Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

Archive for May 2014

Thomas Watson on Meditation

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“Labour to remember what you read [cf. Matt. 13:4, 19]. . . . The memory should be like the chest in the ark, where the Law was put. . . . Some can better remember an item of news than a line of Scripture; their memories are like these ponds, where frogs live, but the fish die. . . . In meditation there must be a fixing of the thoughts upon the object. . . . Meditation is the concoction of Scripture: reading brings a truth into our head, meditation brings it into our heart: reading and meditation must, like Castor and Pollux, appear together. Meditation without reading is erroneous; reading with meditation is barren. The bee sucks the flower, then works it in the hive, and so turns it to honey: by reading we suck the flower of the Word, by meditation we work it in the hive of our mind, and so it turns to profit. Meditation is the bellows of the affection: ‘while I was musing the fire burned’ (Ps. 39:3). The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.” 

Thomas Watson, Puritan Sermons, vol. 2, 61-62

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Written by Josh Philpot

May 29, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Westerholm on Justification

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I recently read Stephen Westerholm’s new book, “Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme.” It is only 100 pages and easy to digest. Westerholm assesses all of the data in the New Testament on justification/righteousness and settles on the traditional view of justification by faith (as articulated by Augustine, Luther, Calvin, et al.), even in spite of recent challenges from N. T. Wright and James D. G. Dunn. In fact, I came away from the book with the thought that Westerholm is simply arguing for the plain sense of the relevant passages about the doctrine of justification. There is no need for revisionist interpretations. His final paragraph is very helpful: 

“[The traditional view of justification by faith] cannot be dismissed by the claim that the ancients were not concerned to find a gracious God (how could they not be, in the face of pending divine judgment?); or that it wrongly casts first-century Jews as legalists (its target is rather the sinfulness of all human beings); or that non-Christian Jews, too, depended on divine grace (of course they did, but without Paul’s need to distinguish grace from works); or that ‘righteousness’ means ‘membership in the covenant’ (never did, never will) and the expression ‘works of the law’ refers to the boundary markers of the Jewish people (it refers to all the ‘righteous’ deeds required by the law as its path to righteousness). Modern scholars are correct in noting that Paul first focused on language of justification in response to the question whether Gentile believers in Christ should be circumcised. They are right to emphasize the social implications of Paul’s doctrine of justification (what it meant ‘on the ground’) in his own day, and are free to draw out its social implications for our own. But the doctrine of justification means that God declares sinners righteous, apart from righteous deeds, when they believe in Jesus Christ. Those so made righteous represent the new humanity, the people of God’s new creation (rom 5:17-19).”

Written by Josh Philpot

May 19, 2014 at 9:28 pm

The “Total” in Total Depravity

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Paul makes the point repeatedly that humans lack both the inclination and the will to do what God requires of them:

Rom 3:9-11—”Both Jews and Gentiles are under sin, as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God.'”

Rom 3:19—”Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.”

Rom 5:6, 8, 10—”While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

Rom 5:19—”As by the one man’s disobedience [Adam], the many were made sinners.”

Rom 6:20-21—”When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at the time from the things which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.”

Rom 7:18—”For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.”

Rom 8:7-8—”For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Totally depraved, indeed. Salvation, therefore, can only be by grace alone apart from human works:

Rom 3:24—”Being justified by his grace as a gift, though the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Rom 4:4-8—”Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'”

Rom 5:15,17—”But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass [Adam], much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. . . . If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in the life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

Rom 11:6—”But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

Written by Josh Philpot

May 13, 2014 at 2:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Face the Music

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Mike Wittmer recently posted a nice reflection about worship styles in our church services that I found encouraging: 

Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

So, my dear brothers and sisters, when you gather for the Lord’s Supper, wait for each other (v. 33).

The wise pastor told his new worship director, “There is one style of music I hope you never play in our church.” She grabbed a pen and asked, “What is it?” He replied, “I will never tell you. If we all insist on getting our own way, we will never sing anything.”

Few issues are more controversial in church than music. Some churches solve the problem by providing two worship options, a traditional service for older folks and a contemporary one for those who enjoy more upbeat music. This often keeps both groups happy, but at some cost.

Marva Dawn warns, “it is utterly dangerous for churches to offer choices of worship styles.” She says it divides the church, treats Christians as consumers whose tastes must be catered to, and robs us of the opportunity to serve our neighbor. We should rejoice when a tune is sung that we don’t like, for that is an opportunity to deny ourselves for the sake of our brother or sister (Matthew 16:24). When veteran saints try to learn a new chorus or young people sing an old hymn both are saying to the other, “This may not be my cup of tea, but I’m willing to make room for you. I will sing along for your sake, and the whole church will benefit.” Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we are unwilling to do this during worship, when do we think we ever would? (Mark 12:29-31).

God expects there will be variety in our worship services. He made us different, and He says that Spirit filled believers will variously sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…making music to the Lord in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:19). Our great God deserves to be praised by the widest variety of worshipers and styles. Keep your preference, and keep it to yourself.

Written by Josh Philpot

May 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Worship