The Power of God

Infinite. Limitless. Boundless. These words describe the extent of God’s power as revealed in the Bible.

 Power is the ability or authority to do something. It is also used to mean the control and influence exercised over others. We display power in our daily lives. When we take a stroll outside, when we wash our clothes or cook, these all are instances of power in operation. Supervising a team of executives in the office is also demonstrates power, as well as running an entire organization. In all these, and other instances, we reflect God’s own infinite and unbounded ability.

Power is inherent in God as the ability to do all his holy will. It is designated by the term omnipotence, which is His limitless capacity to effect or bring about all that He desires. It is clear from scripture that God is holy, hence he will never desire or do anything which is opposed to his own holy character. God’s omnipotence therefore means that He can carry out any activity or perform any task He desires, in keeping with his holy character.

 The Bible speaks of this attribute in several places:

 ‘If He takes away, who can hinder Him?

Who can say to Him, “What are You doing?” ’(Job 9:12)

By me kings reign,

And rulers decree justice.’ (Prov 8:15)

‘And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.’ (Deut 8:18) 

‘Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” ‘(Jer 32:26-27)

‘But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ‘ (Matt 19:26)

‘For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,'(Rom 1:20)

‘… and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power’ (Eph 1:19).

God demonstrates his sovereign power in his 3 great works of Creation, Providence and Redemption.

Creation

According to the Bible, God established the universe out of nothing. This was a demonstration of immense creative power. This is referred to in Rom 1:20; 4:17; Isa 44:24.

Providence

This is God’s work of preserving and governing all that he has made. It is an ongoing activity. From day to day God sustains the universe, ensuring that nothing falls out of place. So when we wake up in the morning, when we close a business deal, when a farmer tills the soil, all these are possible because God is working to uphold the universe. And in doing this he demonstrates his limitless power. Heb 1:3; Isa 45:7; Jer 5:22; Amos 4:13

Redemption

The work of redemption was a display of sovereign power. In it, God exercised authority over Satan and defeated sin. When Jesus lay in the tomb, it was by the power of God that he was raised to life. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit continues to work in the life of believers, sanctifying and conforming them to the image of Christ.  1 Cor. 1:24; Rom 1:4,16; Eph 1:19,20; 3:20; 2 Pet 1:3; 2 Cor 9:8.

A Hymn on Work

Behold us, Lord, a little space
From daily tasks set free,
And met within Thy holy place
To rest awhile with Thee.

Around us rolls the ceaseless tide
Of business, toil, and care;
And scarcely can we turn aside
For one brief hour of prayer.

Yet these are not the only walls
Wherein Thou may’st be sought:
On homeliest work Thy blessing falls
In truth and patience wrought.

Thine is the loom, the forge, the mart,
The wealth of land and sea,
The worlds of science and of art,
Revealed and ruled by Thee.

Then let us prove our heavenly birth
In all we do and know;
And claim the kingdom of the earth,
For Thee, and not Thy foe.

Work shall be prayer, if all be wrought
As Thou would have it done;
And prayer, by Thee inspired and taught,
Itself with work be one

John Ellerton (1826 – 1893)

The Purpose of Business

What is the purpose of Business?

In a conference presentation Jeff Van Duzer, former Dean of the Seattle Pacific University (SPU) School of Business and Economics,  identified a twofold purpose for business. He described it as God’s Mission Statement for Business in general.

  1. Business exists to create opportunities for individuals to express aspect of their God-given identity in meaningful and creative work.
  2. Business exists in order to produce goods and services that would enable the community to flourish.

The Christian Worldview of Business

Originally posted on The Christian Mind:

Christ is king of all creation.  He rules over the universe as Mediator. As the great  Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper declared in his inaugural lecture, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ “. As his followers we have been called to mind renewal (Rbusiness 2omans 12:1,2). The task of mind renewal requires that we rethink every field and profession from a Christian perspective. We need to develop a Christian philosophy – reality, knowledge, ethics – and lay this at the foundation of every sector of life and society. Our task is to give light to all spheres of life (Matthew 5:14-16), including Business. The paragraphs below represent an attempt in this regard. They give a basic summary of the Christian approach to business. It is an extract from a larger manual…

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The Wisdom of God

What is wisdom?

In a quotation attributed to him, C.H. Spurgeon described wisdom as the right (or judicious) application of knowledge.

Wisdom is that ability to apply knowledge in a purposeful manner. We are wise or act wisely when we make judgments or decisions that are based on knowledge and that reflect prudence and good sense. Applied to God, wisdom is that attribute possessed by God whereby He always chooses the best goals and the best means for achieving those goals.

Says Berkhof, “God’s wisdom is His intelligence as manifested in the adaptation of means to ends. It points to the fact that He always strives for the best possible ends, and chooses the best means for the realization of his purposes.” God is most wise because He is all-knowing.

God is the fount of wisdom. Several passages of the Bible refer to this quality in God, including: Job 9:4, Prov. 21:12; Rom. 16:27; 1 Tim. 1:17; Jude 25. All his works are specimens of wise planning and execution. Creation, Providence, Redemption – they all bear the marks of infinite wisdom, thus showing that the One who carried them out is absolutely wise.

God is wise in Creation (Psalm 19:1-7; 104:24; Jer. 10:12)
Modern science reveals the delicate balance in the constitution of our physical universe. A little more heat and all life will be burnt, a little less heat and we would all freeze to death (cf. D. James Kennedy, Why I Believe, p.47). He established the universe with wisdom. Everything declares his praise and glory. The sun governs the day; the moon rules over the night. Vegetation is provided for both man and animals.

As Thomas Watson wrote, ‘We may see the glorious wisdom of God blazing in the sun, twinkling in the stars.’

He is wise in Providence (Psalm 33:10,11; Romans 8:28)
God displays wisdom in preserving and governing all he has made. He directs all the events of our world to their appointed end.

Sometimes, God carries out his purpose through strange and unusual means. For instance, He elevates Joseph to the position of ruler above all his brethren, but he does this by first taking him through slavery and prison. He delivers the people of Israel from the Midianites through Gideon and his band of merely 300 soldiers. In all these He works in ways that often surprise and amaze us. Who could have thought that a crowd of more than 5000 could be fed with just 5 loaves of bread? That’s like a thousand people to one loaf! Yet God did it, and he is wise enough to handle the present challenges of his people.

Thus when we are in covenant with God, we need not be afraid nor anxious, for we have the promise of our wise God that, ‘all things work together for good to those who love God’.

His wisdom shines forth in Redemption (Romans 11:33; 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 3:10)

Here is a world, rebellious, guilty and miserable. How can you turn things around? Get an army from heaven and descend in great glory and power to renew the world. But no, God didn’t do this. What do we have instead ? A helpless baby. A poor and unscholarly preacher. Finally, a death on a wooden cross and an entombment. The wisdom is brought to light on the third day when the buried corpse becomes the Risen King who now has dominion over the nations and renews them by His Spirit. Through His death he had conquered Satan, paid for the sins of his people and ransomed humanity back to God. Unexpected strategy, yet full of wisdom.

He displays his glorious wisdom in Creation, Redemption and Providence so we may rightly worship and exult in Him alone.

Christians in History: Augustine (354 – 430)

The eminent church historian, Philip Schaff, described him as ‘the great church teacher of all times’. Augustine is a towering figure in the long history of the Christian church. Aside from standing as an important link between early Christianity and the Middle Ages, his views and ideas have deeply influenced how the Christian world understands God and his relation to us.

In the words of Andrew Hoffecker,st-augustine-hippo

Few figures in history rival Augustine, bishop of Hippo, for his influence on the Western church, as well as on philosophy, theology, and culture. Augustine’s penetrating understanding and development of Christian truth, and the breadth of his interests and literary production, surpass all who preceded him and establish him as one of the “Doctors of the Church.”

According to Philip Schaff:

Augustine, the man with upturned eye, with pen in the left hand, and a burning heart in the right (as he is usually represented), is a philosophical and theological genius of the first order, towering like a pyramid above his age, and looking down commandingly upon succeeding centuries. He had a mind uncommonly fertile and deep, bold and soaring; and with it, what is better, a heart full of Christian love and humility. He stands of right by the side of the greatest philosophers of antiquity and of modern times. We meet him alike on the broad highways and the narrow footpaths, on the giddy Alpine heights and in the awful depths of speculation, wherever philosophical thinkers before him or after him have trod. As a theologian he is facile princeps, at least surpassed by no church father, scholastic, or reformer. With royal munificence he scattered ideas in passing, which have set in mighty motion other lands and later times. He combined the creative power of Tertullian with the churchly spirit of Cyprian, the speculative intellect of the Greek church with the practical tact of the Latin. He was a Christian philosopher and a philosophical theologian to the full. It was his need and his delight to wrestle again and again with the hardest problems of thought, and to comprehend to the utmost the divinely revealed matter of the faith.

Augustine was born in the year 354 in the city of  Tagaste (modern Algeria). His mother, Monica,  was a devout Christian woman. She brought up her son as a Christian, and he was even listed as a baptismal candidate. As he grew older, however, he rejected his Christian faith. He even came to belittle the Bible as a book for women! Nevertheless, his mother did not stop trusting in God for his conversion. She laboured fervently in prayer that God would bring him to faith in Christ and her prayers were answered several decades later. In recalling his early childhood, he described the efforts of his mother in urging him towards a life of godliness:

‘Woe is me! Do I dare affirm that thou didst hold thy peace, O my God, while I wandered farther away from thee? Didst thou really then hold thy peace? Then whose words were they but thine which by my mother,thy faithful handmaid, thou didst pour into my ears? None of them, however, sank into my heart to make me do anything. She deplored and, as I remember, warned me privately with great solicitude, “not to commit fornication; but above all things never to defile another man’s wife.” These appeared to me but womanish counsels, which I would have blushed to obey. Yet they were from thee, and I knew it not. I thought that thou wast silent and that it was only she who spoke. Yet it was through her that thou didst not keep silence toward me; and in rejecting her counsel I was rejecting thee–I, her son, “the son of thy handmaid, thy servant.” (Confessions, Book 2, Chapter 3)

Augustine spent his youth pursuing sensual pleasures. He had a lady whom he lived with for several years. She had a child for him, though they never married. For several years he was an adherent of the Manichaens, a religious sect which held gnostic views and flourished in the Roman Empire. But he gradually fell away from them. Having pursued the study of Philosophy, literature and rhetoric both locally and in the city of Carthage, he eventually became a teacher of rhetoric. He moved to the city of Milan where he came under the preaching of Ambrose, the local Bishop.

Under the influence of Ambrose and his private reading of the apostle Paul, Augustine was eventually converted. His conversion account has passed down as one of the most dramatic in the history of Christianity. He recounts it in his own words:

I flung myself down under a fig tree–how I know not–and gave free course to my tears. The streams of my eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to thee. And, not indeed in these words, but to this effect, I cried to thee: “And thou, O Lord, how long? How long, O Lord? Wilt thou be angry forever? Oh, remember not against us our former iniquities.” For I felt that I was still enthralled by them. I sent up these sorrowful cries: “How long, how long? Tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour make an end to my uncleanness?”

I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl I know not which–coming from the neighbouring house, chanting over and over again, “Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.” Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon. For I had heard how Anthony, accidentally coming into church while the gospel was being read, received the admonition as if what was read had been addressed to him: “Go and sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.” By such an oracle he was forthwith converted to thee.

So I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostle’s book when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.” I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away. (Book 8, Chapter 12)

After his conversion, he moved to the city of Hippo Regius, the second most important city in North Africa at the time, where he was ordained a priest in 391 . He eventually became the Bishop and would go on to exercise a globally renowned ministry over the next thirty-eight years.

He died in the year 430 as the city of Hippo was being overrun by barbarian invaders.

His Significance

Augustine laboured to clarify the teachings of the Christian faith and defend them against various opponents both within and outside the Christian community. He wrote numerous books and treatises with the aim of clarifying scriptural teachings, (including the Trinity, nature and grace, original sin) and refuting false ideas. He also wrote expository commentaries on the Gospels and on some Epistles. He opposed popular systems and ideas like Manichaeism, which threatened to destroy the Christian worldview with its dualism; Donatism, which threatened to disintegrate the unity of the Christian Church; and Pelagianism which threatened to corrupt the purity of the gospel.

We will examine the last movement more closely.

Pelagianism

Pelagius was a British monk who denied that the fall of Adam had any effect upon humanity beyond the fact that we often imitate his negative example. We do not receive any corrupt nature from him, contrary to what had been widely understood within the Christian community.

As elaborated by Louis Berkhof, Pelagius held that ‘There is no hereditary transmission of a sinful nature or of guilt, and consequently no such thing as original sin. Man is still born in the same condition in which Adam was before the fall.’ (History of Christian Doctrines, p.132) Therefore, God’s grace does not actually transform human nature; it merely assists us in doing what we could do on our own. Pelagius was impressed by the goodness of the created order, but failed to take into account the depth or consequences of the fall. He understood man to be capable of perfectly obeying God’s commands.

In the year 418, a council convened in the city of Carthage and condemned the following tenets of Pelagianism:

  • Adam’s death was normal or natural, and not a result of his sin
  • Humanity does not derive any corruption from Adam (the doctrine of original sin)
  • Justifying grace only applies to our past sins and does not help toward future sins
  • Grace merely enables us to do more easily what we could still do without it.

Augustine countered the views of Pelagius and his followers by clarifying and defending the Bible’s teaching on Original sin and God’s saving grace. All humanity have been affected by the fall of Adam. We are born with a sinful nature and our wills answer to this corrupt and sinful nature. The grace of God is needed not only for our past sins, but we continue to depend on it all through our lives as Christians.

The Christian worldview is a realistic account of the human condition. It affirms that history is divided into 3 phases of Creation, Fall and Redemption. Each phase is essential to the integrity of the entire worldview. To minimise or under-emphasize one aspect is to jeopardize the whole story. The system of Pelagius was an unfortunate attempt in this direction. He so exalted the goodness and beauty of the created order but minimized the dark and gloomy reality of the fall. His carelessness with the second link thus radically distorted his understanding of redemption. By not staying close enough to scripture and by not carefully observing the universal human condition, he produced a distorted system which is intellectually appealing but spiritually debasing. His system seeks to elevate man but fails in the attempt. For it denies what every man in his deepest self knows to be true. And it wrenches from God the glory due to him alone.

Musings from a Beloved Hymn

Originally posted on Reformed In Nigeria :

“O teach me what it meaneth,
That Cross uplifted high,
With one the Man of sorrows, Condemned to bleed and die!
O teach me what it cost Thee To make a sinner whole;
And teach me, Saviour teach me, The value of a soul!
Lucy Ann Bennett

What is the value of a man’s soul? Is there some intrinsic quality that makes his soul valuable? Ah! Yes, he was created in the image and likeness of God. But is that sufficient to make his soul of any value? Is man not a fallen creature, who is dead in sins and trespasses; a child of wrath and son of disobedience, whose throat is an open sepulchre? What possible value could such a soul have? I venture to say NONE! The value lies not in man but the One who gave Himself for him. The price that was paid for the redemption…

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