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Archive for the ‘Christ & the Church’ Category

“Though the foundations of the world should be ripped up, and the heavens clatter together, and the whole fabric of them be unpinned and fall to pieces, the firmest parte of it dissolved; yet the church [shall] continue in its stability, because it stands not upon the changeableness of creatures, but is built upon the immutable rock of the truth of God, which is as little subject to change, as his essence.”

-Stephen Charnock (1628-1680)

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In the following quote from the great Scottish Reformer, John Knox, we see how vitally important the maintenance of the three marks of the Church are to its role, and for that matter to the witness of Christ in the world. The three marks constitute the ‘face’ of the Visible Church. That face of the Church, which identifies and distinguishes it among others, is the very face of Christ among men. So to the degree that the marks are compromised, the face of the Church and so of Christ are compromised. And where the marks are absent, the Visible Church is absent – and Christ walks not among such snuffed-out candlesticks.

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“The notes of the true Kirk are three: Word, sacraments and discipline: first, the true preaching of the Word of God in which God has revealed himself unto us; second, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, which are annexed to the Word and promise of God to seal and confirm them in our hearts; last ecclesiastical discipline uprightly administered, as God’s Word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed and virtue nourished. In the observation of these notes the true face of Jesus Christ appears. We cannot make the face of Jesus Christ appear. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ himself, made known through Word and sacraments, is the true ordinance governing the life, form, and activity of the Church. We believe in Christ in the midst of those who meet in his name and by faith hear the voice of his Spirit speaking in and through the Scriptures and obey him. We see him in the Sacraments, and walk in holiness according to the leading of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. There the true Church manifests itself in the power of the presence of Christ the sole Head and Lord of the Church – there it steps forth before us, and distinguishes itself from any Church that usurps his authority.”

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The following passage is worth its weight in gold.  We would expect nothing less from Thomas Boston.

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In what sense Christ is Saviour of the world.  A saviour is a name of honour, and a name of business. It is an honourable thing to save and help the miserable; to be destined, appointed, and called to that employment: but the honourable post has business annexed to it; it will not do without activity, which success is expected to attend, as in the case of a teacher, physician, and the like. Now, one may be a saviour, even as a teacher or physician, of a society, two ways. (1.) In respect of office, as being called to and invested with the office of saving, teaching, or curing that society. And thus one is saviour, teacher, or physician of that society, before ever he save, teach, or cure any of them. In this respect one may be called an official saviour, teacher, or physician. (2.) In respect of the event and success, as actually and eventually saving, teaching, and healing. As the former ariseth from an appointment put upon such a one; this ariseth from the work he manageth in virtue of that appointment. In this respect one may be called an actual and eventual saviour. Thus it is said, Neb. ix. 27. ”  And, according to thy manifold mercies, thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hands of their enemies. This premised, we say,

1. Our Lord Jesus is the actual and eventual Saviour of the elect only, in whose room and stead only he died upon the cross, according to the eternal compact passed between him and the Father, in the covenant of grace, otherwise called the covenant of redemption; for these are not two, but one and the same covenant. Thus the apostle calls him “the Saviour of the body,” Eph. v. 23. that is, of the elect, who make up the body whereof he was appointed the head from eternity, and in whose name he contracted with the Father in the eternal covenant. And he is their Saviour eventually, as actually saving them, Matth. i. 21.  “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.”  None but these will ever truly employ him as a Saviour, or put their case in his hand : and there are none of them but will certainly employ him sooner or later, Acts xiii. 48. ” As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” John vi. 37.  “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.”

2. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the official Saviour, not of the elect only, but of the world of mankind indefinitely; so our text calls him “Saviour of the world.” Agreeably to which, God in Christ is called “the Saviour of all men,” but with a speciality, “the Saviour of them that believe,” 1 Tim. iv. 10.  The matter lies here: like as a prince, out of regard to his subjects’ welfare, gives a commission to a qualified person to be physician to such a society, a regiment, or the like; and the prince’s commission constitutes him physician of that society ; so that though many of them should never employ him, but call other physicians, yet still there is a relation betwixt him and them ; he is their physician by office; any of them all may come to him if they will, and be healed: So God, looking on the ruined world of mankind, has constituted and appointed Jesus Christ his Son Saviour of the world: he has Heaven’s patent for this office; and wheresoever the gospel comes, this his patent is intimated. Hereby a relation is constituted betwixt him and the world of mankind; he is their Saviour, and they the objects of his administration: so that any of them all may come to him, without money or price, and be saved by him as their own Saviour appointed them by the Father.

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James Bannerman (1807-1868), one of the “Disruption Worthies,” wrote a comprehensive two-volume work on the Presbyterian doctrine of the Church, The Church of Christ.  It is a definitive treatment of the subject and really ought to be on the shelf of every Reformed minister, if not of every Reformed head of household.

The following quote comes from a selection in the first volume on the subject of the necessity of a friendly connection between the Church and State.  One of the reasons is that the State cannot be altogether neutral to the universal claims of the of the Kingdom of God within its boundaries.  While the Church does not have a right to interfere in the sphere of civil government, yet it demands audience from king and people of all lands.  Her warrant comes from none less than the Most High:

“[The Church’s] first principle and first duty is that of aggression. The ministers of the Gospel claim it as a right to go into every nation, however fenced around and guarded from intrusion, and to demand an entrance in the name of Him who sent them, even although the magistrate should bid them depart from his coasts. Further still, the messengers of the Cross arrogate to themselves thee title to enter into every human dwelling where a sinner is to be found, – seeking admittance in the name of the Saviour of sinners, that they may negotiate with the inhabitant in behalf of their Master, however sternly the door may be closed against them by jealousy of their errand, or hatred to their cause.

It has been the eloquent boast of freedom in our country, that every man’s house is his castle; and that, be it but a straw-built shed, open to every breath of heaven, yet fenced about by the protection and the sanction of law, there even ‘the king cannot and dare not enter.’  But where the king cannot enter, there the missionary of Christ claims to be admitted; and, with a higher warrant in his hand than that of human law, bids the gates be lifted up, that with the Gospel he may enter in” (The Church of Christ, 1:142).

Too often we fail to appreciate this authoritative dimension to missions.  While the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be patient with all men, yet he is not go to into the world hat-in-hand.  Mission forbids timidity, for we have been sent by the King of kings.   No, we should not force entry, for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.  Yet alternately, we should not so ‘respect’ the boundaries of men when our Lord counts it no trespass.  It is His claim after all, the deed and grant of His Father.  And the warrant is in our hand.

So let us go.  Aggressively.

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