The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘Lord’s supper

Sanctifying God’s name at the Lord’s supper

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What is going on when a believer comes to the Lord’s table? What should be gripping your heart – your thinking, feeling and willing – when you come to the Supper? According to Jeremiah Burroughs, in his book on Gospel Worship, it is imperative that we come to the table with understanding. Burroughs says:

I must know what I do when I come to receive this holy sacrament; knowledge applied to the work that I am about; when some of you have come to receive this sacrament, if God should have spoken from heaven and have said thus to you, what are you doing now, what do you go for, what account had you been able to have given unto him, you must understand what you do when you come thither. (244)

So, what might your answer be? Here is Burroughs’ quite magnificent answer, given – I suspect – not to be parroted without understanding, but used as a model for the kind of thoughtful engagement by which we sanctify God’s name in coming to the Lord’s table:

First you must be able to give this account to God, Lord, I am now going to have represented to me in a visible and sensible way the greatest mysteries of godliness, those great and deep counsels of thy will concerning my eternal estate, those great things that the angels desire to pry into, that shall be the matter of eternal praises of angels and saints in the highest heavens, that they may be set before my view; Lord, when I have come to thy word, I have had in mine ears sounding the great mysteries of godliness, the great things of the covenant of grace, and now I go to see them represented before mine eyes in that ordinance of thine that thou hast appointed.

Yea Lord, I am now going to receive the seals of the blessed covenant of thine, the second covenant, the new covenant, the seals of the testimony and will of thine; I am going to have confirmed to my soul thine everlasting love in Jesus Christ.

“Yea Lord, I am going to that ordinance wherein I expect to have communion with thyself, and the communication of thy chief mercies to my soul in Jesus Christ.

I am going to feast with thee, to feed upon the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Yea I am now going to set to the seal of the covenant on my part, to renew my covenant with thee, I am going to have communion with thy saints, to have the bond of communion with all thy people to be confirmed to me, that there might be a stronger bond of union and love between me and thy saints then ever; these are the ends that I go for, this is the work that I am now going about, thus you must come in understanding; you must come with understanding, you must know what you are going about; this is that which the Apostle speaks of, when he speaks of the discerning the Lord’s body; he rebukes the Corinthians for their sin, and shows them that they were guilty of the body and blood of Christ, because they did not discern the Lord’s body, they looked only upon the outward elements, but did not discern what there was of Christ there, they did not understand the institution of Christ; they did not see how Christ was under those elements, both represented, and exhibited unto them, that’s the first thing, there must be knowledge and understanding. (244-45)

When you come next to the communion service, you might consider the question: “What are you doing now, what do you go for?” You are not required to be able to give Burroughs’ answer in its entirety, but it would be good to consider how we, too, need to come with understanding, that we might not only benefit ourselves but also, and especially, sanctify the name of God in our worship.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Sunday 3 November 2019 at 09:30

“One swift glimpse of heavenly things”

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Hart’s  7 7. 7 7

One swift glimpse of heavenly things
Fills the soul with joy divine.
Think of Christ who reigns above;
Think: “By grace, this Christ is mine.”

One sweet taste of joys to come
Fills the mind and fires the heart.
Blood of Christ, so freely shed,
Washes sin from every part.

Glorious thoughts of heaven above
Rouse us to attain our goal.
Flesh of Christ, so freely given,
Wins God’s smile, and makes us whole.

Here we taste the wine and bread,
Symbols of the Christ we love.
Sweet they are, but sweeter still
Are those joys to come above.

When we reach our glorious home,
Bought by Christ’s atoning blood,
Clothed in righteousness divine,
We at last shall dwell with God.


Lord's supper

See all hymns and psalms.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 15 September 2009 at 09:00

An outline of the life of John Calvin #3 The man of Geneva

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(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)  (Listen here or a slightly developed version here)

This second period in Geneva lasted until Calvin’s death on 6 February 1564.  Most biographers and historians view it in terms of years of struggle (1541-1555) and years of triumph (1555-1564).  There is a Christlike and distinctly Christian pattern to his life in this respect.  In his life there was never success without sorrow; for every child of God there is never glory without grief, never a crown without a cross.

john-calvin-3In November 1541, Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Ordinances – his constitution setting out proposed church order – were accepted with some emendations by the Genevan authorities.  However, despite the political decree, there was no plain sailing.  The party opposed to Calvin was known as the Libertines, and their leader on the Council was Ami Perrin.  The opposition was private and public, political and personal: children referred to him as ‘Cain’ rather than ‘Calvin’; a good number of Geneva’s dogs answered to his name; he was publicly abused whenever he went out, and called the second-ranked devil in hell.  The Libertines declared that the “communion of the saints” allowed them to pursue sexual immorality and practice adultery with one another’s wives.

This wrestling with wickedness among the Genevan leaders eventually resulted in an open confrontation.  A prominent Libertine called Philibert Berthelier, secretary to the Council of the Two Hundred, and known for his sexual promiscuity, was excommunicated by the consistory of the Church of Geneva in 1551, but absolved by the Little Council on 2 September 1553.  The following day was Sunday, and communion was to be celebrated.  These scenes are variously described, and it is difficult to know precisely what took place.  In the most dramatic presentation – and bear in mind that this confrontation might have taken place more privately and before the Lord’s day in the presence of the Council – Calvin preached and at the close of the sermon declared that he would rather die on the spot than allow those who had been excommunicated to profane God’s ordinance.  Some suggest that the Libertines were present, armed and with Berthelier and Ami Perrin among them.  Calvin is said to have descended from the pulpit and stood before the table, and put his body between the people and the table: “These hands you may crush, these arms you may cut off, my life you may take, but you shall never force me to give holy things to the profane and dishonour the table of my God.”  There was a stunned silence.  Perrin ordered Berthelier not to approach the table.  The Libertines withdrew, and the Lord’s table was celebrated in silence and with awe and reverence.  Calvin stood for God before his and his Lord’s despisers: whether this occurred more in public or in private, this man of God put his life on the line for the purity of God’s worship.  Expecting to be exiled once more for his resistance, Calvin preached that Sunday afternoon from Acts 20.31-32: “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.  So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”  But God spared his servants, though further struggles and threats of violence followed for many months.

At the same time, one of the darkest acts of Calvin’s Geneva was hovering over the Reformer.  A brilliant Spaniard called Michael Servetus had long caused trouble to all religious authorities, being a constitutionally unconventional thinker and aggressive blasphemer and heretic.  He denied the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ.  Condemned to death elsewhere by the Roman Catholics, he made his way to Geneva – one wonders why – where he was recognised.  In 1553 he had attempted to answer Calvin’s Institutes with his own Restitutes (i.e. a restitution or restoration of Christianity), and he and Calvin had previously corresponded, and Calvin had given him some forthright warnings.  Servetus was defended by the Libertines – they made him a champion of sorts against Calvin – and the heretic was himself appalled when the Little Council nevertheless confirmed a sentence of death by burning.  This was not Calvin’s decision, and he in fact protested the harshness of the sentence.  He did not deny that Servetus should die – that was a common enough punishment for heretics in every country – but he did resist the notion of burning, suggesting a swifter and more merciful death.  Servetus, having previously rejected offers to be exiled, and after a temporary plunge into despair, resisted with a highhanded arrogance all efforts to have him recant.  Servetus was burned in October of 1553.  Even while we abhor the errors of Servetus, we do not defend the response of Geneva.  What we must do is accept Calvin’s role as a man of his time (in which the sword of the magistrate and the sword of God’s word were too often confused and interchanged), and yet defend his honour against those who make of this something that it was not, and gleefully read into the political acts of the civil authority the designs and desires of Calvin himself.

Slowly, day by grinding day, Calvin and his associates pressed for the application of God’s word to the life of the church and to society at large.  We cannot detail all the struggles, seen and unseen, known to men and known only to God, of these hard years.  However, by 1555 the political opposition of the Libertines was essentially ended, and the consistory’s right to excommunicate conceded.  This was the beginning of Calvin’s triumphant period, in which – it must be noted – he did not lord it as a despot in Geneva, but lived as simply, humbly, and diligently as before.

Here again, we are constrained as to how much detail can be provided, but there are several noteworthy spheres of labour which we must identify.

First of all, there is Calvin’s preaching.  Not only during the years of struggle but also in the time of more complete success, Calvin was essentially, even primarily, a preacher of God’s word.  On his return to Geneva from Strasbourg, he preached twice every Sunday, and then on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Later he preached only every second week (by which stage there were Tuesday and Thursday sermons also).  The New Testament was his text on Sundays, the Old on weekdays, with the Psalms sometimes on a Sunday afternoon.  This preaching effected a massive moral change in Geneva.  We do not suggest that there was no mere social pressure, but the very nature of the change suggests that it was fundamentally a spiritual change as the church and then society found the Word of God brought to bear unflinchingly upon them.  We have two thousand sermons still available, of perhaps more than four thousand preached.

His literary labours were immense.  Perhaps most prominent in terms of his own production was the final edition, in 1559, of The Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Continually revised since its first appearance, the 1559 edition is Calvin’s magnum opus, and ought to be read in its entirety by far more so-called Calvinists than it has been.  Grounded in certain declarations of the Apostle’s Creed, this magisterial treatment of the knowledge of God the Creator of heaven and earth; God the Redeemer, in Christ; the way in which we receive the grace of Christ; and, the external means or aids by which God invites us into the society of Christ, is a sweeping examination and systematisation of the Word of God.  It is, fundamentally, an attempt to hear what the living God says to man, to see the revelation of God in Christ Jesus, to let God be God.  At the same time, Calvin was writing commentaries on most of the books of the Bible, three catechisms, and theological treatises against all manner of errors and heresies.  There are also 4271 letters (many of them lengthy) which have been collected.  All this is in addition to the sermons, which a man called Denis Raguenier began taking down in his own private shorthand.  This meticulously accurate scribe was soon employed to record and transcribe each one-hour, six-thousand-word sermon.  Calvin, though, had no time to edit them.  1553 saw the publishing of the Geneva Bible, which became a blueprint for Protestant Europe – the English language editions with their explanatory notes were a founding text of the British reformation, and the seedbed of British Puritanism.

His international influence was vast, not only by means of correspondence, but also visitors.  Exiles came from France, England and Scotland; refugees fled to Geneva from Germany and Italy – they came seeking both safety and instruction.  Among them was John Knox, who declared the church which Calvin was reforming in Geneva as “the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the Apostles.”[1] In 1559 Calvin founded the Geneva Academy, the first Protestant ‘university’, if you like.  Calvin was its professor of theology, and more than a thousand students from across Europe sat to hear him and Theodore Beza declare God’s truth.  Again, we cannot list all the students who went on to give Calvin’s Biblicism increasingly rich and effective form.  These men were often nothing less than missionaries.  Many returned to France and martyrdom.  Many exiles came and went as Christ’s kingdom in their own nations made its often slow and painful progress.  The Academy was known as “Calvin’s school of death” because so many of its alumni were put to death as a result of their witness for Christ.

Calvin called his own bodily condition “a constant death struggle”: from his early thirties he had begun to suffer physically, and bore numerous afflictions during this whole period.  He had become a chronic sufferer from ague, catarrh (inflammation of the mucous membrane in the nose which caused his nose to run continually), asthma, indigestion, and migraine headaches which sometimes kept him awake all night.  In 1558 he suffered at length from quartan fever (an intermittent malarial fever) from which he never fully recovered.  He also suffered from close-to-crippling arthritis, gout, kidney stones, ulcerated haemorrhoids, gum disease, chronic indigestion, and pleurisy that finally led to malignant pulmonary tuberculosis.  For years, so afflicted, Calvin had often coughed up blood on account of his public speaking.

This constant pain – together with the fact that he was so often far beyond his more limited contemporaries, and the weight of work which he faced – was probably a source of much of the irritability of which he was sometimes accused.  Beza writes:

His temperament was naturally choleric, and his active public life had tended greatly to increase this failing; but the Spirit of God had so taught him to moderate his anger, that no word ever escaped him unworthy of a righteous man.  Still less did he ever commit aught unjust towards others.  It was then only, indeed, when the question concerned religion, and when he had to contend against hardened sinners, that he allowed himself to be moved and excited beyond the bounds of moderation.

He was naturally timid, even fearful, which makes his courage all the more amazing.  He was an affectionate and faithful friend, an intense man of deep feeling and penetrating thought.  Worn out by his labours, Calvin preached his last sermon in Geneva on 6 February 1564.  On Easter Sunday he went to church for the last time, singing with the rest of the congregation at the conclusion, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace . . . for my eyes have seen your salvation.”  On 25 April he dictated his last will and testimony, which included the following declarations:

In the name of God, I, John Calvin, servant of the Word of God in the Church of Geneva, weakened by many illnesses . . . thank God that he has shown not only mercy toward me, his poor creature, and . . . has suffered me in all sins and weaknesses, but what is much more, that he has made me a partaker of his grace to serve him through my work . . . I confess to live and die in this faith which he has given me, inasmuch as I have no other hope or refuge than his predestination upon which my entire salvation is grounded.  I embrace the grace which he has offered me in our Lord Jesus Christ and accept the merits of his suffering and dying, that through them all my sins are buried; and I humbly beg him to wash me and cleanse me with the blood of our great Redeemer, as it was shed for all poor sinners so that I, when I shall appear before his face, may bear his likeness.  Moreover, I declare that I endeavoured to teach his Word undefiled and to expound Holy Scripture faithfully according to the measure of grace which he has given me.  In all the disputations which I led against the enemies of the truth, I employed no cunning or any sophistry, but have fought his cause honestly.  But, oh, my will, my zeal were so cold and sluggish that I know myself guilty in every respect; without his infinite goodness, all my passionate striving would only be smoke, indeed the grace itself which he gave me would make me even more guilty; thus my only confidence is that he is the Father of mercy who as such desires to reveal himself to such a miserable sinner.

On 28 April, he summoned the ministers of Geneva for a farewell address which well captures both the pungency of his personality and the tenor of his life:

When I first came to this church, I found almost nothing in it.  There was preaching and that was all.  They would look out for idols it is true, and they burned them.  But there was no reformation.  Everything was in disorder . . . I have lived here amid continual bickering.  I have been from derision saluted of an evening before my door with forty or fifty shots of an arquebuse [musket]. . .  . They set the dogs at my heels, crying, Here! here! and these snapped at my gown and legs. . . . though I am nothing, yet know I well that I have prevented three thousand tumults that would have broken out in Geneva.  But take courage and fortify yourselves, for God will make use of this church and will maintain it, and assures you that he will protect it.[2]

But he also said:

I have had many faults that you have had to tolerate, and all that I accomplished was of little significance.  The evil-minded will take advantage of this confession, but I repeat that all that I have done is of little significance, and I am a poor creature.  My faults have always displeased me and the root of the fear of the Lord has always been in my heart.  As for my doctrine, I have taught faithfully, and God has given me grace to write, which I have done faithfully as I could; and I have not corrupted [mutilated] one single passage of Scripture nor twisted it as far as I know; and when in a position to arrive at an artificial meaning through subtlety, I have put all that under my feet, and have always aimed at being simple.  I have written nothing out of hatred against anyone, but have always set before me what I thought was for the glory of God.[3]

He entered his rest and reward on 27 May, being 54 years old.  It is suggested that his last discernible words were, “How long, O Lord?”  His body was buried with the normal ceremony of the church in a simple coffin at the common cemetery on Sunday 28 May, in accordance with his wishes.  His grave was unmarked, and remains unknown.  Thus the life and thus the death of John Calvin of Geneva.

We have no space for an extended evaluation of the man, except to warn against the very abuses that Calvin sought to avoid in his own dying days.  There are those today who would venerate him, affording him the same sort of demi-divine status as can be seen in the Roman communion for the church fathers, putting his words on a par with Scripture.  I say this not to denigrate Calvin but to defend him.  No-one was more conscious of his imperfections and shortcomings than he was himself.  We marvel at his life as a man of God, but he would have us marvel at the one who made him a man of God.  We tend to point at him, but we should look and see him pointing away from himself to Jesus Christ.  We bend our ears and minds to listen to him; we should hear him shout, “Listen to God!”  John Calvin would not have had recommended that you unthinkingly and uncritically follow a mere man: it would have been repugnant to this eminently gifted and godly saint, utterly persuaded that he was what he was by the grace of God.  He would call you to a noble-minded embrace of God’s truth and its rule of faith and life.  If you would honour Calvin, honour his God and Saviour.  If you would esteem Calvin, esteem Christ and his Word.  His legacy is of a man subject to God in all his majesty, and constrained to live and die for his glory.  His life and work reveal a man kneeling before God, subject to his Word, determined to know and to do his will, whatever the cost.  The best response to Calvin, the greatest tribute you can pay the man, is to cultivate the same disposition and attitude to his God and ours.  He was a Christlike man, and he would have had you see Jesus: imitate him, then, but only and just as he imitated Christ.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)  (Listen here or a slightly developed version here)

[1] Quoted by Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Peabody, MA: Hendriksen, 1996), 8:518.
[2] Quoted by David Steinmetz, Calvin in Context (Oxford: OUP, 1995), 20.
[3] Quoted by Robert Reymond, John Calvin: His Life and Influence (Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2004), 129.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 21 January 2009 at 08:00

Serving schools and saints

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It has been a busy few days, with various opportunities around a load of catching up and administrative bits and pieces.

The first particular opportunity was last Tuesday.  Every so often we host several classes from the local Junior School who, as part of their Religious Education lessons (I think) visit local ‘faith communities’ in order to learn about who they are, what they believe and how they live.  They visit, I believe, a high Anglican building, a mosque, perhaps other places, and ourselves.  We have the advantage of being three minutes’ walk from their school, so we at least have the virtue of convenience.  We have developed a reputation with the teachers – more or less happy, depending upon with whom that reputation resides – of giving straight answers to straight questions.  Once or twice a teacher or parent has got a little steamed up with us, but that’s OK.  Lots of people get steamed up because they don’t like the truth.  However, we have a very good relationship with the key teacher in the system.

On this occasion we had two groups of perhaps 60 to 70 children each, with a few teachers and parents to herd them.  We have about 45 minutes to an hour to do our bit.  The children come with lots of questions, often to do with the differences of appearance and equipment between what they have seen elsewhere and what they see in our church building.  We open the baptistry and put out the plate and cup for the Lord’s supper.  Then, I have ten or fifteen minutes to explain what they are seeing.  I normally explain the pulpit, placed centrally with a Bible on it, declaring the primacy of the Word preached, declaring Jesus Christ.  Then, the baptistry, where all those who – having heard – have believed are baptised as a public testimony to their identification with the crucified but risen Jesus.  Finally, there is the Lord’s supper, where – in remembrance of his atoning death – those who have heard, believed, and been baptised as a means of entry to Christ’s church, gather to feast by faith upon him.  I emphasise the centrality of Christ to all that is important about our life as a church, explaining briefly who our Lord is and what he has done.  It’s a brief sermon with three points and one application.  We always invite the children and adults to attend our services and to see and hear ‘for real’ the people of God gathered to worship.

Then it is over to the children for questions.  Sometimes they are more tame – as they were on this occasion: why don’t you have a bell/stained glass windows/a crucifix or cross?  What is a pastor?  What’s that (organ, offerings box, hymn board, internal CCTV camera)?  Why do you do . . .?  However, often – and this is where things get crunchy – the kids suddenly twig that I will answer any question they ask, and I always try to do so from the Bible.  This can often get pretty wild.  The closest we got this time was when one girl asked, “So, why did Jesus die?”  Naturally, that got the plainest gospel answer I could give in the time I had available.  In the past, we have had some of the following questions:

  • Who made God?
  • What does God look like?
  • What does it mean that God is a spirit?
  • Where does God live?
  • How is God everywhere?
  • Is God the air?  Is God nature?
  • How can we know God if we can’t see him?
  • How can God see everything?
  • Where did the world come from?  Did God make it?
  • Why are some people different to others?  Why did God make them that way?
  • Did God make space?  Why did God make black holes?
  • Did God get baptised?
  • What is a pastor/vicar?
  • Where does the word “pastor” come from?
  • What does a pastor do?
  • How much do you earn?
  • Can ladies be pastors?
  • Must a preacher/pastor/vicar be a Christian?
  • What is a disciple?
  • When you become a Christian, do you have to do what the Bible says?
  • Do you have to be a Christian to come to church?
  • If you belong to another religion, can you become a Christian? [and vice versa]
  • Does God love people who aren’t Christians?
  • What happens when you become a Christian?
  • Is the baptistry a birth bath?  A swimming pool?  A bath?
  • Can you go for a swim after you’ve been baptised?
  • What do you wear to be baptised?  Can you wear goggles?
  • Is there something special about the water in the pool?
  • If baptism uses ordinary water, why is it so important?
  • What does baptism mean?
  • Can children be baptised?  Can girls/ladies be baptised?
  • What’s the difference between christening and baptism?
  • Is baptism safe?
  • What is the church?
  • If the church is people, why do you need a building?
  • Why don’t you have stained glass/statues/pictures?
  • What happens when we die?
  • What is the difference between burials and cremation?
  • Why don’t you have a graveyard?
  • Why are other churches different?
  • Can disabled people be baptised?
  • Can you worship God outdoors?
  • How can deaf people hear sermons?
  • When is the church open?  How often do you meet?
  • How long has the church been here?
  • If you stop being a Christian, do you get “unbaptised”?
  • Why does the Bible talk about “drinking the cup”?  You can’t drink cups.
  • How do you know that the Bible is true?
  • How do you know that Jesus is real?
  • If God is good and in control of everything, why do we have tidal waves and earthquakes?
  • What is sin?
  • If you have sinned, can you still get to heaven?
  • How do I escape from hell?
  • Doesn’t God give you a second chance?

Needless to say, this is a great opportunity to explain the truth as it is in Jesus in a variety of different ways to a captive audience, from a variety of different backgrounds.  Often the teachers and parents get involved.  One once took me to task for our Christian ‘exclusivism’ which gave me an opportunity to declare Christ as the one Saviour of sinners, but also to explain that anyone who comes to him will be saved.  He didn’t seem happy, but they come on our turf on our terms to hear what we believe and practice.  After two or three hours of this, I am usually pretty whacked out, but we hope that it lays a foundation for further opportunities with the children both within and without the school, and we have in the past had several of them come to services afterward.  As yet, grievously, we are not aware of any conversions.

Then yesterday I was preaching at Grace Baptist Church, Portsmouth.  They are a delightful and warm-hearted people with whom I have a very pleasant relationship.  They are themselves seeking a pastor, and pray earnestly for God to send the right man.  They are situated right in the middle of a housing estate, so they are well situated for gospel ministry and – despite their limited numbers and resources – they labour hard to preach the good news.

I ministered in the morning from Romans 8.34 on the Christian’s uncondemnability in Christ, grounded in his death, resurrection, session and intercession.  It is a truth in which I delight, and I have enjoyed encouraging and challenging God’s saints in two or three places with this material.  My family and I had a delightful afternoon’s fellowship with several of the members, and then in the evening I preached from Colossians 2.6 on the Christian’s abiding relationship with Christ: the past experience of receiving him in all his saving fullness, the present activity of walking in him (growing in our likeness to him and deriving all grace and strength from him), and the permanent connection between the two, as we cling to Christ as urgently, readily and entirely now as we did when first we came.  It was a good day, in which I believe the Lord helped in all our worship, and not least in the preaching and hearing.  For various reasons they were a little down in number, but it seemed that the most important guest was present.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 29 September 2008 at 11:12

Gospel ministry and gospel confidence

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My father and fellow-pastor was away this past Lord’s day, taking a well-deserved holiday. As a result, I had the privilege of all three ministries.

In the Sunday School hour, we continued to consider the distinctive roles of men and women. As we completed our consideration of the role of women, we paused at the point of transfer to studying out the role of men to look at the various abuses of male headship and female submission to which we are prone. Because the distinctive roles of men and women are grounded upon their essential equality (in terms of created dignity, native depravity and redemptive reality), there ought to be no sense of inferiority or superiority engendered by considering what man is as man, and woman as woman, and what they are in relation to each other. However, men – in the exercise of loving leadership – should not err either by abdication nor tyranny, and women – in the pursuit of positive submission – should not err either by way of domination nor effacement. In considering this, I basically employed material from my friend and mentor Alan Dunn, drawing from his excellent and insightful if occasionally technical little volume, Headship in Marriage (in the Light of Creation and the Fall).

Then, in our morning worship, I continued a long-standing series in Colossians. We are now in the last two verses of the first chapter. Here, we see Paul as a fellow-labourer with God. As one would expect from such a man, there exists a full and precise correspondence between Paul’s activity and God’s stated purposes.

In Colossians 1.28-29, Paul identifies the gospel minister’s tools, task, and toil. The first sermon was on The gospel minister’s tools, which he uses constantly, comprehensively and specifically. The first tool is proclamation. This is the authoritative declaration of Jesus Christ, his glorious person and saving work.
This mighty river contains two currents, two subsidiary tools: admonition and instruction. The first is putting something in the mind of men, getting something laid to their hearts, driving into the will and affections, to awaken and arouse, stimulating reflection and promoting action. The second works on the understanding, definite truth and clear direction being imparted to the inquiring mind, guiding sinners to Christ and directing the child of God in faith and life to the glory of Christ. I hope to go on to consider the task and the toil in due course.

Then, in the evening, we celebrated the Lord’s supper. With the aim of preparing our minds and hearts, I preached on Romans 8.34, under the title, Uncondemnable! We set out the four pillars of Christian confidence, upon which a Christian can stand and ask heaven and earth and hell, “Who is he who condemns? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul offers four answers, any of which is sufficient, all of which together are simply unassailable: it is Christ who died; it is Christ who furthermore is also risen; it is Christ who is even at the right hand of God; it is Christ who also makes intercession for us. It was, I trust, a good day in the house of God, with the morning’s message more of a challenge, and the evening’s more of a consolation.

One particular pleasure in the evening was to have Andy and Sallyann Owen visiting with us. Apparently, my parents had been God’s means of doing good to Sallyann before she was married, and they had hoped to catch up with her. Andy heads up a ministry to the Deaf at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Andy has also authored three books assisting in this work: Signs of Life, Not Hearers Only, and Jesus Used Sign Language (all of which can be ordered through the Tabernacle Bookshop). Having recently taught through Christ’s healing of a deaf and mute man in Mark 7 at our Stepping Stones bible study, having had a substantially deaf father, and having had the privilege of being interpreted for the Deaf by a man with whom I subsequently have had fascinating conversations, it was a delight to speak with Andy and to gain some of his wisdom and insight into this challenging yet rewarding sphere of ministry.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 5 May 2008 at 20:39

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