Sacraments–A Comparison of Rome and Geneva

May 11, 2009

There’s real and significant difference between the Roman Catholic teachings on the sacraments and Reformed ones. Here, in a nutshell, are some major differences:

Rome

Sacraments are the instrumental causation of the blessings of union with Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit is ‘enclosed’ within the administration of the sacraments. In other words, the sacraments bring about union with Christ because the Holy Spirit is contained in the water of baptism and the bread and wine of Communion.

Geneva

The Holy Spirit brings the individual directly into fellowship with Christ. The sacraments are signs or seals of that fellowship with Christ. The sacraments are subordinated to the joint action of the Word and Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the one who brings a believer into union with Christ. The Holy Spirit, alongside the Word, effect the union. The sacraments are signs that the union has taken place.


Quotable Quotes about Worship

May 11, 2009

Where God is truly known, he is necessarily adored—A. W. Pink

He whose soul does not worship shall never live in holiness—C. H. Spurgeon

To worship God in spirit is to worship from the inside out—Donald S. Whitney

Man is a worshipper and only in the spirit of worship does he find release for all the power of his amazing intellect—A. W. Tozer

Without the heart it is no worship. It is a stage play. It is an acting a part without being that person, really. It is playing the hypocrite—Stephen Charnock

True worship is to be so personally and hopelessly in love with God that the idea of a transfer of affection never even remotely exists—A. W. Tozer

True worship is a blend of godly fear and trembling together with joy that we are accepted in the Beloved—Erroll Hulse

Worship begins with holy ecstasy; it ends in holy obedience—or it isn’t worship—John MacArthur

To adore God is to be lifted outside of ourselves. To bow in wonder before this transcendent majesty whose glory fills the heavens and whose mighty power spans the wide compass of history and reaches with unerring accuracy into every crevice of time and space, this is to mount up from groveling obsession with our own needs to an awe-inspiring glimpse of the glory of the eternal God—Herbert Carson

The dearest idol I have known,

Whate’er that idol be,

Help me to tear it from thy throne,

And worship only thee—William Cowper


Genuine Worship–Acts 16.25-35

May 11, 2009

The Temple in Jerusalem
Referring to the Temple in Jerusalem, Tim Keller says, ‘The Temple was to be the center of a ‘world-winning worship’ (Worship by the Book, p. 218).

Psalm 105.1-2
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!

The psalm instructs the people of God to tell the nations about the wonderful works of God and to sing praises to him. These simple instructions, if followed, makes worship well-rounded.

The Well-Rounded Worship Service
Well-rounded worship includes two plains: (1) the horizontal plain and (2) the vertical plain.

Worship on the horizontal plain, speaks to people. Worship on the horizontal plain edifies the people who are there—that is, they are taught the truths of God and his marvelous plan of salvation and sanctification. Psalm 105.2 instructs Israel to ‘tell of all (God’s) wondrous works’ to the peoples of the world. Telling involves teaching. Israel was to teach the nations about God.

Worship on the vertical plain speaks to God. Worship on the vertical plain gives all the glory to God, praising his name and adoring him as God. Psalm 105.2 also instructs Israel to ‘Sing to (God), sing praises to him.’ Singing is an important way that believers glorify God.

On the horizontal plain, the people are edified by the words of the hymns, by the prayers of the people, by the liturgy of the sacraments, and by the preached message and the proclamation of God’s holy word. On the vertical plain, God is glorified in the hymns we sing, the prayers we offer, the sacraments we celebrate, and the sermon preached and his word proclaimed.

Both elements must be evident for a worship service to be well-rounded. If the people are not nourished through the proper teaching of the truth, then believers go away hungry and emaciated and, even more tragically, non-believers go away starving with no hope of eternal life. If God is not glorified through the praise and love of his people, then holy worship has not occurred.

Teaching the people who are present and glorifying the living God go hand-in-hand in the worship service.

Jesus Christ Replaces the Temple
The old, physical temple in Jerusalem (the building, the system of sacrifices, the laws that governed how the ceremonies were to be conducted) has been replaced by something better, Jesus Christ. Now the worship of God is not limited to one place (the Temple in Jerusalem) and one time (the Sabbath); since Christ has risen and is in heaven, worship is everywhere and always.

John 2.19-21
‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’…But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

A Testimony to the Power of God-glorifying Worship

A young man from a privileged family was living a life of reckless abandon—his nights were filled with drinking, partying, and carousing—when he woke one morning and remembered that it was Sunday. Dim memories of going to church as a child nudged him to go to church. But since he wasn’t familiar with any churches in his neighbourhood, he entered the first one he came across.

Entering the sanctuary, he was struck by the worship of the congregation. He intuitively sensed that the guest of honour that hour was God himself. The transcendence of the moment pierced his heart.

Tullian Tchividjian was impacted by the place of honour which God had in the worship service.


The Holy Spirit–Quotes

May 1, 2009

We have a Celebrity in our midst—A. W. Tozer

The work of the Holy Spirit is as needful as that of Christ—William MacLaren

If it were possible to put the Holy Spirit into a textbook of pharmacology I would put him under stimulants, for that is where he belongs—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

It is the Spirit’s ministry to bring the sinner to the Saviour and to make the sinner like the Saviour—John Blanchard

The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for his people—A. W. Tozer

We preach and pray, and you hear; but there is no motion Christ-ward until the Spirit of God blows upon them—John Flavel

The Holy Spirit may be had for the asking—R. B. Kuiper

The first work of the Spirit is to make a man look upon sin as an enemy and to deal with sin as an enemy, to hate it as an enemy, to loathe it as an enemy, and to arm against it as an enemy—Thomas Brooks

The Spirit who convicts us is also the Spirit who consoles—C. H. Spurgeon

We may depend upon it as a certainty that where there is no holy living there is no Holy Spirit—J. C. Ryle

The Holy Spirit is the great beautifier of the soul—John Owen

Fire is quenched by pouring on water or by withdrawing fuel; so the Spirit is quenched by living in sin, which is like pouring water on fire; or by not improving our gifts and graces, which is like withdrawing fuel from the hearth—Thomas Manton

God’s mind is revealed in Scripture, but we can see nothing without the spectacles of the Holy Spirit—Thomas Manton

Proper understanding of the Scriptures comes through the Holy Spirit—Martin Luther

God does not bestow his Spirit on his people in order to set aside the use of his word, but rather to render it fruitful—John Calvin

Before Christ sent the church into the world, he sent the Spirit into the church. The same order must be observed today—John R. W. Stott

Scripture places no limitation upon the Spirit’s work of glorifying Christ and extending his kingdom—Iain H. Murray


Billy Graham School of Evangelism

May 1, 2009

Here is an amazing opportunity. This July, the Billy Graham School of Evangelism is coming to Ottawa. They will be teaching pastors and laypeople about evangelism. This is not a school of techniques and skills. I went a few years ago. The focus is on Christ and his power to transform the heart of people who couldn’t care less about God. This focus is what makes the school so extraordinary. In an era when Christ has been booted from his throne by so many Christians, the School of Evangelism declares him King and Lord of all.

If you are interested in going with Terri and I to this event, please let me know ASAP.


True Worship according to Hughs Oliphant Old

April 25, 2009

We worship God because God created us to worship him. Worship is at the center of our existence, at the heart of our reason for being. God created us to be his image—an image that would reflect his glory. In fact the whole creation was brought into existence to reflect the divine glory. The psalmist tells us that “the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19.1) The apostle Paul in the prayer with which he begins the epistle to the Ephesians makes it clear that God created us to praise him.

Ephesians 1.3-6

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace… (Eph. 1:3-6)

This prayer says much about the worship of the earliest Christians. It shows the consciousness that the first Christians has of the ultimate significance of their worship. They understood themselves to have been destined and appointed to live to the praise of God’s glory (Eph. 1:12). When the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches us, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever,” it gives witness to this same basic principle; God created us to worship him…Worship must above all serve the glory of God.—Hughes Oliphant Old


The Law and the Gospel: from the Perspective of Acts 10.34-43

April 20, 2009

One of the big questions that all Christians face at one time or another has to do with the law of the Old Testament. What role, if any, does it now play in the life of the believer? Unfortunately, when Christians attempt to answer this question, the law often suffers. Throughout the centuries, Christians have maintained that the law does have an important role to play in the life of individual, born-again Christians; sadly, though, Christians who totally dismiss the law from their life or downplay its importance are denying themselves a wonderful benefit. So long as they ignore in whole or in part the law, they will miss out on a deeper, richer, and more vibrant experience of God’s call on their life. How can I make such a bold statement? While it is altogether true that the law does not and cannot save us, it does provide us with an indispensable guide to living the holy life that is pleasing to God. As Peter exhorted Christians to be holy in our conduct for God our Father is holy. Peter said,

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ (quoted from Leviticus 11.44) (1 Peter 1.13-16)

Peter was quoting from the book of Leviticus, which was at the very heart of the law of the Old Testament. Once Peter had been saved by grace and was trusting in that grace day by day, he gained a fresh perspective on the law. It was a guide that instructed Christians on how to live a life that is pleasing to God. But before we consider how it is able to help in this way, let’s consider how the law has often been mishandled.

The Law

Typically, there are three ways that Christians may mishandle the law:

Legalism—is the mistaken belief that someone can save himself or, at least, nudge his salvation along simply by following the law perfectly. This belief is mistaken because it assumes that human effort is part of the grounds of salvation, rather than a fruit that grows out of the soil of salvation. Wherever legalism is in full force, God’s grace retreats. Legalism, and its ugly twin-sister moralism, asserts that people may storm the gates of heaven and wring favour from God’s heart simply by doing what is right. Yet the Bible declares that salvation is a free gift given by God and received by faith; it doesn’t depend on human effort at all (Ephesians 2.8).

Lawlessness (antinomianism)—is the misguided notion that the law no longer applies to Christians. Believers can do away with the law entirely because Jesus obediently fulfilled the law on our behalf; he lived the life of obedient submission to the commands of the law, so we don’t have to. In response to this misguided notion, Jesus replies, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5.17-19).’

Law unto oneself (autonomy)—is the incorrect idea that Christ set us free to do what we please. The autonomous person has crowned himself king of his own destiny. No sooner has Christ achieved liberty, then he is side-lined. Although this incorrect idea has an ancient pedigree, it has gained a new sense of life and purpose in the post-modern era of which we are a part. Autonomy literally means ‘self-law’ or self-rule’ and our world has certainly made the self the centre of the universe and the Lord of reality. Not only does the figure of Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords make no sense to self-centered people, he is offensive to them. How dare anyone other than myself tell me what to do!, the autonomous person cries out. Doing your own thing in your own way in your time regardless of how anyone else is doing it is the great preoccupation of the autonomous person. The antidote to the plague of autonomy is found in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where the apostle explains just how glorious and powerful Christ is:

Ephesians 1.20-23: (God) raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

God crowned only one person King of kings and Lord of lords and it is not you or me. God’s only begotten Son, who is co-eternal with his Father, holds that singular office. As a declaration of Christ’s absolute sovereignty, verse 23 says that God put ‘all things’ under the feet of Christ. There is nothing in this universe, past or present, material or spiritual, that stands above Christ. Rather, he stands supreme over it all in its totality. This passage deals a death-blow to the spirit of autonomy in the church by stating that God gave the church to Christ making him ‘head over all things to the church’ (verse 22). Even (and especially) in the church, Christ is supreme ruler. Autonomy is rebellion against Christ’s crown.

We have considered how Christians mishandle the law. So, then, what is the proper way to relate to it? The proper way to handle the law once we are born from above is to treat it is a guide that directs us to live holy lives that please God and bring him glory.

The Holy Life

The holy life is based on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit with whom we cooperate.

God’s acceptance

Peter preached to Cornelius and his household a truth that applies to all humanity: God accepts anyone who

• Fears him

• Does what is right (verse 35)

Jesus Christ the Judge

Peter also stressed that God appointed Jesus Christ to be judge of the living and the dead (verse 42). What does the judgment entail? John’s gospel paints a picture of a world of darkness that has been pierced by heavenly light. Some are drawn to this light, while others are repulsed by it:

John 3.19-21: And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.

The Witnesses

There are several witnesses who bear testimony that Jesus Christ is supreme judge. Let’s consider three of these witnesses.

The apostles (verses 39, 41, 42 [twice])

The prophets (verse 43)

The works that Jesus does (verse 38)

Jesus the Perfect Judge

There are two things to note about the Judgment:

First, Jesus will be the judge. He will be a fair judge for he knows the entire content of human heart:

John 2.24-25: But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

In this quote, ‘man’ means the breadth and depth of humanity. Jesus knows everything about all of us; nothing about humanity is unknown to him.

Second, the Judgment will be according to works:

Matthew 16.27: For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Let it be said loud and clear: it is by grace that we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2.8). It is by grace alone through faith alone. Our best works do not save. Yet, as was noted at the beginning of the sermon, the law becomes our guide, directing us to live holy lives that please God and bring him glory. The law can never save, but once we are saved it assists us in bearing the fruit that characterizes the children of God.

Works

Earlier we saw that Scriptures assures us that God accepts anyone who fears the Lord and does what is right. But what do these terms mean—fear of the Lord and doing what is right?

Fear of the Lord: summarizes the first four of the Ten Commandments:

• You shall have no other gods before the Lord God Almighty
• Do not make idols
• Do not profane God’s name; it is holy
• Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy

Doing what is right: summarizes in the final six of the Ten Commandments

• Do not murder
• Do not commit adultery
• Do not steal
• Do not bear false witness
• Do not covet your neighbour’s life

Jesus intensified the demands of the law when he taught that anyone who thinks murderous thoughts is considered a murderer. Those who think wicked thoughts has broken the law and Jesus taught that breaking one law is the same as breaking all the laws

The Holy God must act righteously and judge those who break God’s law.

The Good News

The law of God drives us back to the grace of God. When we consider the impossible standard that the law demands of us, we are forced to turn back in humble submission to our heavenly Father. While we may think that God will deal harshly with us, we are met with something unexpected.

Peter proclaims the truth: God sent the word of Good News of peace through Jesus Christ (who is Lord of all) (verse 36). The prophets witnessed to the forgiveness of sins through the name of Jesus (verse 43). Jesus was hanged on a tree, becoming a curse for us (verse 39).

Galatians 3.13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.


Did Christ Descend to Hell, Part Three

March 13, 2009

calvin-john-001I’ve written about the doctrine of the descent of Christ to hell here and here. I don’t subscribe to this doctrine because after reviewing various studies of the scriptures that are used to make a case for the doctrine, I am convinced the point is being stretched. In other words, the Bible doesn’t support the claim of the doctrine. But some very important Christians, with impressive credentials as scholars, have defended the doctrine. John Calvin was one.

For the curious, the scholarly, the pious, or the contentious…here is a link to the Apostles Creed with its own link to the writing of Calvin on Christ’s descent to hell. As I’ve mentioned, Calvin firmly believed that Christ did in fact go to hell immediately after his death. He said, ‘But we ought not to omit his descent into hell, a matter of no small moment in bringing about redemption.’ Click here to read his defense of the doctrine.


Did Christ Descend to Hell, Part Two

March 10, 2009

Did Christ descend to hell? In an earlier post I opened a can of worms by looking at this topic. The Apostles Creed says he did…or, at least, some versions of that creed say as much. Obviously, the topic is considered by many to be a doctrine near and dear to their faith. But is it warranted by Scripture? After all, the word of God must be the ultimate and final authority in all things, especially subjects that are concerned with the Christian faith.

turretin1Francis Turretin, probably the greatest Reformed systematic theologian of the 17th century denies the belief that Jesus went to hell. Instead, he affirms that the soul of Christ, after separating from the body, went immediately to paradise (1).

This is the reverse of the position of the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches (to this day) that Christ descended to hell. The Roman Catechism, published in 1566, states, ‘Christ now being dead, his soul descended into hell, and remained there just as long as his body was in the sepulcher.’ To make the point perfectly clear, it further states, ‘It is to be entirely believed that the soul itself really and by presence descended into hell’ (2).

Lutherans agree with this statement, but stress the fact that the descent isn’t part of Christ’s humiliation; it exhibits, rather, his triumph over hell.

In one section of his monumental work, The Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Turretin turns his attention to this doctrine and provides a detailed argument against the idea that Christ descended to hell. In what follows I’m highlighting some, but not all, of his points.

1. Turretin points out that the earliest forms of the Apostles Creed do not include the phrase, ‘…and descended to hell’ (3). Not only is this phrase missing from the earliest forms of that creed, but it’s also absent from the Nicene Creed. Some foundational leaders of the early church don’t mention the descent either; they include Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, and Augustine. Cyril of Alexandria summarizes the belief of many church fathers when he writes, ‘The innocent above, the guilty below; the innocent in heaven, the guilty in the abyss; the innocent in the hand of God, the guilty in the hand of the devil.’

2. Turretin affirms that Jesus went immediately to Paradise after his soul separated from the body. On the cross, Jesus promised the one thief, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23.43). Turretin states that in this instance ‘today’ means the very day on which Christ made the promise. No delay is indicated. So, when Christ promised that the thief will be in paradise with him, he meant the literal day on which he spoke. Darrell Bock says that by saying ‘today,’ Jesus is not indicating the unspecified future, but the immediate present (4). There won’t be any lapse in time, that is, between the separation of the soul from the body and the entry of the soul into Paradise. The move from one state to the other will be instantaneous.

3. Next, Turretin builds the case for Christ’s human soul going immediately to Paradise. According to the Roman Catechism, it was his human soul that descended to hell. But Turretin draws attention to the fact that Christ commended his soul to his Father (Luke 23.46) (5). How could he commend his human soul to the Father, who is in heaven, if it was scheduled to spend three days in hell? (6). Obviously, it is impossible for his humanity to be with the Father and in hell at the same time.

4. Finally, Turretin states, Christ accomplished all aspects of his atoning work on the cross; there was nothing more to be done following his cross-work. This is indicated by his statement, ‘It is finished’ (John 19.30). Yet the doctrine of the descent to hell asserts that more work was still to be done after the cross—namely, there was another job to be done which involved going to hell. Among those who hold to the doctrine of Christ’s descent to hell there are different thoughts as to what job it was that still needed to be done. Of those who believe the doctrine, some maintain that Christ went to hell to put to shame unbelievers, others think he went to liberate Old Testament saints (8). But the phrase, ‘It is finished,’ which Jesus spoke on the cross, is a translation of the original Greek word tetelestai which denotes ‘the perfect completion of the whole prophetic image.’ In other words, with his statement, ‘It is finished,’ Christ was saying that his work on the cross was fully and completely done. There were no loose ends still needing to be tied-up. No job needed his further attention or effort. Surely if still more work needed to be done, Christ would not have expressed himself in the perfect tense. He would have said, ‘It is almost finished,’ or ‘It is nearly done,’ or words to that effect. A paraphrase of the perfect tense would be, ‘It is totally done.’ By expressing himself in the perfect tense, he was indicating that all of his work on the cross was finished. He didn’t need to descend to hell to finish one last job.

EndNotes

1. Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 2, 13th Topic, 15th Question, p. 356.

2. Catechism of Council of Trent, Art. 5 [translated by J. A. McHugh, 1923], pp. 62 and 64. This catechism was written in 1566 in response to the growing influence of Protestant catechisms.

3. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol III, p. 413, states that it is impossible to determine precisely when the term first appeared based on existing textual evidence.

4. Luke, Vol. 2, p. 1857.

5. Soul and Spirit are often interchangeable in the Bible. However, there are distinctions between the two. But is this an instance when the distinction is in effect? Turretin would answer, ‘no.’

6. By stressing that it was Christ’s human soul that went to Paradise, Turretin is trying to clarify a subtler problem of a more theological nature. Christians had been asking the question, which part of Christ’s nature went to Paradise? Was it his divine nature or his human nature? This is not splitting hairs. Rather, this question goes to the heart of Christ’s true nature. It is, therefore, a Christological question, having to do with the nature and reality of Christ. Both the Roman Catholic Church and all Protestants share a common belief that Jesus Christ is the God-man. That is, two natures—the divine and the human—are united in one person, Jesus Christ. These natures are not mingled or confused. They remain distinct. Yet they are united in one person. This teaching was accepted as orthodox by the Council or Chalcedon which, as I’ve said, both Roman Catholics and Protestants adhere to.

7. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition, 339. These are the two most common teachings, others also exist.


Martin Luther: Impress Scripture on Young Minds

February 19, 2009

picture-martin-lutherMartin Luther trusted the Word of God more than human tradition.

‘…where the Holy Scriptures do not rule, there I advise no one to send his son. Everyone not inceasingly busy with the Word of God must become corrupt; that is why the people who are in the universities and who are trained there are the kind of people they are. For this no one is to blame with the training of the youth. For the universities ought to turn out only men who are experts in the Holy Scriptures, who can become bishops and priests, leaders in the fight against heretics, the devil and all the world. But where do you find this true? I greatly fear that the universities are wide gates of hell, if they do not diligently teach the Holy Scriptures and impress them on the youth.’