The Puritans Pay Off

Part 8 - Theology in Practice
Chapter 59 - Lessons from the Puritans

The Puritans show us how to 
  • focus on Christ - they treasured and extolled Him in all things
  • stay Biblically balanced - maintain the objective salvation events of God with our subjective experience of it, God's sovereignty and our responsibility, avoiding Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism.
  • teach the faith - using catechisms to cultivate biblical knowledge, apply it to life, enhance family worship, and bring people to Christ.
  • pray without ceasing - they emphasized a pastor and preacher's private prayers, to model prayer publicly for all Christians and to enhance the power of sermons.
  • bear up under troubles - "we need affliction to humble us" (966).  Besides, they are temporary, while our reward in heaven is eternal.
  • kill pride - pride crops up over almost anything.  Don't get satisfied with yourself.  Focus on your sins and your humble Savior.
  • rely on the Spirit - both to convert souls and grow in the Lord.

Imitate the piety of the Puritans.  They show us great godliness.

Chapter 60 - A Final Word
The Puritans lived in hard times and were largely unsuccessful in their reforming efforts.  But many elements of their work deserve recovery today.

  • They kept their eye on great Gospel truths
  • They valued learning, were highly trained in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, theology and philosophy, and taught their people.
  • They furthered theological work begun a generation earlier, with more precise distinctions.
  • They knew their Bibles well.
  • They reformed the church with sincere and practical piety.
  • They centered their work on the pulpit and press.

Godly Zeal

Part 8 - Theology in Practice
Chapter 58 - Sacrificial Zeal

"Many churches in America are looking less like armies engaged in war and more like La-Z-Boy chairs, from which drowsy Christians are saying, 'Don't wake me up!'" (947).

Everyone is zealous for and against things.  Zeal is passion or desire for something.  We may be zealous for the greatness of America or for the demise of ISIS, for example.  Many Christians seem uninterested in cultivating zeal for the glory and holiness of God.

Zeal can be counterfeit (hypocritically seeking a selfish end while professing a good one), blind (passion without direction), or turbulent (passion tinged with hate, envy, etc.).

True zeal seeks God's honor, follows the Bible instead of factions, reforms self before others, constantly asks what it can do for God, is constant instead of flashing hot then going cold, is bold but sweet and loving instead of abrasive.

The way to get zeal is the means of grace:
Prayer - ask and you shall receive!
Word - reading and hearing it preached.
Worship - as coals gathered together stay hot...
Repentance - 2 Cor. 7:11 says repentance produces zeal.

These means seem weak, but God uses them mightily and we should trust Him and use them, as Naaman had to trust Elijah's means of washing in muddy Jordan.

The authors call ministers, laborers and parents to zeal in their callings.

Be fervent in spirit (Romans 12:11), run to get the prize (1 Cor. 9:24-25), take the kingdom forcefully (Matthew 11:12).  Don't be lackadaisical or neutral in response to God's call to "be zealous" (Rev. 3:19).

Puritan Ethics, or Casuistry

Part 8 - Theology in Practice
Chapter 57 - Puritan Casuistry

    The Lord GOD has given Me
    The tongue of the learned,
    That I should know how to speak
    A word in season to him who is weary.   Isaiah 50:4

Casuistry is usually taken as caviling with words to get out of something, but in Protestant theology casuistry is the area of applied ethics in counseling and discipline/discipleship in daily living and in sticky situations.

Much was written to guide daily living, out of a pastoral desire to counsel folks, and out of criticism from the Catholic Jesuits that the Puritans had no such literature.

Three basic categories:

  1. Personal - how am I saved, or assured of my salvation.  How can I be comforted when distressed in affliction?  How can I be restored when I have fallen into sin?
  2. Apologetic/Public - How can I know the Bible is God's Word?  How do I apply Old Testament law to myself?  How should I worship God?
  3. Social - How do I love my neighbor?

Perkins was a forerunner of this.  They saw it not just as ethics - how to live - but as cases of conscience, since if you lived wrongly your relationship with God would go awry.  The emphasis became relieving distressed consciences, but they also delved into policy, such as asserting that the king could abolish episcopacy without breaking any law or oath.

Puritans sought full-time faculty in universities/seminaries, devoted to this topic of "practical divinity," but were largely unsuccessful.  They did write lots of books on it, including Baxter's Christian Directory, probably the best (and longest) of the type.  This genre faded with the fading of Puritanism generally, upon the rise of Deism, Arminianism, and the attacks on Christianity by Hobbes and Locke.

This body of "counseling" work

  • helps pastors be competent soul doctors
  • focuses the person on their relationship with God more than their self-esteem
  • promotes sanctification
  • allows for counseling from the pulpit, and then follow up in visitation
  • gave direction after tenderly listening, often with firmness and urgency
  • preached the Word instead of probing feelings endlessly

Read God's Word in 2016

Would you commit with me to reading the Scriptures daily this coming new year?

It's too easy to let events overtake and push to the side your time with the Lord.
We need to plan for it daily.

Find a time and place that your family, friends and work can all give you as God's time.
Of course, it is all God's time, but we set aside the first day of the week to actually go and worship Him.  So should we set aside a few minutes of each day to DO NOTHING ELSE but pray, read His Word, and think upon Him.

Here's an article answering a few objections to reading the Bible with a plan.

How then shall we read?
With the variety and multitude of plans available (see below!), you need to decide a few things before you wade into plans:
  1. How much can I read?  Plans take anywhere from 2 to 10 chapters a day.  Taking 2 years is a good option for a beginner, which means less quantity.  Do you want free days built in, maybe to catch up?  Do you want to read more on weekends, or less?
  2. How do I want to read?  Straight through?  Chronologically?  A bit in each kind of Bible literature?
If you have these two things clear as you check out plans, you'll quickly find the one that's right for you.

Here are some plans:
1 year and 2-year chronological (at the bottom of the webpage)

Ligonier has options.

The ESV site has a dozen options.

"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it" - Revelation 1:3.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" - Psalm 119:105.

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night" - Joshua 1:8.

Revelation 21-22

John sees the new heaven and earth and new Jerusalem.
God dwells with men and puts an end to all pain and sadness.
He gives His people the water of life, but casts the wicked into the lake of fire.
The bride, the new Jerusalem, has God's glory, 12 gates of pearl on 12 foundations, the apostles.
It is a perfect cube, made of gold, even the streets, and 12 jewels.
They will walk with God there in safety and purity.

The river and tree of life are in the midst of the city.  The leaves heal the nations.
We will see and worship God, reigning with Him with no night.

This is what will happen.
John is overwhelmed and falls to worship the angel showing him these things, and the angel stops him, directing him to worship God.
Jesus is coming soon.  He sent this message to us through His angel.  He is the root and son of David.
Blessed are those ready for Him.  Cursed are the wicked.
Don't add to or take away from this book.

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be will all.  Amen."

How this is about Jesus
The new heaven and earth are remade through Him.
The city is His, and it is His to recompense all men by His justice or mercy.
As we see God in the face of Jesus, we will fully see Him there - this is the greatest blessing.

Looking forward to heaven changes us in the present.
"He who has this hope purifies himself" (1 John 3:3).
We cannot attain this ultimate blessing ourselves, but need Jesus to bring it to us.


The Puritan Conscience

Part 8 - Theology in Practice
Chapter 56 - The Puritans on Conscience

Conscience played a large role in the Puritan outlook.
Conscience is a part of human nature that God has given us to judge ourselves.  Everyone has one and it reasons, either condemning or exonerating ourselves to ourselves.
Our conscience is corrupted.  We condemn ourselves when we need not, and we excuse ourselves when we ought not.  Forms the corrupt conscience can take: doubt, moralism, over-scrupulosity, error, drowsy and seared.
To restore the conscience requires preaching the Word to show us our sin and guilt, conforming the conscience to the Word's norms, guarding it by our obedience, keeping it tender by self-examination.

This section was extremely weak on the conscience being assured by Christ's work for us.  It wasn't said that our conscience is based mainly on our obedience, but this is the main emphasis.  This is a key Puritan weakness: relying on our own efforts of conscience searching more than looking to Christ's objective work, to ease our conscience.  "A good conscience does not promote legalism" (926) they say, and that is true.  But when the conscience is based mainly on our good works and deeds of repentance and sanctification it will tend that way.


God's love remains with Israel, not Edom.
God rebukes the priests for offering blemished sacrifices on His altar, yawning and mocking at the routine and paltry worship.

The priests used to preserve knowledge, by now you are leading people astray, and going astray yourselves.

The messenger of the covenant is coming to refine you Levites.
The reason you aren't consumed already is because I am unchangeable in My mercy to you in spite of your stubbornness all along.
You rob Me by not giving Your full tithe.  You speak against Me by speaking ill of serving Me.
God-fearers unite and write down their obedient desires.  God recognizes and promises to honor it.

The distinction will be clear again when the day comes.  The wicked will burn like stubble, but the righteous will burst out in joy.
Remember Moses and his law.
Elijah will come to you before the day of the LORD to turn fathers to their children again, before destruction comes.

How this is about Jesus
He is the messenger of the covenant who comes and cleanses His priests and His temple.
John wears Elijah's clothes, and announces the coming of Jesus.

The back-and-forth of Malachi ("how have we hated You?") shows that believers can backslide and not even realize it.  We must stay diligent in our walk with the Lord.  Give God your best in worship.

Nehemiah 7-13

Nehemiah takes a census and finds about 50,000 people.

Ezra reads from the Bible all morning to all the people, on a raised stage/pulpit.
The people are grieved, but the leaders call for a joyful feast.
They celebrate the feast of booths, which hadn't been done since Joshua's day.

Nehemiah prays a prayer of confession that first recounts Israel's history according to the Pentateuch, which they read in chapter 8.  God has been faithful, and Israel has been consistently sinful.  Israel makes a written covenant to this effect.

The signers of the covenant are listed, and then what they commit to, from the Law:
  • to keep all God's commands
  • to not marry with unbelievers
  • to not buy and sell on the Sabbath
  • to not charge interest on debt
  • to give the land rest every 7 years
  • to pay the temple tax and tithe

Most go to their towns to work their land, but a few volunteer to stay in the city.
These men are listed, and the places where others lived.

Priests and Levites listed.
All the Levites assemble and make music at the wall dedication.  Ezra leads one choir and Nehemiah the other, while they play on instruments made by King David.
The Levites' musical and sacrificial duties are organized going forward, and their tithes.

Nehemiah goes back to Persia for a time.
When he returns and it becomes known that the Bible says no Ammonite may enter the temple, Nehemiah throws Tobiah the Ammonite (see 4:3) out of the temple.
He enforces many laws the people had resolved to do, but neglected:
  • tithing to Levites
  • working and selling on Sabbath
  • putting away foreigners and unbelieving wives

How this is about Jesus
He teaches the people to be pure in heart and life, pointing them to the Word, like Nehemiah.
He is zealous for God's house, cleansing the temple and corrupt financial dealing.
In the broad sweep of redemptive history, perhaps Nehemiah thought he was fulfilling Amos 9:11-15 (below), but that fulfillment awaited Christ's coming and the inclusion of the Gentiles in the New Testament church.

Nehemiah is often considered a historical root of Pharisees.  Their emphasis was on their obedience to the Law of God being the key to God blessing or cursing Israel.  This results in great zeal to obey the Law, which is commendable.  But by Jesus' day this had become self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and emphasizing minor and extra-biblical duties.  Our focus needs to remain on God's sovereign grace, that He blesses us without our help, and also maintaining a zeal to obey God out of gratitude for that grace we have received.

Amos 9:11-15
    On that day I will raise up
    The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down,
    And repair its damages;
    I will raise up its ruins,
    And rebuild it as in the days of old;
    12      That they may possess the remnant of Edom, 
    And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,”
    Says the LORD who does this thing.

    13      “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
    “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
    And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
    The mountains shall drip with sweet wine,
    And all the hills shall flow with it.
    14      I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
    They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
    They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them;
    They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
    15      I will plant them in their land,
    And no longer shall they be pulled up
    From the land I have given them,”
    Says the LORD your God.


Nehemiah 1-6

Nehemiah, an exile from Israel to Persia, hears that Jerusalem is reduced.
He confesses Israel's sins and asks for favor as he goes to the king for help.

He is sad before the king, who asks about it.  He asks to go and rebuild Jerusalem.  The king says yes.
When Nehemiah gets to Jerusalem, he inspects the walls and gates, then goes to the leaders and points out the poor condition and the king's permission, and encourages them to build.  Sanballat and other enemies mock and deride them.

3 - the men who work on each gate are named.

Enemies mock, much of the work is done which makes the enemies mad.  God's people get weary, and hear of the military threat.  Nehemiah stations soldiers with their own clans to be on guard and work at the same time.

Nehemiah gets the rich Jews to forgive debts and stop charging interest for loans to the poor.
He lives cheaply, so as not to charge a high tax.

Sanballat intimidates Nehemiah, making up rumors of Nehemiah's treason.  He isn't bullied, and they finish the wall, but powerful Tobiah is allied with Sanballat.

How this is about Jesus
He is zealous to build the city of God, to make His people strong and pure, as Nehemiah was.
He provides for His people both defenders and builders.

We build and fight better when fighting for our own family and people.
Don't take advantage of the poor.
We are living stones being built into God's house (1 Peter 2:1-10).

Prayer and Meditation

Part 8 - Theology in Practice
Chapter 54 - Matthew Henry on Daily Prayer

Henry's "Method for Prayer" is much under-rated, published in 1710.
He calls us to prayer three times a day, and the beginning, middle and end.  We should begin our day with God, wait upon Him all day, and close the day considering our life's end.

The strength of Henry's book is his method for prayer: praying Scripture back to God as petitions and claiming promises.  He also turns a doctrine of God into prayer.

Chapter 55 - Meditation
The Puritans were meditating long before the new age movement co-opted this word.
Meditation is thinking upon a biblical truth such that it moves your heart and applies to your life and conscience.  God calls us to meditate on His Word in many places (Joshua 1:8; Deut. 6:7; Psalm 19:14; 119:11).  Puritans were fond of the digestion metaphor.  One may take in Scripture or a sermon, but it needs digesting in the soul or it won't do much good.  "It is better to hear one sermon only and meditate on that, than to hear two sermons and meditate on neither" (893).

They recommended meditating frequently (once or twice a day) for 15-60 minutes.  Solitude and quiet are necessary.  Choose a verse, short passage, or doctrine to begin with.  Use the three books of Scripture, creation, and conscience.  Examine yourself and make resolutions, concluding with prayer.  Especially important times to meditate are before and during worship and Communion, and on the Sabbath.

Meditation focuses you on God, stirs up your affections for Him, fosters repentance, aids prayer, weans us from worldliness, promotes gratitude and glorifies God.

Don't let these obstacles stand in your way:

  • Lack of attention span
  • Busyness
  • Spiritual lethargy
  • Worldly pleasures
"If the farmer meditates upon his land... shouldn't Christians meditate upon their God and Savior?" (906).

This is a much lost art, but perhaps the Puritans made a category and method of something that we can more plainly describe as thinking and examining one's self while you're reading Scripture and moving to prayer.

Two tendencies the Puritans had that I lean against showed up on the same page.  "The pleasures of the world discompose our souls" (905).  Yes, but God gave them to direct us to Him.  We abuse them in our sin, true.  And it is usually harder to go from a pleasure to a spiritual exercise, than from hardship to some devotional act.  But still, we ought to enjoy what God has given for our senses, and glorify Him for it, instead of deny lawful things.

The second was the assumption that God's truth doesn't impress us as it should because we don't meditate on them as we should.  I would say that while we have a responsibility to do our part, the blessings of God aren't ours for the taking like a vending machine.  God's Spirit must work.

Revelation 17-20

One of the 7 angels shows John a prostitute on waters who commits adultery with many kings and drinks the blood of the saints.  Her name is Babylon and she will fall to the kings.

Babylon's fall is sung.  She was a great city with much wealth and trade, so her fall affects many.
God's people are called out of her, so as not to be defiled by her.

The saints praise God for the destruction of Babylon.
The marriage of the Lamb is proclaimed - they are blessed who are invited.
Jesus appears on a horse with His armies behind Him.  He conquers the beast and earth's kings gathered against Him.

Satan is imprisoned for 1000 years while the martyred saints reign with Christ.
When he is released he deceives and gathers the nations to war against Christ, surrounding the beloved city.  Fire from heaven consumes them and Satan is thrown into the lake of fire.
The dead are brought before the throne of judgment and judged according to what they have done.  Death and Hades are thrown into the fire, and anyone not in the book of life.

How this is about Jesus
Babylon opposes Him, in her self-satisfied indulgence and harm done to His people.
He is the Bridegroom headed for a wedding to the glorious and spotless Church.
He is the warrior who conquers and destroys the bad guys.

It is from Scriptures such as these that we write stories about the demise of bad guys and relish their defeat.  We long for our marriage to the Lord.
Whether we believe Satan is now bound and we are reigning, or that that time is still coming and Satan is loose and powerful now, the last judgment should motivate us to godliness (2 Peter 3:11-13).



The king of Persia throws a feast and calls for Queen Vashti to appear, but she refuses.  The advisors counsel that the king depose and replace her.

The king's young men (of course) propose a contest, for any beautiful woman to be taken to the palace, made up for months, and given one night with the king.  He can choose the one he likes to be the next queen.  A Jewish orphan Hadassah (Esther) is chosen.  Her uncle Mordecai discovers a plot against the king.

Mordecai descends from Saul; Haman from Agag (see 1 Samuel 15).  Haman is promoted, and proposes to pay for the destruction of the dangerous Jews.  The king accepts.

Mordecai hears of it, mourns publicly, and asks Esther to ask the king to change the decree.  She hesitates; he presses; she relents and asks him to fast 3 days for her.

She goes into the king and he accepts her.  (He could have had her executed for her uninvited entrance.)  She asks him and Haman to a feast.  At that feast she asks them to another feast the next day.  Haman is proud of his high position, and all the angrier at Mordecai.  He builds a gallows to hang him on.

The king can't sleep that night, and has old journals read to him.  He hears of Mordecai saving him and wants to honor him.  Haman comes in (is it morning now?), probably ready to accuse and execute Mordecai, but the king has Haman honor him publicly instead.  He is horrified!

Esther reveals that she is a Jew and Haman wants her and her people dead.  The king hangs Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

Esther gets Haman's house; Mordecai gets his position.
Esther asks again to revoke the law allowing the destruction of the Jews.  The king cannot, but gives them permission to write in new law regarding it.  They write that the king allows the Jews to defend themselves if any still try to attack, plunder or kill them.

The day comes and the Jews kill 500 in the capital Susa who try to harm them.  They mark the day as a perpetual feast, and Haman's sons are also executed.

The king rules, and Mordecai is a faithful second at his side, speaking peace.

How this is about Jesus
He is prefigured as Esther, the one chosen and favored by the king.  She intercedes successfully for her people, at risk to her own life.
Jesus is also prefigured as Mordecai, a faithful Jew who is raised to the right hand of the throne.  He is wise in his law-making and personal counsel to Esther.

Esther emphasizes letters/laws and feasts, just as the church has been given the Word and Sacraments in the Kingdom of God.
This book never mentions God or prayer, as a literary way of showing that God's people had to learn how to live in a place that was far from God.

Ezra 5-10

Israel re-starts rebuilding the temple after Zechariah and Haggai prophesy to do so.
Their enemies living around tattle to Darius on them: "Did you say they could do this?  They say the last king Cyrus said they could do this."

Darius finds the record and writes to Israel's enemies to leave them alone to work.
They finish and dedicate the temple, and celebrate the Passover/Unleavened Bread for the full 7 days.

Ezra goes to Jerusalem in Artaxerxes' reign.  Ezra is a priest descended from Aaron, and goes to teach the Law of God to Israel.  The king gives him, silver and gold for use in the temple, a letter authorizing a large budget from the Syrian governor for temple supplies, tax exemption for all temple workers, authority to appoint teachers and judges of the Law under him throughout the province.

Ezra gathers the group of a few hundred, but there is no Levite, so they seek and find one.  They pray and fast for protection on the journey.  They didn't want to ask the king for a guard since they had already said God would protect them.  Ezra puts the gold in the care of a dozen leading priests.  They travel and arrive safely!

Some officials tell Ezra that many Israelites have inter-married with the syncretist or pagan people already in the land.  Ezra prays a prayer of grief and repentance about it.

The rulers encourage Ezra to help them set the situation right.  He prays all night, then summons Israel to assemble.  But it's the rainy season.  The people agree they have sinned, and ask to come to Jerusalem city by city to sort it out, since it'll take a while.  Those who had intermarried are listed.

How this is about Jesus/Application
He moves the heart of kings and robbers to provide for and protect His people.
He wants a pure people, not mixed up with other gods.

Revelation 14-16

John sees 144,000 pure saints with the Lamb, while 3 angels proclaim the judgment and demise of Babylon.
Angels with sickles harvest the earth of its crops and wine, representing mankind.  The blood runs deep and long 186 miles and as high as a horses bridle.

John sees the saints and angels worshiping God around the sea of crystal.
He sees 7 angels with 7 bowls of plagues and wrath, which are poured out next.

The first 4 bowls bring sores and hurt on nature and all people.
The 5th strikes the beast's kingdom with darkness and anguish.
The 6th unleashes an unholy trinity of demons that gather the nations' armies to fight God at Armageddon.
The 7th brings earthquake, hail, and further torment on mankind.

How this is about Jesus
14 - He is with His saints and directs the close of history.
15/16 - He orders the punishments on unbelieving mankind.  This is the wrath of the Lamb.

14 - At the end, men will be harvested as crops.  Will the farmer want to keep you as good grain, or throw you to the fire as diseased or withered and no good?

15 - Worship of God continues whether saints are received to their everlasting rest, or unrepentant receive punishment from Christ.

16 - Punishment often brings further rebellion from us.

Puritan Family Worship

Part 8 - Theology in Practice
Chapter 53 - Walking Godly in the Home

How you live at home shows your true spirituality.  "Follow hypocrites home to their houses, and there you shall see what they are" (862).

To lead at home well, delight yourself in the Lord (Psalm 101:1), commune with Him personally (Psalm 101:2), and maintain your integrity (Ps 101:2) and purity (Ps 101:3).  Bunyan speaks of guarding your ear-gate and eye-gate.

The Puritans regarded family worship as the mark of a godly father and a duty for Christian families.  1 Tim. 2:8; Gen. 18:19; Deut. 6:6-7; Josh. 24:15; Acts 10:2; Psalms 127-128; and 2 Sam. 6:20 all show God's purpose for families to worship Him as families.  "Those that love the Lord God themselves should do what they can to engage the affections of their children to him" (868).  Fathers, or mothers in their absence, should set the Word before them (Deut 6:6-7), and lead them in prayer and praise (Ps. 118:15).

The Directory for Family-Worship by the Church of Scotland (1647) is a helpful resource.  Family worship should not replace private devotions.  Avoid dogmatism about time and place.  Elements are:
Prayer - be brief, direct and varied, without asking for the same things, or shallow things, every day.
Praise - sing Psalms and hymns heartily.  Don't sing erroneous lyrics no matter how great the tune.
Read the Bible - involve the whole family and teach them how to read for the family.
Catechize - use catechisms to keep discussion on track and help the leader know best where to go.
Conversation - ask questions, discuss and apply truth.  Make children attend
Admonition - address them directly, calling them to believe and love and live the truth taught.
Be brief (but frequent) so you don't provoke smaller children, not trying to do all 6 of these at once.

Objections to family worship
"There is no command in the Bible to do this."  Not explicitly, but the verses above give the idea.
"This is unique to the Puritans."  They were following Scripture, and others like Chrysostom called for family leaders to shepherd their families.
"This limits God's Spirit."  No, we put ourselves in the way for His grace to work.
"We don't have time for this."  But you have time for your other entertainment?
"I'm not good at leading this."  That's fine - learn as you go, from others if needed.
"Some children won't participate."  Are they the master of your house, or the Lord?  No worship, no food.

Motivations to family worship
To bring your loved ones to God.
To glorify and thank Him.

This chapter hits a strong point for the authors and the Puritans, who "warned against 'too much austerity and severity' on the part of fathers to their children such as 'sourness in countenance, threatening and reviling in words, too hard handling, too severe correction, too much restraint of liberty, too small allowance of things needful' " (861).  The call to family worship and description of it is simple and clear for all to heed.  They are aware of cries of legalism and address them quite well.  But they know the greater danger today is trying to be spontaneous and thus not planning, and thus never getting around to devotional exercises.  "Never separate the outward forms of worship from the personal practice of the fear of God" (876).


Guns and Being Christians

There's a lot I don't agree with in John Piper's article on guns, and Wedgeworth answers my concerns well.

But this bit from Piper is my over-riding concern exactly.

The issue is not primarily about when and if a Christian may ever use force in self-defense, or the defense of one’s family or friends. There are significant situational ambiguities in the answer to that question. The issue is about the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life. Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, “I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don’t mess with me”?  My answer is, No.

Puritans as Pilgrims

Part 8 - Theology in Practice
Chapter 52 - Puritan Theology Shaped by a Pilgrim Mentality

The Puritans had a strong sense of not being of the world.  We are walking through Vanity Fair and need to steel ourselves against the allures of the world that will draw us away from Christ.

Their sermons and lives were soaked in the Bible.  This gave them a spine to oppose worldly things.

This is a GOOD word, meaning (Calvin said) reverence and love for God.  We apply the means of grace for our sanctification, cultivating an inward life of devotion, not just a mental knowledge or emotional feeling.

"The church is the center of the purposes of God" (850).  They were committed to the church and its regulation by only the Word.  They disagreed with allowing traditional things to be imposed on the church.  Their zeal for pure worship according to the Word is commendable for us today.

Romans 7 describes the titanic and high-stakes battle we are in with sin.

They ordered their time and lives with strict regimen to tend to the means of grace personally and in family life.

They had "heaven 'in your eye' the whole time you are walking on earth" (855).
Maybe some are so heavenly minded they are no earthly use, but "we can be of no earthly use unless we are heavenly minded" (856).  Don't give your heart to this world, since an eternal destiny in one of two very different places awaits us.

This is an excellent chapter, and a good balance to my mileiu for the last 10 years or so.  That atmosphere has been one to scorn the pilgrim theology that ignores the world and doesn't take it seriously in a Gnostic fashion (spirit good, physical stuff bad).  While that danger remains, there is also a danger of giving your heart more to the world than to Christ.

"Salvation by grace goes hand in hand with godly living and the pursuit of practical holiness, without falling into the trap of legalism" (843).  This is the goal!

Facet 4, the warfaring outlook of the Puritans, is one that I think encapsulates them all.  They were driven more than anything to mortify sin in their lives.


Revelation 7-13

Destruction (wind) is held back from the earth until the saints are sealed.  Their complete number is emphasized by the twelves and the inclusion of every Jewish tribe.
John sees saints in glory who are done suffering on earth, worshiping the Lamb with all pain done away.

The 7th seal brings silence and prayer heard in heaven, then an outburst of power from heaven's altar to earth.
The first 4 of 7 trumpets blow, bringing destruction on earth just like the first 4 seals did.

The fifth trumpet releases Apollyon, and at the sixth trumpet his locust army is released across the Euphrates and afflicts the earth.  Those not killed by them continue in their idolatry and other sins without repenting.

A mighty angel stands on sea and land with a scroll in his hand and says the delay is over.
God tells John to eat the scroll.  It is sweet at first, but bitter (indigestion?) in his stomach.

John is told to measure the temple, and that the Gentiles will trample it for 3.5 years.
Then God will give 2 strong witnesses to Himself, but allow the beast to kill them in Jerusalem.  Unbelievers will rejoice, but God will resurrect them.
The seventh trumpet blows and an angel announces the victory of Christ over the nations.

The history of Christ is given in apocalyptic form.  His birth, rule and ascension in spite of the dragon's pursuit are emphasized.  Satan fights with God and is kicked out of heaven.  He falls to earth and fights against God and His people there.

John sees two beasts that worship the dragon.  One rises from the sea, with authority to blaspheme God and conquer the saints.  The beast on land deceives many, and forces the mark of the beast on all or they are excluded from the economy and any trade.

Heaven and Hell

Part 7 - Eschatology
Chapter 51 - Christopher Love on the Glories of Heaven and the Terrors of Hell

A Puritan hallmark is that this life is preparation for the next.
Christopher Love was a Puritan, a Westminster delegate, and was beheaded in Cromwell's time for his part in a conspiracy to bring back Charles II.  So his writing on anticipating heaven is unique.


  • The glory of heaven is seeing Christ.
  • Prepare yourself now by avoiding frivolity.
  • Glorification involves seeing Christ, freedom from sin, blessings of knowing more than we can now.  Where is our faculties to serve?
  • Some will be more blessed than ever, and we can increase our blessing there by our living here.
  • Heaven is a place and we will live there, not on a new earth.  They didn't deny earth would be renovated, but focused on going to God where He is.
  • At death the possibilities for what happens to the soul are 4: it goes to heaven, hell, purgatory or is annihilated.  The last choice is atheism.  Purgatory denies and replaces the atonement of Christ for sin.  Love doesn't deal with soul sleep, but Puritans rejected it as Westminster confession 32:1 shows.
  • The resurrection of the body is hard to conceive physically happening, but God is all powerful.  It is also great comfort when we face death.


  • Puritans "sought to instill a terror of hell" (830), following 2 Cor. 5:11 and Matt. 10:28.
  • Preaching hell is not legalism, or Christ was a legalist.  Avoiding this unpleasant truth "nuzzle[s] men in security in their sins" (831).
  • Several scriptures directly assert the reality of hell (Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 23:33; 2 Peter 2:3-4), and even the ancient pagans spoke of it.
  • Hell is necessary because of the "sinfulness of sin against a holy God" (832).
  • Hell is a place of fire, outer darkness, wrath, punishment, a prison and pit.
  • How can eternal punishment be just?  Punishments often last longer than the crime took to commit.  Sins against greater persons have greater punishments, so sin against the infinite God brings infinite punishment.  Sinners in hell continue to sin.  Sin cannot be made up for by doing good.
  • Most of mankind will be consigned to Hell, since most will not trust Christ (Matt.22:14).
  • The torments of Hell include absence of God (Matt. 25:41) and believers, physical punishment by demons (Matt 18:34) and the devil without rest.  The punishment is eternal (Matt. 3:12; Jude 7; 2 Thess. 1:9; Matt. 25:46; Isa. 66:24).  The worm is the conscience that will torment with regret and remorse but no hope of remedy.
  • Jesus did not descend into Hell literally according to most Reformers and Puritans it is a synonym for His burial or for many an expression of His suffering the wrath of God on the cross.  They read 1 Peter 3:19 as referring to what Jesus did in Noah's time.

Christopher Love is a good representation of Puritan thought on Heaven and Hell.  "His heart was in heaven," and so should ours be (840).

As I near the end of this tome, and having listened a bit to Ken Myers recently on culture, I am of two minds on the Puritans' view of Heaven and Hell.  In one sense it is excellent, Biblical and edifying, pointing us to Christ and away from sin.  In another sense it is rather myopic.  Sin and forgiveness, certainly the central core of our faith, seems to be the only thing the Puritans could talk about.  Questions like what we will do in Heaven are not addressed.  Some questions they do address hardly seem worth asking.  Will the fire of Hell be literal/physical?  How long will the judgment take?

I disagreed on two points.  The Puritans largely believed that we will have our home in heaven, NOT on a new earth.  And they said Jesus did not descend to Hell.  The Apostles' Creed should either be changed or it should be taken to refer to Jesus' sufferings before death or to His burial.  I prefer a simple reading of 1 Peter 3:19, which says Jesus went to Hell after He suffered to preach to the spirits confined there since they disobeyed.

I learned some history at the beginning, about some churchmen working against Cromwell to bring Charles II back as king!

On the whole, the main portion of the chapter was edifying in its meditation on aspects of Heaven and Hell.

Parenting Goals // How to Hear a Sermon // Ken Myers Interviewed

What Christian parents pursue for their children, and what they seek to guard them from.

Here's a great article on how to listen to sermons.  Excellent for the overly discriminating connoisseur, the podcast firehose type, and the new Christian alike.

Marvin Olasky interviews Ken Myers.  Dynamite!
Don't miss his take on our response to terrorism at the 1:00;00 mark.
Teaser: defending religious liberty is a stop-gap measure that doesn't get to the root of the problem.


Reading (into) Revelation

Part 7 - Eschatology
Chapter 50 - How History Informs the Historicist:  Thomas Goodwin's Reading of Revelation

Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) was an early congregationalist whose view of Revelation  connected with his desire to purify the national church of England of popish ceremony.  He had to flee to Holland in Archbishop Laud's time.

His view of Revelation is "a decisive break... from the Reformation tradition."  It is historicist, which means it is basically chronological.  The events in chapters 4-20 are sequential starting in John's day and going until the end of the world and relate to specific historical events.  He divides this part of the book between the seal prophecies (chapters 6-12) and the book prophecies (12-20).

In the seal section we see the Roman Empire subdued under Christ (ch 6), Barbarians and the east/west split (ch 8), and the rise of Islam and the Ottomans (ch 9-11).  The temple measured in 11:1 shows the rule of worship and how Rome (and Protestant compromisers like Laud) broke it.  The two witnesses killed represents the Protestants persecuted by Rome.  The 1260 days of 11:3 (and Daniel 12:11) were taken as years, from the fall of Rome around 400, setting a date for the end between 1650 and 1666.

In the book section we see the early church (ch 12), rise of the popes (ch 13), early papacy of 400-1100 (ch 14), and reformations in the angels of 14:6-11.

The big picture was to anticipate the sweeping away of Rome and ushering in of the millennial kingdom of Christ.  The goal for Goodwin (as it is for all millennialism) was to manifest Christ's glory on earth as it is in heaven.

The authors spend more time on this topic than it is worth.  They are far too kind on Goodwin, I think, admitting only that he was "largely mistaken."  His views border on the bizarre.  What makes it plausible is only the tremendous zeal to fight the papacy in his day.  The authors are right that this is a warning to all not to read Revelation "in terms of their own knowledge of history and current events or in terms of their own personal hopes and dreams" (818).

Psalm 79-84, 107, 126

The Gentiles have defiled Your temple and wasted Your city.
Our neighbors taunt us.
Deliver and atone for us, Lord, and repay those who mock us!

Restore us and shine Your face on us.
You brought us out of Egypt and planted and increased us like a vine, but now it's withered and ruined.  Restore it, and the son of man at your right hand, so we are saved.

God delivered Israel from Egypt, but they didn't listen to Him.
If they would, I would subdue their enemies and feed You.

God takes His throne among the rulers ("gods").
He calls them to judge justly and rescue the weak.
Although they are great, they will die like men for their crimes.
God will judge and inherit the nations.

Your enemies conspire against Your people, to wipe us out - Edomites, Philistines and Assyrians.
Defeat them as You did Midian and Sisera.
Terrify them so they know You are God.

My soul longs to be in the temple, singing Your praises.
A day in Your courts is better than 1,000 anywhere else.

Let the redeemed give God thanks for bringing them back from their wasteland wandering.

We had laughter and joy when God brought us back from captivity.
Restore our fortunes so our tears turn back to joy.

The idea of grouping these Psalms together is that their theme is after the exile.
God's people during Ezra and Nehemiah's time were seeking restoration for themselves (80, 126), retribution on enemies who continued to harass them (79, 83), rejoicing in God returning them (107), and in having a temple to worship in once again (84).


Judgment according to Works, AND Justification by Faith Alone?

Part 7 - Eschatology
Chapter 49 - Thomas Manton on the Judgement according to Works

Scripture speaks of a final judgement according to works (2 Corinthians 5:10).  How are we to also believe that we are justified now, by grace through faith alone?

Thomas Manton explains in his mostly sermonic work on 2 Cor. 5:10.

1. The final judgement is certain, to glorify God, show His grace to and in His people, fairly condemn the guilty, vindicate God's justice and Christ's glory, have Christ receive His inheritance/people, and have them show Him how they have used His talents.

2. All will be judged, including believers.  Not condemned, but have their works examined.
3. Christ will be the judge.  This assumes He is all knowing and authoritative to do so.

4. All men will be present before God, Christ and the angels, where our works will be manifest and assessed.  The logistical possibility of this baffles us!

5. The judgment is according to works.  Our good deeds cannot merit reward, but our sins can merit just and eternal punishment in hell.  The faith of believers will be judged, using their works as evidence.  This is the second justification of a believer, demonstrative, the first being declarative.  This final judgment by works is not the ground of our justification, but the evidence of our faith.

6.  An eternal punishment in Hell awaits unbelievers, and the sentence is irrevocable.

Many zealous reformed believers today deny a judgment according to works, thinking it contradictory to justification by faith alone.  But men like Calvin and Bucer affirmed both.  They even affirm a two-fold righteousness of the believer (one imputed, the other inherent), while rejecting the Roman Catholic view that makes both the ground of our justification.

This was a good and sobering chapter.  It shows the Puritans were not myopically focused on justification by faith alone (JFA) so much that it twisted their reading of other Scriptures like 2 Corinthians 5:10 (or James 2).  That happens sometimes today, and is the impetus for Federal Vision theology as I understand it.  We don't wish to deny JFA or lessen its keystone place in our theology.  Rather, we celebrate and embrace it as core to the Gospel.  But the myopia I refer to is a paranoia that keeps us from affirming things Scripture affirms, or facing and teaching them as we should, just because it looks or feels to us like it might take away from JFA.

The chapter is sobering in its straight-up assertion of the justice of God in condemning men to eternal Hell for their sins against Him.  There's a lengthy meditation on it.  I hadn't read anything quite like it in a while, and although it is uncomfortable, it is good for the soul.


Pipe Organ Pros // Jesus-Bread-Politics // What's Debatable?

Here's a rare thing: a positive take on the church organ listing its merits

A great meditation on Bethlehem as house of bread.  We either seek political solutions without Christ, or we say Christ offers nothing political, when the Incarnation offers a third alternative.

I'm setting this aside to read closely later.  Don Carson on how to tell disputable issues from "must-believe" issues.


The City on a Hill

Part 7 - Eschatology
Chapter 48 - American Puritans' Optimistic View of End Times

Current events influenced many Puritans to believe they were living in the last days, a time of both great apostasy and also possible triumph for the Gospel.  With government policies vacillating between targeting them with hostility (Bloody Mary and Archbishop Laud) and tolerating them (Elizabeth and Cromwell).

Several obscure and early, but influential Puritans advocated a historical view of the millennium - that it would begin on a given calendar year and run exactly 1000 years - instead of the usual view of Augustine and Edwards that the millennium began at Christ's resurrection and continues until His return.

Three hallmarks of Puritan thought on end times were that (1) Catholicism and especially the pope were the anti-Christ, (2) the certain conversion of the Jews at the end, and (3) the future glory of the church.  Many connected the last one with the new world and New England.  Perhaps the Puritans could establish a society in a new place that would show the old world how it's done, since things were going so roughly for Puritans in the old world.

Work to convert Indians prospered for a time.  John Eliot converted over 1000 in an area of about 3600.  The first complete Bible printed in the new world was in their language.  But King Philip's War in 1675 wiped them out, with both Indians and colonists attacking them.  Eliot had some strange ideas about the Millenium and about the Indians being the 10 lost tribes of Israel, but his evangelistic efforts were commendable.

The Puritan hope invigorated preaching, mission efforts, cultural reform, personal piety and general hope in a very trying historical time.  We ought to recover it today.

Were the Puritans post-millennial?  Not in the modern sense.  Beeke/Jones remind us at the end that such categories hadn't been invented yet.  Their views were perhaps too influenced by current events (who was on the throne or in power). We, too, often define our views on eschatology by our outlook on the government or culture today, instead of our interpretation of Scripture.  But their hope in God's triumph and conquest over evil in the world is a needed breath of fresh air.  We have to reject setting dates for end times events, while still believing Scripture's relation of such events has real relevance for us today.  "For Puritans, the cessation of special revelation does not imply that God left His church without a seasoned word for the present hour" (775).

So we find end-times tendencies both to avoid and to imitate in the Puritans.


Psalm 74-78

Rise up O God and act!
Your enemies have destroyed Your temple and land.
You sit there with Your hands in Your pockets!
You acted of old to establish the waters and hold back Leviathan.
They are scoffing at us; regard Your covenant and defend Your cause!

God will judge the earth - don't look to east or west for judgment.

God is known in Judah.
He has stopped swords, stripped the stouthearted, rebuked rebels, His wrath rumbled.
Worship the God who can cut off kings in their might.

I'm in trouble and have no comfort, though I cry to God.
Has His love stopped, His promises died away?
I'll remember His deeds of old.
You redeemed Jacob through the sea.  "You led Your people like a flock" out of Egypt.

I will speak of God's deeds to my children's children, unlike our stubborn fathers.
God did miracles for Israel - water from the rock in the desert - but they sinned and doubted Him.
God didn't give up on them, but brought them into the land.
But they rebelled against Him in the land, too, and He sent destroyers against them.
They turned back to Him now and then, but not with all their heart.
God chose Judah and raised up King David and a sanctuary for Himself among His people.
He (God or David) guided and shepherded them skillfully.

Revelation 2-6

Jesus speaks to each of the 7 churches with

  • encouragement for their faithfulness in persecution,
  • warning where they are starting to compromise their integrity or doctrine,
  • and promises to reward their faithfulness in the end.
John is caught up to the throne room of heaven, seeing 
  • God as jewels, a rainbow, 7 torches (the Spirit), and a sea of glass/crystal,
  • 24 elders around the throne, representing men,
  • 4 beasts that lead worship of God: "Holy, Holy, Holy,"
God has a sealed scroll that no one can open except the lion of the tribe of Judah.
John sees a Lamb standing, that had been slain.  He takes the scroll, and all begin to worship Him.

6 seals are opened.
  • The first 4 bring 4 horses and horsemen that bring conquest, violence, famine/oppression, and death
  • The 5th shows slain saints under the altar in heaven calling for vengeance for their blood.
  • The 6th brings an great earthquake so bad the kings of earth cry out for death to escape the wrath of the Lamb.


Zechariah 11-14

Israel is doomed to slaughter, and has foolish, selfish shepherds.
Zechariah is hired as a shepherd but can't get along with the selfish shepherds.
They give him 30 pieces of silver and God tells him to throw it into the temple.
Jesus: this is a clear foreshadowing of Jesus, the Great Shepherd, who clashes with the rulers of Israel
Judas is given 30 silver for his betrayal.  He returns it, and they use it to buy the Potter's Field.
Application: Matthew's use of this chapter is a strong rebuke of Israel and her leaders.  They are doomed to slaughter.  They are foolish shepherds who reject wisdom and try to fire their Savior from His calling as their shepherd.

God will save and protect Israel when they are under siege from their enemies.
The nations will look on the One they pierce and mourn.
Jesus:  also a clear foreshadowing of Christ.  God protects His people by the piercing of His Son.  Those who kill Him later lament it and many believe.  This can refer both to the Jews who come from all nations at Pentecost and are cut to the heart at Peter's sermon, and to the Gentiles who actually crucify Him but later are converted as an entire empire to Christ.

God will provide a fountain to clean Israel of her sins.
Former false prophets will disavow that they ever prophesied.
They will strike the Shepherd and scatter the sheep, but God will refine His people.
Jesus: He is the fountain of verse 1.  He speaks of verse 7 when they arrest Him in Gethsemane.
Application: when awful things happen (verse 7), God is doing an important work (verse 9).

The day of the Lord is coming with disaster and vengeance.
God Himself will stand on the Mount of Olives, His saints with Him.
God will bring in perfect justice: plague on sinners, punishment on those who will not worship Him, no trading in God's house, every part of His people holy and consecrated to Him.


Knock off the Bad Language

I was asked recently what I think about swearing.  Is it ever appropriate?  Is gosh a good substitute for taking the Lord's name in vain?  Isn't it sometimes helpful to accent your point in a culturally understood way like swearing?

That kind of thing.

So, is using strong language ever appropriate?  Some words, yes.  An example would be damn.  Paul uses the Greek equivalent in Galatians 1:8 in an edifying way.  Ezekiel is quite graphic in his language (23:20).  The awfulness of sin and error occasionally calls for referring to that damned Arianism or the whorish nature of idolatry.

The problem is that we are full of ourselves and think that if we are speaking it must be important enough to justify pretty much whatever crass word we want to say.  This is as true for the adolescent impressing his friends with the shock, as it is for the proud and sophomoric writer, or theologian who wants to make his point with some "edginess."

Ephesians 4:29; 5:3-4
"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.... But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks."

Intent matters a great deal in this area.  Are you meaning to impress, shock, or make a point?  Then you're doing it wrong.  Sinning, actually, I would say, by violating the Scripture above.  The point is to help along the character of those with whom you are speaking, not to jerk their attention back to you, not drag their minds to the gutter to be wowed by your "earthiness" or worldly-wise-ness.  Build up their integrity, don't tear it down.  Most of the time, swearing is trying to grab attention or otherwise control things around us with words in a way words aren't meant to do.

Meaning matters.  With some words, regardless of your intent, the effect of your word on your listeners, and on you, is an unhelpful one.  Every time you say [sounds like fit] you're going the opposite direction of Philippians 4:8.  Every time you say the f-word or even its milder synonyms, you are demeaning the sexual act, no matter what the context or your intent are.  Under this point, I also reject substitute swear words like gosh and darn.  They refer to God and damn.  We use them to express amazement, wonder or frustration, when we aren't really thinking deliberately about God or hell.  It's a form of taking God's name in vain.

Discretion is the Biblical example.  It often refers to private body parts for example, but uses euphemisms to keep from crassness.  See the Ezekiel example above, and 1 Thessalonians 4:4, and consider the swear words that could have been used!  (Well, maybe just don't bring them to mind...)  Many Christians who want to excuse their crass speech by appealing to biblical example ignore this.  You won't find the f word in the Song of Solomon.  Philippians 3:8 is another example where it is insisted Paul says the word for excrement that rhymes with "fit."  Not necessarily.  The word could mean anything from "junk" or "trash" to that word, and translators aren't twisting the word to use a milder synonym like "rubbish."  Even when referring to crass or indiscrete things, the Bible does so discretely.

Prudishness?  One can be Biblically discrete without being prudish.  The difference is two-fold.  Are you offended that Scripture would speak of such things, or in that way?  That's the problem of the prude.  Or, second, how wound up you make yourself for others' sake over a minor thing?  Condemnation and huffy offense are the prude's way.  When my friends swear, I don't make a big to-do.  But neither am I going to follow their example.  I will often respond by using a euphemism for what they said as soon as I can, to subtly make the point that I'm not going to talk that way, but can talk about the same things.  But I'm not going to disrupt a conversation for it, either, unless it gets really frequent or severe.

Being macho.  In some circles that advocate a masculine Christianity you find more swearing among the men.  There is a whole culture I'm fighting here, where a gentleman may mildly swear when ladies are not present, to accent the gender distinction and show that "we can be men here."  I'd find it laughable if not so sadly misguided from Scripture.  Ephesians 5:3-4 is no less true in a group of men than anywhere else.  Yes, social norms adjust a bit based on who we are with.  I'll talk differently with people in their 20s than people in their 60s.  But Scriptural principles always apply to everyone, and one of them is to avoid coarse jesting (Eph. 5:4).

Against the tide.
So swearing sucks.  There, I just did it.  I swore.  Did you notice?  Cultural usage of words changes over time.  "Suck" used to get you into a fair bit of trouble, but today we hardly realize what we are saying, and you hear 7 year-olds saying it.  Remember what this used to refer to?!  Still does, I'd say, so I don't say this word in that context, and I'm teaching my kids not to say it.  "Stinks" is just fine for a substitute.

My conclusion.
Appeals to justified swearing are almost always hollow.  If you think you won't be heard without your strong language, you are either insecure or fearful, or too desperate to be heard or understood.  Speech seasoned with salt does NOT mean salty sailor talk, but truth with taste.  Teens, don't think you have to swear to prove to yourself or your friends that you are growing up.  Call your friends out on their unhelpful speech.  Ask them to help you keep your mind out of the gutter.  Parents, teach your children from a young age to be careful what they say.  We will be judged for every idle word.

Doug Wilson writes quite helpfully about this topic here.


Prayer for Missions

Part 6 - Ecclesiology
Chapter 47 - Puritan Prayers for World Missions

The later Puritans birthed the missionary movement of Brainerd, Carey and Judson.
Missionary efforts were weak at the peak of Puritan activity due to persecution from Catholics, wars, and the church's own wrongful neglect, but they sought to see "King Christ... go out upon the white horse of the gospel, conquering and to conquer" (761).

Since the Bible is an evangelistic book,
since the spread of the Gospel relies on the Spirit's power,
since God uses gospel preaching to expand His kingdom,
since confidence in Christ's reigning power is needed,
since God promises blessing to all nations through Abraham's Seed,
since we desire that God be glorified by all men,
the Puritans prayed fervently for the church's missionary activity to flourish and succeed.

The method of prayer for missions
Westminster's Directory for public worship calls for the pastor to pray, right before the sermon, "for the propagation of the gospel and kingdom of Christ to all nations, for the conversion of the Jews, the fullness of the Gentiles..." (766).
Singing the Psalms led to missionary zeal, as seen in Psalms 2, 96 and 100.

Don't you want anyone to be saved except yourself and your family and friends?
Pray for those nearby, of course, but also "walk over the vast ocean....  Visit the church of Christ abroad" in your prayers (769).

The Lord's Supper

Part 6 - Ecclesiology
Chapter 46 - Puritans on the Lord's Supper

In the Lord's Supper we encounter our Savior.  This is the main goal - "to unite the faithful unto Christ" (Edward Reynolds, pg. 748).
The point isn't to focus on the bread and wine - it certainly does not "transubstantiate" into the physical body of Jesus - but to see Christ through them.
Calvin emphasized our ascending to heaven where Christ is, but the Puritans talked of it more as Jesus coming down, in a mystical sense, to us in the Word and sacrament.
Grace is conferred in Communion, but it is an increase of our sanctification, not justifying grace.
Puritans were careful to keep the actual administration close to the Biblical text.
"The minister in his sacramental acts represents God" (750), taking bread, blessing God, breaking bread and pouring wine, and giving it to the church.  The people take and eat.

Only those who profess faith in Christ and who can examine themselves should take the Supper, the Puritans believed.  It is meant to give assurance - full assurance of your salvation is not necessary to partake.  Meditation and thought upon our sinfulness and Christ's atonement was a key emphasis in how the Puritans sought to partake of the Supper.  Conflicting emotions of sorrow (at the cost of our sin for Christ) and joy (at our forgiveness and acceptance by God) are expected.

Satan and our own forgetfulness and neglect keep us from the Supper, but it strengthens our faith, shows us Christ, gives us fellowship with Him, seals (ratifies) our redemption in Him, gives "power against our sins" (758), and removes the dread of being condemned by God.

Communion is God's appointed means to see and unite with and savor Jesus Christ.

Again, the Puritans' treatment (or maybe just Beeke/Jones' survey) of the Supper is somewhat myopic.  There is no discussion of what elements to use and why, or the connection to the Passover, the context of the institution of the sacrament, etc.  They give five lines to a cursory assertion that self-examination is required, thus keeping children away.  In classic Puritan fashion, the focus is "experimental:" on what is going on inside of us at the meal.  One hint that this is more the authors' bent than the Puritans, was the fascinating historical tidbit that the Westminster assembly debated for 3 weeks whether to celebrate the sacrament by seating communicants around an actual table or passing trays.

Beeke/Jones get the main point right, though.  The Supper is about showing and conveying to us the actual person of Jesus Christ.  We do not partake because we are morally pure enough or strong enough in faith, but as an expression of our faith and our profession of that faith in Christ as our Savior.

Zechariah 9-10

God will strike down the nations around Israel.
Rejoice, for your king is coming on a donkey with humility.  He will rule, end the need for all weapons, set the prisoners free.  God will fight for Israel, restore the grain and wine, and "save them as the flock of His people."

My people are scattered because of deceiving shepherds and diviners.
I will strengthen Judah - the cornerstone will come from him - and bring them back home.

How this is about Jesus
9 - He is the King who rode on a donkey at the triumphal entry.
10 - He is the cornerstone from Judah who redeems and restores God's people.

While we see Jesus clearly fulfilling these chapters, there is a good half of the text that is about defeating God's enemies and restoring peace and strength.  God has not seen fit to fulfill it all, yet.

Does 9:13 refer to the Maccabean Wars?

Revelation 1

God gives Jesus a revelation, which He gives an angel to give John, to give to the 7 churches in Asia Minor (in Turkey).
Grace and peace to you from the Father, Spirit and Son, who loved and freed us to be a kingdom.
John was exiled for the Gospel, but Jesus appears to him on the Lord's Day, walking among lampstands which represent churches.  He is majestic and glorious, resembling the Son of Man of Ezekiel and Daniel's visions.
John is overcome and collapses.  Jesus says to fear not for He has all power, even the keys of death, since He died and never will again.

How this is about Jesus
This revelation is His, given by the Father for us to know (vss. 1-3).
He gives us grace and peace through His cross (4-8).
John is imprisoned for Him and sees Him (9-16).
He holds us in His hands; we don't have to fear because He has overcome death (17-20).

No earthly power can stop the revelation of Jesus Christ from getting through to people.
We usually take comfort from having events "in hand" in our lives - under control.  We should take more comfort that Jesus has US in hand.


Plan Your Reading of Bible and books // Addicted to Media Outrage

This is a cool idea to plan your reading in 2016 from Tim Challies.

We should think more about how we respond to news, especially from Facebook and Twitter.
Joe Thorn asks if we are addicted to media outrage.

This is a unique Bible reading plan with some pros and cons.  It might be right for you.

2-3 John; Jude

2 John
To the church:
I rejoice that you walk in the truth.  Love each other.
Watch out for deceivers who deny Jesus came in the flesh.  Don't receive them.
I hope to see you face to face instead of writing.

3 John
To Gaius:
I rejoice to hear you walk in the truth and help unknown Christians on their way in your house.
Diotrephes likes being first, rejects our authority, won't receive true Christians, and throws out those who do.  I'll deal with him if I come.
Do what is good, imitating God.
Demetrius is doing good.
I hope to see you face to face instead of writing.
Greet the friends, as the friends greet you.

I wanted to write more about your sanctification, but need to defend the faith against false teachers.
Jesus punishes or destroys the wicked: unbelieving Israelites in the desert, fallen angels from the beginning, Sodom and Gomorrah.
You have some like this among you, who reject authority, blaspheme, pursue selfish gain, cause division, grumble in discontent.
Enoch prophesied Jesus would come with his saints and judge them.  Peter said the same.  Jude quotes 2 Peter 3:3.
You act differently: build yourself up in the faith, and save others from the fire.
God will keep you from stumbling - all glory and rule to Him!

Even in the earliest church there was strife, contention, division, jockeying for position, etc.
We should not be surprised, nor tolerate it.
Their selfishness shows itself eventually.
Whatever we can't deal with, Jesus will come and judge.  Again, He is not only Savior, but judge and punisher of those troubling His church.

Zechariah 5-8

Zechariah sees a flying scroll.  Those who steal and lie will be consumed in their own homes.
Zechariah sees a woman called Wickedness in a basket, carried off to Babylon.

4 horsemen go out to patrol the earth.
Some exiles from Babylon return to Jerusalem, and Zechariah is told to take silver and gold from them to make a crown.  He is to crown Joshua the high priest.

Some Israelites from Bethel ask Zechariah if they should still fast in the 5th month as they used to.
God responds that they did it for themselves, and that their sins took them to exile.

God has returned to Jerusalem.  Children and the aged will fill her streets again.  God means good to Judah, so speak truth, do justice, don't lie.  Turn the fast into a feast.  More shall return, with gentiles, and seek to worship God.

How this is about Jesus
5 - He condemns the corrupt temple as desolate, and to be consumed.
6 - He is the priest crowned king.  Seldom did the two roles merge into one, and this is a prediction of Jesus who does.
7/8 - Some Greeks seek Jesus at the feast (John 12:20), and many Gentiles flow to God in Acts.

5 - The Word purifies us if we are repentant, but consumes us if we are not.
6 - The contrast between the nations patrolled and the priest crowned is striking.  God exalts His Messiah over the nations, to rule them.  We should take comfort in this, even if we don't see them ruled yet.
7 - Outward traditions (annual fasts or feasts) usually turn into self-serving affairs, instead of the meaningful, God-oriented acts of worship they should be.  Not to be a Grinch, but Christmas comes to mind...
8 - When God restores us, it is a time for feasting and obedience.  You may be over-run by outsiders with more zeal to worship God than you have!

Zechariah 1-4

Return to God, as your fathers did.
Zechariah sees 4 horsemen who were patrolling the earth. God is angry at the nations for treating Israel so harshly.  He will restore the temple in Jerusalem and scatter the nations that scattered her.

Zechariah sees a man with a measuring tape, going to measure Jerusalem.
He will live among Israel again, and other nations will join with Israel, the apple of His eye.


Zechariah sees the high priest standing before God with dirty clothes and Satan accusing him.
But God rebukes Satan and orders the dirty clothes replaced with clean.
God will send His servant the Branch and remove Israel's iniquity in one day.

Zechariah sees a 7-bowl lampstand fueled by two olive trees.
By God's Spirit (represented by the oil) the temple begun will be finished and the governor and priest will stand.

How this is about Jesus / Application
1 - Revelation shows us 4 horsemen, too, bringing judgment on the nations, and Jesus riding on a white horse.  Revealing God's anger against our enemies comforts us.
2 - We are the apple of God's eye because He first favored Jesus His Son (Matt.3:17).
3 - He is the Branch servant sent to remove our iniquity in a single day.  When you face accusations or accuse yourself, this chapter brings assurance that God Himself will have mercy as you repent, even if others will not give you mercy.
4 - He is the Spirit fueled Messiah (anointed one) who will lay the key stone in God's temple.  We don't get things done on our own effort, but only motivated by God's Holy Spirit.



God through Haggai to the governor and high priest of Judah:
You keep saying it isn't time to rebuild the temple, but it's fine for you to work on your own homes?
I've sent hardship because of your disobedient priorities.
They listen and begin to work again, so God says, "I am with you."

God through Haggai to the governor and high priest of Judah:
The temple looks like nothing compared to Solomon's, I know.
Don't be discouraged.  Be strong!  Work!  My Spirit is with you.
Greater glory than ever is coming to this place.
I'm going to bless you from the day you laid the foundation of the temple going forward.
I'm going to shake kingdoms and give Governor Zerubbabel a secure position.

How this is about Jesus
2:9 prophesies the coming of Jesus to the temple now being built.  Solomon's structure was greater than the one they start to build now, even after Herod's work up to Jesus' day.  But the person of Jesus is far more glorious than any temple.

There is a great deal of conviction and encouragement here, especially up to 2:9.  We are impoverished in part by our refusal to put the Lord first in our economic lives.  But when we make a beginning, however humble, the Lord is with us.  Don't leave off your work just because you aren't working on a cathedral or the next great work of art.  God honors the work, not how glorious it becomes.


Ezra 1-4

1-2 - King Cyrus of Persia allows the return to Jerusalem and about 50,000 people go back.
This is about 538 B.C.
3 - They rebuild the altar, and then start on the temple.  When they lay its foundation they have a celebration ceremony with singing.  The young shout for joy but the old weep, remembering the first temple.
4 - The transplants from Assyria who intermarried with the Israelites left in the land during the exile - generally called Samaritans by the Jews later - ask to build the temple with them.  But their theology is off and their worship is syncretistic.  See 2 Kings 17:24-41 for the full description and history.  Ezra rejects their involvement because of this - not racism but idolatry.

How this is about Jesus
Both the end of Ezekiel and the beginning of Ezra focus on a restored temple.
Jesus claims to BE the new temple (John 2:19-22).

This is a specific fulfillment of prophecy in Isaiah 45, especially verse 13.  Assuming Isaiah wrote in the late 700's B.C., the exiles would have known of this prophecy, and of Cyrus by name.  So when he came to power and decreed their freedom, they rightly saw God's hand in it.

The whole point of being in the land is to worship God rightly.  Modern Jews have mostly forgotten this, it seems.  Do not claim the benefits of a covenant relationship with God without being loyal to Him.

When you try to live for God, opposition will arise.


1 John

We proclaim to you the Jesus we saw and touched that you may have life and joy.
He is light and cleanses us from the sin in us.

We know we have come to Him if we obey Him and walk as He did.
Love each other, not the things of the world.
Some are teaching that Jesus is not the Christ.  They have left us and the truth, and do not have the Father.

God loved us so much He made us His children.  His people purify themselves and don't go on sinning.  Believe in Jesus and love one another - this is how you know if God abides in you.

If someone ways Jesus came in the flesh, they are of God.
Love is God giving us Jesus to pay for our sins.
You know if you abide in Christ if you have His Spirit, if His love casts out fear in you, and if you love your brother.

Our faith will overcome the world and lead to keeping His commandments.
There are 3 witnesses that God has given us life in Jesus: the Spirit, the water and the blood.
I write to assure you of your life in Jesus, the Son of God.
Jesus came so we would know who is true.

How this is about Jesus
John proclaims Jesus from the opening paragraph to the end of the letter, in every paragraph.
We are to obey His commands.
He came in the flesh.
God loved us by giving Him to us.
Knowing if we abide in Christ is the key question John is seeking to answer.


Straw Men // How the Spirit Teaches // Every Woman a Housewife? // Anglican Reformers

Great article by Jason Meyer (Piper's successor at Bethlehem Baptist), on the difference between complementarianism and hyper-headship, and how it relates to domestic abuse.
The only thing I wish he would have said is that egalitarians argue against complementarianism by equating it, straw-man fashion, with hyper-headship.  To them, by defining distinct roles for each sex, you are by definition abusing women.

Spurgeon: "Odd that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others" - Tabletalk, Sept 2015, pg. 19.

"Am I saying that every woman should be a housewife in the narrow definition, never working outside the home?  No, I am not.  But having a job outside the home should not subvert our primary responsibilities in our home, especially our high calling as a wife to love our husbands, and as a mother to love our children" - Aimee Byrd, Housewife Theologian, pg. 141.

Most of Doug Wilson's book reviews are 3-4 lines long.  He took more time on this biography of Anglican Reformer Richard Hooker, and it's stellar.  Check it out.

Ezekiel 40-48

God shows Ezekiel a detailed vision of the temple restored, walking him through and measuring it.
He does this to make Israel ashamed of her sins (43:10).
The sacrifices are described, and the priests' duties.
The east gate stays shut now, since God re-entered through it.  The prince sits there.
There is water flowing from the temple out to the sea, giving life to the world.
Trees on each side of the river give fruit.  Eden is restored.
Land of Israel is described with tribal boundaries.

How this is about Jesus
This is a picture of life as it is supposed to be.  Jesus is the way, truth and life.
Notice how Ezekiel and Revelation are very similar.  Vision at the beginning of the wheel and vision of Jesus.  In the middle we have judgements, and at the end a great final battle where evil is defeated and the city is restored and life-giving.

Puritans on Infant Baptism

Part 6 - Ecclesiology
Chapter 45 - Puritans and Paedobaptism

Does covenant theology justify baptizing infants?
The promises God made to Abraham still apply to us today in Christ.  There is no clear Scripture taking away the sign of the covenant from the children of believers.

Baptist view:
- "when circumcision was abrogated with Christ, the command to keep this covenant [Genesis 17] ended with it.  No 'substance' remained from Genesis 17" - pg. 730.
- "circumcision as a sign did not entail being 'in' the covenant of grace" - pg. 730.

Beeke/Jones outline in detail a debate over Genesis 17 - was this a covenant of works or of grace?
The baptist view imposes the "oppose law and gospel" interpretation on this, winding up with us "under two contrary covenants at once" (734).  They want to say since that covenant was of works, it is now abrogated.  But just because God tells Abraham to do something doesn't make it a covenant of works or dependent on works.

I expected a far more comprehensive treatment of baptism.  This chapter honed in on Genesis 17 and didn't deal with New Testament texts at all.  They treat Genesis 17 as expected (Baptists dismiss it as irrelevant and abrogated; paedobaptists take it as their starting point to argue their view), so the detail of the debate was a unique contribution.