“Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.””
John 11:17-27 ESV
Faith in Jesus Christ takes away our fear of death because he’s the one who raises the dead back to life.
1. Four Days Dead—For the glory of God, it must be undeniable that Lazarus was raised by the power of Christ.
2. Misunderestimation—Despite Martha’s grief, she expresses her faith that Jesus would have healed Lazarus if Jesus had been with them. Martha mistakenly thinks there are limits to Jesus’s ability to raise Lazarus from death.
3. Greater Than Expectation—Not only will God raise all on the Last Day, not only can Jesus raise a man from death who is dead four days, but he can raise one to eternal spiritual life today as well.
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I’ve done a little reading on writing in the past couple of years. The most humorous and memorable advice I received regarded the overuse of adverbs in one’s writing. Stephen King attributes the use of adverbs to the fear that the writer has failed to communicate well enough in the context of his adverb-riddled composition. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” writes King. Elmore Leonard writes that a character in one of his books speaks of writing historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.” These writers don’t place an absolute prohibition on all adverbs, but encourage avoidance of their use as frequently as possible 😉
Some of my friends who have done extensive reading in didactic Christian literature have no doubt encountered the word “Christianly.” For example, Harry Blamires writes in The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?: “…there is no…field of discourse in which writers are reflecting christianly on the modern world and modern man.”
This usage has always annoyed me, but now that I’m more informed on the liability of adverbs, the “little knowledge” I’ve gained threatens to make me dangerous. Would it not be better to say “as a Christian,” or “like a Christian,” “in a Christian way,” or “from a Christian perspective”?
For the record, I found myself rewriting three sentences in order to practice what I preach. Friends don’t let friends use adverbs. My hope is that this advice will help Christian writers practice their vocation–or in my case, avocation–in a more Christian way.
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
(Galatians 2:15-21 ESV)
Pastor Joe Troutman preaching at San Antonio Reformed on June 21, 2015. HT: Billie Moody
You are justified in God’s sight not because of what you have done, but only by what Christ has done for you, and imputed to you by God’s free grace.
1. By God’s Free Grace—It doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, all are justified by grace through faith in Christ. Justification is, in God’s Court, your being declared righteous. If our righteousness is filthy rags, then justification by God is a gift.
2. He Pardons All Our Sins—In the case of your standing before the Lord, it is impossible to plead innocence. If you only ever committed the least sin, you stand condemned by the Law, because it is holy, good…
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The term Massilianism is derived from the city of Marseilles, France, where in the early to mid-fifth century, John Cassian first wrote attempting a mediating view between the extremes of the Pelagian denial of original sin and assertion of the primacy of the human will in salvation and the Augustinian priorty of grace in irresistibly regenerating and redeeming the elect. Numerous other writers followed in his efforts for a similar synthesis until the errors were condemned by the second Council of Orange. Centuries later, scholastic theologians would term the system Semi-Pelagianism.
Pelagianism—A teaching, originating in the late fourth century, which stresses man’s ability to take the initial steps toward salvation by his own efforts, apart from special grace. Belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil with Divine aid (from class handout).
The class discussed Pelagius’ first principle that man is able to obey God’s commands, and that Adam sinned only for himself, not humankind. This was followed by a discussion of the orthodox doctrine of original sin (See Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 6).
Next, Semi-Pelagianism was defined, and it was explained that this heresy persists in various forms to the present.
Semi-Pelagianism or Massilianism—Semi-Pelagianism involved…
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Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
(John 11:1-16 ESV)
Lazarus’s deliverance from death was, and your salvation from eternal damnation is, accomplished by Jesus Christ for the glory of the Triune God.
1. Expression of Love—Because of his love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Jesus stayed two days longer upon reports that Lazarus was ill. They benefited more by his delay than if he had healed Lazarus immediately.
2. Walking in the Day—Jesus knows there’s no safer plae for him to be than right where the Father planned for him to be. The divine nature of Jesus knows his Father’s secret will. There was still time for Jesus to work.
3. For Your Sake, For God’s Glory—Jesus wants his disciples to have true faith in him. His delay in going to Lazarus was for their…
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“The decision of Nicaea related primarily only to the esssential deity of Christ. But in the wider range of the Arian controversies the deity of the Holy Ghost, which stands and falls with the deity of the Son, was indirectly involved. The church always, indeed, connected faith in the Holy Spirit with faith in the Father and the Son, but considered the doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit as only an appendix to the doctrine concerning the Father and the Son, until the logical progress brought it to lay equal emphasis on the deity and personality of the Holy Ghost, and to place him with the Father and Son as an element of equal claim in the Trinity.
“The Arians made the Holy Ghost the first creature of the Son, and as subordinate to the Son as the Son to the Father. The Arian trinity was therefore not a trinity immanent and eternal, but arising in time and in descending grades, consisting of the uncreated God and two created demi-gods. The Semi-Arians here, as elsewhere, approached the orthodox doctrine, but rejected the consubstantiality, and asserted the creation, of the Spirit. Thus especially Macedonius, a moderate Semi-Arian, whom the Arian court-party had driven from the episcopal chair of Constantinople. From him the adherents of the false doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit, were, after 362, called Macedonians; also Pneumatomachi, and Tropici.” (Schaff, Philip; History of the Christian Church, volume 3; 1996, Hendrickson Publishers; pages 663-664.)
On Sunday, November 8, 2015, the Adult Sunday School lesson introduced Pneumatomachianism and the Definition of Chalcedon.
The class discussed the eternality of the Holy Spirit in light of the fact that he “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Then, Pneumatomachianism was introduced, and how this ancient heresy led to the insertion by the Western catholic church of the so-called “filioque clause” into the Nicene Creed, which reads, “…And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.”
Pneumatomachians–While accepting the divinity of Jesus Christ as affirmed at Nicea in AD 325, they denied that of the Holy Spirit which they saw as a creation of the Son, and…
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“C. S. Lewis once commented that reading old books was to be preferred to reading new books because old books brought the fresh breeze of the centuries into our minds. They show us truths that might not be prevalent in our own day. The fresh breeze of the centuries comes off the pages of this wonderful reprint of a classic work on covenant theology by nineteenth-century Scottish Presbyterian minister John Colquhoun (1748-1827, ka-hoon).”
Read the rest of John Fesko’s review of this book in Ordained Servant magazine online at http://opc.org/os.html?article_id=196
In this book, Colquhoun helps us understand the precise relationship between law and gospel. He also impresses us with the importance of knowing this relationship. Colquhoun especially excels in showing how important the law is as a believer’s rule of life without doing injury to the freeness and fullness of the gospel. By implication, he enables us to draw four practical conclusions: 1) the law shows us how to live, 2) the law as a rule of life combats both antinomianism and legalism, 3) the law shows us how to love, and 4) the law promotes true freedom.
Table of Contents:
1. The Law of God or the Moral Law in General
2. The Law of God as Promulgated to the Israelites from Mount Sinai
3. The Properties of the Moral Law
4. The Rules for Understanding Aright the Ten Commandments
5. The Gospel…
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“Arianism–Arianism was a 4th-century Christian heresy named for Arius (c. 250-c. 336), a priest in Alexandria [Egypt]. Arius denied the full deity of the preexistent Son of God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. He held that the Son, while divine and like God (“of like substance”), was created by God as the agent through whom he created the universe. Arius said of the Son, “there was a time when he was not.” Arianism became so widespread in the Christian church and resulted in such disunity that the emperor Constantine convoked a church council at Nicaea in [A.D.] 325.” (from Class Handout)
On Sunday, November 1, 2015, Elder Wayne Wylie taught about the Arian Heresy and Nicene Orthodoxy.
Christianity faces more controversies and heresies than other religions because it is based on propositional doctrine rather than morality, as other religions are. “Contending for the faith” is a biblical duty intended to preserve the peace and purity of the church (Jude 3). In the ancient era of church history, the Faith needed to be stated more clearly in a formal way, hence the development of Nicene Orthodoxy.
The heresiarch Arius taught that Jesus was the first created being, and denied the “ontological Trinity,” which means he denied that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are of one divine essence. The councils which developed the Nicene Creed demonstrate the fact of the eternal generation of the Son, and the…
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Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
(1 Peter 3:8-12 ESV)
Peter details duties to various classes of believers earlier in his book, to church members in general in the present passage. He forbids contention and trifling with the peace of the church. As OPC church members, we have vowed to keep the peace and purity of the church. We are to love as siblings, being children of the same Father. We are to be tender-hearted and humble, counting others as more significant than ourselves. We are not to repay evil for evil, from within as well as from without the church.
The church has always been a mix of believers and unbelievers. Persecution can come from inside as well as outside the church. Fraternal strife between true brothers is also possible in the church.
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The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.
(John 10:31-42 ESV)
Jesus’ works were perfectly consistent with his words which authenticate that he is the Son of God in whom you may place your trust.
1. The God Who Made Himself Man—If Jesus were not God, then he would have deserved the condemnation of the Jewish authorities. They thought he was only a man who made himself God, when he truly was God who had humbly condescended to make himself a man.
2. Works Authentication—The miraculous signs Jesus performs are evidence of his deity and Sonship to God the Father. While evidences cannot work faith in people, they do render them without excuse for disbelief.
3. Words of Truth—John’s words are God’s means to bring people to faith in Christ. The signs are in service to the word. Be…
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At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, hin the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are ithe Christ, jtell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do lin my Father’s name bear witness about me, but myou do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and pthey will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of tthe Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30)
Jesus Christ is of one substance with the Father but who became a man; he is the Good Shepherd out of whose hands no one may snatch those who believe in him.
1. Insufficiency of Evidence–The miraculous signs of Jesus reveal him as the Son of God and the Messiah; however, though we point to evidence of his divinity, his miracles and the historical fact of his resurrection, and many will refuse to believe in the face of overwhelming evidence because evidences alone are unable to generate the faith sinners need to be born again.
2. Faith Comes from Hearing–Jesus’ sheep hear his voice because they’ve been enabled to hear by the Holy Spirit. Those who never hear it, neither want to, nor are they able to hear his voice.
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I’m looking forward to having Reformation Day music to enjoy from now on! Bach the Lutheran is an incredible contribution to “reeeal music.”
Luther “wrote [the 95] theses on indulgences and posted them on the church of All Saints on 31 October 1517,” wrote Phillip Melanchthon. Protestants have celebrated this event since the late 16th century, and October 31th became Reformation Day in the Protestant areas of Germany in the early 18th century.
The famous composer J. S. Bach wrote cantatas for Reformation Day. For the one in 1727, he wrote the following cantata, based on Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is our God (“Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott”).
And for the Reformation Day of 1725, he wrote this one.
Let us, with Bach, rejoice and be glad.
Post Tenebras Lux
“[T]he idea of the presence in man of a divine “spark”…, which has proceeded from the divine world and has fallen into this world of destiny, birth and death and which must be reawakened through its own divine counterpart in order to be finally restored. This idea…is ontologically based on the conception of a downward development of the divine whose periphery (often called Sophia or Ennoia) has fatally fallen victim to a crisis and must–even if only indirectly–produce this world, in which it then cannot be disinterested, in that it must once again recover the divine “spark” (often designated as pneuma, “spirit”).”
–Congress on the Origins of Gnosticism in Messina, 1966 (cited in Rudolph, Kurt; Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism. Harper & Row, 1987. Page 57)
On Sunday, October 25, 2015, elder Wayne Wylie taught on Gnosticism, and introduced Docetism in his series on Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Elements of the ancient heresy of Gnositicism include the ideas of dualism, the elitist attitude of the “Gnostikoi” who are the chosen few favored with secret knowledge of Gnostic doctrine, and some discussion of how this two-tiered attitude is reflected in various Christian movements to this day. Another prominent custom among modern Christians which bears some parallel to the notion that Christians have direct knowledge of God apart from Scripture is in the notion of receiving individualistic “guidance by the Holy Spirit,” often appealed to in day-to-day decision making. Important varieties of Gnosticism, such as that of the arch-heretic Marcion and the school of Valentinus were also introduced.
In Gnosticism, knowledge of Gnostic doctrine, rather…
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“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
(John 10:1-21 ESV)
Jesus Christ is the Door of the sheep and the Good Shepherd. He is the only way we may be saved, and he gently leads us through this life and into the next.
1. I Am the Door—The Pharisees are illegitimate shepherds. The true shepherd comes to the flock by means of true doctrine and obedient life. The true shepherd is not passive, but rather, active in guarding the sheep. “Life more abundantly” is often misused by false teachers. Spiritual, rather than material, abundance is meant by and provided by the Good Shepherd.
2. I Am the Good Shepherd—A shepherd seeks his own lost sheep, binds up the wounded, defends them from wolves. Jesus needs nothing from us, but gives us all things.
3. I Lay Down My Life—The Good Shepherd…
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For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
(1 Corinthians 15:3-7 ESV)
On Sunday, October 18, 2015, Elder Wayne Wylie reviewed “Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church” which he taught through the 18th century about a year and a half ago. After a couple of weeks of review, Wayne will resume where he left off dealing with Pietism and Revivalism.
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) sets a prominent theme the student of heresies in church history must keep in mind. The heresies with which the modern church contends are merely variations on heresies which the church throughout history has always had to correct.
The concepts of “heresy,” “error,” “dogma” and “orthodoxy” are defined, compared and contrasted.
Why are there more controversies and heresies associated with Christianity than with…
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