God’s Wisdom in the Gospel
“To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”- Romans 16:27
Fittingly, Paul’s concluding doxology in Romans ends with a reminder of the great wisdom of God. After all, it is in the gospel of God presented in this epistle that the Lord reveals the depths of His wisdom and proves that He is the only wise God (Rom. 16:27). All other gods are fools, pretenders to the throne.
Even though false gods are fools and unable to fulfill the deepest needs and longings of human beings, we have served them anyway. We have rebelled against the most holy Creator even though creation itself tells us we should honor Him and give Him thanks. In our sin, we seek gods of our own devising, and are turned over to our sin and idolatry. Jew and Gentile alike are guilty of this great sin, and it puts us under the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18-3:20).
There is but one solution to the unrighteousness that makes us deserving of judgment, and that is the righteousness of another. This righteousness is received by faith alone apart from the works of God’s law. Nothing we can do will meet God’s perfect standard, and only the perfect obedience of Jesus, who lived to make us righteous and died to bear the wrath we have merited, preserving the Lord’s justice, can give us peace with our Maker (3:21-5:21).
In God’s great wisdom, this righteousness and peace are provided for us while we are still sinners, so that we cannot boast. The legal judgment against us having been satisfied, we receive the Holy Spirit and begin to walk truly, but imperfectly, in the ways of the Lord. Our failures show us that only Christ can rescue us from this body of death and redeem the created order. Thus, we return to Jesus again and again, being reminded that His work alone can avail before the heavenly throne and grant us a secure citizenship in His Father’s kingdom (chap. 6-8). The fact that so many Jews have rejected the gospel does not negate these realities, for only the elect of God among the Jews will believe. Their failure to believe is history repeating itself, and it allows elect Gentiles to be grafted into the people of Israel so that the Jews, too, will one day return to Christ (chap. 9-11). Those justified by the only wise God bear holy fruit as they love others, use their gifts to serve the church, obey the authorities, and present themselves to God as living sacrifices (chap. 12-16).
God’s wisdom is to impute to us the perfect righteousness of Christ through faith alone so that we will be at peace with Him, receive His Spirit, and live to please Him because we are grateful for the salvation that He alone provides. This is the gospel and its fruit in our lives.
Coram Deo Take some time today to reflect on the gospel—the message that Christ lived and died to cover your sins with His righteousness, cleanse you from sin by His blood, and give you peace with God. By faith alone in Christ alone, apart from any good works you might do, you enjoy the benefits of what Jesus has done. This is the gospel of grace, our only hope in life and death, and it reveals the sovereign majesty, holiness, and mercy of the Lord.
Passages for Further Study Isaiah 53
Romans 3:9–31; 5:12–21; 8; 12:1–2
It was through the preaching of this man that I received my call to ministry and it was the sermons of his wife's books and those original transcripts that she gave to me years ago that lit a passion in my heart for God's Word. Here is one professor's take on this dear man of God. (Stan Winder)
Peter Marshall: Preaching with a Sanctified Imagination
Paul J. Hussey Minister of pastoral care at First Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., and an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Seminary Peter Marshall often said, "Spirituality is a matter of perception, not proof." His wife, Catherine, claimed this statement was his favorite thought. This statement also stands as the defining commentary on his imaginative preaching.
Most preachers in the first half of the 20th century relied on rhetoric to proclaim God's truth. Marshall decided to paint word pictures for his listeners. He dazzled his audience with a poetic language that evoked the feelings of his hearers and connected their feelings to biblical facts. His unique style prompted his ministerial friends in Washington, D.C., to nickname him "Twittering Birds Marshall."1
Some people who heard Marshall preach supposed he came by his poetic speech naturally. He was born in the land of Bobby Burns and could lapse into his Scottish brogue at the first sound of a bagpipe. Like many Scots, his language had a musical quality that appealed to many listeners, especially in America where he ministered. Marshall was born in 1902 in Coatbridge, Scotland, an industrial area nine miles from the sea. The lure of the sea enticed the young Marshall to join the British Navy at age 14. The Navy, however, only accepted volunteers at 15 years nine months, so he was forced to return home, where an alcoholic stepfather made life difficult. Even though Marshall worked full time and attended night school in which he studied mechanical engineering, his broken relationship with his stepfather compelled him to move out of his parents' home at age 20.
Marshall surrendered to Christian ministry after hearing a missionary from China appeal for workers. Because Marshall had neither the education required by the London Missionary Society nor the money to obtain it, he traveled to America, where his cousin said he could earn a living and train for the ministry. His first few months in his new country, however, were anything but promising. He commented on his early days in New Jersey in a sermon: "I worked hard for long hours. I dug ditches. I wielded spade and shovel. I was unemployed."2 A friend encouraged Marshall to move south. After earnestly praying for God's guidance, he relocated to Birmingham, Alabama. In a few weeks he started working at The Birmingham News, joined the First Presbyterian Church, became the president of the church's organization for young people, accepted the teacher's position for the men's Bible class and began making preparation to attend seminary. His personal struggles and hard work during his early years wove their way into his preaching and gave his listeners something with which to identify. Marshall first heard about a "sanctified imagination" as a student at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He explained to David Simpson, a classmate, his thinking about preaching with a sanctified imagination: "What we need to do is take a passage of Scripture and so carefully and accurately reconstruct the context of it that the scene comes to life. We see it first ourselves. Then we take our listeners to the spot in imagination. We make them see and hear what happened so vividly that the passage will live forever in their minds and hearts."3 Marshall used imagination not only to recreate the historical setting of Scripture but also to evoke the memories of his listeners and associate their personal experiences with the meaning of the biblical passage. Like Jesus, Marshall drew upon images with which his listeners could easily identify, and he used these images to convey the meaning of Scripture. Then he used the images to establish new relationships between the meaning of the passage and the current situations of his listeners. Most of his sermons were not expository messages, but they were definitely biblical. His sermons would more appropriately be described as topical. He took the idea of the sermon from the text and developed it apart from the passage. Nevertheless, he generally bolstered his idea with several Scriptures outside the text. He believed the Bible was God's authoritative and inspired revelation to reveal Christ and instruct believers in Christian living. Marshall used his imaginative preaching with worshipers in church and people who heard him in non-religious settings. He was pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., from 1937-1949, where he spoke to overflow crowds as he had done in his previous two pastorates. Two years before his untimely death in 1949, he was elected chaplain of the United States Senate. Each day's activities began with prayer, but few senators interrupted their political conversations to listen—until Marshall became chaplain. His straight-forward appeals to God for guidance over the Senate's deliberations compelled senators to cease talking and listen as Marshall prayed. As the United States rapidly became a dominant force in the world for freedom, the senators heard him pray in March of 1947, "Save us from accepting a little of what we know to be wrong in order to get a little of what we imagine to be right."4 Then about a month later Marshall prayed, "We know, our Father, that there is a time to speak and a time to keep silence. Help us to tell the one from the other. When we should speak, give us the courage of our convictions. When we should keep silence, restrain us from speaking, lest, in our desire to appear wise, we give ourselves away."5 Soon the Senate chambers filled with government workers who came to hear Marshall pray. The Associated Press and prominent magazines, such as Reader's Digest, began to print his prayers and enabled him to captivate a national audience with his "sanctified imagination."
Marshall never thought his sermons were good enough to publish; but nine months after his death from a heart attack, his wife published 12 sermons in Mr. Jones, Meet the Master (1949) and six more in his biography, entitled A Man Called Peter (1951). An additional 12 messages for young people were published in John Doe, Disciple (1963), and all his senatorial prayers appeared in The Prayers of Peter Marshall (1954). Marshall believed and preached a conservative theology, but he did not try to prove it. He portrayed it in pictures that his listeners could hang on the walls of their minds—pictures they could trust to help them understand spiritual reality. Preaching with a sanctified imagination also allowed Marshall to follow the Spirit's direction in developing his pictorial preaching. His method is worthy of study because this style never goes out of fashion, always attracts hearers and appeals to the imagination in everyone.
1. Catherine Marshall, A Man Called Peter (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1951), 41.
2. Peter Marshall, Mr. Jones, Meet the Master (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1949; reprint, Robert Schuller Ministries, 1988), 12.
3. Catherine Marshall, ed., John Doe, Disciple (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1963), 124-5.
4. Catherine Marshall, ed., The Prayers of Peter Marshall (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1954), 152.
5. Ibid., 158.
The question for me when it comes to sharing my faith is not "Why?' but "Why not?"
The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from above.
Isaiah 57:15-18 We seldom hear the term “backsliding” now, but it’s still in the Bible. Jeremiah 3:22 says, “Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding.” Hosea 11:7 says, “My people are bent on backsliding from Me.”
The word “backslider” is a visual term that describes someone who, having made progress in his or her Christian life, slides back into old patterns. It’s like a man climbing a hill who takes a step forward but slides two steps backward. Is that you? We’re all prone to backsliding. Dr. Harry Ironside said, “Any Christian who is not at the present time enjoying Christ as much as he did in a past day, or living for God as devotedly as he once did, is just to that extent a backslider.”
But how great God’s mercy! He says of the backslider, “I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, and restore comforts to him” (Isaiah 57:17-18). If you’re sliding backward into some bad habits, change direction. Now is the time to make forward progress in your Christian life!
A stranded ship, an eagle with a broken wing, a garden covered with weeds, a harp without strings, a church in ruins—all these are sad sights, but a backslider is a sadder sight still.
J. C. Ryle
Words by Charles R. Swindoll
"A word fitly spoken," wrote the wise Solomon, "is like apples of gold in settings of silver" (Prov. 25:11, KJV).
Like Jell-O, concepts assume the mold of the words into which they are poured. Who has not been stabbed awake by the use of a particular word . . . or combination of words? Who has not found relief from a well-timed word spoken at the precise moment of need? Who has not been crushed beneath the weight of an ill-chosen word? And who has not gathered fresh courage because a word of hope penetrated the fog of self-doubt? The word "word" remains the most powerful of all four-letter words.
Fitly spoken words are right words . . . the precise words needed for the occasion. Mark Twain, a unique wordsmith himself, once wrote: "The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
One set of words purifies our thoughts, transplanting us, at least for an instant, to the throne room of God; another set of words ignites lust, tempting us to visit the house of a harlot. Some words bring tears to our eyes in a matter of seconds; others bring fear that makes the hair on the back of our necks stand on end.
Now, let's return again to more choice words from the pen of Solomon: "The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd" (Eccl. 12:11).
J. B. Phillips correctly assessed the impact of such words when he wrote: "If words are to enter men's hearts and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men's defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds."
The finest examples of that are the words and phrases of Jesus Christ. His choice of words. His placement of words. His economy of words. Even His eloquent turn of a phrase. The life-changing message of Jesus.
Being the ultimate wordsmith, Jesus wrapped up some of His most significant words in a brief statement we commonly call the Golden Rule: "Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 7:12).
What a classic example of "apples of gold in settings of silver."
Are your words fitly spoken?
God Doesn't Have to Explain Himself by Charles R. Swindoll
Even in the midst of disappointment, surprise, and mystery, you will discover an amazing thing. You will discover how very reliable and trustworthy God is—and how secure you are in His hands. And oh, how we need that in this day of relativism and vacillation, filled with empty talk and hidden behind a lot of semantic footwork. In the midst of "Spin City," it is the Lord who talks straight. It is the Lord who has preserved Truth in black and white in His Word. And it is the Lord who has the right to do as He wishes around us, to us, and in us.
Puzzling as the process may be to us, He stays with His plan. There is no need for us to know all the reasons, and He certainly doesn't need to explain Himself. If we're going to let God be God, then we're forced to say He has the right to take us through whatever process He chooses.
Let Him have His way with your life, for nothing is worse than resisting and resenting the One who is at work in you.
God has the right to take us through whatever process He chooses. --Chuck Swindoll
December 28 : We welcome our SPECIAL SPEAKER - Josh Weeks!!! He is a recent graduate of Gordon Conwell Seminary. We are privileged to have him speaking during Sunday school and church.