Monday, August 21, 2017

WORSHIP AND THE SABBATH DAY

Excerpted from my eBook Holding Fast Our Confession: https://www.amazon.com/HOLDING-FAST-CONFESSION-Cullan-McKinlay-ebook/dp/B006ZSV90Q/ref=la_B006NTVAWY_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503370436&sr=1-2

WORSHIP AND THE SABBATH-DAY

(See Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 21, paras 7-8)

Introduction

The Apostle Paul in Romans 4:11 refers to Abraham as the “father of all those who believe.” While Abraham was yet childless, i.e., before he was a father, the Lord brought him outside and said, “‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’” Genesis 15:5.

Now the point the Lord was making to Abraham surely was that the One who created and put all those stars in the night sky is more than able to give Abraham offspring innumerable. Abraham looked at the stars and the very next verse says, “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

What is it about the starry night sky that stirs in us a sense of belief and awe? If you’ve ever looked at the stars while in the Australian outback or some other deserted place, you’ll feel the need to worship bubble up from somewhere deep within you. Why is this? Well, it’s because the law or light of nature shows forth that there is a God and that He ought to be worshipped. Isn’t this one of the illustrations the Lord used to remind Job of who He, the Lord, is?  The Lord said to Job, “Can you bind the cluster of Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion? Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season? Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the earth? Job 38:31-33.

So, when we look at the stars we are compelled to think of their Creator. And as we do so we see something of the awesomeness of the Creator. In a word, to look at the stars is to be reminded that God is Creator and we are mere creatures of His creation. The welling up of worship from within is based exactly on that principle: the lesser worships and serves the greater. And who is greater than He who made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them?

So, we may safely conclude then, that the law of nature, or the light of the things God has made (including us), shows us that a due proportion of time should be set apart for the worship of God.

What we’re mainly concerned with in the following is the proportion of time set apart for worship that is commonly called the Sabbath Day or the Lord’s Day.”

The Creation Sabbath

We always need to keep in mind the origin of the Sabbath or Lord’s Day – lest we forget! Like a fence-post imbedded in wet concrete becomes a solid and immovable pillar, so the Christian Sabbath is set in the very beginning of creation. The Christian Sabbath is the Creation Sabbath. It is the Creation Sabbath after the redemption of the fallen Creation has been completed. But before we examine the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day we must consider the pillar of the Creation Sabbath that remained even after man sinned by breaking the everlasting Covenant.

When Adam ate the forbidden fruit he broke the Law, i.e., the Ten Commandments God had written upon his heart upon man’s creation. All Ten, including the 4th Commandment written on man’s heart before the Fall would have been written in positive terms because man had not yet fallen. The 4th Commandment would have read something like this: Worship God as He will be worshipped.

Now, before the Fall Adam would have known the times when to worship God. And in particular he would have known from the light or law of nature what day God had set aside to be worshipped. We’ve already noted the stars when we mentioned Abraham. Well, if you were to look at Genesis 1:14 you would see that, among other things, the stars and planets in the sky are a giant clock, if you will. Genesis 1:14, “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years…’” So, man before the Fall would have been able to count the days, weeks, months and years simply by looking at the starry night sky.

Now, we can’t know how much the curse God put on the fallen creation affected time, but we suppose that before the Fall each week could be measured by the phases of the moon. With reference to the stars the moon completes one revolution in an elliptical orbit about the earth in 27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes, and 11.5 seconds. And to complete an entire lunar orbit, going through each of its weekly or quarter phases it takes 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds.

Why am I telling you this? Well, so that you can see that from the very beginning of creation man, who was created on the sixth day, knew which day was the Sabbath or Lord’s Day. It was one day set apart in every cycle of seven.

Look at it this way: God created Adam and made Eve from his rib on the sixth day of creation week. Genesis 2:1-3 says, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

So, we see that God had worked for six days and rested on the seventh day. Therefore God has set a pattern for His creation and man to follow. Man and God’s creation are to labour six days and, like God, rest every seventh day. But don’t miss the important words of Genesis 2:3, “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it…” So, God then, has given a special status to one day of every seven. He has blessed that day and He has sanctified or declared it a holy day.

Now, we’ve already mentioned that God had made Adam and Eve on the sixth day. God made Eve from Adam’s rib after Adam had considered and named all the animals. Not one of those animals was comparable to Adam. But the point I make is that Eve was made after Adam had considered all the animals. Therefore the sixth day would have been getting on towards evening before Eve was made.

So, the newly-weds, Adam and Eve got to spend their honeymoon night under a romantic star-lit sky. But did Adam have to turn to his bride Eve and say, “Honey, I need to get some sleep, I’ve got some gardening work to do in the morning”? No, because the next day was the Lord’s Day. The next day was the Creation Sabbath. God was still creating on the sixth day and wouldn’t finish His work until the end of the sixth day, Genesis 2:2.

Adam and Eve were part of God’s creation work on the sixth day. Thus we see then that, though God’s holy and blessed day was the final day of a period of seven, it was the first day of the week for Adam and Eve. Therefore Adam and Eve would very easily be able to count off the days from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day. They would begin each week with worship on God’s holy and blessed day – the Creation Sabbath.

God’s Law written on man’s heart would testify that Adam ought to worship the Creator. And the stars on their courses would let him know when to prepare for the Lord’s Day. Now, that’s all very well pre-Fall, but what happened when Adam broke God’s Law? Well, we know that God didn’t abandon mankind. Neither did He abandon the day He had set apart for man’s rest.

The Christian Sabbath

We’ve already noted that the Christian Sabbath is the Creation Sabbath. However it is the Creation Sabbath after the redemption of the Fallen creation. Before the Fall the Creation Sabbath signalled nothing of redemption. It was all to do with creation – an unfallen world doesn’t need to be redeemed.

Another way of saying this is that the newly created world was not in need of re-creation. We use the word ‘recreation’ to speak of a time of refreshment and renewing. To be sure, we tend to think of recreation as a time of fun and amusement. However, if we compare the day of rest before the Fall with the day of rest after the Fall we’ll see that both speak of a time of refreshment and renewing – the day of rest after the Fall much more so.

So, we’re saying that the Christian Sabbath is the re-creation or new-creation Sabbath. The new creation began with the resurrection of the new and replacement Adam, Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings mankind to the point (and, of course, beyond!) where Adam would have been had he not sinned. In other words, as Adam and his new wife began their week together on the first day of the completed creation, i.e., the Lord’s Day, so Christ and His bride began their week together of the first day of the new creation, i.e., Resurrection Day or the Lord’s Day.

God rested from all His labours at the end of the week, so the God-man Jesus Christ rested from all His labours in the tomb at the end of the week. Matthew in his Gospel account says in Matthew 28:1, “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” So we see then that something wonderful happened on the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene found the tomb to be empty because Christ had risen!

The Psalmist speaks of this wonderful day – the Resurrection Day, the Christian Sabbath - in Psalm 118:22-25: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.”

Christ, the Rock of our salvation from whom flow rivers of living water, has brought us prosperity. Which is to say that He has brought us new life – He has brought us a new creation – re-creation. He has redeemed this fallen creation and has brought it new life on the first day of the week – Resurrection Day. He is the chief cornerstone of the new creation.

The first Adam had not laboured for six days before he started his new week. And neither do we labour before we start our new week. Like Adam and Eve we begin the new week refreshed in the Lord. Therefore the Creation Sabbath has been restored for man by and through the resurrection of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ.

Jesus says in Mark 2:27&28, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” If Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath He has the authority to change the Sabbath day from the end of the week to its beginning. Therefore the Old Testament end-of-the-week Sabbath ended and the New Testament beginning-of-the-week Sabbath began the day of His resurrection.

Now, we’ve been labouring hard to demonstrate that the weekly Sabbath is a creation ordinance. In other words, the weekly Sabbath did not arrive on the planet earth at the time of Moses. The weekly Sabbath therefore is for all men everywhere to enjoy to the glory of God.

However, what did arrive at the time of Moses were certain ceremonial laws pertaining to God’s people at that time. These were attached to the Creation Sabbath. These ceremonial laws, which were typologically redemptive, were abrogated by Christ.

What God spoke on Mount Sinai and wrote down on two tablets of stone is His eternal Moral Law. The Ten Commandments are God’s positive and perpetual commandments. And as you know the Fourth Commandment or Sabbath Commandment is part of that Moral Law.

Exodus 20:8-11 records the Fourth Commandment as part of God’s Moral Law: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

The 4th Commandment as recorded in Deuteronomy 5:12-15, interestingly focuses more on redemption than creation. But we see in Exodus 20 that the 4th Commandment itself harks back to the six days God laboured at creation, resting on the seventh.

And notice the word “remember” at the beginning of the commandment. That word “remember” presupposes that the people already knew what the Sabbath is. Indeed we see the Sabbath referred to in Exodus 16, which was before the giving of the Decalogue. Speaking of gathering manna, Moses says in Exodus 16:26, “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”

We don’t have time to talk about all the sevens, including the seven-day or weekly periods, mentioned throughout God’s dealing with Noah. The briefest examples of this would be to mention in passing, e.g., Genesis 7:10, “And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth.” And see Noah wait seven days between sending out the dove after the raven from the ark etc. The point being that the saints knew there was a weekly Sabbath even before God gave the Ten Commandments.

Now, we’ve mentioned that the 4th Commandment as part of the Ten Commandments harkens the hearer of it back to creation. What happens when you look at the starry night skies? The urge to worship starts bubbling up from within, doesn’t it? The LORD took Abraham outside and had him count the stars. Does not the 4th Commandment when carefully considered engender the urge to worship? “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” Thus the Sabbath Day is about worship – worshipping the Creator and Redeemer of the world.

Now, we’ve already alluded to the temporary Sabbath provisions that were later given by God to Moses – after He had given His Ten Commandments. The Lord’s Apostle Paul refers to these temporary Sabbath provisions in Colossians 2:8-17. I’ll just mention Colossians 2:16&17 as it mentions the word “sabbaths”: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

The “festival” refers to the four Old Testament Sabbath Festivals or Feasts. These were tied to annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem – there were four of them (Deuteronomy 16:16; John 10:22). The “new moon” is tied to the Sabbath Festivals. The “sabbaths” mentioned there in Colossians 2:16, while pertaining to the Festivals, also, we believe, pertains to the way the weekly Sabbath was to be obeyed with all its ceremonial or typological or redemptive aspects.

The Old Testament Sabbaths were shadows of the Christ to come. Therefore now that the Sun of Righteousness has risen with healing in His wings, the Old Testament shadows have fled. Which is to say that Christ has “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us.” Colossians 2:14. But, as the writer to the Hebrews says, “There remains therefore a rest [a sabbatismos, i.e., a keeping of a Sabbath] for the people of God.” Hebrews 4:9. This keeping of a Sabbath is what we are calling the Christian Sabbath or the “Lord’s Day” as referred to by the Apostle John in Revelation 1:10.

Now, by keeping in mind that the Christian Sabbath is the restoration of the Creation or Edenic Sabbath we should be able to note certain differences between it and the Mosaic weekly Sabbath. When we say that the Sabbath Moses was involved in has been done away with, we are not saying that the 4th Commandment has been done away with. The 4th Commandment or Sabbath Commandment remains because it is part of God’s perpetual Moral Law, (Hebrews 4:9). However, the Mosaic covenant has been superseded by the New Covenant.

When Moses led the people of Israel out from their bondage in Egypt the Mosaic Sabbath typified redemptive rest. The Sabbath rest they were to gain by entering the Promised Land, i.e., the Land of Canaan typified their future reward at the end of their laborious journey. So, under Moses the weekly Sabbath pictured redemption – i.e., being released from the hard labour of their slavery in Egypt. And the Land of Canaan was the symbol of Sabbath rest. This was the inheritance promised to Abraham – the place where the people of God were to dwell in safety and have rest from their enemies round about, Deuteronomy 12:10.

Now, these two things, the weekly Sabbath and the ‘Sabbath’ or Rest in the Land of Milk and Honey, as already noted, were tokens or symbols of something far greater. These were typifying what the great Redeemer was coming to do. He was coming to set His people free from their bondage to sin by setting them and creation free from its bondage to the curse of corruption and decay of sin. This is what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has accomplished and achieved. The things promised in the weekly Mosaic Sabbath and the Sabbath rest in the Promised Land have been fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Where does this leave the Sabbath in our own day? Well, we’ve seen that the Sabbath has been the day of rest and worship from the very beginning of creation. The Christian Sabbath still points to the God’s eternal rest as it has from the beginning. Therefore there still remains a typical or symbolic aspect to the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day. But: as it was for Adam and Eve, so it is for us.

We begin the week rejoicing in the company and presence of God! But the difference between Adam and Eve and the saints today, is that the Covenant blessings promised to mankind have already begun to be poured out by Jesus Christ. He has kept the covenantal Sabbath perfectly. He has entered into God’s eternal rest. And He has opened up the way for us to enter into that rest.

The Land of Canaan has become the whole earth, nay, the whole world – the cosmos! The heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them are ours in Jesus Christ. Therefore we gather together every seventh day to give thanks to God for Jesus Christ and to give thanks for His resurrection. Every Sunday is Easter Sunday for the Christian! We gather on the day He was resurrected, for that is the day that the new world began. Jesus Christ is its first fruits.

The resurrected Jesus met with His gathered disciples on the first day of the week. He met with them again on the first day of the week a week i.e., seven days later. He poured out His Holy Spirit on His gathered church on the first day of the week – the Day of Pentecost. The saints gathered to break bread on the first day of the week, Acts 20:7. Paul the Apostle preached a sermon until midnight on the first day of the week. He told the saints to take up their offering or collection on the first day of the week, 1 Corinthians 16:1&2.

The first day of the week is the Christian Sabbath – it is the Lord’s Day, Revelation 1:10. And it is the day that is to be kept holy to the Lord. We are to prepare our hearts to worship God on that day. Therefore we need to organise our everyday affairs to accommodate the worship of God on the whole of that day.

And we should strive to be involved in private worship as individual and family - if you have one. And of course we mustn’t forsake the gathering of the saints for worship, Hebrews 10:25. The whole of the day should be set apart for worship, while not neglecting those duties of necessity and mercy – from milking the cows to looking after the sick.

Conclusion

The Lord through His Prophet Isaiah spoke of the new covenant with its Christian Sabbath: “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honourable, and shall honour Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 58:13&14.

Call the Sabbath a delight, and delight yourselves in the LORD.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

MUSIC


Music

During worship tone-deaf church congregants find solace in the words, ‘Make a joyful noise unto the LORD’ Psalm 100:1a. ‘Noise’ here means calling out loud. According to Scripture the angels did something like this when they worshipped God as He was busy forming creation: ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? … when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy’ Job 38:4a;7. One would expect angels to be tuneful at this point in time! But let us note that music began with the beginning of creation and that it was used first to worship God. Among these ‘morning stars’ or ‘sons of God’ who joyfully praised God was the angel who subsequently would fall and become known as Satan (i.e., the Accuser).

Like human beings, angels are not eternal beings. Thus they are creatures of creation. Scripture does not tell us upon which of the six days of creation they were made. Clearly, however, they were created before God made Adam on the sixth day. Though translations of the original Hebrew differ, the following verse is believed to refer to Satan: ‘You were in Eden, the garden of God … the workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers’ Ezekiel 28:13-14a. If ‘timbrels and pipes’ is an accurate translation, then ‘the anointed cherub who covers’ took his ‘timbrels and pipes’ and began using them for something other than praising God! What influence he had on ‘Jubal … the father of all those who play the harp and flute’ (Genesis 4:21) one can only guess.

Paul calls Satan, ‘the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient’ Ephesians 2:2. Does this mean that all songs and music that do not directly praise God are under the influence of the evil one? Well, all musical compositions ought to glorify God. However, this is not to say it all must outwardly mention God. But it does mean that all music ought to be within God’s moral parameters. In other words, music ought never be used to promote evil!


Many years ago the ‘timbrels [or ‘tabrets, i.e. tambourines] and pipes’ passage was utilised by one section of the church to pushback against those who began installing organs in churches to accompany congregational singing. To this day some (i.e. Exclusive Psalmodists) believe that only items from the 150 Psalms of the Bible ought to be used in worship services – accompanied by no musical instruments whatever. Others would counter this view and advocate for inclusion of other appropriate songs with musical accompaniment by using such as the following verse (that refers to those presently in Heaven), ‘And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne’ Revelation 14:2b-3a.

And did the church shift her focus from directing worship to God when it began ‘singing the Gospel’? Are God’s people singing the Gospel vertically to God or are they singing it horizontally to their neighbour?
It has been said that ‘the devil is in the detail.’ We ought to be careful that he’s not in the music too! But know that Jesus, the Mediator between God and man, is able to transform and to make perfect every flat note of praise that comes from the mouths of His people as it rises from earth and filters through Him unto ‘our Father, which art in Heaven’!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jesus & A Donkey


The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” John 12:12-19.
JESUS & A DONKEY
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, a young donkey. They call this “The Triumphal Entry.” This is when the people, not the religious people who wore fancy robes and hung around the Temple at Jerusalem, but the everyday common people, proclaimed Jesus to be their King: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!”
Why were the common people so enamoured with Jesus? Well, why wouldn’t you be? You’d be waving palm fronds as a sign of praise before Him too if you had seen or heard about Him raising Lazarus from the dead! It says, “Now the crowd that was with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that He had performed this sign, went out to meet Him.” 
So here’s a Man, Jesus, who can raise people from the dead, even people who have been dead as long as four days, as was Lazarus. They were calling Jesus the King of Israel. But wait a minute? What’s this? “See, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” A king riding on a donkey, not even a full-grown donkey, a donkey’s colt! For it says, “Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it.” 
I like donkeys! P liked donkeys too! She liked Eeyore from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. A.A. Milne was the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories in which Eeyore the donkey featured. He got the idea for Winnie-the-Pooh from his son’s teddy-bear. 
A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, had named his toy bear after Winnie, a bear he used to see at the London Zoo. (Pooh apparently was a swan he met when he was on holiday.) Anyway, Winnie, the bear in the London Zoo, had come from a place in Manitoba, Canada, called Winnipeg – my three children were born there! Winnipeg was shortened to Winnie, Winnie-the-Pooh.
We probably all can each relate to at least one of the characters who make up Winnie-the-Pooh’s friends. Maybe it’s Winnie-the-Pooh himself, where you just bumble along through life but there’s always a golden honey-pot at the end. Or maybe you’re a bit like Piglet, a bit afraid of everything. Or maybe Tigger, all bouncy and bubbly, and there’s Kanga and Roo, Owl and Rabbit and others, including P’s favourite, Eeyore the donkey.
I don’t know what it was about Eeyore that P could identify with. Eeyore the donkey had a detachable tail and he would invariably lose it somewhere and all his friends would have to help him find it again. Then Christopher Robin would pin the tail on the donkey.

And here’s a quote I found that illustrates how Eeyore thought about things: “The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, ‘Why?’ and sometimes he thought, ‘Wherefore?’ and sometimes he thought, ‘Inasmuch as which?’ and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.” 
So we see that sometimes Eeyore would think sadly to himself, “Why?” We ask questions like that at times like this – Why? We don’t always have a ready answer.  Eeyore would most probably say as he often says, “O well – Thanks for noticin’ me.”
But more importantly, what would Jesus say? Well, as He entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, the people were certainly noticing Him! And He’d say what He said to Martha, the sister of Lazarus who He raised from the dead, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.” 
We’ve already read: “At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.”
Are any of us able to understand all of this, any of it? Are you able, as it were, to pin the tail on the donkey? Here’s a Man who can raise people from the dead! Here’s a Man who raised Himself from the dead! Here’s a Man who is promising to resurrect you from the dead just for believing in Him! No wonder the common people are calling Him “King”! 
The Bible teaches that Jesus is God in the flesh, that God the Son became a human being. Here’s God, the King of kings riding on a lowly donkey! He’s not riding on a white charger or in a golden chariot. He is “seated on a donkey’s colt.” He’s a humble and gentle Saviour of all who put their trust in Him. If you draw near to Him He will comfort you in your grief.

(Eeyore picture from web)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

CORRECTING CALVIN’S CRITICS


CORRECTING CALVIN’S CRITICS

If you have or have ever had any enemies, you will know that they tend to tell lies about you and invariably paint you in a bad light. John Calvin (1509-64) had and still has lots of enemies. No doubt some hate this man merely because they have listened to some of the lies that have been spread about him.

One of the old canards constantly trotted out by Calvin haters involves a man called Michael Servetus a contemporary of Calvin. As do modern day so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses Servetus followed Arius’s (256-336) view of a non-divine Jesus. In other words, Servetus was in denial that Jesus Christ was the middle Person of the Trinity now in human flesh.

Says John Eidsmoe in footnote 9 on page 1044 of his Historical and Theological Foundations of Law, Volume III Reformation and Colonial, (Nordskog Publishing Inc.) – see:


“Calvin’s critics claim he engineered the execution of Servetus, but as J. Steven Wilkins demonstrates, the Geneva city council tried, convicted, and sentenced Servetus without Calvin’s involvement. Servetus had already been sentenced to death in France but had escaped; Calvin had warned Servetus not to come to Geneva, telling him he would not leave the city alive. Several Catholic cities wanted to try Servetus for heresy, and when the Geneva authorities gave him a choice of being tried in Geneva or being sent to Vienna, Servetus chose Geneva. The council found him guilty of denying the Trinity and teaching and printing other false doctrines and sentenced him to be burned at the stake. Calvin tried unsuccessfully to persuade the council to commute the sentence from burning to beheading; failing in that, he visited Servetus in his last hours and prayed with him. Significantly, Servetus was the only heretic to be burned in Geneva during Calvin’s lifetime, while thousands of heretics were executed elsewhere. J. Steven Wilkins, Calvin v. Servetus (1998); William Wileman, Calvin and Servetus.

          Francis Nigel Lee writes of the same Servetus incident,

“Servetus had blasphemously described the most blessed Trinity as a three-headed dog and a monster from hell! Yet even at a time when the Catholic Inquisition was seeking to slay Servetus and every Protestant city in Europe had expelled him or condemned him, Calvin corresponded with him and sent him a copy of his Institutes. For Calvin sought to win Servetus to Christ!

“Knowing full well that Calvin favoured the punishment of exile for heretics and the death penalty for blasphemers, the wretched Servetus arrogantly made his way to Geneva planning to overthrow Calvin and de-christianize the city. Put on trial by the civil magistrates of Geneva (and not by Calvin who was neither a judge nor a citizen of that city) Servetus was found guilty of blasphemy and sedition and sentenced to death by burning. Calvin unsuccessfully tried to get Servetus to recant his errors. When Servetus would not recant, Calvin pleaded for a milder form of punishment. And later still, Calvin also pleaded with Servetus in his death cell to get right with God and accept the Divine Christ as his Lord and Master!

“Rarely in the annals of history has so much evangelical concern ever been shown to such a monstrous miscreant, as Calvin showed to Michael Servetus, enemy of Christ and Christianity and of public law and order! Even during that highly intolerant age, the gentle Calvin tenderly yet firmly presented Christ and His salvation to the very man who had sought to destroy him!” – Francis Nigel Lee, John Calvin True Presbyterian, Jesus Lives Series, pp. 17-18.

          Gerald Christian Nordskog made the very observant connection between Calvin visiting Servetus in jail and Dr Lee (just quoted above) visiting his father’s murderer in jail! Says Gerald,

“As our dear brother Francis Nigel Lee was so compassionate and loving to his dad’s murderer, leading the man to Christ while he was in jail....... he obviously was touched by this Calvin pursuing the evil man even in jail. Dr. Lee had the same characteristics in this regard as the great theologian of Calvin's Institutes.” (In an email to me.)

(See Gerald Christian Nordskog’s Christian Books Website at Nordskog Publishing Inc.: https://www.nordskogpublishing.com/

(See Dr. Lee’s Brothers Because of Bloodshed at: http://www.dr-fnlee.org/brothers-because-of-bloodshed/

And Dr. Lee’s The Sovereignty of God in the Salvation of my Father’s Slayer at: http://www.dr-fnlee.org/the-sovereignty-of-god-in-the-salvation-of-my-fathers-slayer/

          So, far from being the flaming-torch wielding burner of heretics as portrayed by Calvin-haters and the ignorant, Calvin was instead a lover of all God’s image-bearers, including those who vehemently disagreed with him such as Servetus, and evangelically and compassionately sought their humane treatment and, if not more, just as importantly, their salvation.

Allen Guelzo says in a review of Alister E. McGrath’s A Life of John Calvin: A Study of the Shaping of Western Culture,

There is no sense in which McGrath’s Calvin could be mistaken for a Geneva Jim Jones: Calvin had little personal authority with the city council and no legal political standing or following (as a foreigner, he had no vote or voice in Genevan politics), and could rely only on the persuasiveness of his own ideas and preaching to carry his reforms forward. In making these points, McGrath clearly throws the notorious arrest and execution of Michael Servetus into the lap of Geneva’s secular leadership at a time when that leadership was hardly more sympathetic to Calvin than it was to Servetus; and he rightly stresses (as other biographers have not) that Servetus’ execution was due as much to his anarchical Anabaptism as to disagreements with Calvin on the Trinity.” (A Life of John Calvin: A Study of the Shaping of Western Culture by Alister E. McGrath, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990) Reviewed by Allen Guelzo. See: 


Says Professor Roy Clouser,

“Re the execution of Servetus: Since Calvin is often accused of ordering Servetus be burned at the stake, I think it apropos to mention that it is one of the many lies about the Reformers that has been repeated over & over.

“First, it is important to note that Calvin never held a political office in Geneva. Indeed, as a foreign national and not a Swiss citizen, he was not even eligible for office. Geneva was ruled by a town Council, which hired Calvin to perform certain duties. One of these was to interview Servetus after he’d been asked to leave Geneva & refused. I have read (a translation of) the letter that Calvin wrote to the Council following the interview. In it he confirms that Servetus is a heretic, but recommends that ‘the sentence not be carried out’. I also found the letter he wrote to the Council after it condemned Servetus to be burned. In it Calvin said that if they insisted on executing Servetus it should not be by burning ‘which is a cruel and inhumane method of execution’. The council again ignored Calvin.

“BTW, I’ve also read accusations about how Calvin was supposed to have used state power to enforce church attendance. The fact is, however, that he opposed the political party that wanted to make the church of Geneva (in which he was a pastor) the state church. When that party was elected anyway, Calvin left Geneva for 6 years in protest and returned only after it was voted out. He regarded such a law was an intolerable intrusion of the state into matters that belonged properly to the church.

“There is a fine recent book on the Reformation that I’ve found helpful titled ‘The Reformation World’, Ed Pettegree London: Routledge, 2000). (The letters were contained in a multi-volume set titled ‘Calvin’s Correspondence’ which I found in the library of Princeton Theological Seminary.)” Letter (10 Oct 2003) from Prof Roy Clouser on ‘Thinknet’ Dooyeweerdian discussion forum.

          In a day when there is so much “Fake News” being bandied around, it is a good and honourable thing to seek the truth of the matter rather than lazily listening to the haters. Always remember that Satan is the father of lies and that Jesus Christ is the Truth. Honour Him!
(Photo of two unashamed Calvinists)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Compassionate Calvin

(Excerpted from my The Nexus: The True Nature of Nature, which compares and contrasts Darwin's view of nature with that of Calvin): 

https://www.amazon.com/NEXUS-True-Nature-ebook/dp/B006WHGINI/ref=la_B006NTVAWY_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500685189&sr=1-13&refinements=p_82%3AB006NTVAWY

John Calvin (1509-64) systematized the Christian Religion at the time when the Church that had become very deformed under the papacy and Roman Catholicism, was being reformed. Reformed Christianity, to which I adhere, began at the time of the great Reformation – a time of getting back to what the Bible really teaches.


Perhaps you have been inoculated against Reformed Christianity and the Christian worldview. Perhaps some portion of misinformation propagated by anti-Christians such as Michel Onfray or Richard Dawkins has so gotten stuck in your craw that it causes you to spit whenever you hear Calvin’s name mentioned! A small sample of the teeth gnashing and vitriol spewing that the name of Calvin causes in some can be found in the following caricature of Calvin 
and some of his Biblical understandings, as painted by the Darwinist and ‘journalist’ Christopher Hitchens,


"According to the really extreme religious totalitarians, such as John Calvin, who borrowed his awful doctrine from Augustine, an infinity of punishment can be awaiting you even before you are born. Long ago it was written which souls would be chosen or ‘elected’ when the time came to divide the sheep from the goats. No appeal against this primordial sentence is possible, and no good works or profession of faith can save one who has not been fortunate enough to be picked. Calvin’s Geneva was a prototypical totalitarian state, and Calvin himself a sadist and torturer and killer, who burned Servetus (one of the great thinkers and questioners of the day) while the man was still alive. The lesser wretchedness induced in Calvin’s followers, compelled [them] to waste their lives worrying if they had been ‘elected’ or not…"

              Hitchens goes on to state that he has had some crazy people phone him ‘with hoarse voices condemning me to death or hell or both’ … And of ‘the eternal blackening of my name by religious frauds and liars.’ Crazy people are crazy whatever their worldview, but, in the interest of truth, sanity, and the un-blackening of the name of John Calvin, Francis Nigel Lee sets the record straight,

"Servetus had blasphemously described the most blessed Trinity as a three-headed dog and a monster from hell! Yet even at a time when the Catholic Inquisition was seeking to slay Servetus and every Protestant city in Europe had expelled him or condemned him, Calvin corresponded with him and sent him a copy of his Institutes. For Calvin sought to win Servetus to Christ!

"Knowing full well that Calvin favoured the punishment of exile for heretics and the death penalty for blasphemers, the wretched Servetus arrogantly made his way to Geneva planning to overthrow Calvin and de-christianize the city. Put on trial by the civil magistrates of Geneva (and not by Calvin who was neither a judge nor a citizen of that city) Servetus was found guilty of blasphemy and sedition and sentenced to death by burning. Calvin unsuccessfully tried to get Servetus to recant his errors. When Servetus would not recant, Calvin pleaded for a milder form of punishment. And later still, Calvin also pleaded with Servetus in his death cell to get right with God and accept the Divine Christ as his Lord and Master!
                "Rarely in the annals of history has so much evangelical concern ever been shown to such a monstrous miscreant, as Calvin showed to Michael Servetus, enemy of Christ and Christianity and of public law and order! Even during that highly intolerant age, the gentle Calvin tenderly yet firmly presented Christ and His salvation to the very man who had sought to destroy him!" 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TEENAGERS


Teenagers

Should parents brace themselves and expect trouble when their children become teenagers? Well, first off it shocks me to hear parents say that they are trying to raise their children without outwardly influencing them, so that they can ‘decide for themselves’ which religion or what they want to believe when they are older! However, the Bible makes it plain that Christian parents are to ‘Train up the child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it’ Proverbs 22:6. To paraphrase in broad terms: ‘Catechise the child on which way you want them to go, and when he starts to sprout a beard or when she begins to menstruate, he or she will continue to obey what you have taught them.’ Thus, Christian parents ought not to expect that little Johnny or Jenny will automatically ‘go off the rails’ at puberty or beyond!

But what are teenagers faced with in the ‘real world’? Promiscuity and pregnancy, drug and alcohol-dependency, bawdy-songs? or, as they say, ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll!’? Teens ought not to be left to experiment and make up their own minds about these things. For obviously this simply is asking for trouble. Sex is not evil. Neither are drugs. The same way that not all rock ‘n’ roll consists of bawdy songs! Rather than an outright condemnation of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’, the Bible simply sets the parameters. Parents are to train up their children in these areas, i.e., warn them of the dangers of the illicit use and abuse of sex and drugs (and drink), and how a lot of modern pop-music accompanies and encourages and even glorifies an ungodly life-style.

If the old adage is true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, then teenagers must be impressionable! If older people get ‘set in their ways’, then we must point our children in the way they should go during their formative years. Teenagers apparently love to leave the church in droves. How should we retain our youth? Introduce rock ‘n’ roll sounding bands? ‘The Scriptural formula for keeping teenagers in Church is to catechize them as infants.’ Richard Bacon.

Presbyterians have been making good use of the Westminster Shorter Catechism for well over three hundred years to train up their children in the way they should go. In a series of 107 questions and answers it simply teaches what the Bible has to say about each question raised. E.g., Westminster Shorter Catechism 9: ‘Quest. What is the work of creation? Ans. The work of creation is, God’s making all things out of nothing, by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.’ I chose this example to illustrate something of the problem teenagers face today. Did God create everything out of nothing? Did He simply command things into being? Did He do it over the space of six days? And was everything ‘very good’ in the beginning? The untrained and unequipped, i.e., the un-catechised teenager, will have all their bones broken in pieces and will be eaten alive if he or she falls into the lion’s den of non-Christian education! But Daniel said, ‘Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are His… He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things… You have given me wisdom and power.’ Daniel 2:20-23.
           Teenagers need to know how to negotiate life’s journey. Therefore, let us teach them how to glorify God and enjoy Him forever

Friday, June 30, 2017

REST IN PEACE


REST IN PEACE

The other week, Patsy and Helen wanted to know what the title of my little Homily was going to be, so that they could put it into today’s Order of Service. I wasn’t really sure, until I was sitting in Church last Sunday morning. That’s when it just sort of came to me: “Rest In Peace!” I wanted the title to reflect, or at least summarize, the essence of the previous reading, in particular the bit where Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus is saying that He will give rest to anyone who comes to Him, that that person will find rest for their soul. 

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Labouring and being heavy laden includes the troubles we face in this life. However, it also means being weighed down by the knowledge of what the Bible calls “sin”, an acute knowing that you don’t measure up to God’s standards. It’s the burden of an awakened conscience, an accusing conscience that gives you no rest – until you come to Jesus!

The meaning of this is deep, very deep, deeper than the deepest ocean. It is beautifully summed up in the words of George Matheson’s beautiful hymn: 
“O, love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.”

The love of Jesus is the type of love that will not let you go. It is an eternal love, a love that lasts forever. That’s why George Matheson could write those words, “I rest my weary soul in Thee!” 

Matheson was born in Glasgow in 1842. He wrote that hymn forty years later, and said, “I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes.” It sort of just came to him on the eve of his sister’s wedding. 

Matheson himself had been engaged to be married some twenty years or so earlier. But when his fiancĂ©e discovered that he was going blind, and that there was nothing the doctors could do about it, she said that she couldn’t go through life with a blind-man. So she left him! His sister’s wedding reminded him of that tragic time. His sister had looked after him in his years of blindness, and now, by getting married, understandable as it was, she was leaving him too!

People will disappoint you. They have their own lives to lead with their own sets of problems, but the love of Jesus will never let you go! You need to rest in Him. His rest is forever. As did George Matheson before him, so Allan Barker has entered into His eternal rest.

It causes us pain to lose a loved-one. But Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” He wants us to come to Him, and to be yoked to Him, as in the old days oxen were yoked or joined together to plough a field or whatever. Jesus says His yoke is easy. It’s easy and light because He does all the heavy-lifting! But you have to open your heart to Him. You have to trust Him, trust His promise, even in times of grief, times when we go through pain.

“Oh, joy that seekest me through pain
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.”

Allan loved rural Australia. Can you picture a thunderstorm rolling through the Outback? Can you see the ghost gumtrees against the backdrop of dark thunderclouds? Can you hear the sulphur-crested cockatoos shrieking as they flee the deluge? Can you see and smell the steam rising from the hot earth after the storm has passed through? Can you see the magnificent rainbow in the sky?

George Matheson said that he changed only one word after he had written his beautiful hymn, because he was asked to. It’s in the line that speaks of the rainbow, the sign of God’s covenant promise. Instead of, “I trace the rainbow through the rain” the original had “I climb the rainbow through the rain.” Climbing rainbows in the rain gives a picture of hardship, weary toil. The years of weary toil are over for Allan Barker!

I visited Allan a few times when he was at the Care Centre in Ferny Grove before he moved down to Victoria. One of the things Allan is remembered for is being a Rat of Tobruk. He was twenty-two years old when he was involved in the Siege of Tobruk in1941. Surviving that he then went on to reach the rank of Lieutenant and even living to the right good age of ninety-eight! Wow! 

One of the downsides to living that long is that you lose a lot of your old friends over the years simply by outliving them! Then Allan lost his wife Daphne (Del) in October 2012. How hard it is to lose the ones we love! And now it’s Allan’s turn. So, we say for Allan, a friend, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a great, great grandfather, and a Rat of Tobruk, “Rest In Peace.”

Thursday, June 29, 2017

NO CORRUPTION!


NO CORRUPTION!

What was Adam like before he sinned? Well, we have acknowledged something just by asking this question, which is that there once was time when Adam was without sin! Therefore, we can safely say that the sinless Adam would be void of all of sin’s corrupting effects on every aspect of his being, body, soul, and spirit. None of us can say that of ourselves, none except Jesus! Indeed, Scripture refers to “the first man Adam” and to Jesus as “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45).

To sin is to break God’s Law, because “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Thus, neither the first Adam (pre-Fall) or the last Adam (post-Fall) were lawless, i.e., sinners. Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:15b. It was when Adam ate the forbidden fruit that he (and we) became sinners, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” Romans 5:12. “For the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23a.

Whereas the first Adam subsequently became corrupted, the last Adam always remained uncorrupted, i.e., without the decaying effects of sin, body, soul, and spirit. Scripture says that even in death Jesus’ body saw no corruption! “‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ For David … fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption, but He whom God raised up saw no corruption” Acts 16:34b-35. Thus, even in death the last Adam remained as was the first Adam pre-Fall, i.e., without corruption!


Did Jesus really die on the cross then? Of course He did! And He died for our sins, not His own. He had no sin of His own. Whilst nailed to the cross, Jesus said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last” Luke 23:46. James says that “the body without the spirit is dead” James 2:26. Therefore, according to the Bible, human death occurs when the spirit leaves the body. Then the rot sets in – but not for Jesus! For He “saw no corruption.” Thus, in death, unlike King David and unlike Lazarus, Jesus’ body saw no decay, no putrefaction.

How was it that Jesus saw no corruption after being dead “three days”? Was He cryogenically frozen to preserve His organ tissue? Was He embalmed? No! He was taken down from the cross and had His body wrapped in strips of linen. Then He was laid to rest in a tomb. Let’s just say that even in death God preserved Him, body and soul and spirit. “‘A body You have prepared for Me’” and “‘Not one of His bones shall be broken’” and “‘For You will not leave My soul in Hades’” and “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’ and “‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ Hebrews 10:5b; John 19:36b; Acts 16:34b.

Jesus was incorruptible before He was raised from the dead and He is certainly incorruptible after He was raised from the dead! Do you want to know what something with no corruption looks like? Then look to Jesus!

Scripture says, “It is not yet revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” 1 John 3:2b. For us then, when we are raised from the dead, just like Jesus, we will have no corruption. “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
See also:
https://escapethebox.blog/blog/


Friday, June 2, 2017

MYTHS & MYSTERIES


Myths & Mysteries

Myths and mysteries invariably make me think of mists, (perhaps because the words sound so similar?) And when I think of mists, I think of viewing Scottish scenery in the rain, which in turn reminds me of what the Bible says about faith: ‘Now faith is the confidence of what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.’ Hebrews 11:1. Faith kicks in whenever a tour guide says that there is a mountain over there when all we can see is mist! Thus, there are times when the tour guide needs to be taken at their word!

Some call the Bible a book of myths, while others believe its truthfulness but acknowledge that it contains certain mysteries. The Bible claims to have been written by God (albeit using men). Should we take the Bible’s ‘tour guide’ at His word? Or should we just climb back onto the bus out of the rain? If faith is ‘assurance about what we do not see,’ we must presume the tour guide knows what they are talking about.

The tour guide for the Christian is the triune God, Father, Son or Word, Holy Spirit. And God says, ‘In the beginning God [i.e., ‘Elohim’, a plurality of Persons, He, in the singular] created the heavens and the earth’ Genesis 1:1. Is this a myth? Is this a mystery? Is this a mountain covered in scotch mist? Well, the Bible says ‘what may be known about God is plain … because God has made it plain … For since the creation of the world [i.e., the cosmos] God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse’ Romans 1:19-20. The sun, the moon, the planets and the stars, the earth, the sea and the skies, the flora and the fauna, the bens and the glens (i.e., mountains and valleys), you and me – everything, has been made by God. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made’ John 1:1-3.

Are you still sitting there on the bus viewing everything through steamed-up windows? Or are you out there walking around looking at things with the ‘tour guide’? Are you sitting there thinking that God is a myth? Or are you walking with the Lord while contemplating the mystery of the Trinity? There’s a big difference between these two ways of thinking. The ‘tour guide’ says of the former that he/she is one of those who ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’ Romans 1:18. Of the latter He says, ‘The hidden things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law’ Deuteronomy 29:29. Yes, how can God be three Persons but one God? How can ‘Our Father which art in heaven … give us [who art on earth] this day our daily bread’? How can the Son/Word, i.e., Jesus, be both God and Man in One Person? And, how can the Spirit of God be everywhere at once while ‘hovering over the waters’?

Dear Christian, you are not on a mystery tour. And you have not come to a mist-covered mountain. ‘But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem … You have come to God … to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant’ Hebrew 12:22-24.

Dear non-Christian, come off the bus, join us as we explore myths and mysteries with our ‘tour guide.’ He knows all things!