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In Exodus 5:1, Moses confronts Pharaoh, demanding that the Egyptian King should let the people of God go free. What's remarkable is the reason he gives:
“Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”’”
There were lots of reasons why the LORD wanted his people to be free from slavery in Egypt. He wanted them to be able to hear his law and learn to walk in his ways; he wanted their daily lives to be set free from the burden of making bricks without straw; he wanted them to live in the Promised Land and enjoy his promised goodness.
But here a different reason is given. The LORD wanted his people to be free to celebrate and enjoy fellowship with one another and with him by eating and drinking together.
Right from the beginning of their existence as a distinct people, feasting has always been a way of life for God's people.
Next Sunday is Big Sunday Lunch at Emmanuel. Don’t miss out.
Now, strictly speaking, I'm not convinced.
(1) Prayer in the Bible always seems to be talking to God. (I would be interested to hear any counter examples). Jesus says, "When you pray, say..." and gives the Lord's Prayer as something to say and as a model for our praying. When we pray we talk to God. Simple.
(2) The Reformed consensus is that God's Word to us is final and sufficient in Scripture. The Bible is God speaking today. He does not give new extra words. Listening to God is engaging with the Scriptures.
it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church;c and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;d which maketh the holy scripture to be most necessary;e those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.f The Westminster Confession of Faith (part of chapter 1, of the Holy Scripture)
We all know that prayer is not a vending machine and it is good if our prayers are not just shopping lists for ourselves but include Adoration of God, Confession of Sin, Thanksgiving and Supplication for others and ourselves (ACTS). We want to pray in the light of and in response to the Scriptures.
But we can go further.
Just because prayer is talking to God and reading the Bible is listening to God, it does not mean that either should be a speedy barrage of words. It might do us good to slow down and pause. We are not only to read and study the Bible but to think and meditate on it - to chew the cud, the murmur it over to ourselves. We do well to stock our minds with it. We have the blessing of printed Bibles we can read and of audio Bibles and so on, but what might our spirituality look like if we depended more on the Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle and Gospel we had heard read and proclaimed on Sunday? Would there be gains as well as losses?
Maybe we could slowly, thoughtfully, deliberately remember God and his presence with us and consciously enjoy him. We could pause to think of his majesty and goodness and love and to praise him. We could pray the Psalms we know. Or dwell on a single line from the teaching of Jesus.
And maybe we could even simply be with him. We need not bring our agenda. If our thoughts are racing and distracted, fine. He wants to hear about all that. We can talk to him freely. But maybe we could also learn to be quiet and still and wait in his presence.
It's worth a go, anyway.
This can be related to different ways of hearing God's word. In many synagogues and churches today the reading and hearing of Scripture serves community cohesion, gathering people around a tradition. This is good but not the same as communities receiving life in the hearing of Scripture and so becoming a mighty force to be reckoned with.
Acts 1 tells us that during the forty days following his resurrection Jesus continued to speak with his disciples about the kingdom of God. His ministry prior to the ascension can be summed up as a re-constitution of the people of God, symbolised in the election of twelve disciples. This is completed by the replacement of Judas by Matthias. But the Gospels also show us that Jesus's disciples continually failed to "get it" and so they may remind us of bones coming together, bone to its bone, with flesh and sinews on them - but as yet without the breath of life.
The breath/Spirit is of course given at Pentecost which turns the disciples into a force to be reckoned with, no longer just gathered around Jesus but a people on fire with a mission. This time the major second step takes place within the same generation but similar to Ezekiel's, the ministry of Jesus can be divided in a first phase which focused on gathering and re-constituting God's people around the prophet and a second phase during which the wind/Spirit brings life to the people of God once the prophet has been taken out of sight.
Both movements, the gathering around Christ in word and sacrament, and the sending out to the ends of the earth, are still still important within the church. The second cannot truly happen without the first; the first is not enough without the second.
... if in one point the Vulgate were in error the entire authority of Holy Scripture would collapse, love and faith would be extinguished, heresies and schism would abound, blasphemy would be committed against the Holy Spirit, the authority of the theologians would be shaken, and indeed the catholic Church would collapse from the foundation.
Quoted in Jenkins and Preston, Biblical Scholarship and the Church: A Sixteenth-Century Crisis of Authority (Ashgate, 2007) p27 from Bainton (1972) pp167-8
You will be pleased to know this is of course not true, by the way!Marc Lloyd
William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapletonis a classic of its kind, which is readily available in English.
I do not claim it should be your go to book on the doctrine of Scripture. In my view, Warfield and others have improved on the Reformed doctrine of Scripture they received from the tradition with fundamentally departing from it.
Whitaker’s Disputation is very much of its time. The structure sometimes leads to unnecessary repetition and makes things hard to find as Whitaker divides up refuting his opponents’ views and stating his positive case, and so on. It is not exactly encouraging when the translator feels the need to warn the reader about the author's tedious prolixity! Perhaps I might give a flavour of something of the style by this quotation from p348, Question 3, Argument 15, "As to [my opponent Stapleton's] first equivocation, I return a fourfold answer."
But I think it is of more than historical interest and possibly worth persevering with. It contains much that is interesting and useful. It would have been of most benefit to the openminded late 16th Century Papist but a 21st Century evangelical could no doubt profit from wrestling with it. You will have to search for the gems. Most of us are probably already persuaded, for example, that the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts are preferable to the Latin Vulgate and will not need 100 pages of demonstration of the fact. Here I have attempted to extract, organise and summarise the most useful and interesting bits of its 700+ pages for today’s evangelical.
 (Latin original 1588; The Parker Society Edition, Translated and Edited by William Fitzgerlad, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, MDCCCXLIX = 1849) Forgotten Books Reprinting, London, 2015  This should probably be Tim Ward’s Words of Life Marc Lloyd
1 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.
5 And now I ask you, dear lady – not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning –that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.
8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
13 The children of your elect sister greet you.
Goldingay comments that "Most readers of this commentary therefore have to see themselves as the people who are being prayed against." (p184)
One can see where he gets this from, but to my mind it is absurd. What is fundamental to my identity? Not how rich or powerful I am, but whether or not I am humbly trusting in Yahweh. That this the basic dividing line in the Psalm and it tells you whether you can pray this prayer or cop it. Marc Lloyd
The third extract from some notes for a recent Bible study on 1 John:
4. A deliberate grammatical error in John 1:1-3
“A grammatical obstacle course” (Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, p. 152)
Take a look at the literal translation below:
1 Which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have touched, concerning the word of life 2 (and the life appeared, and we have seen it and we testify and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has appeared to us) 3 which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you.
The main verb is proclaim, which generally requires a grammatical object (i.e. the thing that it being proclaimed). Strangely, though, the grammatical object is nowhere to be found! Instead, it is referred to by a string of relative pronouns (which... which... which...), which tell us about the thing that is being proclaimed without telling us what it is.
This forces the reader to ask, “What exactly is being proclaimed?” The most obvious answer would seem to be the eternal life, because in v. 2 John uses the same verb proclaim again, this time with the eternal life as its object. But this can’t be the object of proclaim in v. 3, because (i) it’s in the wrong place in the sentence, and (ii) life is feminine in gender, but the pronouns (which) are neuter.
John is doing something extraordinarily subtle here. He’s trying to get us to work out for ourselves what it is that is being proclaimed – in other words, to fill in what he’s left out of the red box. It must be a neuter noun (to match with which), and it must be a message of some kind (otherwise it would make no sense to proclaim it). The most obvious candidate is the gospel, since this is a neuter noun (euangelion) denoting the message the apostles proclaimed. As we read, we’re supposed to imagine that the gospel is there at the start of the sentence (as in the right-hand side of the table above), even though it’s not actually written.
So why does John express himself in this way – implying the gospel without actually saying it? The answer is intriguing. John can’t actually say the gospel in this context, because then the content of the relative clauses (from the beginning, heard, seen with our eyes, looked upon, touched) wouldn’t make any sense. After all, it is the Son of God himself, and not the gospel, who was from the beginning, whom John heard, looked at, touched and so on.
But John wants us to understand that when we hear the gospel, the message that John proclaimed, we are actually encountering Jesus the Son of God personally. When we hear the gospel, we are encountering the one who was from the beginning, whom John heard, looked at, touched. For the gospel is not just information, it is an encounter with a person, the living Lord Jesus, the Son of God.
Module T1.1 Introduction and the Doctrine of Revelation
Seminar 3: Prayer
This is the third of the three introductory sessions, which are designed to pave the way for the programme of theological study that follows. Here’s an outline of the first three weeks:
Session 1: Approaching theological study (Thielicke, A Little Exercise)
Session 2: Godliness and theological study (Calvin, Institutes)
Session 3: Prayer (Calvin, Institutes)
The reading for week 3 is from Calvin’s Institutes, III.xx, on the subject of prayer – arguably one of the most profound and thought-provoking pieces of writing on this subject within the Reformed tradition.
This is quite a long chapter, so please don’t worry if you don’t have time to finish it all. I suggest that you focus your attention on the first part of the chapter, up to section 33 (p. 897). Don’t worry so much about the exposition of the Lord’s Prayer from sections 34 to 49 – it’s great stuff, and well worth reading, but we can’t do everything
As ever, I encourage you to let the questions help you with the reading. Don’t try to read through the whole of the chapter of Calvin and only then come back and look at the questions! Instead, keep both the study questions and Calvin’s Institutes open in front of you at the same time, and use the questions to help you to focus your attention in the appropriate places of the book. The questions are there to guide you in your reading, so that you know what you’re looking for.
If you find yourself running short of time, then I suggest you omit the questions marked with an asterisk *.
Questions to think about
Before you begin reading, take a few minutes to think about the following questions:
a. What teaching (from sermons, books, etc.) have you encountered in recent years on the subject of prayer?
b. How and when do you pray?
c. What aspects of your prayer life are you most happy with, and which are you most dissatisfied with?
d. Does prayer need to be spontaneous, or is it good to use set forms of prayer? Why?
e. Does God answer the prayers of unbelievers?
1. How does Calvin seek to persuade us of the importance of prayer (III.xx.1-2)?
2. How would Calvin respond to the claim that prayer is superfluous since God already knows what we need (III.xx.3)? What do you think of his counter-arguments?
3. What would Calvin say to a believer who found it hard to concentrate during prayer (III.xx.5)?
For reflection: Have you ever found this yourself? Do you find his advice helpful?
4. Why, in Calvin’s view, must prayer be accompanied by “an earnest—nay, burning—desire to attain” what we pray for (III.xx.6)?
For reflection: Do you ever neglect prayer because you don’t feel any immediate or pressing need to pray?
5. Why is prayer for forgiveness so important (III.xx.8-9)?
6. Should we be sure that God will answer our prayers? Why or why not (III.xx.11-14)?
7. How does God regard imperfect prayers? Why (III.xx.15-16)?
8. What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? Why is this so important (III.xx.17-19)?
In sections 21 to 27 Calvin critiques the Medieval Catholic belief in the intercession of the saints.
9. Why is it wrong to seek the intercession of the saints (III.xx.21, 27)?
10. What dangers should we be alert for in public prayer? What steps should we take to avoid them (III.xx.29)?
11. What does Calvin think about singing (III.xx.31-32)? Do you agree?
12. Why should prayer be “in the language of the people” (III.xx.33)?
The next few questions (qus 13 to 22) focus on Calvin’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer (sections 34 to 49). I suggest that you omit these if you’re pressed for time.
*13. Why is the Lord’s Prayer useful (III.xx.34)?
*14. How, according to Calvin, is the Lord’s Prayer structured (III.xx.35)?
*15. What is the significance of addressing God as “our Father in heaven” (III.xx.36-39)?
*16. What does “hallowed be your name” mean? Why is this petition important (III.xx.41)?
*17. How does Calvin understand God’s “kingdom”? What should be our priority in praying “your kingdom come” (III.xx.42)? How is this related to the following petition, “Your will be done” (III.xx.43)? Do these priorities shape your prayers?
*18. What does it mean to pray for our “daily bread”? What attitude should underlie this petition (III.xx.44)? Do you find it easy to maintain such an attitude at all times?
*19. How, in Calvin’s view, are the fifth and sixth petitions related to Jeremiah 31 (III.xx.45-46)?
*20. What does it mean to “forgive our debtors” (III.xx.45)? Have you done this?
*21. How should we envisage that God will answer the sixth petition (III.xx.46)?
*22. “This prayer is in all respects so perfect that any extraneous or alien thing added to it, which cannot be related to it, is impious and unworthy to be approved by God” (III.xx.48; cf. III.xx.49). What does Calvin mean by this? Do you agree?
These final few questions focus on some of Calvin’s valuable practical advice in sections 50 to 52. They’re well worth looking at.
23. What do you make of Calvin’s practical advice about times of prayer (III.xx.50)?
24. What does Calvin advise in order that “we shall easily learn to persevere in prayer” (III.xx.51)? How is this related to Calvin’s advice in the case of unanswered prayer (III.xx.52)?
For reflection: What aspects of Calvin’s teaching on prayer have challenged you most strongly? Are you planning to introduce any changes to your habits of prayer?
I am writing on the morning after the bomb in Manchester which killed 22 people, injured another 59 and we are waiting for news of those who are still missing, including an eight year old girl. The nation and the world has been shocked and filled with disbelief, anger, grief and a sense that things might be getting worse, out of control and that nowhere in the world is now safe. I am wrestling with what to say, knowing that I can’t possibly write all that needs to be said but I can write something to encourage a good response in us all.
Once the shock as passed we need to ask, “how should Christian disciples respond?” There are some immediate very practical responses we can make. There will also be longer term responses, as God leads us through lament to radical and lasting change as his people.
Practically, we must try and strike the right balance between two extremes. We must not let this wash over us, with no emotion, turning our hearts cold and hard to yet another shocking news item. This is real and affects real people and so we should not be wearied by yet another tragedy. Nor should we, at the other extreme, collapse in uncontrolled grief and shock. It is right to weep with those who are weeping, to grieve with those who grieve (Romans 12:15). I have shed a tear this morning for those who can’t find loved ones, especially parents looking for children. The Apostle Peter calls us to be self controlled and prayerful as we respond (1 Peter 4:7).
If the tragedy has affected anyone we know personally, then we can ask the Lord for wisdom to know what to do or say. And we can pray. We pray for the families of victims to be comforted in their sorrow; we can give thanks for all the acts of kindness and the work of the emergency services; we should cry out to God for wisdom, courage and compassion as we make Christ known in all the world.
There may be reports of Muslims being persecuted by non-Muslims in reaction to terrorism, but this cannot be a Christian disciple’s response. It is wrong to stereotype people when there is such complexity and diversity within the Muslim world. All people are created by God in his image and are precious in his sight. Everyone needs the deep repentance and faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord which leads to eternal salvation. Christians must never seek to pay back wrong for wrong but to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thess 5:15).
Longer term, what will come of this when we turn our thoughts to God? Most Western people will have a belief system which says “I cannot believe in a god who would let such a terrible thing happen.” In other words, if God could stop this and didn’t I don’t want to know him! This response is understandable but it shows a closed mind and lack of knowledge of God. As we seek the truth of who God is, he will change our view of Him if we ask “Is there any way I can trust God, if he could have stopped this, but didn’t?” or “If God allowed this to happen for good reasons, which I can’t see or understand, what should my response be to him?”
God has put it on my heart to pray through Lamentations for the past two weeks and I have the real sense he was preparing me and Holy Trinity to enter a season of lament, crying out to God for the way things have gone wrong in the Western church. Culturally, the British don’t lament, we grumble with a stiff upper lip. We can and should learn how to lament from the scriptures. The book of Lamentations was most probably written by the prophet Jeremiah when the city of Jerusalem was under siege and fell to the invading armies of the Babylonians as God called his people to repentance and faith. Chapter 5 is a cry to God to restore us to Himself as we realise our helplessness without him. Will you pray it with me? Some themes of this lament, though not all of them, strike a deep chord with us all today and move us to radical and lasting change.
With love, Neil
Lamentations chapter 5
Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
look, and see our disgrace!
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to foreigners.
We have become orphans, fatherless;
our mothers are like widows.
We must pay for the water we drink;
the wood we get must be bought.
Our pursuers are at our necks;
we are weary; we are given no rest.
We have given the hand to Egypt, and to Assyria,
to get bread enough.
Our fathers sinned, and are no more;
and we bear their iniquities.
Slaves rule over us;
there is none to deliver us from their hand.
We get our bread at the peril of our lives,
because of the sword in the wilderness.
Our skin is hot as an oven
with the burning heat of famine.
Women are raped in Zion,
young women in the towns of Judah.
Princes are hung up by their hands;
no respect is shown to the elders.
Young men are compelled to grind at the mill,
and boys stagger under loads of wood.
The old men have left the city gate,
the young men their music.
The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head;
woe to us, for we have sinned!
For this our heart has become sick,
for these things our eyes have grown dim,
for Mount Zion which lies desolate;
jackals prowl over it.
But you, O Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
Why do you forget us forever,
why do you forsake us for so many days?
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old—
unless you have utterly rejected us,
and you remain exceedingly angry with us.
Have you ever noticed that Christian worship involves a fair amount of moving about? For most of the service we remain seated, but we stand at the call to worship, whenever we sing a hymn, during the prayers, and then again at the blessing. And of course we kneel to confess our sins, before standing immediately afterwards for the assurance of forgiveness.
Why is this? What’s all the movement about? Why don’t we just remain seated, nice and comfortably, for the whole service?*
The answer is that what we do with our bodies is important. As with raising our hands for prayer, these aspects of our physical posture are in themselves important aspects of our worship.
Remember the illustration I mentioned previously: What are you doing when you shake someone’s hand or give someone a hug? You’re not just performing an incidental action to accompany your display of love or friendship; the action is itself part of your display of love and friendship. In the same way, the physical gestures of worship are not just an accompaniment to our worship; they are a part of our worship itself.
So what’s significant about standing, sitting and kneeling?
Kneeling is perhaps the most obvious. It’s a gesture of humility. We “lower” ourselves physically as a way of displaying our brokenness and sorrow for our sin, and to reflect the fact that our sin creates a sense of “distance” between ourselves and our God, who is “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1) in his holiness and purity.
Kneeling has this kind of significance in many parts of Scripture. King Solomon knelt to pray in 1 Kings 8 when he sought the LORD’s forgiveness for the sin of his people. The man with leprosy knelt before Jesus in Matthew 8:2, perhaps reflecting the sense of impurity entailed by his disease. And in Psalm 95, when we come into God’s presence (v. 1), we’re invited to “kneel before the LORD, our Maker” (v. 6).
Not surprisingly, then, we kneel at the point of the service where humility is most appropriate – during the confession.
Standing is a little trickier to understand. Perhaps the simplest way of getting to the heart of it is to think of “standing to attention”, like soldiers on parade before their commanding officer, or princes in the court of a great king. In a similar vein, Prophets are characteristically described in Scripture as those who “stand” before the LORD to speak to him and to hear his word.
In this context, to stand is a gesture of respect for God, perhaps also coupled with a sense that we’re going to be sent out into the world to speak and act on behalf of the Lord. So we stand when we’re addressing God directly – in prayer, or in song – and at some other points when he is speaking directly to us, such as the call to worship, the assurance of forgiveness, and the final blessing.
Finally, what is the significance of sitting? To sit means to be at rest, to be in fellowship with God as our Father, to be in a place of privilege. We sit with the Lord to eat with him (fellowship), we sit enthroned with Christ in the heavenly places (privilege).
Consequently, we sit at points in the service where the emphasis is on our fellowship with God as our Father, such as the sermon (“Fatherly instruction” rather than “Orders from our Commanding Officer”) and the Lord’s Supper.
*Of course, people who have bad knees, or mums who are feeding small children, should feel welcome to remain seated throughout the whole service – along with anyone else for whom standing or kneeling would be very uncomfortable for medical reasons.
The second extract from some notes for a recent Bible study on 1 John:
2. The relationship between 1 John and John's Gospel
- Similar imagery, vocabulary, themes, metaphors, etc.
- Light, darkness, testimony, truth, life, seeing, etc.
a. The two prologues
Question: Compare 1 John 1:1-7 with John 1:1-18. How many parallels can you find? Consider both parallel words and also parallel ideas.
b. The two "purpose statements"
Question: Compare the "purpose statements" towards the end of John's Gospel and the first letter of John. What similarities are there? What are the differences? Why might the differences be significant?
c. Could John's Gospel help us to interpret John's letters?
Question: What is meant by "the children of the devil" and "the works of the devil"? (1 John 3:8-10)? How might John 8 help us to understand these phrases? (See for example John 8:44.)
3. The structure of 1 John
a. Overall shape
"Circular rather than linear" (Karen Jobes, 1, 2 and 3 John, p. 38)
"... the literary equivalent of musical variations on a theme – a constant circling around the basic issue, coming at it from a variety of angles, developing now this aspect and now that aspect, balancing one statement with another in order to clarify what is and is not entailed, returning to a point already made so that it may be seen afresh in the light of what has been said subsequently." (Walter Moberly, quoted in Jobes, 1, 2 and 3 John, p. 38)
b. Understanding the development of themes in 1 John
Question: Consider the example of light. This first appears in 1:5-7, then disappears for a while, then reappears in 2:10-11 (see diagram on next page). Here's the challenge: How exactly has John developed this theme between these two points in the letter? What do we discover about "light" in 1:5? What new perspective on "light" do we find when the word reappears in 2:10-11?
(2) duration and wonderful preservation
(3) with regard to its instruments and amanuenses, the human authors, their sincerity and candor
(4) its adjuncts, the number, constancy and condition of the martyrs who sealed it with their blood (p63). And the many miracles God worked to induce belief in the divinity of the Bible. (p63). The consent of all people in receiving these books
(1) the matter – wonderfully sublime mysteries e.g. Trinity, Incarnation; the purity of its precepts; predictive prophecy fulfilled
(2) style – majesty, simplicity, boldness etc.
(3) form – divine agreement and entire harmony between books, writers etc.
(4) the end – the glory of God and the salvation and holiness of people
(5) its effects – light and efficacy in generating faith and piety, triumphing over the kingdom of Satan
(IET, vol 1, pp63-64)
"Yet even among Christians of this age, there are too many atheists and libertines who endeavour in every way to weaken this most sacred truth [the inspiration of Scripture]." (IET, vol 1, p62)Marc Lloyd
Turretin uses the categories of substance and accidents from Aristotle familiar from the doctrine of transubstantiation to speak of the Word of God (substance) in its forms (accidents), written and unwritten. (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, p58)Marc Lloyd
“This attribute [of the perfection or sufficiency] of Holy Scripture also must be correctly understood. It does not mean that all that has been said or written by the prophets, by Christ, and the apostles is included in Scripture. Many prophetic and apostolic writings have been lost…. [list of citations] …. [Jesus and the apostles said many more things] … Nor does this attribute imply that Scripture contains all the practices, ceremonies, rules, and regulations that the church needs for its organization but only that it completely contains “the articles of faith” (articuli fidei), “the matters necessary to salvation. Neither does this attribute of Scripture mean that these articles of faith are literally and in so many words contained in it. Rather, it only [claims that], either explicitly or implicitly, they are so included that they can be derived from it solely by comparative study and reflection, without the help of another source.” (p488)
“this perfection of Holy Scripture must not be interpreted to mean that Scripture was always the same in degree of its perfection (quod gradum) with respect to its length.” (p488) In each period God’s word was sufficient for the time (p488)
Scripture “the total and sufficient rule of faith and morals” (p488) No other principle of knowledge
“the sufficiency of Holy Scripture results from the nature of the NT dipensation. Christ became flesh and completed all his work. He is the last and supreme revelation of God, who declared to us the Father (John 1:18; 17:4, 6). By him God has spoken in the last days (Heb. 1:1-2). He is the supreme and only prophet.” (p490)
“the idea that some writings were lost and the issue of whether they were inspired or not are not at all the point. The question is only whether the present Bible contains everything we need to know for our salvation and not whether it contains everything the prophets and apostles ever wrote and Christ himself said or did. Even if still other prophetic and apostolic writings were found, they could no longer serve as Holy Scripture…. For our salvation Scripture is sufficient; we do not need any more documents, even if they came from Jesus himself. That is the teaching of the Reformation. Quantitatively revelation was much richer and more comprehensive than Scripture has preserved for us; but qualitatively and in terms of substance, Holy Scripture is perfectly adequate for our salvation.” (p491)
“Scripture is sufficient and … the nature of the NT dispensation logically brings with it and demands this sufficiency of Holy Scripture. Christ has fully – personally and orally, or by his Spirit – revealed everything to the apostles. Upon this word we believe in Christ and have fellowship with God (John 17:20; 1 John 1:3). The Holy Spirit no longer reveals any new doctrines but takes everything from Christ (John 16:14). In Christ God’s revelation has been completed. In the same way the message of salvation is completely contained in Scripture. It constitutes a single whole; it itself conveys the impression of an organism that has reached its full growth. It ends where it begins. It is a circle that returns into itself. It begins with the creation of heaven and earth and ends with the recreation of heaven and earth.” (p491)
“The canon of the OT and NT was not closed until all new initiatives of redemptive history were present. In this dispensation the Holy Spirit has no other task than to apply the work of Christ and similarly to explain the word of Christ. To neither does he add anything new.” (p491) – Christ does not need to be supplemented or succeeded (p492)
“The Roman Catholic doctrine of tradition is the denial of the complete incarnation of God in Christ, of the all-sufficiency of his sacrifice, of the completeness of his Word.” (p492)
“however clear the Bible may be in its doctrine of salvation, and however certainly it is and remains the living voice of God, for a correct understanding it still often requires a wide range of historical, archaeological, and geographical skills and information.” (p493)
“Tradition in its proper sense is the interpretation and application of the eternal truth in the vernacular and life of the present generation. Scripture without such a tradition is impossible.” (p493)
RD vol 1Marc Lloyd
The point is perhaps strengthened now that we have seen a pope retire. Marc Lloyd
Bavinck, RD, vol 1, p483Marc Lloyd
The first extract from some notes for a recent Bible study on 1 John:
1. The overall message of 1 John
Was John addressing false teaching in the early church?
a. Three inter-related philosophies in the ancient Greek world
(1) Gnosticism (Gk. gnōsis, "knowledge"; ginōskō, "I know")
- The world was not created directly by God, but by a lesser power, the Demiurge, who acted as an intermediary between God and the creation.
- Jesus is really human, but not really divine. He is not the Son of God ; he is a messenger from God, who came to bring salvation by imparting secret knowledge (Gk. gnōsis) to his followers.
- Godliness is unimportant, for salvation comes purely through esoteric knowledge.
(2) Cerinthianism (Cerinthus, lived late C1 – early C2)
- Jesus was just an ordinary human being, the natural biological son of Joseph and Mary.
- The Christ was a spiritual force that descended upon Jesus from heaven at his baptism and left him at his crucifixion.
- The world was not created directly by God, but by angels, who acted as intermediaries between God and the creation.
(3) Docetism (Gk. dokēsis, "phantom, apparition"; dokeō, "I seem")
- Gnostic doctrine of creation.
- Jesus was not really human. He didn't have a real human body, or indeed a real human nature; he only seemed to be a true human being.
Question: How might the following texts have been intended to challenge these three philosophies?
- 1 John 1:1-3
- 1 John 2:3-6
- 1 John 2:9-11
- 1 John 2:18-19
- 1 John 2:22-23
- 1 John 3:10
- 1 John 4:1-3
- 1 John 4:15
- 1 John 4:20
- 2 Jn 7
b. The Jewish background of Gnosticism, Cerinthianism and Docetism
Peter Leithart, The Epistles of John, pp. 13-26:
"Here is a hypothesis: Gnosticism is in (perhaps large) part, a product of Judaism and, more specifically, of Judaizing," that is, clinging to Jewish patterns of life after the coming of Christ.
"First, a substantial body of scholarly literature connects Gnosticism with various forms of Judaism."
"Second... early church writings often trace heretical movements [including Gnosticism] to Judaism."
"Gnosticism arises from the same set of fears and desires" as Judaizing. For example, "God acts through mediating angels" who "delivered the law"; God "hid" himself in the Most Holy Place; God has "secret" plans which are only revealed to a few "priests and prophets".
By contrast, "the gospel opens the veil, makes secrets known, brings an end to taboo by revealing the mystery. In Christ, we know what God's plan is; the living Word... has become flesh and dwelt and spoken and acted among us. The apostles touched and saw... the Holy One of Israel."
Thus 1 John opposes both the Judaizing tendencies found all over the early church and also the Gnostic philosophies that arose from them.
Question: The verb "know" (ginōskō) appears many times in John's letters (1 John 2:3 [twice], 4, 5, 13, 14 [twice], 18, 29; 3:1 [twice], 6, 16, 19, 20, 24; 4:2, 6 [twice], 7, 8, 13, 16; 5:2, 20; 2 John 1). Why do you think this might be?