Archive for the ‘Ephesians’ Category

The Shield of Faith: The Shield Metaphor (Spurgeon)

July 10, 2013 1 comment

From my recent Spurgeon sermon reading, an overview of sermon #416, “The Shield of Faith”.  From the text Ephesians 6:16, Spurgeon looked at several aspects of the shield as a metaphor for our faith.

One interesting point (new to me) is that the ancients used many types of shields, but that the shield in view here is a full-size one able to completely cover a man.  Often I picture the sword fighting scene in the modern-setting “Pilgrim’s Progress” movie and the relatively small shield that Christian holds in his hand; but the shield Paul was thinking of was much larger:

Different kinds of shields were used by the ancients, but there is a special reference in our text to the large shield which was sometimes employed. I believe the word which is translated “shield,” sometimes signifies a door, because their shields were as large as a door. They covered the man entirely.

Spurgeon also references the psalmist’s idea, “You, Lord will bless the righteous, with favor will You compass him as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:12).

Faith is like a shield in the following ways:

  •  A shield protects us from attack

The large shield covered the whole body: it guards the head and the heart, and protects the armor. Similarly, faith guards the head, the heart, and our armor.

  •  Receives the blows which are meant for the man himself

Why enlist, young men, if you are not needed to fight? What is the good of a fair-weather soldier—one who stays at home to feed at the public expense? No, let the soldier be ready when war comes; let him expect the conflict as a part and necessary consequence of his profession. But be armed with faith—it receives the blows! So must our faith do—it must be cut at, it must bear the blows.

Spurgeon has strong words regarding the cowards who do not receive the blows, the persecution, as they ought to.

Ashamed of Christ they make no profession of Him, or having professed Christ, ashamed of the profession, they hide themselves by deserting their colors, by conformity to the world. Perhaps they are even called to preach the Gospel, but they do it in so quiet and gentle a way, like men who wear soft raiment, and ought to be in kings’ houses. Unlike John the Baptist, they are “reeds shaken with the wind.” Of them no one says anything bad because they have done no ill to Satan’s kingdom!  Against them Satan never roars—why should he? He is not afraid of them, therefore he need not come out against them.  “Let them alone,” he says, “thousands such as those will never shake my kingdom!”

  • It has good need to be strong

A man who has some pasteboard shield may lift it up against his foe, the sword will go through it and reach his heart. … He who would use a shield must take care that it be a shield of proof. He who has true faith, the faith of God’s elect, has such a shield that he will see the swords of his enemies go to a thousand shivers over it every time they smite the shield of faith!

  • It is of no use, except it is well handled.  A shield needs handling, and so does faith.

So there are some silly professors who have a faith, but they have not got it with them when they need it. They have it with them when there are no enemies. When all goes well with them, then they can believe; but just when the pinch comes, then their faith fails.

Spurgeon then suggests three practical ways to handle the shield:

  1. Quote the promises of God against the attacks of your enemy
  2. With the doctrines.  Handle the shield doctrinally.
  3. Experimentally:   we remember how God has helped us in the past
  • Like in olden times and days of chivalry, the shield (our faith) carries the Christian’s glory, the Christian’s coat of arms

what is the Christian’s coat of arms? Well, good Joseph Irons used to say it was a Cross and a crown, with the words “No Cross, no crown”—a most blessed coat of arms, too! … Some of the old Reformers used to have an anvil for their coat of arms ,and a significant one, too, with this motto, “The anvil has broken many hammers.” By which they meant that they stood still, and just let men hammer at them till their hammers broke of themselves!

Jerry Bridges Conference (April 2013): Sanctification and ‘True Heavenly Mindedness’

April 16, 2013 Comments off

Author Jerry Bridges was the guest speaker at a church in the Memphis, TN area, for a conference this last weekend (April 12-14, 2013).  I haven’t read that much from Bridges, usually preferring the style and depth of Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, and of course my favorite preacher SLJ, but have appreciated his conference messages at this church over the last several years. All his conference messages at this church – 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013 – are available at: www .  The conference theme this time was “True Heavenly Mindedness,” from Colossians 3, with emphasis on practical Christian living / sanctification.

From a then-free offer on Amazon Kindle, I’ve read some of Jerry Bridges’ recent book, The Transforming Power of the Gospel: an easy reading style similar to his other books and his talks, in which he mentions his early experience with two extreme forms of sanctification: moral rules to follow, followed by the Deeper Life Keswick movement (“Let Go, Let God”). In 1960 he came to understand true sanctification, that which is active, not passive.  We cannot ‘just let Jesus live His life through me.’ No, we are responsible. At the same time, we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to both do His own work and enable us through His power to do the work we must do. Later chapters include  definitions of sin and repentance, and what spiritual transformation is.

A proper understanding of sanctification includes study of Colossians 3, and the conference messages deal with that chapter as well as Ephesians 4.  Another resource on this very topic, Jesse Johnson’s recent Cripplegate post critiquing another variation of the “Let Go, Let God” idea,  likewise notes the importance of Colossians 3, the part that another writer (Tullian Tchividjian) had completely skipped over:  I was asking myself, “ok, so what is he going to do with Col 3:17-4:6? I mean there is more to Colossians than the first half. What’s going to happen when he gets to the places where Paul tells us to be sanctified by actually fighting sin?” And wouldn’t you know it: other than explaining why those passages are powerless to sanctify you, he doesn’t deal with them. You really do need to look at his Scripture index to believe me: he deals with almost every single verse in Colossians, except the ones that have imperatives in them.  Jerry Bridges approaches the imperative passages in Colossians head-on, in several messages about “true heavenly mindedness” and practical Christian living.

I have only one point of difference from Jerry Bridges: his emphasis on sanctification and Christian living tends to neglect the proper balance between practical Christian living, and instruction in doctrinal/worldview issues.  Then again, this is the difference between a theologian or scholar, and a layperson Christian author who excels in what he does: well-written books for the mainstream Christian audience, especially about holiness and sanctification.

The Tables of the Ten Commandments: Observations from Ephesians 6

August 2, 2012 Comments off

Continuing in S. Lewis Johnson’s series through Ephesians, a look at Ephesians 6:1-4 and some interesting observations concerning the fifth commandment.

The fifth commandment is mentioned here by Paul:  Honor your father and mother, that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.  So we consider the set of ten commandments, which are in two categories or “tables.”  The first set concerns the vertical relationship, man toward God, and the second set the horizontal relationship of man to man. Some teachers see the division as four toward God, and six – starting with this 5th commandment – toward man.  Here Dr. Johnson points out more background, that the Jews thought differently: that the fifth commandment is in the first table of commandments focused toward God:

But the Jews had a different idea.  They felt that that fifth commandment, “honor thy father and mother that thy days may be long upon the land the Lord thy God giveth thee” was a commandment that had relationship to the Lord first, and to men, second.  And so they divided the first two tables of the law into the first five commandments which were commandments with the Godward stress, and then the last five, the tables with the manward stress.

Now evidently, the Apostle, being a Jewish man would have taken it that way, and if that is so, then this “honor thy father and thy mother” is something that is to be looked at as something that is directed not toward our neighbors but to God himself.  In other words, this is a commandment whose major emphasis is Godward:  honor thy father and they mother that thy days be long upon the earth which the Lord thy God giveth thee; so that the children’s obedience to the parents is to be to their parents as if it were an obedience to the Lord, which tells us a whole lot about what parents ought to be, because parents represent God to the children.  No child will ever learn to obey God who does not first learn to obey his parents.  He must learn what obedience is.

The first commandment with a promise:  some point to the second of the ten commandments as also containing a promise, but that one includes rather a statement of the character of God.  If it’s the first, what are the second and other commandments with a promise?  Perhaps Paul was thinking beyond just the Decalogue, to the full Mosaic law.  Or, Paul may have meant first in rank (greatest), rather than first in order-sequence.

S. Lewis Johnson also makes an observation of some difference, which, it turns out, is an English translation issue in the KJV, NIV, and NASB versions, but not in the ESV (which of course was not available in SLJ’s day).  As he notes, in the King James Version Paul’s wording is slightly different in retelling the fifth commandment:  from that you may live long in the land to live long on the earth.  Dr. Johnson mentions this difference, uncertain as to exactly what Paul may have meant, yet wisely concluding:

 But at any rate, we do know this:  that obedience of children to parents, the proper relationship between the members of a family, in a certain society, is the mark of a stable community.  It’s the mark of a stable family.  It’s the mark of a stable nation.  And it may be that the Apostle, by broadening it out, is simply saying that when obedience of children characterizes a society, then you can expect that society to have the blessing of the Lord.

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.