April 2012

You are currently browsing the archive for the April 2012 category.

This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Misperception of Ministry Hard to Overcome

Partial information and misperceptions about one’s ministry are hard to overcome, especially when it involves an action which has taken place in the past.

Think either back to the years of World War Two, or remember in your history this calamitous time in our nation’s history.  The Axis powers of Germany and Japan had suddenly captured large areas in foreign lands, or in the case of Japan, delivered devastating blows to the Western world,  as in the case of Pearl Harbor,  Hawaii.  Many foreigners were caught in what had been friendly territory, but now were enemy countries.  These included diplomats and their families, tourists, and missionaries of the cross.

Enter the Geneva Convention.  It specified that treatment of non-combatants would be carried out with kindness and care.  Further, plans would be made to extradite such individuals back to their home via neutral nations.

In the United States during these War Years, the State Department operated a small number of internment facilities, many of them being resorts and hotels in isolated parts of the country.  Some of them were the Homestead Hotel (White Sulphur Springs, Virginia), Greenbriar Hotel (White Sulphur Springs, Virginia), a hotel in Asheville, Virginia, and other Virginia sites in Staunton, Hot Springs, New Market, and Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania.

The sole North Carolina retreat and conference center was at Montreat Assembly Inn.  This was a Presbyterian retreat center, run by the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  From October 29, 1942 to April 30, 1943, it held 133 Japanese and 131 German diplomats and their families.

It was an interesting opportunity to witness to these Axis diplomats.  Into each of the hotel rooms had been placed New Testaments in both the German language and the Japanese languages.  Further, church groups visited at Christmas and handed out presents to all the children.  Christmas carols were sung at the retreat center, with many joining in the familiar carols.   One simply doesn’t know what seeds of the gospel were being planted by the Holy Spirit during this time.

When the time of exchange came with our diplomats, business people, and missionaries, it soon became clear that their experience in German and Japan held internments  was not as plush as their counterparts in American areas.

Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Border Patrol escorted the foreign diplomats and their families to trains which took them to ships from neutral countries.  Usually they were marked clearly so enemy submarines would not torpedo them on their way back to their home countries.

Words to Live By: Consider with gratitude the amazing exchange program in the gospel.  Our sins were imputed or laid to the account of Christ, and His righteousness is imputed or laid to our account.  We who were enemies of God became His friends.  Thank God for this great exchange today.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 58 – 60

Through the Standards:  The liberties and privileges of adoption

WCF 12:1
“All those that are justified, God vouchsafes, in and for His only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have His name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by Him as by a Father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.”

Tags: , , ,

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.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:   

Goliath against David

Talk about Goliath against David.  This was the case on this day April 28, 1937 when the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America went to court against the Presbyterian Church of America.  They had been successful in winning the church properties of those ministers who had been suspended from their ranks.  They had been successful in evicting them from the manse or parsonage.  They had been successful in removing their life insurance policies.  Now they wanted their name.

Their argument was simple.  Plans had been under way for some time for a proposed union of the United Presbyterian Church of North America with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.  And one of the names floated for that proposed union was the Presbyterian Church of America.

The principal witness for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., was the denomination’s Stated Clerk, Lewis Seymour Mudge. Key to the whole case was the question of similarity of names as the sole basis for the suit against the Presbyterian Church of America.  Attempts by the latter group to show the doctrinal reasons for the new church were then met with objection after objection by the attorney for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Witnesses for the P.C. of A. were a “who’s who” of its early leaders. Ministers Paul Woolley, Edwin Rian, and Charles Woodbridge all testified on April 28 and April 29. Professor John Murray tried to bear witness about the doctrinal differences between the two denominations, but was hindered by objections to his presence on the stand. He left, without testifying.

It took several months before the decision was handed down. But as the historical devotional for February 9, 1939 showed, the decision was made against the Presbyterian Church of America. Moderator R.B. Kuiper called for an earlier than usual General Assembly in that month of February, 1939, and the new name of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was chosen by the  church.

When the union between the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America and the United Presbyterian Church of North America took place in 1958, their new name was the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA). In God’s providence, this gave the opportunity for the southern Presbyterians who left the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1973 to choose the name, The Presbyterian Church in America, as their new name during their second General Assembly.

Presbyterian Guardian managing editor Thomas R. Birch remarked at the close of his report in the May 29th, 1937 issue, “And once more . . . Gideon’s band of true Christians, the Presbyterian Church of America, has publicly taken its unflinching stand on the side of historic Presbyterianism and the principles of religious liberty for which the fathers fought and died.” His entire article concerning the injunction can be read online in the May 29, 1937 issue of the Presbyterian Guardian. Yet through further legal appeal, it was not until March 15, 1939 that the denomination officially changed its name to The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  Mr. Birch wrote again at that time regarding the name change, “What’s In A Name?”, on page 47 of the March 1939 issue of The Presbyterian Guardian.

Words to Live By:  Jesus promised His followers that they would be brought up before the courts for the sake of their profession as Christianity.  This was one such example, and it will not be the last time in the history of the Christian church.  Yet God’s Word is sure.  Remain steadfast to the faith, and God’s reward will be ultimately yours in Christ.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 52 – 54

Through the Standards:   The nature of those justified who have been adopted

WSC 34  — “What is adoption?
A.  Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.”

Image sources : 1. Photograph of Lewis S. Mudge, newsclipping from the Syracuse Herald, 28 May 1936, p. 3, as found in Scrapbook no. 2, p. 110, in the Henry G. Welbon Manuscript Collection.
2. Cover image of the Minutes of the Fourth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America, meeting in Quarryville, Pa., May 31-June 3, 1938.
3. Cover image of the Minutes of the Fifth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Meeting at Westminster Theological Seminary, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pa., February 9, 1939…
All scans prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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)

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

He Being Dead, Yet Speaks

We have a few of the characters in this historical devotional guide who are mentioned in more than one date out of the year.  Their birth dates, their death dates, and significant dates during their lives are found here. The reason why that is, is that they, while members now of the triumphant church, were well-known members of the militant church on earth. Such a one like that was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Born in 1851 in Kentucky from good solid Presbyterian heritage, especially on his mother’s side, Warfield was known and still is known as a great defender of the faith. The books he wrote are still readily available in both hard copy as well as on the web.  Yet he had limited experience in the pulpit and pastorate, serving only a few years in that capacity.  Further, he was not interested in  church politics,  either in the presbytery, synod, or general assembly.  His place of ministry was always in the classroom in a seminary setting.

In that sense, he was, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 4:12, an individual who “equipped the saints.”  That word “equip” is used in the gospels accounts to describe the necessary work of the fishermen who later became the apostles of our Lord.  It was said that when that divine call came, they were “mending the nets.”  In other words, they were getting the nets ready for service.  This is what the word “equip” speaks about in Ephesians 4.  And that is exactly what Warfield did as a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary with his students.  They were equipped as student saints.   They were prepared for service in the kingdom of God.

No one did a better job in his time there than Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.  He took over the Chair of Charles Hodge from the son of Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge.  He was therefore a link to the marvelous Hodge dynasty at old Princeton.  When he died in 1921, it was said that Old Princeton had passed away. In God’s providence, a mere nine years later Westminster Theological Seminary  began,  as an effort to preserve and continue something of that tradition of Old Princeton.

And to think all this story was begun officially on April 26, 1879 when Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was ordained to the ministry.   It was a recognition of the spiritual gifts which he possessed in knowledge and wisdom, in teaching, and in discernment. His ordination was a recognition by the Church of the hope and anticipation of how those gifts might be used in coming years, for the glory of God.

Words to Live By: Warfield is in heaven now, but his words live on in the church on earth.  It will do you, the reader, much good to spend time in reading his books either in book form or on the web.  Those books are not always easy to read, but they are worth the effort, for they still stand ready to equip you for service in Christ’s kingdom.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 46 – 48

Through the Standards: Only one way of justification

WCF 11:6
“The justification of believers under the old testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the new testament.”

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: