These notes went out in last week's updates email. The bulk of the message is follow up material on Sunday School (audio available soon) and the sermon from 1 Samuel 5 (audio available here).
In Sunday School, we looked at various roles and titles ascribed to Mary in Scripture and in church history. We spent a good bit of time looking at Mary as “Theotokos,” meaning “the mother of God.” The point of this title is that Mary gave birth to the one who is God in the flesh, the God-man. But there was controversy over this in the fourth century; a presbyter named Nestorius rejected the title "Theotokos.” Nestorius did not believe in the unity of Christ’s person; he kept Christ’s deity separate from his humanity. Another presbyter, Cyril, saw that this jeopardized the gospel. Cyril understood that the biblical and Nicene faith requires us to confess that Jesus’ divine and human natures are united in his singular person. Nestorious wanted to carve up the gospel accounts, putting some of Jesus' actions into the human bucket (e.g., he was born, got tired and hungry, suffered, and died) because these actions were not worthy of God. Other actions of Jesus could be dropped into the deity bucket (e.g., he performed miracles) in Nestorius’ view. Cyril argued in response that the whole point of the incarnation is that the eternal Son of God experiences all of human life — including birth and death — in and through his humanity. Natures do not act, persons do. Thus, we must confess the whole Christ does all that Christ does. Christ has fully conjoined his deity to humanity, so that he is two natures in one person, without separation or mixture of those natures. A good summary of these issues can be found here and here (the second article is the one I quoted from in the class). We will get the audio from the Sunday School class up on the website soon.
In the sermon, we looked at 1 Samuel 5 — YHWH's ark in exile, humbling the idol Dagon and bringing plagues on the Philistines. Towards the end of the sermon, I raised the question: Where was Samuel during this time? He disappears from the story for about 3 chapters and 20 years. What was he doing all that time? That question can be answered by looking at 1 Samuel 4:1 and 7:4. Samuel was quietly and faithfully and patiently carrying out his preaching ministry, calling Israel to repent of their idolatry. Israel could not blame anyone else for the oppression they had fallen into; it was entirely due to their own sin. In the same way, the church in America today cannot blame anyone or anything for our loss of influence. It’s it totally our fault. John Stott put it well: "We should not ask, 'What is wrong with the world?' for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather we should ask, "What has happened to salt and light?” The salt is to blame for losing its saltiness. The light is to blame for hiding under a bushel. The church in America has brought about her own demise. We did not lose influence because of liberals and progressives, as if they were the real culprits here; rather liberals and progressives increased in influence because American Christians compromised with idolatry (just as Israel did). The solution is a Samuel-like call to repentance. Preachers must attack our idols, hacking away at them with the sword of the Word. Congregations must put away idols and serve God alone (1 Samuel 7:3-4). Then we can gain the victory (1 Sam. 7:5-14).
In the sermon, I pointed to early 18th-century England as an example of a culture that turned away from the Lord and then experienced an astonishingly powerful revival and restoration, known as the Great Awakening. One of the best accounts of both England’s fall from grace and her subsequent restoration under the preaching of men like the Wesleys and Whitefield can be found in Vishal Mangalwadi’s excellent work, The Book That Made Your World. Magalwadi is an Indian Christian who goes into great historical detail to demonstrate the influence of the Bible on Western civilization. Mangalwadi’s account of the Great Awakening gives us hope that America could experience a similar revival and reformation as England in the 1700s (and Israel in the 1000s BC), led by the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word.
At TPC, we regularly seek to pray for those in political authority. We know that God has set rulers over us, sometimes to bless us through their wise governance, and at other times to discipline us through their foolish and oppressive tyranny. 1 Timothy 2 commands us to pray for those who hold civil authority over us. The Psalms are full of prayers for nations and kings. In our day, we do not have very many righteous civil magistrates but whenever God gives us someone in political authority who is seeking to courageously stand for God’s truth, we should especially pray that God would confirm them in their work. Our state Senator Tommy Tuberville is taking a bold and righteous stand on behalf if the unborn. Please pray for him accordingly, especially since his stance is not only being opposed by Democrats but also by many Republicans.
At TPC, we also often pray for those who shape public opinion. Please pray for Bryan Dawson and others at 1819 News. If you don’t follow and read 1819 News, you should definitely check it out, as it is a model Christian news organization for our state. Currently, 1819 is receiving a lot of backlash for exposing the double life of a Baptist pastor and Smiths Station, AL mayor, “Bubba” Copeland. Copeland had been living a life of sexual perversion. Articles can be found here, here, and here. The story has gotten national attention, especially after Copeland took his own life in the aftermath of having his sexual depravity brought to light. A podcast with more info is here. If we are going to have a healthy culture and if our system of government is going to function properly, the media is going to have to play its role in pursuing truth with integrity. 1819 has done that — but it has come at a price. So please keep Bryan and others who work for 1819 in prayer.