Archive for June, 2021

We all fall on hard times in our lives; spiritually, morally and materially. Jesus is our Great High Priest who cares for you; Let us enter his rest!

June 27, 2021

So, the section we looked at on ‘rest’ has focused on the believers and how they ought to trust Christ.  The thing about Hebrews is that his letter is a magnificent letter that keeps a flow without changing subjects all the time.   Apollos has proved that Jesus is God; he has proven that Jesus is greater than the angels; He has proven that Jesus is greater than Moses.  In this magnificent and beautiful letter, he shows the believers that God has prepared a place for them.  This place is situated in God’s ‘rest’.   He sections we dealt with last time is about how the believer is supposed to live.  He is to live by faith. 

We need to be careful now at chapter 4 verses 8 -16.  Apollos very cleverly is closing the paraenetic trusting material verses 8-13 in relation to the Sabbath rest of God.  He will then begin the introduction of Jesus our great Hight priest section.  Although we need to be aware that Apollos has already mentioned Jesus as High Priest in chapter 3 verse 1.  It is taken as a given that these believers saw Jesus as High priest, but they are in the long run going to be taught the content of what this actually means.  As far as I can see Apollos (if it is him) is one of the greatest theological writers in the New Testament along with Paul and St John the Apostle.   No writer in the New Testament has been able to stick to his material and follow an argument to the end.  This letter is amazing. If you are a student at university; Have you ever thought about how to change from one topic to another topic in one seamless connection?  In these few verses we are going to see this happen.

So let us read:

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:8-16

With Joshua and God’s rest we see the completion of a section.  The Israelites arrived in the promised land. This is a great rest is it not? No!  The history of the Israelites is a warning to all of us, whether we are Jewish or Gentile.  The promised land might of started as a paradise but we know the history of the Judges, Kings and Chronicles.  God’s people kept turning their back on God and the covenant.  They were turning their back on God because of unbelief.  Verse 11 is critical in understanding where Israel went wrong:

” Therefore, let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”

In our faith we need to be diligent and trust God.  We need to keep Christ our Lord in view every day living according to his and the apostolic teachings in Scripture.

Do we?

Apollos gives us an inkling into the nature of God.  Don’t forget though that Christ mediates for us verses 12 and 13 is a good reminder:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

We need to remember that a characteristic of God is that he is holy, and he sees everything.  It is no accident that all over the world one of the symbols of the judiciary is a sword. 

The form of verses 8 through to thirteen we see a change of subject. It changes from us as subject  to God and Christ as subject.

Having looked at the evidence I still don’t completely understand what the Writer is trying to prove. But one thing is certain when Joshua and David failed to give Israel rest, Jesus as the Messiah did not fail.

In verse 14 Apollos sets the scene and reminds his congregation of some facts.  Below in the first list are the heavenly, divine characteristics of our Lord and we are called on holding on to this confession.

  1. Jesus is the Great High Priest.
  2. Jesus entered heaven.
  3. Jesus is the Son of God
  4. We are to hold to our confession.

In verse 15 we have the earthly temporal characteristics of our Lord. That Jesus really understands the problems that we are facing:

  1. We have a High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses
  2. Who has been tempted in all things like other believers
  3. Jesus has no sin.

Here we see Jesus as fully divine and fully human.  Jesus is our Lord, and he loves us and cares for us.  In the natural what is a priest anyway.  An ordinary priest us supposed to mediate on our behalf before God.   Jesus is no ordinary priest.  He is the Great High priest; the genuine High priest from heaven who pleads on our behalf.   This is why we can draw with confidence before God as Apollos says:

“Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16” All quotations are from the NASB using Olive Tree software.


[Provisional evaluation of chapters 3/7 to 4/16]

Having looked at this text very carefully there are two tensions that run throughout this text.


Resting/obeying God.          or   Testing/tempting God.

The Israelites never found the real rest in Israel because they didn’t obey God.  The whole history shows this.  The encouraging thing is that we are called to be diligent and walk by faith.  We are not to look back.  Jesus is the real Great High Priest.  Jesus as God has entered heaven but as a human being, Jesus understands the turmoil we go through on a day-to-day basis.  Apollos then encourages us to draw close to the throne of grace.  In Jesus we find mercy and not the sword.  Verses 14 to 16 gives us a glimpse into what he is going to explain to us next.  Even when we stop here; I feel encouraged.  These believers suffered various forms of persecution.  Apollos gave them advice to walk on through the shadow of the valley of death and to come out on the other side victorious.  Let us keep firm and keep trusting our Lord Jesus through thick and thin.  Our relationship with God is the real thing.  It does not matter what material things we own.  God is bigger than that, in fact these believers had their worldly wealth confiscated.  They had their lively hoods taken from them.  They had worldly security taken from them.   These believers were going through serious troubles, and it would nor surprise me if some of them got martyred.  If you are a believer, perhaps you are going through a hard time at the moment.  Jesus understands you and he cares for you.  Apollos is showing you the way.  Don’t forget to ask God to give you help in these times. Keep on trusting, keep on obeying, keep reading your Bible and stay on the narrow road.  Don’t forget that if you are trusting in Jesus, you are part of the universal church of believers past, present and future. 

The reinterpretation of the conscience and the beginnings of the end for modern Western society in this form.

June 25, 2021


Is God part of our consciousness?

So then after Schleiermacher and into the modern era a whole new set of questions arose.  The epistemic foundations of the West have had a cataclysmic shift in which much of modern life God has been marginalized.  We see this in education through Religious Education and the changing of the laws.  If an RE teacher teaches in a confessional way, it is quite possible that he will lose his job.  In science Darwin and the movement of evolution has placed on the biological and social developments of society.  In the public spheres God and the state to all intents have been separated.  How we interpret the world has changed.  All of a sudden religious people have had a new set of secular glasses imposed on them.  This opens up a world of even more diverse voices in the political sphere. 

Yet under the surface religion bubbles away.  God cannot be pushed out for too long.  Especially when you see politicians acting as gods and fleecing peoples taxed moneys.  War has been very destructive in the West.  If one goes into a lot of old Churches, one sees the names of all who gave their lives supposedly for their country.   Each of those soldiers was in a family or was a head of a family.  It was the man who taught the Christian values to their children and in turn the values to the next generation.  A lot of this wisdom was stopped on the killing fields of battle fields across the globe.  New epistemic frames of references filled this void and abortion in the UK became legalized. 

It is a sad day for the Church, the communion of saints.  Politicians enjoy giving presents to their voters and a lot of the time voters do not see pandoras box with the poisonous snake ready to latch on to the persons who opens the lid.  This is why Herman Bavinck is so important.  He is giving us God’s wisdom on the topic of conscience and laying bare how these ideas have changed.  He has shown us how society has stripped the original meanings of conscience away until there is only the human being as subject and object.  Oh, what a sad day this is when the Creator of our humanity is pushed to one side and forcibly expunged from society.  My friends God is not dead, he is the Creator of the universe, and this situation shows just how patient God is towards us.  When we start to look at conscience now, I think that we need to be careful as Bavinck will give a modern interpretation of conscience.  We need to look on Bavinck now as our teacher and what conscience means in the modern world.

The Rationalist modern etymology of Conscience; Bavincks reading.

So, we have a new etymology for conscience as God has been written out of the picture.  The human persons becomes both subject and object.  So, for Vilmar  ‘the heart is the central midpoint of human being and living, and also the seat of self-consciousness.’ (pg 191) syneideisis is no longer being a witness with someone (God), but is now (“to be one’s own witness” or “one’s own consciousness coming forward as witness”).  Conscience is now about ‘what you know about yourself’ (pg 192) Bavinck continues… ‘Next, however, it denotes an abiding consciousness, whose nature it is to bear witness to the subject regarding his own conduct, and that, too, in a moral sense.”’ (pg 192)

Bavinck then explains the relationship of consciousness and conscience.  ‘The consciousness that judges become our conscience; it becomes an ethical judgment.’ (pg 192) these two words were then carried into the ethical world and now belong together.  Bavinck then goes into Germanic meanings and finishes this section by saying that ‘I become subject and object’ in my conscience judgements’. 


‘My conscience and consciousness are not linked now to God in any shape or form.  I am no longer answerable before a Holy Creator’.  I think this is the gist of what Bavinck is saying.  This is based on pure cause and effect. It means that there is no sin because one is only answerable to oneself.  This is how people live their lives; the individual have now become little gods making their own decisions in life without a care for eternity.   For myself I can never accept this rationalistic explanation devoid of God.   We were created in the image of God, there was a Fall, Christ came into the world to save us from our sins. We cannot save ourselves a special work of the Holy Spirit needs to kick start our salvation, planned before the foundation of the world. Whether we believe in God or not, there will be a day that we will be held accountable for our thoughts and actions.

Next time in Herman Bavinck we are going to look at the relationship of Conscience and intellect in Herman Bavincks Reformed Ethics pages 193 -195.  In this section Bavinck again looks at St Thomas’ Aquinas’ interpretation. 

You are also welcome to follow my other blog on the book of Hebrews;


Bavick on Modern Rationalism and the Conscience.

June 20, 2021

 I chose the following picture because being separated from God is like having a tree without a water source.  In the same way for me rationalism has the same type of effect.  Anyhow putting these ideas to one side what can Herman Bavinck the Master theologian teach us today?

Photo by from Pexels

So then we come to the modern era with the so-called scientific way of looking at the human person.  Darwinism being on the ascendancy and evolutionary progressive ideas coming to the forefront leaving behind and detaching reality from law and scripture.  An oversimplification by me but something serious happened to throw us into the modern world.  This is why it is so important to read Hermann Bavinck’s reformed ethics.   In the world of ideas, the human being takes the place of God, and he is in the driving seat.  Are we any better for it?

From this rationalism and the separation of religion and the state our world has indeed changed.  Sometimes I think that people live two existences.  Enforced secularism on people and their personal faith in a divine creator.   As an RE teacher, I know where the law lies.  Confessional ism has been pushed out of the door and religion has been put on a leveling ground.  Atheistic secular humanism is being pushed forward all the time.  Is this so healthy?

The state is forcing people to live this dual public life or to choose secularism as though ‘religion is a bad thing’. 

You need to ask the question; How does this affect me or you?

My friend in big and subtle ways and it is time to stop being an emu and pull one’s head out of the ground at the dangers.   I can give you a list of ethical dilemmas.

Abortion; DNA sequencing and the creation of the superhuman; the nature of what it is to be human; silencing of free speech; Enforcing unethical practices on the Church through the law; Destroying the individual, who’s conscience differs; Positive discrimination towards men through feminist laws in the workplace and articulated in the law; legal discrimination against religious faiths in general: Nuclear energies that can be used for good and bad; global warming; the destruction of various species of animals and plants.

Whatever your background or religious beliefs, Bavinck is for you:

“In parallel with the eighteenth-century Enlightenment’s emancipation of the natural person, rationalists detach conscience from God, his law, his Word, and place it on its own.” (Reformed ethics by Herman Bavinck, edited by John Bolt)

Conscience is separated from God, God’s law and Scripture.  Conscience stands on its own and it is ripped out of its traditional context. 

It follows then that the conscience now becomes just a ‘moral sentiment or sense’ (pg189).  From my perspective I agree with Bavinck’s findings that all that was left is ‘purely moral and subjective’. 

Rousseau show the consequences of this that ‘A superficial moralism was the result.’ (pg189)

Where is this leading? 

Its leading to Kant who saw the conscience being in the court room with an acquittal or guilty verdict.   Conscience is detached from God, and it is only a ‘moral instrument’.  The conscience for Kant cannot make mistakes… Hmm I have problems with this because having looked at the discussion on the syllogisms we know that the conscience can make mistakes.  If we take into our senses false data (fake news?) we are certainly going to make mistakes with our conscience.  For Kant this was not a problem. Fichte follows the same lines as Kant that the conscience cannot err, make mistakes. (pgs 189-190).

Fichte then went beyond this as Bavinck says, “In the newer philosophy, conscience became an enlightening, infallible, and undeceived star. All the emphasis is placed on the formal function of judging by the conscience, which function is glorified; no attention is paid to its content.”(pg200)

Alarm bells started to ring in my head when I saw ‘no attention is paid to its content’   Which leads to Herbart who brings generalizations to conscience, so it affects art, science and ethics.  This leads us to Hegel: “where the good is identified with the nature of the will, of the completely realized will and not of the empirical will.” (pg 190).

Bavinck continues and I think that this is hard hitting: “conscience is valid for individual morality, but its standard, its ideal, is found in social ethics. The community exists far above the individual conscience and therefore need not always honour it.”   We then come to the point to see conscience only as a ‘product of nurture or a result of social instincts.’  Bavinck goes on to say that Schleiermacher did not make much of the conscience. (pg191)

After Schleiermacher

Before looking at the various types of conscience then after Schleiermacher Bavinck gives us list of questions that were asked after Schleiermacher:

(a) Is the conscience an original faculty, or is it produced by the environment, as Darwin suggested?

Accompanying this question is another: does conscience have a general content or not?

(b) Is conscience a religious faculty, or only a moral one?

(c) Is conscience a negative faculty, or also a positive one; does it presuppose the fall into sin or not? Does conscience play an anticipatory role, or does it deal only with consequences?

 (d) Is it infallible, or can we also speak of an erring conscience? In general, what kinds of consciences are there?

(e) What sort of freedom of conscience do humans enjoy?



So, rationalism on whatever riverbank we stand on has changed the horizon forever.  These names we mentioned in the push of rationalism are here to stay and they cannot be ignored.   Some theologians such as Pannenberg have built their edifices on Hegelianism principles and have taken the evolutionary route no matter what the cost.  Other theologians such as Karl Barth and Herman Bavinck, although of different traditions are willing to question the foundations of the secular edifice, we live in. 

This is indeed the modern world that has been built.  These ideas and ideals have helped to shape the world we live in today.  For myself I turn to the Lord Jesus Christ to help me and my family to steer these difficult times.  Scripture gives me an anchor for the soul by and through the Holy Spirit.  In many ways the conscience for the majority of people is free to think what they like.  I am blessed because scripture gives us constraints that in fact in the long term protects us from a lot of the evil that exists in this world.

 You can also follow my blog on Hebrews at:







The way of faith or your way part 1 Hebrews 4.1-7

June 19, 2021

Hebrews chapter 4

Lets begin by reading Hebrews 4, verses 1 through to 7!

1 Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,



although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS”; 5 and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” 6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,



Verse 1

Therefore (ouv) This takes us to the previous things that were said.  Apollos reminded his readers of the perils of unbelief.  Having the previous in mind and in terms of what was said we ought to understand the phrase ‘let us fear if’.  I liked the way john Calvin put it:

“But the fear which is here recommended is not that which shakes the confidence of faith but such as fills us with such concern that we grow not torpid with indifference. Let us then fear, not that we ought to tremble or to entertain distrust as though uncertain as to the issue, but lest we be unfaithful to God’s grace.

By saying Lest we be disappointed of the promise left us, he intimates that no one comes short of it except he who by rejecting grace has first renounced the promise; for God is so far from repenting to do us good that he ceases not to bestow his gifts except when we despise his calling. The illative therefore, or then means that by the fall of others we are taught humility and watchfulness according to what Paul also says,

“These through unbelief have fallen; be not thou then high minded, but fear.” [67] ^ (Romans 11:20.)”  From

He goes on to say “while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.”   Verse 1b

Apollos knows that by faith we can enter this ‘rest of God’.  He doesn’t want any of his congregation to not enter it. 

Verse 2 is critical to our understanding of how we enter this rest:

“2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”

The phrase ‘we have had good news preached to us’ in the Greek is one word and it is a perfect tense.  This word is doing a lot of hard work that the message the original readers and the readers of this letter heard the Gospel.  This was an act that happened, but it has eternal consequences.    In this verse we have the ‘they’ and ‘us’.  Apollos is making and showing the big difference between the groups.  They did not unite God’s message with faith, but his present readers are encouraged to unite the message of faith and trusting God.


Note: have had good news preached to us = εὐηγγελισμένοι Hebrews 4:2  verbal participle, middle or passive, nominative masculine plural.


Verse 3: For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,



although His works were finished from the foundation of the world”.

This to me is a wonderful statement, “For we who have believed enter that rest”.   Apollos continues with them in this passage and he contrasts the two groups.  So, we will enter Gods rest because we have trusted God but they will not enter because of unbelief.  Apollos has not added any bones to the word rest yet, but he has used it in terms of those who believe and those who disbelieve.   From this point on, the quality of the word ‘rest’, will start to make more sense. 

Verse 3b and verse 4: I find it interesting that Apollos says God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world.  He then in verse 4 quotes from Genesis 2.2  about God resting from his creative work.  Rest does not mean that God got tired and couldn’t carry on, not at all.  A Jewish text I read translated rest in Genesis 2.2 as abstained from his work.  God set the cosmos up and everything was working perfectly.  Abstained has the idea that God decided and chose to stop at that particular moment.  The word rested in Genesis 2.2 Kalah is in the piel form so the work of creation was 100% perfect completed.


‘Rested’ in the LXX; Genesis.2.2 is in the  Aorist Active Indicative – 3rd Person Singular.  This happened once. 

In the Hebrew Kalah rested translated here I believe wrongly as ‘ended’ is that in its intensive meaning of the piel; its form takes on a consecutive imperfect.  A consecutive imperfect is always read as a perfect in meaning.  From


‘Abstained’ makes perfect sense because it is God who chose when to put the tools down, yet he is always in control of his creation.  The aorist in the Greek points to this point being a unique action from God’s point of view, and for us who are a part of the creation of God his work has eternal consequences for us, past present and future.


side note:

With the Genesis story I hold to the traditional view that Moses is the author of Genesis and I reject the P,J,E interpretation that takes these two chapters to it being written in the exilic period of Babylonia. 

Having said that, we need to remember that the creation stories are seriously important through out the whole of the Old Testament.   From that point of view I agree with Walter Brueggemann that the Jewish people were able to keep their own identities with the use of the Sabbath against all these polytheistic cosmologies that existed in the 6th and 7th centuries.


Verses 4 and  5:


The question is why Apollos set these two verses next to each other, Genesis 2.2 and Psalm 95.

I am sure that there are many ways to look at this.  The one thing that stands out is that originally it is ‘God’s rest’  is set up with, ‘Our rest’.   This resting is about our communion with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.      Let us tread on:

Verses 6-7:

Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,



Here we have king David reiterating what God had said from the creation of the world.  Hearing the Gospel and hearing with the ear of faith is the key.  Today does not lose its meaning even for the listeners to the book of Hebrews.  When is today? Today is now! Today is the present and Apollos gives us a choice are going to listen to Jesus Christ the Son of God or are we going to pass it by.



Preliminary remarks

There is a key word in this passage but more importantly this word is first used in Hebrews 3.11. 

The word rest is found in these places: Chapter 3.11; 3.18; 4.1; 4.3; 4.5; 4.8; 4.9; 4.10; 4.11.

As you can see Apollos is putting a lot of weight on this word and then his question is why. 

Having a closer look at the context we see the first time he uses it is the quotation from Psalm 95.

Hebrews 3.11; 3.18; 4.1; 4.3; 4.4 4.5; 4.8; 4.9; 4.10; 4.11

In 3. 11 it is the quotation from Psalm 95

in 3. 18 he interprets this rest that those who disobey will not enter the rest.

4.1 this is a warning for us.

4.3 For us who believe enter the rest.

4.4 This is interesting; he takes the readers back to the creation story when God rested from his works Genesis 2.2

4.8 When the Jews entered Israel by Joshua (according to Apollos)

Joshua did not give them rest even though God kept his promise to Israel and Judah.


Reflection on the argument so far

As Christians we are called to walk a life by faith and not in our own strength.   We are to trust our Lord Jesus Christ no matter what.   We are to walk by the Word of God with faith.   God indeed did create the world and the universe, but he also prepared a place for us in his Kingdom.  God’s rest is also our rest, and we need to trust in his promises.  This chapter is not the easiest to understand but when we think of Jesus’ words from Bible gateway:

“14 “Do not let your heart be troubled; [a]believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many [b]rooms; if that were not so, [c]I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

I want to finish by saying that God really loves us and wants the best for us.  How could Jesus say these words if God didn’t love us?

It may be that you haven’t thought about these issues.  I pray that God by the Holy Spirit with show you our Lord Jesus that you come to a place to trust him and make him your Lord.  The Book of Hebrews is certainly the book of faith!

You can also follow my Blog on Herman Bavinck. We are continuing our discussion on the conscience and how the rationalists movement changed the goal posts:

The dangers of unbelief in the face of adversity: Hebrews Chapter 3 6-12

June 12, 2021

12 06 2021

The dangers of unbelief.

As we saw in Psalm’s unbelief is the opposite of faith.   God wants a people who will trust him.  Looking at this chapter holistically, it was bad enough to disobey God when Moses was in charge of the people of God.  How much worse it is to be disobedient to the Son of God!  To Apollos, Jesus is greater than Moses therefore the punishment of disobedience will be greater.   It is God who saved Israel from the Egyptians with mighty miracles which were unheard of.    The people of God in that generation were pushing all the wrong buttons.  Out of that generation only Joshua and Caleb made it into the promised land.  God takes pleasure in a people who trust and obey him.   This is a lesson we learned from the Psalm.

Apollos then spells it out to his readers.

“12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, 15 while it is said,



16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. “Hebrews 3:12-19 NASB

It is so easy for us to take the wider road of pleasure and putting self before God.  In this paraenetic material of exhortation there was a very real danger of some of the believers falling away.  Even before AD 70 both Jews and Christians were being persecuted and if we read this letter very carefully, we can see material pointing to this for example later on before the faith chapter:

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:32-36 NASB

These Jewish Christians were suffering for their faith.  There was a clear danger for them to lose hope.  Apollos was a great pastor!  He was able to draw from the wellsprings of Scripture to encourage them to follow the Lord whatever the outcome.  It is so easy for someone to call themselves a Christian when they live in the lap of luxury with no financial woes.  We need to be reminded today that everything can be swept away in an instant.  Some of these believers to whom Apollos is writing to suffered loss of houses goods and in some situations even life.  This was the reality.  As believers we have a choice, this moment; Do we serve the Lord Jesus, or do we turn our back on all the good things God has done for us?  Jesus Christ, God of God, light of light, becoming full human and a man broke into our human domain and for a season became a human being like all of us.  This was not enough!  We deserved to be judged and to be punished by eternal death for the sins we have committed.  Instead, it was God’s plan to send his son to a hill and be crucified in our place.   The wonder the mystery of this.  Now the door is open for us to enter heaven.

You as the reader of Hebrews like these early believers are called to make a choice. Today if you hear his voice.  As long as it is called today.  Apollos is not mincing words: Today is now.  Today is not yesterday and it is not in the future, it is now.  As a Christian have you suffered? If the answer is no, then good carry on serving him.  As a Christian have you suffered? If the answer is yes keep on worshipping him.  Have you passed the litmus test of faith?

Verse 14 says:  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. NASB

If you haven’t suffered my friend, you might in the future.  Live by faith and live by faith including all the responsibilities as a child of God.  He commands us to love and to live by faith.  If you are living by faith, then where is the fruit of that love?    It wasn’t cheap for God to become a human being and to die on a cross.  Do you have a cheap my friend or is there substance to it.  Many people have lost homes because of war and famine.  As a believer if you have been in a position to help another human being ; what did you do?

I’m not judging, I will be found lacking and it is only by grace that I stand!

You might be suffering and there may be a possibility to turn your back on god’s ways and go to crime.  I’m saying don’t do it.  God loves you my friend and in him, in Christ there is always a way.

Lets look at the text more carefully;

Verse 12-14 are an explanation of the theme found in verse 6, that the believers should stay faithful. It does imply suffering as a consequence of the sin they committed. The mood of verse 12 to 13 move from – to +.  Verse 12 says ‘take care’ the beginning of verse 13 says ‘but encourage…’ 

From a negative point of view verse 12 says that they should keep away from unbelief.  For example the readers may have entertained the idea that perhaps Jesus is not the Christ after all.

From a positive point of view verse 13 says that the readers should encourage each other day by day.  These questions for the readers being of Jewish background are of the highest importance. The answer to the question however is that Jesus is the Christ the true King of Israel. 

Verse 14 has the same feel to it as verse 6. By looking at the key words in both sentences we find the following.

Verse 6 confidence = verse 14 assurance.

“     6 firm       =  “    14 firm.

“     6 end        =  “    14 end.

Obviously if I was going to use the above words then there must have been something that was discouraging me.  In chapter 12/3 the writer does give us a clue to the problem.  Possibly within the Jewish community (and I am convinced there was) there was a Jewish voice that said Jesus was not the Christ but an imposter.  These Jewish Christians were worn down and they were ‘tired’, they were losing heart (12/3b). They were under some type of persecution (verse 4) possibly losing jobs, being rejected by the family and friends.  It does not seem to be the case that any of these believers were being murdered (12/4) for their faith.  More like they were under peer pressure to conform to the standard beliefs of the Jewish community.

chapter 3/15-19 a summary.

Having looked at the situation of these Jewish Christians, the writer quotes a part of the wilderness experiences of Israel (see chapter 3/7-8 from Psalm 95/7). He then explains that the reason why the Jews did not listen was because of unbelief and this was worked out in disobedience. So, Israel did not listen to God. 


How can I finish this section of scripture?  What have we learned?  The main lesson I think is that the way of faith is better than the way of unbelief.    Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He came into the world to save us from our sins.  If we turn our back on Jesus, we turn our back on God.  It is that simple.  So let us not shrink from faith ‘now’ but stay firm, lock ourselves away and pray and seek wisdom.  Whether we are suffering or nor not suffering Jesus is always close to us.  It is not a feeling thing, it is an objective reality.

What Bavinck says about The place of conscience and how it works in our lives; Peter Martyr Vermigli

June 12, 2021

 So let us start to think about the mechanisms that make conscience work.  The early church fathers and the scholastics have helped us a long way through syllogisms.  Syllogisms were also used by theologians from the reformed traditions.  Bavinck here is telling us about Peter Martyr Vermigli, an Italian reformed theologian:

Peter Martyr Vermigli was an Italian-born Reformed theologian. His early work as a reformer in Catholic Italy and his decision to flee for Protestant northern Europe influenced many other Italians to convert and flee as well. Wikipedia

Born: September 8, 1499, Florence, Italy

Died: November 12, 1562, Zürich, Switzerland

Education: University of Padua “(Taken from Google search)

from Public domain:

So, Bavinck wrote:

Vermigli put it this way: first comes syntérésis, the natural knowledge of things concerning our conduct, which provides the major premise (such as, fornication is sin). Conscience supplies the minor premise (what you want to do is fornication) and draws the conclusion: you should not do that. (Reformed Ethics, Herman Bavinck, edited by John Bolt, page 183).

In the major premise then, it is a ‘the natural knowledge of things concerning our conduct (such as, fornication is sin) ’. Natural knowledge of something bad does not mean that you have sinned.   

We also need the minor ‘premise (what you want to do is fornication) and draws the conclusion: you should not do that’.

The conclusion can then be that the conscience shows you that you are guilty because you are.  Conscience in itself can never make something right.  It is a judgement, and it only shows what has already taken place.

Obviously according to Vermigli the conscience can also judge things done admirably.  The syllogism Bavinck used as an example focused on looking at sin.  The syllogism as a tool can also be used with ethics that move in the direction of the Good. (page 183).  I think we also need to remember that even the conscience can get wrong answers at times because of the Fall (Adam and Eve turning their back on God). 

However, all rational creatures including angels have a conscience.  Though conscience in itself is inadequate for a proper measure, we rely on the Holy Spirit and Scripture as guides for us by God’s grace.  Concerning conscience then, there are two who know our deeds and judgements, you and God; not a third party.   A third party may guess objectively but subjectively it is impossible for others to know.  Bavinck then gives us two collecting points.

a.       The conscience is a witness to good acts or bad acts.

b.       The conscience makes a judgement about our past deed.

The conscience is only answerable to God and it follows through God’s command.   Our master theologian then gives us two verses:

22 For the LORD is our judge,

The LORD is our lawgiver,

The LORD is our king;

He will save us— Isaiah 33:22 NASB

And then:

12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbour? James 4:12 NASB


Before Bavinck goes on to explain in more details, he gives us this great gem:

There are many judges in the world, but God is the ultimate Judge.  When judges judge they will never know all the facts.  In God’s case, He understands and knows everything:

 “The reasoning conscience functions in two ways: through the mind and through the memory.  The intellect makes use of ecclesiastical (canon) law and civil law. Memory arises from particular deeds, either accomplished or only imagined, which the conscience judges by the norms of the law.” (Reformed Ethics, Herman Bavinck, edited by John Bolt, page 183-184).



We have discovered that the conscience is very important to our health and wellbeing here on earth, but it also has a say on our future into eternity.  God is Judge of the whole earth.  If we have a Christian faith of whatever background, then Jesus sent the Holy Spirit into the world to be a guide and teacher to his children.  God has also given us his word the Bible.  Although our consciences are broken by the Fall, through God’s grace by the Holy Spirit and Scripture these corrections help us to reach new heights of God’s activity in the world reaching to the lost.

If you are not a Christian, you too have a conscience my friend.  What have you done with your conscience?  Have you listened to it recently or do you ignore it?  We have all been created by God, believers and non-believers.  There are issues at hand such as floods, hunger, global warming.  Love of our family and our neighbours.  On a lot of these issues, it does not matter whether or not one is a Christian in this present age but we as human beings have to get together and make decisions to make this world a better place for our children’s sakes. 

Having said that, I invite you if you are not a Christian to think about these things.  Jesus is at the door of your heart, and he is knocking.  Will you invite him into your life?  If you do not know anything about the Lord Jesus, I think a Gospel I seriously like is Johns Gospel.   It may be that you know some Christians already and it is worth talking to a church minister or a better still; someone you know who a believer is, they could help you. 

I want to finish off by saying that we are all sinners and without God’s help we are lost.  My faith in Christ gives me a focus and a goal in life and I bow my knee only to Him.  Herman Bavinck has thought through some serious issues of what it means to serve God in the real world.  I hope and pray that you have also benefited from his wisdom as we walk along a path that he laid before us.

News about my commentary on the Book of Hebrews


If you go to   You will find my other site.  At the moment I am going through the book of Hebrews.  At this site I also went through the whole of 1 Corinthians.  Last Week we looked at Psalm 96 as a background text to Apollos’ arguments in chapter 3 and 4.

Bavincks understanding of the Conscience ‘the Protestant Reformation ‘Part 2

June 5, 2021

05 06 2021

John Calvin pages 181-182 from Bavincks Reformed Ethics edited by John Bolt


Conscience is a sense of divine judgement which is somehow joined to the human being. The human cannot escape this judgement.  The human being cannot escape this search light for good or ill.  A person cannot run and hide from the truth of their actions.  This conscience search light on his or her inner truth moves to the point of conviction. There is no escape.

Bavinck writes from Calvin’s words Conscience provides; “an awareness which hales man before God’s judgment” and “is a sort of guardian appointed for man to note and spy out all his secrets that nothing may remain buried in darkness.” (Pages 181 and 182 Reformed Ethics edited by John Bolt)

So, what is a guardian.  A guardian is there to protect you from harm.  Therefore, I think the conscience helps us to steer a correct course in our lives and it is a lot more powerful than courts.

Accordingly, this ‘spy’ doesn’t leave anything uncovered everything is brought to light.   In the same section which I haven’t quoted Bavinck brings up works and conscience.  I get the feeling that these are two areas of accountability.  ‘Works’ is objective and can be seen and in this world one can use forensic evidence for guilt and acquittal.  ‘Conscience’ however is subjective, and it cannot be seen by any human court.  This conscience then can only refer us to God’s judgement or acquittal.

Our Master Theologian gives us for collecting points from John Calvin:

They are:

“(a) conscience is a knowledge of our deeds in relation to God, his judgment.

(b) only God can bind the conscience and not any human person.

(c) conscience is a witness, a guardian of our deeds.

(d) conscience stands above all human judgments. Conscience provides us with some knowledge of the moral law, but it is an incomplete and imperfect knowledge.”

Amandus Polanus

Amandus Polanus from wiki

 Polanus was an important figure in the reformation.  The following is what the Wikipedia says about his works:

“Amandus Polanus von Polansdorf (16 December 1561, Opava, Silesia – 17 July 1610, Basel, Switzerland)”


“He wrote the three volume dogmatic work Partitiones theologicae (Divisions of Theology) and Syntagma theologiae christianae (translated in English as A System of Christian Theology).  In 1603, based on Luther’s translation, Polanus composed the first Calvinistic German translation of the Bible. His major systematic works are marked by Aristotelian causal analysis and, most strikingly, by the methodology of Ramism. He showed concern for precision and clarity of presentation and polemical defence of Reformed doctrine. Yet he showed little interest in metaphysical speculation. His doctrine of God was central but it, and predestination, were balanced by other interests: Christology, covenant, ethics, and praxis. A consolidator not an innovator, his concern was to preserve Reformed teaching, so serving the contemporary needs of the church.” From

Let us remember that earlier Bavinck in his work on the Church Fathers and scholastics used syllogisms.   It should not surprise us that it was still being used at the time of the Reformation by protestant theologians.

According to Bavinck Polanus makes divisions to help understand the faculties of the soul.

             Vegetative which includes the nutritive



             Sensitive (with these criteria the sense perception and movement)

             And rational

The bit that Bavinck is interested here is the ‘rational’ as he says this is further divided into:

a.            Theoretical reason

b.            Practical reason

Which Bavinck says is the proper work of the rational.  Bavinck then goes into the theological understanding of these principles.  The Logos (word, reason of God -my interpretation in the brackets).

Bavinck mentions John 1:9

9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. John 1:9 NASB

I will quote the rest from Herman Bavincks reformed ethics:


“The author of this reason is the Logos of John 1:9, and its two norms are the inborn notion of fundamental principles—theoretical and practical—and conscience.  


Conscience is a “certain notion of the divine will and actions in agreement with it or contrary to it, indelibly implanted in the mind, approving good actions, disapproving evil ones.”   “(Page 182 Reformed Ethics Herman Bavinck edited by John Bolt)

My mini reflection

In Jesus Christ who is the Logos, in Him, the perfect reason is found.  The measure by which we can understand conscience is through Christ who is fully God and fully man! As humans only the Logos was able to measure and understand conscience because the Trinity created it.  Jesus Christ has this perfect conscience and perfect understanding, but we cannot: on the contrary because of the Fall and our upbringing it is impossible for our conscience to give us correct data all the time.  Some of this day is of our own making and is fake news to us.


Today we looked out what the conscience is through the eyes of John Calvin and Amandus Polanus.  The conclusion of this part is then that there are two aspects to reason.

a.            Theoretical reason

b.            Practical reason

The next stage of Bavincks argument is to look at the outworking of good and bad deeds and how the conscience works on a day-to-day basis.  The following are some areas that we need to follow through still:

·         How the natural understanding (syntérésis,) the major premise works with

·         The minor premise of conscience (you want to sin in some way or not)

·         Does this mean that we are trapped in a circle of sin?

Please comeback next time as we find out How Scripture and the Holy Spirit can help us because obviously, we cannot help ourselves.




My refection on the conscience for Religious Education.

As a Religious Educator and Theologian, I feel that ‘conscience’ is an aspect that is missing in many school curriculums today.   Herman Bavinck reminds us that this is an important aspect of what it is to be a truly good human being.   As an aside, conscience was something that Bruce Lee also took seriously and remember that he was not only a martial artist but a philosopher too! 

It saddens me to see so many young people on the streets without stability.   Young people putting their lives in danger for what purpose? Conscience is a driver within our human nature, and it is ignored in textbooks.  One has heard of conscientious objectors; that is one facet.  On the other hand, another man’s conscience would say ’it is ok to go to war’.  Both people have a conscience. 

Comparative religions consider the so called ‘facts’ on the ground and how religions work mainly externally.  I am arguing that it would be interesting to see what the various religions think about conscience.  I already know that Psychology looks at internals of the mind and ego, but this is done purely from a secular, non-religious, evolutionary cause, and effect point of view.   The religions also have a view, and this should be discussed in the classroom, and it would make for great debates.


News about my commentary on the Book of Hebrews

If you go to   You will find my other site.  At this site I now focus on teachings from the Holy Bible.   At the moment I am in chapter 3.  I decided to go to Psalm 95 first before returning to Hebrews.  The reason is that this Psalm is used in a major argument in his letter about faith and unbelief. 

Psalm 95; An old Testament Background study for Hebrews Chapter 3. 7-11 Part 1

June 2, 2021

An Old Testament Study on Psalm 95, a key text used for the book of Hebrews

02 06 2021

An old Testament Background study for Hebrews Chapter 3. 7-11 Part 1

This study is a background study on Psalm 95.  When we have completed the background study, then we will return to Apollos’ commentary at chapter 3. 7-11.  If we are to understand the book Hebrews here, then we need a deeper understanding of the quotations in Hebrews.   I know that Herman Bavinck touches on a key word ‘bahan = to test or to examine’. 

We need to be extra mindful of the proceeding verses in Hebrews (chapter 3. 7-11).  This takes us to Psalm 95.  Before Apollos quotes from the Psalm though, he tells his readers that it is the Holy Spirit who says.  For us it is the very words of God.  In that case before we even look at these sections let us look at Psalm 95 first and then come back to this section later.

Praise to the LORD, and Warning against Unbelief.
1 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
3 For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
5  The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His  pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at  Meribah,
As in the day of  Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95 NASB

The commentator below breaks the Psalm into sections:

verses 1 and 2 shows worship in many forms

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!

Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;

Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

Verses 3-5:

God’s greatness is worshiped

For the LORD is the great God,

And the great King above all gods.

In His hand are the deep places of the earth;

The heights of the hills are His also.

The sea is His, for He made it;

And His hands formed the dry land.

Verses 6-7a

a call to worship in humility.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down.

Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

For He is our God,

And we are the people of His pasture,

And the sheep of His hand.

Verses 7b – 9

The warning to those who reject Worship.

Today, if you will hear His voice:

“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,

As in the day of trial in the wilderness,

When your fathers tested Me;

They tried Me, though they saw My work.”

In summary form then:

  1. We can worship God in various forms.
  2. We are called to look at the greatness of God, his Majesty and that he is the Creator and Judge.
  3. In contrast we are to humble ourselves and worship God.
  4. A dire warning to those who reject worshipping God.

In the first half of Psalm 95 there is true joy and happiness in the presence of God from within the congregation of worshippers of God.  This section is a section of faith and belief towards God.  The last section is turned on its head and sorrow and unhappiness will be with those who choose unbelief.

A breakdown of Psalm 95

verse 1 God is our rock.

verse 2 we come into his presence.

verse3 God is a great king above all the gods!

verse 4 -5 everything belongs to God the depths of the earths are in his hands.

verse 6 we are called to worship.

verse 7 He is our God, and we are his sheep.

Verse 8 warning on hardening our hearts.

Verse 9 Don’t test God through unbelief.

Verse 10 God loathed a generation because of their unbelief.

Verse 11 A judgement was announced on the unbelievers.

Special notes

As you can see the Psalm itself contrasts the walk of faith to the walk of unbelief. 

Verse 9 the testing is an examination type of testing.  The word usually denotes God who is doing the testing. 

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press) on page 100 says:

“In the exceptions (in the use of the Hebrew word Bahan), it is God who is tested. It is evident that this is abnormal procedure. In Ps 95:9 the people are reminded of the folly of testing God at Meribah.”

This is a very important finding.  As Bavinck explains to us that there are good senses and bad senses of words in Scripture pages 446 – 449 Reformed Ethics; edited by John Bolt

This is one of those situations where ‘testing, examining’ has negative connotations because it is from the place of unbelief.   The commentator in the TWOT (TWOT= Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) says that ‘bahan= testing, examining’ is used as an abnormal procedure.  The point is that these people knowingly turned their back on God even though he saved them from Pharoah, starvation and so on.   This is very serious situation.


By nature, God is good and his love and compassion for his people know no limits.  This why believers by the Holy Spirit walk in faith.  Therefore, it is a perversion to think that we can examine God from the point of view of unbelief.  In the next study we will be going to look at the Book of Hebrews and how these verse from Psalms are interpreted by Apollos.