Webinar on Covenant Baptism

Hi folks.  Lately I’ve been working on notes for a “webinar” I’m doing on the subject of Covenant Baptism in the context of the Great Commission.  I thought I’d post some details here in case anyone is interested in the topic.  I’ll be talking a little about the Great Commission in general, but then focus on the command to baptize and how that relates back to circumcision in the Old Testament, specifically to children.  If you want to view the webinar, which will be on April 27 at 3pm, you can get more details here.  Below is a rough draft of some of the points I’ll be discussing, just FYI.

The Great Commission and Covenant Baptism

     The “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:18-20) contains a wealth of explicit and implicit connections to the Old Testament.  This missionary charter for the church is founded upon ancient principles and best understood as the culmination and extension of the rich evangelistic theology of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Our focus today will be on infant baptism and its covenantal connections to the Old Testament, but we will begin with a few preliminary points that come from the preamble to the Great Commission.

A.  Christ’s Authority.

            1.  The Great Commission […]

Psalm 51

     Some texts of Scripture are so powerfully clear, so penetrating and convicting, that it almost seems a disservice to exposit them.  Psalm 51 is just such a passage.  It is no wonder that Charles Spurgeon said of this psalm, “Such a psalm may be wept over, absorbed into the soul, and exhaled again in devotion; but, commented on – ah!  Where is he who having attempted it can do other than blush at his defeat?”  Expecting better than defeat, but still with a blush, let’s take a look at the Psalter’s best known penitential psalm.  These words, which capture the spiritual outpouring of a man brought low by his sin, speak to us with a clear example of true repentance.

      As the title of the psalm indicates, David penned these words after murdering Uriah, committing adultery with Bathsheba, and being confronted by Nathan the prophet.  It was surely a low point in David’s life, and his desperation can be sensed.  He opens the psalm with an appeal to God’s “lovingkindness,” which translates a Hebrew term for God’s unique covenant love.  Because of the Covenant of Grace, which God swore by His own Name to uphold, David knows that there […]

Age and Aging

A recent article on a rare disease got me thinking about the life spans of the antediluvians.

The Tribune-Review ran a story about a boy with a very rare disease called progeria, which causes accelerated aging.  Only 16 children in the U.S. have the disease, which will cause most of them to die by about the age of 13 from heart attacks or strokes.  The three year old boy in the article looked like a miniature grandfather.  It’s a strange, sad condition that caused me to reflect: here is an example of aging without age.  It’s not a “disease” so much as an acceleration of a natural process.  What are the implications?

The deterioration of the body, which is an effect of mankind’s fallen condition, does not always happen uniformly over time.  In our experience (and that of Moses in Psalm 90) the effects of sin run their course usually by age 70 or 80.  Thus we naturally see “aging” as an effect of age, or the deterioration of the body as a process of time.  But ultimately it is not a process of time.  It is the process of our fallen nature running its course in our physical existence, and the speed of that process […]

The Unhurried Patriarchs

     It’s amazing how regimented modern life is.  Busy schedules demand precise organization, and we can hardly conceive of a day that is not divided into hours and minutes.  I don’t know how many times I glance at my watch during the day, but each glance reminds me of pending tasks and the precise time allotted to each.  This being the case, it is refreshing to step into the world of Old Testament narrative.  In the place of hours and minutes, the patriarchs lived and thought in terms of seasons – not the natural seasons of the year, but indefinite periods of time that were characterized by one particular task or calling.  Thus we read about characters encamping here or there “for a season” in the King James Version, or the “season” in which Israel came out of Egypt, or the psalmist praying to God “in the night season.”  Even the days are delineated only by morning, noon and night with no thought of greater precision.  If we tried to operate on these terms – schedule things “in due season” or plan our tasks “when the time comes” – a tangled mess would surely be the result.  Our world demands […]

Stretching Out the Heavens

Okay, this one comes from left field, but hear me out…

While studying for my Prophets class I noticed again that Isaiah uses a unique, consistent description of the creation of the heavens. He says God “stretched them out.”

I have made the earth, and created man on it. I—My hands—stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded. (Isa. 45:12)

Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand up together. (Isa. 48:13)

And you forget the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens… (Isa. 51:13)

Now, as an experiment, next time you are giving your kids a bath put your hands flat against each other under the water and stretch them out quickly away from each other. What happens? Small whirlpools called eddies are formed. As you stretch out your hands the water is displaced and the void is filled by swirling water that trails behind your hands.

As far as I know, the Big Bang Theory has no explanation for the orbital swirling motion of all the galaxies in the universe. If there was a “big bang” everything would be moving in a […]

The Problem of Evil through the Lens of Psalm 56

     The “problem of evil” has occupied philosophers and theologians for centuries.  How, it is asked, can evil exist in a world that is supposedly created and ruled by a good God?  The question itself has lead many who ponder it to despair and atheism.  Various answers have been offered, none of which have laid the question to rest, but perhaps we have been asking the wrong question all along.

     Psalm 56 does not view evil as an abstraction, the presence of which must be explained.  David, ever practical in his theology, does not view evil as some mysterious force or inexplicable abstraction that coexists with a good God.  The problem he sees is evil men.  “Man would swallow me up; always fighting, he oppresses me” (vs.1).  Similar language runs throughout the psalm, giving evil a very human face.  Evil is a human problem, not a philosophical abstraction.  The “problem of evil” may be debated in the ivory tower, but on the ground it is the problem of evil people.  It is the problem of sin. 

     When understood this way, we realize that philosophy cannot offer a satisfying answer.  Instead of looking for an explanation of an abstraction, we should […]

Debt Slavery

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”

Proverbs 22:7

     There is a lot of talk these days about the level of America’s public and private debt.  The incredible statistics, available up-to-date, track the minute by minute increase.  For all the talk, these numbers fail to faze us for the most part.  At the national level, the very concept of trillions does not register in the reality of most people, so it’s easy to shrug off as long as the bill doesn’t show up in the mailbox.  At the household level, everyone has a mortgage, a car payment or two and credit card debt as a way of life.  Massive debt at every level has become a new normal.

     The sad, biblical fact is that we have willingly become slaves.  Much of the wealth and progress we see in society has been built with money that never existed.  We have, by and large, given into the greed-fueled notion that we can enjoy the fruits of labor not yet performed and possess now what we have not earned in exchange for a claim on our future productivity.  Thus we become slaves to our lenders, to whom […]

A Better Ending

     “The end of a thing is better than its beginning; the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”   Ecclesiastes 7:8

     Ecclesiastes is like the reality check of the canon.  There is no spiritual grandstanding here.  The world and all its vanity is examined and critiqued without any sentimental interference.  Yet even through all the hard realities the preacher points out, he always leads us back to the home base of simple, godly wisdom based on the fear of the Lord.

     At first glance, this passage may be chalked up to the preacher’s melancholy perspective on the vanity of this world.  To say “the end of a thing is better than its beginning,” seems like an unqualified critique of everything we do and every process of life.  It seems as though he is saying, “whatever you do, it’s best to just get it over with.”  If that is what is meant, then this is perhaps the saddest assessment of all human endeavors.  But, is that what he is saying?

     The key, I think, is found in the parallel line, “the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”  Hebrew poetry mainly works on the principle […]

The Pursuit of God in Psalm 63

     The heart of the Covenant promise of God to His people is, “I will be your God, and you will be my people” (Lev. 26:12).  By faith we enter into an intimate relationship with the Lord which is expressed in terms of mutual ownership.  David begins Psalm 63 with this fundamental truth expressed in the simple, powerful assertion, “O God, you are my God.”  To claim the true God as my God is a cherished privilege that all believers share with the psalmist.  What follows in Psalm 63 is a depiction of the pursuit of God that naturally follows once we know Him as our own.    

     The title of Psalm 63 indicates that it was written by David in the Wilderness of Judah, perhaps in the context of II Samuel 15:23, when David fled south during Absalom’s rebellion.  The depravation he must have experienced in this dry, desolate atmosphere is turned into a metaphor of David’s thirsty soul longing for God (vs. 1).  The phrase “early will I seek you” is an accurate, if awkward, translation of a Hebrew verb which derives from the word for “dawn,” suggesting timely eagerness in David’s pursuit of God.  The reality of true faith is […]

Politics Under the Sun

If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.

Ecclesiastes 5:8 (NKJV)

     There is a great deal of political outrage today.  I regularly hear otherwise calm, quiet people give vent to disgust toward our leaders and their policies.  I too have done my share of venting.  My poor wife has had to deal with my rhetorical questions during the evening news: “How can they do that!” “What are they thinking!” “Who do they think they are!”  She still doesn’t know if she’s supposed to answer or not.

     Ecclesiastes 5:8 is a good text to reflect on in these times.

     While it’s easy to think we live in times of unprecedented corruption and cronyism, the preacher reminds us that this state of affairs is nothing new. High officials have always watched over each other while consolidating and advancing their power at the expense of others. Some leaders make it a science, but most do it to some degree. “Do not marvel at the matter,” says the preacher.

     It’s hard to decide whether this […]