Saturday, June 30, 2012

James Durham on the infinite-ness of our sins

James Durham, in Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53, discusses why our sins may be called infinite.
For though our act of sin, first, as to the subject that sins (man), and secondly, as to the act of sin itself (a sinful thought, word or deed that is soon gone), are finite: yet, if we consider sin: (1) In respect of the object against whom [it is committed] (the infinite God); (2) In respect to the absolute purity of God's law, a rule that bears out God's image set down by infinite wisdom, and that may be some way called infinitely pure; and sin, as being against this pure rule, that infinite wisdom has set down; (3) And if we consider it in respect of its nature, every sin being of this nature, that though it cannot properly wrong the majesty of God, yet as to the intention of the thing, and even of the sinner, it wrongs Him-sin in these respects may be called infinite. (Durham, James. Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53. Dallas: Napthali Press, 2007. Print. 224) 
Durham notes that both the act of sinning and the sinner himself are finite. The very worst sinner in the history of our race is finite and will pass away. The most grievous of sins are passed away immediately after the actual act.

However, in sinning we always sin first and foremost against God who is infinite. Also, sins are contrary to the infinite wisdom of God's law. And finally, though ultimately God's majesty is unapproachable, sins wrong His infinitely pure majesty. For these reasons, sins are essentially infinite.

This points to the reason why a just punishment for sinners is the infinite outpouring of God's wrath. It also points to why Christ's propitiation of god's wrath is efficacious; an infinitely pure Substitute took our place and paid our price.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Atonement in 1 Peter

Dan G. McCartney, in his chapter investigating atonement in the biblical books James, Peter, and Jude, from The Glory of the Atonement, discusses the reconciling work of Christ in 1 Peter:

To accomplish the goal of helping the believer identify with the Lord, 1 Peter develops at least five different types of metaphor or imagery to depict and elaborate on the atoning work of Christ, a work that both makes that identification possible and real, and motivates the believer to live accordingly. These are:

1. Servant imagery, especially the notion of representative or substitutionary obedience.

2. Cultic imagery, which uses the language of ritual cleansing, sacrifice and the sacrificial system of the OT.

3. Marketplace imagery, or the idea of purchasing or buying back out of hock and particularly the notion of purchase out of slavery.

4. Conflict resolution imagery, which speaks of reconciling of enemies or propitiating the anger of the offended party.

5. Military imagery, the notion of monomachy or representative single combat as warfare.

What links all of these is the idea of substitution or representation, where one party or thing stands in place of, or works on behalf of, another. 

(Nicole, Roger R., Charles E. Hill, and Frank A. James. The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Historical & Practical Perspectives : Essays in Honor of Roger Nicole. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004. Print. 180)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Just call me Rahab

Yahweh did not choose the greatest nation on earth; he chose the fewest, Israel (Deut. 7:7). And when he is pleased to show his mercy to an inhabitant of Jericho, he does not choose the most virtuous or noble of the citizenry; he chooses Rahab, a harlot (cf. Josh 6:17, 22-23, 25). No one in Jericho deserves to live. None of them has honored Yahweh as God or given thanks to him (cf. Rom. 1:21). Yet Yahweh is pleased to show kindness, and as he declared to Moses that he would show mercy to whomever he pleased (Ex. 33:19), he chooses to show mercy to one whose unworthiness underscores the riches of his grace. Thus is the free, unconstrained mercy of God displayed in all its glory, and the burning of all Jericho makes the salvation of Rahab and her family more heavy with the weight of the glory of God.

(Hamilton, James M. God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. Print.150)

The story of the destruction of Jericho is surely one of the most famous stories of the Old Testament. Any child who attended Sunday school for any length of time knows about Joshua and Jericho. Marching. Trumpeting. Seven times. Walls come tumbling down.

Even now, as an adult, my desire is still to imagine myself as Joshua. I put myself in the sandals of the great warrior and leader of the children of God. I trust in God despite the seemingly silly request to march around the city. I'm a man of action, but I obey the command to walk instead of fight. And then victory.

As I contemplate this excerpt from Dr. Hamilton's biblical theology, it occurs to me that I should be associating with the harlot, not the hero. Isn't all of our stories more akin to Rahab's than to Joshua's. I know mine is. An unworthy sinner is called out from among the enemies of God and shown salvation in the midst of judgment all because of the grace and mercy of God.

I wasn't marching around the city when God moved in my life. I was in the city. I was an idol worshiper and a God-hater. I was Rahab the harlot not Joshua the hero. And yet, he saved me from the flames and the destruction. Not because I deserved, but because it was his pleasure.

I want to be a Joshua; my roots will always be with Rahab. Thank God for his mercy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fred Sanders, Calvinism, and Wesleyanism

John starke posted an interview with Fred Sanders at The Gospel Coalition website today. I have enjoyed reading Sanders' writings and think this interview is worth the read. Below is an excerpt:

You're a Calvinist, Right?I've been reading Fred Sanders's blog for a long time, and when his book, The Deep Things of God, came out, I was eager to read it. He's a good writer, he loves and quotes the Puritans, he's a reasonable thinker, and he knows how to do careful exegesis.

He's also a Wesleyan.

I don't mean to declare that so menacingly. But the first time I learned Sanders---associate professor at the Torrey Honors Institute of Biola University---was a Wesleyan, I was a bit surprised. It's not that Wesleyans and Arminians can't be careful interpreters and reasonable thinkers---I just don't often resonate with their writings and conclusions quite the way I do with Sanders'.

And so, I had to know: For a guy who loves, quotes, and depends upon Calvin and Calvinists, why isn't Fred Sanders a Calvinist? We corresponded, and he explained the one thing he wished Calvinists would stop accusing Wesleyans of doing and why Wesleyanism is only the opposite of Calvinism in a very small thought-world.

Read the rest here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Message of the Bible in 221 Words

This from the Desiring God blog:

D. A. Carson:
God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17). 

For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future, ed. Steve Brady and Harold Rowdon (London, UK: Evangelical Alliance, 1986), 80.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

John Donne on distractions

I have the wonderful privilege of preaching this morning at my church, Church In The Oaks, while sharing the pulpit with good friend Rich Cherry. We are preaching on 2 Timothy 2:1-9 which is as follows:
    You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
    Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!
As I discuss the analogy of a soldier refraining from entanglement and focusing on pleasing his commander, I'll share this excerpt from John Donne as it occurred in his sermon entitled The Divided Mind.
I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door; I talk on, in the same posture of praying; eyes lifted up; knees bowed down; as though I prayed to God; and, if God, or his angels should ask me, when I thought last of God in that prayer, I cannot tell: sometimes I find that I had forgot what I was about, but when I began to forget it, I cannot tell. A memory of yesterday's pleasures, a fear of tomorrow's dangers, a straw under my knee, a noise in mine ear, a light in mine eye, an anything, a nothing, a fancy, a chimera in my brain, troubles me in my prayer.
We are easily distracted; our attention and devotion is diverted and side-tracked by the momentous and the mundane. But, perseverance in the midst of faith-confirming suffering necessitates a single-minded beholding of the gospel, of the cross, of Christ, of God. Pray with us that God would help us keep him as proverbial apple of our eye.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review - Understanding the Big Picture of the bible

The Big Picture
Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Bible Well is concerned with exactly what the title indicates; the big picture. It is an entry level book that introduces readers to major ideas, themes, and content of not only the biblical literature but also the historical context in which the Bible was written. This book is helpful due to its broad approach which provides an initial contact for understanding the Bible and a starting point for further study.

Wide Angle
This book is an overview to the Bible in three main areas; Old Testament, New Testament, and New Testament background. The relatively short essays in each section outfit the reader with a surprisingly substantial amount of helpful information. Both the Old and New Testament sections begin with an outline of that testament’s theology. This large field of view is slowly focused in both sections with the OT essay writers discussing the Pentateuch, historical books, poetic and wisdom literature, and prophetic books. Of these chapters, I found Paul House’s work on the prophetic boos most interesting. The NT portion follows a similar structure as it considers the Gospels and Acts, the epistles, and the book of Revelation. I was intrigued by Thomas Schreiner’s tour through the epistles; their cohesiveness and unity was brought to light.

Background Details
Perhaps the most valuable segment for me was that on the background to the New Testament which was sandwiched between those mentioned above. Covering the times between the Testaments, the Roman and Greco-Roman worlds, and Jewish groups at the time, these three chapters presented information that was less familiar and therefore more enriching.

Only a Start for Study
As an introductory guide to reading the Bible, as expected, this book does not go into specific detail or into highly-focused topics. It does a good job of introducing a wide range of ideas. The book is written in such a way so as to encourage further study and investigation. The authors give enough guidance so one is not without general bearings. However, one’s interest is only piqued, and I found myself regularly reflecting that I would like to investigate a topic more thoroughly. This was the strength of the book in my opinion.

Uniform Structure
One improvement that I feel could be made, particularly in the OT and NT sections, would be a more uniform structure in terms of the content of each chapter. Some ideas were expressed throughout the book. For instance, themes of different genres and books were regularly explained. I would have found it helpful if other subtopics were covered across the spectrum of the chapters. This may be much to ask with the broad range of writings being considered. What uniformity the book did have, I found very helpful

Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible is a helpful beginning resource for, as the book’s subtitle suggests, reading the Bible well. It is an acceptable companion to the already published Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible's Origin, Reliability, and Meaning. These two books will cover most topics around Scripture and point the researcher in the right direction for deeper inquiry. I recommend this book.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gaffin on the efficacy of the cross

Richard Gaffin on the efficacy of the cross as elucidtaed by Paul:
Only now are we in a position, finally, to address more specifically how Paul unfolds the efficacy of Christ's death. He does so using a number of themes or motifs that reinforce each other, and at points overlap. Prominent among these are sacrifice, or expiation; propitiation; reconciliation; redemption; and justification. As we have already seen, Christ's death, together with his resurrection,  is God's eschatalogical answer to sin as rebellion against God, specifically his revealed will. In the cross and resurrection, God addresses sin in its essential and irreducible twofold aspect. He removes the sinner's sin both as recurring guilt and as corrupting and enslaving power, and in so doing, he effects the removal of his just wrath, terminating in eternal destruction, which that guilt and corruption deserve. (Nicole, Roger R., Charles E. Hill, and Frank A. James. The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Historical & Practical Perspectives : Essays in Honor of Roger Nicole. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004. Print. 156-7)
This is monumentous! God, through Christ, defeats sin at the level of our experience removing its guilt-inducing, corruption-producing, and slave-recruiting efficacy. But, more importantly or at least more foundationally, in doing so God removes his own just wrath which had destined us for eternal damnation. Amazing grace!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Place to Pray

I liked this short post from the blog Take Your Vitamin Z:

The Value of a Place to Pray

In my study at church, I have a window where I kneel to pray. The window is about 2 feet off the floor, so as I kneel I am looking out at our community.

As you can see from the picture, I don't have a real sophisticated system for prayer reminders. I put up post-its, tape emails to the sill, and write notes or make check marks.

I suppose I could just keep track of prayer requests on my computer. I do at times. But there is value in identifying a physical place to pray.
  1. My attitude changes when I drop to my knees. I was studying Daniel recently for a sermon. It struck me how earnestly Daniel prayed. I left my books and dropped to my knees to pray for the flock. The physical movement was helpful in softening my heart.
  2. It paints a  picture to share with others. It's one thing to say to a friend, "I'll pray for you." It's another to say, "I got down on my knees at my window and prayed." There is a place, of course, for secret prayers. But there are times when people need to know exactly where we are praying for them and it encourages them we really are praying if we can be concrete.
  3. It keeps me away from the distraction of my computer. I have to admit that there are times when I forget to mute my computer - - and get distracted. But most of the time, I can find quiet moments without any electronic distractions. I just need to do it more.
  4. It reminds me to look out on a place I love. Flannery O'Connor famously said, "Somewhere is better than anywhere," and when I kneel, and glance at the window in the process of doing so, I am reminded again of our place.
  5. It reminds me to thank God for answered prayer. The reason that some of the post-its are covered in the above picture is that the request has been answered. I will eventually take them down, but for now, it is good to see prayer requests covered up.
  6. It is often as I kneel to pray that the Holy Spirit brings truth into crystal clear focus. I can think of so many occasions when I was preparing to preach a funeral, or so very concerned for someone in our church, that I got down on my knees to pray and the Spirit brought to mind the right truth to share in the right way. It's not a matter of special revelation, but rather of the gentle promptings of the Spirit. Let's get down on our knees and pray more often, "Open my eyes so I may behold wonderful things in your Word."
See also the value of praying in an unpleasant place.

Chris Brauns is the Pastor of The Red Brick Church and the author of Unpacking Forgiveness and When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search. You can follow him on Twitter at ChrisBrauns.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Christ as the true prophet, priest, king, wise man, warrior, temple, covenant, and sacrifice

Vern S. Poythress in Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible:

Instances of mediators in the Old Testament include prophets, kings, and priests. Prophets bring the word of God from God to the people. Kings, when they submit to God, bring god's rule to bear on people. Priests represent the people in the coming before God's presence. Christ is the final prophet, king, and priest who fulfills all three functions in a final way (Heb.1:1-3). One can also look at wise men, who bring God's wisdom to others; warriors, who bring God's deliverance from enemies; and singers, who bring praise to god on behalf of the people and speak of the character of God to the people.

Mediation occurs not only through human figures, but through institutions. Covenants play a mediatorial role in bringing God's word to the people. The temple brings God's presence to the people. The animal sacrifices bring God's forgiveness to the people. In reading the Bible on should look for ways in which God brings his word and his presence to people through means that he establishes. All these means perform a kind of mediatorial role, and because there is only on mediator, it is clear that they all point to Christ. (18)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Substitution and Sacrifices explained by Dr. Jim Hamilton

As I blog through Dr. Jim Hamilton’s momentous and memorable biblical theology called God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, I come to an important explanation focused on the sacrifices of the Old Testament Levitical system. The OT sacrifices, and how they relate to us as New Testament believers, is something I have often wrestled with and, in some respects, continue to wrestle with. This excerpt from Hamilton’s book is very helpful:

The substitution seen in both the sacrifice of the ram in place of Isaac and the Passover lamb in place of the firstborn of Israel is also reiterated in the Levitical system. Wenham writes, “In some degree substitution seems to form part of the theology of all the sacrifices.” The worshiper places his hand on the head of the sacrificial animal (e.g., Lev. 1:4). The description of the Day of Atonement ritual in Leviticus 16 adds that when the high priest places his hands on the head of the animal, he is to confess the sins of the people over the animal (16:21), and this seems to make explicit what is implicit elsewhere. As Wenham writes, “In sacrifice it appears that the worshiper identifies himself with the animal he offers. What he does to the animal, he does symbolically to himself. The death of the animal portrays the death of himself.” The substitute is judged on behalf of the worshiper. The transfer of guilt from the worshiper to the sacrificial beast, and then the death of the beast, cleanses the worshiper of sin. The blood of the beast atones for the soul of the worshiper (Lev. 17:11). Kiuchi writes, “The offerer is viewed as the object of the Lord’s wrath to varying the degrees, and the offerings symbolize the offer appeasing the Lord’s wrath.” The worshipers are saved by faith through the judgment that falls on the sacrifice. God is glorified in salvation through judgment. (110-1)

This passage not only helps support Hamilton’s premise that the central and unifying theme of the Bible is God’s glory in salvation through judgment, but it is also crucial for understanding the sacrifice that Christ made on Calvary. The Levitical sacrifices are a shadow of Christ’s sacrifices and they point to the Son of God becoming our substitute and propitiating God’s wrath and cleansing us from sin. As God’s elect, he identifies us with himself in his sacrifice; he, as our substitute, is judged on our behalf.

These types of discussions are imperative if we are to understand the concept of penal substitution and Hamilton’s elucidating of the OT sacrifices is a welcome voice.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Theology Breakfast

We have begun a little something here in London, Ontario that we like to refer to as Theology Breakfast. Here is an excerpt from an earlier email that was sent out to determine if their was the will and desire for this sort of thing:

We call this idea Theology Breakfast. Simply, we want to set up an opportunity for Christian men with a love of theology to gather together for mutual enjoyment and edification. We want to network and strengthen relationships with brothers from around the city. This will not be a large gathering as we are looking at 12-20 people. Included in this email are both pastors and laymen from 8 different churches in London and the surrounding area. included are men ranging in age from 20s through 70s who belong to at least 5 different denominations.
It turns out there were a bunch of guys interested in this and we have had two get-togethers to fellowship over a shared meal and discuss theological ideas and issues. The first TB had 15 guys attend and the second 13. In TB1 I gave the talk and covered two topics. The first, a rationale for doing what we were doing and the second, a discussion of the book God With Us by K. Scott Oliphint. The presentation was well received and the general consensus was an appreciation for this event and gratitude for each persons participation.

In TB2, which went down yesterday morning, author and blogger extraordinaire Aaron Armstrong gave an excellent talk on the nature of God and contending for our faith. This talk clearly generated some thinking which overflowed into some lively and helpful conversation. As I paused during the morning for reflection, I was encouraged by a sense of gratefulness for these men and for God's giftings in these men and their desire to know Him and make Him known.

I look forward to more time spent around God this morning with a bunch of men. I am excited to be speaking at a men's breakfast at West London Alliance, a church around the corner. I'm enjoying being part of God's work as He raises up godly men to glorify His name.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A fascinating article on creationism in South Korea

I came across this article while perusing my Twitter feed. Interestingly, it came from a non-Christian source that was appalled at the information the article provides. This is a very intriguing aspect of the whole evolution/creation debate. The article was a post at nature; international weekly journal of science. Enjoy:

South Korea surrenders to creationist demands

Publishers set to remove examples of evolution from high-school textbooks.

Soo Bin Park
05 June 2012

Mention creationism, and many scientists think of the United States, where efforts to limit the teaching of evolution have made headway in a couple of states1. But the successes are modest compared with those in South Korea, where the anti-evolution sentiment seems to be winning its battle with mainstream science.

A petition to remove references to evolution from high-school textbooks claimed victory last month after the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) revealed that many of the publishers would produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx. The move has alarmed biologists, who say that they were not consulted. “The ministry just sent the petition out to the publishing companies and let them judge,” says Dayk Jang, an evolutionary scientist at Seoul National University.

The campaign was led by the Society for Textbook Revise (STR), which aims to delete the “error” of evolution from textbooks to “correct” students’ views of the world, according to the society’s website. The society says that its members include professors of biology and high-school science teachers.

The STR is also campaigning to remove content about “the evolution of humans” and “the adaptation of finch beaks based on habitat and mode of sustenance”, a reference to one of the most famous observations in Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. To back its campaign, the group highlights recent discoveries that Archaeopteryx is one of many feathered dinosaurs, and not necessarily an ancestor of all birds2. Exploiting such debates over the lineage of species “is a typical strategy of creation scientists to attack the teaching of evolution itself”, says Joonghwan Jeon, an evolutionary psychologist at Kyung Hee University in Yongin.

The STR is an independent offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research (KACR), according to KACR spokesman Jungyeol Han. Thanks in part to the KACR’s efforts, creation science — which seeks to provide evidence in support of the creation myth described in the Book of Genesis — has had a growing influence in South Korea, although the STR itself has distanced itself from such doctrines. In early 2008, the KACR scored a hit with a successful exhibition at Seoul Land, one of the country’s leading amusement parks. According to the group, the exhibition attracted more than 116,000 visitors in three months, and the park is now in talks to create a year-long exhibition.

Even the nation’s leading science institute — the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology — has a creation science display on campus. “The exhibition was set up by scientists who believed in creation science back in 1993,” says Gab-duk Jang, a pastor of the campus church. The institute also has a thriving Research Association for Creation Science, run by professors and students, he adds.
Antipathy to evolution

In a 2009 survey conducted for the South Korean documentary The Era of God and Darwin, almost one-third of the respondents didn’t believe in evolution. Of those, 41% said that there was insufficient scientific evidence to support it; 39% said that it contradicted their religious beliefs; and 17% did not understand the theory. The numbers approach those in the United States, where a survey by the research firm Gallup has shown that around 40% of Americans do not believe that humans evolved from less advanced forms of life.

The roots of the South Korean antipathy to evolution are unclear, although Jeon suggests that they are partly “due to strong Christianity in the country”. About half of South Korea’s citizens practice a religion, mostly split between Christianity and Buddhism.

However, a survey of trainee teachers in the country concluded that religious belief was not a strong determinant of their acceptance of evolution3. It also found that 40% of biology teachers agreed with the statement that “much of the scientific community doubts if evolution occurs”; and half disagreed that “modern humans are the product of evolutionary processes”.

Until now, says Dayk Jang, the scientific community has done little to combat the anti-evolution sentiment. “The biggest problem is that there are only 5–10 evolutionary scientists in the country who teach the theory of evolution in undergraduate and graduate schools,” he says. Having seen the fierce debates over evolution in the United States, he adds, some scientists also worry that engaging with creationists might give creationist views more credibility among the public.

Silence is not the answer, says Dayk Jang. He is now organizing a group of experts, including evolutionary scientists and theologians who believe in evolution, to counter the STR’s campaign by working to improve the teaching of evolution in the classroom, and in broader public life.

Nature 486, 14 (07 June 2012)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The unity of God's plan

Vern S. Poythress, in his contribution to Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible entitled An Overview of the Bible's Storyline, writes,
The work of Christ on earth, and especially his crucifixion and resurrection, is the climax of history; it is the great turning point at which God actually accomplished the salvation toward which history had been moving throughout the Old Testament. The present era looks back on Christ's completed work but also looks forward to the consummation of his work when Christ will come again and when there will appear "new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pet. 3:13; see Rev. 21:1-22:5).

The unity of God's plan makes it appropriate for him to include promises and predictions at earlier points in time, and then for the fulfillments of these to come at later points. Sometimes the promises take explicit form, as when God promises the coming of the Messiah, the great Savior whom Israel expected (Isa. 9:6-7). Sometimes the promises take symbolic form, as when God commanded animal sacrifices to be offered as a symbol for the forgiveness of sins (Leviticus 4). In themselves, the animal sacrifices were not able to remove sins permanently and to atone for them permanently (Heb. 10:1-18). They pointed forward to Christ, who is the final and complete sacrifice for sins. (8)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Things and worship

In Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler explains why so many things in life, though in themselves they are amoral,  can be good things that bring glory to God and are beneficial or can be negative things that dishonour God and harm us. We are talking about a myriad of things in our life: Macbeth and monster trucks, hockey and hamburgers, fishing and flying, Picasso and peonies. If the things we have and the things we do and the things we enjoy terminate on themselves and are their own end, they fall short of their design and divine intention. However, if they terminate on God in gratitude and glory-giving, then partaking in them is worship. Chandler writes,

Worship ... is larger and more encompassing than singing some songs at a church service a couple of times a week. It is the way of life for those entranced by and passionate for the glory of God. We worship God when, while we partake of his good gifts, something occurs in the deepest parts of or soul that forbids glory terminating on the gift itself or on our enjoyment of it but that runs deeper into and extends out to the Giver.

Apart from understanding God and worshiping him in this way, everything become superficial. Everything-from dinner to sex to kids to work to arts and literature-it's all shallow, all trivial. But when you understand the driving force behind everything, all of a sudden there's an eternal amount of joy at our disposal, because everything we do is enlightened and enlivened by the endless glory of the eternal God. (36)

This explains why sin is always evil and harmful; sin never terminates on God. Sin always terminates on itself and will not, can not, make God and his glory an end. And that is also why all the good things we enjoy in life can also become heinous and hurtful things.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross

The following are excerpts from the concluding chapter of Leon Morris' stellar work on the atonement entitled The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross:
  • Something happened on Calvary quite objective to man, and it is because of this we can have the completest assurance of our salvation. In the last resort it depends on what God has done, and not upon some effect of that action upon the human heart (which is not to deny that there is such an effect, and that it is important). (299)
  • The salvation which Christ effects is not thought of as brought about with effortless ease. On the contrary, it is purchased at great cost, at the price of His blood. There cannot be the slightest doubt that the New Testament writers thought of redemption as an objective thing, as a process whereby Christ paid the price which brought them salvation. The idea that this means no more than that His example inspired them to be better men
  • There is very little place for human activity in this way of viewing Calvary, and once again we see that atonement is essentially something wrought for, rather than in, man. (300)
  • On the contrary, sin calls forth the implacable hostility of His holy nature, and until something is done about it this puts the sinner in an unenviable position. (301)
  • First may we go back to a statement of James Denney: 'God condones nothing: His mercy itself is of an absolute integrity. He is a righteous God, even in justifying the ungodly; and the propitiation He sets forth in Christ Jesus, dying in His sinlessness the death of the sinful, is the key to the mystery. Once more, is not the word which spontaneously rises to our lips to express this the word substitution?' In these words Denney reminds us of a fact which we must always bear in mind in dealing with the atonement, namely that the forgiveness sinners receive is not at the expense of ignoring sin's consequences. 'God condones nothing', and we must not theorize as though He has become indifferent to the wages of sin. While admittedly it raises problems, substitution does emphasize this aspect of atonement. Alternative concepts do not always do so. (302-3)
  • At any rate when we speak of substitution in connection with His death, we should bear in mind that the substitution which results is not the substitution of a casual stranger, but of one who stands in the closest possible relationship with those for whom He died. (303)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Minimizing Sin

A great post I came across at Provocations & Pantings:

Six Ways of Minimizing Sin

I found these six ways of minimizing sin to be very instructive regarding gospel-centered sanctification/mortification of sin. Take a moment and examine your fight against sin, the ways you are prone to minimize sin, and develop an intentional strategy to renounce them.


I find it difficult to receive feedback about weaknesses or sin. When confronted, my tendency is to explain things away, talk about my successes, or to justify my decisions. As a result, I rarely have conversations about difficult things in my life.


I strive to keep up appearances, maintain a respectable image. My behavior, to some degree, is driven by what I think others think of me. I also do not like to think reflectively about my life. As a result, not very many people know the real me (I may not even know the real me).


I tend to conceal as much as I can about my life, especially the “bad stuff”. This is different than pretending in that pretending is about impressing. Hiding is more about shame. I don’t think people will accept the real me.


I am quick to blame others for sin or circumstances. I have a difficult time “owning” my contributions to sin or conflict. There is an element of pride that assumes it’s not my fault AND/OR an element of fear of rejection if it is my fault.


I tend to downplay sin or circumstances in my life, as if they are “normal” or “not that bad. As a result, things often don’t get the attention they deserve, and have a way of mounting up to the point of being overwhelming.


I tend to think (and talk) more highly of myself than I ought to. I make things (good and bad) out to be much bigger than they are (usually to get attention). As a result, things often get more attention than they deserve, and have a way of making me stressed or anxious.
This excerpt is taken from the excellent study called The Gospel-Centered Life. Week one, in which this excerpt is derived, can be downloaded for free.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Oliphint on God's simplicity

The doctrine of God's simplicity, sometimes denoted as the unitas simplicitatis, or the simplicitas Dei, says that the characteristics of God are not "parts" of God that come together to make him what he is, but are rather identical with is essence, and thus with him. The simplicity of God affirms not only that whatever God essentially is, he is necessarily. It says even more. The simplicity of God holds that God's attributes are not characteristics or properties that exist (in the same way that he exists) in any way "outside" of God, such that his having such a characteristic or property entails his participation in something other than himself. God just is his characteristics and his characteristics are identical to him ...

Perhaps the best way to think about the simplicity of God lies in the fact that it demands a denial of any composition of parts in God. In this denial is an equally important affirmation. The affirmative aspect of simplicity says that whatever attributes, qualities, or properties inhere essentially in God, they are identical with his essence. Notice in this denial and affirmation that there is no denial of distinctions in God. The doctrine of simplicity, in its best formulations, has never wanted to affirm that God was some sort of being in which no distinctions did, or could, reside. That kind of "simplicity" is more akin to philosophical speculation than to biblical truth. Rather, the distinctions that do reside in God, because the accrue to his essence, are identical with that essence and thus are not parts of God, serving to make up the "whole" of who he is. Simplicity, therefore, applies to the essence of God.

( Oliphint, K. Scott. Reasons [for Faith]: Philosophy in the Service of Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 2006. Print. 92-3)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Beholding is becoming

There has been, over the past couple of years, a study for and an appreciation of the whole concept of "beholding is becoming" in light of our sanctification as believers. Two books in particular brought this idea home to my head and my heart: One Thing by Sam Storms and God is the Gospel by John Piper. Essentially, this concept suggests that the way become Christ-like is through the beholding of Christ.

There is a rule of the soul that we become what we worship. That thing that captures our affection and admiration is that thing which we, willingly or not, aspire to become like. In terms of Christ, it follows that if we who have the Spirit in us behold him then we will worship him. And in worshiping him we will become like him. The Scripture passage which is not alone in its declaration of this truth but is most often cited is from 2 Corinthians 3; verse 18 reads, "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." Our beholding the glory of Christ is the effectual antecedent to our transformation into his image.

This morning in my devotional reading of Christ Crucified: The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53 by James Durham, I came across the following quote:
The reason why we press you to this [the study of Christ and his works] , is, not only that you may have more clear theory and contemplation, but also, and mainly, that your affections may be delighted in him, and that your faith may, without hink [scruple] or hesitation, come to give him credit...there is no study more pleasant, more precious, and more profitable. (218)
Durham is imploring the reader to study-an intense beholding as it were-Christ and his works resulting in a clear understanding of the doctrinal distinctives pertain to the Son of God as well as causing one's affections for Christ to be raised. This raising of our affections is nothing less than an ascribing to and recognition  of the worth of Christ, or, a worshiping of him. Which leads, via the Spirit, our transformation.

Make it a regular habit of yours to behold the Son; you will become more like him.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It's about God first, and Pharaoh second

In the story of the exodus of God's chosen people from the land of Egypt, one of the many startling aspects presented to us is the hardening of Pharaoh's heart and the use God makes of this for his own glory. Consider this passage from the book of Exodus:
    And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so. (Exodus 14:4 ESV)
Dr. Jim Hamilton comments on this in his book God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment:
But is what Yahweh does to Pharaoh just? From the perspective of the biblical authors, all human creatures owe their Creator thanks and praise (e.g., Rom. 1:21). No human creatures successfully give God the glory and thanks due him (3:23). Therefore all human creatures stand under God's condemnation. The severity of the judgment meted out matches the unspeakable evil of refusing to honor God as God and render him thanks. He does not owe mercy. The only thing he owes is justice, and the gravity of the heinousness of disregarding the infinite worth and beneficence of God calls for punishment that fits the crime. If God does not visit a just punishment, it shows that he has as little regard for himself as the creatures who have refused to honor him as God and give thanks to him. God shows his own great worth by visiting due justice against Egypt, and he shows his love by mercying Israel." (95)
What I found helpful in this excerpt was not only the reminder that God's justice is both warranted and necessary, but that this really isn't about Pharaoh. First and foremost, it is about God and only secondarily about Pharaoh. When our eyes and mind prioritize the wrong things in Scripture, we can be left with a skewed view of God and reality.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Not that close to center

Most have us have been told that God created the universe, created all that exists within the universe, and employed the depths of his omnipotence and omniscience to create this because he desired fellowship with man. Have you heard of this line of thinking before? It's a very sweet idea, and it would be a great slogan for a Christian motivational poster if it weren't for what the Bible actually teaches, which is that this idea is almost blasphemous. Are we to believe that God-in his infinite perfection-was lonely? And that the response to this loneliness was to create a bunch of glory thieves? Is that the infinite God's solution to this hypothetical imbalance in his relational well-being? This is what many of us have been led to believe. And out of our self-regard, we like to picture that a holy, glorious, splendid God-perfect solely within his Trinitarian awesomeness-wanted to be able to stand in a warm-hued living room, romantic music swelling, and look across at us to say, "You complete me."

No. We are not created as some missing link in God;s emotional experience. To think this way makes us the centerpiece of the puzzle of the universe! But we are not that close to center.

(Chandler, Matt, and Jared C. Wilson. The Explicit Gospel. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 32)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Gaffin on God's wrath

God's wrath is not like our wrath. It is not capricious and subject to fitful outbursts of passionate emotion. But, neither is it metaphorical, impersonal, or just another way of speaking about his love. Wrath is the perfect response of revulsion and rejection of a holy God to sin. Professor Richard Gaffin, in his essay called Atonement in the Pauline Corpus as it appears in The Glory of the Atonement, writes:

The deepest, most decisive consideration, however, is present in the awesome and unfathomable mystery of God's electing purpose. In his active resolve to exercise ("choosing to show") "his wrath," those who are "the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction" (Rom 9:22) are such before "they were born or had done anything good or bad" (Rom 9:11). For Paul, God's judicial wrath as it terminates on the finally unrepentant, according to his sovereign predestination, is for them absolute and unmitigated. Divine wrath and justice are not merely penultimate (and no more than metaphorical) expressions of his ultimately all-embracing love.

It is unnecessary, and it weakens the biblical concept of the wrath of God, to deprive it of its emotional and affective character. Wrath in God must not be conceived of in terms of the fitful passion with which anger is frequently associated in us. But to construe God's wrath as consisting simply in his purpose to punish sin or to secure the connection between sin and misery is to equate wrath with its effects and virtually eliminate wrath as a movement within the mind of God. Wrath is the holy revulsion of God's being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness. (152-3)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Threats to the gospel by 9Marks

I like this post from 9Marks:

What are the most dangerous threats to the gospel today?

It’s impossible to answer what’s “most” dangerous to the gospel today without God’s knowledge of everything. But here are some prominent threats that loom on the horizon:
  1. The prosperity “gospel.” The belief that the gospel is about God making us rich is a lie. Jesus came to save us from sin and reconcile us to God (Rom. 5:10-11; 1 Pet. 3:18), giving us every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) and promising us suffering in this life and glory in the next (Acts 14:22, Rom. 8:18).
  2. The attack on penal, substitutionary atonement. Many people reject the idea that on the cross God punished Jesus for the sins of his people. But to reject this is to reject the heart of the gospel itself (Rom. 3:21-26).
  3. The rejection of the wrath of God. People today are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a holy God who will punish sin. But if we reject the wrath of God we lie to ourselves about the fundamental problem the gospel saves us from (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 1 Thess. 1:10).
  4. The rejection of sin. Some argue that sin is just an idea that people in power use to make others behave the way they want them to. But the Bible presents sin—and especially God’s wrath against sin—as humanity’s fundamental problem. Reject sin and you’ve rejected our only Savior who “died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3).
  5. A man-centered view of the universe. We like to think that we run things around here. We like to think that no one can tell us what to do or believe—after all, we have rights! But the Bible presents exactly the opposite picture: we live in God’s universe (Rom. 11:36). He made us (Ps. 100:3). He rules over us (Dan. 4:34-35; 1 Tim. 6:15-16). We either worship him or hate him—and face the consequences (Rom. 1:18, 25; 8:5-8). A man-centered view of the universe is the opposite of the gospel and leaves no room for the gospel.
  6. “All paths lead to God.” People like to think that whatever anyone believes is fine so long as they’re sincere. People like to think that God will accept everyone in the end. After all, isn’t he a loving God? But the gospel is a radically exclusive message: Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NIV).
  7. Other threats: widespread belief in a brand of “tolerance” which, in fact, is not very tolerant but is fundamentally a rejection of universal truth; cultural materialism; nihilism/philosophical unbelief/radical skepticism; the ever-continual attacks on Scripture, even from within the church.

Friday, June 1, 2012

His justice exacting, his mercy surprising

In his biblical theology entitled God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, author Jim Hamilton touches upon a point that should cause great gratitude in our hearts. At the fall, in our races original sin, what could have happened and what one might argue should have happened didn't. A just and merciful God was sinned against, rebelled against. And death was the penalty. We know that this was a just judgment because the one making it was wholly just. Nevertheless, as Hamilton explains, death was not immediately enacted and, furthermore, the death of death itself was promised. This is astounding. In our great failure our great God provided for a great victory in his great Son. It causes me to repeat with Paul, "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" (Romans 11:33 ESV). Who could have foreseen, let alone believed, the glorious remedy of redemption that would spring forth from God's magnificent mercy in the hour of our parents' sin.

This mercy, then, arises only from God. This is not something that humans deserve, not even in part. Of his own goodness, displaying his own intrinsic character, God announces that the woman will have seed-which means that the promised punishment of death will not be immediately enacted on the physical bodies of the human couple. Not only will their physical lives continue, but they will have seed: offspring. Not only will they have seed, but their seed will triumph over the snake. Salvation comes through judgment, and God makes known his character in justice and mercy. His justice is as exacting as his mercy is surprising. (Hamilton, James M. God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. Print. 78)