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Archive for November, 2011

Horner Bible Reading: The Benefits of Genre-Style Reading

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

As I’ve mentioned before, I appreciate the genre Bible reading format (as with the Horner Bible Reading System) and its benefits. Some of the day’s readings will often relate to what I’m listening to in sermons, or a devotional text.  Recently, for instance, the “Days of Praise” devotional considered the topic of rest for God’s people, as contrasted with the devil. The main text was Job 1:7, about Satan going about and never resting.  The devotional cited two texts, which I read shortly afterwards, in Matthew 11 and 1 Peter 5, providing a contrast between “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” and the warning in 1 Peter 5 about our enemy prowling about (the same restlessness as in Job 1:7) as a roaring lion.

Then, the endings to each of Isaiah’s 9-chapter sets comes to mind, related to this and what I’ve been listening to, S. Lewis Johnson’s “Messianic Prophecies in Isaiah”.  Isaiah 40 through 66 consists of three sets of nine chapters, different segments concerning the Suffering Servant.  The first two sections end with the identical phrase, “There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22, 57:21). The third one, the last verse in Isaiah 66, contains the same idea.  Just as the devil prowls around, characterized by restless activity, so too the ungodly do not have rest or peace.

Other recent reading parallels include a day the readings included the theme of both Israel’s rejections as well as good times:  the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 33, as a contrast with the great time of revival in Hezekiah’s day (2 Chron. 29-30), then judgment in Amos 6-7.  That day’s “Days of Praise” also related to some of the readings:  James 2-3 and Amos 6-7, about the evil rich.

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The Three Appearings of Christ (Hebrews 9)

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

A great summary thought from S. Lewis Johnson’s Hebrews series, the three aspects of our Lord’s work:

Has
Appeared
Does Appear Shall Appear
Has Appeared in the Past Does Appear in the Present,
at the right hand of the throne of God for us.
Shall Appear in the Future
Has Appeared at Calvary Does Appear in Heaven Shall Appear in the Air
Has Appeared for propitiation
at the Cross
Does Appear to carry out His
intercession at the right hand of the throne of God
Shall Appear in Final
Deliverance at His Second Coming
Has Appeared for redemption Does Appear for
representation
Shall Appear for Reward, at
His Second Coming
Has appeared in humiliation Does Appear in exaltation Shall Appear in Worldwide
Manifestation
Has appeared for atonement Does Appear at the right hand
of the Father in priesthood
Shall appear for Salvation
Has appeared for
justification
Does Appear for
sanctification, which He carries on now
Shall appear for our
glorification

Two appearings my friends, have taken place. He has been manifested at Calvary. At the present moment, he appears openly by the right hand of God as our great High Priest. One of the manifestations remains. And the question, of course, is, are we really looking for him? Are we eagerly looking for him? Is it really part of our Christian life to do what our author calls “eagerly wait for him”?

How Precise the Bible Is

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s fairly common within discussions among Christians, to find individuals who confound and blur the meaning of basic words and meanings in the Bible.  How many debates continue because some refuse to accept that “day” really does mean a normal day.  Some will confound the term Israel, and carelessly mix and match different terms and passages in the Bible, to blur the distinctions between “Church” and “Israel,” between “Jew” and “Gentile,” or quote familiar passages that deal with one topic and apply some other meaning to it.

What is really amazing about the Bible, though, is its precision, its very precise language revealed with even more detailed study of passages.  For instance, in the gospel accounts Jesus is careful to say that He was sent (eternal), not born.  Only one time does He say “I was born” and that was to Pilate; even there Christ quickly followed up with “and for this purpose I have come.”  Isaiah 9:6 also uses careful wording in the familiar prophecy about the Christ:  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.  The child born refers to His humanity, when He took on human flesh and was born.  The “son is given” refers to Christ’s Eternality, the Eternal Sonship.  The way we as sinful people carelessly handle God’s word, it could just as easily have been said “a child is given, and a son is born.”  But that misses the mark and does not convey the importance of Christ’s incarnation alongside His eternal existence as the Son of God.

Another Old Testament prophecy also takes pains to make itself very clear, to leave no room for misunderstanding.  Micah 5:2 tells us that He would be born in “Bethlehem Ephrathah” — not just Bethlehem, for Israel had another “Bethlehem” (in the north).  The text does not leave room for any ambiguity, any uncertainty as to whether our Lord fulfilled that prophecy.

We also see this precision of thought in the New Testament, as in Paul’s writings.  In 1 Corinthians 15:45-47, we have “the last Adam” and “the second man.”  Those terms can be easily confused, as where, for instance, Dr. Ironside found a book that misquoted it as “the second Adam” and “the last man” — and in his notes, for emphasis, wrote “No.  He is the last Adam and the second Man.”  As S. Lewis Johnson summed it up:  He’s the second Man because there are other men who will, of course, be related to the Lord God.  He’s the last Adam, however, because if he had failed, there was no other representative man who stood over against Adam the first.  So “last Adam” not “second Adam.”

Hebrews 8 and the New Covenant

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Hebrews series, a look at Hebrews 8 and the New Covenant.  Here, the text has four questions we must answer.

1.  What is this “better covenant?”
It is the New Covenant, which is an expansion of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.  The Bible has many covenants, including individual covenants (such as the one between David and Jonathan), as well as the great unconditional, unilateral covenants, that God initiated:  the Abrahamic covenant, and the Davidic covenant which expands on that.  The New Covenant is given in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31, also in Ezekiel), the last of Israel’s covenants, the one that provides the redemptive basis for the previous Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.

2.  “What are the better promises?” Hebrews 8:8-12.
The text answers it, in verses 8 through 12, including the words “‘I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.’”  The New Covenant provides the forgiveness of sins and Divine Enablement.  It could also be described as, “A new inner control center in the individuals who are the inheritors of this covenant.”

3.  “With whom was the New Covenant made?”
The Old Testament says that covenant was made with Israel and with Judah.  Again in verse 10, “with the house of Israel.”  The New Covenant was made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

We do not err to the side of amillennialists who blur distinctions and say that Israel and the Church are one.  Paul does say in Romans 9 that “not all Israel” is Israel — thus narrowing the field to only those Israelites who believe.  But Paul is not talking about Gentiles at all in that text, and he is not widening the scope to include Genties among that group of “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.”

On the other hand, we do not say, as some earlier dispensationalists, that the Church is completely separate from Jeremiah’s New Covenant, so that we Gentiles have our own New Covenant.  Scripture speaks of only one New Covenant, that one in Jeremiah 31, made with Israel and Judah.  Thus comes the fourth question.

4.  How then is the Church of Jesus Christ, or believing Gentiles, related to the New Covenant?
Gentiles are related to it, through the provision in the Abrahamic covenant, that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him.  Romans 11 also describes it in the figure of the olive tree which we are grafted into.

A great summary from S. Lewis Johnson:  if you will look at the fundamental Abrahamic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant and the New Covenant together, as a covenantal program, you will know, you will surely know that in the Abrahamic Covenant provision was made for Gentile believers.  

Revisiting the So-Called “Spiritual Disciplines”

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Several months back I posted about the problem with spiritual disciplines, including excerpts from Bob DeWaay and links to his articles about it.  More and more I see the term “spiritual disciplines” showing up, even in local churches that supposedly hold to the Reformers’ beliefs — such as a Sunday School class in which “spiritual disciplines” is being taught — perhaps from a more biblical view than the extent to which some take the idea, yet the term is still being used.

Last week the Sunday School topic was about meditation, and “is meditation a spiritual discipline?”  A handout included several Bible verses about people who meditated, and a “checklist” for people to look through, counting up how many hours per week they spend on various activities, of which work/business, sleeping, eating, reading, doing laundry, and even Facebook and texting, were on the list — and the suggestion to look at one’s priorities and what they spend time on.  Again I am reminded of Bob DeWaay’s point, that the problem with spiritual disciplines is that it conveys the idea that we can become holy by “doing” these things, rather than focusing on what God has promised and using “the means of grace.”  The checklist and verses (just single verses, not passages) certainly promotes that attitude.

From the biblical view, this is the wrong approach.  Instead we recognize the “means of grace,” and the public and private “means of grace” spoken of by the great preachers of the last few centuries:  the things through which God gives grace, as promised in His word.  Meditation is not an end in itself, something we do to become more holy, in which we decide to spend a certain amount of time “meditating” and looking up specific Bible verses and thinking, “what does this mean to me?”  Meditation always has as its object God’s word; in reading and understanding God’s word we are promised blessings, as specifically mentioned in Revelation 1:3 as well as in the book of Proverbs.  We spend time in God’s word, reading it and studying it, pondering what it means — not just certain verses (often out of context), and not according to some set scheduled discipline, but throughout our daily lives as we read, pray and listen to or read sermons.  Meditation is part of that overall studying process, as we think upon the things that God has revealed to us in His word — rather than something forced and planned.

FInally, some observations from J.C. Ryle, concerning the “means of grace” (not “spiritual disciplines”):

From Holiness, chapter 6

One thing essential to growth in grace is diligence in the use of private means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man must use by himself alone, and no one can use for him. I include under this head private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self–examination. The man who does not take pains about these three things must never expect to grow. Here are the roots of true Christianity. Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through! Here is the whole reason why many professing Christians never seem to get on. They are careless and slovenly about their private prayers. They read their Bibles but little and with very little heartiness of spirit. They give themselves no time for self–inquiry and quiet thought about the state of their souls.

and (from Holiness, chapter 2):

The “means of grace” are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshiping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper. …They are appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit conveys fresh supplies of grace to the soul and strengthens the work which He has begun in the inward man.

Psalm 110: David’s Thoughts About Melchizedek

November 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Psalm 110 is the first mention in the Bible, that the coming Messiah would be a priest.  A king, yes, that is foretold early in the OT.  But it was not until David, meditating on the significance of Melchizedek in Genesis, that the OT revealed the Messiah-priest.

We don’t know the circumstances of how or when David penned Psalm 110, but we can speculate on that, from the events in David’s life.  Very possibly, David thought of Melchizedek and his significance, when he conquered and took Jerusalem.  Jerusalem, the city of peace, was the Salem of old.  Melchizedek was part of that ancient Jerusalem.  Besides that event, though, David likely thought more about this after his sin with Bathsheba, a time when he considered his own great need for an eternal high priest — something beyond the Aaronic priesthood.

What we learn from study of the Old Testament (as well as the New), is that the writers of inspired scripture were themselves great students of the Word, of the parts they had access to in their day.  Isaiah for instance relies heavily on the Pentateuch, and especially on Deuteronomy 31-32.  Zechariah referred to Isaiah’s prophecy, a book he was clearly familiar with.  Here, too, with the case of Psalm 110 we see David as a student of the Word.