The biblical meaning of righteousness and justification Part 1, with Chris Thomson @ Moore College

“Martin Luther famously wrote about justification by faith: ‘if this article stands, the church stands; if this article collapses, the church collapses’ (Luther’s Works 40/3.352.3).

Justification matters. Why? Because it is caught up with our status before God, our assurance of eternal life, and our freedom to live the Christian life in love for others and without fear.

But what does the Bible actually say about justification? Luther and Calvin recognised that we need to come to grips with the precise meaning of the key biblical terms – ‘righteousness’ and ‘justification’ – in order to grasp the biblical doctrine. But in modern New Testament scholarship, there is often a lack of clarity about these terms.

In this 3-part series, I speak with my colleague Chris Thomson, lecturer in Old Testament at Moore College, who has engaged in detailed research in this area as well as scholarly discussions with others, including N. T. Wright.

We talk about what the terms mean, what other people are saying today about the terms, why righteousness is different from justification, why it’s both shocking and deeply comforting that God is the one who justifies the ungodly, and why it matters for us today.”

– More very helpful input from Lionel Windsor at Moore College.

The Coronavirus Crisis as a Wilderness Experience

“To what might we compare this unexpected and unsettling coronavirus season? We might think of it like “Groundhog Day”: a repeating monotony of locked-down life.

We might think of it like the holding pattern of an aircraft coming in to land: an interminable period of waiting– like that of refugees waiting for a safe place to call home.

A related question to ask is, where the current pandemic fits into each of our life stories? It’s a question worth pondering, for, as Alistair McGrath puts it, ‘the story we believe we are in determines what we think about ourselves and consequently how we live.’

The Bible throws up an intriguing answer to both questions …”

– At The Gospel Coalition Australia, Brian Rosner shares some thoughts on how the Lord continues to work in his people.

The importance of Priest and priest

“Who needs priests? For many in our society, there is a real cynicism around the word ‘priest’ and the idea of a religious establishment.

Yet there are some who have an earnest desire for priests. Perhaps we want people who are holy because we know deep down that we are not very holy, and we like to outsource. So we want people who have dedicated their lives to knowing God, who are trained in handling the Scriptures, paid to look after our spiritual wellbeing… and that way we don’t have to think too much about it.

But both the writer of the book of Hebrews and our Anglican tradition expose the folly of these attitudes. …”

– At The Australian Church Record, Ben George points us back to our great high priest.

Is “Church Online” Church? (Lionel Windsor, Mikey Lynch, Andrew Heard)

Lionel Windsor writes:

“In this discussion for the Reach Australia network’s podcast, I join Mikey Lynch (leader of Tasmania’s Vision 100) and Andrew Heard (lead pastor of EV Church on the Central Coast of NSW) to think theologically about the current realities of church life, church approximation and online church.”

Watch or listen here.

‘Repent or You will Perish’ — COVID-19 and God’s Gracious Judgments

“Every death, every disappointment, every illness, any suffering, any frustration, any loss, any regret, any pain that we experience is a gracious judgment of God. And every one of God’s gracious judgments is a message from God, a wake-up call from God. For every one of them:

Are not each of these messages that we desperately need today? These gracious judgments can equally well be described as ‘severe mercies’. …”

Read and share the whole article by Peter Adam at The Gospel Coalition Australia.

(Photo: St. Helen’s Bishopsgate.)

New resources from Dick Lucas

St. Helen’s Bishopsgate in London has made available a swathe of talks on preaching by Dick Lucas – recorded in the last decade.

They are featured in the most recent talks on their website, as well as in the special Teaching from Dick Lucas section.

Paul, Philosophy & Knowledge — Edwin Judge

God on the Ground podcast speaks with Emeritus Professor Edwin Judge AM.

Fascinating.

Why Evangelicals must engage Roman Catholicism

“Whether you live in a majority Roman Catholic region or in an area where Catholics are few, the presence of the Roman Catholic Church is pervasive. Unless you crouch in your little corner, not wanting to engage the world around you (wherever you are), you must deal with Roman Catholicism.”

– At Vatican Files, Leonardo De Chirico encourages Christians to understand and rightly respond to the Roman Catholic Church. (Link via Tim Challies.)

Ashley Null on Cranmer’s Collect for the Second Sunday after Easter

“Cranmer’s Collect for the Second Sunday after Easter reminds us of his perennial concern to link justification to sanctification. In so doing, he answers the all-important question for Christians: where do we find the motivation to be more like Jesus?

An original composition, the prayer makes clear that the secret to godliness lies in gratitude for the free gift of salvation. …”

– Ashley Null continues his post-Easter devotions for GAFCON.

Corona Crisis — a Five week series from the Bishop of Bathurst

Next Sunday, the Bishop of Bathurst, Mark Calder, begins a 5 week special sermon series addressing issues raised by the crisis.

This weekend, he turns to Psalm 13.

Do pray that this series might be a blessing to many across New South Wales, and further afield.

Protestants and Plagues

“The present pestilence of COVID-19 is often described as ‘unprecedented’ in the modern Western media, and understandably so.

However, the presence of pestilence was a familiar reality throughout early modern Europe. Our Reformation forebears so frequently encountered the plague that it would not be too much to say that the entire course of religious history, at times, hung by the thread of a mere matter of breaths.

Unsurprisingly, though contrary to the popular opinion in the modern blogosphere, our Reformers had a wide variety of responses to the plague. This lecture aims to explore the impact of the plague upon the Reformers, and explain the differences and similarities in their responses. This, of course, will be instructive to our own set of responses to COVID-19 today.”

Watch Dr Mark Earngey’s overview of some of the intellectual, theological, and practical responses to the plague throughout the early period of the Reformation.

Available now at the Moore College website.

We ask Mark Earngey about ‘Common Prayer for Homes’

We asked Dr. Mark Earngey at Moore College about Common Prayer for Homes: Resources for Family Worship, released in the last few days. It’s a wonderful resource. Much of it will be familiar to our readers, and some if it will be new.

Our questions to Mark are in bold text:

What is ‘Common Prayer for Homes’?

Common Prayer for Homes is a flexible set of liturgical resources put together to help churches during the period of this present coronavirus crisis.

It consists of two classic-style orders of service for Sunday household worship, one modern order of service for Sunday household worship with children, an order of service for daily devotions throughout the week, a collection of occasional prayers (especially oriented to new family rhythms at home), and the classic seasonal arrangement of prayers, known as collects.

Who was behind putting it together, and what sources did you use?

In the week that it was announced that churches could not physically gather indoors, I observed our churches rapidly and rightly scrambling for ideas and resources.  David Peterson and I spoke together and agreed that providing churches with some solid liturgical structures might be a great help at this time.  I consulted with various ministers (from different denominations and locations) regarding whether such a resource would assist them, and the overwhelming response was that it would indeed help.

So, with David Peterson and a small group of Moore Theological College (MTC) trained clergy in our Diocese, we set ourselves to the task.  Since MTC mission was impact by the coronavirus and thus reconfigured around producing resources, we spent the week writing, editing, and producing these liturgical resources. Bishop Michael Stead was a solid encouragement along the way, and assisted with the process of utilising BetterGatherings.com to distribute Common Prayer in Homes.  

In terms of sources used, the main liturgical resources were the Common Prayer (2012) and An Australian Prayer Book (1978).  Other resources included: Common Worship (2000), the Book of Common Prayer (1552), the Church of England Catechism (1553), and prayers rephrased or newly written by ourselves.

These sources come unashamedly from the tradition of Reformation Anglicanism, with their strong biblical and evangelical themes arising from the genius of Archbishop Cranmer’s liturgical team.

Many churches are producing livestreams or recordings of services during the pandemic. Isn’t that enough?

It has been such a delight to see the leadership of local churches banding together with ideas, suggestions, and advise on how to produce livestreams and recordings of services.  But is that enough?

Well, the ministers I have spoken to have a great pastoral intuition and know that this crisis calls for something more than the ‘Pastor as CEO’ type of model.  That is, it calls for ordinary pastoral ministry – phone calls, writing letters, setting up practical care teams, hosting Zoom Bible studies, enabling and releasing leaders to help the pastoral work, and being creative about how personal pastoral work can succeed at a time like this.

Further, it seems to me that now is not the time for passive and non-participatory corporate worship (cf., the Singing-Sermon-Spectator service).  Indeed, I think that our consideration of corporate worship ought not start with the question, “what can the pastor and up-front team deliver to the screen?” – but rather, start with the question, “what sort of discipleship and practices do we want to encourage and see happen in household worship?”.  This may mean asking worshippers to pray a prayer of preparation before the livestream begins, or pausing the pre-recorded service and spend some time in prayer, or it may mean asking someone in each household to pray the collect for the day, or leaving some time after the sermon for households to share words of encouragement, or having someone in the household praying for God’s blessing at the end of the service, etc.

One of the beautiful things about traditional Anglican liturgy is the participatory nature of corporate worship.  It’s a real gift, and we would be crazy not to utilise that at the present time. This is where Common Prayer in Homes comes in. It can be printed or opened up on an iPad or Tablet and then modified according to what your church is providing.  And anyone can use it – mature Christians and those young in the faith.  It contains Creeds, Confessions, Prayers, Collects, and so forth – and it contains instructions on how to use them in a service like this.

If people in our churches have not been exposed to much classical Anglican liturgy before, then they will be introduced to the new and exciting world of Scriptural richness and carefully crafted words of prayer and praise.  Rather than slim pickings on a Sunday, we can offer a great spiritual banquet suited to different households.

So, to your question: are live-streaming and pre-recorded services enough?

Well, here’s my answer: if, in the production of our services, we do not expect much participation beyond listening to a short Bible reading and a long sermon, singing some songs, and saying amen occasionally, then I think it’s not enough.  It’s not bad (we could do a lot worse!), but it’s a bit of a thin diet, and it misses the present opportunity to help grow households in the faith.  Perhaps the present challenges might even prod some of us to consider whether we quite have grasped the riches of our own Reformation heritage adequately.  The English Reformers, in particular, shunned the spectator service and prized the participation of parishioners. Why not try a few weeks with Common Prayer for Homes and expand your parishioners’ spiritual horizons with the biblical wisdom handed down to us in the Anglican tradition?

One household – reeling from screen-tiredness – used it in conjunction with their church service, and wrote to me last weekend, saying: “it was the special touch we needed this morning”.  For these brothers and sisters, it was a helpful offline complement to the excellent online provisions offered by the church.

What hopes might you have about this resource once churches are able to meet again?

It would be great if our churches enjoyed the biblical wisdom of Anglican liturgy, and grew spiritually as we corporately confessed our sins regularly, soaked up Scripture multiple times during our services, heard a solid Biblical sermon, sung the praises of God’s glory with scriptural and extra-scriptural songs, prayed prayers for all kinds of people, and appreciated the rhythms of the church calendar.  That is, it would be great to see our churches embrace a biblically richer, and more active and participational style of worship.  And it’s not that hard either.

For those churches which utilise online service planning software, these important elements of worship could be added to the online service templates (=‘liturgies’!).  For example, I have seen one church do a good job of this by including the Collects every week.  It was as easy as copying and pasting the seasonal collects into the weekly prayer role, and having that emailed out to the relevant person who leads intercessions on Sundays. Of course, connecting technology with tried-and-tested liturgy could open up a world a creative possibilities – and that would be great to see.

Above all however, it would be wonderful to see the men, women, and children in our churches strengthened in their convictions about Christ Jesus, and thus strengthened in their worship and witness! Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Many of our readers will be familiar with the wonderful Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present, the fruit of much painstaking work by Mark Earngey and Dr. Jonny Gibson.

If not, learn more here. Doubtless, that work has been of great benefit in producing Common Prayer for Homes.

See this pre-publication commendation of Reformation Worship from Archbishop Glenn Davies:

“In the modern church where so little attention is given to ‘entering his courts with praise,’ this collection of liturgies should inspire and correct much of the blandness of the assemblies of God’s people on earth so that they might truly reflect that festal gathering of angels at Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, to which we have already come.”

And another by Mark Dever.

What’s wrong with Gospel-Centered Preaching Today?

“What’s wrong with Gospel-Centered Preaching Today?” – The latest 9Marks Journal has plenty of challenges for preachers.

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