Articles by Marvin Stalnaker
For the Year
"BLACK, BUT COMELY"
I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. Song of Solomon 1:5
The bride of Christ knows something of her nature. She knows that in her dwells no good thing. She knows that she is prone to wander and is susceptible to every evil temptation. She sees herself as black and undesirable because of the stench of her Adamic nature.
In the viewing of herself, the bride does see something by faith that imparts great comfort to her . . . she is comely to Christ. Christ, Who sees his own imputed righteousness upon his church, and views her as altogether spotless and without blemish. She is his beloved and He is hers. The bride may appear coarse and without great promise to the world, or even to herself, but to Him . . . she is as the tents of Kedar which although undesirable to view from the outside, were within filled with untold riches. As such, the bride through the riches of His grace is comely to Him!
THE RAVISHED HEART OF CHRIST
Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse ... Song of Solomon 4:9
Indescribably precious is the love of Christ for His bride, the believer. We know that is true because it is based totally on His Word (John 15:9). When the Living Word Himself (Christ) speaks, it melts (by the Holy Ghost) the renewed heart of a believer. When Christ here proclaims to His bride, "Thou hast ravished my heart" (vs. 9), the believer thinks, "Can it be that Christ is speaking to me?" for the statement means by connotation, "You have wounded (or pierced) my heart with (the dart of) love (and joy)." Imagine Him, Who is the apple of God's eye, saying this to His bride, in whom there is no natural beauty. The Bride cannot, except by faith, begin to comprehend such love as this: such love causes her to swoon in wonder at His sovereign grace. She thinks, "How is it possible that there is something lovely in one who is so prone to wander?" With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. The only beauty in the bride is the imputed beauty of Christ's righteousness. His perfectness covers all those that the Father has ever loved ... all those who are brought to Him by irresistible grace and made willing to call upon Him by faith for salvation. When this bride (the one made perfect) is viewed through the Eternal Son, He (the Father, Who cannot lie) also looks upon her and says, "You have ravished my heart." What manner of love is this?
CHRIST'S BELOVED BRIDE
To the Lord Jesus his bride shall forever be altogether lovely for her robe is woven gloriously of His imputed righteousness. How fair is her look of love toward Him with the eye of faith that He has imparted. How sensitive is she to His message of substitution in the preaching of His mighty work of redemption. How wonderfully she speaks of Him with a mouth that now evidences a new heart. Christ Jesus the Lord has declared her to be His beloved, but in all that He has said about her, the bride can say but one thing in response to such a declaration of truth ..."Praise be unto You that has loved me with an everlasting love...You have made me thus."
SLEEPING BUT AWAKE
Song of Solomon 5:2-3
I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?
Within the nature of every child of Adam is a desire for sleep (or death). Continual warrings and strife flow from this same nature (founded in sin). Only a believer knows that he is prone to this sleepy disposition (or spiritual blindness) concerning the things of God. He knows that a seed of rebellion is always ready to burst forth against all that is good, honorable, and right, since he also knows something about the root which conceived the seed (total spiritual darkness and indescribable hatred of God's glory).
There is also something glorious that a believer can see within himself (but which he knows is not of himself). He sees that his heart is awake (spiritually alive), because by election a new heart (a new nature, a new mind) has been imparted (by the grace of God in Christ) to his soul. His new heart sees by faith the glory of God Almighty in the face of Jesus Christ the Lord. His awakened heart hears the voice of his Beloved ever calling out to His bride of believers. Still, even knowing these things, the bride will continually doze in rebellion at the calling of Christ by His Spirit through His Word, giving Him but excuses. She must be continually awakened by faith and made to know that the Holy Ghost has quickened her, and has given her a heart that truly longs after the Beloved Son of God.
The carnal heart is easily satisfied with ritual, form, music, or any other stimuli that feeds the emotion. While we would never doubt that it is impossible to be separated from our emotions, we must always remember that our emotions are effected constantly by our environment and that only by God's grace is a child of promise kept from being dominated by his emotions. True worship is a matter of the renewed soul being dealt with by the Spirit of God. How often does the believer himself with empty repetition sit under the sound of the Gospel, sing the songs of Zion, or even mouth the words of indifferent prayer. True worship is initiated by God Almighty, and must be maintained by Him, or there shall be no worship at all. The sinner, called by God's grace to see the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, is ever mindful of his wandering emotion and proneness to that empty ritual. That same sinner knows something though of a true desire to have his enlightened mind feast (by divine intervention) on the glorious person of the Beloved Son. He believes, but ever cries, "help mine unbelief".
HOW BEAUTIFUL IS THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter! (Song of Solomon 7:1)
The bride (the church of Christ) is described by Christ the Bridegroom as being beautiful. Our finite minds cannot except by faith begin to comprehend this. How can it be that one so unlovely, in and of herself, could be praised in this way by Him who is altogether lovely? The answer to this question can only be, "by His grace I am what I am!
The feet of the bride "with shoes" are said to be beautiful. Her shoes (his hedges of love) make her feet beautiful as they symbolize Christ's grace by which He providentially protects her as she walks in this world (even though she is not of this world). Her walk is made beautiful (being made to long after Him by faith) entirely because her feet have been prepared, thus protected, (or shod) by the Gospel of Peace. Knowing this, the bride never boasts of her walk and her beauty. She knows that all the beauty she possesses proceeds from His eternal love for her ... oh, but in Him, even her feet are beautiful, covered by His shoes of grace.
There is a bond of love and thankfulness between every God-called pastor and the church over which the Holy Ghost has made him the overseer. This love, one for the other, is owing totally to the grace of God.
It has been over three years since we, here in Franklin,
began meeting together as a church. As I reflect upon those years, I am made
to be thankful for some precious things.
Too often I take for granted the greatest blessings. My prayer (and my encouragement to each one that God has called by His grace) is that I might be made often to remember the love of God that has been shown here in this church body. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.
THE SMELL OF THE GOSPEL
. . . thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus. Song of Solomon 7:4
Graced (by the Holy Ghost) with true faith, the bride of Christ is divinely sensitive to the evil which doth so easily beset her. She smells the foul odor of compromise in the preaching of grace mixed with works. A believer longs after the sweet smell of the message that sets forth Christ only, grace only, and the scriptures only. There are many places in this world where truths are proclaimed, but how few places there are where a redeemed sinner can sit and hear a message of The Truth Himself, and in that message only smell the smell of the savor of life.
Years ago, while in military boot camp as a new recruit, I was given a manual that stipulated certain rules which would be in effect while I was at that base. One such rule was regarding the verbal answer to be given any superior should I be asked my reason for any act, on my part, of disobedience concerning a direct order. My answer, to the one in charge, was to be . . . NO EXCUSE SIR! When it came down to answering for my disregard of authority, I was without excuse.
Concerning the responsibility that men have to bow to the Lord God of all glory, the Scriptures are very clear. "Ye must be born again" (John 3), "kiss the Son lest He be angry" (Psalm 2), "whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3). Even with the clarity of God-breathed scriptures concerning man's responsibility of obedience before his Lord, there shall be many (in that day of judgment) that will attempt to justify themselves for their rebellion. In that final day, all fickle reasoning (for not obeying God's command to come to Christ by faith) will be drowned out by the voice of Him who sits on the throne. The rebel, against all that is good, will hear the words which shall forever ring within his condemned ears . . . "NO EXCUSE"! "Depart from me ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you."
"OUR LITTLE SISTER"
Song of Solomon 8:8
As the Lord Jesus has sheep that are yet to be called by his spirit unto salvation (John 10:16), the bride of Christ has a sister yet to be called (or revealed to be what God Almighty has said she is). This "sister" are those that will hear the Gospel and shall follow the Lord Jesus by faith. Knowing that God has a people that must be brought to him (by his irresistible grace), the bride will constantly ask the question," What shall we do for our sister in the day that she shall be spoken for"? False religionists constantly make boastful statements concerning their desire to see sinners saved and give their hearts to Jesus. These same false teachers will (as the Pharisees did) compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and will (in doing that), make that convert twofold more the child of hell than they are. This tactic, though it seems to the natural eye to be honorable and have these unconverted sinners best at heart, is not the rule of the true bride. The church of Christ has the responsibility (and the desire) laid upon her to do one thing for her sister ... Preach the gospel! What else can the bride do? What other message affords any hope of salvation? The church of the Lord Jesus remembers the one thing she can do for her sister (yet to be called) when, by faith, she obeys the word of her husband and elder brother . . ."Go into all the world and preach the gospel" (Mark 16:15).
PRACTICAL CHRISTIAN TEACHING
There is, within the mind set of natural reasoning, the idea that somehow a difference exist between "doctrinal" preaching, and "practical" teaching. The natural mind obviously thinks that doctrinal preaching is for the soul's good, and that practical teaching is for the instruction on daily living practices. Though I would readily admit that instruction, admonition, and correction is set forth in the scriptures, the natural mind fails to comprehend God's ordained order of leadership. Only through the preaching of the gospel of Christ and Him crucified is a believer directed. This IS the message that shall be blessed effectually by the Spirit of God. This IS the message that gives honor to the Son. This IS the faithful saying. All scripture must be preached in light of Christ alone. Any message that does not find Christ to be the object, from start to finish, is but useless rhetoric that profits nothing. Men may be instructed daily in "practical Christian teaching", but only the Gospel is blessed by God's Spirit to the directing of His sheep. All other messages fall on ears that are constantly prone to wander. Let me hear His word taught in light of Him, and may He bless that word to the ordering of my feet.
NOT BEHELD INIQUITY IN JACOB
To say that Almighty God does not behold iniquity in the sense of his omniscience would be a slight against his character. For of a truth, he does see the falling short even of those for whom Christ has shed his precious blood. What a just God does not see (in his people) is their sin under his justice and law. Christ, the Lamb slain for the elect, has nailed the condemning ordinances of law against them to his cross, and thereby satisfied the offended God of holiness. While God (for the honor of Christ) chastens the children of promise, he does so in love for that which his Beloved Son has accomplished. In truth, the Father is displeased with disobedience in his people (2 Sam. 11:27), but shall always deal with them as sons, and shall never behold their iniquity in his eye of judgment.
NO MAN CAN COME
There is much talk in religious circles today about coming to Christ. Men speak on this topic as if this coming was nothing more than going down to the local drug store to acquire a bottle of aspirin. There are shouting sessions, healing demonstrations, motivational speeches, and round-the-clock prayer vigils, all geared to get folks to come to Christ. Nothing shall put a stop to the wickedness of this thinking but the truth. The words of Christ (no man can come except it were given unto him of my Father), puts man's pride in the gutter. Man's free will is shown to be in total bondage to his inability. There is only one of two conclusions that a man will come to if faced with this truth. If left to himself and his carnal mind, he will say ..."this is a hard saying; who can hear it". If he is taught something of his inability and desperate need of a substitute by the Spirit of God, he will cry forth, "where else shall I go, thou (Christ) hath the words of eternal life".
WALKING AND AGREEING WITH GOD
Even with all the turmoil, confusion, lusts, and wanderings of a sinner, one thing is certain -- no war exists between redeemed sons of Adam and God Almighty. Not even a temporary truce exists, conditioned on such fickle men trying to maintain the terms of some type of cease-fire, with God suspiciously watching every move they make. On the contrary, there is a peace "which passeth all understanding" because believers agree with God. Believers agree with God concerning His divine law. They confess that the law is holy, just, and good. They agree with God in that atonement has been made for all those He has eternally loved in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. They agree with God concerning God's sovereignty, and admit that He (God), has the right to do all that He has done and will do. Each with a Holy Ghost-given heart to agree with God, believers are able to do what their own nature of sin would never long after - walk with God.
LAID IN A MANGER
When considering the lowly place of the Messiah's abode at birth, a manger speaks volumes. It was the picture of Christ associating himself with the lowly of heart. Here the Son of glory reveals (even in birth) His acquaintance with grief. How beautifully He declares Himself to be the King of the rejected and poor. No pomp, no gala, no elaborate ceremony will steal this magnificent display of God's love. Surely, one would think, there could never be a more unworthy place for the Son of God to take up His residence.......unless (by God's grace), He lives within a new man, one such as I am.
COMFORT IN DEATH
This past week, James Albert Beasley died -- a fate that all men will someday face. Though the mention of death usually has a sound of sadness about it, there are some truths about death that are of great comfort to the believer:
THE MESSAGE OF HOPE
The hearing of the gospel is vital to a man's salvation. Faith, the gift of God, comes through the hearing of this glorious good news of God's purpose to redeem those that He has eternally loved. Sitting under a consistent message that points men to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, tells of His obedience to the law of God, and sets Him forth as the only mediator between God and men IS THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION. This message which the Spirit of God blesses to the salvation of sinners is the food throughout the life of a redeemed man. A child of God never goes any farther than the message of hope he heard in the beginning. From the moment that sinner is brought to see something of his need of a substitute until he lies dying on the bed of death, his desire shall be the hearing of the Christ that sovereignly became his sacrificial lamb.
FAITH AND WORKS
Any man that has faithfully preached the Gospel of God's wonderful and marvelous grace (found only in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ) has probably been accused of being an antinomian. This term refers to one that is without law....one that cares not for the "works of salvation". I can without reservation say that faithful men of God's calling DO care for the works of God's salvation. The problem in the mind of carnal man: is that there is a misunderstanding concerning what these works actually are! The works that are associated with God-given faith are not the feeble efforts OF MEN trying to earn some sort of right standing before the Trice Holy God, but are actually GOD'S works which are evidences of His presence. The works that are connected with true faith are these...Love, Joy, Peace, Long-suffering, Gentleness, Meekness, and Kindness. All that we have ever done has been mixed with sin, but the work that God, for Christ's sake has done (in His people), is a work that brings honor, glory, and praise to the Son Of Righteousness. It is the WORK OF GOD, and not the works of men that is associated with true faith.
THE TWO EDGED SWORD
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
The carnal heart is a fortification of resentment against the God of all hope. If left to himself, the natural man will gladly go to hell rather than bow to the goodness of the Judge of the universe. For there to be a change in the natural course of a rebel's path of opposition, God himself must intervene. God must (by his own power and purpose) remove that heart of rebellion, and put back a new heart. This new heart is one that loves the Word of God (Christ). It longs to bow to the Son as He is set forth in the Scripture, and seeks to serve Him in all things. This miraculous change is wrought by that which is all living, all powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword ... Christ the Redeemer (the Word of God himself).
THE CONSUMED SACRIFICE
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (1 Kings 18:38)
There was a day (appointed by God himself) that the Lord ordained to make his power, presence, and will known. On this day would he display, before the people, his answer to their foolish double-mindedness. According the HIS WORD, the answer was to be made by fire. Fruitlessly the false prophets of Baal called upon one that could not answer. They foolishly put all silly notions of false worship to the test. Vain repetitions, much activity, and even self infliction, but to no avail.
The one avenue by which God Almighty makes himself known is not through these silly religious activities, but through the sacrifice of his Son! On the same day, Elijah prayed that God would reveal Himself alone to be God. His appeal to the Lord was made by way of the sacrifice Who is TRUTH. Not just any sacrifice would be accepted. The false prophets had a sacrifice, but not one acceptable to God. The sacrifice of Christ is alone that sacrifice that has put away sin for those chosen unto salvation. So complete was this truth set forth, that the fire from heaven (the wrath of God) consumed the bullock, the wood, the altar, the dust, and licked up the water poured upon the sacrifice. Every part of that sacrifice pictured our blessed Lord, thereby proclaiming Christ's monumental victory ..."It is finished". Finished is the wrath of God toward those for whom Christ died. Finished is the work that He accomplished, thereby earning a righteousness imputed to his own, and finished is the sting of death and victory of the grave to those He has eternally loved.
A NEW SONG
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. Rev. 5:9
The singing of praises unto Him who is worthy is truly a joy for a believer. Men, by a new heart, write and sing those songs that exalt Christ, and whether we preach or sing, it's the same message... HIM! There is certain song that cannot be learned by carnal means, but shall forever be the song of the saints. This song has verses in it that bear record of our convinced mind ... a mind that has been made new by the Spirit of God. These verses remain amazingly constant with all those saints for whom the Son has died. They sing of His worthiness, His holiness, and His might. Echoing throughout this song of His glory is how He lived perfectly before His own law, laid down His life willingly under the judgment of God (with the guilt of all His sheep imputed to Him), was buried and rose again the third day for our justification. This song rings forth of redemption by His blood and peace forever before the One who has made us to be joint-heirs with Christ. Of all the songs that men may sing in this life, none shall ever match the new song sung only by those the Father has chosen, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Ghost has called.
1 Cor. 1:23-24
There is a great difference in preaching about Christ and preaching Christ. Many men proclaim truths about the Lord Jesus, but fail to proclaim Him. Salvation is the personal knowledge of that One who came to seek and save that which was lost. I may know things that have been accomplished by the President of the United States, but not know him at all. Preaching about Christ may reveal a lot of historical facts that any carnal heart can understand, but that type preaching is not the preaching that is blessed to the salvation of sinners. The power of God unto salvation is the preaching of the Gospel, and the Gospel is always concerning Christ and Him crucified. Many men know much about one sent from heaven, but that in itself is not enough. I must be known and loved by Him effectually. If He has chosen to set His love upon me, His Holy Spirit will personally introduce me (bring me) to Him who has eternally loved me. If He has purposed to reveal Himself to a sinner, it will be through the preaching of Himself as a personal Savior.
HE MUST KEEP ME
Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me: then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me. (Job 9:34-35)
It is a shameful thing for a child to talk back (answer or question) a parent. We observe with displeasure the rude behavior of that disrespectful one. This is the reason for the rod of correction that drives rebellion far from that child.
This loving correction never changes. No, not even in the life of a believer. Job knew something of his own wicked heart. He knew that the mercy of God in Christ would alone keep him because the tendency of the carnal heart is always to run away from the hope of glory. So, if He does not keep us by the rod of chastening mercy, and cause us to fear (reverence) Him, we will answer (question) Him in a disrespectful way. The believer knows this to be so ... but, if by faith He has shown us something of Himself in mercy, " it is not so with me." We know that in us, that is in our flesh, dwells no good thing. There is though a new nature that dwells within that loves Him, and seeing His hand of mercy causes us to rejoice in Him that does all things well.
By and large, the more a man begins to see of the awesome holiness and gracious goodness of God Almighty, the more that man wants to close his mouth and behold Christ. Many have thought outward noise is the proof of inward peace, but often that outward noise reveals an empty heart. There is no greater joy for a sinner, saved by the grace of God, than to be made to quietly contemplate Him. A redeemed sinner knows a little about his own nature and realizes that his natural tendency is to make foolish noise that only brings glory unto himself. How prone we are to draw attention to ourselves. May we be brought down from our lofty pedestal.