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The Ascribed Causes of Salvation

March 13th, 2009

“Tell of his salvation from day to day”

(1 Chron. 16:23; see also Ps. 96:1-13)

If the name of the Savior is precious to you, If his care has been constant and tender and true, If the light of his presence has brightened your way, O will you not tell of your gladness today?  O will you not tell it today?  Will you not tell it today?  If the light of his presence has brightened your way, O will you not tell it today? (Jesse Brown Pounds, Will You Not Tell It Today?)

Evangelical churches and individuals are fond of focusing on one particular tenet of the Christian system, to the exclusion and detriment of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27; Ps. 119:160; see example in James 1:24).  Notice, however, that the Bible clearly portrays salvation as being ascribed to multiple logical causes; and, not to any singular emphasis of man’s selection.

1. Grace, the moving cause (Eph. 2:5)

2. The life of Christ, the efficient cause (Rom. 5:9,10)

3. The gospel, the procuring cause (1 Cor. 15:1-2)

4. The death, burial, and resurrection  of Jesus, the disposing cause (1 Cor. 15:13-4)

5. Faith, the formal cause (Acts 16:31)

6. Baptism, the immediate cause (1 Pet. 3:21; Tit. 3:5)

7. Endurance, the concurring cause (Rev. 2:10; 13:10; 14:12)

The New Testament plan of salvation is much too important to relegate to human speculation.  Tell it today!

-Robert M. Housby

Meeting Your Deepest Needs:

February 17th, 2008

A Consideration of James 4:5

“Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that that the Scripture says,

He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?”

(James 4:5)

The theologian Augustine said: “Thou hast made us for Thyself and we shall

ever restless be until we find our rest in Thee.” The Bible indicates that there

is a part of the humanness of man that has a spiritual dimension. Genesis 1:28

refers to this dimension as “the image and likeness of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

posits—“he has put eternity into man’s heart…” And, James 4:5 reads—“He

yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us…”In consider-

ation of James 4:5, we are immediately taken by the strong emotional sentiment

that God voices regarding the spirit of man. The text says that God “yearns

jealously” over it. Note the small “s” (in “spirit”) to express the human spirit.

1. Man’sspirit,” therefore, legitimizes human needs beyond the

physical dimension. The spirit is an inner issue (see 2 Cor. 4:16; Eph.

3:16). But, the spirit of James 4:5, while having universal content, cannot be exclusively assigned to all mankind, because James is writing to Christ-

ians who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:9,11,16).

2. Jealousy is relevant when it comes to meeting one’s deepest needs

(Ex. 20:5; 34:14; note the term “pity” in Judges 2:18 [ESV] for God’s

people). The context of James 4:1-4, leading up to 4:5, expresses unacceptable behaviors for personal fulfillment; or acting out to get

needs met. Note, also, that the spirit is a given reality (see Eccl. 3:14).

It rightfully belongs to the Creator.

3. The spirit of James 4:5 is practically and ultimately about receiving grace for meeting our deepest needs (James 4:6).

-Robert M. Housby

Categories: Bible, Human Needs, James, New Testament Tags:

Faith Without Works? (Low Information–Action Ratio)

May 13th, 2007

“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone”

(James 2:24)

Neil Postman, in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, uses the expression—“Low Information to Action Ratio,” to denote questionable Christian commitment. In other words, L.I.A.R. occurs when our knowledge of Christianity is greater than our follow-through.

James puts this in perspective in James 2:14-26. Notice how James arranges his theological material into 5 questions:

2:14 “What good is it…?”

2:14 b “Can that faith save…?”

2:15-16 “What good is that [failure to respond to needs]…?”

2:20 “Do you want to be shown…that faith apart from works is useless?”

2:21 “Was not Abraham… justified by works?”

Abraham and James have played their part on the stage of the drama of the most holy faith. Now, it’s your chance. If not now, when?

-Robert M. Housby

Categories: Bible, faith, James, New Testament Tags:

Merry or Sad

November 26th, 2006

(Christians and the Human Experience)

“Is any among you suffering? Let him pray.
Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise…”

(James 5:13)

“If there were dreams to sell, merry and sad to tell,
And the crier rang the bell, what would you buy?”

– Thomas Lovell Beddoes

The human experience is often freckled with cheerfulness and suffering. Life, as we know it, is neither one or the other, but one and the other. James, very much in touch with the extremes of the human experience, uses terms which reflect our own times—“suffering,” “cheerful,” and “sick” (James 5:13,14). We may say with confidence that, while Christ came to save us from sin and death, he allows certain universals currently intact to prevail for a limited time. These universals would include such concepts and facts as human joy and human trials (James 1:3).

Since life has aspects of being a test, James encourages remaining steadfast under trial in order to withstand the test (see James 1:3, 12). To James, neither joy nor suffering, in and of themselves constitute a complete theology of blessing, but rather, how joy and sadness are handled. Does joy prompt you to live without God? Does sadness disprove the existence of God? No, they are just part of the whole human drama in which we find ourselves. So, may your days be merry and bright, but if they are not—all is not lost. “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” (James 4:5).

– Robert M. Housby

Categories: Bible, James, New Testament, praise, suffering Tags:

A Certain Grumble Tone

October 8th, 2006

[Reprinted from The Reminder church bulletin of the Dexter, Missouri Church of Christ. Author of “Grumble Tone” unknown. Revised and condensed by Robert M. Housby, Oct. 5, 2006]

Once there was a certain Grumble Tone who ran away to sea.
“I’m sick of things on land,” said he, “as sick as I can be.”
“A life upon the bounding waves will be the one for me.”

But, rising ocean billows failed to stimulate true mirth,
Neither vessel, wind or vista could take away the dearth,
Instead, a certain Grumble Tone could be heard within the berth.

The journey would lead to foreign lands with many a wondrous sight.
But, nothing that was heard or seen seemed just exactly right.
For, Grumble Tone, who sought delight, was plagued by constant plight.

This wanton wandering throughout this world wide
Could not for grace and peace subside,
The reason now we dare confide.

Neither North nor South, o’er land and sea, can bring one happiness,
When Grumble Tone is discontent—
It followed him where- e’re he went.

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9).

– Robert M. Housby

Categories: Bible, discontentment, James, New Testament Tags:

God’s Blessings Predictable?

May 7th, 2006

“…he will be blessed in his doing”

(James 1:25)

In our experience, most people want to believe that God cares for them and will bless them. This notion is based upon a concept of the God of the Bible—for the God of the Bible is known as a blessing God (see Psalm 129:8). There is a sense in which God blesses all men, as it is written—“…For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). However, there is another sense in which only particular people are blessed. This is a hard saying for idle, busybodies. For example, the biblical work-ethic, as commanded by the apostle Paul, reads—“If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2 Thess. 3:10-12).

In the Epistle of James, James clarifies that one’s behavior determines whether he/she will be blessed or not blessed (James 1:25). Furthermore, one’s Christian view–that is, what source of wisdom (sophia, 3:13-18) one is operating with, will determine whether they get this message or scorn it (4:1-2,6). God’s blessings are predictable, according to data from James:

1. Blessings are conditional (James 1:25).
2. Blessings come to the steadfast (James 1:3,12).
3. Blessings are not conditioned upon belief alone (James 2:14-26; especially note 2:14).

Yes, God does long to bless you—not only with his sun and rain, but also, with his Son and Reign (Colossians 1:13)!

-Robert M. Housby

Categories: Bible, blessing, God, James, New Testament Tags:

“When Peace Like A River”

September 26th, 2004

“…Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river…”

(Isaiah 66:12)

“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace,
for them that make peace”

(James 3:18)

 

The Lord calls us to a life of peace (Psalm 34:14; 119:165; Psalm 46:4; Proverbs 12:20; Isaiah 26:3; 48:18,22; 66:12; 1 Corinthians 7:15; Philippians 4:7; 1 Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 12:14; 2 Peter 3:14). And, what is this peace? this shalom of the ancient patriarchs and prophets?

1. What this peace is not – This peace is not false optimism. Isaiah (Isa. 57:19-21), Jeremiah (Jer. 6:14; 8:11) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 13:10) all affirm this very point. Jesus, himself, cautioned against unreal expectations of this world (John 14:27). This peace is not the absence of war, nor of tribulation, but the blessed security of having the Lord as our God (Isaiah 26:3).

2. This peace is a gospel peace – When the gospel is preached, a certain peace is proclaimed (Nahum 1:15; Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15). This peace derives especially from the prophecy that Messiah (Christ) would bring a peace by the chastisement of himself (Isaiah 53:5; Colossians 1:20). This we understand to be accomplished through the cross of Christ (Romans 5:1). The message of the gospel preached serves to publish this peace to the world (Acts 10:36-39).

3. This peace is for those “in Christ Jesus” – The scriptures are clear and exact about who the recipients of this peace are: “Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus” (1 Peter 5:14, NKJV). To be “in Christ Jesus,” is to be in relationship with God through baptism (Matthew 28:19; Galatians 3:27). There is this line from Shakespeare, “Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep” (2 Henry VI, 3.1.53). Is there such a depth in your life today?

 

–Robert M. Housby

The Greek Games and the New Testament

August 15th, 2004

“An athlete is not crowned
unless he competes according to the rules”

(2 Timothy 2:5)

Paul’s style of speaking and writing often reflected familiar things of the Greek world. One such area, in which Paul alluded on numerous occasions were the Greek games (1 Corinthians 9:24,25; 2 Timothy 2:5; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). To Paul, these games served to illustrate discipline, rules, personal integrity, and joyous victory. Paul tried to communicate the gospel in terms of this very Greek mentality (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Although the Olympic games are usually associated with Athens, Greece, or the Corinthian Isthmian games, there was a gaming atmosphere fostered even in Palestine by Herod the Great. In a city of Samaria, Sebaste (Acts 6:5), Herod built a stadium out of personal devotion to the Greek games. The New Testament scholar, Merrill F. Unger states that: “Herod supported the Olympic games, and even offered rewards for the 192 Olympiad” (Archaeology and the New Testament, p. 150).

The popular Greek historian, Edith Hamilton, and others, have observed, “The Greeks played, but the Romans watched.” Perhaps, it is this spectator mood versus the participation mode that James had in mind when he wrote: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life…” (James 1:12).

The crown of the games was a simple garland of olive leaves, or pine needles. The crown (stephanos) of Christians is an imperishable wreath from the thorny brow of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:4). Herod did not compete by the rules; while the Romans merely watched. Watch the Summer Games of Athens. But, participate in the eternal gospel of heaven.

— Robert M. Housby

“The Four Winds of Heaven”

July 25th, 2004

(Jeremiah 49:36; Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 7:2; 8:8; 11:4;
Zechariah 2:6; 6:4,5; Mark 13:27; Revelation 7:1)

“Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these my lord? And the angel answered and
said unto me, These are the four winds of heaven, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.”

(Zechariah 6:4,5)

Sometimes the people of God need a reminder that their work really matters. The apostle Paul said, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). The Bible communicates that God, himself, is very interested in what happens on earth. One such figure of speech expressing God’s interest and participation in what happens on earth is, “the four winds of heaven”. This is a universal expression of cosmological vastness.

“Wind” is from the biblical word, ruach. The wind is a creation of God (Amos 4:13). The Spirit of God uses physical breath and wind to fulfill his great purposes for mankind (Genesis 1:2; 2:7; Ezekiel 37:5,6, 14).
1. The north wind (ruach tsawphon) – is associated with cold conditions (Job 37:9)
2. The south wind (ruach darom) – is often destructive, sultry and withering (James 1:11; Job 37:9)
3. The east wind (ruach qadim) – is portrayed as strong, gusty and scorching (Jeremiah 18:17; Hosea 13:15).
4. The west wind (ruach yam) – associated with storm and rain (1 Ki. 18:44,45).

The churches of Christ are involved in a universal mission (Eph. 3:10,11). This universal sense may be seen in Acts 2:2,5,6,17. Although difficult to conceive (John 3:9), Jesus is reassuring about this kingdom (John 3:8). May the four
winds of heaven, which loom large in Scripture and in Space, find their place in us as well. The church must see herself as involved in the awesome and universal power of God

–Robert M. Housby