The Glorious People of God

Dear Church Family,

In the sermon this past Sunday morning, we looked at the prophet Isaiah’s call from Isaiah, chapter 6. There, we see Isaiah’s call, his cleansing, and his commission. And, we took note that Isaiah’s message which the Lord commissioned him to bring to the people of Israel was a gloomy one: through his preaching, Isaiah was to render the hearts of the people insensitive until God had completed the judgment that He would bring upon them (Isaiah 6:9-12).

At the same time, God held out hope: a remnant who will continue to trust in the Lord will remain, and a holy seed would rise from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 6:13; 11:1). Jesus’ earthly ministry and proclamation of the gospel had a similar result as Isaiah’s (Matthew 13:10-17). More importantly, though, Jesus was also the fulfillment of Isaiah’s ministry and prophecy (Matthew 13:14, 34-35).

This coming Sunday, we will turn our attention from the gloomy message of Isaiah and begin to examine the glorious good news of the coming of the kingdom of God in the Person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. And, we will do so by examining four aspects of this good news from Isaiah 9:1-7:

(Dec. 9)  A Glorious People (Isaiah 9:1-3)
(Dec. 16)  A Glorious Battle (Isaiah 9:4-5)
(Dec. 23)  A Glorious Child (Isaiah 9:6)
(Dec. 30)  A Glorious Kingdom (Isaiah 9:7)

This coming Sunday (December 9th) we will see three promises concerning the glorious people of God.

First, we hear through Isaiah how God’s people will expand to include the gentiles (Isaiah 9:1). In Christ, the people of God, the Church, is no longer confined to one nation, as before under the law (Romans 15:9-12).

Second, we hear through Isaiah how God’s light will shine upon this one people who belong to Him and they will no longer walk in darkness (Isaiah 9:2). In Christ, those who follow Him have the Light of life (John 8:12), and this people becomes the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

Third, we hear through Isaiah how God will multiply His people and increase their joy (Isaiah 9:3). In Christ, the corner stone, God builds His church (Ephesians 2:19-22),  and He promises to turn our grief into joy (John 16:20).

The glorious people whom Isaiah was prophesying about in Isaiah 9:1-3 is the Church of Jesus Christ. Because the kingdom of God has come in Jesus Christ, we have received these great and glorious promises! That is what we celebrate at Christmas: the good news as prophesied through Isaiah – through His only begotten Son, God is calling to Himself a glorious people. And, all those who repent of their sins and trust in Christ are blessed and privileged to be made a part of this glorious people and heirs of the promises of God!

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

From Gloomy to Glorious

Dear Church Family,

The coming Sunday, December 2, we will begin a new sermon series in our Sunday morning worship from the book of Isaiah. This series will last for the five weeks in December, so obviously we will not be looking at the entire 66 chapters of Isaiah! Here is the planned outline of this series:

Sermon Series: From Gloomy to Glorious

(Dec. 2)  A Gloomy Saying (Isaiah 6:1-13)
(Dec. 9)  A Glorious People (Isaiah 9:1-3)
(Dec. 16)  A Glorious Battle (Isaiah 9:4-5)
(Dec. 23)  A Glorious Child (Isaiah 9:6)
(Dec. 30)  A Glorious Kingdom (Isaiah 9:7)

In this series, we will be examining first how God, through the prophet Isaiah, gave a gloomy saying of judgment for His people. That is, Isaiah was commissioned to preach the gospel (the good news of salvation) to the people of Israel, but because of their failure to believe that gospel and repent of their sins, the people would receive Isaiah’s message as a judgment and condemnation against them.

We don’t usually consider this side of the gospel: that the preaching of the gospel either redeems or condemns. However, that was the nature of Isaiah’s ministry and as we will see this Sunday that was actually the nature of Jesus’ ministry, as well (Matthew 13:11-17).

But, as you may see by the outline of this forthcoming series, Isaiah’s message was not all gloom. Isaiah also foretold of a day when the people who walk in darkness would see a great light, a day when the Gentiles would be gathered in to God’s work of redemption. In that day, Isaiah prophesied that there would be a great battle in which the enemies of God’s people (sin, death, and the devil) would be defeated by a child. And, this child would be a royal son who would sit on the throne of King David, and that child would rule with justice and righteousness.

Of course, we now know who that royal son is: Jesus Christ, the Son of God! When you finish reading a detective novel, you can look back at the story you just read and say, “Oh, the butler did it!” In a similar way, we can look back at what Isaiah prophesied and say, “Oh, Jesus did it!” In His incarnation – in His earthly and heavenly ministry – Christ accomplishes all that Isaiah prophesied. The good news for the people of God is this: Your God reigns! (Isaiah 52:7) That is what we celebrate at Christmas, and it is that good news, as prophesied through Isaiah, that we will be examining in the month of December as we are reminded of the Lord’s glorious provision in His only begotten Son!

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

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