Our morning message saw us take a significant leap forward in the exposition of Romans. In message number 4, we rushed into the second verse of the 1st chapter! It was a daring gambit, but seemed to be succesful!
Seriously, Lloyd-Jones outdoes me. He had five messages on the first verse, I only had three. If you have the opportunity, I would recommend reading his fifth message on “The Gospel of God”. The message is worth the price of the book by itself. I was sorely tempted to make the same phrase my text this morning, but I determined to soldier on.
Our message today was entitled The Promised Gospel. The interesting thing about our verse is that Paul seems to pause before giving us the content of the gospel (the person and work of Christ, vv. 3-4ff.) to instead make a comment about the ancient character of the gospel. We might think the words about the promise coming through the prophets in holy writings is something of a throw-away, a ‘by the way’ type of statement. After all, the gospel is the central thing, and Christ and his work are the heart and soul of the gospel. But the reference to the prophets and the promise is a characteristic of apostolic preaching, especially Paul’s preaching. He mentions it at least three times in Romans itself, in the second verse, in 3.21, and in the second last verse (16.26). His comment is no incidental comment. He is establishing a notion that the gospel is the heart and soul of the ancient plan of God, even, I think, pointing back to that earliest hint of a promise found in Gen 3.15. It is important to realize that God’s promises are ancient, plentiful, and now fulfilled – note past tense of ‘promised’. It is important to realize that the Lord used the prophets to propagate the promise of the gospel. It is important especially to realize that God ‘put it in writing’, moving his prophets to record things they didn’t fully understand, carrying them along by the Spirit as a disabled ship is carried about by the wind. And it is important to realize that this good news is more than simply a word, but it is a real thing that can belong to us. “Gospel” is no academic exercise, it is the long-standing promise of God, fulfilled in Christ, and made available to any who would believe.
Our afternoon message continued the series on the Church with It’s a Temple. Some of my ideas for this message came from a post by an on-line friend, Ryan Martin. My focus was different from his, as Ryan was talking about what the church does and I am focusing on what the church is. Nevertheless, his post stimulated my thinking in this regard. Our understanding of the temple metaphor for the church must be informed by the OT temple and its meaning. As I understand the passages (and the OT), I think the primary meaning of the temple is holiness, and this holiness is meant to be reflected in the NT metaphor of a local church as a temple of the living God, a place that must be kept holy by those living stones who inhabit it. [I do see this metaphor very directly referring to the local church, not the universal church. It is not that it is impossible to refer the metaphor to the universal, but that is not what the NT does.] Under this proposition: “You are the temple of God; you are called to holiness.” I developed these points:
I. The holy temple is under God’s protection (1 Cor 3.16-17)
II. The holy temple is called to identify exclusively with God’s holiness and cleanse its premises (2 Cor 6.16)
III. The holy temple is the ground of holy living (Eph 2.19-22)
IV. The holy temple is intended to offer up spiritual sacrifices (1 Pt 2.5, 9-15)
All in all, it was a good day, although our crowd was definitely down after our big high last week on Thanksgiving Sunday. Still, the gospel was preached and we saw some young disciples show up who haven’t been to church in a while. It was good to minister to them. Faithfulness and consistency take time to develop.
By the way, I thought of something in connection with the metaphor of the church as a temple in light of a discussion about mundane things like announcements and potlucks being part of worship services or not. The discussion occurred over at Chris Anderson’s place, I hope I am not simply an agitator over there.
Here is the thought: the OT worship in the temple included many different kinds of sacrifices. I am impressed with the fact that one of the most common sacrifices was the peace offering, at which the worshipper sat at table before the Lord, in fellowship with him at a ‘holy barbecue’, if you will permit the expression. I suggest that our fellowship meals as a gathered church are as holy to the Lord as the songs, prayers, offerings, and preaching that occupy the bulk of our services. And I further submit that to announce the occasion of such acts of the lively stones in the worship services of the living God are no matter to be dismissed.
But yes, we can make our announcements and our fellowships an extremely trivial and earthly thing. Let us labour to not make it so.