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All articles in category Biblical/theological

‘Your eyes shall see the King in his beauty’ (Isaiah 33:17).
October 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

‘Your eyes shall see the King in his beauty’ (Isaiah 33:17).

The immediate context of this promise is the threat Israel faced when the Assyrian king Sennacherib mounted a siege against the nation (c.700 BC). The people had seen king Hezekiah in mourning, with sackcloth on his head because of the danger they were in. God assured them that the time would come when the pagan army would be defeated and their king would again ‘adorn himself with the robes of state and appear with a smiling countenance in all the beauty of joy’ (C. H. Spurgeon). Serious students of Scripture know that, in the Old Testament, our glorious Saviour is prefigured in the context of...

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October 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

‘Break up your fallow ground’

‘For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns’ (Jeremiah 4:3). Last summer I was walking along a path through two fields near my home. It was during the dry spell at the end of June. In the first field, the farmer was growing maize and the corn really was ‘as high as an elephant’s eye’. Although there had been no rain for a while, the maize was growing splendidly, as the roots sucked up moisture and nourishment from the ground. The field was doing what a field is supposed to do...

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September 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

Fishers of men (2)

‘When Simon Peter saw [the miraculous catch of fish] he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken … And Jesus said to Simon, Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men. So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him’ (Luke 5:8-11). Peter — always a passionate fellow — responded dramatically to Christ’s miracle. He was, as we might say, ‘blown away’. The others too were astonished by what happened....

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August 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

Law and gospel

There is much to discourage us about the state of the church today. We think of its conformity to the spirit of the world, lack of depth in Christian experience, absence of heart religion, paucity of the fear of God, disregard for the Lord’s Day, lax attitude to worship, and absence of seriousness with regard to eternal issues. However, the church was in an even worse state prior to the Reformation. It was characterised by indifference, pride, laxity and worldliness, but a change came that was radical in its ethical effects. God’s law While we acknowledge that the Reformation was pre-eminently a revival, we have...

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August 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

Priscilla and Aquila: ‘working together with him’ (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Priscilla and Aquila are two lesser known characters in the New Testament. The impression we get is that they were a man and wife team ministry, for the New Testament references to them are invariably as a couple, and not as individuals. Their ministry was not a high profile, public one, yet it was owned by God for the blessing of souls and the glory of his name. If we were to capture the ministry of this Christian couple in five words, those words might be: instability, industry, diplomacy, bravery and hospitality. Instability Priscilla and Aquila knew much disruption in their lives. Acts 18 reveals...

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August 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

Fishers of men (1)

One dreary January day, a discouraged young pastor sat down and wrote himself a letter. He saw scant success in his ministry: no real fruit, no changed lives and, as far as he knew, not a single convert to Christ from all his preaching, visitation and counselling. Nor was he alone in this, for all across the country the best of men were seeing little fruit. The Christian faith seemed to be in retreat. People — even the people in the churches — were indifferent to the gospel. Then suddenly Jesus’ words to Peter and Andrew flashed into his mind: ‘Follow me, and I will...

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July 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

‘You are the Son of God!’

In the language of another time, George Hutcheson (d. 1678) observes that ‘private conference and mutual edification are notable means for advancing the kingdom of Christ, for by these means Christ gathered his disciples’. Today, we might casually call this ‘networking’ or ‘sharing’. It has been variously called personal, conversational, and even lifestyle evangelism. Spontaneity The calling of Jesus’ disciples seems so casual and unstructured, perhaps even haphazard. There is no standard procedure or prescribed method, beyond people talking to people. The record of these conversational transactions is spare, although there was surely much more communication going on behind the scenes (cf. John 1:39). The...

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July 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

In six days (1)

Are you concerned that the ‘c’ word is creeping into the church? Not the awful ‘c’ word (cancer) that we’re increasingly familiar with these days. This other ‘c’ word is one we should not want anywhere near our churches, publishing houses, theological seminaries or mission agencies. I am referring to the compromise of the truth. Compromise is totally dishonouring to the Lord and does a disservice to the cause of the gospel. The issue which Christians are increasingly guilty of compromising is that of origins. Some Christians are keen to marry up evolution with the teaching of the Bible. But this marriage should be annulled...

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July 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

Mass migration

In ET, July 2004, I wrote an article entitled, ‘The stranger within our gates’. Our Stockton congregation, like others, was experiencing an influx of asylum seekers. Some of the challenges included providing food, helping with accommodation and attending appeals against deportation. The situation impacted upon our worship and we ended up providing sermon notes in Turkish, and in French for DRC Congolese. Recently we have helped a european economic migrant. He had minimal English, and much time was spent overcoming the language barrier to complete forms for financial benefits so that his landlord could be paid. It is evident that, without border controls, such scenarios...

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The priesthood of all believers
June 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

The priesthood of all believers

Does Protestantism have a priesthood? If so, what is its form and purpose? One cannot read the Word of God without recognising that humanity needs a priest to mediate between a holy God and sinners. Old Testament worship was regulated by this rule throughout its Levitical priesthood, and this system was powerfully reflected in its religious institutions. Christ’s sacrifice In the New Testament era, however, Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the people of God (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 8:1-6). On the cross he offered himself as a spotless sacrifice to God, to atone for sins not his own (Ephesians 5:2). Risen and ascended, he...

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May 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

‘Beautiful in his time’ (2)

Jonathan Edwards, in A history of the work of redemption, demonstrates that a soteriological (saving) significance is traceable in nearly all of God’s works. He gives numerous scriptural examples to show how God, in different ways, is always preparing the field for the salvation of sinners. The Lord’s groundwork is even traceable in his acts of judgment. Soteriological fulfilment On using this Edwardsean hermeneutical principle for ourselves in the study of Scripture, we discover that the Lord displays what we might call a ‘soteriological eagerness’ in redemption (see ET, April 2015, p.29). This eagerness is exemplified in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. Here, the...

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May 2016
Articles > Biblical/theological

Considering the covenants

Have you ever become so familiar with a building that, though you pass it many times, you don’t notice it? Some years ago, I was looking for a particular church in a small town. I went into a shop and asked if they could direct me. ‘No. Sorry, we’ve never heard of it’, was their reply. Walking a few paces away, I suddenly spotted the church on the opposite side of the road, although set well back. It had been there for 150 years or more, but the shop people had never heard of nor noticed it. How often, in the communion service, have we...

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