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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reformed Pastor: Sermons must first be preached to one's self

Richard Baxter gave a series of talks to pastors in England from Independent, Presbyterian and Anglican Churches. They were intended to address the manner in which a pastor should be reformed by the Scriptures and God in order to form his congregation. Here is a selection of one imperative for pastors:

"Content not yourselves with being in a state of grace, but be also careful that your graces are kept in vigorous and lively exercise, and that you preach to yourselves the sermons which you study, before you preaching them to others. If you did this for your own sakes, it would not be lost labour; but I am speaking to you upon the public account, that you would do it for the sake of the Church, When you minds are in a holy, heavenly frame, your people are likely to partake of the fruits of it. Your prayers, and praises, and doctrine will be sweet and heavenly to them. They will likely feel when you have been much with God: that which is most on your hearts, is like to be most in their ears. I confess I must speak it by lamentable experience, that I publish to my flock the distempers of my own soul. When I let my heart grow cold, my preaching is cold; and when it is confused, my preaching is confused; and so I can oft observe also in the best of my hearers, that when I have grown cold in preaching, they have grown cold too; and the next prayers which I have heard from them have been too like my preaching. We are the nurses of Christ's little ones. If we forbear taking food ourselves, we shall famish them; it will soon be visible in their leanness and dull discharge of their several duties. If we let our love decline, we are not like to raise up theirs. If we abate our holy care and fear, it will appear in our preaching; if the matter show it not, the manner will. If we feed on unwholesome food, either errors or fruitless controversies, our hearers are like to fare the worse for it. Whereas, if we abound in faith and love and zeal, how would it overflow to the refreshing of the congregations, and how would it appear in the increase of the same graces in them! O brethren, watch therefore over your own hearts: keep out lusts and passions, and worldly inclinations; keep up the life of faith, and love and zeal: be much at home and be much with God. If it be not your daily business to study your own hearts, and to subdue corruption, and to walk with God – if you make not this a work to which you constantly attend, all will go wrong, and you will starve your hearers; or, if you have an affected fervency, you cannot expect a blessing to attend it from on high. Above all, be much in secret prayer and meditation. Thence you must fetch the heavenly firethat must kindle your sacrifices: remember, you cannot decline and neglect your duty, to your own hurt alone; many will be losers by it as well as you. For your people's sakes, therefore, look to your hearts. If a pand of spiritual pride should overtake you, and you should fall into any dangerous error, and vent your own inventions to draw away disciples after you, what a wound may this prove to the Church, of which you have the oversight; and you may become a plague to them instead of a blessing, and they may wish they had never seen your faces. Oh, therefore, take heed to your own judgments and affections. Vanity and error will shyly insinuate, and seldom come without fair pretences: great distempers and apostasies have usually small beginnings. The prince of darkness doth frequently personate an angel of light, to draw the children of light again into darkness. How easily also will distempers creep in upon our affections and our first love, and fear and care abate! Watch, therefore, for the sake of yourselves and others.

But, besides this general course of watchfulness, methinks a minister should take some special pains with his heart, before he is to go to the congregation: if it be then cold, how is he likely to warm the hearts of his hearers? Therefore, go then specially to God for life: read some rousing, awakening book, or meditate on the weight of the subject of which you are to speak, and on the great necessity of your people's souls, that you may go in the zeal od the Lord into his house. Maintain in this manner, the life of grace in yourselves, that it may appear in all your sermons from the pulpit, - that every one who comes cold to the assembly, may have some warmth imparted to him before he depart."

-Richard Baxter. The Reformed Pastor. Pg 61-63

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Prayer of Calvin

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to set before us an example of every perfection in thine only-begotten Son, we may study to form ourselves in imitation of him, and so to follow not only what he has prescribed, but also what he really performed, that we may prove ourselves to be really his members, and thus confirm our adoption; and may we so proceed in the whole course of our life, that we may at length be gathered into that blessed rest which the same, thine only-begotten Son, hath obtained for us by his own blood. Amen.

- John Calvin. Prayer in reflection on Jeremiah 23:11

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

God and Guinness

Many evangelicals know the name Os Guinness, author of "The Call." Many also know there is some dark, ominous liquid substance by the same last name. Many also may not know the connection. The Guinness family is an Irish Protestant family that has been known for promoting two things: God and Beer. Perhaps an interesting combination (in America at least, not Ireland). But coming across this video peaked my interest. This is the same author of a book on the faith of George W. Bush, writing "The Search for God and Guinness." Perhaps worth a read...

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, May 17, 2010

Scripture in mind right now

Hosea 6:1

"Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Now you tell me

It seems that Theology is the third worst paying degree. Now I find out, after I graduate with a Masters of Theology! They do admit:

"This is the perfect example of a degree earned by someone who's "not in it for the money": people who choose to study theology often feel they're pursuing a higher calling (and often feel a strong desire to do good in the world, no matter the cost)"

Seems they don't know about Ed Young Jr...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Learning to read the book of Revelation: Wedding Feast

This will seem like I am talking about the marriage feast in Isaiah, but what I am actually talking about is how to read the book of Revelation. Is the book of Revelation a chronological account of the events at the end of time, or is it a series of visions that give account of the events at the end of time from different perspectives, and not necessarily chronological (but a recapitulation)?

Throughout the book of Isaiah are many promises of judgment. Chapters 1-39, especially, include much distress with little relief. The one major exception to this litany of judgments is the promise of relief and deliverance in Isaiah 25. Here Isaiah delivers the oracle that:

Isaiah 25:6-8 -
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.
Here, Isaiah promises a reversal of the pain of the fall, sin and the exile. Full restoration is pictured as a feast on a mountain with rich food and aged wine. This is the time of comfort, where the Lord “will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” (Isaiah 25:8)

This feast is again considered near the end of Isaiah's prophecies. Again, the picture is of restoration:

Isaiah 65:13-17 - Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, my servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame; behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you shall cry out for pain of heart and shall wail for breaking of spirit. You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse, and the Lord GOD will put you to death, but his servants he will call by another name. So that he who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth, and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my eyes. "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
Isaiah here connects the feast with the act of new creation, when the new heavens and the new earth are created/renewed. The feast is the time of realization of the promises of creation. Taking the passages together, Isaiah 25 and 65 picture the feast at the end of the age as the time of 1) wiping tears from the eyes of God's people 2) the realization of the time of the new heavens and new earth.

John picks up this image in the book of Revelation, with his vision of the wedding feast of the lamb that Isaiah predicted:

Rev 19:6-9 - Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"-- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God."

However, the re-creative act that Isaiah located at the time of the feast is not described until Revelation 21:

Rev 21:1-5 - Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

Thus, the one event of Isaiah 25 and 65 are described in two places: Revelation 19 and 21. However, we have been told this is one event, one time.

This, of course, makes it difficult because between Revelation 19 and 21 is Revelation 20. Revelation 20 is the passage that speaks of a period called the millenium, a period of time before the judgment of the wicked.

Revelation 19: wedding feast of God's people, while battle of judgment occurs.

Revelation 20: period called the millenium followed by judgment

Revelation 21: Comfort (wiping every tear) and New Creation

One view (chronological) sees these as presented in chronological order: feast, then judgment battle, then millenium, then judgment, then new creation.

This view has a few problems, however, in that the book of Revelation would then present a series of similar looking battles (Revelation 16:14-16, 19:19-21, 20:7-10), which would be odd. However, it would make empty the picture of the marriage feast that would not be the time of new creation, but separated by 1000 years and more death, rather than the end of death and the end of death.

The choice is one of two views of the book of Revelation:

1) Insist that Revelation is to be read chronologically and so to divorce New Creation and the Marriage Feast, leaving the feast, if we can say it this way, a meal of empty calories, no longer signifying the great reality that Isaiah promised.

2) Allow that Revelation contains visions of recapitulation and so see the visions as parallel accounts of the same reality. Then, New Creation and the marriage feast are still wedded, and the marriage feast retains its intended picture of hope.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Machen on Doctrinal Accuracy

"Clearcut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding. May it not discourage contribution to mission boards? May it not hinder the progress of consolidation, and produce a poor showing in columns of Church statistics? But with such persons we cannot possibly bring ourselves to agree. Light may seem at times to be an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end. The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from 'controversial' matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life."

-J. Gresham Machen. Christianity and Liberalism. pg 1

[somehow, I don't think Machen would like 'safe places' and the assumption that we have our doctrine good enough and it is time to move on to more important matters]

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Pictures of the Supper: The Marriage Feast

The final picture of the Supper is the substance of the anticipation of the Supper: The Marriage Feast of the Lamb

The Lord's Supper occurs in light of eschatological expectation. We have seen the principle of fellowship meal over bread and wine with Abraham and Melchizedek in Genesis 14. We have seen the institution of the Passover meal, that looked back to redemption from Egypt and grew to look forward to the coming of Messiah and final sacrifice. In both Passover and the Exodus 24:11 covenant meal we have seen the principle of a celebratory meal in light of sacrifice. Since the Supper happens in light of this eschatological expectation, we naturally ask if it is the full realization of eschatological expectation or if the Lord's Supper also looks forward to another reality.

The first example we might cite that the Supper is looking forward to a future time is Paul's instructions on the celebration of the Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:26. There, Paul states that “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. ” The final clause “until he comes” indicates the Supper is an instituted ritual that will continue until such time as Christ returns. They question arises, why would the celebration of the Lord's Supper cease at that time?

Jesus hints at a future aspect to the Supper at the institution of the Supper. In the Luke account, eschatological references are made when Jesus tells the disciples that “I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:16) Similarly, Jesus reflects on the cup that “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:18) This selection indicates that there will be a continuation of eating and drinking in the eschaton. Since Paul has indicated that feast is not equivalent to the Lord's Supper, we must inquire as to what is that meal.

Of significance to note in our study is the treatment of another meal in the Scriptures. Isaiah 25:6-8 gives some relief to the oracles of judgment against Israel by foretelling the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. Full restoration is pictured as a feast on a mountain with rich food and aged wine. This is the time of comfort, where the Lord “will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” (Isaiah 25:8) The same themes are repeated in Isaiah 65:13-17, where new creation is also added to the picture of the wedding feast.

The first coming, and so the Lord's Supper, must be seen as corresponding to the promise of Isaiah 25 and 65. The promise of the Supper was a communion with Christ's blood and body. (1 Cor 10:16) In commenting on this passage, John Calvin suggests that “from the physical things set forth in the Sacrament we are led by a sort of analogy to spiritual things.” Scripture describes the purpose of both bread and wine in Psalm 104:15, where it is written God gives “bread to strengthen man's heart” and “ wine to gladden the heart of man.” Scripture seems to understand that this can, to some degree be experienced in the Lord's Supper, with the first fruits of comfort and new creation. The first coming inaugurated the blessings promised in the imagery of Isaiah 25 and 65. John 2 describes the wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus turns the water into wine when the wine had run out. This was a "sign" because the Old Testament promised an age of abundant wine, and Jesus was beginning to fulfill that promised age.

Although there is already an aspect of the eschatological hope of the Passover and covenant meal in the Lord's Supper, that hope is not yet fully realized. Isaiah 25 functions within a broader deliverance section that includes chapter 26, where the resurrection of the dead is promised. (Isaiah 26:19) Although Jesus is the first fruits of that, final fulfillment awaits the resurrection of believers. If Isaiah 26:19 awaits Jesus' second coming for fulfillment, it is not a stretch to say Isaiah 25:6-8 also has not been realized in fulfillment. Although God in Christ is present at the Lord's Supper when we celebrate it, it is not in such a way that there are no more tears and a new incorruptible creation as Isaiah 25 and 65 promise, respectively. This promise of comfort comes in the context of the previous chapter where commentator Alec Motyer notes the reference to the elders in Isaiah 24:23 looks back to Exodus 24:11.* Isaiah 25 connects Exodus 24 with this eschatological hope as well. Since Exodus 24 also looked forward to the Lord's Supper, we must say that since the promises of Isaiah 25 have not been realized, and the Lord's Supper too still looks forward to this eschatological feast.

The unrealized aspect of the eschatological hope in the Lord's Supper and the marriage feast of the lamb is confirmed by the re-occurrence of the imagery of the marriage feast in Revelation 19:6-10. This passage in Revelation has obvious parallels to Isaiah 25:6-8 and Isaiah 65:13-17. Since Isaiah 25:6-8 pictures the feast as the place of God “wiping away tears” and Isaiah 65:13-17 pictures the feast as the place of new creation, we see the bridal picture of Revelation 21:1-6 also reflects this wedding feast. The Wedding Feast in Isaiah 25:6-8, 65:13-17 and Revelation 19:6-10, 21:1-6 all are pictures of this one feast, the culmination of the eschatological hopes of the end of suffering, new creation, and the unencumbered reign of Christ, where sin no longer not only has no rights, but no influence over the creation and the believer.

In this way, we see the Lord's Supper looks towards the Second Coming of Christ. Russell Moore described the eschatology of the Supper as “The meal Jesus feeds us then is a sign of an eschatological banquet, with the church acknowledging the 'already' and pining for the 'not yet.'” The not yet would be the consummation of the marriage. Figuratively, this would indicate the enjoyment of the full benefits of union with Christ. These benefits, then, will not be “through a mirror darkly” inhibited and encumbered by sin, but in a state of sinless enjoyment. The sustenance of bread would no longer be spiritual and in hope, but actual and perpetual. The joy of the wine would never decline, but ever increase. Since both of these point to their reality in the person of Christ, the reality of the blessings are apprehending, depending, and delighting in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lord God and Savior of His church in the marriage feast of the Lamb at the end of the age.

*[Alec Motyer. Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1999), 171.]

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Pictures of the Supper: Covenant Meal - Exodus 24

Exodus Meals

The narrative of Exodus includes two prominent community meals. Exodus 18:12 records a meal of Jethro and the people of God. First an offering was offered, and then the community came together to eat “before God.” In Exodus 24:11, within the context of covenant renewal and after the sprinkling of the blood of atonement over the people, the Israelites share a meal. Here too, God is said to be present, for “they saw God.”

Neither of the meals recorded in Exodus are recorded as Passover observances. Even though they are not in the direct line from the Passover to the Lord's Supper, they have relevance and Eucharistic significance. They have similarities to the Passover in that a sacrifice or atonement precedes the meal. Commentator Peter Enns notes, “An element essential to both the Passover and the Lord's Supper, and one that is also prominent in Exodus 24, is the shedding of blood...the sprinkling of blood...is an integral element in a covenant celebration.”* The meal, then, is enjoyed in celebration of a reconciliation of the people and God through sacrifice. Both Exodus 18:12 and 24:11, also, record the meal as being in the presence of God. This apparently is enabled by the preceding sacrifice before the meal can be enjoyed.

The Exodus 24:11 meal also happens in the context of a covenant. In Exodus 24:11 covenant meal is the product of the Exodus redemption. The people had been redeemed by the blood of the lamb. Here, the people are sprinkled against with blood after the giving of the law in Exodus 20. Exodus 20 begins with the affirmation that “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2) The imperatives of the law were given in light of the indicative of redemption. In Exodus 24, the people are reminded of the covenant (Exodus 24:7) and reminded of their redemption by blood (Exodus 24:8). In light of covenant redemption, the people eat and drink.

Although the Exodus meals are not a direct celebration of Passover, they share a covenantal nature with Passover. When Christ takes the cup and declares it to be “the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20) although we typically think of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 34 with the language of new covenant, we also must think of Exodus 24 with the connection of blood and covenant. Passover, the Exodus 24:11 covenant meal, and the Lord's Supper, are all celebratory meals in light of the redeeming blood of the covenant. The Passover and covenant meal sacrifices required repetition, but the Lord's Supper happens in light of the “once for all” sacrifice of Christ. (Heb 10:10)

*[Peter Enns. Exodus: The NIV Application Commentary. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 2000), 496. And no this is not a full endorcement of all things Enns. However, his Exodus commentary is very helpful]