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Showing posts from February, 2013

Wednesday Words: Faith

Last week we had a look at two things about grace, what it isn’t ( Grace is not a Thing ) and what it is ( Grace is Christ and Him Crucified ) and that inevitable leads us to the question of faith. ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith’ (Eph. 2:8) – the two go hand in hand. But, having seen what grace is, that helps us see what faith is too. For, like grace, faith is not a thing. Some people want to make faith a thing that saves. So, they might talk about God electing us based on our foreseen faith. Or they might talk about our faith being counted for righteousness in justification (as opposed to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness). But in both those cases faith becomes a saving thing. If God elects us based on foreseen faith, then faith has somehow become a merit in us. If my faith is counted for righteousness, rather than Christ’s perfect obedience, then again, faith has somehow become a way of meriting salvation. And if faith were a thing in us that merited salvat

A Taste of Heaven on a Sunday Morning

On the way out the door after the Breaking of Bread yesterday, someone caught me just to say that they had felt like they were in heaven during the worship. And that’s a good thing, because that’s what the worship of the church is – a foretaste of heaven. The book of Hebrews puts it like this: But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,  23  to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,  24  to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Heb. 12:22-24) As we gather together as the church in worship, we draw near into the presence of the living God. Here we read that it’s not simply that God comes down and gives us a glimpse of His presence. No, He lifts us up into His heavenly throne room (for that’s the only way that we c

God meets with His people

At the end of Exodus 4 something rather curious happens. Moses and Aaron speak to the elders of Israel, and then they and the elders speak to the people. Now, it’s not speaking to the elders or speaking to the people that’s curious, but rather what happens when they speak to the people, for ‘when they heard that the  Lord  had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped’ (Ex. 4:31). What’s curious about that? Not the bowing and worshipping, but the fact that it says that ‘the LORD had visited the children of Israel.’ You see, the LORD (the Angel of the LORD, so God the Son) had only appeared to one person – Moses. Jesus had met with Moses in the burning bush. The LORD had met with Moses, but the text says the LORD had visited the children of Israel.   Now, the people hear about this after Moses and Aaron speak to the elders. So it’s talking about the LORD meeting with the elders. Yet when we read about that

Wednesday Words: Grace

Yesterday we saw that grace isn’t a thing, and we saw that grace isn’t a principle. So then, what is grace? Titus 2:11 tells us that ‘ the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared’ . So grace has made an appearance. Grace was visible. But when? How? Paul gives us an answer to that question in 2 Timothy 1:9-10 where he writes that God: has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,    but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel The grace by which we’re saved was revealed by the appearing of Christ and through the Cross of Christ. It’s the same grace that was given to us ‘before time began’. But even then it was given to us ‘in Christ’. Grace isn’t given BY Christ, but IN Christ. Grace isn’t revealed by His teaching and example, but i

There's no such THING as grace!

What!? How can I say there’s no such THING as grace? Well, calm down a second. I’m not saying that there’s no such thing as grace, but that there’s no such THING as grace. Yes, grace exists. But grace isn’t a thing. Now there are some people who think of grace as a thing. Some people think that grace is a substance that God pours out into our hearts, so it’s a thing. Others think of it as help from God, so that’s a thing. And yet others think of grace as a power God gives, so that’s a thing too. But hold on. There’s a big problem with thinking of grace like that. For, you see, if grace is a substance, then our salvation depends on our receptivity of the substance. Salvation becomes about how much of this thing called grace we’ve managed to get. If grace is help, well help can’t ever do everything (otherwise it wouldn’t be help!), and so we must bring some contribution to the equation. If grace is a power, then our response to this power in our lives becomes the important fact

Some Truth About Numbers from Mark Dever

Exploding Pentecostal Myths: Pentecostal theology isn’t necessarily Arminian

Welcome to, what I hope will be, an occasional series attempting to break down some of the myths that have grown up about Pentecostalism.  And to get the ball rolling lets dispel that myth that Pentecostals are all Arminians. When I first met a good friend of the Reformed persuasion, and he found out I was a Pentecostal, his first reaction was something along the lines of ‘Oooh, an Arminian!’ And that’s not the only time it’s happened. Now, it’s true, there are many Arminian Pentecostals. There are even whole denominations of Arminian Pentecostals in some countries. And, undoubtedly, that’s where the myth has come from, for the big Pentecostal denominations in the United States tend to be Arminian. In fact, in America they have what they call Holiness Pentecostalism, which comes out of the Wesleyan tradition (and Wesleyanism is a form of Arminianism). One of the first, and most influential, books on Pentecostal origins and theology, Dayton’s Theological Roots of Pentecostalism ,

Application and Preaching aren't the same thing

Once, many moons ago and in a land (relatively) far away, I preached a sermon on the second half of 2 Corinthians 5. I spoke about Christ taking our sin and clothing us with His righteousness. I spoke about how Christ reconciled us to Himself through His sacrifice on the Cross. I spoke about being a new creation. And I spoke about us being Christ’s ambassadors in taking His Good News to others. You know, the stuff that’s in the text! Well, the next day I got a long email from the worship leader of the church where I had been preaching. Although it was long, the point boiled down to this: ‘Why’d you waste so much time telling us about the cross and salvation? We’re Christians, so we already know that and don’t need to hear it again! You should have used the time to expand on the evangelism bit – that’s the point of what the text was telling us to do.’ 

Wednesday Words: Perichoresis

I'm busy with quite a bit of academic work today, and it all hinges on perichoresis. So, rather than leave you Wednesday word-less, I thought I'd give you perichoresis as well (extracted from the middle of a rather long post from last year about another subject entirely ). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are perfectly united in purpose and action. They're not three gods, each independently getting on with they're own agendas. No; Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God with One plan, unitedly acting together in love. Theologians have come up with the word perichoresis (or coinherence , as theologians are good at coming up with big words, but not always good at agreeing which big word to use for the same thing) to explain how this can be, that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all fully involved in one another's works. Perichoresis means that there is a mutual indwelling of the Persons of the Godhead. Jesus speaks of this in John's gospel: Most assuredly,

Do you have His presence? (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Just a video for you today. (Well, actually just audio as the picture never changes.)  I shall be quiet and let the Doctor say it all. (Though, if you get this by email, you might just see a black box, so in that case you may have to click through to the blog site to watch the video.)

On the Day the Pope announced his Resignation: The Permanent and the Ephemeral in the Life of the Church

Today’s a bit of an odd day. In fact, there hasn’t been one like it for 598 years. That’s when Gregory XII resigned, on 4th July, 1415. Gregory, however, resigned to bring an end to the Western Schism (Although the Western Schism is also sometimes called the Great Schism, it’s not the same as the Great Schism between the Western church and Eastern Orthodoxy, which seems to have confused some journalists today.) Benedict is resigning for a very different reason indeed. That’s why it’s such a shock. Although Canon Law allows a Pope to resign due to health or old age, it’s never happened before and so didn’t seem likely ever to happen – until today. Already speculation has started about the papabile (even though it isn’t all that long until Easter, by which time all that speculation will have come to an end). Twitter is awash with papal news. And it’s interestingly odd to see so many Protestants opine on who the cardinal electors should elect to the Petrine office. And in betwee

Wednesday Words: Eucharist

The Eucharist, Communion, Lord's Supper, Breaking of Bread: they're all different ways of talking about the same thing and so they're all this Wednesday's Wednesday Word. (I would have put them all in the title, but it would have been a bit long!) It's a meal that Jesus instituted for His disciples involving prayer, Christ's words, breaking the bread, and the giving and eating of bread and wine. That's clear enough as we do it each Lord's Day morning. But what are we doing when we come to the Table? What sort of meal is it? 1.) A Commemoration When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper he told His disciples to do it 'in remembrance of me' (1 Cor. 11:24-25). So when we come to the table, we look to Christ and what He has done to save us in the breaking of His body and pouring our of His blood in His atoning death on the cross. The sacrament keeps us grounded in what's most important: Christ and Him crucified. So in the breaking of b

Learning About Worship From Luther [Repost]

Martin Luther had some concerns about worship. He wasn't happy with what corporate worship had become in his day, and so for him the Reformation needed to include a reform of worship, not just of doctrine. You see the two go hand in hand. What we believe has an effect on how we worship, and the way we worship will, in the long run, have an effect on what we believe. Luther was combating works-righteousness - the idea that you could contribute to your salvation by your good works. Luther saw in the Scriptures that 'the just shall live by faith' ( Rom 1:17 ), that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, 'not by works lest any man should boast' ( Eph 2:8-9 ). And so Luther responded by preaching the Gospel of justification by faith alone as a result of Christ's saving work alone. But that wasn't enough. It was one thing to preach the Gospel, but if the way the church worshipped continued to reinforce the old false teaching of works-righteousness, t

True Apostleship in fewer than 140 characters

"We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4) #trueapostleship — Jonathan Black (@Jonathan_Black_) January 29, 2013 Tweeting True Apostleship:- "Now it is the office of a true apostle to preach of the suffering, resurrection, and office of Christ." (Luther) #trueapostleship   "Apostles then were sent out to lead the world back from rebellion ... to God ... by the preaching of the gospel." (Calvin) #trueapostleship   "A distinguished apostle of Christ by whose ministry the light of the gospel has shone." (Calvin on Luther) #trueapostleship   "An apostle shows that he is an apostle by clearly and purely preaching Christ as Saviour." (Althaus/Luther) #trueapostleship   "We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4) #trueapostleship   "Apostolic doctrine handled with apostolic authority and insight is desperately neede