Nil Nisi Verum

Corporate Prayer in Worship

One of the most gratifying things to me has always been mowing the lawn. I can be outside and get a little bit of exercise, but also I can see immediate results. Next to the tall overgrown grass is the freshly cut lawn. Instant results are gratifying. However, there are areas in life where I don’t see results instantly. Gardening, learning new habits, and saving money are some examples. Prayer in worship is often more like the second example. A necessary work that rarely sees immediate results.

Consider the role of corporate prayer. We pray every week for results that we may not immediately see. Weekly we bring our same concerns to God. It may seem unimportant, but it’s one of the most important things the church does. Chores are not always fun, but they need to happen. I would take the statement even further if we don’t do this; everything else will fall apart. Imagine how chaotic our life can be if we never clean the house, wash clothes, or maintain the car. Corporate prayer in the w is more than but not less than maintenance. Our corporate prayer is essential. It communicates to us and those around us that we are dependent on God, a community of disciples, and the spiritual nature of our gatherings. (more…)

The Dangers of Biblicism

Biblicism at face value comes across as an honorable and proper approach to reading Scripture. What exactly is “biblicism”? Dr Lane Tipton gives an helpful definition of biblicism

is any approach to reading Scripture, that does not take the creeds and confessions of the church, (the Reformed confessions of the church) as normed norms that faithfully and accurately render the teaching of Scripture as it is set over against heresy and heterodoxy in various forms.

Dr. Tipton rightly articulates that the Biblicist is someone who reads the Bible without submitting to the Scripture, as it has been read in the orthodox creeds and Reformed confessions in the history of the church. At first glance, some may not have a problem with this, and may even happily embrace this definition. In this brief article I hope to demonstrate some of the dangers of biblicism and why the Biblicist is left exposed outside the safety of the time tested truths of the creeds and Reformed confessions of the church.

When conservative Christians think of a Biblicist, they may think of the conservative Christian that holds only to Scripture and rejects all creeds. However, it is important to understand that biblicism can be embraced by liberals or conservatives. Biblicism does not care if you have liberal or conservative tendencies. Biblicism only cares that you shed the “weight” of the historic creeds and confessions. And it is precisely at this point the Biblicist is in real danger.

One of the greatest negative impacts on the church in recent history has been the Enlightenment. When people began to read the Bible through the assumed lens of neutral history and considered the Bible as any other book, the results were tragic. Liberalism rose up with a force that left many dead churches in its path. They criticized the Bible as being a “community autobiography” that incorporated already existing pagan practices (syncretism). Liberal scholars began the quest for the historical Jesus as they attempted to determine the actual words of Jesus. And still others would accuse the Apostle Paul of having an entire different theology/religion from Jesus. Questioning the supernatural nature of Scripture and of course the resurrection made many abandon Christianity.

All of these schools of thought (and these were only a few examples) were Biblicists. They rejected the inherited traditions and with their new found freedom they led many to despair. The academies impacted scholars who taught men desiring to be pastors, who then taught churches. The Gospel left pulpits and the results were spiritually deadly.

The Creeds and the Confessions of the church play an important role in the history of the church and in the life of the Christian. The Bible is not an historically conditioned book. It is not a product of a community, but is a history of special revelation that has an organic, super natural core, aimed at realizing the covenantal communion bond with God in covenant. The Creeds and Confessions have withstood the test of time and stand not as weights on the heart and mind of the Christian but as a sentinel who has fought the errors of old and helps keeps watch over the church.

The Sabbath in Genesis

Continuing to think through the matter of evening worship, in this article I want to focus on the doctrine of the Sabbath. How do we begin to examine this subject? Matthew 12:8 says, “For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” The Jesus rules over the Sabbath. This point is where we begin and is also one of the first places of agreement for Christians in the discussion of the Sabbath. Jesus is our Lord and the Lord of the Sabbath. And as he is our Lord we must consider how we regard that day in light of Christ’s exhortations to his people. All of Scripture God’s word and is revealed for teaching and proclaiming the grand, redemptive, creative works of God to us. The doctrine of the Christian Sabbath is therefore rightly understood as shown by God for his purposes and our benefit. It is necessary for a discussion on the Sabbath to begin where the Scriptures first describe Sabbath in Genesis and move forward.

In this next series of articles, I examine the creation narrative and observe three points.
1. God is creator of creation and time
2. God makes man in his image
3. Man is to image God in his work and rest
This first article will focus on God as Creator of creation and time.

God is Creator of Creation and Time
After the initial moments of creation, Scripture records a state of “unbounded and deep and darkness” (Gen. 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.) Scripture describes Spirit of God as “hovering” over the face of the deep, a reference to the theophanic glory cloud suggests OT scholar M.G. Kline. The presence of the Spirit causes us to think of the power of God in creation, as the world is in chaos, but the power of God brings order and sustains it. (Calvin) The same Spirit that is present at Pentecost, the erection of the temple, and during the Exodus wanderings, is present in the creation event. The author of Hebrews identifies this description in Genesis as the Son.

Hebrews 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

The Sabbath Theme
In Genesis 1 the central theme of the creation account is the Sabbath, not the length of days as some choose to emphasize. The Sabbath is the culmination of the days. The Sabbath becomes rightly stated as “eschatological” because it is a sign of the Eschaton, along with the tree of life that is in the garden of Eden. The Sabbath is the promised blessing of God’s original covenant with Adam. God vows to grant to humanity an inheritance of rest after a trial of obedience.
The writer describes the Sabbath after the creation events where God is described with anthropomorphic language to rest

Gen. 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

We notice the writer uses the verb sabat with the seventh day instead of the word “Sabbath.” Likely to distinguish the Biblical Sabbath from the pagan views in the contemporary era.

It is interesting to compare the Biblical creation account with the contemporary pagan accounts, Enuma elish, and the Atrahasis Epic. In both of these accounts, the gods rest after the creation of man. Humanity is made to do the ordinary day to day work and maintenance of the earth so that the gods can do other tasks. The gods promise to build Babylon and a temple for Marduk. In this account, humanity is at service to the gods to make the workload of the gods easier. The idea of Mesopotamian rest was significantly different from the rest of God in the Bible. He blesses the day and invites humanity to participate in the rest with him.

The Pattern of Evening and Morning
There is a pattern that emerges from the creation account starting in verse 5, “And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.” What is the pattern the narrative repeats five times supposed to communicate? Some argue that this perhaps should be the basis to consider that a day was defined by the OT from sunset to sunset. Without going into too much detail, V. Hamilton states there is evidence through the OT that the day was considered by the OT to begin in the morning at sunrise. (Gen 19:33-34, Judg. 6:38; 21:4) Therefore this refrain of “evening and morning” is not to communicate when the day begins, but firstly it shows the time was vacant “until the morning, the end of a day and the beginning of the next work.”

God creates boundaries over time defining the day’s beginning and end. I am convinced that the pattern of evening and morning emerges in the text to communicate God’s sovereignty over creation and time to early Israel. They are learning that the God who redeems and delivers is also the God of time and space. Even time is subject to the commands of God. In the next article, I hope to explore the significance of God making man in his image.

Why Do We Baptize Babies? (2)

In the previous post I wrote about the essence of the Abrahamic covenant. I argued that the covenant, though national in a sense, was in its essence spiritual. I also briefly argued from Scripture to show the continuity of the Abrahamic covenant. To read another article in support of the continuity argument I refer the reader to the article “Continuity Preserves the Gospel.

In this article I argue that the Abrahamic covenant is not abrogated but still in force and is essentially identical with the New Covenant. This is one of the arguments of Galatians. Abraham has more in common with the New Covenant than Moses. The Apostle Paul argued that the Mosaic Covenant did not abrogate the Abrahamic Covenant but is actually subservient to Abrahamic Covenant. According to Dr. J. Pipa in his commentary on Galatians he writes,

“He uses the term ‘law’ to refer to the Mosaic covenant. If law culminates in curse, what then are its role and its relationship to God’s grace? Paul answers this question by explaining the relationship between the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenants. He shows us two things: (a) the Mosaic does not nullify or alter the Abrahamic and (b) the Mosaic is actually subservient to the Abrahamic.”

Therefore we rightly observe unity and the continuity of the Abrahamic covenant in both dispensations for four reasons.

Firstly, the Mediator is the same.

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 10:43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Acts 15:10 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?
Acts 15:11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Gal. 3:16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

1Tim. 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
1Tim. 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1Pet. 1:9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1Pet. 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,
1Pet. 1:11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
1Pet. 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Secondly, the condition of faith is the same in the old and new

Gen. 15:6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Rom. 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

Psa. 32:10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.

Heb. 2:4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Acts 10:43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Heb 11 (the chapter)

Thirdly, the spiritual blessings of the covenant are the same in

a) justification:

Psa. 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Psa. 32:2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Psa. 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Is. 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

Rom. 4:9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.

Gal. 3:6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

b) regeneration

Deut. 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Psa. 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

c) spiritual gifts

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.

Joel 2:32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

Acts 2:17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
Acts 2:18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
Acts 2:19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
Acts 2:20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Is. 40:31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

d) eternal life

Ex. 3:6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Heb. 4:9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,

Heb. 11:10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Fourthly, Hebrews encourages the Christian with the objective oath made by God as a confirmation to Abraham. This shows the unchangeable nature of the promise because it is impossible for God to lie

Heb. 6:13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,
Heb. 6:14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.”
Heb. 6:15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.
Heb. 6:16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.
Heb. 6:17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,
Heb. 6:18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

In conclusion, Scripture shows the continuity and NOT the discontinuity of the Abrahamic Covenant. This continuity is foundational to us as Christians to understand and rely on the promises of an unchanging and faithful God. And if this continuity exists then the Abrahamic covenant is not abrogated (repealed) but still in force and is essentially identical with the New Covenant.

Why Do We Have a 2nd Service?

Our family made plans to visit a friend out of town and in the planning process we told them we had church on Sunday night. They were not expecting that Christians went to church twice in a day. That turned into a conversation about the Lord’s Day and the Christian’s duty on that day. This conversation made me ask the question “What happened to the second service?” in churches? It’s no surprise that many Reformed congregations stopped having a second service long ago. It’s no wonder that many churches that do have a second service see it poorly attended compared to the morning service. I asked a pastor of a large Reformed congregation what his evening service attendance was in comparison to the morning, and he said it was an abysmal 10%. When attendance has been down that low, it is understandable why some churches would cease holding an evening service. Reformed pastors have been working on this problem of low attendance in the second service for a long time.

When the early Reformers established their liturgies and church orders, they prescribed a morning and afternoon/evening service. In the morning there was an exposition of Scripture and the second service was there was catechetical preaching. Preaching that would be aimed and centered on teaching the basics of the faith and by understanding doctrine, they would grow in an understanding of the Word. The intention was that the Christian would then receive a balanced spiritual diet. So they would be exposed to more of the Word and the day would be “book ended” by worshipping with God’s people. However, this was not popular with the members of the church. People didn’t quite know how to receive catechetical preaching and teaching first of all, but mainly they preferred to play on Sunday and didn’t care to go to church twice in a day. Eventually, some ministers decided to cease holding an evening service due to low attendance.

At the Synod of Dort (1618-19), it was decided to censure ministers who stopped holding a second public worship service. Ministers were exhorted to preach brief and understandable sermons and not to cancel the second service due to poor attendance. Even if only the minister’s family attended the service, the expectation was to have a second worship service. The second service would be the uniform practice of Reformed churches in the 1600s. The answer to what happened to the second service seems obvious; low attendance resulted in cancellation. But the next question arises and remains to be answered and explored, “Why the low attendance?” R. Scott Clark’s in, “Recovering the Reformed Confession” rightly states low attendance reflects two things. First, little appreciation of the means of grace in the life of the church and Christian and secondly, the doctrine of the Sabbath.

There is a strong consensus in Reformed churches that God works through means, and that the Sabbath looks forward to the consummation, is a day to rest from work, and for public worship. The difficulty seems to be more practical from this point of agreement. Instead of honoring God with our bodies, (1 Cor. 6:20) we pause for worship and then are consumed by the demands of culture and the secular. I hope to explore this and connected issues in coming articles. This series will be an opportunity to consider and remember why we believe what we believe and then we will know why we do what we do. Perhaps, when you have a friend surprised to hear you attend two services, you’ll be equipped to have a fruitful and challenging dialog.

Why Do We Baptize Babies?

“Why do we baptize infants?” is a question in ministry we hear often. I would conservatively guess that I receive this question about five times a year on average. This number is based on conversations ranging from those that have nothing to do with infant baptism, and then the person may introduce the question, or they may just initiate the conversation with the question on baptism. Sometimes it is something people have been wrestling with for some time and other times it appears like they are very sympathetic to the view and are looking for a reason to support the practice they already approve.

Thus I write this article hoping to answer many questions most commonly asked. To be clear, I don’t want to write, so I don’t have to answer them in person, but so that they would be able to see the argument and study it carefully. Often I forget all the words people say and I am certain I’m not alone.

First, let me say two things at the outset. There is no explicit command in the Bible to baptize children, to say this differently, there isn’t an instance recorded where believing parents bring children to receive the sign of baptism. On the other hand, we read of no situation in the New Testament where Christian parents of a child are told not to bring their child to receive baptism till they have come to an age of discernment and have given something resembling a profession of faith in Christ.

So this is the question “What are we to do with children of believers?” I have seen Calvary Chapel churches dedicate babies, or sometimes other churches pray over the children, then there are the many other denominations that baptize their children. I argue that all children of at least one believing parent should receive the sign of holy baptism.

First I will argue that the that the covenant made with Abraham was a spiritual covenant, while it also had a national aspect. The sign and seal of this spiritual covenant circumcision.

Baptists will argue that the Abrahamic covenant should be divided or broken up into three different covenants. But throughout Scripture, it is always spoken of in the singular, always. Some examples:

Ex. 2:24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.

Lev. 26:42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

2Kings 13:23 But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now.

1Chr. 16:16     the covenant that he made with Abraham his sworn promise to Isaac,

Psa. 105:9     the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,

Also, I argue that the spiritual nature of the Abrahamic covenant is proved by the Apostolic interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant in the New Testament.

Rom. 4:16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,

Rom. 4:17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Rom. 4:18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”

2Cor. 6:16-18 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Gal. 3:8 And the 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.”

Gal. 3:9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Gal. 3:14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Gal. 3:16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

Heb. 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Heb. 11:9-10 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Heb. 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

In the Old Testament circumcision, while visible, had a spiritual significance.

Deut. 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

Deut. 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Jer. 4:4     Circumcise yourselves to the LORD;
remove the foreskin of your hearts,
O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem;
lest my wrath go forth like fire,
and burn with none to quench it,
because of the evil of your deeds.”

Jer. 9:25 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh—

Jer. 9:26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”

Acts 15:1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Rom. 2:26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?

Rom. 2:27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.

Rom. 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.

Rom. 2:29 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.

Rom. 4:11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,

Phil. 3:2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.

And Paul even calls the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant “The Gospel.”

Gal. 3:8 And the 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.”

The conclusion is that while the Abrahamic covenant had national or political aspects, (promised a land, people, and global blessings) the essence of the covenant was spiritual. Also that it was unified and was always in place while seen in different administrations. This next point will move from this first in the next article.

Images of Jesus

This is written by Mark Jones from the website reformation21.org
————————————

The debate over whether pictures of Jesus are allowed, suitable, etc., usually revolves around the interpretation of the second commandment. I want to look at the debate from a slightly different angle, namely: the beatific vision.

There are only two ways that we are able to see Christ: either by faith or by sight. In this present age, we live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). But the immediate object of our faith and of our sight is always the Lord Jesus. While Jesus desires that we should all see (by sight) his glory (Jn. 17:24), he also desires that we live by faith in this world (Jn. 20:29).

In this life we have no unmediated access to Jesus Christ, except through the Scriptures, which have to be believed by faith. They are the “face” of Jesus Christ. As we come to know and understand the Scriptures more and more – for they speak of him (Lk. 24:44) – we come to know Jesus more and more.

This knowledge is utterly transforming. Paul speaks about how Christians, “with unveiled face,” behold the glory of Christ and are as a result “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). As we are transformed in the inner man, our “transfiguration” (i.e., being conformed to the image of Christ) takes place by the power of Christ’s Spirit.

Those who wish to see Christ, face-to-face, in the life to come must in this world see him by faith. We believe what we do not (yet) see. But we must believe otherwise we shall never see. For, as John Owen solemnly wrote, “no man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who does not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world” (Works, 1:288).

Just as grace prepares us for glory, faith prepares us for sight.

The sight we shall have of Christ in heaven will be immediate. In other words, there shall be nothing between us and Christ, except the Spirit enlivening our bodies and souls in order to behold Christ’s glory. Our vision will also direct. Christ will, in his glory, appear before us; we will see him as he really is (1 Jn. 3:2).

Our sight of Christ will not merely be visible; nor will it be merely intellectual. Rather, it will be a sight that is both visible and intellectual. We shall behold him in his glory with an understanding of his person that is suitable to our own glorified state. This vision of Christ is, however, completely unsuitable for us who live on earth (see Lk. 9:30-33; Rev. 1:17; Acts 9). We could not endure such a sight in our present condition. Such a sight of the glorious one would be “too high, illustrious, and marvellous for us” who live on earth with indwelling sin (Owen, Works, 1:290)

If the glorified Lord appeared to his people on earth it would not be at all helpful to us, unless it were to immediately transform us into his same image. “For we are not able, by the power of any light or grace that we have received, or can receive, to bear the immediate appearance and representation [of Christ]” (Owen, Works, 1:380).

Just as we are transformed into Christ’s image in this life by faith, so we will be transformed into Christ’s image in the life to come by sight. As John makes clear: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2). John shows that we will be like Jesus because we shall see him. Therefore, the sight of Christ is transforming for God’s people, both by faith and by sight.

This is a hope that we are unable to fully grasp right now. The powerful sense of spiritual sight will enable God’s people to see a glory in Christ’s person “a thousand times above what here we can conceive” (Owen, Works, 1:379). This sight is what all of God’s people on earth do “breathe and pant after” (Owen, Works, 1:379).

Pictures of Jesus

Christ’s appearance seems to have changed quite dramatically at his resurrection (Lk. 24:31). The beatific vision calls into question the suitability of pictures of Christ. All of God’s people should desire to see the risen Christ. But, we must ask the question: Can we ever capture the glory of the exalted God-man in a picture? After all, his glory must necessarily transcend a picture because his personal glory – which cannot be severed from his glorified humanity – is both immaterial and transforming.

There is the added problem that if the picture represents Christ, as it purports to do, then why do we not worship the picture? The vision of Christ at the consummation will certainly cause us to fall down and worship him. If we do not worship the picture because it is not really Christ, then what is the point? Some might respond that Jesus was seen by his disciples and thousands of other people during his life. But we must remember that they actually saw, even if it was not with the eyes of faith, the true Christ, not a representation of him. Worshipping him in that context would have been entirely appropriate.

Owen seemed to think that a proper understanding of the beatific vision should keep God’s people from using pictures of Christ. He points out that Christ’s real glory cannot be captured in a picture, and thus diverts our thoughts from faith to a pretended sight. The Word of God alone stirs up our affections for the Christ represented to us. As Luther said, “the Bible is the cradle where Christ is laid.”

As a divine person, a representation of Christ is still a representation of God. And any representation of Christ that does not truly reflect the person of Christ is a false representation. Christ has a true human nature, but that human nature has always subsisted in union with the person of the Son. There is something natural for all of God’s children to desire to see his face in the person of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6); but we must be patient and wait for the true representation of Christ, which is infinitely better than anything our own minds can conjure up on earth. We do not yet live by sight, but by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us (Gal. 2:20).

I should add that age-appropriate children’s books with pictures of Jesus may have one major short-coming. Significantly and pastorally, these pictures deprive our children of the blessing of the “seeing” that belongs to the eyes of faith. Parents must not rob their children of this wonderful and joyful privilege (Jn. 20:29; 1 Pet 1:8). Fathers, mothers, and preachers must present him so that he may truly known (1 Jn. 1:3).

For Christians, the closest (and best) picture we have of Christ while pilgrims on earth are the elements of bread and wine given to us in the Lord’s Supper – elements that we view by sight, but are ultimately only any use to us if received by faith. The joy of communing with our risen Savior in the sacrament does not require pictures, but careful, joyful obedience.

– See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/01/pictures-of-christ-the-beatifi.php#sthash.I5Iw5e1h.dpuf