Authority in the Word

by Frank Jones

"Because God gave them his word, the [Old Testament] prophets were able to proclaim: Thus says the Lord, and Hear the word of the Lord! Since the prophets proclaimed God's word, their preaching was authoritative. This relationship suggests that the authority of the prophets did not reside, ultimately, in their person, their calling, or their office; rather, their authority was founded in the word of God they proclaimed." (Greidanus, S. The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature, 2)

The Word Effecting its Purpose

by Frank Jones

"In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God laid the foundation for the redemption of all people, but this redemptive event had to be proclaimed in order to become effective. Paul in particular underscores the indispensability of preaching. After quoting the Old Testament promise that every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved, he asks in Rom 10:14-15: But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?" (Greidanus, S. The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature, 3)

No One Good but God

by Frank Jones

"Thou bottomless fountain of all good, I give myself to thee out of love, for all I have or own is thine, my goods, family, church, self, to do with as thou wilt, to honor thyself by me, and by all mine.

If it be consistent with thy eternal counsels, the purpose of thy grace, and the great ends of thy glory, then bestow upon me the blessings of thy comforts; if not, let me resign myself to thy wiser determinations." (The Valley of Vision, The All-Good, 11)

God, My Savior

by Frank Jones

"Give me to feel a need of his continual saviourhood, and cry with Job, 'I am vile', with Peter, 'I perish', with the publican, 'Be merciful to me, a sinner'. Subdue in me the love of sin, let me know the need of [renewing] as well as forgiveness, in order to serve and enjoy thee for ever." (The Valley of Vision, God the Source of All Good, 6)

Deliverance is not Guaranteed by Fasting

by Frank Jones

"The three-day fast called by Mordecai at Esther’s request in 4:15–16 is best understood in terms of a related, but significantly different, belief on the part of the Jews. It is quite distinct in character from the ‘fasting, weeping and wailing’ which are mentioned at the beginning of the same chapter (4:1–3). That was a spontaneous response to bad news. This fast, in contrast, is ‘called’ by Esther and Mordecai, and therefore takes on the character of a ritual act. Furthermore, it is specifically ‘for’ Esther (4:15), who is about to take her life in her hands by approaching the king unbidden; it has an intercessory aspect to it. The Jews apparently do not believe that particular events have a fixed character; but neither do they think that the way they turn out is entirely due to natural causes. The fasting here implies belief in a higher power who may be induced to intervene in a favourable way. The fast in question appears to be a religious act which it is hoped will induce him to do so on this particular occasion. But the outcome is not guaranteed by the act. There is no mechanical connection between ritual and result. The power who is appealed to remains free and sovereign: ‘If I perish, I perish’ (4:16)." (Webb, Barry. Five Festal Garments, 121-122.)

The Hidden God Seen

by Frank Jones

"In particular, the hiddenness of God that we find in Esther mirrors the world many of us live in today, particularly in the West. Events seem to take their normal course, and miracles are few and far between, if they occur at all. But if we have read Esther correctly, it testifies in a striking way to the fact that the absence of the miraculous does not mean the absence of God. He remains committed to the welfare of his people, and works all things for their good, even when he is most hidden. This message about the special providence of God is one that is reiterated in the New Testament and one that God’s people still—and perhaps especially—need to hear today (Rom. 8:28)." (Webb, Barry. Five Festal Garments, 131.)

God is Active When Hidden

by Frank Jones

"One thing it does is to set Esther off sharply from some deliverance narratives, such as the exodus from Egypt or the exploits of the judges, and align it closely with others, such as the stories of Joseph and Ruth. What these point to only partially, however, Esther carries to its logical conclusion. God is present even when he is most absent; when there are no miracles, dreams or visions, no charismatic leaders, no prophets to interpret what is happening, and not even any explicit God-talk. And he is present as deliverer. Those whom he saved by signs and wonders at the exodus he continues to save through his hidden, providential control of their history. His people are never simply at the mercy of blind fate or of malign powers, whether human or supernatural. Proverbs comes very close to distilling the theology of Esther in a single aphorism: ‘The lot is cast into the lap, but its decision is wholly from Yahweh’ (Prov. 16:33, my translation). But, as Baldwin notes, Esther goes even further than this: ‘even when the dice had fallen the Lord was powerful to reverse its good omen into bad, in order to deliver his people’ (1984: 23)." (Webb, Barry. Five Festal Garments, 124-125.)

Lament with Confession

by Frank Jones

"Why should a living man ('Adam) complain, a man (geber) for the punishment of his sins?

There is such a thing as undeserved suffering, as the book of Job clearly recognizes. But his man is no Job, and the community of which is is a part is not a blameless one, as the previous poems have mad clear. And in such circumstances even lament can be a strategy of evasion. Only when it includes confession of sin does it fully come to grips with reality and allow the love, compassion and faithfulness of God to heal what is broken and make restoration complete. Lament without confession is mere complaint." (Webb, Barry. Five Festal Garments, 70-71.)

Revival of the Old-Fashioned Doctrine

by Frank Jones

"We want a revival of old-fashioned doctrine. Our fear is that, if “modern thought” proceeds much further, the fashion of our religion will be as much Mohammedan as Christian; in fact, it will be more like infidelity than either. A converted Jew, staying in London, went into a dissenting chapel which I could mention; and when he returned to the friend with whom he was staying, he enquired what the religion of the place could be, for he had heard nothing of what he had received as the Christian faith. The doctrines which are distinctive of the New Testament may not be actually denied in set terms, but they are spirited away; familiar phrases are used, but a new sense is attached to them.

Certain modern preachers talk much of Christ, and yet reject Christianity. Under cover of extolling the Teacher, they reject His teaching for theories more in accord with the spirit of the age. At first, Calvinism was too harsh, then Evangelical doctrines became too antiquated, and now the Scriptures themselves must bow to man’s alteration and improvement. There is plenty of preaching, in the present day, in which no mention is made of the depravity of human nature, the work of the Holy Ghost, the blood of atonement, or the punishment of sin. The Deity of Christ is not so often assailed, but the Gospel which He gave us, through His own teaching and that of the apostles, is questioned, criticized, and set aside. One of the great Missionary Societies actually informs us, by one of its writers, that it does not send out missionaries to save the heathen from the wrath to come, but to prepare them “for the higher realm which awaits them beyond the river of death.” I confess that I have better hopes for the future of the heathen than for the state of those who thus write concerning them. The heathen will derive but small advantage from the Gospel which such triflers with the Scriptures are likely to carry them.

I know not a single doctrine which is not at this hour studiously undermined by those who ought to be its defenders; there is not a truth that is precious to the soul which is not now denied by those whose profession it is to proclaim it. The times are out of joint, and many are hoping to make them more and more so. To me, it is clear that we need a revival of old-fashioned Gospel preaching like that of Whitefield and Wesley; to me, preferably that of Whitefield. We need to believe: the Scriptures must be made the infallible foundation of all teaching; the ruin, redemption, and regeneration of mankind must be set forth in unmistakable terms, and that right speedily, or faith will be more rare than gold of Ophir. We must demand from our teachers that they give us a “Thus saith the Lord;” for, at this time, they give us their own imaginations. To-day, the Word of the Lord in the Book of Jeremiah is true: “Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise Me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” (Jer. 23:16, 17.) Beware of those who say that there is no hell, and who declare new ways to Heaven. May the Lord have mercy upon them!" (Spurgeon, C. H. Only a Prayer Meeting: Forty Addresses at Metropolitan Tabernacle and Other Prayer-Meetings. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009, 13-15.)

The Holy Art of Prayer

by Frank Jones

"If a church is to be what it ought to be for the purposes of God, we must train it in the holy art of prayer. Churches without prayer-meetings are grievously common. Even if there were only one such, it would be one to weep over. In many churches the prayer-meeting is only the skeleton of a gathering: the form is kept up, but the people do not come. There is no interest, no power, in connection with the meeting. Oh, my brothers, let it not be so with you! Do train the people to continually meet together for prayer. Rouse them to incessant supplication. There is a holy art in it. Study to show yourselves approved by the prayerfulness of your people. If you pray yourself, you will want them to pray with you; and when they begin to pray with you, and for you, and for the work of the Lord, they will want more prayer themselves, and the appetite will grow. Believe me, if a church does not pray, it is dead. Instead of putting united prayer last, put it first. Everything will hinge upon ... prayer in the church." (Spurgeon, C. H. The Greatest Fight in the World (Final Manifesto). Toronto; New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1891, 43.)

A Greater Glory

by Frank Jones

The simple comparison of verses will speak to the exceeding glory of the New Testament in the Person of the Son of God.

Then Moses said, "I pray You, show me Your glory!" (Exo 34:6)

Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. (Joh 14:8)

For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor 4:6)