Archive

Posts Tagged ‘worship’

The Covenant of Redemption, and Covenant Worship: Online Sermon Resources

February 17, 2020 4 comments

For study in the near future, I have several lesson series queued up, including two series on the book of Job, and a few Reformed Conference series from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, these links:

Currently, though, I’m enjoying a new resource I’ve recently discovered online: pastor/preacher Dr. Mark Winder, at nearby Wolf River OPC church and one of the contributors at the Reformed Forum (a different contributor than the one referenced in a recent post about hermeneutics).  I’ve listened to a few of his sermons, including an informative 12-part series ‘What is a Presbyterian?’  The first messages address general Reformed theology and basics of interpretation, including a section on Good and Necessary Consequences, followed by a few on covenant theology and covenant worship, then to more specific topics such as the role of children within the church and the church leadership structure.

These messages take a helpful and interesting approach, teaching various doctrines from Old Testament texts and showing the link to the New Testament practice.  For example, the Covenant of Redemption explained from Zechariah 6:9-15 —  a great Messianic passage describing ‘the branch’, the Messiah who would be a priest and a king.   Yet I had not considered Zechariah 6 in connection with the Covenant of Redemption.  Previous lessons I’ve heard over the years, such as several from S. Lewis Johnson, provided a good overview with a look at the Davidic covenant passages and the Upper Room discourse, especially Jesus’ words about the work of the Father and the Son, and the importance of the overall purpose of the Trinity and that the three members of the Godhead work together in agreement.  This message adds to the teaching, with the events in Zechariah 6 — emphasizing the joining of the priest and king offices in one person, and especially verse 13, “and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

The next message, on Covenant Worship, is an interesting take on New Testament church worship—from exposition of Psalm 95.  The Psalm is simple, yet expresses several good points regarding corporate worship, including the fact of corporate (plural, we), Who it is that we are gathering to worship, our great God and fellowship with Him; it’s not just about our casual fellowship with one another, but our great and holy God, and our attitude, to be joyful when we worship together.

It’s a helpful, informative series, that defines the important characteristics of Reformed and specifically (Reformed) Presbyterian churches — several topics and how they all relate together with biblical support and the unity of scripture in the Old and New Testament.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the messages, and then continuing on to the next Bible lesson series, from the several other series mentioned above.

Prayer According to God’s Will: 1689 Confession Study (Chapter 22)

September 15, 2016 1 comment

The 1689 Baptist Confession exposition series is currently in chapter 22 – the chapter on worship and its elements.  Two paragraphs here address the specifics of prayer – both corporate and private – and thus the 1689 study includes a mini-series on the elements of prayer.  (Now I am caught up to the latest available message in the series; this will continue with future lessons as they become available on Sermon Audio.)  A few thoughts here, regarding the issue of ‘praying according to God’s will,’ from this lesson (March 13, 2016) — three common errors, or points of misunderstanding, regarding interpretation of 1 John 5:14:

  • The “Room Service” view interprets 1 John 5:14 with over-emphasis on the ‘ask.’ Asking is what matters, and therefore to ask about anything is in itself according to God’s will.

A well-known scripture example that refutes this error, is the apostle Paul’s request (three times) for God to remove the thorn in his flesh; the answer was no.  Another incident I recall here, brought up in Tom Chantry’s recent Deuteronomy series: Moses’ pleading with God to be allowed to go into the promised land—that too was not allowed, and was not according to God’s will.

  • The “name it and claim it” view, one we’re familiar with from all the false teaching on Christian television, takes the scriptural reference that “if two or more people agree” and concludes that therefore, if at least two people agree to pray about something, God will do it.

R. C. Sproul has referred to this idea as, God as our “celestial bellhop,” at our beck-and-call for anything we want. As Sproul observed (quote available at this blog link):

We are reminded of statements like “Ask, and it will be given you” (Matthew 7:7); “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19); and “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matthew 21:22). Shorthand summaries like these have provoked bizarre theories of prayer where people have violently isolated these passages from everything else Jesus and the Bible say about prayer. Distortions also abound when we approach these aphorisms simplistically. Consider the earlier statement about any two people agreeing. It would not be difficult to find two Christians who agree that ridding the world of cancer or wars would be a good idea. Their prayer in this matter would not automatically accomplish their desire. The Word of God indicates that wars, poverty, and disease will be present at the time of Christ’s return. To expect their absolute elimination before the appointed time is to grasp prematurely the future promises of God.

The third idea is not so much error, but partly true combined with a misunderstanding regarding God’s decretive versus perceptive wills.  The “Submissive but unsure” doubtful view, submits to God’s will, but remains uncertain as to whether the request being made is according to God’s will.  Here we consider God’s two wills: 1) His decretive will regarding everything that happens, everything that will occur; and 2) His perceptive will, that which is revealed throughout scripture as God’s precepts, God’s moral law, how we should live as Christians.  When we pray for things regarding our future – things not specifically revealed in God’s word – we submit the request to God and His will, with that uncertainty as to what the answer will be.  But when we pray for things that pertain to God’s perceptive will, we know that He will answer. Prayers for greater patience and endurance, for more peace, and other Christian “fruits of the spirit” ARE according to God’s will, prayers that we can have confidence that God will answer.  Indeed it is so, as Hodgins related, that often we can look back at a particular situation and realize, that yes, in this situation, this time I was more patient, this time my temper didn’t flare up – continuing answers to prayers that are according to God’s will.

Study: The Doctrine of the Trinity, and Its Practical Implications

February 4, 2015 2 comments

Continuing through Arden Hodgins’ exposition of the 1689 London Baptist confession, the “chapter two” content includes a helpful mini-series of 12 lectures on the doctrine of the Trinity: about the Trinitarian teaching itself, as well as implications of our understanding of the triune Godhead.

The early messages set forth the basics, addressing the common heresies of modalism, Arianism (or Unitarianism, Christ is a created being), and polytheism. Several “deep considerations” are next examined, including the truth of the Eternal Generation of the Son (sometimes called ”Eternal Sonship”), as well as the ideas described by two Latin words: filioque and perichoresis. These two points were new to me, and the study here was interesting, with discussion of the different views of the Eastern and Western church. The 1689 confession includes that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, referencing this term first referenced in the Nicene creed in the 6th century. The Eastern church rejected this idea, having the Spirit proceed only from the Father. This may not seem all that much of a distinction, until we consider the implications of the Eastern church view: an imbalanced Trinity where the Son and the Spirit are seen as both subordinate to the Father, such that the three are not in equal relationship with each other. The next term, perichoresis, means that each member of the trinity is present in the activities of the others. All were involved in creation. The Holy Spirit is present in us who believe, and also the Father and the Son. Here, the Western church had erred in its over-emphasis on the different roles of each member of the trinity, whereas the Eastern church saw the balancing point that – even though each member of the Godhead has specific roles and activity, we must also see their equality, unity and agreement, that the Father and Son and Spirit are all present and involved in all of God’s activities.

The practical implications are quite interesting, especially as they relate to political government structures, as well as for the family (the biblical understanding of submission, as referenced in this previous post), the corporate church experience, our salvation itself, and our worship. Our God is a relational God, one who has within Himself the perfect balance between individuals and their unity –unity and diversity. In our own fallen world, in human history, we see the continual back-and-forth between two extremes in society: hyper-individualism (what we have in America today) versus hyper-collectivism of totalitarian regimes. Of note here: the history of Athens (hyper-individual) and Sparta (hyper-collective), two cities which clashed to the point of war with each other. In nations, hyper-individualism leads to anarchy, which is replaced by totalitarian rule. The hyper-collective of totalitarian rule leads to revolution.

We also observe Islam as an example of a Unitarian system of belief. The Muslim God is a monad, a solitary being with no relationships with others. The Islamic system acts out the ideas of that type of god, the collectivist/totalitarian mindset, demonstrating (as with so many other non-Christian religions) that people do not rise above the level of the type of deity they worship.

The trinity has implications for family and church structure, such that the healthy family and the healthy church keep proper balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of the community. Unhealthy churches include the hyper-individualism of churches with many and diverse programs for various age groups, different social demographics, the common problem of too many churches that minister to the “felt needs” of individuals. The other extreme church type may be less common, but can be seen in churches that over-emphasize unity such that everyone must believe the same way even on secondary, peripheral ideas. Hodgins provides examples here, of churches that say “home school only,” or churches that are economically based such that everyone here is of the higher social class, or only of a certain generation (only younger people in this church).

The final two lessons return to more directly doctrinal teaching:

  • The Trinity in Salvation – Redemption planned (Father – pactum salutis), Redemption accomplished (Son – historia salutis) and Redemption applied (the Holy Spirit – ordo salutis)
  • The Trinity in Worship: our proper worship of the triune God.

A biblical understanding of the Trinity gives us the correct understanding of the atonement (all members of the Trinity are working together to accomplish particular redemption) and will keep us from a man-centered gospel.

Triune worship includes mainly corporate worship, but private worship also, as we recognize that preaching the Word is part of worship, as well as our private worship of prayer, praises and practical obedience in our daily lives.  The first four commandments of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) are related to worship.  In closing, some final thoughts from this series regarding the Trinity and our worship:

Even as the Godhead has a perfect balance between the one and the many, we also in our worship have to have that balance. If we emphasize the Holy Spirit so much, we will go wrong, and our Christian lives will suffer for it. If we emphasize Christ to the exclusion of the Father and the Spirit, we will go off track. If we emphasize the Father and forget about the Son and the Spirit, we will also go off track. We need to be balanced in our worship, Trinitarian in our worship, consciously so. Let us delight in the Trinity. It’s not a problem to be solved, it’s a reality to be enjoyed. It’s a truth to be defended and proclaimed. It’s a relationship to be known and cherished.

Psalms and Hymns: Confusing the Covenants and Testaments

October 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Recently a preacher, talking about church hymns, referenced an early hymn writer (perhaps Isaac Watts; or someone else from that time period) who argued for hymns beyond the words of the Psalms–by reasoning that the Psalms were “Old Covenant” and thus were limited in worship, because in singing only the Psalms we could not express the great New Covenant / New Testament truths about Jesus, including His name, and the greater truths we now have in this age.

That statement struck me as a bit off, as a misunderstanding of the definitions of the Old and New Covenants, which are not the same as the Old and New Testament of the canon of scripture.   After all, the New Covenant is mentioned in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36), and the Psalms are not the Old Covenant (that is the Mosaic law of the Pentateuch, and not even all of those five books); and the Psalms have a great deal to say concerning New Covenant and New Testament ideas.  Rather than having “old covenant” content, the Psalms specifically include several references to the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, while also referencing the doctrines of the kingdom (the idea of royalty, and the Lord God as King), creation, and many other Christian beliefs and concepts.  A recent Dr. Reluctant post addresses the specific error of conflating the Old/New Covenant with the Old/New Testament.  Here I especially note point 3:

When one reads about the contrasts between the “first covenant” and the “new covenant” in Hebrews it is clear that the former is equated with Moses’ Law (Cf. Heb. 7-10), which is inferior to the “better covenant” (7:22) and is “growing old and is ready to vanish away” (8:13).  This type of language cannot be used of the relation of the Old Testament books to the New Testament books.

Looking further into the Psalms and music issue, though, I found some interesting articles, both from the perspective of Psalms-only and a more moderate view that includes Psalms as well as hymns that strive to reflect scriptural language.  Yet here too, often the references were to “New Covenant” hymns as contrasted with “Old Covenant” Psalms.  I also observe that the Psalms-only advocate, as in this article, a review and criticism of Iain Murray’s work about hymns, shows greater understanding of what the Psalms contain and the problems that come from not using the Psalms as hymns  – along with proper use of the terms:

While the Psalter is not exhaustive in telling us everything in the Old or New Testament, neither are uninspired hymnals. In fact the Book of Psalms is far richer, better and more doctrinally complete, and balanced than any modern hymnal. Hymn writers historically have avoided the judicial aspects of God’s character in favor of love and heavenly bliss. They have avoided the important imprecatory aspects of praise which, contrary to Murray, is not inappropriate in the New Covenant era. Hymns do not contain warnings against trusting in princes (Ps. 146:3-4) and they certainly do not focus on the doctrine of creation in a manner that approaches the Psalter (e.g. see Ps. 146:6). Hymnals do not contain the many antitheses between the righteous and the wicked that are found in the Psalter. Neither do they contain such amazing statements about God’s holy law as found in Psalm 119. Such examples could be multiplied extensively. …  Even if a humanly produced hymnal contained no unorthodox doctrines, it still would be grossly unbalanced theologically by emphasizing popular doctrines while ignoring the less popular teachings.

Another article takes a more moderate position (include Psalms along with newer music, with the emphasis on music that closely agrees with scriptural language), and mentions the importance of progressive revelation.  Yet this work shows a few misunderstandings and misuse of the terms “covenant” and “testament,” as in this paragraph:

In addition to their pre-Christian stance of anticipation, the Psalms frequently reflect the struggle of faith that the OT saints had due to the seeming conflict between the promises of God and the reality of his providence.  On the one hand, God had promised the nation that they would have a king and a land. Yet in reality, they often had ungodly kings and at one point were removed from the inheritance during the exile. Thus the Psalms are full of the cry, “O Lord, how long?”And the cry largely goes unanswered. To sing only the Psalms without updating them with the Christological solution is to say that we are still living under Old Covenant conditions.

Does this author really think that in our New Covenant era believers know nothing of the Psalmist’s experience:  ungodly kings (rulers), and the “seeming conflict between the promises of God and the reality of His providence”? The New Testament writers themselves describe similar conditions of hardship and persecution, submitting to ungodly rulers, and still awaiting Christ’s return to fulfill what was not done at the First Coming (reference Acts 1:6; 3:20-21; 26:6-7; 1 Cor. 15:23-25).  In Revelation 6:9-11 (as explained in Revelation 4:1, this is in the section of things yet to be), the souls who had been slain for the word of God are still crying out, “how long?” and here again, in a New Testament book, in the New Covenant era, we find again the spirit of the imprecatory Psalms: the righteous rejoicing over the judgment done to the wicked.

I find that, ironically, it is the CT non-premillennial view that tends to find more division between the Old and New Testament and more tendency to misuse the terms covenant and testament.  After all (as in the above example), when people think that everything Christ set forth to do was accomplished at His First Coming, and we are now either living in the kingdom (amillennialism) or going to bring the kingdom into the world gradually before Christ’s return (postmillennialism), the result is a much sharper distinction between the “Old Covenant Church” experiencing struggles of faith and conflict between promises and reality, versus our golden, glorious triumphant age of the Church.

Also ironically, it is really the biblical dispensationalists, understanding the importance of the unconditional biblical covenants set forth in God’s word (the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants), who see the overall unifying theme of scripture: the Kingdom of God as that one uniting theme throughout, God’s Divine Purpose, including the work to be accomplished by Christ at His First AND Second Coming. Such emphasis brings about the understanding of the difference between the terms Old and New Covenant, and Old and New Testament.

Spurgeon: The Christian Duty to Praise God

May 14, 2011 Leave a comment

From Spurgeon sermon #205, A Lecture For Little Faith:

“We are bound to thank God always for you, Brethren, as it is fitting.” Whether we shall praise God or not, is not left to our opinion. Although the Commandments say not, “You shall praise the Lord,” yet praise is God’s most righteous due and every man, as a partaker of God’s bounty, and especially every Christian, is bound to praise God, as it is fitting. It is true we have no authoritative rubric for daily praise. We have no commandment left on record especially prescribing certain hours of song and thanksgiving. But still the law written upon the heart teaches us with Divine Authority that it is right to praise God. And this unwritten mandate has as much power and authority about it as if it had been recorded on the tablets of stone, or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai! The Christian’s duty is to praise God.

Think not, you who are always mourning, that you are guiltless in that respect! Imagine not that you can discharge your duty to your God without songs of praise. It is your duty to praise Him! You are bound by the bonds of His love as long as you live to bless His name! It is fitting and comely that you should do so. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute duty of the Christian life to praise God! This is taught us in the text—“We are bound to thank God always for you, Brethren, as it is fitting.” Let not your harps, then, hang upon the willows, you mourning children of the Lord. It is your duty to strike them and bring forth their loudest music. It is sinful if you cease from praising God—you are blessed in order that you may bless Him! And if you do not praise God, you are not bringing forth the fruit which He, as the Divine Husbandman, may well expect at your hands. Go forth then, you sons of God, and chant His praise! With every morning’s dawn lift up your notes of thanksgiving—and every evening let the setting sun be followed with your song! Girdle the earth with your praises! Surround it with an atmosphere of melody. So shall God Himself look down from Heaven and accept your praises as like in kind, though not equal in degree, to the praises of cherubim and seraphim.