Two Humanities

May 26, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Easter, Faith, Glorification, Meditations, Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:20–26 (NKJV)

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

Today we continue to meditate on 1 Corinthians 15 in celebration of Eastertide, the time of year when we are invited to give special focus to the significance of Easter, the significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

In our text Paul reveals the indissoluble connection between the resurrection of Jesus and our resurrection. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we shall rise from our graves. Jesus came, Paul tells us, as a Second Adam, the head of a new and renewed humanity. While the sin of the First Adam plunged himself and all humanity into death and judgment, the resurrection of the Second Adam, Jesus, brings new life not only to Himself but to all those who are in Him.

What this means is that throughout history there are two humanities: those who have the First Adam as their representative before God and who will, therefore, face death and judgment; and those who have the Second Adam as their representative before God and who will, therefore, inherit eternal life and salvation. These two humanities are called elsewhere the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the circumcised and the uncircumcised, the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares, etc.

When Jesus returns in glory, every human being shall be made to appear before our Creator – and when we appear before Him, there will be but two fundamental groups of men and two spokesmen. There will be those who stand with the First Adam and who say to God through their representative, “I have ruled my life by my own standards; I have been my own authority; I have lived for my glory not yours.” Then there shall be those who stand with the Second Adam and who say to God through their representative, “All glory be to You, O Lord; for you have created and redeemed me so I have lived for your glory not my own.”

So in which group will you be found? Will you stand with the First Adam? Will you stand in rebellion against God, choosing your own way and ignoring the commandments of God? Or will you stand with the Second? Will you stand in submission to God, believing in Jesus for forgiveness and, like Him, treasuring God’s commandments? These are our two options; these are the two spokesmen. One will speak for you; there is no third option.

Of course, there are those who try to fool God; those who unite themselves with the Second Adam, Jesus, in baptism but who really embrace the life of the First. But on the final day there will be no fooling God or others. He knows the Adam with whom you identify.

So today as we confess our sins, let me remind you to confess them in the Name of Jesus, trusting in Him as your representative. Only in this way shall we rise unto life on the Last Day. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Centrality of the Resurrection

May 19, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Church History, Easter, Ecclesiology, Glorification, Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (NKJV)

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

As part of our celebration of Eastertide, I’ve selected these words from 1 Corinthians 15 to help us meditate on the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. As we approach Paul’s words, we must beware lest we drift into auto-pilot and simply assume that we know what Paul is saying. We might be tempted to assume, for example, that Paul is defending the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. “Paul’s point is that Jesus really rose from the dead and that this is what guarantees our forgiveness.” If we assumed this, however, we would be wrong. While Jesus’ resurrection is central to Paul’s whole argument, it is not Paul’s point in these verses.

So what is his point? Paul’s point is not that Jesus rose from the dead but that all other human beings are going to rise from the dead. You see the Corinthians weren’t denying that Jesus had risen from the dead; they were denying that the rest of us would rise from our graves. Listen to Paul again: Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead [generally, at the end of history]? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.

Notice that Paul is endeavoring to highlight the inconsistency of the Corinthians’ beliefs. If there is no resurrection at the end of history; if the dead will not be raised when Christ returns again in glory, then neither did Jesus rise from the dead. Why? Because Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee that every human being will rise from his tomb and stand before God. Jesus is, as Paul says elsewhere, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. His resurrection is God’s pledge of the resurrection of all men. So note Paul’s argument: if we deny the general resurrection then we must, of necessity, deny Jesus’ resurrection. And if we deny Jesus’ resurrection, then we are still in our sins and without hope. But Jesus has risen from the dead; therefore, there will be a general resurrection.

In the modern American church we stand in dire need of re-reading these verses. We have gone on auto-pilot. We imagine that we can teach that Jesus rose from the dead and simultaneously teach that our ultimate destiny as human beings is to go to heaven when we die. But this is not the Gospel; this is not the Christian hope for the future; this is not the meaning of Easter. Our hope is that we shall emerge from our graves just like Jesus. So our confidence is that the bodies of those who have fallen asleep in Christ have not perished but that they do rest in their graves until the resurrection. We are not to be pitied; for we have not only in this life placed our hope in Jesus; there shall be a resurrection of the just and the unjust – Jesus’ resurrection is proof.

Paul’s words today remind us that it is not only our actions that are sinful; sometimes our ideas are sinful as well. We can embrace ideas that are erroneous and dangerous. The Corinthians were tempted to do so. So when God in His grace and mercy shines the light of truth on our error and corrects us, corrects our thinking, what ought we to do? We ought to confess our error, ask God’s forgiveness for our folly, and rely upon the sacrifice of Jesus to make us right with God despite our erroneous ideas. Jesus is the sacrifice for our sinful ideas even as he is the sacrifice for our sinful actions. Praise God this is so.

And so reminded that our ideas are often sinful and dishonoring to our Creator, let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness through Christ. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

History is Foundational

May 5, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Church History, Easter, Ecclesiology, Meditations

1 Corinthians 15:3–8, 12-14 (NKJV)

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time…12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.

The American Presbyterian historian and theologian J. Gresham Machen wrote his classic work Christianity and Liberalism to expose the massive chasm that separates these competing religious beliefs. In his day liberalism was just beginning its infiltration of American mainline churches. Machen warned that liberalism is not merely a corrupted Christianity, it is no Christianity at all. As one proof of his thesis, Machen noted that in liberalism Jesus’ resurrection is historically unimportant; what truly matters is not that Jesus rose from the dead but that Jesus lives on in each of our hearts. In other words, for liberalism experience not history is foundational.

As Machen correctly perceived, this notion is entirely foreign to Christianity. Christiantiy is not merely a system of dogmas or teachings, but a declaration of events that have theological and experiential significance. Christ died and rose again – that is history. Jesus did not swoon or get spirited away or exchange places with someone else. He actually died on a cross outside Jerusalem while Pontius Pilate served as governor of the Roman Empire in Judea. After three days, He rose from the dead and was seen by Cephas, the Twelve, 500 brethren at one time, James, all the apostles, and, finally, Paul himself. The Gospel is rooted in history, rooted in reality.

So why did Christ die and rise again? The answer to that question is theological. He died, Paul says, for our sins (15:3); He died to endure the punishment that our sins deserve. Then He rose from the dead to conquer death and free us from fear, to transform our experience. Our experience, therefore, depends upon history. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus in history, Paul tells us, “our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (15:14). In other words, in Christianity, history not experience is foundational.

In our broader culture, however, theological liberalism has won the day. Hence, we are constantly barraged by the claim that religion is primarily subjective, primarily a matter of personal experience. Religions are simply various ways of meeting the subjective needs of their followers; each religion is merely a record of the private, personal experiences of its adherents; hence, no religion is objectively true or false, just different. There are different strokes for different folks. Experience not history is foundational.

Christianity rejects this exaltation of subjectivity, of experience, over objectivity, over history. The Gospel is an announcement of something that objectively happened and that objectively changed the course of human history. Christianity is not just the record of private religious experiences; it is a public declaration: Jesus died, was buried, and then rose again; so all men and nations are called to confess that Jesus is Lord; He is God’s Anointed One.

So reminded that if we are to approach God it must be on the basis of truth, of something that really happened, and not just on the basis of our sincerity, of our personal experience; reminded that we must approach God through Jesus who died and rose again for our sins, died and rose again to reconcile us to God, let us kneel and confess our sins to God. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Death, thou shalt die!

April 28, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Church Calendar, Easter, Evangelism, Meditations, Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:51–57 (NKJV)

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Last week we celebrated Easter. But lest we think we can exhaust the glory of Easter with one day of worship, the Church has historically celebrated this period of time as Eastertide – today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ resurrection is far too significant an event to be celebrated only one day – it inaugurates a season for rejoicing! Jesus has risen from the dead! And this means that for all those who believe in Him our bodies likewise will be raised.

It is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortal body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised us from the dead and transformed us into His own image – righteous, incorruptible, immortal – then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Or, in the 17th century English poet John Donne’s famous words, “Death thou shalt die.”

In other words, brothers and sisters, we have immense hope. Death is not the final word. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead; because Christ has risen we too shall rise.

So what does this mean? It means that we can have immense confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. As Paul declares, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We stand in great need of such confidence given the twofold task that has been entrusted to us as Christ’s disciples. On the one hand, Christ calls us to lead lives of godly sincerity and purity no matter what others may think or say. On the other hand, while living this way, Christ calls us to engage all the nations of the earth with the message of the Gospel not retreat into a little hovel. We have to stand against the sinfulness of the world for the life of the world. What could possibly enable us to accomplish such a task? Listen to the father of church history, the 4th century church historian Eusebius:

[To accomplish this twofold task] the strongest conviction of a future life was necessary, that [we] might be able with fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the conflict with Gentile and polytheistic error: a conflict the dangers of which [we] would never have been prepared to meet, except as habituated to the contempt of death.

The only way we can accomplish our twofold task is as habituated to the contempt of death. And how can we be so habituated? By meditating on the glory of Christ’s resurrection. Even as Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise. The power of death has been broken. So what should characterize our lives? A fearless and unwavering zeal to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!)

So reminded of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and wavering rather than fearless and unwavering, let us kneel and confess our lack of faith to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Resurrection and Immorality

April 21, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Easter, Homosexuality, Love, Meditations, Resurrection, Sexuality

1 Corinthians 6:13–20 (NASB95)

13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Throughout my ministry, I have made it one of my goals to articulate the significance of Easter, the most momentous of the various holy days in the Church calendar. More pivotal than Christmas, more central than Pentecost, more crucial than Epiphany – Easter celebrates the most world transforming event in all human history, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection frees us from the fear of death by securing our hope in the face of death: because Christ has risen from the dead, we too shall rise from the dead. This is our hope.

But it is precisely this hope that is being undermined in the broader Christian world with our inordinate emphasis upon going to heaven when we die. Rather than proclaim the hope of the resurrection, we proclaim the hope of heaven. This is no minor difference. The New Testament repeatedly links the resurrection of Jesus with our resurrection. Consequently, if we start denying or tinkering with our resurrection, we will inevitably end up reinterpreting Jesus’ resurrection and/or the significance of it.

Perhaps you have seen in the news this past week the controversy surrounding the decision by Taylor University, a Christian university in Indiana, to invite Vice President Mike Pence to speak at their commencement. Over 3,300 people, many former students, have signed a petition to get Pence’s invitation rescinded because of his outspoken opposition to homosexual behavior and same-sex mirage. Thankfully the university is refusing to comply. But here’s the thing to note: many of the critics are professing Christians. They claim the name of Jesus and yet want to excuse and extol sexual sin.

Let me suggest that this has happened, in part, because of our inordinate focus upon the immortality of the soul and the hope of heaven. If Christianity is just a nice set of ideas about the immaterial part of our body called the soul, then what do our bodies really matter? Isn’t all that matters what happens with our soul, with what happens inside? Can’t my soul be pure regardless what I do with my body? Why does the body matter? As some among the Corinthians seem to have been justifying their sin, “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.” We don’t need to worry about the body.

Paul responds forcefully. He writes to the Corinthians, “Yet the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” So how does Paul know this? How does he know that the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body? Listen to verses 14-15: “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” Your bodies are members of Christ, joined to Christ. How so? Because that body that you are defiling with your sexual impurity will be raised from the dead. Your body matters. That is what the resurrection announces. So Paul concludes:

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

So on this Easter, let us meditate on the purity of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did not defile Himself sexually but devoted Himself to the glory of the Father. And let us pray, that He would have mercy upon us as a people. So many of our fellow countrymen and even our fellow Christians have defiled themselves sexually, denying in practice the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We have given ourselves to impurity and have, like King David, endeavored to cover our tracks by murdering the innocent. So let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: With Teaching

September 24, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Hebrews, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Preaching, Word of God

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.

Today we close our series of meditations on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” We consider the last of Paul’s admonitions when he writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” What does Paul mean when he urges Timothy to continue in his work “with teaching”?

Paul’s words remind Timothy that when people enter into the Christian faith, they enter as infants in need of teaching and instruction. We do not enter the Christian faith as mature adults; the Spirit does not magically fill our head with doctrinal truth; rather, teaching is necessary; discipleship is the need of the hour, every hour; for this cause, Christ has appointed teachers in the Church to build up the people of God, instruct them in the Scriptures, and protect them from lies that parade as the truth.

Because of this necessity of teaching, the church has historically insisted that ministers of the Gospel be well-trained prior to entering into ministry. Paul writes, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). This was the pattern. Paul taught Timothy; Timothy was to teach other faithful men; those other faithful men were to teach others. In this way, the work of God would be multiplied and the people of God built up in the knowledge of Christ.

This emphasis on teaching helps us to put Paul’s warnings about knowledge elsewhere in their proper context. For instance, Paul writes to the Corinthians that “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor 8:1). While some have erroneously inferred from Paul’s words that learning doctrine is dangerous at worst or superfluous at best, it is clear that Paul is warning us of the danger of severing knowledge and humility. A true knowledge of God leads to a profound sense of one’s own insignificance and of the magnitude of God’s grace. Teaching is not the problem; learning is not the problem; pride is.

How do we know? Because Paul insists that teaching is necessary. Ministers of the Gospel are to commit themselves to the task of teaching the people of God.

If ministers of the Gospel are to teach the Word of God, then what are Christians to do? Learn the Word of God. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God…” (5:12). Paul is disappointed in these folks because they had failed to learn what Paul and their elders had striven to teach them. They did not give heed to the teaching.

So what of you? Are you taking seriously Jesus’ call to discipleship, Jesus’ call to become a learner? Do you know your Bible? Do you know basic Christian doctrine? Can you defend the Trinity? Can you articulate what it means to be reconciled to God? If not, then learn.

Reminded this morning that ministers of the Gospel are called to teach God’s people and that all God’s people are called upon to learn, let us acknowledge that we have often neglected our duty. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: With all Longsuffering

September 17, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Church History, Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Meditations, Preaching, Truth, Word of God

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 several weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” A few 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.” Today we consider Paul’s admonition to continue in this effort “with all longsuffering.”

The Greek word translated “longsuffering” can mean patience, fortitude, or forbearance. Paul wants Timothy to continue preaching without growing weary or being dissuaded. He is to stick to the task, be faithful to his calling, whether folks desire to listen to him or not. Paul warns Timothy in the next couple verses (4:3-4):
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Timothy must persevere, he must be patient, for he will face opposition. People will – in this great phrase – heap up for themselves teachers who tell them what they want to hear, who soothe their consciences and who turn away from the truth to fables. But, ultimately, Paul wants Timothy to remember, the truth will prevail and so Timothy must persist in His calling.

It was this firm confidence that buoyed John Wyclif during the 14th century in England. Facing much opposition and criticism for his critique of the pope, his emphasis on the authority of Scripture, and his proclamation of the grace of God, Wyclif persevered, he taught with much longsuffering. What gave him confidence? “Magna est veritas,” he wrote, “et praevalebit.” Great is the truth and it shall prevail.

The reason Wyclif had such confidence in the power of the truth to overcome all obstacles is because God had promised that His Servant, our Lord Jesus, would not fail, in the prophet Isaiah’s words, to “bring forth justice to the Gentiles” (42:1d). This Servant, continues Isaiah, “will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law” (42:4). Jesus will so labor that the truth become fully manifest. So the Apostle Paul assures us that Jesus “must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:25-26). Great is the truth and it shall prevail – or, perhaps better, He shall prevail.

This same patience demanded of preachers of the Gospel is to be practiced by the hearers of the Gospel as well. Paul reminds us that “faith comes from hearing” (Rom 10:17) and asks, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” But sometimes the preacher is unclear; sometimes we have had a rough evening the night before; sometimes the ambient noise is annoying; sometimes the preacher’s mannerisms are distracting; sometimes his voice is too quiet; sometimes his appearance is off-putting. What is your calling then? It is to listen to the Word preached with all longsuffering – to listen for the voice of Your Master, Jesus, in the voice of the preacher and to apply the truth, as best as you are able, to your own life.

And so reminded that we are to pursue patience and persistence in the preaching and hearing of the truth, must we not acknowledge that we often give up too soon, we often boil over in frustration, we often permit ourselves to grow distracted, we often lack patience? Let us, therefore, confess our impatience to the Lord; and, as we are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: Exhort!

September 10, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Romans, Meditations, Preaching

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.” Today we consider Paul’s admonition, “exhort.”

The Greek word behind “exhort” is parakaleo. In English translations of the NT, the word is variously translated as exhort, plead, beg, urge, beseech, or even encourage. Whereas the one who rebukes stands in front of another and points out his error, the one who exhorts comes alongside him and urges him to imitate Christ in his daily life. So Paul writes to Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father…” (5:1). While to “rebuke” is to deliver a short, verbal thrashing, to “exhort” is to appeal, to sidle up beside a fellow believer and direct their eyes to the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Exhortations, therefore, are grounded in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. The minister of the Gospel is to “exhort” people to remember Jesus Christ and to imitate His character in their own lives. So consider various “exhortations” that Paul gives in his letters:
· Romans 15:30 — Now I “exhort” you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me,
· 1 Corinthians 1:10 — Now I “exhort” you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you…
· 2 Corinthians 10:1 — Now I, Paul, myself am “exhorting” you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ….
· 1 Thessalonians 4:1 — Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
· 2 Thessalonians 3:12 — Now those who are [busybodies] we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

Note carefully that in each “exhortation” Paul brings us back to Christ’s salvific work. As the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes, “The exhortation is distinguished from a mere moral appeal by this reference back to the work of salvation as its presupposition and basis.” Consider Christ – consider who He is, consider what He has done, consider what He has promised – and in that knowledge, act.

So reminded that Christ is our example and that we routinely fail to imitate Him in our attitudes and actions, let us confess our sin to the Lord. 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.

The Tradition of Anti-Traditionalism

June 25, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Children, Meditations, Tradition, Worship

1 Corinthians 11:2
Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.

Our culture has institutionalized the tradition of anti-traditionalism. Yesterday’s clothes are outmoded; yesterday’s ideas are passé. No sin is more grievous than being “behind the times.” Each new generation is expected to originate something totally new and eagerly jump on board the new train. Beanie babies have come and gone; Tickle me Elmos have lost their flare; Cabbage Patch dolls are a long-forgotten craze; and fidget spinners will soon lose their luster.

Unfortunately, the Church has imbibed much of this cultural food. Several years ago, I read a story about a Trinity Church in Connecticut. Trinity had been founded by folks who were dissatisfied with the traditions in the churches and who wanted something new, something hip, something relevant. However, ten years into their project they discovered something disconcerting: they had developed their own traditions. The Wall Street Journal remarked that “these churches were founded by people in rebellion against established institutions. Ten years down the road, they have become the establishment.” Consequently, the pastor decided to step down. “You don’t want to become ossified,” he said. “You have to keep thinking freshly on how to do church.”

Contrast this way of thinking with Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians in our text today: Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. Paul praises the Corinthians not for their novelty but for their faithfulness to that which they had been taught. In other words, the Word of God teaches us to value a godly inheritance – to take what is given in one generation and to pass down what is good and precious to the next; to tell our children and grandchildren the wonderful works of God so that they in turn can tell their children and grandchildren.

Popular culture, by design, rejects this idea–it plans for obsolescence. Who could imagine making special note in one’s will of your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Collection? Or your Garth Brooks CD set? The idea is absurd because these things are not meant to be handed down. Products and performers in pop culture are expected to have their day in the sun and then disappear, to be replaced by another. For this reason, it is critical that our worship not reflect the pop culture mentality, not reflect an opposition to a godly inheritance.

Paul’s words reveal that traditions are not inherently bad; in fact, as I have emphasized before, traditions are inevitable. It is only when our traditions undermine what is biblically important that they become destructive. And the tradition of anti-traditionalism is biblically destructive – the constant pursuit of some new style of worship, the longing to be relevant, the overthrowing of older generations because younger ones always know better – what do any of those things have to do with the Word of God?

As we gather to worship, therefore, let us do so with joy, celebrating the great work that the Spirit of God has done in leading and guiding His people to this day – treasuring what is good in our inheritance and passing those things down to the next generation. And the first thing the Spirit does in bringing us into the presence of our thrice holy God is awaken in us a sense of our own sin – in particular, our sin of undermining the Word of God through our traditions. So let us confess our sins to the Lord and, as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.