The Things I Learn Grading

As I near the end of grading by wading through student papers on worship, I have enjoyed learning or re-learning as well.  Here are a few gleanings to share with you.


On communion, one student emphasized the importance of being physically present ourselves at communion, as taking part of the sacrament in the flesh with other believers can bring healing not only to souls but bodies.  After all, if Biblical warnings against sickness and death are given if we take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, might there not be positive benefits of wellness and peace if we honor Christ at the table with our brothers and sisters in unity as His body?  This is a “re-membering” of His work in a whole different sense.


Another student traced the liturgy development of Calvin in his different ministry posts, and showed what is referred to as the “dialogical nature” of worship as Calvin viewed it.  In other words, clearly Calvin saw that as we worship, our covenantal relationship with God is expressed in the church hearing from His word then responding to it.  Each declaration by God, from the call to worship to the sermon, is followed by a response by the people in prayer, song, or obedience.  As the Scriptures themselves show us, we need to remember that as we worship we are conversing with the living Lord.


I was interested in reading the research in a well-written paper on New Covenant Theology (NCT) and its teaching regarding the Sabbath Day. In response to NCT’s position, which denies the binding obligation of honoring a Christian Sabbath, I liked hearing of the “trans-covenantal” nature of God’s Law.  In other words, as we progress from the Old to New Covenants in the Scriptures through Christ’s completed work, the moral obligations of all Ten Commandments remain.  So though some of the ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath have passed away, the ongoing obligation to honor the day Christ arose has not.


Another paper, worth a blog post all its own, was on the need of a prayer of confession in public worship, which seems to have been lost in many evangelical and even reformed services today.  Calvin was again referenced as one who saw confession of sin as an essential part of every Sunday morning service. For how can the gospel be viewed as central and essential to worship if those coming before God do not have a sense of its need?   The Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God agrees, as evidenced by this suggestion for prayer before the sermon takes place.  So ask yourself this weekend, “Has my minister led the  congregation in a prayer of confession of sin?”  If not, this is a further sin that needs to be confessed.


Now not everything I read was quite so heavy.  One student encouraged me regarding the importance of preaching in worship.  Yet his paper became a little “unraveled” at the end when he said, “The preached word serves as a lifeline that slowly unravels over the years…”  I think he meant “uncoils”!


  1. Nathan Stockwell March 9, 2014 at 1:24 am #

    Thomas Boston’s notes on The Marrow Modern Divinity have quite a lot say – speaking anachronistically – to say to the New Covenant Theologians. I’m thinking particularly on Boston’s note early on in the Marrow where Boston sorts out “the law of works”, “the law of faith”, and “the law of Christ”. On the newer republication of the Marrow its on pages 48 – 50 and its even titled ‘The Law of Works, the Law of Faith, and the Law of Christ’ in the 2009 edition.

    Boston contends that both the law of works and the law of Christ are the same law in substance, but with two different forms. The substance is the moral law (WCF 19.3) better known as the Ten Commandments. Boston does a great job of contrasting the two. However, on Boston’s point about the shared substance between the law of works and the law Christ being the Ten Commandments is where the New Covenant Theologians must disagree with Boston and Fisher sharply because they see those two terms in Scripture as not sharing anything in substance, and only sharing nine commandments in form as long they are expressly repeated in the New Testament.

    Do I seem present the issue fairly?

    • Nathan Stockwell March 9, 2014 at 3:40 am #

      I should have added to my comments that while the loss of Sabbath is probably the most practical, important and evident differences between Covenant and New Covenant theologians that, as I hope I demonstrated by referring to Boston’s notes, the loss of the Sabbath is minor compared to the idea that by obeying the Law of Christ we are not obeying the Ten Commandments. NCT can create a great deal of more practical and theological confusion than just the fourth commandment.

    • Barry York March 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

      Nathan, yes, as Phil says below you do an excellent job addressing the topic and summarizing Boston’s Marrow commentary which, yes indeed, make these helpful distinctions.

  2. Phil Pockras March 12, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Mr Stockwell’s comments, bringing in the _Marrow_, are excellent. Barry, a lot of good coming out from your class, it looks like. Thanks for sharing these with us.

    One small spelling flame. Well, a wee flicker. “Has my minister LEAD…” Um, no, I have no lead in the pulpit. I don’t carry my pistol, open or concealed, in church. I leave that to others. I *think* you meant “led”.

    • Barry York March 13, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

      Thanks for the edit, Phil! It has been changed.

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