Glory be to God the Father. Glory be to God the Son. Glory be to God the Holy Spirit.Glory be to the only, living, true, and triune God.
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
Monday, December 12, 2022
So says the chorus of a favourite carol, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. But why should glory be ascribed to the new-born Jesus? After all, he would have looked much like every other baby. Cute, yes, but worthy of the angels’ praise? I know artists often portray the infant in the manger as if he glowed in the dark with heavenly splendour, but that has no basis in fact. If anything, the Bible stresses how ordinary looking was Jesus. He ‘took the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men’ wrote the apostle Paul. As with any other baby, Jesus was weak and totally helpless, ‘tears and smiles like us he knew’.
Yet Christians believe that he who as an infant was cradled in his mother Mary’s arms, was also the eternal Word of God who upheld the universe by his divine power. He is fully God, the Father’s only Son as well as fully human. That is why angels worshipped the new-born King. They recognised him as their Maker made flesh. Another reason for worship is what Jesus was sent into the world to do. As the angel of the Lord explained to startled shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.’
God became man in Jesus because we needed a Saviour. That tells us something about the human condition. The Bible tells us, ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’. We are incapable of saving ourselves from sin, otherwise God would have left us to get on with it. Jesus came to live a life of perfect obedience to God on our behalf. He then laid down his life as a sacrifice for sin. His death was sufficient to rescue the world from sin. That’s because it was the Son of God in human form who suffered in our place at the cross.
Jesus is the King of love. He was born in the royal city of David. He was crucified as ‘King of the Jews’ to win us a place in God’s eternal kingdom. He rose from the dead and was exalted to the right hand of the Father, where he reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is able to save completely those who put their trust in him. Will you join the angels in singing, ‘glory to the new-born King!’?
Christmas Services at Providence & Ebenezer.
* For the Christmas/New Year editions of several parish magazines
Wednesday, November 02, 2022
I’m old enough to remember life before music could be downloaded or streamed. I can even remember when CDs were a novelty, rather than old hat. Apart from a few cassettes most of my teenage music purchases were on vinyl and had to be played on a record player. Records had two sizes and speeds. Albums had to be played on 33rpm, singles on 45rpm. If you forgot to flip the switch from 45rpm when listening to an album it would play at high speed and at a higher pitch than was intended. You could produce the same effect by pressing the ‘play’ and ‘fast forward’ buttons at the same time on a cassette player. That was our idea of fun in the 1970’s and 80s. We didn’t have TikTok and stuff back then.
Right now it seems like the album of history is being played at 45rpm.
It’s a pain if you have to submit a monthly article like this one, which
sometimes includes comment on current affairs. As I write this just before the
deadline, Kwasi Kwarteng has been sacked as Chancellor and Jeremy Hunt has been
appointed in his place. Prime Minister Liz Truss has vowed to carry on, but who
knows who’ll be PM by the time you read this in November? In September Boris
Johnson stood down, Liz Truss took over and then the Queen died. Now we’re all
having to get used to singing, ‘God save our gracious King’. It’s all happening
It’s much better when history proceeds at a glacial pace and nothing much seems to be going on. But time is hurtling by at a dizzying speed. The key thing is to have the wisdom to know what do to with the brief span allotted to us. We live in a day of great gospel opportunity. God has sent his Son the Lord Jesus to die for our sins and rise again from the dead. Jesus now calls us to put our faith in him that we may be forgiven and have the hope of eternal life. History seems to be stuck on fast forward. In the words of the old hymn, ‘swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day’. So, hurry up and wait for what’s worth waiting for. Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.
*For November edition of various parish mags
Saturday, August 13, 2022
Tuesday, August 09, 2022
Wednesday, August 03, 2022
With Boris Johnson announcing that he is standing down as Prime Minister various candidates have been vying for his job. Now the list has been whittled down to the final two, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. It is up to Conservative party members to decide who will be the next occupant of 10 Downing Street. You would expect journalists to quiz the candidates on what they would do about the cost of living crisis if they gained power, would they cut taxes and so on. But these days it seems than no media interview or hustings event is complete without politicians being asked: ‘What is a woman?’ Tough question.
The dictionary definition is ‘adult human female’. No surprises there. But giving that answer could get a politician into hot water with those who believe that anyone who says they are a woman is a woman. Even if their anatomy suggests otherwise. Debates over the ‘trans’ issue have become a highly contested aspect of today’s ‘culture wars’. Everyday words are changed to reflect this. In guidelines produced by one NHS trust ‘mothers’ are renamed 'birthing parents’, ‘fathers’ as ‘second biological parent’. There is great concern over the number of children being referred to the NHS Gender Identity Development Service because they believe they were born in the wrong body. The vast majority of children seeking help are girls. It was recently announced that the Tavistock child gender identity clinic is due to close, following criticism the quality of care provided in an independent review.
Of course, people suffering from gender dysphoria should be treated with respect and given all the help they need. But there is no escaping biological reality. Each cell in our bodies either has two X chromosomes (female) or one X and one Y chromosome (male). That cannot be changed. It is the way God made us, “So God created mankind in his own image, male and female he created them.” The Bible honours the created differences between men and women, but also insists that male and female are of equal value and worth before God.
Jesus counted women as well as men among his early followers. According to the gospel accounts it was women who first discovered that Jesus’ tomb was empty and saw him risen from the dead. At the time of the early church society was deeply divided between ethnic groups, salves and masters, men and women. Yet the Christian message was one that brought people together. It teaches us that we are all sinners, but through Jesus we can be forgiven and be put right with God. To believe in him is to belong to his people, where there is “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
*For the August edition of various parish magazines
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
the Covenant of Grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe. (VII:3).
The framers of the Second London Baptist Confession (1689) denied that the Abrahamic and Sinai covenants were administrations of the covenant of grace. Rather, they were 'steps' under which the covenant promise of salvation was revealed until it was fully made known under the new covenant.
This covenant [of grace] is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament (VII:3).
Accordingly, baptism is only for those who were ordained unto life and have been savingly engrafted into Christ, the evidence of which is their profession of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Chapter XXIX 2LBCF).
Now, eyebrows might be raised at the idea of 'Calvinistic Methodism', thinking that Methodists were Arminians like John Wesley. But George Whitefield was both a Calvinist and a Methodist. So too were his Welsh counterparts, Daniel Rowland and William Williams. Second generation Welsh Calvinistic Methodists left the Church of England and formed their own church grouping. Their leaders such as John Elias and Thomas Charles were very much Calvinist in doctrine and Methodist in spiritual vibrancy. Their confession of faith reflects that.
What I want to highlight here is how the Confession of Faith of the Calvinistic Methodists (1823) resembles the Second London Baptist Confession more than it does Westminster or Savoy in its treatment of covenant theology. Chapter 13 is entitled, 'Of the Eternal Covenant of Grace'. The confession says that the promises of the covenant of grace are given to 'Christ and his seed' and under this covenant this 'seed' will receive eternal life. That could not be said of all Abraham's natural descendants and regretfully, neither is it true of all children of new covenant believers. The final paragraph of Chapter 13 says,
God in his own time reveals this covenant through the gospel to all his people, and, by bringing them to approve and embrace it, brings them into the bond of the covenant, and into actual possession in their own persons of its grace, gifts, and privileges. The covenant of grace was revealed by degrees, and under various dispensations; but the gospel dispensation is the last and most glorious. This covenant is free, sure, holy, advantageous, and eternal.
Note the way in which the penultimate sentence seems to echo the emphasis of the Second London Baptist Confession. Contrary to Westminster and Savoy, the covenant of grace is not said to be 'differently administered' over time, but 'revealed by degrees, and under various dispensations: but the gospel dispensation is the last and most glorious'. That is more or less the equivalent of the 2LBC's 'revealed... by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament'. Quite how on this basis the Calvinistic Methodist fathers still went on to affirm infant baptism in Chapter 37 of the confession, I am at a loss to know.
My point is that few would doubt that the early Welsh Calvinistic Methodist churches were part of the Reformed family. Their confession placed them in the mainstream of Presbyterian and Reformed thought. Particular Baptist teaching on the covenant of grace sprang up from within the Reformed churches, especially the Independents in the seventeenth century. But they saw with greater clarity that the Abrahamic and Sinai covenants could not simply be identified with the covenant of grace. They were 'covenants of promise' (Ephesians 2:12) in which the covenant of grace was progressively disclosed.
All agree that the covenant of grace is with God and his elect people in Christ and made effective by the Spirit. The genius of the Particular Baptists was to follow the biblical logic of that position to say that baptism should therefore only be administered to believers on profession of faith, who are then admitted to the membership of a local church. Doctrinally speaking, we are indeed Reformed Baptists. But that in itself is not sufficient, we also need something of the life and fire of the old Calvinistic Methodists.
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Here’s where I embarrass myself by writing an article on what the government needs to do to fix the cost of living crisis. Basically, they have to make sure that stuff is cheaper, and that people have enough money to pay for the stuff they need. I think that just about covers it. Agreed?
Whether Liz Truss or Rishi Sunack wins the Conservative leadership election, their success as Prime Minister will rest on coming up with policies that address the cost of living crisis. Especially when it comes to fuel and food. It can’t be right that some people in our society will have to choose between heating and eating come the chilly winter months.
spoke about the cost of living too. According to the economics of the kingdom
of God the gift of eternal life can’t be bought, but it will cost you
everything. It can’t be bought because salvation is by God’s free grace, not
our efforts. That’s why he sent Jesus to die for our sins so that all who
believe in him may be forgiven and have the hope of glory to come.
While grace is free, it is not cheap. People may quite like the idea of eternal life, but strictly on their own terms. Well, no. Jesus wants disciples who will follow him, not consumers who just want what he has to give. The Lord Jesus challenged his would-be followers, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” He urged people to count the cost of discipleship saying, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” If we would truly live, we must die to self and follow Jesus. That’s the cost of living his way.
*For the July edition of local parish magazines.
Friday, July 08, 2022
Tuesday, July 05, 2022
therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest
Thursday, June 30, 2022
The History of Christianity in Britain and Ireland: From the first century to the twenty-first, by Gerald Bray
Friday, June 17, 2022
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Over an elongated Bank Holiday weekend a grateful nation paused to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. I well remember the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations way back in 1977. We had street parties, people merrily waved Union Jack flags and wore red, white and blue plastic hats. Much fun was had by all. Little did we think when we sang, ‘Long live our gracious Queen’, that Her Majesty would live to see her 96th birthday and reign over us for 70 years (so far).
The Queen’s reign has been so long that she seems like a living embodiment of modern British history. She has seen 14 inhabitants of 10 Downing Street, from Winston Churchill to Boris Johnson. Even the oldest of us has lived most of our lives under her rule. We don’t like to think that one day Her Majesty’s reign will end, but end it will. Prince Charles sitting in for the Monarch at the recent State Opening of Parliament was a little glimpse of what’s to come. His time on the throne is bound to be short lived compared to that of his mother.
The Queen makes no secret of the fact that her dedicated service to the nation is inspired by her faith in a King far greater than even her royal personage. That King is Jesus. The Bible styles him, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’. Death will not deprive him of his crown. In fact, it was by dying on the cross for our sins and being raised from the dead that he was enthroned as the world’s true Lord and King. His kingdom of love will never end.
In her message to the Commonwealth in 2011, Her Majesty the Queen, said: “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”
* For the June edition of various local parish magazines
Monday, May 23, 2022
The Lord Jesus, in His human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, He might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of mediator and surety; which office He took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by His Father; who also put all power and judgement in His hand, and gave Him commandment to execute the same.
The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto Him. (8:5)
It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man (8:1)
This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from Him to any other. (8:9)
This sinlessness of our Lord, however, does not amount to absolute impeccability. It was not a non potest peccare [not possible to sin]. If He was a true man He must have been capable of sinning. Systematic Theology: The Complete Three Volumes, Kindle Edition, location 20205.
Of course, Hodge makes it clear that Jesus did not in fact sin, but he goes on to say,
Temptation implies the possibility of sin. If from the constitution of his person it was impossible for Christ to sin, then his temptation was unreal and without effect, and He cannot sympathize with his people. (Systematic Theology, location 20205-20212).
But later the Princeton divine states,
All Christ’s acts and sufferings in the execution of his mediatorial work were, therefore, the acts and sufferings of a divine person. (Systematic Theology, location 20232).
All Christ’s acts, sufferings [and any possible sins committed] in the execution of his mediatorial work were, therefore, the acts, sufferings [and sins] of a divine person.
You see the problem?