Tag Archives: Worship

Logical Worship

In the letter to the believers at Rome, the structure of the book should be familiar to those who have read other divinely inspired letters from the pen of the Apostle Paul.  In Romans, the section on practical application is built upon a robust doctrinal theology.  This transition from doctrine to practice occurs in chapter 12 with the familiar call to the believer’s renewal of the mind.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

It’s noteworthy that the exhortation begins with an appeal, parakaleo, essentially meaning to beg or plead.  It’s one of Paul’s most regularly used words, upwards of 50 times. This appeal from him is rooted in the ever important, therefore, which helps link what was said previously, essentially all of the book, but most notably 11:32-36, with what will follow, the exhortation to holiness and the subsequent Christian ethical commands.  In the passage noted from chapter 11, the mercies of God were central to understanding the salvation that comes through God as a product of His divine mercy, which of course was built on Romans 9:15ff.  It’s upon these mercies that this section is founded with the appeal to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.  Three ideas conveyed in this sentence links this exhortation with the Old Testament priesthood and sacrificial system, presentliving sacrifice, and spiritual worship, giving way to a New Testament priesthood and a sacrificial system flowing out of the Priesthood of Christ and the sacrifice of Himself on the cross for sinners.

First, present, was used earlier in the letter in Romans 6:13, 16, and 6:19 and is sometimes unfortunately translated as yield.  It is used commonly in the Septuagint as a technical word in the context of presenting a sacrifice to the priest and it conveys the idea of presenting something, here it’s presenting yourself, to another’s disposal.  It’s as if we presented ourselves to God and said, “Here I am, do with me what you will.”  A similar idea may perhaps be seen in the presentation of Christ in the temple, Luke 2:22-23.  As with the language of the Old Covenant sacrifices and as with the presentation of Christ, the presentation that we bring is our whole self, our whole body – the whole man, as it were.  A similar idea was discussed earlier in Romans through the passage on our union with Christ and the necessity of our sanctification,

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. Romans 6:12-13

Above, we are also exhorted to present our members, individual components of our bodies, to God as instruments for righteousness.  In other words, do not present your body to sin and Satan saying to them, “Here I am, do with me what you will,” rather, as we have seen we are to present ourselves to God in this way, fully disposed to Him for His bidding.  There are only two realities, two options towards which we may present ourselves, God and righteousness or Satan and Sin.  We ought to linger here longer.

Second, and perhaps more clearly seen as an Old Testament connection, is the calling to present ourselves as a living sacrifice.  While there is certainly a relationship between the Old Covenant presentation of sacrifices and our own New Covenant presentation of ourselves as a sacrifice, we need to be clear that the sacrifice of Christ is the fulfillment of all of the Old Covenant sacrifices, as well as the priesthood, though our Lord’s is after the order of Melchizedek.  However, what is being established here is that on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice and His Priestly mediation, we as believers by way of our union with Him, are a priesthood after the order of Christ.  Our sacrifices are ourselves.  It is not a dead sacrifice, nor is it one that is brought to die (though figuratively we do), but one that has been brought from death to life now to live a life of service unto God.  Furthermore, we see that our sacrifice is holy and acceptable, two adjectives which can only be true of those in Christ.  Just as the Old Covenant sacrifices were to be set apart, without blemish, and were made acceptable by the priest, so too have we been made holy by the blood of the Lamb and are acceptable to God on the basis on Christ’s finished work.  The appeal that is being made here is for believers, on the basis of their faith in Christ, to present themselves as a holy, acceptable, living sacrifice to the God who made them and redeemed them.

Finally, we arrive at our last idea connecting these New Covenant realities with their typological shadows from the Old Covenant here through the phrase, spiritual worship.  To reiterate, the presentation of the sacrifice in the Old Covenant was the prescribed worship that God had commanded.  Under the New Covenant, there is prescribed worship as well and for the believer it begins with the sacrifice of themselves unto the service of God.  Here, that concept has been translated as spiritual worship in the ESV, but it is translated elsewhere as reasonable service.  The word translated as spiritual or reasonable is logikos, from where we get the English word logic. It is by logic or reason that this service/worship is being offered to God.  Whereas under the Old Covenant, the worship could often be monotonous, routine, and outward, under the New Covenant it is to be logical, reasonable, and from within.

Summarily, on the basis of all that has preceded this new section in chapter 12, that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that justification is by faith alone, that we are born sinners in Adam yet redeemed by Christ, that our salvation freed us from slavery to sin, that there is a war even now in our members between the fleshly desires to sin and the spiritual desires for righteousness, that there is now no condemnation in Christ, that those whom He called, He also justified, and will also glorify, that it is on the basis on God’s good pleasure and mercy that anyone will be saved from His wrath, on the basis of all of these truth’s summarized as the mercies of God, our logical worship is to present ourselves unto this same all-sufficient and holy God to say here I am, do with me as you will.  That is what Paul pleads for believers to do, as I plead in my own heart for myself, and for all those who read this sermon.

Let’s conclude where we began, by looking at the passage again from Romans 12, this time with the translation from Kenneth Wuest, who brings out and elucidates many of the ideas which we examined above.

I therefore beg of you, please, brethren, through the instrumentality of the aforementioned mercies of God, by a once-for-all presentation to place your bodies at the disposal of God, a sacrifice, a living one, a holy one, well-pleasing, your rational, sacred service, [rational, in that this service is performed by the exercise of the mind].

 

The Corinthian Heresy

1 Corinthians 11:17-22

In ten years of writing and teaching ministry, this may be the single most difficult passage I’ve attempted. The great challenge is to untangle familiarity with the passage, which includes fighting against regurgitating other people’s arguments. Below, though a rather lengthy post, is my exposition, verse-by-verse on the correction of the Lord’s Supper from the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth focusing on verses 17-22, the heart of the argument, and then providing some summary conclusions and applications.

 

Over at my original site, Speaking the Truth in Love, I’ve been trying to clean up some of the regular, ongoing series there in order to devote more time and attention to shorter devotionals

 

Sabbath Rest – Part 4

In this our fourth and final post in the series on Sabbath Rest, which is part of a larger look at the Theology of Rest in Scripture, we will round out our discussion with an overview of three additional supporting passages for the development of the Sabbath Command along with what we’ve been referring to as the Sabbath Principle, all under the Old Covenant.  Briefly, the Sabbath Command is that which was codified in the 10 Commandments with the instruction to work six days, but rest on the seventh.  We’ve seen how this command was rooted and grounded in the creation sabbath from Genesis 2 and also in the Israelite redemption from Egypt.  Along side this, perhaps as an expansion, is the Sabbath Principle, which we’ve seen expands the concept of Sabbath rest from one day in seven to one year in seven, in order to allow the land to rest and provide food to both the poor and the beasts.  With that in mind, let’s turn now to our three passages, two from Leviticus and one from Numbers.

Leviticus 23

Our first support passage in this post for completing our understanding and introduction to the institution of the Sabbath command comes in Leviticus 23.  The Book of Leviticus is chronologically parallel to Exodus, meaning that it is an expanded commentary on the commandments handed down from God to Moses at Sinai.  At the conclusion of the book we read, “These are the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.”  Here in chapter 23 it is a new section where Israel is receiving instructions on their appointed feasts.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.” Lev. 23:1-2

After this introduction, the chapter opens with a brief mention of the Sabbath

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.

Here, we have essentially a restatement of the Fourth Commandment, with an additional note that the Sabbath was to be a solemn rest, a holy convocation.  This is our first, and only mention, so far, of a particular gathering requirement on the Sabbath.  We should note that this falls under the umbrella for holy convocations, which opened the chapter and has in mind the appointed feasts, which are also called to be holy convocations.  Furthermore, it was to be a Sabbath in all of their dwelling places, which we’ve already seen.   Here, however we need to ask what is meant by holy convocation and what is meant by dwelling places.

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, defines this holy convocation as a designation for weekly Sabbaths and the new moons, though its usually, “reserved for the seven special convocation sabbaths” which were arranged around five feasts two of which spanned from a Sabbath to a Sabbath (Passover and the Feast of Booths).  The TWOT goes on to say that these convocations included, “a formal summoning of people to worship by the blast of trumpets…physical presence was mandatory, however, only for the three festal pilgrimage feasts and only for males.”  These were the three feasts which we looked at last time in Exodus and which are also described in this chapter of Leviticus.

The dwellings mentioned in our passage the TWOT defines as, “the dwelling place of a city, tribe, or people” as well as, “even houses could be called dwellings.”  Basically what we have with this added note on the Sabbath is that it should be a gathering of some kind in the place where they dwelled, be it a house, city, tribe, or people.  It was not a mandatory pilgrimage for males, contrary to the three primary feasts.

The remainder of the chapter is devoted to descriptions of the various feasts, which we also discussed in the previous post, which are also called holy convocations.  Included in these descriptions of the feasts are instructions that no work should be performed, essentially extending the principle of the Sabbath from a weekly observance, to multiple times a year at the celebration of the God-ordained feasts.  This is likely where the plural reference to “sabbaths” finds its basis, in all of the God-ordained periods of rest which He sometimes refers to collectively.

(We should note also the addition of the Day of Atonement as a Sabbath; see also Leviticus 16).

Leviticus 24:8-9

Our next passage, again from Leviticus, takes a bit of a turn from the previous passages on the Sabbath and provides some instructions for what the priest, namely Aaron, is supposed to do.  After describing how the bread for the tabernacle is supposed to be made (24:5-7), we read that, Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the Lord regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the Lord‘s food offerings, a perpetual due.”  This arrangement of the bread in the tabernacle by the High priest was part of the covenant, as was the Sabbath.  Furthermore, we see that Aaron and his sons (High Priests), were to eat the bread in the holy place as his holy portion.

Numbers 28:9

Our final support passage for the Sabbath is from the Book of Numbers, though remember our previous mention of Numbers 15 and the case study for violating the Sabbath.  In this passage, we read of additional instructions for the priests on the Sabbath, On the Sabbath day, two male lambs a year old without blemish, and two tenths of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, and its drink offering:10 this is the burnt offering of every Sabbath, besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.”

On the Sabbath Day, according to the regulations that we’ve seen for 6 days of work and 1 day of rest, we’ve seen instructions for ‘priestly work’ in these last two passages, including making bread and offering sacrifices, a burnt offering, grain offering, and drink offering.  We also have found some additional information about convocations in dwellings, but have little prescription beyond that.

In our survey of rest thus far, we have now seen that the commandment of a Sabbath Rest, as well as the further development of the Sabbath Principle, are significant contributions to the overall theology of rest.  While the Sabbath is certainly mentioned throughout the Old Testament in other important passages such as Nehemiah 13, Isaiah 1:13ff; Isaiah 56:1-8; Isaiah 58:13-14; Ezekiel 20, et.al., the passages we’ve looked at in this series without question form the backbone and foundation for understanding how God had commanded the Sabbath to be observed as well as providing a Sabbath principle that extended above and beyond a 1 day in 7 observation.  Additionally, we have seen that this Sabbath principle effects not only the rest and refreshment of  the men, women, and children of Israel, but also the sojourner among them, as well as animals and the land.  In this sense, the concept of Sabbath is far reaching, we might even say universal as it relates to the community of Israel, touching every aspect of creation.  Similarly, we again find the Sabbath rooted in the creation Sabbath, as well as consequences prescribed for those who violate the Sabbath.

In our overall theme of rest, it would appear as though the Sabbath Command and Sabbath Principle reflect, at least in part, the rest established by God for Adam in the Garden.  Furthermore, we see the anticipation of rest for Israel in the Promised Land as both the Sabbath Command and Sabbath Principle are tied to entrance and establishment in Canaan.  Finally, these weekly, annual, and regular periods of rest would seem to anticipate a more permanent rest to come, a point which we will have to flesh out another time.

This overview of the Sabbath rest brings up some additional points worth considering, including the concept of Jubilee and another point of Broken Rest, but those topics for another day.

 

In this series: