Archive for July, 2012

The Marks of Spiritual Children

July 27, 2012 2 comments

From S. Lewis Johnson’s study in Ephesians, a look at the characteristics of children, in this message covering Ephesians 4:13-16.  Here, Paul tells us that we, Christians, are to be no more children.

 Now that’s an interesting thing, that we should be called children.  Because, there are so many likeness between children, naturally, and children in the faith, that it’s very instructive for us, I think, to compare children in the flesh and children in the spirit.  What are the marks of children?  Let me suggest some marks of children, and let me suggest some analogies in the church.

Natural Children Spiritual Children
1. Lack of Stability Short Attention Span When they are listening to
the minister of the word of God, their attention span is
often very short.
2.  Easily Deceived You can play trick after
trick on children.  SLJ: I did it with all of my children.  All of my children did it with their children.
Deceived by the false
teaching, by the cults, and not only by the false teachers
and the cultists, but even by other new Christians. Some
have really wild ideas.
3.  Lack of Proportion Tendency to dispute about the
trifles and neglect the weightier matters.
No sense or proportion about
what is important in the Christian faith and what is unimportant.  That’s why when someone announces that he
is going to speak on the United States and Bible prophecy the auditorium will be jammed and packed, and when he
announces the Holy Spirit and the sanctification of the saints, well, there are many an extra seat in the auditorium.
4. Range of Life is Selfish I, me, mine.  Selfish
with their toys.
Interested in my blessing, the things that help me.  Or, I’m not helped by
this.  I’m not built up by this.  They’re only concerned about themselves:  my blessing, my interest.  They don’t think about the whole body of Christ.
5. They Know Everything They are all knowing.
They are provokingly infallible.
Say, “God led me, God led
me”—  SLJ:  he knew it all.  He knew more than the men who were there to teach him theological truths.
6. Lack of Reverence for Age
and Proper Authority
Characteristic of youths to
not have respect for age and authority.
Don’t have respect for
Christians who have been Christians for many years, and who
may have learned some things that it would be a profit for
them to know.
7. Alert to Pleasure and Dead
to Duty
Make it fun to get children
to do something: the Tom Sawyer method.
Christian work as entertaining and fun, and immature Christians doing the work of the Lord.
8.  Don’t Seek Out
Helpful Companions
Love all kinds of animals:
dogs, cats, lizards, other.
Companions are sometimes the type forbidden by the word of God.  They seek out worldly companions rather than spiritual companions.

It was true in S. Lewis Johnson’s day (this series 30 years ago), that many Christians were as children. How much more so today, and what a sad commentary on overall evangelical Christianity today, filled with so many spiritual children.


The Divine Unity of Scripture: Adolph Saphir

July 23, 2012 4 comments

I’m almost halfway through Saphir’s “The Divine Unity of Scripture,” one of the free online resources mentioned in this recent post.  The following is just some observations and general  notes concerning this book, which has been great reading.

This work comes from a series of lectures Saphir delivered, around the theme of the unity of scripture, in the late 19th century.  The overall theme is the exalting of scripture, how unique it is in all its ways, unlike any other writings we have, and how unified God’s word is in all its parts, with no conflicts between the Old and New Testament or amongst the many diverse human authors.  In the details, Saphir has a lot to say concerning the canon of scripture, the inspiration of scripture, the history of the writing of scripture, as well as summaries of what each Bible book highlights within the overall revelation from God, and the history of the Jews and the church to the present time (of his writing).

The early chapters remind me of J.C. Ryle’s great quotes about the Bible, affirming the same great truths.  Yet Saphir provides a much longer and more detailed treatment than Ryle provided in his comparatively-brief chapters, in this book about the book.  Like other 19th century authors Ryle and Spurgeon, Saphir frequently mentions the importance of the nation Israel.  Here, Saphir uniquely adds many more observations from his own Hebrew Christian perspective concerning the Jews of biblical as well as modern times.  The Divine Unity of Scripture sometimes reads like an apologetic, too, with Saphir’s responses to the liberal “higher criticism” of the day, refuting their notions of late-date authorship for the Pentateuch.  That particular idea is perhaps dated now, not something discussed that often, though I recall first coming across that idea in the introduction to a Chronicles of Narnia handbook in the early 1990s.  Saphir well responded with great points such as this:

therefore are all those fanciful theories, about the books of Moses having been fabricated after the exile, utterly void of common sense—as will appear still further from the next point. There is no other nation on the face of the earth that could have been induced to preserve books which so pictured their unthankfulness, their constant apostasies, comparing them with the other nations of the world and saying in effect, “You are worse than any other nation—less  loyal to me than the other nations are to their false gods.” If we read the five books of Moses from beginning to end, how they furnish a continuous picture of the wickedness and ingratitude of Israel  — and so with the other historical books …. Had such a record been artificially made, centuries upon centuries after the histories had taken place, it would not have been received. What an extraordinary thing it is that the Jews who killed the prophets and stoned them that were sent unto them, did not dare to touch the written records of their lives and all their testimonies,—nay, they reverenced those records and they looked upon them as the testimony sent to them by the Most High.

One trivial item: Saphir thought all the Bible authors, including Luke, were Jews; this was simply a given assumption without any reasons given for that conclusion.  I’ve come across a few reasons from people today holding to that idea, but mainly they argue from silence, such as what happened in Acts 21:29: if Luke were a Gentile, then why did they (the mob) only mention Trophimus with Paul, and not Luke?  I now concur with S. Lewis Johnson’s view, that Luke was a Gentile, primarily because of SLJ’s observation that Luke’s Greek was a very different style from the Greek used in the rest of the NT, that Luke’s Greek (except for the first two chapters) is the formal style used by the Gentile writers.

I highly recommend this Adolph Saphir work, even after reading only the first half.  Anyone who enjoys reading Christian authors who uplift the Bible and its amazing, timeless truths, will appreciate Saphir’s The Divine Unity of Scripture.

In closing, here is just one of many great quotes from Saphir’s The Divine Unity of Scripture:

The Bible needs no defense. The Bible defends itself; the Bible explains itself. I do not dread the pagans, I do not dread the infidels, I do not dread skeptics. I dread the false, compromising and conciliatory modern teaching in our Churches. That is the only thing that is to be dreaded. Let the Bible only be kept separate. As it is, it needs no defense. The Scripture needs no bulwarks. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and who ever heard of defending a sword? It is the enemy who will advise you to put the sword into the sheath—a beautiful sheath with all kinds of metaphysical and artistic ornamentations. The sword must be unsheathed, for the sword is aggressive.

Oh that we may know the Scripture not merely as the sword of the Spirit; for that sword, although it may inflict pain, is meant for healing. Oh that we may know it as the gentle dew and rain that comes down from heaven and returneth not thither, but prospereth in the things which please God.

S. Lewis Johnson’s Systematic Theology Series

July 17, 2012 8 comments

A little at a time, I’m listening to the first messages in S. Lewis Johnson’s long, well-known Systematic Theology series: the only such audio series of such length and depth that I know of, with 126 messages covering many topics of systematic theology.  This series comes from SLJ’s early years at Believers Chapel, beginning in 1968 and ending sometime in 1972.  For these lectures SLJ mentioned two Systematic Theology textbooks for the students, ones from Louis Berkhof and Lewis Sperry Chafer, but the content so far stands on its own, without direct reference to topics only found in the textbooks and not explained by him.

The first two messages (what I’ve listened to so far) include an introduction to Systematic Theology and an overall “classical apologetics” approach to the question of the existence of God.  Having never taken any “theology” classes or read such books, the Systematic Theology introduction was interesting, with overview of the types of theology:

  • Exegetical theology: background of OT and NT, study of Greek and Hebrew
  • Historical theology: history of the doctrines of the church; start with the doctrine of Christ and what the Church has believed about it throughout the centuries
  • Systematic theology
  • Practical theology:  how to conduct a wedding ceremony, funeral service, other practical outworkings

The limitations of Systematic Theology are also well noted:

  • the finiteness of the human mind
  • the blindness of sin
  • the silences of scripture  (ref. Deuteronomy 29:29)
  • the imperfect state of science: God’s revelation in nature
  • the incompleteness of our knowledge of scripture
  • inadequacy of human language
  • illumination of the Spirit  (the Spirit has not revealed everything to us, and not all at once)

The second message takes more of a classical apologetics approach, though without specific mention of the terms, again as part of an introduction to Systematic Theology and discussion of the existence of God.  From the discussion here, as well as from googling through the S. Lewis Johnson transcripts, I observe that SLJ was probably only familiar with classical apologetics, since his only references to the topic appear to be referring to that type, along with references to earlier apologists including J. Gresham Machen and no mention of Van Til (at least as far as the transcript search indicates) or later presuppositional apologists.  At any rate, from my early Christian years of reading C.S. Lewis, I was familiar with the general (non-biblical) arguments for the existence of God (though I don’t recall that C. S. Lewis named the theological terms, but rather focused on the concepts themselves).  S. Lewis Johnson named and defined the precise terms here: the cosmological, teleological, moral and ontological arguments.

As shown in the full listing of the Systematic Theology series, later messages cover many topics including Theology Proper, prayer, angelology, anthropology, Christology, Soteriology, and Pneumatology.  I look forward to going through these topics in future sessions.

All the Fitness He Requires? Spurgeon the Evangelist

July 12, 2012 5 comments

Steve Lawson well described Spurgeon the Evangelist, as in this message from the 2012 Shepherd’s Conference.  Through the last few years of reading Spurgeon sermons that has been the biggest impression of Spurgeon: sermons that show true Calvinism with its great evangelistic zeal, as in the well-known sermon, Compel Them to Come In.

Spurgeon Sermon #336, “Struggles of Conscience” from September, 1860, is another interesting one that shows Spurgeon’s great zeal in tearing down any obstacle in the way of a person coming to Christ, including the thought that a person doesn’t “feel” the greatness of their sins, doesn’t feel a particular type of repentance as was characteristically defined in the Puritan age.

In our day the evil has taken another, and that a most extraordinary shape. Men have aimed at being self-righteous after quite an amazing fashion; they think they must feel worse, and have a deeper conviction of sin before they may trust in Christ. Many hundreds do I meet with who say they dare not come to Christ, and trust Him with their souls, because they do not feel their need of Him enough; they have not sufficient contrition for their sins; they have not repented as fully as they have rebelled! Brothers and Sisters, it is the same evil, from the same old germ of self-righteousness, but it has taken another and I think a more crafty shape. Satan has wormed himself into many hearts under the garb of an angel of light, and he has whispered to the sinner, “Repentance is a necessary virtue. Stop until you have repented, and when you have sufficiently mortified yourself on account of sin, then you will be fit to come to Christ, and qualified to trust and rely on Him.”

While reading along I thought of the well-known hymn “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy”, sung often at the local church.  One verse ends with the line “all the fitness He requires, is to feel your need of Him.” The teaching at the local church, in the standard Reformed Baptist tradition, occasionally points out that part of that hymn, and how this is the only fitness necessary to come to Christ.  Spurgeon at this point was clearly going further, arguing against any “standard” of what we must feel when we come to Christ.

In the very next paragraph Spurgeon answered my question about that hymn, with the full story even there:  that particular hymn only includes the first part of the line.

Let me counsel you, then, to never quote part of a hymn, or part of a text—quote it all!—
“All the fitness He requires
Is to feel your need of him—
It is His Spirit’s rising beam!”

So that particular misunderstanding has been with the church for some time (that particular version of the hymn dates to 1759). The modern-day gospel-lite evangelical view is probably in the opposite direction from Spurgeon’s day, but (at least some) Reformed churches today continue the Puritan tradition of reacting in the opposite extreme.

Spurgeon’s point here is well-taken, a clear distinction in understanding the “feeling” someone has upon coming to Christ:

And I think I know the reason of its great commonness. In the Puritan age, which was noted certainly for its purity of Doctrine, there was also a great deal of experimental preaching, and much of it was sound and healthy. But some of it was unscriptural, because it took for its standard what the Christian felt, and not what the Savior said—the inference from a Believer’s experience, rather than the message which goes before any belief. Those excellent men, Mr. Rogers, of Dedham, who has written some useful works, and Mr. Sheppard, who wrote The Sound Believer, and Mr. Flavel and many others give descriptions of what a sinner must be before he may come to Christ, which actually represent what a saint is, after he has come to Christ! These good Brothers have taken their own experience—what they felt before they came into the Light of God—as the standard of what every other person ought to feel before he may put his trust in Christ and hope for mercy.

There were some in Puritan times who protested against that theology, and insisted that sinners were to be bid to come to Christ just as they were—with no preparation either of feeling or of doing. At the present time there are large numbers of Calvinistic ministers who are afraid to give a free invitation to sinners. They always garble Christ’s invitation thus—“If you are a sensible sinner you may come.” Just as if stupid sinners might not come! They say, “If you feel your need of Christ, you may come.” And then they describe what that feeling or need is, and give such a high description of it that their hearers say, “Well, I never felt like that,” and they are afraid to venture for lack of the qualification.

Mark you, the Brothers speak truly in some respect; they describe what a sinner does feel before he comes, but they make a mistake in putting what a sinner feels, as if that were what a sinner ought to feel! What the sinner feels, and what the sinner does, until he is renewed by Grace, are just the very opposite of what he ought to feel or do! We are always wrong when we say one Christian’s experience is to be estimated by what another Christian has felt.  No, Sir, my experience is to be measured by the Word of God! And what the sinner should feel is to be measured by what Christ commands him to feel, and not by what another sinner has felt!

The Four Gospels: Focus and Emblem

July 9, 2012 4 comments

From this introductory message to the gospel of John series, a summary of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It’s well known that each of the four gospels has a particular emphasis, what the writer wished to bring out concerning Christ and His earthly ministry.  Matthew’s gospel presents the King of the Jews. Mark brings the servant of Jehovah. Luke emphasizes the service and sacrifice of Christ. John’s gospel shares with us the Divine Son.  The differences even in the introduction make sense given this guideline.  Matthew presents the King’s genealogy, and Luke presents the genealogy of the Son of Man (all the way back to Adam).  Mark is telling about a servant, and who cares about a servant’s genealogy?  Likewise, John’s gospel emphasizes the Divine nature, the eternal self-existent Son.  God has no genealogy.

Something new I’ve learned:  in the early church, each gospel was represented by a particular symbol, or emblem.  These symbols relate the gospels to the four living creatures described in Ezekiel 1:10 and Revelation 4:7.

As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.

  • Matthew:  The Lion — the Lion of the Tribe of Judah
  • Mark:  Man; the adverb “immediately,” the servant active in carrying out His Father’s will
  • Luke:  The ox, the animal of service and sacrifice
  • John: The Eagle, which can look straight into the rays of the sun.

Mark’s gospel actually uses the term “Son of God” more frequently than John, so some overlap occurs.  But John’s gospel is preeminent in showing our Lord in His divine nature and divine personality.  The early church called John “The Theologian.”

From internet googling, I found one site, Catholic Resources, that lists the specific emblems assigned, by four early Christian authors, to each of the four gospels.  As shown, and noted in S. Lewis Johnson’s introductory message, some variation did exist in the early Church concerning the precise emblem identities.  The ox and the eagle were most consistently identified as Luke and John, but the Mark and Matthew emblems varied more.

Christian Author
Human/Angel Lion Ox Eagle
Irenaeus of Lyons Matthew John Luke Mark
Augustine of Hippo Mark Matthew Luke John
Pseudo-Athanasius Matthew Luke Mark John
Jerome Matthew Mark Luke John

Online Free Resources: David Baron and Adolph Saphir

July 3, 2012 12 comments

David Baron

Following up on past reader recommendations, I recently looked up further details concerning authors David Baron and Adolph Saphir.  Both men were Jewish Christians, Jews who converted to Christianity as young adults, and authors of several Christian books, which are now available in print and other media formats.  See brief biographies here:  Adolph Saphir (1831-1891) and David Baron (1855 – 1926)

Amazon currently lists David Baron’s The History of the Ten “Lost” Tribes: Anglo-Israelism Examined, Kindle version at no charge.  Note that the Kindle for PC (free software download from Amazon) as well as the Amazon Cloud Reader (web-browser Kindle) can be used for any Amazon Kindle title.

Another new online reader I just discovered is Google-Play, a browser program used with your Google account, with some functionality similar to Kindle for PC: viewing page by page, and search feature.  Like Amazon, Google Play has many books available, some free and others for purchase.  The pages are images from actual print books, and so you cannot select and copy-paste actual text.  However, Google Play offers a few free books not available in Kindle format, including David Baron’s “The Scattered nation, nos. 13-28: occasional record of the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel,” as well as nos. 45-42 of the same book, and “Types, Psalms and Prophecies: Being a Series of Old Testament Studies.”  Google Play also has a few titles from Saphir. has the largest collection of Saphir books, available in several formats including PDF, web-view, full text file, and Kindle reader format. The Kindle format has its own link, which prompts to save the file or open in the Kindle for PC (already installed on the PC).  It’s possible that the saved file could be transferred to a Kindle device, so if anyone has a Kindle feel free to try and let me know if and how that works.  I have downloaded a few of the Saphir books, now in my “Kindle for PC” library, to begin reading.

Adolph Saphir

Adolph Saphir books from

David Baron books from (available in several formats):

Addendum: free online writings of Alfred Edersheim, at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.  Available in several formats including PDF, browser and plain text.

Another update (7/27):  David Baron Book in Online web format, at Precept Austin site:  The Jewish Problem: Its Solution, or Israel’s Present and Future (1891).