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The Pentateuch is Christian Scripture

One of the foundational convictions of reformed theology is the unity of Scripture. There is, we believe, one covenant of redemption that God reveals and accomplishes through history, from Adam all the way through to Christ. It should not surprise us, therefore, to find the Old Testament—beginning with the Pentateuch—framed around the expectation of Christ (so, Lk. 24:27). There is one fascinating example of this in the book of Numbers that I want to take up in this post.

The book of Numbers begins with two lists of names. In chapter one, a census of Israel is taken, listing all twelve tribes one-by-one. Then in chapter two, the arrangement for Israel’s encampment and their order of march is given, once again listing the tribes one-by-one. But the order is different in the two chapters. And the shift in order is theologically profound.

Both lists of tribes are shaped according to the birth order of their namesakes, the twelve sons of Jacob. To be more specific, both of these name lists are based on the birth order of the twelve patriarchs, grouped according to their mothers. (Recall that Jacob had two wives and two concubines). Here is their birth order when grouped by [...]

Calvin’s Counsel on Gentle Reformation

While studying for a recent sermon series on the Lord’s Supper, I read an interesting passage in John Calvin’s 1540 treatise on that sacrament. Toward the end of his treatise (in the extract quoted below), Calvin discusses the controversy between Luther and Zwingli over the nature of the eucharist. As he reviews the unfortunate conflict between these great reformers, Calvin counsels his readers to pursue such matters of doctrinal reformation in a spirit of gentleness. He urges us to “hav[e] the patience to listen to each other in order to follow the truth without passion.”

It sounds like Calvin saw remarkable similarity in the sacramental theology of Zwingli and Luther. According to Calvin, much of the controversy that subsequently overshadowed their positions was due to poorly chosen words, fiery reactions, and a refusal to listen to what opponents actually intended once trenches had been dug. There is much wisdom in Calvin’s assessment of this historic debate. Perhaps if he were alive today, Calvin might himself contribute a post to a blog called “Gentle Reformation” with words like these for us to learn from. 

Holidays and Holy Days

Christmas is just a few weeks off. Most churches have Christmas trees up by now, and many ministers started their Advent sermon series this past weekend. Christmas–like Easter and the other holy days of the Christian calendar–has been so widely embraced by protestant churches, that not to incorporate them into the church worship schedule seems either strange or downright block headed.

I am one of those pastors who still believes the church should not include these holidays in the worship calendar. But I also don’t want to maintain that distinction in stubbornness or merely out of fondness for “old style presbyterianism.” So, I thought I’d take a couple of paragraphs–speaking for myself at least–to explain why I still believe this is a matter of biblical conviction.

First of all, there is one religious calendar that goes all the way back to the creation: the weekly religious calendar. God appointed the sabbath day as a religious day to be observed weekly. The Ten Commandments reaffirm that this weekly day of worship sets the cadence of life for God’s people. The New Testament also continues to call us to weekly sabbath (or, Lord’s Day) worship (more on this, later). The weekly religious calendar is biblical, and continues in [...]

Are We Really Supposed to Fear the Lord?

Every now and then, people ask me why the Bible talks so much about fearing the Lord. Isn’t it odd to speak of serving God using a word like “fear”? It is a good question, and one worthy of a careful answer.

The Hebrew word translated “fear” (yare’) does indeed mean just that. “Fear” is indeed a good English translation for the word. But we in the West understand the emotion fear a little differently than the Hebrew understanding of that same emotion. To explain, let me talk about a completely different English word for a moment: the English word passion. 

The Gift of Faith

It never struck me, quite the way it did this week, how very alone Jesus was as he went to the cross.

A couple friends and I are doing a Bible study through the Gospel of Mark. This week, we met to discuss chapter 14, verses 26–31. Jesus and his disciples had just finished the Passover meal, they sang the Passover hymn, and then they headed to the Mount of Olives. On the way, Jesus quoted to the disciples from the Prophet Zechariah, telling them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’…” I’ve read that many times before, but it struck me with greater force this week as I noticed something in the sequence of events leading up to that statement.

National Covenanting: A Realistic Solution for the Economy?

I’ve been thinking about the current economic crisis, and whether the Covenanter doctrine of National Covenanting is for such a time as this. I thought I would post some of those thoughts here to invite discussion from anyone interested—mostly as an exercise in thinking through the practical application of that biblical doctrine we call, “National Covenanting.”

The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech has just been released on DVD. This is one of those rare films that both tells a great story and promotes a noble message.

Though the film’s plot is based on King George VI’s struggle to overcome speaking difficulties, the film is actually a story about friendship.

Vindicated

I have recently started preaching in the Gospel according to Luke. I was captivated, right off the bat, with Luke’s opening scene. And with one character in that scene, in particular. And especially with one quality of that person.

The opening scene of Luke’s account is a prayer service at the Temple. After the narrator’s prologue (1:1-4), Luke pulls back the curtains and on the stage we see the worshiping crowds gathering at the Temple for an afternoon prayer service, where Zechariah the priest is on duty. There are several characters in the passage,

Why the Fifth Point Matters

I had lunch recently with a four-point Calvinist. He knew I was a five-pointer and asked why I believed in “Limited Atonement”—the one point of the five with which he disagreed. It was a sincere question, and I appreciated the opportunity to talk about such an important doctrine.

Limited Atonement (the teaching that Jesus died for specific people, not for everyone) is often the hardest to embrace of the so-called “five points of Calvinism.” (The five points, for review, are Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and