All of It

When Jesus said that the cup we drink was the new covenant in His blood, He was opening up a world of wisdom to us. So many truths are set before us that it is difficult to know where to begin, or what to do with them all. Because of this we sometimes give up, and simply return time and again to two or three truths related to the Supper. Those truths are true, and so we are edified to meditate on them, but because this meal sets before us the wisdom, kindness and grace of God, we should also remember that we are being invited to know the unknowable, to grasp the ungraspable, and to enter into the height and breadth and depth of God’s purposes for us. What do we learn about covenants here? One of the things we learn is that a covenant is something you can drink. Jesus said plainly that the cup is the new covenant in His blood. And when Jesus gives it to us, He says, “Drink ye all of it” (Matt. 26:27). A covenant is something we can drink, and it is something we are summoned to … [Read more...]

Lest We Drift

The church is a wooded island, and it produces three kinds of wood. The first would be the living grove, what makes the island an inviting place, lush and green. The second would be the dead wood, that which is not growing itself but remains in place, hindering the growth of the rest. And the third category would be that of drift wood, wood that is from the island but is not long for the island. So I want to give a series of exhortations about the dangers of drifting. “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1, ESV). Just as growth in Christ is slow growth, so also the reverse sanctification of drifting is a slow process. No one lives a vibrant Christian life for years only to wake up one morning deciding to throw it all away in one go. No, this process happens by drifting, by means of a long series of miniscule choices that seem, each one in isolation, to be no big deal. But collectively these choices add up to a … [Read more...]

Slow Drift

As we have noted before, there is a distinct sociological difference between a sect and a church. Both a sect and a church can be orthodox and Christian, but they necessarily have different pastoral challenges. A sect has tighter discipline, and disciplines over more things, and is in the very nature of the case smaller and more defined. A church tends to take professing Christians as they come, and to work with them from there. It is important to note that I am not using either term in a pejorative way, and am assuming that both a church and a sect can be faithful Christian congregations. But neither one will be faithful unless they take note of their own particular temptations. Sects struggle with rigorism while the temptation faced by churches is that of a broadminded laxity. In case you were wondering, Christ Church has elements of both, but is more of a church than it is a sect. Because of how the Lord has blessed many of our ministries here on the Palouse, our reputation in … [Read more...]

So Exhibited

Even though a great deal of historic Reformed theology was written in English, our native language, we do have to take care to note certain changes in the meanings of some words. When it comes to the Lord’s Supper, the great theologian John Owen said that Christ was exhibited in it. That same word is used with regard to the baptism in the Westminster Confession, where it says that in baptism the grace promised is “not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost” (WCF 28.6). If you go to an exhibition at a modern museum, you are going to look at something behind a velvet rope. You go to an exhibition in order to see things, and then to go home. But in the seventeenth century, to exhibit meant something much stronger. To exhibit meant to hold something out in order that it might be received. It is in this older sense that Christ is exhibited here at the Table. He is offered, He is conferred, He is extended to you. Part of that exhibition is found in the … [Read more...]

A Nut Brown Discomfort

Canoe Trip

Timothy LeCroy has written about ecumenism and the Eucharist here, and a couple of things come to mind. Please keep in mind that I write with the porridge of my Scots Calvinist heritage sticking to my ribs, so to speak, and while this does not blow up the ecumenical venture, it does make it more of an adventure. I will return to that anon, as we old-timey writers sometimes say. LeCroy begins with an cheery assumption that I really think needs to be examined more carefully than it usually is. "To me, without table fellowship all our other ecumenical dialogue is just talk. Jesus gave us a clear command to be one, and that unity is expressed most fully in the unity of the Lord’s Table. Eucharistic unity must be the foundational basis for any ecumenical program or effort." This is absolutely true. Jesus gave us a clear command to be one. But the hinge upon which all turns is this question -- who are the "us" in that sentence? Jesus gives us His express desire that we cultivate … [Read more...]

An Open Letter to an Angry Husband

Angry Husband

NB: This letter is fictional with regard to the particulars, but with regard to the nature of the sins described, it is unfortunately not at all fictional. Consider it a composite portrait, with no particular man in mind. At the same time, if any individual husband recognizes himself in the portrait and humbles himself, I would thank God and say that this was kind of the point. Dear Kevin, You were probably expecting this letter, but so there will be no misunderstanding, I still wanted to begin by explaining why I was writing. We have spoken off and on over the years about the problem of anger in your home, and you have consistently said that your wife was simply misunderstanding and/or misrepresenting you. You have described what you do as simply being "firm," or "stern," while she has called it anger, sometimes through tears. You have said that your wife must have been affected by feminism or something, and that you were simply trying to exercise a masculine leadership in the … [Read more...]

James and Elizabeth

We live in a world governed by glorious rotations and cycles. The earth spins, the moon revolves around the earth, and the earth revolves around the sun. Not only is this so, but the complexity is only beginning. Because the sun is also moving, the motion of the planets travels with it, and the whole thing travels in a magnificent helical way. Down here on earth, as the writer of Ecclesiastes noted, the sun comes up and goes down. The wind blows through and then circles back around again. Water evaporates from the oceans, gathers in clouds, falls on the earth, runs down to the oceans, and cries out to the Father to do it all again. This repeating phenomenon is seen by two kinds of people, but they take completely different lessons from it. One kind of person echoes the thoughts of the preacher of Ecclesiastes early on in his book, and bows beneath the weight of a vain and fruitless world. The whole thing is beyond stupid. All is vanity and shepherding wind. Finding satisfaction … [Read more...]

He Tenders His Love, and Tenderly

An older English word for offer is the word tender. The great theologian John Owen said that in the Lord’s Supper, the Lord Jesus tenders an offer of Himself, inviting us to receive him. We have echoes of this older use of the word here and there, as in the phrase legal tender on your money. This meal consists of the shed blood and broken body of the Lord Jesus. We are proclaiming His death until He comes, the apostle says. But we are also proclaiming everything about that death. We do not proclaim His death in isolation, but rather in concert with everything the Scriptures teach us about that death. And one of those things is the love of Jesus Christ for us. “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5). Any exhibition of the death of Christ is necessarily an exhibition of the love of Christ. It says here that He loved … [Read more...]

A Mind To

We all know that character, and moods, and particular virtues and vices are characteristic of individuals. But they are also characteristic of groups of people—generations, tribes, nations, churches. You know what it is like to travel around our nation, finding that one part of the country is particularly friendly, while another is particularly industrious, and so on. People collectively have a personality. Different generations can have different personalities. There is therefore a possibility of change from one generation to the next. There can be decline or there can be improvement—if there is change. One generation might just duplicate what went before. Our desire should be to stay the course, remaining faithful where our fathers were faithful (2 Tim. 2:2). When our fathers were not faithful, it is our responsibility to turn away from their example, refusing to follow them in it (Ps. 78:8). In other cases, we are to build on the preparatory work done by those who went before. … [Read more...]

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...]