Sunday, April 30, 2017

Romans 4

Some jottings from The Revd Dr Lee Gatiss' exposition of Romans 4 at Bible by The Beach today:

(1) Getting right with God has never been about what you do (vv1-8)

(2) Getting right with God has never been about who you are (vv9-16)

(3) Getting right with God always brings life-from-the-dead hope (vv17-25)

1 Samuel 16 jottings

From the sermon today at Christ Church, Horam:

The LORD’s Choice

(1) The hope of the LORD’s choice (v1)

Something commendable in Samuel’s grief over a leader who has been unfaithful

Cf. our situation

(2) The wisdom of the LORD’s choice (vv6-7)

A warning that external appearances can deceive us

A cause for praise that God knows our real needs perfectly

God sometimes saves us from our imagined Saviours

God knows that he is doing!

(3) The surprise of the LORD’s choice (vv8-12)

Likewise, Great King David’s Greater Son who was just a carpenter from Galilee, a friend of sinners, despised and rejected with nothing in his outward appearance to draw us to him

The cross a surprising reversal – not according to apparances

Psalm 118:22ff

(4) The challenge of the LORD’s choice (v13)

David empowered by the Spirit will face great trials and Jesus does after he is filled with the Spirit at his baptism them tempted in the wilderness

Plot against David’s life – cf. plot against Christ’s life

Hard times can be not because of our sin but because of our sonship, not God’s punishment but his loving fatherly discipline. Through them we are made like the Man of Sorrows in his sufferings.

(5) The irony of the LORD’s choice (vv14-23)

The rejected king enlists the newly appointed king in his service

The world rejects the church though (imperfectly) she serves and brings relief

Christ constantly does good to the world that rejects him

Spurgeon responding to a critical agnostic calls upon “The God who answereth by orphanages: let him come down!” – even if people reject the faith, they ought to acknowledge the great good done in Christ’s name by the church throughout history

Two Reformation Ladies

Although it required a little walk to get to and three flights of stairs to climb, Mrs Clare Heath-Whyte's seminar on Women of the Reformation "Prioneering Partners in the Gospel... in the home: The Remarkable Lives of Katie Luther and Wibrandis Rosenblatt" was interesting and worthwhile. Mrs Heath-Whyte evidently knew her onions. A few more fellas would have benefited from it too no doubt.

It is worth trying to capture something of a flavour of the similarities and differences between contemporary Britain and Reformation Europe. In 1500, the average age of death was 33. The population density was something like that of rural Leicestershire today. On average women married at 24.

Women were often celibate nuns or irrelevant. The nunnery might be a practical financial expedient when there were too many mouths to feed and no money for dowries, rather than a spiritual vocation.

Katie Luther (1499-1551)

Note the unusual joint portrait by Lucas Cranach I

Their marriage often seen as a model

Luther said: "Men have broad chests and narrow hips; therefore they have wisdom. Women have narrow chests and broad hips. Women ought to be domestic; the creation reveals it, for they have broad backsides and hips, so that they should sit still." [Table Talk, WA TR 1, no 55, p19 see further Luther on Women: A Source Book ed. & trans. Susan C. Karant-Nunn, Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, CUP, 2003]

Yet a remarkably "equal" marriage for the time

Details of domestic life transcribed in the Table Talk

  • Problem Childhood

Her mother died and there was a wicked step-mother!

Sent to nunnery aged 5; vows at 15

The nuns influenced by Luther's writings contact him and he arranged their escape in herring barrels

  • Pragmatic Marriage

Luther 40; Katie 25. Not his first choice! Luther reluctant to marry as expecting to be martyred.

  • Personal Faith - one in Christ

Accepted Luther's challenge to read the Bible in a year

  • Pioneering Role Model - wife and mum

6 children. 1 died aged 2, another aged 13.

  • Practical Gifts - the value of work

Financial wisdom. Luther very impractical. Gave lots of stuff away. Changed his sheets once a year!

Luther depression ? and illness. Katie skilled in encouraging / motivating / helping and herbal medicine

Very hardworking

Purchase of farm. Brewing.

Students and Reform-minded refugees in the house. Extended family.

  • Powerful Personality!

Katie a somewhat difficult person - a match for Luther!

In his absence, Luther recommended that Katie be asked her advice on the appointment of pastors

He would call her Dr Katie

Somewhat abandoned after Luther's death

Wibrandis Rosenblatt (1504-1564)

In some ways a more ordinary life than Katie

Named after a local saints. Blessed her daughter with the same name.

born near Basel

Father knighted

  • Husbands
Married humanist, Ludwig Keller, who dies. Widowed at 20.

Marries Johannes Oecolampadius when he is 40 - 3 children, then dies

Marries Wolfgang Capito, who dies

Marries Martin Bucer, who dies

Bucer disliked Cambridge - "I was almost turned to stone and then my wife arrived to warm me up again"
  • Home
11 children in all
  • Hard work!

Bible study: Romans 12:1-8 - To what extent and how did these women model these things?

Clare is the author of:

First Wives Club: Twenty-first century lessons from the lives of sixteenth century women (10Publishing)

Old Wives Tales: Twenty-first century lessons from the lives of eighteenth century women (10Publishing)

Applying the Bible to the Heart

The Revd Dr Steve Midgley is leading seminars on "Where life and Scripture meet" at Bible by the Beach.

Seminar 1: Applying the Bible to My Heart

He argued that in many cases when believers have moral struggles, the problem is not lack of information or ignorance. The vending machine seems to be malfunctioning: the right money goes in but the right stuff doesn't come out. The answer is not necessarily to put more of the same money in nor to bang the machine!

There is sometimes a Gospel Gap as Trip and Lane put it in How People Change (chapter 1, New Growth Press, 2008): "Often there is a vast gap in our grasp of the gospel. It subverts our identity as Christians and our understanding of the present work of God."

We may have a sense of salvation in the past and assurance for the future, but how does the gospel speak into the nitty gritty of my life now? How does it address my shyness, or laziness, or anxiety, or perfectionism, or difficulty sleeping, or temper? Does the church have more to say than "stop it!"?

We want to know why we go after these sins and how we can change not just at the surface level of behaviour.

We do not want what might be called a mere external (appearance of righteousness) but changed hearts. There is a danger of a performance culture which might lead to despair or self-righteousness, to a religion of works rather than the grace of the gospel.

The heart is the biblical centre of feeling, deciding, thinking, the seat of the mind, will and emotions. It is the heart that forms allegiances, trusts, believes, commits, worships etc. The relational core of our being.

Luke 8:15

Psalm 119:11

Does my heart go after the true and living God or various false gods?

Sanctification - positional and progressive

Heb 10:10

2 Cor 3:18; Rom 8:28-29; James 1:2-4

Westminster Shorter Catechism definition of sanctification: "The work of God's free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness"

It is no good to staple fruit onto a bad tree!

Danger of merely cleansing the outside of the cup - Matthew 23:25-28

When something really gets you going emotionally (either in a good or bad way) it is worth taking notice of that. What is going on in your heart and why?

Four initial steps:

(1) Take into account, but do not blame circumstances

We are responsible for how we respond to stuff

Circumstances are like knocks to a cup of water which can reveal what is within

(2) Recognise that a knowledge of self is necessary for a knowledge of God (Calvin)

A role for self-examination and review

Sin needs to be not just an objective fact but a subjective grief - a poverty of spirit which we not only acknowledge but mourn over (Beatitudes 1 & 2)

(3) Know your idols and confess them to God

Ask someone what your major failings are!

See Keller, Counterfeit Gods

(4) Stop believing that some things can't change

Not just "I've always had a short fuse", "I'm a worrier" and we all have to live with that for ever

What might God's ambitions for us be, by his grace and in the power of his Spirit?

See also Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life (IVP, 1979) esp. chapter 7 on the sanctification gap

Seminar 2: Applying the Bible in My Relationships

2 Corinthians 3:18

David Powlison, Speaking truth in love - How do the here and now stories connect with God's long ago stories.... Connect one bit of Scripture to what bit of life.... What is your current struggle? What about God in Christ connects to this?

The Word of God in Ministry:
Public proclamation
Private reflection
& Interpersonal conversation

Christ the master conversationist - consider the variety of how he spoke to e.g. The Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10), The Woman at the Well (John 4) or Nicodemus (John 3)

CCEF 3 Trees Diagram developed by David Powlison:

Bad root - bad fruit - heat (circumstances +ve and -ve) - reaping consequences
The crucified Lord and life giving Spirit - a good root - good fruit - heat - reaping consequences

Three First Steps in Conversational Ministry:

(1) Know the person you are talking to

1 Thess 5:14 - the rebel, the helpless and the fearful will need confrontation, comfort or help etc.

Flexibility needed. To the hammer, everything might seem to be a nail to hit. The golfer needs more than one club if he is to play a good round.

(2) Listen well

Don't assume / jump to conclusions. Be curious.

Ask another question

Not just like the maths teacher who only ever asks questions he already knows the answers to!

Ask about context: situations matter though they are not determinative

Context of the triune God, spiritual beings, the world / culture, body, heart

What is your own heart and walk with the Lord like? How are they affected by this conversation?

Do you sound natural speaking about Jesus? Holy voice? A bit stressed?!

(3) Speak well

Use the Bible well - not just firing off verses but connection stories e.g. Esther and anxiety, courage, trust in God; Naomi and loss, suffering, bitterness

Notice the good

See the Spirit on the move

Know how to pray for the other person (conversation process a way of beginning to find out!)

Be able to say "we" - you are a sinner with struggles too

Change happens slowly in the details of life. Be patient. Sanctification is progressive not instantaneous.

Further reading:

Ed Welch, Side by Side (Crossway, 2015)
Deepak Reju and Jeremy Pierre, The Pastor and Counselling (Crossway, 2015)
Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands (P&R, 2002)
Tim Keller, Puritan Resources for Biblical Counseling -
David Powlison, Speaking the Truth in Love (New Growth Press, 2005)

Seminar 3: Applying the Bible in my church

Conversational ministry / individual discipleship / pastoral care / one-anothering / soul care / counselling

David Powlison notes that in Mark 7-11, there are 26 scenes. 4 show action, Jesus doing stuff. 4 are public preaching. 18 are conversations.

An Ephesians 4 church where the gospel is put into practice for the sake of maturity: humility, gifts, unity, diversity

God has given teachers etc. / word gifts to equip all God's people for the work of ministry for the building up of all to maturity

A one-another church is meant to be the norm

NT be devoted to, love, honour, encourage, accept, submit to, speak to. instruct, greet, forgive, teach one another - and so on

Bonehoffer: The believer finds "the Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the words of his brother" - others speaking to us of Jesus helps us when we are not ministering the gospel to ourselves effectively

This one-anothering is a vital word ministry

Specrtum from general to particular issues and many people to one person - public preaching, small groups, one to one discipleship, counselling, seminars on issues, support groups etc.

Speaking the truth in love should not mean really letting 'em have it with both barrels! Not always something we have to brace ourselves for but natural, ongoing, including encouragement, comfort, reminder of promises, reassurance, though sometimes confrontation

A varied ministry

No sharp division between ministry moments and social time / Bible study and coffee in homegroups

Relate the Bible and ordinary life, naturally and realistically

Serve one another in conversation

Of course there is a place for small talk, but sometimes push beyond your comfort zone / social convention

An existing ministry. People talk already in your church! Do they talk well?!

The church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.

Invest time. Arrive early. Hang about.

Pray for opportunities.

Developing a culture of good one-anothering:

(1) Set a personal example - e.g. speak of struggles, prayer request about gospel growth

(2) increase your application to the heart in preaching or Bible study. Not just information transfer but heart and life transformation.

(3) Improve the coffee! And generally make it easier for people to meet / stay on / talk meaningfully after church etc.

(4) Create contexts for honest conversations about walk with the Lord - mentor groups for homegroup leaders?

(5) Make sure there is ministry in all 4 quadrants of the public-private / general-specific grid described above

(6) Promote prayer for one another - prayer ministry in church

(7) Encourage some training

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Rico Tice on Isaiah 52-53 at Bible by the Beach

(1) The servant as people (/ the world) sees him (53vv1-3, 7-9)

(2) The servant as God sees him (52vv13-15; 53vv10-12)

(3) The servant as the believer sees him (53vv4-6)

How do you see Jesus, the suffering servant as he dies on the cross?

Romans 3 jottings

I enjoyed The Revd Dr Lee Gatiss' exposition of Romans 3 at Bible By The Beach today.

(1) God is rightly angry and there is nothing we can do about it (vv9-20)

(2) Acquittal must be a gift (vv21-24)

(3) Justification is a gift at Christ's expense (vv24-26)

Lee was very helpful on the fact that all actions not done by faith in the power of the Spirit, however noble in some ways or no matter what social virtues they might embody have the nature of sin. There may be honour amongst thieves and privates might be clever and resourceful and so on, but that does not legitimise robbery or murder.

In due course, Alan Witchalls might post some fuller more diligent notes!

[Updated here 1/5/17]

Lee had some very interesting useful quotations from Augustine and Ambrosiaster on justification, which I wasn't necessarily quick enough to jot down accurately but he kindly shared then on The Facebook:

"The righteousness of God is not that by which God is righteous but that with which he clothes us when he justifies the ungodly." (Augustine) [Google suggests the quote is from De spiritu et littera Ch. 15 [IX]; NPNF 5:89; PL 44.209]

Believers are “are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God.” (Ambrosiaster)‬

It appears the Ambrosiaster quotation can be found here, from his commentary on Romans 3:24.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Boersma, Scripture as Real Presence

I am tempted to think that it might be helpful to speak of the Bible as sacramental and to that end I have just started reading

Hans Boersma, Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2017)

I thought I might just share a few bits:

“a reading of Scripture as Scripture, that is to say, as the book of that church that is meant as a sacramental guide on the journey of salvation” (p.xii)

“the overall argument of the book, namely, that the church fathers were deeply invested in reading the Old Testament Scriptures as a sacrament, whose historical basis or surface level participates in the mystery of the New Testament reality of the Christ event. The underlying message of my argument is that this sacramental approach to reading the Scriptures is of timeless import and that it is worthy of retrieval today.” (p.xiii)

The chapter headings hospitable reading, harmonious reading etc. “In each case, I attempt to show that the kind of reading discussed in that chapter is sacramental in nature. In other words, I attempt to show how it is that the hospitable reading, harmonious reading, and so on, all give some indication of what it means for biblical reading to be sacramental in character.” (p.xiii)

 Henri de Lubac: “The entire New Testament is a great mystery hidden within this sacrament, or signifies by means of this sacrament which is the Old Testament.” De Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, 22. See also Boersma, Novelle Thelogie, 149-90. (p.xiii)

“The weakness of historical exegesis, however, is that it doesn’t treat the Old Testament as a sacrament (sacramentum) that already contains the New Testament reality (res) of Christ.” (p.xv)

The real presence of Christ in the OT (p.xv)

 “While in some way believers today may be separated from the Old Testament by several millennia, they are also actually present in the hidden dimension of the Old Testament. If Christ is genuinely present in the Old Testament, then believers – who are “in Christ” – are as well. Because believers are “in Christ”, when they locate his real presence in the Old Testament, they also find their own lives and realities reflected there.” (p.xv)

 Chapter 1. Patristic Reading: The Church Fathers on Sacramental Reading of Scripture (p1ff)

 Scripture as Sacrament

 Main argument that the church fathers saw the Scriptures as sacramental and read them accordingly (p1)

 “I have long been convinced that the notion of sacrament should not be limited to the ecclesial rites of baptism and Eucharist. My Christian Platonist convictions persuade me that everything around us is sacramental, in the sense that everything God has created both points to him and makes him present. Robin Parry, in his recent book The Biblical Cosmos, makes exactly this point, arguing that for the Old Testament everything in creation is in some way sacramental.” (p1)

Everything participates in God’s life (p1)

“To be sure, we need to make a distinction between such “general” sacramentality and the sacraments of the church.” (p2) – cf. general and special revelation, nature and grace, church and the world

 Note 2, p2, possible objection: “if everything is a sacrament, then nothing is a sacrament.” – distinction not separation, centrality of grace through church, Eucharist

“Saint Augustine uses the term [sacrament] to describe liturgical feasts (such as Easter and Pentecost), ecclesial rites (including exorcisms and penance), worship activities (singing, reading, prayer, the sign of the cross, bowing of the head), and objects used in church (such as penitential garments, the font, and salt). [Cutrone, “Sacraments”, p742]. Moreover, he regularly refers to scriptural texts as sacramenta, much as I will do throughout this book. [Dodara, Christ and the Just Society, 147-59]

Baptism and Supper still unique

“the early church’s fluidity with regard to the term “sacrament” is helpful in reminding us that God uses not only baptism and Eucharist but also many other activities, rites, objects, people, and celebrations to fill the church’s saints with grace. It wouldn’t seem out of place, therefore, to add to Augustine’s list of ecclesial sacraments the Scriptures themselves. Holy Scripture too is a sacrament, in as much as it renders Christ present to us” (p2)

“I usually refer to this Christian Platonist understanding of reality [a participatory view of the relationship between nature and the supernatural or between visible and invisible things] as “sacramental ontology,” by which I mean that eternal realities are really present in visible things.” (p12)

“… we can see this sacramental ontology at work in patristic biblical interpretation. My main argument… will be that patristic exegesis treated the letter of the Old Testament text (what Origen called the manifesta, and what in sacramental language we may call the sacramentum) as containing the treasure of a “hidden” meaning (the occulta mentioned above, or the reality or res in sacramental discourse), which one can discover in and through God’s salvific self-revelation in Jesus Christ.” (p12)

“This book will make clear that the church fathers were convinced of a close (participatory) link between this-worldly sacrament (sacramentum) and otherworldly reality (res). For the church fathers, the hidden presence of the reality was finally revealed as the fullness of time, in the Christ event – along with everything that this event entails: Christ’s own person and work; the church’s origin; the believers’ new, Spirit-filled lives in Christ; and the eschatological renewal of all things in and through Christ. The church fathers saw this entire new-covenant reality as the hidden treasure already present in the Old Testament. In other words, the reason the church fathers practiced typology, allegory, and so on is that they were convinced that the reality of the Christ event was already present (sacramentally) within the history described within the Old Testament narrative. To speak of a sacramental hermeneutic, therefore, is to allude to the recognition of the real presence of the new Christ-reality hidden within the outward sacrament of the biblical text.” (p12)

Reading Scripture Sacramentally

A little slice of The Revd Dr Peter Leithart for your edification:

“pastors must learn to read Scripture sacramentally, recognizing that the whole story of the Bible – from Adam’s fall through the Mosaic feasts and the visions of the prophets to Jesus’ ministry and the marriage supper of the Lamb – is about food and feasting. Pastors must learn to see baptism in the waters of creation, the rivers flowing through Eden, the flood and the splitting of the sea and the Jordan River. When it becomes clear that the washing and the meal are fundamental themes of Scripture, it will be easier to make the case that the church ought to give more attention to practicing these rituals.” Note 17, page 220

Peter J. Leithart, The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church (Brazos Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2016)

Spirit in Sacrament & Sermon

Both of my readers will perhaps recall that for what seems like for ever, I have been working away off and on, on the doctrines of the Supper and Scripture and relations between them.

Ralph Cunnington helpfully argues that Calvin's doctrine of the sacraments can help us understand the relationship between Word and Spirit in preaching. As in the sacraments, God's Spirit always accompanies the Word and makes it efficacious. If received by faith, to blessing, otherwise in judgement.

Here is one of Cunnington's summary passages:

“We have seen that Calvin’s understanding of the relationship between Word and Spirit in preaching is closely analogous to his understanding of the relationship between the sacramental signs and the realities to which they point. As a means of grace, neither are bare signs. They hold out the realities to which they point and that reality is always available to be received by Spirit-wrought faith. Far from separating Word and Spirit in preaching as Strivens and Olyott suggest, Calvin insisted that Word and Spirit are distinct but inseperable. The preached Word is never separated from the Spirit in that it retains its inherent nature and power regardless of how it is received. Moreover, the Spirit always accompanies the Word whether in judgement or blessing. This means that believers can approach the preached Word with hungry expectation knowing that it will be a source of blessing if received by faith. It is Christ’s means of sustaining his Church and the Church will never be deprived of it.” (p117)

Ralph Cunnington, Preaching with Spiritual Power: Calvin’s Understanding of Word and Spirit in Preaching (Fearn, Mentor Chistian Focus, 2015)

A functional doctrine of Scripture: the literary and living Word of God

Some jottings from Dr Garry Williams' talks at the 2017 Banner of Truth UK Minister's Conference:

In 1551, Bishop Hooper of Gloucester examined his clergy.

168 of 311 could not list the 10 commandments.

39 could not find the Lord’s Prayer.

34 did not know who the author of the Lord’s Prayer was!

Session 1: The Bible as the Literary Word of God

An encouragement to re-engage with the details of the text

The more seriously we take the Bible as the literary word of God, the more we will speak it as the living Word of God because the Bible is a literary word

Stott was once asked, “What do you feel when you’ve finished preaching?”

Stott replied, “Ashamed!”

The Bible not just like another ancient near Eastern text but a divine text

The origin and interpretation of the Bible are not merely naturalistic

A single divine author, an inherent unity, the meaning of which is only fully apparent in the light of the whole

Not simply seeking to know what the original human author meant but what God means

The human author sometimes unknown

The divine mind is revealed and expressed in the words of the text given in a context

Poythress – the same textual evidences will be there when weighing divine meaning. God of course understands the historical context even better than humans do. God takes all circumstances thoroughly into account because he is all wise

We must not get lost in the detail, always micro-focused. We must see the details as part of the big picture. The literary nature of the Bible includes its big structures and the tiny details.

The pressure to give people something concrete to go away with – a hurry to get to the application / summary / one thing

The temptation to hurry to Christ bypassing the detail of how this text proclaims him

Jn 21:25 – the Bible very selective – everything is there for a reason

The green grass, 153 fish

The Spirit does not record any trivialities

Details not just window dressing

Arguing from single little letters – My Lord – one yod of the Hebrew text

Jot and tittle inspiration (John Murray)

How the detail of the text makes a difference to how we hear it:

(1) The details of a text can locate the events in the text in the big context of Biblical theology / redemptive history / covenant theology

2 Samuel 11:2-5 – David saw Bathsheba was very good / beautiful and he took – like Eve who saw the good fruit and took it – a king in a land with a law to keep – David and Adam – a woman tempting him – his 2 sons come into conflict with one another and one goes into exile

David is both, like Adam, a unique king and Everyman, representative

David is not The King, the Last Adam

(2) The details often explain the nature of the events themselves

Genesis 11:1-9 – chiastic structure – repeated vocabulary: earth / language / bricks / one another etc. God’s action in the second half of the narrative mirrors their sin; God reacts to their sin, reverses it, undoes it. God’s action answers their sin – pay-back, return, retribution – sin as an attempt to invert the created order – sin makes a wrong claim about God, God answers it.

(3) The detail can show us something of the character of God himself

Genesis 11 shows us the justice of God – God answers sin point for point. He deals with it comprehensively and fittingly – gathering answered by scattering; they reach up and are cast down; They try to make a great name and God gives them a name, “Confused!”. An eye for an eye illustrated.

This should be exciting not crushing

It is a corporate endeavour – make use of the books!

It should keep our preaching from being dull. Not just a repetitive burden of preaching by numbers, wheeling out our system. Not formulaic, predictable, samey preaching. There is great variety in the text.

We need such a wonderful book to describe such a wonderful, infinitely rich and perfect God.

Session 2: The Bible as the Living Word of God

It is vital that the literary Word of God and the living Word of God are held together. Treating the Bible as the literary Word of God should not kill the sense of it as the living Word of God.

The sermon should not be a lecture. Pastors must do more than teach / explain the Bible. The pastor can never really grasp Galatians or have Exodus under his belt. A love for literature, even the Bible as literature, or the ability to speak about the Bible as literature, does not constitute a call to the ministry.

A facility with literature is helpful to the preacher but it is nowhere near enough.

When studying Corinthians, we must go back to Corinth. The words mean what the meant. And we must also go to all the other places in Scripture where this text takes us. 1 Cor 10:1-13 leads us back to Exodus 32 too. But all of this is still history – the Bible as literature. We cannot stop there. We go back to Corinth in order to return to the present. Our study must be ancient so as to be contemporary, but some never make it back to today. The dominance of the historical-critical method encourages us to leave the text in the past.

How big is the hermeneutical gap? Is there a gulf between the text in the past and the church today?

John Webster, The Domain of the Word, attacks the idea that the text is primarily alien and from the past. It does not somehow manage to speak to the present despite itself. Scripture is primarily the living oracles of God speaking today.

Heb 3:7 – “Therefore as the Holy Spirit says…”

But there are wrong ways of saying the Bible is the Word of God today:

A wrong liberal way: the community conveys authority on the text by the way the community uses it – a projectionist account of biblical authority.

Karl Barth – the Bible becomes the Word of God when (in existential crisis) God uses it to speak into a person’s life – God makes the Bible his Word in the moment. It has no abiding, permanent character as the Word of God, his living voice

Who are the primary addressees of Scripture? Chronologically the first recipients (e.g. the Corinthian church) but in the plan and purposes of God, the Bible is intended primarily for the church in all ages

1 Cor 10:6 – even the events the texts speak of happened for us, for the church


When we read 1 Corinthians we are not eavesdropping on God’s Word to the ancient Corinthian church

Reading the Bible is not like reading your parents’ love letters!

 The Living Lord of the Church, the Risen Lord Jesus, speaks the Scriptures, the Living Word of God to his church today

Rev 1:16-18

We can say that preaching is the Word of God since Scripture is the written living Word of God. In preaching Jesus speaks because the Bible is the Word of God

Acts 26:23 – he would proclaim light to the Gentiles

Ephesians 2:17 – he came and preached peace – when did Jesus go to Ephesus?

Romans 10:14 – Jesus must speak by his Spirit if people are to believe

6 wonderful and challenging consequences of the Bible as the living Word of God:

(1) The wonderful genius, power and providence of God that this diverse and particular set of texts perfectly and sufficiently meets the needs of the whole church throughout the ages

(2) The living word of the risen Jesus is present to all times

Hugh Martin, Abiding Presence – are the gospels biographies? No, they are not the memoirs

We have not the record of the past but the presence of a risen Saviour. The gulf of time between the Jesus of the gospels and us is annihilated. The element of time is got rid of and cast out. Jesus is with us and we are with him in all the permanent efficaciousness of his work.

When is Scripture the Word of God? Not trapped in past nor only in the present but always on the lips of Jesus. Every day is today.

Bavinck: Scripture is the on-going rapport between heaven and earth, God and his children. Divine inspiration is a permanent attribute of Scripture. It is God-breathing. The Bible is inspired.

Jesus still says the things he said. The promises of God stand today with his power.

Great feats of hermeneutical gymnastics are not needed!

(3) The risen Jesus is present to us now in all the fullness of who he is.

Hugh Martin: Jesus is present to us in all the accounts in the gospels

And also as the serpent crusher of Genesis 3

He is present in all the aspects of who he is to all his people. He calls repent and believe. He reassures son, your sins are forgiven. He challenges, take up your cross and follow me. He promises I am with you always.

The Bible is all Christ’s living Word.

Gal 3:1 – the preaching of the cross publicly placards the crucified Christ before the eyes of the believer

The variegated splendour of Christ!

(4) Where Jesus is, Satan will also be

(5) We should preach the living Word of God in a way which fits its character

Exegesis is not enough. Do not get lost / stuck in Corinth.

Speak it boldly as a word of God for us today. Speak to his hearers. Not just reflecting together on what it might mean or how it might apply. In the name of the living Lord Jesus, I say to you, “Repent and believe!”.

Do not try to tame the Lion and keep it in the cage to be scrutinised.

(6) Do our church gatherings reflect the nature of the Bible as God speaking? Our gatherings are truly momentous occasions. It is like gathering around Sinai – more momentous than that! The Lord’s Day should be the most dramatic day of the week.

The serious, solemn character of the Word of God

Are our gatherings exciting?!

Michael Horton, A better way – on the Sunday gathering – a sense that something important and dramatic is happening as we gather before God

Are our meetings dull and cold and unfriendly, rather dead and unexciting? Very super controlled / reserved? Joy?! Vibrancy

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spelling fluidity

So we all know that in the olden days spellings were not so fixed. But I was interested to read a quotation from 1533 where two words were spelt differently in the same sentence.

Trained by the Psalms

Peter Leithart writes of the importance of "reinstituting the Psalter as the songbook of the church". "Before the rise of revivalist and gospel hymnody, the psalms had always been central to the church's worship.... The psalms inculcate a very different kind of piety than the piety of revival hymns. Many of the psalms, of course, come from David, a warrior and a king, a man of action. His passionate, sometimes desperate prayers are uttered in the context of conflict, battle, fight, loss, persecution, deprivation. They are militant, sometimes raw. The psalms are public hymns. When David dreams of retreat and safety, he does not think of retreating to a garden alone, but of joining the throngs of worshipers at Yahweh's temple. A congregation trained to live out of and in the Psalter is a congregation prepared for battle. It is a congregation prepared for public witness. No congregation trained in the psalms will be surprised when fiery trials hit."

The End of Protestantism: Pursing Unity in a Fragmented Church (Brazos / Baker, 2016) note 18, page 221

Regensburg on Justification

Just for fun, on this my day off, I have enjoyed listening to Prof Tony Lane's lecture at The John Owen Society of Oxford on The Colloquy / Diet of Regensburg / Ratisbon (1541) Article 5 on Justification, where Reformers and Roman Catholic theologians reached an agreement, though later things fell apart:

‘Regensburg Article 5 on Justification: Compromising Patchwork or Ecumenical Breakthrough?’

Regensburg teaches a kind of two-fold righteousness, both imputed and inherent righteousness.

Calvin was favourable about the article. He would speak of the two-fold grace of justification and sanctification, which is similar to the Regensburg position. Imperfect but real righteousness of works is a consequence of salvation. Calvin speaks positively (though guardedly of course) about inherent righteousness in his response to the interim of Augsburg. These two types of righteousness should be affirmed but not confounded or confused.

Most reformed theologians have taught a doctrine like this even though they did not use the terminology of two-fold righteousness.

Tony argues that Reformed theologians can accept the Regensburg article on justification. The article is not a compromising patchwork (as Luther thought) but as an ecumenical breakthrough.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The dignity of the ministry

It is important to stress the dignity of all lawful vocations, but nevertheless, in an age when gospel ministry is often in low repute, this illustration, which I heard from Andy Young at the Banner Conference is a moving one:

That great missionary to India, William Carey, became deeply concerned about the attitude of his son Felix. The young man, a professing Christian, had promised to become a missionary. But he broke his vow when he was appointed ambassador to Burma. Carey requested prayer for him: “Pray for Felix. He has degenerated into an ambassador of the British government when he should be serving the King of kings.”

We do not minister alone

Andy Young used a version of this illustration about Ignacy Paderewski at the Banner Conference:

When the house lights dimmed and the concert
Was about to begin, the mother returned to
Her seat and discovered that the child was missing
Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights
Focused on the impressive Steinway on stage.
In horror, the mother saw her little
Boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out
"Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star."
At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and
Whispered in the boy's ear,
"Don't quit.""Keep playing."
Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached
Down with his left hand and began filling
In a bass part. Soon his right arm reached
Around to the other side of the child,
And he added a running obbligato.
Together, the old master and the young novice
Transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience.
The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played.
Only the classic,
" Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
Perhaps that's the way it is with God.
What we can accomplish on
Our own is hardly noteworthy.
We try our best, but the results aren't always
Graceful flowing music. However, with the
Hand of the Master, our life's
Work can truly be beautiful.

The next time you set out to accomplish great feats,
Listen carefully. You may hear the voice of the
Master, whispering in your ear,
"Don't quit." "Keep playing."
May you feel His arms around you and
Know that His hands are there, helping you
Turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.
Remember, God doesn't seem to
Call the equipped, rather, He equips the 'called.'
Life is more accurately measured by the lives you touch than by the things you acquire. So touch someone by passing this little message along.
May God bless you and be with you always!

Remember ,
"Don't quit."
"Keep playing

Marks of the Master's Ministry

Some jottings from a talk by Andy Young at the 2017 Banner UK Minister's Conference what was live-streamed on the interweb:

Luke 4:14-30

A programmatic, paradigmatic passage about Jesus’ ministry placed at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry

5 marks of Christ’s ministry:

(1) It was ordinary, it used the ordinary means of grace, the reading and preaching of the Word of God in the congregation of God’s people – v16-17 – in his home town, in the synagogue as was his custom

The humility of Christ

The Word of God reading the Written Word of God and proclaiming it, explaining and applying the Word of God

1 Timothy 4:13

God had only one Son and he made him a preacher

The people there despise the ordinary means of grace, as we might be tempted to be

They miss the extraordinary in the ordinary

(2) It was a Spirit-filled might

3:22; 4:1; 4:14; 4:18

Jesus the Spirit anointed Priest, Prophet and King

If Christ depended on the Spirit in his ministry, how much more should we

(3) The Christ-centred message of Christ’s own preaching – v18 – Christ preached himself – he is the message he came to proclaim

(4) The eschatological magnitude – the coming of Christ as the fulfilment of the Scriptures v21 – the promised future hope of Israel (of Isaiah 61) has come, the kingdom has come, the new era of fulfilment has come, the eschatological fulfilment is inaugurated in Christ

Luke 19:9; 23:43

(5) The gracious mission

What he says he will do (v18) – to the needy, enslaved, helpless

A gospel of grace to those in need

Isaiah 61:2b, “the day of the vengeance of our God” omitted here – Jesus stops short of mentioning the wrath of God – his first coming was to bring mercy not the final punishment of sinners

V19 – The Lord’s Favour – Lev 25 Year of Jubilee

Vv25-27 – God’s universal grace, a hint of the mission to the gentiles

Behold your God, your wonderful Saviour Christ!

Emulate Christ, make your ministry Christ-like

Be encouraged because Christ continues to ministry through his servants

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Example of the Letter to the Hebrews for ministry

I was able to listen to most of the free live stream of David Johnston's 2017 Banner UK Minister's Conference talk entitled Hebrews: A Paradigm for Preaching, today. He argues that:

Hebrews is a model for us for preaching in that it is:

 (1) Grounded in Scripture

 (2) Centred on Christ

 (3) Applied to life

 (4) Empowered by the Spirit (especially chapters 3-4 e.g. 3:7; 4:12)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Feeling my lack of Hebrew

Trying to do some work on Psalm 6 today, I have really felt my lack of Hebrew. Or at least the desire for a consistent word for word translation.

As Michael Wilcock points out in The Bible Speaks Today Commentary, the NIV manages to translate bahel, “suffer” (of bones and soul and enemies 3x in vv2, 3, 10) in 3 different ways.

And of course if one’s translation doesn’t go in for word for wordness, maybe when there are repeated words they don’t reflect the original. Arrgh!

We are presumably meant to pay attention to the repetition and patterning that John Goldingay points out, and to do that we linguistic slow-learners need a translation that brings it out:

“The double “shaming” [of v10] follows on the double “listening” [of vv8-9], and their [the enemies’] great shaking [v10] corresponds to the suppliant’s double shaking [vv2-3]. The “turn” of v10 corresponds to the “turn” of v4, and whereas v3 asked “How long?” now the suppliant knows the shaming will come “instantly.”” (Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, p141)

A prayer at the beginning of a clergy sabbatical

Some of this is personal to me and it just stops rather than having a polished ending, but just in case any of this is helpful to others:

Father God,

Thank you for the space and opportunity for this sabbatical.

Thank you for all those who have made it possible,

For those who have assisted with arrangements and advice,

And for financial provision.

Thank you for all those who are helping with my normal responsibilities during this time.

Thank you for all your goodness and kindness to me,

For innumerable blessings which I do not deserve.

Make me more conscious of the grace I have received, I pray.

Give me a humility which comes from knowing that all I have or am is pure gift.

Give me an increasing desire for your glory and a lack of concern for my own perceived status.  

Forgive me for times when I have been forgetful of you and ungrateful for your mercies.

For times when I have sinned against others.

Forgive my grumpiness and impatience and lack of faith.

And the sins I am barely aware of or would rather not name, even before you.

Help me to genuinely step aside from the responsibilities which would distract from the best use of this time.

Help me to trust you with those things I will not be doing and to leave them to others.

Bless and prosper those ministries in my absence.

May I rejoice at the end of my sabbatical to hear of the good things that have happened without me, and the way in which you have used others.

Deliver me from all hints of a Messiah-complex and from wanting to think of myself as indispensable.

Help me not to treat this “time off” as time off from being a Christian!

Help me to be a blessing to those whom I meet during this time.

Help me to make the most of this time, without being frenetic or overly precious about it.

Give me wisdom about my priorities and direct my energies.

Teach me to trust your good providence if all does not go to my plans.

Help me to prioritise my walk with you and find good ways of getting to know you better.

Open my eyes afresh to your greatness and love,

To the wonder of your character

and the glories of your purposes in the gospel.

Bless my times of prayer, Bible reading and fellowship with others.

May I rejoice in knowing Christ and in being yours.

May I love you more and know you better at the end of this time.

Help me to know myself.

Show me my sin.

Cause me to hate it and to strive to put it to death, depending on your Spirit.

Give me a desire to be more like Christ and help me to see how I can grow in Him.

Make me conscious of ways in which I have fallen in to sinful or unhelpful patterns or ways in which I compromise or acquiesce with godlessness.

Thank you for your work in my life and for the gifts you have given me.

Help me to use them effectively in your service and for the good of others.

Bless my family, especially when I am away.

Help us to love one another and to love you more.

We pray that we might serve you effectively together as a team.

Help us to be kind and caring to one another.

May we rejoice and mourn together and carry one another’s burdens.

Make our home a place of peace, joy, forgiveness and grace.

Help us to practice hospitality and to be a blessing to others.

Help me to be a godly husband and father, to encourage and nurture.

Forgive my selfishness and impatience.

May I lead my family by serving them wisely not pleasing myself.

Please help me review and plan.

Give me good ideas for future life and ministry.

Help me increasingly to form good habits that will help to sustain a life-time of ministry.

Help me to wisely take care of myself without being lazy or self-indulgent, nor imaging myself to be super-human or invulnerable.

Teach me your power which is available in weakness.

May my sabbatical be of use to me and my family, to those to whom I minister and to the wider church.

In particular, may my study and writing be faithful to your word and beneficial.

I pray that there may be a specific tangible outcome from this time, such as a publishable journal article which will help others.

Deliver me from ego in this, but graciously use me in your service.

I pray that I might be rested and refreshed by this sabbatical, not worn out by trying to do too much, or by misguided use of the time.

Help me to make a good return to my normal ministries with a renewed vision and a sense of how to go forward.

I pray for those whom I serve that it might be good to have me back!

Sabbatical Day 1

So it is the first day of my sabbatical.

I hope to be banging on the doors of the gym at their not terribly early opening time.

After that I'm off to Penhurst Retreat Centre for a Quiet Day on my own (though there is a group also using the place for a silent retreat so I hope I get there early enough to secure a comfortable armchair). I will of course be taking more books than is reasonable and I might throw in my walking boots. In a radical commitment to the spirit of the thing, I am even thinking of having 7 hours or so without the interweb. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Psalm of the Week

My sabbatical officially starts tomorrow. (Woo hoo etc.!)

One of the aims is to prioritise my walk with the Lord and therefore to give some extra time to personal Bible reading, prayer and reflection on the Scriptures.

I am thinking of having a Psalm of the Week which I read, study, pray, think about, listen to and may be even sing.

I'd love to know the church's divinely authored prayer and hymn book better and in particular to have more of the Psalms at my finger tips and be able to think of some appropriate Psalms that would suit particular circumstances or needs as they arise.

I plan to start with Psalm 6 as I have preached on the first five psalms in living memory.

Tremper Longman III encourages us about the importance and usefulness of the Psalms:

"It has long been observed that the book of Psalms is a "microcosm" of the message of the Old Testament. Athanasius, the fourth-century theologian, called the Psalms "an epitome of the whole Scriptures." Basil, bishop of Caesarea in the same period, regarded the Psalms as a "compendium of all theology." Martin Luther said the book is "a little Bible, and a summary of the Old Testament."

Series Preface to John Goldingay, Psalms, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, volume 1, p9 (Baker Academic, 2006)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Freedom Movement: 500 Years of Reformation by Michael Reeves

I enjoyed reading this short book this morning.

It has an attractively produced kind of magaziney feel with illustrations and break out bits of text and although it raises the most profound issues (how can I be happy and right with God) it is an easy read.

It's not in-you-face evangelistic (no prayer to pray at the end!) but a believer or an unbeliever could read it with profit.

It covers in brief Luther's monastic life and theological breakthrough and something of his home life (his bowling alley and private brewery and the loss of his daughters) and there's something on Tyndale and the Bible, Bunyan, the Oxford Martyrs and the impact of the Reformation especially on Wilberforce and Shaftsbury.

I have always thought of Bunyan as a tinker and I was interested to see that Reeves calls him "a metalworker by trade... [who] travelled from village to village with a 60lb anvil and hefty toolkit on his back: it became a model for the great burden of guilt his Pilgrim carries on his back." (p16)


We are planning to give out free copies when we host A Monk's Tale.

10Publishing, 2017, 37pp. Available from 10ofThose from £4.99 to £1 depending on number ordered.

Eyes Opened

The disciples on the Emmaus Road have their eyes opened when they receive the Communion bread and they see Jesus (Luke 24:30-31).

Adam and Eve had their eyes opened when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they saw their own nakedness and hid from the LORD (Genesis 3:7-8).

Peter Leithart includes this in his Theopolis meditation for Easter Monday 2017:

At twilight on the first Easter, two disciples of Jesus were traveling on the road toward the town of Emmaus. They had fled Jerusalem to escape the Jews. They talked excitedly about the strange things they had heard and seen.

Suddenly, Jesus joined them and asked what they were talking about.

They told Jesus His life story – how He was a prophet mighty in deed and in the sight of God, a new Moses; how they hoped He would redeem Israel; how He had been seized and executed. They even told Jesus the story of the resurrection.

They knew the entire gospel story, but they were still too dejected and frightened for mission. They knew the whole gospel story, but they didn’t recognize Jesus.

Jesus started telling Bible stories, from Genesis, through all the Prophets and Psalms. All the way through, He taught them that everything in the Scriptures was about His suffering and glory.

The word wasn’t enough. Jesus’ presence wasn’t enough. They recognized Jesus only when He broke bread. Then, like Adam and Eve, their eyes were opened and they saw Jesus.

Then everything changed. They were fleeing Jerusalem, but now they return. They had left the other disciples, but now they rejoin them. They were perplexed about the resurrection, but now they become witnesses.

If we want to join the mission of the Risen Jesus, we need the whole Bible burning in our hearts. And we need the broken bread, the tree of life that opens our eyes to see that the risen Jesus is with us.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter News

From a friend on Facebook. A nice little outline that one might plagiarise in a future year:

Matthew 28:6
Easter news is
1.surprising "he is not here"
2.amazing "he is risen"
3.meaningful "just as he said"...
4.credible "come see"

Saturday, April 15, 2017

John 20:1-18

Mary Magdalene’s mistakes:

She wasn’t expecting the resurrection (vv1-2)

She thinks there are reasons for tears (v11, v13, v15)

She can’t initially recognise Jesus (v14, v15)

She is tempted to try to hold on to Jesus (v17)

Mary Magdalene’s realisation (v18)

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Good Friday Hour at the Cross Service with Meditations on John 17, 19

Order of Service

Welcome to our Hour at the Cross Service.

Yesterday, at our Maundy Thursday Communion, we thought about Jesus’ final words to his disciples before his death, as they are recorded in John chapters 13-16.

Today we’re going to think about the passage which follows, Jesus’ prayer as recorded in John chapter 17, and then John’s account of Jesus’ death, from chapter 19.

You might like to have the passage open in front of you.

In the pew Bibles, it’s page 1085. John 17.

There’ll be some periods of silence during the service in which we can think and pray.

You might find the pew Bibles and the hymn books useful resources for those times.

Hymn 1:

The Collect for Good Friday (T&S p307)

A Puritan Prayer reflecting on the cross from a collection known as The Valley of Vision

Love’s Lustres at Calvary (p42)

Reading: (1) John 17:1-5

In this chapter, we stand on holy ground.

We are privileged to hear the Son address the Father.

There is no closer relationship in the universe than the eternal bond between Father and Son.

Both are fully God.

They are perfectly united in love and will.

It is their relationship with one another that sets them apart from one another.

The Son is all that the Father is, except Father.

The Father is all that the Son is, except Son.

Here is a fathomless mystery.

And we are privileged to listen in as the Son made man addresses his Father.

Here is another longer, fuller Lord’s Prayer which is more fully and particularly the Son’s, rather than his model the church’s praying.  

And this conversation between Son and Father, as the Son faces his death is appropriate, because Jesus has come to draw us into the family.

If we believe, John has told us, we can become children of God, born of God, given access to the Father and the full rights as heirs.

In Christ, we too can come freely and confidently into our heavenly Father’s presence and speak to him about anything which is on our hearts.  

The Son uniquely and eternally lived in the glory of the Godhead.

As the Word, he as with God in the beginning – even towards the Father, oriented to him.

From all eternity, he was at the Father’s side, in his bosom.

Before the world began the Father and the Son enjoyed an unclouded glory together in the Holy Spirit.

The Son has glorified the Father and the Father glorifies the Son – each seeks the glory of the other.

The Godhead is a community of mutual love and glory and exaltation.

The self-giving love which motivates the cross, is in fact the very heart of the life of the Triune God who is Love.

Jesus’ saving work means that we too can know the glory of God.

The Apostles saw the glory of God in Jesus and put their faith in him.

And the prospect for all Christians is glory, when at last we will see Christ face to face in glory.

Jesus’ mission is the movement from glory to glory via the cross – from heaven to earth and back again.

The Son came from the Father and is returning to the Father: from glory to glory.

But the cross too will be the strange and hidden glorification of the Son as he is lifted up, exalted from the earth.

From glory to glory via glory, displaying glory, for our glorification, to the glory of God.

Jesus’ earthly ministry is nearly complete.

He has perfectly and sinlessly glorified his Father.

He has faithfully run his race.

Only the home straight lies before him, but it is the most gruelling leg of the journey, a journey which involves being lifted on high, but which we could also call going down into the depths.

Jesus will go into exile, into darkness, cut off from the blessing of God’s love, baring the curse of God’s wrath.

The Son has been given authority over all people that he might give eternal life to those whom God has given him.

Jesus will perish on the cross that all who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life.

This eternal life is to know God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ death restores our friendship with God.

The great barrier of sin is removed for all who will trust in Jesus.

So this eternal life – knowing God - begins the moment we believe.

Yes, it goes on beyond the grave, but it is not merely the continuation of life:

It is not just quantity of life but a new quality of life:

The spiritually dead are made alive – alive to God, enlivened, vivified by his powerful Spirit.

Believers are born again into a new life of friendship with God, joining the glorious fellowship of God the Father and God the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit, made members of the very family of God.

It was to this glorious eternal life that the Lord Jesus looked as he faced the cross.

Hymn 2:

Reading: (2) John 17:6-19

God’s people are those whom the Father has entrusted to the Son out of the world.

They obey the Father’s words and accept Jesus’ words.

They know and believe that Jesus was sent by the Father.

Handed over by the Father to the Son and kept in their double-hold, believers couldn’t be more secure.

But they live in the world – not yet in heaven or in the renewed creation.

What Jesus calls “the world” in this passage is not so much the created world, which we know God made and which is good, and which he will redeem, but the world as opposed to the church, the fallen world which is in rebellion against its Maker.

Jesus is soon to leave this world, but his disciples must remain in the kind of world that has crucified its Creator.

So Jesus prays for his disciples’ protection.

God sometimes doesn’t answer our prayers.

Sometimes our prayers are stupid or selfish or self-contradictory or faithless.

Sometimes they are not according to God’s will.

But Jesus only ever prayed perfect prayers.

So I take it we can be confident that the Father will answer this prayer of his Son.

The disciples will be protected by the Almighty power of God’s name.

That’s protected!

There is no more powerful power, no mightier name.

Not that God’s protection will insulate us from all suffering:

We follow a crucified Saviour, after all.

But the Son and the Father will infallibly keep all those for whom the precious blood of God is shed.

The world and the evil one may do their worst, but the Christian is ultimately safe.

They can torture and kill the body, but God is in the resurrection business.

Our lives, our souls, are safe in Jesus’ all-powerful nail-marked hands.  

The believer can have a joy even in the face of death which the world cannot give and which the world cannot take away.

Jesus’ disciples are to be in the world yet not of the world.

They are the salt of the earth which must not lose its saltiness.

The church is to be in the world, but the Christ rejecting world is not to infect the church.

The church is God’s agent for the transformation of the world and if she is to be any use to the world she must remain both open to the world and related to it, but also pure and distinctive from it.

The church is to be sanctified, set apart, made holy by God’s Word of truth that she might play her part in the sanctification, the transformation and conversion of the world.

Jesus sets himself apart to the death of the cross that his church might be set apart.

Jesus dies for an unholy people to make us holy.

By his blood, we are cleansed.

He finds us in our filthy rags, and makes us his beautiful bride, washed and radiant, without stain or winkle or any other blemish but holy and blameless.

As Jesus was sent into the world, so he sends his disciples to continue the transforming, sanctifying, glorifying, saving mission of Father and Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hymn 3:

Reading (3): John 17:20-26

Jesus prayed for you and me as he went to the cross.

What an astonishing thought that is!

He had us in mind as he went to his death – that death which was for us.

He wants you and me to be with him in the glory of heaven.

That’s part of the reason that he came, the reason why he will die: for you, for me.

And Jesus prays that his church may be one as the Father and the Son are one.

There could be no closer nor more perfect unity.

There is one church.

That’s a spiritual reality.

One Lord, one body, one faith, one hope, one baptism.

The church is a seamless robe.

But we must admit it is a ragged and torn one too.

Jesus prays for the kind of church unity which the world can see and which proves Jesus mission of love.

We have a long way to go before this prayer is fully answered!

Let us pray that we might preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.

Let’s pray too for the greater visible unity of the church in the truth of Jesus’ word.

Jesus’ whole ministry has made the Father and his love known, but now as he goes to the cross he shows the full extent of his love.

It is incredible that in Christ, the Father has the same love for us which he has for his eternal, spotless, well-beloved Son.

That is a love to bask in, in which to glory.

We are sometimes far from lovely, but the Father sees us in the altogether lovely Son.

The Father loves us as he loves the Son with an infinite, boundless, delighted, almighty love – a love without beginning or end or limit, an everlasting, incomparable love – a love which is long and high and deep and wide beyond measure.

Music: Oh the deep, deep love – Sovereign Grace 30 – track no. 7

Reading (4): John 19:16b-37

Jesus dies as the King of the Jews, but the notice above the cross in Aramaic, Latin and Greek is perhaps a hint that Jesus is the king of all the nations.

He is king, of course, whether we like it or not – recognise it or not.

Though as he dies, it takes the eye of faith to see in this dying man the glory of the Maker.

On the cross, the creator is uncreated, undone.

The Resurrection and the Life expires and dies.

The fountain of life is poured out for us.

The spring of Living Water thirsts and is dried up.

And because he himself is parched, streams of life-giving water flow from his side.

Sinners plunged beneath the flood of his blood lose all their guilty stains.

All in fulfilment of the Scriptures.

Jesus is the righteous man of Psalm 34:19-20 who suffers unjustly.

Even though he dies, the Lord ultimately delivers Jesus and protects all his bones.

Like the Passover Lamb, none of his bones is broken.

At last “It is finished!”.

The saving work of Christ is completed.

The price for sin is fully paid.


It is done!

All that is needful hath been.

He “made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world”.

And that finished work creates a new family of many mothers and sons and brothers and sisters and fathers in the church.

Jesus’ death draws us even into the glory of the divine family of Father, Son and many children, or younger brothers, bound together by the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing more terrible or more glorious than the cross of Christ.

May it be our glory and our delight, our comfort, and hope and joy and peace. Amen.

Intercessions (T&S p316)

The Lord’s Prayer in its traditional form (?)

Hymn 4:

Concluding Prayer (T&S, p320)