Notes (near transcript) of Sermon 1/27/13

The Now and Future Kingdom

Intro:

Do you have an over-realized eschatology?

Do you have an under-realized eschatology?

Eschatology– a theological word. Simple explanation: eschaton “last” -completion, final blessings.

An over-realized eschatology would be one where a believer thinks that all the powers and promises and blessings of heaven are here NOW. It is only a matter that the believer “claim” these promises by faith and they will be received. If they are not received it is due to the lack of faith of the believer. i.e. healing and health, financial supply, victory over sinful habits are ours for the taking “by faith”

This viewpoint is characteristic of some Pentecostal/charismatic churches.

A rather odd outlier cult that believes something like this is the so-called “Christian Science Church” which teaches that sickness is an illusion. Chr.Sci. practitioners teach followers that if they will believe they are well, they will be well.

An under-realized eschatology focuses on the darkness and sinfulness of the world and expects and experiences very little of the blessings promised to believers.

  • At best it provides the promise of heaven.
  • At worst it provides an excuse for a Christian life that is defeated by sin and its effects with no hope of deliverance except in heaven.

Years ago I heard a preacher in a Presbyterian Church in Chicago tell a story about a woman who came a rather staid and formal church service. She sat in the service soaking in every word and song about Jesus. She got excited a few times and said out-loud “praise the Lord,” “halleluiah,” “glory to God.” After a few of these outbursts of joy an usher came to where she was sitting and told her to be quiet. She apologized and answered exuberantly, “Oh, I’ve met Jesus and I just can’t get over it.” The usher answered, ‘that may be madam, but you did not meet him here’

That is the sort of church characterized by an under-realized eschatology.

What does this have to do with Jesus’ parable in Luke 19:11-27?

Remember the situation: Jesus is on a Journey to Jerusalem.

He is doing amazing things, such as healing, deliverance, teaching about a revolution where God’s kingdom raises the faithful poor and casts down the rich despots.

He is teaching and pronouncing blessing on those who were considered unimportant: Children, women, poor, Gentiles….and lately a chief tax gatherer named Zacchaeus. In fact he has just announced “Salvation” to Zacchaeus’ house with a wonderful transforming response on the part of Zacchaeus!

It is more than likely that some of those watching and hearing are thinking that the Kingdom is ready to appear in all its eschatological fullness…. as soon as Jesus reaches Jerusalem.

Jesus has tried to make it clear:        And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34 ESV)

But, they are not getting his words: they did not grasp what was said.

Now we may understand the parable:

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore,

“A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

BTW: This actually did happen in 4 BC when Archelaeus went to Rome seeking to be made king:

He was the son of Herod the Great, the brother of Herod Antipas, and the half-brother of Herod Philip I.

Archelaus received the Tetrarchy of Judea by the last will of his father, though a previous will had bequeathed it to his brother Antipas. He was proclaimed king by the army, but declined to assume the title until he had submitted his claims to Caesar Augustus in Rome. Before setting out, he quelled with the utmost cruelty a sedition of the Pharisees, slaying nearly three thousand of them. In Rome he was opposed by Antipas and by many of the Jews, who travelled there to testify against him, who feared his cruelty; but in 4 BCE Augustus allotted to him the greater part of the kingdom.

So Jesus is using a past current event to illustrate something: Archelaus had been named king, but went away to get royal authority and then returned to rule.

Jesus was teaching them that although He is king by rights, he must go away to receive the Royal Authority before the kingdom will be fully realized. This is the true eschatology: The kingdom really has come in Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of David the King, but there are aspects of it that are some distance future.

What should Jesus’ faithful disciples do in the interim?

He is going to be rejected, condemned, killed, rise from the dead… and ascend to heaven.

What should his disciples do while they await the full redemption, the fullness of the Kingdom?

v. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’

“Ten” represents the full number of his disciples, and a fullness of gifts to use.

They are to ‘Engage in business until I come.’ That is, do the work of the kingdom!

          And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

This is what Jesus’ disciples are to do NOW! We live in the interim. Christ has ascended and is at the right hand of God. “and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.”

We are to engage in the business of his Body, the church, the new society of God.

WCF 25 “The visible church….…is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God…”

(1 Corinthians 12:12-26 ESV)

          For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

          For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

          The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

The church is to proclaim the gospel- the good news of a present and future SALVATION……and we are to demonstrate the same by the way we live in the Body and in the world around.

We are to be the kindest, most gracious, most charitable, most loving people because we have been given the undeserved kindness of God!

We are to live in the light of the 100% forgiveness of sins purchased for us by Christ’s death on the cross and received by faith, given and nurtured in the means of grace ordained by Christ in his church.

We are to preach the gospel and send the gospel messengers throughout the world which IS Christ’s greater domain!

We are to do this in a world rife with sin and its devastating effects, but with sure and certain hope in the future restoration of all things.

15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’

What is in view here? What is Jesus telling them?

Answer: He is telling them that they must use the gifts of grace He has given to them for the Kingdom! Spiritual gifts, callings, offices, talents, temperaments, training, time!  It is not that everyone will do the same thing but that everyone will do something appropriate to their endowment.

He is promising to bless them and reward them for their faithful service.

Not salvation by works, but works by salvation!

He is showing them that there are different circumstances and situations in which they will serve with different results:

(1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ESV)

          Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Our missionaries in Karamoja, Uganda have a great and arduous task!

The Karamoja region in northeast Uganda is the most marginalized in the country and one of the least developed in the world. Home to cattle-herding nomads, Karamoja has been trapped in a cycle of conflict and neglect for generations as clans of warriors have battled the government—and each other—for cattle and survival. Meanwhile the region continues to hemorrhage people as they leave to eke out a living begging on the streets of Uganda’s bustling capital, Kampala. Invisible even in their own country, are the lives of ordinary Karamojong, from cattle rustlers to child beggars.

And yet:

The Karimojong have immeasurable pride in their traditional way of life, and many have remained resistant to change no matter the force trying to change them. After all, in a desert-like land, the Karimojong have survived for centuries, and sometimes survival is all that matters.

Our Missionaries: Painfully slow work! Many hours of highway travel from Kampala to Mbale then a 40 mile dirt road trip just to get there. A clinic with doctor and nurse, an evangelist/pastor and family, a missionary deacon and family.

A congregation of Jesus Christ! The kingdom has come and yet it must come as the believers “engage in the King’s business” in remote Karamoja

While I was writing this sermon: My Daughter-in-law, who works with very poor immigrants wrote this on Facebook:
This morning I saw a cruel reality…. a 14 yr old and her mom waiting in the pavilion of a growers nursery to start working at 7 am but got there at 5:30 am because that is the only ride they have. The pavilion has no windows or doors to protect them from the cold weather, no coffee pot… the saddest part of all, this girl will not go to school and get an education, not get a better job. A cycle of poverty will be repeated because it is her duty to help her family by working- not by going to school. What is it that I can do, O Lord?

I do not have the answers to all the problems of this world, but Jesus Christ has given to His 10 (full measure of his Body) a 10 (full measure of his gospel and grace gifts) to us to ‘engage in kingdom works” until he comes.

God has given some of the gifts and answers to you!

Recently, two women in this congregation decided to offer to serve some of our young adults by an act of gracious hospitality! Will this save the world?

It will do something in that direction! Something is much when God is in it! Something is better than NOTHING! Something is an act of love and faith and stewardship of grace gifts.

20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” (Luke 19:11-27 ESV)

Someday Christ our King will return.

What will he say to us?

  • The church is to proclaim the gospel- the good news of a present and future SALVATION……and we are to demonstrate the same by the way we live in the Body and in the world around.
  • We are to be the kindest, most gracious, most charitable, most loving people because we have been given the undeserved kindness of God!
  • We are to live in the light of the 100% forgiveness of sins purchased for us by Christ death on the cross and received by faith, given and nurtured in the means of grace ordained by Christ in his church.
  • We are to preach the gospel, send the gospel messengers throughout the world which IS Christ’s greater domain!
  • We are to do this in a world rife with sin and its devastating effects, but with sure and certain hope in the future restoration of all things.

We are to “engage in this business” until The King returns.

How is your eschatology? Over-realized or Under-realized?

Amen.

The Gospel in Isaiah 59

Dear Congregation of Jesus Christ

On the last Sunday of 2012 I preached from Isaiah 59 emphasizing the sinfulness and failure of humans (Israel) to keep God’s covenant:

Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2 ESV)

I also preached about his sending his Son, “wrapped in zeal as a cloak,” dressed for battle to save us and pointed out that this is parallel to the armor Christ offers to each Christian in Ephesians 6.

The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. (Isaiah 59:15-17 ESV)

At the end of this beautiful passage I referred to the future blessings which ensue when God’s people follow in his covenant in the gracious covenant-keeping work of Christ for us from the final verse:

v. 21 “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

Burk Parsons continues the same teaching in the Tabletalk article quoted below for January 8, 2013.

Covenant Blessings

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit” (vv. 3–4).

Leviticus 26:1-13

God’s covenants clearly have conditions, as we have seen over the past few days. The question before us now, however, is what happens when these conditions are met and what happens when they are not met? The answer is that meeting the conditions perfectly leads to eternal life, and, in the final analysis, we can only do this by trusting in Christ Jesus alone, who alone has kept the covenant perfectly (2 Cor. 5:21).

Although meeting the covenant conditions leads ultimately to eternal life—via the faith-alone imputation of the merit of Christ, the perfect covenant-keeper—there are also earthly blessings for keeping covenant that anticipate the life of the world to come. This is particularly evident under the Mosaic covenant, which was the foundational covenant for the prophets’ ministry. In fact, the blessings that the prophets announced to ancient Israel were the blessings promised to those who kept the Mosaic law. These blessings are revealed most clearly in Leviticus 26:1–13 and Deuteronomy 28:1–14.

The two lists differ slightly, but the teaching of both texts is the same. God promised the Israelites that if they were to keep the covenant, they would experience food harvests so great that they would be unable to gather everything in before it was time to sow the seed once more (Lev. 26:3–5). Faithful Israel would enjoy peace, victory over her enemies, and fruitfulness in the womb (vv. 6–10). The blessings build to the crescendo of the greatest covenant benefit of all—the presence of God Himself with His people (vv. 11–13).

When the prophets announced blessings to Israelites who persevered in covenant obedience or returned to the Lord after grossly breaking His law, they promised the very blessings we have just listed. Jeremiah 23:1–4, for example, promises the faithful remnant of Israel that it will experience great fruitfulness. Ezekiel 36:22–32 looks forward to the Spirit of God dwelling within the hearts of His children.

Ancient Israel was not to look at keeping God’s covenant as a means to earn their salvation. Thus, for the old covenant people, faithfulness did not mean perfect obedience, which is impossible for sinners. They were to strive to obey, repent when they failed, and look for the Messiah to earn salvation for them by His following the law perfectly (Gen. 3:14–15; Lev. 18:5; Deut. 18:15). But as they conformed, generally speaking, to God’s law, they enjoyed a foretaste of eternal life in the new heaven and earth.

Coram Deo

The book of Job and other portions of Scripture warn us about making a strict one-to-one correlation between the blessings or trials we receive and our obedience to God. Nevertheless, we can expect the Lord to show His favor to us when we keep His covenant and seek to obey His Word. We do this not to earn our redemption but to thank Him for saving us from our sin. Are you striving to obey the Lord and receive His blessing?

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 4:1
Isaiah 55
Matthew 19:26–30
Romans 5:12–21

Sermon at Lessons and Carols

Christmas Eve 2012

Angels are very prominent in the Readings of this Service. These are very high ranking Angels too! Whether The Angel of the LORD or Gabriel, these are Cherubim which guard God’s very throne. These High ranking Angels appear in six of the Lessons read this evening.

Years ago I took a course about angels. We learned that angels are always active in God’s work in the world, but that they are particularly active and the highest ranking ones are active, when God is doing a BIG NEW thing in his plan to save the world.

*Think back with me.

The first reading tonight was the account of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden. Then and there, God promised to save them by sending a Son, His Son, through the woman! Right after that, the Lord drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and He placed cherubim in the garden to guard the way to the tree of life. By guarding the way to the tree of life, these angels function as messengers of God’s punishment, but also of His grace. They barricade the way to the tree of life because eternal life is no longer found in an earthly paradise. Adam and Eve must look to the promised seed of the woman, the Messiah, who will open the way to the paradise of God. The angels turn the attention of man to the need for a Savior. They kept Adam and Eve away from the tree and out of the immediate presence of God. If they had not done so, Adam and Eve would have been consumed by the wrath of the LORD.

Years later, in the second Lesson, when God renewed his promises to save, he made a covenant with Abraham promising salvation. This was announced by The Angel of the Lord, and it was the Angel of The Lord who commanded the sacrifice of Abraham’s only Son and then rescued Isaac from the knife saying: “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

The Third and Fourth lessons tell what God’s salvation through his Son, will mean for the world and where he will be born.

The Fifth lesson tells about the Arch-angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she is the woman who will give Birth to the Savior. Mary then rejoices greatly and accepts the mission of God.

This was going to be a big problem for Mary’s betrothed husband Joseph, so in our Sixth Lesson the same Arch-angel eased removed his doubt and concern by announcing that this is God’s doing for the Salvation of the world.

Finally, in the Seventh Lesson, the angel of the Lord together with a whole army of angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds near Bethlehem and they sang: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

These are intensely frequent appearances and messages of God’s angels because God’s long ago promised salvation has come!

And that is what Saint John tells us in the Ninth Lesson. The Creator of the universe has come down from heaven, has become a human, born of a woman, to make a way for us all to come into God’s presence in Paradise. He has come to destroy our darkness by dying in our place in sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins, the darkness of sin and hell and to make a way for us to be saved, a way back to God’s fellowship in Paradise.

This salvation, this Christmas message of the angels is for you.  You are included in the word “all.”

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This is the message of the Angels…and it is for you!

Blessed, merry Christmas!

Why Baptize Babies, Does it Matter?

Rev. G. Mark Sumpter, Pastor of Faith OPC, Grants Pass, WA

In the discussion of the administration of the water of the rite of Christian baptism, the question about the subjects of baptism gets most of the attention. To whom should the sacrament of baptism be administered? Does the Bible teach that covenant children are to be baptized or only those of age, based on their profession of faith? But soon in the conversation another question comes: What does it matter anyway if we baptize at a very early age? Don’t we both, Baptists and Presbyterians, as church-going families with children, give ourselves to training the children in the love and grace of Christ? Don’t we both teach our kids to pray? Don’t we both teach our kids to sing to Jesus, memorize specific Scriptures and the catechism? Aren’t all faithful parents in earnest working at correcting and training their kids in obedience unto the Lord? So, whether baptized or not the kids of the church and Christian home get Christian nurture, right? Does it matter?

It does:

1. Its administration is obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ in His great commission (Matthew 28:19).

2. Signs in the Bible are directly associated with a teaching ministry, and in particular, a teaching ministry to children (Josh. 4:21-22).

3. Our children fundamentally need the security of belonging, of being included. They are kids. Baptism includes them in God’s Kingdom, under His ownership (Acts 2:39).

4. Baptism is a witness and summons to the parents to carry out their responsibilities to train, correct, nurture and admonish their children (Matt. 28:19; Gen. 17:7; Gen. 18:19). Just as a wife and husband have responsibilities to one another, respectively, according to one’s role in faith, so are parents called to faithful responsibility to the child who is set apart for Christ–holy in Him (1 Cor. 7:14).

5. Baptism includes the child in God’s story of the out-working of history–the story of the Old Testament, the New and beyond (Acts 2:39; and note the persons included in God’s story of grace in Hebrews 11, for example, Noah and his sons 11:7; Abraham and Issac 11:17-18, et al, and Hebrews 12:1-2). The child knows that he, like his parents and his grandparents, and other senior generations, shares in the generation by generation work of God. Baptism includes the child in God’s tale.

6. Baptism mirrors the societal relations that we know in the biological family and city of man. Just as our children bear a surname in God’s institution of the family and just as they hold a certificate of citizenship testifying to membership in God’s institution of the state, so he’s associated with God and His people with entitlement, expectations and opportunity in the institution of the church (Eph. 4:4-6; see Paul’s welcome into membership in the church Acts 9:19, 26-28). All three institutions ordained by God are rightly represented, starting with the child’s birth.

7. Water baptism of children unites them to the visible, historic body of Christ, distinguishes them from the world and reminds them to take up the tangible practicalities of weekly public worship and congregational service in the life of the church. They help to make up of the recognized body of Christ today, not merely the church of tomorrow (The Book of Ephesians). The historic marks of the church, specifically the administration the sacrament of water baptism, cover the younger generations of the church. The marks are not merely for the older generations.

8. Baptism includes children in the conquering work of the epoch or era of Christ’s earthly glory (John 17:4). It’s the day of the great glory of the One who is the express image of God, who has brought about His regenerating work. The Book of Hebrews denotes the superiority of Christ over the prophets, the angels and Moses, and specifies that this age is under His triumph and finished work (Heb. 2:5). The coming of Jesus signals the dawn of the era of fulfillment, and thus, water baptism, associated with Christ’s atoning, cleansing work, is their basis for claiming the promise of salvation.

9. Baptism of children keeps the corporate, historical identity of the covenant people of God in view (Acts 2:39). The materiality of water, as a means of grace, reminds the church of her glorious ways of ministry, preaching, fellowship, meal-sharing, prayer, evangelism, diaconal work and more, and it helps to keep at bay the notion that the secret work of the doctrine of election is all that matters. We must not allow the secret work of God to eclipse the tangible, revealed things, especially the means of grace (Deut 29:29).

10. Baptizing children is the gospel in miniature. Helpless, dependent children display the mark of discipleship in the kingdom (Matt. 18:3). Fleshy works fail; complete dependency on God, the granting of the gift of faith in Christ, secures life (Eph. 2:8-10). Man’s strength does not save, only God (Rom. 5:6).

11. Baptism is the seal, the stamp of God’s love for all ages, all generations of the church–from birth to death. His care doesn’t skip over anyone (John 3:16; 1 John 2:12-14).

What we believe in brief view

Our faith and practice are based entirely on the teachings of the Bible. We affirm the historic statement of these truths expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1647-8), which our church officers are required to uphold.
We are called Presbyterian because we believe that Christ commits the government of his Church to councils of ordained men (Greek: presbuterion = a council of elders).
The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms are the most widely-accepted standards for English-speaking Presbyterian churches throughout the world, and are compatible with continental Reformed standards such as the Belgic Confession (1561), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) and the Canons of the Synod of Dort (1619).
The following is a concise overview of our beliefs expressed in words from our standards:

  • The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added.
  • There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.
  • There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
  • The work of creationis God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.
  • Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate in which they were created by sinning against God, and brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.
  • It pleased God to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, to be the mediator between God and man: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified and glorified.
  • The Son of God, being very and eternal God, took upon himself man’s nature, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
  • This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; he was made under the law and did perfectly fulfil it; he endured most grievous torments, was crucified, and died, was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he rose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of his Father making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.
  • The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance.
  • God was pleased to make a covenantin which he freely offers to sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, the only mediator of the covenant; requiring faith of them in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give to all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
  • As an act of God’s free grace to sinners, only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ imputed to them and received by faith alone, he pardons all their sins and accounts their persons righteous in his sight.
  • True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God and his decree and covenant, are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation; are renewed in their whole man after the image of God; are joined to Christ as their Head; and are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow heirs with Christ in glory.
  • God requires faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with diligent use of all the outward meanswhereby Christ communicates the benefits of redemption, especially the Word, sacraments and prayer.
  • The Lord’s supperis a sacrament in which, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace, and have their union and communion with him confirmed.
  • Baptismis a sacrament, rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water, that signifies and seals ingrafting into Christ, partaking of the covenant, and engagement to be the Lord’s, whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church. Infants descending from parents professing faith in Christ are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.
  • The visible Church, which is catholic or universal, consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, and of their children, and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
  • At the last day there shall be a general resurrection of the dead, and the general and final judgment. Believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity.

Does Worship Style Matter?

When the style of our music is always upbeat, loud, and ascending in enthusiasm, we miss the range of biblical teaching about God, ourselves, worship, and the Christian life. To be sure, the Bible in general and the Psalms in particular include zealous praise and thanksgiving. But an over-realized eschatology has caused much of contemporary worship to get stuck in the “victory” and “excitement” mode that down-plays the reality of ongoing sin, unbelief, and disappointment, as well as the attributes of God that are most disturbing to us. This cannot help but produce weak and immature Christians who cannot stand in times of trial and testing.

Michael Horton, A Better Way: Recovering the Drama of Christ-Centerd Worship Baker Books 2002, p. 134

Good hymns are an immense blessing to the Church of Christ. I believe the last day alone will show the world the real amount of good they have done. They suit all, both rich and poor. There is an elevating, stirring, soothing, spiritualizing, effect about a thoroughly good hymn, which nothing else can produce. It sticks in men’s memories when texts are forgotten. It trains men for heaven, where praise is one of the principal occupations. Preaching and praying shall one day cease for ever; but praise shall never die. The makers of good ballads are said to sway national opinion. The writers of good hymns, in like manner, are those who leave the deepest marks on the face of the Church.

~ J.C. Ryle

Baptism

“The ministers, therefore, on their part administer the sacrament and that which is visible, but our Lord gives that which is signified by the sacrament, namely, the gifts and invisible grace; washing, cleansing, and purging our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving unto us a true assurance of His fatherly goodness; putting on us the new man, and putting off the old man with all his deeds. For this reason we believe that anyone who aspires to reach eternal life ought to be baptized only once without ever repeating it– for we can-not be born twice. Yet this baptism is profitable not only when the water is on us and when we receive it but throughout our entire lives.”— 

Belgic Confession, article 34 Baptism

Good Hymns..training for heaven

Good hymns are an immense blessing to the Church of Christ. I believe the last day alone will show the world the real amount of good they have done. They suit all, both rich and poor. There is an elevating, stirring, soothing, spiritualizing, effect about a thoroughly good hymn, which nothing else can produce. It sticks in men’s memories when texts are forgotten. It trains men for heaven, where praise is one of the principal occupations. Preaching and praying shall one day cease for ever; but praise shall never die. The makers of good ballads are said to sway national opinion. The writers of good hymns, in like manner, are those who leave the deepest marks on the face of the Church.

~ J.C. Ryle

Prayer for the Unity of the Church

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Controversy

A minister, about to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy, wrote to John Newton of his intention. Newton replied as follows:

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle; but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a great coat of mail; such armor, that you need not complain, as David did of Saul’s, that it will be more cumbersome than useful; for you will easily perceive it is taken from that great magazine provided for the Christian soldier, the Word of God. I take it for granted that you will not expect any apology for my freedom, and therefore I shall not offer one. For method’s sake, I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public, and yourself.

Consider Your Opponent

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit), he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! “He knows not what he does.” But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his.

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy: but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose. “If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.

Consider the Public

By printing, you will appeal to the public; where your readers may be ranged under three divisions: First, such as differ from you in principle. Concerning these I may refer you to what I have already said. Though you have your eye upon one person chiefly, there are many like-minded with him; and the same reasoning will hold, whether as to one or to a million.

There will be likewise many who pay too little regard to religion, to have any settled system of their own, and yet are preengaged in favor of those sentiments which are at least repugnant to the good opinion men naturally have of themselves. These are very incompetent judges of doctrine; but they can form a tolerable judgment of a writer’s spirit. They know that meekness, humility, and love are the characteristics of a Christian temper; and though they affect to treat the doctrines of grace as mere notions and speculations, which, supposing they adopted them, would have no salutary influence upon their conduct; yet from us, who profess these principles, they always expect such dispositions as correspond with the precepts of the gospel. They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of our arguments. The scriptural maxim, that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,” is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address, as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth’s sake; if we can satisfy them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer; and if they should still dissent from our opinions, they will be constrained to approve our intentions.

You will have a third class of readers, who, being of your own sentiments, will readily approve of what you advance, and may be further established and confirmed in their views of the Scripture doctrines, by a clear and masterly elucidation of your subject. You may be instrumental to their edification if the law of kindness as well as of truth regulates your pen, otherwise you may do them harm. There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.

I readily believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from and are nourished by the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse were always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind. I think I have known some Arminians, that is, persons who for want of a clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace, who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord.

And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility, that they are willing in words to debase the creature and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

Consider Yourself

This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented.

And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?

Your aim, I doubt not, is good; but you have need to watch and pray for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you; he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defense of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.” This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, “not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called.” The wisdom that is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the want of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savor and efficacy of our labors.

If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.


Excerpt from The Works of John Newton, Letter XIX “On Controversy.”