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Showing posts from January, 2016

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

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 g

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

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 Heb

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

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 wi

Come to the Table 4: Fountain of Life

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 valou

Come to the Table 3: Fed from His Fullness

They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. (Ps. 36:8) Those who know the Lovingkindness of the Lord shelter under the shadow of His wings. And there the Lord gives them food and drink. Not simply a snack to keep them going for a while, but a satisfying banquet of delights which come from the Lord Himself. He feeds them with the fullness of His house. But what is the fullness of His house? For the Lord God is not like the gods of the heathen nations who surrounded Israel. Those gods had physical houses upon the earth – their temples – where their devotees brought them food to eat. But our God does just the opposite. Instead of demanding that we feed Him, He feeds us. And not with a stock that’s built up in a cupboard in the temple, because people have brought it along. No! He feeds us, not from an earthly house, but from the true House of God: the true Temple, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (John 2:21; cf

The Glory of the Lord (by D.P. Williams)

(Today the Apostolic Church is giving thanks in Penygroes for last week's centenary . So, instead of me writing something for you, I thought it only appropriate to give you an article from the pen of D.P. Williams instead.) ‘And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.’ (Isa. xl. 5) The object of revealing God’s glory is presented to us very frequently in the sacred page. ‘And all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.’ What then are we to understand by God’s ‘Glory’? Is it the Divine and glorious essence whereby Jehovah is what He is? – Infinitely blessed and glorious, transcendently above all else, and comprehended by none but by Himself; in His Being and perfection, infinite, eternal and unchangeable? ‘No man hath seen God at any time, nor can see.’ He alone hath immortality, and dwells in that Light which is inaccessible and full of glory. He is King Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible, as He declared unto Moses: ‘No man can see My face and li

Why What Happened in 1916 Happened: D.P. Williams, Hutchinson and the Parting of the Ways

On 8th January 1916, D.P. Williams and the Welsh churches that were connected to the Bournemouth based Apostolic Faith Church led by William Oliver Hutchinson broke all ties and fellowship with Hutchinson and the movement he led. But why? (And that ‘why?’ is an important question, because the answer determines whether what the UK Apostolic Church is celebrating this year is something good or something bad.) In his history of The Origins of the Apostolic Church in Great Britain , James Worsfold seems to put the break with Bournemouth in 1916 down to Welsh national sentiment (and particularly to the issue of the Welsh language), along with the centralising of control of finance in Bournemouth. In other words, Williams and the Welsh couldn’t cope with English control. As his book is the most detailed and widely read account of the origins of the movement, Worsfold’s interpretation of the events of January 1916 have had a wide influence, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s correct.

The Theotokos and the Theodochos (Or When Mary met Simeon)

On the 40th Day after the birth of Jesus two people met. Well, actually 5 people met, but two of them have acquired special titles through the history of the church: Mary (the Theotokos) and Simeon (the Theodochos). But Mary and Simeon have more in common than just similar sounding Greek nicknames. 1. Mary and Simeon both point us to Jesus, the Incarnate God of our Salvation. Theotokos means the ‘God-bearer’. We call Mary the Theotokos because the One she bore in her womb was God Himself. Theodochos means the ‘God-receiver’. We call Simeon the Theodochos because the baby Simeon received into his arms was God Himself. Mary and Simeon don’t get exalted titles because of who they are or something they’ve done. They get these special names because of who Jesus is. These titles don’t exalt Mary and Simeon, but rather humble them, and us as well, as they point us to the lengths to which our God has gone to bring us salvation. That little baby laid in a manger by Mary and lifted up in

Come to the Table 2: How Precious is Your Lovingkindness

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 36:7) The Lovingkindness – the steadfast love and covenant mercy – of the LORD is indeed precious. For it’s by His Lovingkindness that He has redeemed us from our sins and rescued us from death and hell. It’s by His Lovingkindness that He’s brought us rebels into His family as well beloved children of God. It’s by His Lovingkindness that He pours out His Holy Spirit upon us so that we know His great fatherly love. The Lovingkindness of the LORD is precious, because it’s the source of our salvation. It’s ‘because of His great love with which He loved us, [that] even when we were dead in trespasses, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2:4-6). We are saved and raised from death to life by the Lovingkindness of God. But the

Happy 100th Birthday to the Apostolic Church

Today’s the day! Although a few different years could be pointed to as the beginning of the Apostolic Church (after all, many of our Welsh assemblies had their centenaries several years ago), the national church has chosen to celebrate 2016 as our centenary (technically the centenary of when the Apostolic Church became a separate denomination – I’ll write more about the question of when the Apostolic Church began another time). And the day in 1916 that this centenary looks back to is 8th January. On 8th January 1916 a meeting took place in Ammanford Apostolic Church (pictured above) which saw the breaking of ties between the Welsh Apostolic assemblies and William Oliver Hutchinson and the Apostolic Faith Church movement which he led. (Hutchinson was beginning to significantly depart from evangelical Christianity, and so all British Pentecostals, not only the Welsh Apostolics, cut all ties with him and his movement.) So if 2016 is the centenary of anything, it’s the centenary of a

Happy Epiphany! The Feast of Gospel Proclamation

In the UK, January 6th is famous for one thing – it’s the day the Christmas decorations are supposed to be down. But why? Because the 12-day-long feast of Christmas is over, and a new feast has arrived: January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany. And the Epiphany is a day of good news! Although we might have all but forgotten the Epiphany in the UK, it’s still a holiday in many countries on the Continent, where children dress up as the three kings and make cakes in the shape of crowns. But in the early church, it was Epiphany, not Christmas, which was the big holiday. (Christmas came about as a sort of add-on because there was so much to remember and celebrate at Epiphany!) So what’s Epiphany all about? Well, epiphany means ‘manifestation’, and this is the feast of the manifestation (or revelation) of Christ, the Incarnate God, to the world. That’s why we think about things like the visit of the Magi, Jesus’ presentation in the temple, Simeon and Anna, Jesus’ baptism, and the Tran

Top Book List: 2015

I’ve read an awful lot this year, but what with finishing up my PhD, a lot more of it than usual was probably very academic. So I’ve got a lot less variety to go on, and the only books actually published in 2015 that I’ve managed to read are ones that I’ve had a very good reason to read straight away. But hopefully you’ll still find something interesting on my top 10 list! Top Book I read this year:  Hermann Sasse, This is My Body: Luther’s Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar I picked this book up for 50p a few years ago in a second hand theological bookshop up in Co. Durham. And for the next few years it sat on my shelf and gathered dust, for little did I realise how great a work was contained within those old hardback covers with their torn dust-jacket. This is a superb book which is both theologically and historically rigourous and a pleasure to read. Sasse not only sets out Luther’s position on the Lord’s Supper, but demonstrates the importance

Come to the Table

Here’s something new for 2016: I want to write a devotional post each week to help people prepare to come to the Table for the Breaking of Bread. These aren’t going to be theological treatises on the sacrament, but rather Biblical devotions you can read on a Saturday evening or early on a Lord’s Day morning. It’s all too easy not to turn our attention to the Breaking of Bread until the pastor calls us to examine ourselves in the moments immediately before coming to the Table, and yet the Breaking of Bread isn’t a momentary interruption of our Lord’s Day morning service – it’s the very purpose of our gathering together as one body and everything else in the Breaking of Bread service flows into or out from the Table. So it’s good to prepare ourselves for the sacrament before we come to church. So, without further ado, here’s our first installment. Back to the Manger By the time eight days have rolled around after Christmas, we’ve moved on to the next thing. The quietness of the

2016 And All That

The New Year is upon us, and for the Apostolic Church in the UK this new year is a year of both celebration and a year of change. If you’re reading this on the blog site you’ll also notice that the new year has brought a few changes to the blog as well. The site has a brand new look and you can also get to it much more easily with its brand new address: – but don’t worry, the old address and all old links will still work and bring you to exactly the same place. (So if you’ve got some links saved, or if you’ve subscribed to the feed with the old address, it will all still work the same way it did before.) The reason the Apostolic Church is celebrating in 2016 is our centenary . Now, the origins of a worldwide movement tend to be a bit more complicated than a one-off event, but the event which we’re marking as our centenary is the emergence of the Apostolic Church as a separate and distinct denomination on 8th January, 1916 in the town of Ammanford in C