How they studied…

Bullinger (1504-1575) left an account of how the Reformation ministers in Zurich studied the Old Testament together in Zwingli’s time:

They began with prayer, asking God for clarity and transformation, that in no way would they displease him.

Then one of the young ministers, who had prepared in advance, read and commented on the passage for that day from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate version.

Next, a Hebrew scholar went back over the passage in the Hebrew text, commenting, explaining, citing commentaries along the way.

Then, a Greek reader led them through the passage in the Septuagint and other Greek versions.

Finally, Zwingli himself pulled it all together, surveying the Patristic commentators, the medieval rabbis and the Catholic scholars. He connected the text with the whole of the Bible. He funneled it all down to the force and message of the passage, its uplifting power, the real meaning and profit and use of it.

God was powerfully at work, to produce such an intelligent and sincere passion for his Word.

Cited in G. H. Box, “Hebrew Studies in the Reformation Period and After: their place and influence,” in The Legacy of Israel (Oxford, 1927), edited by E. R. Bevan and C. Singer, pages 345-346.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Happy New Year

God has been so good to each of us this year, treating us far better than any of us deserve. We trust His hand of Providence as we embark on the journey into 2012, knowing He has prepared many things for us that He will work for His glory and our good.

To all readers of the blog…

Numbers 6: 24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

If a prophet…

I’m sitting here at my computer and as I look at the clock it tells me it is just after midnight on the east coast on September 11. My thoughts turn to consider this thought – if a prophet of God was to be raised up to speak to our nation on this, the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, I wonder what he might say. Perhaps he might remind us that less than 3000 died via militant Islam attacks, and yet more than 3000 mothers hire assassins to murder their babes, every day the sun comes up. Strong words, I know… but maybe, just maybe, someone speaking for God might remind our nation of this.

9/11/01 Never forget!

Purpose

When we don’t know the purpose of a thing, abuse is inevitable.

The first five questions of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]
[a]. Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11
[b]. Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, [a] is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. [b]
[a]. Matt. 19:4-5 with Gen. 2:24; Luke 24:27, 44; I Cor. 2:13; 14:37;
II Pet.1:20-21; 3:2, 15-16
[b]. Deut. 4:2; Ps. 19:7-11; Isa. 18:20; John 15:11; 20:30-31; Acts 17:11;
II Tim. 3:15-17; I John 1:4

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, [a] and what duty God requires of man [b].
[a]. Gen. 1:1; John 5:39; 20:31; Rom. 10:17; II Tim. 3:15
[b]. Deut. 10:12-13; Josh. 1:8; Ps. 119:105; Mic. 6:8; II Tim. 3:16-17

Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit [a], infinite [b], eternal [c], and unchangeable [d] in his being [e], wisdom [f], power [g], holiness [h], justice [i], goodness [j], and truth [k].
[a]. Deut. 4:15-19; Luke 24:39; John 1:18; 4:24; Acts 17:29
[b]. IKings 8:27; Ps. 139:7-10; 145:3; 147:5; Jer. 23:24; Rom. 11:33-36
[c]. Deut. 33:27; Ps. 90:2; 102:12, 24-27; Rev. 1:4,8
[d]. Ps. 33:11; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 1:12; 6:17-18; 13:8; Jas. 1:17
[e]. Ex. 3:14; Ps. 115:2-3; I Tim. 1:17; 6:15-16
[f]. Ps. 104:24; Rom. 11:33-34; Heb. 4:13; I John 3:20
[g]. Gen. 17:1; Ps. 62:11; Jer. 32:17; Mat. 19:26; Rev. 1:8
[h]. Heb. 1:13; I Pet. 1:15-16; I John 3:3, 5; Rev. 15:4
[i]. Gen. 18:25; Ex. 34:6-7; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 96:13; Rom. 3:5, 26
[j]. Ps. 103:5; 107:8; Matt. 19:17; Rom. 2:4
[k]. Ex. 34:6; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 86:15; 117:2; Heb. 6:18

Q. 5. Are there more Gods than one?
A. There is but one only [a], the living and true God [b].
[a]. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:6; 45:21-22; I Cor. 8:4-6
[b]. Jer. 10:10; John 17:3; I Thess. 1:9; I John 5:20

Q. 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost [a]; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. [b]
[a]. Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; II Cor. 13:14; I Pet. 1:2
[b]. Ps. 45:6; John 1:1; 17:5; Acts 5:3-4; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; Jude 24-25

Things I Think

I think the Lord convicted me of how prayerless my ministry can be. I mean, if I believed that ministry were God’s work and not mine, wouldn’t I be asking for him to engage in that work a whole lot more than I do? Why is it that I’m so much more disciplined and diligent to do the work myself rather than rely on the one whose work it is in the first place? Answer: I am self-reliant. I have a deficiency of dependence.

Whenever I am prayerless it betrays an underlying belief that I can do life and ministry on my own, which according to Scripture, is certifiably insane. Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:7). I deny reality and live like a lunatic whenever I act as if I can do the work of my life and ministry on my own. And prayerlessness is the tell-tale sign that I’ve gone nuts.

So as I’ve come back to work – to God’s work – I’m committing myself to reality: to remember the reality of my own neediness, my own helplessness, by focusing intensely on the cross of Christ. There it is that I see my desperation, my profound neediness, my own inability to do life on my own; for if this is what it cost to rescue me from my sin and self-righteousness, then I must be truly needy, truly helpless, truly powerless to accomplish anything myself. And with this renewed focus on Jesus’ cross, I am resolved to take my neediness in hand and bring it earnestly and regularly to the throne of grace to receive (as the writer to the Hebrews has said) mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:16).

Hebrews is one of my favorite books of the entire Bible and Dr. Sinclair Ferguson’s reasons for studying it echo my own thoughts very well:

? Hebrews reveals Christ as the key to understanding the Old Testament. He calls Hebrews a “master interpreter” of the Old Testament. It reveals promise and fulfillment, type and antitype, shadow and reality.
? It displays the greatness of Jesus Christ. He is better than anges, Moses, Joshua, Aaron, the priesthood, the tabernacle and the sacrifices.
? It emphasizes the theological and practical importance of the humanity of Christ. Ferguson says: “assurance, peace, access to God, knowledge that He is our father, and strength to overcome demptation all depend on this – that the Son of God took our flesh andbore our sins in such a way that further sacrifice for sin is both unnecessary and unintelligible.”
? Hebrews emphasizes the nature of true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The true nature is perseverence. Though the recipients were being persecuted to go back to their old religion, the writer is convinced that those who remain faithful will receive the promises.

Talking of Dr. Ferguson, I recently re-read the notes of a lecture he did entitled “The Puritans: Can They Teach Us Anything Today?”

The short answer to the question is “a whole lot!”

Puritans were individuals who wanted to see the church purified according to the teaching of Scripture, and also wanted to see their lives, in great detail, purified by the Word of God.

Dr. Ferguson presents the big picture overview concerning why the Puritans and their writings can be so useful to us in our own day. I was particularly struck by how the Puritans sought to practically apply the Bible in the home life of each family in the local church and how all the doctrine expoused was so very Trinitarian. It is excellent material. I hope it will stir in us a desire to read more of their writings. You will find part one of his talk here and part two here.

Last, but by no means least, my heart goes out to Christian baseball player Josh Hamilton who was recently involved in a terrible tragedy, along with the Stone family.

Sovereign, even over sin

God has ordained every event in time and space. Some people react to this clear biblical statement and say, “No, then God is not God. Certainly it is no surprise to Him that sin exists, and He will be glorified in His justice when He punishes it, either in Christ as the sin bearer for all who trust in Him, or in the sinner in hell for eternity. Without doubt the crucifixion of the Son of God was man’s greatest sin, yet the Bible is clear that Jesus was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). God ordained the cross before He ever made the world. If this event was ordained in this way, so was the sin that put Him there. God is Sovereign and “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11), “for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

Around the blogosphere

Here are some things I came across that I wanted to share.

(1) From the Ligonier Ministries website: In recent days, the evangelical church has been rocked by Rob Bell’s open questioning of the doctrine of hell. Dr. Sproul answers those questions in a forthcoming book, Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons. In the following excerpt from the book, Dr. R. C. Sproul strongly affirms that hell is a biblical concept and a very real place. Unseen Realities, which is jointly published by Christian Focus Publications and Ligonier Ministries, will be released in the United Kingdom in May and in the United States in July. Excerpt found here (its excellent!!!)

(2) I love this quote of Dr. J. I. Packer concerning the Puritans:

“For the Puritans, the landscape of piety–that is, the spiritual topography of the ongoing life-situations in which each saint serves God–was determined by four realities, on all of which, as their books show, they laid out a great deal of expository effort. These were the sovereignty and sanctity of God, under whose eye we live, in whose hands we are, and whose purpose to have us holy, as he is holy, explains his way with our lives; the dignity and depravity of human beings, made for God but ruined by sin and now needing total renewal by grace; the love and Lordship of Christ, the Mediator, the Christian’s Saviour-King; and the light and power of the Holy Spirit, who convicts, quickens, regenerates, witnesses, leads, and sanctifies.” – Dr. J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Crossway, 2010; repr.), 332

(3) I think it is well worth just over a minute of your time to watch this. May God stir our hearts to seek Him for something only He can bring – revival to His people! Blaze Spirit blaze, set our hearts on fire!

God bless!

Parodios via Satiricus

A Recently Discovered Letter of Critique Written to the Apostle Paul, co-authored by Justin Taylor (pictured) and Jared Wilson

Exclusive: In an exciting example of scholarly cross-collaboration and interdisciplinary research, textual critics and archaeologists have just published a translation of a recently discovered first-century letter, apparently authentic, written to the Apostle Paul himself. Scholars believe it was likely written in the late AD 40s or early 50s. The parchment was remarkably well preserved in a jar buried in a cave on the island of Satiricus. It is surmised that the author of the letter, Parodios, was an elder who had met Paul on one of his missionary journeys. The translation, published here for the first time, reads as follows:

Parodios, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, to our brother Paulos.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our church recently received a copy of the letter that you sent to the church of Galatia. We hope you will not mind hearing our humble concerns. In the past we have noticed you are more interested in confronting people rather than conversing with them, but we hope you will receive this letter as an invitation to further dialogue.

First of all, we are uncomfortable with your tone throughout the correspondence. We know it is difficult sometimes to discern tone of voice from written communication, but you should keep this in mind as well. One could gather from your careless use of words that you are losing your temper. You certainly sound angry. This is unbecoming a spokesperson for the faith. As you say yourself, one of the manifest fruit of God’s Spirit is gentleness.

Aren’t you being a hypocrite to preach grace but not show it to our Judaizer brothers? They may not worship as you do or emphasize the same teachings you do, but our Lord has “sheep not of this fold,” and there is certainly room within the broader Way for these brothers. Their methodology may differ from yours, but certainly their hearts are in the right place.

You yourself know that our Lord required personal contact when we have a grievance against another. Have you personally contacted any of these men? Have you sat down to reason with them personally? Have you issued a personal invitation? Some of them may even reconsider their viewpoints if you had taken a different tack. We know that your position is likely that public teaching is open to public criticism, but we can do better than what is expected, can’t we?

In one portion of your letter, you indicate you don’t even know these persons! “Whoever he is,” you write. Our dear Paulos, how can you rightly criticize them when you don’t know them? It’s clear you haven’t even read their material, because you never quote them. We implore you to see that they are plainly within the tradition of Moses and of the Prophets. They understand the context of the covenant in ways you appear deaf to.

Similarly, we find your tone and resorting to harsh language not in keeping with the love of Christ. “Foolish Galatians.” “Let him be accursed.” “Emasculate themselves.” Really? Can you not hear yourself? You think this is Christlike? Does this sound like something our Lord would say? Do you think this flippant, outrageous, personal, vindictive manner of speech speaks well of God’s love or the church? It is clear you are taking this way too personally. Indeed, you ask the Galatians if you are now their enemy. Does everything have to be so black and white to you?

Paulos, what will unbelievers think when they read this letter? Do you think this will commend the gospel to them? This kind of harsh language just makes us look like a bunch of angry people. They see we can’t even love each other, and over what? Circumcision? This is a terrible advertisement for God’s love to an unbelieving world. You have given plenty of people permission now to disregard Jesus, if this is what his mouthpieces sound like.

We hope you will reconsider your approach. We know that you catch much more flies with honey than with vinegar. We are concerned that your ill-worded letter signals a divisiveness that threatens to fracture the church. We beg you to reconsider how important these minor issues are, and how in the future you may speak in ways that better reflect God’s love.

The grace—and the love!—of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brother.

It is unknown whether the Apostle Paul actually received and read this letter, and history has left no record of a response.

But we think we can make at least two observations.

First, Paul’s words to the Galatians were not inappropriate. They were true words, and they were loving words. Even if it runs contrary to our presuppositions and expectations, they were an example of “speaking the truth in love.” These words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that to critique Paul and his language is ultimately to critique God himself.

Second, this language was not Paul’s default. He did not respond to every controversy in the same way. He would be appalled if people took this letter to the Galatians and made it the norm for Christian discourse. Christians should seek to guard their tongue, using gracious speech seasoned with salt, delivered in love, and designed for edification (Col. 4:6; Eph. 4:15, 25, 29). But false doctrine and false teachers can infiltrate the church, and when the gospel is at stake, the means of being loving, edifying, salt-flavored, grace-filled may require harsh words in order to protect the flock, the church for whom Christ died.

May God give us much wisdom in how to speak the truth in love, especially when we have to call a spade a spade.

Things I’m Thinking This Friday

85 years old today. The events of her life could have been made into a dramatic Christian movie – she certainly has an amazing story to tell. I sought to write something of it here.

Mom – you continue to inspire me (and all our family) in so many ways. Your devotion and faithfulness to God in good times and hard times is the hallmark of your life and God continues to use you greatly. I love you more than I could ever say in words and I am very proud to be your loving son. Happy Birthday!

I am also thinking that for the many people taking the TULIP journey here on this site, I wish to very strongly recommend the CD series “What is Reformed Theology?” by Dr. R. C. Sproul where he takes you through the same doctrines (as only he can). And TODAY, that series, normally $31, is available in the Friday $5 sale at Ligonier. Its an amazing deal, so much so, that if funds are available to you, may I suggest ordering multiple copies so you have them to give away. Just a thought! Get your Ligonier $5 Friday Items

I found this very interesting. The people at 66clouds.com have conducted a fascinating project. The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and twenty-seven books of the New Testament were individually imported into Wordle to create a unique word cloud for each one. Word clouds quickly present viewers with the gist of written materials at a glance. Wordle gives greater prominence and size to words that appear more frequently in the source text. Therefore, the larger the word is in the cloud, the more prominent it is in the text. Within Wordle, clouds can be adjusted with different fonts, layouts and color schemes. The original source text was the New International Version of the Bible. However, when importing the text into Wordle the total word limit for each cloud was set at 150 and the options Remove Common English Words and Remove Numbers were both selected. The same parameters were used for all sixty-six books of the Bible to give Sixty-Six Clouds a consistent style and appearance. Check out this video.

Lastly, my heart and mind are very much moved to worship as I consider the wonderful work of Christ on the cross. The depth and riches of the doctrines of grace have not been fully grasped if they only bring us intellectual knowledge or some kind of mental stimulation. Properly understood, they lead every true child of God to new depths of worship of our great God.

This song is definitely amongst my all time favorites. I have been moved to tears many times as I have contemplated the words. How thankful I am for the Father’s love – so vast and immeasurable.

How deep the Father’s love for us – written by Stuart Townend: