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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources

 

Living in Light of Two Ages

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Wednesday
May162018

"He Has Delivered Us" -- Colossians 1:3-14

The Second in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Letter to the Colossians

One of the unique (and often overlooked) things about Paul’s letter to the Colossians is the large number of echoes from the Old Testament as the Apostle makes his case for the supremacy of Jesus over all things.  Paul is responding to those in Colossae who were held captive to philosophy, human tradition, and a legalistic form of religion whose followers sought to disqualify the Colossians from their inheritance in Christ.  Paul had never visited the church in Colossae, but he has heard from their founding pastor how this congregation was doing well, despite struggling with false teachers who were, apparently, making inroads into the church.  Paul does not identify the specific nature of this false teaching–known as the Colossian heresy–but from his comments, we learn much about it.  Paul’s response to this heresy is to contend for the supremacy of Jesus over all things, and is drawn largely from the Old Testament.  Paul reminds us that Jesus is the creator of all things, but after Adam subjected God’s creation to the curse–sin and death–Jesus came as a second Adam who begins a work of new creation.  All of God’s people participate in this work which comes about through the message of the gospel–the proclamation of Jesus’ death for our sins, and his resurrection from the dead.  The second Adam will undo the curse and triumph over all those who seek to disrupt his church.  Whatever the doctrinal details of the Colossian Heresy, Paul’s answer is to proclaim the supremacy of Jesus over all things.

We are returning to our series on Colossians.  Last we time spent much of our time answering the three questions we need to ask and answer whenever we take up a new study of any book of the Bible.  “Who wrote this book?”  Paul.  “When did he write it?”  While imprisoned in Rome in the early 60's of the first century.  “Why was it written?”  To respond to the issues in the Colossian church associated with the Colossian Heresy which was brought to Paul’s attention by their pastor Epaphras.  The Letter to the Colossians is Paul’s response.

We spent much of our time last week on Paul’s introductory comments, noting that Paul is this epistle’s author–despite the claims to the contrary made by critical scholars–and that the co-sender was Paul’s close associate, the young pastor, Timothy.  We also took notice of the fact that while at first glance the epistle opens with Paul’s standard greeting, it should be noted that Paul makes an unusual reference to God as Father of Jesus, when his usual manner is to refer to God as the Father of believers.  This reflects Paul’s concern to highlight the Father’s relationship to Jesus in this epistle, which was written to demonstrate that Jesus is Lord over all things.

One of the surprising things about the Book of Colossians is the extensive number of echoes (allusions) from various Old Testament passages which prefigure, or otherwise can be brought to bear to help Paul make his case that Jesus, as creator of all things, possesses a superiority as well as an authority which no creature can.  Although Paul never does specifically identify the Colossian Heresy (i.e., who was teaching it, or its specific doctrines), we can assume from Paul’s rebuttal that this group was at least, in part, indebted to Jewish teaching.  Paul mentions a stress upon festivals, new moons, Sabbath observance, and dietary restrictions.  This may be one reason why Paul, like the author to the Book of Hebrews, turns to the Old Testament to set forth his case for the supremacy of Jesus.  But there are non-Jewish elements here as well–asceticism (rigorous self-denial of pleasurable things), the worship of angels, a stress on visions, and a form of sensuality.  Whatever the Colossian Heresy was–probably a local syncretistic religion taught by a local figure–it sounds much like the kind of religious stuff featured on PBS or Oprah (Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and Wayne Dyer).

To read the rest of this sermon: Click Here

Monday
May142018

This Week at Christ Reformed Church (May 14-May 20)

Sunday Morning, May 20:  We will wrap up our time in Zephaniah, as part of our larger series on the Minor Prophets.  Our text this coming Lord's Day is Zephaniah 2:1-3:20, and our subject is YHWH's removal of the curse.  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon:  We are working our way through the Belgic Confession and we have come to article 14, which deals with the creation of Adam and the Fall.  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study (May 9 @ 7:30 p.m.):  We continue with our series, "Apologetics in a Post-Christian Age."  We take up a discussion of the knowledge of God and will address the Sense of Divinity as a religious a priori.

The Academy:  On Hiatus until the Fall   

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Church), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).

Sunday
May132018

"The Word of the Lord That Came to Zephaniah" -- Zephaniah 1:1-19

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon on the Minor Prophets from the Book of Zephaniah

Sunday
May132018

This Week's White Horse Inn

The Way of the Lamb

Though a “Word and sacrament” ministry appears to be the main point of Jesus’ Great Commission, it does not appear to be the thing most churches are known for in our time. Why is it that contemporary churches often become so focused on growing their brand that they lose sight of their true mission and purpose? According to Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin, this is because many of today’s church leaders have succumbed to the temptations of worldly power. On this program, Michael Horton talks with the authors of The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church That Has Abandoned It.

Click Here

Friday
May112018

"A Vice Very Common With Books of This Class" -- B. B. Warfield's "Review" of Andrew Murray's "The Spirit of Christ"

B. B. Warfield (1851-1921) is widely hailed as one of America's greatest theologians.  His books have remained in near-continuous publication since his death in February, 1921.  Although dead for nearly 100 years, Warfield remains a theological force with which to be reckoned.

As professor of polemical and didactic theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, Warfield published 781 book reviews over his long and exceedingly productive career. 

Some of Warfield's reviews are published in his collected works, while many are not.  I thought it might be of interest to bring some of these currently unpublished "Reviews" to light.

The first review discussed in this series was Children in the Hands of the Arminians.  The second was Warfield's review of C. F. W. Walther's book, Gesetz und Evangelium (Law and Gospel):  C. F. W. Walther on Law and Gospel.

For the next installment in this series, I have chosen Warfield's "Review" of Rev. Andrew Murray's book, "The Spirit of Christ," published in 1888, which Warfield reviewed the following year.  This book still remains in print (The Spirit of Christ) and is available from Whitaker House, a charismatic/Pentecostal publisher.

A brief word about Andrew Murray is in order.  Rev. Murray (1828-1917) was a Dutch Reformed minister who labored in South Africa.  Murray had a life-long passion for missions and was a champion of the South African Revival of 1860.  Murray was devoted to the so-called "Keswick" theology which stressed the "inner" or "higher life."  He also endorsed faith healing and believed in the continuation of the apostolic gifts.  He was a significant forerunner of the Pentecostal movement--a remarkable accomplishment for any Dutch Reformed minister (I am being facetious, of course). 

Murray was a prolific author, publishing more than fifty books and hundreds of pamphlets.  We sold cases of them in our bookstore (when I was growing up) and for which I have long since repented.  So when I first ran across BBW's "Review" of Murray's book, I was very interested in what Warfield would have to say.  Needless to say, the Lion of Princeton was not terribly impressed.

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Warfield appreciates Murray's warn piety and obvious sincerity, but then raises one of his longstanding concerns--reducing biblical Christianity to mystical experience.

The Spirit of Christ: thoughts on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer and in the Church. By Rev. Andrew Murray. (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1888.) 394 pages. The author treats this greatest of all Christian subjects with adequate reverence and tender devoutness, but scarcely with sufficient judiciousness. The mystical spirit has been always of the greatest value to the Church, and sometimes the sole preservative of true Christianity in a materialistic or legalistic age. But no tendency requires a stricter watchfulness to preserve it from extravagance.

To paraphrase Warfield, Murray is obviously sincere, but has paid too little attention to biblical teaching.  Murray's heart-felt religion is expressed in terms of personal experience, not in biblical language or expression.  Warfield regarded mysticism and rationalism as polar opposites.  Elsewhere he had written if you cool down a mystic, you get a rationalist.  Conversely, if you heat up heat up a rationalist, you get mystic.  In either case, if you ground the Christian faith in either reason or experience, and not in Scripture, you will make a mess of things--as Rev. Murray has done.

Mr. Murray’s mystical tendency shows itself especially in laying too great stress on the duty of being conscious of the Spirit’s working within us, and in an odd insistence on the duty of exercising “faith in the indwelling Spirit” as the source of life—as if the Scriptures proclaimed the necessity of any other faith than that in Christ.

The Holy Spirit works through means (word and sacrament), something a Reformed minister ought to understand.  Murray's stress upon "feeling the Spirit" at work within us, causes us to focus upon the inner life, not the external written word.  This grounds the Christian life in subjective experience (emotions and feelings), and bypasses the hard work of sanctification in daily life--a work accomplished within us by the Holy Spirit even when we are not aware of his work (experientially).  If pressed, Murray would be forced to base his argument for this in terms of his personal experience, because he could not do so from Scripture.

Warfield points out that Murray's phrase "faith in the indwelling Spirit" (focusing upon our experience of the Spirit's work) simply is not an expression found in Scripture.  Nowhere does the Bible speak of faith "in the Spirit."  Rather, the Bible repeatedly speaks of faith "in Christ" (and occasionally of faith "in God").

Another concern raised by Warfield is Murray's attempt to bifurcate the Christian life into an "entrance level" experience (coming to faith--regeneration) and a second level experience (the deeper level--sanctification), such as now commonly associated with the charismatic/Pentecostal notion of the Baptism of the Spirit as a second work of grace after initial regeneration. 

Warfield identifies Murray's error in separating the Christian life into two parts (stages).

Here [Murray] introduces an undesirable dualism into the Christian life, finding two moments of development in it corresponding to the two objects of this twofold exercise of faith. He rightly modifies Mr. Boys’s statement as to the nature of prayer for the Spirit, and modifies it in the right direction; but it is a great pity that he adopts the confusion of the charismatic and gracious work of the Spirit upon which Mr. Mahan bases his separation of regeneration and sanctification.  We must not separate these two works of the Spirit: it is no more true that whom God foreknew, them also he predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, and whom he predestinated, them also he called, and whom he called, them also he justified, than it is that whom he justified, them also he glorified, which surely includes more than external acceptance into the heavenly glory.

Warfield's concern is that the Bible knows nothing of a Christian stuck at the first level, and then missing out on the second level experience of a "higher life."  God gives all his people all of his blessings through faith in Christ at the time of our conversion.  There is no "second" level of experience, or a second work of grace which comes later.

The essence of this passage is to teach that God selects his children, chooses the goal to which he shall bring them, and brings them safely to that goal; and it justifies us in saying that without exception “whom he regenerates, them also he sanctifies.” The separation of these two begets the very evil which Mr. Murray deprecates, of failure to live up to our privileges.

Warfield cautions folk like Murray not to write before they read and process the work of others, a sin not limited to Rev. Murray, but one often committed in the current age.

Enthusiastic minds like Mr. Murray’s need to exercise special care in adopting forms of statement from other writers. We meet every now and then in the book with a phrase or a doctrine the implications of which have scarcely been thought through by him. For example, the crude trichotomistic anthropology of p. 34 is an excrescence [i.e., a disease or abnormality] on his thinking, and is adopted only to be laid aside.  On p. 54 he speaks for a moment like a fully developed Schleiermacherite.

Two theological errors which result are here identified.  The first is trichotomy--a widely held view then and now, which holds that humans are a tri-parite composite of body, soul, and spirit, and are not as Scripture teaches, a psychosomatic union of body and soul-spirit.  The other error is that Murray unwittingly ends up with the same epistemology as the father of Protestant liberalism, Schleiermacher.  Murray's careless expression implies that God cannot be known (i.e., there is no such thing as propositional revelation--Scripture), but can only be experienced through the feelings--the consequence of Murray's stress upon being conscious of the Spirit's present work within us.

Murray's lack of care in saying things in a biblically faithful, theologically sound, and logically coherent way frustrates the uber-careful Warfield.  Murray's pen is far ahead of his mind when he writes.

And every now and then we strike against a sentence delivered as if it contained the very kernel of the Gospel, which quite puzzles us. For example, what idea of “holiness” underlies the assertion that “It is as the Indwelling One that God is Holy,” offered in defence of the statement that the Spirit is “the Holy Spirit” only as sent forth by the incarnate Christ? And what shall we do with the statement made in the same connection, “It is not the Spirit of God as such, but the Spirit of Jesus that could be sent to dwell in us,” in the face of the biblical usus loquendi?

Murray does not intend any heresy and does not openly teach it.  But his strange and confusing formulations certainly open the door to such.

At the end of the day, Dr. Warfield is not very impressed with Rev. Murray's book, nor his proto-Pentecostalism.

The book is marred everywhere by such straining after novel and striking forms of statement, a vice, we may add, very common with books of this class.

The Presbyterian Review X, no. 37–40 (1889).

Sadly, books of this class and their common vices are still Christian bestsellers.  We can only but wonder what the Lion of Princeton would have done with Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer.  Or with the Word-Faith folk who still love and read Andrew Murray?

Friday
May112018

Apologetics in a Post Christian Age (Audio) -- God's Revelation (Part Six)

Here's the audio from our Wednesday night Bible Study:  The Accessibility and Value of General Revelation -- The Reformed Debate

Previous lectures in this series can be found here (scroll down): Apologetics in a Post Christian Age

Wednesday
May092018

Some Things to Think About

A recent article Evangelical Gnosticism in First Things addresses the widespread influence of Gnostic thought upon the evangelical world.  The author notes . . .

I teach in a great books program at an Evangelical university. Almost all students in the program are born-and-bred Christians of the nondenominational variety. A number of them have been both thoroughly churched and educated through Christian schools or homeschooling curricula. Yet an overwhelming majority of these students do not believe in a bodily resurrection. While they trust in an afterlife of eternal bliss with God, most of them assume this will be disembodied bliss, in which the soul is finally free of its “meat suit” (a term they fondly use).

I first caught wind of this striking divergence from Christian orthodoxy in class last year, when we encountered Stoic visions of the afterlife. Cicero, for one, describes the body as a prison from which the immortal soul is mercifully freed upon death, whereas Seneca views the body as “nothing more or less than a fetter on my freedom,” one eventually “dissolved” when the soul is set loose. These conceptions were quite attractive to the students.

Resistance to the idea of a physical resurrection struck them as perfectly logical. “It doesn’t feel right to say there’s a human body in heaven, when the body is tied so closely to sin,” said one student. In all, fewer than ten of my forty students affirmed the orthodox teaching that we will ultimately have a body in our glorified, heavenly form. None of them realizes that these beliefs are unorthodox; this is not willful doctrinal error. This is an absence of knowledge about the foundational tenets of historical, creedal Christianity.

A second article is by Mark Hemingway of the Weekly Standard, who describes The Sharp Sting of the Babylon Bee.  I love the Bee, which has become a frequent subject of conversation among my family and friends.

Adam Ford, the founder and only full-time employee of the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire website, is clearly surprised at his success. “On the first of March, we celebrated two years in existence, and a couple of days later I noticed we had passed 100 million page views,” Ford tells The Weekly Standard. The Bee’s social media presence—it now has over 400,000 followers on Facebook and nearly 100,000 followers on Twitter—has grown quickly too. “All of this was totally organic. We’ve never run an ad, never boosted a post, never spent a dollar on spreading the word. And we’ve had no outside funding. Our growth has been totally driven by the content.”

If you’re one of the shrinking number of people to have never encountered an article from the Babylon Bee, the publication could be described as something like a Christian (largely Protestant) version of the Onion. With such headlines as “Treasure In Heaven Revealed To Be Bitcoin,” “Satan Sprinkles A Few More Stegosaurus Bones Across Nation To Test Christians’ Faith,” and “Opinion: My God Is An Imaginary Deification Of My Idiotic And Contradictory Personal Opinions,” you can see where the site gets some of its conceptual inspiration.

Finally, Scott Clark raises and answers the fascinating question, Where Is the Church Heading? Typically, I am not a fan of prognostication.  But I find Dr. Clark's essay to be insightful and expressing similar concerns to my own.  He concludes . . .

In most parts of the world, Biblical, orthodox Christianity is returning to the position it held before the rise of the European church-state complex we call Christendom. We are living in the wake of its collapse. This is a frightening reality for some but our hope is where it has always been, at the right hand of the Father. Christ is ruling the nations now and no movement, not Gnosticism, Moralism, Romanism, or Islamism can alter our Lord’s plans for his church and for the nations. After all, the Apostle Paul promised the church in Rome, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20). On that basis he pronounced peace upon a church that was about to endure a grave trial in which Christians would be put to a violent and sometimes fiery death merely for bearing the name of Christ and for refusing to renounce him. Yet, even in that, Christ’s sovereign will was being accomplished and the Spirit was drawing his elect to new life, true faith, and to union with the risen Christ. So it shall be. No one shall snatch them out of his hand (John 10:28).

Wednesday
May092018

Recent Warfield Discussion

Several recent articles have appeared on-line discussing various and important aspects of B. B. Warfield's theology.

The first is an essay by Fred Zaspel, the author of a very fine systematic summary of Warfield's Theology.

Zaspel's essay deals with Warfield's condemnation of racism and the segregation of his day.  Warfield's argument is grounded in the equal standing of all believers in Jesus Christ.   Warfield on Race and Racism.

A second essay comes from Scott Swain, who is president and professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

Dr. Swain addresses Warfield's discussion of how the names "Father," "Son," and "Holy Spirit" signify likeness between the persons in the Godhead. Warfield on the Trinity.

Tuesday
May082018

"To the Saints in Christ at Colossae" -- Colossians 1:1-14

The First in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Letter to the Colossians

If Paul’s letter to the Colossians has a single theme, it is the Lordship of Jesus over all of creation.  In this letter Paul makes his case that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, and secures salvation for all of his people through his work of new creation which even now Jesus is ushering in through his death, resurrection, and ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Paul’s focus upon the person and work of Jesus throughout this epistle will help us (hopefully) prepare for the Advent season and Christmas when we celebrate the birth of that Savior about whom Paul so eloquently writes in Colossians.  Christmas (I mean the biblical and Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus–which should not be confused with the secular holiday celebrated by our contemporaries at the exact same time)–is a wonderful time for Christians and gives us a great opportunity to reflect upon who Jesus is and what he has done for us when he secured our peace with God through the blood of the cross.

Whenever we begin a new study of any book of the Bible it is important to consider three questions: 1). Who wrote this book? 2). When it was written? and 3). Why was it written?  If we do not take the time to do this, we risk missing the main point(s) of the book and open ourselves to error by looking at things out of context or without regard to what this book meant to those to whom it was originally sent.  The reason why this exercise in what is known as New Testament Introduction is so important is that letters like Colossians were written by the Apostle Paul to first century churches facing a number of trials and difficulties.  Sometimes these trials virtually mirror situations we face today.  But sometimes they do not (at least specifically).  The goal in taking the time to ask and answer these three questions is to present the material covered in each book in such a way as to understand the original historical situation and so that we can then draw appropriate application to our situation in light of our unique circumstances.  But we cannot do this properly without answers to the “who,” “when,” and “why” questions–so we will spend our time answering these three questions before turning to the opening verses.

We start with “who wrote Colossians?  The Apostle Paul.  In this case, the “when” question is closely connected to the “who” question, so we will tackle them together.  Colossians is one of the so-called “prison epistles,” which was likely written while the apostle was under house arrest in Rome.  We spent a significant amount of time discussing the impact of Paul’s imprisonment in our just completed series on Philippians, so I will not repeat that discussion here.  The so-called “prison epistles” of Paul also include Paul’s letters to Ephesians (which we covered back in 2009) and the short letter of Philemon.  These four epistles all come from the same point in Paul’s ministry (during his imprisonment in Rome after his third missionary journey) and can be dated about the same time–the early 60's of the first century.  

It is impossible to tell which of these letters was written first (Philippians, or Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon), but Paul’s mention of Epaphroditus and the gift he brought from the Philippian church is a good indication that Philippians was written on a separate occasion in close proximity to the time he composed the other three prison letters.  The specific situation for Paul’s writing and sending Philippians is Epaphroditus’ return to Philippi after he recovered his health.

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here

Monday
May072018

This Week at Christ Reformed Church (May 7-May 13)

Sunday Morning, May 13:  We are working our way through the Minor Prophets.  Lord willing, we will spend the next two Sundays covering the prophecy of Zephaniah.  This week, we will ask and answer the "Who?" "When?" "Why?" and "What?" questions.  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon:  We are considering Article 13 of the Belgic Confession, the confession's teaching on God's Providence.  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study (May 9 @ 7:30 p.m.):  We continue with our series, "Apologetics in a Post-Christian Age."  We will be tackling the in-house Reformed debate about the accessibility and value of general revelation.

The Academy (Friday, May 11 @ 7:30 p.m.):  We are continuing our lecture/discussion series based upon Allen Guelzo's Teaching Company Course, The American Mind.  Our topic this week is "FDR and the New Intellectuals."

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Church), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).

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