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Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 9 September 2018

9 September 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 238 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee”

Confession of Sin

Almighty God, Who are rich in mercy to all those who call upon You; Hear us as we humbly come to You confessing our sins; And imploring Your mercy and forgiveness. We have broken Your holy laws by our deeds and by our words; And by the sinful affections of our hearts. We confess before You our disobedience and ingratitude, our pride and willfulness; And all our failures and shortcomings toward You and toward fellow men. Have mercy upon us, Most merciful Father; And of Your great goodness grant that we may hereafter serve and please You in newness of life; Through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Hymn of Preparation:  403 “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 17:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Romans 4:9-12

Sermon: Why Circumcision?

Hymn of Response: 244 “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 851)

Doxology (Hymn 568)

Closing Hymn: 425 “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place”

REMINDER: The Hymns for AM Worship are from the new Trinity Psalter-Hymnal. Why not read them over and familiarize yourself with them before morning worship this Sunday?

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 21:1-14

NT: James 5:7-12

The Cost of Taking the Name of the LORD in Vain

Shorter Catechism Q/A #56

Q. What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the third commandment is that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (9/3) Read and discuss Romans 4:9-12. Arland Hultgren writes:

Paul raises a question, asking whether the “blessing” of which David speaks in the psalm applies only to persons who have been ritually circumcised, or whether it could apply to the uncircumcised as well. In order to answer the question, Paul refers to texts in Genesis once more. He points out that Abraham was declared righteous before he had been circumcised. That means, in effect, that Abraham was circumcised while he was still a Gentile. The implication to be drawn is that even the uncircumcised can be justified as they accept the promises of God, the gospel.

Paul uses a fascinating argument. The passage where Abraham is declared righteous is at Genesis 15:6. That passage precedes the commandment concerning circumcision (Gen 17:10-14) and the actual circumcision of Abraham (17:24). There is no indication in Genesis concerning the age of Abraham at the event of 15:6, when he was declared righteous, but there is a notice concerning his age at the time of his circumcision, and that is that he was 99 (17:24). Between these two events there is one indicator of age, and that is that at the time Ishmael was born, Abraham was 86 (16:16). According to rabbinic tradition, Abraham was 70 years old at the time that the promise of 15:6 was given, which was also the time that he was declared to be justified. [If that is right, it] means that Abraham was a justified-by-faith Gentile for twenty-nine years prior to his circumcision. Whether that tradition existed at the time of Paul, and whether he was aware of it or not, cannot be known. What is certain is that Paul was aware of the general time-frame, and he made a point of it, namely, that the promise to Abraham, and the declaration of his righteousness by faith in the divine promise, was prior to his circumcision. Therefore, circumcision was not a precondition for righteousness.

Read or sing Hymn 238 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Jaffrey, NH.

Tuesday (9/4) Read and discuss Romans 4:1-8.  What exactly is faith? Is the justified person clothed in faith so that faith itself is the radiant clothing which replaces the filthy clothing of our sins? As Paul might say, “Don’t even entertain such an outrageous and wicked thought!” Regrettably, many Christians do entertain this entirely false notion. But do you see that this actually turns your faith into a good work?  And if a person’s faith is a type of substitute good work, so that a person is clothed in his or her own faith in a way that makes the person righteous, then what sort of people does God justify? The only answer possible is that He justifies those good people who believe. But does the LORD look at believers and say: “Those people are such good people because they believe Me, and they believe in My Son.” Well what does the rest of the verse say?

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.

When you believe, you do not become a good person who merits reward from God. You are an ungodly person whom God has justified by clothing you, not with your faith, but with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Faith is the instrument of your justification, but it is not the ground or the basis for your justification. Read or Sing Hymn 403 “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” Prayer: Please pray for the Session as it means tonight.

Wednesday (9/5) Read and discuss Genesis 17:1-14. Dale Ralph Davies writes:

What is the significance of circumcision? If it is ‘a sign of the covenant’ what does it signify? Well, it’s hard to get away from the idea that it signifies promises. You note that Yahweh’s promises infect the whole context of the circumcision section. That is, verses 9-14 (circumcision) are surrounded with Yahweh’s promises (vv. 4-8 and 15-21), promises fore and aft, we might say. Alec Motyer said that whenever Abraham would look upon that sign in his body, he would say, ‘I am the man to whom God has made promises.’ That is true, and yet this circumcision is also Abraham’s response to the covenant promises and to Yahweh’s command and it would also indicate that he is marked out for the God who made the promises – he is ‘branded’ as belonging to the God who makes promises. Perhaps it’s something like a husband’s wedding band. On the one hand, he can look at it and say, ‘I am the man to whom promise have been made’; on the other, he could say, ‘I am marked out as belonging to another.’ In this latter sense, Abraham might say, ‘I am not my own; I belong to another, for I am branded with the identity mark of the covenant God.’

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has put His name upon you and claims you as your own.

Thursday (9/6) Read and discuss James 5:7-12. It is a simple fact of life: One of the great keys to achievement is persistence and the ability to delay gratification. Regrettably, American culture has embraced instant gratification as a virtue that even impacts our very young children. In one study, “Priscilla Blinco gave large groups of Japanese and American first graders a very difficult puzzle and measured how long they worked at it before they gave up. The American children lasted, on average, 9.47 minutes. The Japanese children lasted 13.93 minutes, roughly 40 percent longer (Malcolm Gladwell).” This persistence gap is one of the reasons why Americans lag so badly behind places like Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, and Japan in Math. We also need to squarely face the spiritual implications of this shortcoming. Since the wages of sin are death sinning is obviously an irrational thing to do … yet we all continue to sin. The reason isn’t because sin is better but because it is immediate. James is calling us to work hard for a season like farmers who must wait for the day when the crops will come in. Patience and persistence in the face of hardship has always been a tough sell so James gives us two significant pieces of encouragement: (1) First, against the backdrop of eternity with the LORD, our time of waiting for the harvest is actually quite short (In a similar vein, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”). (2) Second, we should consider the character of the LORD that He “is compassionate and merciful”. Be patient and persistent. It is worth it. Read or sing Hymn 244 “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you patience in your work and confidence in the eventual harvest.

Friday (9/7) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 21:1-14.  Dale Ralph Davis writes:

Does the seven-man execution here violate the principle of justice laid down in Deuteronomy 24:16? I don’t think so. That law regulated individual criminal cases. Here the situation is much broader. Saul did not trample on the Gibeonite covenant merely as an individual. He was king of Israel. In his office as king his deeds had an official character. As king, the people were represented in him. Hence his offence had a representational as opposed to an individual character, and to that extent involved Israel in the guilt. The offence itself was national as opposed to individual, for the covenant with Gibeon (Josh. 9) was sworn by Israel’s leaders on behalf of the whole people. Should the covenant be broken all Israel would be liable for it, even if only one man (Saul) was the primary instigator. ‘The few instances where punishment of children was legally sanctioned were not criminal cases but those involving offenses against God, such as violation … of national oaths (Jeffrey H. Tgay, Deuteronomy).”

Read or sing Hymn 425 “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place” Prayer: Pray for the young people in our congregation as they get reengage with school.

Saturday (9/8) Read and discuss Romans 4:9-12. C.E.B Cranfield writes:

Abraham’s circumcision is characterized as the seal, that I, the outward and visible authentication, ratification and guarantee, of the righteousness by faith which was already his while he was still uncircumcised. It seems quite probable, though it is not certain, that the custom of referring to circumcision as a seal was already well established in Judaism by Paul’s time. The words imply that Abraham’s circumcision, while it did not confer a status of righteousness on him, was nevertheless valuable as the outward and visible attestation of the status of righteousness which he already possessed.

Cranfield is undoubtedly correct in terms of how circumcision functioned for Abraham and this is all we need to know to follow Paul’s argument in Romans 4. But if we want to understand how circumcision functioned in redemptive history we need to make a very careful distinction: Circumcision was not a sign and seal of faith. Circumcision was a sign and a seal of the righteousness that comes by faith. This should be obvious from the fact that Abraham was commanded to circumcise his children when they were 8 days old, long before they could possibly make a public profession of faith. For both believing Jews like Abraham, and for their covenant children, circumcision was intended to lead them to look outside of themselves in faith to the LORD who had made the promises. They were not supposed to look at themselves and say, “I have the seal of righteousness (i.e. circumcision) in my flesh, so I’m all set.” Instead they were to see circumcision as a sign of the gracious God who was promising them an alien righteousness when they trusted Him and His promises (an alien righteousness is a righteousness that comes from outside of us that we receive as a gift). Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.