“The Gospel, strictly taken, differs from the Law, in that, 1. The Law considers us as God’s rational creatures and subjects, who were originally formed with sufficient abilities perfectly to obey it, and hence directs and binds us to have such abilities, and to exercise them in a proper manner towards God, ourselves, and our neighbours, as our duty (Matt 22:37-39); but the Gospel considers us as sinful and self-ruined men, graciously pitied by God and declares what He, according to His infinite mercy and grace, has done, prepared for, and offers to be, and do to us (Isa. 42:6-7, 49, 53-55, Ps. 22, 68, 146). Hence its offers and invitations continue to believers while their sinfulness remains, and no longer condemns.”
“IV. The Harmony of the Law and Gospel is their suitableness and subserviency to each other: the Gospel promises, offers, and gives to sinful men every thing which the Law, in any form, demands of them. It provides them with their righteousness of the Son of God, which answers and magnifies all the demands of the Law, as a broken covenant: and lays an effectual foundation of universal, and at last perfect obedience to it, as a rule. Nay, it promises preparation for, assistance in, and a gracious reward of every duty which the law, as a rule, requires…”
— John Brown of Haddington, Systematic Theology pg. 502
Not the best Sermon I have ever written. Sounds a bit discombobulated. May God bless my incoherence.
First Monaca Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) September 14, 2008
Scripture Lesson Exodus 14: 19-31
Sermon “Baptized Unto Moses” Benjamin P. Glaser
Moses in the verses preceding our Scripture Lesson this morning has been negotiating with Pharaoh over the release of the Israelites from the hand of bondage in Egypt. They have gone through all ten of the plagues, the rivers have turned to blood, the frogs have come and gone, the outbreak of gnats and flies has ceased, the livestock of Egypt have died, boils have appeared, hail has rained down from heaven, locusts have eaten their food, darkness has come and gone, and finally the firstborn of all of Egypt and those who had not sacrificed the Paschal Lamb and placed its blood on the door frame have had their first born die at the hands of the Angel of the Lord. Only after all this has Pharaoh released the Israelites from their bondage and allowed Moses to lead them out. However Pharaoh in chapter 14 has reconsidered through the hardening of his heart by God so that, as verse four says, “Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.” It is at this point where we come to what we have read this morning, that is the crossing of the Red Sea and the fullness of what we can learn from the events of that day and what came after it.
But before we get to that it is important when we come to texts like this that seem too far-fetched or too much like myth to believe in our supposed more enlightened times that we appreciate what kind of God it is that we are given the delight to worship. We cannot treat these events as having no real meaning for us in the 21st century living in America reading them as we would Aesop’s Fables or the stories of the Brother’s Grimm. As if they are some type of legend only meant to teach some kind of moral lesson. We must comprehend that the Holy Scripture’s speak as one unified voice displaying for us the Almighty majesty of the God whom we have the pleasure of coming to worship this Lord’s Day. The Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter ten says,” For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were [punished] in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. “ In other words these events have a very important thing to teach us, because as the chosen people of God passed through the Red Sea many moons ago we too who have been chosen in Christ and have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, pass through the cloud as Paul says to be on our way to the Promised Land. But just as the Israelites who were saved by God from the attacking Egyptians, they were also punished for their refusal to submit to God’s Will and God’s Law given to them by Moses at Sinai.
The people in the Exodus event all perform actions that occur not for any other reason but for the Glory of our Almighty God alone who is the sovereign and the supreme ruler over all of His creation. Nothing happens but for the Glory of God and only according to the purposes of God. We would think that the Israelites having seen this work, this parting of the seas that had been done through Moses, would have followed to the letter what Moses tells them to do. However we know it takes but a few days after witnessing the awesome power of Almighty God for the Israelites to fall away and construct an idol of their own making, bowing down to worship an inanimate object that has no power, no glory, no holiness because they had already forgotten the salvation God had provided for them in their rescue from the hand of the Egyptians. Refusing to submit to the Grace God had provided for them in the Law given to Moses. Of course it easy for us today to look back at the Israelites with disdain and contempt, but how we follow the same pattern. Falling for the wiles and the snares this world provides for us, trusting not in the power of our Almighty God who has rescued us from our own sin, instead trusting in the weak, powerless, and falsity that is the world.
This fight we have with God is as old as humankind itself. This fight is this old because we refuse to humble ourselves before the Lord our God. Why do we do this? Why do we who know that our omnipotent God, powerful enough to free His people from bondage, to part seas, destroy the most powerful Army on earth, Our God whom alone we can cleave, to save us from ourselves, why do we continue to deny him in this way? We are reminded of the words of David in Psalm 18:27 “The humble O Lord, thou wilt save; and the eyes of the proud wilt thou cast down:” We must be humble before God. We must recognize our fallen nature, our inability to save ourselves. That is what we do when we ask forgiveness for our sins. We recognize that we have fallen short of the Glory of God and that we need his help in reaching that Glory because we cannot do it. Romans 3:9-18 says, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit”; the poison of bees is under their lips”; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” We are utterly incapable of coming to God, He must come for us. As He has sent Moses to bring the Israelites from Egypt so to He has sent Christ to bring us to Him. Submitting ourselves to His Law as the Israelites are called to submit to Moses and the Law God has given him.
We must not look at submission as a burden but must look at it as the exact opposite. Submission is the glorious reality that we do not have to rely on ourselves for our own salvation. For I know if I had to rely on my own will to get me to the promised land I might go backwards let alone go forward towards the Promised Land. So we must look at this call to submit to the will and Law of God not as a yoke that we have been made to bear but that the yoke has been lifted from us so that we may be with Christ in Paradise. You see Christ died so that we do not have to. So that death could lose its sting and we could have victory over our foe. It was so that fallen humanity which cannot even come close to reaching the perfection that God requires of us could be with our Father in Paradise. There is a glorious reality in understanding that God has shown us any mercy at all. We who dishonor him at every step and deny his calling have been given this magnificent gift that is Jesus Christ so that we may have a right relationship with our creator. We shall not deny His will should we? We cannot allow the Devil to deceive us to believe that we can be the author of our own salvation or that we can of our own power perfectly follow this will. The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter Eighteen puts it this way: “I. Although hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions: of being in the favor of God and estate of salvation; which that hope of theirs shall perish: yet those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God: which hope shall never make them ashamed.”
It is God’s will that we submit to Him, that we stop resisting His will, that we allow Him to have complete control of our lives. Submission requires humility because it requires that we acknowledge that God is more capable of directing our lives than we are ourselves, and it also requires that we acknowledge that God has a greater right to direct our lives than we do. God is in opposition to our foolish pride. He demands our complete submission to His Word and to His Word alone. This is what the first commandment is all about. We shall have no other Gods before him. Humanity cannot serve both God and Mammon. We must only serve Him that created us not just because that is what God commands in Scripture but also because we are incapable as fallen humans to perfectly follow the Will of God in and of our own ability. The devil tries to get us to resist God’s Will by telling us that we can know better than God, that is what the words to Eve in the Garden were all about and that we have a right to do as we choose with our own lives, the sin of the time of the Judges chapter 17 verse 6, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The fact is all sin is rebellion against God’s will and submission is part of true repentance towards God. We resist the devil by submitting to God, and submitting to God is the same as drawing near to God; therefore, when we submit to God the devil flees from us because he does not want to be near God. When we humble ourselves before God by submitting to His will, we acknowledge that His rights and abilities are greater than our own, and He rewards us by exalting us. God may exalt us in differing ways. He may deliver us from temptation, trial, suffering, or whatever difficulty we are experiencing, or He may strengthen us to bear up under our circumstances. Furthermore, He always exalts us by strengthening us in our faith. The Almighty Father has called us to completely deny ourselves and to follow him. However we should not look upon this as a burden but as glorious freedom. We are as babes in arms leaving ourselves to completely trust in our safety, our feeding, and our protection entirely on the Almighty. Submission is not a burden it is a release from the weight of sin. Let it go. Let God take your anxiety. Let God take your worry. Do not fear this World for if God is for us who can be against us?
As we come to the end of our morning service here on the Lord’s Day and as we begin to prepare to go out from this place into a world that has denied Christ crucified, a world that wants nothing to do with the free offer of Grace given by Jesus Christ, with the Law that he has given to us, we remember Christ’s words in Matthew chapter 5 starting at verse 13 going to verse 20 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Brothers and Sisters know that just as we who are sinners in need of a savior from our bondage to sin as the Israelites were in need of saving from their oppression in Egypt we have been brought forth from that bondage, passed through the Red Sea which is our baptism in Christ, being cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb, having the weight of the Law taken off our back so that we can now submit to the Law of God out of Love and worship to the Lord our God who has died for us on a cross so that we may partake in His Righteousness and that our righteousness may surpass that of the Pharisees who though they followed the Law could not do so with perfection, but those of us who are in Christ Jesus we have been brought forth from the Wilderness of Sin to the Promised Land that is Jesus Christ. All those in Christ will be like the Israelites who are in Moses, and they will pass safely to the other side as the Israelites did. However all those who are not in Christ will be like the Egyptians, and will be swallowed up in the furious wrath of God in the torment of the sea.
To God Alone Be the Glory of This Day and Forevermore. Amen.
“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”– Galatians 1:6-12
What does it mean to preach another Gospel? What is the Gospel?
Here are a couple exegetical notes:
Accordingly he enjoins them to regard as devils those who shall dare to bring forward a gospel different from his, — meaning by another gospel, one to which the inventions of other men are added; for the doctrine of the false apostles was not entirely contrary, or even different, from that of Paul, but corrupted by false additions.
To what poor subterfuges do the Papists resort, in order to escape from the Apostle’s declaration! First, they tell us, that we have not in our possession the whole of Paul’s preaching, and cannot know what it contained, unless the Galatians who heard it shall be raised from the dead, in order to appear as witnesses. Next, they assert, that it is not every kind of addition which is forbidden, but that other gospels only are condemned. What Paul’s doctrine was, so far as it concerns us to know, may be learned with sufficient clearness from his writings. Of this gospel, it is plain, the whole of Popery is a dreadful perversion. And from the nature of the case, we remark in conclusion, it is manifest that any spurious doctrine whatever is at variance with Paul’s preaching; so that these cavils will avail them nothing.
This passage adduces further evidence that the false apostles defamed Paul as an imperfect apostle and a weak and erroneous preacher. They condemn Paul, Paul condemns them. Such warfare of condemnation is always going on in the church. The papists and the fanatics hate us, condemn our doctrine, and want to kill us. We in turn hate and condemn their cursed doctrine. In the meanwhile the people are uncertain whom to follow and which way to turn, for it is not given to everybody to judge these matters. But the truth will win out. So much is certain, we persecute no man, neither does our doctrine trouble men. On the contrary, we have the testimony of many good men who thank God on their knees for the consolation that our doctrine has brought them. Like Paul, we are not to blame that the churches have trouble. The fault lies with the Anabaptists and other fanatics.
Every teacher of work-righteousness is a trouble-maker. Has it never occurred to you that the pope, cardinals, bishops, monks, and that the whole synagogue of Satan are trouble-makers? The truth is, they are worse than false apostles. The false apostles taught that in addition to faith in Christ the works of the Law of God were necessary unto salvation. But the papists omit faith altogether and teach self-devised traditions and works that are not commanded of God, indeed are contrary to the Word of God, and for these traditions they demand preferred attention and obedience.
Who are the Anabaptist’s and Papists of our day? Are Luther and Calvin just hotheads that lived in a different era? Do we have the courage to call a spade a spade as the Reformers, the Puritans, the Dutch did? What is our response to these words from the Synod of Dordt:
Therefore this Synod of Dordt in the name of the Lord pleads with all who devoutly call on the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to form their judgment about the faith of the Reformed churches, not on the basis of false accusations gathered from here or there, or even on the basis of the personal statements of a number of ancient and modern authorities–statements which are also often either quoted out of context or misquoted and twisted to convey a different meaning–but on the basis of the churches’ own official confessions and of the present explanation of the orthodox teaching which has been endorsed by the unanimous consent of the members of the whole Synod, one and all.
Moreover, the Synod earnestly warns the false accusers themselves to consider how heavy a judgment of God awaits those who give false testimony against so many churches and their confessions, trouble the consciences of the weak, and seek to prejudice the minds of many against the fellowship of true believers.
Finally, this Synod urges all fellow ministers in the gospel of Christ to deal with this teaching in a godly and reverent manner, in the academic institutions as well as in the churches; to do so, both in their speaking and writing, with a view to the glory of God’s name, holiness of life, and the comfort of anxious souls; to think and also speak with Scripture according to the analogy of faith; and, finally, to refrain from all those ways of speaking which go beyond the bounds set for us by the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures and which could give impertinent sophists a just occasion to scoff at the teaching of the Reformed churches or even to bring false accusations against it.
May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of his Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.
By Wilhelmus A Brakel
Law and gospel are frequently placed in contradistinction to each other. If in such a contradistinction the reference is to the ceremonial law, its purpose is to refer to Christ’s coming in the flesh, whose coming was typified by the ceremonies. The gospel of fulfillment, however, declares that Christ has come. In the matter itself there can be no contradistinction, since the gospel is comprehended in the ceremonies and proclaimed by them.
However, there is an essential difference between the moral law and the gospel. The law has first of all been given by God the Lord as the sovereign, majestic, and sole Lawgiver, and is pertinent to all mankind. The gospel, however, is the manifestation of God as being “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exo. 34:6), and does not pertain to all, but only to some. Secondly, the law can partially be known by nature (Rom. 2:15), but the gospel can only be known by revelation (Eph. 3:5). Thirdly, the law is a condition of the covenant of works which promised salvation upon the perfect keeping of the law and knows of no forgiveness (cf. Rom. 10:5; Matt. 19:17).
The gospel, however, is a declaration of the covenant of grace, promising believers forgiveness and salvation by Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:8-9). Fourthly, the law begets the knowledge of sin in the sinner (Rom. 3:20), confronts him with wrath (Rom. 4:15), and thus brings forth fear and trembling (Isa. 33:14). The gospel, however, is the precious administration of the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). This gospel is the means whereby God calls men unto salvation.
God could immediately and nonverbally reveal Christ to man, bring him to Christ, cause him to believe in Him, and thus lead him to salvation. It has pleased the Lord, however, in order that His manifold wisdom be revealed and His other attributes be glorified, to make man a partaker of this salvation by means of the word of the gospel, leading rational man in a rational way. The use of this means is referred to as calling, since all men are going astray on a way which is not good and which leads to destruction. God calls out to men who are going astray that the way upon which they are traversing will make them eternally miserable, and invites them to come to Christ as the only way unto salvation.
The study of Hermeneutics or better said the way in which we read and study biblical text is a dying art in the evangelical, let alone the liberal, world. There used to be a very serious set of principles that a person would employ when they came to the Biblical text that was nearly as sacrosanct as the text itself. For those of us in the Reformed circles this was done in the guise of reading the Scriptures in the framework of the Covenants between God and man. In other words when a Reformed pastor or theologian would come to a biblical text he would read it first with the idea that the Bible was constructed with a certain organizing principle, constructed by the Holy Spirit so that we could both understand the larger picture and how the little things work for the overall Glory of God in history. We all come to the text with presuppositions about the nature of the text, the way we understand God to work in his creation, etc. Through all this we take things like God’s covenant with Noah and Abraham through different eyes than Talmudic or Dispensational scholars. The Talmudic scholar will read the promises to Noah in relation to the modern Jewish milieu. The Dispensationalist will see the Noahic Covenant as the beginning of a new dispensation that is different than the one given to Adam or Moses. Once we come to this understanding the question that comes before us is why do we think we can read Scripture in such a way that it does not inform on itself? For example in the arguments between those who support Women in Ordained ministry and those who do not the defenders of the egalitarian position often posit the observation that Jesus employed women to bring the news of his resurrection to his Male disciples as one fact supporting ordained female clergy. In other words Jesus uses women to bring the Good News to the disciples, therefore women can be messengers of the Gospel, ergo Women can be preachers of the Gospel and enter ordained ministry. Understand the argument? Ok. This argument sounds pretty good on the surface and looks secure in its logic, which if taken by itself it is logical.
Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew 12:38-41 is a good place for us to start in working with a Biblical hermeneutic. What are the details in this text? Pharisees and Scribes are asking Jesus for a sign after the crowds call him the “Son of David” for healing the blind and mute man possessed with a demonic force. The Pharisees want him to prove that he is this person whom the crowd claims him to be. So after Jesus and the Pharisees exchange pleasantries Jesus reminds them of Jonah (whom Jesus recognizes as both real and verifiable, which is another issue for another day) and what it was that happened to Jonah. He also reminds them of Nineveh and Nineveh’s repentance and applies this text not only to himself but to the recompense that is coming. All in order to show them that the signs have already been given to them in the Law and the Prophets (cf: The Rich Man and Lazarus) and that they have no need of new signs because why? Because there is nothing new in what Christ is teaching and what he is coming to do in their time. Jesus understands (and so does Zacharias) that the Law and the Prophets not only speak of him but are about him. This is all to say that a proper Biblical hermeneutic takes into account more than just what is in front of us on the page, more than the bare logic of a pericope.
Which brings us back to Matthew 28:1-10 (also Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-10) and the reporting of the Resurrection. Now as we saw before the argument brought forward by egalitarians makes perfect sense, in isolation. Now how does the story look in context? We’ll answer that in the next post. But for now I want you to think about it and come up with your own explanation using a Covenant hermeneutic.
(I had a much better and longer post but I somehow deleted it so this is the cliff notes version as I do not have time to rewrite the 1500 words I had finished)
We have moved from the 16th to 17th to the 19th centuries and have watched how the unanimous voices of Reformed orthodoxy in the past have spoken against the construction (or injection-molding, chipb) of images of the entire Godhead. In this part we will look at the modern effects on how we view not just the Decalogue but the Mosaic Law in general. How is it that now one cannot go 10 feet without seeing the Scandinavian-“Jesus” plastered on everything from T-shirts to Billboards? Well Greg Bahnsen in his work on Post-Millennialism entitled Victory in Jesus (published post-mortem) has a very good short section on the three things plaguing not just the rampant violation of the second commandment but other problems encroaching on orthodox Reformed Christianity in the West. While his focus is presenting a case for Post-Millennialism and why it has fallen out of favor he is correct in identifying the three major issues confronting orthodoxy in general. Two of these three movements would not even consider the Second commandments words on imagery binding today but it is their influence in the minds of those who may that bring them into this discussion.
Bahnsen begins by identifying firstly Liberalism. By Liberalism Bahnsen means to direct his words to the movement that began under the influence of men like Hermann Samuel Reimarus and Heinrich Paulus who were the forerunners of and greatly influenced 19th century Historical Jesus research. Also understood in this section is the work by Immanuel Kant whose philosophy continues to undergird nearly all persons in the West. Included in this is the work of higher critics like Julius Wellhausen and David Strauss. However for Americans the greatest influence was brought forth by Friedrich Schleiermacher whose thoughts and ideas are still taught in every mainline seminary. The effect these men had on the subject of this essay is in the way we now approach the Scriptures in the West. Out of all of their criticisms of the Biblical text the most divisive has been the hatchet job done on the Pentateuch especially on the Mosaic Law. If the law was not received by Moses in toto (as Scripture testifies it did, Ex. 20-23) then what bearing does it have on us today? How can a collection of separate instructions hold any weight for today’s Christian? These are serious questions that cannot be answered by simply dismissing these ungodly men and their followers away by wrote. They must be challenged and confronted in a manner that does not cause their descendants to shun orthodoxy.
The Second influence recognized by Bahnsen is the work of Evolutionary Progressivism. One may look at the title and wonder “How does that differ from Liberalism?” Well to answer the question a person needs to understand that their is a difference between what most people refer to in contemporary times as Liberalism and what academically should be referred to as Liberalism. This second part is what we would identify with the modern usage of the word. This movement led by men such as Charles Darwin and Walter Rauschenbusch delivered a focus that moved Christianity away from its foundation in the Older Testament to a purely New Testament focus, a recurrence of Marcionism. Also another thing that distinguishes it from Liberalism as defined above is its belief that man is is generally good and has evolved past the Mosaic prohibitions to a new era of life that looks not upon the strictures but upon the liberty brought by Christ. Hence the term “Evolutionary”. In other words Christianity no longer needs to worry about offending God by their actions as long as they do so with a kind heart and a loving mind. Therefore in regards to the Second Commandment the Evolutionary Progressivist has moved on from the old covenant completely and any attempt to use it in discussion is Pharisaical.
Thirdly in Bahnsen’s hypothesis is the effect of Dispensationalism on the mind of today’s Evangelical. Mostly brought to the forefront of Christianity in America by the work of Cyrus Scofield and his reference Bible and the writings of John Nelson Darby. The greatest effect Dispensationalism has had for this discussion is its emphasis on the distinctions between the New Testament Church and ancient Israel of the Old Testament. Scofield believed that between creation and the final judgment there were seven distinct eras of God’s dealing with man and that these eras were a framework around which the message of the Bible could be explained. Therefore the words of the second commandment can be properly explained as belonging to a prior dispensation and no longer applicable in there literal sense to today’s Christian.
Cumulatively these three positions have effected the way in which most in the Reformed camp come to the Decalogue and the Case Law of Moses imparticular. With a Hermeneutic of Suspicion the Second commandment (and its spiritual brother, the 4th commandment as we saw here in J.C. Ryle’s thought) is cast in a light of a “Canon within a Canon” as it passed over, with rest of the first table, in our times for all the reasons the three positions of Liberalism, Evolutionary Progressivism, and Dispensationalism have provided.
In the final part of this 7 part series on the Second Commandment I will present a Biblical and Systematic argument showing why it is not only unlawful according to the Older Testament but also in the New Covenant to picture the Godhead in physical form.
O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the
earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! From the mouth of
infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your
adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. When I consider Your
heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have
ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You
care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him
with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You
have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of
the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes
through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in
all the earth! — Psalm 8
One of the pleasures and responsibilities of being a parent is the power given to us to name your children. My wife and I have spent hours in the past 6 months pilfering the baby name books, family trees, various web sites and other materials seeking for that perfect name for our unborn child. We have a special situation in our house since I am the last male left in the Glaser line however, because if our child is a boy we have to find a name that will not show preference to any side of the family. It must be a name in which all can find solace and none can find prejudice. You see names still mean something in my family and I am quite sure that is true for many of you. Not only can it can go a long way in endearing yourself to a rich uncle or an overbearing Grandmother, if you see it possible to slip in a Margaret or a Michael, but it can have lifelong effects on the child, you try not to give your child a name that can lead to easy teasing or can hinder their progress later in life. How many of you when you meet a Doctor for the first time and he has the name of let say Billy Bob wince a little? Names can mean quite a bit. The question before us today is if the mere naming of a child can be taken with such care and significance, how much more so should it matter how we address our God, our Creator?
We can without even thinking too hard name any number of instances where we see God’s name in our society being used superficially and with great offense. Whether it be politicians or music stars or athletes or ourselves it is not uncommon to hear the name of God nearly constantly being used in a derogatory and mocking manner. We live in an age today where we have become flippant about how we use God’s name and have placed humanity’s will and comfort above what God has commanded and demonstrated for us in his Word concerning his Holy name.
David in the Psalm we read this afternoon begins and ends his Psalm by using the proper name of God, the Trinitarian head of our Faith in a way that only someone who truly knows God can speak. It is vital we understand why it is that David does this and why it is important that we treasure the ability given to us by being children of God to use the name given by God to his people and do so with reverence and with awe. David writes in verse 1, “O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth…” We can hear David’s love and relationship in that one sentence, David is not saying, “Hey that God? Great Guy.” No David is confessing the splendor and the immeasurable greatness of our God. He goes on in Psalm 8 to lay out all the things that make our God not only the God of creation but the God who cares for the all that he has fashioned and seeks to empower the glory of his creation, humanity, though smaller and seemingly insignificant in its stature to the great universe above, though now fallen because of the sin of Adam, yet is still pre-eminent in the eyes of God so much so that David here speaks forth to the son of man, who is Jesus Christ, that will come and bring the glory and power of God to all the world. In knowing all this how do we ever come to the point where we take God’s name not only for granted but in vain?
The Third Commandment forbids us from taking the name of our Lord God in vain. Deuteronomy 5:11 says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave them unpunished who takes His name in vain.” Moses here uses the same word that David uses in Psalm 8. The unspeakable name of God that the scribes were so afraid of using that they substituted the word adonai or Lord for it. I cannot press enough the point that the Jewish scribes and priests were rightly so afraid of misusing God’s name in vain that they would not even write it down in the Hebrew, instead using another word to signify its presence for the reader. We can recall in Judges 11: 31 the story of the General named Jephthah and his vow to the Lord that if he came back victorious from the battle he was waging that he would sacrifice the first thing which came running out of his house. And if you remember that story the first thing that came out of his house to greet him was, his daughter. Jephthah remembering his vow to God fell down in pain and anguish knowing what he had promised the Lord and did as he had promised because of the fear of breaking God’s Law. Yet we have become so careless with the way we come to God in prayer, in worship, and in our daily life. God has become just another epithet, meaning nothing more than any other word that we cry out so as to fit in with a Godless culture. Not only that but we have completely dismissed the last part of the Third commandment, do any of us really believe anymore that God punishes anyone? Have we become so blasé about God that we doubt his power and his right to do that which he has promised to do? Or do we go as far as to say that well since we are in a New Testament period that must mean that we no longer have to worry about all those outdated and silly claims made by the Mosaic Law that they no longer apply to us? Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-18 that, “I have come not to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Why do we then think we have a special dispensation to do otherwise? Why do we continue to take the Lord’s name in vain at nearly every opportunity? There is a great power to this name as David shows us in Psalm 8. We would be wise to use it as God has commanded us to.
Jesus gets himself in great trouble whenever he claims for himself the proper name of God to describe himself, and rightly so. If Jesus was not who he claimed to be then he was committing blasphemy by using the Lord’s name in vain, violating the very commandment that we have read today. For if Jesus is not God, if Jesus is not the Second person of the Trinity than he has committed a grievous sin and his death is pointless. We must recognize even this that Christ gave great care and trouble to making sure that the people of Palestine knew who he was and that he was God and is God incarnate and he did so by invoking the very name that David has given us in our Scripture lesson for this morning. As Jesus tells the elders, scribes, and Pharisees in Mark 14:62, “I am He.”
In closing, given these examples and God’s command to his people in His Word how should we come before our Holy and Almighty God but with reverence and awe with the power and the authority and the responsibility of using God’s proper name with care and foresight in our lives? The Scriptures give us stark examples of what happens to those who forsake and abandon the accountability they have been given as children of God. We would be wise today to remember the words of David.