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By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

(From: Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution)

Out of the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day had risen teachers of the law who did not know what the law meant. Jesus found himself saying things like ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?’ ( John 3:10 ESV). Some of the teachers had lost all sense of biblical proportion, ‘straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!’ (Matt 23:24 ESV). And as they lost their bearings, they came under Jesus’ most serious charge: ‘You have made void the word of God’ (Matt 15:6 ESV).

Emotionally, Jesus’ response was a sinless combination of grief and anger. ‘He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart’ (Mark 3:5 ESV). Why both anger and grief?

The anger was because people were being hurt – eternally. These teachers were supposed to know what the word of God meant, but instead Jesus said they were ‘like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing’ it (Luke 11:44 ESV). This made Jesus angry. Their job was to teach what God had said. Instead, they were blind guides and were leading others with them into the ditch. Jesus loved people. Therefore, he was angry with professional teachers who imperiled people with biblical blunders.

But Jesus was not only angry; he was ‘grieved at their hardness of heart’. These were his kinsmen. These were the leaders of his people. These were the representatives of the Jerusalem he loved and wept over. ‘Would that you . . . had known . . . the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’ (Luke 19:42). The condition of their heart and the blindness of their eyes were a grief to Jesus.

This is how I feel today about teachers of Christ’s people who deny and even belittle precious, life-saving, biblical truth. When a person says that God’s ‘punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed’ would be as evil as child abuse, I am angered and grieved. For if God did not punish his Son in my place, I am not saved from my greatest peril, the wrath of God.

In part, I write this foreword to defend my Father’s wrath against me before I was adopted. He does not need my defence. But I believe he would be honoured by it. On behalf of my Father, then, I would like to bear witness to the truth that, before he adopted me, his terrible wrath rested upon me. Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey . . . the wrath of God remains on him’ (John 3:36; italics added). Wrath remains on us as long as there is no faith in Jesus.

Paul puts it like this: We ‘were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind’ (Eph. 2:3). My very nature made me worthy of wrath. My destiny was to endure ‘flaming fire’ and ‘vengeance on those . . . who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus . . . [and who] suffer the punishment of eternal destruction’ (2 Thess. 1:8-9 ESV). I was not a son of God. God was not my Father. He was my judge and executioner. I was ‘dead in . . . trespasses and sins’, one of the ‘sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:1-2 ESV). And the sentence of my Judge was clear and terrifying: ‘because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 5:5 ESV; italics added).

There was only one hope for me – that the infinite wisdom of God might make a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God so that I might become a son of God.

This is exactly what happened, and I will sing of it forever. After saying that I was by nature a child of wrath, Paul says, ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ’ (Eph. 2:4-5 ESV). What a grievous blindness when a teacher in the church writes that the term ‘children of wrath’ cannot mean ‘actual objects of God’s wrath . . . [because] in the same breath they are described as at the same time objects of God’s love’. On the contrary. This is the very triumph of the love of God. This is the love of God – the ‘great love with which he loved us’. It rescued me from his wrath and adopted me into sonship.

‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son . . . to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (Gal. 4:4 ESV). God sent his Son to rescue me from his wrath and make me his child.

How did he do it? He did it in the way one writer slanderously calls ‘cosmic child abuse’. God’s Son bore God’s curse in my place. ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’ (Gal. 3:13 ESV; italics added). If people in the twenty-first century find this greatest act of love ‘morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith’, it was not different in Paul’s day. ‘We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles’ (I Cor. 1:23 ESV; italics added).

But for those who are called by God and believe in Jesus, this is ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (I Cor. 1:24 ESV). This is my life. This is the only way God could become my Father. Now that his wrath no longer rests on me (John 3:36), he has sent the Spirit of sonship flooding into my heart crying Abba, Father (Rom. 8:15). I thank you, heavenly Father, with all my heart, that you saved me from your wrath. I rejoice to measure your love for me by the magnitude of the wrath I deserved and the wonder of your mercy by putting Christ in my place.

Those who try to rescue the love of God by minimizing the wrath of God, undermine not only the love of God, but also his demand that we love our enemies. It is breathtaking to hear one of them say, ‘If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies, and to refuse to repay evil with evil.’ Those are deadly words, which, if they held sway, would take enemy love out of the world.

Why? Because Paul said that counting on the final wrath of God against his enemies is one of the crucial warrants for why we may not return evil for evil. It is precisely because we may trust the wisdom of God to apply his wrath justly that we must leave all vengeance to him and return good for evil. ‘Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him”’ (Rom. 12:19-20 ESV). If God does not show wrath, sooner or later we shall take justice into our own hands. But God says, ‘Don’t. I will see to it.’

Every section of this book yields another reason to thank God for the labours of the authors and for IVP in Britain. I pray that the Lord will give the book success in the defence and honour of God, and that Jesus Christ will be treasured all the more fully when he is seen more clearly to be Pierced for our Transgressions.

 

This book is important not only because it deals so competently with what lies at the heart of Christ’s cross work, but because it responds effectively to a new generation of people who are not listening very carefully to what either Scripture or history says.”
D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

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Foreword: One of the most significant sermons preached during the Great Awakening. It pleased the Holy Spirit to use this preaching to prick the hearts of the hearers to repentance. May it ever be so again today as this, once more, is available below to be read by every visitor to this weblog. Verses below are quoted in American Standard Version (ASV). Click the verse link to read in the English Standard Version (ESV)

EmmausTrekker

 

Preached by by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Enfield, Connecticut
July 8, 1741

Their foot shall slide in due time.” Deuteronomy 32:35

In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God’s visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works towards them, remained (as verse 28.) void of counsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text. — The expression I have chosen for my text, their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.

  1. That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm 73:18Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction.

  2. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning: Which is also expressed in Psalm 73:18,19Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!

  3. Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.

  4. That the reason why they are not fallen already and do not fall now is only that God’s appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.

The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this. — “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” — By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment. — The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.

  1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. — He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defence from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?

  2. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God’s using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?Luke 13:7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God’s mere will, that holds it back.

  3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John 3:18He that believeth not is condemned already.” So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John 8:23Ye are from beneath:” And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God’s word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.

  4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.

    So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.

  5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The scripture represents them as his goods, Luke 11:12. The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.

  6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God’s restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in scripture compared to the troubled sea, Isaiah 57:20. For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;” but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God’s restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.

  7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God’s hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.

  8. Natural men’s prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men’s own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? Ecclesiastes 2:16How dieth the wise man? even as the fool.

  9. All wicked men’s pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.

    But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive: it was not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, “No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself — I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief — Death outwitted me: God’s wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction came upon me.”

  10. God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.

So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men’s earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.

So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.

Application

The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. — That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are the black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff on the summer threshing floor.

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.

The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. — And consider here more particularly,

  1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. Proverbs 20:2The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul.” The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. Luke 12:4-5 And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

  2. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isaiah 59:18. “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries.” So Isaiah 66:15. “For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” And in many other places. So, Revelation 19:15, we read of “the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, “the wrath of God,” the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is “the fierceness and wrath of God.” The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful that must be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also “the fierceness and wrath of almighty God.” As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!

    Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezekiel 8:18. “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only “laugh and mock,Proverbs 1:25-26,etc.

    How awful are those words, Isaiah 63:3, which are the words of the great God. “I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.” It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.

  3. The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. Romans 9:22What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. When the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isaiah 33:12-14. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites,” etc.

    Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. Isaiah 66:23-24. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

  4. It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For “who knows the power of God’s anger?

How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting-house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day’s opportunity such as you now enjoy!

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?

Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how generality persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God’s mercy? You had need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God. — And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness. — And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?

And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favour to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men’s hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great out-pouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles’ days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you was born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God’s Spirit, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.

Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”


 

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Psalm 92 
(a Song for the Sabbath)
1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
 5 How great are your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep!
6 The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
7 that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
8 but you, O Lord, are on high forever.
9 For behold, your enemies, O Lord,
for behold, your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.
10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
you have poured over me fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants. 
12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Inspiration

The psalmist begins by an intention springing from his heart that sings, “it is good to give thanks to the Lord”. Through this inspiration, the elements of the song are brought together. Realities that has happened to him permeates the song, but more so, are these realities understood as the works of the One who sustains him at all times – the LORD.

Men today draws inspiration from many places, situations, things and memories. You only need to listen to a lyricist or musical composer or even a poet, whenever they reveal their sources – from the mundane to the esoteric. Not so with the psalmist;  in verse 2, God’s unchanging love and faithfulness displayed in  His work are manifested in the psalmist’s experience. Today, we have the Holy Spirit-inspired Psalm 92  as part of the Scriptures for us. God’s specific deeds in focus are scrolled out in the succeeding verses:

  • Verses 5 – 9:  God’s sovereignty even over wicked men and the wrath reserved for them at the appointed time.
  • Verses 10 – 15:  In contrast to the preceding verses, we read God’s sustaining grace and kindness on the psalmist even to old age.

These have become the contents for the inspired song which he purposed to be sang on the Sabbath, a day that  God’s people are commanded to take rest from their labors and meditate upon the Lord and His work.  Today, a type of Sabbath is entered into for those who trust and obey the Lord Jesus Christ who has given us eternal rest by His salvation through His finished work on the cross and resurrection.  In Jesus alone, we have peace with God – in Him we have entered God’s rest by faith.

As it is written:

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.  For we who have believed enter that rest…” – Hebrews 4:1-3

For this reason, we join the psalmist in his declaration of praise to God:

For you have made me glad by your works; at the works of your hands, I sing for joy”- Psalm 92:4

Rest from enemies

The enemies still surround and perhaps are still plotting evil against the psalmist but  he knows that God is his enemies ultimate foe, and they will never prosper, whether in the immediate or in the future. In the Lord he finds his rest.  Rest is not the absence of trouble, but rest is knowing that all events at all times are in God’s hands and those who take refuge in Him are safe.

Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” – Exodus 14:13-14

When God, through His servant Moses, was about to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Pharoah, He sent His word of comfort and assurance for the people, that they may not be overwhelmed and be witnesses to the hand of God that brought down destruction upon their enemies.  Moses is a type of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the Lord, salvation and reprieve from enemies is assured, whether physical or spiritual.  The term ‘you only have to be silent’ is another way of commanding them to trust in Him. And to trust means to be believe what He said and be assured of the fulfillment His promise.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” – 2 Corinthians 1:19-22

Our arch enemy, Satan, is already defeated at the cross and we are realizing this day by day in our lives as the Lord sanctifies us through His Word through the active working of the Holy Spirit. And on God’s appointed day of Christ’s return, this enemy alongwith all wickedness will be cast into the lake of fire.

The psalmist identifies the enemy as stupid and foolish (v. 5-6) for they do not know that they are against God who has anointed him (v.10). Strong evidence points the authorship of the psalm to David despite the absence of any direct attribution to him. He wrote in an earlier psalm that many are his foes and at the time he penned this, he is still plagued by them.  This time though, he writes with his eyes set on God’s greatness, bringing him strength and assurance of God’s steadfastness.

Longevity

David now reflects on the longevity of life marked with fruitfulness that God has blessed him (v.12-14). It does not effectively say that he is already old by the time he wrote this, but it conveys to the reader his confidence of God’s sustaining grace (v. 15).

Indeed the Lord has given many of His people long life, not only during biblical times but also today.  Yet, as God is sovereign, not everyone who trusts in Christ Jesus may live long, but every child of God is given the assurance of a full life – full of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

Someone said that it is not the years in our life but the life in our years. In Jesus, we may not necessarily count scores of years, but we can be sure of recounting His sufficient and abounding grace each day.  And in the end, the more we know Him through His word and work, the more we are grounded in the security we find in Him. Of His sheep, He confirmed,

I know them, and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish,and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” – John 10:26-27.

You see my dear reader, the psalmist speaks of God’s judgment on the wicked. Truth is, we are all God’s enemies and as indicated in the psalm, our days are counted and fiery judgment awaits us in the end.  Our sin has earned us the wrath of the Almighty. Jesus said that we should not be afraid of man who can put the body to death, but rather we should fear God who alone can cast both body and soul into the fire (Matthew 10:28).  In order that God’s wrath can be appeased, Jesus Christ, the Son of God humbled Himself by becoming a servant, clothing Himself with human flesh through the virgin birth, took our place – the place of God’s enemy – and upon Himself God’s wrath was poured at the cross. He was crushed for our inquity. The innocent for the guilty, He died our death.  He satisfied the righteous demand of God and upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

If you have not trusted in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, you certainly remain under His wrath (John 3:18).  Similarly, as the psalmist declared in verse 7, you may think your life is prospering, but in reality you have fattened your heart with sinful indulgence for the day of slaughter (James 5:5).

God commands you to repent and believe the Gospel of His only begotten Son – who is both Lord and Christ – that by His saving work through the eternal Spirit, you may enter God’s peace, being fully assured of eternal life, His steadfast love and faithfulness all the days of your life, while waiting for the inheritance of the fullness of the kingdom that is to come.

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” – Hebrews 13:12-15

Finally Psalm 92 is a song truly fitting for those who rest in the love and faithfulness of the  Lord Jesus Christ, and together with the psalmist, we sing:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High!” – Psalm 92:1 

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A group of Christian music ministers in south-eastern Luzon, Philippines have formed a group to test choruses currently used in worship services. Much of these songs are contemporary, comprising of few short verses that are repeated a couple of times or as much as the song leader would like to repeat them for reasons that only them would know. These choruses are a far cry from the hymns of centuries gone by. Some would argue that we need to be contemporary; if style is the issue, then I for one would also push for updated arrangements but I guess what they mean by contemporary go beyond arrangement – it is the ‘reconstruction’ of theme and words within the song.

One of these choruses that they have been critiquing based on the original composition, arrangement and artist is entitled ‘How He Love Us’ (John Mark McMillan). It appears that this song has become popular that it was also recorded by two other artists/groups (Kim Walker and David Crowder Band). Hereunder, in order to conserve space, I have appended only the first stanza and chorus (to view the whole song, click on the link at the bottom of this post):

HOW HE LOVE US
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
Chorus:
He loves us
Whoa, How He loves us
Whoa, How He loves us
Whoa, How He loves
Yeah He loves us
Whoa, How He loves us
Whoa, How He loves us
 Whoa, How He loves us

Their bone of contention is the word ‘jealous’ and how it ties in with the song, whether the opening line ‘He is jealous for me’ is biblical or not. I do not know how their forum on this was resolved, but let our electronic fingers do the walking on the pages of the Scripture. Using a search engine on the ESV, the words ‘jealous’ and ‘jealousy’ produced dozens and dozens of verses from the entire Old and New Testaments. Since the first line of the song is relational I narrowed it down and I considered how these two words are used in terms of the relationship between God and His people. These resulted to 28 verses (Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15, 29:20, 32:16, 21; Joshua 24:19; 1 Kings 14:22; Psalm 78:58, 79:5; Ezekiel 5:13, 8:3, 8:5, 16:42, 23:25, 36:5-6, 38:19, 39:25; Nahum 1:2; Zephaniah 1:18, 3:8; Zechariah 1:14, 8:2; 1 Corinthians 10:22; James 4:5. May I note here that Deuteronomy 4:24 (For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God) is inferred in Hebrews 12:28 (our God is a consuming fire).

Each time, it is used to explain God’s anger upon His people’s idolatry or His warning against idolatry to which God says that He is a jealous God. Indeed I must admit that it infers His love for His people, however, in these verses the object is not about His love but about His glory for which He would not share to anyone – not any idol or gods of any sort. His glory is foremost hence His warnings. The first time God says He is jealous is in the Decalogue which is tied to His wrath upon idolatry and upon His people if they fall into it:

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me – Exodus 20:5

The Decalogue (Ten Commandments) begin with “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:2-3). In fact every command that followed is predicated on this first command. That means any infraction on any of the commands is ultimately the breaking of this first one. Dr. Albert Mohler, in his series of sermons on the Decalogue, mentions this truth (you can visit his site and go to his sermon page).

By the time we read the 34th chapter of Exodus, not only is He a jealous God but reveals that His name is ‘Jealous’ and is again tied with His warning against worshipping other gods:

(for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God) – Exodus 34:14

Going through the 28 verses listed above, one can see clearly how it is God’s intention to declare His glory every time the verse is used and as a warning to His people about idolatry. But I also mentioned that His love for His people can be inferred. God’s jealousy is also to be understood as for our benefit. In Ezekiel 39:25, the Lord promised to restore Jacob (Israel) from her 70-year exile in Babylon and as you will notice that His restoration is primarily for the glory of His name, the consequence of which is a blessing for His people who has previously rebelled against Him through their idolatries and breaking of commandments.

“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy Name” – Ezekiel 39:25

Although there is much to write about this matter, let us go back to the issue at hand. Is the first verse of the song biblical? So it seems. But just looking at the first stanza (and the whole song as well – see link below), there is nothing in its theme that reflects the way God used the word jealous in connection to Himself and His people. A theme of God’s glory, warnings of idolatry and its curses, as well as the benefits of being faithful to the one true God who graciously saved us and is jealous for His people must permeate the song. If I would change the lyrics of, for example, the chorus, it might read something like this:

The Lord is our jealous God, worthy of glory
There is none beside Him, His Name is Jealous
Let His people seek no other, for there is none like Him
Through His Son He has saved us, and called us for His own
By His Spirit preserved us – the people He formed for His glory
The Lord God is our portion, now and forevermore!

– then it would perhaps be a more appropriate congregational song, don’t you think so?

Critiquing the first line in relation to the whole song has revealed a serious problem when placed face-to-face with the Scriptures, let alone the entire song. So, if I were to give an unsolicited advise to that group, file that song under “Hazardous to Spiritual Health” category. The song is, at best, reductionistic and romanticism, and worst, idolatrous because the focus of the song shifts from God to self. For seeker-sensitive groups this song is a sure favorite, but for Gospel-centric groups, this song would not even make it through the front gates of the church.

Paul’s admonition is recalled here: “but test everything, hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

 

HOW HE LOVE US by John Mark McMillan
http://www.sweetslyrics.com/526318.John%20Mark%20Mcmillan%20-%20How%20He%20Loves%20.html

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