Monthly Archives: March, 2006

The Captain Headknowledge Biblical and Theological Journal: The Prodigal and the Patriarch

Genesis 33:1-4

And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants. And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

Jacob returns, fearing an envious, hateful brother. The prodigal son returned to his father in humiliation and poverty and his brother envied his gracious reception by their father. The attitude of Esau anticipated by Jacob is similar to the attitude exhibited by the prodigal’s brother who stayed among the father’s household, neither seeking nor desiring his grace.

However, in the narrative featuring Jacob and Esau, the roles are reversed. The recipient of the covenant blessings is the one who left home and prospered, and now he returns in prodigal-like humility to Isaac’s hairy prodigal son who stayed home and only troubled his father’s house.

Esau surprised Jacob, as the father surprised the prodigal. But, more accurately, the prodigal receives the patriarch as he ought. Jesus’ parable was a story told to point out the hypocrisy of the religious who resent God’s gracious reconciliation with sinners. Moses’ account of Esau’s reconciliation with Jacob thus parallels the parable, for Jacob equated his acceptance by Esau with his acceptance by God whom he not only saw face to face, but prevailed in wrestling with for his blessing.

Although Esau was passed over in God’s election of his younger brother, he is the better of the reprobates of Jesus’ day who received the Lord’s rebuke for their envy of God’s grace toward sinners. Esau may have initially envied Jacob, but time moved Esau to relent and acknowledge God’s will for the patriarch Jacob.

God graciously receives sinners who come to him, regardless how distasteful those sinners may seem to the present residents of God’s covenantal community. As we have been forgiven, may we rejoice at others who receive God’s grace though everything about them tempts us to treat them as second-class citizens. God doesn’t need the consent of sinners he’s previously received to justify the wicked who come to him in faith and repentance, receiveing the signs of the covenant alongside them. If they don’t deserve God’s grace, neither do we.

Theological and Doxological Meditation #6

theological-doxological-meditations-logo.jpg

The Persons of God

Q. How many persons are there in the Godhead?

A.There are three persons in the Godhead,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost
(Matthew 28:19);
and these three are one God,
the same in substance,
equal in power and glory (1 John 5:7 KJV)

O God, We Praise Thee (click title to play)
#105, Trinity Hymnal (© 1990)
Te Deum, 4th Century
Translated in Tate and Brady’s
Supplement to the New Version, 1708

Scottish Psalter, 1615
DUNDEE C.M.

O God, we praise thee; and confess
that thou the only Lord
and everlasting Father art,
by all the earth adored.

To thee all angels cry aloud;
to thee the pow’rs on high,
both cherubim and seraphim,
continually do cry.

O holy, holy, holy Lord,
whom heav’nly hosts obey,
the world is with the glory filled
of thy majestic ray.

Th’apostles’ glorious company
and prophets crowned with light,
with all he martyrs’ noble host ,
thy constant praise recite.

The holy church throughout the world,
O Lord, confesses thee,
that thou Eternal Father art,
of boundless majesty;

Thine honored, true and only Son;
and Holy Ghost, the Spring
of never-ceasing joy: O Christ,
of glory thou art King.

Reformation Sunday, 2004 — Part One

October 31,2004, I had a rare privilege to give a Power Point presentation at Shady Grove Baptist Church on the life of Martin Luther and a short summary of the “Pillars of the Reformation,” the five “solas” which encircle Luther in the portrait to the right designed by David Jacks, owner of Theological Pursuits Bookstore, in Fort Worth, Texas. My thanks go to him for both this portrait and the burning bush logo I feature on this weblog (www.reformationshirts.com).

In the previous post you should see an icon which reads “Play This Audio Post.” This is the first few minutes of my 14 minute, 45 second long presentation. Unfortunately, I exceeded the limit of the post, so you’ll have to endure something of a cliffhanger until I regroup and record the rest of the presentation in a future post very soon, tomorrow, God willing. Posted by Picasa

this is an audio post - click to play

The Law of Love

1 John 4:13-19 ESV
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.


“Things that go together should never be separated”
It’s amazing how easy it is for us to separate Biblical teachings which ought to remain unified. In a sermon preached a few years ago, Dr. Jeffrey Bingham of Dallas Theological Seminary sought to show the unified relationship between truth and love in 2 John.

His introduction was very humorous. He talked about the fact that in life there are many things that (not exact quotes) “go together, and should never be separated.” First example, poverty and home ownership: “Once I became a home owner, companies I’d never even heard of began asking for my money; therefore, poverty and home ownership always go together.”

Dr. Bingham’s second illustrative example featured (this is a more exact quote): “Chocolate chip cookies and milk. It is wickedness of the deepest darkness (!) to have a chocolate chip cookie without a cold glass . . . of milk.” Then he went on to show the necessary unity and unbreakable link that must remain between the Biblical notions of “Truth and Love.” But that’s another story. The point of this posting is that in this passage from John’s first letter, loving God and loving others are inseparable. Love for others gives credence to our claim to love God.

I read a book by a Wheaton College philosophy professor (I forget his name, it’s on the shelf in the other room) in which I learned the difference between the way the Hebrew culture thinks, versus the way the Greek culture thinks. Perhaps I should say “thought” since the cultures in question are those in which the Bible was produced. Anyway, the Hebrew language is much more concrete, and thus less complex, than the Greek language.

Some examples that come to mind, and these may be represented from both the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT, however, since I’m not a scholar, just a wannabe scholar, otherwise known as an armchair theologian or theology geek, keep in mind that the Greek NT was written by Hebrews, thus the Hebrew culture is reflected in some ways in Greek NT writings. In the Bible, our lifestyle is referred to as our “walk.” The word “faith” can often (probably always, check your local actual Greek scholar) be translated “faithfulness.” This means the concepts are interchangeable. One who believes is one who is faithful. One who is faithful is one who believes. Therefore, one who claims to believe, yet is unfaithful, is not a believer. These are the stark terms in which James wrote his epistle, and it is similar stark terms in which John wrote his epistles.

There are many other concepts in Scripture which share this type of relationship, but I don’t have time to list them all. Hopefully they’ll begin to reveal themselves to you as you read the Bible. But I wanted to highlight this concept from 1 John 4 because John wrote that “we love (others, in this context) because [God] first loved us.”

The Logical Order of Biblical Indicatives and Biblical Imperatives
Now, to switch gears, notice the logical order: first, God loved us; second, we love others (as evidence that we love God). The logical order is vital. This is what I called “Indicative” and “Imperative” in a past posting a couple of weeks ago. To risk confusing you (you know, that’s what us theology geeks do best), it is imperative to keep in mind that in biblical Christianity, the “indicative” always precedes the “imperative.” In other words, in biblical Christianity, the reason we work is because of what God did for us. If we have a concept of a God who loves us because of our work (placing “imperative” logically before “indicative”), then we are legalists. The book of Galatians is one of Paul’s great treatises written to distinquish biblical Christianity from legalism (Galatians 3:3). We don’t get God to do for us by doing for him, we do for him because he did for us; that’s why John wrote, “We love (God and others) because he first loved us.” This is the point John makes and this is the point of my incessant howling about basing all application (the imperatives, or precepts or commands, of Scripture) in preaching on the basis of the Gospel preached (The Indicative of indicatives), and not only preached as an evangelistic appeal directed toward unbelievers, but preached also to the believers as the foundation and reason and source of the particular application of each and every “practical and relevant” sermon. If application is preached as separate from the gospel, you have legalism. It’s not good enough to assume the listeners understand the foundation, it must be presented as a unified, package deal.

It is “wickedness of the deepest darkness” to preach application without explicitly basing it on the gospel.

Imperative comes from Indicative; application comes from gospel; “do” comes from “be.” Kind of like that old saying, “we sin (do, imperative) because we are (be, in fact, “are” is one of the grammatical forms of “be”, indicative) sinners.” Likewise, we walk in righteousness because we are righteous, not “we become righteous by walking in righteousness.” How did we become righteous? Righteousness was given to us by God as a free gift of his grace (Romans 1:17; 3:24). Hello! Indicative! Followed by Imperative!

Third Gear
Methodist founder, John Wesley, made his mark on Chrisitian theology by emphasizing that Christians ought, to weave in my own language, to perform the imperatives of Scripture, based either on the motive of fear of punishment or hope of reward. This is one of the distinctives of the Wesleyan form of Arminianism (God does his part, man does his part). In Wesley’s scheme, what do we have? Man working in order to get God to reward him and in order to keep God from punishing him. What did we call that in the earlier paragraph? Legalism! Imperative preceding Indicative. Earning salvation by my own works. What is the alternative?

Wesley was lifelong friends with fellow revivalist, George Whitefield. Now Whitefield was a Calvinist. The two agreed that while out publicly preaching they would not debate Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Naturally, they failed to maintain this bond, poor John just couldn’t help himself, but that’s beside the point. The point is, Calvinist theology (the system of doctrine the great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon called, “another name for the gospel” or “biblical theology”), in other words, the teaching of Scripture is that the proper motive for obedience is gratitude. A few scriptural phrases: “faith without works is dead” “faith works by love” “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” See? Imperative follows Indicative. We love (keep his commandments) because he first loved us. That’s why Paul wrote that grace and faith establish the Law rather than eliminate it (Romans 3:31).

And now, the real point
The reason I’m belaboring all of this is because it’s the theology that lies behind a song I wrote. I wanted to write a song about the Ten Commandments, but as I thought about it, it became my theology of Christian obedience to the Ten Commandments. “We Love God Because He First Loved Us.”

The Love Song copyright 2004, John Douglas Chitty (er uh, Captain Headknowledge)
We love God because he first loved us by sending us his Son.
Jesus kept the Lord our God’s commands, by him the work was done.
Every day we break God’s Law in thought, word or in deed.
Jesus died and rose again for the forgiveness we need.

How do we give thanks to him? What did the Savior say?
Jesus said, “If you love me, my commandments you’ll obey.”

We love God because he first loved us, and our love is of this kind:
Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . .
and with all your soul . . .
and with all your mind.”

You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not bow down or serve carved images.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Sanctify the Sabbath day and so rest in the Lord;
in six days God made the world, and rested on one more.

That’s not all the Savior said would praise the Lord above.
Jesus said, “Your neighbor, too, needs you to show your love.”

Give honor to your father, and at your mother’s knee.
And you shall not murder, nor commit adultery.
You shall not take away your neighbor’s belongings.
Neither lie about him, nor desire to have his things.

We love God because he first loved us by sending us his Son.
Jesus kept the Lord our God’s commands, by him the work was done.
Every day we break God’s Law in thought, word or in deed.
Jesus died and rose again for the forgiveness we need.

How do we give thanks to him? What did the Savior say?
Jesus said, “If you love me, my commandments you’ll obey.”

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