The Brilliance of God

This past Lord’s Day evening we looked at Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision. What a rich passage! While I sought to cover many of the angles one point that I passed over had to do with circumcision being commanded for new babies on the 8th day. A former nurse in the congregation stressed that for her that was very important as it highlighted the brilliance of God.

Certainly God is brilliant. He is all-knowing (omniscient). Job 31:4 reminds us of this when it says:

Does He not see my ways, and number all my steps?

But why did the LORD in His brilliance command Abraham to circumcise infants on the 8th day, why not the 5th or 7th or 10th?

Before we get to the symbolism, the brilliance of God is displayed in this simple and seemingly mundane command, in that on the 8th day new-born levels of vitamin K peak. Why is that important? Vitamin K helps the blood to clot, an important and necessary factor when undertaking a circumcision in an infant so young. While Abraham did not know about vitamin K, in His brilliance God did, and as such commanded the sign of the covenant to be given on the 8th day. But like many things in the Old Testament, and since this was a sign after all, what symbolism did God intend by the giving of this sign on the 8th day (for symbolism of the sign itself see the sermon)?

Not all Jews agree as to any spiritual or philosophical meaning of the 8th day. Some merely stress duty. One Rabbinic blogger noted that 7 signifies what is natural and finite (ex. 7 days of creation or 7 days a week). He suggested 8 represents the super-natural nature of the covenant, the incomprehensibility of it, and the miraculous of the grace in it (I read grace into it as he didn’t use this word). He said:

And so, a baby is given is brit [circumcision] on the eighth day. He is entering a religion founded upon faith, whose survival is miraculous, and whose potential in the world is infinite.

While much of the above would make sense symbolically to the Christian; Christianity has often seen much more at work them mere symbolism but also prophecy.

The early Church Father Augustine wrote this:

[Christ] suffered voluntarily, and so could choose His own time for suffering and for resurrection, He brought it about that His body rested from all its works on Sabbath in the tomb, and that His resurrection on the third day, which we call the Lord’s day, the day after the Sabbath, and therefore the eighth, proved the circumcision of the eighth day to be also prophetical of Him.

Following this view the 8th day was an early prophecy about the Christ which was the fulfilment of this promise and whose Resurrection took place on the 8th day. John Calvin, while more reticent than Augustine seems to concur with this redemptive-historical approach to the 8th day in his commentary on Genesis 17:12:

Augustine also thinks that it had reference to the resurrection of Christ; whereby external circumcision was abolished and the truth of the figure was set forth. It is probable and consonant with reason, that the number seven designated the course of the present life. Therefore the eighth day might seem to be fixed upon by the Lord, to prefigure the beginning of a new life. But because such a reason is never given in Scripture, I dare affirm nothing. Wherefore, let it suffice to maintain what is certain and solid; namely, that God, in this symbol, has so represented the destruction of the old man, as yet to show that he restores men to life.

So be it a prophecy about Christ, the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday (the Lord’s Day), emphasis on the new creation or grace found in the covenant, it appears along with medical reasons that the 8th day affirms the brilliance of God.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Open letter to our MP regarding extremism, British values, and concerns about religious freedom

Below is a letter the elders submitted to our local MP Luke Hall expressing our concern about current proposed legislation that we, along with many other UK Christians, believe will be harmful to the freedom of religion in the UK and may put Christians under great pressure. To read more information posted by the Christian Institute click here.

Luke Hall MP,

30 High Street,

Thornbury,

South Gloucestershire,

BS35 2AJ

Dear Mr. Luke Hall (MP for Thornbury and Yate)

As a local Christian chapel, concerned with the affairs of this nation, especially when discussing laws that will have a direct impact upon faith communities, we wanted to write to you, our MP, to express some concerns over proposed legislation dealing with granting OFSTED powers to censure faith communities for extremism and adherence to British values. While we support the need to deal with Islamic extremism, we wish to express some concerns as to this legislation that we hope you will take into consideration on our behalf as Parliament debates it. We are supportive of addressing root issues but not of seeking to combat them at superficial levels where the religious freedom that may be jeopardized may not be equal to the limited gains achieved.

Our first concern centres around the term “extremism” which is very subjective. Without a clearer definition, yourself or even ourselves, could easily be classed as an extremist if there is no objective standard by which to measure this. We are concerned that loyal Christian citizens may in time be targeted under this legislation as extremists, holding beliefs and values that are different from secular society when in fact respect for government lies at the heart of the Christian faith (Rom 13:1-7).

Our second concern is similar to the first and centres around the subjective nature of “British values.” The values that schools are being urged to promote as fundamental to British society include the value of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. All these values and the many more that could have been included in such a list find their roots in our common Christian heritage as a country. While we support these at face value, because of the subjective nature of some of these terms and their changing definitions we have concerns that the very things we stand in favour of may be used against us as Christians. For example, Christians ardently support the rule of law (1 Pet 2:13) but cannot in good conscience do so when earthly laws violate God’s laws (Mark 12:13-17; Acts 5:29). Likewise we would want to affirm any wholesome rights of the individual but have reservations when individuals come to have rights above the group and also when so called “ individual rights” simply represent a justification for licentiousness rather than that which is good for the individual or society as a whole. Lastly, we recognize the wisdom in freedom of religion and stress that Christians seek to live in peace with their neighbours who may hold very different views (Matt 5:43-47). That said, Christians also believe that the claims of Jesus are exclusive, representing “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). While we value tolerance in the traditional sense, we would not do so in the Post-Modern inclusivist sense, and would hope this would not jeopardize our support for British values.

Lastly is the matter of freedom of religion that seems to be at stake in this legislation. Is it necessary or even wise to police the religious beliefs of society through the means of government agents? We have peaceably existed as a chapel since 1813 and as Christians have been amongst successive governments most loyal citizens. We are all too aware of the State organized religious intolerance against Dissenters during the years 1662- 89. We pray the government will be discerning in bringing in new legislation so the State and Secularism do not enact similar laws to that of the seventeenth century.

Please be assured that we regularly keep her Majesty, Prime Minister David Cameron, his cabinet, this Parliament, and yourself in our chapel prayers (2 Tim 2:1-2).

Do not hesitate to contact us if you wish to dialogue further on this point.

Sincerely and with the warmest Christian blessings,

 

Mr. David Shawe,

on behalf of the Elders of the Cromhall Chapel:

 

Rev. Christopher W. Crocker

Gordon James

Eric Scolding

Tim Scolding

David Shawe

Extremism, British Values and Religious Liberty

This is a matter that every Christian in the UK should be praying for. To find out more, or perhaps to introduce you to this issue for the first time, you can read a helpful article posted yesterday by the national director of the FIEC:

https://fiec.org.uk/news/article/should-the-state-regulate-your-youth-work

The Elders of Cromhall Chapel have sent a letter to our local MP addressing our concerns and encouraging action. I will post this after the letter has been received.

On the evening of February 25, the Christian Institute is holding a meeting at Headley Park Baptist Church in Bristol for the South West of England that will centre around this issue among others. For those who are especially interested in this matter this would be a good evening to attend.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Herod’s Temple

Last night at Bible study we entered into the explosive beginning of Luke’s Gospel by examining Luke 1:5-25 or the Birth of John foretold to Zechariah in the Temple.

Modern images and technology make sharing information about the Temple that much easier. Such information helps reveal its size and the atmosphere that Zechariah experienced. King Herod began building the temple in c. 20-19 BC. His Temple in Jerusalem was different than past Jewish Temples, it was bigger and more ornate with a myriad of support buildings erected in the Temple precinct than Solomon’s Temple or the Second Temple from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. The Temple itself almost 200 feet high (that is 20 stories)! This was an impressive engineering feat and physical structure for the 1st Century. This adds to the context of Matt 4:5-7 when Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and urges Him to cast Himself off the top of the temple because of the promise that the angels would not allow God’s Anointed to be harmed. Similarly in John 2:18-22 when Jesus says he would destroy this temple because the Jews knew how long it had taken to build it, 46 years including stones as heavy as 100 tonnes, and so they scoffed at Him.

When it was Zechariah’s divisions shift to attend to the Temple, and further still when he was chosen by lot to enter and burn the incense, this was a once in a life time opportunity as a priest. Image approaching those big doors. Imagine the sacredness he felt entering this massive Temple with such religious tradition. He did not enter the Holy of Holies but rather a fore chamber where the incense was burnt. To his great trepidation this would be the place where he would meet Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, and the story would continue to unfold.

Check it out:

TempleComplex

temple 2

For a virtual tour click below:

Jerusalem model