April “Tabletalk”: The Great Commission

The Great Ordinary Commission by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

April-TT-2014April has arrived, and so has the new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine. Last week I continued using the daily devotionals (on Romans – now chap.5), and yesterday I dove into the main articles.

This month’s feature is missions, under the large heading “The Great Commission”. Editor Burk Parsons introduces this theme with the above-linked article. And, as he points out, this so-called “great commission” is actually the ordinary calling of the church – to go into the world and make disciples, beginning at home.

Here is part of his introduction; you will find the full article at the link above.

The Great Commission is a call to the church to be the church and to do the work of the church by making disciples of all nations. And we must remember that Jesus never called it “the Great Commission.” It is indeed a great commission, but it is a beautifully ordinary commission that we have the great privilege of fulfilling in part as we gather together with every tribe, tongue, and nation to worship with our families every Lord’s Day. Then we partake of and bear witness to the ordinary means of grace in the building up of the church in the preaching of the Word, growing as disciples and learning from the Scriptures to observe all that Jesus commanded. Then we enjoy the communion of the saints in communion with God in prayer, observe baptism in the name of our triune God, and partake regularly of the Supper that our Lord provides at His table. This is the extraordinarily great and greatly ordinary work of the church as we go, send, and make disciple-making disciples of all nations, just as we see the early church being faithful to the fullness of the Great Commission (Acts 2:42–47).

The first main feature article on this theme is “The Great Commission in the Old Testament”, an intriguing article by Dr.L.Michael Morales. He ties God’s call to Israel to be a blessing to the nations to the so-called “cultural mandate”, to the covenant with Abraham, and to king David, showing that from the beginning God’s purpose was to redeem the world, i.e., to save His people and restore the whole creation under its glorious Priest-King, Jesus Christ. I think you will find his thoughts interesting and thought-provoking.

Here is a portion of what he writes:

It is important to understand that only as the anointed king did David receive the promise to rule and subdue the nations. David’s commission was to spread the will and reign of God over the earth—his “enemies” were not merely political or personal, but the enemies of God, kings who had set themselves against the Lord and His anointed. In reality, however, the goal of subduing Israel would prove quite enough. Worse still, it was Israel’s kings themselves who led God’s sheep astray into perverse rebellion and heinous idolatry. The exile was inevitable.

Yet, remarkably, within the context of Israel’s apostasy, God promised to raise up a Davidic Servant who would not only lead the tribes of Jacob through a new exodus but who would also be given “as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6). This same Servant, we go on to read, would suffer God’s judgment in bearing the sins of many, that as an exalted priest he might “sprinkle many nations” (Isa. 52:13–53:12; see 1 Peter 1:1–2). Having atoned for the sins of his people, this coming Messiah—the last Adam, the seed of Abraham, the true Israel, the greater David, the Suffering Servant, the Son of God—would ascend on high to reign from the heavenly Mount Zion, from the right hand of God the Father.

 

Matthew 28, then, is but the embrace of the inheritance promised in Psalm 2. Yet this kingship is in the service of a priestly office, to usher us into God’s presence through the veil of torn flesh and shed blood. Through His outpoured Spirit, Jesus reigns to subdue and summon all creation to the adoration of His Father (1 Cor. 15:24–28), subduing us day by day ever more deeply that we might learn how to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Word Wednesday: “Polity” (as in Church)

Over the last month or so we have been examing a few words that are regularly found and heard in our Seminary environment. We have looked at “isagogics”, “exegesis”, and “homiletics”. Today we want to consider the word “polity”, as in “church polity”, another of the courses taught in the area of Practical Theology by Prof.B.Gritters.

ChurchPolity-CHodgeIf the word “polity” sounds a lot like “politics”, you are correct in your association, because they both have the same root – the Greek word for city (polis) and citizen (polites). And there are other English words that derive from this: police, polite, and of course, politician and political. If you look up this word in the dictionary, this is what you find for definition and origin:

World English Dictionary
polity  (ˈpɒlɪtɪ)
n  , pl -ties
1. a form of government or organization of a state, church, society, etc; constitution
2. a politically organized society, state, city, etc
3. the management of public or civil affairs
4. political organization
[C16: from Latin polītīa,  from Greek politeia  citizenship, civil administration, from politēs  citizen, from polis  city]

Now, of course, we despise church politics, by which we would mean using worldly craft and power to attain one’s goals in the spiritual city of God. We don’t want our pastors, professors, elders or deacons – or any citizen of God’s city for that matter – resorting to this kind of “polity”.

But we do want them to follow Christ’s polity for God’s holy city, which is nothing else but the rules He has ordained and revealed to us in His Word for how His church ought to be managed. The Head of the church (or the King of God’s city) has given us the principles and regulations by which His body (or city) ought to be organized and governed. And the study of these principles and regulations is called “church polity”.

And so, in our Seminary catalog you will find this description of the course known as “church polity” (course # 413 & 414):

A study of the biblical principles of Reformed church government relating to the institutional life of the church upon earth, and of the Church Order adopted by the Synod of Dordrecht and used in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America.

Yes, church polity is about how we all – officebearers (sub-rulers in God’s city) and citizens – behave in the house of God (cf. I Tim.3:15). Do you know how to? If you want to learn more, study the Word of God - and our Church Order! You might also be interested in these “Notes on the Church Order” by Prof.(emeritus) H.Hanko. And perhaps someday, Prof.Gritters will invite you to his Seminary course :)

Fourth of July Reflections on a Changing America – R.Phillips

Fourth of July Reflections on a Changing America – Reformation21 Blog.

For Christians, the issue of patriotism is always complicated by our citizenship in two realms, one earthly and one heavenly.  The Bible teaches that we have duties to our earthly nation, including obeying laws, paying taxes, and honoring our leaders (Rom. 13:1-7).  At the same time, we are subjects of the eternal kingdom of Christ.  Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”  (Mt. 22:21).  This dual citizenship presents serious complications when the civil and the divine authorities strongly conflict.  This was the situation the early believers faced in Jerusalem, resulting in their persecution.  Peter told the Jewish leaders, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and for his disobedience he was beaten and later threatened with execution (Acts 5:40; 12:1-6).

…Even more importantly, we must be faithful to Christ in the midst of these troubles.  The Bible has amply warned us to expect such upheavals (1 Pet. 4:12).  So let us be neither dismayed nor distracted from our primarily calling as disciples of Jesus.  This means:

1)  We must steadfastly refuse to violate God’s Word, either in obeying ungodly government requirements or in opposing them.  This is our absolute duty to the Lord and the source of our moral authority among men.

2)      Our churches must stop dancing to the world’s tune.  We must no longer measure church success in secular terms – attendance, buildings, and cash – but in the biblical terms of truth, godliness, and evangelistic zeal.  Our pulpits must resound with the biblical message of law and gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit.  While many churches (especially many prominent mega-churches) may capitulate to the pagan agenda, ours must stand with the Lord through faithfulness to his Word.

…Christ is reigning over this year’s Fourth of July.  The startling troubles before us are as much an opportunity as they are a threat, but only if Christians rise up to our calling as servants of a triumphant gospel in the midst of a sin-broken world.

J.Calvin on Psalm 118: “…Pray fervently and constantly for the prosperity and progress of this spiritual kingdom.”

Also for our meditation on Psalm 118 today, I post these words of John Calvin on vss.25-26. May they too point us to Christ and to our calling to “pray fervently and constantly for the prosperity and progress” of Christ’s spiritual kingdom.

JCalvin1…The clause, blessed is he that cometh, may be viewed as a form of congratulation; but seeing that the benediction of the priests is immediately annexed, I am disposed rather to believe that the people wished for David God’s grace and favor. To induce them to present this petition with more alacrity, and thus be encouraged to receive the king whom God appointed them, this promise is added in the person of the priests, We bless you out of the house of the Lord.

They speak in this manner agreeably with the nature of their office, which enjoined on them the duty of blessing the people, as appears from several passages in the books of Moses, and particularly from Numbers 6:23. It is not without reason that they connect the welfare of the Church with the prosperity of the kingdom, it being their desire to throw out the suggestion, and to represent that the safety of the people would remain as long as that kingdom continued to flourish, and that they would all share in the blessings which would be conferred upon their king, because of the indissoluble connection which exists between the head and members.

Knowing, as we now do, that when David was constituted king, the foundation of that everlasting kingdom, which was eventually manifested in the advent of Christ, was then laid, and that the temporal throne upon which the descendants of David were placed was a type of the eternal kingdom given to Christ by God his Father, in consequence of which he obtained all power, both in heaven and on earth, there can be no question that the prophet calls upon the faithful to pray fervently and constantly for the prosperity and progress of this spiritual kingdom; for it was incumbent on those who lived during the shadowy dispensation to pray for David and his successors; but after all the grandeur of that kingdom was overthrown, it behooved them to entreat the more ardently that God, in fulfillment of his promise, would re-establish it.

In short, all that is here stated properly relates to the person of Christ; and that which was dimly adumbrated in David was brightly represented and fulfilled in Christ. The election of David was secret; and after he was anointed by Samuel to be king, he was rejected by Saul, and by all the heads of the people, and all abhorred him as if he had been a person deserving of a hundred deaths. Thus disfigured and dishonored, he did not appear to be a fit stone for occupying a place in the building. Similar to this was the beginning of the kingdom of Christ, who, being sent by his Father for the redemption of the Church, not only was despised by the world, but also hated and execrated, both by the common people and the dignitaries of the Church.

J.Calvin on Psalm 110: “The world… will never be able to hurl him from the right hand of the Father.”

For our continued meditation on Psalm 110 today, we also post these thoughts of John Calvin on Psalm 110:2. May this beautiful commentary on the sacred Scripture give us assurance of our standing in this world by the grace of God through our Priest-King Jesus Christ.

JCalvinPic2 Jehovah shall send out of Zion the scepter of thy power.  …In a word, David here animates the hearts of the godly against being dispirited by the foolhardy attempts on the part of those who presume to introduce discord and disorder into the kingdom of Christ; for he shows them that God will put forth his invincible power for the maintaining of the glory of his sacred throne. What time, then, our minds are agitated by various commotions, let us learn confidently to repose on this support, that however much the world may rage against Christ, it will never be able to hurl him from the right hand of the Father. Moreover, as he does not reign on his own account, but for our salvation, we may rest assured that we will be protected and preserved from all ills under the guardianship of this invincible King. Doubtless our condition in this world is connected with many hardships; but as it is the will of God that Christ’s kingdom should be encompassed with many enemies, and that too with the design of keeping us in a state of constant warfare, it becomes us to exercise patience and meekness; and assured of God’s aid, boldly to set at nought the rage of the whole world. From this passage we are instructed as to the calling of the Gentiles. Because, if God had not told us in this place respecting the extension of Christ’s kingdom, we would not this day have been classed among his people. But as the wall is broken down, (Ephesians 2:14) and the gospel promulgated, we have been gathered together into the body of the Church, and Christ’s power is put forth to uphold and defend us.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 110

Psalm 110To guide us in the thoughts, desires, and actions of our worship today we consider the 110th Psalm, a highly significant song of David given through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When we read this psalm, we will come to see that the truth revealed in it is the very basis and reason for our worship, for the key to our worship is Christ. Let’s put it before our mind’s eye right away, reading it slowly and meditating on it:

Psalm 110

The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

2The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.

3Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.

4The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

5The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.

6He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.

7He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

Having read this psalm, we see that this Word of God is clearly Messianic, pointing us to and showing us the glory of Israel’s king to come, the Lord Jesus Christ. While the immediate occasion of this song may have been the coronation of David as king (after he had conquered Jebus and established Jerusalem as the royal city), we understand (in the light of the NT) that David was not merely writing about himself but about someone greater. He speaks of the Son in his covenant line Who is the fulfillment of all God’s promises and Israel’s hopes – THE Christ (Messiah), Who in the fullness of time was revealed to be Jesus, the very Son of God in our flesh.

And in fact, Jesus Himself used Psalm 110 to prove that he is the promised Son of David as well as the Son of God. You will recall this exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees:

41While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 43He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?46And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

And the greatness and glory of this Messiah is not only that He is the sovereign King of God’s Israel (the church in both the OT and NT) but also that He is Priest. And not just any Priest, but a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Gen.14:18). The writer to the Hebrews especially explains the significance of this priesthood (5:6,10; 6:20), telling us these truths about Jesus in chap.7:

For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 3Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually….

11If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? 12For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. 15And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. 17For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 18For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. 20And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: 21(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) 22By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. 23And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. 26For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 28For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

It is not my purpose to add much more commentary on this psalm, for this is the Spirit’s own commentary on Psalm 110. I trust we see now why I said that this psalm reveals the very basis and reason for our worship: Christ Jesus, our great Priest-King! Why are we allowed to draw near God today? Why are we able to draw near to Him in worship and in fellowship? Why do we want to draw near in praise and thanks? Because the LORD (Jehovah) said unto His Lord, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool.” With firm trust in this Messiah, may we come near to our God this day and magnify Him in every part of our worship.

If you wish to meditate through music on this psalm, I point you to the PRC Psalter page and to this versification of Psalm 110 found in our Psalter (Click on the title to hear piano accompaniment):

302.  Our Lord Jesus.   Psalm 110.  8s and 7s. (3 stanzas)

1. The Lord unto His Christ hath said,
In glory I enthrone Thee
Till all Thy foes, in triumph led,
Their sovereign King shall own Thee;
From Zion shall Jehovah send
Thy scepter, till before Thee bend
The knees of proud rebellion.

2. Thy people will be gladly Thine
When Thou shalt come victorious,
In holy beauty Thou shalt shine
Like morning fair and glorious;
The word of God shall not depart:
The King of Righteousness Thou art,
A Royal Priest forever.

3. The Lord at Thy right hand shall smite
Earth’s kings in indignation,
And He shall judge with sovereign right
Throughout His wide creation;
While living streams His strength sustain,
The Christ the victory shall gain,
Head over all exalted.

“Kids These Days” – R.C. Sproul Jr.

Kids These Days by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. is a teaching fellow of Ligonier Ministries and founder of Highlands Ministries.

Writing under his usual rubric, “Seek Ye First”, R.C. Sproul, Jr. also wrote a good piece relating to the theme of this month’s Tabletalk. I read this too yesterday and benefited from his thoughts on the youth culture of today. His full article is posted on Ligonier’s site (linked above); I give you this part of it today to stimulate you to read the rest.

All of this is evidence that even in the church we take our cues from the broader culture rather than from the Word of God. Take a moment and look in your concordance for teenager. Tryadolescence. Try generation gap. See if you can find youth culture. Neither the words nor the concepts are there. These are not biblical categories. That they are common destructive elements in our homes ought to clue us in that we’re doing something wrong.

It is not enough, however, to clamp down. That is, it is not mere permissiveness that has gotten us into this mess. The problem runs deeper. It isn’t that we aren’t rightly handling the youth, but that we even concede the existence of the youth. The Bible recognizes happily the reality of children. It affirms the existence of adults. What it doesn’t do is embrace something in between.

The Bible nowhere affirms the existence of a youth culture because it everywhere encourages us to embrace a different culture—that of the kingdom of God. When Paul enjoins us to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:1), the root Greek word that is translated nurture in our English Bibles is paideia. It communicates the notion of a culture. It includes shared convictions, shared language, and shared habits of the heart.

…Nathan Hatch once exposed the infiltration of peculiar American ideals into the church in his great book The Democratization of American Christianity. In our day, we are witnessing the demographicization of American Christianity. At best, we establish programs based on age, sex, and life situation. At worst, we have a church tailored to fans of country music and Mountain Dew at one site, and a church tailored to fans of jazz and Starbucks elsewhere. We are dividing what Christ has brought together; we are the Corinthians, except that we divide the body by taste rather than by income.

Jesus, however, makes of the many one. We are one family, one loaf, one body, one culture, one love. Would that the broader culture would be able to say of our culture, “Oh, how they love each other.”

Seeking Shalom and “Building” the New Heavens and Earth

MissionofChurchBookThis morning our book club is meeting to discuss the recent book Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert co-authored: What Is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission (Crossway, 2011). On the whole this is an excellent book that addresses common errors and misconceptions in our day concerning what the church’s calling in this world is and that makes clear what her true mission is, namely, to preach the gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

In reading one of the final chapters last evening (“Seeking Shalom: Understanding the New Heavens and the New Earth”) I came on this paragraph, in which the authors are speaking to the error that is so common today, that we are called somehow to build the new heavens and earth and in this way make shalom (peace) in this world. I found it to be an excellent summary of what the Bible teaches and how the Reformed faith views our “calling” with regard to our glorious future:

It would seem, therefore, to be far beyond the biblical witness to talk as if we as Christians are somehow contributing to the building of the new heavens and the new earth. It’s the same idea we considered earlier, in fact, with reference to the kingdom. Just as it is God and not we who will establish his kingship over the world, so it is God and not we who will create the new earth in which that kingship is exercised. In fact, that’s really the glorious thing about the gospel of Jesus. Everything we have – and everything we will ever have – is given to us. We will not have earned it; we will not have built it. We have simply received it all. When eternity finally comes, we will live in a land that was made and created for us, under a kingdom that was won and established for us by a Savior who died and was resurrected for us. Put simply, the gospel is the good news of a salvation, in all its parts, that is for us, and not in the least by us (p.208).

That is the gospel worth remembering – and worth proclaiming in the church and in this world.

Voting with Biblical Lens

Today, here in the United States, we will vote for our national, state, and local leaders. In our constitutional republic (we are not truly a “democracy”) this is a tremendous gift. It is a wonderful privilege that many in other parts of the world do not have. We can so easily forget this and take it for granted. And, we believe this gift and privilege are from God, not men (Rom.13). And therefore, with this gift and privilege also come a high calling and a deep responsibility. As Reformed Christians we are not free to vote as we wish, nor according to the whims of our fallen society and depraved fellow citizens. We are called to exercise our constitutional right to vote according to the will of God, as revealed in holy Scripture. We are to vote with hearts and minds informed and inflamed by God’s Word.

In other words, we are called to vote today with our Biblical lens on (Ps.119:105). It was John Calvin who gave us that idea (and expression) that all of life is to be seen and lived through the “spectacles (eyeglasses) of holy Scripture”. Doing so will remind us, first of all, that no matter who is elected into office, no matter who is given power to rule, no matter who governs our land and lands, God is the supreme and sovereign Ruler. His sovereign will will be done today and His sovereign purpose for all things will be carried out through whomever is set in office nationally and locally.

And then secondly, with our Biblical lens on we will be sure to vote out of Biblical principle and not political or personal expediency (“the doing or consideration of what is of selfish use or advantage rather than of what is right or just; self-interest” – Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Which means that the most important thing today is not the economy (though the issue of stewardship and debt are important), or even one particular moral issue, but this consideration: what person best honors God in the office (even if only outwardly), which one best upholds the moral standards of God’s Word, and which candidate best serves the church and kingdom of God at this time in history.

So, by all means, get out and vote today! Exercise your gift and privilege! And do so understanding your calling from God. Be guided by His Word and truth. Get your Biblical lens on, and keep them straight on your face.

Election 2012: Keeping Perspective

These words from pastor Mike Dever will help give us perspective as we exercise our calling and privilege to vote for our leaders today, at whatever level that is:

As Americans, it’s often helpful to be reminded that the epicenter of Christ’s kingdom is not located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And the purposes of God have never been thwarted at the hands of men—a streak that’s not about to end on November 6. Such a recognition isn’t quietism or escapism—just biblical Christianity.
President Obama and Governor Romney are, like you and me, feeble creatures of dust. They’re worthy of our honor (Eccl. 10:20; 1 Pet.2:17), but never our hope.

So pay your taxes, choose your candidate, and cast your vote (politics does matter, after all), but do so as one whose trust is anchored in another world. As citizens of “a better country” (Heb. 11:16; cf. Phil. 3:20), we the people of the risen King await “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13).

Whatever comes of our quadrennial sojourn to the ballot box, we can rest in the sovereign goodness of a Father who sits enthroned in the heavens and, with majesty and mystery, does whatever he pleases.”

~Taken from a sermon by Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.

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