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Teachings From 1 Chronicles

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the great benefits of my genre-based reading plan (based on the Horner Ten List Reading Plan) is that it forces frequent reading of all the Bible, including parts that we would normally not read.  Of course, that also means reading through the more tedious sections of the Old Testament, of which 1 Chronicles ranks high on the list.  Even so, through repeated readings of 1 Chronicles along with other Old Testament books, I now at least recognize more of the names of people and places from other places, and notice a few little gems here and there.  After all, the popular “Prayer of Jabez” from several years ago came from 1 Chronicles, and other interesting points concerning certain Bible characters come out as well.

Though commentaries exist for 1 Chronicles, it’s not popular sermon material, at least for expository verse-by-verse preaching.  From my Internet perusing I’ve come across individual topical sermons from 1 Chronicles, including a few from W.A. Criswell and Charles Spurgeon.  Recently, though, I’ve noticed a few devotional applications from 1 Chronicles — in some of Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” devotionals.

As part of Spurgeon’s topical style, some of his devotionals do not directly relate to the context of 1 Chronicles — such as the one in which he takes the words “and these are ancient things” from 1 Chron. 4:22, and applies it to the ancient plans and purposes of God, whereas the text is describing some ancient genealogical records of particular families.  However, in a devotional from a text in 1 Chron. 5:22 (“There fell down many slain, because the war was of God.”) he at least partly related the text to its actual reference, emphasizing the point that they won because “the war was of God.”

Spurgeon’s devotional for June 3 for 1 Chron. 4:23 is also interesting, with good thoughts concerning a short passage about some potters who worked for the king.  We only know a little about these people, otherwise ordinary people doing common work (pottery), and most would read over the text with little if any thought.  From this reading I learned of differing translations, for the phrase that these “dwelt among plants and hedges” in the KJV is instead rendered as “inhabitants of Netaim and Gederah” in modern versions.  Thus all that Spurgeon said about people dwelling among plants and hedges may not have actually been the case.  Even so, Spurgeon made some good points about common workers who kept to their appointed places, living in a rural area, yet doing royal work, “the king’s work.”

From the closing words of this devotional:

It is when we are in his work that we may reckon upon his smile. Ye unknown workers who are occupied for your Lord amid the dirt and wretchedness of the lowest of the low, be of good cheer, for jewels have been found upon dunghills ere now, earthen pots have been filled with heavenly treasure, and ill weeds have been transformed into precious flowers. Dwell ye with the King for his work, and when he writes his chronicles your name shall be recorded.

The Means of Grace

October 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I just recently learned the phrase “means of grace,” as a Christian expression that goes back at least several hundred years in Christian history.  A recent BibChr post highlighted both terms in its reference to another blogger who considered whether private devotions were more of a “spiritual discipline” instead of “means of grace.”  As Dan Phillips and others observed, it’s really a “both / and” rather than one aspect (public worship) being more important or “higher level” than the other.

I had recently come across the words in a few places, such as J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, but through the above blog and related conversation I became aware of the “definition” status of the phrase.  From reading on the subject since, I tend to agree that the older term, “means of grace,” is to be preferred over the modern, more limited idea of “spiritual disciplines.”  As with other new “key terms” I come across, I also googled the phrase in the transcripts of several Christian preachers, and found it used by J.C. Ryle, C.H. Spurgeon, S. Lewis Johnson, and John MacArthur.

Here is a good definition from J.C. Ryle (Holiness, chapter 2: Sanctification):

Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means. The “means of grace” are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshiping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper. . .  They are appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit conveys fresh supplies of grace to the soul and strengthens the work which He has begun in the inward man.

Other general definitions on the web agree, that the “means of grace” are the “means” by which God gives us grace in our daily lives:  Bible reading, prayers, devotions, listening to sermons, and public worship including participation in the Lord’s Supper.

As for the “private versus public” issue, I would agree that both are needed.  In my own experience, the private Bible reading, study, blog writing-extension, and reading and listening to good sermons has been more helpful than “mere” corporate worship.  Certainly, though, in the years when my personal time with God was more limited, to a cursory, once-a-year reading through the Bible, the twice a week church service had little effect on my overall life.  I certainly did not grow in the knowledge and grace of God during those years, but more easily lapsed into the daily cares of the world during the week.  I cannot do anything about my current corporate worship situation — obviously God has His purposes in keeping me here — but continue to greatly benefit from the wisdom (and very practical advice) of great saints such as Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle.  Even this week, I learned from Spurgeon  (#147, The Sound in the Mulberry Trees) the importance of not doing anything to impede a weaker brother:  do not verbally criticize a sermon, as the person who hears the criticism may well have been moved by something he found good in that sermon.  Say, rather, that “Well, it was not the sermon for me.”

Another great Internet resource on the topic of “Means of Grace” is  Bob DeWaay’s  article, “Means of Grace: God’s Provision for Our Salvation and Sanctification.”  Along with a discussion of the public and private means of grace is the following gem of insight concerning communion:

what should be true whenever we receive communion. 1) We receive it in faith, trusting not in the act of taking communion, but in the finished work of Christ. 2) We do so in remembrance of the Lord, thus being linked with all of the redeemed who have done likewise since the Last Supper, sharing a common hope. 3) We receive communion as a proclamation of the gospel hope, publicly declaring the reason for our hope. 4) When we receive communion we are longing for the Lord’s return to physically share that fourth cup with us. 5) When we receive communion we are expressing our hope in the future kingdom of God in which all true people of faith are reunited with their Lord and recline in table fellowship together.

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