Feeds:
Posts
Comments

The first installment of my series on the distinctives of the Presbyterian Reformed Church, or the old Scottish Presbyterian doctrine, worship, government, and discipline. Below is a very lightly edited transcript (special thanks to sister Susan!).

* * * *

Psalm 78:5 – Our Testimony, Part 1: Psalm Singing

Turn with me to Psalm 78 and verse 5, in which we read the words, For he [that is the Lord] established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children…

The Seventy-eighth Psalm opens with the words that concern the passing along, the faithful passing along, of the fear of the Lord, the right worship of God, the doctrine that had been revealed to the people of God from one generation to another. It is, as we have not too terribly long ago considered, the way of the Lord to deal through generations. Yes, he saves individuals, and there is none who are saved but individuals; and yet individuals find themselves planted by the hand of God, more oftentimes than not, within families. Indeed, we are all children of fathers and mothers, and so it pleases the Lord that, by and large, within his church there should be families, one generation succeeding the other.

Well, it was commanded Abraham that he should teach his children in the ways of the Lord and the Lord said, I know Abraham that he will command his children after him that they may keep the way of the Lord, that God might fulfill his promise that he had for them. Joshua, that courageous and valiant man, he had become old and gray-headed, and he stood before the congregation at a crossroads, when one generation was to succeed the other and he charged them: If the Lord be God then serve him, or if these other gods of the nations, if they be true, then go your ways, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Well, Psalm 78 is a psalm in which these themes are captured, the concept of the receiving of the the truth, and passing that along to the next generation. We have a responsibility – fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters in Jesus Christ, to hold onto what God has given us; in the words of Psalm 78:5, that testimony, that witness to the truth, and to pass it along to the next generation – which means two things: We must maintain what we have received, and not let it slip though our fingers, not grow lax and careless, and we must then impart them to the next generation, that they may be faithful in the Lord.

Continue Reading »

So, I’ve begun another season in my two parish districts. It’s been pretty interesting so far — definitely a Spring forward!

The very first day back in the S. Providence parish, the very first multi-family house, I was welcomed into the apartment of a retirement-age woman, “Ximena” (not real name). She was morbidly obese and quite home-bound; I normally don’t accept offers to come inside to visit a single woman without my wife, but this I figured was safe enough. The poor woman had quite a tale of woe; and she was rather anxious about various individuals in her life plotting her harm. Then, she confided her fears about paranormal activity. Clearly, this poor woman needs Jesus, the Liberator from all our sins and miseries, real or contrived. I read to her from the Gospels about this blessed Deliverer. She claims to be a Christian and even demonstrated a certain Bible knowledge that would point to a greater exposure to evangelical Christianity. But whatever her case, she was clearly very lonely and would easily welcome anyone to care for her soul. If you would like to be a part of that, reader, let me know. A Christian couple or mature Christian woman would be ideal.

Continue Reading »

“Thus, then, it is that God is saving the world—the world, mind you, and not merely some individuals out of the world—by a process which involves not supplanting but reformation, re-creation. We look for new heavens and a new earth, it is true; but these new heavens and new earth are not another heaven and another earth, but the old heaven and old earth renewed; or, as the Scriptures phrase it, “regenerated.” For not the individual merely, but the fabric of the world itself, is to be regenerated in that “regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory” (Matt. 19:28). During the process, there may be much that is discarded. But when the process is completed, then also shall be completed the task which the Son of Man has taken upon himself, and the “world” shall be saved—this wicked world of sinful men transformed into a world of righteousness.”

“Surely, we shall not wish to measure the saving work of God by what has been already accomplished in these unripe days in which our lot is cast. The sands of time have not yet run out. And before us stretch, not merely the reaches of the ages, but the infinitely resourceful reaches of the promise of God. Are not the saints to inherit the earth? Is not the re-created earth theirs? Are not the kingdoms of the world to become the kingdom of God? Is not the knowledge of the glory of God to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea? Shall not the day dawn when no man need say to his neighbor, “Know the Lord,” for all shall know him from the least unto the greatest?”

-Warfield, “God’s Immeasurable Love”

-Vos, “Eschatology of the Psalter”

I try to avoid promoting my own sermons very often. But after giving a short series on the doctrine of hell, I continued with a second short series on the subject of biblical, Reformed church growth, something very near my heart. Specifically, I spoke from Matthew 16:18 about building up the church from within by training up, winning over, and thus retaining our baptized, covenant children. We must promote and encourage Christian child-bearing and so helping populate the (visible) Kingdom through these “federally holy” sinners, a mission field in its own right. Then, I laid out in the final messages a call and battleplan for aggressive, local and regional missions. As Prof. Murray said when personally engaging in church-planting in New England, we must “go where the people are, not where you hope they will come.”

As we are planted in southern New England and are involved in a church plant in New Jersey, I call us to pray earnestly and labor believingly for the extension of confessional Presbyterianism here in our northeastern “Samaria.” It may be spiritually ‘rocky soil,’ but God can create sons of Abraham from these stones. He did it before! If things go from bad to worse, a strategic retreat is possible. But let us not give up the Messiah’s ground without a fight! And who knows? Perhaps the Lord will make this “desert to blossom as the rose” again, and restore the pure worship of our godly Puritan forbears.

Do you live in the northeast — in New England, New York, or New Jersey? Are you committed to the old paths of the Puritans and Presbyterians? Do you long for a Third Great Awakening today? Would you be interested in hosting special meeting in your area? Please get in touch with me at 515-783-5637 or mjives dot refparish at gmail dot com.

And if you don’t live in the northeast, would you pray for us? And maybe even consider joining us, if Providence opens a door?

XIV. The rest of God, from the work of the creation, was a type of a far more glorious rest of God from the work of the glorification of the whole universe. When God had created the first world, so as to be a commodious habitation for man during his probation, and an illustrious theatre of the perfections of the Creator; he took pleasure in this his work, and rested with delight. For he bestowed upon it all the perfection which was requisite to complete that state. But he had resolved, one day, to produce a far more perfect universe, and, by dissolving the elements by fire, to raise a new heaven and a new earth, as it were, out of the ashes of the old: which new world, being blessed with his immutable happiness, was to be a far more august habitation for his glorified creatures; in which, as in the last display of his perfections, he was for ever to rest with the greatest complacency. And besides, as God, according to his infinite wisdom, so wisely connects all his actions, that the preceding have a certain respect to the following; in like manner, since that rest of God after the creation was less complete than that other, when God shall have concluded the whole, and which is to be followed by no other labour or toil; it is proper to consider that first rest of God as a type, and a kind of prelude of that other, which is more perfect. In fine, because it tends to man’s greatest happiness, that the whole universe be thus glorified, and himself in the universe, that God may altogether rest in him, as having now obtained his last degree of perfection, he is said “to enter into the rest of God,” Heb. 4:10.

Continue Reading »

Below is an expanded and updated set of diagrams I’ve worked on to explain covenant theology in its various dimensions. The earlier version was posted here.

I ended up making three interrelated diagrams so as to avoid things becoming too convoluted. These should be pretty intuitive for the average Reformed office-bearer and the better-educated Reformed believer. (And note, ‘construct covenants’ is a term I’ve coined. If there is a more standard one of which I’m ignorant, by all means let me know.)

God’s design was perfectly to restore all the ruins of the fall, so far as concerns the elect part of the world, by his Son; and therefore we read of the restitution of all things. Acts 3:21, “Whom the heaven must receive, until the times of the restitution of all things; and of the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”

Man’s soul was ruined by the fall; the image of God was defaced; man’s nature was corrupted, and he became dead in sin. The design of God was, to restore the soul of man to life and the divine image in conversion, to carry on the change in sanctification, and to perfect it in glory. Man’s body was ruined; by the fall it became subject to death. The design of God was, to restore it from this ruin, and not only to deliver it from death in the resurrection, but to deliver it from mortality itself, in making it like unto Christ’s glorious body. The world was ruined, as to man, as effectually as if it had been reduced to chaos again; all heaven and earth were overthrown. But the design of God was, to restore all, and as it were to create a new heaven and a new earth: Isa 65:17, “Behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” 2 Pet 3:13, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

The work by which this was to be done, was begun immediately after the fall, and so is carried on till all is finished, when the whole world, heaven and earth, shall be restored. There shall be, as it were, new heavens, and a new earth, in a spiritual sense, at the end of the world. Thus it is represented, Rev 21:1, “And I saw a new heaven, and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.”

[from A History of the Work of Redemption]

I need your help. Are you Reformed, fluent in English and Spanish, and willing to help us from the comfort of your home, wherever you live? Our urban mission in Providence, R.I. could really use you. We are exploring alternate and backup Spanish translators for our monthly Spanish outreach broadcast—hopefully the embryo of a future mission work in Providence. We are working on a system that enables us to use someone like you from a distance, to translate my preaching into Spanish live.

I also have other English to Spanish translation projects. I’m working with a confessional Presbyterian seminary in Bolivia, El Seminario Teológico Reformado – William Ames, developing a course in English and translated into idiomatic Spanish. I could very much use an extra translator or two to convert English transcripts into Spanish translations for use in video subtitles.

If you have a large heart and a passion for advancing the classic Reformed testimony, please get in touch. You can contact me at mjives dot refparish at gmail dot com, call 515-783-5637, or DM me on Facebook.

Please pray for us. Learn more about Reformed Parish Mission (RPM); and sign up for the West Port Experiment blog at the right to receive periodic updates.

Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 5. “In Scripture symbolism the grave is the gateway to hell. Accordingly, Sheol in the one sense is the anteroom of Sheol in the other sense.”

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 4

Just finished recording the lengthy chapter “The Biblical Argument” in W. G. T. Shedd’s theological treatise, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment. Truly the definitive modern work on the subject. Listen to them here. Among other insightful and profound passages is the following on the apocalyptic, revelatory nature of death:

“. . . in Scripture death is represented as the deciding epoch in a man’s existence. It is the boundary between the two Biblical aeons, or worlds. Until man dies, he is in ‘this world’ (ho nun aion); after death, he is in ‘the future world’ (aion ho mellon). The common understanding of the teaching of Scripture is, that men are in ‘time,’ so long as they live, but when they die, they enter ‘eternity.’ ‘It is appointed unto men once to die, but after that judgment,’ Heb. 9:27. This teaches that prior to death man’s destiny is not decided, he being not yet sentenced; but after death his destiny is settled. When he dies, the ‘private judgment,’ that is, the immediate personal consciousness either of penitence or impenitence, occurs. Every human spirit, in that supreme moment when it ‘returns to God who gave it,’ knows by direct self-consciousness whether it is a child or an enemy of God, in temper and disposition; whether it is humble and contrite, or proud, hard, and impenitent; whether it welcomes or rejects the Divine mercy in Christ. The article of death is an event in human existence which strips off all disguises, and shows the person what he really is in moral character. He knows ‘as he is known,’ and in this flashing light passes a sentence upon himself that is accurate. This ‘private judgment’ at death, is reaffirmed in the ‘general judgment’ of the last day.”