The Strong Quietness of Faith in Christ

by Frank Jones

Upon a pastoral visit in 1829, Samuel and Emily Wilberforce visited the sick-bed of "a poor girl of 15" years of age. She was dying from pulmonary tuberculosis [consumption]. Emily wrote of this visit to her father, William.

"I have been with Sam to-day to the sick bed of a poor girl of 15, who is dying of a consumption. She is a most humble sincere and patient Christian wishing to be at rest with her Lord but quite willing to wait His good pleasure and her only anxiety seems how to comfort her poor heartbroken mother. It is quite a lesson to see her. ... Sam asked her if she felt to love her Saviour and she answered with the greatest earnestness 'As much as ever I can love, Sir'. What should you be without Him? 'Most miserable.' 'Do you feel very sorry when you grieve this Saviour?' 'I always felt very sorry for my sins, but now I feel doubly sorry.' I saw she had her Bible in bed and I asked her what text she felt most comfort in. She said 'There is one I love more than all others, Jesus Christ came into the World to save sinners and so He came to save me. No one has sinned so much.'"

This testimony reminded me of this word from Solomon. The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools (Ecc 9:17). There is enough burdensome, tiring shouting in our world today. Let us hear the voice of true faith in quietness.


Neutrality is Treason

by Frank Jones

From a letter to J.C. Ryle from William Marsh.

"The great enemy is awake and astir; if we sleep, the land will be sown with tares. May truth conquer among our Suffolk brethren, and the wheat they sow producce an abundant harvest. Controversy, 'with meekness and wisdom', in the present day is a bounden duty; silence would be too like neutrality, and neutrality is treason. Yours most truly, William Marsh."

(Iain Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 111)

J.C. Ryle on False Charity

by Frank Jones

"It is not Atheism I fear so much in the present times as Pantheism. It is not the system which says nothing is true, so much as the system which says everything is true. It is the system which is so liberal, that it dares not say anything is false. It is the system which is so charitable, that it will allow everything to be true. It is the system which is so scrupulous about the feelings of others that we are never to say they are wrong ... What is it but a bowing down before a great idol speciously called liberality? What is it all but a sacrificing of truth upon the altar of a caricature of charity? Beware of it if you believe the Bible." (Iain Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 140-141)

J.C. Ryle on the World's Praise

by Frank Jones

"Who does not know that spiritual religion never brings a man the world's praise? It never has done, and it never does. It entails the world's disapprobation, the world's persecution, the world's ridicule, the world's sneers. The world will let a man go to hell quietly, and never try to stop him. The world will never let a man go to heaven quietly --they will do all they can to turn him back. Who has not heard of nicknames in plenty bestowed on all who faithfully follow Christ? --Pietist, Methodist, saint, fanatic, enthusiast, righteous overmuch, and many more. ... Let a young person go to every ball and theatre and race course, and utterly neglect his soul, and no one interferes ... But let him begin to read his Bible and be diligent in prayers, let him decline worldly amusements and be particular in his employment of time, let him seek an evangelical ministry and live as if he had an immortal soul, --let him do this, and the probability is all his relations and friends will be up in arms. 'You are going too far', 'You need not be so very good', 'You are taking up extreme lines,'-- this is the least that he will hear. ... If a man will become a decided evangelical Christian he must make up his mind to lose the world's favors; he must be content to be thought by many a perfect fool." (Iain Murray , J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 67)

Ryle on the New Birth

by Frank Jones

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-9)

"The change which our Lord here declares needful to salvation is evidently no slight or superficial one. It is not merely reformation, or amendment, or moral change, or outward alteration of life. It is a thorough change of heart, will, and character. It is a resurrection. It is a new creation. It is a passing from death to life. It is the implanting in our dead hearts of a new principle from above. It is the calling into existence of a new creature, with a new nature, new habits of life, new tastes, new desires, new appetites, new judgments, new opinions, new hopes, and new fears. All this, and nothing less than this is implied, when our Lord declares we all need a 'new birth'. ... Heaven may be reached without money, or rank, or learning. But it is clear as daylight, if words have any meaning, that nobody can enter heaven without a 'new birth'." (Expository Thoughts: John, vol. I, 86-87)

Necessity of Eternal Life

by Frank Jones

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5)

I quote again from J.C. Ryle, Prepared to Stand Alone, 50-51.

"It is easy to be a convert from one party to another party, from one sect to another sect, from one set of opinions to another set of opinions: such conversions save no one's soul. What we all want is a conversion from pride to humility, -from high thoughts of ourselves to lowly thoughts of ourselves, -from self-concept to self-abasement, -from the mind of the Pharisee to the mind of the publican. A conversion of this kind we must experience, if we hope to be saved. These are the conversions that are wrought by the Holy Ghost.

And through this change the Christian is brought to understand that the standard of the world and the standard of the Lord Jesus are widely different:

They are more than different: they are flatly contradictory one to the other. Among the children of this world he is thought the greatest man who has most land, most money, most servants, most rank, and most earthly power: among the children of God he is reckoned the greatest who does most to promote the spiritual and temporal happiness of his fellow-creatures. True greatness consists, not in receiving, but in giving, -not in selfish absorption of good things, but in imparting good to others, -not in being served, but in serving, -not in sitting still, and being ministered to, but in going about and ministering to others."

Not Without Honor Except at Home

by Frank Jones

J.C. Ryle had followed his sister’s conversion in 1837. He would return home a different man. He would recall according to his own pen.

”The consequences of this change were very great indeed ... it caused great uncomfortableness in my own family, and made my position very unpleasant indeed. In fact no one can tell what I had to go through, in hundreds of petty ways. ... It made an awkwardness, and uncomfortableness, and an insensible kind of estrangement which no one can comprehend but those who have gone through it. ... I had the constant uncomfortable feeling that on account of my religious opinions I was only a tolerated person in my own family and somewhat alienated and estranged from all my old friendships among my relatives.” (Murray, Ian. J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, 39.)

In this, Ryle would follow the steps of his Savior.  I have become estranged from my brothers and an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. (Psa 69:8-9)

Let Us Reason Together

by Frank Jones

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool. If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:16-20)

“There is a delicate balance to be maintained here between human freedom and divine sovereignty. On the one hand, it ought not to be said that obedience produces forgiveness. God forgives and cleanses not because he must, but because he wishes to and has made a way for that to be done through the death and resurrection of Christ. But, on the other hand, it is also plain that God does not proclaim forgiveness to those who are unwilling to obey. All the rhetorical language of the prophets, urging people to obey, is in opposition to any position that God’s forgiveness can ever be experienced apart from a disposition to obey him.” (Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986, 102.)

You are My Witnesses

by Frank Jones

I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me. It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses, declares the Lord, and I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it? (Isaiah 43:11-13)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

"It is interesting that Jesus spoke similar words to his disciples at his ascension (Acts 1:8). Like it or not, they were witnesses of who this man was in his life, death, and resurrection. Not until they were filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Isa. 44:3) did they embrace this identity, but embrace it they did, as is evidenced especially in the prologue of 1 John (1:1–4), where the incontrovertible language of firsthand experience recurs again and again. Given that experience and its rootage by Jesus in the sweeping claims of Isa. 43, it is not surprising that the first Christian creed came to be “Jesus is Lord,” and that he should be understood to be the only Savior (cf. Isa. 43:11). Jesus himself taught the disciples to see that what was implicit in those words of Isaiah could find its fullest meaning only in him and in his work. (Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66 (the New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Eerdmans, 1998, 149.)

Authoritative Proclamation of the Word

by Frank Jones

"At the end of chapter 3 Paul impressed upon Timothy the sufficiency of Scripture for his ministry (3:16–17) so that, unlike the false teachers mentioned earlier in the letter, Timothy will stick with Scripture as the all-sufficient basis of his ministry, for the long run. Then follows the charge of 4:1–2, which spells out the precise way in which Timothy is to use this sufficient Scripture.

The charge is made up of five verbs in the imperative (‘preach the word’, ‘be ready in season and out of season’, ‘reprove’, ‘rebuke’ and ‘exhort’) followed by a prepositional phrase that qualifies them (‘with complete patience and teaching’). ... If the leading imperative ‘preach’ (kēryxon) is qualified by the four imperatives and the prepositional phrase that follow, each of these then communicates something of the nature of the preaching that Timothy is to engage in. To obey the charge to preach will require Timothy to be ready (epistēthi) ‘in season and out of season’,6 not least because sound teaching will not always be welcome (4:3). In his preaching, Timothy will have to ‘reprove’ (elenxon; that is, correct false understanding or sinful behaviour), ‘rebuke’ (epitimēson; that is, call his addressees to turn from ungodliness) and ‘exhort’ (parakaleson; that is, call the people to believe and live out the truth he proclaims). He is to do all this with ‘patience’ (makrothymia), because it will take time and perseverance for his addressees to accept and respond to God’s word. And he is to preach with ‘teaching’ (didachē), because his reprovals, rebukes and exhortations will only carry weight and be effective if they are grounded in a clear articulation and explanation of what the word of God says. Preaching the word cannot be reduced to teaching it (in the sense of simply explaining the meaning of the word as a purely didactic activity); it involves the urgent call to respond that is signified by the imperatives ‘reprove, rebuke and exhort’. At the same time, preaching for Timothy will always fundamentally involve teaching and can never happen apart from teaching."

Griffiths, Jonathan I. Preaching in the New Testament: An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study. Edited by D. A. Carson. Vol. 42. New Studies in Biblical Theology. England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; Apollos, 2017, 55-56.

God Speaks by His Word

by Frank Jones

"Before issuing the well-known charge to Timothy to ‘preach the word’ (2 Tim. 4:2), Paul reminds him that the Bible is ‘breathed out by God’ (2 Tim. 3:16). Scripture has its origin directly in God such that the words of the Bible are God’s words. However, the striking thing we discover as we look more broadly through Scripture to discern the theological character of the word is that God continues to speak today through the words that he once spoke. Scripture is not simply a depository and record of words that God spoke at some time in the past; it is the script that he continues to speak today. Scripture presents itself as a living thing.

We could turn to a number of places within Scripture to see this principle established and affirmed, but the handling of Old Testament Scripture in the book of Hebrews is particularly striking in this regard. The writer of Hebrews repeatedly treats Old Testament texts as being spoken by God in the contemporary context. So he can introduce quotations from psalms written centuries before with the words ‘he [that is, God] says’ (Heb. 1:6, 8). He adds more contemporary colour to a psalm quotation which is introduced as being the word of Jesus, saying that the words of the psalm reflect the feelings and disposition of Jesus: ‘That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers” ’ (Heb. 2:11–12). He introduces words from another psalm by saying ‘as the Holy Spirit says’ (Heb. 3:7). God continues to speak the ancient words that he once spoke. That is why Hebrews refers to God’s word as ‘living and active’ (Heb. 4:12).

This truth is vital for us to remember when it comes to any ministry of the word—and particularly when it comes to the ministry of preaching. If it is the word of God that preachers preach, then insofar as they are saying what the Bible passage is saying, it follows that God is speaking and his voice is heard. This truth may be so familiar that it has lost something of its wonder, but it is an extraordinary thing to consider. When preachers open up God’s word and say what it says, God is speaking, and the congregation is hearing his own voice."

Griffiths, Jonathan I. Preaching in the New Testament: An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study. Edited by D. A. Carson. Vol. 42. New Studies in Biblical Theology. England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; Apollos, 2017, 9-10.

The Lord God versus gods of Men

by Frank Jones

“Present your case,” the Lord says. “Bring forward your strong arguments,” the King of Jacob says. Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what they were, that we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods; indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. Behold, you are of no account, and your work amounts to nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination. (Isaiah 40:21-24)

The pagan understanding of existence rests on the concept of continuity. According to this concept, everything that exists is part of everything else. Thus humanity, nature, and deity are all inseparable from one another. In an ultimate sense, the cosmos is eternal. What is always has been, and what has been always will be. In the cycles of existence there is no beginning and no end, and nothing ever changes. Thus the way to tell the future in such a system is to find the ways in which the present is congruent with the past, for what happened in the past under similar circumstances must happen again. But the gods are absolutely helpless to tell us how the world began or how it will end; the gods are the system personified. By the same token, they are helpless to tell us about something that has never happened before. First, by definition there cannot be such a thing; second, the system cannot know what it has not yet experienced.

Thus Isaiah’s attack betrays a penetrating understanding of the nature of the system he is attacking. He has attacked it precisely at its weak point. His attack also illustrates the breathtaking difference between his (and the Bible’s) conception of God and that of Israel’s neighbors. What kind of God is he who knows what has not happened? What kind of God is he who can explain the first principles of existence? He is one who is Other than the system, one who has made the system according to certain specifications, one who makes the system operate according to his sovereign will. He is the one who is himself “the first and the last” (cf. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; and the discussion of “first” and “last” above on 41:22). Isaiah says, in effect, that anything worthy of the term “god” must be more than the system itself. Since these beings are incapable of independent activity, they are not gods. This is philosophical sophistication of a sort found elsewhere only in the logical reductionism of Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover. But there it is little more than an abstract formulation that was little more than a philosophical concept. Here it is the fervently held conviction of a whole people, a conviction that was to change the entire Western world. Whence came such a belief, except, as the Hebrews insist, through divine self-revelation? (Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66 (the New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Eerdmans, 1998, 106.)