Wecome to Logia, the personal blog of Paul Hartwig. Reflections and resources to enhance understanding of what God has revealed of himself in Scripture.
The Law vs The Gospel
'You also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined
to Another...' (Rom 7:4)
All Protestants of the 16th century were firmly united in their hot convictions over justification by faith as the way to begin the Christian life. Yet not all Protestants were as united in their convictions about how the Christian was to
be in relationship to God's Law. Martin Luther and his followers championed a path of total antithesis between the Gospel and Law, while John Calvin and his followers took up a more complementary relationship between Grace and Law. This cleavage within the Protestant camp is no longer as divisive as it used to be, but the truths and implications of that old discussion remain as practical and significant as ever.
In this post I want to commend the Lutheran approach to Law and Gospel. I think that an awareness of the two paths to live and ways of reading Scripture are essential and most relevant in every way for the Christian. Before I continue let me remind you that by 'the Law' and the 'legal' relationship to God we are speaking about things that 'are holy, righteous and good' (Rom 7:12). The Law is God's will for us, the divine 'ought' for our lives that provides the content for our obedience before God. At the heart of 'Law' is not dispensable ceremonies and rituals but the demand for a supreme love to God and and equal love to our neighbour.
Firstly, the path of the Law. We read Scripture and relate to God in terms of our dutiful obligation. We see, concur and confess the things that please our Lord and show us what we ought to do. The signage on this Scriptural route to God (James' 'royal law') are a tissue of Biblical verses and chapters, all confirming our course. Our own conscience internally resonates with the rightness of what we must do in life to receive his well done. The works of his law are plain to us. We know on this path that what we sow we will reap and that judgment is a necessity for 'will not the Judge of the world to do what is right?' (Gen 18:25). Our new testaments also have much of the Law. Actually it is heightened in the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. Read Matthew 5! 'Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect'. So the Legal way runs from Genesis to Revelation and is ever with us and in us. Enlightened hearts and lives in Christ see and feel the law more clearly and closely.
Secondly, the path of the Gospel. It is the opposite of and irreconcilable to the Law. It is another path to God, one of faith not of works. It speaks not of the obligatory 'you must' and the moral 'ought'. It speaks only of the divine 'I will' and of the Promise of his Grace. It is the voice of Jesus calling his faithless disciples 'brothers' in his resurrection words to Mary. It is the alien revelatory word (not born of human reason) that says 'there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus'. It is the word that says to a Christ-denying Peter 'don't let your heart be troubled. Believe in God believe also in me'. It is the way where the ungodly are declared guiltless and acquitted, and the passive paralytic is promised that 'all your sins are forgiven'. There is only Good News on this way and those who walk this way in Christ are promised that 'no charge can be brought against God's elect since God is the One who justifies'. The Isaianic promises of comfort are found only on this way, where for those who walk that way God says 'if anyone stirs up strife it will not be from Me, and you will confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment' (Is 54:15, 17).
Has not your own experience before God testified to the truth of these two ways, the two wavelengths of law and grace? When your conscience speaks and personally applies the Law, and every page of the Bible mirrors its claims with greater force, are we are not shut up in disobedience and do we not cry out with Paul 'wretched man that I am who will deliver me from the body of this death'? We can turn Christianity into the Law very easily. Yet to turn from the Law to Christianity is not 'easy' to our human nature. It is unnatural. That conversion of life and mind requires the revelation of God to enlighten 'the truth as it is in Jesus' and give us the liberty of the Holy Spirit.
I think that Martin Luther was a good disciple of the great apostle of liberty. I find myself rather Lutheran on this matter. But hopefully more biblical than Lutheran. Think on these things, and may God himself teach you about this great matter of the Law and the Gospel.
HOW TO SAVE YOURSELF
Each day we are all bombarded by life threatening germs and viruses. Our body is continually under attack and always in danger of physiological degeneration. Yet our bodies save themselves. Its called the immune system. With most people their natural immunity defeats the nasty intruders and huge mortal battles are won without any personal awareness. Only when our immune system is outclassed or malfunctions do we become aware of how important it is. On the whole, it saves us a thousand times a day! Thank God for our immune system.
Now what about saving yourself from all the immorality, infidelity, error and emotional manipulation our hearts and minds are bombarded with daily and weekly ‘world without end’? In the teeth of the fact that any sin has disastrous consequences - consider how Adam’s sin was far from any open defiance against God but committed almost by mistake - how do we save ourselves and keep our spiritual immune system robust? Let us listen to the apostle Paul’s words to his protégé Timothy (1 Timothy 4:26):
“Pay attention to yourself and the doctrine. Continue firmly in them. For doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”
The latter part of these instructions takes us by surprise. We are not used to seeing the command to save or deliver employed in this reflexive sense. The contiguity of words ‘save yourself’ is startling. Normally the appeal to save is addressed to God and the verbal action of saving has God for the subject and humans for its object. Here Paul seems to put this order on its head. Without getting into the depths of systematic theology, we should hear the Spirit in this text call us to the urgent and indispensable task of keeping our persons clean from our daily contaminations.
So how do we ‘save ourselves’ and those we speak to? We do this by doing two things: (1) by paying continuous attention to ourselves; and (2) by paying continuous attention to the doctrine.
Self-management is put first because ‘like a city that is broken down and without a wall, so is a person who cannot control his spirit’ (Proverbs 25:28). Self government is the draw-bridge that gives or denies access into the citadel of your life. Paul expects Timothy to never rest the reigns of the horse on its neck: ‘Hold the reigns to your own life firmly Timothy, for if you do, and do so contentiously and continuously, you will save yourself’. Or as Solomon again says: “guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life’ (4:23). Then Paul directs Timothy into Christian doctrine. Yes doctrine! Any self-governance must be for some objective and into some direction. The path Paul wants us to direct our lives is into the teaching of the Lord. This is the truth about God, creation, salvation and all that relates to the Gospel in Christ. This is the ‘lamp of the Lord’ and directs our feet in the Way everlasting. Doctrine is how we can see what is at our feet, what the dangers are around us, and in what direction we are to go. It is ‘the path of the righteous which is like the bright morning light growing brighter and brighter until full day’ (Proverbs 4:18 NET). Outside of the parameters of doctrine we are lost in the dark and ensnared in the devil’s lies.
So, fortify your own spiritual immune system by these two agencies. Do them for dear life. If you do these two things you will keep yourself from destruction. Take your life by the throat, and spend the remnant of your days within the script of Scripture. You will also be of immense help to others. You will be able to keep them from error and direct their feet into the Way everlasting with you. In the ‘way that seems right to a person but its end is the way to death’ (Proverbs 14:12) you will be a beacon of truth and hope. How the churches and communities need such people! May you and I become such for the sake and salvation of ourselves and our hearers. What could be more urgent than this?
Good Friday is Grace Defined
The greatest day in human history was the worst day in human history. On this day human nature and all its institutional forms was revealed for what it really is. Good Friday is only good because God in his grace was doing something good as people acted out their worst on the Son of God. It is this divine-human antithesis acting simultaneously and in glorious contradiction In the Cross that defines for us the grace of God. While men were doing their worst toward God, God was doing his best for them.
The Gospels all witness to the fact that Jesus was the focus of every sort of human abuse and rejection. It started with the very personal betrayal of Jesus by Judas. This close unfaithfulness was a shock to the inner circle of the 11. Then Peter’s repeated verbal denial of any acquaintance with Jesus shattered the confidence of many disciples and must have been fuel to the fire of their own doubts and fears. In this we see that even Jesus’ followers share in fallen human nature and are under the power of sin. The national leadership of the Jews had decided to murder Jesus after concluding that his ongoing success would mean their downfall. The Nazarene preacher and healer had divided the nation into two irreconcilable positions: he is the Messiah or he is not. The Torah did not tolerate fake messiahs. Rather, it commanded capital punishment for such blasphemy. The high priest, Caiaphas, a leader in this national opposition to Jesus, knew his Bible and reasonably and fervently advocated for his execution. We see in these facts that theology, reason and religious leadership are also poisoned by sin and become ‘the flesh’ when they do not embrace the weakness of the Christ. The institutions of national governance are also shown to be corrupt in this Holy Week. On Good Friday all the entities of authority we encounter in the Gospel, one and all, reject Christ. Jewish leaders and authorities and Roman leaders and authorities team up against Jesus. They all fail. They all go wrong, terribly. They totally disqualify their right to exist since they used their rights to condemn Jesus rather than affirm him. This is human nature in its individual and corporate will at its worst. The carpet is pulled from under the feet of all that is human on this day. The only One who perfectly loved his neighbor as himself now reaps only hatred and rejection. Friends, enemies, kith and kin, Jews and Gentiles, all give him the Crown of Thorns.
This is unholy week…..yet it is also Holy Week. It will soon be Good Friday… yet it is also evil Friday on the same day. God was doing his greatest work simultaneously to man doing his worst work. This is what GRACE is all about. Grace does not act beneficially toward the good and deserving but toward the bad and undeserving. Grace is defined by this Friday. Every human causality leading up to the nailing of Jesus to the Roman Cross and then pitching it into the hole dug on Golgotha was also matched and mastered at every point by a Divine causality, will and hand working unbelievable grace for the perpetrators. For every human deed that meant evil to Jesus on that day, Jesus meant it for their good. The hand of the brothers who put Joseph into that empty cistern were the hands of God filling up that cistern for those brothers to drink in the future time of drought. This is the power of the Cross, and this is the power of Grace. It is what the Good News is all about. How can we not respond thankfully to such a God a million times a day and let nothing keep us back from Him?
Tribute to a Colleague and a Friend
Dr. Kevin Roy (left in picture)
October 10, 1948 - November 27, 2021
Is it possible to discover a 'Jonathan' after he has left this world? A week ago on this hour you slipped into the presence of your Lord. How fitting that you were out walking in the hills of Cumbria, near the Lake District, marveling at the beauty of the recent fallen snow. You stopped to talk to a friend and while sitting in his car, leaned back and were home with your Lord. Like Enoch you “walked with God, and you were not, for God took you.”
Memories of the decade we had together as colleagues teaching at the Cape Town Baptist Theological Seminary are fresh and vivid thirty years later. You were loved by all. Your winsome disposition, self-deprecating humor, and disarming smile—how could we all not be won over by your sincerity. Hubris and guile were strangers to your person.
You came to us at the Cape Town College in 1989 after nine years in the Dorothea Mission and almost a decade in the pastorate. As a consequence, the lantern of your spiritual life always burned bright and you traveled light, not distracted by the weight of any materialistic aspirations. I loved to hear you pray because you were not conversing with us but with a Father who you knew and talked with daily. The reverence with which you spoke the name “God” in lectures and in prayers struck a cord in our souls.
Your idiosyncrasies endeared you to all. You would stand before a class and during the lectures naturally fold both arms behind your back — a feat that I doubt Houdini could emulate —and then challenging gravity you would rock back and forth on your heels. When the arms were unwrapped they would at times flail out to stress a point of enthusiasm like discombobulated windmills. I remember the day I walked past your closed office door and heard a commotion. I paused for a moment and it sounded like you were finally taking a student to task. I had never heard such censure from you before. I heard no student voice and knocked on your door. Seeing no-one I enquired, “are you alright.” You replied, “Yes, and merely giving myself a good talking to.”
You loved the student’s questions and your classes were always a safe place to grow and learn. I remember well our theological discussions and search for truth and courage in our evolving political South African context. Your heart was always wide and the broken and the hurting found an advocate and champion in you. Always you were willing to dispense forgiveness and in our faculty meetings I was the hawk and you were the dove. I would often tease you with the comment that “you would give the Devil the benefit of the doubt.”
Our histories overlapped: you were born in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia); my birthplace Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). You grew up on a farm near Broken Hill and attended a Catholic private school, St. Georges, in Salisbury. I went to University a few miles away. You went to Bristol University to study Civil Engineering on a prestigious academic bursary. After a year you came back to African soil and sunshine and your life moved in a different vocational direction. Your heart was captured by the Lord and you never let go.
Although an ocean and 10,000 miles separated us these past twenty years our friendship never wavered. We stayed in touch through the gift of email and, when I returned every May to Cape Town we met for coffee at Constantiaberg. We picked up our friendship and conversation like we had seen each other yesterday. The three hours of banter, news briefs, laughter, and sharing of information evaporated as if a few minutes as we covered updates on our students across the world that we had both taught and shared stories of our friends and family. In 2016 you flew down to Cape Town and we had ten days to catch up as you taught Carson-Newman University students at Team House on the Noordhoek Beach. You were pastoring in Gauteng then and I encouraged you to retire and enjoy farm life and family in northern England. You waited a few more years because you did not want to abandon the church in transition —so typical of the Kevin Roy axiom of life — others first, Kevin second.
I always looked forward to your Christmas letters with news of the family you treasured and loved and imagined the beauty of your surrounds. I had hoped to come your way during my sabbatical in the fall of 2020 but Covid struck and threw us all off balance. In days to come I will visit the oak tree on your farm where your ashes will be sprinkled and walk down the village road that you took before walking into God’s presence. I have re-read your recent emails with tears and joy this past week, You wrote in an email in August of 2018 of the joy of settling on the farm in the Cumbria environs, “Having been born on a farm, it looks like I am going to die on one.”
Up to the last you were giving away your life in ministry to people and shepherding a flock of believers at Castle Sowerby Chapel. When you went walking you memorized Scripture and prayed. What living words were you speaking and praying on that last walk shortly before the Lord came and took you home? Your life touched your students, parishioners, and colleagues with such encouragement, friendship, and grace. Our hearts are bruised and the loss of your presence profound, but we know now you live “forever in the house of the Lord.”
. . . a 'David'
December 2, 2021
Dr. David Crutchley
Dean of Religion
Jefferson City, Tennessee, 37760
My Tribute to Kevin Roy
Every remembrance of Kevin Roy’s sudden and unexpected home-call on the 27th November 2021 is echoed in my heart with feelings of deep and uncommon sadness and loss. This tribute of mine is a personal attempt to articulate why my knowledge that Kevin is ‘absent from the body and present with the Lord’ produces those strong feelings within me. I write for very personal reasons, but believe it will also honour Christ and his servant whom he loved ‘to the uttermost’.
I was in my second year at the Cape Town Baptist Seminary, 1989, when a rather idiosyncratic new lecturer was presented to the student body. His rather quirky characteristics and abstracted bearing told us we were receiving a lecturer without precedent, whose uniqueness would be easy prey for comical imitation. Who amongst us can forget his early modes of lecturing: the frequent rocking motions in all directions, his compulsive wiping of the whole face with his hand for reasons known to him alone, his gesticulations synced to his varied intonations, etc. His clothing was also memorable, especially his short ties and those trousers which continually needed preventative intervention- explicit and visible to all! Dr Roy was a phenomenon to us, and his entire manner was entirely the opposite to the composed and well groomed Dr Crutchley. We were blessed by some very able teachers, but the manner of Kevin surpassed them all.
Kevin was my lecturer mainly in the fields of Systematic Theology and Church History. In those subjects he came into his own, excelling especially in Church History. I’m sure we all knew then, and still do, that Dr Roy knew Church History. Though in teaching Systematics Kevin frequently expressed his ignorance of certain details (he was never pretentious), in matters of Church History he infrequently expressed ignorance. His immersion in Church History - especially that story in its South African chapter - and his own living faith in Jesus Christ had combined in him to give us a lecturer who eschewed all extremes and sectarian Christianity and humbly sought to direct his life and students ‘to the faith once for all given to the saints’. I now can identify him as a reformed catholic. This made him a friend to the Charismatics and the Reformed, the Activists and the Pietists. He was a catholic (with a small ‘c’), a mere Christian alert to any ‘tribalism’ in the Kingdom of God. It was also evident to me that Kevin loved his Bible. Though he did not give any courses in Biblical Exegesis, his love for the Scriptures and belief in their inerrancy clearly fuelled his life and ministry. He would frequently share from some text that had just spoken to him in his private reading. It was refreshing to have a lecturer who was not ‘preparing lectures’ but one who taught from out of a life in tune with both the Saviour and the Scriptures. Little did I know in 1989 how formative that inimitable Dr Roy was to be in my life and career.
Fast forward to 1999. In this year I decided to enroll with Pretoria University through CTBS for my PhD. My topic interfaced with the subjects of Eschatology and Ecclesiology, and I knew who I wanted as my Supervisor. Kevin was glad to take on the role, and I think from that time onwards he became a friend who travelled with me through subjects and materials that we both felt passionately about. I was very fortunate to have someone at hand even in Pinelands to give knowledgeable feedback on the 19th century Brethren Movement. We spent some good time together in his home, a home which I always felt matched the friendly, sympathetic and godly man that characterised Kevin. My conviction that all theological research should be illustrated by Church History probably grew out of that formative time in my relationship with him. When I graduated in 2002 at St James Church, how glad I am now that it was Kevin who presented me to the assembly for the conferral of my PhD. Who would have guessed that evening that God was preparing me to return to the Seminary 11 years later to lecture in those exact subjects Kevin had taught me - Systematic Theology and Church History!
We shared much in common. We both liked to walk alone to meditate and pray. We both served in Baptist pastorates. We both taught Theology and Church History at the same institution and then both of us went on to pastor churches outside our denomination. We both wanted the Baptist Union to adopt a clearer theological identity in terms of creation and gender. And we both embraced a more reformed catholic identity in theology. Yet in other ways we are very unlike. Kevin was a ‘consultant’ for me who would give wise and experienced guidance. He was an authority in South African and Baptist History. He was a mature man in life and in thought. Even though living far away in Carlisle, I could text him with a query and just share something I had found interesting in church history. He was a senior friend on the one path we were both travelling toward the Celestial City.
How grateful I am now that Heather and I could have visited him and Ina in 2019 in Carlisle. Closer personal friendship around common theological and denominational matters were formed in his cozy loft above a busy family home. The memories of standing with him at Hadrian’s Wall in the pouring rain and talking of the Roman Empire and Early Christianity will not be forgotten. And of course Kevin driving those narrow farm lanes with his body in the car and his mind somewhere else! He was as inimitable as ever. I have lost a comrade and friend in Kevin. But I think he has given me enough over the past 33 years to continue some of his work in his absence. When the Master of the household calls one of his servants to leave the fields and come in to the Main House, who can begrudge such a honour to a fellow worker, and a veteran at that. I’m very grateful that the Master sent him to work in the fields close to where I was learning to labour. The Lord could have sent him somewhere else. Later, when I am called in, we can complete this good relationship that has only just begun.
I close with a text that I think Kevin personally cherished, and I often think of him when I read it.
“ For this is what the high and exalted One says – he who lives for ever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15)
Paul B. Hartwig
Christianity is Christ!
“Christianity takes its substance as well as its name from Jesus Christ. It is not a construct of human philosophy, though it points to true wisdom. It is not a system of theological dogma, though dogmatic truths are involved. It is not just an inward and subjective experience, though it entails a personal relationship with God. It is no mere code of ethics, though it carries with it a way of life. ... It is supremely christological: Christ is the beginning, centre and end. Christianity is Christ”
(G W Bromiley ISBE)
10 Points for South African Christians and Churches to Consider in January 2021
(‘There is a time to be quiet, and a time to speak up’ - Ecclesiastes 3:7)
“Halt! Who goes there?”
For every soldier on border patrol there comes a time when his routine and eventless tasks suddenly become real encounters with an intruder. An unusual and suspicious event sobers him up and reminds him why he is posted there, uniformed and armed. Yet before that sentinel on night patrol braces himself for confrontation it is vital that he establish ‘who is out there in the dark’ and ‘what behaviour is lawful’ between the countries he patrols. His interrogatory summons seeks to clarify such matters and determine his course of action.
Moving from this hypothetical scenario let me take up the same interrogatory question and direct it to a very current issue: Is it not time for Christians and Churches to give a respectful but firm ‘Halt! Who goes there’ to the State as it asserts itself over their Sunday congregations? I believe it is. Below I present to you a sort of check-list for soldiers of Christ who are seeking to know what boundary needs to be patrolled between the Church and the State and what behaviour is appropriate for those on either side of that line. The particular situation that has prompted this interrogation has been the South African Government’s temporary ban on all religious gatherings at the beginning of January 2021. It is claimed that such gatherings would expedite the transmission of the Covid19 flu virus. How should Churches respond to this new ban? Should they take it in-good-faith ‘lying down’ or in-better-faith ‘standing up’?
The 10 points for your serious consideration are the following:
1. A statement that most Christians have affirmed and still do is that Church communities should always obey the State unless the State commands them to do what God has prohibited, or when it prohibits something God has commanded. The words of Paul in Romans 13:1 (‘let every person be subject to the government authorities’) and the words of Peter in Acts 5:29 (‘we must obey God rather than men’) witness to both Biblical State Obedience and Biblical State Disobedience which the above principle seeks to navigate. Christians should always respect and uphold their governing authorities for the Lord’s sake but they are not called to translate that respect into unconditional obedience. As there is a time for children to disobey their parents (e.g., when they instruct them not to become Christians), so there is a time to disobey the State.
2. A separation between Church and State was implied by Christ when he said ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God’ (Mark 12:17). His wise words were as radical for his day as they are for ours. Christ’s words point to a separation in people’s responsibilities between the State and their Religion. This differentiation of responsibility means that neither the Religious body nor the State has the right to command the other on matters unrelated to their sphere of responsibility. This is why the Church has no more right to command the State to elect its officials or deploy its troops than the State has to appoint pastors or regulate worship services. These two social realms are autonomous (self-governing) and have no jurisdiction over each other since their membership, policies, practices and natures are different.
3. The modus-operandi (‘mode-of-operation’) of the Church and the State is totally different. The State has a coercive and forceful manner of function while the Church has a non-coercive and persuasive one. People attend worship services freely and voluntarily, but pay their taxes compulsively and involuntarily. In the Church ‘you ought to’ is the motive, but in the State it is ‘you must’. This is why any compelling ‘must’ commands issued by the State over ecclesiastical affairs are an alien intrusion into the nature of the Church and contrary to how it functions. The government may appeal to Churches to temporarily cease congregating, but they cannot order them to do so.
4. When the State believes that the welfare of its citizens is somehow compromised by their congregating together, it does not have the right to override the autonomy of the Church and temporarily confiscated its keys. Since the Church is made up of citizens, the State may command her citizens in matters of state affairs but it may not command them in matters of religious affairs. Since our government did not criminalize the sexual choices of its individuals to prevent the transmission of HIV Aids, I believe they should not criminalize the religious freedoms of its citizens in order to prevent the transmission of Covid19. Yes, a citizen may be mandated by the State to wear a mask, but they cannot be criminalized for going to Church.
5. We must reaffirm that the primary social unit of our society is the family and that it precedes both the State and the Church in history and human experience. It is a domain that is also autonomous and should not be controlled by the State or the Church. The freedom of the family unit to choose its own language, number of children, values, beliefs etc., should be upheld by all citizens and Churches. Recognising these autonomous realms means that the State can no more dictate to Churches how they should conduct their own affairs than they can dictate to our children who they should marry or what their vocations should be. We do not accept the latter and neither should we accept the former.
6. The State in SA is increasingly encroaching upon the integrity and autonomy of both the family and the Church. Our State wants to regulate practices in nuclear families (such as child-discipline, sexual values etc.) and coerce the family to comply with its ideologies. The temporary legal banning of Church gatherings is characteristic of this trend of the State to overreach into realms not under its authority. There is much to convince us that our Government considers itself sovereign in regulating the behavior of its citizens and there is little to gainsay the conclusion that it is fast moving in the direction of state absolutism.
7. Many statutory principles and laws of the SA government give Christians every reason to question its morality and integrity, including the science it bases its practices on. If we consider our government’s policies on the beginning of human life, natural gender identity, the nature of marriage and its views on sexual ethics, the Christian in SA finds the values of its government opposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Biblical Churches believe that our State’s position on these basic and fundamental matters is destructive to human society and reveals an ignorance in knowing what is actually good for its citizens. The position of our government on these matters makes any form of State interference in ecclesiastical matters all the more alarming.
8. In the Covid19 pandemic, the downgrading of Church and Christian ministry is evident when the State designates them as ‘non-essential services’. Yet throughout most of human history, societies have responded to crises of far larger proportions with calls to prayer in Church buildings and have attended to the channels of communication with the Creator. Regardless of the issues of viral transmission and the wise application of ways to interrupt transmission, the temporary ban on religious gatherings imposes a secular humanistic ideology on a population of which many still believe that God can be trusted more than pharmaceutical companies. In such a critical hour the ministry of the Church is a ‘most-essential-service’ in serving the people of our land.
9. The current Government distinction between casinos, gyms, restaurants, Malls, cinemas etc. and religious gatherings is blatantly discriminatory. Gatherings unrelated to economic matters have received harsher treatment and their assemblies have been disallowed. Does not this discrimination and marginalization of the Church reveal the economic motive of many of the current regulations imposed on citizens in SA? Permitting Churches to use their own discretion and keep their doors open for ‘whosoever will’ could have persuaded us of the integrity and impartiality of these recent policies.
10. Lastly, it is to be sadly noted that too many Christians consider public Sunday gatherings a non-essential for their faith, and have been quite willing to exchange public Sunday gatherings for the more comfortable internet options at home. Cultural conveniences and the privatization of Christianity have made Christians soft and compliant to the State's advances. Too many Churches have handed over their keys to the State, even though it’s only for two weeks (or three...). But a precedent has been set and a border line has been crossed. The State now believes it has a right to those keys under circumstances it unilaterally determines. Should not such Church compliance with this ongoing State overreach be of greater concern than the overreach itself? Have the soldiers of Christ fallen asleep? Do they know that there is a border to guard and country to defend? “For the hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber” (Apostle Paul, Romans 13:11)
Dr Paul Hartwig (03/01/ 2021)
How closely God is now connected to our bodies!
God has revealed himself in history and Scripture as the triune God. This revelation has commonly been expressed by all Christians in the idea of the Trinity: there is only one God who eternally exists in the three distinct persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Now given this glorious and mysterious revelation of the true God, consider how closely this God has connected himself to human nature. It is so close that the majority of the holy divine Society of the Godhead are now very closely (even integrally) related to it:
So, at this Christmas season, consider afresh how closely the true God is related to human nature and human bodies through Jesus Christ. May it change the way you think about God and help you respond to those hopeful words of the Bible: 'Draw near to God and he will draw near to you'.
One of the most astounding thoughts to enter the mind of God-belittling and law-transgressing human beings is the idea of unconditional election. The idea that God would select such a person for himself because of nothing in themselves but in his goodness alone has the power to radically transform any person and free them to serve God with greater joy and liberty. To believe that we know Christ through no worth or work or will of our own but solely through his sovereign design is a revealed mystery that waits to go to work and effect a glorious transformation. If you really ponder what it is to be unconditionally chosen by God you will prove the apostle Paul true when he said that ‘continual transformation happens through the renewal of your mind’ (Romans 12:2). Here is the truth God has revealed relating to the ultimate ‘reason why’ someone is his child. When speaking of why Jacob was chosen above Esau, God says:
for though the twins were not yet born and had not yet done anything good or bad, in order that the purpose of God according to election would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her ‘the older will serve the younger’ (Romans 9:11-12).
We would automatically think that the reason why Jacob ended up as the Jacob of Scripture and Esau as Esau was because of something each individual did, some good or bad thing in them that caused their lives to look like it did. But no, it was nothing in them that God took into account. This Scripture makes it clear that it was the pre-birth unconditional purpose of God that caused their lives to be as they were. The reason for the distinction was ‘because of Him who calls’. Paul repeated this idea a few verses later when he said: ‘so then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy’ (Rom 9:16).
I think that there are three types of reactions to this teaching. I mention them here and I would like you to think where you are classified. The three are:
So I want to make a way for this truth – unconditional election - to come into your soul with fresh power. I want the citadel of human spiritual pride to fall – which can still stand in the hearts of those most zealous for God – and for grace to reign through this truth. Ponder the word ‘unconditional’ until it changes your outlook on your life. It means that all your past and present and future successes and failures are overlooked and in spite of yourself God set his everlasting love upon you in Christ Jesus. It means also that your family and friends who you think could never come to Christ and who are so hardened against the truth can be brought to him in spite of themselves. It means that human ‘good’ and human ‘evil’ is not the criteria that God uses in his operations. Unconditional election turns the tables upside down on the head of these things, and God alone gets the glory. Oh, it is such a superior truth and needs to reign in our hearts. We should all agree with the Charles Spurgeon who said: ‘I’m so glad that God chose me before I was born because he certainly would not have afterwards’. What a precious thing not only to agree with this this but to feel it changing us deep down and renewing the way we think about our lives.
Glory to God in the Highest for his Amazing Grace!
P.S., I must answer the common question: how do I know if I am unconditionally chosen? The right answer has always been: look to Christ and place your hope in Him and His Cross. If you do, you are ‘chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:4). Don’t ask ‘Am I elect or not’. Ask, ‘Will I come to Christ’. If you do, you will know the answer to such speculations.
Pursue your highest fulfilment at all time and for all time!
Every single human being, everyone who has lived and everyone yet to be born, shares with every other human being one thing in common: all seek their own fulfilment. Every descendant of Adam and Eve is born with an internal desire to want to be fulfilled. It's the reason why we do what we do. It’s the reason I have come to Malelane, and it's the reason the Church called us. It's the reason why you married who you did or whom you want to marry. It's the reason why you work where you do, and why you wear the clothes that you do. It's the reason why every car drives on the N4. All people in the world affirm that choices based on this criterion are good, right and acceptable choices. All know that it’s not right for parents to insist that their children go into careers that they don't want to do. Every film made and all entertainment is an invitation to personal fulfilment. The world praises this motive; it’s what makes it tick! It's also the reason given for sexual 'freedom', why people protest at how they are being treated, why people purchase on credit, and, above all, what justifies the philosophy of our day of being 'true to yourself'. Pursing personal fulfilment is, has been and will be the way every single human being will live their lives and the rudder that steers their little life-boat.
I think that one of the most important discoveries anyone can make is that God himself does not ask you to repent of this ambition. He does not want you to do things that are not good for you. Did you know that? For some people being a Christian is all about doing the exact opposite: not doing things you want to do, saying 'No' to things of the world so you can put God first in your life. Let me call you to consider the great fact that God does not want you to do things that are not good for you. The great divide between wickedness and righteousness, between good and evil is not rejecting the pursuit of your personal fulfilment but in the type of fulfilment you seek and the place where you seek it. The quest for personal meaning and happiness is from Him and is affirmed, not rebuked in the Bible.
But there is a very important qualification which in the midst this motive common of every human being creates a wide and deep gulf between them, a Great Divide. It is this. Some people seek shallow and temporary fulfilment, whilst others seek the deepest and most lasting fulfilment. On the one side of the Great Divide go people who place their fulfilment in created things, and on the other go those who place their fulfilment in the Creator himself. Both groups seek personal fulfilment but they are worlds apart when it comes to the type of fulfilment and the source of that fulfilment they pursue. This is the Great Divide and why people are on one side and not the other.
Listen to God's own testimony on this matter:
"People exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25)
"By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward" (Hebrew 11:24-26).
"I have come that they [the sheep] may have life and have it in abundance" (Jesus, in Jn 10:10)
These Scriptures assume that people are motivated to seek what's good for them- this is what makes these words appealing - but the great difference is the source (creature or Creator) and quality (fleeting or eternal) of this good. And Christ, as the Infinite God who Created all things, stands as the rallying point to those on the one side, calling us to 'everlasting pleasures' which are found only in his pierced hands (Psalm 16:11) and 'life in abundance' that he feeds his sheep with. The Bible presents him as the fulfilment of the quest for human fulfilment, something everyone proves true when they have come to him hungering and thirsting for what nothing else can give. To reject him is therefore both suicidal and the most terrible thing to do.
John Newton, the ex-slave trader who wrote Amazing Grace, expressed this wonderful truth in the last two lines of his hymn Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken:
Saviour, if in Zion's city
I, through grace, a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy name:
Fading is the sinner's pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion's children know.
So, I appeal to you, take that natural and common motive for your own fulfilment and resolve to satisfy your fleeting life on the HIGHTEST things ('solid joys') and the MOST ENDURING things ('lasting treasures'). This is the great dividing line that has always and ever will pass between people living on this planet.
Which side of that Great Divide are you on?
July 15th, 2020