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Posts Tagged ‘Great High Priest’


Ever seen a dog with a bone? They just can’t seem to let it go. That’s my dog with rawhide.  She’ll make herself sick.

On the surface, I might be seen as a guy who “can’t let it go”, but I don’t think that is the case. Why? First, the issue hasn’t gone away. I interact with people giving me the same argument on different particular issues. Second, I’m continuing to think more deeply about the issue.

The issue? New Covenant Theology. This is a view of the covenants held by a growing number of people that undermines a Reformed understanding of the sacraments (particularly baptism) and the Law. I’ve engaged in some blog discussion and debate with one of the leading proponents of this position, Andrew Farley. It becomes an exercise in futility as we compare biblical texts. I’ve tried to keep those texts in their contexts (this is important!). But the discussion goes nowhere.

The discussion must go deeper- to presuppositions. I noted this in my reviews  of 3 different arguments for baptism.  What is the presupposition, the unproven assumption, made by adherents of the various forms of New Covenant Theology? It sounds like a holdover from Dispensational Theology, but here we go: Nothing from the Old Covenant is binding unless repeated in the New Testament.

Got that? The New replaces the Old, so nothing remains of the Old unless repeated in the New. This is why Farley tosses out tithing, a sabbath rest and the moral law. This is why Calvinistic Baptists toss our infant baptism. It seems logical, right?

But is this presupposition biblical? Is this how the Bible treats the issue? Our call is not be logical, but biblical (though we use reason as well as illumination to properly understand the Bible).

They do not prove their assumption. Can it stand up to a biblical litmus test?

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Sometimes there is a synergy to your reading that is unexpected.  Books will pick up a similar thread, though they are not obviously related.  I had one of those moments today.

My progress through the Letters of John Newton has slowed lately.  But this morning I read one of his letters to Mrs. Thornton.  Apparently she had recently undergone a crisis of some sort.  He was responding to that crisis and pointed her our Great High Priest.

“He with whom we have to do, our great High Priest, who once put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, and now for ever appears in the presence of God for us, is not only possessed of sovereign authority and infinite power, but wears our very nature, and feels and exercises in the highest degree those tendernesses and commiseration, which I conceive are essential to humanity in its perfect state.”

He brings up the hypostatic union to make his point.  The exalted Christ is still fully human.  As a perfect human, he is prone to tenderness and the ability to commiserate with our weakness and misery.  Or as Newton says later, “compassions dwell within his heart.”  He is not just our Savior, but also our Brother and unashamed to declare this among the assembly.  As a result:

“No, with the eye, and the ear, and the heart of a friend, He attends to their sorrows; He counts their sighs, puts their tears in his bottle; and when our spirits are overwhelmed within us, He knows our path and adjusts the time, the measure of our trials, and every thing that is necessary for our present support and seasonable deliverance, ….”

He has experienced our weakness and frailty (though not our sin).  He loves us and is concerned about those things that weigh us down.  He pays attention, and is moved to act.  He is not cold, unconcerned and unmoved.  He is full of compassion.

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With my search for a new pastoral call pretty much over, I would be remiss to not express gratitude for God and his many blessings through this long trial.

So, I’m grateful for:

  • Jesus my Great High Priest, who sits upon the throne of grace that I might receive mercy and grace in my times of need (Hebrews 4).  Indeed, a bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not put out.
  • The Father was teaching me to rely not on myself but on Him who raises the dead (1 Corinthians 1).
  • The Father’s “manna” from heaven that sustained us, inexplicably, through a long period of un/under-employment.  He used so many people, in so many ways, to provide for us.  We never missed a meal or a mortgage payment.
  • For granting repentance regarding the idols He revealed in His occasionally severe mercy.
  • For my wife.  We were on the same page 97% of the time.  She was supportive.  I’ve seen many marriages really struggle in a time like this.  Ours didn’t.
  • For my kids.  During this time we adopted CavSon without incurring any debt, and saw him through 3 surgeries without incurring any debt.  They bring much joy to our hearts, often helping us to keep things in perspective (sorry daddy was so grouchy sometimes).
  • For brothers, past and present, who wrote books that encouraged me including Tim Keller, Sinclair Ferguson, Richard Sibbes, John Newton and John Piper.
  • For all the brothers and sisters who prayed for us, encouraged us and showed us kindness.  This includes the friends I made on search committees that chose someone else.  Some blessed our times of fellowship with good beer which didn’t ordinarily fit my budget.
  • For the worship music of Jars of Clay, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Indelible Grace for reminding me of the gospel when I was prone to fix my eyes upon my circumstances.
  • For the many churches that welcomed me into their pulpits.  It was great to meet so many people, serve them and be encouraged by them.

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I’m prepping my sermon on Hebrews 10:19-25.  My previous text, Hebrews 4:14-16, focused on Jesus’ intercessory work as our Priest.  This one focuses on Jesus’ sacrificial work as our Priest and how the Old Covenant has been fulfilled in Him.  As a result, we live in a new way: boldness, hope and consideration for the community of faith.

It is one of the many one another passages in Hebrews.  One of the complaints of those who are discouraged by the “institutional or organized church” is that people aren’t involved in one another’s lives.  They have a point.  Often church-going can be nearly anonymous.  People want Jesus, but not one another.  Jesus offers some great benefits.  His people offer us sin and misery: relationships with imperfect people are very messy.  Often it is easier to opt out.

The solution of some folks is to opt out of the “institutional church”.  They hope to find this relational ministry among their friends or in a house church.  This passage argues against such neglect of assembling yourselves together.  These meetings appear to be formal, and the root word is “synagoge”.  They were to forsake the disconnected worship of the temple.  It was first disconnected from Christ, and then disconnected from one another.  People were minister to- they didn’t minister to one another. 

The vision of the author of Hebrews is to keep our assemblies connected with Christ by faith, and one another as we stir one another up to love and good works.  I need others to stir me up to greater love and more good works.  Perhaps a better way to think of this is that Jesus stirs me up by using other people.  And He stirs them up by using me.  Jesus uses us to minister one another- we are instruments in His hands.

I don’t say this accidentally.  I began reading Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul Tripp last week.  It is going slowly as I actually minister to people.  I began to read it in preparation for a new call (I still have hope that God will show me mercy).  I recognize that this is God’s design for the church, and I want to be better prepared to help a body of believers actually do this.

If more churches read books like this, and began to implement such “one another” processes, the church in America would look an awful lot more like what Jesus intended.  It would be healthier, people would be growing and (I think) fewer people would be opting out.  But it is messy because you are applying the balm of the gospel to sin-wrecked lives.  You are getting in the midst of it.

First, we are afraid to get our hands dirty.  We are afraid we don’t have what it takes, and will really mess things up.  We are afraid of how much time and energy it will take.  We are just plain afraid.

Second, people are often afraid of receiving help.  They are afraid to show you their sins, warts and to be vulnerable.  They are also afraid of change.  Their problems are their ‘normal’, and change invites them into an uncertain future.  They are afraid to give up cherished sins, comfortable lies and cozy accomplices.  They are afraid of rejection by those comfortable with the old person and not wild about the new one that is emerging.

Yet, this is precisely the work the church is called to by this and many other passages.  We are to be a place where people change as we help one another apply the gospel to the sin-stained and maimed parts of our lives.  This is the biblical view of Christian community.

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This is my chosen sermon text for the week.  Here are some interesting thoughts I ran across in my prep today:

“There can be no sustained faithfulness on our part unless we are convinced that we can trust God.  The basis for that trust is the consideration that we have a high priest who is merciful and compassionate in his relationship with us.”  Wiliam Lane in Hebrews: A Call to Commitment

“The promise is that God’s children will receive mercy accompanied by sustaining grace.  Mercy and grace are closely allied and essential aspects of God’s love.  That love is outgoing in providing the protective help that does not arrive too late but at the appropriate time, because the moment of its arrival is left to the judgment of our gracious God.”  William Lane in Hebrews: A Call to Commitment

“For he is not talking about sin and its guilt but about temptations, afflictions, and persecutions.  So the mercy meant here must be the cause for our deliverance- namely, in its consequences.  … In addition to this, the apostle is not here referring to the initial approach of sinners to God through Christ for mercy and pardon, but about the daily access of believers to him for grace and assistance.  To receive mercy, therefore, is to be made to participate in the gracious help and support of the kindness of God in Christ, when we are in distress.  This springs from the same root as pardoning grace and is therefore called ‘mercy’.”  John Owen in Hebrews

“… God’s word is like a long staff by which he examines and searches what lies deep in our hearts… God, who knows our hearts, has assigned to his word the office of penetrating even into our inmost thoughts.”  John Calvin in Commentary on Hebrews

“… for when Christ receives us under his protection and patronage, he covers with his goodness the majesty of God, which would otherwise be terrible to us, so that nothing appears there but grace and paternal favor.”  John Calvin in Commentary on Hebrews

“After terrifying us, the Apostle now comforts us, after pouring wine into our wound, he now pours in oil.”  Martin Luther, quoted by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes in A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews

“The hardness of the struggle should be an inducement to the Christian to draw near to the throne of God’s grace, rather than to draw back and abandon the conflict…”  Philip Edgcumbe Hughes in A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews

These are things I need to keep in mind, not just for a sermon, but everyday life.  As I prepare, it has been one rough week.  It is not just something to talk about, but something I need to be true and rely upon.

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Here’s what I’ve got going thus far, subject to change:

5/8  Men’s Group of Lake Placid ARP  Sin & Ministry  1 Timothy

5/18 Cypress Ridge PCA, Winter Haven  Our Great High Priest I: Hebrews 4:14-16

6/1  Cypress Ridge PCA, Winter Haven  Our Great High Priest I: Hebrews 10:19-25

6/8 Magical Mystery Tour     Genesis 17:1-8

6/15 Covenant PCA, Winter Haven Our Great High Priest: Hebrews 4:14-16

6/22 Avon Park ARP Church

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