Elihu’s Rebuke #6: Conclusion

Elihu succeeded in preparing Job for what is to come, as we will see next week. Because of Elihu’s words, Job’s heart is softened and ready to receive God’s words. You see, effectually all that Elihu was saying to Job: “Your God is too small, Job. Let me make it bigger for you.” We need a big God. We need to see our God as big as He really is, because we will suffer. Being declared right before God on the basis of Jesus’ work does not exempt us from suffering. Maybe even on the contrary! And when we do, how we view God is crucial. Our God is gracious, just, and great.

By His sovereign grace, God chose us from before the foundation of the world. By His sovereign grace, God justified us freely through the gift of saving faith. And by His sovereign grace, God is sanctifying us through suffering according to His infinite wisdom. We should not “… despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Pro. 3:11-12). And, as John Piper beautifully says, “its aim is that our faith might be refined, our holiness might be enlarged, our soul might be saved, and our God might be glorified.”

Elihu’s Rebuke #1: An Introduction
Elihu’s Rebuke #2: God Is Gracious
Elihu’s Rebuke #3: God is Just
Elihu’s Rebuke #4: God is Great
Elihu’s Rebuke #5: Suffering as a Discipline
Elihu’s Rebuke #6: Conclusion

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Three Aspects in the Life of a Preacher

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-8)

In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 a beautiful sequence of events is started when then gospel came to Thessalonica. We see in verse 6 that they responded by becoming followers of Jesus and imitators of Paul (and thus Jesus). Then, in verse 7, the Thessalonians responded by becoming (local) examples to others around them. And lastly, in verse 8, they responded by becoming (global) examples to others who heard about them. Paul confidently grounds the election of the Thessalonians, first, on their reception of the preached gospel and, second, on their subsequent obedience. The result is a beautiful sequence of events, which I believe is much desired. It portrays discipleship of four generations. And thus it invites us to take a closer look at the starting point, which gives us more insight I think in the role of a preacher

Let’s read verse 5 again: “because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

What does Paul about the gospel that came to the Thessalonians? First, Paul says that the gospel was characterized by word. I take that to mean that the preacher is giving a verbal proclamation and explanation of the good news of Jesus. Second, Paul says that the gospel was characterized by power. This could mean that preaching was combined with miraculous healing (like in Luke 10:8-9 for instance), but I would say that in any case there was a manifestation of power, in either preaching or healing or both, that was able to change minds, hearts, and lives. Third, Paul says the gospel was characterized by the Holy Spirit. I think there is a strong linkage here with his previous point that the gospel came in power, but I would say that there was some manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s approving presence. And, lastly, Paul says the gospel was characterized by full conviction, which I read as a transparent sincerity and integrity, bringing certainty to the hearer’s minds. The last part of the verse tops it off when Paul is saying that the Thessalonians knew what kind of men they proved to be among them for their sake. The coming of the gospel was reinforced by the evident of its preachers.

So, what can we say about the life of the preacher and the manner of his preaching, looking at these verses? I believe there are three aspects the preacher needs to be aware of and work into his life.

1. Be faithful students and servants of the Word
It is clear that the gospel comes by word, His Word, which is both verbally proclaimed, like a herald proclaims good news from the king, as well as explained so that everyone who hears understands the good news that has come to them. This means that as preachers we need to be able to both proclaim (herald) this good news as well as explain it. And we have to be able to do this from any passage from His Word because the whole of Scripture bears witness of Jesus (John 5:39). This takes serious study of His Word, and an understanding of hermeneutics, exegesis, and homiletics.

2. Be fully dependent on the Holy Spirit
In order to preach with full conviction and passion, a preacher has to be fully depending on the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit. I would say there a threefold aspect here. First, he needs to be living by the power of the Holy Spirit. Second, he needs to be praying by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is in line with Haddon W. Robinson’s definition of preaching, which says, “the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical-grammatical and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, and then through him to his hearers.” For the Holy Spirit to first apply the text to the personality and experience of the preacher it requires the preacher to be living and praying by the power of the Holy Spirit. A third aspect then is that it is then applied through the preacher by the Holy Spirit to his hearers, which means that the preacher is preaching by the power of the Holy Spirit, so hearts and minds are changed.

3. Be disciplining yourself for holiness
This is obviously an aspect which applies to every follower of Jesus, who calls us to train ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 1:3). But I believe it is particularly important for a preacher. Again, Paul says, “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” As preachers, our walk with Christ needs to be in like manner of our talking about Christ. This way our “full conviction” makes sense. This way we give the hearers examples to imitate and follow as we will be worthy to be imitated (1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9; 2 Timothy 3:10-11)

I believe these are admirable and honorable aspects to work into my life, and spend a lifetime on.

Five Exhortations From Peter

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:13-15)

1. Prepare your minds for action (v.13)
To prepare our minds for action is to get rid of loose and sloppy thinking, and to bring the rational and reflective powers of your mind under control. It means to control what you think about, what you decide that you will set your mind upon. “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2). The same concept is talked about by Paul in Ephesians 6:14 where we are to gird our loins with the truth (or fasten on the belt of truth). Putting on the belt prepares you for action, it frees your movements, and it put him in a battle frame of mind. The belt of truth can be described as the whole of what you believe about Christ. It is a foundation you live upon all the time, your understanding of and confidence in the basic doctrines of the faith. In effect we should never take off the belt of truth. We should always be ready for action.

2. Be sober-minded (v.13)
To be sober-minded basically means to have the ability to take a serious look at life. It is an attitude of self-discipline that avoids the extremes. It is one of character qualifications of an elder (1 Timothy 3:2), it is Paul’s charge to Timothy to withstand the apostasy in his church (2 Timothy 4:5), it is something that comes with years (Titus 2:2). Paul links being sober-minded with “having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (2 Thessalonians 5:8). I wrote a blog post about this once, which you can read here

3. Set your hope fully on the grace […] of Jesus Christ (v.13)
Peter has told us a lot about God’s grace. He greeted us with grace (1 Peter 1:2). He told us of the grace that came to us in Jesus, predicted by the prophets of old (1 Peter 1:10). Now he goes further, writing of the grace that is to be brought to you when Jesus comes back. The only way we will be able to stand before Jesus on that day is because of the unmerited favor He gives and will give to us. Grace isn’t just for the past, when we first gave our lives to Jesus. It isn’t only for the present, where we live each moment standing in His grace (Romans 5:2). It is also for the future, when grace will be brought to us. God has only just begun to show us the riches of His grace.

4. Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance (v.14)
We should not be “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We should “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16) and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14). We should “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). But I think Paul describes it best in Titus 3:3-7, where he says, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

5. Be holy in all your conduct (v.15)
This is really the summary of Peter’s statement. God says repeatedly in Leviticus to be holy (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; 20:26; 21:6). We are to be holy as the Lord has set us apart, or as Leviticus 20:26 says, “separated… from the peoples, that you should be mine.” Paul picks up this theme as well when he says that “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). We are to train ourselves in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7), and we are to pursue godliness (1 Timothy 6:11). Our conduct should translate in our works (James 3:13)

All in all, these exhortations are all words of action and are linked together. As we set our hope fully on the grace of Jesus Christ we realize that He calls us to be holy in all our conduct. This should stir in us a desire to then not be conformed to the passions of our former ignorance, which means that we should prepare our minds for action and become sober-minded.

Psalm #5 – Draw Close, It’s Your Destiny!

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You. O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;  Make Your way straight before me. There is nothing reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction itself their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God; by their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, for they are rebellious against You. But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5)

Approaching God
Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” (Psalm 5:1-3)
David makes it abundantly clear that he wants to talk to God. He calls for His attention three times! What I think is interesting is that David specifically says that he prays to God. Now this sounds kind of silly to say, but I do think it sort of affirms David’s awareness that he is approaching his holy Father, that we request to be in His presence. The fact that we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16) does not mean that we should confuse confidence with arrogance. Charles H. Spurgeon said about morning prayer: “This is the fittest time for intercourse with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. While the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul.” The idea behind direct is not “to aim” but “to order, to arrange.” It is the word that is used for the laying in order of the wood and pieces of the victim upon the altar, and it is used also for the putting of the shewbread upon the table. It means just this: ‘I will arrange my prayer before thee;’ I will lay it out upon the altar in the morning, just as the priest lays out the morning sacrifice. So just as we put lay our request before God before we pray, we should eagerly watch afterwards expectantly to heaven for God to answer.

Drawing Closer to Holiness
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You. O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;  Make Your way straight before me.” (Psalm 5:4-8)
The more we meditate on God’s Word, the more we become aware of His holiness and our sinfulness. A direct result of our efforts of approaching the definition of holiness, God Himself. “This is a good way to measure how well you are praying and whether, as you pray, you are drawing close to God or are merely mouthing words. If you are drawing close to God, you will become increasingly sensitive to sin, which is inevitable since the God you are approaching is a holy God.” (Boice). But look at David’s confidence! Yet he doesn’t rely on his own righteousness or holiness, but his confidence is grounded in the mercy of God. And look at David’s humility! He recognizes or acknowledges that his godliness is a result of God’s mercy and power and work in him, and not of his own strength.

Two Destinies
There is nothing reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction itself their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God; by their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, for they are rebellious against You. But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:9-12)
Wickedness is displayed in what a man says. Jesus said: “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34), and James said: “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-6,8). David prays that He will hold them guilty, to let them fall, to thrust them out for their rebellion. But the righteous, the ones who put their trust in God (and not just pay lip service) should rejoice! Let them sing for joy, and find shelter and a shield in the LORD. And what a great blessing it is to find favor in the LORD! Knowing that God says: “This is my child, in whom I am well pleased”. Awesome!