Theopolis ArticlesFilter

  • The Gospel According to the Sacraments, Part 2

    In my previous post, I highlighted the sacraments as the point of convergence between evangelicalism and ecumenism arguing that baptism and communion are presented in the New Testament as signs of the gospel that simultaneously enact and remember union with Christ and the unity of Christ’s body. I concluded that post by appealing to evangelical’s […]

  • Baptism and Contextualization: Part II

    Click HERE for Part I of this series. What does baptism have to do with culture? As I said in the previous essay, the short answer is “everything!” To begin with, baptism is baptism into Jesus’ death (Romans 6:3). Paul explains this as the crucifixion of the “old man” (“old self”) in a chapter that […]

  • The Gospel According to the Sacraments, Part 1

    My first title for this series of posts was “Evangelical Sacramental Ecumenism” – not exactly a clickbait title. But those three words, evangelical, sacramental, and ecumenical, say a lot: The centrality of the gospel; a focus on baptism, bread, and wine; and the quest for visible unity among diverse churches. When they are put together […]

  • Like A Dove II

    In the previous article in this series, I drew attention to the threefold meaning of the Spirit of God descending as a dove on Jesus at His baptism. On a related note, I also argued that 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Titus 3:3-7 were parallel passages that addressed the same issues in very similar language. One […]

  • Like a Dove

    Peter Leithart’s book, The Priesthood of the Plebs: A Theology of Baptism, argues that baptism is parallel to and the fulfillment of the old covenant rite of priestly ordination. But this is not something explicitly stated in the New Testament. Why, then, should we believe it? Leithart shows in detail that new covenant baptism does […]

  • Strange and Glorious New Rites

    At the last supper, Jesus took bread and, having given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples while saying, “Take, eat, this is My body given for you. Do this for My memorial.” What Jesus did was recognized by the disciples, because it took place every morning and evening. It was the […]

  • God is Shouting, “Baptism Saves!”

    Unfortunately today, baptism seems so…tiny. It’s actually…cute (maybe sweet?) when it’s given to a child. A little baby, a small gathering of people, a little bowl of water, tiny drops sprinkled upon the little baby’s head followed by a small applause and a short prayer. How…small! As it currently stands, it sure does take faith […]

  • Baptism Unto Priesthood: Historical Notes

    In a recent article in Biblical Horizons , I argued that the imagery of James 1:21 alludes to baptism, and particularly to baptism as an ordination and incorporation into the holy priesthood. This understanding of baptism as ordination to priesthood is not, I have since discovered, original, but in fact was widely recognized in the early church. […]

  • Sacramental Efficacy

    Protestant-Catholic debates about the sacraments have usually taken the form of debates about sacramental efficacy. Protestants claim that Catholics believe that sacraments work ex opere operato, virtually a magical view of the sacraments. A priest goes through the motions and says the hocus-pocus and ‘ presto! ‘ the sacraments confer grace. By contrast, Protestants insist that […]

  • The Peril of Weekly Communion

    A while back a friend told me that his church had finally introduced weekly communion. He told me that they were having an 8:00 a.m. service on Sundays for anyone who wanted to have communion. At present only about five people were coming to this service, but he was hopeful that more would come eventually. […]

  • A Letter on Paedocommunion

    Several years ago I wrote an essay, “Theses on Paedocommunion,” in which I argued that allowing all baptized and non-excommunicated persons to the table of the Lord was Biblical and desirable. (A copy of this essay is available for a donation from Biblical Horizons .) During the past several years I have been among a […]

  • Daddy, Why Was I Excommunicated?

    Since the early 1980s, several of the conservative Reformed Churches have debated and wrestled with the issue of paedocommunion (infant communion). The PCA and the OPC assigned study committees to examine the question, both of which produced useful reports both in support of and against the position. Though the debate seems to have subsided in recent […]

  • The Ecology of the Tribute Offering

    The Hebrew word translated as “grain offering” or “cereal offering” is minchah. Like the translation of `olah as “burnt offering,” the translation of minchah as “grain offering” is somewhat deceiving, since minchah does not refer to grain or cereal. In liturgical contexts outside of Leviticus, in fact, the word can refer to bloody sacrifices as well as unbloody sacrifices (see Gen. 4:3-4). […]

  • Skinned and Cut

    “He shall then skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces” (Leviticus 1:6). The normal word (`olah) that is translated as “burnt offering” and “whole burnt offering” has nothing to do with either burning or wholeness. It is the noun form of a verb meaning “to go up, to ascend, to climb.” The […]

  • Priestly Animals

    The first commandment given in the Levitical sacrificial legislation has to do with the animals appropriate to sacrifice: “When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of cattle (behemah), from the herd or the flock” (Lev. 1:2). Cattle alone were permitted as sacrificial animals, though there were […]

  • What Is a Sacrament? Some Problems of Definition

    Several months back, a candidate for ordination was being examined for entrance into the Presbytery of which I am a member. The candidate had a good deal of trouble with the exam on the sacraments, stumbling badly as he tried to define the “nature of the sacrament.” Apparently in an effort to help him, a […]

  • A Male Without Defect

    Under the Levitical law, whole-burnt offerings from the herd and flock had to be male. No such specification is made with respect to birds (cf. Lev. 5:7-10). Why did the Lord demand that only males be offered as whole-burnt offerings? The easy answer is that the whole-burnt offering typified Christ, and Christ was a man. […]

  • An Old Debate Revisited

    In retrospect and at first glance, many of the issues that have plagued and divided the Church seem incredibly trivial. The Quartodecimians were branded as heretics for celebrating Easter on 14 Nisan. One of the issues that divided the Eastern and Western Churches in 1054 was the kind of bread that was appropriate to use […]

  • “Do This!”

    (The essay that follows concerns a rather touchy subject: how the Lord’s Supper is to be done. I am not writing to insult or offend, but to challenge. To that end I have not “held back” but have “gone ahead” and said what I think needs to be said — for your consideration.) There is […]