Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Did Jesus fail to bring peace on earth?

The angel announcement was "and on earth peace, good will toward men".  At least that is the King James translation.  Modern translations get it right, "peace among men with whom He is pleased."  But even this needs a little explanation.

So many of our Christmas Carols were written when musicians had only the King James version to guide them, and so we are overwhelmed with the wrong message this time each year.  It seems as though the birth of the Messiah was supposed to begin a universal reign of peace.  In fact that is true, but not the way most people suppose.  The Jewish conservative commentator, Dennis Prager, claims that is the biggest reason why he cannot consider Jesus to be the Messiah.  After his birth there has not been an advent of world peace.

The word translated "good will" in the KJV is used elsewhere in the New Testament, and it always seems to refer to God's sovereign good pleasure.  He is called the one who works all things after the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11).

For example, the word occurs in Matthew 11:26, "Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will." (ESV)  In context Jesus is referring to God's hiding certain ideas from some people and revealing them to others.  This was according to the sovereign good pleasure of God.  In Luke 12:32 Jesus says to His disciples, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

Galatians 1:15 is another instance of the use of this word.  Here too it is all of God's good pleasure, and not of Paul's choosing that he was called to be an apostle.  Again it refers to the sovereign, unconditioned determination of God.

You see what the angels were saying (singing?) to the shepherds that night was that God was giving peace to many people, namely all those who were beneficiaries of His sovereign good pleasure.  Why this is not grasped by many is simply the fact that this pleasure is a subset of election.  And those who assume that God's grace must be egalitarian despise the doctrine of election.  Never mind that it is clearly taught in the Bible, it's not politically correct to favor one over another, and therefore it must mean something else.

I wonder what kind of a problem these same people may have with the fact that it is God who allows one soul to be born to an atheist family in the Czech Republic, and another soul to be born to a wholesome Christian family in the United States.  While it may be true that your birth family does not determine your salvation, no one can doubt that there is enormous spiritual advantage for the one over against the other.  This is only one obvious form of election.  Continue to check the context of Matthew 11 and you will see that Jesus is thanking His Father for election.  "I thank you, Father, for hiding these things from the wise and prudent."  Ponder that a moment.  God has hidden insight from cocky know-it-alls.  "And for revealing them to babes."  That is, for revealing these same things to those who are beginners in the Christian life.  That's simply election at work.

In God's sovereign disposition he has given this earth shattering news of Messiah's birth to lowly pungent savored shepherds.  They will derive the peace of God that lasts forever from this announcement.  Glory to God in the highest!  Indeed we must do that still.  That is our purpose when we gather for public worship.  To God alone be the glory.  And peace--His peace--rests upon all those who put their faith in the Son He gave to be our Savior.  It's not universal world peace.  But that will come when Jesus returns.  Be patient.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"Authentic" Lord's Supper?

A few years ago I posted this.  Since it still gets a lot of hits, and because I think the story is rather fun, I post it again below.

It must have been in the late 70s while I was yet ministering in Modesto. Dan Morse was trying to plant an OPC work in the city of Sacramento, and for some reason I was available to supply for him when he was out of town. I think I had a minister in our congregation in Modesto by the name of Bill Fredericks. He probably supplied the pulpit in Modesto so I could minister to the new chapel in Sacramento.

Anyway, Pastor Morse had his congregation trained to expect the Lord's Supper every week. He sought to give more people ownership of the worship service by having them rotate the responsibility of bringing a bottle of wine for the Lord's Supper. They even used a common cup and tore the bread by hand. It was very interesting and quaint as an attempt at feeling like the original disciples. The cup was an ornate chalice which I was taught to rotate slightly after each communicant took a sip. As I rotated the brim of the cup I would wipe it with a clean napkin which I carried along the aisle for the purpose. Of course when you study the matter you would realize that it doesn't take that many communicants to cover the circumference of the chalice and begin to repeat using the same surface someone before had touched with his lips. But we used wine, so the theory is that the alcohol would kill the germs. If you are tempted to feel creepy in spite of these safeguards, then you must fall back on your trust in the ability of a sovereign God to protect you from whatever bacilli were remaining on the brim of that cup. Actually the service went rather smoothly, and I thought it was a more intimate communion when it was done like this.

The second time I filled in for Pastor Morse we were a trifle nervous because the lady who was scheduled to bring the wine had not yet appeared, and it was less than 10 minutes before the service was to begin. Bur relief broke out when she came in the door and handed me a bottle shaped brown bag. I took it to the chalice, pulled out the wine, and stopped motionless for a brief moment. She had brought apricot wine! Here we were eating torn pieces of bread and drinking from a common cup because it seemed so authentic--but then the whole mood was ruined because we were not using "the fruit of the vine". Of course the only thing to do (at that hour) was to pour the apricot wine into the chalice and proceed with the service as though nothing was amiss. I'm sure the service was only ruined for me. I've been told of hippies who used coke and french fries. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart, and I know this lady meant no disrespect by substituting apricot wine for the more bloody fruit.