Preach the Word: Rebuke, Take Two!

September 3, 2017 in Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, John Calvin, Meditations, Preaching, Quotations

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

For the last few weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” A couple weeks ago, we began looking at the series of imperatives that Paul gives to explain his charge. Paul writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Since you were not all at Family Camp last weekend, I would like to repeat a few things that I said last week about what it means to “rebuke.”

The Greek word behind “rebuke” is epitimao. To rebuke is to deliver a sharp warning that one’s attitude or action is in clear opposition to God’s will and word. In the Greek OT, epitimao is typically reserved for God’s word of power, command, and control. God’s “rebuke” shakes the heavens, splits the Red Sea, stills the storm, overthrows the wicked, and judges apostates. In the NT, the word is used in similar contexts. Jesus “rebuked” the wind and waves and they became still. Peter “rebuked” Jesus saying that He would by no means die. Jesus, in turn, “rebuked” Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Mk 8:33) Jesus “rebuked” James and John, the sons of thunder, when they asked to call fire down on a Samaritan village, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of” (Lk 9:55). A rebuke, therefore, is a short, verbal thrashing. It is a divine wake-up call. Job “rebukes” his wife, “Shall we receive good from the Lord and not evil?”

What this means, therefore, is that the minister of the Gospel – and, by extension, every Christian – must be prepared to speak bluntly about attitudes and actions that are opposed to the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ. In gardening, there are times when the ground is soft and the weeds can be pulled by hand; there are other times when the ground is like iron and the weeds are so strong that pulling them up by hand isn’t possible and you have to grab the spade and the hoe. Likewise, in life. The Word of God has been given to address the whole gamut of life situations – times when we need comfort, times when we need counsel, times when we need exhortation, times when we need instruction, times when we need rebuke. There are times when we need someone to speak bluntly to us, “Stop that! Wake up! Get to work! Cease your despair!” We need a verbal kick in the pants.

It is imperative, therefore, that we ground ourselves in the Word of God so that we know when a rebuke is needed. I have been reading various biographies of John Calvin this summer. In one of them, Calvin had this to say about the Word of God:
By it [God’s ministers] confidently dare all things, compel all the strength, glory, and sublimity of the world to submit to its majesty and to obey it, rule over all things from the highest to the lowest, build up the house of Christ, overturn the kingdom of Satan, feed the sheep, destroy the wolves, exhort and instruct the teachable, rebuke, reprove, and refute the rebellious and stubborn, loose, bind, and finally, hurl thunderbolts – but doing all things in the Word of God.

So reminded that there are times when we need to give or receive a word of rebuke, let us acknowledge that we are often too timid to give it and too stubborn to receive it. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Why shouldn’t you get rebaptized?

July 31, 2017 in Baptism, Ecclesiology, John Calvin, Quotations, Sacraments, Word of God

There are actually many answers to this question – but consider the following from John Calvin:

“Our opponents ask us what faith we had for many years after our baptism, in order to show that our baptism was in vain, since baptism is not sanctified to us except by the word of promise received in faith. We answer that although we were blind and unbelieving for a long time and did not embrace the promise which had been given us in baptism, yet the promise itself, since it was from God, always remained steady, firm, and true. If all men were false and liars, still God continues to be true; if all men were lost, still Christ remains a Savior. We confess, therefore, that when we totally neglected the promise offered to us in baptism, without which baptism is nothing, we received no benefit at all from baptism… Yet we believe that the promise itself never expired…. By baptism God promises the forgiveness of sins and will certainly fulfill the promise to all believers; that promise was offered to us in baptism; let us, therefore, embrace it by faith.”

In short, Calvin reminds us, baptism is not primarily my word to God, my promise to God, but God’s promise to me. Baptism is a visible word. It invites me, summons me to believe the One who has promised to cleanse my sins through the death and resurrection of Christ. The “solution”, therefore, to someone who has not believed his baptism thus far is not to get baptized but to repent and to believe and receive the promise symbolized in that baptism.

Something Marvelous

April 6, 2017 in Christmas, John Calvin, King Jesus, Quotations, Trinity

“Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be borne in the virgin’s womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world even as he had done from the beginning!” 

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.xiii.4.

Bodily Postures in Worship

February 10, 2017 in John Calvin, Liturgy, Prayer, Quotations, Worship

“The inward attitude certainly holds first place in prayer, but outward signs, kneeling, uncovering the head, lifting up the hands, have a twofold use. The first is that we may employ all our members for the glory and worship of God; secondly, that we are, so to speak, jolted out of our laziness by this help. There is also a third use in solemn and public prayer, because in this way the sons of God profess their piety, and they inflame each other with reverence of God. But just as the lifting up of the hands is a symbol of confidence and longing, so in order to show our humility, we fall down on our knees.” 

John Calvin, Commentary on Acts 20:36

Venerate the Word of God

February 2, 2017 in Authority, Ecclesiology, John Calvin, Quotations, Word of God

“What has a Christian man to do with that prevaricating obedience, which, while the Word of God is licentiously contemned, yields its homage to human vanity? What has he to do with that contumacious and rude humility, which despising the majesty of God, only looks up with reverence to men? Have done with empty names of virtue, employed merely as cloaks for vice, and let us exhibit the thing itself in its true colors. Ours be the humility which, beginning with the lowest, and paying respect to each in his degree, yields the highest honor and respect to the Church, in subordination, however, to Christ the Church’s head; ours the obedience which, while it disposes us to listen to our elders and superiors, tests all obedience by the Word of God; in fine, ours the Church whose supreme care it is humbly and religiously to venerate the Word of God, and submit to its authority.”

John Calvin, Letter to Sadoleto, p. 75.

Don’t Waste Your Joy

December 19, 2016 in Bible - NT - James, Bible - OT - Psalms, John Calvin, Meditations, Singing Psalms
Psalm 28:7 (NKJV)
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.
In our continuing study of Jesus in the Psalms we examine Psalm 28 today. Verse 7 of Psalm 28 reminds us how central worship ought to be to our experience as the people of God. As we will see, God has answered David’s cry for help. So what does David do? He composes a song to celebrate the Lord’s goodness.
Since we have been doing a series of meditations on worship, I want to use this time to consider David’s song of praise in Psalm 28. David tells us that his heart trusted in the Lord – he believed that God would be true to His word and deliver him from trouble. And what happened? God answered him. My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped. You can imagine, therefore, how thankful David was. Any time our desires are fulfilled, it is natural to be filled with joy. Our team wins the game – we are joyful. We receive the present we had desired – we are joyful. We recover from illness – we are joyful. And David’s response was no different. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices. His heart was filled with joy because God had mercifully answered his plea.
But note that David’s internal joy manifest itself externally; his heart of joy bore fruit in song. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him. God saved David; consequently, David’s heart was filled with joy; and David’s joy bore fruit in praise and song. His joyful heart opened his mouth. As John Calvin wrote, “undoubtedly, when God spreads cheerfulness through our hearts, it is to open our mouths to sing his praises” (Psalms, 472). God gives us joy so that we might worship.
So what do you do when your heart is joyful? Do you direct the joy that is in Your heart in praise to God? James, the brother of our Lord, asks us, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13b). James exhorts us: Don’t waste your joy! There are plenty of times when our heart will be weighed down and sorrowful; times for prayer and petition. But if your heart is joyful, then let it bear fruit in song – and not just in song, in songs of praise to God.
So what of you? Have you sung the praises of God? Have you spoken the wonders of God? Have you shared the rich treasures of God with others? Or have you wasted your joy?

Reminded that we often waste our joy, let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

An Everlasting Inheritance

August 24, 2016 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Dispensationalism, Ecclesiology, Israel, John Calvin, Postmillennialism, Quotations

For an everlasting possession (Gen 48:4). We have elsewhere shown the meaning of this expression: namely, that the Israelites should be perpetual heirs of the land until the coming of Christ, by which the world was renewed… For that portion of land was promised to the ancient people of God, until the renovation introduced by Christ: and now, ever since the Lord has assigned the whole world to his people, a fuller fruition of the inheritance belongs to us.”

John Calvin, Commentary upon the Book of Genesis

Word and Sign Go Together

August 2, 2016 in Bible - OT - Genesis, John Calvin, Quotations, Sacraments, Word of God, Worship

“…since no living image of God can exist without the word, whenever God has appeared to his servants, he has also spoken to them. Wherefore, in all outward signs, let us be ever attentive to his voice, if we would not be deluded by the wiles of Satan. But if those visions, in which the majesty of God shines, require to be animated by the word, then they who obtrude signs, invented at the will of men, upon the Church, exhibit nothing else than the empty pomps of a profane theatre. Just as in the Papacy, those things which are called sacraments, are lifeless phantoms which draw away deluded souls from the true God. Let this mutual connexion, then, be observed, that the vision which gives greater dignity to the word, precedes it; and that the word follows immediately, as if it were the soul of the vision.”

John Calvin, Commentary upon the Book of Genesis, p. 388 (on verse 46:2)

Slothful Pastors

March 1, 2016 in Ecclesiology, John Calvin, Quotations

“For though Jacob did not approve of [the idolatry in his household], yet it was not owing to him that the pure worship of God was not gradually subverted. For the corruption which originated with Rachel was now beginning to spread more widely. And the example of all ages teaches the same thing. For scarcely ever does the truth of God so prevail among men, however strenuously pious teachers may labor in maintaining it, but that some superstitions will remain among the common people… Wherefore we must boldly resist those beginnings of evil, lest the true religion should be injured by the sloth and silence of the pastors.”

John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, Genesis 35:2.