Devotions

James 2:19

“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”

 

 

 

 

Andrew Fuller

“Judge, my friend, and let the reader judge, whether the meaning of the apostle be not expressed in the following paraphrase: Show me, if thou canst, a faith which is of any value without works, and I will show thee a faith which is of value by its fruits. Thou believest that there is one God; a great matter truly! and may not the same be said of the worst of beings? yea, and more: for they, having felt the power of God’s anger, not only believe, but tremble; whereas thy faith suffers thee to live at ease. But as theirs, with all their trembling, is of no account, neither is thine; for faith without holy fruits is dead.

“There is no reason to conclude that the faith and trembling of devils differ in any thing, except in degree, from the convictions and trembling of Felix: if, therefore, the former would in our circumstances have terminated in salvation, why did not the latter, whose situation was sufficiently favourable, so terminate? The convictions of James’s nominal Christian might not be so strong as those of Felix, and his might not be so strong as those of the fallen angels; in in their nature they were one and the same. The first was convinced that there was one God; but it was mere light without love. If, like what is said of the stony-ground hearers, a portion of joy at first attended it, yet, the gospel having no root in his mind, and being in circumstances wherein he saw no remarkable displays of the Divine majesty, it made no durable impression upon him. The second might also be convinced that there was a God, and neither were his convictions accompanied by love, but ‘righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come,’ being set before him, he ‘trembled.’ The last are convinced of the same truth, and neither are their convictions accompanied by love; but being placed in circumstances wherein the awful majesty of God is continually before their eyes, they already know in part, but sad experience, the truth of his threatenings, and tremble in expectation of greater torments.” (Works, 266-267).

Matthew Henry

“We are taught to look upon a faith of bare speculation and knowledge [mere intellectual assent] as the faith of devils: Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble, v. 19. That instance of faith which the apostle here chooses to mention is the first principle of all religion. “Thou believest that there is a God, against the atheists; and that there is but one God, against the idolaters; thou doest well: so far all is right. But to rest here, and take up a good opinion of thyself, or of thy state towards God, merely on account of thy believing in him, this will render thee miserable: The devils also believe, and tremble. If thou contentest thyself with a bare assent to articles of faith, and some speculations upon them, thus far the devils go. And as their faith and knowledge only serve to excite horror, so in a little time will thine.’ The word tremble is commonly looked upon as denoting a good effect of faith; but here it may rather be taken as a bad effect, when applied to the faith of devils. They tremble, not out of reverence, but hatred and opposition to that one God on whom they believe. To rehearse that article of our creed, therefore, I believe in God the Father Almighty, will not distinguish us from devils at last, unless we now give up ourselves to God as the gospel directs, and love him, and delight ourselves in him, and serve him, which the devils do not, cannot do.”

John MacArthur

“Even fallen angels affirm the oneness of God and tremble at its implications. Demons are essentially orthodox in their doctrine (cf. Mt 8:29,30; Mk 5:7; Lk 4:41; Ac 19:15). But orthodox doctrine by itself is no proof of saving faith. they know the truth about God, Christ, and the Spirit, but hate it and Them.” (The MacArthur Study Bible footnote, NASB, p. 1899)

John Calvin

“He then who despises an acknowledged God is much worse.” (Commentaries, v. 22, p.313).

Jonathan Edwards

“The devils and damned souls have a great sense of the vast importance of the things of another world. They are in the invisible world, and they see and know how great the things of that world are. Their experience teaches them in the most affecting manner. They have a great sense of the worth of salvation and the worth of immortal souls and the vast importance of those things that concern men’s eternal welfare. The parable in the latter end of the sixteenth chapter of Luke teaches this in representing the rich man in hell as entreating that Lazarus might be sent to his five brothers to testify unto them, lest they should come to that place of torment. They who endure the torments of hell have doubtless a most lively and affecting sense of the vastness of an endless eternity and of the comparative momentariness of this life and of the vanity of the concerns  and enjoyments of time. They are convinced, effectually, that all the things of this world, even those that appear greatest and most important to the inhabitants of the earth, are despicable trifles, in comparison to the things of the eternal world. They have a great sense of the preciousness of time and the means of grace and of the inestimable value of the privileges that they enjoy who live under the gospel. They are fully sensible of the folly of those that go on in sin, neglect their opportunities, make light of the counsels and warnings of God, and bitterly lament their exceeding folly in their own sins, by which they have brought on themselves so great and remediless misery. Therefore, however, true godliness is attended with a great sense of the importance of divine things, and it is rare that men who have no grace maintain such a sense in any steady and persevering manner, yet it is manifest those things are no certain evidences of grace.” (Sermon: True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils)

Hebrews 1

“God… hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” Jesus is set in juxtaposition with the fathers and prophets that have gone before. The purpose that God had for these men in the past was to communicate truth to His people, namely His will for them, and through this to reveal something of Himself to them. Though Christ has been set apart for a similar task, He has been lifted up in a manner that is far superior to these men. All of what has been said before has led up to this One and is fulfilled by this One. It is completed. There is a finality in the mood of this text evinced by the word “in these last days.” They are the last days because there is no more need for more prophets to be risen up, we have received the perfect One. God has spoken for the last time through His Son, and the Apostles, with the Spirit of Christ, testify of what was already revealed.

Christ is a far worthier speaker and revealer of the Father because this One is far more qualified to do so. He is made much better than the angels who are, compared to men, much wiser, purer, and powerful. Then how much weightier are His words if He is greater than what is greater than men? He is the heir of all things and sits at the right hand of the Father- so we are all under His authority, none can surpass it, not even Moses, and all things are done for the good of His redemptive, sin-purifying interests. So, how much more should we bend our ears to listen to His words, knowing His authority? He is the creator of the world- not as an instrument, but by Him because in Him is all the eternal wisdom of God and power, through His word, to form, order, and uphold the world. How much more, then, should we trust His word knowing its efficacy? And Christ is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person- there is no greater way to make God known than by the One who is His express or exact image and impression, He cannot but reveal the Father. But more, there is no other way than by Christ, for all knowledge and revelation must beam and radiate through Christ for it to be a true reflection of God. So, what other way is there for us to comprehend the Incomprehensible if not through the only true image, His Son?

There can be no other revealer after this. And we ought not look for another. None can be greater than this.

1 Timothy 2

 

Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States

Paul begins to write about some of the practical instructions regarding the duties of the church.

The first thing that he mentions is that people are to publicly pray for all men, and especially the men in government and authority because they will a) have the authority to give a tranquil and peaceful life for the church, directing any mandates or decrees away from the harassment of the church and from hindering the advancement of the gospel, and b) are able to be saved as well.

This is speculation, but perhaps the reason why Paul instructs Timothy to instruct the church to pray for those outside of the faith is because either they had stopped doing so, or were not doing so in the first place. So, Paul gives the positive command to pray publicly, petition openly, entreat earnestly, and give thanks to those in government.

However, maybe out of an overreaction to church history, there is an unfortunate movement in our churches today that is discouraging this very thing. They think that it is not the church’s duty to petition the government to rule according to godly principles because it is not the church’s duty to inform public policy. However, Paul makes it clear in this text that it is the church’s duty to petition especially to those in governmental authority.

There are very clear Biblical principles for the reason why God instituted offices of authority like government. Romans 13 shows that the purpose of the government is to restrain/punish evil and to promote/reward good. If the government rightly executes this mandate, then godliness will be promoted and the wickedness that would disturb the true wellfare of society and the tranquility of the church would be restrained. To know what is objectively wicked (like being absolutely certain that murder is wrong) so as to promote peace is by going to the moral law of God. The only way that a government can rightly execute this is if they are informed by the moral law of God. If what the government rules and mandates is in accordance with the God who established that position of authority, then those rules and mandates will ultimately promote and protect the true church of God.

So, we have Paul encouraging the church to petition the government to rightly execute their function as an institution appointed by God, and accountable to God, so as to maintain peace and civility where true godliness and dignity may more freely flourish.

John A. Broadus more eloquently put it this way:

“When the problem raised by truth involves conduct that reaches beyond person-to-person relations to social institutional relations, the preacher’s task grows more problematical. We live not only in a world of persons but of powerful social organizations and institutions, which exert constant and relentless pressure upon the moral and spiritual life of individuals. The preacher cannot be indifferent to these wider and more complex areas. He must pass unflinching judgment upon the wrongs of society; he must voice the Christian principles of righteousness and justice and good will; he must stir the consciences of men to meet the conditions and practices of the social order with unselfish devotion to truth and honor and common humanity. This duty has already been emphasized in the discussion of ethical preaching.

“But what shall he propose in a practical way? Devise strategies and programs for labor or for capital? Write platforms for the political parties? Propose and advocate particular statutes for legislative bodies? Agitate for particular solutions of the race problems? Turn expert in international procedures? Obviously such things are beyond his ability and outside his function. he is not an expert social planner. He is a prophet, a seer, and critic, and voice of high conscience in the name of God. He should not be complacent in the belief that society is impersonal organization and natural process. Society is composed of men, women, and children. The forms of society are created and managed by persons. The human factor is determinative of many things, including principles and goods. Human responsibility for the social order is therefore real, and the preacher must not permit complacency in himself or in those who hear him.

“He must ask burning questions of persons: ‘Where is thy brother? What meaneth this bleating of sheep?’ But he must ask in knowledge, not ignorance, speaking out of an understanding of conditions and problems won by diligent study. With such understanding he will be able to affix blame where blame lies and to propose with boldness the ways and means that brotherhood, honesty, high motive, and reverence for God will suggest. Such is the preacher’s function.

It is within his province and responsibility to bring every kind of evil, individually and corporately upheld, to the light and judgment of Christ’s moral principles, and then to insist that men put these principles to the test where they are, making adventure along paths which an enlightened conscience can choose.” (On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, ed. Jesse Weatherspoon, Harper and Brothers, 1944. 214)

1 Timothy 1

shipwreck-1854

Paul, an official of the church, holding the office of apostle, is giving instructions in this letter to another officer in the church, Timothy, as to the organization, structure and the function of the church.

Like many of his letters, there is the call to remain faithful and steadfast in the doctrines that were originally given by Paul. It is of utmost importance for the leaders of the church to be on watch for these things, as will be noted in chapters 3 and 4 of this epistle, because they are the earthly captains that turn the ship. The manner in which the ship is turned is by what doctrines are being taught. Paul does not so much a warn not to heed other doctrines, like Galatians speaks about, as much as it is not to teach strange doctrines. To teach something different than what Paul had taught them would be to teach a different Christ, and it would be a distortion and a twisting of the Gospel. If this is the case, then they are no true teachers of God, but they are false teachers leading people astray from the truth of God into shipwreck

Calvin said that sound doctrine is a most precious treasure, for it contains the truth of God’s salvation. Therefore, sound doctrine is invaluable and we ought to dread for it to ever leave us or for it ever to be harmed or fouled in any way. Since the leaders of the church themselves ought to have their consciences set on this preservation, searching the truth of it- and knowing what it is not- because it is his responsibility to steer away from error. If error is not steered away from, God punishes with shipwreck.

Calvin goes on: “Hence we may learn two lessons. First, Teachers and ministers of the gospel, and, through them all the churches are taught with what horror they ought to regard a hypocritical and deceitful profession of true doctrine, when they learn that it is so severely punished.

“Secondly, this passage removes the offense by which so many persons are greatly distressed, when they perceive that some, who formerly professed their attachment to Christ and to the gospel, not only fall back into their former superstitions but (which is far worse) are bewildered and captivated by monstrous errors. For by such examples, God openly supports the majesty of the gospel, and openly shows that he cannot at all endure the profanation of it.

“And this is what experience has taught us in every age. All the errors that have existed in the Christian Church from the beginning, proceeded from this source, that in some persons, ambition, and in others, covetousness, extinguished the true fear of God. A bad conscience is, therefore, the mother of all heresies…”

2 Thessalonians 3

undisciplined

A seemingly extreme manner of disassociating with “unruly” brethren is laid out in verses 14 and 15. There is the instruction for the rest of the body to separate from those who do not take to heart the instructions of godliness that are posited. This separation does not mean to never speak with such a person ever again, rather it is in terms of not mingling with them in a more comfortable, social setting, as if one were to pretend that everything is normal and okay.

Some may see this exclusion as harsh and unloving, but verse 15 exposes this way of dealing with unruly men as actually loving. It is a desire to see them not only walk in a manner consistent to the sanctified life to which they have been called merely in an external way, but it is because this outward walk is a fruit of what is in the heart. Since from out of the heart flow the issues of life, then this manner of dealing with someone is a corporate expression of admonition and hope for inward repentance and change. It is a love for them to be vigilant and sober so that the deluding influence of lawlessness and false belief does not continue to consume their hearts and lead to their ultimate destruction.

Though unrepentant sin is to be resolutely dealt with within the church, the purpose of this exclusion is not to ultimately reject someone, but to protect the rest of the church from being negatively influenced, and to restore the wandering sheep back to the fold.

A true friend is one that can speak truthfully to another, and to behave toward them truthfully, with the intention of seeing them benefited. A hateful parent does nothing to discipline their children, but a loving parent corrects and instructs their children when they do wrong. They do this because they know that it is for their good. So, admonitions and necessary steps must be taken in brotherly love out of a desire for their eternal well being.

Calvin said in regards to 2 Corinthians 2:7 and on this passage: “Hence we see that the use of discipline ought to be in such a way as to consult the welfare of those on whom the Church inflicts punishment. Now, it cannot but be that severity will fret, when it goes beyond due bounds. Hence, if we wish to do good, gentleness and mildness are necessary, that those that are reproved may know that they are nevertheless loved.”