Author Archives: John Mahaffy

The Church: Walking before the Lord

“This covenant [with Abraham], initiated, established, defined in promises and commands, and even guaranteed to be everlasting, by the sole sovereignty of the Lord God Almighty, is nevertheless a union of God with his people. It is the same union that comes to expression in the New Testament phrase ‘in Christ.’ This is the essence of the covenant concept, the essence of all true religion. The covenant God made with the man from Ur is the union God has established with his own in Christ Jesus, himself the epitome of covenant as the incarnate God-and-man, Immanuel. There is no more glorious concept given to men than this: God with us!” (John J. Mitchell, “Abram’s Understanding of the Lord’s Covenant,” The Westminster Theological Journal, XXXII, No. 1, November 1969, p. 48).

“The ‘walking before Je­hovah’ pictures the con­stant presence of Jeho­vah to his [Abram’s] mind as walking behind him, and supervising him. The thought of the divine approval furnish­es the motive for obedi­ence. Also the force of El-Shaddai must be no­ticed. What shapes his conduct is not the gen­eral thought of God as moral ruler, but specifi­cally the thought of El-Shaddai, who fills his life with miraculous grace.” (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, pp. 102–103).

Quotes from the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

When God Destroys the Shroud!

Isaiah 25 describes a magnificent banquet which the LORD of hosts prepares. The guests are “all people.” The menu is the finest of food. The location is “on this mountain,” a reference to Zion, where the temple stood. Every sacrificial offering, every fellowship meal there, anticipated the great banquet at the end of the age, the marriage feast of the Lamb.

Appropriately, in that context Isaiah looks to the day when the sovereign Lord will swallow up death itself.

He points you to the time when death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54) and God will wipe away every tear (Revelation 7:17; 21:4).

“When God establishes His kingdom and reign from Zion, all the world will be blessed. What the world will receive from Him is not the paltry, disappointing philoso­phy of men, but the precious truth of the everlasting gospel. To a world covered with the darkness of sin, there will break forth the rays of true light, for in His light the world will see light. What he offers will truly sat­isfy, bless, and enrich mankind.” (E. J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 2, p. 193).

The next 10 Bible Study, meeting Friday, February 1, at 6:30 p.m. in the Astoria area, focuses on Isaiah 25–26. Call 971/238-6101 for location.

An Untimely Funeral

In Amos 5 the prophet pictures the nation of Israel as a young woman lying dead–but nonetheless he delivers a funeral lament for her to hear! Israel is truly dead–yet is commanded to hear. That is a “marvelous contradiction,” as Herman Veldkamp points out:

“In marvelous contradiction, the prophet Amos told the virgin Israel, whose obituary he was reading and whom he already saw lying dead on the ground, to listen to what he was saying–as if a dead person could hear! This obvious impossibility did not stop Amos, for he knew that the impossible is possible with God.” (The Farmer from Tekoa, p. 153).

God’s gracious Word continues to speak to those who are dead in sin. Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones (Ezekiel 37) reflects the powerful co-joining of the Word and Spirit. You cannot respond in your own strength, but God graciously gives new life, enabling those he calls to turn to him.

The Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer at Trinity Presbyterian Church focuses on Amos 5 this evening.

The Church: God’s Blessing to the Nations

In many ways the church is a counter-cultural institution. We gather on Sunday morning when many are sleeping in or watching sports on TV. We sing. We pray. We listen to a Book being read and preached. We eat a small piece of bread and drink a small cup of wine. Is this just a strange habit we have picked up, or is there more behind it? Is this something we just do as individuals, doing our own thing, or is God doing something to us and through us in the world? The session has asked me to preach a series of sermons looking what the Bible says about the church. Our focus this morning is Genesis 12:1–3, an important passage, even though the word “church” is not used in it.

“The downside of sin is not only its consequences, but sin itself is an act of deprivation. For me to sin is to deprive myself of the enjoyment of God.” (from a lecture by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.).

“The keynote is not what Abraham has to do for God, but what God will do for Abraham. Then, in response to this, the subjective frame of mind that changes the inner and outer life is cultivated. . . . The all-important thing is that God has acted in the past, is acting in the present, and promises to act in the future.” (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, pp. 93–94).

“Abram’s calling to leave his land and people did not contain the the slightest suggestion that grace as the ‘wholly other’ would continue to stand over against human life, as though life on earth was not to be sanctified. On the contrary, Abram was promised that he would become the father of a nation, that he would have a name on the earth, and that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Grace entered life and sanctified it.” (S. G. De Graaf, Promise and Deliverance, Vol. 1, p. 75)

Quotes from the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC.

Wailing Ships and the Lord’s Purpose

“As Tyre’s own colonies had once stood in relationship to herself and to the sanctuary that was in her midst, so now she will stand in relation to the Temple of the true God. . . . It is the same thought that we find expressed elsewhere in Scripture; ‘The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents,: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts’ (Ps. 72:10)Such gifts were really brought to the Lord himself, and we may see a true fulfill­ment of the prophecy, though not an exhaustive one, in the action of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus.” (E. J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 2, pp. 141–142).

“[T]he judgment of Tyre in­cludes overturning her mer­chants because they had become proud about their economic achievements and consequent power: ‘The Lord of hosts has purposed to bring down all the pride of the glorious ones and to dis­grace every glorious thing on the earth’ (Isa. 23:9 LXX). . . . Tyre’s economic self-idolatry was the cause of its eventual judgment. . . . The point is that the chief purpose of humanity, ac­cording to the Apocalypse, is to glorify God and to enjoy him, not to glorify oneself and enjoy one’s own achievements.” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, NIGTC, pp. 921–922).

The next 10 Bible Study, meeting Friday, February 1, at 6:30 p.m. in the Astoria area, focuses on Isaiah 25–26. Call 971/238-6101 for location.


What Simeon Saw

“Simeon’s words give powerful expression to the thought that Simeon, having beheld Christ in fulfilment of the divine word concerning his life, has fully performed his service. His watch is concluded with the arrival of the One for whom he was waiting.” As Simeon addresses Mary, “Here the cross is indeed virtually in view, and Mary is standing before it, sorrowing at what would befall her son.” (Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Luke to Christ, pages 53 & 56).

“Christ was indeed a ‘light to lighten the Gentiles.’ Without him they were sunk in gross darkness and superstition. They knew not the way of life. They worshipped the works of their own hands. Their wisest philosophers were utterly ignorant in spiritual things. ‘Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.’ (Rom. i.22.) The Gospel of Christ was like sun-rise to Greece and Rome, and the whole heathen world. The light which it let in on men’s minds on the subject of religion, was as great as the change from night to day.” (J. C. Ryle, , Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Vol. 2, p. 68).

From the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church

Rejoice with the Shepherds

B11chreveoc“All salvation, all truth in regard to man, has its eternal foundation in the triune God Himself. It is this triune God who here reveals Himself as the everlasting reality, from whom all truth proceeds, whom all truth reflects, be it the little streamlet of Paradise or the broad river of the New Testament losing itself again in the ocean of eternity. After this nothing higher can come. All the separate lines along which through the ages revelation was carried, have converged and met at a single point. The seed of the woman and the Angel of Jehovah are become one in the Incarnate Word.” (Geerhardus Vos, “The Idea of Biblical Theology,” Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, p. 13).

“The shepherds had to return to their flocks but they returned with a song in their hearts and carried the joy of adoration with them. They really felt they could take care of their flock again because the praise of God no longer conflicted with their earthly occupations.” (S. G.. De Graaf, Promise and Deliverance, Vol. 3, p. 326).

Quotes from the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church.