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Category Archives: John Piper

Quotes and Wisdom on Biblical Fasting

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“Fasting without prayer is starvation.” ~ Anonymous

“Do not limit the benefit of fasting merely to abstinence from food, for a true fast means refraining from evil. Do not let your fasting lead to wrangling and strife. You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother; you abstain from wine, but not from insults. So all the labor of your fast is useless.” ~ Ambrose

“If there is a man among them who is poor and in need, and they have not an abundance of what is needed, they fast for two or three days so that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.” ~ Aristides of Athens

“By eating and drinking we repair the daily decays of our body, until Thou destroyest both belly and meat, when Thou hast slain my emptiness with a wonderful fullness, and clothed this incorruptible with an eternal incorruption. But now the necessity is sweet unto me, against which sweetness I fight, that I be not taken captive; and carry on a daily war by fastings; often bringing my body into subjection and my pains are removed by pleasure. . . . Oft it is uncertain, whether it be the necessary care of the body which is yet asking for sustenance, or whether a voluptuous deceivableness of greediness is proffering its services. In this uncertainty the unhappy soul rejoiceth, and therein prepares an excuse to shield itself, glad that it appeareth not what suffi ceth for the moderation of health, that under the cloak of health, it may disguise the matter of gratification. These temptations I daily endeavor to resist, and I call on Thy right hand, and to Thee do I refer my perplexities; because I have as yet no settled counsel herein.” ~ Augustine (Confessions)

“If I be asked what is my own opinion in this matter, I answer, after carefully pondering the question, that in the Gospels and Epistles, and the entire collection of books for our instruction called the New Testament, I see that fasting is enjoined. But I do not discover any rule definitely laid down by the Lord or by the apostles as to days on which we ought or ought not to fast. And by this I am persuaded that exemption from fasting on the seventh day is more suitable, not indeed to obtain, but to foreshadow, that eternal rest in which the true Sabbath is realized, and which is obtained only by faith, and by that righteousness whereby the daughter of the King is all glorious within.”~ Augustine (Letter XXXVI)

“Christ saith that when the bridegroom was taken from them, his disciples should ‘fast’ (Mark 2:19-20). And even Paul was ‘in fasting often’ (2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:27), and, ‘I discipline my body and bring it to subjection’ (1 Cor. 9:27). And I am sure that the ancient Christians (Acts 5:30; 14:23; Lk. 2:37), that lived in solitude, and ate many of them nothing, … did not find this cure [fasting] too dear.”  ~ Richard Baxter

“If the appetite alone hath sinned, let it alone fast, and it sufficeth. But if the other members also have sinned, why should they not fast, too? Let the eye fast from strange sights and from every wantonness, so that which roamed in freedom in fault-doing may, abundantly humbled, be checked by penitence. Let the ear, blameably eager to listen, fast from tales and rumors, and from whatsoever is of idle import, and tendeth least to salvation. Let the tongue fast from slanders and murmurings, and from useless, vain, and scurrilous words, and sometimes also, in the seriousness of silence, even from things which may seem of essential import. Let the hand abstain from all toils which are not imperatively necessary. But also let the soul herself abstain from all evils and from acting out her own will. For without such abstinence the other things find no favor with the Lord.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“God will not let me get the blessing without asking. Today I am setting my face to fast and pray for enlightenment and refreshing. Until I can get up to the measure of at least two hours in pure prayer every day, I shall not be contented. Meditation and reading besides.“ ~ Andrew Bonar

“Jesus takes it for granted that his disciples will observe the pious custom of fasting. Strict exercise of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian’s life. Such customs have only one purpose—to make the disciples more ready and cheerful to accomplish those things which God would have done.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 188)

“When the flesh is satisfied it is hard to pray with cheerfulness or to devote oneself to a life of service which calls for much self-renunciation.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 189)

“We have to practice strictest daily discipline; only so can the flesh learn the painful lesson that it has no rights of its own.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 189)

“In vain will ye fast, and pretend to be humbled for our sins, and make confession of them, if our love of sin be not turned into hatred; our liking of it into loathing; and our cleaving to it, into a longing to be rid of it; with full purpose to resist the motions of it in our heart, and the outbreaking thereof in our life; and if we turn not unto God as our rightful Lord and Master, and return to our duty again.” ~ Thomas Boston

“It will take nothing short of the supernatural to stem the tides of judgment devastating our land. I believe that nothing else can compare with the supernatural power released when we fast and pray. We know for certain from Hebrews 11:6 and from personal experience that God rewards those who diligently seek Him.” ~ Bill Bright (The Coming Revival, p. 108)

“This, then, is the philosophy of fasting. It expresses repentance, and it uncovers the life to God. “Come down, my pride; stand back my passions; for I am wicked, and I wait for God to bless me.” ~ Phillips Brooks (“Fasting” in The Candle of the Lord and Other Sermons, p. 207)

“Fasting is not approved by God, except for its end; it must be connected with something else, otherwise it is a vain thing. Men by private fastings, prepare themselves for the exercise of prayer, or they mortify their own flesh, or seek a remedy for some hidden vices.” ~ John Calvin

“To sum them up: whenever a controversy over religion arises which ought to be settled by either a synod or an ecclesiastical court, whenever there is a question about choosing a minister, whenever, finally, any difficult matter of great importance is to be discussed, or again when there appear the judgments of the Lord’s anger (as pestilence, war, and famine)—’tis a holy ordinance and one salutary for all ages, that pastors urge the people to public fasting and extraordinary prayers.” ~ John Calvin (Institutes)

“Holy and lawful fasting has three objectives. We use it either to weaken and subdue the flesh that it may not act wantonly, or that we may be better prepared for prayers and holy meditations, or that it may be a testimony of our self-abasement before God when we wish to confess our guilt before him.” ~ John Calvin (Institutes)

“[Paul’s word on the sex-fast in 1 Corinthians 7:5 shows that fasting serves prayer and is not an end in itself. After referring to Anna in Luke 2:37 and Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1:4 he says:] For this reason, Paul says that believers act rightly if they abstain for a time from the marriage bed, that they may be left freer for prayer and fasting. There he joins fasting with prayer as an aid to it, and warns that it is of no importance of itself except as it is applied to this end [1 Corinthians 7:5].” ~ John Calvin (Institutes)

“Throughout its course, the life of the godly indeed ought to be tempered with frugality and sobriety, so that as far as possible it bears some resemblance to a fast. But, in addition, there is another sort of fasting, temporary in character, when we withdraw something from the normal regimen of living, either for one day or for a definite time, and pledge ourselves to a tighter more severe restraint in diet than ordinarily.” ~ John Calvin (Institutes)

“Almost anything that is supposed to serve as an outward sign of an inward attitude can be cheapened by hypocritical piety. Jesus told those who wanted to fast, ‘But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you’ (Matthew 6:17-18). Jesus is telling his followers that when they fast [he assumes his disciples will fast] that they are to act normally so that no one but God will know it. They are to take off the ashes, wash their faces, use their deodorant or talc or oil or whatever, and act normally. No voluntary act of spiritual discipline is ever to become an occasion for self-promotion. Otherwise, any value to the act is utterly vitiated…Whom am I trying to please by my religious practices? Honest reflection on that question can produce most disquieting results. If it does, then a large part of the solution is to start practicing piety in the secret intimacy of the Lord’s presence. If our ‘acts of righteousness’ are not primarily done in secret before him, then secretly they may be done to please men.” ~ D.A. Carson (The Sermon on The Mount, p. 73)

“What we gain from fasting does not compensate for what we lose in anger.” ~ John Cassian

“Whoso will pray, he must fast and be clean, And fat his soul and make his body lean.” ~ Geoffrey Chaucer

“Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin. Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful. Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour brothers? May HE who came to the world to save sinners strengthen us to complete the fast with humility, have mercy on us and save us.” ~ John Chrysostom

“Be not then henceforth a viper, but as thou hast been formerly a viper’s brood, put off, saith he, the slough of thy former sinful life. For every serpent creeps into a hole and casts its old slough, and having rubbed off the old skin, grows young again in body. In like manner enter thou also through the strait and narrow gate, rub o thy former self by fasting, and drive out that which is destroying thee.” ~ Cyril of Jerusalem

“You and I have no more right to omit fasting because we feel no special emotional prompting than we have a right to omit prayer, Bible reading, or assembling with God’s children for lack of some special emotional prompting. Fasting is just as biblical and normal a part of a spiritual walk of obedience with God as are these others.” ~ Wesley Duewel (Mighty Prevailing Prayer, p. 184)

“How do you take up your cross? To take up a cross is not to have someone place the cross upon you. Sickness, persecution, and the antagonism of other people are not your real cross. To take up a cross is a deliberate choice. We must purposely humble ourself [sic], stoop down, and pick up the cross for Jesus. Fasting is one of the most biblical ways to do so.” ~ Wesley Duewel (Mighty Prevailing Prayer, p. 184)

“Fasting can deepen hunger for God to work. Spiritual hunger and fasting have a reciprocal power. Each deepens and strengthens the other. Each makes the other more e ective. When your spiritual hunger becomes very deep, you may even lose the desire for food. All of the most intense forms of prevailing prayer . . . can be deepened, clarified, and greatly empowered by fasting…Fasting is natural when you are burdened su ciently, wrestling with mighty prevailings, and warring in hand-to-hand conflict with Satan and his powers of darkness. Fasting becomes sweet and blessed as your hunger reaches out to God. Your hunger gains tremendous power as you fast and pray—particularly if you set apart time from all else to give yourself to fasting and prayer. It can become a spiritual joy to fast. ~ Wesley Duewel (Mighty Prevailing Prayer, p. 188)

“Fasting feeds your faith. . . . Your confidence begins to deepen. Your hope begins to rise, for you know you are doing what pleases the Lord. Your willingness to deny self and voluntarily to take up this added cross kindles an inner joy. Your faith begins to lay hold of God’s promise more simply and more firmly.” ~ Wesley Duewel (Mighty Prevailing Prayer, p. 189)

“I suppose there is scarcely a minister in this land, but from Sabbath to Sabbath used to pray that God would pour out his Spirit, and work a reformation and revival of religion in the country, and turn us from our intemperance, profaneness, uncleanness, worldliness and other sins; and we have kept from year to year days of public fasting and prayer to God, to acknowledge our backslidings, and humble ourselves for our sins, and to seek of God forgiveness and reformation: and now when so great and extensive a reformation is so suddenly and wonderfully accomplished, in those very things that we have sought to God for, shall we not acknowledge it?” ~ Jonathan Edwards (Some Thoughts Concerning Revival)

“The state of the times extremely requires a fullness of the divine Spirit in ministers, and we ought to give ourselves no rest till we have obtained it. And in order to [do] this, I should think ministers, above all persons, ought to be much in secret prayer and fasting, and also much in praying and fasting one with another. It seems to me it would be becoming the circumstances of the present day, if ministers in a neighborhood would often meet together and spend days in fasting and fervent prayer among themselves, earnestly seeking for those extraordinary supplies of divine grace from heaven, that we need at this day.” ~ Jonathan Edwards (Some Thoughts Concerning Revival)

“One thing more I would mention concerning fasting and prayer, wherein I think there has been a neglect in ministers; and that is that although they recommend and much insist on the duty of secret prayer, in their preaching; so little is said about secret fasting. It is a duty recommended by our Savior to his followers, just in like manner as secret prayer is; as may be seen by comparing the 5th and 6th vss. of the 6th chap. of Matt. with vss. 16–18. Though I don’t suppose that secret fasting is to be practiced in a stated manner and steady course as secret prayer, yet it seems to me ’tis a duty that all professing Christians should practice, and frequently practice. There are many occasions of both a spiritual and temporal nature that do properly require it; and there are many particular mercies that we desire for ourselves or friends that it would be proper, in this manner, to seek of God.” ~ Jonathan Edwards (Some Thoughts Concerning Revival)

“Fasting is a voluntary total or partial abstinence from food for a limited time. It is usually undertaken for spiritual benefit.” ~ Millard Erickson

“Almost everywhere at all times fasting has held a great importance since it is closely linked with the intimate sense of religion. Perhaps this is the explanation for the demise of fasting in our day. When the sense of God diminishes, fasting disappears.” ~ Edward Farrell

“An old saint once said that fasting prevents luxuries from becoming necessities. Fasting is a protection of the spirit against the encroachments of the body. When a person fasts, he has his body well in hand, and is able to do the work of the Master.” ~ Jerry Falwell (What the Bible Teaches, pp. 11)

“Fasting is the voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.” ~ Richard Foster

“It is well to know the process your body goes through in the course of a longer fast. The first three days are usually the most difficult in terms of physical discomfort and hunger pains. The body is beginning to rid itself of the toxic poisons that have built up over years of poor eating habits, and it is not a comfortable process. This is the reason for the coating of the tongue and bad breath. Do not be disturbed by these symptoms; rather be grateful for the increased health and wellbeing that will result. You may experience headaches during this time, especially if you are an avid coffee or tea drinker. Those are mild withdrawal symptoms which will pass, though they may be very unpleasant for a time. By the fourth day the hunger pains are beginning to subside though you will have feelings of weakness and occasional dizziness. The dizziness is only temporary and caused by sudden changes in position. Move more slowly and you will have no difficulty. The weakness can come to the point where the simplest task takes great effort. Rest is the best remedy. Many find this the most diifficult period of the fast. By the sixth or seventh day you will begin to feel stronger and more alert. Hunger pains will continue to diminish until by the ninth or tenth day they are only a minor irritation. The body will have eliminated the bulk of toxic poisons and you will feel good. Your sense of concentration will be sharpened and you will feel as if you could continue fasting indefinitely. Physically this is the most enjoyable part of the fast. Anywhere from twenty-one to forty days or longer, depending upon the individual, hunger pains will return. This is the first stage of starvation and signals that the body has used up all its excess reserves and is beginning to draw on the living tissue. The fast should be broken at this time.” ~ Richard Foster (The Celebration of Discipline, 51-52)

“Fasting is supposed to be the ordinary practice of the godly. Christ does not make light of it, but merely cautions them against its abuses. . . . It is an appendage to prayer, and designed to aid its importunity. It is humbling, and in a manner, chastising ourselves before God. The spirit of it is expressed in the following passages—“So do God to me and more also, if I taste bread, or aught else, till the sun be down.” “Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” No mention is made of the time, or how often the duty should be attended to. . . . It is only a means, however; if rested in as an end, it will be an abomination in the sight of God.” ~ Andrew Fuller (The Complete Works, p. 583)

“If the solemnities of our fasting, though frequent, long and severe, do not serve to put an edge upon devout affections, to quicken prayer, to increase Godly sorrow, and to alter the temper of our minds, and the course of our lives, for the better, they do not at all answer the intention, and God will not accept them as performed to Him.” ~ Matthew Henry (Commentary)

“Let them all take notice that, whereas they thought they had made God very much their Debtor by these fasts, they were much mistaken, for they were not acceptable to Him, unless they had been observed in a better manner, and to a better purpose…They were not chargeable with omission or neglect of the duty,…but they had not managed it aright…They had not an eye to God in their fasting…When this was wanting, every fast was but a jest. To fast, and not to fast to God, was to mock Him and provoke Him, and could not be pleasing to Him…If solemnities of our fasting, though frequent, long, and severe, do not serve to put an edge upon devout affections, to quicken prayer, to increase Godly sorrow, and to alter the temper of our minds, and the course of our lives, for the better, they do not at all answer the intention, and God will not accept them as performed to Him.” ~ Matthew Henry (Commenting on Zechariah 7:5))

“[He made a medication in his ministry to opium-addicted Chinese.] Whenever it was necessary to make a fresh supply, he began with prayer and fasting. It was his habit to go without food the whole twenty-four hours of the day given to that work. Sometimes he was so exhausted towards the evening that he could hardly stand. Then he would go away for a few minutes alone to wait upon God. “Lord, it is Thy work. Give me Thy strength,” was his plea. And he always came back fresh and reinvigorated, as if with food and rest.” ~ Pastor Hsi (Mrs. Howard M. Taylor, Pastor Hsi, p. 131)

“[At the Sialkot Convention in India for missionaries at the end of the nineteenth century John Hyde spent the whole time of the convention in the prayer room.] What about his meals, and his bed? The Convention lasted for ten days in those early days, and his “boy,” a lad about sixteen that he had taken to his home and his heart, had brought Hyde’s bedding and had carefully made his bed, but it was never used during the Convention. I saw him more than once when the prayer room was full, go aside into one of the corners and throw himself on the floor to sleep, but if the room began to get empty and prayer to flag, he somehow seemed to know it and was up immediately and took his place with the other intercessors. Did he go to his meals? I think it was only once or twice that I saw him with us at table. Sometimes his “boy,” or Gulla, the sweeper, or one of his friends would take a plate of curry and rice or something else to him to the prayer room, and if convenient he would go to a corner and eat it. How his “boy” used to cry because he would not eat properly and would not go to bed to sleep.” ~ Praying John Hyde (E.G. Carre, Praying Hyde: A Challenge to Prayer, p. 92)

“Devote thyself to fasting and prayer, but not beyond measure, lest thou destroy thyself thereby. Do not altogether abstain from wine and flesh, for these things are not to be viewed with abhorrence, since [the Scripture] saith, “Ye shall eat the good things of the earth.” And again, “Ye shall eat flesh even as herbs.” And again, “Wine maketh glad the heart of man, and oil exhilarates, and bread strengthens him.” But all are to be used with moderation, as being the gifts of God. “For who shall eat or who shall drink without Him? For if anything be beautiful, it is His; and if anything be good, it is His.” ~ Ignatius (The Epistle to Hero)

“If religion requires us sometimes to fast and deny our natural appetites, it is to lessen that struggle and war that is in our nature; it is to render our bodies fitter instruments of purity, and more obedient to the good motions of divine grace; it is to dry up the springs of our passions that war against the soul, to cool the flame of our blood, and render the mind more capable of divine meditations. So that although these abstinences give some pain to the body, yet they so lessen the power of bodily appetites and passions, and so increase our taste of spiritual joys, that even these severities of religion, when practiced with discretion, add much to the comfortable enjoyment of our lives.” ~ William Law (A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, p. 112)

“It is impossible to accept Christianity for the sake of finding comfort: but the Christian tries to lay himself open to the will of God, to do what God wants him to do. You don’t know in advance whether God is going to set you to do something difficult or painful, or something that you will quite like; and some people of heroic mould are disappointed when the job doled out to them turns out to be something quite nice. But you must be prepared for the unpleasant things and the discomforts. I don’t mean fasting, and things like that. They are a different matter. When you are training soldiers in maneuvers, you practice in blank ammunition because you would like them to have practices before meeting the real enemy. So we must practice in abstaining from pleasures which are not in themselves wicked. If you don’t abstain from pleasure, you won’t be good when the time comes along. It is purely a matter of practice.” ~ C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock, pp. 53-54)

“Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme authority and Just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation: 

And whereas, it is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord: 

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishment and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the o ended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness. 

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion. 

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and restoration of our now divided and suffering country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace. 

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.” ~ Abraham Lincoln (Library of Congress, Appendix no. 19, vol. 12 of The United States At Large, quoted in Derek Prince, Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting, pp. 138-47)

“Fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not . . . be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting.” ~ David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

“[From a sermon on Matthew 4:1ff. in 1524] Of fasting I say this: it is right to fast frequently in order to subdue and control the body. For when the stomach is full, the body does not serve for preaching, for praying, for studying, or for doing anything else that is good. Under such circumstances God’s Word cannot remain. But one should not fast with a view to meriting something by it as by a good work.” ~ Martin Luther

“[On the soberness of mind that Peter exhorts in 1 Peter 1:13, Luther comments on the varied needs of different people.] He fixes no definite time, how long we are to fast, as the pope has done, but leaves it to the individual so to fast as always to remain sober and not burden the body with gluttony, that he may remain in possession of reason and reflections and determine how much he must do to keep his body under control. For it is utterly idle to impose one command about this on a whole group and congregation, since we are so unlike one another: one strong, another weak in body, so that one must mortify the body more, another less, if it is to remain sound and fit for good service. . . . It is good to fast. But only that can be called true fasting when we give the body no more food than it needs to retain its health. Let the body work and be wary, lest the old ass become too wanton and going on the ice to dance, break a bone. The body should be curbed and should follow the spirit; it should not act like those who, when they are about to fast, at one sitting fill themselves so full of fish and the best of wine that their bellies are bloated.” ~ Martin Luther

“Scripture places before us two kinds of fasting that are good. The first kind one accepts willingly for the purpose of checking the flesh by the spirit. Concerning this Saint Paul says: “. . . in labors, in watchings, in fastings . . .” (2 Cor. 6:5). The second is the kind one must endure and yet accept willingly. Concerning this St. Paul says: “Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst” (1 Cor. 4:11). And Christ says of it: “When the bridegroom shall be taken from them . . . then they shall fast” (Matt. 9:15).” ~ Martin Luther

“To Judaism, a fast was an outward sign of an inward condition. To Jesus, a fast was an inward sign of an inward condition. The former, if misused, “a peculiarly ugly form of religious dramatic art,” the latter a part of “closet” devotions.” ~ Keith Main (Prayer and Fasting: A Study in the Devotional Life of the Early Church, p. 37)

“Thus far we have suggested that the joy and thanksgiving that marks the prayer life of the New Testament is a sign of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God. Fasting is no longer consistent with the joyous and thankful attitude that marks the fellowship. Yet this is only partially so. . . . It is true that the crisis and the tragedy are there as a stark reality. The Kingdom is not fully realized. Granted that the Bridegroom is present and now is not an appropriate time to mourn. Yet this is not entirely so, for we are still in the flesh and weak in faith. . . . Within this “bitter struggle” the believer, in this devotional life, might conceivably find occasion to fast. It would be only one among many of the ingredients that go to make up the life of the man in Christ. One might read through 2 Corinthians 6:3–10 and 11:23–29 for a glimpse into the wide range of such suffering in the “bitter struggle” for the cause of Christ. Against such a background the “hungers” mentioned in 6:5 and 11:27 gain their true perspective.” ~ Keith Main (Prayer and Fasting: A Study in the Devotional Life of the Early Church, p. 83-84)

“Without a purpose and plan, it’s not Christian fasting; it’s just going hungry.” ~ David Mathis

“Only as we voluntarily embrace the pain of an empty stomach do we see how much we’ve allowed our belly to be our god (Philippians 3:19).” ~ David Mathis 

“Fasting, like the gospel, isn’t for the self-sufficient and those who feel they have it all together…It is a desperate measure, for desperate times, among those who know themselves desperate for God.

“Fasting is an exceptional measure, designed to channel and express our desire for God and our holy discontent in a fallen world. It is for those not satisfied with the status quo. For those who want more of God’s grace. For those who feel truly desperate for God.” ~ David Mathis (Habits of Grace, pp. 117-118)

“Fasting isn’t merely an act of self-deprivation, but a spiritual discipline for seeking more of God’s fullness. Which means we should have a plan for what positive pursuit to undertake in the time it normally takes to eat. We spend a good portion of our day with food in front of us. One significant part of fasting is the time it creates for prayer and meditation on God’s word or some act of love for others.” ~ David Mathis

“Before diving headlong into a fast, craft a simple plan. Connect it to your purpose for the fast. Each fast should have a specific spiritual purpose. Identify what that is and design a focus to replace the time you would have spent eating. Without a purpose and plan, it’s not Christian fasting; it’s just going hungry.” ~ David Mathis

“Fasting is no license to be unloving. It would be sad to lack concern and care for others around us because of this expression of heightened focus on God. Love for God and for neighbor go together. Good fasting mingles horizontal concern with the vertical. If anything, others should even feel more loved and cared for when we’re fasting…So as you plan your fast, consider how it will affect others. If you have regular lunches with colleagues or dinners with family or roommates, assess how your abstaining will affect them, and let them know ahead of time, instead of just being a no-show, or springing it on them in the moment that you will not be eating.” ~ David Mathis

“If the better part of wisdom for you, in your health condition, is not to go without food, consider fasting from television, computer, social media, or some other regular enjoyment that would bend your heart toward greater enjoyment of Jesus. Paul even talks about married couples fasting from sex “for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer” (1 Cor. 7:5). ~ David Mathis

“When your empty stomach starts to growl and begins sending your brain every “feed me” signal it can, don’t be content to let your mind dwell on the fact that you haven’t eaten. If you make it through with an iron will that says no to your stomach, but doesn’t turn your mind’s eye elsewhere, it says more about your love for food than your love for God.” ~ David Mathis

“Christian fasting turns its attention to Jesus or some great cause of his in the world. Christian fasting seeks to take the pains of hunger and transpose them into the key of some eternal anthem, whether it’s fighting against some sin, or pleading for someone’s salvation, or for the cause of the unborn, or longing for a greater taste of Jesus.” ~ David Mathis  (Habits of Grace, p. 126)

“Prayer needs fasting for its full growth. Prayer is the one hand with which we grasp the invisible. Fasting is the other hand, the one with which we let go of the visible. In nothing is man more closely connected with the world of sense than in this need for, and enjoyment of, food. It was the fruit with which man was tempted and fell in Paradise. It was with bread that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. But He triumphed in fasting. . . . The body has been redeemed to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. In body as well as spirit, Scripture says, we are to glorify God in eating and drinking. There are many Christians to whom this eating for the glory of God has not yet become a spiritual reality. The first thought suggested by Jesus’ words in regard to fasting and prayer is that only in a life of moderation and self-denial will there be sufficient heart and strength to pray much. . . . Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves, to attain the Kingdom of God. And Jesus, Who Himself fasted and sacrificed, knows to value, accept, and reward with spiritual power the soul that is thus ready to give up everything for Him and His Kingdom.” ~ Andrew Murray (With Christ in the School of Prayer, pp. 100-101)

“The birthplace of Christian fasting is homesickness for God.” ~ John Piper

“Fasting is not the forfeit of evil but of good.” ~ John Piper

“When God is the supreme hunger of our hearts, He will be supreme in everything.” ~ John Piper

“The issue [in fasting] is not food perse. The issue is anything and everything that is, or can be, a substitute for God.” ~ John Piper

“Half of Christian fasting is that our physical appetite is lost because our homesickness for God is so intense. The other half is that our homesickness for God is threatened because our physical appetites are so intense.” ~ John Piper

“The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.” ~ John Piper 

“Fasting is the hungry handmaiden of prayer, who both reveals and remedies…She reveals the measure of food’s mastery over us—or television or computers or whatever we submit to again to conceal the weakness of our hunger for God. And she remedies by intensifying the earnestness of our prayer and saying with our whole body what prayer says with the heart: I long to be satisfied in God alone! ~ John Piper (When I Don’t Desire God, p. 171)

“The weakness of our hunger for God is not because we keep ourselves stuffed with ‘other things.’ Perhaps, then, the denial of our stomach’s appetite for food might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God…What is at stake here is not just the good of our souls, but also the glory of God. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. The fight of faith on all that God is for us in Christ. What we hunger for most, we worship.” ~ John Piper

“Self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude, and self-discipline usually its friend and generator. That is why gluttony is a deadly sin. The early desert fathers believed that a person’s appetites are linked: full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness. They spoil the appetite for God.” ~ Cornelius Plantinga Jr. (Quoted in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney, p. 151)

“Let us learn from our Lord’s instruction about fasting, the great importance of cheerfulness in our religion. Those words, “anoint thy head, and wash thy face,” are full of deep meaning. They should teach us to aim at letting men see that we find Christianity makes us happy. Never let us forget that there is not religion in looking melancholy and gloomy. Are we dissatisfied with Christ’s wages, and Christ’s service? Surely not! Then let us not look as if we were.” ~ J.C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, p. 57)

“Fasting is not a legalistic requirement but a spontaneous reaction under special circumstances. . . . There are . . . godly and prayerful people who have found fasting a hindrance rather than a help. Some are so constituted physically that the lack of a minimum amount of food renders them unable to concentrate in prayer. . . . There is no need for such to be in bondage. Let them do what most helps them to pray.” ~ Oswald J. Sanders (Prayer Power Unlimited, p. 67).

“Is fasting ever a bribe to get God to pay more attention to the petitions? No, a thousand times no. It is simply a way to make clear that we sufficiently reverence the amazing opportunity to ask help from the everlasting God, the Creator of the universe, to choose to put everything else aside and concentrate on worshiping, asking for forgiveness, and making our requests known—considering His help more important than anything we could do ourselves in our own strength and with our own ideas.” ~ Edith Schaeffer (The Life of Prayer, pp. 75-76)

“A selfish person is unable to enjoy the gospel; a Christian is someone who has begun to deny himself, and is in the continuous process of denying himself. Jesus said “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Self-denial is not limited to one particular kind of giving; it embraces all personal disciplines. Fasting is only one discipline; nevertheless, it is self-denial. This does not mean that to fast is to embrace legalism; it is gospel liberty which encourages us to deny ourselves.” ~ David R. Smith (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, p. 17)

“Any blessing which is bestowed by the Father upon His undeserving children must be considered to be an act of grace. We fail to appreciate the mercy of the Lord if we think that by our doing something we have forced (or even coerced) God to grant that blessing which we have asked for…All of our fasting, therefore, must be on this basis; we should use it as a scriptural means whereby we are melted into a more complete realization of the purposes of the Lord in our life, church, community, and nation.” ~ David R. Smith (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, pp. 44)

“By this we must not conclude that the act of fasting has some virtuous power, and that we have made ourselves more humble; there is no virtue in fallen man by which he can make himself more godly; there is, however, virtue in the divinely appointed means of grace. If we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body (through fasting), we shall grow in grace, but the glory of such change will be God’s alone.” ~ David R. Smith (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, pp. 88)

“Nobody can maintain a desired state of mind whilst his bodily condition is not in accordance with it. If a man is anxious to devote himself to spiritual things, for a time, he is obliged to ensure that his body is in similar environment, or else he may not succeed. He cannot be reverent in the midst of his own physical irreverence. Fasting ensures the correct environment for sorrowful and serious considerations. Asterius wrote, in the 4th Century, that one role of fasting is to ensure that the stomach does not make the body boil like a kettle, to the hindering of the soul.” ~ David R. Smith (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, pp. 38-39)

“Fasting does not create faith, for faith grows in us as we hear, and read, and dwell upon, God’s Word; it is a work of the Holy Spirit to bring faith to God’s people. However, fasting has the capacity to encourage faith in the one who is involved in this discipline. It seems as though the neglect of self feeds the faith which God has implanted in the hearts of born-again believers. This doesn’t mean that those who eat the least have the most faith; such a view is not only untrue, it is extremist. It is simply that regular self-denial has its benefits, and one of these is seen in a personal increase in faith.” ~ David R. Smith (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, pp. 47-48)

“The beneficial results of the fast are felt first in the sexual sphere. I have easily verified the connection established by the Ancients between the first two “principal vices,” gluttony and lust, and consequently between the corresponding disciplines: fasting and chastity. Fasting is the most effective help for a religious who has vowed chastity. Fantasies no longer appear even during the happy hours of physiological freedom of which I have spoken, and the rest of the time they are easily controlled and eliminated.” ~ Adalbert De Vogue (To Love Fasting:The Monastic Experience, p. 10)

“It will surprise no one if I confess that I am subject to anxiety and irritation, sadness and nervousness, to say nothing of vanity, touchiness or envy. . . . The habit of fasting effects a profound appeasement of all these instinctive movements. I think the cause is that a certain mastery of the primordial appetite, eating, permits a greater mastery of the other manifestations of the libido and aggressiveness. It is as if the man who fasts were more himself, in possession of his true identity, and less dependent on exterior objects and the impulses they arouse in him. . . . Among the lesser advantages, let us note only the time saved in sitting down to table once instead of three times. ~ Adalbert De Vogue (To Love Fasting: The Monastic Experience, p. 10)

“To love fasting is not only possible. In the light of the facts, I will go so far as to say that the contrary appears impossible to me, to whatever degree one has truly experienced fasting. Experience fasting, and you will love it. “ ~ Adalbert De Vogue (To Love Fasting:The Monastic Experience, p. 104)

“Fasting is a divine corrective to the pride of the human heart. It is a discipline of body with a tendency to humble the soul.” ~ Arthur Wallis

“Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importunity into our praying, and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven. The man who prays with fasting is giving heaven notice that he is truly in earnest…Not only so, but he is expressing his earnestness in a divinely appointed way. He is using a means that God has chosen to make his voice to be heard on high.” ~ Arthur Wallis (God’s Chosen Fast, p. 42) 

“If humility is the basic ingredient of true holiness, the soil in which graces flourish, is it not needful that from time to time we should, like David, humble our souls with fasting? Beyond many of our besetting sins and personal failures, beyond the many ills that infect our church fellowships and clog the channels of Christian service—the clash of personalities and temperaments, the strife, the division — lies that insidious pride of the human heart.” ~ Arthur Wallis

“Almost all are agreed that a visitation of the spirit upon the Church is desperately needed. Are we to believe the promise to Joel has nothing to say to this situation? . . . Did the events at Pentecost exhaust the Joel prophecy? Obviously not, or there would have been no further outpourings. . . . If however we believe this wonderful promise is for us—is in fact God’s answer to the present need—it is vital that we fulfill the conditions as well as plead the promise. Three times Joel sounds a clarion call, in view of the imminence of the Day of the Lord, to return to God with fasting (Joel 1:14; 2:12, 15). Then he seems to see in vision God’s response: “Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on this people” (v. 18). ~ Arthur Wallis (God’s Chosen Fast, pp. 131-32) 

“First, let fasting be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven.” ~ John Wesley

“The man who never fasts is no more in the way to heaven than the man who never prays.” ~ John Wesley (“Causes of Inefficacy of Christianity,” Sermons on Several Occasions, p. 440)

“[Fasting] is an help to prayer; particularly when we set apart larger portions of time for private prayer. Then especially it is that God is often pleased to lift up the souls of his servants above all the things of earth, and sometimes to rap them up, as it were, into the third heaven. And it is chiefly, as it is an help to prayer, that it has so frequently been found a means, in the hand of God, of confirming and increasing, not one virtue, not chastity only, (as some have idly imagined, without any ground either from Scripture, reason, or experience,) but also seriousness of spirit, earnestness, sensibility and tenderness of conscience, deadness to the world, and consequently the love of God, and every holy and heavenly affection.” ~ John Wesley (Sermon XXVII, On Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount,” Complete Works, p. 441)

“Not that there is any natural or necessary connection between fasting, and the blessings God conveys thereby. But he will have mercy as he will have mercy; he will convey whatsoever seemeth him good by whatsoever means he is pleased to appoint. And he hath, in all ages, appointed this to be a means of averting his wrath, and obtaining whatever blessings we, from time to time, stand in need of.” ~ John Wesley (Sermon XXVII, On Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount,” Complete Works, p. 441)

“But, if we desire this reward, let us beware . . . of fancying we merit anything of God by our fasting. We cannot be too often warned of this; inasmuch as a desire to “establish our own righteousness,” to procure salvation of debt and not of grace, is so deeply rooted in all our hearts. Fasting is only a way which God hath ordained, wherein we wait for his unmerited mercy; and wherein, without any desert of ours, he hath promised freely to give us his blessing.” ~ John Wesley (Sermon XXVII, On Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount,” Complete Works, p. 449)

“Fasting is a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. It is Christian, for fasting by a nonChristian obtains no eternal value because the discipline’s motives and purposes are to be God-centrered. It is voluntary in that fasting is not to be coerced. Fasting is more than just the ultimate crash diet for the body; it is abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.” ~ Donald S. Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 160)

“Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God.” ~ Donald S. Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 176)

“Fasting must always have a spiritual purpose—a God-centered one—for the Lord to bless our fast. Thoughts of food must prompt thoughts for God. They must not distract us, but instead remind us of our purpose. Rather than focusing the mind on food, we should use the desire to eat as a reminder to pray and to reconsider our purpose.” ~ Donald S. Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 176-177)

“God will bless a biblical fast by any of His children. And whether or not you receive the blessing you hope for, one thing is sure: If you knew what God knew, you would give yourself the identical blessing that He does. And none of His rewards is worthless.” ~ Donald S. Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 178)

“Fasting is a hard discipline to practice without its consuming all our attention. Yet when we use it as a part of prayer or service, we cannot allow it to do so. When a person chooses fasting as a spiritual discipline, he or she must, then, practice it well enough and often enough to become experienced in it, because only the person who is well habituated to systematic fasting as a discipline can use it effectively as a part of direct service to God, as in special times of prayer or other service.” ~ Dallas Willard (The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 168)

“[On Mark 2:18–22 and the bridegroom’s presence and absence:] Their non-fasting was intended to make a point, namely that the eschatological age had come in Jesus. . . . The future return to fasting after his being “taken away” was therefore also related to Jesus, as a sad memorial of what happened on that fateful Friday, mixed with inner confidence and humble trust in his second coming and the final consummation of the parousia. This Christian fast was something new, distinct from that of Judaism, not only as regards the day of fasting, but more importantly, in terms of its inner motivation. Even as a sign of humble worship of the Father it was henceforth related to Jesus, through whom our salvation has come, and in whose presence we will one day rejoice without reservation, in the plenitude of his Kingdom.” ~ Joseph F. Wimmer (Fasting in the New Testament: A Biblical Theology, p. 101)

“The weakness of hunger which leads to death brings forth the goodness and power of God who wills life. Here there is no extortion, no magic attempt to force God’s will. We merely look with confidence upon our heavenly Father and through our fasting say gently in our hearts: “Father, without you I will die; come to my assistance, make haste to help me.” ~ Joseph F. Wimmer (Fasting in the New Testament: A Biblical Theology, p. 119)

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Posted by on August 28, 2018 in John Piper, Jonathan Edwards

 

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John Piper and The Rapture

JOHN PIPER AND THE RAPTURE

Rapture 1

(Tom’s Perspectives posted originally at http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-JohnPiperandTheRaptu.pdf)

by Thomas Ice

A new movie version of Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind novel is scheduled for release in movie theaters on October 2014. This version features Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage cast in the role of pilot Rayford Steele. The announcement of this movie release has lead to a number of articles critical of the pretribulational rapture. Morgan Lee produced a piece primarily quoting William Craig,[1] a Philosophy professor at historically pretribulational Talbot School of Theology in Southern California. Another article appeared a week later: “Nine Reasons Why John Piper Disagrees with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Left Behind’ Movie’s View of Rapture.” [2] Apparently a number of folks within the Evangelical community are concerned that the new movie may have a great impact upon the thinking of the Christian community, so they are trying to get a head start on bashing the biblical basis for our blessed hope.

PIED PIPER

Retired pastor and author John Piper has a large following, especially among younger Evangelicals. While he is premillennial, he is decidedly anti-pre-trib and not a supporter of the modern state of Israel. According to Noske, Piper recently tweeted his nine reasons against pretribulationism. Even though space is limited, I will attempt to evaluate those reasons. [3]

1. “To meet” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 means to meet and accompany back to earth, thus, cannot be pretribulational. The Greek word for “to meet” does NOT mean what Piper says. Piper’s view was developed in the 1930s and more recent scholarship has disproved his speculation. [4] “To meet” does not imply any direction on the basis of the word itself. Instead, spatial direction is indicated by the context of a passage.

2. 2 Thessalonians 1:5–7 refers to the second coming. I agree this passage refers to the second coming and not the rapture. Perhaps there are some pretribulationists who see the rapture in this passage but I have never meet one. Many of Piper’s objections, such as this one, are based upon a false understanding of what pretribulationists actually believe. He is chasing after windmills.

3. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Piper equates the “gathering together to Him” and “the day of the Lord” as referring to the same event, the second coming. I disagree! They are separate items. The phrase “gathering together to Him” and “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17) are identical concepts. Both refer to the rapture as a separate event from that of the “day of the Lord.” The “day of the Lord” is used in the Old and New Testaments to primarily refer to the seven-year tribulation period and is not at all a synonym for the second coming. The phrase “great and terrible day of the Lord” is a reference to the second coming (Isa. 13:9; Joel 2:31; Zeph. 1:14–16; Mal. 4:1, 5). If Piper is correct concerning his view on this matter, then it would mean that the man of sin (the antichrist) would come after the second coming, which does not make sense within anyone’s viewpoint.

Piper says further support for his view is that “gathering” is also used in Matthew 24:31, which is clearly a posttribulational event. He claims it is the same word as in 2 Thessalonians 2. Actually, both are from the same root but are not the same word. One is a noun (2 Thess. 2) and the other is a verb (Matt. 24). The contexts of the two passages are very different, just like the rapture and the second coming are also very different events.

4. If Paul intended to teach pretribulationism then why did he not just come out and say that in 2 Thessalonians 2:3? I have been arguing in a number of articles [5] over the years that the Greek word often translated “falling away” or “apostasy” is best translated “departure.” Since the context supports the idea of a spatial or physical departure in 2:3, then Paul is saying exactly what Piper suggests. Paul tells them that they are not in the day of the Lord or the tribulation since the departure of the church, which is the rapture, has not taken place. The false teachers in 2 Thessalonians are teaching posttribulationism and Paul corrects them with pretribulationism.

5. Piper says no pre-trib rapture is found in Matthew 24 or Mark 13 or Luke 21. I totally agree that the rapture is not found anywhere in the Olivet Discourse. That Discourse provides Jesus’ outline of the seven-year tribulation period leading up to the second coming with no mention of the rapture. The rapture of the Church is not revealed by Christ until the night before He was crucified. The Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16) contains Christ’s introduction to Church Age truth that He expands upon in the Epistles. It makes sense that the new revelation about the rapture was introduced to His disciples shortly before His death and resurrection (John 14:1–3). [6]

6. Piper notes the New Testament teaches saints will be protected by God during the tribulation by the seal of God (Rev. 9:4). How is this an argument against pretribulationism since all holding to a pre-trib position believe that there will be saints who will be protected during the tribulation? Those saints in the tribulation are never called the church, instead they are the hundreds of millions who will be saved after the rapture of the church during the tribulation (Rev. 7:9–17). Many will be martyred (Rev. 6:9–11) and many will make it through the perils of that time and will enter into the millennial kingdom in their mortal bodies. So it means all will not be protected during the tribulation as Piper intimates. Revelation 9:4 speaks specifically of the five month torture of the demonic locusts (Rev. 9:1–11).

7. Next, he speaks of the command to “watch” as admonished by our Lord in Matthew 25:1– 13 when speaking of the parable of the ten virgins. Matthew 25 is a parable to Israel about watching for the second coming, not the rapture. The rapture is never found in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24—25). Instead, the church, in relation to the rapture is “waiting” for His Son from heaven . . . Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). Since the rapture is signless, unlike the second coming, there are no signs to watch for, thus, the church is charged with waiting for her Bridegroom (1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 1:13; Jude 21).

8. Piper cites Revelation 3:10 and pronounces it as the strongest passage for pre-trib, then says it means to be preserved through the tribulation. Piper cites Galatians 1:4 and John 17:15 in an attempt to support his misguided notion that “kept from the hour” in Revelation 3:10 really means preservation instead of its normal meaning of kept from the time and place of the tribulation. [7] First, Galatians 1:4 does not employ the Greek phrase “tereo ek” used in Revelation 3:10, therefore, the Galatians passage is not a factor to help one understand the meaning of 3:10. Next, the only other time tereo ek is used in the Greek New Testament is John 17:15 where it speaks of God the Father keeping believers from the evil one. I am sure Piper would agree Christ’s prayer has been answered since all genuine believers are protected from Satan. In the same way, all church age believers will be kept out of the time of the tribulation via the rapture before that seven-year event.

9. His final reason is “New Testament moral incentive is . . . that we should love the appearing of the Lord so that we want to be pure as the Lord is pure.” [8] This is hardly an argument against pretribulationism since we believe most mentions of the rapture in New Testament Epistles are accompanied with a moral imperative applied to the present. Piper cites 1 John 3:1–3 as an example. Pretribulationists believe this passage is an example of multiple references to moral purity in the present in light of a future event. This verse and many others refer to the rapture and admonishes believers to “purify oneself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

CONCLUSION

Evangelical leaders like John Piper appear to be on a crusade against the New Testament teaching of the pre-trib rapture doctrine as introduced by Jesus Himself in the Upper Room Discourse and expounded upon and applied in the Epistles by the Apostles, especially in Paul’s letters. In fact, Paul calls the rapture a believer’s “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2:13). Since the early 1970s in North America, God has used the teaching of pretribulationism as a key factor in seeing millions of people come to faith in Christ. Opposition to pretribulationism in the 70s came from liberals and unbelievers. Now, in 2014 many Evangelical leaders lead the way warning of the supposed dangers of preaching such a message. As a new movie is about to be released featuring the pre-trib rapture, believers should be praying that God will use it as a catalyst to proclaim the gospel to an unbelieving world so our Lord will use it to see an influx of unbelievers getting saved, similar to the early 70s. Maranatha!

ENDNOTES

[1] Morgan Lee, “No, Christians Should Not Believe in ‘Left Behind’s’ Rapture Theology, Says Prominent Christian Philosopher,” The Christian Post, July 30, 2014; http://www.christianpost.com.

[2] Lauren Leigh Noske, “Nine Reasons Why John Piper Disagrees with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Left Behind’ Movie’s View of Rapture,” The Gospel Herald, August 6, 2014; http://www.gospelherald.com.

[3] I am also drawing from Piper’s “Definitions and Observations Concerning the Second Coming of Christ,” Desiring God Ministry, August 30, 1987; http://www.desiringgod.org

[4] See the following: Kevin Zuber, “1 Thessalonians 4:17 and the meaning of ‘to meet’”, http://www.pre- trib.org/articles/view/1-thessalonians-417-and-meaning-of-to-meet-meeting-dignitary-or-retrieving- bride. Thomas Ice, “The Meeting in the Sky,” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheMeetingintheSky.pdf. Michael R. Crosby, “Hellenistic Formal Receptions and Paul’s use of APANTSIS in 1 Thessalonians 4:17,” Bulletin for Biblical Research Vol. 4, 1994, pp. 15-34.

[5] See Thomas Ice, “Is the Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3?” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheRapturein2Thessal.pdf. Thomas Ice, “The ‘Departure’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3” http://www.pre- trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-TheDeparturein2Thess.pdf.

[6] See Thomas Ice, “The Rapture and John 14” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheRaptureandJohn14.pdf.

[7]  See Thomas Ice, “Kept from the Hour” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-KeptFromTheHour.pdf.

[8]  Piper, “Definitions and Observations.”

 

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John Piper on “What is The Christian Gospel?”

What Is the Christian Gospel?

Piper J famous quote

The gospel is not just a sequence of steps (say, the “Four Laws” of Campus Crusade or the “Six Biblical Truths” of Quest For Joy).Those are essential. But what makes the gospel “good news” is that it connects a person with the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”

There is nothing in itself that makes “forgiveness of sins” good news. Whether being forgiven is good news depends on what it leads to. You could walk out of a courtroom innocent of a crime and get killed on the street. Forgiveness may or may not lead to joy. Even escaping hell is not in itself the good news we long for – not if we find heaven to be massively boring.

Nor is justification in itself good news. Where does it lead? That is the question. Whether justification will be good news, depends on the award we receive because of our imputed righteousness. What do we receive because we are counted righteous in Christ? The answer is fellowship with Jesus.

Forgiveness of sins and justification are good news because they remove obstacles to the only lasting, all-satisfying source of joy: Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not merely the means of our rescue from damnation; he is the goal of our salvation. If he is not satisfying to be with, there is no salvation. He is not merely the rope that pulls us from the threatening waves; he is the solid beach under our feet, and the air in our lungs, and the beat of our heart, and the warm sun on our skin, and the song in our ears, and the arms of our beloved.

This is why the New Testament often defines the gospel as, simply, Christ. The gospel is the “gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:191 Corinthians 9:122 Corinthians 2:129:1310:14Galatians 1:7Philippians 1:27; etc.). Or, more specifically, the gospel is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). And even more wonderfully, perhaps, Paul says that the preaching of the gospel is the preaching of “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

Therefore to believe the gospel is not only to accept the awesome truths that 1) God is holy, 2) we are hopeless sinners, 3) Christ died and rose again for sinners, and 4) this great salvation is enjoyed by faith in Christ-but believing the gospel is also to treasure Jesus Christ as your unsearchable riches. What makes the gospel Gospel is that it brings a person into the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of Jesus Christ.

The words Jesus will speak when we come to heaven are: “Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21). The prayer he prayed for us ended on this note: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory” (John 17:24). The glory he wants us to see is the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” It is “the immeasurable riches of [God’s] grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

The superlatives “unsearchable” and “immeasurable” mean that there will be no end to our discovery and enjoyment. There will be no boredom. Every day will bring forth new and stunning things about Christ which will cause yesterday’s wonder to be seen in new light, so that not only will there be new sights of glory everyday, but the accumulated glory will become more glorious with every new revelation.

The gospel is the good news that the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of the never-boring, ever-satisfying Christ is ours freely and eternally by faith in the sin-forgiving death and hope-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ.

May God give you “strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

Savoring and waiting,

Pastor John

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

 

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Dr. John Piper: Is Your Job For The Glory of God?

How to Decide About Your Next Job

How to Decide About Your Next Job

In 1997 I put a list of Bible texts together to help folks think through what job to pursue. Below I have taken that list and added comments to flesh out more specifically what I had in mind.

My prayer is that these thoughts will help saturate your mind with the centrality of Christ in all of life. He made you to work. And he cares about what you do with the half of your waking life called “vocation.” He wants you to rejoice in it. And he wants to be glorified in it.

May the Lord position you strategically in the workplace, as only he can when his people care deeply about these kinds of questions.

12 Questions to Consider

1. Can you earnestly do all the parts of this job “to the glory of God,” that is, in a way that highlights his superior value over all other things?

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

It almost goes without saying that a job that requires you to sin will not be done to the glory of God. Sin is any feeling, word, or action that implies the glory of God is not supremely valuable. So you can’t sin to the glory of God. But things are often not that clear. A job may involve me in questionable practices that are not clearly sin. Then the question becomes: Is my conscience clear? And the crucial text becomes Romans 14:23, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

2. Is taking this job part of a strategy to grow in personal holiness?

For this is the will of God, your sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

When Paul says, “Pursue righteousness” (1 Timothy 6:112 Timothy 2:22), he does not mean: at church and home, but not work. Our work is about half our waking life. If personal holiness in all of life is our calling, then how this happens at work matters. God will be pleased if you ask the question: How does this job fit into the overall strategy of my pursuit of Christ-like character.

3. Will this job help or hinder your progress in esteeming the value of knowing Christ Jesus your Lord?

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8)

Think through the demands of this job and how it may affect your pursuit of knowing and treasuring Jesus. For example, will it require you to choose between excellence in work and faithfulness in corporate worship? Will it present you with sinful images or offers, to which you are most vulnerable — that is, which lure you to treasuring this world more than Christ?

4. Will this job result in inappropriate pressures on you to think or feel or act against your King, Jesus?

You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. (1 Corinthians 7:23)

The point here is bondage. All jobs constrain behavior. We must show up. We must produce these outcomes. We must follow these procedures. Constraints are not bondage if we joyfully affirm their wisdom. Will this job pressure you in ways that are in fact unduly oppressive and enslaving?

5. Will this job help establish an overall life-pattern that will yield a significant involvement in fulfilling God’s great purpose of exalting Christ among all the unreached peoples of the world?

Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)

I assume every one is a goer, sender, or disobedient, when it comes to the great commission. There’s no neutral zone. We don’t all go. But we all care that there be goers. We are all world-Christians. We are all burdened by how many unreached peoples there are. And we are all thrilled with news of gospel spreading.

Some jobs may advance this life-goal significantly by involving travel or multi-ethnic interactions. Other jobs may seem unrelated. But are they? Workplaces are the source of income for giving to the cause of Christ. Workplaces are places of conversion and recruitment for the global mission. Workplaces are places of training for the kinds of things one could do for a living in another country with few Christians. Workplaces are places for speaking intelligently and wisely about the peoples of the world.

6. Will this job be worthy of your best energies?

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Nothing is to be done half-heartedly. This means that things that are not worth doing whole-heartedly should drop away from your life. Tasks don’t have to be high-impact to be worthy of high-effort. Most of the things we do in any given day are relatively low-impact. Working on an assembly line means doing hundreds of times a task that in itself seems low-impact. But if the product or the service is valuable, the cumulative effect of thousands of low-impact tasks is huge. These tasks can be transposed by an act of faith into worship. That is what it means to do them with your might and for the glory of God.

7. Will the activities and environment of this job tend to shape you or will you be able to shape it for the Christ-magnifying purposes of God?

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

Know yourself. We are all more or less vulnerable to different temptations. Christians are to be shapers of the world rather than being shaped by the world. Yes, it is true that we are all shaped by our culture (language, dress, etc.). But God means for this to be reciprocal. We share the culture of this world in order to communicate that we live for a treasure beyond this world. Does this job hold out hope for that? Or, realistically, is it too resistant?

8. Will this job provide an occasion for you to be radically Christian so as to let your light shine for your Father’s sake, or will your participation in the vision of the business tend by definition to snuff your wick?

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

There are companies — increasingly so — whose policies and procedures would muzzle your voice so seriously, you would not be able to speak with truth and love without being fired. Is the acceptance of this job the acceptance of that muzzle? Is that God’s will for you?

9. Does the aim of this job cohere with a growing intensity in your life to be radically, publicly, fruitfully devoted to Christ at any cost?

If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Mark 8:34)

If you are in a season of serious spiritual growth, ask how a new job will affect that. There are kinds of tasks, kinds of people, kinds of pressures, kinds of schedules, that may bring that growth to a screeching halt. Is this new level of love to Christ precious enough that you will prioritize it, if necessary, above the new job?

10. Will the job feel like a good investment of your life when these “two seconds” of preparation for eternity are over?

You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)

God says that there is a wisdom that comes when we consider the number of our days (Psalm 90:12). Therefore, it will serve your wise choice of a new job to ask how it relates to the brevity of life. When the Lord calls for us or comes for us, we want to be found doing what pleases him. And we want to feel good that we made a wise choice in view of how short and vulnerable life is.

11. Does this job fit with why you believe you were created and purchased by Christ?

“Everyone who is called by my name … I have created for my glory” (Isaiah 43:6–7). “You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

You are unique. That is amazing and true. I often marvel, in a crowded airport, that the thousands of people all look human, and they all look different. How can there be so many differences in this one kind of being? But there are. And none of them is an accident. God designed them all like unique prisms that refract his glory as only this prism can. The question is: Will this job conceal the uniquenesses of your prism? Or will it give you space to shine?

12. Does this job fit together with the ultimate truth that all things exist for Christ?

For by him all…have been created by [Christ] and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

If all things exist for Christ, can there be any wrong jobs? Yes. Because humans try to use things for purposes other than the glory of Christ. Everything God made is good. It exists to communicate something of his greatness and beauty. Will this job free you to take what he has made and turn it for uses that honor him?

I hope you can tell from this that there are few easy answers when asking about what job to pursue. The aim here is not to make it easy, but to make it Christ-centered, Christ-exalting, and Christ-empowered. If your heart is right on these kinds of questions, God will guide you. Seek him supremely in these ways, and let your heart be your guide.

About the author: John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books. This article is adapted from September 9, 2014 (http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/how-to-decide-about-your-next-job)

 

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2014 in John Piper, Vocation

 

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John Piper: “Were Women Deacons in the New Testament?”

Were Women Deacons?

Feeding of the 5000

By Dr. John Piper

Probably yes. There are four observations that incline me to think that this office was held by both men and women.

1. The Greek word for deacon can be masculine or feminine in the same form. So the word itself does not settle the issue.

2. In the middle of the qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 Paul says, “The women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things.” This could be the wives of the deacons, but could also be the women deacons. The latter is suggested by the fact that no reference to women is made in 3:1-7. Since women were not candidates for the eldership in the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:12-13) because of its authoritative function in teaching and oversight, the absence of the reference to women in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 would be expected. But this confirms the probability that the reference to women in 3:11 is to women deacons, not merely to wives of deacons.

3. The deacons were distinguished from the elders in that they were not the governing body in the church nor were they charged with the duty of authoritative teaching. So the role of deacon seems not to involve anything that Paul taught in 1 Timothy 2:12 (or anywhere else) which is inappropriate for women to perform in the church.

4. In Romans 16:1, Phoebe is very probably called a deacon. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon(ess) of the church at Cenchreae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well.”

It appears then that the role of deacon is of such a nature that nothing stands in the way of women’s full participation in it. Within the deaconate itself, the way the men and women relate to each other would be guided by the sense of appropriateness, growing out of the Biblical teaching of male and female complementarity.

Qualifications of Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13)

3:8 “Deacons likewise must be serious. . .”

Serious, Earnest, Honorable (semnous)

The idea of “serious” by itself seems inadequate. This would be an unsatisfactory translation of Philippians 4:8: “Think on these things . . . whatever is true, whatever is honorable. . .” “Serious” is morally neutral. But this word isn’t. The person should not be flippant, but earnest about life.

3:8 “. . . not double-tongued. . .”

Genuine, Authentic (me dilogous)

“Double-tongued” implies saying one thing to be true here and another thing to be true there, according to what people would think. So it implies a lack of love for truth and a fear of human disapproval and a general instability.

3:8 “. . . not addicted to much wine. . .”

Temperate (me oino pollo prosechontas)

Prosechontas implies “to concern oneself with” or “to give attention to” or “to turn one’s mind toward.” So there should be a freedom from drink, and presumably from all substances that would be harmful if taken too freely.

The picture is of a person under control, not carried along 1) by the opinions of others (genuine, authentic) or 2) by his appetites (temperate) or 3) by levity (serious, honorable).

3:8 “. . . not greedy for gain. . .”

Content with simplicity (me aischrokerdeis)

This word is used in Titus 1:7 of elders and in adverb form of elders in 1 Peter 5:2. It corresponds to aphilargon (not a lover of money) in 1 Timothy 3:3.

It seems to be a fourth dimension of freedom (see “temperate” above for the first three), freedom from the pull of money. Other motives should drive him. There should be a contentment in God and a heavenly mindedness.

3:9 “…having the mystery of the faith in a clean conscience.”

Deep Convictions Concerning The Faith

The issue of conscience does not appear to be the general issue as in 1:5; 4:2; 2 Timothy 1:3Titus 1:15. But 1:19 is a very close connection: “holding faith and a good conscience.”

It seems that the conscience bears directly on the “faith in good conscience.” This inclines me to think that the issue is the sincerity of the faith. Do the deacons really have faith rooted in their hearts or are there sneaking doubts? Are their consciences clear when they make a public profession of their faith?

3:10 “And let them also be tested first. . .”

Tested (dokimazesthosan)

The test is not specified, but it is to precede the work as deacons. The test would be two-fold: the life they have lived and the assessment of it by those who know them and by some appropriate body of the church.
This would surely apply to all the leaders including elders and deacons.

I see three usual steps in the testing and selection of leaders.

1. The elders would take responsibility to see that the testing and approval is done in accord with Biblical criteria since they are responsible for the general oversight of the church and for the doctrinal purity of the leadership.

2. They may need to involve representatives of the congregation who have a wider knowledge of some people than they do.

3. The congregation itself would be the final test of approval, as they are the last court of appeal in matters of church discipline (Matthew 18:171 Corinthians 5:4). Therefore, all would be approved by the church as the final step of “testing” and “approval.”

3:10 “. . . then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons.”

Blameless (anegkletoi)

Blameless in the sense that no blame is discovered that has not been settled in a Biblical way. It does not mean perfect, but free from ongoing guilt for some unsettled wrong.

3:11 We will come back to this verse.

3:12 “Let the deacons be the husband of one wife. . .”

One Woman’s Husband

(See section on 1 Timothy 3:2)

3:12 “. . . and let them manage their children and their households well.”
This would seem to imply some measure of administrative ability, but note well, unlike the case with the elders in 3:5, it does not say, “for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church?” General oversight does not appear to be in view as with the “overseers” of 3:1-7.

Rather, the point is probably the general truth that much of a man’s true character and gifts come out in the way he leads his family. Something is significantly wrong if the man appears religious and able at church but has a disorderly home.

Again the home is the proving ground for all fitness for leadership in the church.

3:13 “For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

This is not a qualification but a promise of what comes with the faithful execution of the diaconate.

A good standing for themselves may mean a respectable place in the Christian community or a safe place in the last Day of Judgment as in 6:19.

And great confidence is the subjective boldness that rises with the faithful performance of duty.

(Now back to 3:11 and the question of the women.)

3:11 “Likewise the women. . .”

Is this a reference to the wives of the deacons or a reference to women who were deaconesses? See pages 56-57 for a slightly fuller treatment of this issue.

In Favor of “Deaconesses”:

  1. The use of “likewise” to introduce the group in the same way the deacons were introduced in verse 8 suggests a new order, namely, deaconesses.

  2. The women are not mentioned in verses 1-7 where overseers are being discussed. If wives are in view, you would expect that they would be. But if women as a distinct order are in view, you would not, because the elders are given responsibilities which Paul says women should not assume. So the absence of women among the overseers and the presence of the women among the deacons suggests an order, not wives.

  3. Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2 appears to be a deaconess.

  4. The deacons are not charged with any duties that in themselves would contradict what Paul says is appropriate for women to do in the church.

In Favor of “Wives”:

  1. You would expect that they would be called “deaconesses” instead of women or wives.

  2. Paul returns to the qualifications of deacons in the next verse, which seems strange if he had begun to discuss a new order.

It seems that the decision will not be made with confidence simply from this text alone but will be made on the basis of the wider considerations of what is appropriate for women to do according to all the New Testament teachings.

3:11 “. . . must be serious. . .”

See above on 3:8, Serious, Earnest, Honorable.

3:11 “. . . no slanderers. . .”

Not Slanderers, Gossips (me diabolous)

A woman who has itchy ears and a loose tongue will not be a good deaconess. Her words must build up. She must keep confidences and not be addicted to scuttlebutt.

3:11 “. . .temperate. . .”

See above on 3:2, Temperate.

3:11 “. . . faithful in all things.”

Honest, Trustworthy, Reliable, Loyal (pistas in pasin)

See above on Titus 1:6, Honest.

Source: ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

 

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How Are Women Saved Through Childbearing?

 

How Are Women Saved Through Childbearing?

By Dr. John Piper

What did Paul mean when he said in 1 Timothy 2:15, “Yet she [the woman] will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control”?

Henry Alford’s interpretation of this verse is not widely known. I find it compelling and would like to commend it for your consideration. Henry Alford was a British Anglican scholar who published commentary on The Greek New Testament in 1863.

The context is that Paul is arguing why men should be the authoritative leaders and teachers in the church rather than women.

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:12–15)

What Does Verse 15 Mean?

I have tried to explain elsewhere how Paul is arguing in verse 14. But here the question is: What is the meaning of verse 15? “Yet she will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

“She” refers to “the woman” in verse 14 and probably signifies women in general. I say this because of the shift from singular to plural “they” in the next phrase: “Shewill be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith.” “They” is not a pronoun in the Greek but is denoted in the plural form of the verb and therefore may be either feminine or masculine. The context calls for feminine. “Women will be saved through childbearing. . .”

Some have suggested “through childbearing” refers to the birth of Christ. But in the only other place where a form of this word occurs in the Bible (1 Timothy 5:14) it simply refers to bearing children: “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children . . .”

Henry Alford notices that being saved “through” something does not have to mean being saved “by” it, but may mean being saved through it as through a danger. He also notices that Paul does combine the two words (“being saved” and “through”) this way in 1 Corinthians 3:15. “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

Could “She will be saved through childbearing,” mean “She will be saved, not by means of, but through (that is, in spite of) the engulfing pains of childbirth”?

The Sense of Despair

Alford draws our attention to the fact that in Genesis 3:16, after the Fall, when God was appointing the devil and woman and man to their distinctive experiences of the curse, “bearing children” was the very point where God’s curse lands on the woman. “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain inchildbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.’”

Pause and feel the weight of this for women in the centuries before modern medicine. No hygiene, no spinal blocks, no episiotomies, no sutures, no caesarians, no antibiotics, no pain killers, and often, no recovery. Untold numbers of women died in childbirth and countless more suffered the rest of their lives from wounds that prevented childbirth, or any kind of normal sexual life.

In other words, even more than today, there were aspects of childbearing that felt like a curse from God — and often that burden lasted a lifetime, not just in the moment of birth. How easy it would have been for women to despair and feel that God was against them. He was their curser, not their savior.

To this sense of despair Paul responds with the hope of the gospel. No to the curse! The pains of childbearing — even if they last a life-time — are not God’s final word to women. God intends to save women. He intends for her to be a “fellow-heir” with man of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).

Henry Alford sums up his interpretation like this:

The curse on the woman for her [“transgression”] was, [“in pains you will bear children”] (Gen. 3:16). Her [“childbearing”] is that in which the curse finds its operation. What then is here promised her? Not only exemption from that curse in its worst and heaviest effects: not merely that she shall safely bear children: but the Apostle uses the word [“will be saved”] purposely for its higher meaning [eternal salvation], and the construction of the sentence is precisely as [in] 1 Cor. 3:15 — [“he will be saved so as through fire”]. Just as that man should be saved through, as passing through, fire which is his trial, his hindrance in his way, in spite of which he escapes — so she shall be saved, through, as passing through, her child-bearing, which is her trial, her curse, her (not means of salvation, but) hindrance in the way of it. (Alford, H. [2010]. Alford’s Greek Testament: an exegetical and critical commentary [Vol. 3, 320]. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)

The Curse Will Be Undone

My summary paraphrase would go like this:

Even though many women today and in history may feel the ongoing effects of the curse in the pains of childbirth and the lifelong wounds that it may leave, I urge all of our Christian sisters not to despair. God’s word to you is hope, not curse. God’s plan for you is salvation not destruction.

Yes, just as the man must work out his salvation through the cursed futilities and miseries of his labor (Genesis 3:18–19), millions of women must find her salvation through the pains and miseries of childbearing. The path of salvation is the same for her as for all the saints: “continuing in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

Jesus Christ is the Savior who became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). The sting of the curse has been removed. It cannot damn us anymore. Faith in him is the link to the Savior. Love, holiness, and self-control are the authenticating fruits of this faith.

At the last day every vestige of the curse will be undone and every wound will be healed. That is part of what it means to be saved through faith in Christ.

The Word of Salvation

I would add one more word of application. Even if modern medicine has wonderfully and rightly lifted much of the pain and lasting wounds of childbirth, every mother knows that sin takes its toll on every aspect of marriage, and birth, and child-rearing. Any of these may swell and threaten to swallow a woman in despair.

I believe it is a legitimate application of this text to say: God’s word to all those burdens and frustrations and miseries is No! This is not my last word to you! My word is salvation! My word, in and through every fiery trial, is to save you, rescue you, preserve you, and give you a future and a hope. All of that through faith in Jesus Christ.

Source: http://www.desiringgod.org (June 10, 2014)

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

 

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Male and Female: The Beauty of Biblical Complementarity

God Created Man Male and Female: What Does It Mean to Be Complementarian?

By Dr. John Piper

Piper J famous quote

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

One of the 30-year theological trademarks of Bethlehem is the way we understand God’s purposes for how men and women relate to each other in family and church and society. If you want a name to put a name on this understanding, we would say we are complementarian — based on the word “complement” (with an “e” in the middle, not an “i”). In other words, we believe that when it comes to human sexuality, the greatest display of God’s glory, and the greatest joy of human relationships, and the greatest fruitfulness in ministry come about when the deep differences between men and women are embraced and celebrated as complements to each other. They complete and beautify each other.

What “Complementarian” Means

The intention with the word “complementarian” is to locate our way of life between two kinds error: on the one side would be the abuses of women under male domination, and on the other side would be the negation of gender differences where they have beautiful significance. Which means that, on the one hand, complementarians acknowledge and lament the history of abuses of women personally and systemically, and the present evils globally and locally in the exploitation and diminishing of women and girls. And, on the other hand, complementarians lament the feminist and egalitarian impulses that minimize God-given differences between men and women and dismantle the order God has designed for the flourishing of our life together.

So complementarians resist the impulses of a chauvinistic, dominating, and abusive culture, one the one side, and the impulses of a sex-blind, gender-leveling, unisex culture, on the other side. And we take our stand between these two ways of life not because the middle ground is safe place (which it is emphatically not), but because we think this is the good plan of God in the Bible for men and women. “Very good,” as he said in Genesis 1.

In fact, I would say that the attempt by feminism to remedy the male abuse of women by nullifying gender differences, backfires and produces millions of men that women cannot enjoy because of their unmanliness, or cannot endure because of their distorted, brutal manliness. In other words, if we don’t teach boys and girls about the truth and beauty and value of their differences, and how to live them out, those differences do not mature in healthy ways — but dysfunctional ways. And a generation of young adults comes into being who simply do not know what it means to be a mature man or a woman; and the cultural price we pay for that is enormous.

The way I would like to approach this is move from the general to the specific: a word about being human, an illustration about being male and female, and then a specific text to show the Biblical roots.

On Being Human

First, a word about being human. My first Sunday at Bethlehem, July 13, 1980 in the evening I gave a message titled “Life Is Not Trivial.” In it I said,

Every human being now and then feels a longing that life not dribble away like a leaky faucet. You’ve all tasted the desire that day-to-day life be more than a series of trifles. It can happen when you are reading a poem, when you are kneeling in your closet, when you are standing by the lakeside at sunset. It very often happens at birth and death.

I quoted Moses from Deuteronomy 32:46, “Lay to heart all the words which I enjoin upon you this day, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no trifle for you but it is your life” (RSV). Deep in every God-created human being, bearing the insignia of humanity in the image of God, there is a longing for life not to be meaningless. Not be trivial, frivolous, inconsequential.

I read recently this quote from the crime novelist Agatha Christie (1896–1976)

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all, I still know quite certainly, that just to be alive, is a grand thing.

I think this is wonderfully true. To be a living human being is a grand thing. Haven’t you all had those rare and wonderful moments when you are standing by a window, or door, or anywhere, and suddenly, unbidden, and powerful comes the awakening: I am alive. I am alive. Not like a tree or rabbit, but like a human being. I am thinking, feeling, longing, regretting, grieving. Alive. Made in the very image of God. And this is a grand thing.

It is a grand thing. And part of the grandeur of being a living human being created in the image of God is that you are either male or female. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Nobody is a generic human being. There is no such thing. God never intended that there be. God creates male human beings and female human beings. And this is a grand thing.

It is a travesty of these human natures to think God’s only design in the differences was for making and nursing babies. The differences are too many and too deep for such a superficial explanation. A woman is a woman to the depths of her humanity. And a man is a man to the depths of his humanity. And this is a grand thing. So my first point is that God has done a grand thing in making us male and female in his image. Don’t diminish this. Delight in it. Glory in being alive as the male or female person you are.

Illustrating Our Differences

Second, let me create an illustration to portray some of the differences between manhood and womanhood. A picture may be worth a thousand words — even a word picture. Suppose among the young adults at the Downtown Campus a young man and woman — say 20-years old — find themselves chatting before the worship service. He likes what he hears and sees, and says, “Are you sitting with anyone?” They sit together. They notice how each engages with God in worship.

When the service is over, as they are leaving, he says, “Do you have any lunch plans? I’d love to treat you to lunch.” At that point she can signal she is not interested, “I do have some plans. But thanks.” Or she can signal the opposite: “I do, but let me make a call. I think I can change them. I’d love to go.”

Neither has a car, so he suggests they walk to Maria’s Café down on Franklin Avenue, about 10 minutes from the church. As they walk he finds out that she has a black belt in martial arts, and that she is one of the best in the state. At 19th Street two men block their way ominously and say, “Pretty girl friend you’ve got there. We’d like her purse and your wallet. In fact, she’s so pretty we’d like her.” The thought goes through his head: “She can whip these guys.” But instead of stepping behind her, he takes her arm, pulls her back behind him, and says, “If you’re going to touch her, it will be over my dead body.”

When they make their move, he tackles them both and tells her to run. They knock him unconscious, but before they know what hit them, she has put them both on their backs with their teeth knocked out. And a little crowd has gathered. The police and ambulance come and she gets in the ambulance with the young man. And she has one main thought on the way to the hospital: This is the kind of man I want to marry.

Not About Competency

The main point of that story is to illustrate that the deeper differences of manhood and womanhood are not superior or inferior competences. There are rather deep dispositions or inclinations written on the heart, albeit often very distorted. Notice three crucial things.

First, he took the initiative and asked if he could sit with her and if she would go to lunch and suggested the place and how to get there. She saw clearly what he was doing, and responded freely according to her desires. She joined the dance. This says nothing about who has superior competences in planning. God writes the impulse to lead on a man’s heart. And the wisdom to discern it and enjoy it on a woman’s.

Second, he said that he wanted to treat her to lunch. He’s paying. This sends a signal. “I think that’s part of my responsibility. In this little drama of life, I initiate, I provide.” She understands and approves. She supports the initiative and graciously accepts the offer to be provided for. She takes the next step in the choreography. And it says nothing about who is wealthier or more capable of earning. It is what God’s man feels he must do.

Third, it is irrelevant to the masculine soul that a woman he is with has greater self-defending competencies. It is his deep, God-given, masculine impulse to protect her. It is not a matter of superior competency. It is a matter of manhood. She saw it. She did not feel belittled by it, but honored, and she loved it.

At the heart of mature manhood is the God-given sense (disposition, inclination) that the primary responsibility (not sole responsibility) lies with him when it comes to leadership-initiative, provision, and protection. And at the heart of mature womanhood is the God-given sense (disposition, inclination) that none of this implies her inferiority, but that it will be a beautiful thing to come alongside such a man and gladly affirm and receive this kind of leadership and provision and protection.1

The Biblical Testimony

Which brings us now to the Bible. For those who disagree with this complementarian view the likely criticism would be: that is all culturally determined. It’s not innate and it’s not from God. You are just reflecting the home you grew up in and the biases of your childhood. That’s possible. Everyone brings assumptions and preferences to this issue. The question is: Does God reveal his will about these things in his word?

Let’s look first at a text dealing with marriage and then one dealing very briefly with the church. In both texts, Christ-like, humble, loving, sacrificial men are to take primary responsibility for leadership, provision and protection. And women are called to come alongside these men, support that leadership, and advance the kingdom Christ with the full range of her gifts in the paths laid out in Scripture.

Marriage and the Home

First, a text on marriage and the home. Ephesians 5:22-33,

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. [Then, quotingGenesis 2:2431 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Four Observations from This Text

  1. Marriage is a dramatization of Christ’s relationship to his church. Verse 32: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

  2. In this drama, the husband takes his cues from Christ and the wife takes her cues from God’s will for the church. Verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Verse 22: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.”

  3. So the primary responsibility for initiative and leadership in the home is to come from the husband who is taking his cues from Christ, the head. And it is clear that this is not about rights and power, but about responsibility and sacrifice. Verse 25: “As Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.”  No abuse. No bossiness. No authoritarianism. No arrogance. Here is a man whose pride has been broken by his own need for a Savior, and he is willing to bear the burden of leadership given to him by his Master, no matter how heavy the load. Godly women see this and are glad.

  4. This leadership in the home involves the sense of primary responsibility for nourishing provision and tender protection. Verse 29: “For no one ever hated his own flesh (that is, his wife), but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.” The word, “nourishes” implies nourishing provision. And the word “cherishes” implies tender protection. This is what Christ does for his bride. This is what the godly husband feels the primary responsibility to do for his wife and family.

So a complementarian concludes that biblical headship for the husband is the divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike servant-leadership, protection and provision in the home. And biblical submission for the wife is the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. “A helper suitable for him,” as Genesis 2:18 says.

Applied to the Church

We don’t have time to develop the arguments for how this applies to the church. So I will just make some summary comments so you can know how we as complementarians see it. In 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” In the context we take that to mean: the primary responsibility for governance and teaching in the church should be carried by spiritual men. These are the two functions that distinguish elders from deacons: governing (1 Timothy 5:17) and teaching (1 Timothy 3:2). So the clearest way we apply this passage is to say that the elders of the church should be spiritual men.

In other words, since the church is the family of God, the realities of headship and submission that we saw in marriage (Ephesians 5:22ff) have their counterparts in the church.

  • Authority” (in 1 Timothy 2:12) refers to the divine calling of spiritual, gifted men to take primary responsibility as elders for Christlike, servant-leadership and teaching in the church.

  • And “submission” refers to the divine calling of the rest of the church, both men and women, to honor and affirm the leadership and teaching of the elders and to be equipped by them for the hundreds and hundreds of various ministries available to men and women in the service of Christ.

That last point is very important. For men and women who have a heart to minister — to save souls and heal broken lives and resist evil and meet needs — there are fields of opportunity that are simply endless. God intends for the entire church to be mobilized in ministry, male and female. Nobody is to simply stay at home watching soaps and ballgames while the world burns.

Concluding Challenge to Men

This is a call for men and women to realize it is a grand thing to be a man created in the image of God, and it is an equally grand thing to be a woman created in the image of God. But since the burden of primary responsibility lies on the men — let me challenge them mainly:

Men, do you have a moral vision for your families, a zeal for the house of the Lord, a magnificent commitment to the advancement of the kingdom, an articulate dream for the mission of the church and a tenderhearted tenacity to make it real? You can’t lead a godly women without this. She is a grand being!

There are hundreds of such men in the church today. And more are needed. When the Lord visits his church and creates a mighty army of deeply spiritual, humble, strong, Christlike men committed to the Word of God and the mission of the church, the vast army of women will rejoice over the leadership of these men and enter into a joyful partnership. And that will be a grand thing.

1For a fuller explanation of this manhood and womanhood see John Piper, What’s the Difference? (Crossway, 2008); Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood(Crossway, 1991); 50 Crucial Questions About Manhood and Womanhood (PDF).

SOURCE: http://www.desiringgod.org (NOVEMBER 24, 2012)

 ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Current Issues, John Piper

 

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