Delight in the Gospel, Not Obscure Doctrines

The follies of the schoolmen should be a warning to all those who would mingle metaphysical speculations or prophetical theories with the simple doctrines of the Bible.

There was among those learned men such a rage for Aristotle, that his ethics were frequently read to the people instead of the gospel, and the teachers themselves were employed either in wresting the words of Scripture to support the most monstrous opinions, or in discussing the most trivial questions.

Think of men gravely debating whether the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary in the shape of a serpent, of a dove, of a man, or of a woman? Did he seem to be young or old? In what dress was he? Was his garment white or of two colours? Was his linen clean or foul? Did he appear in the morning, noon, or evening? What was the colour of the Virgin’s hair? &c.

Think of all this nonsense veiled in learned terms and obscure phrases! While human minds were engaged in weaving such cobwebs as these, no progress was made in real knowledge, and the gloom of the dark ages deepened into tenfold night.

We are much in danger of the same evil from another quarter. The reign of obscure nonsense and dogmatic trifling may yet return. An ultra-spiritual sect has arisen whose theological language is a jargon, whose interpretations are mystical, whose prophetical hypotheses are ridiculous, and whose arrogance is superlative.

To leave the consideration of well-known and soul-saving truths to fight over unimportant subtleties, is to turn our corn fields into poppy gardens. To imagine that the writers of unintelligible mysticism are men of great depth, is to find wisdom in the hootings of owls.

True spirituality shuns the obscure and the dilettanti, and delights in the plain and practical.

But there is much to fascinate in the superfine shams of the hour.

Quintilian justly observes that the obscurity of an author is generally in proportion to his incapacity; and we might add, that the ferocity of a bigot is frequently in proportion to the absurdity of his belief.

Some are zealots for a certain theory of 666, and the two witnesses, and the little horn, who would be far better employed in training up their children in the fear of God, or listening for their instruction to a sober preacher of the word of God.

It is a most fitting thing to be looking for the coming of the Lord, but a most miserable waste of time to be spinning theories about it, and allowing the millions around us to perish in their sins. Ragged-schools, orphanages, street-preaching, tract distributing, almsgiving, these are the present and pressing questions for the Christian church.

—Charles H. Spurgeon
Feathers for Arrows (Passmore and Alabaster, 1870).

Special Observances

Extraterrestrial Life

We must be very careful with our thoughts concerning intelligent extraterrestrial life. Extraterrestrial simply refers to something being outside the earth and its atmosphere.

There is an interesting fascination with the idea of alien life forms that posses super-human intelligence. But where would such a thing fit into the biblical account of reality?

Let’s think about this. Truly intelligent life is moral. We could safely surmise that any moral being belonging to a “higher-order” than man would certainly have a significant purpose in God’s creative-redemptive history of the universe. We could expect something of this significance to be identified in God’s revelation; namely the Bible.

We must first concede that we cannot say that higher order extraterrestrials do not exist because they are not mentioned in the creation account. Angels are not included in that record and yet are stoutly affirmed elsewhere in Scripture.

But we can confidently assert the following:

  • All things were created by God and for God (John 1:3; Col 1:16; Rom 11:36).
  • God has revealed in the Bible all things necessary for life and worship (Dt 29:29).
  • Man is uniquely created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27).
  • The condition and state of the entire created universe hinges on the condition and state of humanity (1 Cor 15:21-22; Rom 5:12, 14). By the moral choice of human life (image of God), the created universe was cursed. The curse will be removed and comprehensive restoration is promised, being secured through a life lived and work accomplished on this planet (Rom 8:19-22; Isa 11:6; Acts 3:20-21).
  • The Incarnation of God was an incarnation into humanity, not another life form. Christ will forever be the God-man, the Incarnation resulting in a permanent union with humankind (Rev 1:13).
  • Christ, the creator of the universe, died for humanity. All creation will follow the restoration purchased in Christ on behalf of mankind (Col 1:16-20).
  • Angels are moral creatures and yet are excluded from Christ’s work of redemption. They long to look into these things (1 Pet 1:12). If there were any “higher” moral life forms, they would not be covered by the human substitution met in Christ, and would consequently belong to some other moral order; perhaps like that of angels. But there is no mention of any other moral life than angels. If there was, they too would long to look into these things of Christ and Him crucified.

The most biblically acceptable consideration is that if ever there is any perceptible evidence of non-human moral life outside of our planet, then it is most probable that it belongs to the angelic ranks of being.

Special Observances

Rejecting God

The act of Judas’ betrayal emphatically illustrates the situation of the hard hearted. There is no way to lay blame at the feet of Christ for the deeds and desires of Judas. The point is overtly clear: Jesus does not reject Judas, Judas rejects Jesus.

But even Judas’ rejection is under the sovereign will of God. This is made plain by Jesus, who places no little emphasis on His choosing Judas (John 6:70-71; 13:18). The impending betrayal will be no surprise to Jesus.

The obvious question, then, has to do with culpability. Who is to blame for Judas’ betrayal of Christ? The answer is both plain and evasive. Christ sovereignly chose Judas, knowing full well that he was “a devil” and that He would betray Him (John 6:70-71). The entire episode was “the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” wherein Christ was crucified “by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). Judas was part of a concerted effort, self-motivated by evil intent, “to do whatever [God’s] hand and [His] plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28).

Jesus explains this conundrum with the words: “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22). In other words, it is most definitely determined by the sovereign counsel of God that Christ will be betrayed, but the one who—from his own heart—desires such a treacherous evil is the one who is culpable. This teaches us a great deal concerning any and every hard heart.

Judas was admitted to all of the same privileges as the other disciples, and even more. After all, he was the treasurer; an honorable and privileged position. By all observable means, he had equal access and opportunity to Christ. And if this is true of Judas, then what of others? Could anyone have more cause to blame “fate” or imagine that their deeds have (or will) preclude God’s extension of grace?

If Judas teaches us anything about reprobation, it is that the rejection of God is not the result of God’s rejection. If anyone could lay claim to being reprobate, it was Judas. And yet, he was closer to the breathing breast of God, the teaching mouth of God, the compassionate eyes of God, the gentle hands of God, the caring ears of God, and the saving blood of the Lamb, than any other, save the eleven. Judas walked with Him and beheld Him in most personal and private “fellowship.” He talked with Him face to face, daily. He beheld His power and His virtue, witnessed His private life, listened to His teachings, and traveled from village to village to temple with Him and His closest companions. He lodged with Him, ate with Him, celebrated feasts with Him, and even ministered with Him. On this occasion, we learn that even his feet were washed by Jesus and that he was handed a morsel of honor; only to repay the kindness of the Lord with a betraying kiss.

If the perdition of Judas teaches us anything about reprobation, it is that no fault can rightly be charged to God and that He does not delight in the damnation of the wicked. Rather, Jesus demonstrates God’s forbearance and how His multiplied provisions conspire to extend kindness and a type of love that proves both His heart and the heart of the one who rejects Him.

The Lord expresses both His heart and the key to the transformation of a hard heart: “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…” (Eze 33:11). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

-Pastor Manny

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