Friday, Dec. 29, 2006 and Tuesday, Jan. 2nd, 2007
Just a short note to ask if you would kindly pray for me and all those who will listen in to two upcoming live Christian radio programs. Each program lasts a full 2 hours and allows me as the host to speak for 10-12 minutes on any given biblical subject (one subject for each hour) and then take callers' comments and/or questions. It is an amazing opportunity as I am told that 20,000 plus people are tuning in at any given moment. Unfortunately, only those in the Phoenix, Arizona area can listen in to the show and there is no web casting, but please pray for the word to go forth in clarity and power and for many lives to be impacted. In the 4 hours of live programming I am planning on talking about the Deity of Christ and the challenge of the cults; justification by faith alone; the nature of true saving faith; and the preservation of the saints. The details: KPXQ 1360AM Radio, Phoenix; Friday, December 29 & Jan. 2, 2007, both from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Arizona time) - Pastor John Samson
Book Review: The Marrow of Theology, by William Ames
Synopsis: The Marrow of Theology, by William Ames, is a comprehensive and minutely-reasoned dogmatic theology of the Puritan worldview. In its own time, it was commended by such Puritans as Thomas Hooker and Increase Mather as the only book outside the bible needed for making one a sound theologian. And today, there may be no other single volume which will give as broad and insightful an understanding of Puritan theology as this.
What Is Covenant Theology?
At first glance, it is apparent that the Bible is a very complex book: it was written in three different languages, by dozens of human authors, over the course of many centuries, and in a wide variety of styles and genres. However, beneath this dauntingly complicated surface, there must be a unified purpose and message; for behind all of the human authors and historical circumstances in which it came to man, there is one true Author, the God of creation, who set forth in this book just what he wanted mankind to know. So what is that unified message of the Bible? How does one go about relating all of its various styles and books into a mutually-interpretive volume? Bible scholars have suggested a variety of methods for structuring the unfolding story of special revelation, and have come up with numerous ideas for a central theme or themes which bind everything together. Perhaps the most compelling of these attempts, and the idea which most rigorously allows the Bible itself to indicate its own major emphases and underlying structural elements, is commonly called Covenant Theology.
However, the sad truth is that, in contemporary Evangelicalism, many believers have only a very fuzzy understanding (at best) of this helpful and biblically-faithful way of understanding the over-arching message of the scriptures. And yet, in the author's experience, there are few teachings which will enable a Christian to make better and more fruitful use of his scripture-reading than the basic components of Covenant Theology â€“ understand these few, scriptural themes, and you will be able to mark out and follow the general flow of the unfolding saga of redemptive history, as recorded in God's Word. And so, although it may be a naively ambitious undertaking, in light of the massive volumes written on this very topic by some of the most gifted and knowledgeable Bible-scholars God has given the Church, it has become a burden of mine to compose a very brief and simple introduction to that manner of understanding the Bible which we call Covenant Theology.
The Gospel Truths of CHRISTMAS
Iâ€™m not a big fan of such things as books addressed to â€œdummiesâ€, nor theology that has to be proven relevant before being heard, nor am I a fan of education for the sake of merely getting a job, nor of little cutesy figurines with scripture slapped on them, nor of plastic lit up baby Jesus in someoneâ€™s front yard, nor of reality TV, and neither am I a fan of acrostics in order to communicate biblical truths.
With that said, I must say that sometimes one perhaps will look inside a book addressed to dummies for some quick info, try to work hard and make theology relevant to the theologically skeptical, go to some classes for a raise or a new position, receive and proudly display a cutesy figurine with a scripture from someone who loves us, reflect upon the meaning of the incarnation upon seeing a lit up baby Jesus, watch a reality show to see what all the hype is about, and someone may even use an acrostic to communicate some gospel truths.
I am about to be guilty of the last one of those things of which Iâ€™m not a big fan.
With that warning, and with the reminder that acrostics have limits, and can be simplistic if that is all that is all the understanding we have, I want to send your family an acrostic to reflect upon the gospel truths we learned together and summarizes the preaching and teaching this year at Ketoctin Covenant Presbyterian Church (www.aplacefortruth.org/ketoctin).
Using the letters from the word 'Christmas', we can reflect and be reminded of Christ's birth during the Advent Season, but let us also be constantly reminded of Christâ€™s accomplished work that he merited on our behalf.
We rejoice that the "LORD is come" at Christmas, but we should also rejoice and be reminded of what the "LORD has done" for those who love him!
The first letter of the word 'Christmas' is C...
A Few More Thoughts on Hebrews 6
Note: I was recently corresponding by e-mail with someone who is working on a Bible translation, regarding the translation of Hebrews 6:4; and so, given the topic of the latest post, I thought I would post my original e-mail here as well.
Hebrews 6:4-6 is the classic Arminian text to argue against the Calvinistic doctrine of perseverance. It has certainly been understood in quite a variety of ways â€“ and oneâ€™s precise interpretation of the phrase â€œhaving been made partakers of the Holy Spiritâ€ is, in particular, especially weighty, because it may influence or even determine his understanding of some very important doctrines. So in any translation we certainly must have the goal of bringing out the sense of the verse as accurately and understandably as possible, without giving any additional reasons, over and above the explicit testimony of the text, to embrace a particular theology â€“ which is actually quite a difficult task, I think, in this passage.
What does Hebrews 6 actually say?
The Hebrews 6 passage has been addressed on this blog a number of times. Here are some words on this from Vincent Cheung who was responding to someone who said that they still tended to read passages like this as an Arminian:
Question/Comment: "I have been thinking about Hebrews 6:4-6, and I am still struggling to be more impartial with itâ€¦. I recall that you have talked about these verses, but I am still strugglingâ€¦
Response: Besides my own remarks, there are a number of commentaries that adequately address Hebrews 6. It is good to read and review them. After that, the struggle is not in attaining exegetical precision with the passage, but it is in the part of you that still tends to read it as an Arminian â€” as a self-centered rebel â€” when there is no warrant for it.
Consider the example of John 3:16. It says that whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life, which both Calvinism and Arminianism affirm, but it does not say who will believe or why they will believe. Thus the verse affirms only salvation by faith, and has no relevance to the disagreement between Calvinism and Arminianism until you bring other biblical passages into the discussion. However, many people want to read it as Arminians, and so they think that Arminianism is what it proves. They take the words "whoever believes" to mean something so different as, "Every man has free will, and anyone can by his free will believe in Christ apart from God's foreordination and direct control." I might as well deduce the entire Alice in Wonderland when someone says "Good morning" or "Have a nice day."
An Advent Prayer
ADVENT PRAYER 2006
Our God and Father, Holy, Holy, Holy, Almighty, Transcendent, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
We thank you that you are Great and Mighty, yet willing to dwell immanently with those who are contrite and humble in heart.
As you may know, three experienced mountain climbers were lost here on Mt. Hood (right near where we live) in Oregon. One of them was Kelly James, who's body was found after 8 days of failed rescue attempts. The bad weather made it nearly impossible for any resue crews to reach them. Kelly was a member of a PCA congregation in Dallas, TX. His brother, Frank James, is President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL and was my Church History professor. Please pray for their family and for the continued rescue effort for the remaining two men who have not yet been found found. The weather has been quite terrible, but the rescue crews and the families are hopeful that these men are hunkered in a snow cave waiting for the weather to pass.
If you need a beautiful example of a Christian interacting with the media and hoping in God during a trial, go to KATU Channel 2 News (www.katu.com) and watch the raw video coverage from last Wednesday. Frank James addresses the media and reads a statement from the families. It is moving and instructive to those of us who represent Christ Jesus in this world.
Studies in John (Lesson 3: The In-Breaking of the Kingdom)
I. The Laver
After the children of Israel celebrated the first Passover, in which they applied the blood of the innocent sacrificial lamb to their homes so that the angel of death, having seen that substitutionary blood, passed over them without exacting the required death; they then went immediately out to the Red Sea, and, having passed through its waters, they were separated from all their enemies. Paul later tells us that, in this event, they were â€œbaptized unto Mosesâ€ (I Corinthians 10:1-4). And it was only after this application of the blood and passing through the water that they were able to eat the manna which continually sustained them in the wilderness.
Book Review: God of Promise, by Michael Horton
Synopsis: God of Promise, by Michael Horton, is a lucid summary and defense of that traditional understanding of Covenant Theology which has its roots in the first Federal Theologians of the Reformation; and which has been defended and developed, more recently, by such scholars as Louis Berkhof and Meredith Kline. Both as a condensation of a vast body of Reformed writings, and a modern defense of the same, it is perhaps unequalled among one-volume introductions to that vital skeletal framework of all biblical revelation, Covenant Theology.
The Advent of Jesus Christ
Dear People of God,
One famous Christmas song gleefully declares: "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" That of course means different things to different people. For the Christian, this "most wonderful time of the year" should be a time of celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the fact that God truly dwelled in human flesh "with us". This time of year should also be lived in eager anticipation and joyful expectation as we await the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Our English word 'Advent' comes from a Latin word 'Adventus' that means "coming". Advent season has historically had a special place on the calendar because the purpose of this festive season is to remind the people of God of Christ's first advent or coming in a manger in Bethlehem who came to live and die for the sins of his people. The Advent season has historically been the time when we celebrate Christ's first coming.
Something that can be forgotten however is the fact that the Advent Season is not only about the glorious birth of our Savior, but it is also a season of celebration to remind the people of God of a second advent where the resurrected-ascended-glorified Christ will return to fully manifest his rule and dominion over heaven and earth, and to glorify his "Maranatha people"- -those who are eagerly awaiting his return, who cry out: "Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus in this present evil age!
Each day of the year, Christians should live as if it was Advent Season. Christians should day by day live expectantly awaiting Christ's Second Coming (parousia- Gk.), living in light of the gospel of the First Advent of Christ, and hoping each day for gospel of the Second Advent and full revelation of the New Heavens and the New Earth in Christ!
This can be perhaps the most wonderful time of the year because it can cause people to be pregnant with expectation and hope, but if we have the eschatological perspective of the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4 in our minds, we can experience this love, hope and joyful expectation each day of the year!
During this season I have been reflecting on 1 Peter 4:7-11 as an excellent Advent scripture text to keep in the forefront of our minds and imaginations as those united to Christ Jesus (and particularly in light of our recent Galatians series). This scripture has helped me to be reminded of the fact that every day can be like the Advent Season!
Four Strait Gates (A Quote from the Puritan, Thomas Shepard)
"There are four strait gates which everyone must pass through before He can enter into Heaven.
1. There is the strait gate of Humiliation. God saves none, but first He humbles them. Now it is hard to pass through the gates and flames of Hell; hard to mourn not for one sin, but all sins, and not for a season, but for all a man's lifetime...It is easy to drop a tear or two, and be sermon-sick: but to have a heart rent for sin and from sin, this is true humiliation, and this is hard... the Lord if he saves thee, will break thine heart...
2. The strait gate of Faith... It is an easy matter to presume, but hard to believe in Christ. It is easy for a man that was never humbled to believe and say, 'Tis but believing; but it is an hard thing for a man humbled, when he sees all his sins in order before him, and crying out against him, and God frowning upon him, now to call God Father...
Studies in John (Lesson 2: Behold the Lamb of God!)
I. The Brazen Altar
When God called out Abraham from his native land, it was to give him a special, covenantal relationship with himself, which he summed up like this: â€œI [Yahweh] will...be a God to you, and to your seed after youâ€ (Genesis 17:7). Four hundred and thirty years later, when God brought up Israel from the Land of Egypt, it was to fulfill that covenant promise he made to Abraham â€“ and, to signify the nature of his relationship to his people, he gave detailed instructions to build a tabernacle (later replaced by the temple), which would symbolize the very presence of God among Israel (Exodus 25-31; 35-40). This tabernacle signified in many beautiful ways how a sinner might have fellowship with a holy God; but it was never actually sufficient to bring men to God. Something as amazing as that demanded the actual accomplishment of what the tabernacle and its furniture and rituals only symbolized. As we looked at John 1:14 last week, we recognized that Jesus came â€œto tabernacleâ€ among us. He was the one who took all of the rich, tabernacle symbolism, and made it a reality (see Hebrews chapters six through ten for an extended treatment of this concept).
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10
Carson, Moo, and Morris, in their Introduction to the New Testament, propose that the Apostle John was combating a kind of proto-Gnosticism in his first epistle. Proto, because it was before full-fledged cultic Gnosticism came of age. But it had the characteristics of Gnosticism from the beginningâ€”some sort of deep, special, insider knowledge that advanced beyond "simple Christianity." This "knowledge" denied the reality of sin and the need for reconciliation to God. It said, "we're saved by what we know about the secrets of the universe," which happened to fly in the face of biblical revelation.
Images of the Savior (10 - His Rejection as Messiah)
Luke 4:21-22 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?
From the circumstances of the last event in the life of our Savior, his healing of the noblemanâ€™s son, we recognized that Christâ€™s own people were ready to receive him as a miracle-worker whose ministry held forth many substantial benefits to the seed of Israel; but they stumbled at his person, refusing to acknowledge him as the true Son of God, who contained within himself every spiritual blessing, and through whom was the only hope of acceptance with God. In the account at hand, we find this disposition strengthened, to such a point that his claim to be the long-awaited Messiah aroused in his hearers a murderous rage and unyielding rejection. To this event, what precisely Christ was claiming for himself, his forecast of the effects that his claim would have upon Israel, and the reaction that in reality transpired, we now turn our attention.
Studies in John (Lesson 1: Introduction and Prologue)
I. The Purpose of Johnâ€™s Gospel
When one begins to read the gospel of John, after he has read Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he quickly realizes that this gospel is, in several ways, different from the other three. The first three are called the â€œsynopticâ€ gospels (from a Greek term which indicates a â€œlooking togetherâ€), because they have basically the same point of view. They all talk about many of the same events and time periods in Jesusâ€™ life. But most of the miracles and discourses that John includes are not found in the other three. The synoptics emphasize Christâ€™s Galileean ministry, but John talks mostly of his time in Jerusalem. The synoptics emphasize Christâ€™s parables, his teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven, and his eschatological (end-times) discourses. John emphasizes his teaching on who he is, and the related sign-gifts which demonstrate his claims about his own person. So the question must arise, â€œWhy is John so different from the other three gospels?â€. â€œWhat specific purpose did he have in mind that the first three had not already accomplished?â€
A Brief Meditation on the Christ-Centeredness of Everything
Christ is not only the hero and central figure of the sacred scriptures, both Old and New Testaments: he is also the very sum and substance of all history and reality. Which is an assertion that demands a little more clarification and substantiation, as follows:
1. Christ is the sum and substance of all history
History is neither a random process of chance occurrences (as the modern secularist would hold), nor a series of Divine responses to exigencies created by manâ€™s free will (as the Arminian believes). On the contrary, it was planned out exactly and minutely before time began. God is a God who ever â€œworks all things after the counsel of his own willâ€ (Ephesians 1:11); moreover, he is a God unto whom were already â€œknown all his works from the beginning of the worldâ€ (Acts 15:18). Which is just to say that, from the beginning of the world, God knew his every work, and had laid out his minutely designed plan; and then he sovereignly and unerringly worked it all out to perfection.