Hail, the Lord God!

The seventh plague is the plague of hail. This is the first plague in the third cycle. Again, Moses rises up early in the morning (cf. 7:15 in the first, and 8:20 in the fourth). In the third cycle of plagues, the ante is up. Death makes its first appearance with this plague. Notice that the Lord tips His hand. He tells Pharaoh exactly why He is doing all this (9:16, quoted in Romans 9:17). What is remarkable here in this plague, however, is that the Lord provides a way of escape in verse 19. Those who wished could escape this judgment. We read of many people in the actual exodus going with the Israelites. They were not Israelites, but went up with them (see 12:37-38). So, even now, the strand of Egypt’s redemption has started, and will end with Egypt being God’s people (Is 19:19-25, noted by Ryken, p. 283), when Jesus the Messiah comes to save His people from their sins.

Pharaoh does not really repent. He says “this time,” but what about all the other times he has sinned? He should have confessed his sin directly to God, and begged forgiveness.

The message is dire for us today, since a greater plague awaits those who will not trust in the way of escape, Jesus Christ. See this plague described in Revelation 16:17-21. Only this time, the hail will be far more severe than the Egyptian plague, the hailstones being about 100 pounds each. And God will offer no chance of escape this time, either. There wilol not be two possible reactions of getting out from under God’s judgment versus undergoing God’s judgment. There will only be the hardness of heart that curses God because of the plague. Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!

The pictures above are of Tefnut, the goddess of moisture, and Shu, the supporter of the heavens, both of which gods were utterly defeated by the Lord God of Israel.

Two Opposite Links

Martin Downes interviews Gary Johnson, part 1. Mark Horne judges a book by its cover (I don’t suppose Wilson will jump on Horne for reviewing a book before Horne reads it. That only happens if a Leithart book is commented on off-handedly).

Update: According to Mark Horne, Doug actually did email him about the book, giving him a more positive outlook on the book. Therefore, I retract the jab I made above.

The Matthew Poole Project

Steve Dilday and Andrew Myers have produced the first of (Deus Volat) many, many volumes comprising a translation of the massive Synopsis Criticorum. You can download the entirety of the translation for free. Getting it in hardcover costs something, obviously. The Synopsis is by no means the same thing as Poole’s commentary (although Dilday and Myers have elected to include Poole’s commentary in the text). What Poole did was to combine all the best comments he could find from the Reformation era, and combine them all into one place. The result was a five-volume behemoth of selected comments on the entire Scripture. I hope that Dilday and Myers will live to complete the entire project. It will be of enormous benefit to Christendom. I plan on supporting the project through purchasing each and every volume (I hate reading off a computer screen unless it is absolutely necessary!). The second volume will come out in October (again, DV).  

Great Sale on Commentaries

Every one of these commentaries should be on a serious pastor’s shelf. Buy them all. Now.

Response to Bryan Cross

Bryan Cross has critiqued my post on church unity here. I must say it is refreshing to see some use of logic in a debate. Fancy that. As opposed to all the name-calling, and whining about tone that has occurred on this blog recently, someone is actually trying to deal with the heart of the issues. So, thanks Bryan, for a vigorous, healthy, and logical debate. All right, let’s get to it.

Consider Lane’s arguments. Here is the first: 1) If there are believers in just about every Christian denomination, then there is Christian unity. 2) There are believers in just about every Christian denomination. 3) Therefore, there is Christian unity. Not only is the apodosis of (1) a non sequitur, but (1) makes disunity impossible, and implies that the unity of the Church is unaffected by schism.

I don’t think that Bryan has gotten my argument correct. Admittedly, I could have inserted a few more statements to flesh out premise 1. Let’s take Bryan’s own position. The picture on his blog shows the patriarch of Constantinople holding hands with the Pope. I would assume that means that Bryan would say that the Eastern Orthodox Church has believers in it, just as the Roman Catholic Church does. If this is so, then is there not an underlying unity that connects the believers in the EOC with believers in the RCC? After all, Bryan would presumably not advocate union between the RCC and Buddhism. Why not? Because there is no basis for organizational unity without a corresponding, prior, theological unity. So, what I am saying in premise 1 is that there is theological unity among all believers, no matter in what denomination they participate. If Bryan does not grant premise 1, then he cannot premise that there are any believers in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and thus, there would be no reason for the RCC and the EOC to join. Christian unity cannot be merely external and organizational. There is a deeper, underlying Spiritual unity among all believers. This is precisely what Ephesians 4 is saying. Furthermore, premise 1 in no way implies that the church is unaffected by schism, since, in order for that claim to be true, I would have had to say that Christian unity has no implications at all for external organizations, something which the rest of the post clearly kaboshes.

His next argument is: 4) Ephesians 4:1-6 refers to the “unity of the Spirit”. 5) Nowhere in this passage is it implied that it has to be an organizational unity. 6) Therefore Christian unity is a (S)spiritual [not organizational] unity. Notice the explicit equivocation in (6) between Spiritual (i.e. Spirit-wrought), and spiritual (i.e. not organizational). The move from (4) to “Spirit-wrought” in (6) would be fine. But the move from (4) and (5) to “spiritual” [and not organizational], is a non sequitur on account of an equivocation between ‘Spirit’ and ‘spiritual’, and because the move from (5) to “spiritual” [and not organizational] in (6) is an argument from silence.

The difficulty with Bryan’s assessment of my argument here is that I am also using the term “Spiritual” to mean non-organizational. Therefore the equivocation between “Spiritual” and “spiritual” is irrelevant to the validity of the argument, since both imply non-physical as I have understood the terms. Bryan also does not tell us why the move from 5 to 6 is an argument from silence. What is silent, precisely? Bryan does not deny, interestingly, that move from 4 to 6 would be fine if the meaning “Spiritual” were retained. I am glad to hear that, since it means that he accepts my argument about Ephesians 4 not necessarily implying organizational unity.

7) Paul does not say [in this passage] that there should be Christian unity. (8) Paul says [in this passage] that there is unity. 9) Therefore, if this passage applies at all today, then the unity is in no way, shape, or form organizational. 10) This passage applies today. 11) Therefore, Christian unity is in no way, shape, or form organizational. (9) is a non sequitur; it does not follow from (7) and (8).

I wish Bryan had given us a little more here, for he does not demonstrate how line 9 does not follow lines 7-8, but merely asserts it. Assertion is not proof or disproof unless one is God (Bryan is not claiming to be God!). But let me respond to his assertion anyway. We have a difficulty in the text. The difficulty is this: there are believers in almost every Christian denomination today; however, Paul’s letter was not written in our day and age. We must seek to see how Paul’s message applies today. The difficulty is this: Paul’s letter is silent on the question of denominations, since no denominations existed then. Paul’s letter cannot easily be forced into saying denominations are bad or good, since the situation simply didn’t exist. What I mean in this argument is that Paul asserts that all believers actually have Christian unity. I think that is Paul’s message. If that is true, and there are believers in almost every denomination, then it must follow that the unity of which Paul speaks (if it applies today at all) must not be an organizational unity primarily, but rather a (S)spiritual unity. And again, as I stressed in my original post, organizational unity is a good thing, when it can be a unity around the truth, and it is something for which we should strive as much as we are able. However, lack of organizational unity simply does not mean that there are no other forms of unity among all Christians.

Going on to comment 19 of that post, where I respond to Jonathan Bonomo:

12) The denominations around today are all part of the body of Christ. 13) If visible unity were necessary, then the denominations around today would not be part of the body of Christ. 14) Therefore visible unity is not necessary. (13) is a non sequitur, because it assumes that parthood is all or nothing.

Unfortunately, Bryan got my argument badly garbled here. First of all, I did not claim that the denominations around today are all part of the body of Christ. I claim that there are Christians in almost every denomination that calls itself Christian. Those are not the same claims. I do claim number 13, which Bryan has not even remotely answered. Bryan’s position seems to require visible unity as the sine qua non of being oart of the body of Christ. As I tried to show earlier in this post, if that were true, then he would have to disenfranchise most Christian denominations as not being part of the body of Christ at all. And as I pointed out earlier in this post as well, not even Bryan believes that. The subtitle of his blog is “a blog dedicated to the reunion of all Christians.” That claim, of necessity, forces Bryan to admit that there are Christians in many denominations. If there are, then are not those churches that consist of Christians part of the body of Christ? Does he claim that the Eastern Orthodox Church is a true church? They claim the same apostolic succession that the RCC does. What makes their claim false? If there is only one true church, and the RCC and EOC have not joined yet, then Bryan is forced to conclude that the EOC is not a true church.

15) Every particular church is part of the body of Christ. 16) Every particular church would still be a separate body, even if they were all in the same denomination. 17) Therefore, the “one body” of Eph 4 must refer to a spiritual (not organizational) unity. This argument is a non sequitur as well, because it assumes that being [geographically] separate bodies is incompatible with being one visible body by way of hierarchical organization.

This rebuttal doesn’t work either. My argument doesn’t assume what he thinks it assumes. I am asking the question: what is the nature of the oneness of the church? Bryan and I both agree that oneness exists. I argue that it is a primarily (S)spiritual unity with organizational implications (I have never denied the visible aspects of church unity, contrary to Bryan’s charges of Gnosticism). Bryan seems to deny utterly any non-physical aspects to Christian unity. Bryan would, right now, claim that the two churches I pastor in rural North Dakota are not part of the body of Christ in any way, shape, or form, since they are not visibly united to the Church of Rome. It is ironic, isn’t it? Bryan wants Christian unity that is visible. He will never get that with my two churches, for instance, so long as the Roman Catholic Church has distorted the Word and Sacraments. So, he will intolerantly claim that my two churches are not true churches, not part of the body of Christ. On the other hand, I claim (S)spiritual unity with all true Christian believers, Roman Catholic believers included. Who is the more tolerant here? Who is more concerned about Christian unity? Bryan has too narrowly defined Christian unity.

Imputation and Merit in Wilkins

This post will deal with his responses to declarations 3 and 4. Declaration 3 has to do with the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience as Christ is our representative Head. Wilkins really tries to soft-pedal the active obedience theology. One wonders why he said “I agree completely,” and then says in effect that he doesn’t agree completely. As I have said before, the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience is clearly taught in the Confession and LC. All of this hoopla about Chad Van Dixhoorn’s work doesn’t change that one iota. Besides, most people who have looked at his work do not realize that his position is that the WS do teach the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience. They stop at his research involving chapter 11, and the “pulling the punch” of the word “whole.” But the divines, when they voted, overwhelmingly voted in favor of the word. Why it was not included in the final version is a mystery, but as Jeff Jue notes in his excellent chapter in Justified In Christ, we cannot conclude with Daniel Kirk that the reason the word “whole” was struck from the Confession was that the document was a compromise document. There is simply not enough evidence to conclude that. Furthermore, question 70 of the LC informs our understanding of WCF 11. Those who deny the imputation of Christ’s active obedience have split Christ’s obedience, and Christ is no longer whole. Besides, as Hodge notes in his ST, Christ’s passive and active obedience is not separable. Even His passive obedience is active (“He lays down His life”), and His active obedience is also passive (He deliberately went to Jerusalem to suffer). The truth that is preserved in the active’passive distinction is that Christ satisfied all the demands of the law for us. He both took on the guilt of our sin to Himself, and He earned eternal life for us.

This brings us to his response to number 4, where Wilkins has gone off the deep end. Wilkins’s theology here has an enormous problem: why did Jesus have to live 33 years on earth? If He already had His Father’s favor as a Mediator, then there would be absolutely no reason for Him to endure one second of humiliation beyond the cross and tomb. Why the rest of His life? The emphasized phrase in the previous section indicates where Wilkins went astray. Wilkins asserts that Jesus already had the favor of His Father. That’s true, as Jesus is God’s Son. But in coming to earth, Jesus took on Himself the role of Mediator. As Mediator, He did not already have the favor of God as regards the people of God. If He did, then there would be no reason for the cross and resurrection, since Jesus would already have had what He came for: the salvation of His people. But in order to obtain for His people the remission of sins, and the right to eternal life, Jesus had to earn it by His perfect obedience to the law in every respect, as well as His suffering of the law’s just demands against sinners. Jesus was not justified by faith. He was justified by works. His vindication was the resurrection. The way the committee understands the term “merit” is plainly about Christ’s obedience to the law, and its implications for the believer. 

Great Software

This is the best Bible software on the market. Yes, it’s pricey. However, there is practically nothing that it cannot do. And some of the add ons (such as EDNT and KB complete) are terrific, as well. Then there’s journals. This, this, this, this, and this are wonderful sources, since journals are extremely difficult to find elsewhere. You can get all of Calvin’s major works (and most of his minor works as well) for cheap here.

Church Unity

Chapter 13 of RINE is entitled “Church Unity.” This chapter is talking about the church as one body of Christ. Let’s start with the positive aspects of this chapter. I really like what he says about baptism in this chapter. I agree that Mormon “baptisms” are not baptisms at all, but that Roman Catholic baptisms are to be received as genuine baptisms “in order to be nursed back to health” (p. 121), which, to my mind, is a brilliantly helpful way of putting things. It gets at the problem of corrupt churches (such as Rome) while still acknowledging the baptism to be genuine. Implied, but not stated explicitly, is the idea that the form of the words (the Trinitarian formula) is determinative for the genuineness of the baptism (see p. 120). I might choose to disagree with his assessment of the Roman Catholic Church (I would argue that any church that has justification by faith distorted is an apostate church, not just a corrupt church; plus, I’m not entirely sure about the distinction between apostate and corrupt: where does he get that biblically?), but we would both accept the RCC baptism as valid.

The only other point that needs to be brought up here is the unspoken assumption on Wilson’s part that church unity is a fundamentally organizational goal. One can see this with the pejorative statements “ungodly denominational system,”(p. 117) and “denominations are a necessary evil” (p. 118). Why is the unity of the body of Christ organizational? If there are believers in just about every Christian denomination, then there is Christian unity. Period. Christian unity is a (S)spiritual unity (see Ephesians 4:1-6, where nowhere is it implied that it has to be an organizational unity). Paul does not say that there should be Christian unity. He says there is unity. If that passage applies at all today, then the unity is in no way, shape, or form organizational. I am by no means saying that the cottage industry of denomination fragmentation is a good thing. Many denominations are formed for wrong reasons. But if denominations are inherently evil, then the Reformation was wrong to start new denominations (of course, they argued that the Roman Catholics were the schismatics, since they were the ones abandoning truth). If we want to avoid conflict with our Baptist brothers, because they will not baptize infants, and we will, then we had better worship apart for the sake of unity. In fact, we have greater unity with the Baptists by worshipping apart than we would if we were constantly fighting over the proper subjects of baptism. Should we strive for eliminating unnecessary denominations? Absolutely. There is no particular reason why the PCA and the OPC should be two separate denominations. Not really. Of course it would require a lot of work. But I think we are duty bound to seek such unification. However, because the principle of denominations is abused does not mean that the principle itself is evil. People are different, and there are different worship styles, as well as different theological beliefs. So true Christian unity is trans-denominational.

Concerning Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

There are many dangers facing a church that is looking for a new pastor. Especially, there are many dangers facing a large church that is looking for a new pastor.

Firstly, large churches are targets for wolves. False teachers like nothing better than to disrupt the sheep, while feeding on the sheep as they go. I cannot imagine too many churches that a wolf would rather “pastor” than Coral Ridge. Please pray for Coral Ridge as they go into uncharted territory (Dr. Kennedy was the founding pastor of that church).

Secondly, the expectations of the church can be a real problem. No one is going to be identical to Dr. D. James Kennedy in gifts. They should look for a pastor who faithfully preaches the Word of God, and who faithfully administers the sacraments. That should be the highest priority. Of course, the mission of the church has always been huge at Coral Ridge. It is the origin of Evangelism Explosion, the teaching tool developed by Dr. Kennedy.

Thirdly, the expectation of the church can often be for someone snazzy, with all the latest gadgets and whistles, and “methods.” He has to have a Ph.D., etc. They should look instead for someone who is faithful.

The Mission of the Church

Matthew 10:1-10

Audio Version

The daughter of my former pastor in Philadelphia once said this, “I love the disciples. They were always messing up.” I think that if modern “wisdom” were to be followed, Jesus would not even have chosen the men He did to be His disciples. This is what Tim Hansel says about it, in his book, Eating Problems For Breakfast. To: Jesus, Son of Joseph Woodcrafter’s Carpenter Shop Nazareth 25922 From: Jordan Management Consultants Dear Sir: Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant. The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each of them carefully. As part of our service, we make some general comments for your guidance, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation, and comes without any additional fee. It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability. Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale. One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory. We wish you every success in your new venture. Sincerely, Jordan Management Consultants. You see, the world doesn’t have the same priorities and mindset that Jesus has, and that He wants His people to have. The world would have chosen brilliant men with great SAT scores, great upward mobility, as the saying goes, and connections to lots of important people. But God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.

Now, Jesus has just finished instructing his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest that the Lord would send workers out into the field. Now He sends harvesters out into the field. He sends His own disciples. There is a lesson in that. We are to pray for workers in the harvest field, and then we are to go out and work in God’s harvest field, wherever we are. As we will see, Jesus does not mean to limit His instructions to the disciples, but rather He wants us to learn from how He teaches His disciples, and how He shows them what to do.

First we see Jesus giving the disciples power to do miracles. Plainly, we are meant to see that what the disciples are doing is exactly what Jesus had been doing. He trains them to do it, so that they can go out and do it. Now, we do not have these kinds of powers today. Ephesians tells us that the disciples, the apostles, are the foundation of the house. We do not keep on building the foundation. The miraculous gifts were needed in the early church to jump-start the church. Now, God is fully capable even today of doing miracles. I am not putting God in a box. However, the command for the church today is to make disciples. It is very easy to get distracted by miracle stories from what is the true work of the church, which is to make disciples, as Jesus tells us in chapter 28. But for where the church was at that time, Jesus gave them miraculous powers.

Next follows a list of the twelve disciples. I am not going to comment too much on this, except to remind us that most of these men are very common, ordinary sorts of people. As the illustration above proves, they would not be people’s first choice for leadership material. In fact, they might choose someone like Judas Iscariot instead. That proves this point: God does not always choose the most likely person to do His work. Oftentimes, He chooses a much more broken vessel, so that the glory for salvation will belong to God, and not to man. But a second lesson is this: when God chooses such a broken vessel, He gives them what they need to accomplish their mission. So, it doesn’t matter if you are extraordinary or not: if God is planning on using you for His kingdom work, then He will give you the tools you need to do it. But then you might ask whether you are called to do His work. All Christians are called to do the work of God’s kingdom.

So, after Matthew gives us the names of the twelve disciples, he records for us Jesus’ instructions to the twelve. The first instruction seems a bit odd to us today. Why would Jesus not want the salvation message to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans? Well, this is a particular mission at a particular time in the history of the church. This mission had one purpose, which was to go to the lost people of Israel, as Jesus says, to preach the message they needed to hear. There is time enough for the Gentiles and Samaritans after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, when He tells us to go into all the world to bring that same salvation message to everyone. But salvation starts at home, as it were. This is an important message for us. We need to take care of our own first. We cannot stop there, but we must start there. We must start with our own members who might possibly be lost sheep. We must reach out to them, and bring them back in to the fold.

The principles listed for us in verses 8-10 have to do with how and why we do the work of the kingdom. Whatever we have received, that is what we should give. Whatever talent you have, that is to be used. And we do not exercise our talents for monetary gain as our goal. This pertains particularly to ministers. I do not minister here for the purpose of making a living. My purpose is to expand the kingdom of God, and to give what I have received to the body of Christ. It is good for the congregation to take care of the pastor’s physical needs, so that he is not distracted by worldly concerns, but can rather focus his time and energy on the spiritual needs of the congregation. If I may say so, our two congregations succeed very well in doing this. I barely have any physical cares to worry about. I don’t worry about the parsonage, I don’t worry about having enough money in the bank account, so that we can eat. I don’t even worry about bills to pay. And this is good. I have no right to require of you any of these things, even if the Word of God directs congregations to support their minister. The worst imaginable situation arises when pastors become greedy for money, and the congregation becomes correspondingly stingy. The pastor should not grasp, and the congregation should freely and joyfully give. That is the balance of Biblical teaching on the subject. And again, I want to encourage you by saying that you are doing very well on this point. We feel well-loved and cared for.

The last principle that can be gleaned from these verses is that of our expectations for ministry. We should give our time and talents not expecting anything in return. If we receive hospitality, there is no reason to refuse it. However, that should not be the reason why we do it. We do it because God has freely given to us what we have. We should not worry about God’s provision for us in the midst of our ministry. Rather, we should trust God that if we are doing His work, then He will provide for us. That is fairly simple to understand, but oh so difficult to put into practice.

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