Old Covenant vs. New Covenant Worship

June 11, 2017 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - NT - John, Bible - OT - Psalms, Israel, Liturgy, Meditations, Trinity, Worship
John 4:21-24 (NKJV)
21
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth.”
On this Trinity Sunday, I would like us to consider the words that Jesus speaks in this text and the way that they help us understand new covenant worship. Jesus is anticipating two changes in the worship of God’s people. Unfortunately, these changes are frequently misinterpreted. Many imagine that Jesus is contrasting the external, formal worship of the OT period with the heartfelt, internal worship of the New. At one time people worshiped externally, now all worship is “in spirit and truth” – that is, heartfelt and genuine.
The difficulty faced by this interpretation is not the insistence that worship must be heartfelt and genuine. That is most certainly true. The difficulty is that this was no less true in the OT than it is in the New. David declares in the psalter, “Sacrifice and burnt offering you did not desire, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”Heartfelt, genuine worship was to characterize the OT no less than the New.
So what are the changes Jesus anticipated in His words to the Samaritan woman? There are two. First, Jesus insists that the corporate worship of the people of God would be decentralized. Remember that in the OT God’s people had a central sanctuary located at Jerusalem. As we will review today in the sermon, three times a year every male had to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to Mount Zion, and worship at the central sanctuary, offering sacrifices, feasting with God’s people, honoring the Lord. The Samaritans, for their part, refused to acknowledge the centrality of Jerusalem but likewise had a central sanctuary at Mount Gerizim. Here the Samaritans had their collective feasts. The woman asks Jesus – “You’re a prophet; so which is it? Mount Zion or Mount Gerizim?”Jesus responds, “Neither! In the Christian era, during My reign, God’s people are not required to gather for corporate worship at a central sanctuary – whether in Gerizim or Jerusalem or Rome. Rather, wherever the people of God gather together in My Name and lift My Name on high, there is Mount Zion, there is the City of God, there is the central sanctuary.” In other words, Jerusalem in Israel is no longer the center of God’s dealings with man; the heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the Church is the center.
Second, Jesus informs us that not only would corporate worship be decentralized, it would be explicitly Trinitarian. When Jesus rose from the dead and sent forth His Spirit, the worship of God’s people was forever transformed. It became explicitly Trinitarian – worshiping the Father in Spirit – the very Spirit whom Jesus promised would come and lead His people into all righteousness – and in Truth – the very Truth who took on human flesh and declared to His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday the Church has historically emphasized the Triune nature of God. It is this that Jesus does in our text. Worshiping the Father in Spirit and Truth is not an exhortation to heartfelt, genuine worship – that exhortation had been given throughout the OT. Worshiping the Father in Spirit and Truth is to worship the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And it was this transformation that Jesus anticipated and announced to the Samaritan woman. “The time is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth.”

So what does this mean for us? It means that this morning as we gather together to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, as we gather to worship the Triune God, we are approaching the central sanctuary of God, the place where God dwells. Mount Zion is His dwelling place and it is this place to which we draw near every time we gather to worship the Lord together. Hebrews tells us, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born who are registered in heaven…” (Heb 12:22-23) And, like Isaiah, who entered the presence of God in the Temple, the first thing that should strike us is our own unworthiness – in ourselves, we are not worthy to be here. And so let us kneel and seek His forgiveness through Christ.

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.

Easter 2016

March 27, 2016 in Bible - NT - Romans, Easter, King Jesus, Meditations, Trinity
Romans 1:1-4 (NKJV)
1
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
Today is Easter – the most significant of the various holy days in the Church calendar. More pivotal than Christmas, more central than Pentecost, more crucial than Epiphany – Easter celebrates the single most world transforming event in all human history. Because of the resurrection, we have the Gospel. Because of the resurrection, we have iphones. Because of the resurrection, we have new life, forgiveness, peace with God. All because of the resurrection.
Paul highlights the world transforming nature of the resurrection in our text today. After assuring us that Christ’s coming was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets and that he came as was foretold a son of David, Paul goes on to declare that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead. What does he mean by this turn of phrase?
Many have supposed that Paul is here outlining the two natures of Christ – according to his human nature he was of the seed of David but he was also the Son of God, had a divine nature. Now while it is true that Jesus is both God and man, this text does not prove it. After all, our text declares that the resurrection signals some sort of change in Jesus as the Son of God. But Jesus’ divine nature has never changed. He has and ever will be the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. When Paul says that in the resurrection Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power, he is not speaking of Jesus’ deity.
So what is Paul saying? He is telling us about the transformation that has occurred in Jesus’ calling as a result of the resurrection. First, note that Paul tells us that Jesus was born of the seed of David. In other words, Jesus possessed the natural right to rule as King. He had a legitimate claim to David’s throne. But simply having a legitimate claim does not make one the ruler. Bonnie Prince Charlie may have had a rightful claim to the throne of England; but a mere claim means little if one does not actually have the throne. So it is this that Paul addresses with the next phrase. Not only was Jesus born to be King – not only did he have a legitimate claimto the throne – by the resurrection from the dead He was declared to be the Son of God, the King of Israel, with power– that is, the resurrection was Jesus’ coronation as King. God, as Peter says elsewhere, made Jesus to be both Lord and Christ by the resurrection from the dead.
What is the significance of Easter then? On this day we celebrate the coronation of our King. Nearly two thousand years ago he was crowned King of the Universe, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him and this includes, because He conquered death, authority over death itself. He has the keys of death and hell. He opens and no one shuts. So death is conquered; death is destroyed. Christ is risen and those in Him shall arise as well. Death is no more the final word.
Is this not good news? Brethren, Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!) Let us shout Alleluia! (Alleluia!)

And so reminded that Jesus is Lord, let us kneel and acknowledge our rightful King, asking His forgiveness for our sins against Him. 

He who does not honor the Son…

January 3, 2016 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Bible - NT - John, Creeds, Heresy, Meditations, Trinity, Worship
2 John 9–11 (NKJV)
9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
Last week we learned that the Father and the Son are inseparable. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father; and he who does not honor the Father does not honor the Son. This unity of the Father and the Son is a major theme throughout the Apostle John’s writings. Alone among the Gospel writers, John records Jesus’ words to the disciples at the last Passover feast. The unity of Father, Son, and Spirit is a major theme of these words. Consider these statements that Jesus makes:
Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately… you believe in God, believe also in Me… He who has seen Me has seen the Father… Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me… the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you…when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me… He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority; but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
This inseparability of Father, Son, and Spirit explains why John takes such pains in our epistle to refute the errors of Docetism. It also explains why the Trinity was the first major debate in the history of the Church. Who is this God we worship? Who is Jesus? Who is the Spirit? The first commandment declares to us, “You shall have no other gods before me.” So who is this God we worship? He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The inseparability of Father, Son, and Spirit also explain why, as a congregation, we have prioritized reciting the historic ecumenical creeds together throughout the year. Depending on the time of year, we recite or sing the Apostles’ Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon. Each of these creeds reminds us whom we worship – we worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; we do not worship some abstract deity called “God”; we worship the God who revealed Himself in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ and who has poured out the Spirit to lead and guide us into the truth.
This morning, remember that it is this God, the Creator of all things and the Redeemer of His people Israel, who has called you here to worship. It is to Him we offer praise, before Him we confess our sins, to Him we present our offerings, from Him we receive instruction, and with Him we feast at the Table. And He is no puny tribal deity or idol, but the Living God who rules over heaven and earth.

So reminded into whose presence we have come and whom we are worshiping, let us bow before Him, acknowledging our sins and transgressions and asking Him to forgive us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Let us kneel as we confess our sins.

Trinity Sunday 2015

May 31, 2015 in Bible - NT - John, Creeds, Meditations, Trinity
John 17:1–6 (NKJV)
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.
Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday we explicitly remind the people of God that the God we worship is Triune – three Persons in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Later in worship we will recite the Athanasian Creed, one creedal attempt to express God’s Triune nature.
In our Scripture today Jesus reveals the interpersonal dynamic that has existed for all eternity among the Persons of the Trinity. First, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share glory with one another. Jesus prays, And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. Jesus asks the Father – the Father who declared through Isaiah, “My glory I will not give to another…” – Jesus says to this Father, glorify Me together with Yourself… And note that it is a particular type of glory, the glory which I had with You before the world was. Prior to His incarnation, Jesus existed in the form of God and, though His deity was veiled during His time on earth, now that He has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, that glory has been restored to Him. Jesus was and is God Himself in human flesh. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share glory.
Second, Jesus reveals that in eternity past, before the world was, when the Father and Son shared glory, they communed with one another, lived in a relationship of love with one another. Jesus alludes to this eternal communion and communication a couple times. He says, I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. In eternity past, before the world was, the Father gave Jesus a task to accomplish, a work to perform. Not only did the Father give the Son a task to do, He also gave Him a people to call His own. Jesus prays, I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to MeSo when did the Father give these people to the Son? Before the world was. As Paul writes in Ephesians, the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.
This interaction between the Persons of the Godhead prior to the foundation of the world is sometimes called the Covenant of Redemption or the pactum salutis. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have dwelt in covenantal life for all eternity. As we consider this Covenant of Redemption, that before the foundation of the world God thought of us, loved us, and gave us to be Christ’s own people – apart from any merit of our own; indeed despite the demerit which He knew we would deserve – ought we not to be humbled and awed that the Creator of all took notice of us? As Paul writes to the Thessalonians, But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And so reminded of the great love which the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has bestowed upon us, and that He loved us before the foundation of the world and loves us despite our unloveliness, let us confess that we are unworthy His love. Let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

The Fullness of Deity

August 10, 2014 in Bible - NT - Colossians, King Jesus, Meditations, Temptation, Trinity
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Colossians 2:6-10
One temptation that routinely faces us is to substitute our own religious ideas for the Word of God. Today we will see that Satan strives to persuade us to abandon God’s Word so that he can unmoor us. Without God’s Word we’re like a boat adrift, left to try and find some substitute meaning and purpose to life. So Paul warns us to beware lest we be cheated by such trifles, expressions of human tradition and not divine truth.
Paul informs us that the reason these various substitutes are vanity is because they are not connected to Christ in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Jesus was God Himself in human flesh. So the reason it is folly to reject Christ is because when He spoke, God spoke; when He acted, God acted; when He wept, God wept; when He thundered, God thundered. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the full embodiment of the deity and so we can know that the things he spoke, thought, and did were infallible revelations of God’s person and will. No clearer revelation was or is possible.
The apostles, therefore, reserve some of their most severe denunciations for those who preach a “false Christ” – a Christ other than the one who lived and breathed and spoke in human history. Jesus really was born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, baptized in the Jordan, ministered in Galilee, died on Golgotha, raised in a garden near Jerusalem, and ascended from a mountain near Bethany. So it is to this Jesus we cling – the Jesus who was and is God Himself clothed in human flesh.
If Jesus is not God then the things he revealed are no more solid and sure than the teachings of Plato or Aristotle or Hume or Sartre. If Jesus is not God, then we are left with the mere opinions and traditions of men. But glory be to God, the Jesus of history was and is fully God and fully man. He is fully capable of revealing the Father to us and fully capable of identifying with us – because He bears in His one person the two natures – divine and human.
Hence, it is no coincidence that of all the differences between non-Christian religions and pseudo-Christian movements like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the one thing they hold in common is a rejection of the full deity of our Lord Jesus. This is the center point of Satan’s attack – obscure the Person of Jesus. But Paul tells us quite plainly today – in Him all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form.

And so, knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ was indeed God Himself clothed in human flesh, let us confess that rather than pay attention to His Word as we ought, we frequently resort to the opinions and traditions of men that can bring only vanity and emptiness. Let us kneel and confess our failure to listen to our Lord.

The New Covenant is the Oldest Covenant

July 28, 2014 in Covenantal Living, Cross of Christ, Justification, Old Testament, Quotations, Trinity

“So the work of Christ is the source of all human salvation from sin: the salvation of Adam and Eve, of Noah, of Abraham, of Moses, of David, and of all God’s people in every age, past, present, or future. Everyone who has ever been saved has been saved through the new covenant in Christ. Everyone who is saved receives a new heart, a heart of obedience, through the new covenant work of Christ. So though it is a new covenant, it is also the oldest, the temporal expression of the pactum salutis [the covenant of peace between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in eternity].”

John Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 80.

The Lord of Glory

June 23, 2014 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - John, Church History, Cross of Christ, King Jesus, Quotations, Trinity

“When the Apostle says of the Jews that they crucified the Lord of Glory, and when the Son of man being on earth affirms that the Son of man was in heaven at the same instant, there is in these two speeches that mutual [sharing] before mentioned. In the one, there is attributed to God or the Lord of Glory death, whereof Divine nature is not capable; in the other ubiquity unto man which human nature admitteth not. Therefore by the Lord of Glory we must needs understand the whole person of Christ, who being Lord of Glory, was indeed crucified, but not in that nature for which he is termed the Lord of Glory. In like manner by the Son of man the whole person of Christ must necessarily be meant, who being man upon earth, filled heaven with his glorious presence, but not according to that nature for which the title of man is given Him.”

Hooker as quoted footnote 3 of Cassian’s Seven Books in NPNF, p. 577.

Eternal Father, Eternal Son

June 23, 2014 in Christmas, Church History, King Jesus, Quotations, Trinity

“Tell me then, before the Lord Jesus Christ was born of His mother Mary, had God a Son or had He not? You cannot deny that He had, for never yet was there either a son without a father, or a father without a son: because as a son is so called with reference to a father, so is a father so named with reference to a son.” 

John Cassian (c. 360-485), The Seven Books of John Cassian on the Incarnation of our Lord, Against Nestorius, NPNF, p. 574.