How God Promises to Use the Sabbath

2019-03-15T09:59:23-04:00 March 18th, 2019|

The Fourth Commandment begins with this positive requirement, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). You ought to sanctify the Sabbath; you ought to set it aside for the purposes of God. What are God’s purposes for the Sabbath? The Sabbath reminds you that God is your Creator. “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11). The Sabbath also reminds you that God is your Redeemer. “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:15). Israel’s redemption foreshadows yours (1 Corinthians 5:7). You belong to God by right of creation and redemption.

The Fourth Commandment indicates how you ought to remember or memorialize your creation and redemption. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:9-10). The Sabbath is, therefore, a day of “rest” (Exodus 31:15, Deuteronomy 5:14). At the same time, the Sabbath is a sign. “You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations” (Exodus 31:13). What does it signify?

Ultimately, “rest” is a state of grace which leads into heavenly “rest.” Hebrews 4:1-3 exhorts, “Let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest.” You enter “rest” with God when you abandon your own works and trust in Jesus Christ as the only adequate payment for your sins. You enter “rest” by grace through faith.

And so, how do you remember your redemption? You stop your regular work and recreation to “rest” on the Sabbath Day. You assemble with God’s people, enter God’s gracious presence for worship, and taste the things of heaven. When you cease your work and taste God’s heaven, you testify to a watching world that your salvation is by grace through faith and not by works. You testify that you trust the works of your Creator and Redeemer, and not your own, to give you right standing with Him. You testify that you are not your own, “you have been bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). You memorialize justifying grace in your life by ceasing to work as though eternal life depends upon it.

There is a second purpose for the Sabbath. Listen again to Exodus 31:13, “You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you” (Italics added). God promises to use the Sabbath Day as a means to assure you that you do indeed belong to Him. You may know that you trust Christ for salvation, but you lack deeper assurance of salvation itself. You are therefore tempted to abandon Sabbath observance and worship. This is the exact opposite of what you should do. The Sabbath Day is God’s means to remind you and assure you that you belong to Him by right of creation and redemption.

Denny Prutow

Trust the LORD and He will Acquit You

2019-03-08T13:58:05-04:00 March 11th, 2019|

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, said Isaac Newton in his third law of motion. When air is compressed by the fans in a jet engine, mixed with jet fuel, and then ignited, it blasts with explosive thrust out the back of the engine. In reaction, the plane is powerfully thrust forward. Graphically, thrust in the “negative” direction produces “positive” movement. Where there is a negative statement, there are also positive implications. This is true with the Ten Commandments. Let’s take the Third Commandment as an example. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). You can translate it, “The LORD will not acquit him who takes his name in vain.”

On one hand, the commandment is negative. It condemns unclean speech. Profane speech curses or damns creatures bearing God’s image. But this is God’s privilege alone. Vulgarity refers to sex and to bodily functions in normal conversation. God reserves sexual intimacy for marriage and marriage is God’s means to picture His particular love for His church. Blaspheme uses God’s name with cursing and vulgar diatribes. Blaspheme uses God’s name as though it is worthless. This means blasphemers look upon God himself as worthless. God’s Name and God’s person are connected just as your name and your person are inseparable. When your mother or your wife calls your name, she is calling you. The profane and vulgar use of God’s Name is blaspheming God.

Those who practice profanity, vulgarity, and blaspheme show their character. They are God opposers and God haters. And as Paul says, “Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). This is another way of saying, “The LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Literally, that is, there is no acquittal for those who, as practicing blasphemers, consider God’s Name and God Himself to be worthless.

All of this includes Jesus Christ and the names ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ.’ Paul speaks of “our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13). And speaking of Jesus Christ, Hebrews 1:8 declares, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” There is no acquittal for those blaspheming the Savior with the profane and vulgar use of the names ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ.’

What about the positive side of the Third Commandment? God’s name is not at all worthless; it is of enormous value. Joel 2:32 declares, “It will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered.” Peter applies the words of Joel to Jesus Christ, saying, “And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Then Peter points to Savior proclaiming, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The psalmist, who hears and loves God’s word, confidently cries to God, “Acquit me of hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12), using the words of the Third Commandment. The ESV says, “Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” This prayer is the language of justification. When you call upon the name of the Lord and trust in Christ as the only adequate sacrifice for your sins, God declares you free from guilt. You shall trust in the name of the Lord your God; He will declare you innocent and acquit you. This is the positive side of the Third Commandment.

Denny Prutow

Idolatry, Jealousy, Covenant Solidarity

2019-03-01T11:27:19-04:00 March 4th, 2019|

You are not to make, worship, or serve idols. Why? God gives the answer in Exodus 20:5-6. “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

God is a jealous God. His relationship with His people is likened to marriage. “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5). Straying from the Lord is also characterized as adultery. Jeremiah 3:8 uses strong language. “I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce.” Any spouse violating the marriage covenant provokes jealousy and wrath. “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, But who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4). We readily connect the human emotion of jealousy with drastic action. The jealousy of a violated spouse provokes sharp and definitive action.

But God is a “pure spirit.” He is “without body, parts, or passions” (WCF 2:1). God does not have human body parts. He does not have human eyes, human hands, human ears, a human face or mouth. To speak of God’s eyes, hands, ears, face, or mouth is to speak metaphorically. Similarly, as pure spirit, God does not have human, I say again, human emotions, such as hatred or jealousy. To use such language is again to speak metaphorically. You see, to experience human sorrow and weep human tears, to feel human pain of body and soul, God must take on human form. For the Second Person of the Trinity to suffer physically and emotionally requires incarnation.

When God says, “I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau” (Malachi 1:2-3), Paul interprets God’s action in rejecting Esau as hatred toward him (Romans 9:10-13). Notice that the Second commandment also interprets your acts of making and worshiping idols as hatred toward God. In the same way, Exodus 20:5 interprets God’s action of “visiting iniquity” as the emotion of jealousy. When God takes action against idolaters we see it as jealousy. When God rejects Esau we see it as hatred.

When Exodus 20:5 speaks of God “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children,” it means that God visits guilt for the iniquity of the fathers on the children. The children suffer because of the iniquity and guilt of the fathers. In other words, the commandment presupposes covenant solidarity within families. As Matthew Henry puts it, “The children shall be cast out of covenant and communion together with the parents, as the children were at first taken in with the parents.”

If parents are excommunicated and separated from the means of grace, the children suffer with them. Covenant violation results in the covenant curse. “I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce” (Jeremiah 3:8). This involves whole families. Failure within families affects children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

For those in covenant relationship with the Lord and displaying their love by keeping His commandments and shunning idolatry, covenant love abounds. The “lovingkindness” of verse 6 is “covenant love.” Verse 6 also shows this is reciprocal love. Obedient love does not earn or merit God’s covenant love. Rather, loving obedience indicates you genuinely are in covenant with God. Faithful obedient love for God within families affects children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond.

Denny Prutow

Corruptible gods or Incorruptible Christ

2019-02-22T11:27:44-04:00 February 25th, 2019|

During my college days, I went to my dorm room one evening to find a group of classmates sitting in a circle on the floor. There was the scent of incense in the air and a miniature Buddha in the center of the circle. “What are you doing?” I said. “We’re seeking help for tomorrow’s exam,” was the response. Even as an unbeliever, I shook my head and left the room. The Second Commandments begins, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5).

The word likeness refers to any art form, shape, representation, or image. The image may be physical or mental. The commandment does not prohibit art. The key is that the image must not be an object of worship, an idol. The idol is an image of stone, wood, or metal, fashioned for the purpose of worship. When the commandment refers to objects or beings “in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth,” the reference is to all of creation. Crafting images of anything in creation for the purpose of worship is forbidden.

An image, therefore, stands in the place of something else. Moloch, the Ammonite god, was visually portrayed with a human torso and the head of a bull. The worship of Moloch included child sacrifice (2 Kings 23:10). This god was worshiped as a divine king.

The only ‘image’ we are permitted to worship is Jesus Christ. “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Words fail us. He is not simply the image of the True God; He is God (John 1:1). “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). He is not “the work of men’s hands” (Isaiah 37:19).

God’s purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28). The opposite is true of those who reject the Son and serve idols, whether made of wood or stone or fabricated in the mind. “Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them” (Psalm 115:8 and 135:18). This is the classic difference between believers and idolaters rooted in the fall and its aftermath.

In our day, there are those who nurture the image of a utopian state. They desire to see men and women worship at the altar of government power. Nebuchadnezzar called men and women to worship a golden image on the pain of death (Daniel 3:6). To worship the image was to bow to Nebuchadnezzar. Dignitaries deify themselves. The golden statue became the image of government power based upon human authority. “Moreover, such authority must always be necessarily coercive…” (T.H.L. Parker, Calvin’s Preaching, 40). Those who worship at the altar of government power become like it. They too cannot tolerate ‘foreign gods.’

But Daniel teaches that the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13) is the Sovereign Lord over men and nations. He delivers Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:27). He subdues King Nebuchadnezzar. His “reason returned” to him (Daniel 4:34). Then Nebuchadnezzar confessed, “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom” (Daniel 4:3).

Your hope is not in the image of corruptible government power. Your hope is in the image of the “incorruptible God,” Jesus Christ (Romans 1:23). “You shall not make for yourself an idol” (Exodus 20:4).

Denny Prutow

A Shot Across the Bow of Our Ship of State

2019-02-11T14:15:22-04:00 February 18th, 2019|

Last time, we discussed two principles for understanding the Ten Commandments. First, God gives His law to us as redeemed people. For Christians, the law is not a way to life. It is a way of life. This includes continually driving us back to Christ. Second, God’s law is the law of love. That is, the Ten Commandments give us the means for displaying our love for God and our love for our neighbors. We now look at the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

First, let’s clear up the meaning of the words, “before Me.” The Bible uses similar language with regard to a sequence of events. “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD” (Malachi 4:5). We may also think of a place in line. We put another so-called god in line before the True God. By implication, the so-called god, therefore, has priority over the True God. But these are not the best ways to interpret this commandment.

The literal meaning of “before Me” is, “before My face.” Picture the whole created universe. Picture the whole universe under the watchful eye of the living God. The whole world including every living creature is under His gaze. In this sense, we are before His face. Looking up from our position in this world, we should see the face of God. We are all before him in this sense.

Psalm 139:7 asks these questions, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” We may rephrase the second question: “Or where can I flee from Your face?” The answer is simple, “Nowhere!” All of creation including every living thing is in His presence. All of creation including every living thing is before His face.

Then we have the little word “other” in the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” As you live and work under the care and watchful eye of the living God, you are not to have other gods or alternate gods. Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, erected alternate gods in Israel, the Northern Kingdom. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28).

Why did Jeroboam do this? He was consolidating his power. “Jeroboam said in his heart, ‘Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah….’ So the king consulted, and made two golden calves” (1 Kings 12:26-28). He did all this before the face of God.

Toward the end of his 1961 inaugural address, John F. Kennedy declared, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Today, too many Americans and too many in government advise the opposite: “Ask not what you can do for your country—ask what your country can do for you.” Some believe, and I use this word intentionally, “only government” is capable of addressing our problems. All this is playing out before the face of God. The First Commandment is a shot across the bow of our ship of state. “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Denny Prutow

God’s Gift in the Ten Commandments

2019-02-07T11:16:30-04:00 February 11th, 2019|

We were stopped at a traffic light while driving through Colorado Springs, Colorado. The bumper sticker on the back of the car in front of us asked a simple question. “What would happen if everyone told the truth?” With a laugh, I repeated the question, “What would happen if everyone told the truth?” I turned to my wife and said, “The whole political establishment in Washington, D.C. would collapse instantly!” Our nation and the nations of the world need a huge infusion of basic biblical morality. The standards of this morality come to us in God’s moral law.

But even in Christian circles, we fail to have a proper perspective on the Ten Commandments. The law smacks of legalism. And the Bible tells us that we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). In this article and those that follow, it is my plan to review the Ten Commandments and offer some needed perspective.

Let’s begin with the preface to the Ten Commandments. “Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’” (Exodus 20:1-2). It is clear that God gives the Ten Commandments to the people He redeems. The answer to question 44 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism affirms that this is the case. “The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us, that because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.” Because the Lord God redeems us, we ought to keep His commandments.

This answers the criticism raised by way of Romans 6:14. Paul does not contradict the words of Moses in Exodus 20:1-2. There is not a bifurcation between the Old Testament and the New Testament in the assessments of the moral law. There is harmony. Romans 6:14 means that we are not under the law as a means of gaining right-standing with God. Salvation is not by works. Salvation is by grace. Paul actually has a high view of the law. “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12).

But what of the motive to follow God’s moral law. The motive is love. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2-3). The apostle John defines love in terms of the law. We express love for God and for those around us by means of the law. Jesus tells us essentially the same thing. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). In other words, God is gracious to us in giving us the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments provide you and me the means for showing love to God and toward others.

Think of it in terms of athletics. Football has a rule book and officials. You play the game on a properly marked field with prescribed measurements and goal posts of exact dimensions. To play the game, you must wear prescribed equipment in a given position with explicit duties. You follow all the rules and procedures in order to participate in the game. Without these rules and procedures, there is no game.

The same is true with the Christian life. God’s Ten Commandments amount to the rules of the game. When you follow them from the heart, you reach the goal. You express love.

Denny Prutow

Against Such, There is No Law

2019-02-01T17:36:28-04:00 February 4th, 2019|

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, italics added). There is no law against these specific fruit of the Spirit and other like fruit. This means several things.

First, the list Paul gives us is representative. There is other fruit. Perseverance is among them. Our Lord puts it this way. “The seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 18:15). The fruit of perseverance is essential. The chief fruit of the Spirit is love; but “love endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). It perseveres. This perseverance is one of the most important characteristics of a faithful pastor. Paul reminds Timothy, “You followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance” (2 Timothy 3:10). This perseverance is also a general Christian virtue. Peter connects it with self-control. “In your knowledge [supply], self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance” (2 Peter 1:6).

Second, there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit. But you expect the law to weigh in against the deeds of the flesh in your life and in the lives of those ruled by them. For example, people who live in adultery violate the Seventh Commandment. Those who practice lying violate the Ninth Commandment. “Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). However, that which differentiates you as a believer from people of the world is your conduct; what you do and how you do it. The what is simple enough. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). You manifest love as you sincerely follow God’s law.

In addition, you manifest love by how you follow God’s law? Christ is quite clear about this too. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:18-20). You outwardly display your commitment to Christ when the fruit of the Spirit adorns your life. You speak the truth with gentleness and patience. You honor your parents with love and joy. There is no law against such conduct.

Third, the implications from the above are not little. Augustine expounds our text in this way. “These spiritual fruits reign in one in whom sins do not reign.” John Murray, speaking of believers, says, “sin no longer reigns” [1].  What does this mean with regard to our text? The law is not imposed in judgment against the one in whom grace reigns rather than sin. But how do you know if grace and the good fruit of the Spirit rule and reign in your life? Augustine answers, “These good things reign if they are so delightful that they themselves uphold the mind in its trials from falling into sin. For whatever gives us more delight, this we necessarily perform” [2].

Fourth, these implications lead you into the assurance of your salvation. When you experience delight in the things of God, when you delight in biblical love, spiritual joy, and inner peace, God’s Spirit is working in you. When you see yourself dealing with others using patience, kindness, and gentleness, there is testimony you belong to God. When faithfulness to your word is a heartfelt priority and self-control marks your life, the Spirit Himself testifies with your spirit that you are a child of God (Romans 8:16).

Denny Prutow

[1] Collected Writings of John Murray, Systematic Theology, 280.
[2] Ancient Christian Commentary on ScriptureNew Testament, Mark J. Edwards, Ed., VIII, 90.

Exercise Self-Control!

2019-01-25T10:54:01-04:00 January 28th, 2019|

Self-control is the final fruit in Paul’s list (Galatians 5:23). It is a virtue. You have strength or power over your desires, passions, and appetites. You do not run out of control. The apostle helps us understand the concept in 1 Corinthians 9:25. “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.” Athletics requires self-control. To compete well, you must train. This training and preparation require self-discipline. Think of gymnastics. To excel requires learning difficult skills, practicing these skills, and perfecting them for competition. The training can be agonizing. It requires deep commitment, self-discipline, and self-control.

Paul compares athletics to the spiritual realm. “They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). Self-control is the exercise of an inner power of will resulting in a disciplined approach to life. Paul puts it in stark terms. “I discipline my body and make it my slave.” He does not allow sinful passions to rule him or hold him back from reaching God-given objectives.

Again, self-control is inner strength of will. Paul speaks of it in relation to sexual continence. He warns married couples. “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:5). He also warns the unmarried. “If they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). Self-control is essential.

This self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. That is, it is a fruit of the Spirit-changed heart. It is a fruit of the Spirit altering the attitude, disposition, and will. As a result of this change of attitude and will, Paul exhorts Christians, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts” (Romans 6:12). How do you do this? You exercise self-control. “Just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification” (Romans 6:19). How so? You are born-again and recreated by the grace of God. Exercise self-control. From the Christian perspective, teaching abstinence to Christian young people to reduce drug abuse and sexual promiscuity is viable. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.

On the other hand, the Holy Spirit convicts those lacking self-control. Paul used this to advantage in speaking to Governor Felix who was known for his lack of self-control. His wife was his by way of seduction and adultery. When Felix gave him a hearing, Paul was direct. “As he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you’” (Acts 24:25). The Spirit convicted Felix. Feeling his guilt, he sent Paul away.

The lack of self-control is a common problem. If you are a believer, understand the new birth changes you at the core of your being. The Spirit changes your basic disposition. He alters your will. You actually are a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). “Sin shall not be master over you” (Romans 6:14). The fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

Denny Prutow

Gentleness: Precious in God’s Sight

2019-01-18T14:40:13-04:00 January 21st, 2019|

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…” (Galatians 5:22-23). The words in which we are interested are gentleness, gentle, and gently.

Jesus Christ exhibited gentleness. The prophets predicted it. “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes” (Isaiah 40:10-11). Jesus so described Himself. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29).

The apostle Paul understood this aspect of ministry. He puts it in terms of the gentleness of a mother with her infant. “We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). This gentleness is the opposite of harshness. “Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:21). This gentleness is also born of the Spirit of Christ. “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!” (2 Corinthians 10:1).

Counseling and confronting sin need not be discourteous or intemperate although direct. This is especially the case if restoration is the goal. Listen again to the apostle Paul. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1). “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). God is pleased to use a gentle approach to promote peace and reconciliation in contrast to one that is harsh. As Proverbs 15:1 indicates, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” And James 3:17 adds, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle….” Biblical counseling is therefore full of love and gentleness.

Gentleness is also one of the qualifications for office-bearers in the church. “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle….” (1 Timothy 3:2-3). Bullying and intimidation tactics are out of bounds for church leaders.

Whether a pastor, elder, deacon, or church member, evangelism and apologetic work also require gentleness. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness…” (1 Peter 3:15). You cannot bully people into accepting Christ or aligning themselves with Christian principles.

Gentleness, then, is a Christian virtue. “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness…” (Colossians 3:12). “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13). Finally, gentleness has eternal significance. “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5). “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. It is “precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4).

Denny Prutow

Your Faithfulness Derives from God’s Faithfulness

2019-01-10T11:45:35-04:00 January 14th, 2019|

The story of Hosea and Gomer is well-known. “The LORD said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.’ So, he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim” (Hosea 1:2-3).

Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was faithless and broke from Judah and Jerusalem. Jeroboam led Israel to established alternate sites of worship, Bethel and Dan, and to worship alternated Gods, golden claves. Jeroboam established a non-Levite alternate priesthood. He also ordered the celebration of alternate feasts during the eighth month rather than in the God-ordained seventh month. You can read about this faithlessness in 1 Kings 12:25-33. Hosea lived sometime later during the reign of Jeroboam II. Israel was ripe for judgment because of decades of faithlessness.

Gomer, like Israel, was prone to wander. She did so. Like Israel, she led a life of harlotry and adultery (Hosea 2:2). Gomer’s adultery portrayed Israel’s spiritual harlotry and unfaithfulness. In the midst of this personal tragedy and political instability, God again spoke to Hosea. “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (Hosea 3:1). Hosea’s mission was to publicly display God’s love for a sinful people.

Hosea 2:19-20 graphically describes God’s disposition toward Israel. “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.” God’s covenant love and compassion toward Israel come to expression in His faithfulness. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). This God is our God, the Faithful One. In like manner, Hosea must be faithful to faithless Gomer.

The apostle Paul also uses marriage as the type and picture of God’s relationship with His people. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Such love requires faithfulness. In and of yourself, you are faithless. Like Gomer and ancient Israel, you are prone to wander. Your status before God depends upon God’s faithfulness to you. And so, God says to you, “I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.” God’s faithfulness to you results in a saving knowledge of Him and of His Son, Jesus Christ. The imagery advances. You become part of the church, the bride of Christ. You are committed to Him in faithfulness.

Again, it is not within your capacity to change your disposition from that of prone to wander to that of prone to faithfulness. The key is your union with Christ. You are joined to Him as part of His bride. You are joined to Him as a wild olive branch grafted into a native olive tree. You are joined to Him as a branch is part of a grapevine. Thus united to Christ, you are enabled to bear fruit. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

What is the fruit? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22). United to Christ you are enabled to be faithful in dating, marriage, school, work, social activities, athletics, and in every other area of life. United to Christ you bear the fruit of faithfulness.

Denny Prutow