Wednesday, January 27, 2010


More alliterative headings, this time from Richard Coekin's Passion for Life Prepared For Mission talks:

Our motivation - 2 Corinthians 5:10-6:2
Our message - Romans 1 & 1 Corinthians 15
Our method - 2 Corinthians 4:1-10
Our manner - 1 Peter 3:15-16

Guard the Gospel

We guard the gospel (2 Tim 1:14) not by maximum security, locking it up in a box and restricting access to it etc., but by passing it on faithfully (2 Tim 2:2), reliably to reliable people who will pass it on reliably to reliable people who will pass it on ...

HT: DS @ SGP (again!)

Qualifications for Ministry

Once again from DS at SGP on 2 Tim.

Ministers must be reliable (doctrinally and morally) and able (to teach).

Pictures of Reliability

RC said this week that I "never knowingly under-alliterated", which I might adopt as a kind of motto. It's prompted me to record this from DS' exposition of 2 Timothy 2:1-7 at the Sussex Gospel Partnership today:

The devoted soldier [or, one might say dedicated]
The disciplined athlete
The diligent farmer

The Pastor-Teacher's Job

At the Sussex Gospel Partnership, DS quoted John Stott as saying:

The role of the Pastor-Teacher is not to monopolize ministry but to multiply ministry.

(Ephesians 4:11-13)

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Holy Spirit

I reckon George Smeaton's book, The Holy Spirit (Banner of Truth, 1882, repr 1958) might be worth dusting off.

I liked this:

The exalted Christ continuously acts for the Church's good by His Spirit through the Word.

And his distinction between Christ's omnipresence and his gracious presence, according to his relations with His people.

pp238f cited in Maclean, Lord's Supper, pp184-5.

Converted at the Ordinacne

Tim Keller encourages pastors to say to non-Christians who might be present at the Supper:

If you are not in a position to take the bread and the cup, then take Christ! It is the best possible time to do business with him, no matter your spiritual condition or position.

Worship by the Book ed Carson (Zondervan, 2000) p234, cited in Maclean, The Lord's Supper, p181.

Sursum Corda

On the exhortation to Lift Up Your Hearts at the Supper, see:

John Calvin, 'Form for Administering the Sacraments' in Treatises on the Sacraments (Christian Focus, reprint 2002), p121f; Institutes 4.17.36

Matthew Henry on John 11:41.

And, John Flavel on John 20 in The Fountain if Life, Discourse 40.

(cited in Maclean, Lord's Supper, p189f & n12, p256)

Priestcarft & superstition

I can't agree with Donald Macleod that if each communicant receives the bread and the wine from a minister rather than from his companions "we are encouraging priestcarft and superstition". Who knows what this might lead people to think, but it certainly doesn't necessarily follow. We could equally be maintaining good order, church discipline or the unity of word and sacrament.

It seems to me not entirely wrong to think of the minister as the representative of Christ, although of course he isn't Christ and we don't want ministers with Messiah-complexes or who are thought of as the Mediator between God and man.

A Faith to Live By (Christian Focus, 1998) p243 quoted in Maclean, The Lord's Supper p178

The Breaking of the Bread

It is interesting that in many of our churches the bread is prepared for Communion beforehand (in our church sliced bread is half cut up into tiny squares) yet some of the Reformed have argued that the rite of the minister breaking the bread is essential to the Supper, which after all is called "The Breaking of Bread" (Acts 2:42; 20:7), the whole being named for the part. Without it "the sacrament is not celebrated according to its original institution.... to divide the bread into small pieces called wafers, and put a wafer into the mouth of each of the communicants, as is done in the Church of Rome, is grossly to corrupt this ordinance, for it takes away the significant action of breaking the bread."

Robert Shaw, Exposition of the Confession of Faith (Christian Focus, reprint 1998), pp355f. Quoted in Maclean, The Lord's Supper, p176

Alongside three other arguments in its favour, Robert L. Dabney says:

The breaking of the bread is plainly one of the sacramental role act, and should never be done beforehand, by others, nor omitted by the minister.... The proper significance of the sacrament requires it; for the Christ we commemorate is the Christ lacerated and slain.

Systematic Theology (Banner, 1878, repr. 1985) p802. Maclean, op cit.

The forgotten Supper

Surveying the writings of the Fathers, George Dollar says:

In no area of early church life among Christians is there greater uncertainty than in the matter of the Lord's Supper. It was not called by its New Testament titles such as the "breaking of bread," "the giving of thanks," and "the cup of blessing." The most common designation seemed to be the "Eucharist" (from the Greek word for praise or thanksgiving)... The fact is that no church father called it the Supper in a single instance and Pauline names for it ceased.

'The Lord's Supper in the Early Church - Part I: The Lord's Supper in the Second Century', Bibliotheca Sacra, 117:466, April 1960, p144 quoted in Maclean, The Lord's Supper, p173f - emphasis added

Isn't that remarkable?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The miracle of assurance

Although I reckon he was mistaken, I was interested to learn that William Cunningham thought that the Reformers' assurance of salvation was a special grace given to them to witness for Christ in a specially difficult situation and not normative for Christians.

William Cunningham, 'The Reformers and the Doctrine of Assurance' in The Reformers and the Reformation (Banner of Truth, 1862, repr. 1967) p113 cited in Maclean, Lord's Supper, p163

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Broken Britain?

Fundamentally, yes, since there is such a failure to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Apparently not, in some places and in some ways.

Obviously so in others.

CAREFUL Marriage

In The Highway Code for Marriage (CWR, 2005), Michael & Hilary Perrott suggest that marriages should be CAREFUL:

This will involve:

Communication - bringing light

Affection - bringing warmth

Respect - bringing dignity

Encouragement - bringing hope

Forgiveness - bringing peace

Unselfishness - bringing joy

Loyalty - keeping love


3 Cheers for the Bishop of Chichester

And 2 cheers for the Bishop of Winchester. Both of whom have been standing up for the Christian faith, integrity, Public Theology and good sense in the House of Lord's debate over the Equality bill - as reported in The Telegraph and highlighted by Christian Concern For Our Nation.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Motto Text for Dentists

Psalm 81:10

A famine

John Mackay records that under the Episcopal regime following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was seldom administered in the Scottish Highland's country parishes. The necessary vessels and linen cloths were often lacking, and when needed had to be borrowed. In the parish of Loch Broom, the Lord's Supper was only administered once in seven years; at Fodderty, once in twelve; and at Glenurquhart not once in twenty-four.

The Church in the Highlands (Hodder & Stoughton, 1914, p151) quoted in Maclean, Lord's Supper.

How stupid to think that certain vessels and linen are "necessary" to the Supper!

Guilty of the body and blood

Revd Prof John Brown (1784-1858) "did not regard the meaning of 'guilty of the body and blood of the Lord' as being a mere profanation of the symbols; rather the clause referred to murder. He is aware that it cannot be understood literally in this way, but explains 'that the unworthy communicant is under the influence of the same malignant dispositions which animated the murderers of our Lord; and that, placed in their circumstances, he would have imitated their conduct'."

Malcolm Maclean, The Lord's Supper (Mentor, 2009), p107 quoting Brown Discourses Suited to the Administration of the Lord's Supper (William Oliphant & Sons, 1816, repr. 1853) p66

Should we exile the kids?

I thought David Gibbs made some excellent points in his 'Unity in the gathering or 'adult only' church?' where he made the case for keeping children in church meetings instead of sending them out for children's Sunday school. Good on The Briefing for publishing it (Jan - Feb 2010, Issue 376/7, pp30-32).

You'd have to have guts to abolish the Sunday school and it'd be hard to keep your own kids in if everyone elses' were going out, but I think his biblical and theological arguments are persuasive.

In his church, only under 3s can go out for the sermon.

It's interesting to note that Sunday school during the morning service only goes back to the 50s and 60s.

Ground and fired

Thomas Boston (1676-1732) has several meditations on the bread and wine. One of the more outlandish is:

bread is prepared by being ground between millstones and baked in a fire, so Christ was ground between the upper of the Father's wrath and the lower millstone of the malice of men and devils, and then cast into the fiery furnace of justice;

Works, vol 2, 'The Nature of the Lord's Supper'

How's that for a bit of interpretative maximalism / natural symbolism etc.?

Wine is medicine and cheers. etc.

In what respect is Christ present and discernible in the sacrament?

Asks Revd Prof James Durham, of the Supper. He answers:

Not simply considered as He is the Son of God, nor in respect of any benefit from Him as Mediator, neither simply as Redeemer; but He is held out as incarnate; and so this sacrament differs from the Jew's Passover, which held Him out as to come, while this holds Him out as having come... as suffering, as having his body broken... in respect of the end for which he suffered... as communicable, and in capacity to be participated of by us... [in reference to the Covenant].

The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (1764, reprinted 2002, Soli Deo Gloria) quoted in Maclean, Lord's Supper, p95

What is Sunday morning for?

Our gathering for worship is an exercise in covenant renewal, a weekly celebration of the resurrection, and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet to come.

Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck stolen from blog of dan

Home Communions?

Would the Puritans have rejected home communions on the grounds that the Lord's Supper is a sacrament of the gathered church? Cf. e.g. WCF 29.4: would it be too much like a private mass for them?

Bless the bread and the wine

It's surprising what you read, sometimes.

That arch-Reformed Protestant document, The Westminster Confession of Faith, says that:

The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers ... to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use;

(Chapter 29, Paragraph 3)

I imagine many contemporary evangelicals would be less fussed about the need for a minister or a prayer of consecration.

How can a loving God allow suffering (& Haiti)?

Here are some jottings I prepared for our mid-week meeting:

We had lots of fun discussion - e.g. does God (the Father) Suffer?!

How Can a Loving God Allow Suffering?

Towards a Christian Response to the Haiti Earthquake

The so-called “problem of evil”:

How can an all-powerful loving God allow suffering?

Responses: (1) Question God’s love: perhaps he doesn’t care?

and / or

(2) Question God’s power: perhaps he can’t do anything about it?

A very common objection to the Christian faith (1 Pt 3:15)

God’s love

God’s power / sovereignty – Am 3:6

(The “problem” implies that God is morally obliged to prevent suffering like this if he can)

God must have a good (morally sufficient) reason for (allowing) suffering; even if we can’t understand it completely we have good grounds for trusting him

The big picture of the Bible:


God made a good world – suffering is not God’s “original” / prime intention


Human beings are responsible for rebelling against God

Building on fault lines, corrupt building practices, looting, gunfire, military protection required, wrong decisions, disagreements, failure to help

God’s curse on the created order (Gen 3:17)

The groaning of creation (Rm 8:22)


We all deserve hell


God cares about suffering and acts to save us from it

Jesus has suffered terribly – sympathises – Heb 4:15

God uses suffering for good


Death has lost its sting – 1 Cor 15:55-56 – death the gateway to glory for the believer

Final Judgement

God will punish all wrong doing

Suffering is a warning of the judgement to come. C. S. Lewis: “Suffering is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world” – Luke 13:1-5

Suffering teaches us the terrible seriousness of sin

New Creation

God will put the world to rights, put an end to suffering – Rev 21:4

God uses suffering in the life of the Christian for good as discipline – Heb 12:6, 10 – perseverance, character – Rm 5:3-4; James 1:3

Some suffering reveals God’s character – e.g. wrath – Rm 1:18ff; 9:22-24

Suffering is not necessarily directly connected to individual sin – Jn 9:1-2


Disasters Emergency Committee - - Call 0370 60 60 900

Charities working in Haiti listed by Desiring God Ministries -


John Piper on the Tsunami -

Don A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil (IVP / Baker, 1990)

Roger Carswell, Why Me? The Problem of Suffering (Authentic Media, 1993)

Paul Williams and Barry Cooper, If You Could Ask God One Question (Christianity Explored / The Good Book Company, 2007) chapter 10 “Why Do You Allow Suffering?”

John Dickson, If I Were God – I’d End All The Pain: Struggling With Evil, Suffering and Faith (Matthias Media / Good Book Company)

References to earthquakes: 1 Ki. 19:11f; Isa. 29:6; Ezek. 38:19; Amos 1:1; Zech. 14:5; Matt. 27:54; 28:2; Acts 16:26; Rev. 6:12; 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18 Matt. 24:7; Mk. 13:8; Lk. 21:11

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What's the point?

To glorify God and enjoy him for ever, of course. But how? Perhaps we need to know a little bit more about what glorifies God.

To be fruitful and rule and subdue the earth.

Spiritual and natural children. To invite others into the family of God.

To disciple the nations. Obeying all that Jesus commanded.

The obedience that comes from faith.

To love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and neighbour as self.

To seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

To be engaged in the mission of God in the world.

An overflow of goodness and love.


Other ways of putting it?

More detail?

96.6% of Christians look forward to sermons!

According to research for the College of Preachers, Durham University, as reported in Times Online.

HT: IC on Facebook

Stott & Calvin contra Evangelicalism!

Calvin famously argued for at least weekly Communion but couldn't get the city of Geneva to agree.

I'm told John Stott also repeatedly argued in print for weekly communion, though they didn't do that in their main service at All Souls' Langham Place. I wonder why not?

Stott says in Your Confirmation(Hodder & S, 1958), p97:

The chief expression of fellowship between Christians is the Holy Communion service. It is the central service of the church.... The Acts of the Apostles suggest that every Sunday they met to "break bread". The Lord's Day was inconceivable without the Lord's Supper. Personally, I think we, too, should attend it every Sunday.

I imagine many Evangelicals, like me, would be surprised to know that the great John Stott thought that. Why have so few Evangelicals followed his lead in this?

(HT: LB)

I'm told that Alec Motyer also advocated weekly communion. (HT: JAC)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Best Week of the Year!

We're planning a great week for 11-14 year olds at Danehill 1 this year from Sat 24th - Sat 31st July. If you'll be the right age in the summer, or if you know anyone who will be, check out our website here or the CPAS Ventures website and get your booking off to us ASAP!

We'd also love to hear from any Bible believing Christians who might be interested in serving as leaders.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Lord's Prayer in Ps

Privilege or maybe something to do with Paternity! - "Our Father in heaven"

Priorities - "hallowed be your name, your kingdom come"

Provision please - "give us today our daily bread"

Pardon & pardoning - "forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us"

Protection - "lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil"

Praise / Perpetual Power - "for yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Maybe from the context one could also talk about Pagan prattling prayer, Pharisaical posing prayer and Private prayer. The Lord's Prayer is a pattern prayer.

Other suggestions?

This can all get a bit silly, of course, but thanks to JR @ IME for getting us going on this!