John 6.45-53,64-66 – The Real Presence in the Eucharist
Posted: 25 July 2012 in John

It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you….. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

I suppose we could share the Jews disbelieving reaction to the words of Jesus, and ask, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” But it is here that the virtue of humility comes into play, in allowing the words of God to take precedence over the wisdom of man. It matters not at all whether or not we understand it; if it is spoken by God it is true. More than that, Jesus says, if not in so many words, that the reason his listeners rebel against his words is that their hardened hearts have not been softened by the Father.

That we are in any real sense receiving the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist doubtless sounds uncomfortably like Catholic theology when it fallls upon Protestant ears, but that is what the above passage appears to say. So, as I see it, the thing which is really at stake here is whether Protestants are prepared to be as good as their word when they claim to take the Word of God very seriously indeed. On the other hand, there is nothing in the above passage to suggest that a professional priesthood needs to be involved, and I think that idea is what Protestants should rightly be very suspicious of.

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Exodus 11.9-10 and 1 Chron 15.1-2 – God’s control of history.
Posted: 23 July 2012 in 1 Chronicles, Exodus

And the Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

And David made him houses in the city of David, and prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched for it a tent. Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him for ever.

The Bible seems to be crystal clear about two things. One is that history is directly under the control of God – and so the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is attributed to him. The second is that we, like Pharaoh, will nevertheless still be held accountable for our sins. That is clearly a hard truth for us, but if it is the will of God, then it is good that it should be so, because his will is the standard against which everything else must be judged. It is not for us to question his will, and if we would be wise, we wouldn’t even try.

In the second of the two passages quoted above, David doesn’t question God’s electing grace, in choosing one tribe of Levi alone to be his ministers, but simply recognises it for the fact that it is.

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Isaiah 55.10-11 – God’s Lordship over the Universe
Posted: 19 July 2012 in Isaiah

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

These words speak of God’s omnipotence and Lordship over the universe. He needs only to utter his commands, and all things, whether in heaven or on earth, are instantly brought into conformity with his will. Paradoxically, that also applies to us who, in spite of our free wills, will always act in accordance with God’s plan, and in accordance with what he has foreordained. Elsewhere in the Bible Amos makes clear that he understands the implications of God’s omnipotence:

The Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?

His Lordship over the entire universe gives God the glory which belongs uniquely to him.

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1 Corinthians 4.10-15 – The one unalterable faith.
Posted: 17 July 2012 in 1 Corinthians

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

Paul is sometimes accused of being a bully because of his forceful manner in insisting that his converts abide by what he has taught them. But he, like the author of Jude, knew that there was a faith, once delivered to the saints, and no man could add or subtract from it. He it was who, on the road to Damascus, had received a divine commision to teach that faith. We, of course, do not have the services of an apostle to instruct us in the way of faith, but we do have the Bible, and we too must abide by the faith once delivered to the saints.

In this consumer driven society, being told that this is THE way, and it is not up for customisationn, is even less popular than it was in the first century. But God does not even try to be fashionable. When he speaks it has more to do with truth, and with his eternal will.

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Isaiah 43.1,6-7 – God’s rightful pursuit of his own glory.
Posted: 16 July 2012 in Isaiah

But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine….. I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.

In the above passage God says it again. The universe, and in particular his chosen people, were created for his own glory. The universe was not created as a playground for us, with God looking on as a beneficent playground supervisor. I suppose most Christians have, at one time or another, encountered the following from the Greek philosopher Epicurus:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

That works only if God is conceived to be a God whose primary concern is our comfort. It works rather less well if God’s primary concern is understood to be his own glory, with our comfort very much secondary to that. Even salvation is not something offered for its own sake, but as part of the means by which God will achieve his ultimate purpose of being worshipped and glorified in eternity.

I do not think there is much point in accusing God of narcissism, as I recently heard somebody do. Narcissism is an undesirable trait in humans because the narcissistic person unconsciously thinks of himself as being an object of ultimate concern. We tend to collectively adopt that attitude in our relationship with God; seeing ourselves as the rightful objects of  his ultimate concern. God alone has the right to comprehend of himself in those terms; he alone is Lord and Creator. Since he has that right, he is not doing anything illegitimate when he does, in fact, think of himself as the reality towards which all created things things tend and owe their being. He alone is the rightful object of all worship and praise.

We are called, and we have a duty, to worship the God who dwells in infinite glory. We are not called to worship an idol, who effectively conceives of himself as being our servant.

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