A Few Thoughts on the Means of Grace

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Means of Grace — Those instruments of God’s favor that God uses as the means by which God accomplishes His people’s conformity to Christ and growth in the Christian faith.

Means of Grace — Word & Sacrament

Two Sacraments — Baptism & Eucharist

We see all these present in Acts 2:38f

A Sacrament is not merely a symbol as if baptism and the Lord’s Table merely represented something else as a flag might stand as a symbol for a nation.  The Sacraments are not mere visible jogs to the memory to remember something larger. In a Biblical understanding of the Sacrament the reality of what is being pointed to is contained in the symbol and for those who participate by faith the sacrament is what it symbolizes and so does what it promises.

Illustration — Sign saying Lansing is 25 miles away.

But what if the Sign was made of that which is Lansing? Maybe of a peculiar type of tree that grew in Lansing. And maybe the dye that formed the letters on the Sign was of a dye that was peculiar to Lansing. There would be a sense then that the sign to Lansing, as a symbol for Lansing, had Lansing in it.

Just so with the Sacraments. God, in His sovereignty, has put the reality of forgiveness, cleansing, and eternal life into the Word and Sacraments themselves and for those who come to the Sacraments full of Faith in Christ alone the Sacraments give what they symbolize. For those who do not come in faith then the Sacraments remain only empty symbols that at best jog the memory.

This explains why throughout much of our Church History God’s people have so desired the means of Grace and why Church attendance was such a given. God’s people understood that in the assembled community of God’s saints there they would be fed with Eternal life and drink the promises of God’s favor. In the assembling of the saints, Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day, the weary and battered people of God would come and be built up and strengthened by God’s favor preached.

Illustration — The means of Grace, Word and Sacrament, then is like Josh’s Pickle juice after fighting in his 90 pounds of armor in the hot sun when he does his Medieval Knight re-enactments. Worn out and weary with the exertion of fighting I am told that Pickle juice revives and vivifies almost instantly.

Just so with the means of Grace. We gather Lord’s day by Lord’s Day, weary and exhausted with contending for the crown rights of the Lord Christ in battle — whether that battle is with foes external or internal or both. Where will we find the refreshment for our souls and the invigoration to continue? The Church has always taught the place that is found is gathered worship … in the means of Grace … in Word and Sacrament…. in God’s pickle juice for spent warriors.

Illustration — Popeye and Spiritual Spinach

II.) Means of Grace (Baptism) Teaches a particular Anthropology

Because of their belief in Covenant Theology Reformed people have always inclined towards being Conservative with its impulse of seeing that human nature is corporate before it is individual. Liberal thought, as expressed most clearly in Anabaptist circles, has always seen the individual as having pride of place over the community. The individual precedes and the community depends upon the collection of individuals. This has meant that the sovereign self is the prime integer in Anabaptist Christianity. This is not so for those who are Biblical Christians…. for the Reformed.

The Reformed never gave up on the individual but in its Covenant theology it could never tolerate the radical Anabaptists with their hyper and atomistic individualism. Covenant theology teaches us that all of God’s people through time are one organic people. We belong to our forbears before we belong to ourselves and we belong to God along with our forbears. This is a different view than that which is espoused at the heart of the organizing motif of Western culture with its social contract theory. The Christian faith at this point lies in contradiction to the official anthropology of the West which at its heart is indeed liberal.

We see biblical anthropology in our Baptism services when the Generations assemble at the Baptismal font in order that a member of their family may be ratified in their place in the covenant of grace. This covenant into which they are being announced is a covenant in which their forebears were placed through the centuries and it is a place where the Baptized infant’s generations to follow will also be announced. Also, the very nature of Federal Theology with its idea of Federal Headship pushes Reformed people in a conservative direction. The teaching of Scripture where we find man created as incomplete apart from woman suggests that the individual is not the primary building block of society but rather the community is apriori to the individual. Likewise the idea of the fifth commandment pushes Christians towards being conservative in their disposition. Family is to be honored. Even the very idea of the God as Triune having Eternal community pushes the Biblical Christian towards conservative commitments.

Infant Baptism then is radical break with our non-Christian, hyper-individual Anabaptist culture. In our Church culture we have individuals walking the sawdust trail. We have individuals “askingJesusintotheirhearts.” In our Western Church culture we talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus.” We talk about datable conversions … our “born on date,” as if this was a matter of our choosing and and not God’s. All those, when spoken about apart from a covenantal context mitigate against a Biblical anthropology which normatively finds man coming to Christ as a member of a community that has come to Christ by God’s sovereign election.

R2K, Dr. Brian Lee Quote Juxtaposed w/ Planned Parenthood Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pyuCWbnfmk

While our Congress considers cutting public funds to the world’s leading abortionist organization, it’s healthy to take a trip down Agnostic Memory Lane. This is a quote from Dr. Brian Lee and was culled from Iron Ink in a  piece refuting Dr. Brian Lee’s views.

 
“Shall we enact laws against abortion? Christians may, in our wisdom, decide it is best to do so. But neither the Church nor her preachers can say unambiguously that such laws must be enacted. She lacks the authority, and the wisdom, to do so. Perhaps such a law will backfire; perhaps it will lead to more abortions, to more deadly abortions. Perhaps it is politically unwise, though being morally just. If she bases her actions on what God’s word teaches, the church must remain agnostic on such questions.”
 
Dr. Brian Lee,
Latin Reader
Published by Reputable Academic German Publishing House
Good Friend of US Senator Sasse
WSC graduate and R2k disciple
 
 

Luther & Knox Concerning Disobedient Magistrates

“The Sword of Justice, Madam, is God’s, and is given to princes and rulers for one end. If they fail in their duty and spare the wicked, then those who intervene and deal out the requisite punishment will not offend God. Nor are those who restrain kings from striking innocent men committing any sin, as numerous Biblical example demonstrate. In Scotland, judges are empowered by Act of Parliament to seek out and punish those who celebrate Mass, and it is your duty, Madam, to support them. Ye should therefore consider what it is that your subjects expect from you, and what it is that ye ought to do unto them by mutual contract. They are bound to obey you and that not but in God. Ye are bound to keep laws unto them. Ye crave of them service: they crave of you protection and defence against wicked doers. Now, Madam, if ye shall deny your duty unto them…think ye to receive full obedience of them? I fear, Madam, ye shall not.”

John Knox
Interview w/ Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots
Teaching us on the proper disposition to Magistrates

_______________

Here is Luther. In fairness, I’m told that Luther had a change of heart after 1530. Still, this provides an interesting contrast.

“Thus one has to suffer the power of a prince. If he misuses his power one should not turn one’s back on him, nor take revenge, nor punish him actively. One has to be obedient to him solely for the sake of God, because he is in God’s place.”

Evangelium am 23
Sonntag nach Trinitas

“Even if the magistrate is wicked and unjust there should be no excuse for rioting or rebellion. For not everybody has the right to punish wickedness; only the secular authorities in the possession of the sword.”

Ermahung zum Frieden auf die 12 Artikel der Bauernschaft in Schwaben

“It is better that the tyrants be a hundred times unjust to the people than that the people inflict one injustice on the tyrants. If there must be injustice it is to be preferred that we suffer from the authorities than that the magistrate suffer from the subjects.”

Ob Kriegsleute auch im seligen Stande sein konnen

“One ought not to resit outrage but rather suffer it; yet one should not approve of it….

“The princes of the world are gods, the common people are Satan, through whom God sometimes accomplishes what He would otherwise accomplish through Satan, namely rebellions, as punishment for wicked men.”

Von weltlicher Obeerkeit wie weit man ihr Gehorsam schuldig sei

“The donkey wants to be beaten and the mob wants to be ruled by force; God knew this well. This is the reason He gave the sword into the hands of the magistrate and not a foxtail.”

_________

500 years later Christians continue to debate whether the Luther approach or the Knox approach is more God honoring. For reasons already set out on Iron Ink I clearly think the early Luther was in error and Knox is right.

No Magistrate, no Husband, no Father, no Employer, no Minister, is owed unconditional obedience. Only God is owed unconditional obedience. Magistrates, as Covenant heads who viciously and continually violate the charters and covenant documents of a Nation, are no longer to be considered Magistrates, but instead are to be considered the Devil’s spawn and so are to be resisted when opportunity arises and the possibility of success is good.

It may be the case that we submit to wicked magistrates because the time is not right to resist because they have the biggest guns but strategically submitting is not the same thing as submitting because of the righteous claim of a magistrate.

The old Cameronian Covenanter motto holds true,

“Rebellion against Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

Leddihn & McAtee on the Impact of Religion

“Of all the ‘external’ elements shaping the character of individuals as well as of groups religion is, perhaps, the strongest. This should not surprise us, because every higher religion offers us an almost complete picture of a meaningful universe; it points out a destination and a way. It is, therefore, self-evident that different religions involve different ways of life: they will influence our temperaments.We should never underestimate the effect of such other factors as geography, meteorology, biology, nourishment, history, sociology; yet the great changes resulting from the conversion of large groups cannot leave us unimpressed. Even after a short time, entirely new behavior patterns emerge. One has only to compare the inhabitants of Catholic and of Protestant islands in the Hebrides in order to appreciate the importance of the religious factor; or to compare villages belonging to these two different religious communities in central Germany, in Hungary, in the Netherlands, Latvia or Switzerland. An invisible line divides the cultural patterns of these communities, even thought they speak the same language and obey the same laws.”

Liberty or Equality — pg. 179
Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

1.) Don’t miss that we are talking here of “external” elements. Religion is external inasmuch as it is that which is from outside of us (from above) that forms the man and/or people. It is an outside element that adjusts our most inward dispositions. It is an outside element that shapes both the individual and the the institutions and social order that ends up contributing in shaping us.

There are internal elements as well that have need to be considered. For example, who God has made us to be in our generations — our very DNA — is a great factor to be considered in this matter of the factors that shape character. Religion, as an external element, never works to shape the character of individuals or people groups apart from whom God has made them to be in their very corporeality.

To insist that religion is that alone which forms a man or people group would be fall into the error of Gnosticism.  To insist that heredity alone forms a man or people group would be to fall into the errors of materialism. To insist that man can be only understood in terms of his environment would be the error of Skinnerian Behaviorism.

2.) For those with eyes to see, all of life is a carefully choreographed religious dance. From our habits, to our social order, to our Institutions, to our inventions, to our calendars, to our shopping malls, to our entertainments, to our art, to our science, to our fashions, everything is screaming our religion and so our Theology. Our everyday life is ablaze with theological meaning and significance. This is so true that we can paraphrase Lenin by saying, “culture is but a mere continuation of religion.” For those with eyes to see looking at a culture and a social order is to look upon religion in action.

3.) The great lie of Modernity and Anabaptist and R2K theology  is that religion can be cordoned off and isolated to some private realm. One can insist on this aberration all they like but the passion of the insistence does not make it so. The great error of all Enlightenment project thinking is that reality can be compartmentalized into air-tight compartments that have little or no relation to one another. This lack of systemic thinking has been the genesis for the elimination of Biblical Christianity and the rise of Humanism.

4.) Note that not even a shared language and shared laws can strip the impact of different religions upon the same people. We see this in spades today. Cultural Marxist Americans from the same families are radically different from Biblical Christians from the same families. Even family members who differ in their Christianities, let’s say Pentecostal vs. Roman Catholic vs. Reformed,  are going to be very different in the way that people who hold to those different faiths lean into life, in the their disposition and attitudes, in the way they lean into life.  The more exacting each is, in regard to their faith, the more sharp the contrasts.

Sermon Notes — John 6:1-21

Introduction

The Importance of Gathered Worship

As we enter into worship again we are reminded that the Church has always held this “time of gathered worship” to be “sacred” or a uniquely “set apart” time. It is as if we have stepped out of one reckoning of Time that is itself, by God’s sanctification of it, “Holy” into another reckoning of Time that is doubly sanctified by God as “Holy of Holies.” Apart from this Holy of Holy time of worship other time cannot find its own proper set apartness. In entering into Worship we have thus entered into a different kind of time. Oh, to be sure, the second and minute hand on the clock moves in the same way, and the cares and concerns of that other time are still with us, but in this sacred worship time we are reoriented ourselves to the things that matter most. In this Time meaning for all other time finds its meaning and so we find our meaning. The sacredness of Worship time is not found in the Minister — except as he serves as God’s spokesman, nor in the Church pews or building itself but the sacredness of Worship time is found in the fact that the Sovereign of the Universe has gathered His people to meet with them during this time around Word and Sacrament.

We might likewise speak of the sacredness of this space. All space is Holy as set apart unto God but this space at this time we might carefully and judiciously speak of as Holy of Holy space. Made sacred by the fact that God has condescended to meet with us in this space at this time via Word and Sacrament. It is not the building itself nor the sanctuary itself that makes the space sacred as if the building and sanctuary in and of themselves carried this quality but the building and sanctuary have sacredness to them as the place where God meets with man around God’s appointed means of Grace.

This idea then is extended to the Church calendar. We are a unique people who, because of our being named and owned by Christ are oriented to the world differently. We find that different orientation contained in the way we mark time. As we come week by week we are reminded that it is because we belong to the God of the Bible and His Christ we think differently even about the way we mark or time. Our Church calendar reminds us we are to relate to time and seasons as a uniquely Christian people. The Church calendar  lifts us out of the naked presentism that this present wicked age would press upon our minds, thus insisting that the “now” is all there is, and reminds us again that we are a people, who, because of our connection to our Christian past and our Christian Fathers, are future oriented. The Church calendar reminds us that in belonging to God and His Christ we belong to a people who though being dead still speak.

Thus Worship is set apart time in set apart space reorienting us to the past, present and future in such a way that we can spend all our time as living in the presence of God, to God’s glory.

None of this is magic or superstition. It is God who is doing all the doing not us.

I.) Miraculous Feedings as OT Anticipation

Well, as we come to the text this week

As we consider the text this week we once again come up against the idea of Miracle. The Scripture’s concept of “miracle” we note again is characterized by those happenings not explicable by solely natural processes and so can be thought of only as being done by the finger of God. In John’s Gospel particularly Miracles are seen as sign gifts providing some revelation of who the Lord Christ is as very God of very God.

We should note here, briefly, that because miracles are so carefully defined in Scripture we should be careful in using that word to describe events today. In the proliferation of the usage of the word “miracle” miracles become less and less miraculous. It is like our usage of the word “awesome.” If everything is “awesome” then awesome loses its punch.

So we come to John’s text and we note at the outset that John himself gives us the theme or purpose of this passage at the end of the first miracle recorded here,

John 6:14 — “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

Obviously, the purpose of the miracle here confirms Christ as the greater Prophet that God promised would one day come. Way back in Dt. 18 God had said to Israel,

Dt. 18:15 — “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—

And earlier then that this great Prophet had been spoken of,

Gen. 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;[a]
    and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

In the Miracles here in John 6 , Jesus is giving His credentials as that Prophet that is a greater Prophet then Moses … indeed a Prophet who is very God of very God yet remaining very Man of very man.

The Miracle here preformed by our Lord Christ has Old Testament legs and so is just the kind of Miracle that the people might expect that one greater than Moses is in their midst. That is to say that the record of Scripture as it pertains to God’s prophet feeding God’s people suggest to us that the promised King who would bring in His Kingdom would be someone who supernaturally feeds His people.

In the creation account we find God creating a world where God tells His people how He has provided food for them,

Genesis 1:29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

So from the beginning we see God as the God who provides His people food to eat.

This theme is articulated in Psalm 145

The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
    you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

This theme crops up  in the age of the Prophets where the two greatest Prophets of that age demonstrate their role as “men of God” by feeding God’s people miraculously.

Elijah and the Widow from Zarephath

I Kings 17:11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says theLord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’”15 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

Elisha & the 100 men

II Kings 4

42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’”44 So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

But the account that this feeding here is likely hearkening back to in the clearest manner is How God fed His people under the leadership of the Great Moses.

Notice how the text starts,

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.

God providentially ordains events so that there is a kind of recapitulation going on here. This idea of recapitulation, you will recall, is the idea that an OT story is being told again in some way but only with time with the Lord Christ as He who is the fulfillment of all that was anticipatory or shadowed in the Old covenant.

II.) The Lord Christ As the Greater Moses

This real historical event is happening in such a way that a previous historical event is paralleled.  This is set in a kind of wilderness area just as Moses was with the children of Israel in the Wilderness when they were hungry. There is language of Jesus going up a Mountain which draws our memories back to Moses’ Mountain ascent to be in God’s presence. As Moses will announce God’s intent to feed His people with the Bread of Heaven, the Lord Christ feeds the people with supernaturally multiplied bread and fish. The Lord Christ is the greater and long anticipated prophet that Moses spoke of.

There is an interesting contrast here though.

Like Moses, Jesus does feed the multitude in the wilderness. Moses asked God, “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’” (Numbers 11:13).  Jesus asks a similar question of Philip (5) thus joining the two accounts more firmly together,

“Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”

but the difference between the two questions is found in the fact that while Moses needed God to provide Jesus already knew that He, as God, would provide (vs. 6)

“he himself knew what he was going to do”

Now combine all this that John tell us that all this is happening in the context of Passover soon to be celebrated and the idea that Jesus is a greater Moses is being screamed at us from the text.

So there is recapitulation all over this text. We have mentioned some of those points. Others would include how the supernatural feeding and the salvation from the threats of the sea are combined together. This parallels the Exodus account of being delivered from the Sea and the manna being provided in the wilderness. In both accounts instructions are given to gather up the remains (6:12, Ex. 16:19). In both story accounts you have complaining from people (cmp. vs. 41 w/ Ex. 16:2)

III.) Excursus … Miracles associated w/ Food and Drink
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As an aside here isn’t it fascinating to note all the Miracles that are associated with food and drink? The first Miracle was in Cana of Galilee at a Marriage feast where water was turned into the finest of wines. Feeding of the 5000. Feeding of the 4000. Cursing of the Fig tree because it did not provide food.
Then there is the establishment of the Eucharist in the context of the eating and drinking of the Passover. The promise of Christ to the Disciples, “But I say to you, I will not drink from now on of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom,” reminds us that there will be this table fellowship in Heaven. Finally, in Revelation, the promises to those who overcome are to eat the tree of life (2:7), to enjoy the hidden manna (2:17), and to dine with the Lord (3:20). All of this is suggestive of a sermon that could stand by itself.

IV.) Christ; The Bread Come Down From Heaven — Cross speak

We would not have done this text justice though if we were to have stopped here. The fact that the Lord Christ is a greater Moses is only penultimate to the thrust of the Miracle. As we learn later in this chapter the ultimate purpose of the Miracle is to point to Christ as He who is the Bread from Heaven. The Lord Christ is the bread of God who comes down from heaven and gives His life for the World (John 6:33).

This passage reminds us again that there is no life apart from Christ who was broken by God on the Cross as God’s Bread for God’s people. Those who refuse this bread of heaven remain dead from their spiritual malnutrition. Christ was broken that we might be made whole and there is no wholeness for those who remain apart from Christ crucified, risen and ascended.

Again we are reminded that there is no life outside of Christ. All adherents of other religions must repent before Christ and His work on the Cross. If men remain outside of Christ they remain outside of God’s favor. Because we are pro-Christ we are anti all other religions and proclaim that they are death. Because we are pro-rege we must tell adherents, out of a compassionate love for them, that they are dead men walking apart from Christ.

Conclusion

Re-cap

Redemptive History
Brief refutation — Higher Critical methodology
Harmony of Scriptures — Read Scripture as one book

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