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Setting the Stage
by Dr. Mike Horton

Imagine the worship service as a magnificent theater of divine action. There is the pulpit, lofty and grand - this is God's balcony from which He conducts the drama. Beneath it is the baptismal font, where the announcement, "the promise is for you and for your children" is ful-filled. Also prominent is the communion table, where weak and dis-turbed consciences "taste and see that the Lord is good." That which God has done to, for, and within his people in the past eras of biblical history he is doing here, now, for us, sweeping us into the tide of his gracious plan.

This chapter briefly sketches the backdrop or stage for this divine production, taking the covenant renewal theme in Scripture as the start-ing point. What are we doing on the Lord's Day, especially when we are gathered as God's people in church? How do we understand Christian growth and discipleship - as chiefly corporate or individual, as nour-ished by the preached Word and the divinely instituted sacraments or by self-approved "means of grace"? Would an outsider coming into our worship services be immediately impressed with the centrality of preach-ing, baptism, and the Supper, or would he or she be more likely to notice the importance given to other performances, whatever the style?

The Covenant Renewal Ceremony

Central to a biblical understanding of worship is the notion of covenant. As biblical scholarship has shown in recent decades, the Old Testament is largely in the form of a treaty, with the great king or emperor promising to protect smaller nations that could not generate their own standing army. In exchange, the great king would receive loyalty from his vassals. They would not turn to other kings for security but would uphold the treaty. A covenant always involved three things: a historical prologue that gave the narrative rationale for the covenant, a list of commands and prohibitions, and a list of sanctions - the bene-fits for those who fulfill the treaty's terms, the penalty for violating them. To understand the context of worship, we need to do a bit of spadework with respect to this covenant motif.

In Eden, Adam was created by God to be the federal head of the human race. In him, humanity would either be confirmed in righ-teousness if Adam fully obeyed and endured the time of testing, or humanity would be judged in Adam, should he violate the terms of the covenant of works, also called the covenant of creation. "Do this and you shall live" was (and remains) the principle of this covenant. But this is, happily, not the only covenant in Scripture. There is the covenant of grace. We can trace the steps of this covenant of grace in the following brief summary.

Even after the fall, God promised Eve a son who would crush the ser-pent's head, and although Cain murdered Abel, God provided another son, Seth. While Cain's descendants were building their own proud city of rebellion (Gen. 4:15 - 24), "Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD" (v. 26). Thus, the two cities (God's kingdom and the world's cultures), fully inte-grated in creation, were now divided, and they pursued two separate ends through distinct means. Jesus' warning that the world will hate his disciples and Paul's contrast between the wisdom of this world (works-righteousness) and the wisdom of God (the righteousness that comes by faith) are not born out of any hostility toward the world per se. Rather, it is the world in its sinful rebellion that the biblical writers have in mind.

After calling Abram out of Ur, God commanded a ritual sacrifice as a way of making the covenant. In fact, the Hebrew phrase is to cut a covenant. In ancient Near Eastern politics and law, a suzerain (i.e., great king or emperor) would enter into a treaty with a vassal (i.e., the king or ruler of a smaller territory) by cutting various animals in half. Then, walking together between the halves, both partners agreed to perform all the conditions of the treaty with the following sanction: If I should be unfaithful for my part, may the same end befall me as has befallen these animals.

In Genesis 15, when God makes his covenant with Abraham and his descendants, this ancient Near Eastern treaty is the pattern:

But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain pos-session of it?" So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves oppo-site each other. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a coun-try not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.". . . When the sun had set and dark-ness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram.
verses 8 - 10, 12 - 14, 17 - 18

Two sorts of things are promised by God in this covenant: a holy land (Canaan, the earthly Jerusalem) and everlasting life (the heavenly Jeru-salem). What especially distinguishes this treaty is the fact that although God and Abram are covenant partners, the Lord (appearing as a smok-ing firepot with a blazing torch) walks alone through this path, placing on his own head all the sanctions and assuming on his own shoulders the curses that he himself has imposed should the treaty be violated. Then in chapter 17 there is another cutting ceremony:
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you. . . I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.... This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you."
verses 3 - 4, 7, 10 - 11

Signifying the cutting away of uncleanness, especially of original sin, which is passed on from Adam through every subsequent father, circumcision was a bloody rite of consecration. But here, instead of the knife being plunged into the body to bring down the curses of the transgressors, it is used to cut away the sin so that the recipient may live.

Eventually, God's promise was fulfilled: Israel did inherit the land. As mentioned above, God promised a holy land and everlasting life. As becomes clearer with the progress of redemption, the former was (like Adam's enjoyment of Eden) dependent on works - the obedience of the Israelites. The Mosaic covenant, with its ceremonial and civil as well as moral laws, promised blessing for obedience and judgment for disobe-dience. Once again, God would fight for his people and give them a new Eden, a land flowing with milk and honey. God would be present among his people in the temple as long as they were righteous. Along with Adam, the earthly Israel as a typological kingdom was in league with God on the basis of the works principle: "Do this and you shall live." But (also like Adam) Israel failed and in its rebellion violated the treaty with the great king, provoking God to enact the sanctions of this works covenant. The lush garden of God became a wasteland of thorns and thistles, as God withdrew his kingdom back up into heaven, the children of Israel being carted off to Babylonian exile. "Like Adam, they have broken the covenant" (Hosea 6:7).

After these years of exile, a remnant returned to rebuild Jerusalem. Ezra and Nehemiah report this remarkable event and the tragic infi-delity and infighting that went along with it. Despite human sinfulness, under Nehemiah's leadership the remnant rebuilt the walls of Jerusa-lem and its magnificent temple, which God's evacuation had left deso-late and ransacked by invaders. The poor were cared for again. But the centerpiece of this event appears when the Torah is rediscovered for a generation of Israelites that had never read or heard the Scriptures read except perhaps from their grandparents' memory:

When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their town, all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could under-stand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was stand-ing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
Nehemiah 8:1 - 6

Even during their exile the Israelites were reminded by Jeremiah's prophecy of the divine promise - not to restore ethnic Israelites to the geopolitical territory of Palestine as God's kingdom on earth but to save a remnant from both Israel and the nations of the world. Although the Mosaic covenant had been thoroughly violated, God, you will recall, was still carrying the entire burden for the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant of grace. Thus, again and again in the prophets we read, "Not for your sakes, but for the sake of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. . ." So through Jeremiah God declares:
"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people... . For I will forgive their wickedness and will remem-ber their sins no more."
Jeremiah 31:31 - 34

This new covenant "will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers" under Moses, says the Lord, but will be an everlasting and unbreakable covenant. It will be based not on the national election of Israel and their existence in the land by their collective obedience but on the eternal election of individuals whom the Son redeemed: ". . . and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and lan-guage and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9 - 10).

The Sabbath rest that Israel forfeited in the Holy Land because of dis-obedience is now freely given to sinners, Jew and Gentile, just as it was to Israelites in the old covenant (Heb. 4:1 - 10). Even Joshua, Moses' lieu-tenant who led the Israelites into the land, was looking for a greater land, a more excellent kingdom, with a firm and unshakable founda-tion: "For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the peo-ple of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his" (Heb. 4:8). Thus, the New Testament gospel is identical to that which Abraham believed when he was cred-ited with the perfect righteousness of Christ through faith alone, apart from works (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 9:8; Gal. 3:6 - 14), This is not the Mosaic covenant, an administration based on our faithfulness, but the Abra-hamic covenant, an administration of God's faithfulness and grace. Works are witnesses to, not the basis of, our right standing before God. And yet, we cannot be justified merely by being forgiven: That would still leave us without the perfect righteousness that God's justice requires. In Christ, the greater Adam and the true Israel, God's justice is fully sat-isfied. Our Lord's thirty-three years of loving his Father with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and his neighbor as himself, is the basis for our acceptance before God. So in a real sense, we are saved by works - but by our covenant head's works, not ours, Because he fulfilled the covenant of works, we inherit salvation through a covenant of grace.

It is in this context that we talk about the "covenant renewal cere-mony." Whenever we gather for public worship, it is because we have been summoned. That is what "church" means: ekklesia, "called out." It is not a voluntary society of those whose chief concern is to share, to build community, to enjoy fellowship, to have moral instruction for their children, and so forth. Rather, it is a society of those who have been cho-sen, redeemed, called, justified, and are being sanctified until one day they will finally be glorified in heaven. We gather each Lord's Day not merely out of habit, social custom, or felt needs but because God has chosen this weekly festival as a foretaste of the everlasting Sabbath day that will be enjoyed fully at the marriage supper of the Lamb. God has called us out of the world and into his marvelous light: That is why we gather.

But we also gather to receive God's gifts. And this is where the empha-sis falls - or should fall. Throughout Scripture, the service is seen chiefly as God's action. This is where God walks along through the severed halves - not of animals this time but through the true temple's torn cur-tain - Jesus' body - on Good Friday. On the cross, God's glory is hidden under the form of its opposite: shame and dereliction, the true and faith-ful Israel being abandoned to exile, the judge becoming the judged in our place. The one who brought us up out of the land of Egypt and made us his people takes the initiative in salvation and throughout the Chris-tian life. The shadows of Christ in the Mosaic covenant, most obviously the detailed legislation for the sacrifices, are fulfilled in the advent of the Messiah. Therefore, we do not worship in an earthly sanctuary but in the heavenly sanctuary where we are seated with Christ in heavenly places; hence, Jesus' statement to the Samaritan woman in John 4: True worship comes from the Jews but is no longer attached to any earthly sanctuary, including the temple in Jerusalem. Our earthly buildings, however marvelously built and maintained, are no longer divine sanctuaries in their own right - something far more amazing occurs in our services in the new covenant. Here we are living stones being built up together into the heavenly temple, which is nothing less than Jesus Christ himself. While the earthly temple was a holy place, our earthly build-ings are common rather than holy. It is the presence of the holy God by his Spirit that creates through the means of grace a holy people.

Notice what Jesus is not saying here. He is not saying that the Jews were not God's chosen people - that the Samaritans' worship had his approval as well. Nor is he saying that there had not been a right place - namely, the earthly sanctuary in Jerusalem - to worship. What he is saying is that "the time is coming and now is" when these things won't mat-ter. That is because God's temple-dwelling among his people is no longer a temporary building on earth but the indestructible person of Jesus Christ himself. As God's typological kingdom, the Jewish theocracy was literally "heaven on earth," but it was always temporary (like Adam's probation) and witnessed to the faithful Adam in the future who would fulfill the probation, earning the right for himself and his spiritual heirs to finally eat from the Tree of Life.

The Book of Hebrews was written to warn Jewish Christians against turning back again to the shadows that merely pointed to the reality. Arguments about worship in our day, therefore, cannot be based on the nature of worship in the old covenant. Christ has come and Moses has stepped aside, pointing away from himself as John the Baptist did, to declare, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" While we do not turn back to the shadows of the law, we do inherit the same covenant of grace that God made with Abraham and his seed. As in the vision of the smoking firepot with a blazing torch, God walks down the middle of the aisle in our worship service, assuming the judg-ment that his own justice requires and his own mercy satisfies. He cir-cumcises our hearts.

God's Work and Our Response

When we think of "God's work," we immediately think of the cross and resurrection - and for good reason. There God's purposes in history are seen, the mystery is revealed, and Jesus Christ is publicly held forth as the substitute for sinners. But as central as God's past works are in redemptive history, we should realize that he works his wonders among us today just as he did in the past. To be sure, there are no more burn-ing bushes, no more atoning sacrifices or redemption-securing resur-rections. Pentecost is an event in the past as well. However, God still works through signs and wonders. The difference is that these modern signs and wonders are ordinary rather than extraordinary works. Ordi-nary preaching raises the spiritually dead to life, while ordinary water, bread, and wine are taken up by God as signs and seals of God's saving presence. That which God has done once and for all in the past is applied in the present. Thus, God's work during the service is not just talk about God and the wonders he has wrought; it is yet another opportunity for God to work among us through the means he has ordained.

As in all covenants, there are two parties to the covenant of grace. God speaks and delivers; we respond in faith and repentance. And yet, faith and repentance do not constitute "our part" in this covenant in the sense of providing some of the grounds for our participation in it. God even grants faith and repentance. And yet God does call us to respond, to grow in grace, and to persevere to the end. The triumphant indica-tive concerning God's action in Christ establishes a safe foundation on which to stand as we seek to obey the divine imperatives. That's why worship is dialogical: God speaks and we respond.

That is the form we find in the psalms: God's wondrous works in cre-ation, presentation, judgment, and redemption are extolled, and it is only then that it makes sense to respond, whether in confession, praise, thanksgiving, lament, or whatever else might be appropriate to the divine activity that is announced. Unlike the psalms themselves, many of the hymns and praise choruses of the last century and a half have become increasingly human-centered. This is why I am always some-what nervous when people argue for the "old hymns" as opposed to the "new choruses." Often, "old hymns" means romantic gospel songs writ-ten between 1850 and 1950, songs that exchanged object-centered praise (God and his saving work in Christ) for subject-centered praise (we and our spiritual activity). A classic example is "In the Garden," in which the pattern of the psalms (concentration on God's wondrous works on behalf of his people) is exchanged for sentimental individualism. Shift-ing attention from the objective person and work of Christ to the sub-jective person and work of individual believers, many of these hymns that can still be found in abundance in evangelical hymnals could be sung with gusto by a Unitarian, and some of the most loved were in fact written by Unitarians.

Even with contemporary praise choruses that versify or paraphrase a psalm, the response section of the text is often separated out from the indicative section, which proclaims who God is and what he has done. Thus, the focus of worship these days seems to be on what we are doing, how we are feeling, and how we intend to respond: "I just want to praise you"; "We will lift you up"; "Let's just praise the Lord"; "I am joyful," etc. But this is to separate the law from the gospel, the imperative (what we are to do) from the indicative (what God has already done, is doing, and will complete for us in Christ). Vagueness about the object of our praise inevitably leads to making our own praise the object. Praise there-fore becomes an end in itself, and we are caught up in our own "wor-ship experience" rather than in the God whose character and acts are the only proper focus.

The same is true for preaching and the other elements of the service. If worship is a covenant renewal ceremony, the service must reflect the divine initiative in the covenant itself. There must be response - and there will be response, if there is somethng to which we are inclined to respond. At the same time, there should be an emphasis here on God's work: God renews the covenant with us, assuring us of that which we easily lose sight of unless Christ is publicly placarded before our eyes each week. God meets his people in Christ as the Holy Spirit works through the liturgy: confession of sin, declaration of forgiveness, songs of praise, confession of the faith, the preaching, the prayers, and the sacraments. It is the person and work of this Triune God that must be front and center, as this God actually confronts us just as he did in the assembly when Ezra read God's Word. It is the Word, not Israel's response to the Word, that is central in that account, and yet the report does not fail to inform us that "all the people listened attentively" (Neh. 8:3) and, later, even "lifted their hands and responded, 'Amen! Amen!" and then bowed down "with their faces to the ground" as they wept because of their sense of their own sinfulness and God's amazing grace (vv.6,9).

No wonder, then, that at Pentecost a similar event occurs as Peter preaches. Out of this preaching the new covenant church was estab-lished. And what was the pattern of this weekly covenant renewal cere-mony? "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fel-lowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers" (Acts 2:42, author's translation).

It is a new and better covenant, with Christ himself rather than Moses as its mediator. The Lord's Supper is neither a mere memorial of Christ's death nor a resacrificing of Christ (as if we preferred the shadows of Moses to the reality in Christ). Rather, it is a participation in the very body and blood of Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 10:16). "This cup is the new covenant in my blood," we read in the words of the institution. No won-der the writer who so strongly urges believers to recognize the superi-ority of the new covenant also charges us not to give up the covenant renewal ceremony that God enacts not once but each Lord's Day:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us con-sider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:19 - 25

We are repeatedly told these days that music is the most important thing we do in worship. In fact, "worship" usually means singing or enjoying the singing of others. "Let's just take some time now to wor-ship" is roughly translated, "Cue the praise band." In preparing for a talk recently, I picked up an issue of Worship Leader, a publication of CCM Communications. In one of the articles, a minister reminds us of how important music is as our "heart language." "The function of music is to give persons access to their heart language so that they might wor-ship more fully," he writes. Even more, "music can be spiritually gen-erative." "Spiritually generative events are things that 'connect' people with God and have a self reproducing quality." But there is more to learn concerning things spiritually generative:
In antiquity we see this concept in the conversion of Celts in Ireland dur-ing the sixth century. Celtic orbs, knots and images about the Creation were incorporated into what we know as the Celtic cross. . . At the same time, the orb and knots were christianized. To look at the cross was to see Christ. To look at Celtic art was to think of the cross, wherever one might be. This is a good example of a spiritually generative event.

But couldn't it rather be a good example of what the prophets and apostles might well have regarded as idolatry - the violation of the sec-ond commandment, which prohibits the creation of images of the true God? Even if one were to accept that such art were an acceptable form of education, surely critics of any representation of God will feel some-what vindicated when these images are cited as examples of "a spiritu-ally generative event."

In the author's church, he tells us, "we pluck our themes right off of alternative and Top 40 radio. We are hoping for a spiritually generative result." The subtitle of the article is "Music as Medium to Connect Us to God." Can music really connect us to God? Not the Word as it is sung but the music itself? In a generation that views music (especially pop music) as the lifeline to selfhood and the world, it is not surprising that it would be regarded as the best bridge to God.

Lest I be suspected of overstating my case, I want to say that I do not regard alternative and Top 40 songs as inherently sinful or idolatrous. Similar examples could be taken from "high culture" appropriations, as when a traditional church eliminates congregational singing in favor of professional choirs and musicians. But in worship we are talking about something different. Here it is not the culture - whichever slice of it one might prefer - that determines the shape of things. What we do on the Lord's Day is already determined by God: preaching of the Word, the sacraments, and prayer (Acts 2:42). How can we blithely "pluck our themes right off of alternative and Top 40 radio" when we have been sent out on someone else's mission?

The assumption these days often seems to be that God has not said anything about how we should worship him. For instance, some have argued that a weekly service need not include the preaching of the Word, as God can speak his Word through a variety of other instruments: drama, liturgical dance, poetry, and so on. Repeatedly, worship is reduced to a matter of consumer tastes. One person prefers guitars, another prefers organs: Isn't that all this debate is about? It might seem so at first glance, but as the theme develops, I hope we will see that it's not just about taste, much less about guitars versus organs. I will argue the case that style is never neutral and that whether we sing "Shine, Jesus, Shine!" or "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" or, for that matter, Psalm 23, style is never merely a matter of preference. Nevertheless, we have to develop a theology of worship that avoids biblicism on one hand (i.e., the tendency to "free" oneself of the theology of Scripture by lim-iting its normativity to explicit proof-texts) and on the other a dogmatic traditionalism that justifies its positions by saying, "That's the way we've always done it."

Our Jealous God

Idolatry is a loaded term and should not be hurled about indiscrimi-nately. And yet, it is a perennial temptation even for us as believers. To view worship as a covenant renewal ceremony in which God summons us and acts in word and deed for our good is to recognize that how we worship (the second commandment) is as much God's prerogative to define as whom we worship (the first commandment). This chapter launches the thesis that will run throughout the rest of the book. That thesis is this: God has promised to save and keep his people through the means he has appointed and through no other; the ordiinary means of grace are limited to the preached Word and the administered sacraments; God's rationale for these means is made explicit in Scripture. There are many other things that are essential for Christian growth: prayer, Bible study, service to others. However, these are not, properly speaking, means of grace but means of discipleship.

In this wilderness epoch between the two comings of our Savior, God is savingly present among us through Word and sacrament. We need props to strengthen our faith, but we dare not invent our own, as Israel did at Mount Sinai, when Aaron's lame excuse for the golden calf was, "You know how the people are." Only in glory will we no longer need Faith, since hope will dissolve into sight. There will be no more prom-ises, no more anticipation. But for now God has given us his means of grace to ensure that the method of delivery as well as the method of redemption itself is his alone. Here in the wilderness God has given us both the preached Word and the visible Word (baptism and the Supper). Here is God's drama, the liturgy of life, in which God acts in saving grace and we respond in faith and repentance. Even our architecture is to be conscious of this mission to proclaim God's method of grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, delivered in the church alone, through the means of grace alone. Donald Bruggink and Carl Droppers offer a charge that could apply to any Reformation church: "To set forth the God-ordained means by which Christ comes to his peo-ple, the Reformed must give visual expression to the importance of both Word and Sacraments. Any architecture worthy of scriptural teaching must start with the Christ who calls men unto himself through the Word and Sacraments." In the divine drama, the "set" is not insignificant.

Through this drama of the weekly covenant renewal ceremony, we are not merely playacting. It is for real: Christ here exercises his threelold office as prophet, priest, and king. As our prophet, he pronounces his judgment and announces his salvation through his ambassadors. As our priest, he stands between us and the just wrath that divine holiness entails in relation to rebels like us. Beyond mediating, he, the judge, assumes our judgment. As risen king, he has conquered sin and death for us and now rules in his church so that no alien ruler can conquer us.

It is by grace alone that we are redeemed and by grace alone that we stand in this redemption. The logic of the message controls the logic of the method, rendering both unbridled "enthusiasm" and "dead orthodoxy" false alternatives. But the logic of both leads to Paul's doxological conclusion in Romans 11: "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen" (v.36). Having set the stage for this divine drama, in the remaining chapters we will try to unpack the wonder and wisdom of this God who, in this covenant renewal ceremony, gives us "every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus" and eagerly receives our gifts of praise.

Gen. 4:15 - 24 - 15) But the LORD said to him, "Not so ; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16) So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 17) Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. 18) To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech. 19) Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20) Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21) His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. 22) Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain's sister was Naamah. 23) Lamech said to his wives, "Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. 24) If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times."

Hosea 6:7 - Like Adam, they have broken the covenant-- they were unfaithful to me there.

Rev. 5:9 - 10 - 9)And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10) You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."

Heb. 4:1 - 10 - 1) Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2) For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. 3) Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, `They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4) For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." 5) And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." 6) It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. 7) Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." 8) For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9) There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10) for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

Gen. 15:6 - Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Rom. 9:8 - In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring.

Gal. 3:6 - 14 - 6) Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 7) Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8) The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9) So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10) All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 11) Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." 12) The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." 13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." 14) He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Taken from A Better Way by Dr. Mike Horton. Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, copyright 2002. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company. You can purchase A Better Way for a total of $20 by calling the Issues, Etc. resource line at 1-800-737-0172.

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