Not My People; No Mercy! A Name Change (Green)

Two Horizons Commentary: 1 Peter In a brilliant and edifying way, the apostle Peter refers to Christians using numerous terms for Israel found in the Old Testament.  In 1 Peter 2, for example, he calls followers of Jesus “a holy priesthood” that offers up “spiritual sacrifices” (1:5 NASB).  He also says that believers are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” and “a people for God’s own possession” (1:9 NASB).  He then references the names of Hosea’s children in 2:10: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (NIV).  Here’s how Joel Green nicely comments on 2:10:

The consequence of God’s salvific work and choice is the creation of a people that previously did not exist (v. 10). In naming his children Loruhamah (“shown no mercy,” Hos 1:6) and Lo-ammi (“not my people,” Hos 1:9), Hosea had pronounced judgment on Israel, but also anticipated a reversal when his children would be renamed Ruhamah (“shown mercy,” 2:1, 23) and Ammi (“my people,” 2:1, 23). Borrowing these categories from Hosea, Peter deploys language used of the judgment and restoration of Israel to designate the significance of the conversion of his now-Christian audience—thus highlighting further the embeddedness of Christians in Israel’s story with the result that the Scriptures of Israel are seen more and more as the account of their heritage—and to celebrate the saving and generative mercy of God.

 Joel B. Green, 1 Peter, The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 63.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

A People for His Possession (NIDNTTE)

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) (5 vols.)1 Peter 2:9 says But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (NIV).  The phrase: “God’s special possession” can also be translated, “a people for his [God’s] possession” (λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν).  I like how the NIDNTTE explains this Greek noun “possession” (περιποίησιν) as used by Peter:

Of special significance is 1 Pet 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession [λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, lit., ‘a people for (his) possession’].” These words are a paraphrase of Exod 19:5–6, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession [LXX, λαὸς περιούσιος]. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (cf. also Deut 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; the LXX uses περιουσιασμός in Ps 135:4 [LXX 134:4], and περιποίησις in Mal 3:17; see discussion s.v. περιούσιος G4342). It is remarkable that in his description of Christian believers Peter uses the distinctive OT language intended to emphasize Israel’s uniqueness. It is no longer a specific ethnic group but people from all races that form a new holy nation. And Peter also makes clear the purpose of this new race: “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (a loose quotation of Isa 43:20b–21).

 Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 718.

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

Lord’s Day Worship x2 (Lloyd-Jones)

Preaching and Preachers (Deluxe, 40th Anniversary Edition) In the history of Reformed churches, the Lord’s Day practice has been to gather for corporate worship twice, usually morning and evening.  True, there is no command in Scripture to worship twice on the Lord’s Day.  However, I would say that a person needs a good biblical reason not to come twice if his or her church has two worship services on the Lord’s Day.

D. Martyn Lloyd Jones said it even more boldly.  At one point in his Preaching and Preachers he wrote that from time to time the Lord brings a special blessing upon a worship service and sermon.  That is, there are times in a church’s life where a service and sermon are blessed in such a way that people know the Lord was there.  It’s something awesome, something to pray for, something for which to be very thankful!  Here’s Lloyd-Jones:

So I say to these ‘once-ers’, if you do not come to every service you may live to find a day when people will tell you of an amazing occurrence in a service on a Sunday night or on a Sunday morning——and you were not there, you missed it. In other words, we should create a spirit of expectation in the people and show them the danger of missing some wonderful ‘times of refreshing…from the presence of the Lord’ (Acts 3:19).

That should be followed by a question: why is it that any Christian should not long for as much of this as he can possibly get?  Surely this is quite unnatural.  It is certainly un-scriptural.  Take the way in which the Psalmist in Psalm 84 expresses his misery and sorrow because he could not go up with the others to the House of the Lord. ‘How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!’ ‘My soul longeth, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.’  He thinks then of those who are having the privilege: ‘Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee.’ He thinks of them with envy because he cannot be with them. Nothing is comparable to being in the House of God.  ‘A day in thy courts is better than a thousand…’  Surely this ought to be instinctive in the true Christian. There is something seriously wrong spiritually with anyone who claims to be a Christian who does not desire to have all that can be obtained from the ministry of the Church.

You can find Lloyd-Jones’ quote on page 154 of Preaching and Preachers.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Amos Then and Now (Motyer)

The Message of Amos: The Day of the Lion (Bible Speaks Today) I’ve always appreciated Alec Motyer’s commentaries on various books of the Bible (e.g. Isaiah, James, Philippians, etc.).  I recently began studying Amos to prepare for an upcoming sermon series and I was immediately impressed with Motyer’s introduction to Amos in his commentary on the same.  Here’s one section I underlined:

…The third emphasis in Amos’ message to the church is that religious profession and religious practice are invalid—to be more precise, repulsive to God and therefore not just useless but also dangerous—unless verified by clear evidences. Throughout his book, by implication, but in a succinct fashion in 7:7–8:10, Amos makes clear what the evidences of true religion are. It is the task of the expository studies at that point to explain them, but here they are in summary. In personal terms, true religion is to respond fully to the grace and law of God, living out the law in a life of obedience, resting on the grace both for ability and forgiveness; towards God, true religion is a reverent hearing and receiving of His Word; and towards other people it appears as honesty, considerateness and unfailing concern for the needy. Take these things away and what remains does nothing more than invite the adverse judgment of God.

In all this Amos speaks directly to the church today, and we must banish any thought that he speaks primarily to some other people or to other situations and that it is only by some exegetical gymnastics that there is a message here for the Christian. Amos addressed ‘Israel’ and we are ‘the Israel of God’ (Gal. 6:16). It is to be noted that Paul does not say ‘the new Israel’, and nowhere in the Bible does such a phrase (or notion) occur. Jesus designated His people as the inheritors of the new Covenant predicted by Jeremiah (31:31–34; cf. 1 Cor. 11:25); Paul spoke of them as the children of Abraham, along with Isaac (Gal. 4:28); he also said that ‘we are the circumcision’ (Phil. 3:3). It is precisely because this is the true situation that James can take the prophecies of Amos as a handbook for the church’s mission (Acts 15:15 ff.). In doing this he sets an example in the realms of both principle and practice: in principle, in that Amos brings a Word of God directly (not mediately) to us for our direction, admonition and instruction, and in practice, in that we are to see all that he says in the light of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, a kingdom not of this world, not promoted by the methods of the world, nor seeking political fulfilments in a geographical location.

 J. A. Motyer, The Message of Amos: The Day of the Lion, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), 18–19.

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

True Church, False Church (Bavinck)

 Herman Bavinck’s discussion of ecclesiology is, in my opinion, one of the best Reformed treatments of this doctrine available in English.  Since I am presbyterian in my ecclesiology, I appreciate Bavinck’s robust and biblical view of the church: its spiritual essence, spiritual government, spiritual power, and so forth.  I also like how he appealed to the post-reformation context to discuss the true/false church distinction that the Belgic Confession speaks of in article 29.  Bavinck (in IV.315-16) mentions how Calvin and other Reformers taught that there is no perfectly pure church.  Therefore, when we say “true church” we don’t mean “perfectly pure church.”  He explains how the post-reformation teachers wrestled through this.

“On the one hand, one had to admit that a true church in an absolute sense is impossible here on earth; there is not a single church that completely and in all its parts, in doctrine and in life, in the ministry of the Word and sacrament, meets the demand of God.  On the other hand, it also became clear that an absolutely false church cannot possibly exist, for in that case it would no longer be a church at all.”

Even though Rome was a false church insofar as it was papal, nevertheless there were many remnants of the true church left in it.  There was a difference, therefore, between a true church and a pure church.  ‘True church’ became the term, not for one church to the exclusion of all others, but for an array of churches that still upheld the fundamental articles of Christian faith but for the rest differed a great deal from each other in degrees of purity.  And ‘false church’ became the term for the hierarchical power of superstition or belief that set itself up in local churches and accorded itself and its ordinances more authority than the Word of God” (p. 315-316).

Well stated.  In the post-reformation context, there were true churches whose doctrine was more or less pure.  These churches were true because they upheld the fundamental articles of the faith as they displayed the three marks (word, sacrament, discipline).  False churches were those that denied fundamental articles of the faith by subverting the authority of the Word (this is where the Reformers discussed Rome and anabaptistic sects).

I think Bavinck is right here, and though others may disagree, I also believe that a proper reading of the Belgic Confession of Faith article 29 is the Westminster Confession of Faith’s application of this teaching.  WCF 25.4 explains how local churches that are part of the visible church catholic [universal] “are more or less pure.”  In other words, and in summary, “true church” doesn’t mean “most pure church.”  “True church” means churches that uphold – more or less purely – the biblical fundamentals of the faith displayed in the biblical three marks (preaching, discipline, and the sacraments).

(Note: This is a repost from March, 2011)

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Knowing God and Scripture Apart From the Church? (Augustine)

  In the first section of the first volume of his Systematic Theology, Douglas Kelly makes a great point about how God is known by his Word in the fellowship of believers, in a covenantal context.  He puts it like this: faith is caused by truth, faith is the only appropriate response to truth, and faith arises within a community context.  Later Kelly gives an excellent quote from Augustine to further explain what he means by knowing and learning Scripture in the fellowship of the saints.  Here’s Augustine:

Let us not tempt the one in whom we have placed our trust, or we may be deceived by the enemy’s cunning and perversity and become unwilling even to go to church to hear and learn the gospel, or to read the Biblical text or listen to it being read and preached, preferring to wait until ‘we are caught up into the third heaven, whether in the body or out of the body’ (in the words of the apostle) [2 Cor. 12:2-4], and there hear ‘words that cannot be expressed, which a human being may not utter’ or see the Lord Jesus Christ in person and hear the gospel from him rather than from men.

Let us beware of such arrogant and dangerous temptations, and rather reflect that the apostle Paul, no less, though cast to the ground and enlightened by a divine voice from heaven, was sent to a human being to receive the sacrament of baptism and be joined to the church. And Cornelius the centurion, although an angel announced to him that his prayers had been heard and his acts of charity remembered, was nevertheless put under the tuition of Peter not only to receive the sacrament but also to learn what should be the objects of his faith, hope, and love…

All this could certainly have been done through an angel, but the human condition would be wretched indeed if God appeared unwilling to minister his word to human beings through human agency.  It has been said, ‘God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are’: how could that be true if God did not make divine utterances from his human temple but broadcast direct from heaven or through angels the learning that he wished to be passed on to mankind?  Moreover, there would be no way for love, which ties people together in the bonds of unity,  to make souls overflow and as it were intermingle with each other, if human beings learned nothing from other humans. (Augustine: De Doctra Christiania, preface)

I always appreciate the reminder that just like it is unbibical to purposely be a “solo” Christian (Heb 10:25, 1 Jn. 4:21, etc.) it is also unbiblical to purposely avoid the church when learning about God from his word (Heb 13:6, 1 Tim. 3:15, etc).

The above quote by Augustine is found in Kelly’s in Systematic Theology, vol. 1, p. 25.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

 

The Spirit, the Church, and Mission (Horton)

 I always appreciate Michael Horton’s balanced approach to biblical doctrine and theology.  Here’s one example of how Horton strikes a biblical balance concerning the topics of church, mission, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Note how he explains that we cannot separate the institutional church from work of the Holy Spirit in missions:

For many Christians today, even those in more liturgical traditions, the notion that the Spirit is at work visibly wherever the Word is faithfully preached and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution is no longer intuitive.  For many, it seems, the only way of redeeming the term ‘church’ is to identify it exclusively with the invisible church, that is, the spiritual fellowship of all God’s elect in all times and places rather than the visible and concrete institution that in its various manifestations it somehow thought to be endowed with real authority from Christ and genuine power from the Spirit.  The Spirit is associated with mission, often in some tension (if not outright contrast) with the church’s ministry of preaching, sacrament, and discipline.

But this is a glaring misapprehension of the economic operations of the Trinity in general and the incarnation in particular.  The Father sent the Son, and the Spirit clothed the Son in our nature; the Father and the Son sent the Spirit into our hearts, regenerating and uniting us to Christ the living vine.  The Spirit’s work is consistently associated with that which is public and tangible in history, as we have seen. Furthermore, the Spirit equips the church to be an official and creaturely embassy of Christ’s reign and sends us out on his mission to bring the liberating word of the King to the ends of the earth.  The sending of the church therefore belongs to the same economy as a Father sending of the Son as well as the sending of the Spirit by the Father and the Son.

Consequently, to divide Spirit-filled mission from the institutional church is to misunderstand at a fundamental level who the Spirit is, how he works ordinarily, and what we are called to do and be in the world today.  I fear that we are creeping toward a Gnosticism that views the visible church as the prison house of the invisible church.

Michael Horton, Rediscovering the Holy Spirit, p. 300-301.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015