“In the Lord”: Children, Obedience, and the Gospel (Ephesians 6:1–3)


“In the Lord”: Children, Obedience, and the Gospel (Ephesians 6:1–3)

In Ephesians Paul calls the church to walk in wisdom by the power of the Spirit. This includes children. And in this week’s sermon, we saw how children in the Lord (believing children) are motivated to obey and honor their parents.

Indeed, in only three verses (Ephesians 6:1–3) there are a lot of things to consider, especially with the way Paul uses Exodus 20:12 to motivate children to obey their parents. Take time to listen to the sermon online, as it considers how the promise of inheritance in Exodus 20:12 is applied to believing children. You can read the sermon notes here. Discussion questions and further resources can be found below.  Continue reading

Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Canonical Reading

bill-williams-3302And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
— Genesis 1:28 —

Few commands in Scripture are more important than the first one: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”

In Genesis 1 we learn God made mankind in his image and after his likeness. The purpose of this “imaging” is disputed and multi-faceted (as I’ve described here). However, it is clear that the first command is to be fruitful and multiply, a pregnant command if there ever was one.

In fact, from the placement of this command—the first chapter of the first book in the Bible—we see how programmatic this command is. It is fundamental to being human, and therefore it applies to every one of us. At the same time, from a canonical reading of Scripture we learn how this phrase repeats and develops, so that it bears significance for more than just having babies. In other words, though it never loses this meaning (child-bearing is an implicit part of humanity), the progress of revelation also shows how fruitfulness relates to the Word of God, regeneration, and the Great Commission.

So, in what follows, I will list out many places where this language (“be fruitful and multiply”) occurs, with a few comments along the way.  Then, I will list four ways that reading Genesis 1:28 canonically helps us understand this verse and the whole structure of the Bible. Continue reading

How the Spirit and the Word Prepare You for the Lord’s Supper

bibleWho can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
— Psalm 19:12–14 —

How do you approach the Lord’s table when your heart is uncertain of it’s spiritual condition? If you question the errors of our heart, as David did in Psalm 19 (“Who can discern his errors?”), what will compel you to confidently take the Lord’s Supper? Will you withdraw from the bread and the cup when sin plague’s your soul? Or might the Lord’s Supper be an appointed means of reconciliation via remembrance?

These are not hypothetical questions, but realities Christians face as we commune with a holy God. Paul warned that anyone who takes the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner “drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29). Therefore, he calls us to “examine” ourselves and “then . . . eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (v. 28).

But how do we do that? If our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and lead us to evil and idolatry (see Jeremiah 3:17; 13:10; 18:12) how shall we be able to examine ourselves? Thankfully, as with all aspects of salvation, God provides what he demands, and the answer comes in the working of God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

By means of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit enables God’s children to rightly examine themselves and to come to the Table with fresh faith and repentance. Indeed, consider three ways the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to prepare you for the Lord’s Table. Or to put it the other way, here are three ways you should, by the Spirit, prepare your heart for communion with the Word of God. Continue reading

Introducing Bezalel: A Temple-Building Son of Judah

Introducing Bezalel

One of the main characters in Exodus is a man whose name only appears three other times in the whole Bible, and then only in genealogies in Chronicles and Ezra.  His name is Bezalel and he plays an enormous role in the construction of the tabernacle. Exodus 31:1–5 introduces him saying,

The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship,  to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

Though Moses is given the vision of the tabernacle (Exod 25:40), and the people are called to furnish the materials (25:1–8; 35:4–9), it is the Spirit-endowed skill possessed by Bezalel that made it possible for the tabernacle to be constructed.  This is re-emphasized in Exodus 35:30-35, but it is Exodus 38:22 that I want to highlight.  There Moses records that “Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses.”

Now it is obvious why Bezalel is mentioned in Exodus.  He is the chief foreman on the tabernacle project.  He is given skill and the wisdom of the Spirit to accomplish the task.  However, the more amazing point is this: Why is it important that Bezalel’s family lineage be mentioned?  Of course, it is nice to know a little background on the guy, but is that it?  I think there is something more going on… what you might call prophetic typology.

Type, Ectype, and Archetype

Can you think of anyone else from the tribe of Judah, who obeyed God’s law to build a tabernacle?  How about David and his son Solomon.  In the history of Israel, it is recorded that God gave David a vision of the temple, and that David passed on this architectural plan to Solomon (1 Chron 28:11-19).  Moreover, like Bezalel, YHWH gave Solomon unsurpassed wisdom in order to construct the tabernacle (1 Kings 3:10ff).  Thus, in a very real way, Solomon with his Spirit-endowed wisdom was a greater Bezalel.  Bezalel was the type; Solomon the ectype, or to say it another way, a greater installment of the temple-builder par excellence who was still to come.

In the New Testament, we find that the temple-building typology of Bezalel and Solomon is picked up in Jesus Christ.  Jesus who is a son of David, and a son of Judah (Matt 1:1-17) is the one who perfectly obeys the law of Moses (Matt 5:17).  Moreover, as Matthew describes “something greater than Solomon is here” (12:42b).  Then in Matthew 16:18, Jesus himself says that he is building a church, one that will never be destroyed by death, sin, or Satan.  He alludes to the “rock” which conjures up pictures of the temple mount, and he says that he is going to found his temple/church on Peter and the other apostles. (See G. K. Beale on how Matthew 16:18 relates to the temple mount, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God187–88).

Thus, in his death, Jesus becomes the cornerstone of a new temple.  Indeed, Paul uses temple imagery to describe what Jesus is doing by the Spirit.  He writes in Ephesians 2:19–22,

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The confirmation of the Bezalel-Solomon-Jesus typological structure finds further support in Hebrews, where the author compares and contrasts Moses and Jesus (Heb 3), and says that our Christ is not simply a servant in the house, he is “the builder of the house” (v. 3).  Accordingly, he deserves greater glory—more glory that Moses (and by extension Bezalel) who constructed a tent in the desert; more glory than Solomon who constructed a superlative temple in Jerusalem.  These typological dwellings were splendid in their own time and place, but compared to what Christ is doing in his church, they are dull and decrepit.

The Gospel of Temple Building Son of Judah

What a vision!  In Bezalel and later in Solomon, the Spirit of God is preparing the way for Christ to come.  The typology is not just a retrospective analogy between Jesus and Bezalel.  Rather, set in history, God has set aside Bezalel as a son of Judah, to become a temple-builder, so that when Christ comes into the world, we would see an entire history of Spirit-filled men from Judah building a dwelling place for God with his people.

Once again, we see in Exodus the way Christ is foreshadowed.  He is the substance from which Bezalel is the historical shadow.  It is a glorious reminder that all Scripture points us to Jesus, and that on every page of God’s inspired text, we see glimpses of our savior reflected in the saints who are shaped by the Spirit of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Beware of “Do-It-Yourself Christianity”

Yesterday I preached on Galatians 2:17-21, and in my sermon I emphasized  the dangers of “Do-It-Yourself Christianity.”  I described it as the kind of Christianity that arises from a debtor’s ethic, one where someone  saved by grace tries to ‘repay’ God for his grace.  Paul adamantly opposed to this grace-nullifying kind of Christianity (Gal 2:21) and warned the Galatians and us to beware of working out in the flesh what God gives only by faith and the power of the Spirit.

Wonder if you suffer from Do-It-Yourself Christianity?  Here are ten symptoms which might indicate an emphasis on living the Christian life in the power of the flesh.

  1. If you ever pray, “God help me to be the best Christian I can be.”
  2. If you take pride that you are not like those other people.
  3. If you believe Christ died and rose again, but you do not know how those events impact your daily life.
  4. If “What Would Jesus Do?” summarizes your understanding of the Bible and Christianity.
  5. If you base your Christian faith on the “decision” you made and/or the “aisle you walked,” instead of the death Jesus died and the life he gives you by faith in him.
  6. If prayerlessness marks your daily life.
  7. If, in the words of Robert Fulghum, you learned all you needed to know about God, the Bible, and Jesus in VBS and Sunday School.
  8. If putting to death the deeds of the flesh means simply continuing to maintain the manmade barriers–no smoking, no drinking, no cussing, no long hair, etc.– instead of learning to walk by faith and love the unloveable (among other things) in the power of the Spirit.
  9. If confessing sin sounds something like this, “God forgive me for the things I have done, whatever they are.”  When the Spirit convicts, He pinpoints specific areas of sin and disobedience.
  10. If fear of doing wrong moves you to separate from ‘sinners’ and establish greater barriers to protect you from sin, instead of walking in the Spirit, praying for the lost and asking God to make you a Spirit-filled vessel whom God can use to shine light into the darkness (cf Gal 5:16).

Bottom line, do-it-yourself Christianity is trusting in yourself to continue what Christ has begun.  When you compare that mindset to that of the Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ, you will soon realize that such thinking is bankrupt of the gospel.  Gospel living is a life marked by daily repentance and fresh faith in the living and active word of God.  Salvation is not marked by checking a box, but is marked out by Spirit-produced fruit (cf Gal 5:22-23).  Sadly, American Christianity is rife with do-it-yourself Christianity.  It is a kind of religion that confesses Jesus, but denies his power.

May we repent of our self-reliance and learn to walk by faith in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

In need of the gospel more today than yesterday, dss