The House of the LORD

‘And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD. Now the house which King Solomon built for the LORD, its length was sixty cubits and its width twenty, and its height thirty cubits (1 Kings 6:1, 2).’

On Sunday morning the preacher stood behind the lectern and greeted worshippers with these words, “Good morning. It is good to gather together in the house of the LORD.”

The chapel where the meeting was being held was about the same size as the original Solomonic *temple built on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Apart from the chapel being about the same **size, the contrast between the two buildings was vast, as was the contrast between their uses.

The house of the LORD in Jerusalem was overlaid with gold. In it there were two rooms: the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Ornate wooden doors overlaid with gold separated them, and within the Most Holy Place there was the ark of the covenant. Either side of the ark there stood fifteen foot high golden cherubim, each with outstretched wings.

In contrast to the rich extravagance of the temple, the chapel was a plain building composed of two meeting rooms that were linked together by an entrance lobby adjoining a kitchen. 

Uses of the Respective Buildings  

The main temple building was for the exclusive use of the priests and the high priest, whereas the chapel was for the use of the whole ***church and whoever may turn up at meetings. Strangers were always welcome (Exodus 23:9; Hebrews 13:2).

So to those present that Sunday morning it was patently obvious they were not gathered together in the Solomonic house of the LORD. However, they fully understood that they were gathered together in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22), and they were in God’s presence (Matthew 18:20). They were spiritually in the Most Holy Place – the abode of the living God (Hebrews 10:19, 20). 

King David and the Promise of an Everlasting Kingdom

Things were so different in the time of King David. As God’s representative he ruled over the Israelites. He loved the LORD, and he had it in his heart to build a house for ‘the ark of God (Exodus 25:10-22); for up until that time the ark had dwelt ‘inside tent curtains (2 Samuel 7:1, 2). 

The word of the LORD came to Nathan the prophet, and he spoke the LORD’s word to David. The LORD said He had ‘moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle’  (v 6) since He brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. The LORD reminded David that He had made him king over His people (v 8), and He would appoint a place for them where they would dwell and move no more (v 10). He also said He would make David a house (v 11)!

God promised David ‘He’ would establish an everlasting kingdom (v 16 ) through his seed (v 12), i.e., his son Solomon. Ultimately from David’s seed there would come a King (Psalm 132:11) who would reign forever – namely the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-31).

Christ the King

This is the King whose body was the veil that was torn in two (Hebrews 10:20; cf. Matthew 27:51) to make a way into the Holy Place. This is the King who sets His people free from sin and from death (Romans 8:2). He clothes them with His own righteousness (cf. Psalm 132:9) and makes them to dwell In the house of the LORD (Psalm 23:6). Indeed, this King is the Seed of David (John 7:42; Romans 1:3) who reigns for evermore and sits at the right hand of His Father (Colossians 3:1).

The King’s Citizens Dwell in the House of the LORD

Back at the chapel when the meeting came to a close, the preacher praised the Lord and spoke these words of comfort to His citizens:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives; and we will dwell in the in the house of the LORD. Forever (cf. Psalm 23:6).”

*The Temples of God 

**Dimensions of Buildings

Excluding the external buildings attached to the temple, it was about 90 feet long and 45 feet wide.

***Who are the Church? 

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The Lord’s Table

‘You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:21).’

“You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible (Malachi 1:7).”’

Both of the above texts refer to ‘tables’: one belonging to the Lord Jesus; one belonging to the LORD [Yahweh]; and one belonging to demons. Please note that the one belonging to the LORD is identified as His ‘altar’.

All Scripture is significant. No word of Scripture is perchance (2 Timothy 3:16). It is crafted in truth for the express purpose of revealing the will of God, and specifically for bringing people to Him in repentance and faith. Jesus came to the earth for that very reason – to save a people for eternal life with God. Jesus is the Intermediary and Advocate (1 John 2:1), who by the giving of His body and the shedding of His blood at the cross, atones for the sin of the elect (Ephesians 1:7). His righteousness is imputed to them (Romans 4:22-25).

Jesus at the Passover Meal

On the evening of His betrayal by Judas, Jesus and His disciples commemorated the Passover. He ‘took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, “For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:26-28).”’

Jesus made no mention of a table, but as was the custom when eating a Passover meal, He and His disciples reclined (v 20) on couches that were probably arranged around a series of tables. Having blessed and broken the unleavened bread, He no doubt passed parts of it to those nearest to Him. They in turn would have done the same until all had their share. Then they would have eaten it according to the command of Jesus (v 26).

What was remarkable about this particular Passover meal was the statement of Jesus, “Take, eat; this is My body.” The disciples could see that the broken bread was not His literal body, but later they would come to understand that it symbolically represented His body which was broken on the cross.

Then He took what would have been the ‘cup of blessing’ in His hands and He ‘gave thanks’. This was followed with another remarkable statement, ‘“… this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (v 28).”’ Obviously the wine in the cup wasn’t His blood, but figuratively and symbolically it represented His blood that would flow from His body when on the cross. The shedding of this unique blood would secure a pardon and forgiveness of sins (v 28).

Interestingly Jesus made no mention of a ‘table’. Paul the Apostle on the other hand spoke of a table that He described as ‘the Lord’s table’, and he contrasted it to ‘the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:21).’ Each of these figurative tables represented altars upon which sacrifices were placed. No doubt Paul cast his mind back to the instruction God gave Moses, ‘“You shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand across from the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and you shall put the table on the north side (Exodus 26:35).”

A Perpetual Memorial [Statute]

Upon that table there would have been twelve baked cakes made from fine flour, laid out in two rows of six. They were ‘for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the LORD (Leviticus 24:6, 7).’ Every Sabbath the old cakes were replaced with fresh ones, and Aaron and his sons ate the old in a holy place (v 9). Those, offerings ‘made by fire to the LORD (v 7) were ‘most holy’ and a ‘perpetual statute (v 9).

A comparison can be made with the ‘perpetual statute …. made by fire to the LORD’ and the statute of the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus (Matthew 26:28). The Levitical statute was perpetual for as long as the Mosaic Law was in force; so too is the memorial of remembrance (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) of the death of our Lord until His coming again.

Both statutes can thus be defined as ‘perpetual’, but the new has replaced the old (Hebrews 9). Jesus is the ‘bread of life (John 6:35, 48),’ and those who [figuratively] eat His flesh and drink His blood have eternal life (John 6:54).

What is ‘the Lord’s Table’?

Finally, then, what is ‘the Lord’s table’? It is a convenient terminology used by Christians today to describe the coming together of the Body of Christ [His Church] to celebrate the memorial of His death until His coming again. We say for example, “Will I see you at the Lord’s table next Sunday?” or “I’m looking forward to being with my brothers and sisters at the Lord’s table.”

If there is a table at the meeting place it has no significance. It is not an altar; it is a convenience for placing the elements of bread and wine. Our minds are set on meeting the Lord and giving Him the praise He deserves for our eternal salvation.

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‘Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all these things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me (Luke 24:44).’

Wouldn’t we all like to be able to foresee the future and be able to predict what will happen? That’s precisely the gift that was given to God’s prophets of old, and to the prophets of the New Testament.

The Old Testament prophets didn’t always know what their prophecies meant, or the form of their ultimate fulfilment. They may have had some inkling, but not knowing the full picture, they acted in faith (Hebrews 11:23-28) and in obedience to God. Led by the Spirit they prophesied in all manner of ways (2 Peter 1:20, 21). Some symbolically acted out their prophecies (Ezekiel 12:3-7) and wrote of them to record God’s words for His people. Others were inspired to write poetic verse and prose, perhaps in response to visions presented to them by God. He used His prophets to warn His people of the consequences of their transgressions, telling of His wrath if they failed to repent of their sinful ways (Ezekiel 3:16-19).

Jesus the Prophet

The prophets foretold of Jesus who would fulfil what was said of Him (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44-46). He would usher in the New Covenant and do away with the Old (Hebrews 8:13). At the end of time He would judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-46). Of all the prophets, Jesus Himself was the greatest. He prophesied, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised on the third day (Luke 9:22)”,’ and as we know, these prophesies came true. He spoke of the time when He will come with His angels to reward each person according to their works (Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12).

You might say that the whole of the Bible is prophecy, since the core message of the Book points to, and predicts when time as we know it will cease, and God along with His Son will destroy the earth (2 Peter 3:10) and replace it with an entirely new one (Revelation 21:1). In that new Paradise the chosen ones will dwell with the Father and the Son forever and forever (Revelation 1:6).

Daniel the Prophet wrote: ‘At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to the time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever (Daniel 12:1-3).’

In Chapter 13 of His book, Isaiah the Prophet prophesied of the destruction of Babylon and of God’s wrath upon it. Some may see in this prophecy a symbolic representation of the end of time; for Babylon is a figure of the decadent world. The city itself was destroyed by the Medes. Isaiah wrote that ‘children also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes (Isaiah 13: 16).’ This is a horrific and frightening scenario, signifying God’s wrath which is to be feared by those who reject His kingship, and rebel against Him.

Sometimes with prophecy there is a pre-enactment – an actual event that prefigures the final fulfilment of a prophecy; for example, Jesus’ prophesy about the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. but the ultimate destruction of that city is yet to come (Revelation 20:7-10).

New Testament Prophets

What was the nature of prophecy in the time of the early church? And is prophecy still a function of today’s church?

Let’s look at a few pertinent Scriptures to find the answers:

‘’knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20, 21).’

Paul the Apostle wrote to the Corinthian church saying, ‘Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:1),’ and, ‘But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men (v 3).’ 

In his Epistle to the Ephesians he wrote,’ And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11, 12).’

Clearly, prophesying was an important activity in the life of the early church. Christ was the One who gave prophets their authority to prophesy (Ephesians 4:11).

Who were the prophets of the early church? –  Luke tells us about Agabus: ‘Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout the whole world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:28).’ Probably the same man also prophesied what would happen to Paul: ‘And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles (Acts 21:10, 11).’” His prophecies were fulfilled (Acts 21:30-33).

In the same chapter of Acts, Luke mentions that Philip the evangelist had ‘four virgin daughters who prophesied (vv 8, 9); therefore both men and women prophesied. Barnabas was one of the more prominent prophets (Acts 13:1; 14:14). Of course, Paul was a prophet; indeed, all writers of the New Testament were prophets.

Prophecy Today

This brings me to my next point. Some New Testament prophets both wrote and spoke prophesy, all with the purpose of ‘equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying  of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).

They also by the Spirit spoke of things to come; for example, parts of the New Testament tell of events that will take place after the second coming of Christ. This sort of Spirit-inspired prophesy is awesome. Take for example Revelation which ends with these words of warning, ‘For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophesy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, from the things which are written in this book (22:18, 19).’

Biblical prophecy is complete. Nothing can be added to it. New Testament saints such as Mathew, Mark, Luke and John were prophets who wrote what’s known as the Four Gospels. Paul wrote his epistles [letters], and others like James, Peter, John, Jude wrote theirs. So I’’m of the opinion that prophecy per se has ceased, but there is a form of prophecy today – that is speaking God’s Word with the authority given to God’s saints by His Son, Jesus Christ. Matthew 28: 19, 20 authorises Christians to preach the gospel with the purpose of making disciples of Jesus. Preaching the gospel of Jesus is today’s prophesy; telling and explaining (Acts 8:30, 31) the Prophetic Word , i.e., the Bible (2 Peter 1:19).

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Speaking Tongues

‘I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all, yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue (1 Corinthians 14:18, 19).’

The First Occasion of Speaking ‘with’ Tongues

The first experience of speaking ‘with’ tongues (Acts 2:4) was at the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (v 1) when the New Testament Church was inaugurated. The Spirit came in great power (cf. Acts 1:8) manifesting itself with what appeared to be tongues of fire that ‘sat upon each’ (Acts 2:3) of about 120 men and women (Acts 1:15). They were assembled together waiting for the promise of Jesus to be fulfilled (v 8). The Holy Spirit would empower them to be witnesses of Jesus ‘in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (v 8).’

They heard the sound of ‘a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting (Acts 2:2).’  ‘They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (v 4).’

At the time of this supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit a multitude of Jews from every nation were in Jerusalem, and having heard the sound they came together and met with those who had been in the upper room. Amazingly, they heard them speaking their own languages (v 11). They were testifying of ‘the wonderful works of God (v 11).’ Peter stood up, and with a raised voice he preached the gospel to them. He told them that Jesus had been crucified by lawless hands, and that He had been raised from death to life by God the Father (vv 24, 32). Afterwards He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9) where He sat at the Father’s right hand (Acts 2:33).

When the people heard this they asked Peter what they should do (v 37). He told them to repent and to be baptised for the remission of their sins. That very day about 3,000 repented and were baptised (v 41).

The Second Occasion of Speaking ‘with’ Tongues

The next time we hear of speaking with tongues is after Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household. As Peter was speaking (Acts 10:44) ‘the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word,’ and they spoke with tongues and magnified God (v 46). They were baptised in the name of the Lord (v 48). On that occasion there was no mention of ‘the sound of a rushing wind’ as at Jerusalem, or of the appearance of ‘tongues as of fire’.

The Third Occasion of Speaking ‘with’ Tongues

Speaking ‘with’ tongues happened again when Paul met about twelve disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). With these twelve or so men there may also have been womenfolk. They had been baptised by John the Baptist, but none of them had received ‘the Holy Spirit (v 2).’ Paul told them they ‘should believe’ on ‘Christ Jesus.’ Thereafter, they were baptised in His name, and when Paul laid his hands on them ‘they spoke with tongues (vv 5, 6) and they prophesied.’

On all three of the above occasions people spoke ‘with tongues’. ‘Tongues’ when translated from the original Greek is ‘languages’. So they spoke actual known languages.

Further Mentions of Speaking Tongues

Tongues are again mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14.

In 1 Corinthians 12:27, 28 Paul speaks of Christ’s members within the church: ‘first apostles, second prophets, third teachers’; then he mentions ‘miracles’, followed by ‘gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.’ In verse 30 he asks, ‘Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?’’  He said the Corinthians should desire the best gifts (v 31). In Chapter 13 he explained that there was something more excellent than the gifts previously mentioned; namely, the gift of love, and if he were without it he would be ‘nothing (13:2).’ After describing the nature of this [agape] love, he stated that it is the greatest of the gifts (13:13) – the one gift all should desire (12:31).

Let’s remind ourselves that out of the four gifts listed, Paul relegated tongues to being last (12:28), and not all were given that particular gift (v 30). Although Paul spoke more with tongues than the others (1 Corinthians 14:18) he laid down a rule saying no more than three should speak (v 29) during a meeting. He also said there must be interpreters (vv 27, 28). Without interpreters, others would not profit. Take note that interpretation is a gift (1 Corinthians 12:10).

The Difference Between Speaking ‘with tongues’ and ‘in a tongue’

Speaking ‘in a tongue’ is different to speaking ‘with tongues’. The latter refers to actual languages spoken by various people groups (Acts 2:8-11). The former, ‘in a tongue’ is a singular language known to God (1 Corinthians 14:2), but not necessarily known by the speaker. Hence, if he or she is unable to interpret (v 13), there must be someone present who can. Whenever there is speaking ‘with tongues’ or ‘in a tongue’ there must always be interpreters, otherwise the speakers should cease.

I have no personal experience of speaking ‘in a tongue’ or speaking ‘with tongues’. The only language I speak is English, and it was not given to me as a gift from God. I had to work at it, and still do. I know there are people who claim they speak ‘in a tongue’, and there are those who claim they speak ‘with tongues’. If they are not bogus, God will reward them for using their gifts *to His glory (Ephesians 6:7, 8).

Just one last thought, Paul in all of his travels promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ, must many times have used God’s gift of speaking ‘with tongues’ to great effect. He did not claim this, but surely it was true. He thanked God that he spoke with tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18), He said he would rather speak with his ‘understanding’ in order to teach, as this was preferable to speaking ‘ten thousand words in an unknown tongue, (vv 13-19).’

*Do All to the Glory of God

Some References to Speaking ‘with tongues’ or ‘in a tongue’

1 Corinthians 12:28, 30.

1 Corinthians 13:1, 8; 14:6, 18, 21, 22, 23.

1 Corinthians 14:1, 2, 4-6, 8, 12 -14, 18, 19, 23, 27, 39.

Acts 2:4, 11, 46.

Acts 10:46.

Acts 19:6.

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Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied (1 Peter 1:1, 2).

On 23rd May it will be polling day in the UK for the European Union Election. To me this is a very strange situation, since the British people made a choice by referendum to come out of the EU. Yes, there was a small margin in favour of leaving, but that is the way democracy works. I had hoped the country would get together, be united and go forward to make Great Britain prosper, but as we know, exactly the opposite is happening. People are more divided than ever.

Elections are all about making choices. To make good choices, one needs to know the truth, and to have a knowledge of the facts for assessing the pros and cons. If we apply this reasoning to our church outreach and to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1-16:20), then we must be well informed of the facts. We need to be able to present the truth as to who Jesus is (John 14:6) and what His gospel is. We must present these things in such a way that people can *understand them.

So far, so good, but now we come to a very important fact, and that is people must also *hear the gospel (Romans 10:17) before they can understand it. This is necessary for them to believe and to trust in Jesus (Matthew 13:23).

Sometimes we can feel frustrated because the hearing and the understanding is beyond our control. God is the One who enables people to hear and to understand (Matthew 13:14, 15). Of course, we shouldn’t be frustrated when they don’t get it, and be transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17) by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5; Romans 15:13). Instead we should relax in the knowledge that God ultimately chooses who enters His heaven. It’s all of Him, and He has everything under control (Hebrews 1:1-3).

This choosing by God is commonly known as the ‘doctrine of election’ . God chooses His elect.

Election, The Most Loathed of Doctrines

Election is perhaps the most loathed of all doctrines. Unbelievers can even hate it! They reason that God chooses His disciples, but He does not choose them. They say He is partial and unfair (cf. Mark 12:14). Why should they go to hell and believers go to heaven? Little do they know that God is holy (Psalm 99:5), righteous (Psalm 116:5) and just (Isaiah 45:21; Psalm 7:11); therefore He has to punish them for their sinning against Him. Those who are not forgiven for their persistent disobedience and rebellion deserve and get hell (Romans 1:18-32; Deuteronomy 32:4). Others who repent of their sins and trust Jesus are saved from hell because Jesus suffered (1 Peter 4:1) hell in their place. He is their Substitute. He is their Saviour (2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Peter 1:1).

In my efforts to obey the command of the Lord Jesus to make disciples (Matthew 28:19, 20) this grievance on the part of the unsaved is often a sticking point. I think this is because people like to be in control of their own destiny. They are mistaken, since they are unaware of the fact that God fashions their destiny (Psalm 139:1-18). When they are told that not all people go to heaven they can sometimes become very aggressive. They resent not having the power to overrule God. Indeed, many genuine, loving and faithful Christians become upset when they are told that Jesus chose them (Ephesians 1:4). They always thought they had chosen Him (John 15:16). In actual fact, He first loved them before they loved Him (1 John 4:19), and He chose them from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

God does all the choosing. He is the Sovereign King (Psalm 47:2), and He rules over all He has created (2 Chronicles 20:6). Paul the Apostle tells us that God chose some for noble purposes and others for ignoble purposes. He is the Potter and He does what He likes with His pots (Romans 9:21). He elects people for different purposes; for example, He used Pharaoh to show His power (v 17). He appointed Moses as leader of His Old Testament people (Exodus 3:10) and He inspired him to write His laws for all His people to obey (Exodus 19:3-8). He appointed Joshua to take the second generation of the Israelites over the river Jordan and into Canaan (Joshua 3). There, with God’s help, they conquered the inhabitants and their kings, and occupied the land (Joshua 21:43). God gave Abraham faith and accounted it to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3, 9)! [Some may try to argue that faith is not a gift, but Ephesians 2:8 shows that it is.] God chose Saul, David and all the Prophets. He has predestined all and everything that will happen (Ephesians 1:11).

Free Choice and Accountability

This begs the questions, “Who has free choice?” and, “How can we be held accountable (Hebrews 4:13)?” The Scriptures tell us we are all accountable for our actions, words, and even our thoughts (1 Peter 4:5). Now, that’s hard to grasp. The fact is we do not have total freewill; for God has planned all actions and all things, and He will accomplish what He has decreed (cf. Romans 9:19). He elects His chosen ones and adopts them as His children (Romans 8:15, 16), and at the same time He assures everyone who believes in Him they have eternal life (John 3:16; 1 John 5:11). God’s Word is true; therefore what He says in the Bible is true. 

Trying to work out how this apparent paradox is in fact not a paradox is hard to fathom. What I do know is that I do not have total freedom. The only Person who does, is God. Within the limited freedom He gives us we are free to make decisions. We are free to elect for that or for this. We can choose to do wrong or to do right. We can chose to do evil or to do good (Joshua 24:15). Yes, we who are born again have been created for the purpose of doing good works that have been preordained (Ephesians 2:10). I have no problem with that; indeed, I’m elated that God has chosen me to do good works. There’s nothing more satisfying and rewarding. The greater reward is yet to come; for at the second coming of Jesus He will say to those who have been faithful, “Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21, 23).”

The Doctrine of Election

The doctrine of election is truly a difficult one to present to unbelievers. They resent it – even hate it. That’s not surprising, since they know they are excluded from heaven, unless they repent and believe (Mark 1:15). God immediately accepts those with faith (Luke 23:43). The difficult conclusion is that the unsaved have been predestined to go to hell. There are Christians who say that all people have a choice. They can choose not to believe, or they can choose to believe. The truth is, if they don’t repent and believe, they deserve hell (Job 31:28) for their rebellion against God (Romans 1:32). Paradoxically, God hardens (Exodus 10:1) or softens hearts. He can change hearts of rock into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

God makes it clear to all that He created the world (Genesis 1:1—2:1), and He gives to all a knowledge and awareness of Himself through His creation. This is sufficient for them to seek Him out (Romans 1:20). He gives them an innate understanding of good and evil (Genesis 3:22). They have a deep inner awareness of sin which is inherited from Adam who ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6). Because of Adam’s disobedience everyone without exception has inherited his sin (Romans 3:23), and thus they sin. God makes them aware of their sinning through their conscience (Romans 2:15), and particularly through His Word, i.e., the Bible, which clearly **defines sin. In His mercy and love God sent His Son Jesus as a testimony (1 John 5:11) of His love and to give eternal life (John 3:16). He died for those who repent of their sins (Acts 3:19). Jesus’ death on the cross and His suffering (1 Peter 2:21) in Hell was sufficient to pay for the total debt owed by everyone who repents and believes (Hebrews 9:13-15).

God’s election gives Christians great ***joy. They forever praise God (Psalm 75:9) the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, because of their salvation thorough Jesus.

*Hearing and Understanding the Gospel 

**Sin and Its Consequences 


***Happiness and Joy 

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A Letter to a Friend

‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Philemon 1:3).’

I’m presenting here a letter of the imagination written by one *soul [Person] to another. They have corresponded for years, and they know each other well. The writer is a Christian, and the recipient an atheist. They are friends, but they are as different as chalk and cheese. This is because the writer has the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11), and is born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8); but by contrast the recipient does not have the Spirit and is of the world, and as such is unable to comprehend the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).

For a long time the faithful Christian (Matthew 25:23) prayed to God for the salvation of the other, but there was no positive response. The lost soul was incapable of hearing (Mathew 13:15; cf. Romans 10:17) and asked the other to stop preaching (2 Timothy 4:2). In respect (1 Peter 2:17), the Christian agreed to no longer preach the good news of salvation in Jesus (Isaiah 52:7).

But the Christian did not give up (Romans 5:3, 4), and wrote this letter in the hope that the contents may trigger thoughts about the taboo subject.

The Letter

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your beautiful words that reveal your generous heart. This is not flattery (Proverbs 29:5). Together we share words for pondering and cherishing. By contrast the words of many in the world are vile (Romans 1:26-31), but there is hope (1 Peter 1:3); for there are others like you who speak with love (Ephesians 4:15) and tenderness (Colossians 3:12). They are poets who rise above the filth.

Their language at best is the epitome of verbal expression. They probe the deeper understandings (Mark 4:13) of humankind. They excite and thrill their hearers with their sonorous and sometimes shrill notes. They express views and opinions about many things such as ‘existence, beauty, ugliness, death, love, hate etc..’ Honourably they seek truth (John 14:6) and hate lies (Proverbs 13:5; Psalm 119:163):

Who and what are people (Job 25:6)? What is their destiny? There is but a brief moment of breath (Job 7:7, 16; Psalm 78:39) upon this planet that is suspended in space. This unique blue pearl hangs (Job 26:7) amidst a myriad of stars that are surrounded by galaxies of countless more stars (Genesis 1:16).

My friend, you are to me a poet! Thank you for your crafted words that sometimes challenge, and always build me up (Romans 14:19). They test (1 Galatians 5:21) and occasionally stretch me, by taking me to far horizons where there are new-found mysteries hard to understand (Luke 8:10). You always offer worthy subjects (Philippians 4:8) for discussion, and you present theses that are based on the rational or they depend upon existential factors. I value your analytical assessments and well-thought-out propositions.

Our current theme is the ‘mundanity of human existence’. You describe humans as being lesser than the animals. You are appalled with their uncaring and despicable selfishness (James 3:15, 16). You describe them as a depraved subspecies (2 Peter 2:12) that are bent on killing not only themselves, but every creature that shares our planet. They do this by pouring out their putrid effluent upon the earth (Isaiah 64:6). We inhale toxic fumes that are spewed from thousands upon thousands of man-made ‘midges’ that fly high in the sky. They weave webs of deadly destruction (James 3:8).

At the roadside, and even in our homes, we inhale toxic particles that have been breathed out by bug-like, mechanical beasts. These killing machines are mass-produced by brainless robots designed by idiots who couldn’t care less that they are suffocating themselves and their kind.

We poison our bodies by ingesting processed foods filled with harmful chemicals, and we unwittingly expose ourselves to life-destroying rays of radiation emitted from thousands of beacons in and around our cities – all for the sake of communicating by mobile phones. Practically everywhere, ear-shrieking noise ceaselessly dumbs our sensibilities (1 Timothy 4:1, 2). We can no longer think. We are squashed and flattened by a descending, homogenous, black cloud of depression. We fear there is no hope. We are doomed. …… What shall we do? …….. Help!

I think that is enough of this vein for now!

But let me assure you, I am not depressed. You know why I am NOT depressed, and that is because I have a HOPE (Hebrews 6:19) of better things to come. You also know why at this moment I cannot elaborate on my hope. However, I am happy (Psalm 146:5) I have the privilege of conversing with you on other matters.

We do not speak TO one another, but WITH one another, because we are buddies. Our relationship is one of freedom (cf. Romans 6:15, 18) and of respect (1 Peter 2:17). Our sharing is not of things, but of thoughts. Our minds engage as if wired together. There are no physical caresses, no realtime hugs, no taste of the other’s tears, no touch of lips (Song of Solomon 4:11) and no actual hearing of voices that thrill the heart and make knees limp. Our two minds are tuned into the same frequency; each energising the other. We are lost in a wonder-world of our own. [All of us sin. (Romans 3:23)]

[In this next section the writer’s imagination runs riot, but the hope is that the recipient will be pointed to God’s heaven (Matthew 6:33), not a false heaven of sensuous indulgence.]

Waves rhythmically lap the sandy shore that forever drinks of the salty brine. The sand’s thirst is never quenched (Mark 9:43). The bottomless pit (Revelation 9:1) never relents, greedily sapping the living waters (John 4:14). But there is hope! The sun’s soothing glow gently warms two mortals. Nymphlike, they stand gazing upwards at an azure sky that is speckled with silver plumes of ice cold crystals, and between them there are golden wisps of fine gossamer. It’s not a vision, but a paradise of peace and love [Satan deceives them. (2 Corinthians 11:14)] . There, on the beach the two souls entwine (Song of Solomon 7:10). They are bound together by ribbons of freedom (John 8:36). Their fingers touch and they embrace. The spark of life [Jesus is the true light (John 8:12, 9:5)] pulsates between them. Fused together and no longer mortal, they are translated into creatures of immortal bliss. [Actual immortal bliss is only found by resurrection in Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 53, 54).]

What a dream! Life is not like that. Instead we experience the realm of subjective **reality. After our glimpse of a fictitious paradise we plummet back to earth. We are grateful for not being burnt to a frazzle (2 Peter 3:10) when entering the earth’s atmosphere. Our charred capsule is slowed by its life-saving parachute, and we gently descend to the ground. There we wake up, open the hatch, and the air smells better than before.

Maybe things aren’t as bad as we thought? Some humans are kind and loving. Some care for others and all that has life. They love our planet and will give their lives to save it, so that others will not perish. [Jesus gave His life so that believers will not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).]

Kind thoughts from me to you,

Your Friend.

*Mind, Body and Soul

**The Reality of ‘Now’



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Ritualistic Practices

‘Test all things, hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).’

Let me first define what I mean by a ritualistic practice. Throughout this article the definition is limited to, ‘repeated actions that are carried out over a period long enough to become a tradition.’ Here’s an example: For as long as I can remember, church services have always ended with a benediction. Thus, the benediction has become a tradition and a ritual.

My Personal Rituals

Each day I routinely perform a number of actions that I believe help me with my physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing.

The first one of the day is getting out of bed at 6.30 a.m., or thereabouts. I put on my dressing gown, plug the mobile phone into its charger and pull back the curtains. When downstairs in the kitchen, I prepare and have breakfast and eat it while listening to the radio. So my routine of more repeated actions continue at certain times throughout the day until it is bedtime. Yes, I recognise how fortunate I am to be retired and to have established my own personal traditions. My relatives and friends have got to know of them. They know what time I have lunch, and what I am likely to be eating! God is truly gracious (Psalm 116:5), for I am blessed, indeed.

Church Rituals

As explained above, I believe my personal rituals are beneficial for my wellbeing. If they are beneficial for my wellbeing, then I am better fitted for serving the Lord. However, not all rituals of tradition are beneficial. What about bell ringing? The sound of cacophonous clanging bells breaking the peace of a Sunday morning doesn’t appeal to those who want to sleep on when it’s their day off work. The irritating call to worship will not endear them to putting on their trousers and going to church!

Sadly, the Church has by tradition engaged in rituals that are not helpful in promoting the gospel. Take for example the format of a typical Sunday morning service that you may find at a Baptist church in the UK.

The service will invariably start with a prayer said by one of the elders. He will probably read a passage from the Bible and make an apposite comment for setting the theme of the preaching that will follow later. Immediately afterwards, there will be a hymn or a song. Some churches, will at this point have an elder who will present an illustrated talk aimed at the children. At its conclusion he will say a prayer. Afterwards the offering will be taken, followed by the notices.

All of these things are preliminary to the major event – the presentation of the SERMON, but before it is delivered, there will be the singing of a hymn or a song and the younger children will leave the room for their crèche or Sunday School. The speaker will open his preaching with a prayer. After his sermon there will be a final hymn and a benediction.

Before leaving the building people will engage in conversations, and perhaps on every second and third Sunday of the month tea and coffee will be offered to those who want to continue chatting. Eventually people will drift away and leave for their homes.

The description I’ve given may represent a typical routine that has taken place on Sunday mornings for years and years at your place of worship. You may wonder why the format hasn’t changed. In fact, you may be bored with it, yet you continue and persevere. According to my definition, these practices are both habitual and ritualistic.

Evaluating Church Rituals

These rituals are not bad in themselves, but maybe they should be tested by Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:21)? – Particularly comparing them with early church practice at the time of the disciples.

As a starters, we accept by tradition that one does not speak or intervene during the preaching of the Word. We do not question or add to what is being preached. But would this have been the case within the early church? Christians worshipped in one another’s homes, not in purpose-built buildings. Their setting was intimate and informal. Furthermore, the Bible does not tell of anyone ‘preaching’ to the ‘converted’ within their homes. Preaching always took place outside (2 Timothy 4:2) of their homes to the unconverted (Acts 4:11-26). It is notable that believers able to teach were encouraged to teach their brothers and sisters (Colossians 3:16; 1 Timothy 3:2;  2 Timothy 2:2).

Today, in a traditional Protestant/Reformed service there is no opportunity for anyone who has been prompted by the Spirit to speak. Unscheduled interjections into the service are not by tradition permitted. Worshippers more than likely would be frowned upon if they, on the spur of the moment, asked for a hymn to be sung. And, as for spontaneously ‘bringing a word’ – that is presenting a Scripture with a short commentary – such an intervention would not be contemplated.

Changes in Practice

I must admit that introducing changes to ritualistic church practices requires wisdom. A case would have to be made to a church as a whole, and for them to agree to new ways of doing things. That would minimise the risk of division and discord within the body. Unity in Christ through the working of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-6; 13) should be their prayer. I am convinced the bond (Colossians 3:14) of Christ’s love will hold a faithful church together when it seeks to serve Him to His glory.

It is my belief that habitual, ritualistic practices can stifle a church, and they give little latitude for **organic growth whereby members can play a fuller part in the life of the church and in the making of disciples (Matthew 28:19) and in the planting of new local churches.

We would do well to reconsider all rituals practised by us, and to conform more to the proven traditions (1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15) of the early church.

Note – I’ll probably be writing an article about the practices of speaking in tongues and prophesying (Colossians 3:16, 17; Acts 2:18) that took place in the early church. I personally believe those gifts were for authenticating the newly established church, and in these times they have lapsed.

*Mind, Body and Soul

**The Organic Church

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