Saturday, March 21, 2009

Jesus in the Power of the Spirit

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.2 Corinthians 13:14

In conversation with Paul Veal about the presence of the holy Spirit in the life of Christ. I have begun to maintain in my theology that, (in part?), to be "fully human" Jesus of Nazareth must have been perfectly dependent upon the Spirit in a way that perfectly models life in the Spirit for the followers of Jesus.

What follows basically outlines Sinclair Ferguson 's article on the Pneumatologia of John Owen.

John Owen reminds us that Jesus Christ, who is the One who gives the Spirit (John 20:21-22; Acts 1:8), is also, first of all, the Recipient and Bearer of the Spirit.
The Spirit is said to be communicated unto him, do plainly regard his incarnation; and the soul of Christ, from the first moment of its infusion, was a subject capable of a fullness of grace, as unto its habitual residence and in-being, though the actual exercise of it was suspended for a while, until the organs of the body were fitted for it. This, therefore, it received by this first unction of the Spirit.
Owen, Pneumatologia Book II, Chapter IV
Yes, Owen writes like that. But his point is that the Spirit was able to reside in the soul of Christ from its very incarnation.

Owen points essentially to four central divisions of Jesus' life: (1) Incarnation; (2) Ministry; (3) Passion; and (4) Exaltation, and outlines the Spirit's work in each.

Incarnation: Christ was conceived by/in and sanctified by the Spirit. The implication being that what the Spirit did in Jesus of Nazareth he seeks to do in us. Because Jesus is the cause, source, and pattern of the Spirit's ministry in the believer.

The only singular immediate act of the person of the Son on the human nature was the assumption of it into subsistence with himself... That the only necessary consequent of this assumption of the human nature, or the incarnation of the Son of God, is the personal union of Christ, or the inseparable subsistence of the assumed nature in the person of the Son... The Holy Ghost, as we have proved before, is the immediate, peculiar, efficient cause of all external divine operations: for God worketh by his Spirit
Owen, Pneumatologia Book II, Chapter III

Ministry: Just as Jesus grew in favor, wisdom... accomplishing personal perfect progress in grace
 (cf. "one who is taught" Isaiah 50:4 "grew up" Isaiah 53:2

The Lord Christ, as man, did and was to exercise all grace by the rational faculties and powers of his soul, his understanding, will, and affections; for he acted grace as a man, “made of a woman, made under the law.” His divine nature was not unto him in the place of a soul, nor did immediately operate the things which he performed, as some of old vainly imagined; but being a perfect man, his rational soul was in him the immediate principle of all his moral operations, even as ours are in us. Now, in the improvement and exercise of these faculties and powers of his soul, he had and made a progress after the manner of other men; for he was made like unto us “in all things,” yet without sin. In their increase, enlargement, and exercise, there was required a progression in grace also; and this he had continually by the Holy Ghost.
Pneumatologia Book II, Chapter IV

Passion: The writer of Hebrews links the passion of Christ with the work of the Spirit:
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,b so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:13-14

Exaltation: In the Church age the Spirit can only be known in connection with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of Christ."

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”John 3:31-36

Friday, March 20, 2009

John Hunt States the Obvious

Now Mr. Hunt has become the pioneer in a rejuvenated campaign for a way of cancelling baptisms given to children too young to decide for themselves whether they wanted this formal initiation into Christianity.

Surprising article found on the BBC. I never did meet an Atheist who didn't make some sense to start with. They tend to spin off in a random crazy direction, but they start with the truth. Babies, who are "too young to decide for themselves", cannot make a choice to surrender their lives to Christ. The article goes on to say:
I, John Geoffrey Hunt, having been subjected to the rite of Christian baptism in infancy... hereby publicly revoke any implications of that rite. I reject all its creeds and other such superstitions in particular the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed of original sin.

How much heresy spins off of a legitimate concern of the Church. We Baptists have a legitimate concern for assurance of salvation founded in the work of Christ, and therefore do not baptize wee children. So in the one sense we can agree with Mr. Hunt. But at the same time, to "publicly revoke" the implications of infant baptism in the Churches that we fellowship with is quite another matter.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bringing New Life to Congregations

In response to a Sioux Falls Seminary Facebook group question.

To bring new life to congregations they must see Jesus lifted up... John 3:14-15 So how is that accomplished? Two ways.

1) Christ is/was lifted up without our doing anything. 2000 years ago... He accomplished everything needed for any congregation at the cross. [Lent drives us towards Good Friday does it not?] So in the first sense a congregation need to understand that, without any new mission statement, ministry, or service project, they already have anything and everything they need for mission, ministry, and service. cf. the words of Paul to the (really, really, messed up) congregation in Corinth:
"For in [Christ] you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." 1 Corinthians 1:5-9
Everything new in a congregation is a work of the Son.

2) The second way to bring new life to congregations is to orient them towards the One who provides life. A congregation must "see" Jesus lifted up. And nowadays we can only see Christ through the scripture (Old and New Testaments). [Good Friday leads to Easter's empty tomb and Easter to the Ascension's clouds]
No church can be transformed without the Gospel of the Glory of Christ. Again St. Paul to the Corinthians:
"We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit... For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" 2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:6
We are transformed by reflecting what we see of God's glory and that glory is most clearly seen in the face of Christ.
God won't speak to your church outside of Christ. Christ is not revealed outside of scripture.

(For another time maybe: If we understand congregation life to be the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit to the Glory of the Father does this mean that God the Father only works exclusively through Christ and the Spirit in the local church? i.e. Our talk about God's plan, God's guidance, God's mission, absolutely must include talk about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. )

Friday, March 13, 2009

Benedict XVI Quote

I have been told that consulting the information available on the Internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.

Always consider the source... why verify when you can Google?

Other XVI's
Pope Gregory XVI abolished slavery as practiced or taught by the Catholic Church
Super Bowl XVI: 1982, San Francisco 49ers over Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21
Guillotined namesake of Louisville, Kentucky: Louis XVI of France
Title XVI of Social Security Law gives money to the States for assistance to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled
The 1956 Olympic Games or XVI Olympiad were held in Melbourne, Australia (the first held south of the equator).
The 1992 Winter Olympic Games or XVI Winter Olympiad were held in Albertville, France (the first held south of the equator).
Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is the current king of Sweden
The Air Jordan XVI was released in 2001
Volume XVI of Calvin's Commentaries is "The Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke"

Anyone May Kill Us in the Street

Q: Where is the oldest and largest Christian community in the Middle East?
A: Egypt
Contrary to popular belief the BBC still has a religion section. Check out this article on a pair of
Egyptian Christians, and be encouraged by their faith and by the fact that there are still people in the secular world paying attention to religious persecution outside of Tibet.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Lincoln Sermon Notes

Usually John Piper says "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him" but Lincoln's answer was unique and easier to remember. PS Notice the Evangelical Cross (on the left) and the Catholic Crucifix (on the right). Not sure if he was being ecumenical or descriptive.

Ephesians 6:16 is one way to get 9 year-olds interested in scripture.

Congregational Leadership

So what is the role of leaders in the congregation? Consider the following:
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach... able to teach.1 Timothy 3:2
For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach… He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. Titus 1:7, 9

New Testament apostolic authority is given to the congregation. Leaders are never appointed to serve not in the place of this authority that is properly held by the assembled body. Leaders are appointed to serve the congregation through the Word of God. Leaders in the church are to be about the business of teaching the scriptures, studying, correcting and training the people in the scriptures, rebuking those who are in error, and exhortation by the scriptures.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2

The Congregational Church and Scripture

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you (singular) bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you (singular) loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”Matthew 16:17-19
If your brother sins [against you]*, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you (plural) bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you (plural) loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.Matthew 18:15-18

These are the only two references to church [ekklesia, church, congregation; assembly, gathering] in all of the gospels, and both times Jesus uses the word he also repeats this phrase: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Jesus seems to be linking heavenly authority to the earthly practices of the gathered body of the church. Although this authority is specifically mentioned in the case of corrective discipline of an unrepentant member, Christ’s accompanying phrase seems to indicate that he did not intend the church to have authority in this area alone. cf. Matthew 28:18-20; 6:9-10
Insight into the practice of New Testament churches especially in matters of discipline can be seen in the case study from the Corinthian letters:
Let [the unrepentant] who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.1 Corinthians 5:2-5
When viewed in light of the teaching found in Matthew, discipline should take place along a set pattern: one on one, in groups of three or four, and only then among the church. So it can be assumed that the man mentioned in the previous passage is unrepentant. Earlier in Matthew 16 gives Peter alone the authority to bind and loose on earth as in heaven. In Matthew 18 the same authority of binding and loosing on earth as in heaven is given to the gathered body of believers. Paul’s two statements I have already pronounced judgment and my spirit is present, seem to indicate that Paul sees himself as having the same apostolic authority of binding and loosing that Jesus gives to peter in Matthew 16. In addition, Paul’s instructions to the church that when you are assembled in the name of the lord and you (plural) are to deliver seem to indicate that this same apostolic authority that Peter is given and as apostle Paul assumes is given by Paul to the church.
The responsibility for removal lies with in the assembled body and with no other group or leadership cf. v. 4. Even Paul’s apostolic authority is spoken of as equivalent to the authority of the assembled body of believers. cf. 5:2-3 By implication the phrase whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven expands the authority of the congregational gathering “in the name of the Lord” to include more matters than just the taking in or the removal of membership.
Compare the remainder of the Corinthian instruction:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
Clearly, Paul’s recommendation, and by implication the command of scripture, is that congregations have a responsibility to judge its members in matters of discipleship (cf. v. 5 so that his spirit may be saved) and discipline (cf. v. 13 Purge the evil person from among you). This responsibility is not given here to any single individual but to all the congregation.
The assembled congregation is given an authority on par with the authority of Peter or Paul.

Remember Calvin and Hobbes?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

From John Calvin on James

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. -James 5:16
"[James] reminds them how useful it is to discover our sins to our brethren even that we may obtain the pardon of them by their intercession. This passage I know is explained by many as referring to the reconciling of offenses for they who wish to return to favor must necessarily know first their own faults and confess them. For hence it comes that hatreds take root yea and increase and become irreconcilable because every one pertinaciously defends his own cause. Many therefore think that James points out here the way of brotherly reconciliation that is by mutual acknowledgment of sins. But as it has been said his object was different for he connects mutual prayer with mutual confession by which he intimates that confession avails for this end that we may be helped as to God by the prayers of our brethren for they who know our necessities are stimulated to pray that they may assist us but they to whom our diseases are unknown are more tardy to bring us help."
Commentaries on the catholic epistles, tr. and ed. by J. Owen By Jean [comms. on the Bible] Calvin
Mark's question on accountability in ministry was a good good one: If I don't give full disclosure am I even receiving the benefits of the relationship? Calvin makes a good case to connect brotherly reconciliation to confession/accountability. I am beginning to see how those two should not be made distinct. The reason why we gather is to mutually encourage and offer the support to one another that's needed. Am I an individual who sucks up help like a leech or am I a member in the body supporting and gaining support from all the other parts as they work together? So Calvin is right to say that James' goal is to make us aware that the help we need in combating sin must come from our brothers who will be ready to bring us help if we confess. We who are called Christian no longer live for ourselves. Which we can easily say, but implied in that bold statement is that we live to God in Christ instead, and God in Christ has chosen to show himself through the local congregation.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Shattering Marriage Ideals II

Powerful Quote:

Over the destiny of woman and of man lies the dark shadow of a word of God’s wrath, a burden from God, which they must carry. The woman must bear her children in pain, and in providing for his family the man must reap many thorns and thistles, and labor in the sweat of his brow. This burden should cause both man and wife to call on God, and should remind them of their eternal destiny in his kingdom. Earthly society is only the beginning of the heavenly society, the earthly home an image of the heavenly home, the earthly family a symbol of the fatherhood of God.
-DietrichBonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 31

full quote here.
from Pastor Paul Veal's blog.
and Pastor John Piper's new book.