Monday, 2 May 2016


Hi! So, a number of people have been getting in touch to see if (a) I'm still alive, and (b) whether I've abandoned writing. The answers are (a) yes, I'm still here, and (b) oh yes, I'm writing more than ever, it just hasn't been on the blog that I've been writing lately. So I thought it was probably time to reveal the two projects that make it seem as if I've fallen off the face of the earth.

The first is that over the first few months of this year I was lost in footnotes, bibliographies, section headings and page numbers, as I was putting the finishing touches to my PhD dissertation. The title of my thesis is 'The Church in the Eternal Purpose of the Triune God: Toward a Pentecostal Trinitarian Ecclesiology of Theosis drawing on the early theology of the Apostolic Church in the United Kingdom.' It's been submitted, but the journey isn't over yet, as I still have to wait to defend it at the Viva.

Project number two is a wee bit different: Apostolic Theology, the book. Coming 30th July, 2016 (i.e. at the Apostolic Church's centenary celebrations at AblazeUK in Cheltenham). 

‘This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’ (John 17:3). Jesus tells us that eternal life means knowing the Triune God. And in order to know someone, we need to know about them. Apostolic Theology: A Trinitarian, Evangelical, Pentecostal Introduction to Christian Doctrine is a book to help us know about the God of our salvation. So, if you’d like to know what we believe and why we believe it, this is the book for you. Using the Tenets of the Apostolic Church as a framework, Apostolic Theology sets out the vast sweep of Christian doctrine, helping us to see what the Bible teaches about God, ourselves, salvation, the Church, and the Christian Life.

This book will be useful for everyone: whether you’re a pastor or elder who’s involved in teaching the faith to others, a candidate training for the ministry, a church member who wants to strengthen your understanding of the faith, or someone who just wants to explore what Christians believe.

Some people have been asking about the size and scope - so think, Wayne Grudem's Bible Doctrine, Michael Horton's Pilgrim Theology or French Arrington's Christian Doctrine. (In other words, it's not a full one-volume systematic theology, but about one level down.) 

Other people have been asking what the difference will be from W.A.C. Rowe's One Lord, One Faith. The answer to that one is a few things. Rowe tended to focus on Apostolic and Pentecostal distinctives and not give as much attention to the doctrines we hold in common with the rest of evangelical Christianity (the original idea was that his book was to be used alongside Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology, so he left it to Berkhof to deal in detail with those). The idea for this new book is that it will be a stand-alone volume, so it covers the whole range of Christian doctrine. Also, One Lord, One Faith was written half a century ago, and so some people find it hard to read now - whether in terms of style or layout. This new book is written at the end of our first century, looking forward to our second.

Anyway, the work isn't finished yet (far from it!), so if anyone would like to pray, I would appreciate it greatly. And that also means that this isn't a return to very regular blog posts (for I still don't really have time to do anything other than work at the book - alas, Ablaze is not a moveable feast!). Hopefully closer to the launch I'll be able to give you a few samples on here.

The Two Projects that make it seem like I've fallen off the face of the earth!

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Saturday, 9 April 2016

That comfort that we shall have in heaven, in the presence of God, and of Christ, and his holy angels, is understood in some little way by the comfortable presence of God to the soul of a Christian, when he finds the Spirit of God raising him, and cheering him up, and witnessing his presence; as ofttimes, to the comfort of God’s people, the Holy Ghost witnesseth a presence, that now the soul can say, God is present with me, he smiles on me, and strengtheneth me, and leads me along. This comfortable way God’s children have to understand the things of heaven, by the first fruits they have here. For God is so far in love with his children here on earth, and so tender over them, that he purposes not to reserve all for another world, but gives them some taste beforehand, to make them better in love with the things there, and better to bear the troubles of this world.
Richard Sibbes, A Glance of Heaven (or, A Precious Taste of a Glorious Feast), Second Sermon, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Vol. 4, 168.

The Holy Spirit and Christ's Comfortable Presence

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Saturday, 2 April 2016

Something amazing happened this year. Good Friday fell on the 25th March. It won't happen again until the year 2157, but when it happens it's a fantastic collision of dates. Why? Well, think about it for a moment. What comes 9 months after 25th March? Why, Christmas of course: the feast of the birth of Christ. So, 9 months before Jesus was born, what happened? The Word became flesh! (The Incarnation didn't begin with Jesus' birth, but with His conception in the Virgin's womb.) So 25th March is the feast of the Annunciation, a day to celebrate the Incarnation of Christ.

And when Good Friday falls on 25th March, we get to celebrate the Incarnation and the Cross together. In fact, that's how it always should be, for the Incarnation and Cross go always go together. As Hebrews 2:17 tells us, Jesus took on our humanity and became like us in all things 'to make propitiation for the sins of the people.' Without the Incarnation there could be no crucifixion. And the Cross was where the Incarnation was heading (and then on into Resurrection life).

In early church , people like Tertullian said that the 25th March was the actual date of the crucifixion. Now, scholars have all sorts of debates over what dates were possible for the crucifixion, but 25th March was the earliest date anyone gave (and that was even before the date of Christmas was fixed, so it wasn't influenced by that). Later the church would point to 25th March not only as the date of the crucifixion and the annunciation, but also of the creation and fall of Adam. How appropriate would it be for the Lord to redeem mankind from the Fall through both the Incarnation and the Cross on the very same date as Adam fell! (Although how anyone could work out the date of Adam's fall, I have no idea.) And because it was so fitting for the Incarnation and the Cross to converge on the day of the fall, the church eventually ended up celebrating 25th March as the day of all the great foreshadowings of the Cross from the Old Testament, like the exodus (well, Jesus was crucified at the time of the Passover) and Abraham's offering of Isaac.

Alas, we won't have such a wonderful convergence of dates again until 2157 (or never again, if the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Patriarch of Alexandria and the Pope fix the date of Easter!). Yet, in the meantime, we celebrate the Incarnation and the Cross together each and every Lord's Day as we gather around the Lord's Table.

Here's Good Friday's Sermon:
A Sermon for Good Friday falling on the Feast of the Incarnation (Psalms 113-114), Leeds, 25th March, 2016.

And finally I leave you with the first half of John Donne's poem from when the two collided in 1608.

On Annunciation and Passion Falling on the Same Day. 1608.
by John Donne

TAMELY, frail body, abstain to-day ; to-day
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur ; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came, and went away ;
She sees Him nothing, twice at once, who’s all ;
She sees a cedar plant itself, and fall ;
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive, yet dead ;
She sees at once the Virgin Mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha ;
Sad and rejoiced she’s seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty, and at scarce fifteen ;
At once a son is promised her, and gone ;
Gabriel gives Christ to her, He her to John ;
Not fully a mother, she’s in orbity ;
At once receiver and the legacy.
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
Th’ abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one—
As in plain maps, the furthest west is east—
Of th’ angels Ave, and Consummatum est.

When Good Friday falls on the Feast of the Incarnation (which won't happen again until 2157!)

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Thursday, 11 February 2016

Despite being a creationist, I managed to go to the same university as Rupert Myers. And despite being a creationist, I managed to have a number of friends while up at Cambridge – several of them scientists – who were also creationists. Being a creationist does not rot the brain. It does not make one incapable of rigorous academic work. It hasn’t stopped my scientist friends from excelling in their fields. Yet, if a certain Daily Telegraph columnist had his way, it would certainly limit one’s opportunities in life. 

Rupert Myers takes issue in the Telegraph with the BBC’s appointment of a creationist (Dan Walker of Football Focus) as the new presenter of BBC Breakfast. Apparently creationists can’t be trusted to present the news. Now, normally I’d probably just roll my eyes at Mr Myers ridiculous column. (I’m not even linking to it, as it seems clearly designed to be the sort of piece that’s been posted to gain a high click count through controversy.) However, Mr Myers has managed to wind me up. Not with his silly dismissal of creationists as untrustworthy, but with something else. Myers writes:
‘As a Christian, I hope society continues to protect my right to hold beliefs and to express them.’
But immediately follows this with a ‘but’. Freedom of belief and its expression are important, but only as long as one’s beliefs match up with what Mr Myers deems acceptable. Despite his professed Christianity and his desire for freedom of belief and expression, Myers insists:
‘To believe that God literally created the earth in six days is to deny basic elements of logic. It may not be as offensive or insensitive as holocaust denial, but it is as logically indefensible.’
So, the belief of the majority of Christians around the world throughout history (not to mention the plain teaching of Scripture) can be compared to holocaust denial and apparently should be looked upon with almost as much suspicion by the BBC! But, yeah, freedom of belief and all that!

Towards the end of his piece, he exclaims:
‘A belief in creationism may be a religious belief, and we must allow generous margins to the holding of such beliefs, but creationism falls beyond the spectrum. It should be consigned to the bin of unreasonable, untenable fact-allergic nonsense. Creationists cannot be trusted to report objectively, or to interact reasonably with their interviewees and with the public.’
Here Myers explicitly says that some religious beliefs should not be tolerated. Creationism is beyond the pale. So what about the Bible’s teaching on marriage? Or the church’s opposition to abortion? Or the belief that one of the Trinity suffered in the flesh for us and for our salvation? Who gets to choose which religious beliefs fall within the ‘generous margins’ and which fall ‘beyond the spectrum’? What Myers is presenting is not the freedom ‘to hold beliefs and to express them’ of which he writes at the beginning of his article, but rather a situation where either the state or the media will get to decide which beliefs are to be tolerated and which are not. Perhaps that might be a tolerable state of affairs for Mr Myers, as long as the powers that be broadly tolerate his Christianity, but what will happen when they do so no longer?

(Oh, and by the way, all orthodox Christians are creationists. Yes, some may disagree on the 6 days, but all confess, ‘I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.’)

Beyond the Pale?: On Freedom of Belief, Football Focus, BBC Breakfast and the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

I was away at an ordination at the weekend, so over dinner the night before I was chatting to the apostle who had come to preach at the ordination (and who happened to be a former National Leader of the Apostolic Church). One of the topics that my interlocutor brought up was the need to read Scripture as a confessional theologian, and thus the importance of the role of systematic theology in our hermeneutics.

This evening I’ve been reading The Holy Trinity Revisited, a collection of essays in response to Stephen R. Holmes book The Holy Trinity. This got me thinking again about the conversation at the weekend, for in Kevin Giles’ contribution to the volume, he points out three principles from Athanasius for reading Scripture theologically, from which ‘we contemporary evangelicals have much to learn’ (p.46). 

Firstly, Athanasius teaches that we must read Scripture in harmony with the body of teaching which has been handed down to us (essentially the Creed). This isn’t an appeal to a tradition independent of the Bible, but rather it means reading the Bible, not idiosyncratically and individualistically, but together with the great teachers Christ has placed in the Church before us. The Creed, after all, is simply the summary of what the Bible teaches.

Secondly, Athanasius teaches us that we can’t set an isolated text over against what the whole of the rest of the Scriptures teach. If something’s plain in all of Scripture, then it can’t be contradicted by one or two verses. If we read that verse or two that way, then we’re misunderstanding them. Instead, those verses are only rightly understood in harmony with the rest of Scripture.

Thirdly, Athanasius says that sometimes we need a doctrinal rule that comes from Scripture as our hermeneutic to understand something properly. So, for example, texts about Jesus, Athanasius points out, should be read remembering that there is ‘a double account of the Saviour; that he was ever God and is the Son, being the Father’s Logos and Radiance and Wisdom; and that afterwards for us he took the flesh of a virgin’ (Contra Arianos, 3.26.26-9). When texts about Jesus are read with this ‘double account’ in mind, then we can see the consistency between those texts which speak of Him in His majesty, and those which speak of Him as being hungry or tired. (For a discussion of Augustine doing the same thing, have a look at pp.805-806 of this article by Keith Johnson in JETS.)

Athanasius’ three principles for reading, then, show us that we need to read any passage of Scripture in the context of the whole of the Bible’s teaching, or, in other words, in the context of the whole of Christian doctrine. Whether it’s the Creed (principle 1), the whole teaching of Scripture (principle 2), or a doctrinal rule (principle 3), Athanasius points us to the importance of a decent working-knowledge of Christian theology for rightly understanding the Bible.

Which brings me back to my chat over dinner on Saturday night. You see, systematic theology is still as important and useful in rightly understanding the Scriptures today as it was back in the days of Athanasius. (And any cry of Sola Scriptura which would seek to eliminate this hermeneutical role of Christian doctrine is a false cry, alien to what the Reformers meant by Sola Scriptura!) In Athanasius’ day, the heretics – the Arians – claimed to be building their teaching only on Scripture. The heretics could produce their proof-texts without any problem. But the orthodox teachers (like Athanasius) saw the necessity of theology. And so the orthodox read Scripture theologically, to guard against verses torn out of their whole-Bible context or the misinterpretation of individual passages.

And we need to do the same today. So, when an influential Pentecostal leader says something like ‘knowing the ways of God and walking in them brings us closer to knowing Jesus’ or ‘God’s favour and blessing are on the other side of our obedience’ and justifies it with a proof-text, we can reply that, despite his proof-text, he’s not being biblical at all. Rather than engaging in a competition to see who can pile up the most proof-texts torn out of context, a theological hermeneutic allows us to assess the claim by looking to the whole of what the Bible teaches.

The Creeds are carefully prepared statements of theology which the church accepts as true summaries of the Scriptures. Within various evangelical traditions, we also have our own confessional statements, which we accept within our own communions as summarising the teaching of Scripture. For those of us who are Apostolics, that means we recognise the Tenets of the Apostolic Church as ‘the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith’ which are summarised from ‘the Holy Scriptures.’ And so, the Creeds and the Tenets can help us as we read the Scriptures, for they are not independent authorities being imposed upon the Word of God, but rather faithful summaries of God’s Word which help ensure that we are reading the part in light of the whole. That’s what it means to read the Bible as a confessional Christian: we do not lay aside our confession of faith (i.e. the Tenets and the Creeds) when we open the Scriptures, but rather hold onto them as safety rails which guard us from dangerous, unbiblical interpretations.

Tenets, Creeds, and Hermeneutics: How Systematic Theology helps us read Scripture faithfully

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Tuesday, 9 February 2016

After lots of questions last night about the 3-fold Word, I thought it might be useful to repost this old post from a few years ago on the Word of God.

Surely everyone knows what the Word of God is – the Bible is the Word of God! Yet, ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). And when Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey, newly saved Gentiles ‘glorified the word of the Lord’ (Acts 13:48). The Word ‘grew mightily and prevailed’ (Acts 19:20). And the Word of the Lord gets preached and spoken a lot in the Bible too. Sometimes people even do things ‘by the Word of the Lord’ (e.g. 1 Kings 13:1) without that particular Word of the Lord being written down in the Word of the Lord! Confused yet? 

So, the Bible is the Word. Yet Jesus is also the Word. And preaching and prophesying are the Word too. (For ease, let’s just group preaching and prophesying together as proclamation.) But the Bible isn’t Jesus, Jesus isn’t proclamation, and proclamation isn’t the Bible. So what is the Word? 

Lest you think I’m just trying to confuse you today, here’s something that will hopefully help – the concept ofthe threefold Word. Basically the idea of the threefold Word is that the Bible, Jesus and proclamation are distinct yet inseparable. The Bible is a book about Jesus which is to be proclaimed. Jesus is the subject of Scripture and the content of true proclamation. Proclamation, if is to be true Christian proclamation, is proclaiming Christ biblically. The three go together. 

So, we don’t have three different words; they’re all saying the same thing. The threefold Word is a unified Word that comes to us in three forms. 

Okay, okay. So maybe this threefold thing sounds interesting. We know that Scripture is the Word of God, and we know that Jesus is the Word of God. We’re probably even willing to say that prophecy is the Word of God. But preaching? How can preaching be the Word of God? 

These days we tend not to talk like that so much about preaching. Instead we seem to talk of ‘explaining the Scripture’, ‘sharing what the Lord has laid on your heart’ or something else that sounds a lot less than ‘the Word of the Lord’. Yet, in the past, Christians weren’t afraid to talk of preaching as the Word of God. Perhaps most famously, the Second Helvetic Confession declares that ‘the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.’ That might sound rather bold and daring to us today, but it wasn’t at all for Reformation times. Luther said that ‘the office is not the pastor’s or preacher’s but God’s, and the word which he preaches is likewise not the pastor’s or preacher’s, but God’s.’ Calvin put it like this: ‘When a man has climbed up into the pulpit it is so that God may speak to us by the mouth of the man.’ 

How could they say such things? Well, because that’s what the Bible says. Think about Matthew 10:40 where Jesus says to His disciples, ‘he who receives you, receives me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent me.’ Jesus isn’t simply talking about hospitality. If you’re not sure, then flick over to a parallel in Luke 10:16 – ‘He who hears you hears me, he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects Him who sent me.’ People who reject the words of Christ’s messengers (that’s you and me when we share the gospel with them) are actually rejecting Christ. Those who receive our message don’t just receive a message about Christ, they receive Christ. 

Hebrews speaks of the elders as those ‘who have spoken the word of God to you’ (Heb. 13:7) Paul writes to the Thessalonians about how they ‘received the word of God which [they] heard … not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God’ (1 Thess. 2:13). The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. 

So does that mean that every time someone stands up in a pulpit their words are somehow magically transformed into God’s words? Is it some sort of oral transubstantiation? Not at all. It’s easy enough for someone to get up in a pulpit on a Sunday morning and speak nothing but their own words. And it’s also an uncomplicated matter for any of us to speak the Word of God on a Wednesday afternoon to a friend over coffee. It’s not about location, formality or time; it’s about proclaiming Christ biblically. That’s how we know our word is God’s Word, when we proclaim Christ biblically. Anything else isn’t the Word of God. 

God’s Word is a threefold Word. Jesus is the Word. Scripture is the Word. And proclamation (in preaching, prophesy and sacrament) is the Word. And when you’ve got these three together, what you’ve got is the Word. So, on a Sunday morning, the true ministry of the Word is proclaiming Christ biblically. That is the Word of God. 

(By the way, lest anyone try to dismiss the threefold Word as ‘Barthian’, Luther taught it, as did D.P. Williams. Just because Barth said something doesn’t make it wrong!)

The 3-Fold Word of God

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Saturday, 30 January 2016

And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. (Gen. 1:29)
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:4)
Life and eating go together. Without eating and drinking, life can’t continue for very long. Now, we might be tempted to think that’s merely a biological fact, and thus totally separate from spiritual reality, yet the Bible tells us that the world, with all its biology, was created for Jesus (Col. 1:16). Every single thing that exists, exists for Jesus. And all creation points us to Jesus (Rom. 1:18-21, Ps 19:1-4 – for the God of creation is not a Jesus-less God!). Our sin blocks our ears to what creation is saying about Jesus, but that doesn’t stop the fact that it was all made to point to Him. And when our eyes are opened to the glory of Jesus in the gospel, then we can begin to see how creation points to Him too.

Like in eating and drinking. God has designed His creation so that we can’t live without eating and drinking. And so we spend our days working hard to buy food. And, when we’re not working, we spend hours preparing meals that will be wolfed down in a few minutes. Because we need to eat.

Yet, the LORD teaches us that ‘man shall not live by bread alone’ (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4). Although the physical bread for which we work might nourish and sustain our physical bodies, it doesn’t offer true life. Sustained by bread alone, we continue our lives ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 2:1). Physical bread alone is mere zombie-food: food for the living dead.

What we need is the food that gives life. Through His good creation, God teaches us that we need food to live. But by His Word He tells us that the true food that gives life isn’t bread – or rice, or pasta, or potatoes. Instead the food we need, the food by which we live, is the Word of God.

And at the Lord’s Table we see that afresh. For there, the Word of God is joined with physical bread so that we can be fed with the Bread of Heaven. The minister takes ordinary bread, and speaks Christ’s Word over it – the Word of the Living Word – and so we receive, not bread alone, but the Word which proceeds from the mouth of God. When Christ’s words – ‘This is my Body, broken for you’ – echo at the Table, we hear again that ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ For Jesus – the Word – is ‘the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die’ (John 6:50).

Come to the Table 5: Of Zombie-Bread and Living Bread

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The God of the Bible is the Triune God. The God of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the Triune God. And so, just as we read of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the New Testament, we also read of the Holy Three-in-One in the Old Testament as well. (Otherwise we’d be reading of a different God altogether!)

But, for a variety of reasons, some Christians just aren’t used to reading the Old Testament that way. So, if you’re more used to reading the Old Testament simply in terms of ‘God’ rather than the Trinity, here’s some help for you from Martin Chemnitz (a great theologian from the second generation of the Reformation – although, Martin would want you to know that this isn’t something new he came up with, but rather he’s boiling down the principles passed on by a millennium and a half of theologians and Bible teachers before him into 4 rules).

1. ‘When Scripture speaks of God in the plural, it is certain that there is a reference to the plurality of persons.’

The Hebrew word for God – Elohim – is actually a plural (Gen. 1:1). And God at times talks about Himself in the plural, such as when He says ‘let us make man in our own image’ (Gen. 1:26; see also Gen. 3:22; 11:7).

Chemntiz insists we should understand these plurals as indications of the Trinity. And he wasn’t blindly holding onto some sort of naïve, pre-critical idea when he argued this. Chemnitz was quite aware of contrary arguments (like the idea of a plural of majesty) but shows that these are ideas that have been ‘recently dreamed up’ in order to find a non-Trinitarian alternative reading.

Instead of turning to such novelties, we should hold onto the ancient understanding of the Christian church, that the plural references to God are ‘hinting at the Trinity in unity and the unity in Trinity.’

2. ‘Wherever you read in Scripture that God is speaking about God, as a person about a person, there you are safe in affirming that the three persons of the Deity are indicated. For when two persons are named at the same time, the person of the Holy Spirit who is speaking in the Scripture is indicated.’

The ‘Second Martin’ (Chemnitz) gets this rule from ‘the First Martin’ (Luther – specifically his Treatise on the Last Words of David). Some passages of Scripture that fall under this rule include Hosea 1:7 (‘Yet I [God] will have mercy on the house of Judah, will save them by the Lord their God’) and Gen. 19:24 (‘Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.’).

3. ‘When the name of God (Jehovah, Kyrios, LORD) is repeated two or three times in the same sentence, it is certain that a difference in persons is indicated even though obscurely, as in Ps. 67:6-7; Deut. 6:4; Is. 6:3; Num. 6:23-27; Is. 33:22.’

Chemnitz does admit that these ones are a bit more obscure. But his example from Numbers 6 gives a good idea of what he means here. It’s the Aaronic Blessing:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
Compare this threefold benediction from the LORD with the Trinitarian benedictions of the New Testament.

4. ‘Often not only the repetition of names hints at the persons of the Trinity in the Old Testament, but the description is such that of necessity it is manifest that the context pertains to the differences of the persons in the unity of the essence.’

Here, not only is God’s name repeated, but both persons do what only God can do. A very well-known Scripture that demonstrates this rule is Ps 110:1: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’ (cf. Matt. 22:41-46 and parallels; Acts 2:34-36), where the LORD is distinguished from, and speaks to, David’s Lord, who sits with Him at His right hand, sharing His power and authority!

The Angel of the LORD is also an example of this, for He is sent from the LORD and yet He shares the name of the LORD (e.g. Ex. 23:20-21), speaks as the LORD (e.g. Gen. 22:11-12), and delivers as the LORD (e.g. Josh. 2:1).

So there you go, 4 rules for reading to help you see the Triune God in the Old Testament. (If you want to see a bit more of what Chemnitz has to say about these rules, and some more Scripture passages he gives as examples, you can find that on pp.90-91 of the first volume of his Loci Theologici.)

Seeing the Trinity in the Old Testament: 4 Rules for Reading from Martin Chemnitz

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Monday, 25 January 2016

Over the last month or so, the statement by a lecturer at an evangelical university in the United States that Christians and Muslims worship the same God has stirred up rather a lot of controversy. But this isn't a new question for the 21st century that's never been raised before. Back at the time of the Reformation, for example, Philip Melancthon addressed the issue in his Loci Communes (the first Protestant work of systematic theology). Here's what Melancthon had to say:
Thus since Christ has been delivered, crucified, and raised again, and since the light of the Gospel has been recognized, we make this witness our own, we keep our gaze on this Son, and we learn from Him these two points: who God is and what His will is. 
Thus we wisely and eagerly separate our worship from that of the heathen, the Turks, and the Jews. For true worship differs from false worship particularly in these two very important points: the question of the essence and the question of the will of God. Even though the Turks say that they worship the one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, yet they reject the true God because they deny that He who sent His Son as the Mediator is the true God. Thus they do not worship correctly. For there is an eternal and immutable rule, set forth in John 5:23, “He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father.” The Turks err first in regarding the essence of God because they create for themselves a god who is not the Father of Jesus Christ. 
On the other hand, the church of God affirms that He is God and Creator of all things who has revealed Himself in the Son whom He has sent, in the Gospel which He has given, and in the great testimonies which He has made and which are recorded in the writings of the prophets and evangelists. Thus a person first judges concerning the essence of God not on the basis of human imagination but on the basis of the Word of God and the sure testimonies which have been revealed to us in the Word. … 
The three persons of the Godhead, although in the first chapter of Genesis they are referred to in a rather obscure way, yet are gradually revealed more and more clearly. The Father, by speaking, begets the Word who is the image of the eternal Father. And of the Holy Spirit it is expressly said, “And the Spirit of the Lord was moving over the surface of the waters” … Finally, in the New Testament the three persons are most clearly revealed in the baptism of Christ, where the Father says, “This is My beloved Son,” and the Son is seen standing publicly in the river, and the Holy Spirit sits in visible from upon the Son. We should look carefully at this revelation, separate our thoughts about God from pagan, Turkish, and Jewish notions, and worship only the eternal Father who has revealed Himself in sending His Son Jesus Christ and in showing His Holy Spirit. … 
We should also think of Him as He has revealed Himself. The heathen and the Turks also boast that they worship this God who created heaven and earth, but they boast in vain because they err in their minds and do not wish to listen to the Creator as He reveals Himself in His Word and by the sending of His Son. Therefore they stray from the true Creator and make for themselves creators according to their own speculations. Thus in every thought about God and in all of our worship we must keep our minds on Christ, who has been sent in the flesh and was crucified and raised from the dead. We must firmly believe that He is truly God the Creator, who has sent this Son and has given the church His Gospel.
(From Melancthon's Loci Communes, Locus 1)

For a 21st century answer to the question, have a look at Glen Scrivener's 'Is the Allah of Islam the Father of Jesus?'.

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?: An Answer From the Reformation

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Saturday, 23 January 2016

They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light. (Ps 36:8-9)
Jesus Christ Himself is the fountain of life. On the last and greatest day of the feast He stood up in the Temple and proclaimed: ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink’ (John 7:37). To the Samaritan woman at the well, He said: ‘whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst’ (John 4:14), for the water He gives is ‘living water’ (John 4:10). Jesus is the only source of the living water, the water that wells up to eternal life. So Jesus Himself is the only true fountain of life.

But unlike in legends of the fountain of youth, there are no heroic tasks or epic challenges for us to fulfil in order to drink from the fountain of life. We don’t have to voyage across the seven seas, collect the tears of a mermaid, fight pirates, or prove ourselves by our valour and efforts in any more mundane ways. Instead of sending us to find the fountain and work hard for a drop of its life-giving water, the Lord Himself simply invites us to come to Him and drink. The valour and the work, the merit and the conquest are all His (not ours!). But as a generous and gracious host, He invites us to His Table to drink from the river of His pleasures.

For this life of which He is the fountain isn’t a dreary life. It isn’t a long, hard slog. It’s a life filled with His pleasures. It’s a life of joy and satisfaction in Jesus. It’s a life in which we’re blessed ‘with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’ (Eph. 1:3). It’s a life in which we know the pleasure of resting in Jesus. For as He invites us:
Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
And Jesus invites us to come and experience this life as we drink. So as we lift the cup to our lips at the Breaking of Bread, we drink knowing His promise of a life in His pleasure. As we drink the New Covenant in His Blood, we know that this New Covenant means a new life, an abundant life. Our old life has been put to death through the death of Jesus. And so, through His Blood, we have entered into that new life in the blessing and joy of Christ. The life of which He is the fountain.
O Christ, He is the Fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love;
The streams on earth I’ve tasted,
More deep I’ll drink above;
There to an ocean fulness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

Come to the Table 4: Fountain of Life

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