c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton

Saturday, July 5, 2014

UNITY IN THE CROSS


The benefits of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross accrue to those that faithfully follow him in the sanctifying way of the cross.  Otherwise, we have a double-minded God and bifurcated Gospel in which our duties and responsibilities are a mere option tacked on and not an essential part of the covenant in Jesus’ blood.  The work and the way of the cross must become in us one saving reality, the place where we meet the Lord.

“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’” (Luke 9:23-24 ESV)

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:22-25 ESV)

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:13-17 ESV)

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19-20 ESV)

Now, to the typical Reformed thinker the ultimate death to self is to give up any human effort to save oneself, which is interpreted as “works righteousness.”  The preferred state, then, is a passive one, lest any supposed obedience on our part would somehow detract from Jesus’ “finished work on the cross.”  Ironically, if God commands a thing, like trusting Christ to save us, and we do it, it is a work.  So, seeing the flaw in Lutheran theology, Calvinists say that even believing in Jesus is the gift of God, lest any man should boast, yielding double pre-destination.  No boasting, no pride, no merit, no work but what God does – that is the sum total of Protestant piety with Quakers and Shakers being the ultimate logical expression of it.

But there is tremendous pride in that posture because it means that God saved one and not the other.  It is too easy self-righteously to think or say, “I must be special because God moved upon me to be saved, gave to me saving knowledge of Christ and the gift of faith, but not to you.”

The only way out of this dilemma is to die in the way that Jesus demonstrated, not merely doctrinally or even psychologically, but in continual personal deference to God’s will over our own, in the Spirit’s moment-by-moment leading in the way of the cross, in death to sin and self, “presenting ourselves, our souls and bodies, as a living sacrifice,” trusting God to make us alive again, that is, alive to God and to others in self-less love, making us like Jesus, truly Christ-ian.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A LEGAL CASE FOR CONSERVATIVE METHODISTS


Article 7.  A Wesleyan Affinity Diocese under the Laws of God and Man

Part A.  Wesley’s Deed of Declaration  (Establishing Preaching Houses under Local Trustees)

 

ENROLLED IN HIS MAJESTY’S HIGH COURT OF CHANCERY.

 

To all to whom these Presents shall come,

 

JOHN WESLEY, late of Lincoln College, Oxford, but now of the City-Road, London, Clerk, sendeth greeting: —

 

Whereas divers buildings, commonly called chapels, with a message and dwelling-house, or other appurtenances, to each of the same belonging, situate in various parts of Great Britain, have been given and conveyed from time to time, by the said John Wesley, to certain persons and their heirs, in each of the said gifts and conveyances named; which are enrolled in His Majesty’s High Court of Chancery, upon the acknowledgment of the said John Wesley (pursuant to the Act of Parliament in that case made and provided); upon trust, that the Trustees in the said several Deeds respectively named, and the survivors of them, and their heirs and assigns, and the Trustees for the time being, to be elected as in the said Deeds is appointed, should permit and suffer the said John Wesley, and such other person and persons as he should for that purpose from time to time nominate and appoint, at all times during his life, at his will and pleasure to have and enjoy the free use and benefit of the said premises, that he the said John Wesley, and such person and persons as he should nominate and appoint, might therein preach and expound God’s Holy Word;  and upon further trust, that the said respective Trustees, and the survivors of them, and their heirs and assigns, and the Trustees for the time being, should permit and suffer Charles Wesley, brother of the said John Wesley, and such other person and persons as the said Charles Wesley should for that purpose from time to time nominate and appoint, in like manner during his life, to have, use, and enjoy the said premises respectively, for the like purposes as aforesaid; and after the decease of the survivor of them, the said John Wesley and Charles Wesley, then upon further trust, that the said respective Trustees, and the survivors of them, and their heirs and assigns, and the Trustees for the time being for ever, should permit and suffer such person and persons, and for such time and times, as should be appointed at the yearly Conference of the people called Methodists,  in London, Bristol, or Leeds, and no others, to have and enjoy the said premises for the purposes aforesaid: And whereas divers persons have, in like manner, given or conveyed many chapels, with messages and dwelling-houses, or other appurtenances, to the same belonging, situate in various parts of Great Britain, and also in Ireland, to certain Trustees, in each of the said gifts and conveyances respectively named, upon the like trusts, and for the same uses and purposes as aforesaid (except only that in some of the said gifts and conveyances, no life-estate or other interest is therein or thereby given and reserved to the said Charles Wesley): And whereas, for rendering effectual the trusts created by the said several gifts or conveyances, and that no doubt or litigation may arise with respect unto the same, or the interpretation and true meaning thereof, it has been thought expedient by the said John Wesley, on behalf of himself as donor of the several chapels, with the messages, dwelling-houses, or appurtenances, before-mentioned, as of the donors of the said other chapels, with the messages, dwelling-houses, or appurtenances, to the same belonging, given or conveyed to the like uses and trusts, to explain the words, “Yearly Conference of the people called Methodists,” contained in all the said Trust Deeds, and to declare what persons are members of the said Conference, and how the succession and identity thereof is to be continued: —

 

Now therefore these presents witness, that, for accomplishing the aforesaid purposes, the said John Wesley doth hereby declare, that the Conference of the people called Methodists, in London, Bristol, or Leeds, ever since there hath been any yearly Conference of the said people called Methodists in any of the said places, hath always heretofore consisted of the Preachers and Expounders of God’s Holy Word, commonly called Methodist Preachers, in connection with, and under the care of, the said John Wesley, whom he hath thought expedient year after year to summons to meet him, in one or other of the said places, of London, Bristol, or Leeds, to advise with them for the promotion of the Gospel of Christ, to appoint the said persons so summoned, and the other Preachers and Expounders of God’s Holy Word, also in connection with, and under the care of, the said John Wesley, not summoned to the said yearly Conference, to the use and enjoyment of the said chapels and premises so given and conveyed upon trust for the said John Wesley, and such other person and persons as he should appoint during his life as aforesaid, and for the expulsion of unworthy and admission of new persons under his care, and into his connection, to be Preachers and Expounders as aforesaid, and also of other persons upon trial for the like purposes; the names of all which persons so summoned by the said John Wesley, the persons appointed, with the chapels and premises to which they were so appointed, together with the duration of such appointments, and of those expelled or admitted into connection or upon trial, with all other matters transacted and done at the said yearly Conference, have, year by year, been printed and published under the title of “Minutes of Conference.”

 

And these presents further witness, and the said John Wesley doth hereby avouch and further declare, that the several persons herein-afternamed,  to wit, the said John Wesley and Charles Wesley; Thomas Coke, of the city of London, Doctor of Civil Law; James Creighton, of the same place, Clerk; Thomas Tennant, of the same place; Thomas Rankin, of the same place; Joshua Keighley, of Sevenoaks, in the county of Kent; James Wood, of Rochester, in the said county of Kent; John Booth, of Colchester; Thomas Cooper, of the same place; Richard Whatcoat, of Norwich; Jeremiah Brettel, of Lynn, in the county of Norfolk; Jonathan Parkin, of the same place; Joseph Pescod, of Bedford; Christopher Watkins, of Northampton; John Barber, of the same place; John Broadbent, of Oxford; Joseph Cole, of the same place; Jonathan Cousins, of the city of Gloucester; John Brettel, of the same place; John Mason, of Salisbury; George Story, of the same place; Francis Wrigley, of St. Austle, in the county of Cornwall; William Green, of the city of Bristol; John Moon, of Plymouth-Dock; James Hall, of the same place; James Thom, of St. Austle, aforesaid; Joseph Taylor, of Redruth, in the said county of Cornwall; William Hoskins, of Cardiff, Glamorganshire; John Leech, of Brecon; William Saunders, of the same place; Richard Rodda, of Birmingham; John Fenwick, of Burslem, Staffordshire; Thomas Hanby, of the same place; James Rogers, of Macclesfield; Samuel Bardsley, of the same place; John Murlin, of Manchester; William Percival, of the same place; Duncan Wright, of the city of Chester; John Goodwin, of the same place; Parson Greenwood, of Liverpool; Zechariah Udall, of the same place; Thomas Vasey, of the same place; Joseph Bradford, of Leicester; Jeremiah Robertshaw, of the same place; William Myles, of Nottingham; Thomas Longley, of Derby; Thomas Taylor, of Sheffield; William Simpson, of the same place; Thomas Carlill, of Grimsby, in the county of Lincoln; Robert Scott, of the same place; Joseph Harper, of the same place; Thomas Corbit, of Gainsborough, in the county of Lincoln; James Ray of the same place; William Thompson, of Leeds, in the county of York; Robert Roberts, of the same place; Samuel Bradburn, of the same place; John Valton, of Birstal, in the said county; John Allen, of the same place; Isaac Brown, of the same place; Thomas Hanson, of Huddersfield, in the said county; John Shaw, of the same place; Alexander Mather, of Bradford, in the said county; Joseph Benson, of Halifax, in the said county; William Dufton, of the same place; Benjamin Rhodes, of Keighley, in the said county; John Easton, of Colne, in the county of Lancaster; Robert Costerdine, of the same place; Jasper Robinson, of the Isle of Man; George Button, of the same place; John Pawson, of the city of York; Edward Jackson, of Hull; Charles Atmore, of the said city of York; Lancelot Harrison, of Scarborough; George Shadford, of Hull, aforesaid; Barnabas Thomas, of the same place; Thomas Briscoe, of Yarm, in the said county of York; Christopher Peacock, of the same place; William Thom, of Whitby, in the said county of York; Robert Hopkins, of the same place; John Peacock, of Barnard Castle; William Collins, of Sunderland; Thomas Dixon, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Christopher Hopper, of the same place; William Boothby, of the same place; William Hunter, of Berwick-upon-Tweed; Joseph Saunderson, of Dundee, Scotland; William Warrener, of the same place; Duncan M’Allum, of Aberdeen, Scotland; Thomas Rutherford, of the city of Dublin, in the kingdom of Ireland; Daniel Jackson, of the same place; Henry Moore, of the city of Cork, Ireland; Andrew Blair, of the same place; Richard Watkinson, of Limerick, Ireland; Nehemiah Price, of Athlone, Ireland; Robert Lindsay, of Sligo, Ireland; George Brown, of Clones, Ireland; Thomas Barber, of Charlemont, Ireland; Henry Foster, of Belfast, Ireland; and John Crook, of Lisburne, Ireland, Gentlemen; being Preachers and Expounders of God’s Holy Word, under the care and in connection with the said John Wesley, have been, and now are, and do, on the day of the date hereof, constitute the members of the said Conference, according to the true intent and meaning of the said several gifts and conveyances wherein the words, Conference of the people called Methodists, are mentioned and contained; and that the said several persons beforenamed, and their successors for ever, to be chosen as hereafter mentioned, are and shall for ever be construed, taken, and be, the Conference of the people called Methodists. Nevertheless, upon the terms, and subject to the regulations herein-after prescribed; that is to say,

 

First, That the members of the said Conference, and their successors for the time being for ever, shall assemble once in every year, at London, Bristol, or Leeds, (except as after-mentioned,) for the purposes aforesaid; and the time and place of holding every subsequent Conference shall be appointed at the preceding one, save that the next Conference after the date hereof shall be holden at Leeds, in Yorkshire, the last Tuesday in July next.

 

Second, The act of the majority in number of the Conference assembled as aforesaid, shall be had, taken, and be the act of the whole Conference, to all intents, purposes, and constructions whatsoever.

 

Third, That after the Conference shall be assembled as aforesaid, they shall first proceed to fill up all the vacancies occasioned by death or absence, as after-mentioned.

 

Fourth, No act of the Conference assembled as aforesaid, shall be had, taken, or be the act of the Conference, until forty of the members thereof are assembled, unless reduced under that number by death since the prior Conference, or absence as after-mentioned; nor until all the vacancies occasioned by death or absence shall be filled up by the election of new members of the Conference, so as to make up the number one hundred, unless there be not a sufficient number of persons objects of such election; and during the assembly of the Conference, there shall always be forty members present at the doing of any act, save as aforesaid, or otherwise such act shall be void.

 

Fifth, The duration of the yearly assembly of the Conference shall not be less than five days, nor more than three weeks, and be concluded by the appointment of the Conference, if under twenty-one days; or otherwise the conclusion thereof shall follow of course at the end of the said twenty-one days; the whole of all which said time of the assembly of the Conference shall be had, taken, considered, and be the yearly Conference of the people called Methodists; and all acts of the Conference, during such yearly assembly thereof, shall be the acts of the Conference, and none other.

 

Sixth, Immediately after all the vacancies occasioned by death or absence are filled up by the election of new members as aforesaid, the Conference shall choose a President and Secretary of their assembly out of themselves,  who shall continue such until the election of another President or Secretary in the next, or other subsequent Conference; and the said President shall have the privilege and power of two members in all acts of the Conference during his presidency, and such other powers, privileges, and authorities, as the Conference shall from time to time see fit to entrust into his hands.

 

Seventh, Any member of the Conference absenting himself from the yearly assembly thereof for two years successively, without the consent or dispensation of the Conference, and be not present on the first day of the third yearly assembly thereof, at the time and place appointed for the holding of the same, shall cease to be a member of the Conference from and after the said first day of the said third yearly assembly thereof, to all intents and purposes, as though he were naturally dead. But the Conference shall and may dispense with or consent to the absence of any member from any of the said yearly assemblies for any cause which the Conference may see fit or necessary; and such member, whose absence shall be so dispensed with or consented to by the Conference, shall not by such absence cease to be a member thereof.

 

Eighth, The Conference shall and may expel and put out from being a member thereof, or from being in connection therewith, or from being upon trial, any person, member of the Conference, or admitted into connection, or upon trial, for any cause which to the Conference may seem fit or necessary; and every member of the Conference so expelled and put out, shall cease to be a member thereof, to all intents and purposes, as though he was naturally dead. And the Conference, immediately after the expulsion of any member thereof as aforesaid, shall elect another person to be a member of the Conference, in the stead of such member so expelled.

 

Ninth, The Conference shall and may admit into connection with them, or upon trial, any person or persons whom they shall approve, to be Preachers and Expounders of God’s Holy Word, under the care and direction of the Conference; the name of every such person or persons so admitted into connection or upon trial as aforesaid, with the time and degrees of the admission, being entered in the Journals or Minutes of the Conference.

 

Tenth, No person shall be elected a member of the Conference, who hath not been admitted into connection with the Conference, as a Preacher and Expounder of God’s Holy Word, as aforesaid, for twelve months.

 

Eleventh, The Conference shall not, nor may, nominate or appoint any person to the use and enjoyment of, or to preach and expound God’s Holy Word in, any of the chapels and premises so given or conveyed, or which may be given or conveyed upon the trusts aforesaid, who is not either a member of the Conference, or admitted into connection with the same, or upon trial as aforesaid; nor appoint any person for more than three years successively, to the use and enjoyment of any chapel and premises already given, or to be given or conveyed, upon the trusts aforesaid, except ordained Ministers of the Church of England.

 

Twelfth, That the Conference shall and may appoint the place of holding the yearly assembly thereof, at any other city, town, or place, than London, Bristol, or Leeds, when it shall seem expedient so to do.

 

Thirteenth, And for the convenience of the chapels and premises already, or which may hereafter be, given or conveyed upon the trusts aforesaid, situate in Ireland, or other parts out of the kingdom of Great Britain,  the Conference shall and may, when and as often as it shall seem expedient, but not otherwise, appoint and delegate any member or members of the Conference, with all or any of the powers, privileges, and advantages, herein-before contained or vested in the Conference; and all and every the acts, admissions, expulsions, and appointments whatsoever of such member or members of the Conference, so appointed and delegated as aforesaid, the same being put into writing, and signed by such delegate or delegates, and entered in the Journals or Minutes of the Conference, and subscribed as after mentioned, shall be deemed, taken, and be, the acts, admissions, expulsions, and appointments of the Conference, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever, from the respective times when the same shall be done by such delegate or delegates; notwithstanding anything herein contained to the contrary.

 

Fourteenth, All resolutions and orders touching elections, admissions, expulsions, consents, dispensations, delegations, or appointments and acts whatsoever of the Conference, shall be entered and written in the Journals or Minutes of the Conference, which shall be kept for that purpose, publicly read, and then subscribed by the President and Secretary thereof for the time being, during the time such Conference shall be assembled; and when so entered and subscribed, shall be had, taken, received, and be, the acts of the Conference, and such entry and subscription as aforesaid shall be had, taken, received, and be, evidence of all and every such acts of the said Conference, and of their said delegates, without the aid of any other proof; and whatever shall not be so entered and subscribed as aforesaid, shall not be had, taken, received, or be, the act of the Conference: And the said President and Secretary are hereby required and obliged to enter and subscribe, as aforesaid, every act whatever of the Conference.

 

Lastly, Whenever the said Conference shall be reduced under the number of forty members, and continue so reduced for three yearly assemblies thereof successively, or whenever the members thereof shall decline or neglect to meet together annually for the purposes aforesaid, during the space of three years that then, and in either of the said events, the Conference of the people called Methodists shall be extinguished, and all the aforesaid powers, privileges, and advantages shall cease, and the said chapels and premises, and all other chapels and premises, which now are, or hereafter may be, settled, given, or conveyed, upon the trusts aforesaid, shall vest in the Trustees for the time being of the said chapels and premises respectively, and their successors for ever; UPON TRUST that they, and the survivors of them, and the Trustees for the time being, do, shall, and may appoint such person and persons to preach and expound God’s Holy Word therein, and to have the use and enjoyment thereof, for such time, and in such manner, as to them shall seem proper.

 

Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to extinguish, lessen, or abridge the life-estate of the said John Wesley and Charles Wesley, or either of them, of and in any of the said chapels and premises, or any other chapels and premises, wherein they the said John Wesley and Charles Wesley, or either of them, now have, or may have, any estate or interest, power or authority whatsoever.

 

In witness thereof, the said John Wesley hath hereunto set his hand and seal, the twenty-eighth day of February, in the twenty-fourth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third, by the grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, and so forth, and in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four.

 

John Wesley.

 

Sealed and delivered (being first duly stamped) in the presence of William Clulow, Quality Court, Chancery-Lane, London.

 

Richard Young, Clerk to the said William Clulow.

 

Taken and acknowledged by the Rev. John Wesley, party hereto, this 28th of February, 1784, at the Public Office, before me,

 

Edward Montagu.

The above is a true Copy of the original Deed, (which is enrolled in Chancery,) and was therewith examined by us,

 

William Clulow.

 

Richard Young.

 

ENDORSEMENT.

 

DATED FEB. 28TH, 1784

Clulow.

 

The Rev. John Wesley’s Declaration and Appointment of the Conference of the people called Methodists, enrolled in His Majesty’s High Court of Chancery, the ninth day of March, in the year of our Lord 1784, being first duly stamped according to the tenor of the Statutes, made for that purpose.

 

Thomas Brigstock.

 

Part B. The Meaning of Conference

PLYMOUTH-DOCK, March 3, 1785.

1.            IN June, 1744, I desired my brother and a few other Clergymen to meet me in London, to consider how we should proceed to save our own souls and those that heard us. After some time, I invited the lay Preachers that were in the house to meet with us. We conferred together for several days, and were much comforted and strengthened thereby.

2.            The next year I not only invited most of the Traveling Preachers, but several others, to confer with me in Bristol. And from that time for some years, though I invited only a part of the Traveling Preachers, yet I permitted any that desired it, to be present, not apprehending any ill consequences therefrom.

3.            But two ill consequences soon appeared: One, that the expense was too great to be born; the other, that many of our people were scattered while they were left without a shepherd. I therefore determined,

(1.) That for the time to come, none should be present but those whom I invited; and,

(2.) That I would only invite a select number out of every Circuit.

4.            This I did for many years, and all that time the term Conference meant not so much the conversation we had together, as the persons that conferred; namely, those whom I invited to confer with me from time to time. So that all this time it depended on me alone, not only what persons should constitute the Conference, — but whether there should be any Conference at all: This law wholly in my own breast; neither the Preachers nor the people having any part or lot in the matter.

5.            Some years after, it was agreed, that after the decease of my brother and me, the Preachers should be stationed by the Conference.  But ere long a question arose, What does that term mean? Who are the Conference? It appeared difficult to define the term. And the year before last all our brethren who were met at Bristol desired me to fix the determinate meaning of the word.

6.            Hitherto, it had meant (not the whole body of Traveling Preachers, it never bore that meaning at all; but) those persons whom I invited yearly to confer with me. But to this there was a palpable objection, — Such a Conference would have no being after my death. And what other definition of it to give, I knew not; at least I knew none that would stand good in law. I consulted a skillful and honest Attorney; and he consulted an eminent Counselor, who answered, “There is no way of doing this but by naming a determinate number of persons. The deed which names these must be enrolled in Chancery: Then it will stand good in law.”

7.            My first thought was to name a very few, suppose ten or twelve persons. Count Zinzendorf named only six who were to preside over the community after his decease. But on second thoughts, I believed there would be more safety in a greater number of counselors, and therefore named a hundred; as many as I judged could meet without too great an expense, and without leaving any Circuit naked of Preachers while the Conference met.

8.            In naming these Preachers, as I had no adviser, so I had no respect of persons; but I simply set down those that, according to the best of my judgment, were most proper. But I am not infallible. I might mistake, and think better of some of them than they deserved. However, I did my best; and if I did wrong, it was not the error of my will, but of my judgment.

9.            This was the rise, and this is the nature, of that famous Deed of Declaration, that vile, wicked Deed, concerning which you have heard such an outcry! And now, can any one tell me how to mend it, or how it could have been made better? “O yes. You might have inserted two hundred, as well as one hundred, Preachers.” No; for then the expense of meeting would have been double, and all the Circuits would have been without Preachers. “But you might have named other Preachers instead of these.” True, if I had thought as well of them as they did of themselves. But I did not; therefore I could do no otherwise than I did, without sinning, against God and my own conscience.

10.          “But what need was there for any deed at all?” There was the utmost need of it: Without some authentic deed fixing the meaning of the term, the moment I died the Conference had been nothing. Therefore any of the proprietors of the land on which our preaching-houses were built might have seized them for their own use; and there would have been none to hinder them; for the Conference would have been nobody, a mere empty name.

11.          You see then in all the pains I have taken about this absolutely necessary Deed, I have been laboring, not for myself, (I have no interest therein,) but for the whole body of Methodists; in order to fix them upon such a foundation as is likely to stand as long as the sun and moon endure. That is, if they continue to walk by faith, and to show forth their faith by their works; otherwise, I pray God to root out the memorial of them from the earth. 

John Wesley

 

Part C.  Wesley’s Model Deed.

 

Q. 59. Are our preaching-houses safe?

A. Not all; for some of them are not settled on Trustees. Several of the Trustees for others are dead.

 

Q. 60. What then is to be done?

A. (1.) Let those who have debts on any of the Houses give a bond, to settle them as soon as they are indemnified. (2.) Let the surviving Trustees choose others without delay, by endorsing their deed thus: —

 

“WE, the remaining Trustees of the Methodist preaching-house in ——, do, according to the power vested in us by this deed, choose —— to be Trustees of the said House, in the place of ——. Witness our hands ——.”N. B.

 

The deed must have three new stamps, and must be enrolled in Chancery within six months.

 

Q. 61. In what form may a House be settled?

A. In the following, which was drawn by three of the most eminent Lawyers in London. Whoever therefore objects to it, only betrays his own ignorance.

 

“The Indenture made ——, between Benjamin Heap, of ——, in the county of ——, on the one part, and Thomas Philips, hatter, etc., on the other part,

 

WITNESSETH, That in consideration of five shillings, lawful money of Great Britain, by the said T. P., etc., to the said B. H., truly paid, before the sealing and delivering hereof, (the receipt whereof the said B. H. doth hereby acknowledge,) and for divers other considerations him thereunto moving, the said B. H. hath granted, bargained, and sold, and by these presents doth bargain and sell unto the said T. P., etc., their heirs and assigns for ever, all that lately erected House or tenement, with the yard thereunto adjoining, situate ——, in ——, aforesaid, now in the tenure or occupation of ——, together with all the ways, drains, and privileges to the said premises appertaining, and all the profits thereof, with all the right, title, and interest in law and equity: TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the said house, yard, and other premises, to the said T. P., etc., their heirs, and assigns for ever. NEVERTHELESS, upon special trust and confidence, and to the intent, that they and the survivors of them, and the Trustees for the time being, do and shall permit John Wesley, of the City-Road, London, Clerk, and such other persons as he shall from time to time appoint, at all times, during his natural life, and no other persons, to have and enjoy the free use and benefit of the said premises; that the said John Wesley, and such other persons as he appoints, may therein preach and expound God’s holy word. And after his decease, upon further trust and confidence, and to the intent, that the said T. P., etc., or the major part of them, or the survivors of them, and the major part of the Trustees of the said premises for the time being, shall, from time to time, and at all times for ever, permit such persons as shall be appointed at the yearly Conference of the people called Methodists, in London, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, or elsewhere, specified by name in a Deed enrolled in Chancery, under the hand and seal of the said John Wesley, and bearing date the 28th day of February, 1784, and no others, to have and to enjoy the said premises, for the purposes aforesaid: Provided always, that the persons preach no other doctrine than is contained in Mr. Wesley’s ‘Notes upon the New Testament,’ and four volumes of ‘Sermons.’  And upon farther trust and confidence, that, as often as any of these Trustees, or the Trustees for the time being, shall die, or cease to be a member of the society commonly called Methodists, the rest of the said Trustees, or of the Trustees for the time being, as soon as conveniently may be, shall and may choose another Trustee or Trustees, in order to keep up the number of Trustees for ever. In witness whereof, the said B. H. hath hereunto set his hand and seal, the day and year above-written.”

 

In this form the proprietors of the House are to make it over to five,

seven, or nine Trustees.

 

Part D. Wesley’s “Last Words” to the Methodist Preachers

MY DEAR BRETHREN,

CHESTER, April 7, 1785.

 

SOME of our Traveling Preachers have expressed a fear, that, after my decease, you would exclude them either from preaching in connection with you, or from some other privileges which they now enjoy. I know no other way to prevent such inconvenience, than to leave these my last words with you. I beseech you, by the mercies of God, that you never avail yourselves of the Deed of Declaration to assume any superiority over your brethren; but let all things go on, among those Itinerants who choose to remain together, exactly in the same manner as when I was with you, so far as circumstances will permit. In particular, I beseech you, if you ever loved me, and if you now love God and your brethren, to have no respect of persons in stationing the Preachers, in choosing children for Kingswood school, in disposing of the Yearly Contribution, and the Preachers’ Fund, or any other public money: But do all things with a single eye, as I have done from the beginning. Go on thus, doing all things without prejudice or partiality, and God will be with you even to the end.

 

John Wesley

 

 

Article 8. A Rightful Claim to the Methodist Heritage.

 WHEREAS the majority of Methodists in America continue to believe the Bible, taken at face value, and appreciate the traditional doctrine and language of the brief form of the Anglican Rite that John Wesley supplied,

AND WHEREAS the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, meeting in Dallas in 1972, abandoned traditional faith and morals,

TO WIT, adopted the Report of the Theological Study Commission on Doctrine and Doctrinal Standards, over objection, and in violation of the order and discipline of the Church:

TO WIT, the Judicial Council neglected its duty to interpret the Constitution of the United Methodist Church in that it “[did] not decide” the “broader question” of whether said Report established any “new standards or rules of doctrine,” though petitioned to do so by the Conference, in light and knowledge of said objections,

FURTHER, the Judicial Council inappropriately ruled “on the basis of a narrowly construed interpretation of the question” of constitutionality, i.e., that there were no recommended changes to the actual words of said Articles and Confession, and that said Articles and Confession were not “in” the Constitution, meaning absurdly that they were not printed within the actual text of the Constitution,

FURTHER, the Judicial Council erroneously claimed that Section II of the 1968 Book of Discipline was a “legislative enactment” and therefore did not have the force of constitutional law, even though the aforesaid Articles were at that time part of the “present existing and established standards of doctrine,” and therefore part of the Constitution by common perception and logical extension of meaning,

AND FURTHER, the Judicial Council failed to form an independent judgment in the matter, but rather relied heavily on excerpts from said Report and on statements of the Report's proponents on the floor of the General Conference, as minutes of the Conference show,

THEREFORE, in Decisions 353, 358 and 468, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church has perpetrated a fraud against the Methodist people, failing to give full merit to said Report’s statement, “we have proposed a genuinely new principle for doctrinal self-understanding in The United Methodist Church,” yet ruling that said Report does not alter “our present and existing standards of doctrine,” 

TO WIT, the General Conference, on the basis of the Judicial Council’s erroneous decisions, failed to forward said Report to the Annual Conferences for ratification, though a reasonable assessment of the facts would require it to do so, according to ¶ 57 of the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church,

AND WHEREAS said Report, action of the General Conference, and Decisions of the Judicial Council effects a DE JURE departure from Methodist doctrine and discipline,

AND WHEREAS it is dangerous from a pastoral perspective to assume, as does said Report, that a process of mere human inquiry may discern eternal, religious, saving truth,

AND WHEREAS continual doctrinal exploration, which the Report recommends, can never produce unifying faith but rather yields  disaffection, disunity, and decline, as historical analysis clearly reveals by the loss of members, morale, and support for worthy causes in a lost and needy world,

AND WHEREAS the ever-shifting “understandings” allowed by the Report excuses aberrant behavior in the clergy, such as performing gay wedding ceremonies, the ordination and appointment of homosexuals, making irreverent protest, and allowing among the laity scandalous behavior, a DE FACTO apostasy from the Methodist way has gone unchecked,

AND WHEREAS the doctrinal conflict fomented by the Report is irreconcilable, as the Dialogues on Theological Diversity suggest,

AND WHEREAS the hierarchy of the United Methodist Church, empowered by the rationalizations of the Report, have committed outrages of prejudice and discrimination against traditionalist and conservative clergy, contrary to the explicit instructions, pleadings, and teachings of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism,

AND WHEREAS this pattern of abuse, unleashed by the Report, has been long-standing, willful, and resistant to correction from "within" existing structures of the United Methodist Church, despite concerted efforts to mitigate damages at the highest levels of ecclesiastical adjudication,

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that numbers of us officially reject and denounces “doctrinal pluralism/diversity,” “Our Theological Task,” the Social Gospel, the Higher Critical method, multiculturalism, liberation and process theologies, womanist theology, the “full inclusion of GLBT persons,” and all other recommendations, developments, and consequences of aforesaid Report,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that numbers of us decry and repent of the unrighteous acts of those that subscribe to said Report and the sorry outcomes thereof, and we repent of any personal gain we derived from the same by the winking at our own sins,

 

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the undersigned form the Diocese of John Wesley, in application to the Anglican Church of North America for the acceptance of our congregations and normalization of our credentials, and that said alternative structure shall take steps 1) to secure title, right, access, and privilege pertaining to property and assets of the United Methodist Church in which the same have interest under neutral principles of law , 2) to unite in true spiritual fellowship, cooperation, and eventual unity with other truly Christian bodies (namely, catholic and orthodox), 3) to re-establish the “doctrine, discipline and spirit of the body” of Methodism, and 4) to present ourselves worthy to receive, revive, and make our own the Methodist heritage in North America, both temporal and spiritual, according to the ritual and instruction of John Wesley, conveyed to this continent by letter, offerings, and personal envoy during his life, saying, "Offer them Christ,"

 

PROVIDED THAT said new diocese shall commune every Lord’s day, as per Wesley’s specific instruction, and prayerfully emerge as a responsibly re-traditioning and reforming  body, following the apostolic mission of John Wesley himself, who revived the doctrine of Scriptural holiness, preserving the substance of the same in principle while adapting the form and expression of the Gospel for a different people in a different age.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Michael DeShane Hinton, M.Div. and Other Signees:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Wesleyan Affinity Diocese


With a view to Christian faithfulness we the undersigned agree to the following, a covenant in filial love:

I.  Incorporation

There shall be a Diocese of John Wesley (DioJW), making application to the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and pledging obedience to Canons of the same.

II.  Membership

 A.  Any baptized believer in Jesus Christ may be admitted to the pastoral care of this diocese, except that each shall within two years of application complete the membership course provided, The Faith Once Delivered.

B.  Clergy of any Wesleyan body shall become aspirants held in abeyance under provisions of this covenant and may continue in ministry within the bounds of their parish.

C.  Orthodox, Roman, or Anglican priests in affinity may apply to the diocese.

D.  Any congregation previously incorporated as a Wesleyan body, or any with affinity, may become affiliated with this diocese by application of the same, except that each congregation shall:

1.  Commune every Lord’s Day as John Wesley directed by conveyance to the Christmas Conference of 1784, meeting in Baltimore.

2.  Elect a vestry of not less than five and not more than 10 persons, who shall manage and represent the church in all matters as directors and trustees. The vestry shall elect a warden and junior warden to terms of office not to exceed four years and who shall not immediately succeed themselves for the duration of a regular term.

3.  Commit to a study of The Body of Christ within two years of application.

4.  Remit 10% of their offerings to the diocese.

III.  Work

The Diocese of John Wesley shall work to spread Scriptural holiness throughout the land. To that end the diocese shall:

A.  Schedule annual meetings of the same, which shall promote fellowship and missions, adopt emphases, and develop programs for use in the diocese and beyond.

B.  Put forth bishops for service within the ACNA.

C.  Receive bishops supplied by the ACNA.

IV.  Beliefs

Scriptural holiness shall be defined as the dual and complementary graces of sanctification and moral perfection in love, as outlined in The Faith and The Body documents.

V.  Titration

We pray for the unity of the body of Christ: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. When heartache and error are ended DioJW shall gladly join the festal throng up to the horns of the altar and there lay our burdens down.

Signed:

Friday, May 30, 2014

A CHARISMATIC THEOLOGY


A viable Charismatic theology must place the person and work of the Holy Spirit at the center of God’s redemptive purposes in Christ.  The Trinitarian formula tells us that the Spirit is co-equal with the Father and the Son.  But unless we can discern its essential role in saving us the Spirit will forever remain on the periphery of Christian consciousness.

The Lord Jesus himself helps us to elevate the Spirit by a profound statement as follows:

 

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31-32 ESV; see also Mark 3:28-30 and Luke 12:10)
 

Why would Jesus say such a thing, for it might indicate that the Spirit is more important than Jesus, who died for us, or the Father, who sent him?


The answer to that question lies within the immediate context of the passage.  Jesus went around casting out demons.  The effects of that and other miracles were astounding to the people, who began to follow the Lord in great numbers.  The religious establishment was jealous of his popularity.  What they did next, though, was truly outrageous.  They attributed the miraculous power of Jesus to the devil, calling good evil and evil good.

The greatest evidence of Jesus’ divinity, then, was maligned in order to cut people off from Jesus.  But it also cut them off from the saving power of God.

 

Jesus and the Father are one and two steps removed from the salvation experience of the people.  Jesus was another person, so once removed.  The Father was in heaven, an infinite distance away.  But the Spirit was doing the work by actually touching the folk, entering in to clean out the house of the soul and to heal the dis-eased body.  The Spirit is the most immediate and intimate of persons of the Trinity.  Disrupt the work of the Spirit and saving grace does not occur.


To our knowledge Jesus never used the word grace.


The first to use it in the Biblical narrative was Peter, to whom was given the keys of the kingdom.  He used the word grace at the council in Jerusalem when the apostolic leaders decided what to do about Paul’s Gentile converts.  Should they become proselyte Jews by circumcision or are they already incorporated?  Peter concluded deliberations by saying God saves the Gentiles by grace just like the Jewish converts to Christ are saved.

What was Peter describing when he said they were saved by grace?  The answer is clear:

 

“And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:8-11 ESV)

 

The assembly understood exactly what Peter meant:


And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. (Acts 15:12 ESV)

 

Paul began to use grace in his polemical arguments against his Jewish detractors, who apparently continued to resist the Spirit’s work.  When they had some success in Galatia Paul wrote to them:

 

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Galatians 3:2-6 ESV)

 

Beginning by the Spirit, being supplied with the Spirit, and the miraculous operation of the Spirit is what Paul called in 1:6 the grace of the Lord Jesus, which he contrasts with another or false gospel based on proselyte Jewish circumcision.

 

And then in order to refute the circumcision party Paul provides an interpretation of an Old Testament passage that depends on the work of the Holy Spirit:

 

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:11-14 ESV)

 

Notice that the promise of Abraham given to Christians is not land or riches or children or protection from enemy nations.  It is the Spirit given to Christians that fulfills the Old Testament prophecies.  That phenomenon of changing Old Testament temporal blessings to the work of the Holy Spirit is called spiritualization.  It is confirmed in two passages to follow:

 

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13 ESV)

 

One could easily conclude from this passage that the Holy Spirit is all a Christian needs.  But further, this passage sums up the entire religious practice of a Christian:

 

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24 ESV)

 

The woman at the well had been arguing with Jesus about the proper place for temple worship, whether in Samaria or Jerusalem.  Though Jesus defended Judaism, he predicted a new way to worship God.

 

What did it look like?

 

We have two clues in the books of the New Testament, both of which testify to a central role for the Holy Spirit.

 

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. (Acts 2:42-43 ESV)

 

If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Corinthians 14:23-25 ESV)

 

Paul continues to describe in the chapter cited just above that a Christian church service is a place for people to exercise their spiritual gifts.  In that, again, we see the presence of God meeting people’s personal needs in a miraculous way because of the activity of the Holy Spirit.

 

But notice the goal of a Spirit-filled church service above.  The effect is that an unbeliever will be convicted and called to account.  What he knows about God’s holiness will be confirmed because in the moral assessment he will find the true presence of God.

 

At the Jerusalem council Peter indicated the same thing, noting that when God poured out the Spirit on Cornelius’ household it was a cleansing of the heart by faith.  This speaks to the sanctifying work of the Spirit, washing away sin and setting us on the path to Christian perfection in love.

 

These categories bring us back to the law, for it is law that defines what is sin and righteousness.  What is the law of God in the spiritualized religion of Christianity?


It is not outward circumcision of the flesh, as the Jerusalem council determined, but a spiritual circumcision of the heart. Notice a reference, again, to the Spirit:

 

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 ESV; see also 2 Corinthians 3)

 

In Romans 7 Paul explains that the law makes sense to our rational minds.  We know that the law is holy, righteous, good, and spiritual.  We want to keep it but find another law at work in our physical flesh, in which dwells no good thing.  We are profoundly frustrated by our inability to keep the law.

But there is hope!  The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

How?

 

A fully-functioning Charismatic theology will teach people to accept what the law envisions; the requirement of spiritualized righteousness can be fulfilled by those that walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.



For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:13-17 ESV)

 

In conclusion, there is further hope not unrelated to the one just expressed.  Saving grace is a personal, direct, and life-changing encounter with God in Christ through his Spirit.  But personal righteousness, infused and inspired by the Spirit, can lead to ecclesiastical integrity, that is, the Spirit of unity and bond of peace.  Traditional, Evangelical, Holiness, and Pentecostal people do not always see eye-to-eye.  Each appropriates what they want of belief in the Spirit.  But even those that have a robust doctrine of the Spirit hesitate to bring the Third Person of the Trinity fully into the center of the circle.  A true appreciation for the Spirit can tear down walls and bring us into Christian unity, for the Spirit does all the good that the various groups say.


Let us unite, for there is “one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

WHY ARE SOME HEALED?


To answer that question we must understand the basic principles of theodicy.  Theodicy is the theory of suffering or more precisely, the justification of God, who purports to be good and all-powerful, yet allows so much suffering in the world.

First, God is good but he cannot do what is contrary to his own nature, nor can he do what is contrary to his previous acts or word.  So, God is self-constrained by his goodness to do only certain things, not all things or anything that we might want or imagine.



Second, the most important thing that God cannot do is violate human free will.  He is known to bless those that choose good and curse those that do evil.  But he does not force us to do either one or the other.  We are each ultimately morally accountable for the actions that we take.


Therefore, pain exists in the world for the simple fact of God’s having cursed the evil that men do.


Why then do people suffer that either do no harm or have quit doing bad things?

That is where the doctrine of original sin comes in to explain the human condition.

Original sin tells us that all mankind shares a common fault, malady, and weakness.  And it comes right at the intersection of our desire for healing and the judgment of God upon our bodies.

Let me explain.

In the Garden of Eden God told Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.”  He ate and God cursed him, according to his word.


The nature of the curse is such that the whole of creation, including our physical bodies, was “subjected to futility” and has been kept in “bondage to decay” since the fall (Romans 8:20-21).

So, God’s dilemma in granting healing is how it meshes with his previous act of passing the sentence of death upon our bodies.  If God continually healed us or healed everyone, if human suffering was cured in an instant, then how would his judgment of death upon sinful flesh be executed?

Yet, God does heal some.  In his goodness he suffered with us in the body of his Son.  God does not delight in the death of any man, sympathizes with our weaknesses, and offers to remove curses in the name of Jesus, even mitigating the curse of original sin.  To wit, Christians are redeemed and so not subject to the full effects of the fall or God’s judgment against sin, provided that we have forsaken that lifestyle.


A key passage in this analysis is Romans 8:9-11, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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.”

Notice that it is our “mortal bodies,” bodies made mortal (subject to death) by the judgment of God, that receives life by the indwelling Spirit to counter-act, so to speak, the natural effects of the fall.  It is and should be the ordinary, everyday experience that God’s redeemed people receive healings just as we see Jesus perform in the Gospels and the apostolic men do in the Book of Acts.

Does that mean God works against himself in healing those that he previously cursed?


Absolutely not!  We are all subject to death.  “It is appointed for man once to die and after that the judgment.”  So, we must all die in the sense of being separated from this physical body, which is condemned.  But we do not need to suffer needlessly nor is there a set time-frame for when a man should die.  Both time and degrees of suffering are relative terms.  So, Christians do and should experience improvements in health and longevity because of our prayers.  But to die in the Faith is our ultimate healing because then we are free of this earthly tent with all its physical challenges.

How then are healings distributed?  The short answer is as the Spirit wills (1 Corinthians 12:11 ESV).

Here is a longer answer.  The suffering that mankind endures is randomly distributed.  There is no favoritism on God’s part.  But the same cannot be said of healings.  They seem to follow a pattern.

In the broadest possible terms the miraculous manifestations of God seem to accompany his mighty acts in salvation history, clustering around the Exodus, which is the basis of the Old Testament and Judaism, and then the Christ Event, when God sent his Son to redeem the whole of humanity.  As Jesus said, “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).  His healing miracles were a testimony to his divinity; they were signs, to convince the people to turn to God.  That evidence continued into the apostolic times and early Church history, the scholars tell us, for nearly 400 years, which is why the Western world was transformed so profoundly.

Then the miraculous gifts seemed to fade.  Why?

Though there have always been miracles in and through the Church, we largely traded supernatural power for political power and became an institution involved with official state religion.  This happened in both Catholic and Protestant countries.  Against that institutional model of ministry the renewal of gifts, and healing and deliverance ministries, seemed to track with movement conservatism rather than institutional forms of the faith.  Therefore, the rebirth of spiritual gifts in the last decades was called the Charismatic Movement.  Our task today is to keep the movement going, while allowing God to mature it, that is, to give it a better theological basis, more effective protocols, and, yes, institutional legitimacy.

Two parts of improving the movement, on the level of the parish and our individual experience, are a commitment to live in righteousness and to find our own personal roles in serving the kingdom purposes of God.  Healing in all its forms is means of grace in spiritual formation, for instance.  As we improve ourselves by spiritual disciplines and contribute to his Cause, God will pour out his Spirit in greater measure and with greater manifestations “and the Earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.”

Monday, May 12, 2014

Solving the Sovereignty/Free Will Dilemma


Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed” … so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:8 and 14 ESV)

These verses solve the sovereignty/free will dilemma.

The last reference to faith above is not mere faith but is modified in the original Greek by the definite article.  It should read, “so that we might receive the promised Spirit through the Faith.”

The Faith of Jesus Christ was foreseen.  All election and pre-destination passages in Paul, including security verses, refer to the broad strokes of salvation history (Peter first and then Paul preaching to Gentiles) in which God changed his religion from Judaism to Christianity, replacing the old covenant with a new one in Jesus’ blood.  Verses that seem to teach special election or double pre-destination do not refer to individuals.  Each of us must choose to become and live as a Christian of our own free will and out of rational, healthy self-interest.

And what does God promise to those that trust and obey?  He gives the Holy Spirit, which by conviction, regeneration, sanctification, and empowerment transforms us from sinners to saints.  Only we must not grieve, quench, or outrage the Spirit, but rather cooperate with God in the means of grace that he has ordained through one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

In other words, the means of grace is pre-destined but not who may or may not be saved.  That is entirely up to us, given God’s generous offer in Christ.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

CRUCIFORMITY - THE NATURE OF OUR FAITH


Though our religion has official doctrine, it is not a belief system only.  Though we have rituals instituted by Christ himself, it is not a mere formality of worship.  Though it commands love and good works, we are not moralists alone.  Christianity is all those things but more – it is walking with Jesus day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment.  To know him is to love him, and knowing him requires that we live with him and become like him in the life that he lived.


How did he live?  What was his life-style, so to speak?


In short, it is called the way of the cross.


One might rightly be concerned that the cross is a dark and painful message, but no, it is a victorious way of living, which is why we begin the lesson with this verse:


Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)


The mind thinks by a process of free association, one thought leading to the next natural thought in a sequence of ideas that reveals the way a man thinks.  We can know how Jesus thinks!  In the following passage from Matthew, which has parallels in the other Synoptic Gospels, Mark and Luke, we find a series of sayings that speak to the nature of our faith:

  • Peter rightly confesses that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God
  • From that time Jesus begins to tell them that he must die and be raised
  • With the immediate implication that they, too, must go the way of the cross 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

                From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

                Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:13-28 ESV, Cf. Mark 8:27-38 and Luke 9:18-27 (also 17:33))
 

Notice above how Jesus rebuked Peter.  At first Peter got it right and won from Jesus both praise and power.  But then Peter’s thinking went wrong.  Notice the reference to Peter’s “mind.”

The way of the cross is so central to Christianity that to think otherwise is Satanic.

 

John treats the way of the cross differently.  In his Gospel it’s implied that some Greeks understand who Jesus might be and want to meet him.  Jesus sees great hope in this for the spread of Christianity and so concedes that it is time for him to die.  His next thought sequence is exactly the same one that we saw above in the Synoptics, that is, the core saying about losing one’s life to keep it.
 

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:20-26 ESV)
 

We find in the Pauline corpus exactly the same call to be like Jesus and follow him in the way of the cross.
 

About living out our baptism/confirmation he writes, For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:5-11 ESV)
 

This passage contains a PROVISO, meaning a condition (underlined) for inheriting eternal life.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God … and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:13-14 & 17 ESV)
 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)
 

The following two passages reveal an interesting parallel between them.  In the first Paul tells us how we ought to think about things.  He writes in terms of Jesus being obedient unto death and therefore God raised him up.  In the second we see how Paul thinks of himself and the hope that he has for his own salvation, hoping to be raised by the same process that Jesus engaged.
 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)
 

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on (the) faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  (Philippians 3:2-11)
 

Finally, we have this passage, a fitting end to the lesson.
 

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.  (Colossians 3:5-6 ESV)