28 September, 2005

Let a Man Examine Himself

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of [that] bread, and drink of [that] cup.
(I Corinthians 11.28, Geneva Bible, 1599)

Our Reformed forefathers made a lot of the examination of oneself before partaking of the Lord's Supper. This is from the marginal notes of the 1599 Geneva Bible. (My favorite translation: the Reformed choice!)

The examination of a man's self, is of necessity required in the supper, and therefore they ought not to be admitted to it who cannot examine themselves: such as children, furious and angry men, also such as either have no knowledge of Christ, or not sufficient, although they profess Christian religion: and others that cannot examine themselves.

Those who are living scandelous lives are not to partake of the supper until they are repentant. Friends, let us examine ourselves.

Larger Catechism has a lot to say on what to do if you feel as though you lack faith or have not prepared your heart enough to partake of the Supper of our Lord. On an interesting side note, if these documents were written today, there would be a question that says, "What must a man do who thinks that he is over prepared, and never questions his state before God"? Both questions merit the same response:

Flee to Christ for grace and mercy.
Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.

Q172: May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord's supper?

A172: One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord's supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof; and in God's account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord's supper, that he may be further strengthened.

Below you will find an excellent sermon that I listened to today. It is 50 minutes long, but well worth sitting back, closing your eyes, and meditating upon the need to examine yourself before partaking of the Lord's spiritual meal.

Self Examination, Rev. Joel Beeke

Discussion Points:
-What books do you find helpful in self examination?
-What do you meditate on while examining yourself?
-What is the purpose of self examination if you ultimately look to Jesus anyway?

26 September, 2005

German Pope changes Mass

Below you will find the very controversial Question 80 of the Heidelberg Catechism. This question has caused a lot of uproar in Reformed churches that are attempting to do away with the differences between the Protestant and the Roman Catholic religions.

Now that Ratzinger is the Pope, he is attempting to bring a Bavarian flavor to the mass, and now even the faithful of Rome will have to reexamine their doctrine of the Mass.

Q80: What difference is there between the Lord's Supper and the Pope's Mass?

A80: The Lord's Supper testifies to us that we have full forgiveness of all our sins by the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself once accomplished on the cross; and that by the Holy Ghost we are ingrafted into Christ, who, with His true body, is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father, and is there to be worshiped. But the Mass teaches that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is still daily offered for them by the priests, and that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and is therefore to be worshiped in them. And thus the Mass at bottom is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.

Below you will see Ratzinger's ideas on how to bring back the German people to the "Mother Church". Happy Oktoberfest Ratzinger!

As for me, I will stick with the traditional view on Rome that was shared by the Reformers and my Puritan forefathers.

Discussion Question:

-Is this not exactly what evangelical churches are doing in an attempt to combine culture and Christianity?

22 September, 2005

Of Sons and Bastards

Church discipline is something on which churches tend to have extreme positions. It seems that there are those that refuse to do any discipline at all, and there are those that find it to be the only means of grace.

In the book of Matthew, we see a pattern for church discipline that the Lord Jesus Christ gives to the elders of the church. The keys of the kingdom include the shutting out of those that are excommunicated.

This, of course, is the extreme of discipline, but it starts at a much more pastoral and compassionate place. (Not that excommunication is not compassionate..another topic.) Church discipline begins with the members of the body holding each other accountable for the profession of faith in Christ Jesus that they have made. This can be very difficult in our day. People see faith (even in the most conservative churches) as a personal matter that is not allowed to fall under the judgment of anyone or anything. This is an unfortunate place for the bride of Christ.

When believers are holding each other accountable and showing a genuine concern for their faith and the advancement of it, the possibility of a stronger and purer church is within view. Church discipline begins with brethren viewing each other's walk as something that is worth taking interest in. Accountability is making sure that we are our brother's keeper.

In the book of Hebrews we hear that without chastisement we are not counted as sons, but we are bastards. This is strong language- no one wants to be illegitimate. Concerning earthly life you do not want to be left without a father. O how much more would it hurt to be left spiritually fatherless. Friends, our call as Christians is to admonish one another, hold each other accountable to our high calling as sons and daughters of the Most High, and seek to be our brother's keeper.

Friends, seek to keep each other accountable. It is the way of Christ.

Belgic Confession, Article 19
The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself.

Westminster Confession, Article 30
I. The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of his church, hath therein appointed a government, in the hand of church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.
II. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.
III. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.
IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the church are to proceed by admonition; suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the church; according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.xii.8
"Some persons, in their hatred of discipline, recoil from its very name, let them understand this: if no society...can be kept in proper condition without discipline, it is much more necessary in the Church, whose condition should be ordered as possible.

John Murray, Collected Writings, 2.382
The Session is under obligation to exclude from the Lord's Supper those who are guilty of such overt sin as requires exclusion... To deny this necessity is to waive completely the demands of discipline.

AA Hodge, Confession of Faith, p371
The end of Church Discipline are declared to be: the purity of the Church, the recovery of the erring brother himself, the force of example to deter others from like sin, and the exhibition of righteousness and fidelity to principle presented to the world without.

Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, p1706
Christian reproof is an ordinance of Christ for the bringing of sinners to repentance, and must be managed as an ordinance.

a Brakel, Christian's Reasonable Service, 2.185
You (the elders) must engage in this task (Church discipline) in the realization that it is the Lord's work, for in doing so you will gain ability and boldness. You will then begin to observe your congregation, neighborhood by neighborhood, and if you become suspicious about someone, you ought to enquire into this. You should privately address such an individual, exhort and rebuke him, and seek to correct such a person in the spirit of meekness. If he hears you, you have gained him.

IBID, 2.187
The use of this key purifies the congregation, makes others fearful of sinning, and delivers those who are weak from that which offends. It will cause the Church to demand respect from those who are without (the church), who in turn will aspire after godliness and salvation and will be enticed to join the Church.
Blessed be the congregation where this may be practiced. "For there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore" (Psalm 133.3).

Discussion Points:

-What can we do to encourage accountability in the church?

-What place does "small groups", "cell groups", or "societies" play in accountability?

-What are some of thindrancesces to accountability?

17 September, 2005

With Some Reservation: Choosing A Church * *

There are many things to look for when Christians are seeking a body of believers to join itself to. Let me say from the start that I am talking about Reformed or Presbyterian churches only. Since I am Presbyterian I am speaking out of my own presuppositions. If you are not Reformed or Presbyterian, you are free to join one! Many people will disagree on what to look for in a church since the Scriptures guide us to join ourselves to the true church and the idea of denominations is foreign to the Word of God.

We know that the history of Israel had two major factions of people who claimed to worship YHWH, but the prophets frequently speak out against the Northern kingdom and its worship.
The reason that the prophets spoke out against the Northern kingdom was that they had departed from biblical worship. The sin of Jeraboam is a frequently repeated phrase in the Old Testament. The sin was worshipping God in a way that was not prescribed in the Scriptures. One of these Northern kingdom worshippers asked Jesus Christ about his input on the "worship wars" of his day. The woman at the well, I am sure, was really interested in his opinion about her choice of "denomination". Jesus responded to the woman, "You do not even know what you worship!" He concluded that there will come a time, and it now is, that those who worship God will do it in Spirit and in Truth.

What does this have to do with choosing a church? First off, it shows that the worship of God is very important to Jesus Christ. Worship is not something that is open for private interpretation. Worship needs to be done according to the prescription of God's word.

Point One: Know how the Church views the Bible. Do they believe that it is God's inspired and inerrant Word? Do they say that it is and then deny it in the way that they order their church? (Point three includes more on the view of Scripture).

Point Two: Seek out a Church that worships according to biblical principles of worship. If you do not know what a biblical principle is, then seek it out in scripture. Be able to cite a handful of verses that support biblical worship. Do not just assume that the way things are done are okay with God. Remember the woman at the well.

Point Three: Know what the church believes. Ask about doctrinal standards. If they have written standards read them and study them. Talk with the elders of the church if you do not understand points.
If the church is Presbyterian ask about its denominations writings other than the Westminster Standards. They all have documents that help to interpret the Standards. Also ask if the church has any position papers. These will help you to see how they apply the Standards and the Bible. (For example; The OPC has a position on abortion [in a certain circumstance] that many evangelicals will not like.)
If the church is Reformed ask about other papers as well. The CRC has a position paper called "Our world belongs to God". The URC has available synodical papers that help to discuss what they believe. The Protestant Reformed people have Herman Hoeksema's Reformed Dogmatics and that IS IT!

Point Four: (This one will be strange for some) Ask about the church's history. What denomination did it break off of? What reasons did it leave the body that it once was a member of? Did it have a legitimate reason to split or should it have joined an already existing body? What is it doing to re-unify the Reformed and Presbyterian churches? Does it have a heart for "one body", or does it enjoy being "alone"?

Point Five: Is it apparent that the (professing) members have lives that are transformed by the power of the gospel? Is it apparent that her people have hearts that seek to order their lives according to Scripture? Do you see a mature zeal to have families that glorify God and enjoy him? (This will show the power of the preaching in the church as well as the teaching that the members sit under.)

These five points will begin to help you on your path of choosing a body of believers that you can join with and work with towards bringing glory to God. I am sure that there are other things that are important and others can give input from their experiences.
This is not something that should be done without prayer, much discussion with elders and other godly counsel, and more prayer. Church membership is so important that you should see it as something that your children and grand-children will be effected by. Your choice could help you in your walk with Jesus Christ and it could also be the first step towards being spiritually dead. This is SERIOUS business!

Below you will find a helpful article by one of my favorite modern writers. It is easy to read and filled with biblical advice. ( The blog, Johannes Weslianus also has some insight into this: it is linked on my blogger section).

Choosing A Church

Discussion Points:
-What would you add my five points for consideration?
-What are biblical reasons to LEAVE a church?
-What should be the "battle plan" for what is called, church "shopping"?

* * TO ALL MY READERS: I am not thinking of leaving my church, but I have friends and family that are in the early stages of seeking out a new church and this topic has been something that I have been praying about and meditating on for the sake of friends of kin!

12 September, 2005

Calling the Sabbath a Delight

Recently in our congregation we have had discussion about the evening worship service and the sad fact that attendance of it ebbs and flows. Pastor Lanning put out a few paragraphs on the importance of attending both services as well as seeing evening as important as morning worship.

The importance of evening worship opens the door for another, and in my opinion, bigger discussion. How are we as Christians to use the Lord's Day? It seems that in a busy world like ours, setting time "aside" for God is not as easy as it may have been in the past. If one is a "Sabbath keeper" as our Reformed and Presbyterian forefathers (because of biblical warrant) have prescribed, then what is to be the use of the Lord's Day, or Sabbath?

This discussion comes up in my home often because of the desire to use this time to the glory of God. My wife becomes easily discouraged at the lack of spiritual discussion, solemnity, and theological discussion that goes on in the Lord's Day. Even in the most conservative of Reformed circles the conversation can quickly slip into sports, entertainment, careers, hobbies, and what Hollywood is doing. It is much easier to discuss mindless topics; but we need to make an effort to keep our thoughts, words, and deeds on spiritual matters.

Here is what our Presbyterian forefathers wrote in the Westminster Directory of Worship:

Of the Sanctification of the Lord's Day

THE Lord's day ought to be so remembered before-hand, as that all worldly business of our ordinary callings may be so ordered, and so timely and seasonably laid aside, as they may not be impediments to the due sanctifying of the day when it comes.
The whole day is to be celebrated as holy to the Lord, both in publick and private, as being the Christian Sabbath. To which end, it is requisite, that there be a holy cessation or resting all that day from all unnecessary labours; and an abstaining, not only from all sports and pastimes, but also from all worldly words and thoughts.
That the diet on that day be so ordered, as that neither servants be unnecessarily detained from the publick worship of God, nor any other person hindered from the sanctifying that day. That there be private preparations of every person and family, by prayer for themselves, and for God's assistance of the minister, and for a blessing upon his ministry; and by such other holy exercises, as may further dispose them to a more comfortable communion with God in his public ordinances.
That all the people meet so timely for publick worship, that the whole congregation may be present at the beginning, and with one heart solemnly join together in all parts of the publick worship, and not depart till after the blessing.
That what time is vacant, between or after the solemn meetings of the congregation in publick, be spent in reading, meditation, repetition of sermons; especially by calling their families to an account of what they have heard, and catechising of them, holy conferences, prayer for a blessing upon the publick ordinances, singing of psalms, visiting the sick, relieving the poor, and such like duties of piety, charity, and mercy, accounting the sabbath a delight.

Discussion points:
-How can we sanctify the Lord's day better?
-What practices in your home need to be changed to make this more of a reality?
-How can seeing the Sabbath as a delight aid in your Christian experience?

More on the Sabbath Day.

This is an article from the late, Professor John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary. It deals with the discussion that we have been having on the Sabbath day. You should find it very informative.

The Fourth Commandment According to the Westminster Standards

John Murray

A perusal of the statements of the Westminster Confession of Faith and of the Larger and Shorter Catechisms bearing upon the fourth commandment, will show that the position taken in these Standards is that of the universal and perpetual obligation of the Sabbath and that this obligation rests upon divine commandment. The commandment to which reference is made is, of course, what we know as the fourth in the decalogue. These Standards, however, imply that the Sabbath law, expressed in the forth commandment, was not first instituted when the ten commandments were promulgated to the children of Israel at Sinai. We know that the Sabbath institution goes back to creation; we know that there is explicit allusion to the observance of the Sabbath and of divine commandment bearing upon that observance prior to Sinai. Of these facts these Standards are not forgetful, and so the language is carefully framed to include and guard these facts. Nevertheless, the law that had been instituted at creation did receive at Sinai formal enunciation and promulgation. It was included in the ten words given to Moses and written with the finger of God upon the two tables of stone.

At Sinai, then the Sabbath law was set forth with fullness and explicitness and we do not have evidence that it had before then received similarly full and formal pronouncement. So, for our knowledge of what the content and import of the Sabbath institutions are, we are largely dependent upon the fourth commandment. What is this law or institution?

The Sanctity of the Day

First, and most elementally and centrally, it is that one day in seven is distinguished from the other six. That day is to be sanctified, and at the heart of the word “sanctify is the idea of distinction and separation. This one day is set off, it is placed in a distinct category. This import of the word cannot be evaded and it is to be very carefully marked, for on it depends the whole notion of what we may and must call the “sanctity” of the Sabbath.

It is not, however, the bare notion of distinction or separation that is expressed in the commandment. The command to sanctify occurs in a context. “Six days shall thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.” And it is not only in the context of the remainder of the commandment, but also in the context of the other commandments. “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.” “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” It is separation, therefore, to God, to the specific purpose of contemplation upon Him and specific occupation with His work in contrast with their own work. In this kind of distinction or sanctity the meaning of the fourth commandment resides. Abolish it, and the essence of the commandment is destroyed. There is no purpose in contending for the moral obligation of the commandment unless this sanctity is recognized and preserved, for it is the core around which all else is formed and without which all else disintegrates. Just as there is an ineradicable distinction between the six days of creation and the day of rest by which they were followed, so it is here. And it is precisely with this reminder that the commandment itself ends, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day” wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

Israel truly was a holy people; they were separated unto God Jehovah. It might, then, be supposed that the sanctification of one day in seven was inconsistent with the totality of their devotion to God. Yet it is an inescapable fact that this kingdom of priests and holy nation was in the most direct way commanded to separate one day from the other six for a specific purpose. And unless our conception of devotion to God, and of time as it is related to Him, can embrace and appreciate this notion, together with the divine wisdom embodied in it, we can have no understanding of the fourth commandment.

Every Recurring Seventh Day

But second, the law or institution of the Sabbath implies that every recurring seventh day is to be sanctified. It is not simply a seventh of our time, not simply one day out of every seven, but it is every recurring seventh day in regular succession.

The controversy that has turned on the question as to whether or not, in the Christian dispensation, the Sabbath is the first day of the week or the seventh, and as to whether we can be said to observe the fourth commandment when we substitute the first day of the week for the seventh, has too often been allowed to obscure the central principle, namely, that every recurring seventh day was by divine ordination distinguished from every other day. The difficulty that may be encountered in determining which day of the week is the Sabbath should never be used as a subterfuge to escape from the central and straightforward import of the commandment, that every recurring seventh day is specifically holy to God. At the cost of repetitiousness, may we say, that the principle should never be perplexed or prejudices by the further question: which day in the succession of days should be accorded that distinction? We may not minimise the importance of this latter question. But we must not allow the difficulties that may attend this question to unsettle what is antecedent and even more central, the obligation, so far as the fourth commandment is concerned, to recognize the divine distinctiveness of every recurring seventh day. And it must be said that the position taken by the Westminster Standards, to wit, that with the advent of the New Testament dispensation there was signalized the change from the seventh day of the week to the first, in no way interferes with the strictest fulfillment of this principle in the Christian Lord’s Day.

The Sabbath a Perpetual Obligation?

But some will say, “All this is conceded with respect to the meaning of the fourth commandment. But of what practical concern is that to us? The fourth commandment does not obligate the Christian.” This objection we must now face.

If the fourth commandment is not binding in the Christian dispensation, then we have to take one of two positions. We have either to take the position that the fourth commandment occupies a different position from the other nine commandments in the decalogue, or to take the position that the whole decalogue has been abrogated in the Christian economy. We shall now discuss the former of these two alternatives.

If we say the fourth commandment is abrogated and the other nine are not, we must understand what we are saying. It would indeed be an amazing phenomenon that in the heart of the decalogue there should be one commandment -- and one given such prominence and meticulous elaboration -- that is totally different from the others in this regard that they are permanent and it is not. Surely no one will dispute that in the Old Testament the ten commandments constitute a well-rounded and compact unit. And surely no one will dispute that the Old Testament is itself throughout conscious of that fact. If the ten commandments were a loose and disjointed collection of precepts, there would be nothing very extraordinary about the supposition we are now discussing. But that is precisely what the decalogue is not. And so to establish this supposition that the fourth commandment is abrogated, when the other nine are not, would require the most explicit and conclusive evidence.
As we read the Old Testament we do not find and warrant for discrimination between the fourth and the other nine. Nor indeed do we find any intimation in the Old Testament that in the Messianic age the Sabbath law would cease. If any commandment is emphasized it is the fourth. Obedience to it is a mark of faithfulness and severe retribution follows its breach. The text we are about to quote epitomizes the Old Testament outlook and emphasis. “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shall honour him, not doing tine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58:13-14). If there had been in the Old Testament some evidence that would create a presumption in favour of discrimination, if there had been something that would justify a strong suspicion that in the Messianic age the Sabbath law would no longer bind, then, of course, even slight confirmation from the New Testament might clinch that suspicion and warrant the inference that the fourth commandment had been abrogated. But no such suspicion is created and the evidence is altogether against such a supposition.

So nothing short of compelling and conclusive evidence from the New Testament would warrant the position that the fourth is to be discriminated from the other nine.

Abrogated in the New Testament

When we come to the New Testament, do we find such evidence? A good deal has sometimes been made of the alleged silence of the New Testament. It must be admitted that the argument from silence may be made to appear very plausible. But it will have to be said at the outset that an argument from silence is not the compelling and conclusive evidence that would in this case be required. In the Old Testament we have continuous and accumulating emphasis upon the Sabbath law that in no way suggests and distinction in the matter of morality between the fourth commandment and the other nine. Indeed, as we found, the emphasis upon the fourth mounts to a degree that constitutes the very opposite presumption. It is with that manifold of emphasis that we are placed on the threshold of the New Testament economy. Silence on the part of the New Testament will not fulfil the exigencies of the kind of evidence required for abrogation.

We must not, however, conclude that the New Testament exhibits the silence alleged. It is not necessary now to enter into a detailed discussion of the implications of all the allusions found in the four gospels to the Sabbath. The proper insight and care should show that in the very rebuke that our Lord gave to the unwarranted accretions and impositions with which pharisaic tradition had obscured and perverted the Sabbath institution, there is implicit the same kind of sanction for the Sabbath law in itself as there is in similar episodes of His example and teaching for other commandments. Suffice it to refer to the one affirmation of His, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

The Sabbath Made for Man

In this affirmation, contrary to much glib but wanton appeal to it, there is not the least hint that the Sabbath law was about to be abrogated. What Jesus was combating on this occasion was the travesties of application by which the Jews had made void the law of God. Jesus’ unsparing condemnation of these artificialities that had turned a beneficent institution into an instrument of tyranny no more argues the abrogation of the institution itself, than does His condemnation of the traditions by which the Jews had made void the fifth commandment argue for the abrogation of the fifth (Cf. Mark 7:8-13). If His condemnation and correction of the tradition by which the Jews of His day had made void the Word of God in the fifth commandment in no way relieves but rather reinforces the divine obligation of this commandment itself, so His statement with reference to the Sabbath quoted above furnishes no support for the abrogation of the fourth commandment. But let us examine Mark 2:27-28 more closely.

“The sabbath was made for man.” Of course, when it is said that it was made, there is but one meaning, namely, that God made it. It is not a device of human expediency or utility. It is a divine creation. It is God’s day. The reasonable inference is that this is an allusion to the primeval institution as recorded in Genesis 2:2-3. We know that the Sabbath institution existed prior to the promulgation of it at Sinai. So the making of it referred to by our Lord cannot reasonably refer simply to the giving of the law at Sinai. And since we must go back to something that antedates Sinai, what is there that more naturally or perfectly suits the allusion than that referred to in Genesis 2:2-3?

It was “made for man.” Perhaps the fact that Jesus says it was made for man and not simply for Israel has sometimes been unduly pressed to establish the universality of the Sabbath law. But recoil from exaggeration must not be allowed to obscure the real force of what is meant. The Sabbath, after all, was made for man, and in that word man there inheres a reference to what man’s very nature as man and man’s highest need as man require. When we bear in mind that the point of time referred to in the making of the Sabbath antedates all ethical distinction, we are constrained to find in this simple statement confirmation of the universality of the obligation and blessing of the Sabbath institution.

Jesus’ Lordship and the Sabbath

But Jesus in this passage also asserts His own Lordship over the Sabbath. “The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” The title Son of man is distinctly Messianic and points to the dominion which He in His capacity as the Messiah exercises. It is in His capacity as the Son of man that He exercises this Lordship over the Sabbath. And this simply means that, within the universal Lordship and authority that is His as the one to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been committed, the Sabbath has its proper place and function. Abolition of it is, as B. B. Warfield says, “as far as possible from the suggestion of the passage.”

Further we must observe that Jesus says “even of the Sabbath.” The presence of the word “even” serves to show the extent of Jesus’ Lordship. This Lordship is so comprehensive that it even includes the Sabbath, and surely such an emphasis discloses the high conception of its sanctity and authority Jesus entertained.
Finally, the reason assigned for this Lordship over the Sabbath is the fact that the Sabbath was made for man. It was for the sake of man that Jesus came into the world, it was for man’s sake that He died and rose again, it is for man’s sake that He is exalted as the Messiah to supreme mediatorial sovereignty. But it was also for man’s sake that the Sabbath was made. If then, it was for man’s sake that Jesus came, and suffered, and died, and rose again to ascend up where He was before, is it possible that that which was made for man -- the Sabbath -- should be annulled and abrogated by that which He became and did for man’s sake? There is complete congruity between His Messianic work and Lordship on the one hand and the Sabbath ordinance on the other. They both serve the same purpose. And so His Lordship embraces it too for the purpose of preserving it, confirming it and blessing it. He is Lord of the Sabbath too.

06 September, 2005

Who's going to reach the teens?

There has been a serious question on my mind lately that deals with what heritage we have to hand to our children. I do not mean inheritance, but more importantly, what is the religious heritage that we have to give to our children? The Reformed and Presbyterian heritage is one that is sacred to many, and the distinctives of the Reformed Faith are worth living for, as well as worth dying for.

Now that I am a father of two, (Anna Grace, 22 months, Owen Justice, 2 months) I see so much differently than I did as a single man and even as married man with no children.

One thing that I see different is that of the instruction of children. Scripture speaks of instruction in many places and is most frequently connected with that of our children. As Reformed Christians, we understand the covenantal nature of our God and his dealings with men. We understand that the promises of God are for us and our children.

How do these promises manifest themselves in the lives of our children? We deny the notion that the promises come to our children through baptismal regeneration, as is the teaching of the papists. We believe that the promises come to our children through grace, but also that we have a biblical imperative to teach our children the truths of the faith.

Moses knew the covenantal nature of God, as well as the need for the true religion to be passed on to our children. He says in the book of Deuteronomy:

And these wordes which I commaund thee this day, shalbe in thine heart. And thou shalt rehearse them continually vnto thy children, and shalt talke of them when thou tariest in thine house, and as thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest downe, and when thou risest vp: And thou shalt binde them for a signe vpon thine hand, and they shalbe as frontlets betweene thine eyes. Also thou shalt write them vpon ye postes of thine house, and vpon thy gates. (Deut 6.6-9, Geneva Bible 1599)

Notice that the instruction from God is not that we ONLY need to teach the children the truths of God, but that we also need to live it ourselves. This is part of the same command: the words shall be in YOUR heart. A friend once told me that providentially speaking, the normal way that God works is that faithful parents have faithful children and that unfaithful parents have unfaithful children. This answers our question. Who is going to reach the teens? God is through his grace. What is the means that God is going to use? The initial means that God is going to use is that of the faithfulness of their parents. He is also going to use the faithfulness of the church in their living out the truths of the Reformation.

This means that as a covenantal community we have responsibility as well. Pray for the young people in your church. Encourage parents to teach the catechism to the youth. Show that you love the truths of the Reformation. Most importantly, walk uprightly before all men, showing forth the love of Christ by your words and your deeds. These are ways that we can keep our heritage alive so that it can be passed on to another faithful generation.

Youth To Be Instructed in Godliness. (Chapter 25, Second Helvetic Confession)

The Lord enjoined his ancient people to exercise the greatest care that young people, even from infancy, be properly instructed. Moreover, he expressly commanded in his law that they should teach them, and that the mysteries of the sacraments should be explained. Now since it is well known from the writings of the Evangelists and apostles that God has no less concern for the youth of his new people, when he openly testifies and says: Let the children come to me; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:14), the pastors of the churches act most wisely when they early and carefully catechize the youth, laying the first grounds of faith, and faithfully teaching the rudiments of our religion by expounding the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the doctrine of the sacraments, with other such principles and chief heads of our religion. Here let the Church show her faith and diligence in bringing the children to be catechized, desirous and glad to have her children well instructed.

Discussion points:

-How can those without children aid in the advancement of the faith?

-How well are we catechising our youth?

-What else can be used as tools for reaching the Reformed youth?

02 September, 2005

From the Bowels of Mercy

Some things are just so amazing that they do not require any additional introduction. This will thrill archaelogists, theologians, and those with "Dutch" humor.

From the BBC

Luther's lavatory thrills experts

Archaeologists in Germany say they may have found a lavatory where Martin Luther launched the Reformation of the Christian church in the 16th Century.
The stone room is in a newly-unearthed annex to Luther's house in Wittenberg.

Luther is quoted as saying he was "in cloaca", or in the sewer, when he was inspired to argue that salvation is granted because of faith, not deeds.

The scholar suffered from constipation and spent many hours in contemplation on the toilet seat.

'Earthy Christianity'

The lavatory was built in the period 1516-17, according to Dr Martin Treu, a theologian and Luther expert based in Wittenberg.

"What we have found here is something very rare," he told BBC News Online, describing how most buildings preserved from that era tend to have served a grander function.
The toilet is in a niche set inside a room measuring nine by nine metres, which was discovered during the excavation of a garden in the grounds of Luther's house.

Dr Treu said there can be little doubt the toilet was used by Luther, the radical theologian who argued for a more "earthy Christianity", which regarded the entire human body - and not just the soul - as God's creation.

The Reformation, which resulted in Europe's Protestant churches, is usually reckoned to have begun when Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg's Castle Church on 31 October 1517.

The theses attacked papal abuses and the sale of indulgences by church officials, among other things.

Structural concerns

Luther left a candid catalogue of his battle with constipation but despite this wealth of information, certain key details remain obscure - such as what the great reformer may have used in place of toilet paper.

"We still don't know what was used for wiping in those days," says Dr Treu. The paper of the time, he says, would have been too expensive and critically, "too stiff" for the purpose.

And while it is probable that the inspiration that led to Luther's reforms occurred on this toilet, it is impossible to prove it beyond doubt, Dr Treu says.

Future visitors to Wittenberg's Martin Luther museum will be able to view the new find, though structural concerns mean they will not be free to test its qualities as a toilet.

Discussion Points:
-The value of Luther's Tabletalk.
-Other ways great thoughts have occured.
-The ways in which God uses our infirmity for the good.

01 September, 2005

God's Redemptive Story

I was discussing Church history and the importance of it as an acedemic discipline for Christians with a friend. This person stated that his or her particular denomination does not care as much about Church history as mine. I found this to be an odd statement since I have always found Church history to be an exciting way to learn of the ways in which God has been working in the life of His people.

Church history is the unfolding of God's sovereign plan of redemption. In Church history you see great battles that have been fought for the honor of Lord Jesus as well as low points where people who once claimed the name of Jesus deny him. You get to witness entire nations covenant to live unto Christ as well as heathen lands and people won to the gospel and converted to the Lord.

Church history is found at the beginning of the Word of God with the famed "and he begat" statements. The unfolding of the Hebrew idea of Toledoth (generations) is Church history. This glorious history that began with the seed of the woman, continued through the fathers, through kings and through harlots. This history and seed is seen in David, through the prophets of old and even at times in captive lands. The history continues in Matthew. "This is the book of the generation of Jesus Christ."

The book of Acts guided by Luke the physician to the God fearing Theophilus is the history of the Church. How does the book of Acts end? The book of Acts ends with an opening, a wide opening that calls out for the people of God to watch and to take note. Take note of what the Lord is doing in the earth.

What is the purpose of Church history? It is not dry and dull academic excercises. Church history is the story of God redeeming his people. Are you part of this story?

More on Church History

Puritan History IQ

Discussion points:
-Do you enjoy Church history? Why or Why not?
-Could you talk to a non-Christian about where we got our Bible?
-How about our doctrine of the Trinity?
-Do you know the history of your congregation or denomination?
-Can you admit to your Puritan IQ?

Soli Deo Gloria!