Tuesday, October 06, 2020

James 2vv1-13 - Some Bible Study Notes

In case these are of any interest or use for anyone who would like to do some preparation for our midweek Bible study on Wed 7th Oct on James 2:1-13:


As we think about this passage, we might keep 1vv21-22 in mind: humbly accepting the word planted in us which can save us, we seek not only to listen to the word but to do what it says, to put it into practice, to live in the light of the gospel.


What would you say is the theme of this passage?


Favouritism / partiality (discrimination?) is the theme in v1, v4, v9.

V1 – proswpole_mpsais – favouritism / partiality – lit. receiving the face, judging someone on external appearances, a respecter of persons (KJV)

V4 – diakrinw means separate / make distinctions but it can also mean doubt / waver


How might belief in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ exclude favouritism / partiality? (v1)

Can you think of anything else from earlier in the letter or indeed any other biblical teaching which tends against favouritism?


What particular types of favouritism / discrimination does James seem to have most in mind? Discrimination against whom?


Compare 1v27 with the despising of the poor in 2v3. What should our attitude be to the poor and needy? Why?


Look again at vv1-3. What are the two types of “glory” talked about?


Can you explain why “discriminating amongst yourselves” would be wrong for the Christian? (v4) 

What arguments does the passage give against it?


(We have already heard about the rich and the poor in 1vv9-11)


2v5 cf. 1 Cor 1:26-27. How does God’s action / the gospel exclude partiality to the rich?


Cf. 1v25 and 2vv8-12 on the law


What reasons does the passage give me for avoiding condemning and looking down on others (e.g. because of their poverty)?


How does the law of God exclude favouritism? (vv8-112)


What does the passage tell us about right / wrong judgement? Who should be doing the judging and how?


What hope does the passage give us if we are conscious of being law breakers?


What reason does v13 give for showing mercy?


On mercy see Matthew 5:7; 18:21-35

Does our passage mean we should never make any kind of judgements? Or that we cannot have particular friends e.g. within the church? Am I a judge with an evil heart if I invite some people round for meals more often than others? What does the passage mean?


Do you think something like vv2-4 could happen in our church services / gatherings?

Are there ways you / we are tempted to show favouritism?

Do we sometimes judge by faulty criteria?


How might our passage encourage praise and prayer?


* * *


Vv8-9 – Don’t just love some of your neighbours! No favouritism


If you’re arrested for assault, it’s no defence to point out you’re not a bigamist!

Breaking the law is breaking the law. Break one law and you are still a law breaker.  


Or think of shattering a pain of glass. It doesn’t much matter where you smash it. If it breaks, it breaks.


The Law of God is not like those exam questions which say “Candidates must attempt any three questions.”  


Selective obedience is disobedience (Allberry, p66)


Sam Allberry:

Favouritism contradicts God’s choosing of the poor to be rich in faith (v5)

Favouritism contradicts God’s law (vv8-11)

Favouritism contradicts God’s mercy (vv12-13)


Next week: James 2vv14-end

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Acts 19vv1-22

 Because everyone loves a snappy and finely crafted sermon heading. 

Acts 19vv1-22 show us three responses to the gospel, two of which are lacking proper faith in Jesus and one which expresses it. 

(1) The sincere ignorance of twelve disciples of John the Baptist who haven’t heard about Jesus show us the need for accurate teaching about Jesus and faith in him (vv1-7)

(2) The corrupt magic of the seven sons of Sceva who fail by trying to use the name of Jesus for their own ends shows us the need for genuine commitment to Jesus (vv13-17)

(3) The costly repentance of many who believe in Jesus and publicly change for fear of his name shows us the radical difference faith in Jesus makes (vv18-20)

Friday, September 25, 2020

Alan Jacobs, Breaking Bread with the Dead

 Alan Jacobs, Breaking Bread with the Dead: Reading the Past in Search of a Tranquil Mind

(Profile Books / Penguin Random House, 2020)

An eloquent manifesto for reading the voices of the past in all their difference and strangeness both critically but also with a generous thinking disposition of hope, neither idealising nor demonising but negotiating. This might help to free us from our presentism and give us temporal bandwidth and personal density extending a bigger here and a longer now in an age of information overload, social acceleration and algorithmic marketing which constantly presents us with more of the same (if you clicked on that, you might like this). We must get beyond a hasty triage and risk anger, boredom and confusion and, like Jacob, wrestle with the past until it yields a blessing. 

Jacobs has also made me think I might like to read some C. V. Wedgwood. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Midweek Meeting 23/9/20 - James 1vv1-18

 Anyone connected to our churches is always welcome to our midweek meetings via Zoom (please email me for details). But this Wednesday 23rd Sept would be an especially good time to join us as we begin looking at the Letter of James together (1vv1-18). There is no need to prepare, but in case this is helpful:

Midweek Meeting Wed 23rd Sept

James 1:1-18




A very practical letter addressing issues such as wealth and poverty, conflict, sickness, suffering, how we speak. A punchy direct vivid style with use of striking illustrations / metaphors.


Can seem a little disjointed. Maybe based on sermons or sermon notes.


A particularly Jewish flavour?


God’s wisdom for Christian living under pressure.

Putting our Christian faith into action.

What genuine faith looks like in real life.

Living out and in the light of the implanted word (of God).


Key verses: 1v21-22: “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word… do what it says.”




Who was this James?


The New Testament probably mentions five James-es:

(1) The Apostle, the son of Zebedee, brother of John, the fisherman – martyred ?AD44

(2) The Apostle James the Son of Alphaeus – Mk 3:18 - possibly = James the younger / James the less – Mk 15:40

(3) James the (half) brother of Jesus

(4) James the brother of Jude (Jude 1)

(5) The father of the Apostle Judas (not Judas Iscariot)


Of course, it could be some other James!


This James was probably / traditionally (3), Jesus’ brother. See 1 Cor 15:7; Acts 12:17; 15:13ff; 21:17-18; Gal 1:19; 2:9.

James’ martyrdom is traditionally dated to AD 62.


Who do you think “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” refers to? (v1)

(We can presume that James is writing to believers who share his commitment to “God and the Lord Jesus Christ”, Christians)

2v2 – meeting place / assembly = Greek, synagogue

What would James be driving at by that description? (What difference would it make to think of ourselves as the people of God scattered among the nations?)

Cf. Gal 6:16?; Gal 3:7; Rm 4:11, 16


How might we / others often / naturally respond to trials / difficulties?


This passage talks about facing struggles / difficulties external (trails, vv2, 12) and internal (temptations, vv13-14).


What is the right response to trials / temptations?

What would be the results of this?


What could you say to someone (from these verses) who thinks that their trials and suffering imply that they have somehow stepped outside the will of God for their life?


What distinguishes v2 from masochism?

How is “Consider it pure joy…” different from “pretend the trials aren’t happening / pretend they’re fun”?

What if trials don’t feel like pure joy?!


Granted that a trial by definition is not a pure joy (v2), why does James urge us to consider it pure joy when we face trials?


Cf. Romans 5:3-4


Why should the Christian persevere under trial? (vv2-4, 12)


(Might there be any logical connection between vv2-4 and v5? Why might he introduce talk of wisdom here?)


What encouragement is given in v5?

Cf. Matthew 7:11

What characterises God’s giving?


What can undo / defeat this prayer for wisdom? (vv6-8)

In what way is this different from a momentary doubt / questions / struggles to believe?

Look at 4v8 where double-mindedness is mentioned again. Might 4vv2ff shed any light on what might be meant by double-mindedness?


Again, how might vv9-11 be connected to the issues of trials?


What high position does the poor brother (or sister) Christian in humble circumstances enjoy? (v9)


How might the wealthy Christian fool himself? Might his riches even be a trial to him?!

What reason for humility is given in vv10-11?


(Same word for test / tempt in vv12, 13-14, peirazo)


What wrong understanding of trials is corrected in v13-15? How?


What does James want us to remember about ourselves? (v14)

What does he want us to remember about God (vv13-18)?


What is God’s aim when he allows us to be tested / tempted?

What is Satan’s aim when he tempts us?


What “births” are spoken of in this passage?

What grows out of evil desire / temptation? What’s the result?


What can we learn about the new birth here? (v18)

Where does it come from?

By what means?

With what result?


What positive Christian growth does the passage envisage?


What does the idea of “firstfruits” (v18) mean? How is that encouraging?


What does this passage tell us about God?


Have you found anything striking in this passage?

Anything you want to hang on to / that will make a difference to you?


How would you summarise it?


How can we turn this passage into praise and prayer?


* * *




Testing – maybe as in a metal tested in fire, proved to be true and authentic. Testing that strengthens?


The trials faced by James’ readers might include poverty, injustice, conflict, sickness, grief – the rest of the letter might suggest (Allberry, p13)


Trials are the spiritual equivalent of growbags (Allberry, p14) – they produce perseverance and maturity. Faith is like a muscle that grows stronger with use.


Double mindedness = split loyalties, fickle, two-faced, someone who is hedging their bets between trusting God and the world – do we genuinely want to receive God’s wisdom and live his way (at least in our right mind!)?


The poor Christian is spiritually rich and the rich Christian would be spiritually bankrupt left to himself. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Matthew Barrett, None Greater

 Matthew Barrett, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God (Baker Books, 2019)


ISBN: 9780801098741

A helpful and engaging look at classical attributes of God (incomprehensibility, infinity, aseity, simplicity, immutability, impassibility, eternity, omni-s etc.) in the company of what Barrett calls The A Team, Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas but also with a debt to Puritans such as Stephen Charnock and, I felt, especially Bavinck. 

Text boxes introduce some figures from history and there are some tables and a glossary. Bibliography. 

I'm not quite sure of the level of this book. Some of it is popular and introductory and there are some anecdotes and illustrations but I think some things here were new to me and it does get a bit technical in places. Some of the end notes are worth a look. 


John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry (Hodder & Stoughton, 2019)
ISBN: 9781529308389

I'm a sucker for a self-help type book. How much will change is of course debatable. 

I found this highly readable with good quotations and endnotes of some interesting research etc. and basically convincing, though there might be some scope for quibbles. 

Wisdom on Christ's easy yoke. 

Somewhat American and autobiographical. 

Psalm 27 Study Notes

 God willing, we'll look at Psalm 27 in our midweek meeting this week on Wed 16th Sept at 7:30pm via Zoom. Locals can email me if they'd like to join us. There's no need to prepare, but if you'd like to you may find some of the following helpful:

(These notes might possibly evolve!)




Who / what do you / people in our society (your friends, family, neighbours) fear and why?


What antidote does the Psalm hold out to fear and why? What is the logic of that?


What do you think “the LORD is my light” (v1) might mean?


What particular threat does the Psalmist have in mind? What things might he reasonably be afraid of?


What two things does the Psalmist seek?

What do those two things mean / involve?


Look at vv4-6. Do you think David wants to literally move into the tabernacle and live there 24/7? If not, (!), what does he want?


Given that God is a spiritual being and doesn’t have a body, what does it mean to seek his face? (v8)


How do your desires compare to David’s?


Are there any other specific prayers in the Psalm we should notice?


What is the Psalmist confident of?


What arguments does the Psalmist use? What is the basis of his appeal?


How would you sum up the application in v14 in your own words?


How would you relate this Psalm to Jesus?


How would you sum up the whole Psalm?


What difference should this Psalm make to us?


What fuel for praise and prayer is there in this Psalm?




Wilcock: “Two key words here are confident (vv3, 13) and seek (v4a, 8). The four sections of the Psalm crystallize around them, in a chiastic pattern… : confidence / seeking // seeking / confidence.” (p95)


Links to Psalm 23:

Paths of righteousness

The valley of the shadow


Desire for God’s house


The Psalm combines the imagery of law court (a person crying out for vindication), battle and a hunt


Kidner: David is a worshipper seeking god’s face and a pilgrim committed to his way




(1) Confidence in the LORD: faith not fear (vv1-3)

(2) Seek the shelter in God’s house: he will keep you safe (vv4-6)

(3) Seek the smile of God’s face: he will not forsake you (vv7-12)

(4) Confidence in the LORD: take heart and wait for him (vv13-14)


* * *




Prayer arising out of Testimony


Based on Goldingay p391:

Vv1-2 presumably address the congregation, making a declaration of confidence based on the past event

Vv3-6 develop this logic at greater length

Vv7-12 address Yahweh with a plea for deliverance and reasons for confidence

Vv13-14 address the self, returning to urging confidence in Yahweh


* * *


Expositor’s Bible Commentary:


Confidence in the Lord

(1) Confidence in God’s presence (vv1-3)

            (2) Prayer for God’s presence (vv4-6)

            (3) Prayer for God’s presence (vv7-12)

(4) Confidence in God’s presence (vv13-14)


* * *




(1) Confidence in Yahweh (vv1-3)

(2) Desire to dwell in the house of Yahweh (vv4-6)

(3) Plea for deliverance from enemies (vv7-12)

(4) Confidence and encouragement (vv13-14)


* * *




(1) Confidence (vv1-3)

(2) Seeking: focused on God (vv4-6)

(3) Seeking: stressed by circumstances (vv7-12)

(4) Confidence (vv13-14)


* * *




(1) Whom shall I fear? (vv1-3)

(2) Sanctuary (vv4-6)

(3) Thy face…, Thy way (vv7-12)

(4) Believe and wait (vv13-14)


* * *


Motyer: The Confident Life


A1: Confidence (vv1-3)

B1: Yahweh’s house, my security in his shelter (vv4-6)

B2: Yahweh’s face, my security in his favour (vv7-12)

A2: Confidence (vv13-14)


* * *




The Psalmist’s sure confidence in his God (vv1-3)

His love of communion with his God (vv4-6)

Prayer (vv7-12)

Acknowledgement of the sustaining power of faith and encouragement for others to follow his example (vv7-12)


* * *



SERMON: https://www.warbletonchurch.org.uk/sermons-talks/?sermon_id=334

Paul in Athens (Acts 17) - further jottings

 I posted about this the other day and there are a couple of sermons on this passage on the Warbleton Parish Church website but here are some further jottings from my preparation:


David Cook, Teaching Acts


Athens – The philosophical capital

Idolatry (vv16-23)

Correction (vv24-29)

Bottom Line (vv30-31)

Response (vv32-34)


* * *


Chris Green, The Word of His Grace


Why intelligent people can also be stupid


3 reasons people are stupid:


(1) People are stupid because they should know the creator of the universe does not live in buildings, but they act as if he did


(2) People are stupid because they should know that the God who sustains them does not need their care, but they act as if he did


(3) People are stupid because they should know that the God who made us must be infinitely greater than us, but they still reduce him to a statue


5 things people know, or ought to know, about the good God:


The Good God is a creator God (v24)


The Good God is a caring God (v25)


The Good God is a controlling God (v26)


The Good God is a close God (vv27-28)


The Good God is a compassionate God (v30)


* * *




The Word in Athens (vv16-34)

(1) Responding to idolatry (vv6-21)

(2) Establishing God’s Claim on All People (vv22-31)

(a) The truth about God (vv24-25)

(b) The truth about humanity (vv26-29)

(c) The truth about divine judgement (vv30-31)

(3) Founding a Church (vv32-34)


* * *




What Paul saw

What Paul felt

What Paul did

What Paul said

How Paul challenges us


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Lessons on Christian Mission from Paul in Athens (Acts 17)

 I preached on this passage on 25th August 2019 and this week I’ve listened again to that sermon on the church website.

I’m pleased to say that I still agree with myself and it seemed to me still a true and useful sermon so I commend it to you.


So how to approach this passage in a different and complementary way? What might we learn for Christian mission today from Paul in Athens in Acts 17?


This is not necessarily the primary purpose of the passage!

The Bible is about God before it’s about us – and this passage has lots of important and useful things to know about God.

The Bible is not first of all a How To Guide / 7 Tips on Mission, or whatever.

The primary purpose of Scripture is that we might come to Jesus and have life in him through faith.

And obviously if we have not repented and turned to Christ in faith, that is the first application of Acts 17.

But no doubt there is much to learn about church life and mission from this passage.


(Likely, of course, we have only a brief summary of what Paul said in Athens, not a word for word transcript of it all. Arguably Paul was interrupted when he tried to speak about the resurrection v31f.)


What can we notice and infer?


Paul is greatly distressed (lit. his spirit was aroused within him) to see the idolatry of the city. (v16)

That is what strikes him above all as he waits in the great city of Athens: not the art or learning but the forest of idols.

Do we care about the glory of God and about the lost? Do these things move us as they moved Paul?


Paul’s distress moves him to engage, to speak. Paul debates / discusses / reasons (vv17-18). (Paul continues to “reason” (v17) as he did in the synagogue in Thessalonica (v2) – dielegeto – he addressed, lectured, reasoned, dispute, discuss, argument, debate, speak.)

V17 – Paul is a bit like Socrates, the archetypal philosopher, engaging people in the market place (the agora) which is also a market place of ideas as well as a hub for commerce and trade.

But Paul also proclaims the good news about Jesus and the resurrection (v18, v23). Paul brings an announcement of God’s action in Christ, not just a contribution to religious dialogue. The gospel is a summons to repentance and faith, not an interesting perspective to add to the best of human spirituality.


Paul’s address to the Areopagus is different from Paul’s sermons in the synagogue.

He doesn’t start with / quote Scripture here.

Rather he quotes one of their own poets (v28).

He shares the same essential message (Jesus Christ is Lord) but with a different method / approach / way in / point of contact.


Paul connects with his hearers. He starts where they are. He shows some knowledge of their culture.

Could we engage with the non-Christian culture around us like this? Are we able to evaluate where our culture might be on to something (which is fulfilled in Christ) and where it has gone wrong and needs to repent?


Paul tries to get inside his hearer’s heads. He tries to anticipate what they might think and respond to it (v29).

To some extent there may have been some common ground between Paul and at least some of his hearers, which he seeks to make the most of. Some of the points Paul makes can be paralleled in Greek writers of the period.


Paul is willing to be negative (v29).

He refutes false ideas.


Paul seems to appeal to creation and reason. He gives the impression that certain things about God ought to be obvious to everyone, although they might not be: they need saying!

Cf. Romans 1 – some things about God are obvious from the creation but people suppress / exchange the truth about God which they know.


Paul really seems to be pretty critical of non-Christian / pagan religion / spirituality.

He characterises it as ignorant (v23, v30).


No obvious hope is held out here for supposedly devout pagans who honestly seek after God within paganism. Paul thinks they need to repent and come to Christ. Christ claims the allegiance of, and will be the judge of, all people (vv30-31).


For Paul, revelation, God’s action in Christ and the resurrection are essential and decisive (vv30-31). Creation and reason only go so far. The good news of salvation concerns Jesus.


The gospel comes with a universal command to repent (v30). Even interested sophisticated religious intellectuals need to radically change their minds.


The gospel produces a mixed response: some scorn and rejection (v18), some interest and desire to hear more (vv19-21) (v32), some faith and joining the church (v34).

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well

 Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books

Brazos Press, 2018


This is an enjoyable and edifying look at the virtues through great books. The introduction is engaging and worthwhile and the chapters could be read alone or out of order. Discussion questions are included. 

I enjoyed reading about the virtues (cardinal, theological and heavenly)  and a number of the books cited look interesting. 

Psalm 26 Bible Study Questions

 God-willing we'll be looking at Psalm 26 this Wednesday in our midweek meetings. 

Here are a few questions prepared by a member of the congregation for anyone who would like to have a think about it in advance:

  1. v1 What is David asking the Lord to do for him?
  2. What are the grounds for his asking this?
  3. v2 What is David asking the Lord to do?
  4. v3 What gives him the confidence to ask this?
  5. v4-5 What does David avoid?
  6. v6-8 Where does David love to be  - in contrast with v4-5?
  7. v9-10 What is David’s plea to the Lord in these verses?
  8. v11-12 What are the grounds for this plea?

Which aspects of this Psalm point us to the Lord Jesus Christ?

What can we learn from this Psalm to help us in our walk with the Lord?

Maybe we could each choose a verse to learn to remind us of what the Lord has said to us tonight?

Friday, September 04, 2020

Acts 17vv1-15 - an outline

 You may wish to look away now as this contains spoilers for Sunday:


Church life and mission today…


The original and the best


Gospel Mission and Mixed Responses


(1) Gospel Mission


(A) Paul’s Method

Reasoned (v2)

Explained (v3)

Proved (v3)

Proclaimed (v3)

(Persuaded) (v4)

from the Scriptures (v2)

Preached the Word of God (v13)


(B) Paul’s Message

The Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead

This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ (v3)

Another king, called Jesus (v7)


(2) Mixed Responses

A diverse group are persuaded and believe and join the disciples (v4, v12)

Some are jealous and oppose (vv5-9, 13-15)

A noble response (v11):

Hear the message with great eagerness

Examine the Scriptures to see if it’s true


How have you responded to the gospel?

How could you serve this gospel mission?


Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Psalm 25 notes

Some jottings I prepared ahead of our midweek meeting on Wed 2nd September:


What problems / issues does the Psalmist seem to be facing?


What does the Psalmist pray for?


What does the Psalmist want God to remember (or not)? Vv6-7. What does he mean by that? (Of course God is all-knowing and doesn’t forget, so what does it mean to speak of him remembering something?)


What reasons / arguments does the Psalmist give for his prayers? To what does he appeal?


How might Psalm 24:3-4 worry us? In the light of this, how might Psalm 25 comfort us?


Do you think verse 13 is an absolute / universal promise? How might the rest of the Psalm (or indeed the rest of the Bible) qualify it?


How would you summarise this Psalm?


What might we usefully take away from it? Has anything particularly struck you?


How might we live in the light of this Psalm? What attitudes does the Psalmist commend?


How might we turn the Psalm into praise and prayer?




An individual lament / prayer of confidence


An acrostic – with two or three amendments, the initial letters of the 22 verses spell out the Hebrew alphabet. (Waw and qoph are omitted. There are two r lines in vv18 and 19. Beth can only be found by adjusting the text). Perhaps the brokenness of the Psalm is meant to suggest that life is complex and messy not totally “neat” and obvious. The Psalm thus resists giving overly easy answers / complete knowledge.

The final verse begins with an extra pe and is a kind of appendix / added “Amen”.


Some scholars say it is hard / impossible to identify any further structure.


Vv1-3 and 20-22 might correspond.


The Psalm has three equal sections of:

prayer (to God) – vv1-7,

creed (about God) – vv8-15

and then prayer again – vv16-22

with an extra one verse prayer – v11 - inserted in the middle section (Wilcock)

This prayer in v11 seems to be the centre of the Psalm and might thus be emphasised: God forgiving sin is a crucial idea in the Psalm. Forgiveness depends on the name / character of God and salvation is ultimately for his name / glory / fame.


V7 – Don’t remember my sins but remember me for good (not judgement)


V7 – the first use of the noun “sin”(s) in the Psalms


V9 has verb and noun from the same root – “Direct… his direction”


Goldingay lists seven theological implications of the Psalm / lessons about prayer (p377)


* * *


Kidner: An alphabet of entreaty







* * *


Goldingay, The Bases of Prayer from A to Z


(no other overall structure discernible)


* * *


Motyer: An A-Z for Troubled Times


A1. Waiting on Yahweh (vv1-5)

B1. Dealing with sin (past): do not remember (vv6-7)

C1. Divine teacher: who are his pupils? (vv8-10)

B2. Dealing with sin (present): forgive (v11)

C2. Divine teacher: who are his pupils? (vv12-14)

A2: Waiting on Yahweh (vv15-21)

David’s wider concern (v22)


* * *


Expositor’s Bible


A prayer for deliverance, guidance and forgiveness


A: Prayer for deliverance and guidance (vv1-3)

B: Prayer for guidance and forgiveness (vv4-7)

C: Assurance of guidance (vv8-10)

B’: Prayer for forgiveness (v11)

C’: Assurance of guidance (vv12-14)

A’: Prayer for deliverance and protection (vv15-22)


* * *




Statement of trust (vv1-3)

Plea for deliverance (vv4-7)

In praise of God’s faithfulness (vv8-10)

The pivotal prayer (v11)

Those who fear Yahweh (vv12-15)

The final plea (vv16-21)

Communal plea for redemption (v22)


* * *




Prayer – vv1-7

Meditation – vv8-10

Prayer – v11

Meditation – vv12-15

Prayer – vv16-end


* * * 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Acts 16vv16-end - an outline

 You might like to look away now if you are coming to Bodle Street or Warbleton in the morning and you like your sermons surprising!


The unstoppable power of Jesus and his gospel

… opens Lydia’s heart to respond to Paul’s message and to serve the gospel (vv14-15, 40)

… sets a slave girl free from the power of evil (vv16-18)

… provokes the slave owners, the magistrates and the crowd (vv19-24)

… enables Paul and Silas to sing hymns in prison at midnight (v25)

… sets Paul and Silas free from prison (vv26-28)

… saves and transforms the jailer and his household (vv29-34)

… alarms / humbles / humiliates the magistrates (vv35-39)

… creates a diverse church (v40)


Cf. Galatians 3v28 & Acts 16


Believe in the Lord Jesus (v31)!


Serve Jesus and his gospel (with your brothers and sisters in Christ) with joy and confidence, even in the face of suffering and opposition


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Acts 16vv16-end - repeated words

 I have been working on Acts 16:16ff, the miraculous escape from prison in Philippi. 

It is perhaps just worth noting a couple of repeated words which might not leap out from the English translations. 

Vv18 & 19 – exe_lthen repeated – the spirit was gone from the slave girl so her owners’ way of making money was gone

Vv39 and 40 – repetition of parekalesan – v39, The magistrates appeased / besought / urged / begged / pleaded with / apologised to Paul and Silas and v40, Paul and Silas encourage / comfort / exhort the brothers

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly


My holiday Christian book has been Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Crossway, 2020).


The attractively produced cloth bound volume of 224 pages contains 23 meditations on biblical texts on the heart of Jesus, drawing on the work of Calvin, the Puritans, Edwards and Spurgeon. An index and Scripture index will add to its usefulness.


Ortlund focuses on the love, compassion and mercy of Christ, who said “I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29), whilst seeking to uphold God’s simplicity and impassibility. More could have been said about the “emotional life of God” and I’m not completely convinced this is a helpful term even when qualified by ideas such as God’s eternity and incorporeality (see p73). It seems to me there is value in speaking of the “natural” and “strange” works of God (his love and his judgement) (chapter 15) but I think Ortlund is right to think that we risk questioning God’s divine perfections if we think of God as “conflicted within himself when he sends affliction into our lives” (p138).


I pick out a few highlights before:


The word used for the compassion of Jesus refers to the guts or bowels and reminds us how deeply he feels for us (p26, 106). The Son of God moves towards those who do not deserve his mercy but who desire it (p27).


As Thomas Goodwin said, “Christ is love covered over in flesh.” (p32) Peal back his skin and you would find love!


Goodwin imagines Christ interacting with the man who thrust the spear into Christ’s side. “I will cherish him in that very bosom he has wounded; he shall find the blood he shed an ample atonement for the sin of shedding it.” (see further p38)


Christ is the head and we really are his parts, which he loves (p40f)


C. S. Lewis on Jesus resisting temptation like a man continually walking into the wind. Jesus never gave up and lay down in the battle against temptation as we so easily do and therefore Jesus’ temptations were, in this sense, more testing than ours in that he continued to resist them (p49).


Notice the parallel between Hebrews 4:15 and 5:2, sunpathesai and metriopathein (p52)


Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ (1678)


We don’t feel the weight of our sin because of our sin! (p68)


Grace is not a thing. The gospel is Jesus Christ and his personal heart of grace towards us. (pp69, 211)


The work of the cross was “Finished!” but the intercession of Christ applies what the cross accomplished (p79). Jesus’ intercession hits “refresh” in the courtroom of heaven (p80).


Christ prays for us in heaven. Imagine we could hear him doing so now in the room next door! (p84)


Jonathan Edward’s sermon “To the children, Aug. 1740” (p95) – those aged 1-14 - ? 15-20 minutes – Matthew 10:37 – six reasons to love Jesus more than anything else


As with a photograph in crisp focus, precision in theology can help to bring out beauty (p99)


Compassion is the emotion more frequently attributed to Jesus in the Bible (Warfield, On the Emotional Life of Our Lord, 1912) (p105).


On the pactum salutis, the covenant of redemption between the members of the Trinity see p128f


Goodwin spoke from the floor more times than anyone at the Westminster Assembly (357 times) (p143).


On Exodus 33-34 see pp145ff. God’s glory is his goodness. Slow to anger, Heb., long of nostrils (p148)


Dt 7:9, not that God’s love will run out at generation 1001! (p149).


Pp152f – the parallels between Mark 6 and Exodus esp. Mk 6:48 and Ex 33:22, “pass by”. Jesus thus reveals the glory of Yahweh.


“as high as the heavens are above the earth” – Psalm 103:11 and Isaiah 55:9 (p158).


With respect to God’s covenant faithfulness, the opposite of his remembering his people for good is not really forgetting but forsaking (p165).


Heart, meah, Jeremiah 31, bowels / entrails as in 2 Samuel 20:10. Yearns, hamah, restless / agitated / growling / roaring / boisterous / turbulent (p165f).  


Goodwin on God loving your persons but hating your sins (p168)


Ephesians 2

Vv1-3 – why we need saving – the problem

Vv5-6 – what this saving is – the solution

V4 – why God saved us – the reason (p171)


Our law-ish hearts and Christ’s lavish heart (chapter 20)


Jonathan Edwards, “The creation of the world … that the eternal Son of God might obtain a spouse” – The Church’s Marriage to Her Sons, and to Her God – see p206


Ephesians 2:7, kindness = easy in Matthew 11:20 (p210)


Your death is not a wall but a door, not an exit but an entrance (p212)


The Christian life in two steps:

1 – Go to Jesus

2 – see 1! (p216)

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Psalm 24 notes

 God-willing we're going to look at Psalm 24 in our midweek meeting on Wed 26th August. Far be it from me to steal my own thunder, but:

I preached on the Psalm here: https://www.warbletonchurch.org.uk/sermons-talks/?sermon_id=335

And it may be that someone might find some of the following jottings helpful:


Turn back to Psalm 24 (p555) [slide]



Our Psalm begins with a little hymn of Praise to God the creator.

It’s as if the Psalmist is using the widest-angle lens possible here because it takes in everything, the whole cosmos:


 Vv1-2: “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,

The world, and all who live in it;

For he has founded it upon the seas

And established it on the waters.”


God is the creator, owner, ruler and sustainer of all places and people


Everything, everyone, everywhere belongs to God who made them.

The earth, fruitful, peopled, solid and established is the Lord’s.

We depend on him for everything.

And we belong to him by right.

We didn’t make ourselves; we are God’s craftmanship and we bare our makers mark.

There is not a centremeter of the universe over which God doesn’t rightly say “mine!”


Seas / waters (v2) suggest threat / chaos

God rules over them.

His rule is certain and secure.

He governs and sustains and upholds all things.


We could break out into “He’s got the whole world in his hands!”



So we begin with that wide-angle lens.

But twice in our Psalm, the Psalmist is going to zoom in.

(It would be cool is we had a video of this, but today we just have slides)


Vv3-4 zoom in from all people and all places to a particular place and some particular people


V3: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?

Who may stand in his holy place?”


Ascend = go up


The hill of the LORD? -  mount Zion [slide]

God’s holy place ? the temple? [slide]


Although the whole earth belongs to God, and of course he is present everywhere, the temple was the place God had promised to be specially present to his people, to meet with them and bless them. 


God’s holy presence


Holiness – separate from all sin and evil – blazing purity

God - Light in whom there is no darkness at all

His eyes are too pure to look on sin



We sometimes imagine that God would happily welcome everyone, like a kind of friendly grandfather giving out Werther’s Originals

“God will forgive, that’s his job!”


But the temple in Jerusalem spoke of both welcome and no entry [slide]


God was present to bless his people

He wanted to meet with them

And he called them to come to him


But the temple also had a series of no entry signs

For the Gentile nations

For non-priests

For everyone except the high priest once a year carrying the blood of sacrifice


It is very hard for a sinful people to come into the presence of a Holy God


Terms and Conditions apply!

See v4



God’s guest list (v4):

The Entry requirements:


Clean hands? – actions

Pure heart

Pure worship – he “who does not lift up his soul to an idol”

Pure lips – “or swear by what is false”


We might say it covers:

Right living

Right thinking

Right relationship with God

Right relationship with others


None of us perfectly meets those requirements



But God promises blessing and vindication (justice / righteousness / justification) to those who sincerely seek him in his appointed way (vv5-6)

In the Old Testament, faithful covenant keeping sinners could come into God’s presence on the basis of sacrifice

Of course believers then knew they weren’t perfect and needed God’s forgiveness and mercy

The innocent animal died in their place so that they could be forgiven

And they trusted God for vindication


Our Psalm leaves us looking for a perfect king.

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?

Who may stand in God’s holy place?

Is there one who can do so by right?

Is there anyone really totally and completely good?

Is there someone good enough?

And of course as Christians we know the answer!



Only Jesus perfectly meets the requirements of v4

Think of his actions and his words…

Such love and compassion and humility and wisdom and…

Never did or said or thought anything wrong

Never for a moment gave in to temptation

Such total loyalty to God his Father and his purposes


He is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world

The perfect, faultless lamb of God without any spot or blemish


When we trust in him, we receive the gift of his righteousness, which is by God’s grace to all those who have faith in Jesus



Vv7-10 zoom in again to focus on the LORD Almighty the King of Glory



Imagine a city greeting the LORD as the victorious king, a warrior mighty in battle (v7-)

Although later than OT times, we might try to picture a Roman Triumph

The conquering hero acclaimed from the ramparts of the city

The gates are lifted up!

The ancient doors are flung wide!

So the great victor is welcomed in.


Look at the description of God in v8:

“The LORD strong and mighty,

The LORD mighty in battle.”

There are many demonstrations of that in the Bible.

Do we think of God as a warrior?

A frequent Old Testament description of God

The LORD of hosts, the LORD of armies

We would do well to reflect on it.



A triumphal procession

Cf. Palm Sunday – Jerusalem greets Jesus as the king



Cf. Jesus’ triumph by his cross and resurrection

Welcome Jesus the victorious King of Glory who defeated sin and death for us!



Praise God trusting in Jesus, the victorious King of Glory, the perfect sacrifice for sin.

Clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, we are welcomed in and we rejoice to stand forgiven and clean in God’s holy presence.


* * *


Christopher Idle’s, This Earth Belongs To God


A tiny hymn about the power of God the creator

An entrance liturgy about the holiness of God the Lord

A procession liturgy about the victories of God the King


A procession

Enthronement ceremony

David bringing the ark of the covenant up to Mount Zion – 2 Sam 6; 1 Chron 15 and 16; 1 Chron 13:8

Maybe the installation of the ark in Zion was the greatest day of David’s life (Kidner)

Traditionally sung at ascension

The victor’s arrival to possess his citadel


The first emphatic word in the Hebrew is The Lord’s


V1 – tebhel – the peopled-world, the inhabited world


The sea (v2) representing chaos / threat


V2 upon or above


In a sense, of course, we are never out of the presence of God who is the creator and ruler of all things.

But v4 gives us 4 qualifications for coming into God’s presence

God made all places, but he has also made one holy place


Ex 15:2-3, 17-18 – coming to a mountain in the promised land


V5 vindication is lit. righteousness


Heb 12:22 – We have come to Mount Zion


* * *




King of Glory


Vv1-2: The All-Creating

Vv3-6: The All-Holy

Vv7-10: The All-Victorious


* * *




Fling Wide The Gates


Approaching (vv1-2)

Welcoming (vv3-6)

            Personal integrity (v4)

            Spiritual integrity (v4b)

            Social integrity (4b-6)

Entering (vv7-10)

            Request (v7)

            Interrogation (v8a)

            Reply (v8b)

            Request (v9)

            Interrogation (v10a)

            Reply (v10b)


* * *




A very special occasion

A climax

A starting point


* * *




Yhwh’s ownership of the world

Conditions for approaching Yhwh

Admitting Yhwh to the city


* * *


Expositor’s Bible:


The King of Glory is Our God


A The Great King (vv1-2) – the creator God

B The Hill of the Lord (vv3-6) – the holy God

A’ The Divine Warrior (vv7-10) – the glorious King


* * *


Wilson, NIV Application Commentary


Yahweh’s creative authority (vv1-2)

Preparation to enter the presence of God (vv3-6)

The King of Glory comes (vv7-10)


* * *




Part (1) glorifies the true God and sings of his universal dominion

(2) the true Israel who are able to commune with this God

(3) the ascent of the true Redeemer who has opened heaven’s entrance to his elect