Epiphany as Revelation

January 7, 2019 in Baptism, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Christmas, Church Calendar, Church History, King Jesus, Meditations, Missions

Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)

6 Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the baptism of Jesus, the coming of the Magi, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.

Consider, first, the baptism of Jesus. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry; He was washed in water to identify with His people and prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. God revealed His Son to the watching world. Epiphany celebrates that Jesus is God’s Messiah, God’s Anointed One.

Anointed as what? It is this question that Jesus’ revelation to the Magi answers. The Magi were a powerful ruling class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. So while Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Magi, Gentile rulers, sought Jesus out and bowed before Him, acknowledging Him as God’s King. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles. So Epiphany celebrates that Jesus has been anointed by God as King of all nations.

So what kind of King is Jesus? It is this question that is answered at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. Recall that this was the first sign that Jesus performed after His baptism and temptation in the wilderness. As He entered upon His earthly ministry, Jesus turned water into wine and, in the words of the Apostle John, revealed His glory. He revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation, that He might make glad the hearts of men. Epiphany celebrates that Jesus is the festal King.

Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God demonstrates how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and rebelling against His lawful and joyful rule. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us kneel as we are able, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

Dispatches from the Front

September 28, 2014 in Book Reviews, Church History, Evangelism, Lord's Day, Missions

For the last seven or so weeks our family has incorporated the video series Dispatches from the Front by Dr. Tim Keesee into our Saturday evening Sabbath meal ritual. I simply cannot say enough about this video series. Get it; watch it; be blessed; be encouraged; be challenged; be prepared to cheer and to cry and to contemplate. Dr. Keesee is with Frontline Missions International and the video series travels to a number of “frontline” mission fields, following the journeys of courageous men and women who are taking the Gospel to hard to reach places. As expected, the videos give a great vision for missions; but I also found myself challenged to think about the mission field outside my door. There are currently 7 videos available here. Our whole family is grieved that we’re done with the set and praying for more.

Genevan Missions

February 18, 2008 in Church History, John Calvin, Missions, St. Anne's

While Jimmy Swaggart has long since been discredited as a minister of the Gospel, his sentiments continue to be embraced by a surprisingly large number of evangelicals. Among the maxims issued by the infamous evangelist was the following: “Calvin has caused untold millions of souls to be damned.”

Swaggart’s quote captures the standpoint of millions of evangelicals on the character of John Calvin–cold, hard-hearted, irrecoverably devoted to logical precision, determined to keep as many folks out of the kingdom of heaven as possible–this is the vision of Calvin which fills many evangelicals’ nightmares.

But here at St. Anne’s Pub, we’re in the business of relieving your distress, changing your nightmares into peaceful visions of elysium. I have it on good authority that the very best way to accomplish this is to envision the person about whom you are dreaming in pink poke-a-dot pajamas; but the next best way is to dispel the ignorance of Swaggartisms from your mind with a good dose of historical data. And since we can’t supply the pajamas, we will supply the data. I am Stuart Bryan and this is Ancient Biography.

When folks think of Calvin today, “mission-minded” is not the first adjective that springs into their minds. Perhaps “astute”, “logical”, or even “precise.” But not “mission-minded.” However, as Frank James explains in his recent article “Calvin the Evangelist,” Calvin was remarkably driven by a desire to foster missions throughout the world.

The majority of Calvin’s missionary work was devoted to France, his former home. From the years 1555 to 1562, the number of underground Protestant churches in France mushroomed from 5 to over two thousand. These churches were planted largely through the efforts of missionaries sent out by the Genevan Consistory–the group of pastors in Geneva. And, as James says, these weren’t no sissy churches either–they were mega-churches. In Bergerac and Montpelier the churches included around five thousand people each and in Toulouse the Reformed church grew “to the astonishing number of eight to nine thousand souls.” Wow!

But Calvin’s missionary drive could not confine itself to continental Europe. His vision was too expansive. He dreamt of Protestant missionaries visiting the remotest parts of the earth. And so, when the Huguenot Admiral Gaspard de Coligny proposed sending a group of Protestants to a colony in Brazil, Calvin jumped at the opportunity.

Two Genevan trained missionaries, Pierre Richier and William Chartier, were to serve as pastors for the eleven other colonists and as missionaries to the Brazilian natives. The expedition set out in 1556 and arrived in Rio de Janeiro in March, 1557, the first Protestant mission to the New World. Let me repeat that. Calvin sent the first Protestant missionaries to the New World. I’ll bet you haven’t heard that before.

Unfortunately, the leader of the colony, Nicolas Durand, was a turn coat and began persecuting the Protestants shortly after their arrival. After eight months they were forced to flee into the jungle and seek refuge with the Tupi Indians, a tribe of cannibals! However, rather than despair in the midst of their trials, the Protestants sought to win the cannibals to the Gospel! Ultimately unsuccesful, they found their way onto a ship heading back to Europe and, after a harrowing journey, most of them arrived home.

It would appear, then, that the real Calvin was far different from modern perceptions of him. Far from the cold hearted, disinterested scholar that most Christians picture, Calvin was a man with a passionate heart for the spread of the Gospel. Visionary and enthusiastic, Calvin supported and prayed for numerous mission efforts throughout the world, not only in Europe but in the New World as well. We would do well to imitate him.

Oh, and by the way, if you are interested in reading more about Calvin’s missionary labors, here are a couple book suggestions. First, Robert Kingdon in his book Geneva and the Wars of Religion in France traces Calvin’s missionary activities in France. Second, the expedition to Brazil is described in Jean de Lery’s book History of a Voyage to Brazil, translated by Janet Whatley and published by the University of California Press. De Lery was one of the colonists on the journey and recorded their experiences in this book for the glory of God and the advancement of His Church.