August 20, 2017
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts at 13:45 in the audio file.
Or, What is a Kuyperian Dispensationalist?
Why do we do what we do? This is a question for individuals and for groups, for me and for us. Every person does what he most wants to do, whether or not he thinks in those terms or is conscious of his intentions. We all have wants, we all have reasons, we all make choices how we will spend our resources (time, money, skills, interests, etc.). And what we believe about God’s plan for the future will shape what we believe about God’s will for today.
In history, most Dispensationalists have considered their lives, and the world, to be in a sort of throw-away category. We say catechesis matters, our lives not so much. Our lives are a vapor, as James wrote, but Dispensationalists tend to apply that to the worth of one’s life rather than the duration of it. Compared to eternity our lives on earth don’t last very long. That doesn’t make our lives here less valuable. It’s actually the opposite.
A Dispensationalist sings about how this world is not his home, he’s just a passing through, and he sings how the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of Christ’s glory and grace. A Dispensationalist runs everything through the comparative grid rather than the integrated grid (categories Joe Rigney described in his book, The Things of Earth). Compared to Jesus everything else is worthless, “there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25), but we have trouble comprehending that Jesus gave worth to what He made for us. We tend to be best at building Dispensational Bible colleges as well as walls between Denominations. We are good at seeing and criticizing and condemning sin in the culture. We major on strident apologetics and urgent evangelism and rapture fiction. We believe that Israel is still significant in God’s plans and promises, and we expect that God will work all that out on the other side of the globe. We’ll wait here, at home, in our prayer closets, and Jesus will be back to make things right at any moment.
The part about Israel is good (the rest not so much). There are great promises of God to His elect people in the Old Testament. He made great and unbreakable covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We looked specifically at the New Covenant promises to “the household of Israel,” promises to give them a new heart and the indwelling Spirit, as well as to return them to the land of their forefathers (Jeremiah 31:31-40; Ezekiel 36:22-32). Then we saw Paul’s long section of confidence in Romans 9-11. God chose the nation of Israel for Himself, He chose to save many within the nation. He also purposed for many to reject His Son for time, before He will save all of them in the future. God is faithful. He will finish what He started. While the fullness of Gentiles are grafted into salvation in Christ, the ethnic people of Israel will also be grafted back in. This what it means to be a Dispensationalist.
What does that have to do with being a Kuyperian? We took a couple weeks to consider the adjective “Kuyperian” as a nickname for a way of looking at all the world as a good gift from God. Not anything that was made was not made by Him. He sustains it, and He’s interested in it. He also made image-bearers to reflect His interests, and commissioned them to steward and build and subdue the earth. Marriage and family, medicine and technology, a father’s labor and a mother’s labor, are all ways to glorify God, not things that keep us from glorifying Him. Any created thing could become an idol, but so can Bible reading and religious service. Lots of religious people go to hell.
A Kuyperian is a Christian who acknowledges Christ’s lordship over every thumb’s-width in creation. Earthly callings are God’s idea. Presenting our bodies as living sacrifices is His choice for our response to His mercies (Romans 12:1). If the Lord wanted excellent thinkers He could have made computers. Instead He gave us brains and blood and bodies and thumbs.
Most Kuyperian-minded Christians have not been Dispensationalists. Most Dispensationalists have not been Kuyperian. There are verses for both, so there are blind spots to watch for on both sides. Whether or not one uses the labels, both truths are Bible truths.
Do they go together or do we just try to hold them both? God says them, we believe them, we can’t explain them further. He’s sovereign, we’re responsible, He’ll have to figure out how it works.
Perhaps the truths are like holding two sixteen pound bowling balls, one in the left hand and one in the right. There have been some Christians who believe and live like this, most of whom probably couldn’t explain it, but they do it. We shouldn’t drop either ball, but they don’t really have much to do with each other.
That’s not the case. Kuyperianism is more like the cue ball that breaks the Dispensational rack, sending balls into pockets all around the table. Kuyperianism is the key that touches all the right parts of the eschatological lock, opening the door on the timeline of God’s plan. It’s not just that they could go together, they must. How so?
There is a key word used three times in Romans 10-11, a word that’s part prophecy, part observation, part motivation. The word is jealous.
We almost always take jealousy to be a sin, and usually it is. It is feeling of envy to be in someone else’s shoes, wanting to have what they have. The desire itself is not wrong, it depends on what you want and why you want it.
In Romans 10 Paul addressed why so many of his kinsmen did not confess that Jesus is Lord and in his explanation he quoted the second half of Deuteronomy 32:21.
But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
In Deuteronomy God warned Israel, under the name of “Jeshurun,” that they “grew fat, stout, and sleek; then…forsook God who made” them and “scoffed at the Rock of…salvation” (32:15). They “forgot the God who gave (them) birth” (32:18). God responded with jealousy for the glory of His name. He values it so much—as He should—that He reacts when His name isn’t honored, so He was going to make them jealous. That is the first part of the verse Paul quoted in Romans 10:19.
They have made me jealous with what is no god;
they have provoked me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous….
They gave worship due to Him to other gods, so God would give blessings offered to them to other peoples. He was going to give blessings to “those who are no people,” a people the Jews looked down on, in order to cause the Jews to want the good from God they could have had.
Paul stitches the jealous thread again in the next chapter.
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. (Romans 11:11)
“Stumble” refers to their rejection of salvation in Jesus. In God’s plan, Israel’s rejection led to salvation and “riches for the world…riches for the Gentiles” (Romans 11:12). God extended His grace in forgiveness and in fruitfulness. “Riches” are blessing, good gifts from above, eternal and temporal, spiritual and physical. These riches “make Israel jealous.”
Making Jews jealous was a major motivation for Paul’s ministry.
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. (Romans 11:13–14)
Provoking jealousy was not an afterthought, it was his aim. Paul didn’t merely look back and realize an unintended consequence, he looked around for ways to increase the provocation effect. “I magnify,” the word is δοξάζω, “I glorify.” Salvation and blessing among the Gentiles provoked the right sort of envy in the elect in Israel. Paul maximized his blessing-bling to “save some” of the remnant in his day, but there will be a large-scale application in the end when the fulness of Gentiles come in so that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26).
Is this our aim and what are we magnifying in order to hit the target?
We will not aim to make Jews jealous if we don’t think that Jews are still part of God’s plan. We will not be motivated to provoke them, or confident that God will give us the required blessings for it, if we think that His promises to Israel have been redefined. This is a Dispensational aim and a Dispensational assurance.
We also will not aim to make Jews jealous if we think that our lives are throw-away, that everything we do will “burn,” that we should hide out in the basement reading our Bibles, lamenting the 6 o’clock news and latest ISIS attack. We will not provoke the elect by our whimpering waiting for the rapture helicopter out of hell on earth. Provocative jealousy is a Kuyperian end requiring Kuyperian energy.
It ought to be our aim to make an entire nation—and our neighbors, too—jealous with what God has give us. What is it we want them to see?
Many a Christian has gone to heaven like a lottery ball, maybe bouncing off the other balls before being raptured up into the tube alone. They ought instead to be like cue balls, heading for other balls on purpose. Did there need to be Gentile cue balls? No. Is that how God runs the table? Yes.
Christians are saved by faith alone, so a Christian could theoretically believe and it not be obvious. But James said that works come out of living faith (James 2:18-26). Paul aimed at the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26). God has prepared beforehand good works for those with faith to walk in (Ephesians 2:8-10). Faith has fruit in sanctification, faith has Spirit-produced fruit. Faith follows God with feet and fingers. Faith fights.
Church, where is our fruit? Where is our fight? The author of Hebrews talked about those “who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Hebrews 11:33–34). Because Jesus is Lord we marry and raise kids and bake cupcakes and attend City Council meetings and tweet against abortion and hire employees and drink wine at parties. These are merely a sample of the fruitful blessings God gives to those who believe.
This is not a new “prosperity gospel.” By faith we also suffer in joy and endure with perseverance by God’s blessing. Again in Hebrews, others through faith “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:35–38). Our confident losing by faith may be even more provocative to the Jews. “It has been granted to (us) that for the sake of Christ (we) should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). When we are not frightened, it is a sign of winning (Philippians 1:28).
A Kuyperian Dispensationalist is a Christian who acknowledges Jesus as Lord in everything he does on earth in order to make the Jews jealous of God’s blessing so that all Israel would believe and be saved. We live by faith, more than conquerers even when we’re killed, bringing life from our sacrificial deaths. Informed by our Bible reading and study, we look for the the Word to yield its fruit in season, making us without a withering leaf, prospering us unlike the wind-driven chaff. Our meditation on His Word should produce provocative fruit.
This cannot be done individually, but it must be done by persons of faith. One celebrity getting saved isn’t meant to do what the church in Christ does: produce much fruit. Because Jesus is Lord and we seek to honor Him in our culture maybe we will rebuild America in His name, or maybe we will thrive in Post-America in His name. This project isn’t tied to America’s future, but it is a project for the public square as well.
The next stage in God’s plan will not happen by magic. He has planned for us to be the means of provoking jealousy. He has given us riches, and we’re to magnify them to make the Jews jealous.
This is a reason for everything! It is a unified explanation of humanity and history, and it is a motivation for our intentional and joyful contribution. The foundation of our fruit-seeking is that God created us as His image-bearers. We can also see that fruit-bearing according to God’s blessing is good for humanity to flourish. But provocative fruit is the promised future. Our labor in the Lord is not in vain. Whether we plant or water, He gives growth, He gives new hearts, He makes attractive.
For too long we’ve been hanging out in our Baptistic bunkers and basements as bumps-on-a-log. We are good at talking about the cultural battle, not sure what we’d do if we won. We run in one direction: away, never toward. We’re complaining, combative, complacent Christians. Who wants more of that?
Can or would we accomplish this provocation haphazardly? God does use the foolish to do His work. But how much more so if we believe His Word and obey Him and honor Christ as Lord in our spheres? Parenting, economics, education, science, art? We do not retreat. Our purpose is to, by faith, prudently and persistently provoke jealousy among elect Israel by how we seek and steward God’s blessings. This is the big perspective and driving passion of a Kuyperian Dispensationalist.
What can’t you do in such as way as to provoke jealousy? Think big. Your tank has been filled, the direction laid out in front of you, so let the clutch out on your Kuyperianism. All is the Lord’s, and that includes you. In Him, all is yours. Do something with it. Live by faith to make others jealous.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12, ESV)