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Previous article in this series: December 15, 2015, p. 132. We were considering, you will remember, the penitential prayer of David recorded in Psalm 51, focusing in particular on verse 16. “Thou desirest not sacrifice,” David prayed. And: “Thou delightest not in burnt offering.” Having been brought to his knees by the prophet Nathan’s withering pronouncement “Thou art the man,” David understood, more profoundly than ever before, that no one can come to God with something in his hand. An expression of “absolute destitution of merit” is what Calvin sees in those words of David. Remarkable insights, we said. But...

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Previous article in this series: December 1, 2015, p. 106. “Why tarriest thou,” said Ananias to a Jew newly converted to Christianity, “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16). That was Saul of Tarsus. Having been taught “at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3), he was well versed in the Pharisaistic system of legal righteousness. And he had rejected Christianity. With a vengeance. Before being able fully to comprehend a righteousness that is by faith, therefore, Saul, in a very real sense, had to unlearn the whole of his dogmatics. It was to this man that...

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Previous article in this series: October 15, 2015, p. 37. “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.” That’s from Psalm 51. Stunning words, really, when we consider them in light of who wrote them. And when. They were written by David, the man “after God’s heart,” who knew God’s law and loved it. He was therefore well acquainted with the book of Leviticus, which, if nothing else, made it crystal clear that sacrifices and offerings were not optional. Repeatedly we read concerning the ceremonial rites, “as the Lord commanded Moses.” And...

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Previous article in this series: September 15, 2015, p. 493. Who, in his right mind or even not quite so, would ever try to teach something of the beauty of a symphony by Beethoven, or a piano concerto of Mozart… to a donkey? Have you taken a moment to ponder that? Then think of this, from John Calvin: What must be “carefully attended to,” he writes in his commentary on I Corinthians 1:20, is that “man with all his shrewdness is as stupid about understanding by himself the mysteries of God as an ass is incapable of understanding musical harmony.”...

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Previous article in this series: June 2015, p. 396. How does the Levitical system figure into the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentile world? That, we said, was the practical problem that waited still for solution. And it was to the apostle Peter that that mystery was revealed. For Peter it was the question of how to respond to the request of one Gentile and his acquaintances. But the implications were far broader. For the church, it was the question of how to be obedient to Christ’s command to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. Paul...

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Previous article in this series: May 15, 2015, p. 368. We concluded our last article with Paul’s assertion that to the Jews of the old dispensation the calling of the Gentiles was a mystery. And we noted that this was in spite of the fact that he knew very well that the Old Testament Scriptures were not silent concerning the fact that at the coming of the Messiah the grace of God would be proclaimed to the Gentile world. Think only of the prophecy of Isaiah: “I will also give thee [the Messiah] for a light to the Gentiles, that...

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Previous article in this series: February 15, 2014, p. 226. In our last article we examined briefly the “veil,” as Calvin called it, that separated the Law from the Gospel such that the saints of old were not able to “see more closely the things that are now revealed to our eyes.” The object of their hope, we saw, was mystery—which by definition is something that is beyond the reach of the human mind, apart from revelation. Christ Himself demonstrated the truth of that when, after His resurrection, He breathed on His disciples, saying, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John...

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Previous article in this series: March 1, 2015, p. 248. Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit. That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he. Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better? For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man...

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Previous article in this series: February 1, 2015, p. 200. Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place? All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled. For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living? Ecclesiastes 6:6-8 We have seen that God gives to the man who is good in His sight, to His people, to eat and drink in contentment with their portion under the sun....

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Previous article in this series: December 1, 2014, p. 106. If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he. For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. Moreover he hath not seen the sun, not known any thing: this hath more rest than the other. Ecclesiastes 6:3-5 It may be well, at this point,...

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