Emmaus Podcast

logo_testThe institution I work for, Emmaus Bible College, has a podcast for chapel messages and conference teaching. These usually consist of our own faculty and alumni, with special guests from time to time, teaching from the Bible. You can listen below, and subscribe on your favorite podcasting app (Soundcloud, iTunes, Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Tunein). If you like the podcast, please consider rating us and leaving a review! It would help spread the word about what we’re doing! Also, we have an Emmaus Bible College blog in the works for this fall, so stay tuned!

Here’s the link: https://soundcloud.com/user-357708783

Let me know what you think!

The Enduring Value of the Participatory Lord’s Supper

CommunionI grew up in a Bible-believing church that celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ once each week in a meeting called “The Lord’s Supper.” It was also know in our family as “The Breaking of Bread” or the “First Meeting.” The meeting is unlike communion services in mainline evangelical churches in that it is a service where men who have trusted in Jesus Christ can stand up sporadically and share something about their Savior from their heart. I heard a lot about the importance of that meeting growing up, often from within the meeting itself. Many people over the years have testified about its’ significance in their life. Some have identified it as the main reason they choose to fellowship at a particular local church. Others qualify that service as the most important hour of their week.

Many have written about the biblical foundation for the participatory Lord’s Supper. That is not the purpose of this article, though it is an area of continued need. Neither do I intend to make sweeping generalizations about the churches that employ this kind of a service, as seems to be popular among some today. In what follows, I simply want to offer seven reasons why I value the Lord’s Supper. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, as if I could in a few words encompass the immeasurable worth of remembering the Savior in this way. While these reasons are very close to my heart, they are in no way exclusive to myself alone. I hope in reading them you also will be moved to marvel at the manifold wisdom of our Lord Jesus Christ for instituting this remembrance meal.

The Lord’s Supper Teaches Biblical Truth
This is a statement that is so often repeated that its effect has been hugely diminished. The Breaking of Bread service teaches the Bible in a vivid and theologically rich way that is not possible in a traditional preaching service. There are several reasons for this. First, though there may be many sub-themes during the meeting, the main theme is always Jesus Christ: His death and resurrection. Whatever else is said, Christ is key. That means when a believer stands up to speak, they talk about Jesus. So Jesus is proclaimed from all of Scripture; Old and New Testaments, well-known passages, and more obscure ones. Speakers, then, are all doing the work of presenting a coherent biblical theology as it relates to Jesus week by week. Second, there are a diverse group of believers reading, praying, rejoicing, and presenting during this meeting. These believers have different styles, different tones and fluctuation, different levels of intensity and excitement. These different styles allow for increased potential in learning among the diverse group that makes up the church congregation, since each individual believer has different learning styles. Simply put, in the participatory Lord’s Supper there is something for everyone.

The Lord’s Supper Demands Individual Reflection
“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup,” (1 Cor. 11:28). There are both communal and individual aspects to the Lord’s Supper. Individually, the service is a time for personal reflection on my spiritual status before God. What has my life been like since I last took the bread and cup? Is there some unconfessed sin I am harboring, some arrogant or unholy attitude of which I refuse to repent? Have I been saturated in God’s word? What about my time in prayer before the Lord? If Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was meant to restore a right relationship between myself and God, these relational questions must be asked and reflected upon before true worship of my Savior can commence. It is often pointed out that the personal examination is not meant to lead to abstaining from the elements in guilt, but rather to reflect, repent, and resume fellowship through taking the bread and cup. In that way our personal reflection mirrors our salvation experience: sin does not have the final word, but is conquered over by our relationship with Jesus Christ through faith.

The Lord’s Supper Adjusts our Spiritual Vision
The world we live in pollutes our minds and hearts and seeks to draw us away from Jesus Christ. From one week to the next, the rampant sin evident all around us can dull our minds, harden our hearts, and deteriorate our spiritual vision. The Lord’s Supper serves to correct that deteriorated vision by speaking truth into our lives. The true nature of mankind is on display each Sunday readjusting our view from society’s positive outlook on humanity to Scripture’s denouncement of our ability to do anything good in and of ourselves. The true nature of sin is proclaimed, shifting our lens from tolerance and enablement in regard to sin to the Christian call to put to death the nature of sin. The true nature of salvation, not as solely social justice, emotional euphoria, or mystical achievement, but rather as freedom from slavery to sin bought by Christ’s precious blood, alters our perspective. The Breaking of Bread acts as a weekly refocusing of the eyes of our hearts.

The Lord’s Supper Creates Opportunities for Trinitarian Worship
As we read the Word together, pray together, sing together, we are given opportunities to worship the Triune God. Since worship has to do with attitudes and motivations, two individuals can be sitting together in the same service, hearing the same words read and prayed, and singing the same songs, and one be worshipping while the other fails to do so. But the opportunities are presented to each individual, and each must take advantage of them. Once a believer ceases to be preoccupied with themselves and instead focuses in on Christ, we see worship directed toward the Godhead in beautiful ways.

Jesus Christ is the center of the Lord’s Supper: it is His meal, instituted by Him. We remember His life, death, and resurrection, and in doing so venerate Him as He asked us to. When we worship Jesus Christ the Son in this service, God the Father is glorified. The Father’s predetermined plan led the Son to become incarnate, suffer, and die in our place. We pray to the Father, praising Him for sending His Son, for giving His only begotten Son over to death, and He hears our prayers and receives our worship. The Holy Spirit is likewise at work in the service. He guides our thinking and reading of Scripture, convicts us of sin, gifts us to encourage and build up one another, and in all things magnifies Jesus Christ as the only begotten God. Thus in our worship service each person of the Trinity is actively involved in multiple and diverse ways, working in us, among us, and through us to build up the one body of Christ.

The Lord’s Supper Demolishes Pride and Arrogance
Confronted weekly with the crucified Savior who died on Calvary for the sins of the world, yes, but more confrontationally for my sins, I see my sin for what it truly is. My arrogance is revealed, the attitudes of my heart no one sees but me, the secret motivations for self-elevation and advancement that war against the Spirit are all laid bare. All these are highlighted against the contrast of the body of Jesus broken and the blood of Jesus shed for me. As Jesus is magnified in the Lord’s Supper, my sin takes on its real, grotesque form. It’s as if in the taking of the bread and the cup I stand before the Savior as He suffers on the cross, and all my self-accomplishments and the things I find worth in apart from Christ are shown to be worthless. I hear the words, “He became sin who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” and pride is eradicated. How can I glory in any part of myself knowing the penalty my sin demands and how undeserving of so great a salvation I am? When I see Jesus while at the Lord’s table, “my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.”

The Lord’s Supper Unites the Hearts of Believers
There is both an individual aspect and a corporate aspect to the Lord’s Supper. Individually, I assess my spiritual state before God, confess sin, and prepare my heart for worship. Yet in being led by others in the meeting to think about Christ in the Scriptures, sing songs of praise and worship to Him, pray prayers of thanksgiving for His work accomplished, a wonderful collective sense of love and gratitude flows from others who are worshipping as well. Our hearts are being united together around a common love for Jesus who is beautified in the meeting, and a common deep appreciation for what has been done on our behalf. Social and ethnic distinctions that exist throughout the week no longer separate us, but people from diverse backgrounds are united in spirit to give praise to the Triune God for the salvific work of Jesus the Son. In this way a beautiful unity in diversity and diversity in unity is displayed among believers as we look on Jesus there.

The Lord’s Supper Transforms the Mind
As our sin is confronted, pride decimated, vision focused on Christ, and hearts united together in love and thankfulness, the Holy Spirit renews our minds, transforming our thoughts and imaginations. The world around us passes away as we set our hearts on things above. Our worries, fears, ambitions, motivations are all brought low before the crucified and glorified Lamb of God. The suffering and exaltation of our Jesus changes how we view the world around us. Seeing Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father silences our worries and fears. The knowledge that He has raised us there with Him eradicates all sinful ambition and motivation. What we are left with is our glorious God and Savior occupying the throne of our hearts and the seat of our affections. If the Holy Spirit is allowed to have His way in the Lord’s Supper, the result is the casting down of all false gods and the magnification of Jesus Christ. Having been transformed by the renewing of our minds, we are ready to again wage war against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

These are seven reasons why I highly value the participatory Lord’s Supper. In a contemporary culture where this service is becoming increasingly unimportant, we would do well to remember the words of the author to the Hebrews: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” (Heb. 10:23-25).

Eternal Relational Subordination and the History of the Church (Pt. 2)

57KRVGK2H9In the first part of this article I argued that evangelicalism is engaged in a civil war on the theological battlefield of Trinitarianism in regard to the heated and divisive issue of the eternal relational subordination of the Son. For an elaboration of this statement, see Part 1.  One common argument against the eternal subordination of the Son (ESS) is that it is a modern invention created in the 20th century by those who were looking for added theological support for discussions of gender and church roles. Opponents of ESS claim that using the eternal subordination of the Son  as a way to support gender distinctions within the church and marital relationships is heretical because it goes against the orthodox teaching of the church.

Is this accusation valid? In the previous article we saw that among church fathers of the patristic period there was no harmonious agreement either rejecting or accepting the eternal relational subordination of the Son from 1 Corinthians 15:27-28. But what about during the medieval, Reformation, and post-Reformation periods? The following is an examination of 1 Cor. 15:27-28 in post-patristic church history. At the close of this article I will offer some concluding thoughts and the implications of this study on the current Trinitarian debate. Continue reading

Eternal Relational Subordination and the History of the Church (Pt. 1)

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Evangelicalism is engaged in a civil war on the theological battlefield of Trinitarianism in regard to the heated and divisive issue of the eternal relational subordination of the Son. In short, there are those who assert God the Father and Jesus the Son are fully equal in every way within the immanent Trinity (God as he exists in eternity, apart from creation), and only in his humanity does the Son willingly subject himself to the Father (the economic Trinity, God in his interactions in this created world).[1] Others say that the Son’s submission to his Father in his humanity is an accurate reflection of their eternal relationship: the Son is eternally “subordinate” to the Father in terms of their roles.[2] Advocates of this second position make clear that the Father and Son are equally God ontologically in eternity, but in their relationship with one another there is an ordering where the Son always voluntarily submits to the Father. Since we are talking about the inner workings of God, tempers quickly flare and discussions quickly turn to arguments in this debate.

One common argument against the eternal subordination of the Son (ESS) is that it is a modern invention created in the 20th century by those who were looking for added theological support for discussions of gender and church roles. Opponents of ESS have sought to show that in the history of Trinitarian development within the early church, the church fathers do not speak about the Son as subordinate or submissive to the Father eternally but only in relation to redemptive history.[3] They claim that using the eternal subordination of the Son  as a way to support gender distinctions within the church and marital relationships is heretical because it goes against the orthodox teaching of the church.

So who is right? Did the early church fathers accept or reject the idea of the eternal subordination of the Son as it relates to his relationship with the Father? What about during the Reformation and post-Reformation periods? Contrary to what many are saying the in evangelical community today, there was no general consensus on the topic of the eternal relational submission of the Son to the Father in the history of the church. While some voices seem to oppose ESS, others appear to embrace it. Here are just a few brief examples from one relevant passage: 1 Corinthians 15:27-28. Continue reading

What Can Only Be Known Through the Cross

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In John 17:1 Jesus prays to the Father and asks that He would glorify the Son. The reason Jesus asks this is spelled out in the following verses: 1. Jesus wanted to be glorified so that He could in turn glorify the Father (v. 1). 2. Jesus would accomplish this by completing the work He had been given to do, defined in v. 2 as giving eternal life to all whom the Father would give to Him. 3. Eternal life is defined as knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom God had sent (v. 3). To summarize, Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him so that He could glorify the Father by giving the knowledge of the Triune God (eternal life) to all whom the Father had given Him. Continue reading

Does the Shamrock Picture the Trinity?

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The shamrock is commonly used to picture the Trinity, and at first glance it’s easy to see why. There are three leaves that are united in one plant and join at one stem. This gives us a picture of the Triune God of the Bible, does it not? The God who is one, and yet at the same time eternally exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So where is the problem? Why don’t all Christians just use this picture to explain the Trinity?

What the Shamrock Does Well

The shamrock gives us a good picture of the distinction of the Trinitarian persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) while showing they are united. We can see this come out clearly in God’s word. In Matthew 28:19, for example, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Interestingly the Greek word for name in that verse is singular. In other words, Jesus says that His disciples are to baptize in the one name of the Father, the Son, the Spirit. The name of God here is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” There are three persons, but there is one being, one essence.

The shamrock has three leaves that come together as one plant. This can be a helpful reminder to Christians that God is three persons who eternally exists as one God. The three persons share one common divine nature. The three leaves are distinct from one another, just as Father, Son, and Spirit are eternally distinct. At the same time, the leaves are united, just as Father, Son, and Spirit are eternally united.

Where the Shamrock Picture Fails

Where the shamrock does not succeed in picturing the Trinity is in the fact that each of the divine persons is fully God. The Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, the Spirit is fully God. The Father is not a part of God, but is fully God in Himself. The same is true with the Son and the Spirit. This is brought out in regards to Jesus the Son in Colossians 2:9, “For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Jesus is fully God in His incarnation while at the same time being fully man. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is fully God (a fact that should give tremendous comfort and courage to the believer in Christ on a daily basis).

In the shamrock, each individual leaf is not the entirety of the plant. For the picture to be biblically and theologically accurate, each leaf would have to somehow be the entirety of the plant. To our minds this seems impossible, and at this point the right response is to pause in wonder and praise in worship the greatness of our Triune God who is three in one and one in three and is so eternally and infinitely.

The shamrock can be a helpful picture, but the picture shouldn’t be taken as a perfect illustration of what God is like. It can only help us understand God in a limited sense. While the shamrock is a convenient metaphor, it remains (as all pictures and analogies of God ultimately are) imperfect.