Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jesus on Trial (Jn 5)

In John 5, the Jews charge the man who has been healed of his paralysis with breaking the Sabbath for carrying his mat (v10). He puts the blame onto Jesus (v11) and Jesus takes his place on trial (v16ff). Is it fanciful to see the gospel of penal substitution here? The innocent Jesus takes the place of the accused (though in this case, of course, it is a false charge: the man can hardly be said to have broken the Sabbath).

As Jesus defends himself, it emerges that he is the true Judge (vv22, 30) and the Jews become the accused (vv45-46)

See further:

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Journal: Ecclesia Reformanda

You might be interested in Ecclesia Reformanda, an exciting new journal for pastors, theological students, and scholars, that seeks to serve the Church in its ongoing reformation according to God's Word.

Ecclesia Reformanda is distinctively Reformed, with a contemporary cutting edge. It presents some of the best in British Reformed thinking and writing to serve the Church, her teachers, and her Lord.

The journal covers all of the theological subdisciplines, and early issues will include articles on intertextuality in Romans 2, poetry in James, the place of children in the new covenant according to Jeremiah 32, Jim Jordan's hermeneutics, Herman Bavinck's theological method, and John Owen's doctrine of justification. Future editions will contain articles on ethics, public theology, and pastoral counselling.

Editorial Board: Matthew Mason, Ros Clarke, Neil Jeffers, and David Field

Further details can be found at

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Christ the Mediator of all Revelation

Here is Wallace's summary of Calvin:

The Mediator of all revelation between God and man in the Old Testament is the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, the same Christ who became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout the whole national history of Israel, it was always He, the Son of God, who dealt with His people in judgement and mercy, bringing them, with His Presence in their midst, light and life and salvation. Calvin asserts positively that Christ, the Word of God, who "remains with God perpetually one and the same and who is God Himself" (Inst 1:13:7), was "always the bond of connection between God and man" (Comm on Gen 48:15), and "the source of all revelations" (Inst 1:13:7), being "always present in all the oracles" (Comm on Gen 16:10). He is equally emphatic in the frequent negative assertion, "Never did God reveal Himself outside of Christ" (Comm on Jn 5:23). "Nor indeed, had any of the saints ever had communication with God except through the promised Mediator." (Comm on Ex 3:2) "God formerly manifested Himself in no other way than though Him." (Comm on Gen 48:15) God never otherwise revealed Himself to the Fathers "but in His eternal Word and only begotten Son" (Comm on Is 6:1). The whole story of the Old Testament is thus the story of how Christ, the Word of God, breaks in upon the life of those whom He has chosen to make his people, and confronts them in these veiled forms through which they can come to know His nature and have communion with Him....

The frequent appearances of the "Angel of the Lord" as the representative of God to the Old Testemant Fathers, and as a guide of the people throughout their history is a sign that Christ is always fulfilling His Mediatorial office of saviour and revealer, and uniting even then the members of His Church to Himself as the Head through whom they are joined to God Himself. Calvin, following the "orthodox doctors" (Inst 1:13:10) on this point, identifies the "chief angel" who appears among the other angelic visitors to earth with "God's only begotten Son who was afterwards manifest in the flesh" (Comm on Ex 14:19). Even then He performed in a preliminary fashion "some services introductory to His execution of the office of Mediator" (Inst 1:13:10). "There is then no wonder," says Calvin, "that the Prophet should indictriminately call Him Angel and Jehovah, He being the Mediator of the Church and also God. He is God, being of the same essence with the Father; and Mediator, having already undertaken His Mediatorial office, though not then clothed in our flesh so as to become our brother; for the Church could not exist nor be united to God without a Head" (Comm on Zech 1:18-21). "The angel who appeared at first to Moses, and was always present with the people during their journeying, is frequently called Jehovah. Let is then regard it as a settled point that the angel was Son of God, and was even then the Guide of the Church of which He was the Head" (Comm on 1 Cor 10:9).

Calvin’s Doctrine of the Word and Sacrament (Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press, 1995) first edition 1953, pp8-10

Calvin above all a ... ?

Ronald Wallace claims that "Calvin is above all a Biblical scholar". I'm not sure I'm convinced. Perhaps he is above all a pastor? Although of course Calvin's patoring, preaching, theology, polemics and organising are all more or less driven by the Bible.

Wallace makes a case for the importance of the Commentaries for understanding Calvin:

Since Calvin is above all a Biblical scholar, his thought can very profitably be studied by reference to his Commentaries, where it is often given most interesting and varied expression. Therefore it has been the aim of this work to show how the particular doctrines under review arise out of his exposition of the Bible, and though the Institutes, Tracts and Sermons have not been neglected, the main source from which quotations have been taken has been his Commentaries.

(Calvin’s Doctrine of the Word and Sacrament (Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press, 1995) first edition 1953 preface, p. iii)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Superior Protestant God

Ina sermon preached at All Souls' Langham Place on the second commandment on 21 Apr 1991 (and available on the church website), Rev'd Richard Bewes told the following joke (which he said is a true story):

Decades ago some Protestant missionaries from Manchester were serving on a Pacific island. One day they received a gift from home for their children: a doll with moving eyes. The Roman Catholic missionaries on the island had a statue of the Virgin Mary, which of course had fixed eyes. The islanders saw the doll and were very much more impressed with this amazing new Protestant god! The shocked Protestants explained that this gift was only a toy, not a god. From that time on the Protestant missionaries had great success amongst the islanders. The islanders reasoned, if the play-thing of the Protestants is so much superior to the Roman Catholics’ god, how much greater must the Protestant God be!

Exchanging creation for Creator

According to Ex 20:4 we are not to make an idol in the form of anything “in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” This language of heaven, earth and sea echos the categories of Gen 1:26 and covers all of the creation. We not to worship the creation rather than the Creator. Why would God image bearers want to worship anything else in creation? Man was created to rule the creation under God, not worship it, not to be ruled by it. Idolatry is an inversion of the created order of God-Man-Creation. It demeans men. It is foolish to exchange the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles (Rom 1:23) and to exchange the truth of God for a lie, worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator – who is for ever praised (Rom 1:25).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Golden Calf

The description of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32 is strange. Since Moses has been so long in coming down from the mountain, the people say to Aaron, “Come, make us gods (elohim) who will go before us” (v1). They hail the Golden Calf as their gods who brought them out of Egypt (v4) as Moses is said to have brought them out of Egypt (v1). Aaron declares a festival to Yahweh (v5).

James Jordan suggest that the Golden Calf serves as a replacement for Moses, a leader and a mediator between the people and Yahweh.

You shall not make for yourself a carving

James Jordan points out another use of the word “carving” or pesel, in addition to Exodus 20:4, “You shall not make for yourself a carving”

there is another “carving” or pesel in the book of Exodus: the Ten Words, which God carved with His own finger. The verb “hew out” in Exodus 34:1 & 4 and Deuteronomy 10:1 & 3 is the verbal form of same word.

(Rite Reasons 34, ‘The Second Word II: Seeing & Hearing; Exposition’ August 1994)

Perhaps we are to meant to get the point that we are to worship God according to His Word, not according to any man-made word or law. In governing our worship, as in every area of life, God is the only ultimate law-giver. We are bound to God’s covenant word and we are not to attempt to rewrite it. We are not to substitute anything else for the Word of God. It is through God’s Word that we are to relate to Him.

Hanged on a tree

James Jordan writes that:

The Bible says that Jesus was crucified on a tree, which was probably a real tree. Roman soldiers did not normally dig holes and use posts when they had real trees around. The cross Jesus carried was the cross-piece.

(Emphasis added) Rite Reasons 57 'The Second Word V: On Images and Art, Part 1' May 1998

Pictures of Jesus

Professor John Frame defends the legitimacy of pictures of Jesus in The Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R, 2008) p484ff, which is just as well as it means we wont have to smash our stained glass windows after Sunday morning's sermon on the second commandment.

Of course pictures of Jesus are not to be worshiped, nor indeed somehow used as a means of worshiping Jesus, as some may have claimed the Golden Calf was a means of worshiping Yahweh.

Pictures of Jesus might help us to hold on to his true humanity
-->. At least, if all the other characters are depicted in your Children's Bible and Jesus is not, there is a danger of some kind of wierd docetism. There is little danger that our kids will worship their picture books. Jesus was a genuine, visible, touchable, flesh and blood human being, God come in the flesh, and therefore pictures of him are appropriate.

Of course, pictures of Jesus are necessarily somewhat speculative. We can assume he looked like a semitic man (not blonde-haired and blue-eyed), but we don't know in detail what he looked like. The same is true of all the other characters in your Children's Picture Bible and most of those on our stained glass windows too.

Frame points his readers to:
-->Jeffrey J. Meyers, “Vere Homo: The Case for Pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Niceville, FL: Biblical Horizons, 1993). The link he gives seems to be broken. A PDF file can be found at:   (link updated Aug 2014)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Biblical Worship?

It’s interesting to find a Reformed professor making statements like this from John Frame:

Most everything in Lutheran and Anglican worship, even things Presbyterians most object to, such as vestments, processionals, and incense, arise from theological reflection, including a biblical rationale.

The Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R, 2008), p465

Friday, February 06, 2009

UK's No. 1 Idol?

Brian Edwards suggests that:

The National Lottery has become probably the number one idol of the United Kingdom at the present time, with thirteen million people 'playing' each week. The mocking of Isaiah against the idols of his day would be no less scornful of those who need to invest ten pounds each week for twenty-thousand years to be reasonably certain of winning the Jackpot! This 'Saturday night idol' has duped even sections of the evangelical church into considering it right to share in the Lottery grants. When our principles are adapted by the lure of greed we are worshipping Mammon - whatever its current name might be.

Brian H. Edwards, The Ten Commandments For Today (Epsom, Day One, 1996, revised edition 2002) p88

I'm not sure I'm convinced the National Lottery is our top idol, but equally I don't know what is. Any ideas?

(Also, I don't know what odds Edwards has in mind for "reasonably certain".)

(And another thing: I'm not persuaded its necessarily a sin to buy a lottery ticket or receive a grant.)


Once men's idols were metal. For us, more often, they are mental.

Either way, the human heart remains an idol-factory.

Man-sized God

So often we want a manageable man-sized God.

Man-size tissues are pretty big, as far as tissues go, but a man-sized god is a pathetic little god who is too small for us.

Men and women actually need God-sized God.

The amazing thing is that in Jesus, God became man-sized, as it were, while he also continued to fill the universe and uphold creation itself, even as he walked about within it. Jesus is not a god we can put in our pockets, but he is God revealed to men as a man, a God men could touch and handle and known.

Frequency of Communion

G. W. Bromiley says:

The general view of the Reformers was that, considering scriptural precedent and the purpose and meaning of the sacrament, it ought to be administered each week, or monthly at the very least…. The Church of England maintained a weekly ante-communion, but could not insist on more that three communions a year as a rule of membership;

Sacramental Teaching and Practice in the Reformation Churches (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1957) p74

Thursday, February 05, 2009

On Lay Presidency

Or rather, not.

G. W. Bromiley writes:

The action [of the Lord's Supper] presupposes a minister…. It has always been recognized in the church that no one ought to administer Holy Communion without proper authorization. Since the sacrament has never been regarded as so absolutely necessary as baptism, no exceptions have been made to this rule. The Reformation churches agree that while there might be exceptional circumstances as in the case of castaways, the minister alone should be in charge of the administration, though he may be assisted by elders in the distribution…. He [the minister], and he alone, has the task of administering the means of grace to the people…. The minister acts as the servant of Christ and of the people…. (p76)

… while it is good Reformed doctrine that only the minister should dispense the word and sacraments, it is not absolutely necessary that each communicant should receive the bread and wine directly at his hands. (p79)

… the true minister of the sacrament is Jesus Christ Himself by the Holy Spirit… (p80)

Sacramental Teaching and Practice in the Reformation Churches (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1957)

Jesus preached at the Last Supper

In thinking about the relationship between word and sacrament, it is a new thought to me that it might be argued on the basis of the Johannine farewell discourses that Jesus "preached" at the Last Supper.

G. W. Bromiley provoked this idea:

As in the case of baptism, it is thought necessary that Holy Communion should be brought into direct relationship with the word. The sacrament as a visible word needs the audible word to declare its meaning and make explicit its summons. Thus the service of Communion will include not merely a reading of the account of the original institution, but also other Scriptures, exhortation, and preaching [footnote: Cf. the Johannine discourses at the institution]. The inveterate tendency in some churches to divorce the sacrament from the word, or at least from the living word in the form of preaching and translated Scripture, is an obvious indication that the real meaning, purpose, and power of the sacrament are not yet perceived.

Sacramental Teaching and Practice in the Reformation Churches (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1957) p77

Monday, February 02, 2009

Historicity of the Resurrection

Some quotes plundered from the interweb on the evidence for the resurrection:

Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby school and Regius Professor of Modern History at

Oxford University, wrote: "I have been used for many years to study the history of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them; and

I know of no fact in the history of people which is proved by better and fuller

evidence… to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign that God has

given us, that Christ died and rose from the dead." (quoted in Michael Green, The Day Death Died, IVP, Leicester, 1987, p.15)

In the 1930s a journalist, Frank Morison, was convinced that miracles did not

happen though he admired the character of Jesus, and set out to write a book disproving the resurrection. When he studied the evidence, he wrote his book: "Who Moved the Stone?" and with great honesty entitled the first chapter: "The Book that Refused to be Written." (Michael Green, Man Alive, IVF, London, 1967, pp.54-55)

Lord Darling, formerly Lord Chief Justice of England, wrote: "The crux of the

problem of whether Jesus was or was not what he proclaimed Himself to be, must

surely depend on the truth or otherwise of the resurrection. On that greatest point

we are not merely asked to have faith. In its favour as a living truth there exists such

overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no

intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in the verdict that the resurrection

story is true." (quoted in Michael Green, The Day Death Died, IVP, Leicester, 1987, p.15)

Sir Edward Clarke, a High Court Judge, said: "As a lawyer I have made a prolonged

study of the evidence for the events of Easter Day. To me the evidence is conclusive,

and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence

not nearly so compelling. As a lawyer I accept the Gospel evidence unreservedly as

the testimony of truthful people to facts that they were able to substantiate."

Bishop Westcott, one of England's greatest New Testament scholars, said: "It is not too much to say that there is no single historical incident better or more

variously attested than the resurrection of Christ." (quoted in Michael Green, The Day Death Died, IVP, Leicester, 1987, p37)

Do You Want To Get Well?

Some jottings for a sermon on John 5:1-15, which should appear on our church sermon page in due course:

A real historical event

A sign recorded to teach us (20:30-31) – expounded in v16ff

A picture of the human predicament (v3)

Israel’s predicament – 38 years (v5) – cf. Dt 2:14 time in wilderness – waters / Jordan – 5 colonnades / books of the Law

Superstition (vv4, 7)

Jesus sees and knows and has mercy (v6) – Bethesda (v2), ? “House of Mercy”

Supernatural knowledge? 1:48; 2:24-25; 4:17-18

“Do you want to get well?” (v6, v14) – on Jesus’ terms? If it means a changed life?

Jesus can heal the most hopeless, helpless (v7) and undeserving (v11, v13, v14, v15)

Contrast the healing of the official’s son (4:43-54)

Jesus commands the impossible and his word gives power (v8) Instantaneous and complete healing (v9)

A mini-resurrection (vv21, 24-25) – the Son gives life

A God-like work of New Creation (2 Cor 4:6; 5:17; v18)

The blindness of man-made religion (v10, v12) – legalism, pettiness (Mt 7:3-5; 23:24; Mk 2:27-28)

The deeper problem of sin (v14; v29; cf. 9:1-3; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 11:30; 1 Jn 5:16; Mk 1:32-38; 2:5)

So what? hope, faith, gratitude, changed life

Yum yum

Mrs Lloyd and I finished off our Christmas cake yesterday. I thought it was remarkably abstemious that we should make our Christmas cake last till February, even if only just. However, in Mrs Lloyd's parents' house, I understand, it is largely reserved as a Sunday afternoon treat and is sometimes made to last till Easter. I'm wondering when we can get going on a Simnel cake.