Saturday, May 18, 2019

190517FW Prov 17:13-14 - Responding to Goodness & Preempting Quarrels

Family worship teaching lesson from Proverbs 17:13-14 (yesterday's "Proverb of the day"). v13 teaches that sin is much more heinous against someone who has done you good. This magnifies the heinousness of believers' sin against God, and therefore the wonderful grace of God in His longsuffering with us. These should be strong inducements to putting our sin to death! In v14, we are reminded of how important it is to be one who refuses to start a quarrel.

What Are We Commanded to Sing in Public Worship?

Recently, I encountered [an article] attempting to reason against Exclusive Psalmody. If you're not familiar with the case for EP, here's an overly brief/simple summary:
Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
That which we sing in corporate worship will dwell in us richly. There is only One whose Words may be permitted to do so! (see also the parallel in Eph 5:18-21, where this rich-indwelling of Christ's Word is conjoined with being filled with the Spirit, and each of us is to render obedience to what the others are singing--again, not something to be done with the ideas of men, but only with the Word of God.)
Hebrews 2:11:12 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
Quoting from Psalm 22, the apostle teaches that part of the "joy set before Him" on the cross, was Jesus's current action in not only the preaching, but also His activity in the singing in the worship assemblies of the church. If it is Jesus who sings in the assembly, we must not presume to put our words or thoughts into His mouth!

Then, there are the many, many obvious Scriptures that apply the 2nd commandment. Basically, if we worship according to the ideas of men, then we make ourselves our own gods. We might sound like we are honoring God with our lips, but our hearts will be far from Him.

The WCF summarizes these Scriptures thusly:
The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.
So, how is it that I arrive at believing that I am commanded to sing some of what people call "hymns"? It really is not by the form of argument in the article above. I'm not particularly convinced that creed/confession recitation is a prescribed element of the public worship of God (it troubles my conscience to do so where I currently minister, but I submit to the elders in their understanding texts like 1Cor 1:10 to imply some kind of speaking together for confessing the faith). And whereas the preaching that is commanded is inherently expository, but singing is not inherently expository, so that analogy dies easily. The article by itself would push me in the other direction.

However, one cannot so easily dismiss the assertion that metrical translation is inherently paraphrastic--or that singing itself requires some extent of paraphrase.

The argument that has actually compelled me into what some would call "hymn singing" is the fact that we are commanded to sing as the Spirit's appointed method for the rich indwelling of the Word of Christ, and that the Holy Spirit has attached a specific glory to the name, Jesus (c.f. Phil 2:9-11; Col 3:16-17).

In the first place, if "Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" is a limiting clause, then we may only sing in public worship those particular Psalms with those words in the superscripts. So, not even the entire Psalter would be commanded in that case. However, if that is not a limiting clause, then the full command is to sing the Word of Christ--so, rather than like so many "red-letter" text editions of Scripture, we must understand a command to sing the Words of Christ as a command to sing the thoughts of all of Scripture.

I am sympathetic to the argument that the thoughts of all of Scripture may be found somewhere in the Psalms. But, personal and pastoral experience has proved that while we may sing a couple lines from a Psalm that are analogous in theme to the other Scripture text about which we are trying to obey the command; yet, a metrical/paraphrastic translation of that text itself, or faithful opening of its ideas in verse, is a more direct and complete obedience to the command.

I appreciate that the article is trying to say that there is such a thing as hymn singing that is not "our putting our words into God's mouth." At least, I hope that's what he was saying: "here are other places where we are very intentionally yielding our thoughts to God's thoughts by paraphrased/rearranged words; and, that is something that applies especially in the form of song."

Ultimately, this comes to a head when trying to obey the good and necessary consequence of Phil 2:9-11 and the command of Col 3:17. Because, while there are many names and titles for Christ in the Psalter, yet I am commanded by God specifically to use the name of Jesus, and specifically in the glorifying of the Father through the worship of Christ, and specifically in context and connection with letting Christ's Word dwell in me richly in connection with congregational singing in the public worship of God.

Now--a proper understanding of Scripture commands for worship would exclude a vast majority, of the hymns currently sung in American services on the Lord's Day. But, I also think it excludes being exclusive to the Psalter.

Friday, May 17, 2019

190517FW John 12:37-41 - Displaying Christ's Glory: Whom and What Isaiah Saw

Family worship teaching lesson, reviewing John 12:37-41, the Gospel lesson from Lord's Day worship on May 12. Christ declares the cross as the great display of His glory. This, Isaiah saw in the throneroom of Isaiah 6 and the substitutionary atonement of Isaiah 53!

2019.05.16 Theology Thursday - The Glory of Christ (Owen, vol 1), pp389-408

On these Theology Thursdays, we are reading The Glory of Christ by John Owen. Today, we covered pp389-408, with the following scribbled notes:

And the following favorite quotes...

from p393 on the disastrous effect of purported images of Christ

from p395 on fresh faith-views of Christ's glory as the cure for spiritual malaise

from p397 on how unbelieving it is to lack a desire for experience and enjoyment of Christ's glory to whatever extent we may do so even now

from p401 on the necessity of both the intellect and the affections for properly perceiving Christ's glory

from p403 on how every true glimpse of Christ's glory must produce love for Him


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

190515FW Judges 1:27-2:6 - Incomplete Obedience or Repentance Is None At All

Family worship teaching lesson, reviewing Judges 1:27-2:6, the Old Testament lesson from Lord's Day worship on May 12. The Holy Spirit takes us a step back in time, to when Joshua was still alive, to show us the progressive downgrade of Israel's obedience that had taken place during the conquest itself. Ultimately, their partial obedience was the result of not having Yahweh alone as God, but rather being their own god and adopting and raising up for themselves other gods--including tax money (nothing new under the sun!). Tragically, their partial repentance included only that selfish sorrow, which keeps serving oneself, not that godly sorrow that bears the fruit of turning from the sin to newly committed obedience.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

190511FW Gen 9:18-29 - How to Be Blessed: Christ Is Adam's Children's Only Hope

Family worship teaching lesson, previewing the morning sermon text for May 12, Genesis 9:18-29. The end of Genesis 9 finally concludes Genesis 5. It seemed that the line of the godly had all but vanished, but the flood brought both wrath and salvation and re-set the covenant of grace with Noah. Still, Noah and Ham and Canaan and all of us are children of the first Adam. This is shockingly displayed when Noah's abuse of covenantal blessing ends up in great sin on his and Ham's parts. If we are to escape the curse that we deserve and be blessed instead, it will come only by being graciously transferred from him to the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

2019.05.08 Worship Wednesday - Gospel Worship (Burroughs), pp48-66

On these Worship Wednesdays, we are reading Gospel Worship by Jeremiah Burroughs. Today, we covered pp48-66, with the following scribbled notes:

And the following favorite quote on the importance of worship (and therefore the importance of preparing for it)

190509FW 2Corinthians 9 - Godliness That Displays Christ unto His Glory

Follow-up on 2Corinthians 9 from the epistle reading in Lord's Day morning worship and the Lord's Day afternoon sermon. The apostle is eager for the Corinthians to display the character of Christ in their generosity, so that thanksgiving and glory will abound to God for His indescribable gift of Christ. Christ not only is a believer's righteousness, but He then begins to transform that believer into a display of Himself.

190508FW Judges 1:1-26 - The Beginnings of Unfaithfulness

Following up upon the Old Testament reading from Judges 1:1-26 in the Lord's Day morning worship service this week. God alone is faithful, and we need Him Himself to be our own faithfulness. We need Christ! The book of Judges starts out pretty well, with the people inquiring of the Lord, Judah and Simeon cooperating, and Israel beginning to possess the land that they have taken. However, things will go badly quickly, and some hints of it are already appearing.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

2019.05.07 Timeless Tuesday - Letters of Samuel Rutherford, pp128-150

On these "Timeless Tuesdays," we are reading through the full Banner of Truth edition of Letters of Samuel Rutherford. Today, we covered pp128-150, with the following scribbled notes:

And my favorite quote from this section was this one on looking forward to glory

190507FW Mar 4:1-20 - Good-Soil Listeners Submit and Devote Themselves to God's Word

Following up upon Mark 4:1-20 from the Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin in the Lord's Day morning worship service.  Family Worship teaching time of a family of 10--complete with noisy baby! Here, we study the parable of the soils, and how a good-hearing heart has to be given by God. How does such a heart hear? By paying good attention, by interacting with God in His Word, and by determining to submit to and be controlled by God in His Word. Attend thereunto with diligence, preparation and prayer. Receive it with faith and love. Lay it up in our hearts. Practice it in our lives. The Word is authoritative and sufficient!

Monday, May 6, 2019

2019.05.06 Ministry Monday - An Able and Faithful Ministry (Garretson), pp172-204

Notes from Samuel Garretson's An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office. pp172-204
And a choice quote from p196:

I'm Believing God That... This Phrase Is a Rather Anti-biblical Way to Describe Prayer

I've noticed a trend, lately, of professing believers saying that they're "believing God that" He will do something that they want Him to do. I assume that what they mean is that they are praying--pleading with Him, crying out to Him, making known their requests to Him. These are Scriptural ways of describing what it means to pray for something. And then there's the entire issue of having such requests formed by the mind of the Lord Himself in the Scriptures.

I'm not sure where the other way of speaking is coming from. While I try to stay abreast of the latest inventions of men that are passing themselves off as "Christianity," there must be some new book(let), or preaching personality, or radio ditty of which I'm not aware.

But I am aware that it is harmful. One of the chief delights of the believer is to know that God is God, and we are not. It is to view Christ in the Bible by Spirit-wrought faith, and behold His glory as the only-begotten of the Father. It is to realize continually that He is wise, and I am not. He is powerful, and I am not. He is righteous, and I am not. He is holy, and I am not. He is good, and I am not. He is perfectly faithful and true, and I am not.

We see an ocean of glory in God the Son, incarnate--full of steadfast love and faithfulness. We see in Jesus Christ all that God is, all that we ought to have been, all that is credited to us through faith in Him, all that will be done in us as He makes us like Himself. Why would we want to feel like we ourselves are something? Such a feeling can only hide from our view the glory of Christ. Why would we want to speak of our desire, and our confidence in that desire, as if it has in itself some kind of spiritual power?

When I hear someone say, "I'm believing God that..." what I hear is the opposite of prayer and of faith. Prayer involves a submission to the wisdom of God, but this statement seems to impose upon Him my wisdom. Faith binds itself to believe God's words, but this statement seems to bind God to believe and obey our words.

So, I think we might find it more helpful (and certainly more honest) to use one of those Bible phrases to describe the fact that we are asking God for something. It is a wonder that the Lord God listens to the voices of men. And a mercy that He responds by His grace which is sufficient for us, as His power is perfect in our weakness. Often, this mercy comes in the form of a resolute, divine, "No!"

And let us reserve "believing God" for reference to believing not what we are telling Him, but rather for what God has perfectly told us in the Scriptures--best of all, all about Himself in Jesus Christ.