Family Worship Guide for Family Devotions June 12 – June 18, 2011

For family devotions my family has used the guide availible at www.familyworshipguide.net. I usually just download the .pdf at the beginning of each month. Last week there was nothing for the firt full week of June. And still nothing today. Since I have also been distributing them to the people at church, I decided to go ahead and make up a guide using the same format.

Here is the link: June 12-June 18 Family Worship Guide

Pray for Greg Pittman. He is the man who operates FWG.net. I know he is in the ministry, so I am sure he is quite busy. As long as nothing new comes up at his site, I will keep putting out my adaptations.

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Did Early Church Fathers Believe in a Literal Six Day Creation?

It is noted by some that the early church included nothing about the nature of the days of creation in any of her early creeds. This is interpreted to mean that there was no established teaching and that latitude was given to different interpretations. This attitude is based on a deficient recognition of the nature and genesis of the church’s creeds. The earliest creeds were meant as outlines of the faith and their specificity was directly tied to doctrines under attack. The Creed of Nicaea says little about the Father and the Spirit, but much about the Son. Why? Because heretics were attacking the truth about Jesus. The creeds do not mention the nature of the days of creation. Why? Because the issue was never under dispute.

This is not to say that there was necessarily absolute unanimity in the church about the time of creation. It is only to say that a lack of inclusion in creedal statements is more likely to indicate lack of dispute than license to believe multiple things.

Did the early church consider the 6 days of Genesis 1-2 literally or in some figurative/spiritual/allegorical way? Consider the following statements:

 The Sabbath is mentioned at the beginning of the creation [thus]: “And God made in six days the works of His hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.” Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, “He finished in six days.” This implies that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifies, saying, “Behold, to-day will be as a thousand years” (Psa. 90:4; 2Pe. 3:8). Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. “And He rested on the seventh day.” This means: when His Son, coming [again], shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day. (Epistle of Barnabas, II.15)

 For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: “Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works” (Gen. 2:2). This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years (2 Pe. 3:8); and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V.28.3)

But that we may not leave our subject at this point undemonstrated, we are obliged to discuss the matter of the times, of which a man should not speak hastily, because they are a light to him. For as the times are noted from the foundation of the world, and reckoned from Adam, they set clearly before us the matter with which our inquiry deals. For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500; and He suffered in the thirty-third year. And 6,000 years must be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day “on which God rested from all His works.” For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they “shall reign with Christ,” when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years” (Psa. 90:4). Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled. And they are not yet fulfilled, as John says: “five are fallen; one is,” that is, the sixth; “the other is not yet come” (Rev. 17:10). (Hippolytus, Exegetical Fragments on Daniel, II.4)

 For since in six days God made the heaven and the earth, and finished the whole world, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made, and blessed the seventh day and sanctified it (Gen. 2:1), so by a figure in the seventh month, when the fruits of the earth have been gathered in, we are commanded to keep the feast to the Lord, which signifies that, when this world shall be terminated at the seventh thousand years, when God shall have completed the world, He shall rejoice in us (Psa. 104:31). (Methodius, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, IV.9)

 Therefore let the philosophers, who enumerate thousands of ages from the beginning of the world, know that the six thousandth year is not yet completed, and that when this number is completed the consummation must take place, and the condition of human affairs be remodeled for the better, the proof of which must first be related, that the matter itself may be plain. God completed the world and this admirable work of nature in the space of six days, as is contained in the secrets of Holy Scripture, and consecrated the seventh day, on which He had rested from His works. But this is the Sabbath-day, which in the language of the Hebrews received its name from the number, whence the seventh is the legitimate and complete number. For there are seven days, by the revolutions of which in order the circles of years are made up; and there are seven stars which do not set, and seven luminaries which are called planets,whose differing and unequal movements are believed to cause the varieties of circumstances and times. (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, VII.14)

 To me, as I meditate and consider in my mind concerning the creation of this world in which we are kept enclosed, even such is the rapidity of that creation; as is contained in the book of Moses, which he wrote about its creation, and which is called Genesis. God produced that entire mass for the adornment of His majesty in six days; on the seventh to which He consecrated it . . . with a blessing. For this reason, therefore, because in the septenary number of days both heavenly and earthly things are ordered, in place of the beginning I will consider of this seventh day after the principle of all matters pertaining to the number of seven; and as far as I shall be able, I will endeavor to portray the day of the divine power to that consummation. . . . And in Matthew we read, that it is written Isaiah also and the rest of his colleagues broke the Sabbath (Mat. 12:5) – that that true and just Sabbath should be observed in the seventh millenary of years. Wherefore to those seven days the Lord attributed to each a thousand years; for thus went the warning: “In Thine eyes, O Lord, a thousand years are as one day” (Psa. 90:4). Therefore in the eyes of the Lord each thousand of years is ordained, for I find that the Lord’s eyes are seven (Zec. 4:10). Wherefore, as I have narrated, that true Sabbath will be in the seventh millenary of years, when Christ with His elect shall reign. Moreover, the seven heavens agree with those days; for thus we are warned: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the powers of them by the spirit of His mouth. (Victorinus, On the Creation of the World)

 Each of these men believed the world was created in six days. “Days” meaning what it means pretty much everywhere except, according to some, in Genesis chapters one and two: 24 hours. You say, “But wait a minute! All of those guys said the history of the world would be 6,000 years. What kind of exegesis is that!?!”

Indeed, I could provide quotations that do not use such disputable interpretive techniques. But the above quotations only strengthen the assertion that the church understood the days of Genesis 1-2 literally: as six, consecutive, 24-hour periods. Their interpretation was so literal that it carried over to their interpretation of Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8. In the minds of the fathers, Peter is not just waxing poetically on the long-suffering patience of God but is giving a literal time-table for the Lord’s return. The foundation for such an expectation was a literal interpretation of the creation days of Genesis 1-2.

Whether or not the fathers were right in their interpretation of 2 Peter 3:8, they were united in their understanding of Genesis 1-2. The first seven days were just like all those that followed them: 24 hours.

The Trinity on the Great Days of Redemptive History

Creation:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Gen. 1:1-2)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)

Incarnation:

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

Crucifixion:

 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb 9:14)

 Resurrection:

 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. (1Cor. 6:14)

 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom 8:11)

 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 1:4)

 Pentecost:

 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. (Acts 2:32-33)

Consummation:

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Rev. 22:16-19)

How can you tell who is really elect?

What are we to make of election, falling away, and church membership? It is clear from the history of redemption that there have been unbelievers among the congregation of God’s people, and Scripture makes it clear there always will be (Mathew 13:24-30, 36-43). What are we to make of this? Is it our job to discern who in the church is really saved?

In commenting on 1 Peter 1:1-2—elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father—John Calvin writes, “…we are not curiously to inquire about the election of our brethren, but ought on the contrary to regard their calling, so that all who are admitted by faith into the church, are to be counted as the elect; for God thus separates them for the world, which is a sign of election.”

A few hundred years later, Herman Bavinck penned similar sentiments, “Certainly, there are bad branches on the vine, and there is chaff among the wheat; and in a large house, there are vessels of gold as well as vessels of earthenware (Matt. 3:12; 13:29; John 15:2; 2 Tim. 2:20). But we do not have the right and the power to separate the two: in the day of the harvest, God himself will do this. As long as—in the judgment of love—they walk in the way of the covenant, they are to be regarded and treated as allies. Though not of the covenant, they are in the covenant and will one day be judged accordingly.” (Reformed Dogmatics III, p. 232)

No one is perfect. Even saints sin. Do not judge people according to where you are in your spiritual walk; or where you think they should be in theirs. Is a person faithful to attend the assembly of believers on the Lord’s Day? Does he evidence a desire, however small, for spiritual things and growth in the Lord? Count him as a brother. Christ knows all those that are his and will not lose one of them. You are not privileged with such knowledge or ability.

Does the Church replace Israel? Look to Jesus

Jesus Christ is:

the truth (John 14:6)
the substance in whom all the promises and shadows have been realized (Col. 2:17)
the true prophet, priest, and king
the true servant of the Lord
the true expiation (Rom. 3:25)
the true sacrifice (Eph. 5:2)
the true circumcision (Col. 2:11)
the true Passover (1 Cor. 5:7)

Therefore his church is:

the true seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:29)
the true Israel (Heb. 8:8-10)
the true people of God (Matt. 1:21; Luke 1:17; Rom. 9:25-26; 2 Cor. 6:16-18; Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 21:3)
the true temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21; 2 Thess. 2:4; Heb. 8:2,5)
the true Zion and Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22)
the true religion (John 4:24; Rom. 12:1; Phil. 3:3; 4:18)

Nothing of the Old Testament is lost in the New, but everything is fulfilled, matured, has reached its full growth, and now, out of the temporary husk, produces the eternal core. It is not the case that in Israel there was a true temple and sacrifice and priesthood and so on and that all these things have now vanished. The converse, rather, is true: of all this Israel only possessed a shadow, but now the substance itself has emerged. The things we see are temporal, but the invisible things are eternal. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics III, p. 224)

The Ascension of Jesus: What difference does it make?

One aspect that is sorely missing from gospel preaching is the presentation of Jesus Christ’s ascension to God’s right hand. The ascension of Jesus is central to Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33-36). The ascension is given place in Paul’s summary of Christological truth (1 Tim. 3:16). The ascension is among the core tenets of the faith in the Apostle’s Creed. Yet how many sermons are ever devoted to this subject apart from, perhaps, the annual mention on the day of Pentecost? What difference does it make that Christ has been exalted to God’s right hand?

Because Jesus has been exalted to God’s right hand:

  •  He received the Holy Spirit from the Father to pour out upon the church (Acts 2:33). No ascension, no church.
  • He gives repentance and forgiveness (Acts 5:31). No ascension, no salvation.
  • He intercedes for his followers (Rom. 8:34). No ascension, no advocate with the Father.
  • He is exalted over all authority (Eph. 1:19-23). Jesus is not one among many, he is Lord.
  • He is able to renew our minds (Col. 3:1-5). Jesus’ exaltation lifts our minds and affections from worldly pursuits.
  • He has finished the work of redemption (Heb. 1:3; 10:12-14). There is nothing left for Jesus to do to secure the salvation of his people.
  • He is shown to be superior to angels (Heb. 1:3-4, 13).
  • He is the mediator of a better covenant (Heb. 8:1-6). Were Jesus not exalted to God’s right hand his blood would be no mightier to save than that of the countless bulls and goats of the Old Testament.
  • He has become the example for all his followers that glory is certain to follow suffering (Heb. 12:1-3). Jesus’ exaltation to God’s right hand is the guarantee that we will also one day share in God’s glory.
  • He alone is able to accomplish God’s eternal purpose for creation (Rev. 5). No one else can consummate God’s plan for the ages.

Jesus has ascended from the earth and is exalted at God’s right hand. It’s a pretty big deal.