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Archive for the ‘Biblical Theology’ Category

In our I hope brief blog-versation, Doug Wilson has posted a couple more things to think about. In one he asks who our father/Father is. We either have God or the devil as our father. Well, yes and no. I’m with Doug in what he’s getting at, I think, but here again I’m not so sure about terminology. The devil as father was a liar from the beginning. Well, every child lies instinctively. You don’t have to teach kids to lie. Those little children that Jesus wanted to come to him were “of their father the devil” in some sense. So am I, since I still have an Adamic death-nature that messes with me — and as far as I’m concerned Romans 7 STILL is talking about that, even if I’m increasingly lonely in thinking so.

When Peter confessed Jesus as the son of the Living God, Jesus blessed him for listening to the Father. Five minutes later Jesus condemned him as a mouthpiece of Satan.

Also, of course, I had a physical father; and if I were a Presbyterian clergyman I would address Presbytery as “Fathers and Brethren,” acknowledging that older minister are fathers to younger ones. Every human being has God the Father as his father by creation; Adam as his father by generation; and the devil as his father by Adam’s decision to give the world to him. Christians have God the Father as father because they are in Christ, the Son.

Perhaps I should write “faithful Christians.” It seems to me that the Bible is telling us to be concerned about who is faithful, who trusts and obeys, and leave the heart (and “regeneration”) to God. (more…)

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I wrote my beef about “regeneration” a decade ago, and I don’t really see the need to reopen what I think now. (Jordan, Thoughts on Sovereign Grace and Regeneration: Some Tentative Explorations. Biblical Horizons Occasional Paper No. 32; available for $5.00 from Biblical Horizons, Box 1096, Niceville, FL 32588.)

But.

My pal Doug Wilson has been writing a series of essays on “Life in the Regeneration” (I like the title!) and I’m being constrained to say something. So let me do this as a series of points.

1. I’m a postmillennialist, because I actually believe (gasp!) that Jesus was serious when He said He intended to disciple all nations.

Disciple.

All.

Nations.

Got it?

So, I don’t think I have to get everything right today. In fact, I know I won’t. In the year AD 35,678, some theologian in what is now Sri Lanka will come up with the very best explanation of the things under discussion, and I’m willing to wait.

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Nicodemus’s conversation with Jesus in John 3:1-15 is sometimes regarded as an illustration of the tremendous stupidity of the Jews of our Lord’s day. Nicodemus is treated as just some guy who comes to Jesus at night because he doesn’t want to get into trouble by being seen with Him. Nicodemus tries to butter Jesus up by telling Him that he and his pals know that Jesus has come from God. Then, when Jesus says that one must be born again-from-above, Nicodemus is so dumb or sarcastic that he says, “Uh, duh, well, uh, how can a person be born when he’s already old, huh? Uh-hyuh, uh-hyuh! He can’t just crawl back, uh, into his momma and be born again, can he?”

Well, uh, duh, no, that’s not what is going on. First of all, the Holy Spirit is not wasting His breath showing us Jesus putting down various morons. This conversation is included because it is profound. Second, John’s gospel deals with profound depths, as all expositors agree, and so again this is not some stupid conversation. Third, Nicodemus was a member of the great Sanhedrin (John 7:50), which means he had served in a local sanhedrin as a judge for a number of years before being selected to the first small sanhedrin, then after more years advancing to the second small sanhedrin, and finally being approved to be one of the 70 members of the Great Sanhedrin (Article, “Sanhedrim,” in McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature [1867]). He was therefore an older man, probably twice Jesus’ age and worthy of respect. Fourth, Jesus tells us that Nicodemus was “the teacher of Israel” (John 3:10). Are we to take this as sarcasm, unworthy of the spotless son of man who knew to respect the aged? No, Jesus means what he says: Nicodemus was the preeminent theologian and teacher in Israel, and therefore on the surface of the earth, and not a fool.

Finally, Nicodemus was not at all reluctant to defend Jesus in public (John 7:50) and to be seen helping to bury him (19:39). (I’ll bet Caiaphas was pretty angry about that.) He came to Jesus at night in order to have a long conversation with Him uninterrupted. The notion that Nicodemus was not a believer does not stand up. He certainly was a faithful old covenant believer who was headed for paradise. If by “regeneration” we mean someone who has a life with God and is destined for heaven, Nicodemus was regenerated every bit as much as Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah.

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Elsewhere on the blogosphere men are mocking the wearing of collars and albs to lead in worship. When it is pointed out that historically Reformed ministers have worn daily uniforms and robes in worship, it is replied that that was then and this is now. We ought to conform to our age. Bah, humbug.

 

1. We don’t follow the world; we lead it.

 

2. We don’t conform to culture; we change it.

 

3. We don’t take up our ideas from what gooey liberal and gooey evangelical churches do or don’t do; we get our instructions from the Bible.

 

4. Jesus had a special and very valuable tunic (John  19:23-24). Compare Exodus 28:40. Jesus’ special tunic and several pieces of outer garments correspond closely to the special garments of the priests. Apparently these most modern of bloggers have got better sense in how to dress than did their Lord. They might take their cue from the doctrine of union with Christ and what that might mean for them as officers in the army of the Lord of Hosts.

 

5. Back in the day when clergy wore uniforms and the Church was an army, we were well on the way to world conquest. Compare today.

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Discussions on the catholicity of the church have led one RC advocate to write to me that according to 2 Timothy 1:16-18, Paul is clearly and unmistakably praying for a dead person. He points to a couple of Protestant writers who had agreed with this, though they are in a tiny minority. Search this out on line and you’ll find Roman Catholics insisting on this as if it were certain. Let’s see what Paul actually says:

16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered at Ephesus.

First of all, clearly Onesiphorus was a believer, baptized into union with the ascended Jesus Christ, faithfully serving the Lord. So, how on earth can Paul ask that he receive mercy on the day of judgment? Is his salvation in any doubt? Is there something lacking in his salvation by Jesus? To ask the question is to answer it: No, or course not. Paul cannot possibly be asking for Onesiphorus to be given mercy on the final day. The suggestion is ridiculous.

Therefore, Paul must be praying for mercy on the day that is near at hand: the judgment on the Old Creation in the years leading down to the year AD 70, the tribulation that came upon the entire Oikumene.  

With this in mind it becomes clear why Paul asks for mercy on Onesiphorus’s household. The tribulation about to break out over the whole Oikumene could be a horror for wives and daughters, for small children and the aged, as well as for men.

 Theologically, we find a unity in the passage. Onesiphorus was willing to be seen with Paul when the latter was in chains. He took the serious risk of associating with the criminal Paul, and this put his own family at risk. But beyond this practical consideration, Paul is saying that those who put themselves at risk for the Kingdom are those to whom God is likely to show mercy — at least to their families — during times of tribulation.

In short, there is absolutely nothing in this passage that hints that Onesiphorus is dead. Paul asks that he find mercy during the coming tribulation, which means he is alive.

Finally, there is 2 Timothy 4:19, “Greet Prisca and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.” Again, this has been taken to mean that Onesiphorus must be already dead. Uh, duh, no. We have already been told that Onesiphorus sought Paul out and had rendered great service for him at Ephesus. It’s a whole lot more likely that Onesiphorus is not at home, but doing something else for Paul at this time, perhaps even visiting churches like Timothy and Titus. As we have seen, he certainly is not dead.

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1. Come, Ye Thankful People, Come. This hymn by Henry Alford is found in many hymnals, including Cantus Christi. Yet, the last stanza radically contradicts the theological perspective of the historic faith and of the editors of this hymnal. It is a witness to how we tend to bounce along unthinkingly through metrical hymns, which is something we would not do when chanting a text. The fourth stanza says:

Even so, Lord, quickly come. Bring thy final harvest home.

Gather thou thy people in, Free from sorrow, free from sin,

There, forever purified, In thy garner to abide.

Come, with all thine angels, come; Raise the glorious harvest home.

Now, as we’ve had occasion to say before, the Biblical expectation is that Jesus will successfully disciple all the nations of the earth, making all into theocracies under His rule, before any final apostasy and His return to judge the living and the dead. The “quick coming” in the book of Revelation has to do with the events of AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Oikumene. Asking Jesus to come quickly and end history is very wrong. It is asking Him to fail, asking Him not to evangelize the heathen. The fact is, though, that the first three stanzas of this hymn are excellent, for they only state that Jesus will someday return to judge. We should keep this hymn, but omit the last stanza.

2. Lo! He comes, with Clouds Descending. This is a second-coming hymn, and like many Arminian hymns, this by Charles Wesley, the assumption is that Jesus will return to the earth to reign. This is completely false. According to 1 Corinthians 15:24, when He returns, having destroyed all enemies, He gives the Kingdom to the Father. According to the catholic faith, Jesus is presently seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling as King of kings and Lord of lords. Thus, any hymn that teaches us that Jesus will return to reign is communicating false teaching.

The end of stanza 1, “God appears on earth reign,” can be changed to “Christ the Lord forever reigns.”

The final stanza is more of a mess: “Saviour, take the power and glory, Claim the kingdom for thine own. O come quickly, O come quickly, O come quickly! Alleluia! Come, Lord, come.” Well, no. That’s all very bad. Change to this:

Lord, Thou hast taken all the pow’r and glory,

Thine the Kingdom e’er shall be!

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou dost reign, and we with Thee!

 

By the way, the best tune for this is Helmsley by Arne.

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7. The Literary Shape of the Covenant

As we have seen, there is a succession of covenants in the Bible, each more glorious than the previous, each absorbing and transfiguring the previous, until finally we come to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. We now want to look at the shape of covenant documents. Generally speaking, the order of presentation in the covenant document is the same as the sequence of events in the covenant’s establishment. The Spirit shapes the history and the Son shapes the Word. God is One, living in the One Covenant, and thus the shape is the same. The shape of the various covenants is always fundamentally the same, because the same God is acting and speaking each time, and the same human consciousness is being addressed.

Because the Sinaitic Covenant is the covenant that is most fully presented in literary form, scholars look at its presentation in Exodus 20-24 and in the book of Deuteronomy to discern the basic covenant shape. After we have been instructed by this part of the Biblical revelation, we can discern the same shape in the other covenants.

This shape, this order of presentation, has been analyzed variously by different scholars. Some have seen three, some four, some five, some six, and some seven aspects of the covenant. We can say that in its fullest manifestations, God’s covenant with man, which we can illustrate from the Sinaitic Covenant, entails the following steps and aspects:
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