A “synagogue sermon” which scandalizes both exclusivists and inclusivists

John 1: 6 There was a man named John
who was sent from God.
7 John came as a witness
to testify about the light,
so that all would believe through him
8 John was not the light,
but John came to testify about the light.

I Corinthians 15: 13 But each in his own order:Christ, the first fruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when Christ abolishes all rule and all authority and power. 25 For Christ must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be abolished is death

The age to come has now come, the age to come has not yet come. The day of recompense to come has not yet come, and this explains the discontinuity between the old covenants and the new covenant. Some of us focus on the unbelief of the disciples and John the Baptist, and others of us notice their lack of understanding of the meaning of Christ’s kingdom. The age to come which has now come with Christ is not the same as the ages of the old covenants but it is also not the same as another age to come after this age. That day will be a day of vengeance and recompense. As usual I want to notice what tends to get skipped or not commented on some famous texts

Isaiah 35—The wilderness and the dry land will be glad;
the desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose.
2 The land will blossom abundantly
and will also rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
3 Strengthen the weak hands,
steady the shaking knees!
4 Say to the cowardly:
“Be strong; do not fear!
GOD’S RETRIBUTION IS COMING; God will save you.”

5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy,
for water will gush in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the parched ground will become a pool of water,
and the thirsty land springs of water.
In the haunt of jackals, in their lairs,
there will be grass, reeds, and papyrus.
8 A road will be there and a way;
it will be called the Holy Way.
The unclean will not travel on it,
but it will be for the one who walks the path.
Even the fool will not go astray.
9 There will be no lion there,
and no vicious beast will go up on it;
they will not be found there.
But the redeemed will walk on it,
10 and the redeemed of the Lord will return
and come to Zion with singing,
crowned with unending joy.
Joy and gladness will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee.

Isaiah 61: The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim LIBERTY to the captives
and FREEDOM to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s FAVOR,

to comfort all who mourn,
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.
6 But you will be called the Lord’s priests;
they will speak of you as SERVANTS of our God;
you will eat the wealth of the nations,
and you will boast in their riches.
7 Because your shame was double,
and they cried out, “Disgrace is their portion,”
therefore, they will possess double in their land,
and lasting joy will be theirs.
8 For I Yahweh
will faithfully GIVE THEM RECOMPENSE
10 I greatly rejoice in the Lord,
I exult in my God;
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation
and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness,
as a groom wears a turban
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth produces its growth,
and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

When Jesus came to his own, his own received Him not. Instead they were SCANDALIZED by Jesus. They were OFFENDED by Jesus. The conservatives who liked the status quo thought Jesus was being too “political”. And those who wanted to overcome the Roman occupation thought that Jesus was being too “spiritual” (instead of political).

I often speak of “synagogue sermons” with contempt. By this I mean sermons which are not about Christ but about morality and charity, sermons which could be given to anybody, anywhere. My reference is to “sermons that think they are universal not sectarian” but which carefully exclude (or fail to attend to) anything which might possibly offend anybody. These are sermons that could be given in a mosque or a synagogue with the same (very little) effect. I hear these sermons in Christian churches, both liberal and conservative.

But there is one “synagogue sermon” which caused its hearers to be angry and to attempt violence against Jesus. Were they angry because they were atheists who did not believe in God? No. Were they angry because Jesus left off the part of the quotation from Isaiah which left out the part about the Day of Recompense? It’s not obvious that this was the case. Were they disappointed that the Age to Come they had expected had not yet come? Perhaps, but’s it’s not clear. Were they scandalized because Jesus talked about including Gentiles as well as Jews? I don’t think so. I think the main offense was that Jesus, like John the Baptist, talked about not all the Jews being included. Jesus was not “new perspective” nor was Jesus teaching a new gospel which was “more not less inclusive”.

Luke 4: 16 Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written:

18 The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me
to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
20 Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down to teach. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Jesus.21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”

22 They were all speaking well of Him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from His mouth….Jesus said to them, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them—but to a widow in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had serious skin diseases, yet not one of them was healed —only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged.29 They got up, drove Jesus out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl Jesus over the cliff.30 But Jesus passed right through the crowd and went on His way.

Even though John the Baptist may not have been confused about the exclusion of some Jews from the kingdom, even John was bewildered and doubting about the nature of the kingdom age which had come with Jesus. What the old covenants had taught about the age to come seemed like it was all done at one time, not in two ages, with still another age to come. John the Baptist had already scandalized many, both Pharisees and Sadducees

Matthew 3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” 3 For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said:
A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make His paths straight!
5 Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. 7 When John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the place of his water baptism, John said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. 9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

John the Baptist preached news about Christ as the one who had come to fulfill the law and the prophets. John pointed to Christ as the one who had come to bring the Day of Recompense. John the Baptist preached the law in order to point to Christ as the gospel.

Matthew 11: 2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, John sent a message by his disciples 3 and asked Jesus, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

4 Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:5 the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed,the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.6 And if anyone is not OFFENDED BECAUSE OF ME, he is blessed.”

7 Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. 10 This is the one it is written about:
Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You;
he will prepare Your way before You.

Chaplains of the status quo teach us that it was all a big misunderstanding, that some people think that the kingdom is political but it is not. Chaplains of the status quo wear soft clothes and live in king’s palaces. But John, in preaching the law, was negative about the chaplains and the status quo. John was positive about a coming day of wrath and recompense. Even though John the Baptist was wrong about the timing, John was not wrong about God’s law being satisfied in the future. God’s wrath is satisfied not only in Christ’s death which was ordained by God but which was organized by the Jewish political status quo. God’s wrath was shown in that age by the Roman destruction of the temple and will be shown in the destruction of all the non-elect in the Day to come.

But all these events , John’s preaching and even the synagogue teaching of Jesus (Luke 4) all happened before Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. All that preaching had more repenting in the message than it did “believe and you shall be saved”. Without saying that any one person needs to hear law before gospel, it does seem that for a time what is being heard is law as a preparation for the gospel. Do all the law and you will be saved. But you can’t do all the law, so you won’t be saved. Now you are ready for the gospel. But in some stores. it seems like nobody ever gets to the gospel, because everybody is stuck in law-mode, both those who know they are doomed because they can’t do the law and also those who think they do enough of the law and thank God for giving them the sincerity and ability to do the law, and to “at least” be better than those who killed John the Baptist.

Matthew 14 Herod had arrested John, chained him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 since John had been telling him, “It’s not lawful for you to have her!” 5 Though Herod wanted to kill John , Herod feared the crowd, since they regarded John as a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday celebration came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. 7 So Herod promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8 And prompted by her mother, she answered, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter!” 9 Although the king regretted it, Herod commanded that it be granted because of his oaths and his guests. 10 So Herod sent orders and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 John’s head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.

God does not teach all the law and gospel to any one person at all time, no matter what ‘”soundbite” they have landed on. God did not teach all the law to Adam or to Moses or even in the Sermon on the Mount. And God did not teach all the gospel to Adam or to Abraham or to David or to the disciples and John the Baptist.

Hebrews 2: We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. 4 At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to His will. For God has not subjected to angels the world to come that we are talking about.
7 You made him lower than the angels
for a short time;
You crowned him with glory and honor
8 and SUBJECTED EVERYTHING everything under his feet.
For in subjecting everything to Jesus, God left nothing that is not subject to Jesus. As it is, we do NOT YET see everything subjected to him. 9 But we do see Jesus

The age to come has not yet come.

Stanley Hauerwas—We say that the Psalm Sunday crowd got it wrong because they were wanting freedom in this world and in this age, and then we who either love the status quo or think nothing will change say that Jesus was offering only spiritual freedom, a kingdom after we die, and a death which is not really death. Instead of Passover and resurrection, we teach an inherent immortality that claims that all humans are eternal.

That way we can say the kingdom is in our hearts. Instead of obeying the King who was standing among the disciples and who is coming back to earth, we can say that the Sermon on the Mount is only for after we die, and now go out and buy our guns. All we need to do is be careful not to buy those guns as a church but as individuals.

Hauerwas—-“If Jesus is all about getting us to love one another, then why did almost everyone reject Jesus? They did so, I think, because when Jesus was told by the devil that he would be given the power to turn stones to bread, Jesus refused; when Jesus was offered authority over all the kingdoms of this world, he refused; when he was offered the possibility he would not die, he refused. Jesus refused these goods because God’s kingdom cannot be forced into existence using the means of the devil.

Hauerwas—Jesus’s refusal to play the devil’s game does not mean that the kingdom Jesus proclaims is not political. Jesus refuses to use the violence of the world to achieve “peace.” But that does not mean Jess is any less political or that Jesus is not about the securing of peace. His arrest is often thought to represent the apolitical character of Jesus because Jesus commands Peter to put away the sword Peter had used to cut off the ear of the priest’s slave. Jesus rebukes Peter, but Jesus does so because that is not the “cup” the Father has given him. But the cup from which Jesus must drink is no less political for being nonviolent.

Hauerwas—The character of Jesus’s politics is manifest in his response to the high priest who questions Jesus about his teachings in John 18.19-24. That Jesus is questioned by the high priest may suggest that his mission was “religious” rather than political, but such an account cannot be sustained for no other reason than Jesus’s answer: “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

Hauerwas—They tell me that you are the King of Jews. Is that true?” Pilate’s question is meant to see if Jesus is “political.” Jesus responds by asking if Pilate came up with such a view on his own or did others tell him such was the case. “I am not a Jew, am I?” replies Pilate.. “If my kingdom were FROM this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. ” This is a response used often to deny that Jesus was political. But Pilate rightly saw that Jesus’ denial that his kingship was not of this world is not the denial that Jesus is king. Jesus denied that his kingdom was just another form of Rome.

John Howard Yoder— the Constantinian shift the meaning of the word “Christian” changes. Prior to Constantine it took exceptional courage to be a Christian. After Constantine it takes exceptional courage not to be counted as a Christian. … After the establishment, Christians knew that God was governing the world in Constantine, but they had to take it on faith that within the nominally Christian mass there was a community of true believers. No longer could being a Christian be identified with church membership, since many “Christians” in the church had not chosen to follow Christ. To be a Christian is transmuted to “inward-spirituality.”

Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew (2006)

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16 Comments on “A “synagogue sermon” which scandalizes both exclusivists and inclusivists”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    It does not take a village to be an individual Christian–sometimes you have to separate yourselves from the village, to come out from among them


    We become lovely to those who are lovely to us. In the same way, the false gospel depends on our becoming more lovely


    at the least, the people who killed Jesus did not like Jesus

    stay unprepared, don’t try defend yourself or Jesus

    Luke 21: 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. 14 Therefore make up your minds NOT TO PREPARE ahead of time, 15 for I will give you such words[f] and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. 17 You will be HATED BY EVERYONE hated by everyone because of My name, 18 but not a hair of your head will be lost. 19 By your endurance gain[g] your lives.

    how can i defend Jesus, if I also hate Jesus?

    leonard cohen—“legal Christianity” alligned with power

    • markmcculley Says:


      In spite of the multitude of scriptures which show that the kingdom has been established (Matthew 16:18; Col 1:13-14; John 3:3-5; Hebrews 12:28), premillennialism states that when Jesus returns, He will establish a kingdom in the city of Jerusalem and reign a literal one thousand years. But, if premillennialism is true (which it is not), why didn’t Jesus set up His kingdom when He came the first time? The premillennialist answers, “the Jews rejected it.” The kingdom then, according to them, had to be postponed. In accordance with this speculative theory, Scofield says this chapter is a prophetic picture of the glory of the future kingdom. This is the kingdom announced by John the Baptist as “at hand.” It was then rejected, but will be set up when David’s son returns in glory.

      Note the impact of Scofield’s comments. John announced this kingdom as at hand, but he was wrong!. In similar fashion, W.E. Blackstone says, “Surely nothing is more plainly stated in the scriptures” than that the Israelites are to be restored to Canaan, and Jerusalem rebuilt. He misuses ) Isaiah 11:11 as one of his proof texts.iv The major problem for those writers is that the inspired writers of the New Testament quote these very passages and show their fulfillment in Christ. Paul, in Romans 15:12 quotes Isaiah 11:10 and shows its fulfillment in Christ. The peace described in Isaiah 11:6-ff is fulfilled in Christ recorded in Ephesians 2:14-16. The nations mentioned in Isaiah 11:11 are mentioned in Acts 2:9-11. Rather than establishing premillennialism, Zechariah 6:12-13 disproves its theories. Zechariah states that Jesus will be a priest while He is on His throne.


      Isaiah 11 Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,
      and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
      2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—
      a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
      a Spirit of counsel and strength,
      a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
      3 His delight will be in the fear of the Lord.
      He will not judge
      by what He sees with His eyes,
      He will not execute justice
      by what He hears with His ears,
      4 but He will judge the poor righteously
      and execute justice for the oppressed of the land.
      He will strike the land
      with discipline from His mouth,
      and He will kill the wicked
      with a command from His lips.
      5 Righteousness will be a belt around His loins;
      faithfulness will be a belt around His waist.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    the liberal accuses those who accuse of not being
    mature as she is
    the liberal resents people who judge
    things differently from the way they do

    the liberal has got better things to do
    with their time than to take time to say anything good
    about folks who are not as correct and educated
    with explanation about the resentment of others

    Peter Dula—The story of Emmaus is not about the failure to make Jesus familiar. Emmaus is about success in allowing Jesus to be strange, to not allow Jesus to become an idol. I want to resist blaming the disciples. I wonder if we shouldn’t actually honor Cleopas and his friend.

    It seems to me that the most interesting thing about them is not that they don’t recognize Jesus or that they have misunderstood the prophets and the events of the last week. The most interesting thing about them is their hospitality. They are the kind of people who make the lonely traveler part of an intimate conversation. And they are the kind of people who, unlike the innkeepers Luke began with, invite someone they do not know to stay and share a meal and a room for the night


  3. markmcculley Says:

    Chris Gordon–Years ago I remember hearing an old wise elder say to me that if my sermon could be accepted in a Jewish synagogue then it is not a distinctively Christian sermon. I’ve thought a lot about that over the years. What makes Christian sermons distinctively Christian? What damage could be done in the life of the Christian church if our sermons lose their distinctively Christian character?

    To be sure, the word “gospel” is used differently in the Scriptures.
    Sometimes the word gospel refers broadly to all aspects of the salvation and new life that Jesus gives His people, and sometimes it is used narrowly to refer to what Jesus does for us outside of us. In other words, sometimes the term gospel refers broadly to Jesus’ work of justification and sanctification for and in His people, and sometimes it refers narrowly to Jesus’ work of justification.
    Godfrey also makes the case that sometimes the word “gospel” refers more broadly to all the New Testament fulfillment of what was promised in the Old Testament. It is in this sense that Mark uses “gospel” when he says in chapter 1, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark is explaining the gospel as the person and work of Christ in fulfillment on behalf of his people.

    The presentation of the gospel of the “Son of God” is pressed with urgency upon people to repent and believe this gospel. Mark uses the word “immediately” an astonishingly forty-two times throughout the book. This is not intended to impress upon us the need merely for ethical change, but to receive by faith, all that the Son of God has come to fulfill for the elect—
    It should be no surprise then that the first scene of his public ministry in Mark’s gospel gives us a powerful display of this urgency to believe the gospel. Jesus begins his public ministry on the Sabbath. Worship services on the Sabbath were similar to Reformed worship services today. They would begin their services with blessings, prayers of response, a reading a from the Pentateuch and the Prophets, and they would have a sermon exposition. The service was concluded with a benediction.

    What is of interest is the practice of the synagogue known as the “freedom of the synagogue” under which other rabbai’s were allowed to, upon being recognized, stand up and deliver the sermon. Jesus’ ministry begins in the synagogue. Mark records that Jesus’ teaching was entirely different. Mark says that he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

    The people were astonished over his authority and message, blown out of their minds. They had never heard anything like it. In contrast, the scribes were masters in ethics and dissecting the law. The people were accustomed to getting a lot of law instruction every Sabbath.

    But think of the tragic picture that is presented here. For years these people had been coming up to the synagogue to worship, they got in their synagogue clothes, they heard a call to praise, they heard Bible readings, the scribes got up and preached, and everyone went back home. Nothing happened in the hearts of the people and the kingdom of darkness was perfectly content with that ministry. What were the people getting?

    Mark wants us to ask this question when he says plainly that Jesus teaching was “not as the scribes.” The scribes were the primary teachers in Israel. RC Sproul once said that the scribes were like PHD’s in theology. Their opinions were received with great appreciation by those who heard them.

    The Talmud, a collection of Jewish writings, display their endless ramblings and disputes over everything that was unimportant to the life of the people. They were so disconnected from the people, wasting all of their time on teaching trivialities, the minutiae, none of which was beneficial to the spiritual life of the people. Their sermons were nothing more than academic exercises, and endlessly quoting of all of the other scribes.

    Their focus, of course, was ethics. It’s tragic what it became. Full of self-righteous pride, the Sanhedrin condemned everyone else except themselves. The Pharisees would go so far as to condemn Jesus and his disciples for not washing their hands properly before eating bread Their shepherding of the people proved to be nothing but a heavy handed yoke of manipulation. All their priorities were out of whack. They were grumpy. There was no joy, no confidence, no hope, no freedom, only sorrow and guilt, and whole bunch of fighting and division—tragic consequences of a ministry that kills instead of giving life (2 Cor. 3).

    But what was so different about Jesus preaching?

    Mark answers this question by zeroing in on the response of a demon who had been hanging around the temple. Jesus preaching had thrown the kingdom of darkness into absolute panic. The demon looks at the response of the people and in absolute panic he enters man, and using his vocal chords, cries out, “what have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Demons and false teachers aren’t noisy, they never yell out: “here I am.” It was the authoritative nature of Jesus’ preaching of the gospel of the kingdom that made him screech out in immediate response recognizing that “the time was at hand”—thus his fear that the day of doom had come.

    What created such a response? Was Jesus just a teacher of ethics and the law par excellence?

    (mcmark- Did Jesus have grace for both the man and the demon?)

    His goal wasn’t simply to create controversies about how to correct human behavior. Jesus had one great goal: the salvation of people. Christ desired to bring the truth of the gospel powerfully to bear on the conscience so that when they heard him preach they understood it was a matter of life and death. The felt the urgency to turn and live “today” , “Immediately” Mark tells us, we should believe. That’s the punch of the “gospel” in the gospel of Mark.

    Calvin once said,
    Many other things, undoubtedly, are contained in the Gospel, but the principal object which God intends to accomplish by it is, to receive men into favor by not imputing their sins. If, therefore, we wish to show that we are faithful ministers of the Gospel, we must give our most earnest attention to this subject; for the chief point of difference between the Gospel and heathen philosophy lies in this, that the Gospel makes the salvation of men to consist in the forgiveness of sins through free grace.
    We should never forget that the principle object God intends in the gospel, no matter how “gospel” is particularly nuanced, it is to receive men into his favor by not imputing their sins. That is the priority. What if, as Jeremiah said, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended and we’re still not saved?” What a tragedy if our Reformed ministries are leaving the impression upon our dying people that they are not doing enough good works to enter the kingdom of God. A gospel of the synagogue is no gospel at all but a different gospel that says we are made perfect by the flesh (Gal. 3:2).


    • markmcculley Says:

      Christopher Gordon—-I have been teaching the Canons of Dort was struck the other night by Canons 1:9:

      This same election took place, not on the basis of foreseen faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, or of any other good quality and disposition, as though it were based on a prerequisite cause or condition in the person to be chosen, but rather for the purpose of faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, and so on. Accordingly, election is the source of every saving good. Faith, holiness, and the other saving gifts, and at last eternal life itself, flow forth from election as its fruits and effects. As the apostle says, “He chose us” (not because we were, but) “so that we should be holy and blameless before him in love”.

      This is a remarkable statement. Our divines maintained theological priority but were not afraid of being decretal in their language pastorally. Election being the “unchangeable purpose of God”, is when “he choose a definite number of people out of the entire human” and “decreed to give to Christ those chosen for salvation (Canons 1:7).” Notice how Canons 1:9 speak of election as the source of every saving good. You are guaranteed faith and holiness… To be clear, from election will come, in the course of one’s life, justification, sanctification, and glorification. So important was this understanding to the Synod of Dort, they made sure to say in Canons 1:8 that “we are decreed both to salvation and to the way of salvation, which God prepared in advance for us to walk in.”

      The divines understood the pastoral benefits of correctly emphasizing that all of the fruits that follow in the life of the believer flow from the fountain of election. Election was always intended to encourage and uplift God’s children that the Lord will finish the project he started in them. Election was before any of the fruits we experience, including sanctification, both in order and in time.
      Jesus used the decree in this way in his earthly ministry to encourage his sheep, he said to his disciples, “rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).” This name writing was done before one work was every performed on their part.

      Christopher Gordon–If our concern in the sanctification debate is that a narrow view of the gospel is promoting a truncated view and practice of sanctification in the life of the believer, what is the answer? Considering again the woman in Luke 7 who came with tears resting on Christ’s person and work to save her, should I be concerned that in her enthusiasm she might not understand that her works are needed for her salvation? Even if she is accused of some narrow, justification only view of the gospel, don’t we believe in theological priority, that from true faith will follow good works?

      This doesn’t negate the responsibility to preach and teach sanctification, but it provides a caution for us in the way we present this great work of God in his people’s lives, lest we give the impression that a lack of sanctification may not get his people into glory. If that were possible, who determines the level of sanctification needed to make sure someone will make glorification, especially since sanctification is progressive, and “even the holiest in the life only make a small beginning in this new obedience (HC Q&A 114)?”

      How patient are we really being with God’s work in the sheep when we don’t see the progress in them that we think should be there? When we become judge and jury over the level of people’s sanctification, we can easily wound the sheep, take their eyes off of Christ, and rob them of the peace that God intends for them. This is why the apostle motivated new obedience from faith in the promises of the gospel, encouraging believers that even the grace of holiness was something given to them “before time began (2 Tim. 1:9).”


    • markmcculley Says:

      (Promise, Law, Faith ,Hendrickson, 2019)
      T David Gordon–p 27. The Sinai covenant excludes Gentiles. Paul’s question was, “Why have that DIFFERENT covenant that SEGREGATED the descendents of Abraham from the nations ….Paul asked precisely the opposite question that Luther and Calvin asked when they formulated three uses of the law. They asked–“what are the uses of the Sinai law
      that it STILL HAS?” Paul asked, “What was the purpose of the Sinai law that IT NO LONGER HAS? Galatians 3: 23 Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. 24 The Sinai law, then, was our guardian until Christ.

      T David Gordon–p 42. “Because the doctrine of justification by faith alone was unsettled in Luther’s and Calvin’s day, much Protestant interpretation of Galatians has (in error) assumed that Paul’s issue was the same as Luther’s and Calvin’s. But it was not. Paul’s issue was virtually identical to the issue addressed at the Jerusalem Council–which if any of the ceremonies of the Mosaic law are Gentiles required to observe in the new covenant? (42)

      (Promise, Law, Faith ,Hendrickson, 2019)

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Galatians 6: 14 But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has become an offense to me through the cross, and I have become an offense to the world. 15 For a both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation. 16 May peace come to all those who follow this standard,

    I Corinthians 7: 19 Circumcision does not matter and uncircumcision does not matter, but keeping God’s commands does does matter

  5. markmcculley Says:

    2 Kings 1:12 “But Elijah answered them, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.

    I kings 18:40 Then Elijah ordered them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let even one of them escape.” So they seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there

    “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. Jesus sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for Jesus but they did not receive Jesus, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them . But Jesus turned and rebuked them. “(Luke 9:51-55)

    II Corinthians 3: 7 Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stones, came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to look directly at Moses’ face because of the glory from his face—a fading glory— 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness overflows with even more glory. 10 In fact, what had been glorious is not glorious now by comparison because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was fading away was glorious, what endures will be even more glorious. 12 Therefore, having such a hope, we use great boldness. 13 We are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites could not stare at the the end of what was fading away

    Exodus. 34 “All that first issues from the womb is mine,” is a sweeping demand that the first-born be sacrificed. the all-important exception is duly noted: “You must redeem all the first-born of your sons.” This redemption involved a double substitution. First, the sacrificial priest took the place of the first-born, and then the sacrificial animal he offered on the altar took his place. Not only was the priest the divine executioner, but he was also the designated victim in whose place the actual victim died as his substitute. Should the sacrificial ritual break down, however, the substitution might be abrogated and the priest himself die.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    I come with faith alone in the gospel

    Acts 15 Some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom prescribed by Moses, you cannot be saved!” … 9 God made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith….11 we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.”

    Romans 5: 2 Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have obtained access by faith into this grace om which we stand

    Christ will in the future glorify all those for whom
    Christ has done death

    Christ in the present intercedes for all those for whom
    Christ has done death


    born to a Canaanite Quaker family
    I come alone, without water
    alone, without clergy
    alone, without Christian parents
    alone, without promises to those born in the covenant

    access by faith into this grace, not access by clergy

    near by faith, not nearer and better by agreeing with the tradition about the real presence

    Matthew 15: 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came and kept crying out,“Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly tormented by a demon.” 23 Yet He did not say a word to her. So His disciples approached Him and urged Him, “Send her away because she cries out after us.” 24 He replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came, knelt before Him, and said, “Lord, help me!” 26 He answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to their dogs.” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she said, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!” 28 Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. IT WILL BE DONE FOR YOU as you want.” And from that moment her daughter was cured.

    Matthew 7: 6 Do not give what is holy to dogs or your pearls to pigs or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    1. Were infant children baptized with water on the Day of Pentecost?

    2. How did they decide which infants had at least one believing parent?

    3. Did they have time to set up “confessional boxes” to obtain the profession of parents?

    4. Was one of your parents a believer when you were baptized with water as an infant?

    5. Does it matter if that parent is still believing the gospel? (or still believed it at death?)

    6. Does it matter if that parent was believing the gospel of Roman Catholics?

    7. Was the water baptism of already circumcised persons on the Day of Pentecost a form of “ana” baptism. a “re-circumcision”?

  8. markmcculley Says:

    P1 God promises to save the elect children born of Christian parents.
    P2 God promises to save the elect children not born of Christian parents
    (John 1:13; Gal 3:7-9; Rom 9:7-8, 11, 24-26; 10:11-13; 11:17; Eph 1:4-10,)
    C1 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s promise to save the elect.
    P3 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s promise to save the elect.
    P4 God’s covenantal faithfulness is determined by His promise to save the elect.
    C2 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s covenantal faithfulness. Brandon Adams, they are equivocating on what the promise is, precisely. Is it to the elect, or is it to all our children generally?
    P4 God’s covenantal faithfulness is determined by His promise to save those who he has promised to save.
    P5 God has promised to (among others) save the children of believers.
    C God shows His faithfulness (among other ways) when He saves (among others) the children of believers.
    In which case, there is nothing unique about the salvation of the children of believers since God’s faithfulness is also demonstrated (“among other ways”) when he saves the children of non-believers


  9. markmcculley Says:

    Hebrews 10:24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works

    1 Peter 2:12 Conduct yourselves honorably …so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they seeing your good works will glorify God on the day

    Ephesians 2:10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

    Titus 2:14 Christ gave Himself FOR US to REDEEM US from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.

    Matthew 5: 14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket] but rather on a lamp stand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, in order that they see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

    Matthew 6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness[a] in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Matthew 21: 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its[l] fruit. [44 Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces. But on whoever the stone falls, ithe stone will grind them to powder!]”

    a dispensational interpretation–The kingdom of God will be taken away from the Americans and given to the nation of Israel.

    a Reformed covenant theology—-The only children of Abraham are those in the sacramental church. Abraham has no other children except those watered by the visible church. The kingdom of God has been taken away from Jews merely by natural generation from Abraham, and the kingdom has been given to us, and to our children by natural generation. But when our children by natural generation are watered by the visible church, they are children of Abraham

  11. Mark Mcculley Says:

    John 3: 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is
    born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I told you that
    you MUST be born again. 8 The wind blows where it pleases

    John 3: 12 If I have told you about things that happen on earth and
    you don’t believe those things , how will you believe if I tell you
    about things that come from heaven? 13 No one has ascended into
    heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man MUST be lifted up, 15 in order that as many as who believe in Him will have lasting life.

    John 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom now on this earth is not from this world. If My kingdom in this world were from this world, My
    servants would have killed in order that I not be handed over. But My
    kingdom now coming on this earth is not from this earth

    Who pays this tax for religion collected by the state?Is it the strangers or the children? Does Jesus think his disciples are the strangers, or the ones who don’t have to pay?

    Matthew 17: 24 Those who collected the tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your Teacher pay the tax?” 25 “Yes,” Peter said.
    When he went into the house, Jesus spoke to Peter. “What do you think? Who do earthly kings collect taxes from? From their sons or from strangers? ”
    26 “From strangers,” Peter answered.
    “Then the sons are free,” Jesus told Peter
    27 “But, so we won’t offend them, go to the sea, cast in a fishhook, and take the first fish that you catch. When you open its mouth you’ll find a coin. Take the coin and give it to them.

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