Has The Passover Been Abolished?

It is a trend in some Christian circles and churches to host and celebrate Jewish sort of meals that are connected to the Passover.  You don’t have to look too hard online to see what I mean.  I suppose it’s one thing to watch a video or read a book to learn how Jews celebrate the Passover; it’s another thing to actually partake and make these Jewish meals part of church or Christian life.

In Reformed theology we say that the Old Testament’s “ceremonial laws are now abrogated” in the New Testament era (WCF 19.3).  “We believe that the ceremonies and symbols of the law ceased at the coming of Christ, and that all the shadows are accomplished, so that the use of them must be abolished among Christians (BCF 25).  There is firm biblical reason for this Reformed position.  Zacharias Ursinus comments:

That the ancient Passover, with all the other types which prefigured the Messiah which was to come, was abolished at the coming of Christ, is evident,

1. From the whole argument of the Apostle in the Epistle to the Hebrews respecting the abolishing of the legal shadows in the New Testament. “The priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old.” (Heb. 7:12; 8:13.)

2. From the fulfillment or these legal shadows. “These things were done that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. A bone of him shall not be broken.” “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” (John 19:36. 1 Cor. 5:7.)

3. From the substitution of the New Testament; for Christ, when he was about to suffer, and die and sacrifice himself as the true Passover, closed the ordinance relating to the paschal lamb with a solemn feast, and instituted and commanded his Supper to be observed by the church in the place of the old passover. “With desire, I have desired to eat with you this passover, before I suffer.” “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:15, 19.) Christ here commands the supper, not the ancient passover, to be celebrated in remembrance of him. As baptism has, therefore, succeeded circumcision, so the Lord’s supper has succeeded the passover in the New Testament.

It may seem interesting and even spiritual to reenact ancient Jewish feasts and meals, but doing so is actually going back to the copies and shadows of the old covenant which is obsolete (Heb 8: 5, 13).  As Hebrews makes very clear, you can’t have the old and the new together – the old is fulfilled, the new is here, so don’t go back!  Or, like Paul notes in Galatians 4:9-11, for the Gentile Galatian Christians to go under the Jewish ceremonies and laws is the same as going back to their pagan religions!  Commenting on Galatians 4:9, C. K. Barrett said, “To go forward into Judaism is to go backward into heathenism” (see also Douglas Moo and F. F. Bruce on Gal. 4:9).

Since we have Christ, the Passover Lamb, and his final sacrifice, we don’t need to sacrifice animals, have altars, celebrate Jewish ceremonies, feasts, Passovers, and so forth.  Instead, we celebrate the Lord’s death by blessing and sharing bread and wine like he told us to do until he comes again (1 Cor. 11:23ff).

The above quotes are found in Zacharias Ursinus trans. by G. W. Williard, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company, 1888), 440.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Welcome News For The Distressed Sinner!

Around 1630 Richard Sibbes wrote a great little booklet on the gospel called Christ’s Sufferings For Man’s SinIt’s found in volume one of his Works.  In one section of this booklet Sibbes talked about Christ as an example of holiness and obedience.  Sibbes was not against Christ being an example for us, but he emphasized that “the main comfort we receive from Christ is by way of [his] satisfaction.”  He quoted Bernard:

“I desire indeed to follow Christ as an example of humility, patience, self-denial, etc., and to love him with the same affection that he hath loved me; but I must eat of the Passover-Lamb, that is, I must chiefly feed on Christ dying for my sins”

Sibbes explained this in more detail:

So every true Christian soul desires to follow Christ’s obedience, humility, patience, etc., and to be transformed into the likeness of his blessed Savior. Whom should I desire to be like more than him, that hath done so much for me?

But yet the main comfort I receive from Christ, is by eating his body and drinking his blood; my soul feeds and feasts itself most of all upon the death of Christ, as satisfying for my sins. And what a comfort is it that Christ being our surety, hath made full satisfaction for all our sins. Certainly we shall never be finally and wholly forsaken, because Christ was forsaken for us. Now we may think of God without discomfort, and of sin without despair. Now we may think of the law of death, the curse and all, and never be terrified – why? Christ our surety hath given full content of divine justice for wrath and law, sin and curse, etc. They are all links of one chain, and Christ hath dissolved them all. Now sin ceaseth, wrath ceaseth, the law hath nothing to lay to our charge; death’s sting is pulled out.

How comfortably, therefore, may we appear before God’s tribunal! Oh, beloved, when the soul is brought as low as hell almost, then this consideration will be sweet, that Christ was forsaken as a surety for me; Christ overcame sin, death, God’s wrath, and all for me; in him I triumph over all these. What welcome news is this to a distressed sinner! Whenever thy soul is truly humbled in the sense of sin, look not at sin in thy conscience (thy conscience is a bed for another to lodge in), but at Christ. If thou be a broken-hearted sinner, see thy sins in Christ thy Savior taken away; see what he hath endured and suffered for them; see not the law in thy conscience, but see it discharged by Christ; see death disarmed through him, and made an entrance into a better life for thee. Whatsoever is ill, see it in Christ before thou seest it in thyself; and when thou beholdest it there, see not only the hurt thereof taken away, but all good made over to thee; for ‘all things work together for the best to them that love God,’ Rom. 8:28

Richard Sibbes, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 357–358.

Shane Lems

Dated Language In The ESV?

  I’ve been using the ESV for around thirteen years.  I generally like it because there are many strengths in this translation; it often makes good sense of the original languages behind the English.  However, there are also a few weaknesses.  One weakness I’ve noticed is the fact that some of the language in the ESV is dated or somewhat uncommon.   I found a few instances of this while preaching through Luke’s Gospel.  Here are some examples (note the underlined words):

Luke 11:8 – “because of his impudence
Luke 19: 3 – “he was small in stature
Luke 20:9 – “a man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants”
Luke 20:47 – “for a pretense make long prayers”
Luke 21:11 – “famines and pestilences
Luke 21:34 – “weighed down with dissipation
Luke 22:14 – “he reclined at table

These words/phrases aren’t impossible for everyone to understand.  But they do contain dated language, words and phrases that regular American English-speaking people rarely use.  I have lived in four very different areas of the United States, and I have almost never heard people using these words or phrases in conversation or common writing.  In fact, sometimes when reading Scripture in a group setting we’ve had to stop to explain the meaning of words and phrases like this in the ESV.

In case you’re wondering, many of the words/phrases in the ESV that I’ve listed above are found in slightly older translations like the RSV (and to some extent the ASV).  Also in case you’re wondering, impudence means rude or harsh, small in stature means short (in height or years), let it out means loan or lend, pretense means the act of pretending, pestilences means plague-like diseases, dissipation means careless living (possibly because of drunkenness), and recline at table simply means sit down to eat.

I’m not saying we should throw out our ESVs.  But I am saying that it’s helpful to use several translations when reading and studying the Word.  Other translations I’ve come to appreciate include the NASB, the NIV, the HCSB, and the NET Bible.  The NLT has also come in handy; we use it at home to read Scripture’s stories to our kids, and I’ve given it to a few Christians who don’t have a deep grasp of the English language.  I have also use the NLT when preaching/teaching in a nursing home or jail setting where people aren’t familiar with Scripture and/or the English language.

For those interested, here are the words some other translations used for the verses I’ve listed above:

Luke 11:8 – “because of his shameless persistence” (NLT); “because of his friend’s persistence” (HCSB)
Luke 19:3 – “being a short man” (NET); “because he was short” (NIV)
Luke 20:9 – “[he] leased it to tenant farmers” (NLT); “rented it out to vine-growers” (NASB)
Luke 20:47 – “for appearance’s sake” (NASB); “for a show” (NIV)
Luke 21:11 – “plagues” (HCSB, NLT, NET)
Luke 21:34 – “carousing” (NIV, HCSB, NLT)
Luke 22:14 – “sat down together at the table” (NLT); “reclined at the table” (NASB)

If you run into a tough word or phrase in the ESV (or whatever translation you use), go to a few different translations to help make sense of it.  There is no perfect translation, but there are enough good ones out there to help us better study and know God’s Word, which is what we want to do as Christ’s disciples.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

The Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24, Mk. 13, Lk. 21)

Bible and the Future The Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24, Mk. 13, & Lk 21) is the teaching of Jesus on the destruction of the temple and the coming of the Son of Man.  This is a complex passage to be sure.  The preterist view says that the discourse had everything to do with the fall of the temple in 70 AD.  Some dispensationalists say it has nothing to do with the fall of the temple in 70 AD but has everything to do with the end times.  I believe both of these positions are incorrect.  Anthony Hoekema gives a good amillenial explanation of the Olivet Discourse, one that I very much appreciate:

“As we read the discourse… we find that aspects of these two topics [when will this be and what are the signs] are intermingled; matters concerning the destruction of the temple (epitomized by the destruction of the temple) are mingled together with matters which concern the end of the world – so much so that it is sometimes hard to determine whether Jesus is referring to the one or the other or perhaps to both.  Obviously the method of teaching used here by Jesus is that of prophetic foreshortening, in which events far removed in time and events in the near future are spoken of as if they were very close together.  The phenomenon has been compared to what happens when one looks at distant mountains; peaks which are many miles apart may be seen as if they are close together.”

Hoekema then notes how Joel’s prediction of the Spirit’s outpouring and the sun turned to darkness are lumped together, and he notes how Isaiah mentions the fall of Babylon and the day of the Lord in the same prophecy.  Hoekema then writes,

“In the Olivet discourse, therefore, Jesus is proclaiming events in the distant future in close connection with the events in the near future.  The destruction of Jerusalem which lies in the near future is a type of the end of the world; hence the intermingling.  The passage, therefore, deals neither exclusively with the destruction of the temple nor exclusively with the end of the world; it deals with both  – sometimes with the latter in terms of the former.”

When we read the Olivet Discourse, it does have to do with the destruction of the temple, but it also has to do with Christ’s second – and final – return.  Thankfully the comfort in this text is clear: God is in total control of history, so the Christian need not be afraid when horrible things happen.  Instead, we should keep on making the good confessing and endure in the faith, looking forward to Christ’s return.

The above quotes are found on pages 148-149 of Hoekema’s The Bible and the Future.

Shane Lems

Jesus Only! (Warfield)

  In The Savior of the World you can find B. B. Warfield’s excellent sermon called “Jesus Only.”  It is a sermon on Acts 4:12: And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (NASB).  Here is a great section of this sermon where Warfield talks about one of the great solas – Christ Alone.

First of all, there is the redoubled assertion: “in none other is there salvation,” and then again that none might miss it, “there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Then there is the heaping up of clauses, in almost superfluous reiteration of the absoluteness of the exclusion of all but Jesus from the power of saving: there is “none other,” there is “no other name,” “under heaven,” “given among men”—as if it should be said, “Seek you wherever men can be found, search to the utmost limits of the encanopying sky,—nowhere among men, nowhere under the stretch of heaven’s roof, will you find a whisper of another name in which salvation can be found.”

And then, at last, there is the curious turn given to the phrase: “in which we must be saved.” We weaken it vastly in our careless current reproductions of it, saying, “neither is there any other name under heaven given among men wherein we may be saved,—wherein we can be saved.” Peter does not so phrase it. He says, “wherein we must be saved.” The accent of necessity is in it. It is not merely that we may be saved by Jesus, or that we can be saved by Jesus; but, if we be saved at all, it must be in Him that we are saved.

There is no possibility otherwise or elsewhere. And with the emergence of this vigorous ‘must’ at the end of the sentence the last hammer falls, the last rivet is clinched, and the last band of steel is fixed around this tremendous assertion of the exclusiveness of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

Benjamin B. Warfield, The Saviour of the World (Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), 52–54.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church
Hammond, WI

“Parenting” By Paul Tripp (A Review)

Paul Tripp’s newest book, Parenting will soon be on the shelves.  I just finished reading a review copy I received, so I’d like to give an advanced evaluation for our readers who might be interested.

As a parent of children between five and fourteen, I’ve read quite a few parenting books (Christian and non-Christian). This one by Paul Tripp is like other Christian books I’ve read because it talks about patience, the heart, forgiveness, the gospel, authority, character, and so forth.  In fact, Tripp’s book is very similar to one called Give Them Grace (which I reviewed here before).  In my opinion, Tripp’s book “Parenting” is somewhat helpful, and somewhat unhelpful.  I’ll break it down:

HELPFUL: Tripp nicely emphasized the need for God’s grace in parenting.  Parents need God’s grace and so do their kids.  Like his other work, Tripp wrote that we are God’s instruments of grace in the lives of our children.  We have to remember that God changes our children, not us.  Amen!

The book also recognized the reality of sin in our hearts and the hearts of our kids – along with our/their need of Christ.  Many of Tripp’s principles and tips for parenting were good, such as the fact that we need to see parenting as a long process, the fact that we are more like our kids than we often think, that we need to tell them about God very often, etc.  There is a lot of wisdom in this book, and I underlined quite a few sentences in it.

UNHELPFUL: Tripp’s writing style made the book somewhat hard to read.  He repeats himself quite often, asks tons of rhetorical questions, and uses more words than necessary.  By the end of the book I was thinking he could have gotten his points across with 50 fewer pages.

The subtitle of this book (“14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family”) is inaccurate.  Tripp’s “14 Gospel Principles” aren’t really gospel (or “good news”) principles, they are wise statements on parenting from a Christian perspective.

Speaking of the principles, there are fourteen overarching principles, but in many chapters there are minor principles as well.  As I moved on in the book, I felt overwhelmed by all these principles (e.g. “you need to…”  “your children need to…”  “you must be…”).  The book is supposed to be a “big gospel picture” (p. 13) of parenting, but the numerous tips and principles went against a big picture perspective.

Tripp also says a Bible word that explains God’s calling for parents is the term “ambassador.”  I’m uncomfortable with this language because this word is used twice in the NT to describe the apostolic ministerial calling (2 Cor. 5:20 & Eph. 6:20).  The Apostle Paul uses other words for parents and parenting.

[[As sort of a side, Tripp didn’t really address the topic of kids with biological or mental issues.  Sometimes kids are “bad” because they are sinful, but sometimes “bad” behavior is associated with biological/mental issues.  For example, a child with Aspergers might get upset and yell when he hears a high-pitched noise.  We should address yelling in this case, but it’s not simply a matter of the child’s sinful heart.]]

Finally, one unhelpful aspect of the book is the fact that Tripp says children of believers are “lost” sinners with hard hearts.  It is true that children of believers are sinful, for sure, and need Jesus as much as their parents do.  And it’s true that parents need to point their kids to Christ all the time.  But Scripture’s description of children in a Christian home is more positive than Tripp’s.  The Bible says they are “holy” (“set apart” – 1 Cor. 7), a blessing from God, and are members of God’s covenant, like Abraham’s children (“I will be your God and the God of your seed after you”).   A major tone of the book is that our children are lost, and Tripp’s advice to parents is affected by this tone.  While some readers might agree with Tripp, I for one do not.  Based on Scripture, I don’t believe it is wise or helpful to call children of Christian parents “lost.”  Sometimes God is pleased to sovereignly regenerate a child in his/her infancy; treating that child as “lost” would be a tragic mistake!  I appreciate the Reformed teaching of the covenant of grace when it comes to parenting in a Christian home.

In a word, there are some helpful parts to this book.  It did remind me that I need to speak kind, loving, directing, forgiving words to my children, words that point them to Christ.  But there were quite a few unhelpful parts in this book as well, so I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly (especially for our Reformed readers!).

Paul Tripp, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family (Wheaton: Crossway: 2016).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Christianity: The Only True Religion

Herman Bavinck’s little booklet called The Sacrifice of Praise is a great series of meditations on what it means to confess faith in Christ.  The title is taken from Hebrews 13:15: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (NASB).

I’ve posted a nice paragraph from this book where Bavinck explains that the Christian faith is the only true religion.  It may sound harsh in our current politically correct culture, but Bavinck is right.  Truth cannot tolerate untruth.  If salvation is only found in Jesus’ name, as Scripture clearly says, then the Christian religion is the only true religion.  Only Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life!

“Christianity is therefore the absolute religion, the only, essential, true religion. It tolerates no other religions as of almost equal worth and worthiness alongside itself. It is, according to its nature, intolerant, even as the truth at all times is and must be intolerant with respect to the untruth. It will not be satisfied with being the first of the religions, but it claims to be the only, true, full religion, which has absorbed and fulfilled all that is true and good in other religions.  Christ is not a man alongside of others, but He is the Son of Man, who be the resurrection was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, and received from the Father a name above every name, so that in that name every knee should bow and every tongue confess, that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Herman Bavinck, The Sacrifice of Praise, p. 67.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI