The Lord’s Supper, Food, Nourishment, Grace, and Symbolism

There is a tendency in modern Christianity to think of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) as purely symbolic acts. I believe this tendency is largely due to an overreaction to the Catholic position of transubstantiation and baptismal regeneration. And this is unfortunate, because while clearly transubstantiation and baptismal regeneration are not scriptural, overreacting to one heresy by running away from some aspect of truth is not a good solution.

The church fathers referred to the sacraments as “means of grace”. By this they meant that the sacraments are ways in which God delivers grace to His children, the saved.

This description is most useful because it places the emphasis of the source of grace firmly upon God and not upon some innate magic in the actions of eating bread and wine or being dunked in some body of water. But the danger here is that one could infer from this description that because the sacraments are merely the means of grace it is correct to view them as purely symbolic actions.

And this is true to an extent, but it is true in the same way that it would be appropriate to refer to food as a “means of nourishment”. Think about that for a moment if you will.

The only reason that a man may eat bread or cheese or meat or fruit and receive nourishment from it, is because Jehovah, the Almighty God of Heaven has chosen to bless food with this property. And if in his good pleasure, he should choose to withhold this grace, a man could eat all day and receive no benefit to his body.

It is in this same way that baptism and communion are means of grace. It is not that they are somehow completely different acts from eating, but they are acts of obedience that God has chosen to bless.

And this is comforting. It means that in the same way that food begins to affect us before we eat it, in the same way that we take pleasure in its preparation, in its consumption, and in that feeling of fullness that follows our feasts, so communion and baptism are both physical and spiritual things. The plainness of the bread, the sweetness of the vine, the thoughts and ideas that we associate with these simple elements, and all this contrasted with the knowledge of Christ’s deity and His humanity, his beaten flesh, his bloodied head, and what his crucifixion was accomplishing for us and for the entire world, all of this is part of what we are partaking.

So communion is not ‘merely’ a symbol, except in the sense that all things are symbolic. And communion is a means of grace, in the same way that all the gifts of our Heavenly Father are means of his most tender love for us.

Think of this the next time you break the bread and drink the cup.

As always, feedback is appreciated.

Two People, One Saved, One Unsaved: What Made the Difference?

Differences in theology often come down to articulation. Take the mechanics of salvation and damnation as an example. To reduce the number of variables, let’s imagine twin brothers. Of course, being twins, they both have basically the same upbringing, they both have the same parents, they attend the same schools, they go to the same church, have a lot of the same friends. They have, as much as is practical, the same life.  Of course, to talk about them, they’ll need names, so let’s call them Angel and Cretin.  Perhaps you see where I am going with this.

Angel, believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by grace through faith, is received into the family of God. Cretin does not. They each die in their respective states.

Now here is my question for you: What caused the difference between these two people? What is it that made the one accept Christ and the other to reject him? Was it environment? Was it genetic? Do you deny that such a scenario could even occur?

Answering questions like this will tell you quite a bit about your faith.

Give it a shot.

You Have Misunderstood the Nature of the Law

In Romans 3:19-20 Paul says the following:

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Now, I had absorbed the fact that no man has been saved by the works of the law, but there was still a part of me that thought the law technically could  justify someone. You know, if some “hypothetical” man was somehow able to keep the law then he would be saved by the law. But what Paul is telling the us here is that this is not true. Instead, he is saying something along these lines:

To those of you who are trusting in the works of the law, you have completely misunderstood its nature. You are like a carpenter who has a too-short board, and who believes that if he measures it over and over again it will somehow get longer.  Jesus Christ was not made perfect by the Law, but rather, was perfect all along. All the Law did was allow you to contrast His perfection with your gross unrighteousness. The law, to those who are in sin, is nothing more than a tape measure, but you have been trying to use it as a ladder to God.

What do you think?

A Parable for Hyper-Calvinists

To those who say, “if God has ordained all things, then what does it matter if I witness since all who will be saved will be saved regardless what I do?,” you would do well to consider the parable of the talents:

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Matthew 25:14-30

It matters a great deal what you do, for by either your obedience  or your disobedience to the commands of God, you testify to whether you are a son of God or of the devil. This is not to say that salvation is by works, but that salvation does not exist without producing works. Those who hold to this position say in effect, God is so powerful and so completely in control, that I do not need to obey Him. It is nothing more than rebellion dressed up as obedience.

Comments?

Pleased and Displeased Without Contradiction

II Peter 3:9 reads as follows:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

And this is scripture and it is true, but what does it mean about God? I have heard people say that this verse means that God has no control over who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. If it was up to God, no one would go to Hell, they say and then are left scratching their heads at the idea of omnipotence.

Becoming a parent has helped clear these thoughts up for me. My son is almost 2½ and while he is a sweet child, he is also a son of Adam and born into sin. Because of this, there are times where I see him being tempted and while it is perfectly within my power to remove him from the temptation or the temptation from him, more often than not, and for a multitude of reasons, it pleases me to watch him struggle, it pleases me to watch him fall, and then it pleases me to spank him. And it pleases me, because by faith, I believe that God is using this process in both my and my son’s life. But at that very same time that I am so pleased, it also displeases me that Gavin has struggled and that he has failed. But consider this: there is no contradiction in my pleasure and my displeasure. Instead they sit very neatly side by side and the one complements the other. And I am just a man. How much more complex must an infinite God be?

We cheat ourselves and God of something when we think of Him so simply. To me, it is no contradiction to say that God has ordained all things for his purposes, to say that He is not willing that any should perish and then to affirm Romans 9:20-23:

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

What say you?

Turning Our Nation Around II: The War at Home

If a man would change the world, let him begin with something that is right before his eyes, let him lead his home.

My church hosted a father/son retreat this weekend, and I was fortunate enough to attend several of the sessions. I came away with a deeper appreciation for the incredible relationship that fathers and sons have and for the primal nature of that relationship. Some of the highlights that were particularly relevant to the discussion at hand are as follows:

The story of the Bible and of this world is essentially the story of a Father working through His Son, of Jehovah God, accomplishing all things through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Children, when you obey your father, you are testifying to the fact that there is a God in heaven who must be obeyed.  Father’s when you care for and discipline your children, you are testifying that there is a God who loves and chastens those who are His own.

Children, when you disobey your father, when you roll your eyes and mock his authority, you are committing high treason against heaven. Fathers, when you take too lightly your children’s rebellion, when you wink at it and let it exist unchecked, you are tolerating witchcraft in your homes.

We also spent a lot of time in Deuteronomy 6, reading the Shema Yisrael, and asking ourselves what a family would look like if it built itself around the Hebrew concept of learning, around the idea of a father walking and talking with his sons, taking them with him everywhere that he can, letting them see the world through the lens of his knowledge and experience. And not a perfect father, mind you, or perfect sons. Through all of this, we were reminded that every son is challenged by being forced to submit to and learn from an imperfect father and that every father is similarly challenged by having to lead and discipline imperfect sons.

To my mind, this is the first step in turning our nation around, that of turning our homes back to God, putting away our childishness and our love of sin and the easy life.

What do you say?

God for a Day

Here’s a thought experiment for you. Imagine for a moment that you are given the infinite power of God to do with as you please. For all intents and purposes, you are God.

What would you do?

Think about it for a moment, and throw away your little answers, like “I’d bring about world peace”, or “I would end world hunger and eradicate disease”. That’s kid’s stuff. You’re God, remember, so what would you do? And don’t go and copy your predecessor either. You have to think of something completely original. In fact, throw out all the concepts that you have now and come up with all new ones. You’re God, and there is no idea of war unless you say so, nor is there the notion of peace, but that you make it to be so.

What would you do?

Seriously, think about it for a second.

If you’re like me, you’ll hit a wall very quickly. I have no idea, was my honest answer to this question. I lack the necessary traction to even process the question. Everything I know, every concept, every idea or ability to process an idea is framed by the One True God, Jehovah. I can only imagine within the framework that He has created. And that is exactly as it should be.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Hebrews 11:3)

As always, feedback is appreciated.

Christ’s Death: A Solution to an Unexpected Problem?

 This will be a short post, but here’s a question for you:

Was Adam born to die?

Personally, I find it hard to believe that he wasn’t. If Jesus Christ’s earthly existence could be so determined, if we can say of Him that He was sent as a man, born to die, why is it any less insulting to think that Adam’s life could be described in this way?

Looking at Christ’s death as if it was a thought-up solution to the problem of Adam’s sin is like suggesting that a man who designs a battery-operated toy might have done so without understanding before the fact it’s need for a battery.

What do you think?

Meet Paul Washer

This three minute long video is series of edited excerpts from a sermon delivered by Paul Washer to 5,000 Southern Baptist teenagers. It is quite simply phenomenal. [Note: the editing and the addition of music and video was not done by Mr. Washer nor by me.]

If you are interested in hearing the full sermon, you can find it here.

The Disconnect

Subtitled: Moral Immorality, the Music and Movie Industry, Disney’s Double Standard, and the Duke Lacrosse Team and Honest Strippers

I’ve been meaning to post something along these lines for some time, but for a million insignificant reasons, I haven’t. It’s the sort of thing I think about every time I hear about the RIAA or the MPAA suing someone for illegal music or movie downloads, or when I occasionally read that Disney if firing some teen star because of the teens behavior. Most recently, it was brought to mind when I read a recap of the Duke lacrosse team case.

What always surprises me about the Duke lacrosse case is the statements I hear “Christians” make regarding how the team members were mistreated by the press, the justice system, and the perjuring stripper. I hear people defending the players and making statements that I swear, to my ears sound something like this:

It’s a sad day when men can’t hire a stripper without the fear of getting indicted for rape. I remember back in the “good ‘ol days” when strippers wanted nothing more than to do an honest Saturday evening’s work and get a good night’s sleep before going to church the next morning. It makes me sad to see the country falling apart like this. What’s next: doctor’s helping women kill their babies? I certainly hope not…

It’s sad really that people living in a society that allows men to legally hire a stripper are shocked to learn that someone who is ok with breaking God’s commandments about nudity, doesn’t have a problem with breaking his commandments about lying. These same people then follow that bit of illogic up with being shocked that the media and a district attorney drawn from that same society might not be quite so moral either.

And this sort of thinking is popping up everywhere:

The music and movie industry have spent the last 40+ years promoting immoral and illegal behavior and then they are “shocked” and “dismayed” to discover that a generation raised on the values they have sold have no problem with stealing music and movies.

Disney wants to make movies about kids who buck the system and who live their lives their own way, but they want young actresses and actors who follow Disney’s rules unquestioningly.

The church wants parents to take a greater role in their children’s lives, but it also takes every opportunity it can to separate the children from the parents and to suggest to the parents that teaching children is something best left to professionals.

Parents want their children to respect them and take what they say seriously, but parents flippantly choose to ignore Scripture and the spiritual authority of the church when it inconveniences them.

Short version: Wake up, you can’t have moral immorality… if you deny God’s word in one area, it affects all the other areas as well.

Any comments?