Thursday, April 23, 2009
MY thanks also to Jason, for transcribing the prayer that opens this sermon here. I would recommend the reading of the Book of Common Prayer if you want to improve the quality of public prayer. Not to use the words, but to see how the Reformers prayed. I was brought up on the old BCP, as it is affectionately called, and that has a great influence on people. Former Anglicans can recognise each other!
Friday, April 17, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I Corinthians 15.3-20
3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that
Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4And that he was
buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater
part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8And last of all
he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
9For I am the
least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I
persecuted the church of God.
10But by the grace of God I am what I
am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured
more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with
11Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye
12Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how
say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have
testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that
the dead rise not.
16For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ
17And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet
in your sins.
18Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are
19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all
men most miserable.
20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and
become the firstfruits of them that slept.
Last Lord's Day I was preaching at Bethel Chapel, Guildford, Surrey. My text in the evening was I Corinthians 15.13-20, which I give above with the preceding verses. Around the corner from Bethel is the building shown above. I have always thought it must have been a chapel, but only recently was my old suspicion, that it was the Unitarian chapel, confirmed. Now the Unitarians deny the resurrection of Christ. They hold that He was a mere human teacher who probably died on the cross and remained dead, but that his teaching is still very valuable and wise. Nonsense! He is true Almighty God, the eternal maker of all things. He rose from the dead on the third day, confirming all that He did.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is nonsense! It is a Satanic lie. As Paul says:
"If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what
advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we
die. " (I Cor. 15.32)
If it's not true, then we are all hopeless and helpless. Without the resurrection, Jesus died as a blasphemer, and He was nothing more - no more nonsense about Him being a 'wise teacher', please!
And that is where this old chapel comes in. It's a youth centre now. And quite right too! If Christ has died and is still dead, then close the churches, turn them into something useful!
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."
This is a fact! the Christian confession is not "you ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!" No, at the risk of conflating two hymns, it's: you ask me how I know He lives? The Bible tells me so! Gresham Machen makes the point in his article 'History and Faith':
"History is relentlessly plain. The foundation of the Church is either
inexplicable, or else it is to be explained by the resurrection of Jesus from
the dead. But if the resurrection is accepted, then the lofty claims of Jesus
are substantitated; Jesus was then no mere man, but God and man, God come in the
flesh." (Selected Shorter Writings of J. Gresham Machen (Presbyterian
and Reformed, 2004), P. 105)
The Unitarian, rejecting both, is powerless, and it was only natural for the chapel to close. No Easter, no Pentecost, no Church.
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that
Jesus lives! thy terrors now
can no longer, death, appall us;
Jesus lives! by this we know
thou, O grave, canst not enthrall us.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Continuing In Many Bookshops with Mr. Charmley, we come to The Bible Depot, Cardiff Market. The Central market in Cardiff is a large covered structure, and in addition to the stalls on the ground floor, there is a broad gallery around all four sides on the building, containing additional stalls; among these gallery stalls is the Bible Depot. Despite its name, this is in fact a Christian bookshop that stocks far more than just Bibles, although they stock Bibles. The stock is small, as should be expected in a small shop. Nevertheless, it has been carefully selected for usefulness, containing far more of substance than the average Wesley Owen shop - not that that's difficult! The Bible Depot is a little gem, packed with good books of all types. There is a small second hand stock, but the emphasis is on new books.
I liked the Bible Depot, and it was not like the Churches Together Bookshop, where I liked the staff more than the stock - I like the stock here as well!
[This is a highly opinionated blog post and reflects only the opinon of the author. To come, God willing: Swansea and Newport Christian bookshops!]
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
Continuing In Many Bookshops with Mr. Charmley, we come to the Churches Together Bookshop, Cardiff. Formerly the SPCK bookshop, the shop suffered in the takeover of SPCK by St. Stephen the Great Charitable Trust and the subequent collapse of the organisation. It was bought out and re-opened as the Churches Together Bookshop.
It is located at the liturgically West end of the City URC, and as the name suggests, it is an ecumenical bookshop that sells all sorts of things. Now, Cardiff has a Catholic Truth Society bookshop, so the Roman Catholics have their own shop, and therefore this shop is fairly liberal. Cardiff has three Evangelical bookshops, and they will most likely have what a Reformed Evangelical would be looking for. The Churches Together shop probably won't, although it's just possible that they may.
Nevertheless, this shop has some good points. The first is the staff, who I found extremely friendly and welcoming, ready to help. They made me feel welcome in the shop, and I am sure that they would do their best to help any customer. Second, they have a good selection of second-hand books. I got a copy of Leon Morris' The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross at a very reasonable price here. So I liked the shop, even though I did not find a lot of good material there. Nice but vague, a wonderful description of liberalism! But then, it did say 'Churches Together Bookshop' on the front, so what can you expect?
[NB. This is an opinionated blog post that reflects the opinions of the author and probably no-one else]
Friday, April 3, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
In recent years, unless you have been under a rock somewhere, you will have heard the claim, peddled by the Da Vinci Code and such like, that there are many gospels, and that our four Gospels were selected from a huge list of alternatives. How are we as Christians to respond to these claims?
It is in order to help the average Christian reader to sort out this issue that Philip W. Comfort and Jason Driesbach have produced The Many Gospels of Jesus (Tyndale, 2008). In this one volume we have twenty-one different ancient writings that could be called 'gospels' in some sense. By far the longest of these are the four canonical Gospels. The other writings are some of the other contenders. This allows the reader to compare the different writings, and as we do, something immediately becomes apparent - the vast difference between the Canonical Gospels and the other claimants, and the broad similarity between the four canonical Gospels, even between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. What is more, the 'lost gospels' all disagree one with another in what they teach. They present a Jesus who is radically different from the Jesus of the canonical Gospels, and a religion that is based on esoteric knowledge and a bizarre metaphysic, quite different from the religion of the Canonical Gospels. This book will be extremely useful for Christians who want to know more about the so-called 'Lost Gospels'. Its value is further enhanced by the essays that introduce the volume, dealing with questions such as 'What is a Gospel?', and 'What is Gnosticism'.
What are the pitfalls of this book? Principally that the Gospel text is given in the New Living Translation, which is a version I am not terribly keen on. Other than that, this is an excellent resource, collecting as it does such important documents in one volume. It has a good cover and is well-presented as well, which is always a bonus.
The Many Gospels of Jesus is available from Christian bookshops.