"Many sinners are so drunk with the sweetness of their lives that they think not upon God's judgment but lie dazed, as it were, in a sort of drowsiness, and do not aspire to the mercy offer to them."
When considering the promise of the land we should make sure that we look at it in connection to the promise of posterity, for the two go hand in hand.
That is to say, if we want to take the land promise in a literalistic sense, applying only to the Jewish territory, then we need to be consistent and take the promise of offspring in the same way—i.e. as applying only to the physical descendants and not the children of promise & faith.
However, the totality of Scripture forbids this.
In Genesis 12 Abraham was told that he would not only have land, but that he would be a great nation. Later it would be reiterated that Abraham would be a “father of many.” The rest of the Old Testament details something of the vastness of his descendants His one child eventually expands to a tribe of 70 who go down to Egypt. Upon their exodus they are a population of 2-10 million.
Yet through the OT many people who are not direct descendants of Abraham become "adopted" into the Israelite family. For instance, many Egyptians accompanied the Israelites in their exodus. We also have people like Rahab and Ruth who became part of the Jewish nation. Provisions were also made for Gentiles who wished to become members of the Jewish community. By their faith they would be in-grafted into the Israelite family.
In sum, Abraham's descendants were more than those who were Jewish by birth. His posterity included anyone who, like Abraham, had faith in the LORD.
When we look at the new Testament, we see that this is explained in a more concise manner. Romans tells us that the descendants of Abraham are not simply those who are descendant’s by physical generation. Rather he is “the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16). The argument of Romans is that Gentiles may also be considered children of Abraham because they hold to the same faith.
Far from distinguishing two different plans for two different people, the New Testament expresses one continuing plan for one distinct people in all the earth.
Therefore, the promise of posterity in Genesis 12 compliments the promise of land. The promise of posterity, like that of land, cannot be narrowly defined as only applying to a specific race of people. The scope of it is much wider and all encompassing.
The sum of Scripture points to the fact that the promises to Abraham are salvific in nature. All God's people who live by faith in his promise will inherit the totality of God's realm in the climax of history when Christ comes again.
I wanted to post some of the funny things that have been said about my teaching. These show that classes are not only educational, but rather stimulating.
"Pastor Matt, where did you take your acting classes?" -said while studying Christian Missions
"Did you have a drama background?" -said regarding Sunday morning preaching
These show that there is typically a little drama involved in my teaching. However, my most favorite quote by far is...
"This class is like playing chubby bunny." -said while taking creative writing
[The following is part of a lesson that I am teaching on Biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. I wanted to share it because it is a vital step in Bible interpretation that is rarely taught. Moreover, I wanted to help people see how my preaching usually differs from other churches.]
Up to this point, your work has been strictly Jewish. You must now make it Christian! This is done when you find the passage’s Christological significance. Always remember: The passage is not fully interpreted until you have discovered how the passage comes to its fulfillment in Christ.
The Bible itself tells us this. We can tell first simply by understanding the nature of Scripture. The whole of the Bible is telling one story. There are many stories, but it is ultimately one divine narrative. This helps us to keep in mind what we are talking about as we work through the Scriptures. The question we must ask is, “How is this specific story (or passage) drawing out the overall story?”
We can preach about Joseph and say, “Go and do likewise.” But to do so would be wrong. Joseph did nothing of his own power. His demeanor and ability to resist sexual temptation was “through Christ who strengthens me.”
Moreover, the point of the Joseph narrative is not about what we can do to be like Joseph. The real point is God’s providential acts through Joseph to provide for the redemption of his people. Herein is the Christological point: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to bring about the salvation of many.”
Despite how heinous evil is, God still uses it for his ultimate purposes. The cross of Jesus Christ is a great evil, but it was ordained of God for the purpose of saving many.
Secondly, we find that interpreting the Scriptures “Christologically” is one of the basic principles of Biblical interpretation laid out in the New Testament.
About 500 years ago you couldn’t practice communion the way we do now. Back then, it was the custom of the priest to hold the bread in his hand and lay it upon your tongue. Many Roman Catholic Churches continue this practice today, as a matter of fact.
But there is a reason why Protestants discontinued this practice and allowed the participants to lay hold of the elements themselves. It is because we recognize that there is significance to the actions of the Sacrament.
You may recall that the bible says, “Take, eat.” These words are more than simple commands. They are symbolic of faith itself.
For our purposes today, it is important to note that we can reach out and lay hold of the bread and take the cup in our own hands.
These actions represent our belief in faith alone.
As we grab hold of these elements we are not just grabbing something to eat. In all actuality we are saying, “I need Jesus and I believe that he alone can save me from my sins.” Just as I receive in my hands these elements, I receive with the hands of faith he who alone can make me right with God.”
Fencing of the table
That is also why we ask that those who do not make this profession not participate with us in this meal. To lay hold of these without true faith is an act of hypocrisy. It is making a confession that you do not really believe.
Invitation to Communion
But those who are here today who realize the depth of their sin and how utterly lost they are without Jesus, you may come.
As a matter of fact, you must come. For Christ holds himself out to you today. He offers himself in this sacrament so that you might rest in his perfect atonement and righteousness.
[I was recently asked how I interpret the promises regarding the land in the Bible. The following is my first installment of that explanation]
When it comes to the promises regarding the land, the place where we would think to begin is with Abraham and the promises which are given to him in chapter 12. It is here, after all, that we first see the promise regarding land.
However, the promises of Gen. 12 must first be seen in the light of the whole context of Genesis. The promises to Abraham are prefaced by the promise to Adam and Eve in Gen. 3:16. The promise of Genesis 3 is especially salvific in nature. The promises to Abraham, it would seem, given this context, would follow in stride as fundamentally salvific in nature.
The progression of Scripture also backs this. As one looks at the development of the land in the OT, one sees that they never achieve the full acquisition of it. Much of this is because the boundaries are always moving on them! First the promise to Abraham is that he would receive a land. It is interesting to note that the boarders of which are never mentioned.
Later in chapter 12, when Abraham arrived at the oak of Moreh, God said that he would give him “this land.” At this point the boarders are defined as “a plot somewhere around this tree.”
In chapter 13 the boarder is expanded. Abraham is told to “lift up his head and look northward, south, east, west.” He is also commanded to “walk through the land.” In other words, the boarder is now getting some sizable acreage. The exact border is a bit ambiguous, but we know that it has increased because is now defined as “as far as you can see.” Yet the size of the territory is still somewhat restricted—being limited to the eye and the curvature of the earth.
It is interesting to see too that Abraham does not “walk through the land,” but instead pitches his tent in the suburbs of Hebron, a major metropolis city of the time. One is inclined to think that the best thing we have for a boarder at this point is the ancient equivalent of New York and its outskirts.
As the Scriptures continue to progress the land of promise continues to expand, ever out of the reach of the Israelite people. Even the vast realms established under the rule of Solomon never come close to reaching the extents that they were supposed to attain. The only conclusion every Jew had was “more.” This is realized in the book of Psalms when it says that the “meek shall inherit the earth.” Now we are talking! The promise was never about a certain territory. Instead, it was about the whole realm God had created originally. Abraham’s promise was a, in reality, promise of salvation. It was a promise that the creation would be restored and one day God’s people would have it in full again.
The New Testament rides this wave the rest of the way home. Jesus begins by restating it early on, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…Blessed are those who are persecuted, for they shall inherit the kingdom.” The kingdom is more than simply national Israel. First, it is that spiritual rule wherever Christ is believed upon. Secondly, it is that future realm in eternity where the whole earth is given as the possession of inheritance.
Romans 4:13 also confirms that the scope of the promise was not confined to the land of Canna alone, but to be understood in a much broader sense. Paul says “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world.”
Finally, Hebrews tells us that it was never about the specific land of Canaan in an ultimate way. Abraham was “looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God… for they desired a better country, that is a heavenly one.”
In sum, the light of Scripture points us to the saving acts of God where he restores all creation. The promised land is nothing less than the whole realm that was mentioned in Genesis 1.
The significance of October 31, 1517 cannot be underestimated. The tremors are still being felt over 500 years later. That is why we dedicate our latest newsletter to Martin Luther and his posting of his 95 Thesis.
In this issue we will commemorate the great acts of our God by looking at the initial spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation. We will talk about Luther's contention with the Catholic Church and their practice of selling indulgences. Moreover, we'll learn why this was considered such a ghastly thing in the eyes of most in that day.
Of course, along with the depth of teaching, you will find a number of other items of intrigue. Videos, announcements, quotes, and the ever stimulating....Reformation Polka!
One of the things I love about Providence Church is how engaged with the messages they always are.
Case in point, one of our members asked this after last weeks message on Adam and Eve's fall. I mentioned that A & E "were naked and knew no shame." The question was posed, "So, in your last sermon, were you saying there was no sexual desire before the Fall?"
This was my response...
Let me clarify. There was no perversion in their sexual desire. Adam was most definitely attracted to Eve, as his song clearly demonstrates. However, his desire was without sinfully selfish intent.
As I mentioned in the sermon, we cannot even begin to imagine what this is like. Our nature is so sullied with sin that we cannot even read that sentence without a perverted thought. Adam and Eve though did not know such perversion or lust. Their love and attraction was entirely pure.
I've been itching to do some evangelism for quite some time. So tonight I went and passed out some sermon CD's on campus.
I didn't engage anyone except to say, "Would you like a CD?" When they looked disinterested, I said that I was just promoting my new band.
Passing out CD's has been profitable in the past (However, I wondered if the late teens/early 20's crowd still listen to CD's). I recently received a call from a pastor in Tennessee. He said I gave him one 4 years ago at the Ashland County Fair. He said he's kept it ever since and always wanted to call me and thank me for it. I"m sure most have been long lost. It was fun to hear from this fellow though.
Another lady once came back to me while I was passing them out. She said she was enthralled with the message, but that it had a scratch. She wanted a new one so she could finish listening.
You'll notice a QR code on this disc. I thought that might be a nice touch, getting the iphone/ipod generation to the church's website. (QR codes are the cutting edge of evangelism
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.