Jonathan Edwards on God’s Affecting Design of Corporate Worship

Jonathan Edwards on “the nature and design of the ordinances and duties, which God hath appointed, as means and expressions of true religion.

To instance in the duty of prayer: it is manifest, we are not appointed, in this duty, to declare God’s perfections, his majesty, holiness, goodness, and all-sufficiency; our own meanness, emptiness, dependence, and unworthiness, our wants and desires, in order to inform God of these things, or to incline his heart, and prevail with him to be willing to show us mercy; but rather suitably to affect our own hearts with the things we express, and so to prepare us to receive the blessings we ask. And such gestures and manner of external behaviour in the worship of God, which custom has made to be significations of humility and reverence, can be of no further use, than as they have some tendency to affect our own hearts, or the hearts of others.

And the duty of singing praises to God, seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections.

The same thing appears in the nature and design of the sacraments, which God hath appointed. God, considering our frame, hath not only appointed that we should be told of the great things of the gospel and the redemption of Christ, and be instructed in them by his word; but also that they should be, as it were, exhibited to our view in sensible representations, the more to affect us with them.

And the impressing of divine things on the hearts and affections of men, is evidently one great end for which God has ordained, that his word delivered in the Holy Scriptures, should be opened, applied, and set home upon men, in preaching. And therefore it does not answer the aim which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good commentaries and expositions on the Scripture, and other good books of divinity; because, although these may tend, as well as preaching, to give a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the word of God, yet they have not an equal tendency to impress them on men’s hearts and affections. God hath appointed a particular and lively application of his word, in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of religion, their own misery, the necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; to stir up the pure minds of the saints, quicken their affections by often bringing the great things of religion to their remembrance, and setting them in their proper colours…. God has appointed preaching as a means to promote in the saints joy.” (Religious Affections, I.II.9)

And if this be the case then…

“If true religion lies much in the affections, we may infer, that such means are to be desired, as have much tendency to move the affections. Such books, and such a way of preaching the word and the administration of ordinances, and such a way of worshipping God in prayer and praises, as has a tendency deeply to affect the hearts of those who attend these means, is much to be desired. … Indeed there may be such means, as have a great tendency to stir up the passions of weak and ignorant persons, and yet have none to benefit their souls: for though they may have a tendency to excite affections, they have little or none to excite gracious affections. But, undoubtedly, if the things of religion in the means used, are treated according to their nature, and exhibited truly, so as tends to convey just apprehensions and a right judgment of them; the more they have a tendency to move the affections, the better.” (I.III.2)

 

Understanding the Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace

This past week, at our church plant’s Thursday night gathering, we took some time to talk about the importance of the Lord’s Supper in the life of the believer and the church.

We looked at our philosophy of ministry, which says,

The ordained rites of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are faith-nourishing signs that tangibly portray Gospel realities to believers. As such, they are not to be neglected, devalued, or misused, but, rather, are to be guarded, administered conscientiously, and cherished as gracious gifts from Christ.

Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-20; Acts 22:16; Rom 6:3-4; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:23-27; Gal 3:27; Col 2:12; Tit 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21.

I want to follow up on that discussion here in this post.

Often times, in the more baptistic, non-denominational, believers’-church-tradition circle in which I find myself, the Lord’s Supper is seen as nothing more than a cognitive aid for rehearsing the sacrificial death of Jesus. We call this the memorial view of the Supper: the Supper is a means of remembering (hence “memorial”) the death of Christ.

Now, I don’t want to downplay the importance of simply remembering Christ’s work on our behalf. But I do want to ask, What is that “remembering” suppose to look like and involve? What does the New Testament have in mind when it talks of this “remembering.” Is it merely a recall, a cognitive exercise like running scenes from the Passion of the Christ in your head? Or is it something more like what we refer to today as “preaching the truths of the Gospel to yourself”?

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RECOMMENDED: On Recovering a Practice of Devoting Ourselves to the Public Reading of Scripture (Article by Scott Newling)



I just read/listened to this article by Scott Newling, “Devoted to the public reading of Scripture,” advocating a recovery of the actual practice of devoting ourselves to the public reading of scripture in our churches.

As 1 Timothy 4:13 says,

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture….

Scott Newling says,

Let me be blunt: when we reduce the Bible reading in order to privilege something else in our meetings we are shifting the congregation’s understanding of what church is. When we choose not to read some bits because we deem them inappropriate, we forget that God wrote them—and that in his wisdom he knew what he was doing when he did. When we choose not to read parts because they seem irrelevant or unclear, we teach our congregations and ourselves that God’s word isn’t eternal or understandable. When we choose to not read the Old Testament because it is ‘unfamiliar’—how else are we going to get familiar with it? The non-Christian world certainly isn’t going to help us. If we find Scripture to be boring, it’s not God’s fault, and the solution isn’t to silence God! If we find a part boring, we must ask God to give us interest in it, because we love him and want to know what he has to say. The Bible is well aware that some bits are harder to understand than others (2 Pet 3:16-17). But where did we get the idea that the solution to this is to stop reading?

When we choose to reduce Bible readings for something else, do we then in effect say that our means, our words, are better than God’s to grow people?

I loved this article. It reflects a lot of my own convictions on the matter and thoughts I’ve been having for a little over a year now.

You can check it out over at Matthias Media’s The Briefing. Click here.

“Partaking in a Worthy Manner” (Sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34)

Sunday morning sermonLord's Supper - 1 Cor 11
Lake Drive Baptist Church
Delivered August 31st, 2014
 Text: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34


 17 But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come. (NASB)


Introduction:

Without necessarily consciously thinking about it, we are aware of the idea that the clothing we wear needs to fit the occasion, event, or activity to which we wear them. For example, when I was in high school, I worked at a restaurant. And I had to wear a uniform—this ugly purple polo shirt that felt like burlap. Or, when I refereed soccer, I didn’t just wear anything; I wore a referee outfit. Similarly, many of you probably have either a work uniform, school uniform, or a certain dress code. We even have special gowns for those who are graduating (although I’m slightly convinced that whoever invented these wanted to make graduates feel humiliated—“Hey, you’re graduating. So… wear this black garbage bag and silly hat while we make you walk on a stage”). We have unwritten rules: You don’t wear a tuxedo to go swimming at the beach. When you go to a funeral, you’re not going to dress like Richard Simons. And when you go shopping, you don’t wear your pajamas… unless, apparently, you’re shopping at Wal-Mart.

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“What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” (Carl Trueman)

In Carl R. Trueman’s book The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism, he included a chapter entitled,”What Can Miserable Christians Sing?”

The answer to that question, Trueman answers, is the Psalms and specifically the Psalm’s model of lamentation.

Of this short chapter Trueman states,

This little piece which took minimal time and energy to author has garnered more positive responses and more touching correspondence than anything else I have ever written. It resonated with people across the Christian spectrum, people from all different church backgrounds who had one thing in common: the understanding that life has a sad, melancholy, painful dimension which is too often ignored and sometimes even denied in our churches.

He describes his purpose for writing as

to highlight what I saw as a major deficiency in Christian worship, a deficiency that is evident in both traditional and contemporary approaches: the absence of the language of lament. The Psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, contains many notes of lamentation, reflecting the nature of the believer’s life in a fallen world. And yet these cries of pain are on the whole absent from hymns and praise songs.

CarlTruemanHe sums up the thrust of that chapter as follows:

There is nothing in the typical book of hymns or praise songs that a woman who has miscarried a baby, or a parent who has just lost a child to cancer, can sing with honesty and integrity on a Sunday.

The desperation and heartache of such moments are things which we instinctively feel have no place in a religion where we are called on to rejoice in the Lord always. Yet there is a praise book which taps such emotions and gives the broken-hearted honest words with which to express their deepest sorrows to God.

It’s called the book of Psalms; and its recovery as a source of public praise in the Christian church can only help the church overcome its innate triumphalism and make room for the poor and the weak.

In short, he says, in the Psalms “one finds divinely inspired words which allow the believer to express their deepest pains and sorrows to God.”

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