Friday, February 28, 2014

Precious Blood

Peter called the blood of Jesus "precious." I hope you feel the same way, and this Lord's Day we will see why Jesus' blood means so much to us.

Come, Thou Fount (243)
O Sacred Head Now Wounded (139)
'Tis the Christ (150)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (137)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Numbers 17:1-18:7; Psalm 44
New Testament: John 4:27-45

The Blood of Jesus His Son - 1 John 1:7

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Law Can't Fix It

The fundamental question addressed by Galatians thus is not 'What is wrong with Judaism (or the Sinaitic law)?' but 'What is wrong with humanity that Judaism (and the Sinaitic law) cannot remedy?'

Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul

Friday, February 21, 2014

Walking in the Light

I want the real God, and I believe you do, also. We don't want substitutes, imitations, and after-market parts.  So now that God has shown us his real nature in 1 John, we are ready to see what real fellowship with him looks like. Join us this Lord's Day to walk in the light of the Lord.

Psalm 95
There Is a Fountain (267)
And Can It Be? (335)
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (400)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Numbers 16:25-50; Psalm 37:1-11
New Testament: John 4:1-26

Walking in the Light - 1 John 1:5-7

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Purifying Pollution

1 John 1:7 says that "the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."

I've been thinking a lot this week about the cleansing of Jesus' blood and the roots on this notion in the Mosaic law.

Roy Gane, in his work Cult and Character, draws out some of the importance of purification in the Levitical system. “By bringing together the views of sin as legal wrong and sin as pollution, the Israelite ritual system addressed not only the legal standing of YHWH’s people but also their moral state. It showed the way not only to freedom from condemnation, but also to development of healthy character. We will find the climax of this combination in observances of the Day of Atonement, which affirmed freedom from condemnation for those of loyal character (Lev 16:29-31). In the process, the great Day affirmed the just character of Israel’s divine King” (162). This fits with Herman Bavinck's description of sin, “Guilt and pollution always go together as the two inseparable sides of sin” (Reformed Dogmatics: Sin, Salvation, and Christ, Vol 3: 174).

Gane goes on, “It is clear why the covenant and priestly ordination sacrifices include application of  blood to persons. In these cases the blood is also applied to an altar of YHWH. Thus the rituals establish a blood connection, with life or death consequences, between the human parties and YHWH” (164).

“Only tajx sacrifices have privative nm + evil in their rpk goal formulas. So…only a purification offering accomplishes purgation of evil. The ritual complex for the formerly scale-diseased person is particularly instructive: of the three animal sacrifices that effect rpk for (l[) him (i.e. reparation, purification, and burnt offerings), only the purification offering accomplishes purgation Atam.jumi, “from his impurity.” ‘Here then is incontrovertible proof that the hatta’t decontaminates, purifies, and must be rendered ‘purification offering,’…and the verb kipper in this context has the specific meaning of ‘purge.’” (165, citing Milgrom).

Later, he writes, “A purification offering can remedy a state of severe physical ritual impurity (Lev 12:6-8; 14:19, 22, 31, 15, 30, etc.), contradiction of which is permitted by purification from which is required before contact with sacred objects or areas, in order to safeguard the boundaries of holiness connected with the Presence of YHWH at the sanctuary (e.g., 7:20-21; cf. 15:31). Such impurity is a category belonging to a conceptual system and should not be confused with ordinary dirtiness or literal pathological conditions encountered in the practice of medicine, which are subject to mundane constraints of cause and effect that operate in the material world.

“A [hatta’t] sacrifice providing [kipper] for physical ritual impurity results in physical ritual purity ([thr]). Forgiveness ([slch]) is not needed, because contracting a bodily impurity does not, by itself, constitute a moral fault. However, inexpiable wanton failure or expiable inadvertent failure to follow YHWH’s commands regarding bodily impurities, whether by contracting an impurity that he prohibits…,contacting something holy while in a state of impurity…, or failing to undergo timely ritual purification…, is moral fault.

“Physical ritual impurities are not moral evils….

“D. P. Wright demonstrates that, although terms for moral faults are not used with reference to bodily impurities, these categories appear to have closer connections than we would expect.

“In what appears to be diverse categories of evil, whether causing them is tolerated or prohibited, Wright finds a spectrum of impurity that ‘comprehends all adverse conditions or actions, unintended or intended, that are deleterious to what is holy….If all these conditions or actions are not sins, they all are at least a threat to what is holy and hence must either be, when serious, avoided, or when less grave, controlled. For the Priestly writer [namely Moses-JDP], all the defilement-creating conditions were of the same conceptual family.’ Thus Wright’s taxonomy of evils sensitively recognizes commonality between categories while acknowledging differences between them. N. Kiuchi’s approach is also well-balanced: while he finds a clear distinction between [hatta’t], ‘sin,’ and physical ritual impurity, he concludes that these categories are not incompatible with each other. A [hatta’t] ‘is a kind of uncleanness, produced on a dimension different from that of natural uncleanness.’ Therefore, ‘there is no essential distinction between purification and expiation’” (198-200).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Suppers that Separate

Calvin criticized monasticism for many failures, but one of his charges could be leveled squarely at that very un-monastic, world-affirming movement known as American evangelicalism.

The facts themselves tell us that all those who enter into the monastic community break with the church.

That's a surprising charge to make against monks, who would seem to be dedicated to the church catholic. What evidence does he bring forward to substantiate his accusation?

Do they not separate themselves from the lawful society of believers, in adopting a peculiar ministry and a private administration of the sacraments? If this is not to break the communion of the church, what is? (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter 13.14)

Irony of ironies, the most committed Roman Catholics were not catholic, according to Calvin. But how many among us today even understand his criticism?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Come Out of Hiding

When sin pollutes our very being, we hide ourselves, love the darkness, do not dare to show ourselves, and no longer see ourselves as we truly are (Gen 3:8; John 1:5; 3:19, etc.). Conversely, when through Christ, who is the light (John 1:4-5; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35; 2 Cor 4:4), God shines in our hearts and gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6), we regain the courage to look at ourselves, learn to love the light, and again walk in it (Matt 5:14; John 3:21; Rom 13:12; Eph 5:8; Phil 2:15; 1 Thess 5:5; 1 John 1:7; etc.).

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:191-2

Friday, February 14, 2014

God Is Light

While the entire Bible reveals God clearly through his names, actions, descriptions, and images, the Bible rarely makes such direct assertions about the nature of God as we find in 1 John 1:5, "God is light." The God who dwells in unapproachable light, who spoke light into existence and separated it from the darkness, who is himself our light and our salvation, and who calls us out of darkness into his marvelous light, invites us to see him through these words, "God is light." Come with open eyes this Lord's Day as we meet to see his glory.

O Come, All Ye Faithful (88) (note "true God of true God, light of light eternal")
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (23)
Sun of My Soul (454)
Be Thou My Vision (462)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Numbers 16:1-24; Psalm 36
New Testament: John 3:22-36

God Is Light - 1 John 1:5

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Send Out Your Light

"God is light," 1 John 1:5 says. In preparation for our sermon this Lord's Day, let's think a little bit about light in the Old Testament, particularly Psalms and Isaiah.

The Psalms poetically develop many connections between God and the imagery of light. Psa 4:6 draws on the Aaronic benediction (Num 6:24-26) to ask, “Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” Psa 18:28 speaks of the Lord lighting my lamp and lightening my darkness. Psa 27:1 says that the Lord is “my light and my salvation” (cf. Micah 7:8). Psa 36:9 has the absolutely fascinating statement, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” Kidner says that “Light, here, mainly suggests joy (cf. 4:6f.; Esth. 8:16; contrast Ps.38:10), though it cannot be isolated from its other connotations of purity, clarity and truth” (Psalms 1-72, 165). Gerald Wilson comments, “It is possible once again to find connections between God’s light and both creation and eschatological imagery” (pointing to both Gen 1:1-5 and Rev 21:23-24). He continues, “The light of divine illumination opens the eyes of the psalmist and those who follow his lead to the amazing abundance of Yahweh’s life-giving love, which eludes the blind and ignorant wicked” (NIV Application Commentary: Psalms Volume 1, 594).

Psa 43:3 associates light and truth, “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” Psa 56:13 speaks of walking before God “in the light of life.” Psa 89:15 pronounces a blessing upon the people who walk in the light of the Lord’s face. Psa 104:2 says that the Lord covers himself with light as with a garment (cf. 1 Tim 6:16).

The Psalms make ethical connections with light, such as in Psa 37:6, “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Psa 97:11 reads, “Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.” Famously, 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” while 119:130 says, “The unfolding of your words give light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” [This brief sampling omits all related images, such as Psa 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.”]

Light is quite prominent in the prophet Isaiah. In 2:5, in hope of the coming kingdom, Isaiah cries, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (for a comparison of similar ideas, see Psa 56:13; 89:15). The implications of light are connected with good and evil in 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” In 9:2 [Heb 9:1], that beautiful prophecy of the Messiah and his kingdom, cited in Matt 4:16, we read, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” Oswalt comments, “Throughout the Bible, God’s presence is equated with light (42:16; 2 Sam 22:29; Job 29:3; Ps 139:11, 12; 1 John 1:5)” (The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39, 242). 30:26 describes the day of the Lord’s restoration of his people as a day of tremendous, sevenfold light. In 42:6, the Lord gives his servant as “a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.” Godly Simeon harkened back to this text when he saw the baby Jesus (Luke 2:32). In 45:7, the Lord identifies himself as the one who “forms light.” 49:6 is much like 42:6, yet I want to highlight here the connection between “light” and “salvation.” This text is cited in Acts 13:47 as Paul and Barnabas spoke in Antioch of Pisidia. 51:4 speaks of the Lord’s justice as a “light to the peoples,” paralleling “righteousness” and “salvation” in 51:5 (interestingly, the LXX adds “light” into this verse).[1] 58:8, 10 speak of light coming for those who repent and seek the Lord, while 59:9 says that Israel’s wickedness has cut her off from God’s light: “Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.” Light imagery in Isaiah comes to its glorious climax in chapter 60 (cf. back to 2:5). “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60:1). The Lord’s glory is parallel with light. In v. 2 the glory of the Lord is equated with the Lord himself arising upon you, and thus his glory “will be seen upon you” (somewhat reminiscent of the plague of darkness in Egypt when Israel had light). And because the Lord’s glory is seen upon his people, his light becomes their light. “And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” “Brightness” (Hg:nO) has many of the same connotations in the OT as “light.”

So we see that “light” occurs in a constellation of ideas with God, God’s face, God’s presence, life, good, righteousness, truth, understanding, joy, salvation, justice, and the glory of the Lord. All of these find their consummation in the eschatological context of the kingdom of God.

When John says, "God is light," it sets off explosions of truth all over the place.

[1] Speaking of the LXX, Isaiah 53:11 is an interesting text. It paraphrases the Hebrew and incorporates “light” imagery even though “light” is not in the original. Moises Silva translates it in the NETS as “And the Lord wishes to take away from the pain of his soul, to show him light and fill him with understanding, to justify a righteous one who is well subject to many, and he himself shall bear their sins.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Essential Nature of True Christian Experience Based on the True Nature of God

Since we have started into our sermon series on 1 John, you might want to review the little overview we did in our seminar on New Testament biblical theology in 2013. Here is a little excerpt from those notes.

These three letters are among the shortest in the NT, but they are deeply personal and pastoral. I. Howard Marshall writes of the first letter, “John has not written it according to a neat plan; attempts to get a tidy, three-point sermon out of 1 John are misguided. He conducts a tour through his subject, pausing at the points that interest him, returning to areas of interest, seeing familiar objects from different angles, and yet all the time progressing toward a conclusion. His starting place is firm and solid: it is the Word of life, the revelation of God in Jesus (1:1-4). His goal is clear: it is the possibility of fellowship between men and God through Jesus Christ, his Son” (The Epistles of John, 5).

And so the personal is deeply theological. These little letters give us, not abstract doctrines, but the essential nature of true Christian experience based on the true nature of God (1:5). It is life suffused with God, full of light and truth and love. This then also serves to expose those who falsely claim to know God. Those who do not walk in light, love, and truth do not know him. But John’s purposes are essentially positive: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13). John brings together all the truths about the triune God and our relationship with him to demonstrate what true Christianity is.

Robert Yarbrough gives an excellent summation of the three-fold perspective that John gives on the Christian life:
“Life in the Son grows out of right belief, but not right belief alone. It extends to obedient behavior too. But correct behavior, even combined with high orthodoxy, can be overrated. Who has not encountered the doctrinaire, morally scrupulous, but hate-filled self-confessed follower of Jesus? Something is missing. First John in particular puts a finger on it (see also 2 John 1, 5-6; 3 John 1, 6). True godliness in John’s conception consists of a third integral element: deep-rooted devotion of the heart to God. This is love. It changes not only our regard for God but also for people” (1-3 John, 25-6).
We might call these three perspectives orthodoxy (right doctrine or belief), orthopraxy (right practice or obedience), and orthopathy (right affections or love). Let’s look further at these three perspectives.

A lexicon defines truth with terms like “(1) the quality of being in accord with what is true, dependability, uprightness; (2) the content of what is true; (3) an actual event or state, reality.” Yet when we look at the way John uses the concepts of truth, we find something much more alive. Yarbrough has broken down John’s use of truth into the following categories:
·         “Truth is possessed and imparted by the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20), who is truth (4:6; 5:6; 3 John 12; cf. John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13a).
·         “Truth refers to the ethical standards that God has established for his people as expressed in his commandments (1 John 1:6: 2:21a; 3:18; 2 John 4; 3 John 3b, 4; cf. ‘doing the truth’ in John 3:21; also 8:32; 14:15, 23; 15:10, 14).
·         “Truth is God’s revealed and personal sanctifying presence that gives the believer the capacity to reflect God’s character traits, like love and aversion to sin (1 John 1:8; 2:4, 21b; cf. John 1:14, 17; 4:23-24; 8:32; 16:7; 17:17a, 19).
·         “Truth refers to the quality of conformity to the way things are in God’s omniscient wisdom (1 John 2:8; cf. John 5:33; 8:40, 44a, 45, 46).
·         “Truth refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ, its implications, and the sphere of eternal life into which the gospel ushers those who embrace it (1 John 3:19; 2 John 1b, 2, 3; 3 John 1, 8; cf. John 14:6; 16:13b; 17:17b; 18:37a)” (1-3 John, 335-6).[1]
Truth is inseparable from God, his plan, his providence, and his communication of himself to his creatures. That is why John stresses the relationship of abiding in order to know the truth (John 8:31-32). Truth must be walked in (2 John 4, 6; 3 John 4). Furthermore, the truth about Jesus Christ must be believed if one is to have a relationship with God (1 John 2:22-23; 4:1-6, 15; 5:1; 2 John 7). But thankfully, truth can be known (1 John 5:13-15, 18-20 uses this term 7 times).

God is light, which is his moral purity and excellence. Those who are in fellowship with him must therefore be morally pure and ethically excellent. They must walk in the light (1:7). John clearly states that he writes “these things to you so that you may not sin” (2:1).
·         Keep his commandments (2:3-6; 3:24; 5:2; 2 John 6)
·         Practice righteousness (2:29; 3:4-10)
·         Yet John is clear that the foundation for this righteousness is the blood of Jesus, God’s Son (1:7; 2:1-2)

The centrality of love in John’s letters is immediately obvious. Love language permeates virtually everything John says. The verb for love (agapao) is found 31 times, and its corresponding noun (agape) shows up 21 times. From what we have already considered above, it is not surprising that they are often used in conjunction with “commandments” (1 John 3:23; 4:21; 5:2, 3; 2 John 5, 6).
·         The love of the believer is itself a manifestation of the fellowship of which John speaks. It is the love of God in the believer which moves him to keep God’s word (1 John 2:5).
·         The one who loves his brother abides in the light (2:10).
·         The believer is not to love (set his affections on) the passing world order which rejects God’s redemptive rule. Those who do love the world demonstrate that they have no love for the Father (2:15).
·         The Father has given us his love to make us his children (3:1) through the death of Jesus for us (3:16). If we do not love, it is obvious that we are not of God (3:10). The very nature of God requires the command to love, and those who love their brothers give great evidence that God’s love abides in them (3:11-24). This God-like love is a love that lays down its life for others (3:16-18).
·         These themes are fleshed out and reiterated by John in 4:7-12, 16, 18-21; 5:1-3; 2 John 5-6.
·         Love links with truth and obedience (2 John 1-6).

[1]I believe these descriptions fit well with the observations of a couple systematic theologians. John Frame writes, “Wisdom and truth, like knowledge, are given by God’s grace and in the deepest senses of the terms, involve obedience and intimate, personal involvement between Creator and creature” (The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 49). Rolland McCune says, “As the self-contained, self-consistent Ontological Trinity, God is the source of all truth….This foundational aspect of God’s attribute of truth is the basis of a truly Christian philosophy of truth. That is, truth is that which corresponds to the being and will of the God of truth. Any so-called truth or fact attains truthfulness, factuality, or intelligibility because each is in essence a theistic fact, being true because of its place in the eternal counsel of the God of all truth” (A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity: Volume One, 254-5).

Friday, February 07, 2014

Debating More than Christian Rap

If you have not been following the ongoing discussion between Shai Linne and Scott Aniol over at, you really should. It's not just about Christian rap. For example, the latest exchange delves into the issue of subjectivity in our judgments and applications of God's Word.

The introduction to the series is here, and from there you can navigate to all of the posts.

Confidence in the Right Guide

Before ascending to the high mountains of the knowledge of God that the first letter of John calls us to, we need to make sure our base camp is well-stocked for the journey and that we are confident in our guide. The purpose of our sermon this Lord's Day is to fasten your confidence securely to God's revelation of himself in his word. This is the sure guide we need as we pursue the joy of fellowship with God.

[Due to our last minute changes last week, our songs will be the same as what was originally posted for last week's service.]

O Father, Thou Whose Love Profound (29)
Psalm 119f
How Firm a Foundation (610)
The Name High Over All (31)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Numbers 15:21; Psalm 32
New Testament: John 2:13-25

Knowing God through His Word - 1 John 1:1-4