Thankful for God's Word

Dear Church Family,

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends, as we all give thanks for the bountiful gifts of God that He has given to us as our Creator and Redeemer.

In our sermon series on Sunday mornings, we’re coming to the end of our series in the book of Ruth. This past Sunday, we made application from this Old Testament story of redemption by way of example. We examined Proverbs 31 – the man of nobility (vv 3-9) and the woman of valor (vv 10-31) – as what a man and woman look like when ensconsed in the wisdom of God. In the book of Ruth, Boaz and Ruth are examples of this man of nobility and woman of valor. They are examples for us to look to as we seek to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to our own business and work with our hands so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

This coming Sunday, we will be reviewing the book of Ruth and making application by way of typology. We will see how the people of Bethlehem viewed Ruth in a particular way, how Ruth viewed herself, and how Boaz viewed Ruth. In the end, we will see that just as Boaz’s view of Ruth as her kinsman-redeemer is the most important perspective, Christ’s view of us as our Redeemer is the most important perspective. For our true identity is shaped by the One who made us and the One who redeems us! In this way, Boaz is a type (or a shadow) of Jesus Christ – Boaz points us to, and illuminates for us, the person and work of Christ.

These two ways of looking to the Scriptures and making application are not arbitrary, but are actually grounded in God’s Word itself, as well as in our confession. Of the Reformed confessions, the Westminster Confession of Faith is the most explicit in its description and explanation of the Word of God. The first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith (“Of the Holy Scripture”) is viewed by theologians from many traditions as the most clear, definitive, and orthodox statement about the Bible and what it teaches. The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes the definition and usefulness of Scripture in the first three questions:

WSC 1  What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

WSC 2  What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
Answer: The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

WSC 3  What do the Scriptures principally teach?
Answer: The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Notice the two-fold answer to question number three: The Scriptures principally teach, (1) what man is to believe concerning God, and (2) what duty God requires of man. Here we see a concise definition of what are the two main things that we learn from God’s Word. First, from the Holy Scriptures we learn about God (the content of faith, theology, doctrine). Second, from the Holy Scriptures we learn about godliness (the righteousness of faith, morality, ethics).

Seeing as it is Thanksgiving weekend, here is something to be thankful for: the Bible – the Holy Scripture which is “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Praise God that He has not left us to figure out on our own who He is or what He requires of us! Thank God for revealing these things to us in His Holy Scripture!

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

Interpreting the Old Testament

Dear Church Family,

In our sermon series on Sunday mornings, we’ve just completed our study of the book of Ruth, working sequentially through this wonderful story of redemption. In the next two Sundays (the last two Sundays of November), we’re going to review the two ways that we may rightly apply the book of Ruth. It is not my common practice to take two Sundays to summarize the teaching and application of a sermon series; however, since this is the first series that I’ve preached here at PPC, I think it will be helpful. It will be helpful for us as a congregation in emphasizing how there are basically two ways that we may rightly apply the Old Testament to our lives: typologically and exemplaristically. (I think that second one might not actually be a word, but let me explain).

(1) Typological Application

In biblical literary studies, a ‘type’ usually refers to something in the Old Testament (e.g., a person, place, or an event) which prefigures something in the future biblical writings described in the New Testament, called the ‘antitype.’ Simply put, the ‘type’ points to (or foreshadows) the ‘antitype.’

Sometimes antitypes are contrasted with their types. For instance, Paul writes that Adam as a sinner “is a type of Him who was to come” (Romans 5:14). Here, Paul is contrasting Adam’s sin (the type) with Christ’s righteousness (the antitype).

Sometimes antitypes fulfill their types. For instance, Peter compares the salvation of Noah and his family in the ark to its antitype, Christian baptism (1 Peter 3:18-22). The event of Noah and his family being saved through the great flood by getting into the ark (type) is fulfilled in our proper understanding of baptism (the antitype). In the Greek, Peter actually uses the word ‘antitupos’ in verse 21 in making this connection.

Types and antitypes abound in the Scriptures, even if they are not explicitly stated. The redeeming of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt in the exodus (the type) is a foreshadow of Jesus’ rescuing His people from the punishment and slavery to sin (the antitype). The provision of the ram to replace Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22 (the type) prefigures God’s provision of his Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (the antitype). We could go on and on. There are even types and antitypes within the Testaments and within particular books of the Bible.

(2) Exemplaristic Application

The other way of making application of the Scriptures is by way of example. The writings of the Scriptures (both Old and New Testaments) give us examples how to live and how not to live as we seek to live lives of faithfulness.

In the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul speaks of how God was displeased with most of Israelites in their wilderness wanderings because of their disobedience. And, “these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved” (v 6). Again, “these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (v 11). In this passage, the message is: don’t be like the Israelites in the wilderness who disobeyed God.

There are many positive examples, as well. Almost the entire chapter of Hebrews 11 lists examples of faith from the Old Testament whom we are to look to, and imitate. The application of Hebrews 11 comes in the next chapter: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Conclusion

In the history of biblical interpretation and preaching, some have embraced one of these forms of application to the exclusion of the other. This is very problematic. On the one hand, if the only way that we interpreted the Scriptures was typologically, then we would be missing out on much instruction, and most likely end up as licentious antinomians. When people make this error of exclusive typological application, they often unwittingly arrive at this erroneous conclusion: “The only thing that the Bible teaches is the necessity of faith in Christ.”

On the other hand, if the only way that we interpreted the Scriptures was exemplaristically, then we would be missing out on much instruction, as well, and most likely end up as moralistic legalists. When people make this error of exclusive exemplarisitc application, they often unwittingly arrive at this erroneous conclusion: “The only thing that the Bible teaches is how to live righteously.”

But, you see, just as the Old Testament Scriptures are not only exemplaristic (which they are, see 1 Corinthians 10:1-15), neither are they only typological (which they are, see Romans 5:14 or John 6:49-51). For example, in preaching from the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50), it is appropriate to see Joseph as a type of Christ – one who literarily foreshadows the Savior of God’s people (Stephen made this application in his sermon (Acts 7:9-18)). However, it is also appropriate to see Joseph as an example for believers as to how to live faithfully and obediently, especially in difficult times (Hebrews 11:21-22).

What about the book of Ruth?

There’s much more that could be said on the topic of correct interpretation and application of the Scriptures; however, hopefully this will help to better understand what we will be doing in the next two sermons on Sunday morning. This coming Sunday (November 18, 2012), we will be making exemplaristic application of the story of Ruth by looking at Proverbs 31. There we will see how Boaz is an excellent example for Christian men as a ‘man of nobility’ and Ruth is an excellent example for Christian women as a ‘woman of valor.’

Then, on Sunday (November 25, 2012), we will be making typological application of the story of Ruth as we examine how the kinsman-redeemer, Boaz (the type), foreshadows and points us to the only Redeemer of God’s elect, Jesus Christ (the antitype).

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

The Christian's Duty to the Magistrate

Dear Church Family,

Though you’ll most likely be reading this on Wednesday, November 7th (the day after election day), I’m writing this on Tuesday, November 6th (election day). As I write, the number of decided electoral votes in the presidential election stands at zero. So, I thought that this would be a good time to reflect and write about what are our responsibilities as Christians with respect to the civil magistrate. And, I’ll email this out tomorrow after which time, hopefully, there will be some resolution in the elections; however, regardless of the outcome, our responsibilities as disciples of the kingdom of God remain the same.

Here, our confession of faith helps in giving us guidance in this matter. Chapter 23 of the Westminster Confession of Faith is called Of the Civil Magistrate. It helps in defining the biblical role of the civil government, the relationship between the Church and the State, and the relationship between the individual Christian and the State. In speaking of this last one (the relationship between the individual believer and the civil government), the confession says that:

“It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honour their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates' just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less hath the Pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretence whatsoever.” (WCF 23:4)

The reference to the Pope reveals what was a major issue in 17th century England, namely the erroneous exertion of authority by a leader in the church over the power that rightfully belonged to the state. We should add that this applies not just to the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, but all religious leaders – including our own (a biblical point that is too often missed in our day (Matthew 16:19; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; John 18:36)). Now, with respect to our relationship to the government as individual Christians, we can summarize our biblical responsibilities under three basic categories:

(1) Pray for magistrates – God’s Word exhorts believers to make entreaties, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all men – and particularly “for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Regardless of who rules over us in the civil magistrate, we ought to thank God for those who are in authority over us, and petition God to providentially guide and direct them. Specifically, because God has given the power of the sword (physical violence) to the civil magistrate to protect and encourage people who do good and to punish evil doers (Romans 13:1-7), we are to pray that that sword is wielded with justice and equity so that we live peaceful lives, free from molestation, in order that we might ultimately grow in Christ-likeness.

(2) Pay tribute to magistrates – The confession uses this language: “to honour their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues.” The Apostle Peter writes that we should honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, and he specifically says that we ought to “honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). Similarly, Paul states that because those who rule over us are servants of God in administering the power of the sword, we are to render all that is due them: taxes, customs, fear, and honor (Romans 13:6-7). Amazingly, Paul wrote this concerning the same government which crucified Jesus and on numerous occasions, imprisoned and persecuted Christians.

(3) Submit and obey magistrates – We are to submit and obey those who have authority over us in the civil magistrate not only out of a sense of fear of the power of the sword which they wield, but also for conscience’ sake – because God has commanded us to do so (Romans 13:5; Titus 3:1). Concerning the commands of the magistrate, the confession adds the descriptor ‘lawful’ (“It is the duty of the people…to obey [the magistrate’s] lawful commands…) for a reason: when the commands of men conflict with the law of God, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

So, whatever the results of the national, state, and local elections may be, let us at least do these three things, and do them joyfully and with thanksgiving to God that he has preserved us from civic anarchy through the provision of the civil magistrate. Who rules over us and how they rule over us in earthly kingdoms (whatever country or state Christians find themselves living in) is important as we seek to live tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity; however, our earthly citizenship is not of ultimate importance.

The Apostle Paul appealed to the laws of the state and his rights as a Roman citizen when he was about to be tortured and interrogated by a Roman centurion (Acts 22:22-30). Yet, at the same time, Paul’s ultimate hope came from his appeal to his “citizenship in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Praise God for those who rule over us in the kingdoms of this world. And, praise God for Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and King of the kingdom of heaven!

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

Reformation Day

Dear Church Family,

Happy Reformation Day! This day is a special day of remembrance for the Protestant Church. And, this day has some personal significance for me, as well. My full name is Peter Martin Dietsch. As a young boy, I asked my father why he and my mother had given me the names that they did. My father replied, “You were named for Peter, the rock upon whom Christ built His Church; and Martin, the man whom God used to reform His Church.” Though I personally look to John Calvin as the man who refined and best encapsulated the doctrines of the Reformation, I have learned much from Luther’s writings and have great respect for the man who formally began one of the most important turning points in the history of the church.

On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther published his ninety-five thesis, questioning – among other things – the Church’s teaching and practice of selling indulgences to members of the church (the giving of money to the Church for the purpose of reducing the need for penance in this life and in purgatory). Luther found this doctrine and practice reprehensible and contrary to the Word of God, as well as an abuse of the power which Christ had entrusted to the Church in the giving of the keys of the kingdom.

Here are theses 35-37 from Luther’s initial protest:

35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.

36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.

37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.

What a glorious truth this is! Repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ are all that are necessary to enjoy full forgiveness of sins and the privilege of participating in all the benefits of Christ and the Church! Praise God for His promise to build His Church upon the confession that Jesus in the Christ (or Messiah), the Son of the living God, which was first made by the Apostle Peter (Matthew 16:16-18). Indeed, Jesus said that because He is the One who builds His Church, “the gates of Hades will not overpower it!” And, let us praise God for raising up a man who, through a return to the clear teachings of Scripture, reminded the Church to “not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17).

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

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