Sound Teaching

Meditations Toward Christmas: Genesis 12:1-3

Another Old Testament passages that points us to the coming or birth of Christ is Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

In this passage God promises to bless Abraham. The Lord also promises to bless the families of the earth through Abraham. There is no better commentary to this passage that the Bible itself. In Galatians 3:16, Apostle Paul looks back at this passage and writes, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”

God’s promise to bless all the families of the earth was ultimately fulfilled through his offspring, Jesus Christ. Today many families of earth have been blessed through Christ. Families that were once not a people, but now are God’s people; once they had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10).

Today, every nation, race or tribe has people calling upon the name of Christ. John confirms this truth in his vision of heaven. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” (Revelation 7:9).

This is the real meaning of Christmas namely that in Christ God is pouring out his rich blessings of justification (forgiveness of our sin and declaring us righteous in Christ) and sanctification (transforming us more and more in holiness after Christ). These blessings will climax in our glorification in which we shall be completely like Christ without sin, and we shall live with him in glory eternally. What a blessing!

For sure the hymn writer was right when he penned:

Ponder nothing earthly-minded
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descend
King of kings, yet born of Mary…
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly glory.

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Sound Teaching

Meditations Toward Christmas: Genesis 3:15

In a few days’ time, the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas. Christ’s birth is worthy celebrating because it marked God’s coming down to dwell with his people ( as his name, Immanuel, means) and to save them from their sin ( as his name, Jesus, means). Therefore, as we move toward Christmas, God willing, I would like us to reflect and meditate on a number of passages from the Old Testament that point us to the birth of Christ. I pray that these passages will help us celebrate the season meaningfully and with gratitude for God’s indescribable gift to us ( 2 Corinthians 9:15).

The first passage is Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

At the completion of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, God saw that everything was good. Man was also God’s best friend, and he enjoyed uninterrupted communion with his Creator. But in Genesis 3 we see the entry of sin,evil and death in a once good world. Man being deceived by the evil one sinks to his lowest end. He sinks deep in a quagmire of sin, misery, and shame.

Due to sin, man is alienated from God.  Once a friend of God, man now hides himself from his best friend. Man is also alienated even from his fellow man. Adam and Eve no longer enjoy the sweet companionship of husband and wife. Hear the words of Adam describing his wife whom he once called the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh, “The woman whom you gave to be with me…” He doesn’t call her his wife. Sin does not only alienate us from God but also from our fellow man.

God being just and righteous comes in judgment upon man. To Adam he says, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, you shall not eat from it; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

To Eve he says, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

But that’s not the end of the story. God also being gracious and merciful announces salvation and redemption for man as he condemns the evil one: “I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The good news or the gospel comes in a form of enmity. It is important that God re-establishes this enmity because before sinning, man was a friend of God and enemy of the evil one. But when he sinned, he became a friend of the evil one and enemy of God. Therefore, God re-establishes this enmity as his gracious means of reconciling man to himself. What a gracious LORD. What an amazing love!

The seed of the woman ultimately refers to Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who crushed the head of the serpent (Romans 16:20; John 12:31, 32; Colossians 2:15) triumphing over him in victory. This victory began with God’s promise coming true on the day of Christ’s birth.

Therefore, Genesis 3:15 forms the backbone of our rejoicing on Christmas. The promised seed is finally here to crush the head of the serpent and give us life. Charles Wesley hit the nail right on the head when he composed:

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us…
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever.

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Sound Teaching

The Challenge for the Preacher

“When it comes to preaching the Word of God, a man will never follow the right course if he cannot forget self, and close his eyes to anything that might distract him in this world from acting according to God’s pure ways. Indeed, he will surely stray away from the path, first to one side, then to the other. Hence, God’s doctrines are often corrupted because those who ought to preach them are inclined to malevolent, or to seek the favour of their hearers. They may fear to incur bad feeling or to provoke anger against themselves.

Therefore, it is impossible for us to serve God in our natural state; we must be absolutely determined, with unshakeable constancy, to suffer for the doctrines that we preach, and not to let this cause us grief. We must fight under the ensign of our captain, Jesus Christ, knowing that we cannot share in the glory of his resurrection if we have not first suffered with him, following his example. All believers must certainly strengthen themselves to do these things. . .

. . .Those who are called by God to preach his Word must be resolved that they will not compromise, even if the whole world were to rise up against them. They must bear all conflicts, knowing that God will help them in their need and always grant them victory, provided they follow their vocation in purity and simplicity. The greatest insult and injury that we can give to God is in yielding to the desires of man, and twisting his Word both left and right. It is not only a question of abandoning our own ideas, but also of constantly upholding God’s truth, which is immutable; it must never be altered, however changeable and inconstant man may be.”

Taken from: John Calvin’s Sermons on Galatians. (Copied from Reformed Bibliophile, http://www.erictyoung.com ).

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Sound Teaching

All Scripture is All about Christ

I will tell you one thing that proves to a demonstration, that Christ is still precious to his people, and it is this:-send one of Christ’s people to hear the most noted preacher of the age, whoever that may be; he preaches a very learned sermon, very fine and magnificent, but there is not a word about Christ in that sermon.Suppose that to be the case, and the Christian man will go out and say, “I did not care a farthing for that man’s discourse.” Why? “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. I heard nothing about Christ.”

Send that man on the Sabbath morning to hear some hedge and ditch preacher, some one who cuts the king’s English about never so badly, but who preaches Jesus Christ-you will see the tears rolling down that man’s face, and when he comes out he will say, “I do not like that man’s bad grammar; I do not like the many mistakes he has made, but oh! it has done my heart good, for he spoke about Christ.” That, after all, is the main thing for the Christian; he wants to hear about his Lord, and if he hears him magnified he will overlook a hundred faults.

In fact, you will find that Christians are all agreed, that the best sermon is that which is fullest of Christ. They never like to hear a sermon unless there is something of Christ in it. A Welsh minister who was preaching last Sabbath at the chapel of my dear brother, Jonathan George, was saying, that Christ was the sum and substance of the gospel, and he broke out into this story:-

A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, “What do you think of my sermon?”

“A very poor sermon indeed,” said he.

“A poor sermon?” said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it.”

“Ay, no doubt of it.”

“Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?”

“Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very good indeed.”

“Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?”

“Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.”

“Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?”

“Because,” said he, “there was no Christ in it.”

“Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.”

So the old man said, “Don’t you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?”

“Yes,” said the young man.

“Ah!” said the old divine “and so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business is when you get to a text, to say, ‘Now what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis-Christ. And,” said he, “I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.” Now since you say amen to that, and declare that what you want to hear is Jesus Christ, the text is proved-“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious.”” 

Taken from the sermon on 1 Peter 2:7  by Charles H.  Spurgeon. Delivered on March 13, 1859.

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Sound Teaching

Malawian Presbyterianism: Are We Standing or Falling like PCUSA?

My fellow Presbyterians in Malawi,

Last Thursday, (June 19, 2014), the Presbyterian Church of United States of America (PCUSA) passed a resolution to allow gays or lesbians to marry in church. Now, this has shocked some but I am not really shocked. Why? Because this is just one of the fruits of steps that were taken many years ago beginning from 1920s.

PCUSA through the Auburn Affirmation in 1920s rejected that the Bible is without error (inerrancy of Scripture), the virgin birth of Jesus and his deity, that Christ died on behalf of sinners (substitutionary atonement), bodily resurrection of Christ and authenticity of Christ’s miracles. Jesus’ miracles were said to be myths. The Auburn Confession also declared that Presbyterians in PCUSA must:

• “safeguard liberty of thought and teaching of its ministers”;
• prohibit the restricting of church teaching to rigid interpretations of Scripture and doctrine; and
• refuse to rank ecclesiastical authority or the authority of the Bible above that of the individual Spirit-led conscience. (In other words, man can decide what or what not to believe in the Bible). (http://www.layman.org/Files/how-we-got-here-updated.pdfhttp://www.layman.org/Files/how-we-got-here-updated.pdf).

This declaration led to many things like increased focus on social justice to the extent that salvation, in some cases, is viewed as a mere liberation from poverty and social injustice. This focus on social justice and human rights also led to less emphasis in following the Bible when it comes to the ordination of who is to be a deacon, an elder or a pastor in the church as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.

From 1990s to date, PCUSA among other things has accepted that gays or lesbians can be members of the church, pastors and elders or deacons and a few days ago it has accepted that gays or lesbians can officially marry in church. Marriage is now no longer between a man and a woman but between “two people.”

Now, we might look at PCUSA and think, “That’s America, it will never happen to the Presbyterianism in Malawi. But “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). The Presbyterian Church in Malawi partners with PCUSA in a number of areas. A good number of PCUSA congregations also have exchange visits with Presbyterian congregations in Malawi.

I wonder and fear if PCUSA will not influence our Presbyterian church or if it has not already influenced it somehow  knowing that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33). These are my concerns and fears. I believe that all of us including our leaders should ponder on these things lest some years from now, we will also find ourselves in the same place where PCUSA is now.

Thanks for reading. May the Good Lord bless you as you reflect on this post and search the Scriptures to ascertain if these things are so (Acts 17:11).

 

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Sound Teaching

Lessons from John Calvin’s Method of Preaching

One major aspect of John Calvin’s ministry was his form of expository preaching of the books of the Bible verse by verse also called lexio continua. On Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Calvin climbed up the steps of the St. Pierre Cathedral’s pulpit and patiently led his congregation verse by verse through book after book of the Bible. He often preached two to four verses in a sermon; however, in some instances he would preach two to three consecutive sermons on one verse as was the case with 1 Timothy 2:5 and 2 Timothy 1:8 respectively. As he tackled each verse, he would explain its meaning and apply it to his congregation.

But what would motivate Calvin to involve himself in this huge but worthy and profitable task. I believe that Calvin’s view of the Bible as the word or voice of God (vox dei) had a great impact and influence on his adoption of lexio continua method of preaching. Calvin’s high regard for Scripture is evidently seen in his magnum opus, Institutes of the Christian Religion, in which he writes:

In order that true religion may shine upon us, we ought to hold that it must take its beginning from heavenly doctrine and that no one can get even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless he be a pupil of Scripture.” (1.6.2)….“We affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that (the Bible) has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men” (1.8.5).

This view had a profound impact on his preaching as he revealed in his sermon on Micah 3:7:

For what ought sermons and doctrines be, except expositions of what Scripture contains? Truly, if we add the slightest nuance, it only results in corruption. Our Lord has left us a perfect doctrine in the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel. Thus, what ought we be preaching today? We ought not be adding anything new to the text, but ought to be providing a clearer exposition that would confirm our understanding of God’s teachings. That, I repeat, is the purpose of any sermon or lecture we hear, that we might each be better instructed with respect to God’s will. That way, whenever we hear anything, we have a basis for inquiring whether God has spoken or not. By the same token, all who are charged with preaching God’s Word know that it is wrong of them to add anything of their own, or anything they might event. They must be certain that what they preach is not of their own conjecture but derives from God, who guides them on the basis of his certain and infallible word.

John Calvin was strongly convinced that a preacher can faithfully proclaim the message of his Master only by letting him speak as he has already spoken in the Scriptures. Preaching on 1 Timothy 3:2, he said,

“(The preacher) should not show off so that everyone applauds him and says, ‘Oh, well-spoken! Oh! What a breadth of learning! Oh! What a breadth of mind! When a man has climbed up the pulpit…It is that God may speak to us by the mouth of man.”

The other significant element that greatly influenced John Calvin to preach verse by verse throughout the Bible was his view of the preacher as the ambassador of God. In his commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:20 in which Paul and other preachers of the gospel are described as Christ ambassadors, Calvin comments that a preacher is indeed an ambassador of Christ and he has been ordained by God to speak as God speaks to him in the Scriptures hence Christ could boldly say that whoever pays attention to the gospel preacher pays attention to Christ himself. Here it is important to highlight that Calvin was very much aware that preaching should not be equated with the Bible hence while preaching from Deuteronomy 1:43, he cautioned:

So the teaching which is put forward in the name of God ought to be as authoritative as if all the angels of heaven descended on us, as if God himself were manifesting his majesty before our eyes (but) it is true that when men speak we must weigh their words carefully. For if one were willing to receive everything that was put forward, there would be no distinction between liars and false prophets who seduce men’s souls and the true ministers of God.

Calvin was also influenced toward lexio continua preaching by his view of the hearer of the gospel as a fallen man. In fact, this view has implications both on the preacher and hearer of the gospel as Calvin states in his sermon on 1 Timothy 4:6-7:

Now, just as many preachers are themselves far too given to ambition and in order to find grace and favor seek only what will please, so also on the other side the people are the cause of making preachers swerve aside from the good way. And why? Because, men have ‘itching ears’ and want to be fed with pleasing stories and buffoonery or ‘old wives’ fables as St. Paul calls them here. Seeing that men have such desires –like pregnant women whose cravings are inordinate –ah well this is the cause of some preachers degenerating and disguising themselves and transforming God’s teaching, which is as bad as destroying it.

Calvin fully understood that due to the fallen nature of man both the preacher and the hearer might lean toward preaching and hearing messages that do not disturb them in their comfort zone. Since due to the fall, man is in constant rebellion against God, the fallen nature in the preacher and the hearer might pull them away from the faithful proclamation and hearing of God’s word. However, when lexio continua is the method of preaching in a congregation both the preacher and congregant are forced to fully submit to the whole counsel of God as it unfolds verse after verse and book after book of the Bible; thereby, fully proving that the Scripture as God’s Word is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Lexio continua preaching has a lot of benefits for the church today. First, it is one of the real ways in which full submission to God’s word both by the preacher and the congregation is demonstrated. The main challenge that the Church faces today is full submission to God’s Word. Due to the fallen nature of man, we tend to choose what we want to hear, and as the Church is bombarded with liberal and humanistic challenges, the temptation to choose what to obey and practice from the Scriptures also increases. However, where the word of God is preached in lexio continua form, both the preacher and the congregation are compelled to be subservient to God’s Word and to have their minds taken captive by it.

Secondly, lexio continua preaching frees the pastor from the temptation of preaching his mind instead of God’s word. Calvin observed that lexio continua preaching delivers the preacher from the temptation of esteeming or deciding at his pleasure what is profitable to be uttered and what is useless to be omitted. Lastly but not least, related to the above points, Calvin’s type of expository preaching affirms God’s sovereignty in preaching. As he rightly portrayed the preacher as the ambassador of Christ, the minister’s main goal then is similar to an earthly ambassador who is commissioned to advance and protect the interests and of his country. The ambassador demonstrates this commitment both in his words and actions. Similarly, the preacher has no any other agenda apart from seeking to affirm God’s sovereignty in the proclamation of the gospel. God’s sovereignty is affirmed when the preacher allows the Scripture to guide the agenda of preaching in the church or ministry.

The significance of letting Christ speak directly to his Church through the words of Scripture cannot be overemphasized. Ministers and preachers as the carriers of the voice of God should be challenged to consider the importance of lexio continua preaching in their churches or ministries. This form of preaching was essential for a health growth of the church in Geneva where Calvin preached and it also essential even to the present Church. John Leith has profound words for preachers today as he writes, “Calvin the preacher cannot be copied or repeated today in this new time and place, but…we can rightly hope and struggle to do as preachers of the Word in our particular time and place what Calvin did in his. For however much the culture and social matrix change, human existence remains essentially the same.”

John Calvin the Preacher

John Calvin the Preacher

 

 

 

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Sound Teaching

An Appeal to my Pentecostal Brethren

“I have many relations and very good friends who are Pentecostal and I thank God for them all. This post is dedicated to them.”

At the end of each and every year, WordPress experts or helper- monkeys as they prefer to call themselves release statistical report regarding each and every blog they host and Scripture Alone is not an exception. In the report of 2013, WordPress records that the most read article on the blog was “Do Prophets Still Exist?” followed by “Jesus Christ: The True Greatest Prophet.” The third most viewed post was “Of Anointed Water, Stickers, Handkerchiefs, etc.”

Am I surprised by these stats? Not at all! The above topics are real issues that the Church is facing today. People who claim to get direct revelations from God or prophets continue to rise almost every day.  The hunger for miracles and wonders has led to mass production of “anointed staffs” which steadily are taking the place of Christ in the hearts of many.

Now, why am I raising all this? I would like to appeal to my Pentecostal brethren to speak up against these unbiblical developments. Why? Because so many false prophets today claim to be Pentecostal in their beliefs yet what they do sometimes even leave other Pentecostals, I believe, mouth agape. For instance, who among my brethren using the Scriptures could confidently say that God will put money in your bank account or in your pair of trousers’ pockets or your pulse while you are just idling? Would a true Pentecostal, so to speak, agree that the Holy Spirit will direct a pastor to feed his congregants grass as if they are goats?  In case you missed it, check this link, http://www.africanspotlight.com/2014/01/08/south-african-pastor-makes-members-eat-grass-steps-photos-video/

My point again is that please my friends speak up against these things unless you don’t see anything wrong with such pathetic and blaspheming developments. I make this appeal because if you don’t raise your voice the old adage will prove true that silence means consent. By the grace of God, I write and will continue to write against these errors and heresies but I am not Pentecostal and some think I do so merely to score points over you brethren.

However, if truth be told, I write and denounce errors and heresies because I am concerned with God’s truth and the glory of Christ regardless of who is involved. John Calvin once observed: “Even a dog barks when it’s master is attacked, I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is being attacked and yet would remain silent.” I bark when God’s glory and truth is maligned because I can’t help it to see or hear the name of Christ my Master and Savior being brought into disrepute.

So, friends raise your voices against errors and heresies that are coming out coated with your name for Christ’s sake and his Church. Grace and peace.

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