“Practical Christianity” by J.C. Ryle

“The world would be a happier world if there was more practical Christianity.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 289. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:29-37.

“Our need of Christ’s blood and righteousness” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us not forget, in leaving this passage, to apply the high standard of duty which it contains, to our own hearts, and to prove our own selves.

Do we love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind?

Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?

Where is the person that could say with perfect truth, “I do?”

Where is the man that ought not to lay his hand on his mouth, when he hears these questions?

Verily we are all guilty in this matter!

The best of us, however holy we may be, come far short of perfection.

Passages like this should teach us our need of Christ’s blood and righteousness.

To Him we must go, if we would ever stand with boldness at the bar of God.

From Him we must seek grace.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 284. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:29-37.

“The enormous advantages enjoyed by believers” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us observe, finally, the peculiar privileges of those who hear the Gospel of Christ.

We read that our Lord said to His disciples, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them, and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.’ (Luke 10:23-24)

The full significance of these words will probably never be understood by Christians until the last day.

We have probably a most faint idea of the enormous advantages enjoyed by believers who have lived since Christ came into the world, compared to those of believers who died before Christ was born.

The difference between the knowledge of an Old Testament saint and a saint in the apostles’ days is far greater than we conceive.

It is the difference of twilight and noon-day, of winter and summer, of the mind of a child and the mind of a full-grown man.

No doubt the Old Testament saints looked to a coming Saviour by faith, and believed in a resurrection and a life to come.

But the coming and death of Christ unlocked a hundred Scriptures which before were closed, and cleared up scores of doubtful points which before had never been solved.

In short, ‘the way into the holiest was not made manifest, while the first tabernacle was standing.’ (Heb. 9:8) The humblest Christian believer understands things which David and Isaiah could never explain.

Let us leave the passage with a deep sense of our own debt to God and of our great responsibility for the full light of the Gospel.

Let us see that we make a good use of our many privileges. Having a full Gospel, let us beware that we do not neglect it.

It is a weighty saying, ‘To whomsoever much is given, of them will much be required.’ (Luke 12:48)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 280. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:21-24.

“Bow the knee to Christ in holy awe” by Joel Beeke

“If Christ were not God, there would be no Christianity.

His deity is crucial for our faith. The doctrine of Christ’s full divinity also has massive practical significance for the Christian life.

Here we offer some spiritual directions to help you apply this truth to your life:

1. Recognize the horrible evil of your sins.

William Perkins said,

“No man could save our souls, no, not all the angels of heaven, unless the King of heaven and earth, the only Son of God, had come down from heaven and suffered for us, bearing our punishment. Now the consideration of this must humble us and make us to cast down ourselves under the hand of God for our sins … that some tears of sorrow and repentance might gush out for this our woeful misery.”

2. Trust Christ’s sufficiency for complete salvation.

Petrus van Mastricht (1630–1706) said that the doctrine of Christ’s deity

“commends to us the sufficiency and perfection of our Mediator, from which it is said that all fullness dwells in him (Col. 1:19), and He fills all in all (Eph. 1:23), so that from His fullness we can draw grace upon grace (John 1:16); indeed, in Him we are made complete (Col. 2:10).”

In giving Christ for sinners, God has given all of Himself. Surely, then, you can rest upon Christ as all that you need for salvation and eternal life.

You are foolish, but in Christ is all wisdom (2:3).

You by nature are dead in sin, but in Christ is resurrection from the dead (2:13).

You are guilty of many transgressions, but in Christ is complete forgiveness, the cancelling of all our debts (2:13–14).

Brown said,

“He who died on the accursed tree, ‘the just for the unjust,’ is none other than the ‘I Am,’ ” and therefore, “who shall set any limits to the efficacy of His atoning blood and vicarious righteousness?”

You have been a slave of Satan and his demonic forces, but in Christ is total victory against all the powers of darkness (2:15).

In a word, you are empty of all spiritual good, but “ye are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10) if you trust Him and receive Him (2:6–7).

3. Find comfort in Christ’s sonship and your adoption in him.

If you rejoice that Jesus is the Son of God, then you may also rejoice that you are an adopted son or daughter of God by union with him (Gal. 4:4–5; Eph. 1:5).

Perkins said,

“Whereas Christ Jesus is the Son of God, it serves as a means to make miserable and wretched sinners, that are by nature the children of wrath and damnation, to be sons of God by adoption.… Let all such as fear God enter into a serious consideration of the unspeakable goodness of God, comforting themselves in this, that God the Father has vouchsafed by His own Son to make them of the vassals of Satan to be His own dear children.”

4. Bow the knee to Christ in holy awe.

The glory of Christ’s deity calls you to go beyond a consideration of your own salvation and to contemplate the Savior. He does not exist for you, but you and all things exist “for him” (Col. 1:16).

Thomas Goodwin said,

“God’s chief end was not to bring Christ into the world for us, but us for Christ. He is worth all creatures. And God contrived all things that do fall out, and even redemption itself, for the setting forth of Christ’s glory, more than our salvation.”

Therefore, “be swallowed up with profound awe and self-abasement” before the glory of Christ, as Brown said, because when you gaze upon him, you stand in the presence of the holy, holy, holy Lord.

5. Think often and warmly of Christ.

Since Christ is God, you should be thinking about him all the time, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is the taproot of Christian spirituality: to set your mind and desires upon Christ (Col. 3:1–2).

John Owen said,

“The principal actings of the life of faith consist in the frequency of our thoughts concerning him; for hereby Christ liveth in us.… A great rebuke it ought to be unto us, when Christ has at any time in a day been long out of our minds.”

And when we do think of Christ, Owen said, “all our thoughts concerning Christ and his glory should be accompanied with admiration, adoration, and thanksgiving.”

6. Live unto the Lord Christ.

Direct your life and death at him as your great goal and holy ambition (Phil. 1:20–21; 3:8–12). He died and rose again so that His people no longer live for themselves, but for Him (Rom. 14:8–9; 2 Cor. 5:14–15).

Brown said,

“To live to any Being is the highest worship that can possibly be rendered to Him. We are commanded to live to Christ, taking His will as our highest law, and Himself as our highest end of existence.”

The great tragedy of fallen humanity is that we live to ourselves. Brown exclaimed,

“Oh the frightful guilt of this, as seen in the light of the absolute soleness of Jehovah’s glory, that infinite chasm which subsists between him and all creatures whatsoever!.… We transfer from God to ourselves the esteem, the confidence, the fear, the love, the service, which are due only to him.”

Repent, therefore, of living unto yourself, and live unto Christ.

7. Offer yourself to God in gratitude for his Son.

God’s gift of his Son to us displays the infinite depths of his love (John 3:16). Paul says, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

Your only fitting response is to give yourself to God (Rom. 12:1).

Perkins said,

“Whereas God the Father of Christ gave His only Son to be our Savior, as we must be thankful to God for all things, so especially for this great and unspeakable benefit.… We should give unto God both body and soul in token of our thankfulness for this wonderful blessing that He has given His only Son to be our Savior.”

Give yourself to God for Christ’s sake, today and every day of your life, until you see Him face-to-face and are liberated to live wholly and solely for His glory.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 777–780.

“God photographs Himself” by Herman Bavinck

What is prescribed in this commandment? (Exodus 20:4-6)

God alone has the right to determine how He wants to be served. God must be worshiped and served in the way He Himself has commanded– that is, only according to His Word.

Nonetheless, there lingers deep in our soul the yearning to see God (Ex. 33:18).

Therefore, God says:

You will find no image of Me in any creature; that would dishonor Me. But if you want an image, take a look at Adam, at human beings, who are created in My likeness. Above all, look at the Son, the Image of the Invisible God, God’s One and Only Firstborn, God’s other I, the expression of His self-sufficiency.

Whoever sees Him sees the Father. As Christ is, so is God. He is the perfect likeness, the adequate Image.

Let us be satisfied with that. God may be venerated with no other image than the Son. Beholding Him and venerating Him, we are changed into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18).

God wants, as it were, to multiply images of Himself, to see nothing but images, likenesses, portraits of Himself.

Human beings themselves must be God’s image, and not make pieces of wood or stone into God’s image. The new humanity in Christ, from all sides and everyone in their own way, reflects and mirrors God.

God is mirrored in us; we are mirrored in God. ‘When [Christ] appears, we shall be like Him [and like the Father] because we shall see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2).

God makes images of Himself in us. But not we of God. God photographs Himself.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 174-175.

“All of Scripture is full of promises” by Herman Bavinck

“All of Scripture is full of promises, stays and supports for our trust, to instill trust in us, for God knows how mistrusting we are.

Abraham is an example of this strong faith in God (Gen. 15), as is Jesus when He sleeps in the midst of the storm (Matt. 8:24).

This trust is a moral relationship as well, an act of the greatest devotion; all mistrust, all reliance on creatures, even on princes (Ps. 146:3), on the strength of flesh (Jer. 17:5), on temporal things and goods, and all worrying (Matt. 6:25-34; Luke 12:26-34) are therefore condemned.

Similarly, all indifference, every instance of ‘little faith’ (Matt. 8:26; 14:31; Mark 16:14; Luke 8:13; 24:25; James 1:6), is also condemned because God cares for us (Phil. 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7).

In this regard, Holy Scripture is terribly radical: it removes everything that is unsteady and unstable in earth and heaven, every foundation and all possible support for trust that might be placed in creatures; instead it replaces all that with an eternal foundation, unshakable and solid– namely, God Himself, Christ, His Word.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 148-149.

“This Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing” by Joel Beeke

“One of the great functions of a priest was to pronounce God’s blessing, or benediction, upon his people. Melchizedek, “the priest of the most high God,” blessed Abraham, the covenantal father of all the faithful (Gen. 14:18–20), and did so as a type of Christ (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:1, 6–7).

The Lord chose the Aaronic priests to bless Israel in his name (Deut. 10:8; 21:5), saying, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:22–26).

The core elements of this priestly blessing, “grace” and “peace,” now flow from the Father and the Son to His people, as the greetings in the New Testament Epistles abundantly affirm.

Some theologians have considered blessing to be a distinct third function of priests after sacrifice and intercession. Aaron blessed the people after making sacrifices and again after going into the tabernacle to intercede (Lev. 9:22–23). Other theologians have seen the priestly blessing to be an aspect of intercession.

The blessing was a prayer that invoked God’s name upon His covenant people so that God would bless them (Num. 6:27). “The priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven” (2 Chron. 30:27).

What is clear is that Christ blesses his people as their Priest. Just before Christ ascended into heaven, “he lifted up his hands, and blessed” his disciples (Luke 24:50–51), just as formerly “Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them” (Lev. 9:22). Peter, citing God’s promise to bless all nations by Abraham’s seed, says, “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:25–26).

God’s blessing through Christ is covenantal. Sinners are under God’s curse for breaking the commandments of his law (Gal. 3:10). In his redeeming sacrifice, Christ received the curse of God’s law, absorbing its full fury in his sufferings while perfectly obeying the law, so that his believing people are delivered from the curse (Gal. 3:13; 4:4). They receive the blessing promised in the covenant with Abraham “through Jesus Christ” by faith (Gal. 3:14).

God’s curse against lawbreakers hangs over all the good things that they receive in this world (Deut. 28:15–19), mingles sorrow into all good (Gen. 3:17–19), and one day will take all good away from unrepentant sinners (Luke 6:24–25; 16:24–25). However, Christians may pray to their Father for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), “that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.” The ability of believers to enjoy earthly goods with God’s blessing presupposes that he is pleased with them (Eccl. 9:7–9).

Therefore, the goodness of all God’s providences toward his elect comes to them through Christ’s intercession (Rom. 8:28, 34). Paul says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by [or “in”] Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The core of God’s blessing is justification and the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:8, 14). Owen observed that the work of the Spirit is the “purchased grace” that Christ won by his obedience and sufferings. Christ obtains the Spirit for his people by his intercession: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). The fullness of the Spirit’s new-covenant ministry depends on the glorification of the Son (7:39). Christ himself sends us the Spirit from the Father’s side (John 16:7).

By these spiritual graces, the reality and efficacy of Christ’s invisible intercession in heaven is demonstrated on earth, for we have received the Holy Spirit and know the fruit of Christ’s intercession in our lives, as Perkins said. The best evidence that Christ prays for us in heaven is the Spirit’s work to make us pray on earth.

The exaltation of our great High Priest signals the fulfillment of the covenant of grace and the inauguration of the last days (Heb. 1:2–3; 9:26). Murray said, “Jesus as high priest is the surety and mediator of the new and better covenant.… The new covenant brings to its consummation the communion which is at the heart of all covenant disclosure from Abraham onwards: ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ … The heavenly high priesthood of Christ, means, therefore, that Christ appears in the presence of God … to plead on the basis of what he has accomplished the fulfilment of all the promises.”

Therefore, Christ’s intercession unlocks all grace and glory for his people. In union with Christ, they are blessed by the Father with “all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3).

The intercession of our Lord Jesus is a boundless field full of flowers from which we may draw sweet nectar for our souls. Let us consider some of the riches of knowing our Intercessor by God’s grace.

First, we must allow this doctrine to form in us constant reliance on the exalted Christ. We must run the race set before us, “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:2; cf. Col. 3:1). Brown said that Christ’s intercession glorifies him, for “in this way believers have an immediate dependence on Christ for ever.” Let us look to him for every grace.

Second, Christians may find here strong consolation and hope. Christ’s entrance into heaven as our forerunner confirms the unbreakable promise of God that he will bless his people (Heb. 6:17–20). If Christ’s death reconciled us to God when we were his enemies, much more will his living ministry deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:10). We can exult in hope.

Third, believers should look to Christ’s intercession for confidence in our justification. Christ was raised for our justification and intercedes to deliver us from condemnation (Rom. 4:25; 8:33–34). His appearing before the face of God confirms that his blood sacrifice has expiated the guilt of our sins once for all (Heb. 9:24). We should assure our consciences with this doctrine.

Fourth, knowing Christ as the Intercessor can encourage quickness to confess sin to God. Rather than remaining silent when God convicts us of sin (Ps. 32:3–5), let us immediately confess our sins with faith in Christ’s propitiation and intercession, for God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; 2:1–2).

Fifth, the doctrine of Christ’s intercession increases expectation and comfort in prayer. What is more comforting in trials than to go to a friend who knows how we feel and how to help us? Christ sympathizes with us perfectly. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16).

Sixth, given that all spiritual blessings come to us through Christ’s intercession, we should learn to exercise trust in Christ for the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us never separate the Spirit from Jesus Christ, for he is the Spirit of God’s Son (Gal. 4:6). Whether we need the Spirit’s power to mortify sin (Rom. 8:13), his fruit for works of love and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23), or his gifts to serve the church effectively (1 Cor. 12:7, 11), let us drink of his living water by exercising faith in the exalted Christ (John 7:37–39). Believers overcome trials, even unto martyrdom, by “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). Owen said, “The great duty of tempted souls, is to cry out unto the Lord Christ for help and relief.”

Seventh, the more God’s children meditate upon Christ’s intercession, the more they will increase in assurance of ultimate salvation and blessedness. We will be purged of legalistic perfectionism and rest in his perfection. We will learn to recognize all our good desires and good works as fruit of his priestly work. Then we will be able to rejoice and exult, for our Intercessor is able to save us completely (Heb. 7:25).

As long as this Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing, we may be sure that the true Israel will prevail over its enemies (Ex. 17:8–13).”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 1099–1103.

“The miracle of miracles” by Joel Beeke

“Every miracle of personal salvation rests upon the person of Christ, who is the miracle of miracles.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 860.

“Evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ” by Joel Beeke

“The Holy Scriptures demonstrate that Christ is God in many ways. We may summarize the lines of evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ as follows.

1. The preexistence of deity: indications that Christ was living and active before his entrance into this world as a human being (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6-7; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 1:1-4; John 11:25; Rev. 22:13).

2. The prophecies of deity: promises of God’s coming to his people fulfilled in Jesus, particularly promises that God would come as the divine Messiah (Isa. 40:3, 5, 9–10; Mal. 3:1–6; Psalm 45:6–7; 110:1; Isa. 9:6; Mic. 5:2).

3. The names of deity: the names and titles given to Christ, such as God (John 1:1), the Son of God (Matt. 16:16), Lord (Phil. 2:11), Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14), and God with us (Matt. 1:23).

4. The attributes of deity: traits such as holiness (Acts 3:14), eternity (John 8:58), sovereign power (Matt. 8:26), infinite knowledge (John 16:30), omnipresence (Matt. 28:20), self-existence (John 5:26), and immutability (Heb. 1:10–12). When we examine these divine attributes of Christ, we are led to confess with Paul, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). Wellum comments, “The entire fullness and sum total of deity inhabits the Son, who has added to Himself a human nature.”

5. The relations of deity: Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16), and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Son (Gal. 4:6). In the relations of the Trinity, Christ shares in the fullness of the divine life and activity with the Father and the Spirit.

6. The actions of deity: Christ does what only God does as Creator, Lord, and Redeemer (Col. 1:16; 1 Cor. 8:6; John 5:19; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; Mark 2:5-10; John 5:24-25).

7. The honors of deity: Christ hears prayer and receives worship (John 5:23; Matt. 2:1-12; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:9-12).

In summary, since the Bible reveals Christ’s activity long before He became a man; foretells the coming of Christ as the coming of God; calls Him by the names of God; ascribes to Him the attributes, relations, and actions of God; and gives Him the honors of God, then Christ is God.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 762–763.

“This pattern is a primal one” by Jeremy M. Kimble and Ched Spellman

“With the explicit reference to the promise to Abraham, Moses indicates that this hope for the future worship and obedience of the people is not a generic hope.

Rather, it is tied to specific promises that we find at strategic places in the story of the Pentateuch. In other words, we can ask:

Where does this hope originate? Where can we find out more information about the content of this hope?

As we see from the story of the Pentateuch, the ability of the people to follow the law and maintain obedience from a willing heart is an insufficient place to put our hope.

In fact, this is the theme explicitly articulated by a pessimistic Moses at the climax of the Pentateuch. In his book-length closing speech, Moses argues that the Mosaic covenant has failed to bring about the obedience that the Lord requires in the hearts of the people.

What hope is there for the second generation? For the reader of the Pentateuch?

Reading and rereading the story of the Pentateuch as a whole highlights that the pattern that Moses identifies on the plains of Moab began in Eden.

This pattern is a primal one. So too, the hope that Moses anticipates has its roots in that same garden.

The forward momentum of this narrative progression is a primary way that the Pentateuch functions. Throughout this sweeping narrative storyline, though, there are strategically placed poetic sections that provide reflective commentary on the story.

These carefully arranged and strategically composed poems function like windows into the meaning of the Pentateuch’s purpose and also offer a glimpse into the author’s meaning.

Within these poems, we find a cluster of images that profile the promises that bind the major themes of the Pentateuch together.

Within these poetic compositions, an individual is described who will one day defeat God’s enemies and bring about blessing for the people rather than despair.

A future hope is promised, and the proof is in the poetry. A brief survey of these textual locations can orient us to this aspect of the story and the message of the Pentateuch.”

–Jeremy M. Kimble and Ched Spellman, Invitation to Biblical Theology: Exploring the Shape, Storyline, and Themes of Scripture, Invitation to Theological Studies Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2020), 133-134.