Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Why Man-Made Holy Days Are Wrong (Along with Any Other Complications of Worship)

'Tis the season to answer again the most important question: what is the right way of coming to God? Answer: "Only the way that He says to come." Any answer beyond this inevitably means adding something to Christ. 

There are of course circumstance and selection questions that must be answered in the course of doing what God has commanded as the worship that comes through Christ. But anything that we add, or that we sneak in by way of "circumstances and forms," is a man-made complication to the simplicity that was "just as the LORD had commanded" under Moses and is now an even simpler simplicity under Jesus.

So, what is wrong with any man-made complication of worship?
1. Only worship that God seeks actually finds God. John 4:16–26; Heb 8:1–6. 
2. God Himself says that man-complicated worship treats Him as common and creaturely instead of as holy. Lev 9:18–10:7; Heb 12:28–29.
3. Jesus Himself says that man-complicated worship is vain and heartless (regardless of how we feel about it). Matt 15:1–20; Isa 29:9–16.
4. Man-complicated worship departs from the worship service that is led by Christ from heaven. It thus fails to come to God through Christ. Heb chs. 1–12.
5. God calls those who offer it, "Them that hate Me." Deut 5:8–10; Deut 4:1–24.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Why Do We Do the Religious Things That We Do?

 "I mean for this to be about Jesus" or "I feel that this is about Jesus" or "This 'makes me feel' about Jesus" are no substitute for "Jesus says that this is about Himself."

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Where to Begin: God [Dec, 2022, Contribution to Seventeen82]

This article first appeared at Seventeen82

As ARPs, it is by means of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms that we obey the Scriptural mandate to maintain a pattern of sound words. By the Confession’s own viewof the Holy Scriptures, such patterns of sound words must be servants of Scripture, not substitutes, or even supplements. This is what we might call the preliminary principle of Reformed Presbyterianism.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Our Pattern of Sound Words: the Westminster Confession’s View of Itself in the Light of Scripture [Nov, 2022, Contribution to Seventeen82]

This article first appeared at Seventeen82.

As we’ve seen from Scripture, the Lord’s people must remember Him and His Word to themselves and their children for perpetual generations. And the Spirit’s method for this features the use of patterns of sound words (e.g. confessions and catechisms). As ARPs, we obviously think that the Westminster Confession and Catechisms are such patterns. What makes them so?

The first answer is that our confession acknowledges that Scripture alone is the rule of faith and practice. The reason that the truth in chapters 2–33 is sound and profitable is found in chapter 1, “Of the Holy Scripture.” This little article will be most helpful to you if read side-by-side with that chapter.

Holy Scripture is God’s Self-revelation. WCF 1.1 teaches that God has committed His revelation

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

An Island of Grace in a Season of Judgment

Joshua 14:7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ 10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old.

The wilderness wandering was one of the great seasons of judgment in all of human history. In the midst of it, Caleb was an island of God’s grace. So we may look to the Lord to work in us, even if the general disposition of heaven toward the church at the time is one of exposing and chastising hardness to the Word.

The Danger of Envy

Acts 13:44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.

How great is the danger of a heart poisoned by envy! By it, the Jews in v45 cut themselves off from giving a hearing to the very gospel preaching by which faith comes; instead, they became contradictors and blasphemers of Christ.

The Role of Diligence in the Battles of Ai

Joshua 7:3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.”

Joshua 8:3 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai; and Joshua chose thirty thousand mighty men of valor and sent them away by night.

Note the difference in diligence. God didn’t give victory as a reward for diligence. He gave it by way of diligence that He gave as a gift, His own blessing upon the repentance that He had given by way of judging Achan. Diligence is valuable, but if we lack it, then perhaps what we are first needy of is to clear our conscience before the Lord from Whom diligence comes by grace.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Christ's (True) Church Is a House of Prayer

Isaiah 56:7 Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,

And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Acts 15, Numbers 16, and Respecting the Lord's Ordained Servants

24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Acts 15:24–25 (NKJV)

One of the things that we’re seeing, where our congregation is in the book of Acts, is that it is important to yield to Christ’s rule by His Spirit in His church through those particular men that He sets apart to teach and to lead. The bad doctrine of the Judaizers was married to bad ecclesiology: self-appointed teachers who took it upon themselves to go to Antioch and preach what was on their hearts.

Resisting the Lord’s servants or trying to make our own alternative way isn’t new, and God takes it very seriously. Consider Numbers 16 (quoted at length below). We shouldn’t be surprised that those from Antioch would end up zealous for hellish doctrine, or that those today who have faithful ministers but instead google their theology end up self-assured about their own self-condemning spiritual ideas.

Republicationism and the Churches of Asia Minor

There are some who erroneously consider the promises of covenant blessing to Israel, and threats of covenant curses, to view Sinai not as an administration of the covenant of grace but as a republication of the covenant of works. Following their logic, we could end up saying the same about the seven letters in Revelation 2–3. Suddenly, the fact that the Lord deals covenantally with the visible church could become a trojan horse by which we begin to see "covenant of works" everywhere. 

No, the danger of covenant curse is an active reality for congregations of the visible church in the current administration of the covenant of grace. We need to be able to grapple meaningfully with the danger to churches within the covenant of grace of so resisting Christ that He removes our lampstand.

I Find (Y)Our Lack of Faith Disturbing

It takes a stunning hard-heartedness toward the Lord Jesus to have the option to be singing His praise and hearing His Word in the fellowship of the saints and choose instead games and frivolity or amusements. 

Yes, there is such a thing as physically or mentally needing more rest (sometimes due to failure to get it in a timely manner because other time was filled with too much frivolity and amusement), etc. But don't let the point die the death of a thousand qualifications. I'm not here thinking about tallying up actions, following rules, etc. 

I'm just thinking about priority of preference.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Numbers 28:3–10 and the Morning+Evening Worship Pattern. Daily in our homes. Double on the Lord's Day.

“And you shall say to them, ‘This is the offering made by fire which you shall offer to the Lord: two male lambs in their first year without blemish, day by day, as a regular burnt offering. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, the other lamb you shall offer in the evening, and one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil. It is a regular burnt offering which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord. And its drink offering shall be one-fourth of a hin for each lamb; in a holy place you shall pour out the drink to the Lord as an offering. The other lamb you shall offer in the evening; as the morning grain offering and its drink offering, you shall offer it as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.

‘And on the Sabbath day two lambs in their first year, without blemish, and two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, with its drink offering—10 this is the burnt offering for every Sabbath, besides the regular burnt offering with its drink offering.
Numbers 28:3–10

Daily evening and morning rest during creation
One of the things that we recently saw in the “Biblical Theology of the Diaconate” series at Hopewell is that the interconnection between work-service and worship-service began even before day 7 of the creation (which, incidentally, was the first full day of Adam’s—and especially his wife’s—life).

Each day, there was an evening time and a morning time that were distinct from the creation-work times. So also, the pattern holds up for us in God’s creational ordering of things that we physically need an evening time to wind down and a morning time to warm up.

Daily morning and evening worship for God’s people
And those who live in fellowship with God find that these are important times for worship as well. This holds true not only for our individual/private/secret worship but also for set times of leading our children “when you rise up and when you lie down.”

Weekly morning and evening worship on the Sabbath
Now here, in Numbers 28, we see the connection between these daily set times and the entire day that God had consecrated and blessed for the same purpose. In vv3–8, we see the lamb-in-the-morning and lamb-in-the-evening pattern that belongs to every day. Then in vv9–10, we see that this is doubled on the consecrated and blessed Day.

“How much more so” in the age of the Lamb
We no longer offer lambs, because the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world now sits upon the throne. But, we know that the Lord’s pattern of coming to God through the Lamb, morning and evening, every day holds true.

For those of us who can see the obvious connection of resting from work in the creation (Gen 2); to the corporate observation of that in holy convocation of resting from work as a church/state (Ex 20/Deu 5); to the anticipated revival of resting from work in order to be trained in Lord-delight in the time of the Servant (Isa 56, 58); to the realization of that in the resting from work for the Sabbtah-keeping that remains on the Lord’s Day as an anticipation when we finally rest from all works in this world (Heb 3–4, Rev 1)…

What does our individual/family morning and evening Lord’s Day practice look like?
This passage (Num 3:9–10) challenges us. Do we know that God has consecrated the Lord’s Day? Do we know that God has blessed it? Do we know that the instructions given here anticipate something more full and more blessed in the age of the Servant Who is the Lamb? Then, let us purpose to have a double coming to God through the Lamb in the morning and a double coming to God through the Lamb in the evening every Lord’s Day.

May the Lord bless it unto richer daily practice for us. Which He blesses unto richer weekly practice. Which He blesses unto still richer daily. And so may the virtuous cycle continue until He brings us at last into that rest that Christ has won for us, when we cease from our works in this world as He Himself has done.

p.s. Though the sacrifice times had an important personal aspect (n.b. Daniel’s continuing to keep them after 70 years in Babylon, cf. Dan 9:21) as applied above, the sacrifices themselves were offered corporately, and this has important implications for morning and evening corporate worship (cp. the introduction of the Spirit-titled “Psalm for the Sabbath” in Ps 92:1–2) for the church. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Holy Spirit’s Method for Transmitting and Preserving the Faith [from Seventeen82]

 This article was first published at Seventeen82

[Photo: Emmet E. Hakim]

Last month, we considered from Psalm 78 the duty and necessity of each generation’s remembering God’s Word both unto itself and unto the next generation. Christ promised that the Spirit would complete the things that He had to say to His apostles, and through them to us:

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, 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. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (Jn 16:12–15, NKJV)

Declaring what is Christ’s
It was the apostles to whom He had already spoken. It was the apostles to whom the completion of that was promised. And, through the apostles, we have received in Scripture everything that Jesus intended to say to His church.

Since Psalm 78 has shown us how important it is, both for ourselves and for our children, to remember God’s Word and works, this raises an important question. What is the apostolic method for preserving and transmitting the faith? What is the method that the Spirit taught them? What is the method that is from the Father, and from the Son, and from the Holy Spirit (cf. v14–15 above)?

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Remembering God's Word unto Ourselves and Our Children [from Seventeen82]

This article was first published at Seventeen82

[Photo: Emmet E. Hakim]

Associate Reformed Presbyterians adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms—a wonderfully biblical thing to do, as we hope to see from Paul’s letters to Timothy next month. In this series of articles, I hope to convince you from Scripture of the necessity and wisdom of mastering and using our doctrinal standards, and then proceed to highlight from Scripture the riches in Christ that can be gained by way of some of our theological distinctives.

But, as a way of setting up for that, I’d like for us to consider from Psalm 78 Israel’s forgetfulness of the Lord and His Word—both in their own hearts (failing Deut 6:6) and to their children (failing Deut 6:7). This article will be best-read with your Bible open, taking the time to see each of the statements from the verses referenced.

Covenant Children’s Right to Be Taught about God

Psalm 78:1–4 teaches us that telling to the next generation the praises of the good, great, saving God is an obligation not an option. v4 refers to failure to do so as “hiding” the “praises of the LORD and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

A Two-Question Catechism on the Inclusion/Emphasis of Pouring in the New Testament Use of "Baptism"

Q1. By what mode did the Lord Jesus give the Holy Spirit?
A1. Pouring
Ac 2:17; Ac 2:18; Ac 2:33; Ac 10:44; Ac 10:45; Ac 11:15

Q2. What does the Scripture call this pouring?
A2. Baptism
Ac 11:16

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Once More unto the Mountaintop: Fresh Ruminations on Public Worship

This week, I was at a pastors' fellowship where this year's theme was heavenly mindedness. It was wonderful. The fellowship also has a very strong ordinary-means-ministry emphasis built into its DNA. Also wonderful. The pastor of the host church gives a talk on it each year that is superior in its annual variety and closeness of application to the talks of his predecessor. This year's talk was marvelous. So with this year's theme on heavenly mindedness and the perennial theme of the means of grace, it felt disconnected to have so many 'Episcoterian' (my term; excuse the shorthand) elements in the worship times. 

The day after I got back, our family worship time was in Exodus 19. It was a reminder that until Christ, the church could gather to God but not even touch the bottom of the mountain; just the one man could go up—and then throughout the Sinaitic administration only one man could ever go all the way in. But Hebrews 12 celebrates that with our risen, ascended, enthroned High Priest we go all the way to the top of the mountain and all the way in through the veil; hallelujah

The regulative principle is not only about making sure that we regard God as holy whenever we come near (cf. Lev 10:1–3); it's also about doing only those things that actually enter into the worship of heaven, only those things that are led by Christ from heaven, only those things that join the assembly of the firstborn, only those things through which we have confidence that the Spirit Himself is bringing us through the veil by the new and living way that is Jesus's flesh, with our bodies washed and consciences sprinkled.

Then last night, I had great fellowship with a brother whom the Lord has brought so far. From evanjelly to fundamentalist baptist, to 'reformed' baptist that was more refordamentalist, and then by Lutheryterian podcast to a church/place of that flavor. Knowing his journey, I understood why he had difficulty processing my views on simplicity and purity of public worship. I wrote him the next two paragraphs, which I've now modified slightly, which is what precipitated this blog post.

When you start to understand what worship is, where worship goes, who leads it, who are joined in it, and what specifically are the worship actions that participate in all that by the Spirit... the believer who understands these things embraces the regulative principle not as a boundary within which we do what we feel like is helpful or meaningful to us, but as a mission on which we hotly pursue in worship only those things that Christ Himself is leading from glory.

So when I talk about public worship, I'm coming from a different angle than just about anyone in "liturgical" circles. I believe in liturgy, but I think that Jesus actually has one (elements and forms though not necessarily sequence) and that to whatever extent we add that which is from man, to the same extent we disconnect ourselves from the worship of heaven and the true church through the ages and throughout history. Ironically, even true churches add things to try to create more connection across history and around the world; but, the very things they add end up taking away from the worship-unity that Jesus Himself had provided.

For further (better!) consideration, maybe take a listen to yesterday's family worship lesson or the "How God Wants to Be Worshiped" sermon series in which I tried to open these things from Scripture. And of course, others have done it better before me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Ps 30:12 — Eternal Praise Sweetens Temporary Grief

    To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
    O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
Ps 30:12

If it was determined before time that our end would be to sing praise and give thanks to God for eternity, then nothing in time ought be able to rob us of our gladness—even if that gladness must be mixed with a momentary night of grief.

Ps 30:9 — Experiential Theology a Cure for Despair

    “What profit is there in my blood,
    When I go down to the pit?
    Will the dust praise You?
    Will it declare Your truth?
Ps 30:9

The theological knowledge of the end of our creation and redemption can sustain a man even in moments where he despairs of life. It is a means by which the Lord carries believers through the valley of the shadow of death. The theological must not be merely speculative but experiential.

Ps 30:4–5 — Heavenly Joy in the Midst of Earthly Weeping

    4      Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His,
            And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
    5      For His anger is but for a moment,
            His favor is for life;
            Weeping may endure for a night,
            But joy comes in the morning.
Ps 30:4–5

Even under that anger that is for a moment and that in that night when we endure weeping (v5), the believer who has the hope of joy mixed in with his grief is thereby enabled to sing praise and give thanks. He remembers Yahweh's Name; He does not have to wait for heaven to have it.

Ps 30:1–3 — "O Yahweh!" A Cry of Personal Intensity

    1      I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up,
            And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
    2      O LORD my God, I cried out to You,
            And You healed me.
    3      O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave;
            You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Ps 30:1–3

The triple "O Yahweh" is both intensely personal and personally intense. Personal, intense dealings with God are the right response of those whom God lifts up, and whom God allows to call Him our own, and whom God resurrects unto everlasting worship of Him. Indeed, personally and intensely is how He deals with us.

Ps 29:11 — How to Be Strong and Blessed

    The LORD will give strength to His people;
    The LORD will bless His people with peace.

Ps 29:11

As a conclusion to the rest of this Psalm, v11 drives home that it is Yahweh, Who gives strength and blessedness to believers, and He does so by means of His Word in public worship. 

Ps 29:1–9 — Glorious Worship Is Scripture-Saturated Worship

    1      Give  unto the LORD, O you mighty ones,
            Give unto the LORD glory and strength.
    2      Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name;
            Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

    3      The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
            The God of glory thunders;
            The LORD is over many waters.
    4      The voice of the LORD is powerful;
            The voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

    5      The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars,
            Yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
    6      He makes them also skip like a calf,
            Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
    7      The voice of the LORD divides the flames of fire.

    8      The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
            The LORD shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.
    9      The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth,
            And strips the forests bare;
            And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”
Ps 29:1–9

After noting that God Himself is the glory of worship, the Spirit pours forth a "flood" of verses showing how very much the Lord has chosen His Word (His voice!) as the great display of that glory in worship. Glorious worship is Scripture-saturated worship.

Ps 29:2 — God's Holiness Is Itself the True Beauty of Worship

    Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name;
    Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Ps 29:2

The word 'beauty' has the sense of 'majesty'. God's holiness is itself the true beauty of the worship. God's glory (literally, "heaviness") is the weightiness of the worship. It is a misinterpretation bordering upon blasphemy to use this text and its parables to justify artistic adornments of the earthly circumstances of the worship of God.

Ps 28:7 — My Heart Trusted in Him, and I Am Helped

    The LORD is my strength and my shield;
    My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
    Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
    And with my song I will praise Him.
Ps 28:7

Yahweh's making the heart trust in Him is so much of a help that by this mechanism, one can come to greatly rejoice and to have heart and mouth opened with song of praise, even without a change in circumstances.

Ps 28:5 — Regard the Works of God's Hands

    Because they do not regard the works of the LORD,
    Nor the operation of His hands,
    He shall destroy them
    And not build them up.
Ps 28:5

The worst thing about the works of the wicked's hands against men (cf. v3–4) is that men are the work of God's hands. The worst thing about idolizing the creation is failing to see that it is a work of the Lord's hands. And the worst thing about failing to understand redemption correctly is that it is the work of the Lord's hands. God make us to regard the works of His hands!

Ps 28:3 — The Hardest Speech of All: the Silence of God

    1      To You I will cry, O LORD my Rock: Do not be silent to me,
            Lest, if You are silent to me,
            I become like those who go down to the pit.
    2      Hear the voice of my supplications
            When I cry to You,
            When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.
    3      Do not take me away with the wicked
            And with the workers of iniquity,
            Who speak peace to their neighbors,
            But evil is in their hearts.
Ps 28:1–3

The speech of those who are false in their hearts is a great trial. But the silence of God would be a greater trial still. Let believers supplicate Him that He be not silent.

Ps 27:13 — The Ultimate Hope of True Religion

    I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
    That I would see the goodness of the LORD
    In the land of the living.
Ps 27:13

Resurrection ("land of the living") unto beatific vision ("see the goodness of Yahweh") is the ultimate hope of true religion. Without it, there is no hope (cf. 1Cor 15). 

Ps 27:10 — Our Perfectly Faithful Caregiver

    When my father and my mother forsake me,
    Then the LORD will take care of me.
Ps 27:10

Literarily, being forsaken by father and mother functions in this verse as an unthinkable impossibility, with the implication of how much more devotedly loyal to us and our care is Yahweh. But in a wicked world, where the unthinkable is often the experienced, how much more we need and ought to nestle safely into His care!

Ps 27:8 — The Help of a God Who Commands Our Hearts

    When You said, “Seek My face,”
    My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”

Ps 27:8

What a help it is to have a God Who commands our hearts! When our hearts are not seeking His face, we may look to Him to command our hearts to do so.

Ps 27:6 — The Purpose of Deliverance

     And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
    Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
    I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
Ps 27:6

The purpose of deliverance (cf. v5) is to offer sacrifice not of blood but of our joyous shouting and singing and praising to Yahweh. Have I been delivered? Then let my soul serve the purpose of that deliverance!

Ps 27:4 — The One Thing

    One thing I have desired of the LORD,
    That will I seek:
    That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
    All the days of my life,
    To behold the beauty of the LORD,
    And to inquire in His temple.
Ps 27:4

"What is the one thing for which we ultimately exist?" It's a what question with a Whom answer. We exist for Him, specifically to behold Him and consider Him. And for this, He has created especially corporate worship (e.g. "house" and "temple"). Everything else is a means unto that end.

Ps 27:1 — An Inextinguishable Life

    The LORD is my light and my salvation;
    Whom shall I fear?
    The LORD is the strength of my life;
    Of whom shall I be afraid?

Ps 27:1. 

Yahweh is not just light unto my eyes but the light of my eyes, which is to say that He ismy very life. And if He is my life, then who can extinguish it?

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Why Don't We Keep the Day of Atonement (or other "forever" days)?

Someone in the congregation wrote:

Ok, I'm in Leviticus 16. It says this is a statute forever in verse 31 and in verse 34 it says this shall be an everlasting statute for you. Why don't we celebrate Yom Kippur? Is it because it says the priest shall make atonement for the people, the children of Israel for all their sins once a year? But Christ has already made atonement for us?

Since I often get such questions, I thought that my reply (below) might be helpful to others:

Good question. And praise God for giving you the good, Scripture wisdom to go straight to Christ Himself for resolving the answer.

(1) "forever" is the word "olam" which can mean anything from "a really long time" to "for everlasting eternity"

(2) The "for you" is specific to the administration under Moses that established the nation of Israel as a church at Sinai. The "you" in "everlasting statue for you" of v34 no longer exists. That way of constituting the church has been finally and fully rejected by God, Who has replaced the church as constituted in Moses with the church as constituted in Christ. This is one of the main points of the entire book of Hebrews, as well as important passages (Col 2:16–17 and other places) that explain why the ceremonial shadows from under Moses are not to be followed any longer. (important to remember here that although special Sabbaths from under Moses have been canceled with the cancellation of that church, the holiness of the Sabbath unto Yahweh was before the Mosaic administration and continues after it)

(3) More specific to the day of atonement itself, it is eternally/permanently fulfilled on the GREAT DAY of atonement. It was an annual ritual for consecration of earthly copies, but Jesus's atonement has consecrated the true and eternal worship of which those were a copy (Heb 7:11–10:18). 

Since the copies are gone, they also don't need to be consecrated annually with blood. No one can actually observe Yom Kippur, because there is no high priest, and there can be no more sacrifice. God took away these things. But the sacrifice, and the application of the blood in the Holy of Holies is the main essence of the day; without it, people observing it "in their hearts" or "in their homes" is utterly meaningless. 

And when they continue to do so today, they sin against Christ's High Priesthood, they sin against Christ's once-for-all sacrifice, they sin against the great commission which commands that the church now be constituted of many nations, they sin against the Lord's Day which is the only consecrated day in Christ's church, they sin against Heaven by participating in the rituals of the copy over/against the worship that connects with the reality. 

The only holy day is the day of Christ Himself, the Lord's Day. Christ Himself is clearly seen as Yahweh Himself by the fact that it is one and the same now to remember and keep consecrated the Lord's Day and to remember and keep Yahweh's holy day. To put it in language almost too crass: Yahweh Day was before all of the consecrated days of the church in its infancy, and continued with all the consecrated days of the church in its infancy (e.g. the Mosaic administration), but in part to show that Christ is Yahweh and not a mere man like Moses, the church is now to observe only Yahweh Day which is Jesus Day, i.e. THE LORD'S DAY. So, the keeping of the old days combines offense against Christ Himself with the horrible sin of violating the fourth commandment.

Many believers have some sort of sincerity in attempting an observance of the day of atonement. And when the temple still stood, the New Testament commanded patience with such (Rom 14:1–13). There is much less room for conscientious observance now that God Himself has literally, physically destroyed the possibility of such observance in 70 a.d., as He prophesied that He would in Heb 10:9. But we would still do well to maintain that spirit of patience as we help these observers out of a less-excusable ignorance and a wickedness that is a great offense against God and great harm to the believer. 

And much of the rest of the church have no stone to throw, since they observe things like advent, lent, "easter," etc. At least those who attempt to keep the day of atonement are keeping something that God had at one point commanded. It is good to maintain a spirit of patience with these manmade-day observers as well. But if there is a need for instruction for the former group, how much more need there is for instruction with this group!

Christ Himself is our Great High Priest.
Christ Himself offered His own blood, once for all for our atonement.
Christ Himself has consecrated the very worship of 
Heaven itself by that blood.
Christ Himself, from Heaven, leads an international (pan-national!) church
on the Day of Christ Himself.

These are the emphases to maintain in correcting this error. And you can see the great theme in all of them: Christ Himself! 

This is why the book that urges diligent attendance upon the Sabbath-keeping that remains, and the parts of the worship of that day's assembly, in which it participates with the assembly in glory... that entire book begins with one of the most exalted descriptions of CHRIST HIMSELF.

n.b. some relevant sections in our Confession

WCF 17.5–6
5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.

6. Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the new testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.

WCF 19.3
3. Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.

WCF 21.7
7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

What's Wrong with Reconstructionism?

Well, there's a reconstructionist preaching at a conference that is popular among the flock that I pastor, so I'm having to answer the question "what's wrong with reconstructionism?" more for a season.

There's much more to say than the following, but here's one of the primary answers: reconstructionism and dominionism miss that Jesus is the last and obedient Adam. Gen 1:28 has already come to fulfillment in Matt 28:18. 

Our duty is not to complete the taming of nature (which is impossible until the resurrection, Rom 8:19–23) or take over nations, but to declare the Lordship and Kingship of Christ and the terms (Matt 28:19) upon which He graciously takes (redeems!) subjects to Himself. 

It is the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ that fulfills the dominion mandate over all nations (cf. Ps 72) and all nature (cf. Ps 96, 98). Shall all kings submit to him? Absolutely! And we should declare His gospel and law to them (and, incidentally, to every creature, Mark 16:15). But if we encroach upon His own Mediatorial Kingship under the name of dominionism, we make the civil counterpart to the ceremonial error of encroaching upon His own Mediatorial Priesthood as the papists do.

One may reason that reconstructionism comes in different flavors, and that the one they are being exposed to is milder. If so, praise God for that. But why have someone tell you something, that many others have said well and are saying well, when ending up under him puts you at risk of turning aside into serious error.

Incidentally, the same conference features the man that gave this lady her platform, and he has never publicly repudiated her. Her books became progressively (pun intended) worse, she slandered those who criticized her teaching, and now she's preaching in public worship on the Lord's Day.

I've actually refrained from naming the conference or its host, because historically I love both. But if you happen to know what/when I'm talking about, and are going to attend, please do so with some discernment and some determination not to end up where I've expressed concern that you might.

It's a hard thing when your people want to read or sit under problematic teaching. The main thing, for sure, is so to disciple them through the ordinary means of grace that they develop their own discernment either not to attend or to attend and filter. But at what point do you begin to raise the alarm, and how strongly?