Ministering to Poohs

This post is part of the church in the hundred acre wood series (click to view the other posts in this series).

It has been several months since I last wrote on this blog and in this series “Ministering in the Hundred Acre Wood.”  Writing a blog actually requires something that, of late, has been scarce – a bit of extra time.  As a pastor, my first responsibility is to minister in the “Acre” where God has placed me – and to do so personally and not just through writing.  So I hope that’s where my time has been – ministering in the “acre” of Trinity Grace Church.  But I do want to challenge myself to finish that which I started so on this rainy Friday afternoon in a few spare moments that God has given to me, I want to say something concerning Winnie the Pooh. 

Certainly, and obviously, the most familiar of all the characters in the hundred-acre wood is that for whom the story is named, Winnie the Pooh.  He is quite possibly the most loved character of all children’s literature.  Who doesn’t grin, and honestly, can’t relate to, Pooh’s oft said quote, “Ohh, there’s a rumbly in my tumbly”?  Who doesn’t often share Pooh’s response of “Oh, bother!?”  Sure, Pooh’s not the brightest character in the hundred-acre wood (after all, his head is full of fluff), but certainly we all are moved by his love for his friends and his heart for the others who live in the wood.  And Pooh also has that everyday common sense that seems to be missing from so many others. 

Pooh is a friend others want to be around.  They want to be around him because he is often thinking of them.  Simply put, he is a friendly bear.  He is often concerned for the welfare of those around him as much as he is for himself.  But Pooh also has his weaknesses; while he is concerned for those around him, sometimes his love for hunny, his appetite for hunny, leads him to abandon that wonderful common sense and make decisions with “his belly” rather than with his mind….or fluff. 

Pooh is an important member of the hundred-acre wood.  He has things to offer as well as things he needs.  Though there is only one Pooh in the hundred-acre wood, there are many “Poohs” in the life of the church.  How can we minister to the “Poohs” in our midst and how can “Poohs” minister in our midst?

Everybody loves the “Poohs” in our midst; and consequently, sometimes, no one loves the “Poohs” in our midst.  That is to say that there often assumptions made about certain people with whom we live and associate.  It is assumed that since “everybody loves them” that they are, in fact, being loved.  I do not think this is a safe assumption.  Too often, it is those who we think are the most fulfilled that are actually the loneliest.  Their lives are full of acquaintances and yet empty of real intimacy.  Even as these “Poohs” make good friends, they too, need a good friend.  They are often the ones called to referee, moderate, and negotiate relationships – this can be tiring.  They need others to pour into them, to encourage them, and to befriend them.  “Poohs” have a desire to please others, a desire to be a friend, and in that desire there is a temptation for that tendency to “people please” to cloud that otherwise, “common” sense.  “Poohs” need to be encouraged that there are times when principle must come before people.  This is hard for those “Poohs” in our midst; it was hard for Pooh in the Hundred-Acre Wood as we often find him muttering to himself over a problem, “think, think, think!”  A thoughtfulness for people shouldn’t keep one from thinking. 

But of course, this thoughtfulness is of greatest need in the church.  What ministry opportunity there is for those who are thoughtful – for those who give thought to the practical and subtle needs of others for which others often overlook.  The wandering visitor who may not be sure where his or her children are to go for nursery – a loving welcome from a “Pooh” is sure to encourage.    The discouraged mother of toddlers who feels like all she does is follow and pick up after a human tornado – a friendly ear and a sympathetic “oh bother” may be just the thing.  The willingness to be a friend to someone else can have lasting impact in the life and heart of a person.

This may not seem very “theological;” and it’s not.  It’s not meant to be.  It’s meant to be practical and a help to you and I as we think about and strive to love members in the church of our Lord Jesus.  While it may not seem “theological” its practice certainly is derived from a robust theology.  As Christians, are we not to love that which God loves?  And has He not loved His Church so much that He gave His only begotten Son?  May we all love that which Christ loves! 

This post is part of the church in the hundred acre wood series (click to view the other posts in this series).


PCA General Assembly - I Rise to Speak…Almost

This post is part of the 2012 general assembly series (click to view the other posts in this series).

Have you ever had that burning in your gut....those butterflies in your stomach....that conviction that you are going to have to speak but you really don't want to?  I had it today.  I know, a preacher who doesn't want to speak?  I love to preach the gospel, I love to teach the word, and in that setting there's a boldness that comes not from me but from the Spirit of Christ.  Sure, I believe He can do that in other settings and probably would have even done that today, but it's unfamiliar ground for me....and it's scary.  So I was relieved that as I could no longer deny that I must rise to speak on the floor of General Assembly, some wonderful, caring soul called the question.  In Robert's Rules, that means that there is no more debate and it's time to vote.  Shew! 

What was it that caused me to "almost" speak?  Well, there were two major issues that came as part of the Bills and Overtures portion of our assembly.  The first, and the one for which I thought I would have to speak was a recommendation that an overture from a presbytery requesting that other overtures concerning an "in thesi" statement with respect to evolution and the Scripture's teaching be answered by reference to actions taken by previous General Assemblies.  I know, that was a mouthful!  To summarize, previous General Assemblies had spoken concerning the issue of evolution and the historicity of Adam and Eve.  Our standards are clear what the Bible teaches concerning the creation of Adam:  "that after God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness,and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall" (Westminster Larger Catechism #17).  The committee suggested through its recommendation that this, along with Westminster 4.2 and Shorter Catechism #16, is sufficient in answer the issuing of Adam and Eve. 

And yet, a minority report was put forward as a recommendation that "the 40th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America affirm its historic and confessional stance on the subject of the creation of man" using language that had been adopted by previous General Assemblies of the PCUS prior to the formation of the PCA.  For my congregation, and others if you want to know, I voted against the minority report.  I voted against it not because I don't affirm the historicity of Adam.  I absolutely do!  And I am thankful that the PCA does as well.  We have already said so.  I voted against the minority report and voted with the committee because I believed that to "reaffirm" our belief would have been to lessen the authority of our standards - our documents that already define and summarize what we believe.  One commissioner said, "I am somewhat taken aback that we have to make a statement that we believe our standards!"  I agree.  In fact, I think to do so would have been extremely dangerous for our future because I think it is representative of a deep fear to stand by what we have already determined and a hesitancy to deal with those things through our judicial system.  We would be in danger of weakening our standards and governing from a top down model rather than from the bottom up.  In other words, we'd be asking the General Assembly to do that which we are unwiling to do as presbyteries.  Everyone agreed that our "standards are clear" concerning this issue.  If that is true, and there are those teaching in contradiction to our standards, why are they not being brought up on charges in thier presbyteries?  That is the proper way to handle this issue.  It was said that all the minority report was attempting to do was to ask people to stay within the "rails."  It is acknowledged that the "rails" have already been determined; therefore, the proper way to deal with this is through loving and firm discipline.  If we are unwiling to discipline on the grounds of our existing standards - what makes us think we will disicpline according to a new statement? 

The minority report failed to pass and the recommendation from our committee passed.  That means we will have no additional statement on this issue.  The Westminster Confession in Chapter 4, Section 2, Question 17 of the Larger Catechism, and Question 16 of the Shorter Catechism are sufficient already.  I pray that we will be willing to stand by them and hold one another to account in love and truth. 

The other issue that caused major discussion and debate was the overture to amend our Book of Church Order by adding a statement concerning the inappropriateness of intinction.  For those of you who do not know, intinction is the communion practice of dipping the bread into the wine prior to partaking.  The addition to the Book of Church Order (BCO) would read as such, "Intinction, because it conflates Jesus' two sacramental actions, is not an appropriate method for observing the Lord's Supper."  Our committee recommended that we answer this overture in the negative.  However, again, there was a minority report with a recommendation of its own.  That recommendation was to amend the change that would affect the BCO.  It would then read, "As Christ instituted the Lord's Supper in two sacramental actions, the communicants are to eat the bread and drink the cup in separate actions."  This recommendation passed, became the main motion, and was passed as well.  It will now go back to the presbyteries to be voted on there and then return again to next year's General Assembly in Greenville, South Carolina. 

All in all, I was again encouraged by the work of the PCA church at our 40th GA.  While we are far from perfect, while there are still times when one might cringe at what's said at a microphone, and while we have much to learn in loving the brethren, I do believe that we are striving to be faithful to the Word of God and faithfully apply that Word to faith and life.  We take seriously the Word of God and desire to love Christ and His people.  We seek to exegete the Scriptures, our people, our culture, and our times.  Sometimes we do that more faithfully than others.  But I do believe that we all seek to do so. 

Pray for God's continued blessing upon the Presbyterian Church in America.

This post is part of the 2012 general assembly series (click to view the other posts in this series).


PCA General Assembly

This post is part of the 2012 general assembly series (click to view the other posts in this series).

It's been a while since I've blogged and I certainly plan to pick back up the series I began a few weeks ago, "Church in the Hundred Acre Wood".  But now, I find myself at our denomination's 40th General Assembly and will use this platform to update the congregation where I serve as well as anyone else who may have an interest in our church's General Assembly.  We officially began last night with corporate worship.  Dr.  Mike Ross, a pastor in Charlotte, North Carolina, was elected moderator of this General Assembly. 

As we are all aware, no church is perfect - we await that wonderful day of glorification.  But the church is Christ's - and it has been instittuted by God as that which is given the glorious mission of proclaiming the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).  And I'm so thankful, even with all our weakness, even with all our failures, for our church, the Presbyterian Church in America.

Coming to General Assembly is much like a family reunion - seeing ones you love that you haven't seen in a year or maybe longer - and the love that is there runs deep.  And yet, just like in the local church, there are differences and disagreements in the larger church.  And these sometimes threaten to divide.  I can't help but to think that one of the factors in this is that we forget our first love and turn too often to our own self-love.  

I officiated a wedding about a week ago and I was reminded of the preciousness of young, fresh, new love.  These two precious people looked into each others' eyes and promised to love one another thorugh thick and thin - in sickness and in health.  Their promises were profound and profoundly serious in their making.  Those vows will be tested and only by looking to Chrst and dying to self will they seek to fulfill them.  I remember my first General Assembly - indeed, my first presbytery where I took my own vows as a minister to faithfully shepherd the flock of God, to strive to faithfully shepherd the flock of God, to strive for the purity and peace of the church, and to submit to its government.  It was a profound experience; one that was fresh, exciting, and recieved with great joy and expectation.  Those vows, just like the marriage vows, are often challenged.  Only by looking to Christ and dying to self is one able to seek to fulfill those vows. 

As a minister, I often need to remember why I love the PCA.  I need to be reminded of our polity and the importance of it.  I need to be reminded of the sweet fellowship I have with those in our church.  And, as I am reminded of those things at GA, I am also reminded, even more importantly, of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am surprised how much my soul soaks up the Word that is given.  I forget how much I need to be ministered to!  I am thankful for the ministry of the Word. 

Having had the privilege of planting a church and ministering for the last several years, I have seen the excitement of people hearing the gospel for the first time.  With that excitement came a deep passion and desire to share that news that they had heard and of which they had learned - there was a passion to share with others the new community and fellowship of which they had become part.  They were so excited and so so desirous to share with others that they didn't have the time or desire to do anything else.  Too often we become familiar, complacent, and dare I say, bored with the gopsel such that our efforts are spent elsewhere - complaining, nitpicking, and/or grumbling. 

My prayer, for our marriages, for our local congregations, and for our denomination as a whole, is that God would bring our hearts and our passions back to that freshness - that God would bring a passionate love between husbands and wives - that He would bring sincere fellowship and a deep love among the members of local congregations - and that He would bring a unity among the brethren of our denomination - in other words, that God would give us all those things that were present when we first "fell in love."   

I thank God for His Church and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is King and Head of it!  May He bless us and keep us, may He strengthen us and use us in the advance of His kingdom!!

I will update one more time either Thursday night late or after I return home.....


This post is part of the 2012 general assembly series (click to view the other posts in this series).


Church in the Hundred Acre Wood - Introduction

This post is part of the church in the hundred acre wood series (click to view the other posts in this series).

In 1926, A.A. Milne wrote the book, “Winnie-the-Pooh.”  In it, the beloved characters Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga, and Roo were all introduced.  The famously “bouncy” Tigger made his debut in the sequel, “The House at Pooh Corner.”  These characters, books, and later, movie adaptations, have grown to be a familiar sight in any home with young children. The stories are loved for their simple humor, insight into relationships, and just plain childlike fun.  The characters are all different from one another, playing their own roles within their life and community of the Hundred Acre Wood.  Pooh is loved for his simplicity, his love for “hunny,” his silliness, and his love for his friends.  Eeyore is highly intelligent but much more known for his gloomy disposition.  Tigger, well, you know Tigger.  he’s “the only one.”  Piglet is always wondering what might happen today.  Rabbit, along with Owl, are the two “real” animals depicted in these wonderful books.  They aren’t filled with fluff but are both considered to have brains.  Rabbit thinks highly of his leadership skills and loves to plan and organize outings or adventures, even if to no avail.  Owl is never shy to give his opinion and sees himself, and is seen by others, as one to be called upon for advice.  Kanga and Roo are a mother and son duo.  Kanga is the loving mother who dotes on Roo and takes very special care of her son, warning of all the dangers that might be faced in the Hundred Acre Wood.  Roo is the familiar child who upon the warnings of a loving mother often responds, “But Momma!”  He is the youngest of all the characters.  And then there’s Christopher Robin.  He is a friend to all the characters of the Hundred Acre Wood, but closest to the stories’ namesake, Winnie the Pooh.  He is often seen helping and even rescuing the other characters.  But he is still, even with the other things he might be, a character, a member of the Hundred Acre Wood.  His socks are uneven, he loves birthday parties, and he loves doing “nothing.” 

What in the world (or “Wood”) does this have to do with a theology blog?  With the weighty issues and subjects such as covenant theology, the resurrection of Christ, justification and union with Christ, Old Testament types and shadows, all represented here on this blog site – why this?  How does this fit?  In one of my previous series I wrote about Israel and the Church – an issue in Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church).  This is an issue of Ecclesiology as well – dealing with relationships (and the importance of them) within the life of the church.  In the Hundred Acre Wood there was often struggle.  There were times of conflict and times of misunderstanding.  There were times of simple pleasure and enjoyment. There were times of great rejoicing and celebration.  And all the while, the characters of the Hundred Acre Wood formed a family; a Community.  With all their differences, there was a deep and abiding sense of love between the characters.

And for those on the outside, for the reader, or for the viewer, while there may have been favorites, the characters were loved by those who read about them or watched them.  And they were not only loved in spite of their differences, but loved all the more because of their differences.   Do you see now where I’m heading? 

I have the precious privilege of ministering to a particular church in Northwest Arkansas called Trinity Grace Church.  I have grown to deeply love the people in this church.  And in this church, we are, indeed, different – men, women, and children with different gifts, different personalities, different passions, different interests, and different backgrounds.  Within every particular church and within the body of Christ as a whole, there are different gifts given and there are different personalities represented.   Paul says in I Corinthians 12:14-27:

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?  If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.  But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”  

So, how can we truly love one another within the life of the church?  How can we honor one another without excusing sin or justifying sin by calling it a “personality trait”?  How can we minister to one another understanding and appreciating our differences?  How can we do all these things so that one “looking in” would stand in wonder that so many people that are so different could live in harmony as one body?  How can we do these things that we, as the church, might do that which we are called to do and bring honor and glory to the Name of the Living Christ? 

To answer all those questions sounds like a pretty tall order doesn’t it?  I don’t pretend that I’ll answer all these questions in a blog series.  I don’t imagine that using an illustration from the Hundred Acre Wood could capture all the wonder and glory of the communion of saints.  But I do hope, if you’ll hang with me (and I must admit I’m a little nervous about committing to such a project) throughout this blog that God might use it to help develop and nurture in you, and me, a deep love for, and appreciation of, the people of God.  My hope is that as we take a look at each of these wonderful, lovely characters in the Hundred Acre Wood that we would begin to pray that God would help us appreciate, minister to, and truly love, the Poohs, the Piglets, the Tiggers, the Eeyores, the Owls, the Rabbits, the Kangas, the Roos, and the Christopher Robins in our midst.  For after all, it takes a……Wood? 


Photo Credit:; Copyright Disney All Rights Reserved

This post is part of the church in the hundred acre wood series (click to view the other posts in this series).


One People - Part 2

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).

There are indeed things that are different under the Old and New Covenants.  And yet, the pages of Scripture present a unified revelation of the history of redemption.  Often, much more attention is paid to the discontinuities than to the continuities between the Old and New Testaments.  The Apostle Peter, in his general letter to God’s elect “scattered throughout,” speaks directly to the continuity of God’s people.  In I Peter 2:9 he states, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  Where does Peter get this language?  Why does Peter have confidence (under inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to declare that the church is “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”?  Before the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai as Moses met with God, the Lord said to him, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel…Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.  Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:3-6).   In making this covenant with Israel, God declares that He has brought them out of the bondage of Egypt, and has set them apart as His special people, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).  Because of this covenant, God has declared Israel to be His people and Him to be their God.  What a special relationship!

Israel broke the covenant and brought damage to that special relationship.  God brought judgment even to His own people.  One only has to look throughout the prophets to recount the judgments that God brought on other nations as well as on His own.  In fact, in the book of the prophet Hosea where Hosea’s relationship with his wife and children picture the relationship of God with His people, he tells us that the special relationship had come to the point where God says, “Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:9).  In what desperate condition the children of Abraham lay!  Yet, we know from the prophet Isaiah and others that God will always have a remnant of people, a people that belongs to Him.  God, in His grace, did not leave His people, “lo-Ammi,”  but promised a great restoration.  Israel again, would be declared holy.  The greatness of the New Covenant is that not only is Israel restored but other nations as well join in the covenant blessings of God.  The prophet Isaiah proclaims in Isaiah 19:25 that in that day, “The Lord Almighty will bless them saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.’”

The apostle Peter is proclaiming the truth that Edmund Clowney says so well in his commentary, "The Message of I Peter," that under the New Covenant, the covenant ushered in by Jesus Christ, “the grace that can restore Israelites to their forfeited inheritance can equally bring polluted Gentiles into the intimacy of fellowship with God.”   Not only are all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ set apart as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, but they are also now not limited to nor confined to ceremonies.  As discussed earlier from Ephesians 2, through Christ, those who were once excluded from the citizenship of Israel have now become members of God’s household and “fellow citizens with God’s people.”  Under the Old Covenant, Gentiles were forbidden to enter the temple, the sanctuary of God.  But under the New Covenant, the people of God (all those who trust Christ) are “being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5).   The people of God may confidently approach our Great and Awesome God through Christ our Lord.  Oh, the wonder and grace of our God who has chosen a people to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ to manifest the “manifold wisdom of God.”

There is one plan, one tree, one faith, one land, and one people; for there is only One God and we can confidently state with our forefathers, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut: 6:4-9).  And we may also answer our children when they ask us “why are we to obey the commandments of God?”  We may answer them as well with our forefathers, “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.”  But even more than that, we stand on this side of the provision of the Lamb of God.  We stand on this side of the corss of Christ.  So we may also say in response to these questions from our children and others, having been given God’s complete revelation, as Paul tells Titus in Titus 2:11-14,  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).


One People - Part 1

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).

With what Scripture teaches concerning God’s promises, no other conclusion can be drawn except that which Scripture declares; God has one people.  There is probably nowhere else in Scripture that so clearly teaches the unity of God’s people than the second chapter of Ephesians.  In this letter, Paul tells the Gentiles to remember that they were formerly “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:12-13).  The very avenue of citizenship in Israel is Jesus Christ.  How were the Jews part of Israel without Him?  They were not!  If one is separate from Christ, they are excluded from citizenship and foreigners to the covenant.  Paul also tells us that Christ “has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14).  Christ did this with the purpose of creating in himself one new man out of the two (v. 15) and the Scripture says that He reconciled the two through the cross (v. 16).  Both Jew and Gentile, before and after the cross, are reconciled by the cross of Christ.  For, Paul says, that it is through Christ that both “have access to the Father by one Spirit” (v. 18).  So whether it is a believer before the cross of Christ or after, whether it is a Jew or a Greek, whether it is a slave or a freeman, there is one plan, one faith, one Mediator, and one body; for there is one Spirit.

Before this is brought to a close, one more minor detail should be expressed and explained.  Often it is noted that the church in the New Testament is called the body of Christ while it is never called that in the Old Testament.  Paul, in fact, does use this term but it must not be overlooked that several other terms in the New Testament are used for the expression of the church.  In fact, in Ephesians when Paul talks of the unity of the body of Christ, he says, “there is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”  (Eph. 4:4-6).  This packs a powerful punch when you take this passage in the context of Ephesians as a whole and Paul’s argument in chapter 2. 

Moreover, the church in the New Testament is also called the “temple of God”,  “the holy temple”, and “Jerusalem” (I Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:21; 2 Cor. 6:16).  All these designations certainly carry a Jewish significance.  Further, it must not be overlooked that the name “Church”  is used for Israel in the Old Testament.  The New Testament renders “ekklesia” as church while the Old Testament renders “qahal” as assembly, gathering, or congregation.  The fact that these two words, in their respective languages, both mean assembly, gathering, or congregation, while the New Testament translates it as church may be the ground for some of the confusion.  However, both of these words in their original meanings denote a congregation, an assembly, or a gathering of the people of God.  Therefore, as Louis Berkhof states, “both serve to designate the essence of the church.”    Robert Reymond in his New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith says as much when he says, “The church of Jesus Christ is the present-day expression of the one people of God whose roots go back to Abraham.”   Therefore, we can rightly say that the history of the church does not begin at Pentecost, but its roots can be traced back to the one people of God finding its first expression with the promise to Abraham and even further back to the promise of the seed of the woman in Genesis 3.

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).


One Land

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).

Another issue concerning the confusion of God’s people is the promise of a future land.  Because of the contrast and dichotomy placed between believers in the Old and New Testaments, the conclusion has been drawn in some theological circles that Israel was an earthly people and that the New Testament Church is a heavenly people.  Not much needs to be said here because the author of Hebrews answers this confusion very aptly.  And that will be discussed shortly.  However, briefly, let us return to the promise.  The concept of a land promise did not begin with Abraham.  It began with Adam.  God promised Adam life in the Garden of Eden upon condition of obedience to His commands.  Genesis 2:8-14 gives a description of this land of paradise.  Adam and Eve were placed in the garden to work it and take care of it, to serve and obey God.  After Adam and Eve sinned, God banished them from the Garden (Gen. 3:23) and placed a cherubim and a flaming sword on the east side of the Garden to guard the tree of life.  Adam had sinned and therefore was kept from this earthly paradise.  But God didn’t leave Adam without hope – He promised a Redeemer to come as I discussed in the post, “One Plan.”  Adam couldn’t earn salvation, it would have to be done for him. 

All wasn’t lost for man and the Lord gave yet another glimpse of the promise that He alone offers.  It finds expression in the promise given to Abraham.  God promised Abram a land and so Abram left all he had to follow this promise of God.  Abraham entered the land but never fully possessed it.  Did God break His promise to Abraham?  May it never be!  There was indeed the earthly fulfillment but the promise was for that which was to come - a better country, a heavenly one.  Hebrews 11: 8-16 says,

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;  for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised; therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.  All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.  And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” 

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all heirs of the same promise and lived like strangers “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”  Yes, they received the earthly shadows of the promise but the promise was much bigger than that.  The author of Hebrews said they knew that and that on this earth they did not receive the things promised but “saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”  Neither Abraham nor his descendents were looking for an earthly land; they were looking for a “better country – a heavenly one.”  This was the promise to which both the Garden of Eden and the “Promised Land” pointed.  Not only Abraham but Moses, Joshua, David and Samuel, all of these were “commended for their faith, yet none of them receive what had been promised” (Heb. 11:24-39).  They received the shadows but had not yet received the reality to which the shadows pointed.  Moses led the people through the Red Sea and he was kept from entering the land and only was able to see it from a distance.  What was the Lord trying to show Moses?  Joshua led the people in their defeat of Jericho, and through Joshua “the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers.  And they took possession of it, and they settled there” (Joshua 21:43). David conquered armies and kingdoms and possessed land for the people of God; yet “none of them received what had been promised.”  Why does the Scripture say that they “gained what was promised” (Heb. 11:33), yet never “received what was promised” (Heb. 11:39)?  Because those things, that land, those victories, were not ultimately the fulfillment of the promise, “since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40).  There are not two peoples of God awaiting two different lands; there is one people of God who together will be made perfect in Christ Jesus at His glorious appearing! 

After all, even this promise, the land promise, is not fulfilled outside of Jesus Christ.  As I quoted in an earlier post, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.  That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20).   

Under the Old Covenant, there were conditional aspects to the shadow of the land promise.  God had told Israel, “When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, IF (emphasis mine) you act corruptly by making carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.  You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed” (Deuteronomy 4:25-26).  Apart from the conditionality of the rest in the land then the wilderness wonderings, the exile, and times of unrest would be inexplicable.   Yet some might argue, however, “then believers can’t be assured of their continued rest in the land in the future if it’s dependent upon covenant faithfulness or obedience.”  Oh yes they can!  Why?  Because on the basis of Christ’s perfect obedience, believers will have been glorified and will be free of sin!  Grover Gunn says it well, “The new earth will be inherited both in holiness and unconditionally since glorification will be a by-grace gift from God to His people” (

The land promise, like the other promises made to Abraham, will be inherited by the true Israel - those in Jesus Christ, Jew or Gentile.  I can not say it any better than John Piper.  And before I quote him extensively, it would be helpful to note that we would not agree with one another on all aspects of our eschatology.  However, on this important issue we would agree; there is one people of God.  I bring that up to show that simply because two may disagree on their view of end times, we can and do still agree on important issues regarding the people of God and the plan of God – which ultimately and fundamentally, is about Christ.  To close this chapter, Piper says:

The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel… In other words, the promises cannot be demanded by anyone just because he is Jewish. Jewish ethnicity has a place in God's plan, but it is not enough to secure anything. It does not in itself qualify a person to be an heir of the promise to Abraham and his offspring. Romans 9:8 says it clearly: ‘It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.’ Being born Jewish does not make one an heir of the promise – neither the promise of the Land nor any other promise ( 

There is, indeed,  one plan, one tree, one faith, and one land.

Application to faith and life:

Where are your hopes?  For what are you waiting?  Are your hopes in earthly things, or heavenly things?  For that which is temporal, or eternal?
If you are “Abraham’s seed”, that is, if you have faith in Christ, you are an heir to the promise.  Not simply an earthly land, but a heavenly one, prepared for God’s people of all time by God Himself.   Is your eschatology (doctrine of the end times) fueled by what is happening on that stretch of land over in the Middle East and with the nation of Israel?  Or, is it driven by a proper understanding of God’s revelation to us in His Word?

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).


Our Children and Conversion

This post is part of the to whom do they belong: children in the covenant series (click to view the other posts in this series).

There are several testimonies of God’s people found in His Word.  Some are dramatic; some not so dramatic; but all of them are precious showing forth the sovereign grace of a mighty and merciful God.  As a pastor and as a father, one of my most common prayers to our Father in heaven is that the children in our midst - whether they be mine or my brother’s and sister’s at Trinity Grace Church - would never know a time that they didn’t know Jesus Christ.  My prayer is that their testimony would be that as Timothy’s, who “from childhood (had been) acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).  What a privilege for this young boy to be raised in a home where the true and lively faith was passed down from one generation to the next.  From his grandmother Lois to his mother Eunice to young Timothy – a deep and indwelling faith in the Lord Jesus.  Another testimony recorded in Scripture that is quite wonderful as well is found in Luke 1:15.  It is the testimony of John the Baptist, “…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”  Much like Timothy’s, it’s not dramatic, but yet, it’s precious.  And then there’s David.  A man who the Scripture says was a man “after God’s own heart” - even with all his failings.  He says in Psalm 22:9 speaking to the Lord, “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.  On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”  Again, there was no dramatic conversion but a quiet, sovereign work of God in the life of one of His children.

And then, of course, there was Paul.  Paul was a persecutor of the church; a persecutor of Christ and yet Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and turned his heart of stone to a heart of flesh.  God, in His grace, drew this arrogant sinner to Himself and saved him.  This was, indeed, a dramatic conversion. 

I know of no Christian who would argue that Paul was any “more saved” than Timothy, or David, or John the Baptist.  I know of no Christian who would argue that Timothy, David, or John the Baptist would need to produce for others a knowledge of a time that they didn’t know Jesus and then a time that they did know Jesus.  I know of no Christian who would argue that Timothy, David, or John the Baptist would need to give evidence of their conversion to show that, in fact, God had worked in their life. 

And yet, it is the sad testimony of the church today that, in practice, this is exactly what we expect from our covenant children.  We expect testimonies like Paul’s rather than testimonies like Timothy’s, David’s, or John’s.  Following the revivalistic tendencies of such men as Gilbert Tennant of the 18th century too many in the church would insist that a “true” Christian would inevitably know a time or the times when they were not.   Too often, children in the covenant are practically being taught exactly opposite of what we propose to teach.  I am not denying the reality of the need of the work of Christ in the heart of sinners.  But I would argue that we do not know when that time is – and it could be at any age.  It’s interesting that a verse commonly used to promote the need for conversion is Matthew 18:3, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn (convert) and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  But notice who Jesus says they are to become like – they are to become like, they are to convert to, as it were, children.  They are to become like children because “to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).  Of course, this was bigger than just the children for Jesus says in verse 17, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  This pointed beyond the children to the way in which the kingdom was to be accepted.  And yet, in order for this to make any sense, the children were accepting it – in fact, they were coming as infants, helpless, bringing nothing, but completely dependent on Christ.  Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (v. 16).  It is as if we in the church are saying to our children, “We acknowledge that you are children and that you are coming to Jesus, but we want you to convert and become like little children before you come.”  This is confusing to our children.  It’s as if we are telling them they must do what’s already been done for them.  I have responded sinfully, out of anger, to my children.  At one such time I made the error of saying to one of my children, “you need to know Jesus!”  Saying to him, “You need Jesus would have been completely appropriate.”  For after all, we all do!  But that’s not what I said, “I said, ‘You need to know Jesus.’” And not in the sense that we all do but in the sense that an unbeliever does – and my child knew exactly what I meant.  His face fell – I crushed his spirit.  His face said it all – it was if he was saying, “Daddy, what do you mean?  I do know Jesus!”  We call our children to Christ; we call them to obey; we call them to believe; but we call them as covenant children. 

Jesus says in John 3:5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  Certainly, there must be new birth!  But to insist that this new birth is dependent upon or somehow necessitates a dramatic conversion experience is to abandon the sovereign grace of God in the salvation of his people.   To insist upon a conversion experience is to deny the testimonies of Timothy, David, and John the Baptist.  It is to deny covenant theology.  It is to deny the promise of God that is to you and to your children.  And it is to deny the power of the simple means of grace that God uses to bring about the passing down of the faith from one generation to the next.  Charles Hodge says concerning revivalistic thinking and can be applied to this issue, “The ordinary means of grace become insipid or distasteful. ...Perhaps however the most deplorable result of the mistake we are now considering is, the neglect which it necessarily induces of the divinely appointed means of careful Christian nurture. ...Family training of children, and pastoral instruction of the young, are almost entirely lost sight of. We have long felt and often expressed the conviction that this is one of the most serious evils in the present state of our churches.” 

Dear Christian parents – regardless of our theological traditions, we all, and our children, are completely dependent upon the mercy of God in Christ Jesus.  May this be a call and a reminder to us all – diligently teach your children (Deuteronomy 6); train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4); teach the Scriptures that are able to make one wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15); and emphasize the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). 

This post is part of the to whom do they belong: children in the covenant series (click to view the other posts in this series).


One Faith

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).

This post will no doubt be the longest of this short series.  For this is probably the most misunderstood aspect of this entire discussion.  Thankfully, the errant belief that there are two ways of salvation in the Scripture, one by works in the Old Testament and one by faith in the New, is becoming less and less common.  Yet, there remains much confusion regarding the salvation of God’s people in the Old and New Testaments.   God’s people in the Old Testament are saved by faith and not of works. For Scripture is clear that the saints in the Old Testament are saved the same way New Testament believers are.  Romans 3:29-31 says, “Is God the God of Jews only?  Is He not the God of Gentiles too?  Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.”  Scripture is not silent on the issue of salvation in the Old Testament.  Paul continues in the fourth chapter of Romans in verse 3, “What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’”  Abraham was not saved by his work but by grace through faith.

But then we must take this one step further and ask, “in what was their faith?”  Were OT people required to exhibit a general faith in God or was the object of their faith also Jesus Christ?  This is where much of the confusion lies, though Scripture plainly teaches that all of Scripture points to the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Men and women in the Old Testament must also have faith in Jesus Christ, the coming Messiah.  While certainly, they did not have all the revelation that New Testament believers have and may not have known the specifics as were eventually revealed in redemptive history, they did have the promise of God; the promise of a Redeemer to come.  As New Testament believers look back to the accomplished work on the cross, Old Testament believers looked forward to the yet finished work on the cross, while being under the provisions of that work.  Jesus declared to the disciples on the Emmaus road in Luke 24, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.  Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”  Jesus tells these disciples that Moses declared that the Messiah must endure the suffering and that they should have realized this and believed it based on that testimony.  Peter declares in Acts 10:43 that “all the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  The prophets testified that it is through the name of Christ that sins are forgiven.  This very Christ was the object of Old Testament faith.  Not only did the Old Testament prophets testify to the Messiah but they also testified as to the days of the early church.  Again, Peter states, “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days” (Acts 3:24).  The church age was not unknown to these prophets as argued by some; they are not a parenthesis in history, but these very times were prophesied by the prophets.  In this same sermon Peter says to these Jews, “when God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26).  Indeed He is the Christ, the Messiah, the long expected one who was to save men from their sins.  It was in the expected Messiah that Israel was to put their faith.  Likewise, Paul tells young Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15, “…and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  These Scriptures of which Paul was speaking were the Old Testament Scriptures.  They did not have the New Testament as of yet.  Jesus Christ was and is the object of a believer’s faith.

The New Covenant found in Jeremiah 31:31 is made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  Very few would argue that this covenant was not inaugurated with the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself says in Luke 22:20, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. “  So the New Covenant is inaugurated with the coming of the Messiah yet it is made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  Gentiles should be ever thankful that they have been grafted in to the cultivated olive tree.  For the covenant was made with Israel!  When people are saved they enter into this covenant community which is designated as “the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”  Therefore, since Jesus Christ is the object of faith for both Old Testament believers and New Testament believers, they can properly be called “one in Christ.”  Many argue that the saints of the Old Testament, though saved by faith, cannot be considered “in Christ” because one is “in Christ” by virtue of being baptized into his death and resurrection.  The argument is that this is a New Testament experience only.  However, it has already been shown that the saints in the Old Testament were saved by faith “in Christ” and not just a general faith.  Moreover, Scripture is more than clear that salvation was indeed by faith rather than by any work or by virtue of circumcision.  Furthermore, Colossians 2:11-12 connects the circumcision of the heart (not by hands of men) with being baptized into Christ. “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”  Abraham’s circumcision was the “seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised” (Rom. 4:11).  It was not the circumcision done by hands that saved him; it was the circumcision of the heart wrought by the Lord. 

Paul also makes this argument in his letter to the Galatians who were foolishly turning back to the law.  He said to them in 1: 1-5, “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?  Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you:  Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”  He then argues with them at the end of chapter 3 that “you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Paul affirms to the Galatians that no matter what you are, if you have been clothed with Christ, then you are “one in Christ.”  The argument might be, “well, this is after the death and resurrection of Christ that Paul says this; this is post-Pentecost”.  In that, one would be correct.  However, in the last verse (29), Paul joins the New Testament believer with Abraham’s seed and together they are heirs according to the promise.  “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  There is no promise outside of Abraham’s seed.  The only way that Old Testament believers are not “in Christ” would be that no Old Testament person was Abraham’s seed and therefore not an heir according to the promise; we know this to be untrue.

In the end, those in the Old Testament are saved the same way those in the New Testament are; by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.  Those in the Old Testament looked forward to the person and work of Christ while those in the New look back to His completed work.  While the New Covenant was indeed, new, the elect of all time, both prior to and after, are members of the New Covenant.  This is not a new idea and certainly not one that this author has come up with.  This idea goes as far back to Augustine and again is found in Calvin’s Institutes.  In fact, Calvin quotes Augustine in Book II, ch. XI, 10:  “the children of the promise [Rom. 9:8], reborn of God, who have obeyed the commands by faith working through love [Gal. 5:6], have belonged to the New Covenant since the world began.  This they did, not in hope of carnal, earthly, and temporal things, but in hope of spiritual, heavenly, and eternal benefits.  For they believed especially in the Mediator; and they did not doubt that through him the Spirit was given to them that they might do good, and that they were pardoned whenever they sinned.”

There is one plan, one tree, and one faith.

Application to faith and life:

Are you a member of the New Covenant?  Have you been cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ?

With a proper understanding of the people of God, one can properly interpret and apply the Old Testament to their life.  The God who brought Israel out of the bondage and slavery of Egypt is the same God who can bring you out of the bondage and slavery of sin.  The God who brought His people through the Red Sea and protected them from Pharaoh and his men is the same God in whom you can take refuge in times of trouble and distress.  The God who told Joshua, “do not be afraid” (Josh. 11) is the same God who says to His children today, “do not fear for I am with you.”

How was Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Joshua saved?  Through faith in the Messiah, the Lamb of God.   How are you saved?  Through faith in the Messiah, the Lamb of God.

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).


To You and To Your Children

This post is part of the to whom do they belong: children in the covenant series (click to view the other posts in this series).

A well-known and well-respected Bible teacher said in a sermon on I Corinthians 7 as to why a believing spouse should not leave an unbelieving spouse:

“Because you become the sanctifying instrument in the life of that non-believer and in the children of that union because you are the one receiving the grace of God that is being poured out on your life that will spill over to those unbelieving people and to your husband or your wife and your children.  Instead of the Christian, listen, being defiled by the unbeliever, the unbeliever is cleansed by the presence of the Christian.  We’re not talking about salvation here. We’re simply talking about the pure, wonderful blessings of God falling on a believer and spilling over to a non-believer and making a purer, cleaner, lovelier home. God pours out His blessings on His redeemed and on the children of His redeemed” (italics mine). 

One might think he or she was reading here a Reformed Presbyterian minister.  It might surprise one to know that this was taken from a sermon preached by Dr. John MacArthur from his pulpit at Grace Community Church (November 21, 2010) since he has been an outspoken opponent of covenant baptism.  I include this quote not to try to point out any contradiction in his teaching but to highlight the reality of covenant blessings even from one who would disagree with me on the application of the sign of the covenant.

In Acts 11, Peter was describing his vision to those in the Church in Jerusalem and he told them of what the voice had said to him concerning his vision, “What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 11:5).  As Paul clearly teaches in I Corinthians 7:14, the children of believers are “holy.”  They are “set apart.”  He says, “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband.  Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”  There may be debate as to how this verse should or should not apply to the practice of covenant baptism (it certainly can’t be ignored) but there should be no debate as to what Paul is communicating concerning the children of believers.  They are “holy.”   And yet it seems that too many in the church today are more than willing to call that which God has declared clean, common; or that which God has called holy, unholy.  God Himself has spoken concerning the children of believers.  How, therefore, are we to view our children?  How are we to view the children of believers?  The biblical answer is this:  we view our children as holy.

We have no problem applying this principle to the church as a whole even though we seem to have difficulty doing so with our children.  When we gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, we gather as the people of God.  It is a congregation of believers.  As I plan, prepare, and organize the worship service, and as I preach, I am doing so with the people of God in mind.  The fact that there are, or may be, unbelievers in our midst doesn’t change this fact.  I do not preach to a gathering of unbelievers but to a gathering of believers.  It is a gathering of believers who are offering their worship to the Lord cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ in the power in the Holy Spirit.  And yet, neither am I assured as a pastor that all those under my teaching are regenerate.  Does this mean I gear my teaching toward them at the expense of the believers?  I believe this line of questioning actually reveals our misunderstanding of the Word of God and goes back to the subject of my previous post.  What is it that we all need?  What is it that has the power to change hearts and lives?  Is it not the Word of God?  Does not and can not the same truth that encourages and nourishes the heart and soul of a believer actually change the heart of an unbeliever?  Does the believer walking in Christ not need the same gospel that the, as yet, unregenerate need?  Can we not go back to the theme verse for covenant children, 2 Timothy 3:14-15?  “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Those in the Old Testament had no problem whatsoever calling their children to obey the commands of God as covenant members.  In Deuteronomy 6 as Moses is reminding the people of God of the law of God, he says in verse 2, “That you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.”  He continues in verse 7, “You shall teach them diligently to your children.”  Children were viewed, and are to be viewed, as covenant members.  And it doesn’t stop with the commands of God.  The law of God cannot save – it never has and it never will.  But praise God for the gospel!  As Paul says in Romans 8:3-4, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  Listen to how Moses directs parents in the Old Testament as he continues in Deuteronomy 6:20, “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord your God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt.  And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand’”.  This deliverance from Egypt was typological of our deliverance from the bondage of sin.  When we call our children to walk in the ways of the Lord and they ask, “what is the meaning of these rules and statutes?” we answer them, “We were slaves under the bondage of sin and the Lord brought us out with a mighty hand.”  Egypt looks forward to our deliverance as Moses looks forward to the person and work of Christ.  Deuteronomy 18:15 says, “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.”  Peter says in Acts 3:22 that Jesus is that one to come like Moses – not to deliver simply from the bondage of Egypt, but He has delivered his people from the bondage of sin.

We all need the Word of God.  We all need the gospel of Jesus Christ – those that do not know Him and those that do know Him.  All of us in the pews need the Word of God – even as we gather as believers, the people of God.  Our children need the Word of God – even as they are the children of believers; even as they are covenant children; even as they are holy - and should be viewed as such. 

This post is part of the to whom do they belong: children in the covenant series (click to view the other posts in this series).

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