Matthew Henry (23)

He suffered Himself to be ranked with sinners and, yet, offered Himself to be an intercessor for sinners (verse 12).

(1) It was a great aggravation of His sufferings that He was “numbered with transgressors,” that He was not only condemned as a malefactor, but executed in company with two notorious malefactors, and He in the midst, as if He had been the worst of the three, in which circumstance of His suffering, the evangelist tells us, this prophecy was fulfilled (Mark 15.27-28).  Nay, the vilest malefactor of all, Barabbas, who was a traitor, a thief, and a murderer, was put in election with Him for the favor of the people, and carried it, for they would not have Jesus released, but Barabbas.  In His whole life, He was numbered among the transgressors, for He was called and accounted a Sabbath-breaker, a drunkard, and a friend to publicans and sinners.

(2) It was a great commendation of His sufferings, and redounded very much to His honor that, in His sufferings, He “made intercession for the transgressors,” for those who reviled and crucified Him, for He prayed, “Father, forgive them,” thereby showing, not only that He forgave them, but that He was now doing that upon which their forgiveness, and the forgiveness of all other transgressors, were to be founded.  That prayer was the language of His [death], crying, not for vengeance, but for mercy and, therein, it speaks better things than that of Abel, even for those who, with wicked hands, shed it. – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), commenting on Isaiah 53.10-12.

On the Continuity of Theological Thought Through the Centuries

This continuity of Reformed orthodoxy with the Reformation in and through the use of modified medieval models for system was possible because of Christian Aristotelianism, its dialectical method, and because of the training of many of the Reformers in the old systems.  Just as the Reformation cannot be seen as a total break with the Middle Ages, and just as the medieval forerunners of the Reformation bear witness to principles and presuppositions in theology akin to those of the Reformers, so is it an error to argue discontinuity between the Reformation and post-Reformation Protestantism.  Instead, we must think in terms of the larger continuities of theological and philosophical method – the trajectory of scholasticism from the late twelfth to the late seventeenth century – and in terms of the doctrinal continuity, not without development and change, within Protestantism itself.  What is more, genuine room must be allowed for development and change, particularly the development and change associated with the creation of orthodoxy, “right teaching” characteristic of an institutionalized church intent on teaching its theology in universities and manifesting its catholicity in terms of the greater tradition of Christian doctrine.

From: Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725: Volume One: Prolegomena to Theology by Richard A. Muller; 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003 [1987]), pp. 121-122.

On Having a Fixed Liturgy

The advantage of a fixed form of service is that we know what is coming.  Ex tempore public prayer has this difficulty: we don’t know whether we can mentally join in until we’ve heard it – it might by phony or heretical.  We are, therefore, called upon to carry on a critical and a devotional activity at the same moment: two things hardly compatible.  In a fixed form, we ought to have “gone through the motions” before in our private prayers.  The rigid form really sets our devotions free.  I also find the more rigid it is, the easier it is to keep one’s thoughts from straying.  Also, it prevents getting too completely eaten up by whatever happens to be the preoccupation of the moment (i.e. war, an election, or what not).  The permanent shape of Christianity shows through. – C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), from a letter dated April 1, 1952; reproduced in The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C. S. Lewis; edited by Walter Hooper (San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., 1984), p. 203 (devotion for August 10).

Note: Lewis is speaking as a member of the Anglican Church.

On Psalm 95

Worship engages people to sing God’s praise as the trustworthy Savior, supreme King, and only Creator of the entire universe.  We hear God’s voice in the reading and preaching of the Word.  What do verses 1-7 teach us about our response to God’s Word in true worship?

In the worship service, there really are only two options: either we gladly glorify God through Jesus Christ or we harden our hearts and put Him to the test.  If we refuse to believe God’s Word, then even seeing miracles will not help us – Israel saw many miracles, but most of the congregation in the wilderness rebelled against God.  The tragic reality is that many come to worship services only to fall under God’s wrath.  The only way to enter the blessing of God’s rest is by faith in Christ.  Therefore, do not deceive yourself, thinking you can remain neutral.  Which of the two options do you find your heart taking?  Flee from the wrath of God, place yourself under the care of the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep, and engage your heart to worship God.

From: Family Worship Bible Guide, Joel R. Beeke, general editor (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016), p. 412.  Comments for Psalm 95.

God Remembers

It is not my remembering God, it is God’s remembering me which is the ground of my safety.  It is not my laying hold of His covenant, but His covenant’s laying hold of me.  Glory be to God!  The whole of the bulwarks of salvation are secured by divine power, and even the minor towers, which we may imagine might have been left to man, are guarded by almighty strength.  Even the remembrance of the covenant is not left to our memories, for we might forget, but our Lord cannot forget the saints whom He has engraved on the palms of His hands. . .My looking to Jesus brings me joy and peace, but it is God’s looking to Jesus which secures my salvation and that of all His elect, since it is impossible for our God to look at Christ – our bleeding Surety – and then to be angry with us for sins already punished in Him. – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), commenting on Genesis 9.15.

“The Lord is My Portion!”

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.  Indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.  (Psalm 16.6)

Had David written volumes to list all the treasures of heaven, earth, and sea, he would have said less, and to far less purpose, than by saying, “The Lord is my portion.”  If He is mine, what is the substance of my portion but His fullness, and the measure of my portion but His immensity, and the duration of my portion but His eternity?  In the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, He has been pleased to make Himself over to His people, with all He is and all He has.  “I will be your God.  I will pardon your sins.  I will sanctify your nature.  I will supply all your need.  I will be light to your darkness.  I will be strength to your weakness.  I will bless your bread and your water.  All my ways towards you shall be mercy and truth.  All things shall work together for your good.  I will guide you with My counsel and, afterwards, receive you to glory.” – William Jay (1769-1853), adapted from his volume, “Evening Exercises,” for August 11.

For the Lord’s Day (498)

In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth, of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And, when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are My beloved Son.  With You I am well pleased.”  The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness.  And He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.  And He was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to Him.  Now, after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the gospel.”  (Mark 1.9-15)

Matthew Henry (22)

These words are Christ’s answer to the church’s prayer in the close of the foregoing chapter: “Let my beloved come into his garden.”  Here He has come, and lets her know it.  See how ready God is to hear prayer, how ready Christ is to accept the invitations that His people give Him, though we are backward to hear His calls and accept His invitations.  He is free in condescending to us, while we are shy of attending to Him. – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), commenting on Song of Solomon 5.1.*

*Henry, as with many interpreters, uses allegory to interpret Song of Solomon.

Who was Paul Writing About in Romans 7?

Who was the “I” who experiences this ethical frustration of willing but not doing?  Was Paul referring to his own pre-Christian experiences of wrestling with the Torah?  Not likely.  The pre-Christian Paul seems to have viewed himself as “faultless” with respect to doing the law (cp. Philippians 3.6).  Of course, the Christian Paul, looking back on his former life, may have seen it all quite differently.  Was Paul perhaps referring to Jews in general and to the failure of their law-centered life?  There is little evidence in the Jewish literature that Paul’s contemporaries experienced such frustration between willing and doing the law.  Paul may have been referring to Christians; Christians alone would be fully aware of the pull in their lives between God’s standards and their continuing failure to measure up.  Verse 25 seems to point in this direction: in this life, short of the resurrection we are not yet perfected and are still a slave to sin’s law but, in our inmost selves, we belong not to sin but to God.  We are “in Christ,” no longer “in Adam.”

From: Paul and His Letters by John B. Polhill (Nashville: B&H Academic, 1999), pp. 291-292.

Early Systematic Theologies Not Well-Focused

It is painfully apparent, in the later editions of the Institutes, that the discursive model was strained and its clarity of doctrinal exposition threatened by the addition of polemics that interrupt the flow of thought and frequently move in directions not dictated by the positive statements of doctrine. (p. 61)

The gradual expansion of Calvin’s Institutes manifests virtually no concern for approach, method, or over-arching unity until the final edition of 1559, when Calvin reorganized the whole of the Institutes on the pattern of the creed.  Even in this final edition, the issue addressed by Calvin was the arrangement of all his chapters – including non-creedal topics – under the creedal form and not the development of a consistent approach, either synthetic or analytic, to the organization of doctrine. (p. 62)

From: Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725: Volume One: Prolegomena to Theology by Richard A. Muller; 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003 [1987]).