Scriptures Psalms

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

There was No Ecclesiology 101 on How to Begin a Denomination

There wasn’t a manual on denomination beginnings. No teaching elder had ever taken seminary courses on it. No one on the steering committee had any experience in the process.  It was entirely new to everyone, and yet it was something which had to be done.

Much like the northern Presbyterian church, the seeds of apostasy had entered the Presbyterian Church in the United States in the nineteen thirties of the twentieth century.  It was very small then, most often in the sense of shame of some of the language in the Confessional Standards.  But then there came a decided effort to capture the Southern Presbyterian Church for the liberal agenda, led as usual by the seminaries of the church.  Members would return from, for example, a war, and find that they no longer recognized the church of their fathers.  Principles and practices began to be printed in the denominational agencies which were contrary to the essentials of the Presbyterian faith.   And, like the Northern Presbyterian church experience, various conservative individuals and churches began to organize committees outside the church which would accomplish the work of the church.  So we read of the Southern  Presbyterian Journal, Concerned Presbyterians, The Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Presbyterian Churchmen United.  These organizations, and the joint meetings they held, galvanized the conservatives of the Southern Presbyterian church.  Eventually all of these joined forces and established a Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church.  Separation from unbelief would be demanded of them.

It was on May 19, 1973 in Atlanta Georgia in the sanctuary of Westminster Presbyterian Church that 450 ruling elders from 261 churches representing 70,800 members joined together in a convocation of presbyters or Sessions.  They listened to stirring messages.  They viewed slide presentations which shared the kinds of churches and ministries which would be a part of any continuing church.  They reaffirmed their committment to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission.  And when the pivotal time came for a vote as to whether to proceed ahead and actually begin a new denomination separate from the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the convocation voted 349 – 16.  Yet at the same time, they let it be clearly understood that there was love and respect toward any of their number, or within the church as a whole, who did not believe they should withdraw at this time.  It would be seven more months that such a new denomination became a reality, but this was one of the important beginnings of what became known eventually as the Presbyterian Church in America.  And this beginning came primarily from the ruling elders of the church.

Words to Live By: Pray much for your ruling elder in the congregation of which you are a part.  They are men just like you who sit in the pews.  They have their fears and foibles just like you.  Yet God has called them to be overseers of the flock, to pastor the flock of God whom the Son has redeemed with His own blood.  Therefore, submit to them in the Lord, support them in the work, and be an encouragement to them in their work of shepherding the people of God.  They are a vital part of the church.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 115 – 118

Through the Standards: Warning and encouragement regarding repentance

WCF 15:4
“As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

John Witherspoon Brings Politics into the Pulpit

In our last historical devotional, we saw how the Confession of Faith cautioned synods and council from making pronouncements on political matters.    In this devotional, we see a Presbyterian minister enter the pulpit of a Presbyterian congregation in Princeton, New Jersey on May 17, 1776 to bring politics into the pulpit.  That Presbyterian minister was John Witherspoon, the president of the College of New Jersey.

The timing is interesting.  Battles up north around Boston have already been fought.   In about three weeks, John Witherspoon will affix his signature to the Declaration of Independence.  As he enters the pulpit of the Presbyterian Church, he is going to speak on “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men.  A SERMON preached at Princeton, on the 17th of May, 1776 BEING the General Fast appointed by the CONGRESS through the UNITED COLONIES.  To which is added, An Address to the Natives of Scotland residing in America.”  And you thought your pastor had long sermon titles!

Witherspoon in  taking politics in the pulpit in essence is going to preach on God’s providence, how that God guides and governs and directs and controls all things, from the greatest to the least.   He further uses the appointment of a fast from  Congress to proclaim this message at this time. Let me quote one paragraph from it.

     “You are all witnesses, that this is the first time of my introducing any political subject into the pulpit.  At this season, however, it is not only lawful, but necessary; and I willingly embrace the opportunity of declaring my opinion without any hesitation, that the cause in which America is now in arms, is the cause of justice, of liberty, and of human nature.  So far as we have hitherto proceeded, I am satisfied that the confederacy of the colonies, has not been the effect of pride, resentment, or sedition, but of a deep and general conviction, that our civil and religious liberties, and consequently, in a great measure, the temporal and eternal happiness of us and our posterity, depended on the issue.  There is not a single instance in history, in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire.  If, therefore, we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage.”

With words like this, no wonder that a speaker in England’s Parliament declared that “Cousin American has run away with a Presbyterian parson.”  And that Presbyterian parson was none other than John Witherspoon.  He  closed his sermon with the following words, “God grant, that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable, and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one, may, in the issue, tend to the support and establishment of both.”

Words to Live By:  We as American citizens have no right to pray for any kind of temporal prosperity without the necessity as Christian Americans to pray for spiritual revival in our blessed land.   The two ends must go together.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 10 – 111

Through the Standards:  Ingredients of repentance in the catechisms

WLC 76 “What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, he so grieves for and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavouring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.”

WSC 87  “What is repentance unto life?
A.  Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his  sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

A Christian Apologist of the Twentieth Century

What more can be written about Francis Schaeffer that has not already been said?  Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1912 . . . Born again in 1930 . . . College graduate from Hampton – Sydney, Virginia . . . Seminary student in two historic seminaries, Westminster and Faith Seminary . . . Pastor to three conservative Presbyterian churches for ten years before he went to Europe to begin L’Abri Fellowship, reaching intellectuals for Christ . . . An advocate of both the gospel and cultural mandate to the masses.  In short,  Francis Schaeffer had an effective ministry in the seventy-two years in which he lived in the twentieth century.

On a personal note, this contributor was barely an adolescent when he came to my chaplain father’s Army installation in Dachau, Germany for a series of evangelistic meeting in the late forties.  Night after night, the gospel was presented to lonely American soldiers in post-war Germany.  And the meetings were held right down the road from the infamous concentration camp building of Dachau where sinful depravity was the order of the day barely five years previous to these meetings. They were present in all their stark reality in that this was before the whole site had been memorialized by the West German government.   But beyond the meetings to the adults,   day by day, this youngster, and a whole host of others, learned Psalm 19 by Edith Schaeffer, which I remember today!  (Edith Schaeffer writes about all this  visit in her book, The Tapestry.)  In short, the Schaeffer’s were hungry for the power of the gospel unto salvation to be demonstrated  for all who believe.

It was in 1978 that cancer was discovered in Francis Schaeffer’s body.  Despite this disease, even by his own admission, more was done in his ministry in the last five years of his life than before. He rewrote his book legacy and ministered to large crowds everywhere. He spoke to the combined General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in America and Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod in 1982, which had just merged together into one church. [click here to read “A Day of Sober Rejoicing”]

As the days grew difficult, Edith Schaeffer tells how ten days before he died, she brought him home from Mayo Clinic. She spoke about her conviction that he would want to go to the house he had asked her to buy in Rochester, Minnesota to pass from his body and be with the Lord. The medical staff agreed with that decision. Edith Schaeffer surrounded his bed with the things he loved, including music played into his room. All the favorites from Beethoven, Bach, and Shubert were played. On the morning of May 15, 1984, he was taken home to glory with Handel’s Messiah in the background.

Words to Live By: Francis Schaeffer was a sinner saved by grace, as all believers are. We by no means believe that he was without difficulties in his life towards those nearest and dearest to him, as well as the Christian family as a whole. But despite these foibles, he will be remembered as the spiritual father of many a Christian today, while his work continues on in many lands today to reach the intellectuals of the twenty-first century with the same precious gospel. As God enables us, let us each be faithful, in word and in deed, in proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 103 – 105

Through the Standards:  The Nature of repentance

WCF 15:1
“Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minster of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

A Prayer From the Catechism

With little or no Presbyterian history to find on this May 14 day, we go to the words of Shorter Catechism No. 31.   It tells us that Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he does persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

On the one hand, this is rich theology.  It defines for us the biblical doctrine of vocation.    It follows catechisms which tells us that we are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ by the effectual application of the Spirit of God who works faith in us and unites us to Christ.  It precedes catechisms which define the benefits of vocation as being justification, adoption, and sanctification.

But on the other hand, this is devotional.  This is an evangelistic prayer.  It can formulate the requests which we make every time we or someone else shares the gospel of eternal life with the lost.  We can make each one of the verbal phrases in this catechism a prayer petition for our unsaved loved ones, or our neighbors outside of Christ.

Let’s look at the teaching first.  The Spirit first applies the effectual calling upon our minds by convincing us of our sin and misery.  This work of God’s Word, and especially His law, as well as His  Spirit convinces the heart of the unsaved as to his deserved guilt, the dreadful wrath of God, and endless miseries of hell, if we reject his gospel.    Then a second application of the mind by the Word and Spirit is  enlightening in the knowledge of Christ.  We know with conviction that Christ is the only answer to our sin and misery, that He has undertaken to save us and will be faithful to perform it.   We in short discover Christ in the gospel.  Our spiritual eyes are opened to His person and work on our behalf.

Second, the Spirit applies the effectual call upon our wills, by renewing them.  This is a secret, spiritual. and mysterious work, as Christ compares it to the wind which we hear but don’t know where it comes from or goes to in John 3.

But the full result of all this convicting work upon the mind and will of the sinner will be to persuade and enable him to embrace Jesus Christ as He is freely offered in the gospel.

Christian, recognize that this is your spiritual history.  You might not have been aware that all this was happening inside of you.  But while others might have been externally called by the Word of God, you were called externally by that same Word and internally persuaded to become a believer.  None but the elect of God are thus called and chosen by the Word and the Spirit.

But this is more than mere doctrine, as important as that is.  It is also devotional.  The next time you present the gospel to someone else, or you hear it presented in a public meeting, like a church service, turn these expressions into prayer requests.  Holy Spirit, convince the lost of their sin and misery.  Enlighten their minds in the knowledge of Christ.  Renew their wills.  Persuade and enable them to embrace Jesus Christ this day as He is freely offered in the gospel.

Words to Live By:   For the purposes of both doctrine and devotion, it is important to memorize this answer.  If you do, and this contributor did so a long time ago, it is a comforting assurance in days of doubt which the old serpent enemy casts towards us, as well as an effective evangelistic tool to use anywhere and everywhere.   Your assignment is, memorize Shorter Catechism 31.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 100 – 102

Through the Standards: Proof texts of saving faith

Ephesians 2:8
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (NAS)

Romans 10:17
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (NAS)

Romans 1:16 “For  I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .” (NAS)

Acts 16:31
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” (NAS)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:   

Ninth Oldest Educational Institution in the Nation

The history and tradition page on the college’s web site is very thorough about the various changes which have come in the time the educational school has been in existence.  Our readers know it as Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia.  The latter part of its name was added in 1870 when General Robert E. Lee, late of the Confederacy, died as its president in that year.  Before that from 1813 and 1796, it was simply known as Washington College and Washington Academy.  The father of our country had come in a time of financial struggle to give a grant of 20,000 shares of James River Canal stock.  And so in honor  of him, they gave his name to the school.  Before that still, it was named on May 13, 1776,  as Liberty Hall Academy in that same location. Ruins from that school are still to be found on a hill looking over the area.  Originally, it was called from 1749, Augusta Academy, so named after the county in which it found itself in Virginia.

Yet missing from this whole description of the founding and re-naming of the educational institution is that the Presbyterians of Virginia had begun this school.  As early as 1771, the Hanover Presbytery expressed its intention to begin a seminary of learning within the boundary of the Presbytery. Its early leaders, supporters, and faculty were all Presbyterians from the Shenandoah Valley.  And its purpose was to give a religious and moral education to the students who would come to study under its oversight.  It is true that they did not desire to make Presbyterians of all who came there, but the denominational basis of the school was clearly known by all who were to attend.  Its board members were all Presbyterian ministers and members of the Presbyterian churches in the valley.  Its first president was the celebrated Presbyterian minister William Graham, who studied under John Witherspoon at the College of New Jersey.

It was said that Liberty Hall Academy owed its foundation, first, to the pious zeal of  Presbyterian clergy, second, to the contributions of the Presbyterian people of the valley, third, to the energy and talents of Presbyterian minister and leader, Rev. William Graham, and last, to the attention by the Presbyterian trustees and gratuitous aid of members of the Presbyterian churches of said valley.  Yet it is all this which is missing on the present history and traditions page of the University on-line.

Words to Live By:  A Christian man and woman this writer knows has taken remarkable  incidents out of their lives when God has been powerfully present and accounted for in those lives, and remembered them by marked stones in a dish.  It is a reminder that we are too apt to forget what God has accomplished in the past.  That is why a key word in Scripture is the word “remember.”  Let us remember God’s dealings in our lives, and in the lives of our institutions.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 97 – 99

Through the Standards:  The degrees of faith

WCF 14:3
“This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

A Plea for Ministers and Money

Most of us can remember Paul’s vision which he experienced on his second missionary journey of a man who called out to the apostle, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (NIV – Acts 16:9)   Well, we don’t have any record of any visionary request for help, but early Presbyterians in this blessed land did correspond with Presbyterians in the mother country just two years after the organization of the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1707.  There is a letter written on May 11, 1709 to Presbyterians in London, England from the Presbyterian ministers in the Philadelphia Presbytery appealing for more men and money to help the infant Presbyterian Church get off the ground.  Listen to the pathos in their words:

“Unto whom can we apply ourselves more fitly than unto our fathers, who have been extolled in the reformed churches for their large bounty and benevolence in their necessities!  We doubt not, but if the sum of about two hundred pounds per annum, were raised for the encouragement of ministers in these parts, it would enable ministers and people to erect eight congregations, and ourselves put in better circumstances than hitherto we have been.  We are at present seven ministers, most of whose outward affairs are so straightened as to crave relief, unto which, if two or three more were added, it would greatly strengthen our interest, which does miserably suffer, as things are at present are among us.

“Sir, if we shall be supplied with ministers from you, which we earnestly desire; with your benevolence to the value above, you may be assured of our fidelity and Christian care in distributing it to the best ends and purposes we can, so as we hope we shall be able to give a just and fair account for every part of it to yourself and others, by our letters to you.

“That our evangelical affairs may be the better managed, we have formed ourselves into a Presbytery, annually convened.  It is a sore distress and trouble unto us, that we are not able to comply with the desires of sundry places, crying unto us for ministers.  Therefore we earnestly beseech you to intercede with the ministers of London, to extend their charity to us, otherwise many people will remain in a perishing condition as to spiritual things.”

It is obvious that the seven ministers of the Presbytery of Philadelphia certainly saw that the fields of America were ripe unto harvest.  They also sadly realized that the laborers were few so as to reap that spiritual harvest.  And so they, in a spirit of prayer, asked for both ministers and money to take advantage of the opportunities for a wide and effective service in the American colonies.

It would be at a later date in the history of the American church, indeed several decades from this date,  that the question of where you were trained educationally became an issue in the visible church.  But at this early date in American Presbyterian history, they were at a critical crossroads, as the letter above proves.  They needed more pastors and more money to support those who were present in ministering to the masses.

Words to Live By: Such a prayer and plea as this is never outdated, even in current America.  We might add the adjective “faithful” before the men who are needed in our conservative Presbyterian and Reformed church bodies, but the need is the same.  Will you be a prayer warrior before our Sovereign God and heavenly Father for Him to thrust out faithful  laborers into the harvest fields?

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 91 – 93

Through the Standards: The principal acts of saving faith

WCF 14:2
“By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.  But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Who Wrote This Hymn?

We often sing favorite gospel hymns without the slightest idea or even care as to who was the author of it.  Also, have you ever wondered just what circumstances produced the words of such hymns?

Consider the following hymns:  “Are you Washed in the Blood?,”  “I must tell Jesus,”  “Is your All on the Altar?,”  “What a Wonderful Savior,”  “Down at the Cross where my Savior died,”  “Leaning on the Everlasting arms,”  “Speed the Light,”  “Christ has for sin Atonement made,”  “Glory to his name,”  “Have Thine own way, Lord,”  and “Give Him the glory.”

Indeed, if we listed all the hymns which the Presbyterian minister Elisha A. Hoffman wrote, we would list another 1,988 hymns.  And this from a man who had no formal music education!

Elisha Hoffman was born on May 7, 1839 in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania. His parents were Pennsylvania Germans, with his father a minister.   Elisha was educated in the Philadelphia school system.  During this time, he was converted.  He went to Union Seminary in New Berlin, Pennsylvania, completing a classical  education at that school.  As this was the middle of the Civil War, he enlisted after the battle of Gettysburg, but for some unexplained reason, only served for one month.  He married in 1866 Susan Orwig who died ten years later, leaving him with three young boys.  Ordained in the Presbyterian ministry in 1873, he went on to serve as pastor in three Presbyterian churches, with the longest being the First Presbyterian Church in Benton Harbour, Michigan.  He married a second time, which union produced a baby boy, in addition to his family.  She would be wedded to him until  he died at age 90 on November 25, 1929.

Often various pastoral situations prompted him to write hymns.  To two widowers who had lost their respective wives, and who were absolutely dismayed over it, he joined another Presbyterian elder, A. J. Showalter, of Dalton, Georgia,  in writing the words and music of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

When a woman was burdened down with troubles, and no words of comfort accomplished any relief for her, Rev. Hoffman said “You must tell Jesus . . . You must tell Jesus.”  She replied, “I must tell Jesus.  Yes, that is the answer.”  Elisha Hoffman went home and penned the words of the well-known hymn, “I Must Tell Jesus all my troubles and cares.”

The visible church is enriched by the spiritual gifts of music of this man, Elisha Hoffman, and thankful for the theology and experience which he gave to us over the years.

Words to Live By:  Whether in the congregation of the church you attend, or around the piano in some home or Bible study, why not have a hymn sing of the songs listed above in the historical devotional?  It will bless your heart and mind, and help you rejoice in the Lord who called this man to add to the worship of the church down through the ages.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 79 – 81

Through the Standards: Proof texts of sanctification

John 17:17

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (ESV)

Romans 6:12, 13

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (ESV)

Galatians 5:16 – 17, 24, 25

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will  not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh ae against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you wont to do.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (ESV)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The First Chaplain to the House of Representatives

In a day when everyone is decrying our young people’s lack of knowledge of our American republic, try this question on yourself.  Who was the nation’s first chaplain elected to the United States House of Representatives? If you answered the Rev. William Linn, of Pennsylvania, a member minister of the Presbyterian Church, give yourself ten brownie points.

His years were February 27, 1752 to January 8, 1809. We don’t know much about his background, but early on, this ardent and most impassioned minister, as he was called by his contemporaries, graduated from the College of New Jersey (later on Princeton Theological Seminary) in 1772. Ordained by the Donegal Presbytery three years later, he found himself in the perilous days leading up to the American Revolution. He became the chaplain of the Continental Army, and as far as we know, proclaimed the Scriptures faithfully to men of that military unit.

After his military chaplaincy years, he served for seven years the Scotch-Irish members of the Big Spring Presbyterian Church in present day Newville, Pennsylvania. His ministerial call took him next to the Maryland as the principal of an academy for four years. It was on May 1, 1789, that he was elected as the first chaplain of the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

The members of Congress, having begun meetings of the Continental Congress every day in prayer, obviously wanted to have that spiritual ministry continued in both the Senate and the House. William Linn prayed each day for the members of the U.S. House of Representatives, or arranged guest chaplains for the post, counseled with the members of the House, officiated at funerals and even performed marriages on occasion.  In what would today be called a violation of the separation of church and state, Rev. Linn  held worship services in the chamber for Congressional members and their families, alternating with the Senate chaplain every other week.

After this ministry, and two other Presbyterian ministers consecutively  replaced him as House chaplain, William Linn became a trustee and later on President pro temp of the Queens College, later on renamed Rutgers University. He is listed down as the first president of Rutgers University.

He went on to meet His Maker and Redeemer at the age of 55 in 1809, after a successful ministry in the military, in the church,  in government, and education.

Words to Live By:   We may not know all of God’s servants who have been faithful in His kingdom down through the years, but we need to realize that we must be ready to serve Him in any capacity as He opens the door of service.  Are  you ready?

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 61 – 63

Through the Standards:  Proof texts for adoption

Galatians 4:6, 7

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba. Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you ae a son, God has made you also an heir.” (NIV)

Ephesians 1:5

“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (NIV)

Romans 8:16, 17

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (NIV)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:   

Do You Know King Jesus?

We have looked at the two offices of prophet and priest which Jesus executes.  Now we come, in the absence of anything Presbyterian, to Jesus executing the office of king.  Number 25 of the Shorter Catechism reminds us that “Christ executes the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.”

Christ in the past is a king, is One now, and ever will be a king.  His kingdom is a spiritual and invisible one.  He Himself said in the midst of  His arrest to Pilate that “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place.” (NIV – John 18:36).  But it is in existence, and we as His people are kingdom-citizens of it.  Paul tells us “he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (NIV – Colossians 1:13)

Jesus executes this office of kingdom by subduing us to Himself.  “Thy people,” the Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 110:3 “shall be willing in the day of thy power.” (KJV)  He further rules over us.  “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (KJV – 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20)  He in addition as king defends us.  When God delivered the Psalmist from the hands of his enemies, David broke out in psalm, singing Psalm 18:1, 2 “I love you, O LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (NIV)  Last, He restrains and conquers all His and our enemies.  In a text which has been quoted by His kingdom-citizens in harrowing days of old, to say nothing of the persecuted brothers and sisters all over this world, John the apostle reminds us that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (ESV – 1 John 4:4b)

Words to Live By: As king, Christ’s mediatorial activity is performed in both directions — upward in intercession, and downward in applying the benefits of redemption and administering the affairs of His church.  As king, Christ meets the problem of man’s weakness and dependence, supplying us with power and protection.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 55 – 57

Through the Standards: The subject, sphere, and ground of adoption

WLC 74  — “What is adoption?
A. Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow-heirs with Christ in glory.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Christ executes the office of priest

With little of Presbyterian history to interest us on this day of April 27, we turn to one of the three offices which Christ executes for His people.  This office is so important to our Christian understanding of our redemption and sanctification.  Shorter Catechism number 25 tells us that this priestly office is executed “in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconciling us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.”

The definition of a priest is one qualified and authorized to act in behalf of man with God.  Certainly, Christ was over and over again in the Book of Hebrews identified as such a priest, whether we speak about specific references to  Him or typical fulfilments of Him as a priest.  Hebrews 6:20 tells us that Jesus has “become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (ESV)

The two branches of the priestly work  of Christ falls into first, His sacrifice to satisfy divine justice.  We need to remember that in this sacrificial work, our Lord was both the priest and the victim, and perfect in each.  In comparing the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, the writer makes the contrast in Hebrews 9:14 by stating  “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (ESV)

The object, and indeed the effect of this offering, was for the full satisfaction of divine justice.  Jesus on the cross endured on our behalf the very punishment our sins deserved.  He then reconciled  us to God.  Paul says it all in Romans 5:9, 10: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled by God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (ESV)  Don’t just read this text without emotion!  Rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, as Romans 5:11 charges the reader.

The second branch of Christ’s priestly work falls into the intercession which He makes daily for us now.  He makes, in our Confessional fathers words, “continual intercession for us.”  He appears in His glorified humanity at the right hand of God.  He declares His will to be applied to believers on earth.  He answers all accusations against us by that  unholy trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  And the solid ground of this intercession is the merit of His perfect obedience and sacrifice during His sinless life and death, burial, and resurrection.

Christian reader, has it really grabbed you that Jesus is praying for you now and every day?  Do you go on your way every day with that comforting truth in your head and heart?  You can, because Christ is your personal priest.

Words to Live By: As priest, His mediatorship is upward from man to God.  As the priest, He meets the problems of your guilt, supplying you with righteousness.  Live in the light of this wondrous truth of the office Christ executes as a priest.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 49 – 51

Through the Standards: Proof texts of Justification:

Romans 5:1

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NAS)

Romans 3:24

“being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in  Christ Jesus.” (NAS)

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” (KJV)

Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (ESV)

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