Category Archives: Theology

The Great Samaritan – A Gospel-Centered Look at The Most Famous Parable

The Parables

A while back I discussed how to read the parables through a gospel lens. Now I’m getting the chance to preach through them at Shoreline and it’s a real joy. Here’s the pertinent gospel-centered section of my recent sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan:

Where this parable is about a good Samaritan, Jesus is the Great Samaritan. In nearly every detail, Jesus has taken the parable, brought it into real life, and raised the stakes.

Jesus didn’t just see us by chance. The good Samaritan saw the man, verse 33, “as he journeyed.” It was a chance encounter. He wasn’t looking for anyone to save. He just happened by. But as we saw in the parable of the lost sheep Jesus was on a mission. He was coming for us. He knew we were lost. He knew we needed rescue. And so he came. With purpose. For us.

And our state was worse. We weren’t near death. [And this might be how you feel today.] What does Scripture say? This past fall we walked through the book of Ephesians.

“You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

You were dead. No spiritual life. No vigor. No vitality. No strength. No hope.

And the price he paid was so much higher. The good Samaritan gave two days wages, and said, “Do what it takes.” What did it take? Jesus showed us what it takes. The cost of our death, the cost of new hearts, was his life – the death of the Son of God on a Roman cross.

But the outcome was so much greater. The good Samaritan gave his time, money, comfort, respectability so that the man could be restored to his original state. Jesus, the King of kings, died exhausted, in pain, naked, and alone under the curse of the Father not so you can go back to living a normal life. He did it so he could walk out of the tomb on the third day on your behalf.

That’s why Paul can continue in Ephesians 2:

You were dead… “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

That’s how he purchased new hearts for us.

How does that help us be a neighbor?

Continue reading The Great Samaritan – A Gospel-Centered Look at The Most Famous Parable

Jay Adams on Gospel-Centered Preaching

Many consider Jay Adams the father of the biblical counseling movement. If you aren’t familiar with the different counseling models often seen in the church here’s the basic breakdown:

  • Christian Counseling – Begins with the insights and framework of modern psychology and uses Scripture as a supplement.
  • Biblical Counseling – Begins with Scripture as the model of human behavior and care, and uses modern psychology as a supplement.

Around the turn of the 20th century psychology came to fame and the “care of souls,” which had traditionally been the domain of clergy, transitioned rapidly to psychologists and, later, psychiatrists. It is so prevalent that even today most seminary counseling programs, even at evangelical schools, are based on psychology first and the Bible second.

Adams made a huge splash with his first book Competent to Counsel where he argued for the church to return to her rightful role in soul care. Since then, he’s written tons on counseling and that’s what he’s best known for.

A Counselor Turns His Gaze On Preaching

But Adams has also been very active in the realm of preaching. I’d like to share an excerpt from an article he wrote in 2004, long before the recent resurgence of gospel-centered preaching. In an article titled Preaching Evangelistically he says that we must preach the gospel in every sermon. How? Continue reading Jay Adams on Gospel-Centered Preaching

Covenantal Credobaptism – A Visual Representation and Conclusion

This is the final installment of my covenantal defense of credobaptism:

Introduction
Who Participated in the Passover Meal?
Who Participates in the Lord’s Table?
Who Participated in Circumcision?
Who Participates in Baptism?
Covenantal Credobaptism – A Visual Argument

This was a detailed series with a hefty word count so it might be helpful to have a visual representation of the argument:

Covenantal Credobaptism Diagram

On the left you see the development of Passover feast to Lord’s table in red. A corresponding movement from circumcision to baptism is shown in blue. On the right side, in the grayed out area, is the Presbyterian conception of the transition from circumcision to baptism.

This chart highlights the inconsistency in the Presbyterian view of the transition of the sacraments. They must recognize unregenerate children participated in the Passover yet also declare the Lord’s table is only open to the regenerate. However, they deny that a similar refinement exists for the circumcision-to-baptism transition even though baptism is clearly linked to regeneration also. They therefore have a divergent view of how the sacraments transition from Old to New Covenants.

This covenantal defense of credobaptism hinges on the interpretation that children did participate in the Passover; so if there is one place for more discussion that’s probably it. The second linchpin is the connection of baptism to regeneration. However, once the former issue is settled, reading the texts about baptism in that context will only strengthen my argument.

I hope his series has benefited you. I know it was a bit more involved than usual so if you have any questions feel free to ask!

Who Participates in Baptism? A Covenantal Defense of Credobaptism

This is the fifth entry in a six-part series titled A Covenantal Defense of Credobaptism. It is a lightly-edited version of a paper I submitted for the Westminster seminary course Doctrine of the Church.

Introduction
Who Participated in the Passover Meal?
Who Participates in the Lord’s Table?
Who Participated in Circumcision?
Who Participates in Baptism?
Covenantal Credobaptism – A Visual Argument

Baptism Is Tied to Indicative Regeneration

In contrast to circumcision, which (like the Passover) did not necessarily entail regeneration of the heart, baptism (like the Lord’s Table) is linked to actual regeneration constituted of redemption in the individual’s life. This stands in contrast to the Anabaptist tradition: baptism is not, “representative of the believer’s… imitation of Christ.”1 Nor is it, “a visible sign of one’s profession of God-given faith.”2 Rather, it is a sign of Christ’s regenerative work wrought in the believer through the work of the Holy Spirit. This definition of credobaptism places it in line with the covenantal understanding that a sacrament is, “a testimony of the divine favour toward us, confirmed by an external sign, with a corresponding attestation of our faith towards Him.”3

Beginning in Colossians 2:11-12 we see the clearest link between the Old Covenant circumcision and New Covenant baptism. The two ordinances are clearly linked but not the same. There is an obvious progression from the former to the latter. The element of union with Christ has progressed such that baptism is predicated on actual regeneration:

Burial with him in baptism shows that they were truly involved in his death and laid in his grave. It is not as though they simply died like Jesus died, or were buried as he was laid in the tomb… Rather, they died with him on the cross and were laid in his grave… The burial proves that a real death has occurred and the old life is now a thing of the past… Not only did the readers die with Christ in his death and were buried with him in baptism. They were also raised with him in resurrection.4

“The resurrection of the Colossians with Christ has already taken place: it is described by means of an aorist tense.”5 This is not something that might take place subsequent to baptism. Paul, “presume[s] the present experience of the resurrection life in Christ.”6

This is a thread that weaves its way through the entire New Covenant fabric. In Galatians 3:27 we find that baptism is tied to, “the new status, the new order of existence ‘in Christ Jesus.’”7 This is not an existence that can be shared by a child incapable of personal faith. The language here is so strong we can argue: Continue reading Who Participates in Baptism? A Covenantal Defense of Credobaptism

Who Participated in Circumcision? A Covenental Defense of Credobaptism

This is the fourth in a six-part series titled A Covenantal Defense of Credobaptism. It is a lightly-edited version of a paper I submitted for the Westminster seminary course Doctrine of the Church.

Introduction
Who Participated in the Passover Meal?
Who Participates in the Lord’s Table?
Who Participated in Circumcision?
Who Participates in Baptism?
Covenantal Credobaptism – A Visual Argument

Circumcision Tied to Potential Regeneration

While it is true that credobaptists have often robbed circumcision of its full meaning it is equally true that covenant theologians have read far too much of the New Testament backwards into it.1 Murray correctly argues that circumcision, “was not essentially or primarily the sign of family, racial, or national identity.”2 However the, “union and communion with Jehovah, the God of Israel,”3 implied was a potentiality, not a reality.

Murray’s position does not eliminate the problem covenant theologians face. The issue is whether the signified union was a present reality or a future promise. The very passages Murray cites to defend his view overtly and repeatedly demonstrate that the Israelites, all of whom participated in circumcision, did not at that time uniformly have the regeneration – a “circumcised heart” – to which circumcision ultimately pointed.4 There is no corresponding New Testament command to the church to become regenerate. Rather there are only admonitions to act in line with the recipients’ present regeneration.

As we will see, while circumcision was tied to potential regeneration, baptism is only ever spoken of in indicative terms of regeneration.


Citations:

  1. Wellam will say, “the paedobaptist attempt to reduce the meaning of circumcision merely to its spiritual significance is a classic example of reading new covenant realities into the old.” The paedobaptist does not import indicative regeneration from the NT into circumcision but I will argue also does not give it enough weight in the NT.
  2. John Murray, “Christian Baptism, Second Article,” Westminster Theological Journal 14, no. 1 (1951): 2.
  3. Ibid., 3.
  4. Ibid. Note especially Murray’s citation of Lev 26:41; Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; 6:10.

Who Participates in the Lord’s Table? A Covenantal Defense of Credobaptism

This is the third in a six-part series titled A Covenantal Defense of Credobaptism. It is a lightly-edited version of a paper I submitted for the Westminster seminary course Doctrine of the Church.

Introduction
Who Participated in the Passover Meal?
Who Participates in the Lord’s Table?
Who Participated in Circumcision?
Who Participates in Baptism?
Covenantal Credobaptism – A Visual Argument

Who Participates in the Lord’s Table?

Moving to the Lord’s Table we see it, “demands a twofold condition: a preceding in examination; a concomitant in a commemoration of the death of Christ, both of which presuppose the use of reason,”1 while its predecessor, the Passover meal, was celebrated by those without that capacity. Though entire households participated in the Passover meal (and ate the manna in the wilderness if John 6 is read as relating to the Lord’s Table2) the new covenant adds a stipulation which prohibits children from participation: regenerate self-examination.

In what is likely their strongest argument against paedocommunion, covenant theologians argue that Continue reading Who Participates in the Lord’s Table? A Covenantal Defense of Credobaptism

Who Participated in the Passover Meal? A Covenantal Defense of Credobaptism

This is the second in a six-part series titled A Covenantal Defense of Credobaptism. It is a lightly-edited version of a paper I submitted for the Westminster seminary course Doctrine of the Church.

Introduction
Who Participated in the Passover Meal?
Who Participates in the Lord’s Table?
Who Participated in Circumcision?
Who Participates in Baptism?
Covenantal Credobaptism – A Visual Argument

I encourage you to read the introductory post again as I made an error in the statement of the Presbyterian position. This error does not affect the substance of the post but I do not want to present an inaccurate view.

Children Participated in the Passover Celebration

In examining the manner in which the sacraments transition from Old to New covenants we will first examine the movement of Passover to Lord’s Table. The paedobaptist position relies on the assumption that unregenerate children did not participate in the Passover. Covenant theologians deal with the question of the participants of the Passover meal in several way:

First, Hodge leaves the question untreated in his systematic theology. Second, in perhaps the majority stance, some assert that children did not participate in the Passover. Turretin states, “[circumcision] was administered to infants and [the Passover] to adults alone.”1 As we will see this bald assertion will not stand.

Second, Calvin argues, “The passover, for which the Supper is substituted, did not admit all kinds of guests promiscuously, but was duly eaten only by those who were of an age sufficient to ask the meaning of it (Exod. 12:26).”2 Even so, this argument is not “so very clear and obvious” as Calvin would like. Even if granted in its entirety, Calvin’s position, by his own admission, requires the participation of children who explicitly do not know the content of their faith’s most central celebration. Nowhere in the text is the Passover restricted to older children. Rather, the natural reading of the passage in its Hebrew context would put in view a picture where year by year children aged into understanding the Passover tradition observed by the whole family.

Third, perhaps the best supporter of Calvin’s position argues, “It is not at all clear that children participated in the Passover meal… For example, Exodus 12:26 tells us that the children would ask their parents, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ If they had participated, it would make more sense to say, ‘What do we mean?'”3 The Greek tradition helps interpret this verse in concert with the familial setting already in view in the surrounding context. It omits any second person reference: “Τίς ἡ λατρία αὕτη” and could very likely be translated, “What does this festival mean?”.4 The Hebrew translation, “What is the meaning of this ritual,”5 which eliminates the distancing language of the second person, is preferred. Even if granted in its entirety, however, this does not require that children did not participate. Rather, it means that children asked the head of the household what he was doing as he led the family through the Passover remembrance. Even if we give it the most generous reading, the most this argument can say is that this particular passage is indeterminate on the question of children physically participating in the Passover.

Fourth, Bavinck argues that the later celebration in Exodus 23:17, excluding children, should govern our interpretation of the inaugural Passover.6 This interpretation is not only a backwards reading of the text but, by that logic, adult women would also be excluded from the Lord’s Table as they too did not celebrate the Passover. The later movement to solely men celebrating the Passover should not be viewed as fencing away children. Rather, “the heads of families (all the men) would stand to worship,” as representatives of the whole family.7

The continuity of participants is of particular importance to this discussion. The weight of biblical evidence suggests that, even though children are not to partake of the Lord’s Table, they did participate in the Passover meal. The lamb was for the entire household (Ex 12:4) and the children who did not yet understand their faith were involved in the celebration (Ex 12:26).

Even Without the Meal Children Were Participants in The Passover

More importantly, even if these criticisms of infant participation in the Passover meal are correct, they uniformly miss a critical fact: Even if children didn’t physically consume the meal itself they were certainly beneficiaries of the realized redemption symbolized and were therefore participants in the sacrament’s substance. While obviously not in every case, there is no question that, in many Hebrew families, the sparing of the firstborn had in view a child too young to trust Yahweh. Even if they did not physically eat the meal they were participants in the event since they were the objects of God’s realized redemptive action.

Conclusion

In summary:

  1. There is no compelling reason to believe children too young for faith were excluded from participation in the Passover meal. In fact, there is good reason to believe they did partake in the celebration.
  2. Even more, they absolutely received the actual redemption symbolized by the meal and were therefore participants in the essence of the sacrament.

Citations:

  1. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol 3 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1997), 416.
  2. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997), 4:16:30.
  3. “Theses on Paedocommunion: A Defense of the Historic Reformed Position.” New Southern Presbyterian Review 2005, Vol. 3 (2), 57.
  4. Noel D. Osborn and Howard A. Hatton, A Handbook on Exodus, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1999), 289.
  5. Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus, The Old Testament Library (Louisville, Kentucky: The Westminster Press, 1974), 200.
  6. Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 583.
  7. Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 537.