Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Friday, 30 November 2012

The sword of the Spirit – the Old Testament (6:17b)

The kind of sword to which Paul refers was a short sword, designed for close fighting. It was about two inches wide and about two feet long. This is a reminder that the conflict with the devil is usually fought at close combat, with him drawing near to thrust his darts or fire his arrows.

When Paul wrote this letter, the canon of Scripture was not complete. So his readers would have recognised that he was referring initially to the Old Testament scriptures. By extension, we include the New Testament, now that it is completed, in this title.

Referring back to the Old Testament, there is a danger that we imagine it is an inferior form of divine revelation and can be ignored. It is true that, by itself, it is an incomplete form. Now that the canon is complete, it is still an essential section of divine revelation, one indeed which needed the extended Scripture to make the meaning of its content clear.

Nevertheless, the Old Testament was the Bible of Jesus – about it he says in John 5:39: ‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.’ It was the Bible of the apostles which they used in evangelism and edification (Romans 15:4: ‘For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope’).  It was of the Old Testament that Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.’

When we think of spiritual conflict with the devil, there is much in the Old Testament to help us. In the Old Testament there are descriptions of the origins of the devil and his fall, of his subtle temptations to Eve and Adam, of his cruel assault on righteous Job, of his opposition to the prayers of Daniel. Of course, we see his involvement in the background of many of the problems faced by the psalmists. And we can watch and learn from how God's people resisted the devil's attacks.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Christian’s helmet – looking ahead (6:17)

We noted two days ago that the Christian soldier needs to look back (a good memory), to look up (a right attitude), and to look ahead (clear-sighted about the future). Since then, we have thought of looking back and looking up. Today we will focus on looking ahead. What does that mean?

If the first aspect of salvation is deliverance from the penalty of sin and the second aspect is deliverance from the power of sin, then the third aspect, which is the future one, is deliverance from the presence of sin. Paul refers to this aspect when he elsewhere mentions the helmet of salvation: ‘But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation’ (1 Thess. 5:8).

The hope mentioned there by Paul does not mean an uncertain wish. In biblical usage, the word means confident expectancy. As he is under attack, the Christian soldier reminds himself of the many promises of full salvation that will be fulfilled at the second coming of Jesus. He reminds himself that although he is under attack, this does not mean he is on the losing side. Even if he is wounded in the warfare, it will not be a fatal blow. Rather he can say to the devil, ‘Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me’ (Mic. 7:8). He has the promise of Romans 16:20: ‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.’

There are many promises of this future deliverance. Here are some of them. James 1:12 (KJV): Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.’

2 Timothy 4:8: ‘Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.’

Philippians 3:20-21: ‘But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.’

1 Corinthians 15:54-55:  ‘When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” ’

What a victory parade there is going to yet be in heaven as the soldiers of Christ will march towards their General’s throne to receive from him the grand assessment, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’ Let us keep our eye on this future glorious occasion as we see the fiery arrows of the evil one coming towards us in the present.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Christian’s helmet – looking up (6:17)

We noted yesterday that the Christian soldier needs to look back (a good memory), to look up (a right attitude), and to look ahead (clear-sighted about the future). Yesterday, we looked back. Today we will look up. What does that mean?

The Christian soldier experiences salvation in the present. If in the past he was delivered from the penalty of sin, in the present he is being delivered from the power of sin. He needs to be delivered from this power because it is an ally of the devil and will do its utmost to cause the Christian to fall. Therefore the Christian soldier must weaken this indwelling power.

Strong though this power is, it is not stronger than the resources the Christian soldier has at his disposal. Each believer possesses the power of the indwelling Spirit, who, as the apostle John says in 1 John 4:4, is ‘greater than he who is in the world’. The Spirit enables the believer to put to death heart sins and replace them with holy characteristics. This activity of the Spirit in each believer’s life is a constant one, although it is the case that believers can grieve the Spirit by their sins and they will not know his power overcoming such sins until they repent of them. This does not mean that a believer can ever be in a state, in this life, of not having to repent of personal sins. But there is a big difference between a believer fighting against inward sin, such as wrong thoughts, and a believer ignoring them. Repentance for such sins is accompanied by spiritual power to overcome the sins.

When under attack, the Christian soldier should cry to God for divine aid by the Spirit. At the same time he should remind himself of the power of the Spirit, perhaps recalling the way he worked in the lives of biblical characters, even in those, such as David, who were overcome by a sin. Further, he can see the way he is working in the lives of his fellow-soldiers, which can be a useful means of encouragement.

It is crucial for the Christian soldier that this second aspect of salvation be maintained in a lively spiritual manner. Peter shows its importance in 2 Peter 1:1-11 where he urges his readers to continue adding Christian graces to their characters. He stresses that if a Christian fails to do this, he will develop a bad memory and also become short-sighted: ‘For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins’ (v. 9). Failure to look up results in inability to look back or to look far ahead.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Christian’s helmet – looking back (6:17)

It is usual for salvation to be described as having past, present and future aspects. As we think of each Christian soldier protecting his mind in the midst of the battle, we see that he needs to look back (a good memory), to look up (a right attitude), and to look ahead (clear-sighted about the future).

As he looks back, there are three levels of reminding himself about the salvation he has received. First, he can look back to the time when he came to know Jesus personally as his Saviour. His conversion may have been a dramatic one, about which he can name the exact time. Yet many believers cannot identify when they were converted, the change in their lives seemed to be a gradual one. What is important is that both types have been converted. Christian soldiers, in the midst of the conflict, have to remind themselves that they belong to the Lord because of their conversions.

Second, the Christian soldier can look back farther than his conversion, right back before the creation of the world to the thoughts of the triune God in the past eternity. As he looks back, in the midst of the battle, he encourages himself that God has eternally loved him, not because he would fight a good warfare without a wound, but because he loved him. The eternal God wanted him not only as a soldier but as a son in his family.

Thirdly, as he fights the devil, the Christian soldier can recall many incidents in which he has been enabled by God to overcome the ruses and attacks of the devil. Often, the soldier was at his wit’s end, bombarded from all directions by Satan’s fierce attacks. Yet, in the midst of his weakness, as he looked to his Commander, strength came into his heart and mind and he won the victory.

These three aspects of the past should be at the forefront of our minds as the devil assaults us. Each should say, ‘I belong to Jesus by personal choice (conversion), by divine covenant (God‘s eternal plan), and by ongoing deliverance. The next arrow from Satan, while it may wound me if I am not careful, will not destroy me.’  

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Helmet of Salvation – the example of Jesus (6:17)

The piece of armour that Paul mentions here is the helmet, which he says is salvation. The Roman helmet was designed to protect the soldier’s head. It was made of bronze, covered his head, with a front piece coming down on the face to protect the eyes and nose.  Paul means by this illustration that salvation is the particular doctrine that will protect the believer’s mind and vision.

We noticed also in previous studies that Paul takes this image from Isaiah 59 which describes the victory of the Messiah when he will come to deliver his helpless people. In verse 17, the prophet affirms: ‘He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.’ This is a reminder that we fight our warfare with the same type of weapons that Jesus used. Remember that we are fighting the same spiritual enemy, the devil.

What can we say about the mind of Christ that we should follow as we fight ? Paul in Philippians 2:5 exhorts believers: ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’ (KJV). As we read further into that passage we find that the chief feature of the Saviour’s mind that Paul stresses is humility. He reminds his readers that Jesus displayed humility before he came into the world when he made himself of no reputation and took upon himself the form of a servant. And he also displayed humility when he was in the world because he became obedient unto death. Applying this to his conflict with the devil, we should note that this outlook of humility is the opposite of the outlook of the devil, which is pride.

Another feature of Christ’s mind were his regular habits of personal devotions and attendance on public worship. These practices revealed two important features of a Christian soldier: dependence and discipline. We are apt to think that Jesus, because he is a divine person, did not need such human qualities. Yet we must recall that he is also a man, possessing a full human nature. The various graces that the Saviour possessed in his human nature were the product of the work of the Spirit in his heart. During his earthly sojourn, he engaged in spiritual conflict with Satan and each time the Saviour was enabled by the Holy Spirit to defeat the devil.

We can see his dependence and his discipline combining at his baptism. Jesus knew that he had been promised the Holy Spirit in an increased way in order to enable him to fulfil the task given to him by the Father. There, at the Jordan, he comes to receive the Spirit, but he is also praying, and it is difficult to imagine that he was not praying for the Father to fulfil his promise. In connection to Jesus’ baptism, we can remind ourselves of the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1: ‘Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.’ There the Father points to his humble Servant and mentions two things about their relationship up to that point: first, he upholds the Servant (which indicates that he was dependent); second, he delights in the Servant (which indicates that they had fellowship together).

Jesus was not only marked by humility and habit as he fought his spiritual war; a third characteristic was his heroism. Throughout his life, he valiantly proceeded against the powerful enemy of our souls, the devil. From his baptism, Jesus marched into battle against Satan and defeated him comprehensively in the desert, in the most uncongenial of surroundings (Matt. 4). In his three years of public ministry, our heroic Warrior defeated the powers of darkness as he liberated people from demon possession and other forms of Satanic bondage. On the cross, he engaged in fierce conflict with the powers of darkness and made a show of them openly. Although he died there, this was not a sign of defeat, but a further stage in his campaign because through death he destroyed him that had the power of death (Heb. 2:14) and emerged from the tomb as Conqueror of all.

So far, we have made some comments on the Saviour’s outlook as he journeyed through life. What about his vision, on what he saw as he fought his warfare? We noted earlier that the helmet was designed in such a way that the soldier could see clearly. What was conspicuous about Jesus’ vision? The writer to the Hebrews points out that Jesus was marked by hope as he looked ahead: ‘looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Heb. 12:2). The Saviour anticipated by faith his final victory. Although on the cross he entered a battlefield that no-one had been on before, he approached it confident that he would come through it triumphantly. He looked forward to his Father’s welcome, and he anticipated the great throng of the redeemed that would follow him there down the centuries. 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The shield in battle (6:16)

I want to highlight three more details connected to using the shield of faith: they are preparation, imitation and unity.

Preparation. Paul, in saying that the believer will be able to quench the fiery darts of the devil, refers to the practice of the Roman soldier drenching his shield in water before a battle. The fiery arrows would be extinguished when they attached themselves to the wet shield. A soldier who failed to wet his shield did not make adequate preparation for the battle. This is a reminder that we too need to be preparing our faith before we need to use it. The way to prepare it is by filling our minds with biblical descriptions of God and of his promises, and simultaneously praying that the Holy Spirit would apply them to us. It is probably too much to say that the water in the shield depicts the Bible and the Holy Spirit (both of which are likened to water in the Scriptures), but an application is not out of place. If we are not under attack today, we should be preparing for the next attack.

Imitation. The obvious example for us is the Saviour and the way he overcame the devil’s temptations in the desert (Matt. 4). He replied to each temptation by quoting a verse from Deuteronomy. His example does not suggest that all that is needed to overcome the devil’s temptations is to recite Bible verses. The Saviour had prepared for this battle by meditation on the Bible and prayer, and so he was ready to deflect the fiery darts of the devil. The Saviour is our pattern for resisting the devil.

Unity. One of the uses that Roman soldiers made of their shields was in a shape called the testudo (tortoise). In this formation there were twenty-seven soldiers arranged with six in front and seven in each of three rows. Those on the outside would hold their shields facing the enemy and those inside would hold their shields above their heads. This formation was practically impenetrable – chariots could be driven over it without penetrating it – it was a kind of human tank. The application to a church is obvious. When each believer is utilising the shield of faith, he not only protects himself but also contributes to the overall victory of his fellow-soldiers. But if he fails to use the shield of faith, he lets the devil in and great damage can be done.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Using the shield of faith (6:16)

Paul informs his readers that the function of the shield of faith is to prevent the fiery darts or arrows of the evil one from wounding the Christian. The image of fiery darts tells that they are rapid in speed, painful when felt, and that they can come in large numbers. They were designed to cause panic.

What are some of the darts that the devil sends? Many answers can be given, but here are some. Blasphemous thoughts, often when engaged in a devotional activity. Distracting thoughts can be sent at such times as well.  Immoral images can be sent by him. While these types of dart cause distress and fear, eventually a Christian learns that such ideas are from Satan.

There are other darts that the devil may be more successful with, and this can occur at a personal level with regard to both a believer’s strong and weak points. Each believer has both kinds of points, and they are not the same in every believer. Peter fell because he was, at the time, marked by the weak point of self-sufficiency. We are not surprised when we are tempted with our weak points, and we wisely pay attention to them. Yet the Bible points out that some believers failed in areas where one would not have expected it to happen. Righteous Noah was found in an inebriated state, compassionate David was cruel, trusting Abraham was marked by fear. The reality is that we have to be ready with our shield of faith at all times, expecting the devil’s arrows to come from all directions, even from different directions at the same time.

The only piece of armour that deals with such attacks is faith in God or faith in Christ. When the believer is under assault he or she can turn the eyes of their soul towards their Commander and focus on his power, his love, his ability to help each of his soldiers whenever they are attacked. Remember what Paul has in mind is not faith in faith, the idea that if I can make my expectation stronger, then the darts will be deflected. It is not even faith in my graces that is in view. Rather it is always a fresh turning to our Commander for his help.

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Shield of Faith (6:16)

The Roman soldier’s shield to which Paul refers was about four feet in length and about two and a half feet in breadth. It was usually made of wood and covered in leather. Unlike the other pieces of armour, the shield was flexible; the soldier could hold it above his head or in front of him to deflect arrows and javelins from hitting him. This is an interesting picture of faith, suggesting that faith is intended to be varied in its outworking. The Roman soldier would not have to protect his feet all the time or his chest or his head; he would use the shield to help protect a particular part of his body when a missile was coming near it. In a similar way, the Christian soldier uses his faith to help the particular blessing depicted in the other pieces of armour.

An important element of faith is its object. Paul’s concept of faith is faith in the living God or faith in Jesus Christ. Nor is it a mere intellectual faith, perhaps a conviction that the Christian religion is the true one. Rather this is a faith that involves the whole of a person. What are the various items that make up true Christian faith?

Faith is reliance upon Christ. The penitent sinner depends for salvation upon Christ alone. He commits his soul into Christ’s care and trusts in him for mercy. But this dependence is not limited to deliverance from the penalty of sin or to securing a place in heaven at the end of life. It also involves confidence in Christ for the present, for the ongoing battle against the devil. It looks to Christ’s power for deliverance from the crafty attacks of the enemy. Faith leans on Christ.

Accompanying this repentance and reliance, there is also in faith a resolve to follow Christ. This dedication is an expression of gratitude to Jesus for providing salvation. It reveals that in faith there is an inbuilt desire to serve the Saviour who has released the believer from the power of sin. This resolve is displayed in the battle against Satan. Faith is loyal to Christ.

A further element in true faith is a relish for Christ. Faith desires Christ, it focuses on him and delights in him. John Calvin, in his comments on Ephesians 3:17, says that ‘faith is not a distant view, but a warm embrace, of Christ, by which he dwells in us, and we are filled with the Divine Spirit’. This gives strength to one’s faith. Faith includes love to Christ.

Of course, faith is strengthened by meditation on the character of God, by applying to one self his great promises. Faith is nourished by consideration of the Bible. Faith in Jesus does not ignore information given in the Scriptures and it is instructed on how to express itself and on what to expect.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Subjective peace – enjoying the peace of God (6:15)

Paul has reminded his readers that an awareness of peace enables them to function as Christian soldiers. Such peace has two sides – an objective state of peace with God and a subjective experience of the peace of God. Yesterday we looked at the objective aspect and today we will consider the subjective experience of divine peace.

How does a Christian obtain and maintain this sense of peace? Paul, as a rule, reminds his readers of the source of peace in the introduction of each of his letters. He wishes that they all would know grace and peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. He also reminds the Galatian believers that subjective peace is a product of the work of the Holy Spirit, it is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

So it is clear that the Christian must obtain this inner peace from God. Indeed the verses referred to in the previous paragraph indicate that peace can be sought from each person of the Trinity in particular. From the Father we can know the peace of pardon, from the Son we can know the peace of his presence as we grow in experimental knowledge of him, and we can know these distinct blessings by the work of the Spirit. Of course, the blessings from each divine person are not limited to the above examples. There are countless ways in which we can receive peace from the Triune God.

Having said that God is the source of peace, does this mean that believers have no responsibility in maintaining this sense of peace? The Bible stresses that they have, and here are some ways of obtaining it.

Meditation on God is the best way of maintaining an enjoyment of peace. Isaiah declares about God, ‘You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you’ (Isa. 26:3). There is a promise of peace to those who meditate on God, on his glorious attributes and on his great deeds.

Prayer for one another by believers is an important means of maintaining this sense of divine peace in their souls. Paul prays for peace in a comprehensive way in 2 Thessalonians 3:16: ‘Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.’ Paul instructed the Philippians that they were ‘not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God’. The consequence would be that ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:6-7).

Obedience to God’s commandments is another way of maintaining this awareness of peace: ‘Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea’ (Isa. 48:18). The obvious implication is that disobedience by a believer removes God’s peace from his soul.

It is straightforward to see how maintaining this possession of divine peace in their souls enables believers to overcome the devil. He usually attacks them through their minds by making sinful suggestions to them. It is obvious that when their minds are focussed on God, on prayer to him and obedience to his requirements, it is more difficult for the devil to defeat them. That is not to say that he will not try persistently. Yet it is possible for believers to withstand the devil’s onslaughts and not be overthrown by him.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Objective peace – the reality of reconciliation (6:15)

Paul has reminded his readers that an awareness of peace enables them to function as Christian soldiers. We saw yesterday that peace has two sides – an objective state of peace with God and a subjective experience of the peace of God. Today we will consider the objective state.

The need of reconciliation is brought about when two or more parties disagree. When that happens, each party may be in the wrong or one party may have done nothing wrong. Nevertheless there is a need for reconciliation even when one party is innocent. The innocent party may not have any ill will against the other; nevertheless his name has been slandered and he needs to do something about it. Usually it is the erring party who has to takes steps to bring about restoration of the relationship.

In the dispute between God and sinners it was sinners who caused the breakdown of the original harmony when they sinned in Adam, and they make the breakdown worse by continually engaging in more and more sin. Instead of being friends, God and humans are now opposed to one another.  Humans are not only sinners who have broken God’s commands; they have also become his enemies, willing enemies in fact: ‘And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds’ (Col. 1:21).  This is how God saw them: ‘For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life’ (Rom. 5:10). Because they had rebelled against God, they were under his wrath: even Christians ‘were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind’ (Eph. 2:3).

Although sinners had brought about the alienation, it was God who took the initiative in removing the barrier and in restoring the relationship between him and sinners. This he did by sending his Son to bear the penalty for the sins of his people, and so to make peace between God and them.  Of course, their entrance into this state of peace does not happen until they believe in Jesus. When they do, there is a cessation of hostilities between God and them and a commencement of a never-ending state of friendship. As Paul puts it in Romans 5:1: ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

It should be straightforward to see how an appreciation of reconciliation gives stability and strength to a Christian facing the attacks of the enemy. The devil can attack with a variety of arrows. On one occasion, he may attempt to depress us by mentioning our sins past or present; on another occasion he may tempt us to pride by praising the quality of our Christian lives. The defence against these suggestions is that we only stand on what Christ has done, for his reconciling work is our hope. Aware that we are now at peace with God, a state that can never be altered, we possess stability under the most fierce of attacks.

Possessing this shoe helps us deal the devil a blow. Recall that on the Roman soldier’s shoe there were studs for protection against the sharp traps of the enemy. These studs broke the traps. So with the Christian. The devil’s most subtle traps are smashed to bits by the studs on our shoe. Satan’s power cannot overcome the strength possessed by one who knows that God has been reconciled to him and he to God.

Think often on the reality of reconciliation.  Remind yourself of what the prophet says in Isaiah 53:5: ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.’  

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Christian Soldier’s Footwear (6:15)

Paul continues with his picture of the Christian soldier. Having described first the necessity of understanding truth and applying it personally, and secondly the necessity of imputed and imparted righteousness for Christian living, he them mentions a third detail, which he explains under the figure of shoes. This third detail is the readiness or preparation of the gospel of peace.

When we think of shoes, what ideas come to mind? They enable us to keep our balance, they provide protection as we move, and they enable us to move more quickly. The Roman soldier’s sandal met these requirements. On the sole of the sandal there were studs, which helped him to keep his balance; these studs also gave protection from enemy traps (which were spikes of wood or metal hidden just below the surface of the ground); and they helped him march quickly from place to place.

It would be easy to read this verse as saying that the Christian soldier is here being urged to pass on to others the gospel of peace. No doubt it is important for believers to be doing so. But that is not what Paul has in mind. He is not saying that we are being prepared to pass on the gospel; rather he is saying that the gospel prepares Christians to defend against the enemy. A Roman soldier had always to be ready for a sudden change in the enemy’s tactics. Each Christian has to be ready as well because he does not know when the devil will change his tactics.

Paul mentions something here which may seem contradictory when he says that in order to fight a successful war we must have an awareness of peace. This peace is not with our enemy but with our Commander, but it is a reminder that we were once at enmity with him. Yet Paul is not referring only to a cessation of enmity; he is also referring to an experience of peace in our hearts; he is not only referring to our Christian standing before God, he is also referring to a Christian’s sense of security. The first aspect concerns the removal of hostility, which occurs at conversion; the second concerns the confident sense of God’s favour, which should be our ongoing experience. The first is reconciliation between God and us; the second is assurance. Paul is saying that the preparation we need to fight the devil is an understanding that we are reconciled with God and are enjoying the assurance of his favour.

This twofold meaning to this piece of armour is similar to the way Paul has referred to the two previous pieces. The belt of truth is an understanding of biblical doctrine and a truthful, sincere character; the breastplate of righteousness is both Christ’s imputed righteousness and the Holy Spirit’s imparted righteousness. This is a reminder that often we have to have a twofold perspective on divine blessings: our continued experience comes out of a fixed, divinely-given reality. Our sincerity comes out of a true assimilation of God’s fixed Word; our practical righteousness comes out of being given the unchanging righteousness of Christ as our standing; and our enjoyment of divine peace comes out of the permanent state of being reconciled to God.

We will look tomorrow at what Paul means by peace.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Final Thoughts on the Breastplate (6:14)

A good soldier would examine his breastplate to see that it was in good order. Christian soldiers should examine their righteousness to see if it is fit for use. While the imputed righteousness of Christ is always perfect and always fulfils its effects, the same cannot be said for the believer’s practical righteousness.

Therefore they need to look at the state of their breastplate and what use they are making of it. They are to ensure that there are no chinks in the armour through which the devil can fire an arrow. A lie is a chink, an angry word is a gap, a failure to fulfil one’s duty is a hole through which the devil’s arrows can come. Remember he is a speedy and accurate archer. There are many such chinks.

In a military battle, if a soldier’s breastplate was damaged, then he was in real danger because he had no means of fixing it. But in the Christian warfare, when a believer’s breastplate is damaged, he can immediately ask for the hole to be sorted by his general, who is not only the Commander of his people, but also their help. Amid the noise of the battle he hears the individual cry for help from one of his soldiers and immediately heals the gap that threatens to allow the devil through.

In putting on this breastplate they have the example of Jesus to follow.  In Isaiah 59:17, which is a prophecy of the coming of the Saviour to help his people, the prophet predicts that the Messiah will ‘put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head’. Jesus loved righteousness and hated lawlessness throughout his life. When the devil tempted him, his love of obedience to God’s law was his protection against all the subtle suggestions of the enemy. Jesus is our example in this. He has left us an example to follow in his steps.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Breastplate of practical righteousness (6:14)

We suggested yesterday that Paul had two aspects of righteousness in mind when considering the breastplate that is part of the Christian’s spiritual armour. One aspect is imputed righteousness, and we thought about it yesterday. The other is practical righteousness, and we can think about it today.

Unlike the imputed righteousness of Christ, practical righteousness develops in the lives of Christians as they progress in holiness through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. It is practical Christian living, marked by an ongoing determination to keep the commandments of God. It also is a righteousness that, like a breastplate, protects the vital organs of intellect, emotion and will, that fits comfortably in place, and that gives a sense of security.

It fits comfortably in place because it is the kind of life that we were created to live. God made us to glorify him and discomfort and dissatisfaction comes when we fail to do so. But when a person is regenerated, he or she begins to live for God. As they continue in this type of life, they discover that it is a pleasant life. The apostle John describes this life in 1 John 5:3: ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.’ Jesus also told his disciples in Matthew 11:28-30: ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ God reminded his people in Isaiah 48:18: ‘Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.’

But holiness also gives protection from the devil’s attacks. I don’t mean that we can depend on our progress as if it were a joint source of protection with the imputed righteousness of Christ. What I mean is that it is unlikely for a Christian who is focussed on developing his Christian life to be caught by the enemy’s weapons. Such a Christian distrusts himself, it is true. But he also engages in self-examination and is able to rebut the devil’s accusations of sinful thoughts and actions by noticing that he is not the person he used to be. He sees gradual changes taking place in his attitude and actions, and discovers that he is able to overcome the devil’s temptations.

Connected to this is the sense of security. The Christian, while realising he is not yet perfect, knows that he ‘who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6). ‘It is holiness that is, though not our plea, yet our evidence for heaven’ (William Gurnall). The change in his life does not lead to self-confidence but to increasing confidence in the faithfulness and power of God. He can anticipate further conflicts on his journey to heaven, even defeats, but he knows that God will keep him and yet present him faultless before the judgment seat of Christ. Such a Christian can tell the devil that God did not take him this far in order to let him be lost. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Breastplate of Righteousness (6:14)

The second piece of armour that every Christian has to wear is the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate that the Roman soldier wore covered his chest and stomach and was obviously an important piece of armour. It was the breastplate that protected many of the vital organs. As we think of this piece of armour, it is obvious that it would have to fit comfortably, that is, be a suitable size, and once on it would provide a sense of security. So what Paul has in mind is a spiritual blessing that protects our vital spiritual organs, that fits us perfectly, and that gives us a sense of security.

This blessing Paul describes as righteousness. What did he have in mind? I suspect he wanted his readers to think about two aspects of righteousness revealed in the Bible. One, we call, imputed righteousness and the other, we call, practical righteousness. We will think about imputed righteousness today.

Each sinner is under obligation to pay to God the full penalty of his sins and to provide a life of perfect obedience. The stark reality is that he can provide neither. But this is where the gospel comes in. Jesus Christ has provided both by his life and death. In order to understand this better, we need to remind ourselves that Adam was our representative, but a representative who got us into trouble. Christ became our representative to bring us out of trouble.

Jesus, as our Representative, provided a life of perfect obedience. This life of perfect obedience he worked out when he was made under the law. He came into this world as a subject to the law of God and spent his life obeying that law from the heart. The demands of the law are summarised as loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our fellowmen as ourselves. Jesus did this continually, throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The law of God was in his heart; he delighted to do God’s will. There never was a moment when he failed to obey God fully from the heart. Even when he was on the cross, in the hour of his greatest personal pain and distress, he loved God (the cry, ‘My God, my God,’ indicates this because it is the evidence that he still wanted God to be his God) and his fellowmen (seen in his prayer for the soldiers, his concern for his mother, and his forgiveness of the penitent thief).

Earlier I mentioned that the breastplate provided protection to vital organs, that it had to fit comfortably, and that it had to give a sense of security. I want to take the middle detail first. Will the righteousness of Jesus fit me comfortably? Well, what kind of righteousness do I need? I need a human righteousness. I need a righteousness that will cover every detail of my humanity. A human is an entity that possesses an intellect, emotions and will, from which flow actions. As a sinner, I have failed in all these areas of my personality, for which I need forgiveness. I need, as far as my standing before God is concerned, a pure mind, emotions and will. When I believe in Jesus, not only am I fully forgiven but I am permanently clothed in this perfect righteousness of Jesus. It fits me like a glove because it was worked out by the man, Christ Jesus.

But I also need protection from the attacks of the devil. He is going to come along and say, ‘Look, you failed there to keep God’s law. What kind of Christian are you?’ The answer to that accusation is quite simple, ‘I am a justified sinner.’ We can reply to the devil, ‘You are correct in your assessment of my mind and my performance. In fact, I can point out many more defects and failures. But Jesus has kept the law for me. I have a flawless righteousness as my standing before God’s judgement throne.’ And his arrows of accusation bounce off the breastplate without doing any harm.

The third detail that I mentioned about the breastplate was a sense of confidence or security. As I look into the future, keeping the imagery of the soldier, what do I see ahead of me in life? I see battles with sin, conflict with the devil, perhaps defeats and falls. Can we still have confidence knowing this is the case? The answer is ‘yes’. In fact, we can have confidence in the Day of Judgement. We have been given a perfect righteousness, one that will take all who trust in Jesus safely to heaven.

The best way to benefit from having the imputed righteousness of Christ is by frequent meditation on it. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

The belt of truth (6:14)

Paul begins his detailed description of the spiritual armour by mentioning a preparatory activity that had to be done before the armour could be worn effectively. At that time, people wore flowing garments and they had to be drawn tight by a belt before armour would be put on. If this was not done, the garments could trip up the soldier or get caught on something.

Paul here describes the belt as ‘the belt of truth’. What does he mean by this? First, he means that we must have the right understanding of the doctrines of God’s Word. In Paul’s day, as in our own, there were many alternatives to God’s Word and if believers listened to them rather than to the Word of God, it was not difficult for the devil to trip them up.

But ‘truth’ refers to more than head knowledge of the Bible; it also includes our characters which are to be marked by truthfulness. This was the character of the righteous man described in Psalm 15:2: ‘He that walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.’ Such a person lives out from the heart the character of God. In other words, he becomes Christlike. This is a reminder that the only person who can use the armour is a Christlike believer.

The commentator John MacPherson stated: ‘His conviction that he has Him that is true (1 John v.20), that the Spirit of truth is shed abroad in his heart, imparts to the Christian soldier a nimbleness of movement, and an agility in the use of all his weapons.’ When a believer is imitating the life of his Lord, he is able to identify the attack (discernment), he is able to avoid the attack, and he is able to use the appropriate aspect of God’s Word to deal with the situation.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Spiritual Armour (6:14)

We noted in previous readings two of the three requirements for successful spiritual warfare. The first is to remind ourselves of God’s great power that is available for our defence against our spiritual enemies. The second is to realise the tactics and methods of our enemy, in this case the devil. Today we begin the consideration of the third requirement, which is to wear the spiritual armour that God has provided. The previous two requirements will be ineffective if we do not ensure that we have the armour on. Before we look at each item of the armour, there are some general points that we should note.

First, we need to wear this armour at all times. In the Bible, there are various pictures or illustrations of the Christian life in addition to that of a soldier, such as an athlete, a disciple, a traveller, a pilgrim, as well as others. We are not to think that these illustrations mean that sometimes we function as pilgrims and at other times we function as soldiers. Rather we perform what the features illustrated by these models at all times. While we are fighting the devil we are also running the Christian race and also living as pilgrims and strangers in the world.

Second, when we think of the church as an army we must recognise that there is only one Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ, and that each member of the church is a soldier. There are not any generals or majors or colonels or sergeants or corporals in the army; each Christian has to fight under Christ’s orders.

Further, our Commander has already taken part in the battle when he lived on earth. During that time he resisted the temptations of the devil, overcoming him by obedience to the Word of God. Therefore he understands the nature of the battle. It was the case in the past that military officers went to special schools and emerged speaking a different language from the soldiers, who may not have gone to school at all. But that is not the case with the Christian army. Their Commander has taken part in the battle, indeed accomplished by himself the most arduous and demanding aspects of it, when he defeated the devil at the cross. Because of our Commander, we fight an already-defeated foe.

Although he has left this world, our Commander has not left the field of battle, which is ‘the heavenlies’ or the spiritual world where the devil attempts to prevent God’s people making progress in the Christian life. Our Commander has sent his Equal, the Holy Spirit, to represent him and to enable his soldiers to know his strength in the battle.

In connection to this, there is the possibility that Paul has in mind the prophecy about the Messiah in Isaiah 59:17: ‘He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head.’ In that chapter, Isaiah depicts the low condition of the people of God and in describing how the Messiah would come to their rescue he says that the Saviour would put on spiritual armour, with the two aspects he mentions being repeated by Paul when he describes our armour. This would point to the wonderful prospect that God has given us the same armour as Jesus used in his battle with the enemy of our souls.

Third, in the spiritual battle we must remember that we fight together. Although each individual has to fight, he does not fight alone. It has often been pointed out that Paul does not mention any protection for the back of the soldier in his list of items. This has led to the suggestion that if a Christian soldier turns and runs away, then he will be hurt by the devil’s arrows. I’m not convinced that is what Paul had in mind because, in a battle, arrows would be coming towards the soldier from all directions, including towards his back. Perhaps the answer is to be found in the way the Roman soldiers would defend themselves. They would set themselves in form of rectangle; the ones at the front would hold their shields in front of them, the ones at the sides would hold their shields face out sideways, the ones at the rear would hold their shields facing out the way, and the ones in the middle would hold their shields over their heads. In this way, all the soldiers in that group were protected. But if one soldier decided not to hold his shield as he should, he put himself and others in danger. There is no such thing as a Christian who can fight a successful battle on his own. We need one another, to walk in step with one another, for each soldier to be doing his or her part properly.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Two encouragements for the war (6:11-13)

Here are two encouragements for us as Christians as we engage in spiritual warfare. 

First, while we fight a formidable foe, we must remind ourselves continually that the devil is a defeated foe already, and that in two senses. In the past he was defeated by Jesus during his life, death and resurrection (D-Day). It was through death that he destroyed the one who had the power of death, the devil (Heb. 2:14-15). In the future the devil will be defeated finally (V-Day): ‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’ (Rom. 16:20); ‘And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever’ (Rev. 20:10). We are living in between these two ways of the victory of Jesus over the devil. Since he has been defeated we have the opportunity of obtaining victory in a third way, by resisting his temptations and remaining loyal to Jesus day by day. We are always living and fighting between D-Day and V-Day.

Second, as soldiers, our duty in fighting the enemy is to obey the commands of our Commander. We may imagine that our own resources will defeat the devil, but if we do that we will discover that he can easily put us on our backs. We will obtain the victory if we fight according to our Master’s instructions, which is to stay on the secure ground he has given to us.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Opposing the enemy (6:11-13)

Here Paul says that we have to withstand the devil’s attacks. The obvious implication of this picture is that the believers are to face the enemy and not be looking elsewhere. A Christian soldier is to be always on sentry duty.

Paul’s words also indicate another important aspect for us to remember, which is that Christian warfare is often defensive and not aggressive. He means that believers are to hold the ground or standing that Christ has given them and not allow the devil to shift them.

Satan tries to shift them by various wiles and strategies. He is a devious enemy capable of using widely different strategies. Sometimes he appears as a roaring lion, at other times he is an angel of light. He never appears in his true colours. At times he is a tempter, at other times he is a slanderer. His intention is always to confuse, to deceive believers into following his suggestions.

We see something of the wiles of the devil in the temptations of Jesus. Jesus was tempted concerning a genuine human need (hunger), a possible fulfilment of God’s divine purpose to give universal dominion to him, and a misuse of a divine promise. This is why we have to know our enemy. He will not appear with a notice round his neck saying, ‘Good morning. I am the devil and I am here to tempt you to sin.’ Rather he will come in a wide variety of ways, and we need to be ready.

Paul vividly depicts the nature of the conflict by his use of the imagery of wrestling. The Christian conflict does not involve verbal sparring at a distance. Instead it is hand-to-hand inter-action in which spiritual muscle (given by the Spirit) resists the diabolical energy of the devil who is trying to throw us down. We noticed in our previous reading how we develop this spiritual muscle: by prayer (fresh air), by feeding on the Word of God (good food), and by having increased fellowship with Christ (a healthy relationship).

Paul also indicates that there will be particular occasions of fierce demonic onslaught when he urges his readers to be prepared for the ‘evil day’. In the Lord’s Prayer, the Saviour reminded his disciples of the importance of praying always to be delivered from the influences of evil, and he knew that there were times when the devil came in a more ferocious manner than at other times.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Know Your Enemy (6:11-13)

There are numerous distortions of the devil in society and in many cases he is treated as a figure of fun, suitable for inclusion in cartoons. We should not be surprised that non-Christians fail to take the devil seriously, for after all he has blinded their minds concerning spiritual realities. But a Christian should never treat him with contempt or underestimate his powers. We need to have a balanced approach regarding the devil. Some Christians make far too much of him and attribute every bad action or consequence to him whereas other Christians almost ignore his existence. Both alternatives are wrong. We need to be aware of who he is and what he does but not to become preoccupied with him.

First, we should remind ourselves that the devil is a fallen creature who led the first rebellion against God, a rebellion that occurred in heaven. Why he rebelled we do not know, but he did not succeed in his aims. He is now a permanent rebel against God. At the same time he is always an unwilling subject of God and can do nothing without God’s permission. We see this in the cases of Job (Job 1-2) and Peter (Luke 22:31-32).

Second, when he rebelled he led a considerable number of angels to rebel as well and these are described here as ‘principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’. Paul’s terms here indicate that the devil’s kingdom is organised, with a structure in which each of his fellow-rebels knows his place. It is the existence of this considerable number of helpers that enables the devil to permeate his malignant influence into so many different places.

Third, where is the field of battle? Surprisingly, we might think, Paul says it is in the heavenlies or heavenly places. That is the location of our spiritual blessings (1:3), Jesus’ exaltation (1:20), our union with Jesus (2:6), and where angels are instructed about God’s wisdom (3:10). When we take all these references together, we can conclude that the field of battle is the spiritual world and that the devil’s aim is to deprive God’s people of the enjoyment of the blessings that God has promised to them.

Tomorrow, we will look at how we should oppose his attacks.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

How do we retain divine power? (6:10)

One obvious answer is by prayer, both for ourselves and for others. Paul prayed for the Thessalonians: ‘With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfil every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith’ (2 Thess. 1:11). When we see the needs of others, we should focus on God’s power as we pray for them. And of course we should pray for ourselves as individuals; the psalmist prayed in Psalm 119:28: ‘My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.’

This leads to a second way by which we retain this divine power, which is by a proper use of the Bible. In 1 John 2:14 the apostle says: ‘I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.’ How can we ensure the word of God abides in us? The answer to this question is meditation on descriptions of God, on his purposes, on his promises, on his people (for example Abraham who was ‘fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised’). 

Here is one suggestion. We could look up the word ‘power’ or ‘strength’ in a concordance and find 31 references, and then use one per day for a month. We could write it out on a piece of paper and take it with us in our pocket to read and reflect on as we have time. This is such a promise, from Isaiah 41:10: ‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ If we did that for a year, we would have meditated on 365 verses in a year, and 3,650 or so in a decade. And we would be strong in the Lord.

A third way of knowing this power is by having fellowship with Christ. Paul stated in Philippians 3:10 that he wanted ‘to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death’.  We get to know him in this way by spending time with him in his word. Every verse in the Bible leads to Jesus.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

God’s power in our lives (6:10)

God’s great power is seen in the lives of his people in their regeneration and sanctification. Concerning them, the Lord has to deal with several powerful enemies: spiritual death, the world and the devil. His power in their lives is not merely by a word, but also involves the presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul has already referred to this in Ephesians 1:19-20: ‘That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.’

Others verses in Ephesians also speak of God’s power. In 3:7 Paul says that he ‘became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power’. He also says in 3:16-19 that God’s power can give great experiences to his people: ‘I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ And there is the reference to his power in our text, for fighting the powers of darkness.

God’s power is provided in every situation his people can face. Here is a brief survey of some of them. One important aspect of Christian living is sanctification, the process of becoming Christlike in our attitudes. We face a formidable enemy in indwelling sin, yet Peter assures us that God’s power ‘has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness’ (2 Pet. 1:3).

Another area is suffering or opposition, which at times can be intense. Again Peter promises us that, although we may face terrible trials, we ‘are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Pet. 1:5).

A third area of experiencing his power concerns personal difficulties in providence, pictured by Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Three times he asked God to take it away, but the Lord refused. Instead he said to Paul, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore Paul responded, ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ Through this divine donation of power Paul was able to ‘delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Cor. 12:8-10).

A fourth area is the one connected to our text, that of fighting powerful spiritual enemies. In ourselves, we are no match for the devil’s power, but through Christ’s strength, given to us by the Spirit, we are able to withstand Satan and cause him to flee (Jas. 4:7).

So there is not a situation in life in which we cannot experience the Lord’s power on our behalf. The Lord gives to his people spiritual energy to overcome the obstacles in their path and spiritual encouragement to persevere in their journey.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Evidences of God's power (6:10)

In what ways does God show his might? One such display of might is God’s creative power. By the power of his word he brought the universe into existence. When he spoke, the galaxies and the gnats appeared. By his strength he maintains them in existence. This is the message of Isaiah 40:21-26: ‘Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.’

A similar message was given to Job in his time of crisis. We know that his friends tried to reason him out of his troubles, but their opinions were not the answer. What Job needed and was given, and what we need to be given, is a sight of the majestic power of God in the creation. Not merely its beauty, but also its preservation and its order. He was aware of it already, as is seen in his words in Job 9:4-10: ‘His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger. He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble. He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars. He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.’ But he needed to be told it again, and he received from God a tour of his ongoing actions (chs. 38-41).

Jeremiah speaks for all of us when he responds to this display of divine power: ‘Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you’ (32:17).

We also see God’s power displayed in the coming of Jesus Christ in his incarnation and in his resurrection from the dead. His incarnation was by the power of God: ‘The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God”’ (Luke 1:35). The resurrection, too, was an awesome display of power, not merely in the sense that Jesus came back to life but also in that it was part of the process of his exaltation to the throne of God. ‘By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also’ (1 Cor. 6:14). It was a display of victory over all his and our enemies.

The power of God seen in creation and resurrection will be seen in the future when Jesus returns and raises his people from the dead and transforms the universe into a new heavens and new earth suitable as a dwelling place for glorified humans. The writer to the Hebrews celebrates this in Hebrews 1:10-12: ‘In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’

It is good for us to think about God’s power and to recall, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’