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Showing posts from November, 2012

Jesus is like Joash, Only Better

Joash of Judah (2 Kings 11-12; 2 Chronicles 23-24) was one of Judah's better kings. Amidst the strings of evil and idolatrous kings of Israel and Judah, every so often a good one pops up (though only in Judah, never in the northern kingdom, and never completely good). The good kings get our hopes up, and then dash them to pieces as they fail and die and their good accomplishments are undone by evil successors. The good kings remind us that they're not good enough. They remind us that there is a much better King, the truly good King, whom God has promised and whose reign will no no end.
Joash had a rather eventful start to life. As a baby he was caught up in a coup and only just saved from being killed by his grandmother, the ruthless dictator. His brothers were killed in an attempt to kill any claimants to the throne, yet God used his people to save Joash.
Israel's true great King would also be saved as a baby from the slaughter of an insecure ruler. Herod had all the baby b…

Pentecost is Trinitarian

After an attempt to define the baptism in the Holy Spirit recently, I said I'd attempt to unpack the definition a bit. So here goes. The first thing I want to point to is the Trinitarian nature of Spirit baptism. In my definition I said that Spirit Baptism is an encounter with the Triune God, and that's something important which we shouldn't skip over.
Because it's called the baptism in the Holy Spirit, it's easy for us to slip into thinking of it in terms of only the third Person of the Trinity. But that couldn't be further from the biblical teaching - either on Spirit baptism or on the Trinity.
On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 we see the Trinitarian nature of Spirit baptism very clearly. When Peter gets up to explain what's going on, he points to the Old Testament prophecy of Joel promising an outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:17), but yet his sermon doesn't stop there. For Peter, it wasn't enough to say that the Holy Spirit was at work, and so he w…

Why Parliament's reaction to the General Synod matters to the rest of us

I've been trying to avoid writing about the General Synod's vote on female bishops all week. After all, I am not an Anglican. But my temptation has sprung from the fact that the reaction from Parliament could affect us non-Anglicans too. So, instead of writing about it, let me just give you confirmation from the House of Commons at the end of the week. These are the words of Sir Tony Baldry MP, the Second Church Estates Commissioner (the government spokesperson of Church of England matters in the Commons) in reply to a Parliamentary question.May I correct a point that seems to be getting some coinage? The Church of England does not enjoy any particular exemption from sex equality legislation. Obviously, equalities legislation is entirely a matter for this House, but the legislation that applies to the Church of England applies to all faith groups in this country. If Parliament were to seek to change the legislation, it would apply to every faith group. That is clearly a matter…

So what is baptism in the Holy Spirit?

Having discussed the baptism in the Holy Spirit earlier in the week, today I just want to attempt to answer a question a few people have asked, and which I've realised I haven't actually addressed before: the question of what actually is the baptism in the Holy Spirit? And, come to think of it, that's a question that doesn't seem to get all that much attention. A lot of ink has been spilt over the questions of subsequence, evidence and purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and perhaps that's distracted a bit from the issue of the nature of the gift.
Anyway, all I want to do today is suggest an answer to the question. It's tentative (in that I want to further nuance and refine it), and requires a bit of unpacking (which I shall do in the near future — perhaps next week). But here it is for your consideration:

Apostleship Under the Cross

For a number of reasons I keep being spurred on to write about apostleship. Recently we have a look at spotting apostles, at the relationship between identity, function and apostleship, and at the fact that Christ is the source of all apostleship. Today I want to think about a slightly different topic — the fruit of apostleship.

I think most people would agree that true apostleship should bear fruit. In Matthew 7 Jesus teaches and warns against false prophets. He concludes by saying: "therefore, by their fruits you will know them" (Matt. 7:20). Although he specifically mentions false prophets, the context suggests that this applies more widely. So surely true apostles will lead to good fruit.
Yet, agreeing that we should see good fruit is one thing, what we mean by good fruit is another thing entirely! In the climate in which we live, we very readily translate fruit into success. And success in our culture is something that's thought of as easily measurable. But is that…

Some Perspective on Baptism in the Holy Spirit

A chat with some friends after church on Sunday night has got me thinking about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. And then, lo and behold, I see that Andrew Wilson has been blogging along much the same lines.
Both my friend on Sunday evening and Andrew Wilson in his blog post pointed to great godly leaders used mightily by God, but who don't fit into the Pentecostal model of baptism in the Spirit. 
Now, no one's suggesting that such examples undo the doctrine of Spirit baptism (which, ironically, would be to let experience rather than Scripture govern our theology, something which Pentecostals frequently get accused of in the exact opposite direction!). However, such examples should give us pause to think. Sometimes the way some Pentecostals speak, you'd think that no one had been baptised in the Spirit between the first century and the twentieth. And yet then the same people often emphasise it to such an extent that it sounds like the Christian life is impossible without it! …

Apostleship in Christ

Over the last few days I've been thinking about the importance of revelation in recognising apostles, and about how, whether for all Christians in general or apostles more specifically, identity leads to function. So today apostolic ministry is still on my mind.

I suppose what I'm really thinking about today is linked closely to the issues I've already written about, namely sentness and identity. My question today is where do we find apostles? And depending on where our focus is on some of those other matters, we'll end up with different answers to this one.
If we're prioritising function and activity, then it would seem natural to say that we find apostles where we see the function and activity being carried out. And, in a way, that's fair enough. The problem is, once again, that this can easily turn into a check-list; so the place where we look for apostles ends up being a church with a numerically large and fast growing congregation.
And sometimes, perhaps …

History: Does it matter?

History is important. But just how important is it? I suppose that depends on what history we're talking about. Christianity is grounded in history and can't exist without it. That's because the gospel message is the message of God entering into history in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. 'Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again' is a historical message. Christianity isn't about some moral philosophy; it' about the God-Man who lived for us, died for us and rose for us. That sort of history is 'of first importance' (1 Cor. 15:3 ESV). Gospel history we can't live without!
But then there's other history: the history of great happenings in the life of the Church over the last 2 millennia. That history is important too. It helps us understand where we are today. Athanasius and Augustine, the Reformation and the Revival — they've all made they're mark on our church life today. This history is there. It's imp…

Identity, Activity and Apostleship

I've had some correspondence regarding my last post, and that has got me thinking again about apostleship. Basically, two days ago I was arguing for the importance of revelation in recognising an apostle (or any of the other ascension ministries for that matter). But does that mean that function isn't important? Can we simply stop asking questions about the role of an apostle? Not at all.

Function is important to ministry. But by pointing to the importance of revelation in the call, I want to highlight the fact that ministry is much more than function. Ephesians 4:11 doesn't tell us that the ascended Christ gave some to apostle, some to prophesy, some to evangelise, some to pastor and some to teach. No! The gifts are not functions, but people: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Now, clearly there are functions which are vital to these ministries, but the gift is the man, not the function.
That means ministry is about identity, not simply about function…

Spotting Apostles

Andrew Wilson and David Devenish have been writing recently about apostles on the New Frontiers theology blog (which, by the way, has a tendency to be rather an interesting blog indeed and well worth reading). Yesterday Andrew Wilson wrote an excellent post on recognising apostles. While the earlier posts have highlighted for me some of the ways in which NewFrontiers and the Apostolic Church have moved in different directions in their thinking on apostleship (we're not really very far apart in our thought, although I'd say we'd, in the UK at least, be closer to Devenish than Wilson in our thinking), yesterday's instalment speaks right into our situation in the Apostolic Church.

Read Andrew Wilson's full post, but my quick summary here is that he points out that, unlike the other four ascension ministries, there isn't a function that corresponds to the apostle by which we can recognise them. (i.e. We can, at least in part recognise something of the call of the …

Why the Reformation and the Revival are different (unless you're Welsh!)

Last week I wrote about Reformation Day,  but I'm mentioning the Reformation once again today as it's just so important. It's not the sociological and political consequences of the Reformation (significant as those were) that make the Reformation so important, but something much, much greater than that: the recovery of the Gospel!
That's not to say that no one before the Reformation had the Gospel (NB Matt. 16:18), but simply that so much rubbish had been accumulated round about it, that the gospel was very well hidden indeed. (Remember, the Roman Church didn't codify it's beliefs about the gospel and salvation until the Council of Trent, after and in response to the Reformation, so they hadn't yet officially rejected the truth of justification by faith alone.) During the Reformation, God raised up men who proclaimed the truth of the gospel boldly and clearly, and the impact was huge. The Reformation resulted in what was probably the biggest Revival Europe h…

We don't need hype; we need Jesus!

There’s a lot of hype flying about. Some of it is crazy hype. Some of it is ever so respectable. But yet, what these extremes have in common is the fact that they are nothing more than hype. And hype isn’t helpful.

Now, hype may seem helpful. Hype is, after all, something that gets people's attention. And so hype has the feeling of success about it. Things happen when there’s a lot of hype: people come, people respond, people are pleased. Hype then, in many ways would seem to equate to success.

But what type of success? Does what we call success always correspond to God’s blessing? Far from it. As Jesus points out in Matt. 7, even what people think of as success in terms of prophecy and miracles may not be recognised by the Lord. Or, as Martin Luther points out, "That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded and hardened.” (Heidelberg Disputation, Th.22)

For Luther, that’s the Theology of Glory. Theologians of…