The New Age and the Biblical Answer
A SERMON PREACHED AT THE LEWES BIBLE CONFERENCE, SUSSEX, 10TH SEPTEMBER 1994
BY DAVID SAMUEL
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.(Colossians 2:8-9).
The Bible has many warnings against false teaching and false teachers. Our Lord said to the disciples, Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees, and by the leaven He meant their teaching. In the Epistle to the Galatians Paul also warned the Church of the Judaising teachers, and said If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Here in Colossians we have the warning against philosophy and vain deceit. False teaching is a recurring problem and danger to the Church in every age and we shall never be free from it. I think that is the first thing that Christians ought to be aware of. They must not think that they will come into a time when the Church will never be threatened by false teaching and false teachers. There is a spiritual warfare going on, and will continue to go on. Paul in this epistle has much to say also in contrast to his warnings about false teachers. He writes about the fulness of Christ. In verses 2 and 3 he says that all riches of the full assurance and understanding are to be found in Christ, and in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He contrasts this fulness with the emptiness and the vanity of the false philosophy and teaching that was current at that time in Colossæ. He contrasts fulness in Christ, fulness of wisdom and truth and grace and salvation, with the emptiness and vanity of the false teaching.
I have been asked to speak on the antidote to the teaching of the New Age. Here it is. It is to be found in the fulness of the Gospel of God’s grace to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we have hold of that, then we shall have no need of the false teaching that is current today in the world and even in the Church. But where there is wealth and where there are riches they must be guarded and protected, and so Paul issues the warning: Beware lest any any spoil you. The word ‘spoil’ means ‘rob you’. Beware lest any man rob you, he says, through philosophy and vain deceit. The words here might be translated: Beware lest any man lead you away captive, lead you a prey. Of course if we are robbed of the Gospel then we ourselves are led captive. It is a spoliation not merely of property but of our very selves. If the Gospel is removed then we are robbed of the light and the truth of it. Our minds are darkened, and such a plight affects the whole man. That is what false teaching does. It darkens the mind, it enslaves the soul. So Paul issues this warning: Beware lest any man rob you of the gospel, of the riches that are in Christ. Beware lest any man lead you away captive, lead you away a prey.
There are four things in particular in this text that I want to speak about, each of the parts or elements of this text. First of all, what is meant by Paul when he speaks of philosophy and vain deceit. Second, what he means by the traditions of men. Third, by the rudiments of the world, and last, the fulness of Christ.
1. PHILOSOPHY AND VAIN DECEIT
Paul was in a sense not opposed to all philosophy. By that I mean he was a man of intellect himself and he used his intellect. The epistles that he wrote to the many churches of which he had oversight are proof of his intellect and his powers of logic and discernment. Thus he was not against the proper use of the intellect. The definition of preaching that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives in his book ‘Preaching and Preachers’ is ‘logic on fire’. The Christian must use his mind, and when it comes to the exposition of the Gospel and the preaching of the Word, it calls for the application of the mind. We must be able to distinguish things that differ. There must be discernment. There must be the use of logic. So indeed I think that definition is true. Preaching is ‘logic on fire’. We see that is especially true in the case of Paul’s epistles.
Nor indeed was Paul opposed to wisdom. He says in 1 Corinthians 2:6ff: We speak wisdom … but [it is] the hidden wisdom which God ordained. It is the wisdom of divine revelation. It is that which God has disclosed to man through His Word. Paul draws a clear distinction between the wisdom of the world, the philosophy of the world, and the wisdom which is in Christ Jesus. That wisdom of God is God’s special revelation to us, and Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapters 1 and 2 that we see that wisdom revealed in opposition to all the wisdom of man. The wisdom of man is foolishness before God, and we see the wisdom of God specially revealed in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We preach, he says, Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. So there is wisdom to be found in the scriptures, but it is contrasted with the wisdom of the world which is foolishness in the sight of God. Paul is not against the proper use of the intellect, nor is he against wisdom, but all our thinking and all our philosophising must go on in the wake of the Gospel.
The revelation of God must come first. Then all our thinking must be subject to the Gospel. It must always be subordinate to the truth which God has revealed. That is the proper place of the use of man’s intellect – within the sphere of revelation. That is why Paul says in the second epistle to the Corinthians that every thought must be brought into captivity to the Lord Jesus Christ. The weapons of our warfare, he said, are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). So we must never allow our own thinking, our own speculation, to take over. That is when the trouble begins in the Church, where man in his pride seems to think that he can rise superior to the Word of God and to the revelation of God. Instead of being under the Word and under the judgment of it in all his thoughts, he assumes he can be over it and begins to try to put the Word of God and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the strait-jacket of his own philosophy. That was precisely the problem at Colossæ.
Paul wrote this epistle in order that he might remind the Christians at Colossæ and the teachers there that they must be subject to and under the authority of God’s Word. There were certain false teachers in Colossæ who had arisen who wanted to give free rein to their ideas and their philosophy. They wanted to make that superior to the Word of God. Of course they wanted to be regarded as Christians, and they wanted to be a part of the Church. Yet they wanted the message to be controlled by human philosophy. That is why Paul says: Beware lest any man rob you, lead you a prey, lead you captive, through philosophy and vain deceit. The Christian faith was being corrupted at Colossæ by that kind of thing, and they wanted to mould and fashion the Gospel according to human wisdom. That philosophy which was becoming prevalent at Colossæ and throughout the ancient world at that time was called Gnosticism.
We have already heard the term Gnosticism which means, very simply, knowledge, a secret knowledge in the case of Gnosticism. Gnosticism is of course one of the roots of New Age teaching today. The early Gnostics taught that man is redeemed by this secret knowledge which they alone were able to communicate. The Gnostic redeemer who they claimed was Jesus had come into the world to communicate that secret knowledge. He was the bearer of it. All souls existed prior to their present existence in this world in a heavenly state, and now they were fallen and had become imprisoned in a material body. The secret of this Gnostic teaching was that by this knowledge men and women would be delivered from their bodies and would be able to resume their heavenly state. However, Christ’s incarnation was one of the real problems the Gnostics had to face. The Gnostics taught that our Lord’s incarnation was not a real one, but only an apparent one, because matter, the body, was evil. This revelation which was given, this gnosis, this secret knowledge to deliver men from their present enslavement and captivity in the body, would restore them to that heavenly preexistent state. This knowledge came to them through Christ. Christ’s office as Redeemer was not unique. When believers received this knowledge, they too became christs, just as Christ was. What we see here is something that is very current in the teaching of New Age at the present time, the divinisation of man. He is a god. We are gods, just as Christ is God. There is nothing unique or special about the office of the Redeemer. We see here some very real affinities and resemblances to the New Age movement.
The New Age movement concentrates upon the year 2000 and it alleges that the year 2000 will mark the beginning of a New Age, the Age of Aquarius, and that the era that will then dawn holds out a great hope and prospect for the spiritual utopia of mankind, passing from one age to another. New Agers say we shall pass from the Age of Pisces, the fish, which was the symbol of Christianity, into the New Age of Aquarius, the water bearer. This is a New Age of group psychic spirituality. Man is casting off the old beliefs and the old ideas of Judaeo-Christian monotheism and its ethic. There will be a radical shift in understanding and emphasis at this time as we approach the year 2000.
Man will evolve into maturity for the first time in his existence. Man will become fully human, and indeed fully divine. He will cast off the old deities. He will cast off the subjection to the idea of a God who is transcendent and he will become conscious of the divinity within himself. Man will become god. That is the divine plan according to the teaching of the New Age. He will no longer speak of the God who is out there, the transcendent God, but of the God within. He will do this by tapping the occult forces and powers, and by the release of the powers within by the exploration of his own consciousness, and by transcendental meditation. He will become conscious of his divine nature. I think a lot of this sort of thing to which the New Agers look forward is something that they hope to achieve, not simply on their own, not merely by a frontal assault on the Church, but indeed by the infiltration of the churches by turning the spirituality of the Church to their particular way of thinking.
There are many people today in the churches who are susceptible to this kind of thing. In fact the liberalisation of the church which has been going on for 100 years and more, has made it ready for just such a sort of take-over as the New Agers are looking for.
Liberalism today in the mainline denominations is generally in the ascendant. There are many indications of that. The way in which the General Synod of the Church of England voted for the ordination of women some years ago is an indication of the ascendancy of Liberalism in that church. There has been a battle going on in the Church of England for the last 100 years and more, between conservatives, particularly Anglo-Catholic conservatives, and Liberals. Whereas in the earlier part of the century the Anglo Catholics were themselves hopeful of winning that battle, and coming out on top, it has now clearly been won by the Liberals. This is the colouring of the thinking, and the teaching, not only in the Church of England, but in the other mainline denominations in this country at the present time.There are many indications of it.
There is the case of the Reverend Anthony Freeman in the Diocese of Chichester recently who wrote a book called ‘God With Us’, in which he said there is nothing out there. There is no transcendent God, or if there is we can have no knowledge of it. God, he said in his book, is within us. So you see how compatible this sort of Liberal teaching is, this Christian humanism which now seems to control the thought of many people within the Church. How compatible it is, and it fits in well with that of the New Age teachers themselves!
There is nothing new in a sense about all this because, as somebody said, the New Age is in fact the old lie. It is the old wisdom and the old philosophy of Satan, who said to the woman in the Garden, Ye shall not surely die. God had said to the man and to the woman that they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which was in the midst of the garden. For, He said to Adam, in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. But Satan counters that and says: Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods… You will be elevated. You will realise your divinity. You will recognise that you yourselves are gods. That is the old lie. That is the old wisdom and philosophy of Satan which has manifested itself at different times, in the pagan religions, and particularly in this subtle Gnostic teaching which was going on at Colossæ at the time that Paul was writing. We are seeing it now being revived in a very significant way by the New Age movement and its teachers. It is the same thing as we read about in the book of Isaiah where we have the description of Satan in chapter 14, verses 13-14. We have these words about Satan and his aspirations: For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most high.
That is the wisdom, that is the pride, of Lucifer, of Satan, in his desire to aspire to the status that God Himself has. That is the sort of teaching that he has always tried to instill into mankind, at the beginning, and now at this present time. In the Book of Revelation we have the number of the beast which is Six, Six, Six. John said let him who can understand discern what this means. There are those who think that since the number of man is six, the triune six is a mark of the divinisation of man. Now this is the way that Satan thinks, and he seeks to draw man away from the truth and to instill in him this ancient philosophy of his, that man can be a god, that he can order all things according to his will. Man doesn’t have to be subject to the transcendent God, Jehovah, to the God out there, for he is himself a god within. It is there that he has to look to understand his divinity. Tyndale said of philosophy, rather mockingly, that it is philautia. It is the love of self. That, I believe, is very true. Beware, says Paul, lest any man spoil you, rob you, of the riches of Christ in the Gospel through philosophy. Observe its origin. See where it has come from, from the pit, from Satan. Observe what an idol it is. It looks to be a very bright and shining idol, like that which Daniel saw in his vision. Yet its feet are feet of clay. When we look at this philosophy, it is empty, it is deceitful. As our first parents discovered, instead of being elevated when they disobeyed the commandment of God, they were cast down, and they were expelled from the garden. So that is the first thing: lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit. The second thing Paul warns against is the tradition of men.
2. THE TRADITION OF MEN
Tradition played an important part in the Gnostic teaching. It was handed down by secret tradition, by oral tradition. It was confined to the few, and only the initiated were admitted to this superior and secret knowledge. However, it was a purely human philosophy and human knowledge. Here we have in a sense a parallel with Christianity, because of course Christianity also has its tradition. Where you have truth you will have the counterfeit of the truth.
The tradition Paul speaks about in his epistles is the apostolic tradition which is handed down. For l have received, he says, of the Lord, that which also I delivered [that is paradosis, the handing on, the tradition] unto you (1 Corinthians 11:23 & 15:3). This is the apostolic truth, the preaching of the Gospel. Again he says: And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2. 2). Again, Hold fast the form of sound words (2 Timothy 1. 13). This apostolic tradition is not secret. It is committed to the elders of the Church. It is meant to be taught to the people, to the whole church publicly. It is not a human tradition like that of Gnosticism, but it is divine. It is from above.
There are two kinds of tradition. There is true tradition, the apostolic tradition. There is false tradition. There is open tradition, and secret. There is written tradition, and oral. There is apostolic tradition, and spurious tradition. The apostolic tradition has been committed to writing in the books of the New Testament. There it is. It is written down. It is sealed up. It is complete. Moreover it is final. We have a corpus of divine apostolic tradition and revelation given to us in the writings of the scriptures, in the writings of the New Testament, and it is distinguished in that way from all other tradition. That is the test. That is the yardstick by which we measure all other teachings and traditions. Beware of the traditions of men, says Paul, lest you be spoiled and robbed of the truth by them. And how can you do this? You can do it by bringing everything to the yardstick of Scripture. If it is not according to Scripture, then it is not true, and it is the duty of the Church to guard this sacred deposit and to hand it on uncorrupted.
The duty is given to the Church. This is why it is so important that we are careful about the Bible translations that we use. There are many translations of the Bible in circulation today. Many of them have been brought out and published under the influence of Liberal teachings in the Church. You can see them. They have been coloured and influenced by that Liberal teaching. If you compare the Authorised Version, which is a faithful translation of the Textus Receptus, with more recent versions, you will see how those more recent versions deviate very often from the truth. It is the business then of the Church to be careful and to hand on this truth, this apostolic tradition, uncorrupted. We are to distinguish the true from the false as our Lord did when He warned His disciples to beware of the leaven, that is of the doctrine of the Pharisees. He said in His teaching, In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandments of God, ye hold, he said to the Pharisees, the tradition of men.
So we must distinguish between the doctrines of God and the tradition of men. This is what the great battle of the Reformation was fought about. This is what was at the centre of the whole thing, to distinguish the apostolic truth of God’s Word from the traditions of men which had grown up in the Church and which were being fostered by the Church of Rome. Everything must be subjected to the test of God’s Holy Word. That was Cranmer’s great design. He wanted a Church that was truly reformed, and he said catholic teaching is Scripture teaching; If it is not the teaching of Scripture, it is not catholic teaching. That was his understanding of catholic truth, and that is surely what it must be. The same is true today with regard to all other traditions.
When we come to this question of New Age teachings we must apply the same principle to distinguish the traditions of men by which Christians can be robbed and spoiled of the truth of God.
New Age teaching is, as somebody has said, the perennial philosophy. That is, it has been around for a very long time. It draws upon many different sources: Gnosticism, paganism, mysticism, astrology, theosophy, spiritualism, magic, witchcraft. It draws upon all these things. It is a corpus of tradition and of teaching that is informed from many different sources, and from many different authors such as C.G. Jung, Teilhard de Chardin the Jesuit philosopher, William Blake, Schopenhauer the atheistic philosopher of the last century, Blavatsky, Alice Bailey and Annie Besant. All of these people have contributed to this corpus of New Age teaching. It’s a very difficult thing to get hold of, because it comes from so many different directions.
It is said today that there are 3,000 bookshops in the USA alone which are selling New Age books and writings, and there are 80,000 New Age books in circulation. There are many thousands of children’s books which convey this sort of teaching, and if they were all brought together at the present time what an enormous bonfire could be made of them all! It reminds me of the bonfire of which we read in the Acts of the Apostles (chapter 19, verse 19), at Ephesus, because Ephesus was a centre of the magic arts and pagan teaching. Following the preaching of Paul, many of those who practised these curious arts and listened to this kind of Gnostic teaching, brought their books together, and they burned them. Those books contained incantations and spells and mantras of one sort or another, just the kind of things which are being used today by the New Age movement. All the machinery and the instruments of the occult were in those books. They burned them and they counted the price of them. They found that it came to 50,000 pieces of silver.
These traditions and writings which were current in the age in which Paul lived, and which presented a threat to the churches at that time, are presenting a threat to the churches today, and are being revived in different ways. They must all be tested by the Word of God and confronted by the scriptures. All things, says Paul, that are reproved are made manifest by the light, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. If we bring whatever it is to the Word of God, the Word of God is the true light and it will discover error. It will reveal the darkness of these things, and so it is to the Word of God that they must be brought, and by which they must be tested. Or as Isaiah put it, in addressing the same kind of situation many years before, in Isaiah 8:19-20: And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Seek not unto them that have familiar spirits, that is to the necromancers, to the spirit charmers, to those who evoke the dead by incantations and wizards. That is those who claimed supernatural knowledge, who peep (that is use ventriloquism), who pretend that these were the voices of the dead that were speaking. As we know today, in spiritualism, the very same sort of thing is used. Ventriloquists project their voices to give the impression that the dead are speaking, and mutter (that is speak from their bellies to make it seem that the spirits were talking). Now, says Isaiah, do not turn to these. Do not turn to the occult powers. Instead look to God, and look to His Word, to the law and to the testimony. If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. So judge everything, all traditions and all teachings, by the Word of God, lest by philosophy and vain deceit and by the traditions of men the churches should be deceived.
3. THE RUDIMENTS OF THIS WORLD
Thirdly, Paul mentions in this verse the rudiments of this world. Or it might be translated ‘elements’, or ‘elemental spirits’ of the world. Beware lest any man spoil you through the elemental spirits of the world, that is the non-christian rudiments of religion, Jewish or heathen. Do not be drawn away by these, says Paul. Do not return to them.
In the New Age movement we are seeing a great revival of paganism. That is one of its fundamental motifs, an appeal to the elemental or earth spirits. Schopenhauer, whom I have mentioned, who was the great atheistic philosopher in Germany in the last century, greatly influenced Wagner. Wagner’s mission, as he saw it, was to restore paganism to Europe, to oust Christianity, which he regarded as the new religion, to bring back ‘joyful’ paganism. Wagner considered that the Jewish/Christian God was the root of all evil. Europe had to be restored to the pre-Christian past and to pagan religion. ‘The Ring Cycle’, which he wrote, was intended to awaken the German people to this special mission which he thought belonged to them, to their destiny. They were to bring about the reinstallation of the pagan gods once more.
The New Age movement generally seeks to roll back the tide of Christianity in the western world. As I have said before, it regards this year 2000 as a sort of watershed, a transition from the age of Christianity and its Jewish past to the New Age of man’s self-maturity and self-realisation. The old age is dying, the New Age of revived paganism is dawning, they say. They wish to see a paradigm shift, a shift in the whole understanding and emphasis from the Christian ethos in society to that of paganism. Surely there are many indications at the present time that that very thing is going on. We have seen how the whole ethos of a Christian ethic and Christian belief seems to be fading. At one time people’s view of the world was conditioned by the teaching of the Bible, but today they seem to be in some sort of spiritual vacuum and they are open to these new ideas – which are old ideas – of revived paganism, of witchcraft, of the fertility cults, of the worship of nature, of the gods of nature, the worship of Baal and Astarte, and the earth spirits, the elemental spirits of the earth, which Paul is speaking about here in this verse.
One of the key understandings of paganism is that the earth is a sort of goddess. The earth mother mates with the sky father. Now a great deal of the present thinking about ecology is being drawn into this mystical understanding. Many people rightly feel that we must conserve the earth’s resources, that we have a responsibility to future generations, now that we live as it were in a global village. We are all conscious that the earth’s material resources are finite. People say we must do something about it. The New Age, and this revival of paganism, plays upon that goodwill, and leads people on to a mystical understanding of the world and of the earth. It gives it a spiritual dimension. People are told that the earth ‘feels’, that it is sensitive, and that it is a living thing. It is a short step from that to worshipping the earth, the gaia, as a goddess. There is about us all at the present time this consciousness of a reviving of these ideas and thoughts of paganism. One way of forwarding the revival of paganism, as I said a little earlier, is not by a frontal assault upon the Christian church, but by seeking to subvert and to paganise the Christian churches by drawing them subtly into that way of thinking.
Back in 1986, I don’t know whether you remember, there was a gathering of all the leaders of the world’s religions in Assisi presided over by the Pope and by the Duke of Edinburgh, and the explicit purpose of that gathering at Assisi was concern for the planet earth, for the conservation of its resources, to save our planet, and to preserve its ecology. It was a gathering of religions. All religions were expected to come together in a sort of syncretistic way in order to further this purpose. Following that, in a number of cathedrals up and down this country, you may recall that there were services held initiating a rainbow covenant. The rainbow in those covenants was nothing to do with the symbol of God’s mercy, of which we read in the book of Genesis, but the rainbow in the New Age movement is a means of access to the occult powers. So you see, getting these services, with this liturgy, held in these great Christian centres in this country, was seen as a means of infiltrating and paganising Christianity.
This last week or so there was the big so-called Christian festival of the Greenbelt in Bedfordshire. I read the account in the paper which said that the liturgy was written around the images of creation, the tree of life and the universal rhythms of nature. You see what is happening. There were 30,000 young people from Christian backgrounds brought together. Where else would you get a gathering of that sort? They were indoctrinated with these ideas of a paganised Christianity which has more to do with nature than it has with the revelation of God’s truth in His Word. Well now all these things are pointers and indications of what is happening in the Christian churches at the present time.
Feminism also has brought in a very powerful influence into this sort of thing. Indeed, I think I can say that the decision to ordain women to the ministry of the Church of England is a major step in that direction, because in paganism, priestesses are devoted to the ceremonies and the worship of goddesses, or a goddess, and that is the necessity for female priests. In fact the Apostolic Constitutions say that priestesses were ordained for female deities and are heathen and not Christian. So you see what is happening. A major step like that has meant that a dominant Christian church in this country has taken a lurch in that direction. At the ordination retreat of a number of these ladies who were being ordained to the priesthood at Hereford Cathedral just recently, they all gathered together in a circle and joined hands and danced around in the churchyard outside the cathedral, and stroked the statues of bishops. Now what were they doing? This is all part of pagan practice. By holding hands and dancing in circles, you are raising the spirits of the earth, the elemental spirits. Now many people when they are challenged say they are doing nothing of the sort, but they are unconscious of the fact that these are the ideas, this is the sort of influence that is now being brought to bear upon the practice and the worship of the Christian church.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments [or elemental spirits] of the world and not after Christ. Then Paul goes on to say in verse nine: For in him [that is in Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. That is the answer to all these lies of philosophy, of tradition, of the rudiments of the world. The answer is the fulness of the truth that is found in Jesus Christ.
4. IN HIM DWELLETH ALL THE FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY
Paul says to the Colossians that we believers are complete in the Lord Jesus Christ and so need none of these traditions, philosophies and rudiments of the world. In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. God is to be found in Him, personally, and nowhere else. Our Lord said, He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. Like the rays of the sun concentrated in a magnifying glass, which are brought into a small compass and then radiate out again, so all the glory of Almighty God is to be seen in the person, in the face, of our Lord Jesus. It is there that we meet with God in contradistinction to all the other claims of false philosophies and traditions and of those who seek to revive the pagan teachings. God is to be found only in the Lord Jesus Christ and cannot be found outside Him. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). God spoke from heaven at the baptism of His Son, and said: This is my beloved Son: hear Him. Obey Him, hear His teaching and receive it. So God says to mankind in all the Scriptures: I will meet with you, I will deal with you, but it is through My Son alone. In the Lord Jesus Christ, those of us who believe see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. There is communication. There is fellowship. There is traffic between heaven and earth, but it is solely through the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. In Him we have everything that we need. We are complete in Him, for He is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. So He is all in all, as the scriptures say. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life (1 John 5:12). What more can we ask? If we have Jesus Christ we have all things. All things are yours, says Paul, whether … life, or death or things present or things to come; all are yours and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. So we need nothing more. As Charles Wesley has summed it up in that great hymn of his: ‘Thou, O Christ art all I want. More than all in Thee, I find.’ So what need have we, if we rightly understand these things, if we keep in mind the fulness of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, for all that is needful is measured up for us in Him; what need have we of the beggarly elements of the world, the threadbare principles of earthly religion, the vain speculations of human philosophy, the counterfeit of human traditions? We have no need of any of these things.
We are full, replete with the riches of God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ, and we have no need of such miserable fare. Nevertheless, Paul says: Understand these things. Understand what are your riches in the Lord Jesus Christ. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Amen.
In what points the true ornaments of the Church or Temple of God do consist and stand, hath been declared in the two last Homilies, entreating of the right use of the Temple or house of God, and of the due reverence that all true Christian people are bound to give unto the same.
Almighty GOD, to the intent his most holy Name should be had in honour, and evermore be magnified of the people, commandeth that no man should take his Name vainly in his mouth, threatening punishment unto him that irreverently abuseth it by swearing, forswearing, andblasphemy. To the intent therefore that this commandment may be the better known and kept, it shall bee declared unto you, both how it is lawful for Christian people to swear, and also what peril and danger it is vainly to swear, or to be forsworn.
Unto a Christian man, there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable, than the knowledge of Holy Scripture; forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true word, setting forth his glory, and also man’s duty. And there is no truth nor doctrine, necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that is, or may be, drawn out of that fountain and well of truth. Therefore, as many as be desirous to enter into the right and perfect way unto God, must apply their minds to know Holy Scripture; without the which, they can neither sufficiently known God and his will, neither their office and duty. And as drink is pleasant to them that be dry, and meat to them that be hungry; so is the reading, hearing, searching, and studying of Holy Scripture, to them that be desirous to know God, or themselves, and to do his will. And their stomachs only do loathe and abhor the heavenly knowledge and food of God’s word, that be so drowned in worldly vanities, that they neither saviour God, nor any godliness: for that is the cause why they desire such vanities, rather than the true knowledge of God. As they that are sick of an ague, whatsoever they eat and drink, though it be never so pleasant, yet it is as bitter to them as wormwood; not for the bitterness of the meat, but for the corrupt and bitter humour that is in their own tongue and mouth; even is the sweetness of God’s word bitter, not of itself, but only unto them that have their minds corrupted with long custom of sin and love of this world.
Of all things that be good to be taught unto Christian people, there is nothing more necessary to be spoken of, and daily called upon, then charity: as well for that all manner of works of righteousness be contained in it, as also that the decay thereof is the ruin or fall of the world, the banishment of virtue, and the cause of all vice. And for so much as almost every man, maketh and frameth to himself charity after his own appetite, and how detestable soever his life be, both unto God and man, yet he persuadeth himself still that he hath charity: therefore you shall hear now a true and plain description or setting forth of charity, not of men’s imagination, but of the very words and example of our Saviour Jesus Christ. In which description or setting forth, every man (as it were in a glass) may consider himself, and see plainly without error, whether he be in the true charity, or not.
Among all the creatures that God made in the beginning of the world most excellent and wonderful in their kind, there was none (as the Scripture beareth witness) to be compared almost in any point unto man, who as well in body and soul exceeded all other no less, then the Sun in brightness and light exceedeth every small and little star in the firmament. He was made according to the image and similitude of God, he was endued with all kind of heavenly gifts, he had no spot of uncleanness in him, he was found and perfect in all parts, both outwardly and inwardly, his reason was incorrupt, his understanding was pure and good, his will was obedient and godly, he was made altogether like unto God, in righteousness, in holiness, in wisdom, in truth, to be short in all kind of perfection.
In the last Sermon was declared unto you, what the lively and true faith of a Christian man is, that it causeth not a man to be idle, but to be occupied in bringing forth good works, as occasion serveth.
Of our going from God, the wise man saith, that pride was the first beginning: for by it mans heart was turned from God his maker. For pride (saith he) is the fountain of all sin: he that hath it, shall be full of cursings, and at the end it shall overthrow him. (Ecclus 10) And as by pride and sin we go from God, so shall God and all goodness with him go from us. And the Prophet Hosea doth plainly affirm (Hos 5), that they which go a way still from God by vicious living, and yet would go about to pacify him otherwise by sacrifice, and entertain him thereby, they labour in vain. For, notwithstanding all their sacrifice, yet he goeth still away from them. For so much (saith the Prophet) as they do not apply their minds to return to God, although they go about with whole flocks and herds to seek the Lord, yet they shall not find him: for he is gone away from them.
A Sermon of the Misery of all Mankind and of his Condemnation to Death Everlasting, by his own Sin.
Because all men be sinners and offenders against God, and breakers of his law and commandments, therefore can no man by his own acts, works, and deeds (seem they never so good) be justified, and made righteous before God: but every man of necessity is constrained to seek for another righteousness or justification, to be received at God’s own hands, that is to say, the forgiveness of his sins and trespasses, in such things as he hath offended. And this justification or righteousness, which we so receive of God’s mercy and Christ’s merits. embraced by faith, is taken, accepted and allowed of God, for our perfect and full justification.
The first coming unto God (good Christian people) is through Faith, whereby (as it is declared in the last Sermon) we be justified before God. And lest any man should be deceived, for lack of right understanding thereof, it is diligently to be noted, that Faith is taken in the Scripture two manner of ways.