Belgic Confession 35: The Lord’s Supper

26 May

ARTICLE 35 – THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

We believe and confess that our Saviour Jesus Christ has instituted the sacrament of the holy supper1 to nourish and sustain those whom He has already regenerated and incorporated into His family, which is His church.

Those who are born anew have a twofold life.2 One is physical and temporal, which they received in their first birth and is common to all men. The other is spiritual and heavenly, which is given them in their second birth and is effected by the word of the gospel3 in the communion of the body of Christ. This life is not common to all but only to the elect of God.

For the support of the physical and earthly life God has ordained earthly and material bread. This bread is common to all just as life is common to all. For the support of the spiritual and heavenly life, which believers have, He has sent them a living bread which came down from heaven (John 6:51), namely, Jesus Christ,4 who nourishes and sustains the spiritual life of the believers5 when He is eaten by them, that is, spiritually appropriated and received by faith.6

To represent to us the spiritual and heavenly bread, Christ has instituted earthly and visible bread as a sacrament of His body and wine as a sacrament of His blood.7 He testifies to us that as certainly as we take and hold the sacrament in our hands and eat and drink it with our mouths, by which our physical life is then sustained, so certainly do we receive by faith,8 as the hand and mouth of our soul, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Saviour, in our souls for our spiritual life.

It is beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ did not commend His sacraments to us in vain. Therefore He works in us all that He represents to us by these holy signs. We do not understand the manner in which this is done, just as we do not comprehend the hidden activity of the Spirit of God.9 Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what we eat and drink is the true, natural body and the true blood of Christ. However, the manner in which we eat it is not by mouth but in the spirit by faith. In that way Jesus Christ always remains seated at the right hand of God His Father in heaven;10 yet He does not cease to communicate Himself to us by faith. This banquet is a spiritual table at which Christ makes us partakers of Himself with all His benefits and gives us the grace to enjoy both Himself and the merit of His suffering and death.11 He nourishes, strengthens, and comforts our poor, desolate souls by the eating of His flesh, and refreshes and renews them by the drinking of His blood.

Although the sacrament is joined together with that which is signified, the latter is not always received by all.12 The wicked certainly takes the sacrament to his condemnation, but he does not receive the truth of the sacrament. Thus Judas and Simon the sorcerer both received the sacrament, but they did not receive Christ, who is signified by it.13 He is communicated exclusively to the believers.14

Finally, we receive this holy sacrament in the congregation of the people of God15 with humility and reverence as we together commemorate the death of Christ our Saviour with thanksgiving and we confess our faith and Christian religion.16 Therefore no one should come to this table without careful self-examination, lest by eating this bread and drinking from this cup, he eat and drink judgment upon himself (1 Cor 11:28-29). In short, we are moved by the use of this holy sacrament to a fervent love of God and our neighbours. Therefore we reject as desecrations all additions and damnable inventions which men have mixed with the sacraments. We declare that we should be content with the ordinance taught by Christ and His apostles and should speak about it as they have spoken.

1. Mat 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:1920; 1 Cor 11:23-26. 2. John 3:5-6. 3. John 5:25. 4. John 6:48-51. 5. John 6:63; John 10:10 b. 6. John 6:40, John 6:47. 7. John 6:55; 1 Cor 10:16. 8. Eph 3:17. 9. John 3:8. 10. Mark 16:19; Acts 3:21. 11. Rom 8:32; 1 Cor 10:3. 4. 12. 1 Cor 2:14. 13. Luke 22:21-22; Acts 8:13, Acts 8:21. 14. John 3:36. 15. Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7. 16. Acts 2:46; 1 Cor 11:26.

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The miracle of Christianity in China

26 May
Original link
A group of youth from Wing Kwong Church in Hong Kong.
A group of youth from Wing Kwong Church in Hong Kong. (Photo courtesy of Lee Grady )

Last week I worshipped in Hong Kong with hundreds of believers at the Wing Kwong Church, a Pentecostal Holiness congregation that has grown from 28 members in 1978 to more than 13,000 today. The modern megachurch, which meets in a sleek six-story building completed in the year 2000, gives thousands of dollars every year to fund international missions work. Under the leadership of Pastor Donavan Ng, the church sent a missionary couple to Kenya in 2006 to reach Chinese immigrants who have moved to that African nation.

“God has entrusted to the Chinese church a special mandate for the 21st century,” declared James Hudson Taylor IV, a surprise guest in the Wing Kwong Church that evening. Taylor is the great-great-grandson of British missionary pioneer Hudson Taylor, who ventured to China in 1854 to evangelize the world’s most populous nation.

When Hudson Taylor sailed to China, there were no Christians there—yet the China Inland Mission that he established won 18,000 converts to Jesus Christ during his lifetime and became one of the greatest success stories in modern missions. Today, Taylor’s great-great-grandson has a front-row seat to witness the greatest miracle on planet earth.

Hudson Taylor’s beloved China is becoming a Christian country.

Many Americans today seem discouraged by evidence of spiritual decline in the West. Now would be the best time for us to heed Jesus’ words in John 4:35: “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” Our pessimism has blinded us to what is happening in the East.

Consider these facts about the Chinese church:

1. China will likely become the largest Christian nation in the world by the year 2030. Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University, notes that in the year 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China, and he believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025 based on current growth trends. (The United States had 159 million Protestants in 2010.) By 2030, Yang predicts, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian population in the world.

2. More Christians attend church on Sundays in China today than in Europe.Some people attend government-sanctioned churches like the 5,000-member Liushi megachurch, located 200 miles south of Shanghai in Zhejiang province. This church was forced to close in the 1950s, but it reopened in 1978 and has grown ever since. Many other Chinese believers prefer to worship in more covert “house churches” so they can stay away from any government interference.

3. Spiritual hunger is exploding in China, even though the country is officially atheist. A recent study found that online searches for the words “Christian congregation” and “Jesus” are far more numerous than for “communist party.” And as more people have moved from rural areas to big cities, large numbers of young professionals have turned to Christ. Missiologists say between 10,000 and 25,000 people convert to Christianity every day in China.

4. Persecution of Christians is still rampant in China, but it does not seem to be slowing church growth. A 2015 report by China Aid says leaders of the Chinese Communist Party remain worried about the popularity of Christianity, and this is the reason they have instigated recent crackdowns on churches and arrested house church pastors. President Xi Jinping is considered the most authoritarian leader in China since Mao Zedong. Communist leaders have also been known to bankrupt churches in an effort to stop their work.

5. The growth of Chinese Christianity is linked to its economic growth.Economists announced that China overtook the United States as the world’s largest economy in late 2014. China, with its population of 1.3 billion, now accounts for 16.5 percent of the global economy, compared with 16.3 percent for the U.S. A recent study by Qunyong Wang of Nankai University and Xinyu Lin of Renmin University of China discovered there was robust economic growth in areas of China where Christian congregations are growing.

Could it be that God will use the vast financial resources of China to pay for the next great thrust of world evangelism before Christ’s return?

China’s church is truly a marvel. The gospel seed that was planted by missionaries such as Hudson Taylor in the 1800s died in the ground after Mao Zedong unleashed his infamous Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. During that era, Mao tried to completely eliminate religion and foreign influence in China by forcing 10,000 missionaries to leave the country.

Mao also sent thousands of Christians to their deaths, but the blood of those martyrs has produced an unprecedented harvest today. No one on this planet will be able to ignore the full impact of China’s miracle.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project. You can follow him on Twitter @leegrady. His work to protect women from abuse was featured in the March issue of Charisma. Check out his ministry atthemordecaiproject.org.

Are professors now just accreditors?

26 May

From First Things (excerpt)

The American Freshman Survey, which has followed students since 1966, proves the point. One prompt in the questionnaire asks entering freshmen about “objectives considered to be essential or very important.” In 1967, 86 percent of respondents checked “developing a meaningful philosophy of life,” more than double the number who said “being very well off financially.”

Naturally, students looked to professors for moral and worldly understanding. Since then, though, finding meaning and making money have traded places. The first has plummeted to 45 percent; the second has soared to 82 percent.

they’re quite content with their teachers; after all, most students receive sure approval. In 1960, only 15 percent of grades were in the “A” range, but now the rate is 43 percent, making “A” the most common grade by far.

Faculty members’ attitudes are kindly, too. In one national survey, 61 percent of students said that professors frequently treated them “like a colleague/peer,” while only 8 percent heard frequent “negative feedback about their academic work.”

When college is more about career than ideas, when paycheck matters more than wisdom, the role of professors changes.

Full article

Why the alleged discovery of a 1st century Gospel of Mark fragment may be very significant

21 May

An interesting hush has occurred over the field of NT textual critical scholarship. Textual criticism is the science of trying to ascertain what original manuscripts in the NT (or any ancient manuscript for that matter) actually said initially (when it left the pen of the author). There are some scholars how are skeptical that we can accurately retrieve the original wording of the NT (Bart Ehrman is a scholar of this sort, but also a popular speaker/author promoting NT skepticism). It must be said, however, that most textual critical scholars are not skeptical or at least not as skeptical as Ehrman. One such non-skeptic NT scholar is Dr. Dan Wallace, handles these manuscripts on a regular basis and believes that they contain the original wording and that NT textual critics like himself can retrieve it with relative ease. After all, less than 1% of ‘textual variants’ (instances where a passage/word in one ancient manuscript disagrees with that of another) fit the description of being ‘meaningful and viable’ (meaningful means that that the meaning of the passage would change depending upon which copy/manuscript is used for the translation; viable refers to the difficulty of ascertaining the original wording). Yet Ehrman insists that this fact does not fundamentally challenge his overall thesis, which is that without 1st century manuscripts, the copying process simply can’t be trusted to deliver to us the original wording. Well, Wallace and Ehrman had a public debate about this in 2012. In that debate, Wallace disclosed information about the discovery of a 1st century manuscript from the gospel of Mark. He said that that the details of it would be published in 2013, but for reasons not yet known, the publisher has only this year moved forward with the publication (should be out by the end of 2015). In the meantime, it sets up for an interesting wait-and-see situation. If the manuscript is in fact as old as Wallace says the first paleographers have said (1st) and if it contains enough passages to make for a good comparison, then the situation is looks like this: if Ehrman is right about the copying process, then this manuscript should look significantly different than later copies (earliest we currently have of Mark is late 2nd century). If Wallace is right, then it should significantly duplicate later copies. What does that matter for you? Your bibles are translations of copies of manuscripts from antiquity (if you use the KJV, then the copies used were relatively young, like 9th and 11th century or so; if you use a modern english translation, like the NIV or ESV, then they are based on much older manuscripts discovered after the King James translators did their work). In a word, the discovery will either add confidence to one’s reliability of the NT or detract from that confidence. We will see… Some of the information about the discovery has been allegedly leaked online and Dr. Craig Evans (another NT scholar) speaks to it here.

On the place of non-Christian thought in the intellectual life of the believer.

20 May

I love philosophy, particularly political philosophy. Being a Christian does not mean that non-Christian thinkers offer nothing beneficial to me or mankind. But non-Christian thought lacks something that, as a believer, makes it insufficient. Holy Scripture. Scripture must be the lens through which all thought is read and critically analyzed. When the general revelation, graciously granted to non-believers, is combined with and interpreted through the special revelation of Scripture, the knowledge gleaned is rightfully awed and wholly trustworthy. But there can be no substitute for the glorious truths contained in Holy Scripture. Many learned men, well versed in non-Christian thought, find that when God sovereignly stooped down, humbled them, redeemed them, opened their eyes to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and granted them an insatiable love for and use of scripture in their intellectual endeavors, they find their minds have finally been truly and indescribably awakened, never learning, thinking, the same way again. They are able to see what they couldn’t see before. This is precisely what happened to John Calvin, a former humanist, lover of Seneca and Cicero. But upon his conversion, which was both spiritual and intellectual, he was never the same as he discovered the truth and utility of scripture in the great and noble work of human philosophy and thought. Calvin did not stop reading and thinking about non-Christian thought. It’s just that he placed philosophy in the service of theology, which is the only role it may play in the intellectual life of the believer. He placed Athens in the service of Jerusalem. Here’s how he put it: “Now this power which is peculiar to Scripture is clear from the fact that of human writings, however artfully polished, there is none capable of affecting us at all comparably. Read Demosthenes or Cicero; read Plato, Aristotle or any other of that class. You will, I admit, feel wonderfully allured, delighted, moved, enchanted. But turn from them to the reading of the sacred volume and whether you will it or not, it will so powerfully affect you, so pierce your heart, so work its way into your very marrow, that compared with the impression so produced, the power of the orators and philosophers will almost disappear; making it clear that the Holy Scriptures breathe something divine, which lifts them far above all the gifts and graces of human industry.”

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

When it comes to the pain and suffering caused by sexual licentiousness in university life, the university itself cannot avoid some blame

19 May

From First Things (Vigen Guroian):

This past November, Rolling Stone magazine published an article that told the story of a gang rape in a fraternity house at the University of Virginia. This report soon became national news. When we first saw the article, we were uncomfortably reminded of Tom Wolfe’s 2004 novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, about sex on the college scene. We ought to have concluded immediately that what we were reading was fiction, as turned out to be the case. Our experience, however, predisposed us to assume that something like that which had been described may have happened.

There was uproar and a great deal of administrative action taken after the Rolling Stone article was published. But it is not credible that before the piece, the administration was unaware of the sexual chaos in student life. For nearly a decade, Bill Wilson was dean of the Echols Scholars Program at the university. He and others in similar positions reported to the administration what they had heard. Dozens of bright young college women told Wilson that they had been sexually humiliated, assaulted, or raped. Yet the administration’s routine response was, “There are professional programs, codes, procedures, policies, and referrals in place.” Indeed, the psychologists and therapists were already in place, the legal teams assembled, long before the storm over the ­Rolling Stone article.

Ten years ago in a widely circulated essay, Vigen Guroian portrayed the sexualization of the American college with “its grisly underbelly . . . the deep, dark, hidden secret that many parents suspect is there but would rather not face.” Guroian opened his essay, “Dorm Brothel: The new debauchery and the colleges that let it happen,” by recounting his own arrival as a student at the University of Virginia in 1966 at the dawn of the sexual revolution. He examined how its institutionalization changed student life in our colleges, bringing us to where we are now.

Read it all

The political and religious context in the making of the King James Bible

19 May

Fantastic documentary on the making of the King James Bible, a (failed) attempt to satisfy Puritan convictions while preserving and promoting the crown and king’s religion, Anglicanism.

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