Preaching and Application (Owen)

Solid Christian [biblical!] preaching always has application.  Seminary lectures and perhaps Sunday School lessons might not always have application, but a good sermon must.  John Owen makes this point in his commentary on Hebrews as he notes that and how chapter 12 is tightly connected to chapter 11.  (Note: the word “use” below is a synonym for application.)

This chapter [Hebrews 12] contains an application of the doctrine, declared and confirmed in the foregoing chapter [Hebrews 11], unto the use of [application for] the Hebrews. Doctrine and use were the apostle’s method; and must, at least virtually, be theirs also who regard either sense, or reason, or experience, in their preaching. It would be an uncouth sermon that should be without doctrine and use.

John Owen, Hebrews, Volume 7 (sv Heb. 12).

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Immutability of God: Application (Van Mastricht)

 Scripture quite clearly teaches that God is immutable.  This means he does not change, have mood swings, or go back on something he said.  God is the constant one.  James 1:17 says there is no change or shadow of turning with God.  Malachi 3:6 says, “I am the LORD, and I do not change” (NLT).  The Psalmist puts it this way in a prayer to the Lord: “You are always the same” (Ps. 102:25 NLT).  The doctrine of God’s immutability is a truth that brings much comfort to the Christian’s heart, mind, and soul.  Here’s how Petrus Van Mastricht applied the doctrine of God’s immutability:

“For this reason he is called the rock (Deut. 32:31; Ps. 73:26) upon which the church has been built (Matt. 16:18).  For if the godly are vexed, perhaps in regard to their eternal salvation, because of the inconstancy of their own heart, together with the immutable treacheries of their spiritual enemies, what will sustain them more effectively than the fact that their immutable God (Ma. 3:6) is a rock and unmoved builder, whose firm foundation stands, by which the Lord knows those who are his (2 Tim. 2:19), whose saving gifts are without repentance (Rom. 11:29)?

Or if they are vexed about the vicissitudes of temporal things, whether the stirrings of war, diseases, or whatever other calamities, what will more effectively comfort them than to consider that

1) the immutability of the one God is a law fixed in their favor, and that all other things are only immutable in their motion and flux (1 Cor. 7:29).

At the same time that 2) God, through all these motions and vicissitudes, will be present, unmoved, for the sake of his own (Ps. 46:1-7), present in his perfection and strength, that they may not be shaken (Ps. 90:1).

That 3) he is immutable in goodness, love, grace, and mercy (Is. 54:10; Ps. 117:2; 118:1, 2, 5),

and also 4) in his will and gracious decrees by which he  knows his own (2 Tim. 2:19; Heb. 6:17-18),

and in addition, 5) in his promises, so many and so great (Num. 23:19), all of which will be yes and amen in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 13:15), and especially in his faithfulness and covenant (Is. 53:3; 54:10; Hos. 2:19).

What could be more effective for our consolation than all these things?

Petrus Van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology, vol. 2. p. 162.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

The Attributes of God and Application (Van Mastricht)

 Learning about the attributes of God from Scripture is not purely an academic enterprise.  As we learn about God’s characteristics, his people are also comforted, ecouraged, and refreshed.  What Scripture teaches us about God is practical for day-to-day Christian living.  In other words, the attributes of God and application go hand in hand.  Here’s how Petrus Van Mastricht said it (I’ve edited the structure):

“…For when this God is our God, and for us (Rom. 8:31), will not all these attributes be for us, and ours?  Individually, for example,

  1. Will not his immutability render us certain that he will remain our God to all eternity (Mal. 3:6; 2 Tim. 2:19)?

  2. Will not his truthfulness make it so that we can rest unmoved upon his promises (Josh. 21:45; Is. 34:16)?

  3. Will not his goodness and love make it so that we may be secure, in adversities of whatever sort and however great, that all these things will serve to our advantage (Heb. 12:6; Rom. 8:28, 38-39)?

  4. Will not his mercy give us hope that he will graciously remit our sins (Ps. 103:8-10; Ex. 34:6)?

  5. Will not his wisdom persuade us that his governance of us will be most beneficial (2 Pet. 2:9; 2 Sam. 15:25-26)?

  6. Will not his omnipotence persuade us that he can furnish all the things that he has promised, and that will benefit us (Eph. 3:20; 2 Thes. 1:11).

    And so forth.

Petrus Van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology, Vol 2, p. 128.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Doctrine and Practice Walk Together (Van Mastricht)

 I recently got a copy of Petrus Van Mastricht’s newly translated Theoretical-Practical Theology: Prolegomena (vol. 1)I agree with Michael Horton: this is a remarkable gem!  Van Mastricht was a Dutch Reformed theologian who was quite influential in his day and beyond.  Not only is his work solidly theological and biblical, it is also very practical, as you can tell from the title.  It is true that sometimes Reformed theology is taught in a dry manner with little or no application.  However, I very much agree with those like Van Mastricht who say that theology is eminently practical and applicable.  Below are a few quotes of his that show how theology and practice go hand in hand.  It’s also worth mentioning that Van Mastricht often referred to Paul’s words to Titus in 1:1, where the apostle mentions the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness (NASB). 

…Theology must be taught according to a certain method, and it must be the kind of method in which theory and practice always walk in step together.  In fact, they must walk together in such a way that theory precedes and practice follows in every one of theology’s articles. (p. 67)

We approve, out of all methods, the one that the apostle not only commends in this text to Timothy, when he wishes that theological matters first be taught and then admonished, that thereby practice be perpetually joined to theory, but also employs everywhere throughout his epistles, especially those he wrote to the Romans, Ephesians, Hebrews, and others. By this method, I say again, practice should be joined to theory, not only in the whole corpus of theology, in such a way that the first place is especially reserved for the things that must be believed and the second for the things that must be done, but also that in each member of theology, practice should walk in step with theory in a continuous agreement. (p. 69)

He [Paul] also commands that what can be taught should also be applied, adn that doctrine should be according to godliness, that is, theoretical-practical.  He prohibits Timothy from teaching in any other way. (p. 73)

Christian theology unites theory with practice, and is ‘a knowledge of truth that is according to godliness’ (Titus 1:1). (p. 79).

Indeed, the study of theology, to the extent that it is true theology, is not sufficient, unless… it is earnestly devoted to practical theology and to practice. (p. 95)

In fact, here’s how Van Mastrich defines Christian theology:

…Christian theology is best defined as the doctrine of living for God through Christ. (p. 66)

Petrus Van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology, vol 1: Prolegomena.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WIm 54015

The Faith and Work Bible (NIV)

For review purposes I recently received the “NIV Faith and Work Bible“(edited by David Kim and published by Zondervan).  It isn’t exactly a study Bible; instead, it’s a Bible that has doctrine and application articles scattered throughout.

More specifically, the theme of these articles have to do with core Christian doctrines and what it means to live them out in our daily vocations.  There are also 31 short articles at certain places in Scripture which gives readers a summary of the overall story of redemptive history.  Basically, in this Bible you’ll get articles on 1) Bible storylines, 2) Doctrine, 3) Application to the workplace.

Many of the articles in this Bible are solid and helpful, utilizing various resources such as Abraham Kuyper, Anthony Hoekema, John Murray, and many others.  There is something of a “renewing creation” emphasis, but it didn’t seem to be taken to the extremes that I’ve seen elsewhere.  I also like the real life stories of how a person in a certain vocation applied doctrine to life.  You can preview this Bible on Amazon if you want more detail.

I do like the larger font in this Bible, and it is edited nicely.  However, I’d rather have these articles in a separate book rather than scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments.  I didn’t really need a new Bible, but I did want to read these articles in this Bible, and I’m glad I own them.  But now I have one more large resource on my shelves that could have been much smaller if the articles were published separately.  I’m guessing that most people who buy this Bible already have enough Bibles, and now you have to spend more than thirty bucks to get yet another new one.

In summary, the articles and application stories in the “NIV Faith and Work Bible” are helpful, but it would have been better if they had been published as a separate book instead of mixed throughout a Bible.
(NOTE: I received this Bible as part of the Booklook blogger program, and was not compelled to write a positive review.)
Shane Lems