“First, consider, That sin is never a, whit the less filthy, vile, and abominable, by its being coloured and painted with virtues colours. A poisonous pill is never a whit the less poisonous because it is gilded over with gold; nor a wolf is never a whit the less a wolf because he hath put on a sheep’s skin; nor the devil is never a whit the less a devil because he appears sometimes like an angel of light. So neither is sin any whit the less filthy and abominable by its being painted over with virtue’s colours.” —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices
“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” —Galatians 5:7–9
The race of faith is one in which if you are cut off, you take the blame. If you’re tripped, you’re at fault for not being ready. If you’re not running well, it’s because you’re not standing fast (Galatians 5:1). Enemy interference is expected. This is no gentleman’s race. It is a race for warriors.
The word translated “hindered” can carry the connotation of being cut off. It’s hard to avoid the double entendre. By circumcision the Judaizers were trying to cut the Galatians off in the race of faith. The knight cannot reason that he committed treason because his opponent had a bigger sword.
If you are duped by a false teacher, the blame falls on you. If you eat the apple, you cannot blame the serpent. Tolerated lies are soon digested. Stand firm. Do not submit. Give no quarter.
Rest assured, the serpent and his spawn have been crushed under the crucified foot of Christ. Our Lord will manifest this victory when He returns in glory and the serpent is crushed under the feet of the saints (Romans 16:20). But the saints are those who persevere in the faith. So, paradoxical as it may seem, if you are to run well, you must stand fast.
The second remedy to consider, That sin is but a bitter sweet. That seeming sweet that is in sin will quickly vanish, and lasting shame, sorrow, horror, and terror will come in the room thereof: Job 20:12-14, ‘Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue, though he spare it, and forsake it not, but keep it still within his mouth, yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him.’ Forbidden profits and pleasures are most pleasing to vain men, who count madness mirth, &c. Many long to be meddling with the murdering morsels of sin, which nourish not, but rent and consume the belly, the soul, that receives them. Many eat that on earth that they digest in hell. Sin’s murdering morsels will deceive those that devour them. Adam’s apple was a bitter sweet; Esau’s mess was a bitter sweet; the Israelite’s quails a bitter sweet; Jonathan’s honey a bitter sweet; and Adonijah’s dainties a bitter sweet. After the meal is ended, then comes the reckoning. Men must not think to dance and dine with the devil, and then to sup with Abraham, Issac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; to feed upon the poison of asps, and yet that the vipers tongue should not slay them. —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” —Galatians 5:1
If justification by faith alone in Christ alone is the central doctrine of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, why is it hailed as the Magna Carta of Christian Liberty? Because as 5:1 demonstrates, justification by faith is bound to freedom as an attempt at justification by works is bound to slavery. Here we have the central commands of this letter: “stand firm” and “do not submit.” These are really one command. Standing firm is not submitting; not submitting is standing firm. This imperative flows from this gospel indicative, “for freedom Christ has set us free.” Christ, in whom we have this freedom, is laid hold of through faith; the Christ grasped through faith is our righteousness.
What is freedom? Certainly it is freedom from something. It is freedom from the law’s demands (3:23), the law’s curse (3:10), sin (3:22), and the elemental spirits of this world (4:3–9). We are freed from these things, but what are we freed to? Is our freedom only negative?
What is freedom? Consider this, one of the most famous works of Jonathan Edwards is his treatise The Freedom of the Will. One of the most famous of Martin Luther is The Bondage of the Will. What might surprise some is how harmonious the two are. It is all a question of what is meant by freedom. Luther, ever the blunt one, says that the will is in bondage to sin (i.e. John 8:34, Romans 6:17). Edwards, in his more sophisticated style, first says that the will freely does whatever it wants. The problem is, the only thing fallen man want’s to do is sin. Fallen man freely does as he wants, but his want-to is enslaved to sin. So, as Calvin says, to insist that such a will is “free” is to use a big word for a small thing.
What Edwards demonstrates is that being free to do whatever I want to do isn’t truly freedom. Yet, this is exactly what our modern, individualistic connotation of freedom is. As fallen a man, being free to do whatever you want is bondage to self—a self who is a damned fool. As a fish is free in water, so we are free when we bow to the Sovereign who is life, goodness, beauty, and truth. When a creature tries to play creator and cast off God’s Lordship, he embraces death, evil, ugliness, and lies. He embraces bondage. Bondage willingly embraced is the worst kind of bondage. The soul might be free when the wrists are shacked, but, though the wrists are unshackled, they are not free if the soul is chained.
So again, what is freedom? At its core is the redemption of Christ purchasing us unto Himself, so that we are counted righteous in Him, reconciled to God, and adopted as sons with all the benefits and promises thereof. But central to this freedom as Paul now wants to work it out is life in the Spirit. When Paul began laying down his defense of the doctrine of justification by faith alone in chapter 3 he asked, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Paul will bring this full circle in 5:16–18.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
What beautiful irony: walking by your own desires is bondage whereas walking by the Spirit is freedom. In the former we are under the law and break it. In the latter, we are free from the law and keep it. What is this life in the Spirit? It is living unto God by God. It is living as a creature in love and dependence on the Creator. It is not a life that strives for justification. It is a life that stems from justification.
[This post slightly expands on my remarks made at the Baptist Rally to Support SB 13 on February 25]
“The BGCO is categorically opposed to abortion, and it is our prayer and goal to see lives saved and an end to abortion in Oklahoma and beyond. Through the years, Oklahoma Baptists have championed numerous bills designed to protect life and fight abortion.” —Open Letter from the BGCO to Oklahoma Baptists
“So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11:6–7).
“And he [King Josiah] defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech” (2 Kings 23:10).
Sometimes a wise man can be a fool. When the king was a fool, God sent a prophet. I hope I’m Nathan speaking to David. I pray that my motives are loving and that my brothers are repentant. At this time, I do not wish to be seen as an Elijah rebuking Ahab. As far as I can see, we all hate Jezebel and her idolatries. I think we’re debating whether or not she should be thrown down from the wall now, by whom, and how.
If the streets are clear below, let Jezebel be cast down! BGCO leaders, the time has come. The time is now. I don’t care who. I don’t care how.* Let her be cast down; let her be cast down now!
When God has spoken, let us tremble at His Word. As Jeremiah Burroughs said, “True fear and trembling at the Word is that which will settle the heart and strengthen the heart against all other fears. It will swallow up other fears that are greater.” If we fear God, we will be bold before men. I long for a Josiah, trembling at the word, zealous to extinguish the worship of Molech. I long for a Wilberforce, spending his own life, tenacious for the lives of others. I’m thankful for the kings of old whose hearts were right to the Lord yet failed to purge the land of idolatry (i.e. 1 Kings 15:4), but I want to see all the high places taken down and I’m not looking for the world to do so. If Molech is to be defiled, the church must be sanctified.
May God grant us repentance and reformation.
*The emphatic if that begins this paragraph is meant to indicate that justice and righteousness are assumed regarding the how.
“In recent days, you may have read discussions about Oklahoma State Senate Bill 13, the ‘Abolition of Abortion Act.’ Regarding SB 13, after considerable prayer and careful study of the proposed policy, including direct conversations with the bill’s principle author, we have several concerns.” —Open Letter from the BGCO to Oklahoma Baptists
I’m trying to be a faithful prophet here, but not that kind of a prophet. I do not posses any knowledge of the several unnamed concerns. I would like to hear them. I hope they are more substantial than those given. To the best of my knowledge, the particular leaders whose signatures are applied to the letter haven’t explicitly disclosed any further rational. But in the smorgasbord of the interwebs I do keep seeing two staple reasons from some Southern Baptists pastors as to why we shouldn’t support SB 13 and should support the leadership of the BGCO.
The first staple I’m hearing we must have a healthy helping of is unity and peace. I do want to fight for unity, but I also want to contend for the faith. These two battles are not at odds. The fight for true Christian unity is a fight for the truth of Christ. Unity by itself is not a virtue. D.A. Carson explains, “The Bible itself recognizes that unity is not an intrinsic good. There is good unity, and there is bad unity. Bad unity occurs in Genesis 11 when rebellious humankind unites to build a tower to heaven to defy God.”
Disagreement is not division. Uniformity is not unity. Let’s hash this out and not kill all discussion with demands for peace. If we must part ways here, as did Paul and Barnabas, I will pray both for your repentance and for your fruitfulness in preaching the gospel of Christ.
The leaders have expressed their conscience. Are we not allowed to express our own without being accused of causing division? If so, this is an easy flip. It is the expression of their conscience, as representatives of our churches, that has sown division.
If that’s the meat, here are the potatoes:* some don’t want to get behind this legislation because of radicals who may be involved with it. This is the genetic fallacy. A prophecy concerning our Lord came through pagan Balaam and was true nonetheless. I don’t care if Hitler wrote this legislation, if it would end this holocaust and do no injustice otherwise, I’m voting for it.
Protestants owe much to Francis Schaeffer for the fact that we’re fighting for life. Initially Schaeffer faced kickback for his efforts against abortion by Evangelicals who said the life of the unborn was a Catholic agenda. Schaeffer used the language of “co-belligerents” in reference to Catholics in this war. We are certain to face this battle with both allies and co-belligerents. The presence of co-belligerents with whom we have disagreements should not cause us to falter.
It is naive to think that once any good legislation is put forward other persons more radical than we won’t get wrapped up in it as well. I wouldn’t fault an American soldier for using a foreign weapon. Others may be offering up this meat to an idol. We need not participate in their worship and we are free to buy their meat from the market. Meat is meat. Truth is truth. Man’s hands may dirty the surface, but if there’s truth, it’s God’s. A good hammer shouldn’t be trashed because of whose fingerprints are on it. If it is being used as a murder weapon, bring forth the evidence. Otherwise, let’s build.
Is our concern God’s justice or man’s justification? Am I hitting the nail on the head?
*The meat and potatoes are often served with the gray gravy of “this bill isn’t worded well.” I take this to refer to the previous concerns I’ve dealt with. If not, I haven’t found any words telling me what isn’t worded well.
“The bill even goes so far to repeal original Oklahoma laws already on the books that allows abortion only to save a mother’s life.” —Open Letter from the BGCO to Oklahoma Baptists
ad hominem: marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made
This isn’t so much an argument against a straw man as it is an argument of straw against the man. Methinks it is a bit like complaining that your doctor doesn’t have the smallpox vaccine on hand anymore. This is no severe measure because the need for such severe measures are an anomaly. When such anomalies do occur, we don’t need legislation that can then be twisted to kill a child for the “health” of the mother. This very play was just run with abortion legislation in New York and celebrated with applause.
Doctors are trained to preserve life. They don’t need laws for that. This bill is not about killing mothers instead of babies. There is no draconian angle here that I’m aware of. The ambition is simply for life all around. Let’s go for all the life we can every time.
It’s this simple, no mothers or babies are to be harmed in the implementation of this bill. If the fire alarm goes off, our ambition should be to save as many lives as possible. If the fireman can’t save them all, we’ll cry both with him and the family for their loss and blame no one. But let’s not talk about legislation that could be used to validate arbitrary decisions not to try to save some. If we do, we’ll likely see arsonists signing up to be firemen. As we don’t wish to legislate for firemen when negligent homicide is permissible, neither should we tell doctors when they can get away with murder.
This objection is built like a cheese puff: there’s an initial flavor explosion, but it’s really mostly air with little substance. Whatever nutritional value can be gained from this puff supports very little life. You can’t argue against a heavy block of cheddar with a cheese puff. You can’t argue against the saving of thousands of lives with the saving of a few lives that would have been saved anyway.