Resurrection Practice

"At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16: 11) The Basket Case Chronicles #193 “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:53–55). As he leans toward the resurrection, Paul uses the language of “putting on.” In fact, he uses the same verb (endyo) that he uses elsewhere when telling the saints to put on Christ (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27). And all of this “putting on” amounts to the same thing. Putting on Christ is the same thing as putting on incorruption and immortality. And so it is that the daily acts of sanctification, the decisions to put on Christ, are all resurrection practice. Life smothers death. The corrupt has non-corruption put over top of … [Read more...]

Wife Beating and the Idea of Revelation

Revelation presupposes three things — a revealer, a recipient, and a message with an accompanying hermeneutic. There is one who speaks, there are the ones spoken to, and there is the message along with the medium that carries that message. That medium would include all the created world, with its atmosphere and sound waves, papyrus, paper, computer screens, ink, toner, ones and zeros, and . . . a hermeneutic. How many times did Jesus tell us that the one with ears should hear? It is important to get the hermeneutic right. To illustrate how important this hermeneutic is (illustrated by two different versions of it, two distinct theologies of revelation) let us compare two very angular texts with regard to women. The first is from the Koran and the second from Exodus. [Husbands] "are the protectors and maintainers of their [wives] because Allah has given the one more [strength] than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly … [Read more...]

Exercising the Truth of the Gospel

When we come to the Table, we are being given the privilege of exercising ourselves in the truths of the gospel. One of the ways that God enables us to do this is through the establishment of memorials, and this memorial is one of them. When God wanted us to exercise ourselves in the truth of creation, He gave us the Sabbath day as a memorial. When God wanted the Israelites to remember their deliverance from Egypt, He gave them a memorial in the Passover feast. When God wanted us to exercise our understanding of resurrection life, He transferred the memorial of the Sabbath Day to the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day (Heb. 4:9-10; Rev. 1:10). And when He wanted us to exercise ourselves in our knowledge of the shed blood of Jesus, and of His broken body, He gave us this memorial. When we do this, we do it in remembrance of Him, but because it is a covenantal memorial we have to remember also that we are lifting it up into the presence of God so that He will remember. When … [Read more...]

The Rock of Catastrophe

When Peter describes the church, he describes us as living stones, built up into a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5). This house is a holy priesthood, set apart to offer up spiritual sacrifices, sacrifices that are made acceptable to God through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He goes on to say that there is a basic distinction between people, between those who are living stones, built up upon the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, and those who treat the cornerstone as a stone of stumbling and rock of offense. So Jesus is either the living rock upon all other living rock derives its life, or Jesus is the rock of catastrophe for those who were appointed to their epic disobedience. When they stumble, the text says that they stumble at the Word. This Word is what we build upon, and this Word is what they stumble over. It is the same Word, with two different responses entirely. Now everything we do as a Christian church should be done in such a way as to testify to this glorious truth, … [Read more...]

A Bucket With No Bottom

Warfield Order

I am currently reading A Humble Inquiry by Jonathan Edwards, in which he explains the reasons why he was putting some doctrinal daylight between himself and his predecessor Solomon Stoddard. And since these basic issues, being what they are, cannot ever go away, and because in addition they have become deeply embedded in the American psyche (even our pagans are evangelicals), let me say just a few necessary things about the practice of child communion in the CREC and the doctrine of regeneration. Edwards had a high level of respect for Stoddard, and this was possible, I believe, because both were evangelicals, as opposed to the formalists. Stoddard believed that communion was a "converting ordinance," but he did so believing that there was such a thing as conversion, and that there were visible communicant members of the visible church who needed to be so converted. The debate between Edwards and Stoddard was over how best to get the people from here to there, and not over whether … [Read more...]

Creation All Over Again

When we come to the Table, the entire congregation is proclaiming. What are we proclaiming? The apostle Paul says that we are proclaiming the death of Jesus until He comes again? Faithful observance of the Supper is therefore an evangelistic act. Even those participation in the Supper is limited to baptized Christians, the import of the Supper is for all the children of men. So when we proclaim the death of Jesus as the very center of the mighty acts of God, we are doing it context. We rejoice in our subjective experience of salvation, but we do not begin and end there. The experience of salvation is driven by the objective reality of it. God has done marvelous things in the world, and because we look at them and believe, the Spirit continues His work in us. We declare, therefore, the mighty acts of God. We declare what He has done in the creation of Heaven and earth, and we rejoice in how He delivered His people throughout the Old Testament period, doing this over and over … [Read more...]

A Time to Build

The preacher in Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything. There is a time for birth and a time for dying. There is a time to mourn and a time to dance, and so on. Of interest to us here is that there is a time for tearing down and a time for building. When “the time” for something arrives, there is nothing whatever that can prevent it from occurring. This means that when it is time for building, all the apparent obstacles will be manifested as just that—apparent. They will look formidable when they first present themselves, but when approached by men and women of faith they will give way in a most natural fashion. Why? Because it is time to build. If it is not time, the most trivial things can prevent it from happening. When it is time, the most monumental obstacles will be overcome and it will seem to be the most natural thing in the world. So the challenge is to read the times correctly. What separates presumption and faith? It is the ability to read the … [Read more...]

The Body as Battery

"At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16: 11) The Basket Case Chronicles #191 “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:45–49). The difference between the Adams is not that one had a body and the other did not. The first man Adam had a body dominated by his living soul; the quickening agent of the last Adam’s body was the Spirit. The first Adam had a spirit, but his body was animated by his soul. The last Adam has a soul but His body was dominated by the quickening Spirit. The first … [Read more...]

Communion Family Style

We come to the Lord’s Table every week, but what the seating arrangements? What should our posture be, and how is the Supper laid out? In the aftermath of the Reformation, this is one of the things that came to be reformed. Previously, the people would come to the Table rarely, they would come down a long nave, and they would kneel to receive just one of the elements. That is hardly a posture of table fellowship. After the Reformation, the statement made by the seating was strikingly different. The Scots and the Dutch particularly wanted to have the statement be that of a family seated at a table together, and they went so far as to have a very large Table made, at which the congregation could sit down together. But then, as a congregation grows, you have to eat in shifts, and you are losing some aspects of that wonderful picture. Another device that developed—the one we are using here—is the device of having the congregation seated on three sides of the Table. We are gathered at … [Read more...]

Adorned Clean Through

The Bible teaches that the woman is the glory of the man. This is why she takes what the man provides and glorifies. She is a glory, and she is a glorifier. The man brings home a paycheck, and she turns it into a living room, or bacon and eggs in the morning. Adornment is not a mere add-on extra; adornment is what the universe is driving toward. The woman therefore is the crown of her husband (Prov. 12:4). But what about the Church? If this is true of wives generally, is it also true of the bride of Christ? It is true. The Church is described as the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way (Eph. 1:23). Christ fills the cosmos, and the Church fills Christ. Yes—just as women are called to adorn themselves, and not just externally, so also Christians are called to adorn the doctrine of the gospel (Tit. 2:10). The Church is a woman, and is called to adornment. But she is called to adorn herself the same way individual Christian women are called to adorn themselves—with a … [Read more...]

You May Be a Soul Man Now . . .

"At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16: 11) The Basket Case Chronicles #190 “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42–44). Just as there are variations in glory between different objects at the same time, as between the sun and moon, so also there are variations in glory between the same object at different times. The trajectory of history is foundational toward greater glory. The human body now is subject to corruption, and is therefore sown in corruption. It is place in the ground to rot. It is also placed in the ground to sprout and grow—cemeteries are, as my grandchildren put it, grave gardens. It is sown in corruption, but raised with much greater glory, the glory of … [Read more...]

Self-Examination and the Supper

When it comes to observance of the Lord’s Supper, and especially when it comes to regular, weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, there are a number of questions that we have to address and answer. One of them is what devout preparation for participation looks like. Paul teaches us that we do have a duty to examine ourselves. He uses the same word—anakrisis—in a couple of different places. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5). This means that the issue is not whether preparation for the Supper consists of self-examination. Of course it does. The problem is that a great deal of confusion exists over what constitutes lawful and sane self-examination. We must take it as a given that self-examination is necessary for every approach to the Table. … [Read more...]

More Growth Problems

When real ministry is occurring, one of the things you can expect to see is something of a mess. “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: But much increase is by the strength of the ox” (Prov. 14:4). Dying churches are usually clean and tidy. Growing churches, flourishing churches, are characterized by “situations” that crop up, quite regularly. In the book of Acts, the church enjoyed a rapid explosion of growth. The result of this growth was a ball drop in their mercy ministries. The Hellenistic widows were overlooked in the distribution of food (Acts 6:1). When the problem was voiced, the church addressed it forthrightly, carefully, and scripturally, appointing seven godly men to oversee the distribution. What was the result of this godly response? Well, the result was more growth (Acts 6:7). In other words, if you address the problems caused by growth scripturally, the solution is going to be more problems caused by growth. Building a sanctuary can be seen in two ways. One … [Read more...]

Abortion and Infant Baptism

Last week I saw a Facebook thread that had been kicked off with a comparison of abortion and infant baptism. Quite a discussion ensued, as you might expect. The initial point being made concerned things parents do that they have no warrant from God to do, and since I am writing here as a paedobaptist it is not surprising that I agreed with the pushback the post generated. There is an important difference between slaughtering your children and dedicating them to God. At the same time, there is a sense in which I want to commend the instinctive wisdom of the initial observation -- a wisdom that is often missing from the saints who practice infant baptism. The meaning of baptism is death. The initiatory Christian rite is baptism (Matt. 28:18-20), and as Bonhoeffer observed, whenever Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but … [Read more...]

The Ultimate Pledge of Allegiance

The sun is 93 million miles away, and yet every day we enjoy its warmth and light here. The Lord Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father, yet He is present here with us, now. His warmth and presence comes to us in the person of the Holy Spirit, and so if anyone asks if we believe in the real presence of the Lord in the Supper, the answer is of course. We don’t believe in His real absence. God is present here in and through the work of the Holy Spirit. We do not look for a physical presence in the elements of bread and wine, but rather a covenantal presence of Christ, manifested in His energy and power. Christ is present in the participles—He is present in our praying, singing, breaking, eating and drinking. The catalyst for all this is our faith, and even that faith is a gift from God so that no one can boast. So the bread and wine are evangelical types. They represent God’s offer of Christ to us, and in faith, as we receive them (in the participles) we are gratefully … [Read more...]