5/26/24  牧者之言 Pastor’s Word

马丁·路德的《罗马书》序言

(接上文)

第五章—信心的果子

        28在第五章中,使徒继续讨论信心的果子和工作,例如和平、喜乐、对上帝和我们所有同胞的爱;此外,在患难和苦难中,还有确信、胆量、喜乐、勇气和盼望。因为只要有真正的信心,所有这些事都会随之而来,因为上帝在基督里遗赠给我们超多的宝藏,当我们还是敌人的时候,当我们祈求他这样做之前,上帝就让基督为我们而死了。因此,我们得出这样的结论,即信心无需任何行为就能称义,但这并不意味着我们不能做任何善行,而是真正的行为不会缺乏。对于这些行为,那些凭借自己的功德而成为圣人的人一无所知。他们编造自己的作品,其中没有平安、喜乐、确据、爱心、希望、勇气,也没有任何真正的基督徒作品和信仰的品质。

  1. 接下来,使徒试图以轻松漫谈的方式来讲述罪与不义、死与生从何而来,并以精彩的比较将亚当和基督这两个人相互对立起来。他的意思是说:因此,基督必须作为另一位亚当而来,通过信仰,通过新的、属灵的出生,将他的义传给我们,就像前任亚当通过旧的、属肉体的出生,将罪传给我们一样 。
  2. 这个比喻清楚地表明,并且证实了这一教训:没有人能够通过行为使自己脱离罪而称义,就像他无法控制自己身体的出生一样。 事实也证明了这一点,即神圣的律法,如果有的话,可能会帮助人类走向正义,但它的到来不仅没有这种帮助,甚至还增加了罪恶。 因为人的邪恶本性反对律法时变得更加愤怒,并在律法检查的同时寻求满足其欲望。因此,律法使基督变得更加必要,并需要更多的恩典来帮助本性。

第六章——每日与罪恶争战

  1. 在第六章中,使徒展开了一项特殊的信心工作,即圣灵与肉体的争战,其目的是彻底治死称义后所残余的罪恶和私欲。这教导我们,我们并没有因信心而完全摆脱罪恶,以至于我们可以无所事事、懒惰和安全,就好像罪恶不再存在一样。罪恶仍然存在,但由于与罪恶争战的信心,罪恶不再被定罪。因此,只要我们活着,我们就可以尽一切努力来驯服我们的身体,克制身体的私欲,并迫使身体的肢体顺服圣灵,不顺服私欲。 通过这样做,我们分享了基督的死亡和复活,并完全了我们的洗礼(这象征着罪恶的死亡和恩典的新生命),直到我们完全摆脱罪恶,并在我们的身体中与基督一起复活,并永远活着。
  2. 使徒说,我们能做到这一点,因为我们在恩典之下,而不是在律法之下。他这样解释他的意思:“没有律法”并不等于没有律法,可以随意为所欲为,而“在律法之下”则意味着在没有恩典的情况下从事律法的善工。在后一种情况下,罪恶肯定会通过律法来统治,因为没有人天生热爱律法。然而,这种情况构成了大罪。但恩典使律法对我们来说是愉快的,然后就不再有罪了,律法也不再反对我们,而是与我们和谐相处。

基督徒的自由

  1. 现在,这种情况是真正脱离罪恶和律法的自由。关于这件事,使徒在本章末所写的告诉我们,乐意行善、过美好的生活而不受律法的约束是一种自由。 因此,这种自由是一种灵性上的自由,它并不废除法律,而是为我们提供律法所要求的东西,即甘愿和爱心。这些使律法得到满足,以致它不再催促我们,也不再向我们提出要求。假设你欠房东债务且无力偿还,你可以通过以下两种方式之一从他那里获得释放:要么他不会从你身上拿走任何东西并撕毁你的账户,要么某些好心人可能会为你付款,给你足够的钱来清算你的账户。基督采取后一种方式使我们脱离了律法。 因此,他所赐予的自由不是一种放荡的、属肉体的自由,它没有义务做任何事,而是在很多方面都非常活跃,但它不受律法的要求约束,也不欠律法的债务。(未完待续)

 

Martin Luther’s Preface to The Epistle to the Romans

(Continue from above)

Ch. 5—The Fruits of Faith 

         28 In the fifth chapter the apostle proceeds to discuss the fruits and the works of faith, such as peace, joy, love of God and of all our fellow-men; moreover, assurance, boldness, cheerfulness, courage, and hope amidst tribulation and sufferings. For all these things follow where there is genuine faith, because of the superabundant treasure which God has bequeathed to us in Christ, when He caused Him to die for us before we could pray Him to do this, nay, while we were still enemies. Thus we arrive at this result, viz., that faith justifies without any works, and yet it does not follow from this that we must not do any good works, but that genuine works will not be wanting. Of these works those who are saints by their own merit know nothing; they frame up works of their own, in which there is neither peace, joy, assurance, love, hope, boldness, nor the quality of any genuine Christian work and faith.

  1. Next the apostle attempts a pleasure stroll for a diversion, and tells whence sin and unrighteousness, death, and life, come, and in a splendid comparison places these two, Adam and Christ, over against each other. He means to say: For this reason Christ had to come, as another Adam, who was to bequeath His righteousness to us by a new, spiritual birth through faith, just as the former Adam had bequeathed sin to us through the old, carnal birth. 
  2. By this illustration it is made plain, and the teach-ing is confirmed, that no one can by means of works advance himself out of sin unto righteousness, just as little as he can control his physical birth. This is also proved by the fact that the divine Law, which, if any-thing, might be expected to aid man toward righteous-ness, has not only come without such aid, but has even increased sin. For man’s evil nature becomes all the more incensed against it and seeks to gratify its lust in proportion as the Law checks it. Hence the Law makes Christ all the more necessary and requires more grace to aid nature.

Ch. 6—The Daily Struggle With Sin

  1. In the sixth chapter the apostle takes up a special work of faith, viz., the struggle of the Spirit against the flesh, which aims at the complete mortification of the remaining sins and lusts left over after justification. This teaches us that we are not so utterly freed from sin by faith that we can be idle, lazy, and secure, as though sin did no longer exist. There still is sin, but for the sake of faith, which battles with it, it is not imputed for condemnation. Hence, as long as we live, we have all we can do to tame our body, to mortify its lusts, and to force its members to obey the Spirit and not the lusts. By doing this, we share the death and resurrection of Christ and perfect our baptism (which typifies the death of sins and the new life of grace), until we become completely rid of sin and rise with Christ also in our bodies and live for ever. 
  2. We can do this, the apostle says, because we are under grace and not under the Law. He explains his meaning thus: To be without the Law is not the same as having no law and being at liberty to do as one pleases, while to be under the Law means to engage in works of the Law without grace. In the latter case sin surely reigns by means of the Law, because no one is by nature a lover of the Law. This state of affairs, however, constitutes a great sin. But grace makes the Law pleasant to us, and then there is no more sin, and the law is no longer against us, but in harmony with us.

Christian Liberty

  1. This condition, now, is genuine freedom from sin and from the Law. Regarding this matter the apostle writes to the end of this chapter, telling us that it is a liberty to do good gladly and to lead a good life without constraint by the law. This liberty, therefore, is a spiritual liberty, which does not abolish the Law, but supplies us with the things which the Law demands; viz., willingness and love. These render satisfaction to the Law, so that it can no longer urge us nor make demands upon us. Suppose you were in debt to your landlord and unable to pay. You might obtain your release from him in one of two ways; either he might not take anything from you and tear up your account, or some good person might make payment for you, giving you enough to liquidate your account. In the latter way Christ has made us free from the Law. Therefore the liberty which He gives is not a wild, carnal liberty, which is not under obligation to do anything, but it is very active in many ways, and yet it is not subject to the Law’s demands, and not indebted to it.               (to be continued)

 

2024年5月19日 牧者之言

马丁·路德的《罗马书》序言
(接上文)

第三章——所有人都是罪人
24. 在第三章中,使徒将他们归为同一类,说这个人并不比那个人好,他们在神眼中都是罪人。唯一的区别是犹太人拥有神的话语,尽管他们中的许多人不相信它。但这并没有使神的信心和真理失效。顺便说一句,使徒介绍了诗篇 51 篇 4 节中的一段话,其中宣称神无论何时施行审判,都是公义的。他在接下来的内容中再次提到这一点,并通过圣经证明所有人都是罪人,没有人能因律法的行为而称义,但律法的颁布只是为了让人认识罪。
靠恩典得救
25. 接下来使徒开始教导成为敬虔和得救的真正方法。 他说:“世人都犯了罪,亏缺了神的荣耀。”他们都必须靠着对基督的信仰而得救而无需靠自己的任何功劳基督通过流血为我们赢得了救恩。神已将他摆在我们面前作为施恩座,赦免我们过去所有的罪孽。 他以这种方式证明,只有神赋予信仰的公义才能帮助我们。这种义是当时由福音所揭示的,但之前已被律法和先知所证实了。因此,律法是借着信仰而建立的;通过这个论证,律法的行为及其荣耀都被彻底粉碎了。

第四章——善行是信心的外在标志
26. 使徒在前三章揭示了罪,并教导了因信称义的道路,现在开始遇到一些反对观点和主张。首先,他谈到了所有人在听到“信心不需行为就可以称义”时普遍提出的观点。 他们说:那么,我们难道就不要做任何善事吗?他提醒自己关于亚伯拉罕,并说:亚伯拉罕的一切行为成就了什么?难道这一切都是徒劳的吗?难道他的善行对他一点好处都没有吗?他最后宣布亚伯拉罕称义,无需任何行为,仅凭信心,以至于在割礼之前,他在圣经中已被称为义人,完全是因为他的信心(创15:6)。 如果上帝吩咐他行割礼,这是一种良好的顺服行为,但对他的义没有任何贡献,那么其他善行肯定不会对一个人的义有任何贡献。但是,正如亚伯拉罕的割礼是一个外在的记号,表明他因信而称义一样,所有的善行也只是出于信心的外在记号,作为善果,证明一个人在上帝眼中已经是内在的公义了。
27. 通过这一论证,正如从圣经中提取的有力例子一样,圣保罗确立了他之前在第 1 章中关于信仰的教导(3:27)。此外,在诗篇第32篇中,保罗介绍了另一位见证人大卫,他也说,人不靠行为就称义,尽管他在称义之后,并不是仍然没有行为。接下来,他展开了他所介绍的例子,使其涵盖了律法的所有其他工作,并得出结论,犹太人不能因为他们的血统而成为亚伯拉罕的后裔,更不用说因为律法的工作了。但是,如果他们希望成为真正的继承人,他们就必须继承亚伯拉罕的信心因为亚伯拉罕因信称义,并被称为先于律法(摩西律法和割礼律法)的信徒之父。此外,律法产生愤怒而不是恩典,因为没有人自愿地、出于爱而遵守律法。因此,律法带来不悦而不是恩典。因此,唯有信心才能获得应许给亚伯拉罕的怜悯。这些例子也是为了我们的缘故而记录下来的,以便我们可以相信。                                                   (未完待续)

5/19/24  Pastor’s Word
Martin Luther’s Preface to The Epistle to the Romans
(Continue from above)

Ch. 3—All Men are Sinners
24. In the third chapter the apostle casts them all on the same heap, saying that one is no better than the other, and all of them are sinners in the sight of God. The only difference is that the Jews have had the Word of God, though many of them did not believe it. But that has not made the faith and truth of God of no effect. Incidentally, the apostle introduces the passage from Psalm 51:4, which declares that God is righteous whenever He judges. This point he takes up again in what follows and proves by the Scriptures that all are sinners and no one is justified by the deeds of the Law, but that the Law has been given only that man might know sin.

Salvation by Grace
25. Next the apostle begins to teach the true way of becoming godly and being saved. He says:—‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ They must all be saved without any merit of theirs, by faith in Christ, who has earned our salvation by shedding His blood. He has been set before us as a Mercy-seat by God, who forgives us all our past sins. In this manner he proves that only the righteousness which God gives to faith can help us. This righteousness was revealed at that time by the Gospel, but had been witnessed previously by the Law and the prophets. Thus the Law is established by faith, and the deeds of the Law, together with their glory, are dashed to the ground by this argument.

Ch. 4—Good Works the Outward Signs of Faith
26. Having revealed sin in the first three chapters and having taught the way of faith unto righteousness, the apostle now begins to meet several objections and claims. First, he takes up the one which is commonly advanced by all when they hear that faith justifies without works. They say: Are we, then, not to do any good works? He reminds himself of Abraham and says: What has Abraham accomplished with all his works? Was it all in vain? Did his works not benefit him at all? He winds up by declaring that Abraham was justified without any works, by faith alone, so much so that prior to the work of circumcision he is extolled in Scripture as a righteous man solely for the sake of his faith. Gen. 15:6. Now, if the work of circumcision, which God enjoined upon him and which was a goodly act of obedience, contributed nothing to his righteousness, surely no other good work will contribute anything to a person’s righteousness. But just as the circumcision of Abraham was an external sign, exhibiting his righteousness by faith, so all good works are merely external signs flowing from faith and, as good fruits, attesting that a person is already inwardly righteous in the sight of God.
27. By this argument, as by a powerful example drawn from Scripture, St. Paul establishes his former teaching concerning faith in chap. 3:27, and, in addition, introduces another witness, David, in the thirty-second psalm, who also says that man is justified without works, although he does not remain without works after he has become justified. Continuing, he expands the example which he has introduced, so as to make it cover all other works of the Law, and concludes that the Jews cannot be the heirs of Abraham because of their descent, much less on account of the work of the Law, but that, if they wish to be genuine heirs, they must inherit Abraham’s faith, inasmuch as Abraham was justified by faith and called the father of the faithful prior to the Law, both that of Moses and that of circumcision. Moreover, the Law works wrath rather than grace, because no one obeys the Law willingly and from love; hence by the Law comes disfavour rather than grace. Therefore it must needs be that faith alone obtains the mercy promised to Abraham. These examples have been recorded also for our sakes, in order that we might believe.                                                    (to be continued)

2024年5月12日 牧者之言

母亲们的法则
Mothers’ Teachings

箴 1:8 我儿,要听你父亲的训诲,不可离弃你母亲的法则。
Prov 1: 8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
箴言1:8中的 “法则” 原文“תּוֹרָה”(torah)和“律法”(law)是同一个词,有“方向、教导”等意思。“母亲的法则”这个表达让我想到“家训”或“传家宝”等概念。每个母亲都有她的人生法则,这些法则是儿女们的家训和传家宝,值得继承和发扬。
我生命中的三位母亲对我产生了很大影响。第一位是我的亲生母亲徐元玲;第二位是我的美籍老师裴斐(Faye Pearson)妈妈;第三位是我曾经寄居在她家的简·布鲁金(Jane Brooking)妈妈。这三位了不起的女性分别教导了我舍己、智慧和愛心的法则。
我先分享一下自己亲生母亲的舍己。“妇人焉能忘记她吃奶的婴孩,不怜恤她所生的儿子?即或有忘记的,我却不忘记你”(赛49:15)。感谢天父赐予我一位舍己的母亲。我出生时患有严重的先天性心脏病。农村老家的赤脚医生建议我父母把我扔到元宝山上去。我的母亲像摩西的母亲一样,将我留了下来。我有姐弟三人,但母亲却将她大部分的爱给了我。她倾其全力将我抚养成人。母亲没有读过书,她甚至无法拼写出自己的名字来;然而她用全部的生命实践着舍己的意义。父亲50岁那年得肝癌去世,母亲独自用她坚强的膀臂撑起了这个家。农村贫穷的环境造就了母亲吃苦耐劳、勤俭节约的品格。她从未停止过劳动。蒙主眷顾,她今年74岁耳不聋、眼不花,仍在坚持不懈地为我家付出。她蒸的包子和饺子是全家人的最爱。她背着两岁半的孙子到处走。她起早贪黑亲生耕种家里的菜园,辛勤的耕耘总是给她带来丰收的喜悦,各样蔬菜不仅可供自己家里吃,还可有余分给弟兄姐妹们。她舍己的法则是一笔财富。
裴斐(Faye Pearson,1940年5月14日—2019年2月20日,参5/14/2023 牧者之言 Pastor’s word)妈妈是一位美国传教士,她在亚洲宣教42年。她一生单身,衷心服侍主。我之所有称她为“妈妈”是因为她的美好品行赢得了这个称号,并且她教导过的许多学生都亲切地称呼她妈妈。我在南京神学院认识她。她的法则是智慧。她是美国人,可思维模式却是中国式的。她热爱中国,将她的一生奉献给向中国人传道的福音事工上,她去世时穿着一身红色的唐装。她说:“如果上帝再加增我四十年,我还要服侍中国人”。 她关心学生的灵性、家庭和生活,甚至操心帮大龄学生们找对象。她是一位很好的倾听者,你可和她无话不谈;她也可毫无保留地给予意见和指导。她是一位大领袖,曾在美南浸信会国际宣教部担任驻亚洲区总干事,带领五百多对传教士夫妇。她的领袖风格是天然的;她用榜样而不是用权力去带领。她重视人际关系,关心每个人。她是个实干家,做事有计划有条理,干净落。她晚年身患癌症时,仍然在家里接待许多客人,并亲手下厨为客人们准备食物。她去世前提前就将自己的追思礼和安葬礼安排好,确定在哪里举行,谁主持,谁分享见证、该分享什么等。2008年我来美国之后,每逢圣诞节都会去她家里。记得2018年与她度过的最后一个圣诞节时,她依然智慧教导我和莎莎如何作牧师、作师母。当她看到我大儿子天意2岁还走不稳时,特别嘱咐我们说:“天意是个慢性格的孩子,你们对他一定要有耐心。不要催他,不要逼他作他不愿意作的事。”这句话今日依然受用。
提到我的美国妈妈简(参5/15/22 牧者之言 Pastor’s Word)让我想到中国的一句古话:“受人滴水之恩当涌泉相报”。在我来美留学最后一年,她和美国爸爸莱斯(Leslie)接待我在她家免费住了半年时间。他们在我饿的时候给我吃,渴的时候给我喝,我作客旅留我住(太25:35),我上学时开车送我去学校,我毕业时帮我将西服带到干洗店去干洗,我婚礼上作我的父母,我孩子出生时寄来小礼物……。她的法则是爱心。她没有自己的孩子,却先后接待几位学生到她家里住。这些学生亲切地称呼她“妈妈”。凡接触过她的人永远忘不了她甜蜜的微笑和热情的拥抱。正如我从前所提到的,她与人见面时,会给对方一个大大的拥抱,抱得很紧,持续时间很长,至少有20秒钟。她去世时,一位中国留学生在她脸书上留言说:“你是我们遇到过的最善良的朋友。 我很高兴我们认识你并与你共度时光。 我会永远记住你的笑容和温暖的心。愿你安息。” 她的爱心是从主里来的,“凡有爱心的,都是由神而生,并且认识神”(约一4:7)。这份爱是宽广的,包容的,并且可给人带去力量的。
这三位母亲的法则:舍己、智慧和爱心,我将铭记在心,并仍在学习中。
母亲节愿主赐福每一位母亲健康、平安和喜乐!

2024年5月5日 牧者之言

马丁·路德的《罗马书》序言

(接上文)
(e) 公义
18. 我所描述的信心就是‘义’,它被称为神的义,或在神眼中有效的义,因为神为了我们中保基督的缘故赐下它,并算为义 。 这种义使一个人给予他所应得的。 因为通过信心,人就脱离了罪,并热爱上帝的诫命。 因此,他将应有的荣耀归给神,并偿还他所欠的。 另一方面,他愿意尽其所能地为他人服侍,并以这种方式偿还对每个人的债务。 这种正义是人性、人的自由意志、我们的力量所无法达到的。因为正如任何人都无法点燃对自己的信心一样,他也无法消除这种不信。那么,他该如何消除一项罪孽,即使是最微不足道的罪孽呢? 因此,凡是没有信心或不信的人所做的事,无论外表多么华丽,都是虚假、伪善和罪恶(罗14:23)。

(f) 情欲与灵
19. 关于这封书信中的‘情欲’(flesh)和‘灵’(spirit)这两个词,你们不可将‘情欲’理解为仅指不贞洁的事物,也不要将‘灵’理解为指内心内在的事物。圣保罗以及约翰福音 3 :6 节中的基督,称一切从肉身生的都是肉身,因此指整个人,包括他的身体和灵魂、他的理性和他所有的感官,因为他里面的一切都贪恋肉体。因此,你会明白,你必须称任何一个对崇高的、灵性的问题充满自己的想象力、教导和胡言乱语的人为“属肉体的”。 你可以很容易地从《加拉太书》中关于肉体行为的说法中得到这一点。 5:20 异端和仇恨也被称为肉体的行为。 此外,在罗马书 8:3,使徒说律法因肉体软弱。 这不是指不贞洁,而是指所有的罪,但主要是指不信,这是影响灵性的最大恶习。

20. 另一方面,即使是那些从事最明显工作的人,你也必须称其为‘属灵的’,例如,基督为门徒洗脚时,彼得划船钓鱼时 。 因此,‘肉体是指一个人在内心和外在的生活中服务于肉体和现世存在的益处,而“则表示一个人在内心和外在的生活中服务于圣灵和未来生命的益处。

21. 如果不理解所提到的术语,你将永远无法理解圣保罗的这封书信,也无法理解圣经的任何一卷书。 因此,要提防所有在不同意义上使用这些词的教师,无论他们是谁,即使他们碰巧是耶柔米、奥古斯丁、安布罗修、奥利金,以及像他们一样或比他们更高
的人。

第二部分: 现在我们要来看这封书信本身。

第一章——人类的重罪

22. 传福音的人首先应该通过关于罪的律法的启示,责备和谴责人在生活中一切不是出于圣灵和对基督的信仰的罪,为了使人们能够了解自己和他们的痛苦,变得谦虚并渴求帮助。因此,圣保罗遵循这一规则,从第一章开始斥责明显的严重罪恶和不信,就像外邦人过去和现在仍然在那些没有上帝恩典的人身上所犯的罪一样。 他说,通过福音,上帝因所有人的不敬虔和不义而从天上向他们显明了愤怒。因为虽然他们知道并且每天都感知到有一位上帝,但他们的本性,在恩典之外,本身就是如此邪恶,以至于他们既不感谢他,也不荣耀他,而是使自己盲目,不断陷入更糟糕的邪恶之中。直到他们在拜偶像之后,毫无羞耻地犯下最可憎的罪孽和一切恶习,而且他们也不在别人身上责备这些罪孽。
第二章——虚伪和自以为义
23. 在第二章中,这种责备进一步延伸,以涵盖那些表面虔诚或暗地里犯罪的人。 犹太人就属于这一类人,他们今天都是伪君子,他们过着美好而诚实的生活,却没有真正热爱它,因为他们在内心深处是上帝律法的敌人。 然而,他们却随时准备对他人做出评判,就像所有伪善者的做法一样,以自以为纯洁,尽管他们充满了贪婪、仇恨、骄傲和一切卑鄙。 太23:25 这些人正是藐视上帝的良善,并因自己的刚硬而为自己积聚愤怒的人。 因此,圣保罗作为律法的真正解释者,不会允许任何人被视为无罪之人,而是谴责上帝对所有靠自然力量或自由意志过上美好生活的人的愤怒。 他不允许他们被视为比明显的罪人更好的人。事实上,他告诉他们,他们铁石心肠,不知悔改。
(未完待续)

Martin Luther’s Preface to The Epistle to the Romans

(continue from above)
(e) Righteousness

18.Now, faith such as I described is ‘righteousness,’ and is called the righteousness of God, or the righteousness that is valid in God’s sight, because He bestows it and counts it for righteousness for the sake of Christ, our Mediator. This righteousness causes a person to render to each his due. For through faith man becomes void of sin and conceives a love for the commandments of God. Thus he gives due honour to God and pays Him what he owes. On the other hand, he willingly serves his fellow-man in whatever way he can, and in that way also pays his debts to everybody. Such righteousness human nature, man’s free will, and our powercannot achieve. For just as little as anybody can kindle faith in himself, just as little can he remove this unbelief. How, then, is he to remove one single sin, even of the paltriest kind? Therefore, whatsoever is done without faith or in unbelief, no matter what a splendid appearance it may present, is falsehood, hypocrisy, and sin. Rom. 14:23.

(f) Flesh and Spirit
19. As regards the term ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ in this epistle, you must not understand ‘flesh’ to mean only unchaste matters, nor ‘spirit’ to mean the inward matters of the heart. St. Paul, as well as Christ in John 3:6, calls everything flesh that is born of flesh, hence the entire person with his body and soul, his reason and all his senses, because everything in him lusts after the flesh. Thus you will understand that you must call any person ‘carnal’ who is full of his own imaginations concerning sublime, spiritual matters, teaching and twaddling about them. You can readily gather this from what is said concerning the works of the flesh in Gal. 5:20, where also heresy and hatred are called works of the flesh. Moreover, in Rom. 8:3, the apostle says that the Law is weakened by the flesh. This does not refer to unchastity, but to all sins, chiefly, however, to unbelief, which is the greatest vice affecting the spirit.

20. On the other hand, you will have to call even that person ‘spiritual’ who is engaged in most obvious work, as, for instance, Christ when He was washing His disciples feet, and Peter when he was rowing his boat and fishing. Accordingly, ‘flesh’ denotes a person who spends his life inwardly and outwardly in serving the interests of his flesh and temporal existence, while ‘spirit’ denotes a person who spends his life inwardly and outwardly in serving the spirit and the interests of the life to come.

21. Without this understanding of the terms noted you will never grasp this epistle of St. Paul, nor any book of the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, beware of all teachers who employ these words in a different sense, no matter who they are, even if they should happen to be Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, Origen, and men like them or still higher than they.

Part II. Now we shall take the Epistle itself.

Ch. 1—The Gross Sins of Men

22. It behoves a preacher of the Gospel, first of all, by means of the revelation of the Law concerning sins, to reprove and denounce as sin everything in a person’s life that does not proceed from the Spirit and from faith in Christ, in order that men be enabled to know themselves and their misery, become humble, and crave help. Therefore St. Paul, following this rule, starts in the first chapter to rebuke gross sins and unbelief which are manifest, such as the sins of the Gentiles were and as are still in those who live without the grace of God. He says that by the Gospel is revealed the wrath of God from heaven upon all men because of their ungodliness and unrighteousness. For although they know, and perceive every day, that there is a God, still their nature, outside of grace, is in itself so evil that they neither thank Him nor honour Him, but inflict blindness on themselves and without ceasing fall into worse evils, until, after practising idolatry, they commit, without shame, the most abominable sins and every vice and, moreover, do not rebuke them in others.

Ch. 2—Hypocrisy and Self-righteousness

23. In the second chapter this reproof is still further extended, so as to embrace those who are outwardly pious or sin in secret. Of this class were the Jews, and are all hypocrites today, who lead a good and honest life without real love for it, because at heart they are enemies of God’s Law. Yet they are ready to pass judgment on other people, as is the manner of all hypocrites, so as to esteem themselves pure, although they are full of avarice, hatred, pride, and all vileness. Matt. 23:25. These are the very people who despise the goodness of God and heap up wrath for themselves because of their hardness. Thus St. Paul, as a true expounder of the Law, does not suffer anyone to pass for a sinless person, but denounces the wrath of God to all who would lead a good life by their natural strength or free will. He does not suffer them to pass for anything better than manifest sinners; in fact, he tells them that they are hard-hearted

and impenitent.                                                                              (To be continued)

4月28日 牧者之言

马丁·路德的《罗马书》序言

(接上文)

(b) 罪  

至于“罪”(sin),圣经用这个词不仅指可见的外在行为,更是指外在行为的每个变化和诱因——发生在内心深处及所有力量。据此,“犯罪”(crime)一词表示一个人完全堕落并陷入罪中。因为除非一个人全身心投入其中,否则任何外在的罪恶行为都不会发生。圣经特别关注心灵,以及所有罪恶的根源和主要来源,那就是内心深处的不信。因此,单单靠信心就能称义,并获得圣灵和从事外在行为的意愿。因此,单单不信就会犯罪,并激发肉体和外在恶行的欲望,就像在乐园里的亚当和夏娃所作的那样(创 3:6,12)。为此,基督只称不信为罪,他在约翰福音 16:8, 9 中说:“圣灵必责备罪恶的世人,为罪是因为他们不信我。”因此,在行善或作恶(即善果或恶果)之前,心中首先必须有信或不信,后者是一切罪的根源、汁液和主要力量。因此,圣经中将它称之为蛇的头和古龙的头,按照对亚当的应许,它必须被女人的后裔基督打伤(创 3:15)。

(c) 恩典  

“恩典”(grace)和“恩赐”(gift)之间的区别是:恩典,该术语的正确意义是指神对我们的恩惠和美意,神将恩惠和美意珍藏在自己里面,并且基于此原因他愿意将基督和圣灵,连同圣灵的恩赐倾注给我们。在5:15中,圣保罗谈到“那因耶稣基督……神的恩典和恩典中的赏赐……”,现在,恩赐(the gifts)和圣灵(the Spirit)在我们里面天天加增,但还尚不完全;因此,邪恶的情欲和罪恶仍然存在于我们里面,它们与圣灵作战,正如罗马书 7:14, 23;加 5:17; 创 3:15 预言了女人的后裔和蛇的后裔之间彼此为敌。尽管如此,恩典却成就了如此多的事,使我们在神眼中被算为完整和完全的义。因为神的恩典不像恩赐那样是可分割的、零碎的,而是由于我们保惠师和中保基督的缘故,将我们完全接纳到神的恩宠之中,为此在我们里面开始有了恩赐。 

现在你会明白第七章,保罗仍然责备自己是罪人,然而他在第 8 章 1 节宣称“在基督耶稣里的人就不被定罪了”,尽管他们领受到的恩赐和圣灵尚未完美。我们仍然是罪人,因为我们里面的肉体还没有被治死。然而,我们既然信了基督,有了圣灵的开始,神就施恩惠与我们,不顾念我们的罪,也不定罪我们的罪,而是按照我们对基督的信心来对待我们,直到罪被消灭了。

(d) 信心  

“信心”不是某些人认为关于信仰和人类观念的梦想。 当他们看到随之而来的不是生活的改善,也不是善行,尽管他们能够听到和谈论很多信心,但他们这样说却犯了错误:“信心是不够的; 如果我们想变得敬虔并得救,就必须行善”。 原因是,当他们听到福音时,他们就去行善,并凭自己的力量在心里形成一个想法:我相信。 他们认为这是真正的信仰。 但是,由于它是人类的虚构和思想——内心深处无法感知,所以它一事无成,也不会带来任何改进。

相反,信心是在我们里面神的工作,它改变我们,使我们从神那里获得新生(约1:13),信心治死了老亚当,使我们在心灵、情感、思想和行为上和所有能力综合起来,成为新造的人,信心将圣灵带入新造的人。哦,这种信仰是一种活生生的、充满活力的、活跃的、强大的东西。它只能不断地行善。没有问否要做善事,但在问问题之前,善行已经行出来了,而且是持续不断的。但任何不行善的人都是没有信心的。他在黑暗中摸索,寻找信心和善行,他既不知道什么是信心,也不知道什么是善行,尽管他对信心和善行有很多胡言乱语。

信心是对神恩典的一种活生生的、大胆的信心,它敢于冒着千次死亡的确据。 这种对神圣恩典的信心和认识使人在与上帝和所有受造物的关系中感到快乐、勇敢和充满喜乐。 圣灵正在信徒里面做这事。 因此,一个人不受约束,愿意并热情地为每个人行善,为每个人服侍,承受各种苦难,出于对神的爱和对向他施予如此恩典的神的赞美。 因此,行为与信心是不可能分开的,就像不可能将燃烧和发光的能力与火分开一样。 因此,要提防你自己的错误思想和空谈者,他们假装有伟大的智慧来辨别信仰和善行,但实际上是最大的愚者。 祈求上帝,让他在你里面创造信心; 否则你将永远没有信心,是的,无论你计划什么、做什么。

(未完待续)

Martin Luther’s Preface to The Epistle to the Romans

(continue from above)

(b) Sin  

As regards ‘sin,’ by this term Scripture denominates not only the external work of the body, but every movement and incitement to some external work that takes place in the inmost heart and all its powers. The term ‘commit,’ accordingly, denotes that a person falls completely and rushes into sin. For no external sinful work is done except a person rushes into it with his whole body and soul. Scripture takes particular notice of the heart and of the root and main source of all sins, which is unbelief in the inmost heart. Accordingly, even as faith alone justifies and obtains the Spirit and willingness for good external works, so unbelief alone sins and rouses the flesh and the desire for evil external works, as happened to Adam and Eve in paradise. Gen. 3:6. 12. For this reason Christ calls only unbelief sin, when He says, John 16:8, 9: ‘The Spirit will reprove the world of sin because they believe not on me.’ Hence, before good or evil works are done (which are good or evil fruits), there must first be in the heart faith or unbelief, the latter being the root, sap, and main strength of every sin. For this reason it is called in Scripture the serpent’s head and the head of the old dragon, which, in accordance with the promise made to Adam, must be bruised by Christ, the woman’s Seed. Gen. 3:15.

(c) Grace  

The difference between ‘grace’ and ‘gift’ is this: Grace, in the proper sense of the term, denotes God’s favour and good will towards us, which He cherishes in Himself, and by reason of which He is inclined to pour into us Christ and the Spirit with His gifts. This is manifest from chap. 5:15, where St. Paul speaks of ‘the grace of God and the gift of grace, which is by . . . Jesus Christ.’ Now, the gifts and the Spirit are increased in us daily and are not yet perfect; hence evil lusts and sins still remain in us, which war against the Spirit, as is stated Rom. 7:14f. 23; Gal. 5:17; Gen. 3:15, where enmity between the woman’s Seed and the seed of the serpent is predicted. Notwithstanding this, grace accomplishes so much that we are accounted completely and fully righteous in the sight of God. For the grace of God is not divisible and piecemeal as the gifts are, but receives us altogether into God’s favour for the sake of our Advocate and Mediator Christ, and for the reason that there is in us a beginning of the gifts.

Now you will understand the seventh chapter, where Paul still chides himself a sinner, and nevertheless, in chap 8:1, declares that there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, because of the imperfect gifts and the Spirit. We are still sinners because of the flesh in us that has not yet been mortified. However, since we believe in Christ and have the beginning of the Spirit, God is favourably inclined and gracious to us, so much so that He will not regard nor condemn our sins, but deal with us in accordance with our faith in Christ, until sin is slain.

(d) Faith  

‘Faith’ is not the human notion and dream which some regard as faith. When they see that it is not followed by an improvement of life nor by good works, while they are, nevertheless, able to hear and talk much of faith, they fall into the error of saying: Faith is not sufficient; we must do works if we want to become godly and be saved. The reason is because, when hearing the Gospel, they go to work and by their own power frame up a thought in their heart which says: I believe. That they regard as genuine faith. But, inasmuch as it is a human figment and thought of which the inmost heart is not sensible, it accomplishes nothing and is not accompanied by any improvement.

On the contrary, faith is a divine work in us, which transforms us, gives us a new birth out of God, John 1:13, slays the old Adam, makes us altogether different men in heart, affections, mind, and all powers, and brings with it the Holy Spirit. Oh, it is a living, energetic, active, mighty thing, this faith. It cannot but do good unceas-ingly. There is no question asked whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked the works have been done, and there is a continuous doing of them. But any person not doing such works is without faith. He is groping in the dark, looking for faith and good works, and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, although he indulges in a lot of twaddle and flummery concerning faith and good works.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in the grace of God, of such assurance that it would risk a thousand deaths. This confidence and knowledge of divine grace makes a person happy, bold, and full of gladness in his relation to God and all creatures. The Holy Ghost is doing this in the believer. Hence it is that a person, without constraint, becomes willing and enthusiastic to do good to everybody, to serve everybody, to suffer all manner of afflictions, from love of God and to the praise of Him who has extended such grace to him. Accordingly, it is impossible to separate works from faith, just as impossible as it is to separate the power to burn and shine from fire. Accordingly, beware of your own false thoughts and of idle talkers, who pretend great wisdom for discerning faith and good works and yet are the greatest fools. Pray God that He may create faith in you; otherwise you will be without faith for ever and aye, no matter what you may plan and do.

(to be continued)

4月21日 牧者之言

马丁·路德的《罗马书》序言

  此英文译本取自阿德莱德路德出版社 1966 年出版的版本。该版本于 1995 年首次由澳大利亚科罗曼德东New Creation Publications Inc. 出版 。1997 年、1998 年、2001 年、2003 年重印。

前  言

         马丁·路德逝世已近 450 年,但他的著作仍然对我们说话。他在耶稣基督里被上帝的恩典唤醒,他的复兴的影响很快传遍了整个德国。他对唯独因信称义的见证继续在世界各地传播。由于渴望良心自由,别人建议路德自己阅读圣经。他这样做了,并且也讲授了圣经。公元 1515 年,他讲授《罗马书》,并在接下来的两年里讲授《加拉太书》。在这个时期的某个时候,“义人必因信得生”这句话给他带来了个人的确据,他确信自己——仅凭信心已被上帝所接纳。他写道:“我感觉自己重生了,我走进了天堂的大门”。 1521 年,他在沃尔姆斯的一个教会法庭上陈述他的信仰。正是在这里,他发表了现在著名的声明:“这是我的立场”、“我别无选择”。人们对他颁布了一项法令,为了“安全保管”,他被朋友偷偷带到瓦尔特堡城堡,并伪装成骑士并隐姓埋名,在那里待了九个月。在此期间,他将整本新约圣经从希腊语翻译成德语。他还为每本书写了简短的摘要或序言——类似于拉丁武加大译本圣经(Vulgate Bible)。这本《路德圣经》及其序言都是用大众化的语言写成的。

         他为《罗马书》写的序言比其他人都长。它包含整封信的摘要及其教义的概要。其主要术语已定义且相互关联。更具体地说,它传达了保罗写给罗马人的信中显而易见的福音的喜乐和力量。路德这样评价罗马书:“越是全面研读,它就变得越宝贵,并且它的味道就越甘甜” 。

          这份序言在其历史上产生了广泛而深刻的影响。最著名的事件关于约翰·卫斯理 (John Wesley)在1738 年,当他听到这篇序言被宣读时,他发现自己的心“异常温暖”。他悔改了,世界再次感受到了上帝宽恕的力量。

          愿这本小册子鼓励许多人阅读保罗的书信,特别是认识神恩典的真理。

格兰特·索普 1995 年 7 月

马丁·路德的罗马书序言的序言

这封书信实际上是新约圣经的主要部分,也是最纯粹的福音。对于基督徒来说,不仅要逐字逐句地背诵它,而且要每天学习它,因为它是灵魂的每日食粮。它永远不会被读得或默想得太多和太好。越是全面研读它,它就变得越宝贵,并且它的味道就越甘甜。

因此,我也将提供我的服侍,并凭借上帝赋予我的能力,通过这篇序言准备一份介绍,以便每个人都能更好地理解它。因为迄今为止,它已被注释和各种废话所蒙蔽,而它本身却是一道闪亮的光,足以照亮整本圣经。

第一部分  解释这封信中所用的术语

首先,我们必须熟悉语言的问题,并理解保罗所说的这些词的含义:律法、罪、恩典、信心、公义、肉体、圣灵,以及相似词汇;否则,我们读这封书信就没有任何益处。

  (a) 律法

至于这封书信中的“律法”一词,你不可按照人的方式来理解它,因为它指的是一种教义,告诉我们什么是我们必须做的,什么是我们不可以做的。这就是人类法律的意义,当我们做所吩咐的工作时,我们必须遵守这些法律,尽管我们的心可能无份。神根据我们内心的情况作出判决。因此,他的律法对我们内心提出了要求,并且它不满足于仅仅的行为,而是将所有与我们内心无份的行为都视为伪善和谎言。因此,所有的人都被称为说谎者(诗篇 116:11),因为他们没有一个人从内心深处遵守、也不能遵守上帝的律法。每个人都会发现自己厌恶善而渴望恶。如果没有对善的无限制的渴望,内心深处就不会依附于上帝的律法。在这种情况下,虽然对于肤浅的观察者来说,可能会出现许多善行和正直的生活,但肯定也有罪和应得的上帝愤怒。

因此,保罗在2 :12、13 中得出结论,犹太人都是罪人,并说只有遵行律法的人才在神面前称义。他的意思是说,没有人是一个靠行为的遵守律法者。他是这样对他们说(第 22 节):“你说人不可奸淫,自己还奸淫吗;”同样,第 1 节:“你在什么事上论断人,就在什么事上定自己的罪;因你这论断人的,却作同样的事”。他仿佛是在说:在公开场合,你们在遵纪守法中过着美好的生活,而你们却在对那些没有过着这样生活的人做出论断。你知道如何教导每个人;你只看见你弟兄眼中有刺,却不想自己眼中有梁木(太 7:3)。

律法要求心甘情愿地服从

因为,尽管你出于对惩罚的恐惧或对奖赏的喜爱,表面上通过自己的行为遵守了律法,但你所做的一切仍然没有自由的愿望和对律法的热爱,而是带着厌恶和约束。如果没有法律,你宁愿不这样做。由此可见,在你内心深处,你是律法的敌人。你教导别人不要偷窃——当你内心本身就是一个小偷,并且如果你敢的话,很乐意公开成为一个小偷,这意味着什么呢?从长远来看,甚至连明显的(违反律法)的行为,也不会被这些伪君子忽略。因此,你在教别人,而不是你自己;你也不知道你在教什么。你们还没有正确理解律法。事实上,除此之外,正如他所说的:“律法还加增了罪恶“(5:20),因为律法对人提出的要求越多,人对律法的敌意就越强烈,而他却无法满足这些要求。

律法是属灵的

因此他说,7:14:“律法是属乎灵的。”这意味着什么?如果律法是属于物质的事情,那么它的要求就可以通过行为来满足。但既然它是属灵的,那么除了发自内心的所做的一切之外,没有人能够满足它的要求。但这样的一颗心,除了圣灵之外,没有人能够赐予;这颗心使人们认同律法,使他们发自内心地热爱律法,从此以后做一切事,不是出于恐惧或约束,而是出于自愿。这样一来,律法是属灵的:它想要从一颗属灵的心被爱和被实现,并且律法要求这样的灵。如果圣灵不在心里,罪恶、厌恶和对律法的敌意就会存在心里,律法本身是良善、公义和圣洁的。

那么,你必须习惯这种说话方式,即“做律法中所包含的事情”与“成全律法”完全是另一回事。律法所包含的事物是人根据其自由意志和自然力量所做的或能够做的所有事情。然而,当一个人参与这样的工作时,他的内心仍然存在着对律法的厌恶和束缚,他无法摆脱法律的束缚。因此,所有这些工作都是纯粹的浪费和无用。这就是保罗所说的3:20:“凡有血气的,没有一个因行律法能在神面前称义。”由此可见,大学里的争论者和诡辩家在教导人们通过行为为恩典做好准备时,都是错误的向导。当一个人心里不厌恶、不喜欢任何工作时,他如何能通过工作为自己做好准备呢?这样一颗不甘心、悖逆的心所做出的工作,神怎能喜悦呢?

只有通过信心才能实现

然而,遵行律法意味着带着喜乐和爱心去做律法的事,自由地过敬虔美好的生活,不受律法的约束,就好像有律法一样。 没有法律,也没有惩罚。然而,这种不受约束的爱的喜悦是由圣灵灌输在心中的,正如圣保罗在5:5所说的那样。但是,正如他在导言中所说,圣灵只有在耶稣基督里、凭着对耶稣基督的信心才能赐下。因此,除了上帝的道或福音之外,没有任何信心。信心宣告基督,即他是上帝和人的儿子,他为我们的缘故死而复活,正如他在3:25、4:25、10:9和10节中所说的那样。这就是为什么唯有信心才能称义并成全律法,因为它从基督的功劳中得到圣灵。然而,圣灵创造了一颗愿意且不受约束的心,正如律法所要求的那样;那么善行就直接源于信心。这就是他(使徒)在3:31节的意思。在他拒绝律法的行为之后,可能会让人认为他打算通过信心废除律法。 “不,”他说,“我们通过信仰建立法律”,也就是说,我们通过信心成全它。

(未完待续)

Martin Luther’s Preface to The Epistle to the Romans

This English translation is taken from the edition produced by Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide, 1966. This edition first published 1995 by New Creation Publications Inc., Coromandel East, South Australia Reprinted 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003. 

Foreword

Martin Luther died nearly 450 years ago but his writing still speaks to us. He was awakened to the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and the effects of his renewal quickly spread through Germany. His testimony to justification through faith alone continues to spread around the world. In his longing for freedom of conscience, Luther was advised to read the Scriptures for himself. He did this, and lectured on it also. During A.D. 1515 he lectured on Romans, and, in the next two years, on Galatians. Somewhere in this time the passage, ‘The just shall live by faith’ brought personal assurance to him that he was accepted by God—through faith alone. He wrote: ‘I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise’. By 1521 he was before an ecclesiastical court in Worms, to give an account of his beliefs. It was here that he made his now famous statement: ‘Here I stand! I cannot do otherwise’. An edict was pronounced against him, and, for ‘safe keeping’, he was spirited away by friends to Wartburg Castle where he stayed—disguised as a knight and under an assumed name—for nine months. During this time he translated the entire New Testament from Greek to German. He also wrote brief summaries, or prefaces, to each book—similar to the Vulgate Bible. This ‘Luther Bible’, and its Prefaces, were phrased in the language of the common people.

The Preface which he wrote for Romans is longer than the others. It contains a summary of the whole letter and an outline of its doctrine. Its main terms are defined and related to each other. More particularly, it conveys the joy and power of the gospel so evident in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Luther said about Romans: ‘The more thoroughly it is treated, the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes’. 

This small document has had a wide and deep influence through its history. The best known incident concerns John Wesley, who, in 1738, found his heart ‘strangely warmed’ as he listened to this Preface being read. He was converted, and again, the world felt the power of God’s forgiveness. 

May this booklet encourage many to read Paul’s letter and, particularly, to know the truth of God’s grace. 

Grant Thorpe July 1995

Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans Preface

This epistle is in truth the chief part of the New Testament and the purest Gospel. It would be quite proper for a Christian, not only to know it by heart word for word, but also to study it daily, for it is the soul’s daily bread. It can never be read or meditated too much and too well. The more thoroughly it is treated, the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes. 

Accordingly, I, too, shall offer my service and with the ability God has granted me prepare an introduction to it by this preface in order that it may be better understood by everybody. For heretofore it has been miserably darkened by glosses and all sorts of twaddle, while in itself it is a shining light, quite sufficient to illumine the whole Scriptures. 


Part I. Explanation of Terms Used in This Epistle

In the first place, we must acquaint ourselves with matters of language and understand what Paul means by these words: law, sin, grace, faith, righteousness, flesh, Spirit, and similar terms; otherwise we shall derive no benefit from reading this epistle.

(a) Law

As regards the term ‘law’ in this epistle, you must not understand it after the fashion of men, as denoting a doctrine that shows us what works we must, and what works we must not, do. That is the meaning of human laws, with which we comply when we do the works commanded, though our heart may have no share in them. God frames His verdict in accordance with the condition of our inmost heart. His law, accordingly, makes demands upon our inmost heart, and is not satisfied with mere works, but brands as hypocrisy and lies all works in which our inmost heart has no share. For this reason all men are called liars, Psalm 116:11, because no one of them keeps, nor can keep, the Law of God from his inmost heart; everyone discovers in himself aversion to what is good and a desire for what is evil. Now, where there is no unconstrained desire for what is good, the inmost heart is not attached to the Law of God. In such a case there is surely also sin and merited wrath of God, although to a superficial observer there may appear many good works and an upright life. 

Hence Paul concludes, chapter 2:12, 13, that the Jews are all sinners, and says that only the doers of the Law are justified in the sight of God. He means to say that no one is a doer of the Law by works. This is the way he speaks to them, v. 22: ‘Thou sayest a man should not commit adultery, and thou committest adultery;’ likewise v. 1: ‘Wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.’ As though he were to say: In public you are leading a good life in the works of the Law, and you are passing judgement on those who are not leading such a life. You know how to teach everybody; you behold the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye. Matt. 7:3. 

The Law Demands Willing Obedience

For although you keep the Law outwardly by your works, from fear of punishment or love of reward, still you do everything without a free desire and love of the Law, with loathing and under restraint. You would rather do otherwise if there were no Law. It follows, then, that in your inmost heart you are an enemy of the Law. Your teaching others not to steal—what does it amount to when at heart you are a thief yourself, and would gladly be one publicly if you dared? In the long run even the manifest work (against the Law) is not omitted by these hypocrites. Thus you are teaching others, but not yourself; nor do you know what you are teaching. You have never yet correctly understood the Law. In fact, in addition to this the Law increases sin, as he says, chap. 5:20, because man’s enmity against the Law becomes greater in proportion as the Law makes demands upon him, none of which he can fulfil. 

The Law Is Spiritual

Therefore he says, chap. 7:14: ‘The Law is spiritual.’ What does that mean? If the Law were an affair for the body its demands could be met by works. But since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy its demands except by doing all that he does from the inmost heart. But such a heart is bestowed by no one except the Spirit of God; He makes men to agree with the Law, causing them to conceive a love of the Law from the heart and henceforth to do all, not from fear or constraint, but from a willing heart. In that way the Law is spiritual: it wants to be loved and fulfilled from a spiritual heart and requires such a spirit. If He is not in the heart, there abide in the heart sin, loathing, and enmity against the Law, which in itself is good, just, and holy. 

You must become used, then, to this mode of speech, viz., that ‘doing the things contained in the Law’ is quite another thing than ‘fulfilling the Law.’ The things contained in the Law are all those things which man does, or is able to do, in relation to the Law of his free will and by his natural powers. However, while a person is engaged in such works there remains in his heart a loathing of the Law and a constraint; for this reason all these works are sheer waste and useless. That is what Paul means when he says, chap. 3:20: ‘By the deed of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.’ From this you see that the wranglers at the universities and the sophists are false guides when they teach men to prepare themselves for grace by works. How can a person prepare himself for what is good by works when he does no work without loathing and a dislike in his heart? How can God be pleased with a work that proceeds from such an unwilling and rebellious heart?

Fulfilment Possible Only Through Faith

However, fulfilling the Law means to do its works with delight and from love, and to lead a godly and good life freely, without the Law’s constraint, just as if there were no Law and no punishment. Such a delight of unconstrained love, however, is instilled in the heart by the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says, chap. 5:5. But, as he says in his introductory remarks, the Spirit is not given except in, with, and by faith in Jesus Christ. Hence there is no faith except by the Word of God, or the Gospel, which proclaims Christ, namely, that He is the Son of God and man, that He died and rose again for our sakes, as he states, chap. 3:25; 4:25; 10:9. 10. That is the reason why faith alone justifies and fulfils the Law, for it fetches the Spirit from Christ’s merit. The Spirit, however, creates a willing and unconstrained heart, such as the Law requires; and then good works spring directly from faith. That is what he (the apostle) means in chap. 3:31, after he has rejected the works of the Law in terms that might lead one to think he meant to make void the Law through faith. ‘Nay,’ he says, ‘we establish the Law through faith,’ that is, we fulfil it by faith.                                     

(To be continued)

2024年4月14日 牧者之言

2024年教会暑期圣经学校
 

太19:14耶稣说:“让小孩子到我这里来,不要禁止他们,因为在天国的正是这样的人。”
KJV Matt.19: 14 But Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
        太19:14耶稣的话是教会作儿童事工的依据和基础。主耶稣教导我们说:“让小孩子到我这里来,不要禁止他们”。从积极角度说,“让”原文是命令语气,主命令我们邀请小孩子到他面前。从消极角度说,我们不要禁止他们。“禁止”是不许可,阻挠或设置障碍的意思。KJV将“禁止”翻译成“Suffer”,有受苦和忍受的意思。这提醒我们要容忍和忍受小孩子。小孩子不总是可愛的,他们有时会调皮或不安静,然而主让我们欢迎他们。有小孩子的教会充满主耶稣的同在、生命力和祝福。禁止小孩子入内的教会,则很难被称为主的教会。

暑期圣经学校(Vacation Bible School, 英文简称 “VBS”)是教会向社区提供的外展服侍,旨在教育孩子认识上帝,包括信仰课程、艺术、手工艺、游戏等。每间教会可以设计自己的信仰课程或购买适合的信仰课程。我们教会去年成功地举行了第一次VBS(请参考https://thebaptistpaper.org/little-rock-chinese-church-thankful-for-year-of-growth-unity-and-answered-prayers/),荣耀归于主。

我们上周日召开了2024年第一次筹备会议,确定以下内容。
日期:6月18-21日,晚5:30-8:00(周五“家庭同乐夜”);志愿5点到摆放桌椅
异象:竭力传扬基督福音,与儿童和家长分享基督的愛,使人成为主的孩子
主旨:以福音为中心,突出华人教会的特色,将活动做得既生动又有趣
 预计目标:40个孩子
今年主题:潜水探险(SCUBA),以海洋世界为背景,带领孩子们遨游进入与主更深厚的友谊中。

我们暂时分以下一些小组,并需要相关志愿
1.    教师组;2. 宣教组;3. 手工组;4. 敬拜赞美团队;5. 食物组;6.接待登记组;
7.    布置组; 8.宣传组;9.音响组;10.摄影及Video制作组;11. 青少年筹备《约拿书》剧组
欢迎积极报名参加VBS或VBS志愿有意参与服侍的弟兄姐妹如有问题,请与莎莎师母联络。

LRICBC-VBS-祷告指南
为参加 VBS 的孩子们祈祷:
• 为所有年龄段的孩子在VBS 期间听到福音祈祷。
• 祈求那些不认识基督的孩子能邀请基督进入他们的生命。
• 祈求基督徒孩子能够与天父更加亲近。
• 为不定期去教会的孩子们祈祷。

为 VBS 的志愿祈祷:
• 求主赐给我们足够的志愿来正确地教导和照顾我们的孩子。
• 祈求我们整个VBS 团队的语和行动在这一周能尊荣和荣耀主。
• 祈求上帝赐福给我们 VBS 团队力量、耐力、良好的态度以及向每个孩子展示基督无条件的愛的能力。
• 祈求主预备更多青少年志愿,使基督徒青少年成为基督的精兵,慕道友青少年信靠
基督。
• 祈求周五晚家庭同乐夜的表演、汇报演出及颁发毕业证书等进展顺利,能有更多家长
来参加。
• 为VBS 带领在准备VBS 周和期间寻求上帝的指引时祈求智慧。
• 为VBS周我们的支持团队和食物团队等祷告。
• 为圣经学校后的跟进行动祷告。祈祷我们能在社区中建立许多联系。

2024 Church Vacation Summer Bible School
KJV Matt.19: 14 But Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus’ words of Matthew 19: 14 are the basis and foundation for our church’s children ministry. The Lord Jesus taught us: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them.” On one hand, the original text of “let” is an imperative tone. The Lord commands us to invite children to come to Him. On the other hand, let’s not hinder them. “Hinder” means not to allow, to obstruct or to set up obstacles. The KJV translates “hinder” as “suffer,” which means to endure. This reminds us to tolerate and put up with little children. Children are not always lovable, sometimes they can be mischievous or restless. Yet the Lord asks us to welcome them. A church with many children is filled with the Lord’s presence, vitality, and blessings. A church that prohibits children from entering is hardly be called the Lord’s church.

Vacation Bible School (VBS) is an outreach ministry provided by the church to the community. It aims to educate children to know God, including faith courses, arts, crafts, games, etc. Each church can design its own faith curriculum or purchase a suitable faith curriculum. Our church successfully held the first VBS last year (please refer to https://thebaptistpaper.org/little-rock-chinese-church-thankful-for-year-of-growth-unity-and-answered-prayers /), praise the Lord.

We had our first preparatory meeting for 2024 last Sunday to determine the following.

Date: June 18-21, 5:30-8:00 pm (“Friday Family Night”); volunteers will arrive at 5pm to set up tables and chairs.
Vision: Strive to spread the gospel of Christ, share the love of Christ with children and parents, and help people to know the Lord.
Purpose: Focus on the gospel, highlight the characteristics of the Chinese church, and make the activities interesting and fun.
Goal: 40 children
2024 Theme: SCUBA, with the ocean world as the background, it will lead children to dive into a relationship with the Lord.

We divide into several groups and need relevant volunteers:
1. Teaching Team; 2. Mission Team; 3. Craft Team; 4. Worship and Praise Team; 5. Food Team; 6. Reception and Registration Team; 7. Decoration Team; 8. Promotion Team; 9. IT Team; 10. Photography and Video Team; 11. Youth Preparation Team for the Play of “The Book of Jonah”

Welcome to actively sign up to participate in VBS or VBS volunteers. Brothers and sisters who are interested in serving, please contact Mrs. Shasha if you have any questions.

LRICBC-VBS-Prayer Guide
Ways to Pray for the Kids Attending VBS:
•    Pray for the kids of all ages who will hear the Gospel during VBS.
•    Pray that children who don’t know Christ will invite Him into their lives.
•    Pray that children who are Christians will grow closer to the Father.
•    Pray for the children who do not attend church regularly.

Ways to Pray for Those Who Are Serving at VBS: 
•    Ask the Lord to provide plenty of workers to properly teach and care for our children.
•    Pray that the words and actions of our entire VBS team will bring honor and glory to God through the week.
•    Pray that God will bless our VBS team with strength, endurance, good attitudes, and the capacity to demonstrate Christ’s unconditional love to each child.
•    Pray that the Lord will prepare more youth volunteers so that among them the believers will grow their faith and the seekers will accept the Lord.
•    Pray that the play, presentation, and graduation certificate presentation on Friday Family Night will go well, and more parents will attend.
•    Pray for wisdom for those leading VBS as they seek God’s guidance in preparing for and during VBS week.
•    Pray for our supporting team and food team during the week.
•    Pray for our follow-up after Bible School. Pray that we might make many connections in our community.

2024年4月7日 牧者之言

见证之日The Day of Testimonies

“心欢喜、灵快乐、肉身安然居住”
——记教会的复活节庆祝

约三千多年前,圣灵借大卫的口预言说:“因为你必不将我的灵魂撇在阴间,也不叫你的圣者见朽坏”(诗16:10)。约公元一世记30多年左右,彼得在五旬节讲道时证实,先祖大卫死了,埋葬了,他的坟墓还在。大卫所论及的不是他自己,而是指耶稣的复活,因为耶稣的灵魂没有被撇在阴间,耶稣的肉体没有见朽坏(徒2:29-32)。耶稣已经复活了!耶稣的复活战胜了死亡、阴间、坟墓和魔鬼,将全新的生命赐给信他的人。教会要庆祝复活节,见证主基督超越时空的复活大能,并与人分享福音的好消息。今年教会的复活节庆祝每个人的脸上都洋溢着喜乐。以下总结几点,与家人们分享。

* 蒙神赐福      
庆祝分两个部分。一部分是室内敬拜;另一部分是室外敬拜与活动。关于室外敬拜与活动,我们要特别感谢上帝赐予的天气。之前大家比较担心天气炎热,本想准备遮荫的帐篷,结果上帝亲自用云彩为我们预备了属天的遮阴棚,天气宜人,大家心情舒畅。

* 十架苦路十四站默想 
基督若不受苦,就没有复活。上周五受难节晚上,教会举行“十架苦路十四站烛光默想”。十架苦路(Via Dolorosa)是耶路撒冷旧城一条 600 米长的石路,人们相信这是耶稣被钉十字架的路线。 拉丁语 “Via Dolorosa” 的意思是“悲伤之路”(the sorrowful way)。   传统上,人们将这条路分成十四站,标记耶稣所走过的受苦之路。我们以烛光默想的形式,通过诗歌、经文诵读、祷词、受难短片、祈祷等形式,将自己带入场景中,深刻默想主为我们所受的一切苦以及我们自己的罪。许多弟兄姐妹深受受感动。

* 预尝天堂  
《启示录》里天上场景的特点之一是“各国、各族、各民、各方的人” 一同站在宝座和羔羊面前敬拜(7:9)。今年我们中文教会和安提阿教会(Antioch Church,这间英文教会和我们在同一座教堂里的不同地方活动)在室外联合庆祝复活节,英文诗歌,英文信息、中文翻译,同领主餐(我们教会一位弟兄在2月26日受主感动曾为此祈祷,没想到主居然真的借着安提阿教会牧师的提议成就了这个愿望),向众人见证基督复活所赐的合一生命。

* 同工同心   
“看啊,弟兄和睦同居,是何等的善、何等的美”(诗133:1)。庆祝场面热情,弟兄姐妹彼此相爱,互相搭配服侍。有美好的敬拜,可口的烧烤及各样美食,小朋友们捡复活彩蛋、玩蹦蹦床、吃沙冰,大家互相交流问候等。这是团队服侍的成果。晨祷会同工每日清晨为复活节的庆祝献上祈祷,预备人心;弟兄姐妹多次在微信上宣传,口口相传,积极邀请慕道朋友们参加。特别感恩的是,许多弟兄姐妹在周六就准备烧烤烤串。这份热心为主悦纳!大家都有一个共同的心愿:让更多人感受到上帝的慈愛和弟兄姐妹的热情!

*儿童复活袋    
明芳阿姨亲手编织的复活节小兔子等手工艺品是小朋友的最愛。今年她为59位小朋友发了绣有十字架的精美小袋子。几位长辈给孩子们发礼物时,为每位小朋友讲信主的意义,将福音的种子播撒在每位幼小的心田里。她让每个小朋友签名留念,好为他们每个人提名代祷。

* 众民喜悦      
这次复活节庆祝大概有200多人参加,是教会历史上参加人数最多的一次。许多从未来过教会的人都来到我们当中,使我们有机会和他们分享福音。有位慕道友说:“这次教会复活节活动办得真好,大人孩子都开心。肉串太好吃了,大家串那么多肉串肯定付出了好多功夫。辛苦你们了”。另一位受邀慕道朋友因值班无法参加,但他太太带孩子来了。会后,他受感主动索要教会地址,想为教会作奉献。这一切都是上帝的恩典,我们将荣耀归于主。当然,服侍中也有许多不足之处,感谢各位同工提出宝贵意见,为未来更好地服侍提供有价值的参考。

大卫称颂主复活时说:“因此,我的心欢喜,我的灵快乐,我的肉身也要安然居住”(诗16:9)。愿主复活的生命一直充满我们,使我们一生一世都心欢喜、灵快乐,肉身也安然居住在指望中!

“Glad in heart, joyful in spirit, peacefully dwelling in the flesh”:
Easter Celebration in the Church

Over three thousand years ago, the Holy Spirit prophesied through the mouth of David, saying: “because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay” (Psalm 16:10). Around the year 30 AD, Peter confirmed during Pentecost that our ancestor David had died, been buried, and his tomb was still there. David was not speaking about himself, but about the resurrection of Jesus, as Jesus’ soul was not abandoned to Sheol, and his body did not see corruption (Acts 2:29-32). Jesus has risen! His resurrection conquered death, the grave, and the devil, granting new life to those who believe in him. The Church celebrates Easter to witness the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ transcending time and space and to share the good news of the gospel with others. This year, everyone in the church is filled with joy during the Easter celebration. Here are a few points to share with our brothers and sisters in the Lord:

• Blessed by God
The celebration consists of two parts: indoor worship and outdoor worship and activities. Regarding outdoor worship and activities, we want to express special thanks to God for the weather He has provided. Previously, there were concerns about the hot weather, and tents were prepared for shade. However, God prepared a heavenly canopy with clouds for us, providing pleasant weather, and everyone’s mood was comfortable.

• Via Dolorosa Candlelight Meditation
Without Christ’s suffering, there would be no resurrection. Last Friday evening, the church held a “Fourteen Stations of the Via Dolorosa Candlelight Meditation” for Good Friday. The Via Dolorosa is a 600-meter-long stone road in the old city of Jerusalem, believed to be the route Jesus took to be crucified. The Latin term “Via Dolorosa” means “the sorrowful way.” Traditionally, people divided this way into fourteen stations, marking the suffering Jesus endured. Through candlelight meditation, we immersed ourselves in the scene, reflecting deeply on the sufferings endured by the Lord and our own sins through songs, scripture recitations, prayers, a short video of “The Passion of the Christ,” and prayers. Many brothers and sisters were deeply moved.

• Pre-taste of Heaven
One of the characteristics of the scenes in Revelation is “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9). This year, our Chinese church and the Antioch Church (an English-speaking church that shares the same building with us but meets in different areas) jointly celebrated Easter outdoors. We sang English hymns, listened to English messages with Chinese translation, and partook in the Lord’s Supper together. This unity was a testimony to the life of oneness that Christ’s resurrection has bestowed upon us.

• Unity in Service
  “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). The celebration was pleasant, brothers and sisters loved one another, and served one another. There were beautiful worship, delicious barbecue and various delicacies, children hunted for Easter eggs, played on jumping house, enjoyed ice smoothies, and everyone exchanged greetings and conversations. This was the result of teamwork in service. The morning prayer team prayed daily in preparation for Easter, and brothers and sisters actively invited friends through WeChat messages and word of mouth. Particularly grateful were those who prepared barbecue skewers on Saturday. Such enthusiasm for the Lord is pleasing! Everyone shares a common desire: to let more people feel the love of God and the warmth of brothers and sisters!

• Children’s Resurrection Bags
Handcrafted Easter bunnies and other crafts made by Sister Mingfang were children’s favorites. This year, she made exquisite bags embroidered with crosses for 59 children. As elders distributed gifts to the children, they explained the meaning of believing in Jesus to each child, sowing the seeds of the gospel in their young hearts. Mingfang had each child sign their bag as a memento and prayed for them one by one.

• Joy Among the People
This Easter celebration had approximately over 200 attendees, making it the largest gathering in the history of our church. Many people who had never been to our church before joined us, giving us the opportunity to share the gospel with them. One seeker said, “This Easter event at the church was really good. Both adults and children were happy. The barbecue was so delicious, and I’m sure it took a lot of effort to prepare so many. Thank you for your hard work.” Another invited seeker couldn’t attend due to work schedule, but his wife came with their child. After the event, he actively asked for the church’s address and expressed his desire to make some contribution to the church. All of this is by the grace of God, and we give all glory to the Lord. Of course, there were also many shortcomings in our service. We are thankful to all co-workers for their valuable feedback, which will serve as valuable guidance for better service in the future.

David praised the Lord’s resurrection, saying, “Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also rests secure” (Psalm 16:9). May the life of the Lord’s resurrection continually fill us, so that we may live our lives with joy in our hearts, gladness in our spirits, and security in our bodies, always anchored in hope!

2024年3月31日 牧者之言

见证之日The Day of Testimonies

诗篇118:24 这是耶和华所定的日子,我们在其中要高兴欢喜。
Psalm 118: 24 This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 
2024年3月24日是一个值得我们教会纪念的日子,因为这日有十位弟兄姐妹作了浸礼的见证,吴红和韩涛也作了他们信主得救与得医治的见证。这是上帝所定的日子,这是众弟兄姐妹高兴欢喜的日子。
第一,浸礼的见证
浸礼是信徒为主作的最美的见证,它标志着基督徒灵程的起点、而不是终点。浸信会相信基督徒奉圣父,圣子,圣灵的名受浸礼是顺服的行动,象征信徒的信仰与主同钉死,同埋葬,和同复活。浸入水中指信徒向罪而死,将旧人埋葬,复活是在基督里的新生命与主同行。浸礼是见证末期死人复活的信仰。
这次浸礼人数是自教会成立以来最多的一次,包括七位青少年与儿童和三位成人。这些小朋友和青少年基本上从小就参加教会活动。在这个过程中,他们通过与成人一起敬拜、主日学、周五团契等,受圣灵感动和光照,认识自己是罪人并愿意接受耶稣基督为他们个人的救主。他们能受浸礼离不开所有教导过他们的主日学老师的辛勤耕耘,他们昨日的流泪撒种、换来今日的欢呼收割。
在浸礼前的课上,当我一个一个地问他们:”你为什么要受浸礼”?
他们都回答说:”我要跟随耶稣”。
我问他们:”是别人要你受浸礼的吗”?
他们说:”不是。是我自己要的。”
当Horace表达想要受浸礼时,他妈妈有点儿担心,怕他心智不够成熟,会临阵脱逃。他从前生病看医生,当医生拿出针时他会逃跑。我劝他妈妈说:”不用担心,一个人要跟随主是圣灵的感动,主会对他负责的”。在受浸礼时,Horace表现得非常棒!他没有紧张,更没有逃跑。在浸礼池里牧师问他们是否愿意借着浸礼表达自己一生要跟随主时,其他人都按着标准答案回答说:”我愿意”。Ellie小朋友非常可爱,她大声回答说:”改变”!她的答案太好了,基督徒的确需要每天心意更新而变化,并且要越来越像基督。这些孩子是蒙福的,因为从小就有永生、有盼望。
三位成人都在生命中经历到上帝。张姐妹见证说:”我之前来教会是凑热闹。这次主打开了我的心。当我去年在作手术之前,我深刻经历到圣灵的同在。在主里面真有平安、喜乐和力量。” 谢姐妹说:”我没来美国之前,心灵里曾经历过很大的考验和艰难,几乎失去人生的方向和活着的勇气。我自从来到教会,心灵里感受到异常的平静和安慰。我愿意一生跟随耶稣”。申姐妹赞叹说:”信主真好。这对我们工作、生活、学习以及心理状态都有影响。”摄影的张弟兄对申姐妹说:”拍照的时候看到您受洗前那一刹那眼角有泪的时候,我也落泪了。感受到了您对神的爱,求主保守您深深爱主,为主而活”。申姐妹回应说:”感谢赞美主让我有机会领受这从上而来的福份!谢谢您为我拍下这美好瞬间!”求主保守这十位弟兄姐妹在今后能活出更丰盛的生命!
第二,    吴红和韩涛的见证
在聚会中,吴红姐妹讲述了主的奇妙恩典。吴红和韩涛是一对十分恩爱的夫妻。他们的学业和生活顺风顺水,既在工作上优秀、又拥有美好的家庭。然而,天有不测风云。今年1月20日,身体一向强壮的韩涛突感不适而送到医院急诊室。他做了心脏支架手术。术后,他的情绪上受到很大影响,再次住进医院。在这个过程中,他们认识和经历到了主。在见证结束时,他们夫妻唱了”上万个理由(10,000 Reasons)”,有些弟兄姐妹感动得热泪盈眶。对他们的见证我有以下几点感受:
第一,在这个过程中,他们真实地经历到了上帝。吴红说:”一切都是上帝最好的安排”。这段时间是她身体最强壮的时候,她可以有力量照顾韩涛;上大学的儿子在家里住,给她带来安慰;他生病时有许多朋友在身边鼎力相助;她老板给她放假、同事胜任她的工作,使她可以照顾韩涛等。
第二,主不仅拯救了韩涛,也拯救了吴红。之前他们夫妻关系的模式是丈夫凡事照顾妻子、妻子凡事依靠丈夫。如今,吴红说:”我和丈夫说,我们从今以后都依靠主,互相帮助”。上帝的大能拯救韩涛脱离疾病的捆绑,使他获得真正的自由。韩涛开始生病时,吴红整个人几乎处于崩溃状态,然而经过照顾丈夫的历练,她变得更加成熟坚强。最重要的是,她的心灵平和下来,凡事充满喜乐和力量。
第三,祈祷有力量。主说:”义人祈祷所发的力量是大有功效的”(雅5:16下)。在此期间,许多弟兄姐妹为他们代祷,包括微信祷告小组、教会晨祷会、周三晚祷等。牧者们和同工们每次探访都有明显的好转。很神奇的是,2月7日韩涛刚转到Baptist Health医院急诊那天,我一进病房他马上睁开眼睛。我问他是否要信主?他大声说:”我信主,我从今往后要跟随耶稣,走永生的道路”。那天,他做了决志祷告。吴红提到,3月7日晚上,她觉得有一股热量,持续了1-2秒钟。第二天,她看到微信代祷群里发的经文正讲到上帝的手四围环绕。3月8日韩涛就出院了。医生每次看到他,都为他迅速的恢复感动惊讶不已。
第四,团队服侍。在整个过程中,有许多教会弟兄姐妹、他们单位的同事和朋友们轮流送饭,在医院陪伴、探访等。真看出众人爱心的力量!愿主记念他们每一位的无私关怀和爱心。
刘姐妹分享说:”我周围像吴红和韩涛这样的朋友很多,他们为人都很好,但还没有信主。也许当人自我太完美时,很难感受到需要主。这次在韩涛和吴红身上真看到上帝的作为。他们在这么短的时间内能认识主,并能走到主的里面,这真是神迹!求主感动我更多的朋友能早日信主!”
就如诗歌所唱的:”这一生最美的祝福就是能认识主耶稣,这一生最美的祝福就是能信靠主耶稣。” 感谢上帝赐予我们见证。愿我们教会今后能有更多人为主作见证,荣耀主的圣名!阿门!

The Day of Testimonies

Psalm 118: 24 This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

On March 24, 2024, is a day worth commemorating for our church, because on this day, ten brothers and sisters gave their testimonies through baptism, and Wu Hong and Han Tao also gave their testimony through sharing God’s grace of receiving salvation and healing. This is the day appointed by God, a day of joy and gladness for all brothers and sisters.
Firstly, the testimony of baptism:

Baptism is the most beautiful testimony given by believers to the Lord. It marks the beginning of the spiritual journey for Christians, not the end. Baptists believe that baptism, received by believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is an act of obedience, symbolizing the believer’s faith in being crucified, buried, and raised with the Lord. Being immersed in water signifies the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old self, and resurrection into a new life with Christ. Baptism is a testimony of faith in the resurrection of the dead in the last days.

The number of baptisms this time is the highest since our church started, including 7 children and youths and 3 adults. These children and youths have been involved in church activities from a young age. Through worshiping with adults, Sunday school, Friday fellowship, and other activities, they have been moved and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, recognizing themselves as sinners and willing to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Their baptism is inseparable from the diligent cultivation of all their Sunday school teachers. Their tears shed yesterday in sowing have brought forth today’s joyful harvest.

During the pre-baptism class, when I asked them one by one, “Why do you want to be baptized?”

They all answered, “I want to follow Jesus.”

I asked them, “Is someone else asking you to be baptized?”

They said, “No. It’s my own decision.”

When Horace (he had some developmental delay) expressed his desire to be baptized, his mother was a little worried, fearing that he might not be mature enough mentally and would back out at the last minute. He used to run away when he was sick and saw a doctor, especially when the doctor took out a needle. I reassured his mother, saying, “Don’t worry, a person’s desire to follow the Lord is moved by the Holy Spirit, and the Lord will take care of him.” During the baptism, Horace did great! He wasn’t nervous at all, and he didn’t run away. When I asked them in the baptistry if they were willing to express their lifelong commitment to follow the Lord through baptism, everyone else answered with the standard response, “I am willing.” Ellie, the little girl, was adorable. She replied loudly, “Change!” Her answer was excellent. Indeed, Christians need to renew their minds and change every day, becoming more and more like Christ. These children are blessed because they have eternal life and hope from a young age.

The three adults have all experienced God in their lives. Sister Zhang testified, “Before, I only came to church for fun. But this time, the Lord opened my heart. I deeply experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit last year before my surgery. There is truly peace, joy, and strength in the Lord.” Sister Xie said, “Before coming to the United States, I experienced great trials and difficulties in my heart, almost losing direction in life and the courage to live. Since coming to church, I have felt an extraordinary calmness and comfort in my heart. I am willing to follow Jesus for the rest of my life.” Sister Shen exclaimed, “It’s wonderful to believe in the Lord. It has an impact on our work, life, studies, emotional stability, and even work efficiency.” Brother Zhang, who was taking photos, said to Sister Shen, “When I saw the tears in the corner of your eyes just before you were baptized, I cried too. I felt your love for God. I pray that the Lord will keep you deeply in love with Him and living for Him.” Sister Shen responded, “Thank the Lord for giving me the precious opportunity to receive this blessing from above! Thank you for capturing this beautiful moment for me!” May the Lord keep these ten brothers and sisters living out a more abundant life in the future!

Secondly, the testimony of Wu Hong and Han Tao.

During the gathering, Sister Wu Hong recounted the wonderful grace of the Lord. Wu Hong and Han Tao are a deeply loving couple. Their studies and lives were smooth sailing, excelling in their careers and having a beautiful family. However, unforeseen events occurred. On January 20th of this year, Han Tao, who had always been strong and healthy, suddenly felt unwell and was rushed to the emergency room. He underwent heart stent surgery. After the surgery, he was greatly affected emotionally and was hospitalized again. It was during this process that they came to know and experience the Lord. At the end of their testimony, they sang “10,000 Reasons,” bringing tears to the eyes of some brothers and sisters. Here are my reflections on their testimony:

Firstly, they truly experienced God during this process. Wu Hong said, “Everything is God’s best plan.” During this time, when she was at her strongest physically, she had the strength to take care of Tao; their college-aged son stayed at home, bringing her comfort; when he was ill, many friends were there to help; her boss gave her time off, and her colleagues took over her work, allowing her to take care of Tao, and so on.

Secondly, the Lord not only saved Han Tao but also saved Wu Hong. Previously, their pattern in their marital relationship was that the husband took care of everything for the wife, and the wife relied on the husband for everything. Now, Wu Hong said, “I told my husband that from now on, we will both rely on the Lord and help each other.” The mighty power of God saved Tao from the bondage of illness, granting him true freedom. When Tao fell ill, Wu Hong was almost in a state of collapse, but through the experience of caring for her husband, she became stronger and more mature. Most importantly, her soul found peace, and she was filled with joy and strength in all things.

Thirdly, the power of prayer. The Lord said, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b). During this period, many brothers and sisters prayed for them, including prayer groups on WeChat, church morning prayers, Wednesday evening prayers, and more. Each visit from pastors and coworkers showed significant improvement. It was miraculous that on February 7th, the day Tao was transferred to the emergency room at Baptist Health Hospital, as soon as I entered the room, he opened his eyes. I asked him if he wanted to believe in the Lord. He said loudly, “I believe in the Lord, and from now on, I will follow Jesus on the path of eternal life.” That day, he made a decision to follow Jesus. Hong mentioned that on the evening of March 7th, she felt a warmth lasting for 1-2 seconds. The next day, she saw a scripture posted in the WeChat prayer group about God’s hands surrounding her. On March 8th, Tao was discharged from the hospital. Every time the doctors visited him, they were amazed and moved by his rapid recovery.

Fourthly, teamwork is essential in service. Throughout the process, many church brothers and sisters, colleagues from their workplace, and friends took turns delivering meals, accompanying them in the hospital, and visiting them. It truly showed the power of love from everyone! May the Lord remember the selfless care and love of each one.

Sister Liu shared, “I have many friends like Hong and Tao around me. They are all good people, but they have not believed in the Lord yet. Perhaps when people themselves are too perfect, it’s difficult for them to feel the need for the Lord. This time, I truly saw God’s work in Tao and Hong. It’s a miracle that they could come to know the Lord and walk into His embrace in such a short time! I pray that more of my friends will be moved to believe in the Lord soon!”

As the hymn sings, “The most beautiful blessing in life is to know the Lord Jesus, the most beautiful blessing in life is to trust in the Lord Jesus.” Thank God for giving us this testimony. May our church have more people testify for the Lord in the future, glorifying His holy name! Amen!