The Heavenly Wisdom of a Soft Answer
James chapter 3 contains two pieces of advice. The first is for governing the tongue (verses 1–13), and the second is to do with the meek wisdom which assuages the evils of the tongue, and avoids strifes and contentions (verses 14–18).
Control Your Tongue and You Control Your Whole Self
James tells us to bridle the tongue, that is, to hold back from invective, and rigid rehearsals of other people’s vices or infirmities. “Be not many masters,” he says (verse 1), i.e., do not arrogate to yourselves the authority of a master over others, and too much liberty to carp at things (as many do), but instead bridle your tongues.
One reason for this is because those who unjustly censure others will suffer heavier judgement from the God who avenges injuries (verse 1). Also, seeing we all have many failings (“in many things we offend all,” verse 2), it is better for us to deal more diligently with the infirmities of others, not to arrogate the authority of judging without a calling, or to be unjust in judging.
Anyone who knows how to govern their tongue shows the sign of being “perfect,” someone who can moderate all their actions (verse 2). Anyone who cannot moderately rule their tongue, but in all things carps at other people’s behaviour, has the sign of being a hypocrite.
If you are guiding the horse’s bridle, you have control of the horse; and if you have your hand on the rudder, you are steering the ship. Even so, if you have your tongue under control, you rein in your whole body, and keep your outward actions in check (verse 3–5).
Great care is needed in governing the tongue, because of how gloriously it can boast. It can on both sides perform much good – in speaking the truth, in constancy, in letting things slide, in courtesy, and so on.
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Jesus Christ — The Israel of GodBy Kim Riddlebarger — 1 year ago
According to the New Testament writers (in this case, Paul), the prophecies of Israel’s future restoration are not fulfilled in a reconstituted national Israel, which appears after Jesus returns—as dispensationalists claim. The ramifications for this upon one’s millennial view should now be obvious. If Jesus is the true Israel of God, and if the New Testament writers apply to Jesus those Old Testament prophecies referring to Israel as God’s son or servant, then what remains of the dispensationalist’s case that these prophecies remain yet to be fulfilled in a future millennium? These prophecies vanish in Jesus Christ, who has fulfilled them!
If we stand within the field of prophetic vision typical of Israel’s prophets after the exile, and we look to the future, what do we see? Israel’s prophets clearly anticipate a time when Israel will be restored to its former greatness. But will that restoration of Israel to its former glory mirror the former days of the Davidic monarchy—i.e. a restored national kingdom? Or does the prophetic vision of restoration point beyond a monarchy to the ultimate monarch, Jesus the Messiah, who is the descendant of David, YHWH’s servant, and the true Israel?
The prophetic vision given the prophets is remarkably comprehensive. The nation had been divided, and the people of both kingdoms (Israel and Judah) were taken into captivity or dispersed as exiles throughout the region. Judah was exiled to Babylon five centuries before the coming of Jesus. Since the magnificent temple of Solomon was destroyed by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar and the Levitical priesthood was in disarray, any prophetic expectation related to Israel’s future would naturally speak of a reversal of fortune and the undoing of terrible calamity which had come upon the nation. The restoration to come in the messianic age therefore includes not only the fate of the nation, but also the land of Canaan, the city of Jerusalem, a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (the so-called “second temple”), as well as the long anticipated heir to David’s throne—the coming Messiah.
Yet, once Israel’s Messiah had come, and the messianic age was a reality, how do the writers of the New Testament understand these Old Testament prophecies associated with Israel’s future restoration? With a Spirit-given sense of apostolic hindsight, Peter says . . .
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10-12).
According to Peter, Israel’s prophets predicted the coming of Jesus and tie the age of restoration to his person and work.
In Isaiah 41:8-9, the prophet spoke of a future restoration of Israel in the following terms. “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, `You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off.’” The same promise is reiterated in the next chapter of Isaiah (42:1-7), when the LORD declares of his coming servant, “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations” (v. 6). Isaiah continues to speak of this servant in chapters 44 (vv. 1-2) and 45 (v. 4). Based upon these passages and how they are interpreted in the New Testament (more on that momentarily), we can say with a fair bit of certainty that Jesus Christ is the true Israel because Isaiah’s Servant Songs are fulfilled in him (i.e., Philippians 2:7).
Furthermore, looking ahead to the “latter days,” Israel’s prophets speak of Gentiles being identified with Israel (see Isaiah 19:24-25; 56:3, 6-8; 66:18-21; Zechariah 2:11). As the gospel goes out to all the earth (the Gentile nations), all Christians become members of Israel through union with Christ–the true Israel (Isaiah 44:1-5). Those who are of faith are children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7-9, 21). For Paul, every believer in Jesus, Jew or Gentile, is a member of the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). In Philippians 3:2-3, Gentile Christians are said to be “the circumcision.” In Romans 9:25-26, the Gentiles are even called “my people.” This is a rather impressive list identifying Christ and his people with Israel.
Not everyone agrees with the preceding, however. Given their so-called “literal hermeneutic,” our dispensational friends are bound to interpret those passages concerning Israel’s future restoration, “literally.” Yet, they cannot make good on this assertion while refusing to acknowledge that the New Testament writers re-interpret these prophetic texts in light of the coming of Jesus Christ. Dispensationalists contend that the Old Testament tells us in advance, what the New Testament must mean. Yet, the Apostle Paul does the very thing dispensationalists say cannot be done. In Galatians 4:24, Paul specifically tells his readers that in light of the coming of Christ, he must look at significant elements of the Old Testament drama of redemption allegorically (i.e., the Abraham story, and the giving of the law to Moses).
One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic ChurchBy R.C. Sproul — 10 months ago
Written by R.C. Sproul |
Friday, May 20, 2022
The union of believers is grounded in the mystical union of Christ and His Church. The Bible speaks of a twoway transaction that occurs when a person is regenerated. Every converted person becomes “in Christ” at the same time Christ enters into the believer. If I am in Christ and you are in Christ, and if He is in us, then we experience a profound unity in Christ.
“One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty . . .” We say it. We argue about it (especially the “under God” part). But is it true? In reality, how united is the United States? The “more perfect union” sought by Lincoln is hardly perfect in terms of harmony. We are a nation—morally, philosophically, and religiously—deeply divided. Yet there remains the outward shell of formal and organizational unity. We have union without unity.
As it is with the “United” States, so it is with the unity of the Christian church. The “oneness” of the church is one of the classic four descriptive terms to define the church. According to the council at Nicaea (325 AD), the Church is one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic.
Few church bodies today give much regard to being Apostolic. Fewer still seem concerned with the dimension of the holy. When these two qualities become irrelevant to the minds of church people, it is a mere chimera to speak of catholicity and unity.
The church, organizationally, is hopelessly fragmented. Since the birth of the “Ecumenical Movement,” the church has seen more splits than mergers. The crisis of disunity is on the front pages following the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate a practicing, impenitent homosexual to the role of bishop.
Is unity a false hope? Is it, in its historic expressions, merely an illusion?
To answer these questions we must consider the nature of the unity of the church.
In the first instance, the deepest and most significant unity of the Church is its spiritual unity. Though we can never separate the formal from the material with respect to the Church’s unity, we can and must distinguish them.
It was Augustine who taught most deeply about the distinction between the visible church and the invisible Church. With this classic distinction Augustine did not envision two separate ecclesiastical bodies, one apparent to the naked eye and another beyond the scope of visual perception. Now, did he envision one church that is “underground” and another one above ground, in full view?
No, he was describing a church within a church. Augustine took his cue from our Lord’s teaching that until He purifies His Church in glory, it will continue in this world as a body that will include “tares” along with the “wheat.” The tares are weeds that grow along with the flowers in Christ’s garden.
There’s No Such Thing as Virtual ChurchBy Jonathan Leeman — 2 years ago
Virtual church as a permanent option, hurts Christian discipleship. It trains Christians to think of their faith as autonomous. It teaches them they can follow Jesus as a member of the “family of God,” in some abstract sense, without teaching them what it means to be a part of a family and to make sacrifices for a family.
The COVID-19 pandemic was challenging for churches around the world precisely because, in so many places, the saints had difficulty gathering and learning to cherish the Word of God together. After a few months of not gathering during the early days of COVID-19, I felt as if I were losing track of my church. Friends would ask, “How is your church doing?” I had a hard time answering. I was making regular phone calls and sending text messages to individual members, but I couldn’t get my mind around the whole body. The church felt like rainwater on a parking lot after a storm—spread thin, with puddles here and there.
The elders worried most about spiritually weak members who were struggling in their faith or facing particular temptations. We worried about those who already seemed to be drifting spiritually, those with one foot out the door months before the pandemic forced them out altogether.
Yet not gathering affected everyone—the spiritually mature and immature alike. Each one of us needs to see and to hear our fellow saints regularly. Otherwise, it’s only colleagues at work, friends at school, or TV characters whose patterns we observe.
What Are We Missing?
Once the pandemic began, many churches livestreamed their services, and many voices extolled the enduring value of “virtual church.” Pastors who had previously decried the idea now opened up “virtual campuses” and staffed them with full-time pastors, promising that the campuses would continue indefinitely. This was an exciting development in the history of fulfilling the Great Commission, some said.
And yet we wonder: What goes missing when your “church” experience is nothing more than a weekly livestream? For starters, you think less about your fellow members. They don’t come to mind. You don’t bump into them and have the quick conversations that lead to longer conversations over dinner. Beyond that, you remove yourself from the path of encouragement, accountability, and love.
Praise God that we can download biblical truths. But let’s praise God that the Christian life is more than just an information transfer. When church is only online, we can’t feel, experience, and witness those truths becoming enfleshed in the family of God, which both fortifies our faith and creates cords of love between brothers and sisters. Virtual church is an oxymoron.