Gospel Progressing in Conflict

by Frank Jones


"The suffering of the Puritans, the illustrations in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, the bloody strictures of Bonner and his crew, the Pope and his crew, the progress made for truth and the gospel through stocks, prison, burnings, and blood permeated Spurgeon’s understanding of mission theology. That they did not count their lives dear to themselves in comparison to the great calling of working for the defense and propagation of the gospel—such scenes settled in Spurgeon’s memory and molded his conscience. God’s gospel would make progress when its propagators looked death in the face and did not relent. The issues of eternity overwhelm any temporal and, relatively speaking, momentary suffering that a gospel missionary might endure. When Baptist missionaries returned from Ireland because the Irish hooted them, and threw stones at them, Spurgeon snarled, “Now don’t you think you see Paul taking a microscope out of his pocket, and looking at a little man who should say to him, ‘I shall not go there to preach, because the Irish hooted me!’” What a small edition of a preacher such an intimidated creature must be. But they threw stones! Tell that to Paul with a face unashamed. But the police interfered, they might put us in stocks, and some might even die. “Our business is to preach the word,” Spurgeon responded; “Where is that zeal which counted not its life dear, so that it might win Christ?” The killing of a few of our ministers would prosper Christianity, he preached; if men die by the hundreds and thousands in defense of hearth and home, so surely it is no great grief to lose a dozen to death in the cause of the gospel. “I would count my own blood most profitably shed in so holy a struggle,” Spurgeon affirmed. When the gospel prospered aforetime, it did so because some laid down their lives for it and others walked “to victory over their slain bodies.” (Nettles, T. J. Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Revised edition ed.). Mentor, 25.)


God in Action

by Frank Jones


And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers (1 The 2:13)

"Paul's conviction that the preached word of God 'is at work in you believers' is similar to the view of the Old Testament prophets that God's word is God's deed: God's word goes out into the world as a powerful force that accomplishes his purposes. Peter also echoes this belief when he reminds his readers: 'You have been born anew ... through the living and abiding word of God.' If anyone should wonder what that word of God is precisely, Peter explains: 'That word is the good news which was preached to you' (1 Pet 1:23, 25). Like the prophets and Paul, Peter is convinced of the power of the preached word. that power is not some magical force in the words themselves but is the power of God whose word it is, for the gospel 'is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith' (Rom 1:16). The New Testament, therefore, views preaching as 'God in action.' Preaching is not merely a word about God and his redemptive acts but a word of God and as such is itself a redemptive event. (Greidanus, S. The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature, 5)


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)


Let the Word of Christ Abide

by Frank Jones


"I would have every Christian wish to know all that he can know of revealed truth. Somebody whispers that the secret things belong not to us. You may be sure you will never know them if they are secret; but all that is revealed you ought to know, for these things belong to you and to your children. Take care you know what the Holy Ghost teaches. Do not give way to a faint-hearted ignorance, lest you be great losers thereby" (Charles Spurgeon, MTP, 1891:318).


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.)