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In the Name – Dr Scott Murray – Memorial Moments

July 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Psalm 8

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (ESV)

In the Name

Friday of Pentecost 5

18 July 2014

Some years ago, a missionary working in villages of Africa where Islam was making some incursions happened upon a community of people who were anxious to hear his proclamation of Christ. He preached and taught the people for some time. Since they received his preaching with joy, he suggested that they should be baptized into the triune name. Upon his mention of baptism, their joyous reception of his preaching came to a screeching halt. He asked them why they were reluctant to receive baptism into the Christ he had taught them. They patiently explained to him that they would have none of this baptism business until he fully explained what they were being baptized into. They told him that Muslim missionaries had been among them some years before and that they too offered a ritual washing to initiate them into Islam, to which they assented. But after being washed, only then did the Muslim missionaries reveal the full meaning of the religion into which they had been initiated. No, these people took baptism seriously and they understood that being baptized set them into the full religious universe of that into which they were baptized. They weren’t going to be tricked by a religious “bait and switch” again. Of course, the Christian missionary rejoiced to hear this and catechized these people into the full faith of our confession. The people were duly baptized into the triune name after being instructed and confessing the faith that they had been taught.

Baptism as a rite of religious cleansing is not new with Christianity. We know that the Jewish monastic community called Essenes performed multiple ritual cleansings, perhaps daily bathing as a sign of cleansing from sin. Jewish missionaries used a baptism to initiate whole families into the Jewish community when Gentiles were converted. This we call “Jewish proselyte baptism.” This baptism was the background of the command of Jesus to His disciples to “go and baptize” (Mt 28:19). Heretical Christian communities retained baptism, although they mean something quite different from the church when they name God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even those religious communities that have specifically and intentionally rejected the holy Trinity still often “baptize” in some three-fold formula: “in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, etc.;” including even some Unitarians.

Unfortunately, old line Protestant churches in America are increasingly not only adopting baptismal formulas only heretics could endorse, but worse yet are teaching a doctrine of God that simply contradicts God’s self-revelation in Christ. It is quite jarring to hear a so-called Lutheran address prayer to “our mother,” and know full well that this prayer is not addressed to the mother of God, Mary, but to the deity who seems to be having “gender issues.” Does the baptismal formula then become “in the name of the father/mother, son/daughter, and spirit, and um, what have you”? Could we start calling God “LeBron”? Oh, wait, some people already are! If names don’t matter, then what’s the difference? We are so desperate to affirm every mania that we forget about God’s self-revelation in His eternal Son, Christ our Lord.

What would a trinitarian baptism mean in a church where the holy Trinity is not taught according to the divine self-revelation, but is rejected outright? If God could be addressed as “our mother,” as validly as our Father what does it mean if there is a baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” within such a context? Is that baptism valid? Do the words Father and Son morph into something else when used this way? God has graciously made Himself known by offering into our hands His name. In our wickedness and unbelief we have begun to call Him names that He has not given to us. God has graciously set His name into our hands in the rite of baptism. In the giving of His name He gives Himself and all His blessings. What right do we have to change it? If we do, will we lose Him and His blessings?

Athanasius of Alexandria

“If the consecration of baptism is given to us into the name of the Father and the Son, and the Arians do not confess a true Father, because they deny what is from Him and like His essence, and deny also the true Son, and name another of their own framing as created out of nothing like any other creature, is not the rite administered by them altogether empty and unprofitable, making a show, and in reality being no help towards religion? For the Arians do not baptize into Father and Son, but into Creator and creature, and into Maker and work. And as a creature is other than the Son, so the baptism, which is supposed to be given by them, is other than the truth, though they pretend to name the name of the Father and the Son, because of the words of Scripture. For not he who simply says, ‘O Lord,’ gives Baptism; but he who with the name also has the right faith. On this account therefore our Savior also did not simply command to baptize, but says, ‘Teach;’ then thus: ‘Baptize into the name of Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit’ (Mt 28:19-20); that the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come the consecration of baptism.

“There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound faith (2Ti 4:3; Tit 1:9), and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is polluted by irreligion rather than redeemed. So Gentiles also, though the name of God is on their lips, incur the charge of atheism, because they know not the real and true God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Athanasius of Alexandria, Four Discourses Against the Arians, 2.42-43

The Glory of His Name – Dr Scott Murray – Memorial Moments

July 14, 2014 Leave a comment

Psalm 20

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions! Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. O LORD, save the king! May he answer us when we call. (ESV)

The Glory of His Name

Monday of Pentecost 5

14 July 2014

We miss the lively sense of the power in the name of God, who is Christ our Lord. In Scripture, sometimes the term “the name of God” refers to the divine speech on the lips of the prophets and apostles, such as in 1 Timothy 6:1, in which Paul requires us to honor authorities “so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.” Yet, even here there is more than a hint that the name of God is none other than God Himself. To attack God’s teaching is to attack God. This is why the second commandment forbids us to misuse the name of the Lord our God. To misuse the name of God is to abuse God Himself because He is His name. The worst misuse of the divine name is when it is used to cover false teaching with the pious sounding, “God has said…”

The divine name par excellence is none other than the second person of the holy Trinity. Christ is the divine name that does the work of God in the world. The Psalmist says, “We trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Ps 20:7). To trust in the name is to trust in Christ Himself. The Psalmist also says, “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Ps 69:30). First, to praise the name, if it is not God, would be blasphemy. Second, the parallel of the Hebrew poetry makes Him equivalent to His name. The apostles baptized in the name (Acts 19:5), cast out demons in the name (Acts 16:18), preached in the name (Acts 9:28), suffered in the name (Act 5:41), called the Gentiles into the kingdom of God in the name (Acts 15:17), and were willing to be put to death for the name (Acts 21:13). Of this name the apostle Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This name does what Christ Himself does, because He is His name.

This name is the eternal Word of the Father, who spoke light out of darkness (Gn 1:3). This is the same name who for a season bore all human woe by being born of the Virgin. He condescended to our desperate need. He had no need of our human nature, but He assumed it for our good. He does not arrive at His divinity by some labor or work, but is the living name of God who was humbled at His incarnation by taking the form of a servant. Because He is God of God, He could not be exalted any higher than to be God, so He chose to be humbled for us men and our salvation. Here is the true word of the Name in the world. He needs not to make a name for himself like our faux celebrities and too-clever politicians. He has the name that is above every name. No other could be named like it. He hides the glory of His name, so that the glory of His name might become ours through faith in Him.

Athanasius of Alexandria

“It will be well to cite the divine oracles that the unalterableness of the Son and His unchangeable nature, which is the Father’s, may be still more fully proved. The Apostle then, writing to the Philippians, says, ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil 2:5-11). Can anything be plainer and clearer than this? He was not from a lower state promoted. Rather, existing as God, He took the form of a servant, and in taking it, was not promoted but humbled Himself. Where then is there here any reward of virtue, or what advancement and promotion in humiliation? For if, being God, He became man, and descending from on high He is still said to be exalted, where is He exalted, being God? For it is plain that, since God is highest of all, His Word must necessarily be highest also. Where then could He be exalted higher, who is in the Father and like the Father in all things? Therefore He is beyond the need of any addition. For though the Word has descended in order to be exalted, and so it is written, yet what need was there that He should humble Himself, as if to seek that which He had already? And what grace did He receive who is the Giver of grace? Or how did He receive that Name for worship, who is always worshipped by His Name? Certainly, before He became man, the sacred writers invoke Him, ‘O God, save me, by your name’ (Ps 54:1); and again, ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God’ (Ps 20:7). And while He was worshiped by the patriarchs, concerning the angels it is written, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’ (Heb 1:6).”

Athanasius of Alexandria, Four Discourses Against the Arians, 1.40

Categories: Right Worship, Sermons