Scriptures Matthew

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Though He was Bound, the Word of God was Not Bound

Bruce Hunt was not totally unprepared for the inevitable.  This Orthodox Presbyterian missionary had been ministering to the Korean Church in Manchuria since 1936.  With the imperial nation of Japan on the offensive, attempts had been made to control the church in lands under their control.  Specifically, the attempt was being made to force all people, including Christians, to engage in emperor worship.  To committed Christians, to those who confessed that Jesus is Lord alone with no other God beside Him, this was unthinkable.  Bruce Hunt not only believed this firmly, but he taught this truth to the church of Korea.  Twice he had been taken down to prison and warned that if he persisted in his teaching, judgment would be waiting.  On October 21, 1941, Bruce Hunt was arrested in Harbin, Manchuria.

For the next year, Rev. Hunt would be separated from his family,  his church family, and his freedom.  But he was not separated from his God and Savior.  In testimony of the gospel, like countless persecuted Christians before him, including the apostle Paul of New Testament times, he witnessed to his tormenting guards, evangelized his fellow inmates, and offered encouragement to others who were being tried for their Christian faith.

In one of the many cells into which he was thrown, he realized that a tiny metal tip on one of his shoe laces provided him with a writing tool.  In the darkness of his cell, he wrote in Korean on the soft walls of the cell the famous verse, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His own begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  You dear reader, surely recognize these words as coming from John 3:16.  It was just one of the many times that he left a witness to the next prisoner who would enter that cell.

Once, he decided to place all ten commandments of the Law of God upon the wall in Korean.  He made it to eight commandments, when a guard saw it and stopped him from completing it.

Another time, he found the time to write Romans 6:23 all the way through.  It said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Finally, when all “tools” to write had been taken away, Scripture texts on  his lips provided divine opportunities to share his Christian faith with guards and fellow prisoners alike.  Quite clearly, while Rev. Hunt was imprisoned, the Word of God was not imprisoned.

Eventually he was exchanged and went back to the United States with his family.

Words to live by:  In our true story about Bruce Hunt writing Scripture texts on the wall of his cell, there is a very real presupposition which was necessary for him to witness in this way.  And it was this.  He had memorized certain portions of the Word of God so that he could write them without having his Bible as a guide.  Question?  If you did not have your Bible present with you to read and write verses of it, how many texts of Scripture have you memorized which could prove to be a comfort to you and a witness to others in prison with you?  Scripture memorization, even with a proliferation of Bible versions today, is a spiritual exercise of our parent’s generation.  Yet, we are closer than they are to difficult times.  Memorize the Word of God!  Begin today.  Start with the texts of salvation.  Ask your pastor what you should memorize.  Ask yourself the question, what verses would I want to know if I was arrested for the sake of the gospel?

Through the Scriptures:  Matthew 23 – 25

Through the Standards:  Benefits of communion with Christ in glory in this life

WLC 83 — “What is the communion in glory with Christ which the members of the invisible church enjoy in this life?
A.  The members of the invisible church have communicated unto them in this life the first-fruits of glory with Christ, as they are members of  him their head, and so in him are interested in that glory which he is fully possessed of; and, as an earnest thereof, enjoy the sense of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, and hope of glory; as, on the contrary, sense of God’s revenging wrath, horror of conscience, and a fearful expectation, are to the wicked the beginning of their torments which they shall endure after death.”

 

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Secular Analysis of Marriage and Divorce

Time Magazine in its October 17, 1927 issue had an article on how Presbyterians view  the grounds of divorce.  Listen to its report:  “Presbyterian rules have held that only desertion and adultery are legitimate grounds of divorce.  In this, Presbyterians have been more liberal than most Christian denominations. Most admit only adultery as a divorce cause. A Presbyterian minister might properly marry a divorce[d person, but] only if the person were the innocent derelict of discretion to judge marital innocence. Amiable pew-holders occasionally have tried to strain his [the pastor’s] good will.”

As usual, when the secular press tries to understand church matters, they usually err in that matter. The Presbyterian “rule” on the grounds of adultery is none other than the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 24, sections 5 and 6. It was treated back on the October 8, “Through the Standards” section. It can hardly be interpreted as being “more liberal,” seeing that this creedal standard was formalized in the early seventeenth century.  Presbyterians find a specifically defined allowance for divorce in the texts of both Matthew 19:8-9 and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. The part about the “amiable pew-holders occasionally have tried to strain his good will” is true. The only word this writer would dispute in that quote is the word “occasionally.”

But it would be far better if the Christian church would ramp up its teaching on Christian marriage. That is what needs to be the focus from the pulpit, in the Sunday School rooms, on marriage retreats, and in the counseling room. This retired pastor preached  a yearly marriage series on Sunday mornings every Lord’s Day between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day during his 38 year ministry. Each year, attention was given in the Christian education curriculum to some aspect of married life. Sometimes this discussion occurred during Sunday School and sometimes during a weekday study. Weekend marriage retreats were also planned and held regularly.  And most importantly, there was a firm policy that the pastor would not officiate at a marriage without the couple having first attended several sessions of required biblical counseling.

Far better to get the facts on the grounds of divorce, not from the secular main-line media, but from the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Words to live by: The statistics of divorce are much too high for our evangelical and Reformed churches. We need to be more faithful to our marriage covenants, made not only to God, but also to our spouses.

Through the Scriptures:  Matthew 8 – 11

Through the Standards:  Union with Christ, and Christians

For further study :
PCA position paper on divorce and remarriage (1992).

WCF 26:1
“All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by His Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with Him in His grace, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

How to Listen to a Sermon

Finding no persons, places, or things in Presbyterian history on October 16, the companion catechism to our focus on October 12—about how your preacher is to proclaim sound doctrine—is Larger Catechism No. 160.  It deals with how you are to listen to a sermon.  It says, “It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God: meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.”

Presupposed in this answer is that we “attend” unto the preached word with our attendance in the services of the Lord’s Day.  Our Lord was the Son of God, and yet it is said in Luke 4:16 that his “custom” or  habit was to be in His place of worship on the sabbath day.  We are to  not to “forsake or neglect to assemble together [as believers].” (Amplified of Hebrews 10:25)

As we attend to it, we are to do it “with diligence, preparation, and prayer.”   In other words, simply warming a pew or chair by our posture does not fulfill our duty with respect to the preached Word. The church member, and even the visitor, should not be passive, but active to the sermon.  You would not be persistently late to show up for your work or school, so don’t come late to the worship of God, and disrupt the other worshipers.  Preparation to worship the Lord is necessary also.  Take care of your business or assignments so that you won’t be reviewing them during the sermon or planning them.
Are you prepared to pray the prayer of the Psalmist David “Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.” (Psalm 119:18 NASB)

Should the worshiper accept everything the preacher says?  Certainly not!  Our confessional fathers urged us to be like the Bereans of old (See Acts 17:11) and “examine what they hear by the scriptures.”   You should test what you hear by the Bible.

But  having said that, the catechism speaks of “receiving the truth with faith, love, meekness,and readiness of mind, as the word of God.”  In other words, it is important to have a receptive heart and mind, not a continual critical heart and mouth with respect to the preaching of the Word.  This will be facilitated if we learn how to “meditate” and “confer of it,” like what does it mean, and what does it mean to me.  A discussion in the family as to what was the application of it to each members of the family.  Some churches encourage Bible studies on sermons heard the previous week, which is profitable indeed.

Hiding it in our life and bringing forth the fruit of it in those lives, are two neglected exercises in modern-day Christians.  Yet both are biblical.   David prayed in Psalm 119:11 “Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”  James in his book, chapter 1, verse 22 wrote about “proving yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  In other words, show that you are a Christian by doing what you have heard in church.

All this is required — it is your duty — with respect to the preaching Word of God.

Words to live by:  Happy is the church whose minister preaches sound doctrine in the manner of Larger Catechism 157 and whose members listen to the preached word in the manner of Larger Catechism 160.  In fact, write this answer on the flyleaf of your Bibles, and review your reception of the Word in comparison to it.  If you have a good memory, commit the answer to memory.  God’s Word is too important, and the challenges of the world, the flesh, and the devil are so serious, that the Church cannot afford to have lukewarm Christians.

Through the Scriptures: Matthew 5 – 7

Through the Standards:  Proof texts for the Church

Ephesians 4:11, 12
“And His gifts were [varied: He Himself appointed and gave men to us] some to be apostles (special messengers,) some prophets (inspired messengers), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers.  His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body (the church).” (Amplified)

Matthew 16:18
“And I (Jesus) tell you, you are Peter [Greek: Petros — a large piece of rock], and on this rock [Greek, petra — huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it]. (Amplified)

 

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