“Christians who judge successful ministries by external statistics such as attendance figures, membership, baptisms, and offerings should seriously rethink their criteria in light of Jesus’ words here. God judges the greatness of his servants by searching their hearts, examining their inner attitudes, and seeing deeds done in secret. Doubtless, his evaluations of who most honors him will invert a substantial majority of his people’s evaluations.”
Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992, p. 122.
After a failed assassination attempt, the king had these noble words for his concerned friends:
“A king cannot live shut up in a box. The wicked have not so much power as ill-will, and confidence in God is the best safeguard. Then I do not consider this danger to be so formidable. Besides, if the project of this man had succeeded, the loss of me would not have caused you so much misfortune as you believed, for God knows perfectly well how long he wishes to employ my frail arm. If I fall, he will raise up another instrument more worthy and more powerful than I. His work does not depend upon the life of one man.”
-Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden (1594-1632)
As quoted by C. A. Lacroix in Gustavus Adolphus a Hero of the Reformation
“Ministers that have lost the spirit of devotion
will never rescue the world from corruption.”
–Alfred Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew, 71-72.
“People will chafe under the rule of a tyrant, but they will follow a pastor who is modeling the way to live. The pastor’s leadership is not something he demands, but it is something he earns by his life and office.”
Adult Bible Study Leader’s Guide to Living in Hostile Territory by Regular Baptist Press
“The trouble still in the church is a matter of foundations. There are those who would have us believe that it is a good and a right thing to form great unions, to have a great ecumenical church, and that then we shall be a great body of people confronting the world. But the question is, what is this great ecumenical church to stand for? What is she to believe? What is her foundation? We are not concerned primarily about numbers, for however great a body the ecumenical church may be, she will have no influence upon the world unless she has a truth to present, unless she has a solid and firm foundation on which to stand. Surely that is the great emphasis of the Bible. What the Bible is concerned about is truth, and in a very extraordinary manner it ridicules our pathetic faith in big battalions and in great numbers. It seems to go out of its way to teach a doctrine of the remnant and to show what one man can do when that one man is truly Christian.”
D. Martin Lloyd-Jones in Expository Sermons on 2 Peter, (Carlisle PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), 5.
“When we cease to be children we still owe our parents respect.”
—Leon Morris, Expository Reflections on the Letter to the Ephesians, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 190.
Are today’s “Christians” so different than those in past generations. Read these paragraphs and you will quickly see the parallel with our current times.
I must honestly declare my conviction that, since the days of the Reformation, there never has been so much profession of religion without practice, so much talking about God without walking with Him, so much hearing God’s words without doing them, as there is in England at this present date. Never were there so many empty tubs and tinkling cymbals! Never was there so much formality and so little reality. The whole tone of men’s minds on what constitutes practical Christianity seems lowered. The old golden standard of the behaviour which becomes a Christian man or woman appears debased and degenerated. You may see scores of religious people (so-called) continually doing things which in days gone by would have been thought utterly inconsistent with vital religion. They see no harm in such things as card-playing, theatre-going, dancing, incessant novel reading and Sunday travelling, and they cannot in the least understand what you mean by objecting to them! The ancient tenderness of conscience about such things seems dying away and becoming extinct, like the dodo; and when you venture to remonstrate with young communicants who indulge in them, they only stare at you as an old-fashioned narrow-minded, fossilized person, and say, ‘Where is the harm?’ In short, laxity of ideas among young men, and ‘fastness’ and levity among young women, are only too common characteristics of the rising generation of Christian professors.
Now in saying all this I would not be mistaken. I disclaim the slightest wish to recommend an ascetic religion. Monasteries, nunneries, complete retirement from the world, and refusal to do our duty in it, all these I hold to be unscriptural and mischievous nostrums. Nor can I ever see my way clear to urging on men an ideal standard of perfection for which I find no warrant in God’s Word, a standard which is unattainable in this life, and hands over the management of the affairs of society to the devil and the wicked. No, I always wish to promote a genial, cheerful, manly religion, such as men may carry everywhere, and yet glorify Christ.
The pathway to a higher standard of holiness, which I commend to the attention of my readers, is a very simple one, so simple that I can fancy many smiling at it with disdain. But, simple as it is, it is a path sadly neglected and overgrown with weeds, and it is high time to direct men into it. We need then to examine more closely our good old friends the Ten Commandments. Beaten out, and properly developed as they were by Bishop Andrews and the Puritans, the two tables of God’s law are a perfect mine of practical religion. I think it an evil sign of our day that many clergymen neglect to have the commandments put up in their new, or restored, churches, and coolly tell you, ‘They are not wanted now’! I believe they never were wanted so much!
“We are not to think of grace as a gift reserved for the great ones in the Christian church. Grace is the rightful possession of the lowliest of believers. There is no believer who lacks grace, which means that none of us is left to his or her personal devices as we seek to live the Christian life. God’s grace is freely given to all.”
Leon Morris, Reflections on the Letter to the Ephesians, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 121-2.
As I consider the way that the gospel is currently presented by Christians, it seems that most do not believe that God is sovereign over salvation. The idea seems to be that anyone can come to God by his own choice apart from the work of the Father and Holy Spirit. While the Scriptures do call for sinners to respond to the gospel with faith and repentance, they also teach us that none seeks after God (Rom. 3:9-12). It is impossible for a sinful man to respond to the gospel unless God first draws him to himself (John 6:44). Only then will he repent of his sins and believe.
With these thoughts in mind, I began reading (again) a book entitled “Whosoever Will” by Herman Hoeksema. His thoughts are in line with what the Scriptures say about this. In dealing with the lyrics to the hymn “Whosoever Will,” he points out that they are true only if understood in the light of all Scripture. “Whosoever will may come” but only when God draws them to himself and gives him the faith to believe. Otherwise, salvation is impossible because no person naturally seeks after God. But if he does, this is a sign that God is at work.
Do you will to come to Christ? Is it your desire to come to Him as the Fount of Living Water that you may drink? Do you long to come to Him as the Bread of Life that you may eat? Do not hesitate, then! Do not stand afar off, discovering a thousand reasons in yourselves why you could not possibly be received, for whosoever will may come and take of the water of life freely, because whosoever will is already drawn by the Father! You may hear the word of Christ: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
Herman Hoeksema, Whosoever Will, (Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2002), 8.
“Faith comes from God. Its success does not depend on the life or death of a man.”
—the Swiss Reformed after the death of Ulrich Zwingli
As quoted by Jean Henri Merle D’Aubigne in For God and His People: Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation, (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 2000), 263.