"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Friday, April 30, 2010

Pictures of the Supper: Passover

The second major picture of the Lord's Supper is the Passover:


Exodus chapter 11 records the Tenth plague against the Egyptians. This plague was a destruction of the first-born of all those who did not put the blood of a lamb over the door of their house. This final plague convinced the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from Egypt in order for them to return to the land God had promised them.

In the original observance of passover, the passover lamb was killed and the blood smeared with a hyssop branch on the doorposts of the family's home. (Exodus 12:21-22) These instructions for the observance of the passover must have a future orientation, since the original Passover was one night and this instruction for observance is to be practiced over seven days. (Ex 12:15) The flesh of the lamb is eaten along with unleavened bread. (Ex 12:8) It appears that only later was wine added to this ritual. Eventually four communal cups were used and passed around for the family to drink. Eventually, a dispute arose over whether to have four or five cups. A compromise came that four cups were used, and a fifth was set for Elijah. This is sometimes thought to be a proxy for Moses or that Elijah is prophesized to come before the Messiah, adding an element of eschatological hope of a future redemption to the meal. Each Passover, the Jews were reminded that though they celebrated a past deliverance, they also looked forward to a greater future hope in the Messiah.

The Gospel writers all seem to present the Lord's Supper as happening during the time of Passover. Luke 22:8 records Jesus giving the instructions to his disciples to “prepare for us the passover that we may eat it.” Most commentators assume that if the four cup ritual was in use at the time of Jesus, that his words relating the Passover elements to himself come with the third cup, a thanksgiving to God for bringing forth the fruit of the vine.

Supper in the time of the Passover: The Hallel passages of the Psalter were typically sung in the passover season (pss 113-118). Hence, since these songs were in the minds of the Jews, Christ was greeted by these words (Ps. 118:25) when he entered Jerusalem. (Matt 21:9) Although we can not be certain as to the significance of this selection from a Passover psalm in the minds of the children, the author of the gospel of Matthew certainly expected the connection to be made with his Jewish audience that this was a song sung during the celebration of passover and it anticipates Christ.

Paul most clearly makes the connection, when in 1 Corinthians 5:7 he refers to Christ as “our passover, sacrificed for us.” Christ is anticipated in the lamb, for only after atonement would the celebratory section of the meal begin. In taking the elements of the meal, Christ also infuses meaning into these portions of the meal as well. Christ associates the bread with his body (Luke 22:19) and the wine with his blood. (Luke 22:20) Although we did not see the wine or bread as anticipating directly Christ's coming before Christ, after the institution of the Supper in the Gospels, we now do.

The Passover can be seen to anticipate Christ in two important ways. First, the lamb whose blood redeems the covenant family points to Christ's sacrifice. Second, the meal looks towards a celebratory event. The celebratory nature of the meal in light of reconciliation should be instructive. Jewish practice was not a solemn mournful meal, but a celebration of the reality of what comes after atonement, forgiveness and resurrection.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pictures of the Supper: Abraham and Melchizedek

The Lord's Supper is not the only instance of a meal of significance. Throughout Scripture there are pictures of meals of fellowship, covenant renewal and worship. Here, I would merely like to display a few of those pictures as they inform how we look at the Lord's Supper in a Biblical Theological manner.

Picture 1: Abraham and Melchizedek

The first instance in recorded Scripture of a shared meal of bread and wine is Abraham and Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18. Here, Abraham (then Abram) and the king of Sodom share a meal in celebration of a victory and Abraham gives a tenth of his wealth to Melchizedek. This precipitates a remembering of an oath,* perhaps a covenant oath, to God, and the praise of God for Abraham's provision.

Melchizedek is associated with Christ in the New Testament. The author of Hebrews, in chapter 7, cites this encounter (Heb 7:1-2; Gen 14:17-20), as a proof of the superiority of the order of Melchizedek, one whom Abraham paid tithes to as an inferior. Hebrew 7:22 then makes the connection to Christ, a priest after the order of Melchizedek, the guarantor of a better covenant. The parallels between Genesis 14 and Hebrews 7, as the relation between Abraham and Melchizedek in covenant, blessing and paying honor relate to Christ and the church. So also it would imply the communion enjoyed between Abraham and Melchizedek in the meal of wine and bread may also point forward to the communion enjoyed between Christ and the Church in the Supper of bread and wine.

[See Meredith Kline. Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview. (Eugene OR, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006), 312.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bavinck on the Church and the means of grace

In light of my recent post on the strategic plan, I thought I would let Herman Bavinck argue my case, since he does a better job than I in explaining how God intends to accomplish His mission:

"The means of grace, after all, do not stand by themselves but are closely connected with the church and the offices of the church, with Christ's person and work. One might as well ask whether God could not regenerate and save sinners apart from Christ and forgive sins aside from satisfaction. But such questions lead nowhere: we have rest in God's good pleasure, which distributes salvation in no way other than in and through Christ. He is the mediator between God and humanity, the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved [Acts 4:12]. Furthermore, it was equally God's good pleasure to distribute salvation in no other way than through and in the church of Christ...The rule is that God freely binds the distribution of his grace to the church of Christ."

-Herman Bavinck. Reformed Dogmatics Volume 4. pg 446-447

Thursday, April 22, 2010

PCA Strategic Plan: Thoughts

[This is an opinion piece about an internal discussion in the PCA. If you are not in the PCA, you are welcome to skip it as it contains matters of an internal debate, which will in no way diminish my appreciation for the PCA and its work]

A few weeks ago, the CMC released the PCA strategic plan. This plan looks into the future and attempts to make changes to plan for the future and how the PCA will see its own role in the future in American Christian mission and religious life. I wanted to take some time to read the plan and reflect on it. I do this not as a voting member of Presbytery, but merely as a person under care of a Presbytery looking toward ordination in the PCA. Thus, my thoughts are tempered and are only suggestive to those who might be voting members.

The plan, spearheaded by President Bryan Chapell of Covenant Seminary, has a few general themes, some BCO change recommendations and some suggestions on changing the affiliations of the denomination. As I comment, I would also like to say I have benefited greatly from Chapell’s work especially on preaching and respect him as a minister in good standing. I would like to briefly comment on the proposed themes and changes.

1. Require contribution to the PCA Administrative Committee for participation in GA.

Many prominent PCA ministers, including Lig Duncan, have supported this part of the plan as a step in the right direction towards a more Presbyterian church government. After all, even the Southern Baptist Convention, a looser confederation than the Presbyterian form of government, requires contribution to vote at their convention. Over half of the churches in the PCA contribute nothing to the PCA and have voting rights.

Generally, I would agree that this perhaps is the historical structure of a Presbyterian governed church. That half of the churches contribute nothing is embarrassing. The requested amount is less than 1% of a church's budget, hardly a bank breaker.

However, we must recognize where the PCA comes from. The PCUSA had a strong denominational structure that still hamstrings some individual churches in regards to property ownership. PCA churches are, and should be, weary of a strong denominational government, not due to the current ethos of the denomination, but the possible future status of the denomination. If a church becomes concerned with the use of its resources in the future, if they protest by withholding contribution that would deny that church a vote at GA. Such a move empowers the denomination over the local church. Although more churches should contribute, and be petitioned to contribute, none should be required to.

That leads to a second objection. Might I quote a Baptist who may have a point where he is more Reformed that the PCA strategic plan: "The local church is the focal point of God's plan for displaying his glory to the nations." This is the motto of 9 Marks, Mark Dever's organization for reforming churches according to Scripture. This perhaps should be the dominant philosophy of the PCA in the future. This leads to our next theme:

2. Redirecting the mission focus of the PCA away from NAPARC

NAPARC is the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council. This Council consists of confessional Reformed and Presbyterian Churches like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the United Reformed Church. This organization is dedicated to confessional expression of the Reformed tradition and presenting a unified front on in this endeavor of advancing confessional Reformed churches in North America.

Page 26 of the Strategic plan recommends withdraw from this organization. The reasoning is given in Bryan Chapell's video that this organization consists of "micro-denominations" that have fewer members than the PCA but have equal vote. This organization is said to be draining our time and energy since it "shares our doctrinal identity, but not our ministry focus." This statement is never clarified, however, from the rest of the plan this seems to mean a new focus to work with organizations, outside of our confessional identity, that do not share our doctrinal distinctives but give the PCA more "influence," presumably as a Reformed voice among non-Reformed Christians in missions organizations.

This proposal, I believe, is the most telling of the vision of the strategic plan. The plan introduces various "means" towards achieving the goal of a larger "influence" in American Christianity. This is misguided on a number of fronts, but this is chief:

If we do not share the ministry focus of NAPARC, then we are do not truly share their doctrinal identity.

Confessional Reformed doctrine believes the means of achieving the mission of God in the world are the means God has ordained. These are not parachurch organization, though they may have some role, but the "ordinary means" as outlined in the Westminster Larger Catechism Questions 154-160. These means are the Word, read and preached, the sacraments and prayer. In other words, the means of accomplishing the mission of God is the church performing its ordinances given to it by God, by which He has promised to bring fruit. When the Word is preached, that is the means by which people are converted (Romans 10:14-17, 1 Cor 1:21). Baptism and the Lord's Supper are visible words, proclaiming that gospel alongside the Word (Ephesians 5:26; 1 Cor 11:26) and prayer is the means of advancing the kingdom (Mathew 6:9-13, See Matthew 6:10 NET). A focus away from the local church towards the denomination, denominational programs and parachurch organizations due to a leveling off of church membership displays an approach driven by numbers and a desire to manipulate those numbers by means other than the ones we are commanded to be faithful to perform. (Tim 4:13)

The concern of the PCA should be our faithfulness to what God has called us to and leave the numbers to God. If we see numbers declining, our recourse is repentance, and renewed vows to faithful to preach and administer the sacraments, the duty given to us in the Great Commission. (Matt 28:19) The means given was not certain programs and parachurch affiliations but the ordinances of the church. The advancement of the Great Commission then is the duty of the church and that is where the PCA should focus its energies (along with the other denominations in NAPARC)

What has attracted me to the PCA is the churchly spirituality of the Reformed faith as expressed in the PCA. I believe the PCA is well positioned to offer a biblical churchly spirituality to a culture that is greatly lacking true spirituality instead chasing fleeting experience, psychological comfort and charismatic mirages. I would like to see the PCA continue to do so rather than become more generically evangelical.

Alternatively, the PCA as a denomination certainly could establish structures and programs that would help advance the mission of the church, but these must be with a focus to the local church, not programs or parachurch associations.

Here are a few alternative suggestions:

1. Establish an internship fund of the PCA.

The OPC has a general fund to pay those seeking ordination in the OPC to work within a local church for up to a year. This allows a future minister to focus on learning the craft of ministering from a local minister, whose church may not be large enough to support that intern alone. This also allows the ministerial candidate to focus on the craft of ministry solely for the year of preparation rather than also maintain a full time job, thereby shortchanging his internship experience.

2. Fully fund RUF ministers and Missionaries through the PCA.

Either we consider RUF minister to actually be ministers or we do not. Currently, most RUF ministers are only half-supported by the church and half-supported by individuals. A minister is one who is supported by the church, as Paul tells us, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages." " (1 Tim 5:17-18) Only half supporting missionaries in MTW and MTNA and RUF ministers, if we truly consider them ministers, reduces them to half a minister and, though popular in American mission structure, a skirting of Scripture's command for the church to support their ministers.

3. Fund Church planting

Most church planters also are forced to raise support from individuals rather than the church. The same applies to these evangelist ministers. Either they are an elder/minister or not. If they are, the church ought to fund them, if not, then do not call them ministers.

If the PCA would take steps towards advancing the gospel and the kingdom to an even greater degree than they thankful have done, in the manner of supporting the local church, the first measure for more funding would meet with a greater welcome by me. However, the lack of faith the strategic plan seems to have for the ordinary means and the local church forces me to recommend to any that are attending GA this year to vote to defeat the strategic plan in regards to changing the BCO to require church funding of the denomination, and to vote against withdraw from NAPARC.

The focus must be brought back to a biblical focus on the local church, the means of grace, and the proclamation of the gospel purely and simply. This is the hope of the world and the future of God's universal invisible church. May the visible church in the PCA align itself as closely and faithfully to the command of God as possible.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Assumed, Confused then Rejected Gospel

Justin Taylor has a helpful review of a book that asks some hard questions for pastors about whether the Gospel has moved from accepted to assumed to confused to rejected:

Was the gospel in the sermon Sunday morning?

Do you hear the gospel in people’s prayers?

Could you have preached that sermon if Christ had not died on the cross?

Could you have developed that leadership principle had Christ not been crucified?

Full post: here

Friday, April 16, 2010

Argument Chart

I have no time for a Fulfillment Friday this week. Instead, a chart on levels of debate. I find most discussion, if it is lucky, rises to the level of DH2.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Message and Methods

The conventional wisdom today is that the message stays the same but the methods change. But what if God ordained the methods as well? Is He allowed? What would it look like if we followed His methods in ministry?

Ligon Duncan answers these questions masterfully in a talk at Twin Lakes Fellowship:

Ligon Duncan: A Case for the Ordinary Means

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dordt on Atonement

Often, we have heard as an explanation from both sides of the Limited versus unlimited atonement debate that the atonement was sufficient for the world, but efficient for the elect. Few know, this is actually the language of the Synod of Dordt, that coined the 5 points of Calvinism:

Second Head of Doctrine of Dordt:

"This death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins, of infinite value and worth, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world."

"The promise of the gospel is that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise ought to be announced and proclaimed universally and without discrimination to all peoples and to all men to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel, together with the command to repent and believe."

"For this was the most free counsel of God the Father, that the life-giving and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect. It was His most gracious will and intent to give them alone justifying faith and thereby to bring them unfailingly to salvation. This means: God willed that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which He confirmed the new covenant) should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and tongue all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and were given to Him by the Father. God further willed that Christ should give to them faith, which, together with other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He acquired for them by His death; that He should cleanse them by His blood from all sins, both original and actual, both those committed after faith and before faith; and that He should guard them faithfully to the end and at last present them to Himself in splendour without any spot or wrinkle."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Are the Seventy Sevens about Jesus?

I recently was listening to someone make the case that the church has never seen the seventy sevens in Daniel 9:24-27 as a prophecy about Christ until the last 200 years. Specifically mentioned was that the Reformers did not make that case and neither did the early church. So, it was asserted, it was generally known to be a prophecy about Zerrubbabel or Joshua the High Priest and no one before the past 200 years said anything different.

So, while they were still speaking I checked the Calvin commentaries on my computer and found this on the reference in Dan 9:25:

"Some desire to take this singular noun in a plural sense, as if it were the Christ of the Lord, meaning his priests; while some refer it to Zerubbabel, and others to Joshua. But clearly enough the angel speaks of Christ"

-John Calvin. Daniel Commentary on Dan 9:25

Then I looked at the early church and found:

"Accordingly the times must be inquired into of the predicted and future nativity of the Christ, and of His passion, and of the extermination of the city of Jerusalem, that is, its devastation, For Daniel says [And quotes Daniel 9:26]."

-Tertuallian. Answer to the Jews Ch 8. [2nd Century AD]

"[Quotes Daniel 9:24-27]...and thus Christ became King of the Jews, reigning in Jerusalem in the fulfillment of the seven weeks."

-Clement of Alexandria. Stromata. Ch 21. [2nd-3rd Century AD]

"The weeks of years, also, which the prophet Daniel had predicted, extending to the leadership of Christ, have been fulfilled."

-Origen. De Principiis. Bk 4. Ch 1. [3rd Century AD]

Now, this doesn't mean that Daniel 9:24-27 has to be about Christ. But I do wonder why people make up evidence that is easily falsifiable to help their case. All it did was convince me not to trust this person's appeals to evidence without lots of documentation.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Fulfillment Fridays: Christ as Judge

God provides a Judge

Jdg 2:18-19 Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.

The Good Judge?

2 Sam 15:4-6 Then Absalom would say, "Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice." And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

The deceit of the Judge
2 Sam 15:10 But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, "As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then say, 'Absalom is king at Hebron!'"
Only God is the good judge

Psa 50:6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! Selah

Isa 33:22 For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; he will save us.

Jesus can judge

Joh 5:30 "I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

The Word will judge

Joh 12:47-49 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment--what to say and what to speak.

Jesus given authority to judge

Rev 20:1-5 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Augustine on Defining "a people"

"A people is an assemblage of reasonable beings bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of their love, then, in order to discover the character of any people, we only have to observe what they love...it will be a superior people in proportion as it is bound together by higher interests, inferior in propotion as it is bound together by lower."

-Augustine. City of God. 19.24.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Fulfillment Fridays: Christ as Son of David, King

David's everlasting kingdom

2 Sam 7:8-16 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'"

Praise for God's Davidic Covenant

Psa 89:1-4 I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. For I said, "Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness." You have said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: 'I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.'" Selah

Psa 89:27-37 And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens. If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies." Selah

Jesus is the Son/offspring of David

Matt 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Mat 9:27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, "Have mercy on us, Son of David."

Jesus is the Greater Son of David

Mat 22:41-45 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." He said to them, "How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, "'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet'? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?"

Jesus as the Conquering Son of David

Rev 5:5 And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

Rev 22:16 "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."