Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Old Testament: A Treasury of Wondrous Things

treasurepile

6. By what has been said we may see the usefulness and excellency of the Old Testament. Some are ready to look on the Old Testament as being, as it were, out of date and as if we in these days of the gospel had but little to do with it; which is a very great mistake, arising from want of observing the nature and design of the Old Testament, which if it was observed it would appear full of the gospel of Christ, and would in an excellent manner illustrate and confirm the glorious doctrines and promises of the New Testament. Those parts of the Old Testament which are commonly looked upon as containing the least divine instruction are, as it were, as mines and treasures of gospel knowledge, and the reason why they are thought to contain so little is because persons do but superficially read them. The treasures that are hid underneath are not observed. They only look on the top of the ground, and so suddenly pass a judgment that there is nothing there, but they never dig into the mine; if they did they would find it richly stored with silver and gold, and would be abundantly requited for their labors.

What has been said may show us what a precious treasure God has committed into our hands in that he has given us the Bible. How little do most persons consider how much they enjoy in that they have the possession of that holy book the Bible which they have in their hearts and may converse with as they please. What an excellent book is this, and how far exceeding all human writings: that reveals God to us and gives us a view of the grand design and glorious scheme of his providence, from the beginning to the end of the world, either in history or prophecy, that reveals the great Redeemer and his glorious redemption, and the various steps by which God accomplishes it from the first foundation to the topstone. Shall we prize a history that gives us a clear account of some great earthly prince or mighty warrior, as of Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, or the duke of Marlborough, and shall we not prize the history that God has given us of the glorious kingdom of his son, Jesus Christ, the prince and savior of the world, and the wars and other great transactions of that king of kings and lord of armies, the lord mighty in battle, the history of the things he has wrought for the redemption of his chosen people.

7. What has been said may make us sensible how much most persons are to blame for their inattentive, unobservant way of reading the Scriptures. How much does the Scripture contain if it was but observed the Bible is the most comprehensive book in the world. But what will all this signify to us if we read it without observing what is the drift of the Holy Ghost in it. The psalmist, Psalms 119:18, begs of God, that he would enlighten his eyes that he might “behold wondrous things come of his law.” The Scripture is full of wondrous things. Those histories that are commonly read as if they were only histories of the private concerns of such and such particular persons, such as the histories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph, and the history of Ruth, and the histories of particular lawgivers and princes, as the history of Joshua and the judges, and David and other Israelitish princes, are accounts of vastly greater things, things of greater importance and more extensive concernment than they that read them are commonly aware of. Scripture histories are very commonly read as if they were stories written only to entertain men’s fancies, and to while away their leisure hours, when the infinitely great things contained or pointed at in them are passed over and never taken notice of.

Whatever treasures the Scriptures contain we shall be never the better for them if we don’t observe what is there. He that has a Bible, and don’t observe what is contained [in] it, is like a man that has a box full of silver and gold, and don’t know it, don’t observe that it is anything more than a vessel filled with common stones. As long as it is thus with him, he’ll be never the better for his treasure. For he that don’t know he has a treasure will never make use of what he had, and so had as good be without it. He that has plenty of the choicest food stored up in his house and don’t know it, will never taste what he has and will be as likely to starve as if his house were empty.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), A History of the Work of Redemption, Sermon 13, 290-92.

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The Symptoms and Source of a Body Severed from the Head

And he is the head of the body, the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn for the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. – Colossians 1:18

If the body of Christ in it’s local expression… is in anyway disconnected from the head, is in any way doing anything other than submitting to the headship of Christ, then it will become apparent in:

1. It doesn’t move easily or with confidence and authority in ministering with relevance to godless world.

Disconnected from the head, you will not speak freely and relevantly and impactfully to your pagan friends and neighbors because you’ve lost the connection necessary.

2. Such a church will constantly display a frustration at a gap of what it should be doing and what it is actually doing.

3. It will seem to take forever to respond to and complete even the most straightforward of tasks.

Sometimes I wonder, why does it take so long to get anything done around here.  If this was any other place, this thing would be bankrupt, you know.  What is going on here?  Well it’s not the only answer, but one of the answers is that there’s a disconnection, you see.  The information is not flowing from the head in a way that it needs to flow.

4. The communication of such a fellowship will often be vague and jumbled.  No one will actually know what it’s saying or even if it’s saying anything at all.  And after any unusual exertion, it will be exhausted and protest that it needs time to be given to it to recover.

Now all of this is a failure on the part of the body to submit to the head.

It would be nice somehow or another if we could go in and then give a variety of explanations as to why the body and the head would be disconnected.  There is never any possibility of disconnection from the head to the body in relationship to the headship of Christ.  Therefore, it is all from here to there and it is all addressed in one simple word – sin.  If I am disconnected from the headship of Christ the answer is sin.  If you doubt that, read your Bible.

When you think of the word sin, most of us are so familiar with it we say “Sin… what is sin?” First of all, sin is not a deed, it is a condition.  It’s a state of being.  It’s a mentality. It’s an approach to things.  But it expresses itself in a variety of different ways, and that is why in the New Testament we are given all kinds of words to indicate the nature of sin:

1. hamartia (English transliteration) – it’s a shooting term, from archery.  We’re familiar with it. We know it to be that missing the mark.  We all fall short of the glory of God.  We miss the mark.  We know we are not what we ought to be.  Sin.

2. parabasis (Eng. transliteration) – it means to step across the line.  Those of you who fought your friends at school and then made up very quickly will remember those times on the playground when some character determined that he would dare you to step across the line.  And then he made a line, often drawing it in the dirt with his foot, and he says I dare you to step across it.  And ever so often we were foolish enough to step across it and we live with the consequences as we clutched our noses and ran home to tell our mothers about the evil that had been done to us.  But we stepped across it deliberately, intentionally, premeditatively.  Listen, and listen real carefully – when you and I look at the instruction of the headship of Christ straight-on, when we understand where the lines are drawn and we say, “I know I shouldn’t say this, I know I shouldn’t do this, I know I shouldn’t be there,” and we say it, do it, and go there, then we engage in willful sin and the idea of being able to enjoy the full flow of the communion and guidance and growth of the headship of Christ simultaneous with that is a feat uncountenanced in the whole Bible.  Anybody stepping over the line willfully?

3. paraptoma (Eng. translit.) – means to slip across the line.  This is something that is impulsive, it is unpremeditated, it is unintentional.  We find ourselves saying, “I have no idea why I did that. I didn’t mean to say that.  I didn’t want to do that.”  And we didn’t.

4. anomia (nomos – Greek for law, a – the prefix as in anomoly) – lawlessness.  I’ll do what it want.  I’ll think what I want. I’ll go where I want.  Just total rebellion.

5. opheilema – a debt.  When I fail to give God and other people what is their due.

Now do you understand this?  It is very simple, isn’t it?  If there is any disconnection between the head and the body, it is a result of sin.  Sin that works its way out in my life in lawlessness, in stepping over the line, in slipping over the line, in incurring a debt to God that should be dealt with as I come to him in confession.  And you can’t take the cumulative impact of that amongst the company of God’s people and expect that the power of the Spirit of God will be pulsing throughout the body you see.  That’s why our sins as individuals are not individual sins, for none of us sins to ourselves no more than we live to ourselves or we die to ourselves but we live and die to the Lord and we sin and it impacts everybody else.

Alistair Begg, “exert from sermon “Who’s in Charge of the Church?“, October 22, 2000.

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The Word is Sterile Unless Spoken

luther-preachesThe Reformation gave centrality to the sermon.  The pulpit was higher than the altar, for Luther held that salvation is through the Word and without the Word the elements are devoid of sacramental quality, but the Word is sterile unless it is spoken.  All of this is not to say that the Reformation invented preaching.  In the century preceding Luther, for the single province of Westphailia ten thousand sermons are in print, and though they are extant only in Latin they were delivered in German.  But the Reformation did exalt the sermon…  The reformers at Wittenberg undertook an extensive campaign of religious instruction through the sermon.  There were three public services on Sunday: from five to six in the morning on the Pauline epistles, from nine to ten on the Gospels, and in the afternoon at a variable hour on a continuation of the theme of the morning or on the catechism.  The church was not locking during the week, but on Mondays and Tuesdays there were sermons on the catechism, Wednesday on the Gospel of Matthew, Thursdays and Fridays on the apostolic letters, and Saturday evening on John’s Gospel.  No one man carried this entire load.  There was a staff of the clergy, but Luther’s share was prodigious.  Including family devotions he spoke often four times on Sundays and quarterly undertook a two-week series four days a week on the catechism.  The sum of his extant sermons is 2,300.  The highest count is for the year 1528, for which there are 195 sermons distributed over 145 days.

His pre-eminence in the pulpit derives in part from the earnestness with which he regarded the preaching office.  The task of the minister is to expound the Word, in which alone are to be found healing for life’s hurts and the balm of eternal blessedness.  The preacher must die daily through concern lest he lead his flock astray.  Sometimes from the pulpit Luther confessed that gladly like the priest and the Levite would he pass by on the other side.  But Luther was constantly repeating to himself the advice which he gave to a discouraged preacher who complained that preaching was a burden, his sermons were always short, and he might better have stayed in his former profession.  Luther said to him:

If Peter and Paul were here, they would scold you because you wish right off to be as accomplished as they.  Crawling is something, even if one is unable to walk.  Do your best.  If you cannot preach an hour, then preach half an hour or a quarter of an hour.  Do not try to imitate other people.  Center on the shortest and simplest points, which are the very heart of the matter, and leave the rest to God.  Look solely to his honor and not to applause.  Pray that God will give you a mouth and to your audience ears.  I can tell you that preaching is not a work of man.  Although I am old [he was forty-eight] and experienced, I am afraid every time I have to preach.  You will most certainly find out three things: first, you will have prepared your sermon as diligently as you know how, and it will slip through your fingers like water; second, you may abandon your outline and God will give you grace.  You will preach your very best.  The audience will be pleased, but you won’t.  And thirdly, when you have been unable in advance to pull anything together, you will preach acceptably both to your hearers and to yourself.  So pray to God and leave all the rest to him.

Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, 272-74 (1995 Meridian ed.).

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