We met at around 6pm. Ramin, Mohammed, Arman, Kourosh, Hosein, Derek, and David. We finished at around 7:40 pm and prayed around at the end.
The question of Christians and alcoholic drinks was suggested by Arman.
Dr Masters’ book, ‘Should Christians Drink?’ is very good. There are at least two reasons why Christians should not drink alcoholic drinks.
Hypocrisy was a new word – saying something is wrong when you do it yourself or even judge others for doing it yourself. Alcoholic drinking is an example of this where in Iran, it is common to say you do not drink (and getting caught leads to bad punishment whether you drink less or lots) but drinking in a private party may happen. Religion is full of hypocrisy – praying is a good example. Many religions focus on the body, perhaps using beads, or a mat but God is very interested in our heart (1 Sam 16:7, Joel 2:13, 2 Tim 3:5).
One reason we must not drink alcohol is because it is a great evil in the world. We want to have nothing to do with the world. Lives and families are destroyed every day by alcohol. Big money is made out of people who can not even afford to buy food. Alcohol makes fools and slaves out of people. Even one drink can make someone lose control of their mind and lead to more sin.
Some churches will only have strong wine in their communion service but this is not helpful to anyone, least of all the recovered alcoholic in the congregation.
The other main reason is ‘the weaker brother’ argument. Read Romans 14 and 15 and 1 Corinthians 10. Paul says he would rather give up eating meat than to make his brother fall into sin. Thinking you are ‘strong’ to carry on drinking alcohol shows that you have already fallen (1 Corinthians 10:12).
But we must not focus just on one kind of drunkenness and condemn it loudly. There a many ‘small’ people who just go to a public house to relax with friends after a hard week or drink a bottle of wine watching TV at night – they are just as guilty of hating God as someone who gets very drunk in a night club all weekend.
Then we also mentioned perhaps the worst kind of drunkenness. This is a curse from God for our godlessness. In Jeremiah 25:27 and 51:57 we read that God sends ‘drunkenness’ to his people. We see many things in church that shows that this has happened: overconfidence, staggering, lying, sleeping, not feeling natural pain, wallowing in filth instead of getting cleaned up, going back to sin. This is a terrible punishment.
We think that God does not notice if we sin. We think that if he really cared about our sin he would kill us (e.g. send a piano out of the sky to hit us). We forget that the goodness of God should lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). This is how wicked we are. Instead of thinking that we should repent, we sin more! We very much need the grace of God to save us!!
At Tabernacle Cardiff we are planning some changes to the Sunday afternoon in order to fully support the Sunday School outreach. We are planning to pause the Doctrine Class on Sunday afternoon until we feel we have enough people to support the Sunday School, Doctrine Class and Capel y Rhath. There is not only a need for Sunday School teachers, but also for building up a team to transport children to and from the Sunday School.
You may be disappointed with a pause in the Doctrine Class, but our elders felt that with the need to support the Sunday School it would be wise avoid overstretching our resources. The Doctrine Class has been a blessing over these years and we are grateful to the LORD for that and to all those who helped in taking and making the Doctrine Class. We hope to soon be in a position to support all three afternoon meetings once again.
Simon Green took this class, reading 1 Corinthians 11:23-end and asking, with insights from Puritans Stephen Charnock and Flavel, (V27-29) what is ‘worthy participation’?
Wycliffe opposed transubstantiation. Luther ended up with consubstatiation. Zwingli symbolic only. Calvin spoke of Christ being present and taken up, that believers feed spiritually upon Christ. Perhaps we have lost that? Feeding on him, as per John 6
Westminster Confession of 1640’s – strengthening spiritual vigour. Real presence – frequency and forms
1. Repentance and faith – Flavel’s 5 tests
But we should have the garment but it should be also be clean
Self examination and preparation
Brakel’s work was recommended: http://www.heritagebooks.org/the-christians-reasonable-service-4-vols/
Serious examination : judicial trial by my own conscience. Examine our attitude towards sin – all of this should take at least 30 minutes
We should come believing, humbly – thinking what we should have suffered, and thankfully so.
Flavel, ‘come with sharp and hungry appetites’: universal appetite – all of him every part of Christ. Also a continued appetite and industrious – do we use all means at our disposal? An insatiable appetite for him alone.
Where do our loves lie?
Examine our motives of our love. Even if we come sincerely, we may have malice. Christ said we should be right with our brother. These things can take time. There are risks associated with failing to prepare.
Think of Calvary, consider his sufferings. Think of our part, mourn for sin, great evil can assert itself into our minds.
Preparation leads to less interruption at the feast.
Ask, did Christ find pleasure in suffering for you?!
A sense of unworthiness
Having paused to examine ourselves, we should come.
There followed a brief discussion about whether it was right to let the awareness of sinfulness prevent our taking of the bread and wine.
Jeff Gilbert took this class.
This study covers most of Acts 1-12. The physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus: Luke 24:44-53 all evidence suggests that the disciples were not expecting Jesus to be alive on the third day Luke 24:11 you might expect them to at least have some lingering hope, some connections being made in their minds as events unfolded. Thomas really does refuse to make this connection with the testimony of Jesus before he died and that of the disciples after Jesus rose. Yet God will accomplish his purposes, in spite of our frailty and lack of faith and insight. We noted that the resurrection is a very prominent doctrine in Acts preaching (see also 1 Peter 1:3)
Power – effects felt by gentiles too. Power to bear witness.
Preaching – the ‘word of God increased’ meanings: rivers of living water as promised by the Lord, growth in influence and significance for those who were being saved, and in every way really.
Persecution – caused the spread of the church Acts 8:1
So little of this New Testament Christianity is seen in our day. The contrast is sadly very sharp.
Tozer quote: The difference between faith as it is found in the New Testament and faith as it is found now is that faith in the New Testament actually produced something – there was a confirmation of it. Faith now is a beginning and an end. We have faith in faith – but nothing happens. They had faith in a risen Christ and something did happen. That’s the difference. Life in the Spirit, p41
Pastor Dewi Higham took this class. Compared with some of our survey studies, this 47 days is short in time but very long on significance, with the death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ being central to our gospel message and history itself.
What a struggle to get a man to get the gospel! We compared the ‘hosana’ of the crowds with the with the weeping of the Lord in Luke 19:41
The place of sorrow in the Christians heart. Mourning for sin. We must live at His very feet. That is a place of agitation and peace! The agitation is a compulsion to strive for godliness and service, the peace is that which passes knowledge and reaches deeper than the greatest distress.
On Monday of passion week a lot is said! It includes the cursing of a fig tree. Puzzling miracle – a picture of Israel. This many favored nation but here it isguilty of barrenness again. How careful are we of the ‘inside of the cup’? Some (antinomian) groups have said that you can look terrible on the outside so long as the inside is right but we do not find that in scripture. Inside and outside are important!
2nd cleansing of the temple. God can bless or curse as he wishes.
Once saved saved forever but backsliding should frighten us. Many tests will come of genuine conversion.
Tuesday – revival amongst the Jews of today hoped for – taking a slightly differently to Hendricksen. Destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world spoken of but these events are on the same time-line and idea-line. Wednesday was the day of the blood money
Thursday and Friday so much was said! John 13 -16 the upper room. Passover lamb, washing feet… Real historical events, real symbolic meaning, real power, real effects reaching right across time. Real sin needed a real saviour.
Wrestling in prayer. trial(s) overnight, 9am Friday crucified, the apparent triumph of enemies. Hours of darkness. Although he said, ‘ it is finished ‘ but the final humiliation was the burial.
Saturday a quiet day. That is about all we had time to cover.
Today we sung ‘Have you heard the voice of Jesus’ before considering the scriptures relating to this period of Jesus ministry on earth. Perea is located just north and east of the Dead Sea, although one of the most significant events actually took place in Bethany, the other side of the Jordan, i.e. the raising of Lazarus.
We looked at the material relating to that period found in all four gospels: Matt 19:1-20:34; Mark 10; Luke 9:51-19:27; John 10:40-12:11
We noted that there was an example of the type of supposed contradiction that some who hate the Bible like to point out in comparing Matt20:20 v’s Mark 10:35 Who was it that asked for a place at Jesus side? James and John or their mother? The text allows for both to be true.
We observed that Mark 10 is very similar to Matthew 19, but mentioned 10:45, which reads: ’10v45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ There was clear proof that the Saviour understood his purpose and linked with Old Testament prophesy, particularly Is 53.
Apart from that, the class considered the parables which Jesus gave at this time across in a significant number of the chapters of Luke especially. It seemed appropriate therefore to look at the parable as a form of discourse and how we can and should approach them when we read them in our Bibles. We came up with a series of eight items to help focus the mind when dealing with parables:
- Context (audience, what prompted it, other parables and how they relate to each other),
- Lesson/Crux – and are there many or one main point to the parable,
- Concealment – to what extent and why?,
- Conviction – i.e. purpose of the parable – one of which being to aid conviction of sin,
- Name/precis the parable – can help us get our mind around it,
- What does it reveal about God?
After applying this set of questions to Luke 14, we turned briefly to consider the doctrine of the Person of Christ from his conversation with Martha in John 11. The young man who asked Jesus, ‘Good Master, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?’ was certain that eternal life is earned through doing ‘good things’. When Jesus tells us, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:’, he is linking eternal life with himself. Ephesians 2:4-6 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”
In the mystic union of Christ and his own his resurrection is our resurrection, his ‘quickening’ makes ours so certain that Paul can write as if it has already happened.
In the previous class it became increasingly clear that Jesus was not offering political salvation but individual salvation and spiritual, people still today do not want to hear about their spiritual need and find the gospel unpalatable.
April in the year 29 Jesus enters the ‘retirement ministry’ as Hendriksen calls it. He goes to Phoenicians. Mark 7:24-30 fulfilling Simeon’s prophesy (Luke 2:25-38).
‘He went to his own but his own received him not’ (John1:11), but these Gentiles put the Jews to shame: was faith like her’s found in all Israel? She responds in the way God expects. God calls us sinners and we, at Tabernacle, are used to that but it is offensive to the people unused to it. But we come to God unworthy of even so much as a crumb, yet knowing that crumb would be grace enough. Mark 7 and 8:
We discussed the irony that Jesus charged them to not tell anyone about him and they did, whereas we are told to speak and are reluctant! But of course both are disobedient! His time had not yet come but also they misinterpret the signs.
Jesus takes the blind man by the hand v23: what must that have been like?! Trusting the Saviour to lead us blind. That is how we must go, trusting our whole soul into his care and leading. This two-stage healing was not a case of ‘trial and error’. The first stage was at least ‘better than nothing’, like conversion we are not perfected and so we have to go on honestly with God, admitting we need further grace.
God is not constrained to a few methods. Theology comes into focus gradually for many converts.
Still north in Caesarea Phillippi, Mark 8:27 is a partial revelation that he is the Messiah. From here we see him speaking of his sufferings. Matt 16 – Peter did not like that. Perhaps because of what it implied about his own life. The Catholics like this because Peter was thought to be the first appointed pope and those in succession. The most basic inspection of the way the words were framed in the original showed that Jesus is the Rock 1 Peter 2:4-8 is written by Peter who did not draw attention to himself there. ‘Petra’ only refers to Christ. Catholics counter that Matt 16:19 shows that Peter gets the keys! But in Matt 18:18 now he is speaking to all the apostles, so it is not just that Peter alone has the keys – ie. preaching the gospel and church discipline and government, for example, whether to loose or retain the moral and ceremonial law for the Church – they had the authority to take that kind of decision.
The light spread but the darkness comprehended it not.
Hendriksen suggests four events and four words to summarise this period :
Reformation: cleansing the temple – the prophetic office takes God’s word. Preachers deviate from that at their peril and the diminishing of their authority. His zeal would make us uncomfortable today. The temple was cleansed at the start and end of his ministry -no change! John 2:23-25 discussed with reference to the miracles and the shallow faith PhD these disciples
Regeneration: the necessity of this. There is then a responsibility on our part to believe – we are without excuse.
Recessional – John 3:25-30 John the Baptist’s humility. Any suspicion of rivalry is scotched by John 3:30 contrast with his disciples’ party spirit. There are dangers here for us but we must be discerning in a day of great confusion.
My notes for these two sessions, 19th and 26th May, are contained in a mind map which you are welcome to explore, follow this link.
It was delightful to have three godly American pastors minister to us on the 28th April. Pastor Eric Maynard from Flushing, Michigan kindly agreed to take the Doctrine Class and, for once, we recorded the meeting which was about that famous verse, ‘Judge not that ye be not judged’. Follow the links below: