God is not merely mending, not simply restoring a status quo. Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity would have been, more glorious than any unfallen race now is (if at this moment the night sky conceals any such). The greater the sin, the greater the mercy: the deeper the death, the brighter the re-birth. And this super-added glory will, with true vicariousness, exalt all creatures, and those who have never fallen will thus bless Adam’s fall.
Compiled in Words to Live By
Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Copyright 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Revised 1960, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Energy for Today’s To-Dos
By John Piper
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13)
God is the decisive worker here. Work out your own salvation . . . for it is God who works in you, the willing and the working. God wills and he works for his good pleasure. But believing this does not make Christians passive. It makes them hopeful and energetic and courageous.
Each day there is a work to be done in our special ministry. Paul commands us to work at doing it. But he tells us how to do it in the power that God supplies: believe him! Believe the promise that in this day God will be at work in you to will and work for his good pleasure.
It is God himself, graciously at work each moment, that brings the promise of future grace into our present experience. It is not the gratitude for past grace that Paul focuses on when explaining how we work out our salvation. I mention this simply because so many Christians, when asked what the motive is for obedience, will say gratitude. But that is not what Paul emphasizes when he talks about motive and power for our working. He focuses on faith in what God is yet to do, not just what he has done. Work out your salvation! Why? How? For there is fresh grace for every moment from God. He is at work in your willing and doing every time you will and do. Believe that for the challenges of the next hour and the next thousand years.
The power of future grace is the power of the living Christ — always there to work for us at every future moment that we enter. So when Paul describes the effect of the grace of God that was with him, he says, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience — by word and deed” (Romans 15:18).
Therefore, since he would not dare to speak of anything but what Christ accomplished through his ministry, and yet he did, in fact, speak of what grace accomplished through his ministry (1 Corinthians 15:10), this must mean that the power of grace is the power of Christ.
Which means that the power we need for the next five minutes and the next five decades of ministry is the future grace of the omnipotent Christ, who will always be there for us — ready to will and ready to work for his good pleasure.
Are there gradations of sin?
I flinch a little bit when you ask me that question because I have in my memory not so fond recollections of having answered that question in the past when people got very upset with what I said. What mystifies me is that it seems that there are a lot of Christians who hold the position that there are no gradations of sin, that all sin is sin and there's no difference between less serious or more serious sins.
The Roman Catholic Church historically makes a distinction between venial sin and mortal sin, meaning that some sins are more heinous than others. Mortal sin is so called because it's serious enough to destroy the saving grace in the soul. It kills grace, and that's why it's called mortal.
Protestant Reformers in the sixteenth century rejected the concept of the distinction between venial and mortal. Calvin, for example, said that all sin is mortal in the sense that it deserves death, but no sin is mortal, save the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, insofar as it would destroy the salvation that Christ has achieved for us. In the Protestant reaction to the Roman Catholic distinction between venial and mortal sin, the Protestant Reformers did not deny gradations of sin. They still maintained a view of lesser and greater degrees of sin. What I'm saying is that in orthodox Christianity, both Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations have taken the position that there are some sins that are worse than other sins. They make these distinctions because it's so plainly taught in the Scriptures. If we look at the Old Testament law, we see that certain offenses are to be dealt with in this world through capital punishment and others through corporal punishment. Distinctions are made, for example, between murder with malice aforethought and what we would call involuntary manslaughter. There are at least twenty-five occasions where the New Testament makes a distinction between lesser and greater forms of evil. Jesus says, for example, at his own trial, "Those who have delivered me to you have greater guilt than you have."
There is abundant evidence in the Scriptures to postulate a view of the gradations of sin. Not only that, but the very simple principles of justice would indicate that. But I think that people stumble on this point for two reasons. One is Saint James's statement "He who sins against one point of the law, sins against the whole law." That sounds as if James is saying that if you tell a little white lie, it's as bad as killing somebody in cold blood. But James is actually saying that all sin is serious insofar as every sin is an offense against the lawgiver, so that in the slightest sin I'm sinning against the law of God. I have violated the whole context of that law in many ways. So all sin is serious, but it doesn't follow logically that all sin is equally serious.
People also refer to Jesus' statement that if you lust after a woman, you've violated the law against adultery. Jesus doesn't say that it is as bad to lust as it is to commit the actual act. He's simply saying that if you merely refrain from the actual act you're not totally clean; there are lesser elements of the law that you have violated.
Calvin and Calvinism: Ryan M. Reeves Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Faith Expels Guilt, Greed, and Fear
By John Piper
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)
Paul is aiming at love. And one of the essential sources of this great effect is sincere faith. The reason faith is such a sure source of love is that faith in God’s grace expels from the heart the sinful powers that hinder love.
If we feel guilty, we tend to wallow in self-centered depression and self-pity, unable to see, let alone care about, anyone else’s need. Or we play the hypocrite to cover our guilt, and so destroy all sincerity in relationships, which makes real love impossible. Or we talk about other people’s faults to minimize the guilt of our own, which love does not do. So, if we are going to love, the destructive effects of guilt must be overcome.
It’s the same with fear. If we feel fearful, we tend not to approach a stranger at church who might need a word of welcome and encouragement. Or we may reject frontier missions as a vocation, because it sounds too dangerous. Or we may waste money on excessive insurance, or get swallowed up in all manner of little phobias that make us preoccupied with ourselves and blind us to the needs of others. All of which are the opposite of love.
It’s the same with greed. If we are greedy, we may spend money on luxuries — money that ought to go to the spread of the gospel. We don’t undertake anything risky, lest our precious possessions and our financial future be jeopardized. We focus on things instead of people, or see people as resources for our material advantage. So love is ruined.
But faith in future grace produces love by pushing guilt and fear and greed out of the heart.
It pushes out guilt because it holds fast to the hope that the death of Christ is sufficient to secure acquittal and righteousness now and forever (Hebrews 10:14).
It pushes out fear because it banks on the promise, “Fear not, for I am with you. . . . I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
And it pushes out greed because it is confident that Christ is greater wealth than all the world can offer (Matthew 13:44).
So when Paul says, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from . . . sincere faith,” he is speaking of the tremendous power of faith to overcome all the obstacles to love. When we fight the fight of faith — the fight to believe the promises of God that kill guilt and fear and greed — we are fighting for love.
Phoebe Palmer - Revivalist and Social Activist
Verse: Galatians 3:28
Quote: "Male and female were now one in Jesus Christ. The Spirit now descended alike on all. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak as the Spirit gave utterance. . . ."
Remembered as the mother of the Holiness Movement, Phoebe Palmer (1807 - 1874) was a teacher, evangelist, and writer who strongly promoted Wesley's doctrine of Christian perfection. She was also a leading social activist and an early feminist who maintained that women could minister equally alongside men. Born in New York City to devoted Methodists, she was immersed in the faith from infancy. Her father, a prosperous engineer, often recalled how he had sneaked away as a child from his Anglican home in Yorkshire, England, to hear the aged John Wesley preach. "Ye must be born again" was the message that marked his conversion.
At nineteen, Phoebe married Walter Palmer, a homeopathic physician who shared her commitment to Methodism. In the following years she mourned the deaths of her little ones, convinced that God was taking them to teach her a lesson. "God takes our treasure to heaven, that our hearts may be there also," she penned in her diary. "The Lord has declared himself a jealous God. . . . After my loved ones were snatched away, I saw that I had concentrated my time and attentions far too exclusively, to the neglect of the religious activities demanded."
Religious activities became Phoebe's priority in the following decades, activities marked by her experience of entire sanctification. Such perfectionism was still an important theme in Methodism, though many ministers, finding it impossible to live out, had abandoned the doctrine. But several years into their marriage both Phoebe and Walter claimed the experience of "perfect love." At the same time, Phoebe's sister, Sarah Lankford, was hosting Tuesday Meetings for the Promotion of Holiness. In attendance were both women and men, including prominent Methodist leaders. Phoebe joined Sarah, and so popular was her teaching that she received invitations to speak at camp meetings and other venues. She left her surviving children behind with Walter and a maid, though he later joined her part time. "Never have we witnessed such triumphs of the cross as during the past summer and fall," she reported in 1857. "Not less than two thousand have been gathered into the fold. . . . Hundreds of believers have been sanctified wholly, and hundreds have received baptism of the Holy Ghost, beyond any former experienced."
Her ministry corresponded with the Prayer Revival of 1857 - 58 that began inauspiciously when Jeremiah C. Lamphier, a lay minister serving at a declining Dutch Reformed church, posted fliers for a weekly noonday prayer meeting near New York City's financial district. With six in attendance at the first meeting, it spread across the city and across the county, spurred in part by the events of October 14, 1857, when Wall Street was suddenly in the throes of a crushing financial panic.
In addition to her revival ministry, Palmer established the Five Points Mission in New York that offered housing, health care, and education to needy families. Often the brunt of criticism for pushing the boundaries of women's roles, she responded with Promise of the Father (1859), defending women in ministry. Earlier she had written:
Last night I wrote, as the caption of an article I intend to write . . . "has the spirit of prophecy fallen on woman? . . . The promise of the Father has either been fulfilled, or has not . . . 'And it shall come to pass, after those days, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.' " And did one of that waiting company wait in vain? . . . Male and female were now one in Jesus Christ. The Spirit now descended alike on all. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak as the Spirit gave utterance. . . .
Palmer left behind no organized movement but her teachings paved the way for the later Holiness and Pentecostal movements. Her daughter, Phoebe Knapp, wrote many hymn tunes, including the familiar tune for Fanny Crosby's popular hymn, "Blessed Assurance."