Tuesday, October 28, 2008

LORD seeks tart to worship him

An audio recording of my sermon on John 4:1-26 is available on our church website sermons page. Here are the jottings from my handout.

A typical boy meets girl story – Gen 24, Isaac & Rebekah; Gen 29, Jacob & Rachel; Ex 2, Moses & Zipporah; John 4, Jesus & the Samaritan woman

Jesus at a wedding, 2:1-12; Jesus the Bridegroom, 3:29; Eph 5:32

The LORD the husband of an adulterous people, Hosea 1:2

The Samaritan woman’s 3-fold exclusion: (1) woman, v27; (2) Samaritan, v9 (3) notoriously immoral, v6, 6th hour = noon, v18

The good news about Jesus is for everyone – good and bad alike

Nicodemus also needs to be born again of water and Spirit, 3:5

Living water: refreshment, satisfaction, (eternal) life, v13, 10:10, cleansing = Spirit, 7:37-39

We are all thirsty, v7, v10, Jer 2:13 – what is your broken well?

Jesus is the only fountain of living waters, nothing else can satisfy, vv13-14, Ps 42:1-2

A free gift, v10 – just ask Him

We can’t pretend to Jesus, vv16-19, v29, 1:47-50; 2:24-25; Ps 139:1-4. We might as well be honest with him.

It is not where you worship but whom you worship and how you worship that counts; Jesus the New Temple, 2:19-22

Jesus the Truth, v24, 14:6

We can worship God only through Jesus and the Spirit he gives

Jesus thirsts, v7, 19:28, Ps 22:14-15, so that we can drink - water flows from Jesus, 19:34

Jesus says “I AM”, v26, Ex 3:14

A betrothal of belief – engage yourself to Jesus, be faithful to him

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Calvin on the unborn children of believers

“The offspring of believers is born holy, because their children, while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, are included in the covenant of eternal life. Nor, indeed, are they admitted into the Church by baptism on any other ground than that they belonged to the body of Christ before they were born…. Baptism must, therefore, be preceded by the gift of adoption, which is not the cause merely of a partial salvation, but bestows salvation entire, and is afterwards ratified by baptism.” ('The True Method of Reforming the Church and Healing Her Divisions' (1547) in Beveridge, Tracts vol 3 p275)

On the making of many books

Alisdair Heron says that:

“Contrary to what might be imagined, there is nothing easier, with access to a decent library and mastery of the elementary techniques of note-taking, than the production of impressive-looking studies running into many hundreds of pages, most of them footnotes, and concluding with a select bibliography of, say, five hundred titles. The difficulty with such artefacts is not writing them, but reading them. (Paying for them is also becoming an increasing problem.)” (pviii)

Heron, Alasdair, Table and Tradition: Towards an Eccumenical Understanding of the Eucharist (Edinburgh, The Hansdel Press, 1983)

I'm not sure its quite so easy, but there you go!

Cf. Christ, Nature, Scripture, Sacraments etc.

For anyone who can't wait for the Magnum Opus, here's a passage that might somehow get included:

“Within the sacrament, the sign’s relationship to “the Word” mirrors Christ’s relationship to God the Redeemer… (p156) [quotes Institutes IV.XIV.3]. Like Christ, the signs are perceptible, but also like Christ, their appearance does not express their meaning transparently, simply, directly, or self-evidently. Like Christ, the signs are “earthly,” simple, seemingly common; like Christ they serve to bridge human blindness and divine revelation, bot not automatically or simply. Like Christ, they belong to the cognitive and somatic complexity of God’s communication with humanity…. Calvin distinguishes a range of divine representations: nature, Scripture, Christ, the elements of the sacraments. All share in representing God to humanity. Nature is a manifestation which originates in God and displays his magnificence and love. Scripture also originates in God, abd articulates in words his will. Christ represents God more complexly, bridging in his person the divine and human, embodying and giving voice to God’s commands and instructions. God designated the elements, made of them “signs”; they do not manifest God in the same way as nature, Scripture or Christ. All share the fact of their physicality, but the ways in which they represent differ. How they function to communicate differs. And the content of their communication differs. Christ and the elements belong most fully to God’s communication of his covenant with humanity.

Those earthly elements “have been marked with this significance by God.” Their meaning is not autonomous of God speaking. The faithful learn to read the true meaning of the elements within the culture of preaching the Word of God. At the same time, the elements themselves provide a cognitive bridge, between the corporeality of human intelligence and God’s speaking. The two exist in interdependence, the one providing the verbal articulation of meaning, the other providing the tactile, visible, audible means by which that meaning is made accessible to humankind. The two sacraments exist in different relationship to preaching. Baptsim initiates the infant into the culture of preaching (Chapter XVI), signalling with the earthly element, water, the covenant between God and man. As children age, they grow in understanding of baptism (section 21). The Lord’s Supper, like preaching, recurs.” (p157)

Wandel, Lee Palmer, The Eucharist In The Reformation: Incarnation and Liturgy (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Stuck on sermon prep?

A couple of people have recommended Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck by Dan Heath and Chip Heath, a secular book which has some insights that are transferable to how to preach more memorably. I might get hold of it and see if I can make my sermons a bit more sticky.

See also: http://www.madetostick.com/

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Would Calvin have worn a chasuble?

Would Calvin have worn a chasuble if he'd been required to do so? A burning question everyone is asking, I'm sure you'll agree. I mention it because I was surprised to read that:

… in writing to the church at Wesel, he [Calvin] insisted that such trivialities as chasubles and candles must not be made an occasion for disunity.” ( ‘The Lord’s Supper in the Theology and Practice of Calvin’, G. S. M. Walker (pp131-148) p143, in Duffield, G. E. (ed.) John Calvin: Courtenay Studies in Reformation Theology (Appleford, Sutton Courtenay Press, 1966) citing Calvini Opera from Corpus Reformatorum XV.79-80)

I've wasted some time trying to track down the letter in question (in English!) but I haven't been able to do so.

Apparently Luther said:

Now the elevation of the sacrament, wearing the tonsure, putting on the chasuble and alb, etc., are matters concerning which God has given neither commandments nor prohibitions. Therefore everyone is to have freedom of choice to do these things or refrain from doing them. God wants us to have such freedom, etc. Since the pope does not allow for such freedom of action, but curbs it with his teaching and commandment, he usurps the office of God and sets himself arrogantly in God’s place, as St. Paul has forewarned concerning him [II Thess. 2:4]. He makes sin where God would have no sin, and thereby kills souls and binds consciences.

Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Volume 40, pp 129-130

Of course it all depends on what meaning is attached to that stuff. It would be a sin to elevate the sacrament that the bread might be worshiped.


With a vernacular service followed at every point by the people, Calvin had restored the primitive pattern of corporate, congregational communion. It is, however, a tragedy that for his spiritual descendants, no less than for himself, the scriptural ideal of weekly communion has not yet been adequately realised; the result has been an unnatural divorce between word and sacrament to which the whole theology of Calvin is opposed. (p143

‘The Lord’s Supper in the Theology and Practice of Calvin’, G. S. M. Walker (pp131-148) in John Calvin: Courtenay Studies in Reformation Theology (Appleford, Sutton Courtenay Press, 1966) Duffield, G. E. (ed.)


I've just enjoyed rereading Matthew W. Mason, ‘A Spiritual Banquet: John Calvin on the Lord’s Supper’ Churchman vol 117 no 4 2003 pp 329-346, which I heartily recomend. Matthew has some interesting things to say on contemporary evangelical neglect of the Lord's Supper and some possible reasons.

Here's the introduction:

Much contemporary evangelicalism neglects the Lord’s Supper. In contrast, John Calvin, whose view was shared by our English Reformers, viewed it as a ‘spiritual banquet’ wherein we feed on Christ. Although he did view the Supper as a memorial of Christ’s death, the centre of Calvin’s Eucharistic theology is the doctrine of faith-union. As believers feed on the bread and wine physically, they feed spiritually on Christ, a view supported by 1 Corinthians 10:16. As a covenant meal, the Supper comes annexed with covenant blessings for those who eat with faith, and covenant curses for unbelievers who partake. Calvin’s view of the Supper is biblically faithful and theologically satisfying, and the contemporary church would profit from its recovery. (p329)

He argues that:

Calvin urged frequent use of the Lord’s Supper because he valued it highly, and if he is correct, our neglect of the Supper is tantamount to hungry people deciding to starve themselves three weeks out of every four when they could be at a banquet. (p330)

Matthew reminds us that Calvin maintains that:

the Lord’s Table should have been spread at least once a week for the assembly of Christians, and the promises declared in it should feed us spiritually…. All, like hungry men, should flock to such a bounteous repast. (Institutes IV.xvii.46, Ford Battles edition p1424)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I will be with you always

I often feel inches away from Christological and Trinitarian heresy. I am trying to puzzle over how we should understand the presence of Christ (especially in the Lord’s Supper) and what Calvin means by this:

What can be imagined more absurd than that the flesh of Christ was in heaven while he hung upon the cross? Yet undoubtedly the whole Christ, God and man, was then also in heaven… Christ, the Mediator, God and man, is whole everywhere, but not wholly, (totus ubique, sed non totum) because in respect of his flesh he continued some time on earth and now dwells in heaven. (‘Last Admonition of John Calvin to Joachim Westphal’, Calvin’s Tracts volume 2, Treatises on the Sacraments, p418)

Or again,

… Christ as mediator is everywhere, and in as much as he is one person, he, as God and man, or God manifest in the flesh, fills all things, although in respect of his flesh he is in heaven. (p452)

I feel am a bit confused as to what it means that the whole Christ is with us but not wholly but I think it goes like this:

The person Christ is everywhere according to his divinity, since as God he is omnipresent. Christ’s divine essence fills heaven and earth (p385).

But Christ is also seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven whence he shall come again in the same manner in which he went, according to his human nature, which, like any real human body occupies a certain amount space in a particular location.

We could add that:

Christ may also be said to be with us by the Holy Spirit since the persons of the Trinity indwell one another. The Holy Spirit is not Jesus but he is the Spirit of Jesus.

Further, the Spirit unites us by faith to the human flesh of Jesus which is heaven. Again, precisely what that means and achieves ....

Christ’s power and virtue, his empire and the secret power of his grace are everywhere (p457).

Any help / corrections most welcome!

Mum's Job Description

From Dr James Dobson's Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for those Shaping the Next Generation of Men (Wheaton, Tyndale House, 2001) p83:

I have the highest respect and admiration for those who are blessed to be called mothers. There are few assignments in human experience that require the array of skills and wisdom needed by a mom in fulfilling her everyday duties. She must be a resident psychologist, physician, theologian, educator, nurse, chef, taxi driver, fire marshal, and occasional police officer. And if she succeeds in each of these responsibilities, she gets to do it all again tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weekly Communion @ Mars Hill?

I don't know very much about Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill Church, but I have just listened to a couple of Pastor Driscoll's sermons. It would seem they have the Lord's Supper at every service. Does anyone know if that's correct or if they talk about it anywhere?

Dear Timothy

Here's a book I'm interested in reading:

Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry edited by Tom Ascol (2004)

As Paul imparted his wisdom to Timothy through letters, this collection of writings from seasoned pastors contains over 480 years of combined ministry experience.

Table of Contents
Establish Priorities (Tom Ascol)
Watch Your Life (Conrad Mbewe)
Love Your Family (Tedd Tripp)
Love Your Flock (Ted Christman)
Memorize Scripture (Andy Davis)
Pray Always (Martin Holdt)
Cultivate Humility (C.J. Mahaney)
Be Courageous (Bill Ascol)
Do the Work of an Evangelist (Mark Dever)
Do Personal Work (Fred Malone)
Watch Your Doctrine (Raymond Perron)
Keep Studying (Ligon Duncan)
Learn from the Puritans I(Joel Beeke)
Learn from the Puritans II (Joel Beeke)
Preach the Word (Roger Ellsworth)
Worship in Spirit and Truth (Terry Johnson)
Train Other Men (Steve Martin)
Care for the Nations (Phil Newton)
Don't Neglect Revival (Ray Ortlund, Jr.)
Find a Place to Settle (Geoff Thomas)
Recommended Reading

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Living Water

Look away now if you're planning to be at Holy Trinity, Eastbourne on the evening of Sun 26th Oct as d.v. I'll be preaching John 4 and I wouldn't want to steal my own thunder.

I've listened to a few online sermons in preparation. Andrew Towner (Co-Mission website) and Jonathan Fletcher (Emmanuel Wimbeldon) both quote this striking passage from Malcolm Muggeridge:

I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, a relatively successful man.
People occasionally stare at me in the streets—that's fame. I can fairly easily
earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Inland
Revenue—that's success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly,
if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions—that's pleasure. It might
happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded
for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our
time—that's fulfilment. Yet I say to you, and I beg you to believe me, multiply
these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are
nothing—less than nothing, a positive impediment—measured against one draught of
that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who
or what they are. What, I ask myself, does life hold, what is there in the works
of time, in the past, now and to come, which could possibly be put in the
balance against the refreshment of drinking that water?

Sermon delivered at Queen's Cross Church, Aberdeen, 26th May 1968, reprinted in Jesus Rediscovered (Garden City NY, Doubleday, 1969) pp76-82 and also in Seeing Through the Eye: Malcolm Muggeridge on Faith edited by Cecil Kuhne (Ignatius, 2005) 'Living Water' p97

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Rock

I have just heard a clip of Mr Brown in which he said that the "we must in an uncertain and unstable world be the rock of stability on which the British people can depend." Fortunately, the position is already taken.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Abortion Statistics

Since the 1967 Abortion act there have been 6.7 million abortions in the UK

Currently there are around 200 000 abortions a year in the UK

In 0.4% of cases there is a risk to the mother’s life

1.3% of abortions are performed on the grounds of foetal handicap

98% of abortions in the UK are for social reasons

1 in 5 pregnancies in Britain now ends in abortion

32% of abortions are performed on women who have already had at least one other abortion

(statistics from the Christian Institute May 2008 Abortion briefing. Figures for 2006)

Jesus the Saviour of the World

Further to my comments on John 3:17, and see also 4:42 on the fact that Jesus "really is the Saviour of the world", I came across this quotation from Charles Hodge:

We have reason to believe that the number of the finally lost, in comparison with the whole number of the saved, will be very inconsiderable. Our blessed Lord when surrounded by the innumerable company of the redeemed will be hailed as the Saviour of men, as the Lamb that bore the sins of the world.

Systematic Theology volume 3, pp879-80, quoted in Lucas and Philip, Teaching John (Christian Focus and Proclamation Trust Media, 2002) p51.

Lucas and Philip add:

We may hesitate to be so bold as he concerning the specifics of the relative number of those saved and lost; Scripture does not seem to put it in exactly these terms - though may it indeed be so, for God's glory! But surely the thrust of what he is saying is what John is proclaiming here in this great third chapter: God is a saving God, and his great purpose for a lost, rebellious world is a purpose of grace and salvation, boundless and free. Jesus is the Saviour of the world.

See also Lucas & Philip pp56-57.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Calvin on polemics

"That bitter reproaches and scurrilous witticisms are unbecoming in Christians, both sides agree. But as the Prophets did not refrain from derision, and our Saviour himself speaks in cutting terms of perverse and deceitful teachers, and the Holy Spirit everywhere inveighs will full freedom against this class of men, it is thoughtless and foolish to raise the question, whether it be lawful gravely and sternly to rebuke those who expose themselves to shame and disgrace; for this is to bring a charge against the servants of God, whom holy zeal often impelled to harsh and bitter speeches. No doubt every individual is always bound to look well to the cause from which he either takes fire or speaks keenly."

Calvin's Tracts Trans. Beveridge Vol 2, 'Last Admonition of John Calvin to Joachim Westphal' p350

Calvin on private absolution

One of the interesting things about reading Calvin is that from time to time there are things that might surprise us contemporary evangelicals. For example, he says:

The utility of private absolution it is not my purpose to deny. But as in several passages of my writings I commend the use of it, provided it is optional, and free from superstition, so it is neither lawful, nor even expedient, to bind it upon consciences by a law.

'Second Defence of the Sacraments in Answer to the Calumnies of Westphal' (1556) Calvin’s Tracts Calvin Translation Society Translated by Henry Beveridge Edinburgh 1844 (Eugene, Wipf and Stock, 2002)Volume 2 p321

A Passion For Life

A Passion for Life seems to be an excellent initiative through the Gospel Partnerships. At the website you can request email updates of news and download the Vision For Mission booklet. More information and resources are promised soon.

A Passion for Life is about proclaiming Christ's
PASSION for the LIFE of the world in March 2010.

It means:

• connecting with people - making contact with unbelievers in our local communities
• connecting with churches - partnering with Evangelical churches for the sake of the gospel
• connecting with Easter - rediscovering the glorious message of Christ's death and resurrection

This initiative comes from the 'Gospel Partnerships' emerging around the country and is intended to stimulate regional, church-based, gospel centred mission by evangelical churches of all kinds leading to a month of local missions in March 2010. Join us in prayer that churches will unite enthusiastically in this vision, believers will pray and prepare well, and many unbelievers will be saved to the glory of God alone.