also helps us grow and mature. As we live and deal with the various joys and disappointments in life, Biblical doctrine helps us to keep the right perspective. It helps us to learn from our own and others’ mistakes. We learn to avoid certain things and practices because of what Scripture teaches, but also because we’ve experienced the truth of Scripture first-hand.

Probably the main reason to study theology, though, is this is how we learn about God and ourselves. We can’t know God without learning about ourselves, and we can’t learn about ourselves without knowing about God. This is how John Calvin begins his Institutes – “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” He later states, “we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves.” It is theology from God’s Word that helps us do that.

What is Systematic Theology?

What is Systematic Theology?

What is Systematic Theology? Why is it important? These two questions form the basis for our study of Bible Doctrine. When starting any study, it’s necessary to define your terms. This is especially true when it comes to the study of Scripture. The lack of definition (or worse, the avoidance of definition) will always lead to a lack of clarity, which will always lead to a lack of understanding, which will always lead to defective practice. We see this illustrated in Proverbs 4:7 – “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” If wisdom is the application of knowledge, then it follows that the more clear our knowledge or understanding, the better our practice should be. We also see this in Hosea 4:6 – “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…” Here our standing with God is conditioned on our knowledge, or lack thereof. However, it’s not just ignorance that is condemned, but the attitude, as well. So if attitudes and actions are the results of how we think about God and His Word, then it is most important to have a strong understanding of what that Word is and what it means.

Systematic Theology is any study that answers the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us about any particular topic?” Notice what this doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean we scour the Bible looking to find out if Donald Trump or Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ. It doesn’t mean that we try to live by the rules of the Old Testament today without reference to the New Testament. But it does mean that we take all of Scripture seriously and let it speak to us. There is a balance in our study, consistent with Christian beliefs throughout history.

Accuracy and precision are very important in studying the Bible. The details matter. We should not think of the way we study Scripture as less important than the way we study anything else. When I was being treated for oral cancer of the tongue, precision was very important in the surgery and the radiation that followed. One wrong move could have disastrous results. The same is true in theology. One wrong assumption, one wrong definition, or one misunderstanding could have disastrous, eternal results. So always beware of those who downplay precision and clarity and those who say that it doesn’t really matter as long as you believe. But, believe what? When you start to answer that question, you have just stepped into the world of systematic theology, because you’re now giving a definition and explanation of what you believe and we can watch your life to see if you’re serious about it or just giving lip service.

Not all doctrine is the same. There are some beliefs that are more important than others. Major doctrine is that set of beliefs that have to do with our eternal salvation. Belief in God is major, the person of Christ is major, the doctrine of sin is major, and heaven and hell are major. Minor beliefs are important, but not necessarily of eternal significance. Whether music is used in worship is minor, mode or subject of baptism is minor, and form of church government is minor. And where these things are made major, you will always have division, which Scripture say we should avoid (1 Corinthians 1:11-17).

A systematic study also means that it’s organized. We’re not opening the Bible at random to get our word from God today. All of Scripture is God’s Word, and God Himself organized it into books. The books of Moses are different from the Psalms, and the Prophets are different from the Apostles. If we ignore God’s own divisions, how can we learn what God is teaching? Organization simply means order and many of us need the discipline of an orderly, organized study of God’s Word, not just focusing on our favorite parts, but all parts in their place.

The purpose in all of this is the practical outcome we get from an organized, detailed, defined study of Scripture. As we think about God and His character and His creation, we are transformed in our attitudes and actions. If people truly meditated upon the seriousness of their sin against God and each other, and the ultimate outcome of that sin, they would certainly try to alter their courses. But when people ignore those things, we get the world that we presently live in with murder, theft, lying, assault, etc. Most people are looking for joy, happiness, and peace, but few find it because they’re looking in the wrong places and we can easily see the results of that. Jesus Christ says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” – and that is a tangible, practical effect that comes from a systematic study of theology.

Please note: For 17 years, I taught the Bible Doctrine course at Zion Christian Academy in Columbia, Tennessee. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am now not able to do this. Since I have no students to teach for the first time since the year 2000, I’ve decided to write (or at least try to write) what I would have said in class and post it here. This is intended for students around 16 to 18 years of age, and is mostly based on Wayne Grudem’s book, Bible Doctrine. Outlines of this course can be found at www.bibledoctrine.club.

John Newton on Matthew 11:25

John Newton on Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” – Matthew 11:25.

Though the things of nearest consequence to you are in the Bible, and you should read it over and over till you commit the whole book to your memory; yet you will not understand, or discern the truth as it is in Jesus, unless the Lord the Spirit shows it to you. The dispensation of truth is in His hand; and without Him all the fancied advantages of superior capacity, learning, criticism, and books will prove as useless as spectacles to the blind. The great encouragement is, that this infallible Spirit, so necessary to guide us in the way of peace, is promised to all who sincerely ask.