Agonizomai: November 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Heb 4:8-10 Christ - Plus Nothing

Heb 4:8-10 Christ - Plus Nothing

Heb 4:8-10 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Still expanding upon the concept of God’s rest as found in the Hebrew scriptures, the writer points out that the coming of the (remnant of) the nation into Canaan under Joshua’s leadership was not a coming into the rest to which God referred when speaking to Moses. The Jews believed that ought to have been true. They thought that the land of Canaan was the Promised Land of which God spoke. But that land, which was taken by a fallen (though favoured and chosen) race, was also symbolic of the kingdom of God in the spiritual realm, which could be entered only through faith in what God had done (or would do).

Faith, trust, belief - not in themselves, but in God alone, was all that was ever asked or required by God. That sort of faith necessarily produced the fruit of obedience in some measure. But it was the faith itself that pleased God, and that faith was proven to be something that the Israelites could not find in themselves. An entire generation perished in the wilderness due to disobedience. They could not perform what God required, though God nevertheless required it of them. We are reminded of Augustine’s prayer, "O Lord command what thou wilt and grant what thou commandest."

And this is the good news of the gospel today - that what no man can perform God has already performed and freely gives to his elect - a rest to be received through faith. It is called a "rest" because that is precisely what it is. Just as God ceased from His labours at creation - and, in the Son, did so again when the re-creation of the sons of God was finished during the incarnation - so we are to cease from our labours and simply receive the free gift. We are to cease trying to justify ourselves and to live only by faith in the Son of God (as the sufficiency of our redemption and the security of our eternity).

This is why the writer points out that whosever has entered God’s rest, has rested from his works, just as God did. Judaism as it had come to be, in the carnal minds of the Israelites, was precisely the opposite. It became, in the hands of man, a system of justifying oneself before God by ceremony, observance, law and deeds. Along with many other saints, I believe that the covenant of grace always existed alongside the covenant of the law - even in Israel. Some saints, however, make a complete discontinuity between the covenants and believe that the Israelites were justified through the faithful observance of ceremony and law. Such people generally go under the banner of certain forms of Dispensationalism.

It is not only the way of the Israelites (who were the poster boys for the failure of all men) but of all the children of Adam to corrupt the gospel of grace by adding works to it. "God has done His part and we must do ours" is the rationalization. He has done the great part and we must do our little bit. But, as Luther pointed out to Erasmus, "a little something is not nothing" - and we can do nothing of ourselves that is effectual in spiritual causes. This is the underlying power of all revivals, including the great revival of the Reformation age - it is a return to the incomprehensible truth that all of salvation from justification and adoption to final glorification is entirely the gift of God; and that includes both our faith and our repentance.

The pattern is always the same - the dangerous truth is brought to the fore once again at great cost to the few, and there is a gradual erosion of this truth by the enemy, and by which works of some sort are added to the mix as necessary either for initial salvation, or as necessary for us to perform in order to maintain our salvation. This is why, for example, the Roman Catholics believe in salvation by grace - and might even say by grace alone, but what they mean by it is that grace must be "topped up" through the observance of certain works and ceremonies or salvation may be lost altogether.

In time of Christ it was the religious elite who rejected free salvation and insisted on the contribution of the sinner. In the Apostolic era the Gnostics and the Judaisers struggled to corrupt the truth. In Augustine’s time it was Pelagius. In the dark ages it was a succession of increasingly perverse teachers who opposed men like Anselm, Wycliffe and Hus, until Luther re-established the truth of the bondage of the human will and the sovereign grace of God.

No sooner had Luther left the scene than others came along to ease men’s thoughts back along the line of "man’s part" in salvation. The Remonstrants appeared, expanding upon the heresies of their teacher, Arminius. In England, the Puritans like John Bunyan and John Owen arose, and many were persecuted for their piety and their high views of God and His will - so much that many left England to found new colonies in the Americas.

But it goes on; there was a falling away until the Great Awakening when George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards reintroduced the truth of the "necessity of the will" and the total depravity of man alongside others such as the Wesleys, who were themselves at the root of a divergence back into old ways of man’s self-justification.

It is a struggle that is as old as time. Since the garden man has either attempted to justify himself before God (like Cain) or has received by faith the fully sufficient gift of God. And these two ways (the way of Truth and the way of error - the narrow way and the broad way) will ever be before men until Jesus returns. This truth is at the heart of what the writer to the Hebrews is addressing. Who justifies the ungodly? (God) When does He do it? (While we are yet sinners and enemies and haters of His Name) Who makes us to stand? (God) And who is able to preserve us until the end? (He Who justified us also glorified us)

And what means does God use? The preaching of Christ (as fully sufficient) and of faith in Him. We believe, we repent, we walk in Him. But we do all these things trusting in Him alone and never in ourselves - nor in any part of ourselves. It is all of God and all of grace. The Hebrews were in danger of going back and of recrucifying Christ unto themselves by returning to the self-justification of a works system.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Sought Out - Kent Clark

It takes all kinds to make up the host of the Redeemed. This Pastor believes that, and I believe it of this Pastor. At first blush he sounds like a good old Southern Baptist dyed-in-the-wool fundamentalist. He gets agitated and his voice goes up and down. But when you listen to what he is saying it soon becomes apparent that he is light years apart from the sort of free-willism that has been rampant for years in vast reaches of the fundamentalist camp. This man believes in the doctrines of grace with a passion.

So even if you don't warm to the delivery because you were, perhaps, burned in the past by preachers that outwardly sounded like this, take the time to hear the doctrine he's preaching. Below is the statement found on the home page of Grace Gospel Fellowship Church, Pontiac, MI where he pastors.

"There is no doubt in my mind that most local churches do not believe the gospel to be enough...the gospel is not adequate to 'Get the job done.' There is a sad lack of biblical and doctrinal content in most contemporary christian music. Present day music has grown out of a lack of preaching the old gospel from the pulpit. We need and must have a modern reformation... we must recover and go back to the old gospel of God’s free grace. "My dream for Grace Gospel Fellowship is that it will be made up of every color and race, from every tongue and nation.The church on earth should not be a black church, a white church, a Chinese church, or a Korean church, but rather the centrality of Jesus Christ draws us into oneness." - Pastor Kent W. Clark

Now give him a fair hearing by listening to this sermon...and remember this is Kent Clark, not Clark Kent [/grin]

Sought Out - Kent Clark

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Confronting Error with Condemnation, Not Conversation

I haven't published anything before from John MacArthur here on the blog. I'm not sure why. It may be because I just don't listen to him much. That's not a criticism - just a matter of style, I think. It's the same with John Piper - I haven't blogged much by him, either. For some reason I tend to gravitate towards those who have smaller, less prominent ministries. I think it's a sort of "underdog syndrome".

I always root for the team with the least chance of winning, too. You have to when your local teams are the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Blue Jays. But I digress...

In this short talk, John MacArthur makes the Biblical case for knowing sound theology, knowing God personally, and openly confronting/condemning those who preach and teach falsehood, rather than dialoguing with them. It sounds like a bit of a swipe at the so-called emergent movement and ecumenism in general. But it also speaks to the error which is always creeping into churches and pulpits as the next best thing, or the flavor of the month, or the latest way to reach the culture by using it's methods and ideologies.

Confronting Error with Condemnation, Not Conversation (pop-up flash player)

Confronting Error with Condemnation, Not Conversation (Blog Flash Player)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Heb 4:4-7 Christ - Ever and Always the Only Way

Heb 4:4-7 Christ - Ever and Always the Only Way

Heb 4:4-7 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

By referring to Israelite history, the writer is making the point to the Hebrews that a return to the law of Moses, and to obedience, justification and salvation through works of the law - going back to their own particular brand of that "Old Time Religion" - does not even comport with what the scriptures of that time were saying. The progressive revelation of God’s plan in His dealings with the world in general and with Israel in particular clearly showed that mere membership in the nation itself did not confer salvation upon anyone.

It was faith in God through which man was justified - faith in God’s promise that He would justify the ungodly. So, just as in Moses’ time not all were spared, but only those who trusted in the God of the promise (evidenced by their obedience) - so throughout the history of Israel there were being added to the spiritual kingdom of God those who believed. Equally, in David’s time there was the call to hear and not to harden the heart by turning away. Being Israelite by birth did nothing for them if they were found unbelieving and disobedient.

This perfectly parallels the case of nominal church membership in our own age. Belonging to a church cannot save. Attendance, communion, being a teacher, going to the prayer meeting, serving on committees, baptism, doing good things in the community, giving to the church - none of this saves. They may be evidences of salvation or not. What saves now, as always, is faith in the God of the promise or, more properly - what saves is the God of the promise, through faith in Him.

So - in Moses’ time being Israelite did not guarantee salvation. In David’s time, being Israelite did not guarantee salvation. But what the scriptures themselves indicated was that God was calling people to enter into His rest from among the nation of Israel - a rest they were to enter by faith and by which they were to demonstrate that faith through obedience. Faith trusts God and, in trusting Him, is found preferring His will over their own. This, in turn shows in the earnest seeking and doing of God’s will.

Just as in Moses' and in David’s time, so there are yet people being added to the kingdom - being added in exactly the same way. So "today" is still the time. As long as God forbears, and as long as He extends grace to the world through the preaching of His salvation, then the call is for people to enter into His rest. The Hebrews could not turn the clock back and return to a sacrificial system and a covenant of law keeping that never worked for salvation in the first place, because that was never its intent. They were in grave danger if they were thinking about abandoning the "new" Jewish sect of Christianity and returning to Judaism. Christ was the end of the law for those that believed. Dire warnings about this would come from the pen of the writer of this epistle in Chapters 6, 10 and 12.

So obedience is necessary to perseverance - but it must be the obedience of faith; which is to say that the obedience must be the fruit of a right faith in God; and this, in turn, implies that it must rest in a right apprehension of Who God is and what He has revealed about Himself in His Word - both written and living. And this right belief can be traced back only to God, as a gift of His grace to those who are being saved.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

To my American readers both at home and abroad - Happy Thanksgiving again!

Thanksgiving Is All Year Long

Phil 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Heb 4:1-3 Christ - The Peace and Rest of God

Heb 4:1-3 Christ - The Peace and Rest of God

Heb 4:1-3 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,”’ although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.

The promise of God to those who are faithful - that is, to those who believe in the God of the promise - is that they shall enter into his rest. That was the promise to Israel under the old covenant. But that was a covenant of works designed to show the sinfulness of the unregenerate human heart. Alongside the old covenant ran the covenant of the promise, to which all who trusted in God alone belonged. And the spiritual antitype of the promise regarding the Promised Land is the promise regarding the kingdom of God.

In this framework we are reminded here of the general call of the gospel. In Israel the message of the covenant went out to all, but it fell upon a number of different soils. Some had been prepared by God so the seed would bear fruit, and some had been left in their natural state and the seed of the word was fruitless. What made the difference in practical terms was the presence of faith. Some had it and some didn’t. So also, the gospel preached is preached to all men without distinction so that those in whom God has prepared the soil, and to whom he has given the regeneration that believes God, would come to him and abide in him. Many are called, but few are chosen.

What this means for modern believers in the sovereign grace of God is what it always meant to all true believers. The good news is good news towards all mankind. {Luke 2:10,14} We sow the seed and herald the work of God in Christ without respect of persons, for we are not God and we do not know whose hearts He has prepared. Again, we are servants in God’s house and we do as He has bid, but all things rest upon His power and authority. We tell people "This is what God has done and, if you believe in the sufficiency of it all - if you accept it as an utterly free gift - then you will be saved (from that moment in time)."

We say this because the gospel is a gospel of the utter insufficiency of man and the complete and perfect sufficiency of God. God alone saves and God saves alone. We do not add, cooperate, assist, help, aid, advance or otherwise do anything effectual in the matter of our justification. "It is finished" is the cry of completed recreative work of God the Son, and of God’s rest being announced. When we enter into Christ by faith, we enter into God’s rest and into the kingdom at one and the same time. The kingdom is where the King is enthroned - and he is enthroned in the hearts of those he came to save, when they come to believe.

Apart from faith, then, salvation was, is and shall be impossible. Also, faith to which anything is added renders salvation equally impossible. We either rest in God or we have no rest at all. We either enter His rest and share in His cessation of labors regarding the salvation of His people, or we continue to work in that regard, despising God’s ordained means (faith in Him alone).

In what sense God’s labors were finished from the foundation of the world it is at one and the same time both easy and difficult to say. God certainly finished his creation and declared it both good and very good when he capped it all off by creating man. Not only was the creation finished at that time but, due to the very nature of God, all subsequent events including the fall, the incarnation, and the redemption were decreed from eternity in the act of creation. An omniscient God who created time and space and energy and subordinate beings necessarily does so knowing all the events that will ensue. They are, in a sense, determined by the originating act.

So there is a sense in which the redemptive work of Christ was "finished" from the foundation of the world because it was something decreed by God before anything was made. It was not finished in time, but it was finished in the eternal mind of God. What God purposes to do necessarily must come about. He is a not a man that he should change his mind.

There is also the idea of peace involved here. This "rest" may well refer to rest experienced between men and the Spirit of God, and between men and men - and even between men and their own being. This is the reconciliation that occurs in Christ with God - and the healing that attends and springs from it in all relationships as a result. It is not, in this sense, rest from striving, but rest from striving against God - from kicking against the pricks. Peace. Freedom from the fear that the wrath of God engenders in the sons of disobedience. Those chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world are destined to experience this peace and this rest. It is God’s peace and God’s rest because He alone is the reconciler.

The Hebrew believers of old may not have known this, but the Hebrew believers of the new covenant ought to have understood it pretty readily. This is what all Christians affirm when they receive Christ and testify to His salvation of them. God saved me. God spoke peace to my heart. The enmity is gone, and was removed while I was yet a sinner. But, once more, this can only be a reality if it proves to be real through perseverance. The Hebrews who are faltering (or are in danger of it) need to be reminded, as do we all, of what they have believed and of the fact that the ultimate proof of their salvation is found in their preservation through perseverance.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What About Those Who Never Heard?
Here is a Greg Koukl video explaining why people who die never even having heard the gospel are nevertheless condemned and justly punished by God. In a very gentle and reasoned way he demolishes the wrong-headed complaint about so-called "fairness" which rises up in the minds of the unsaved and, sad to say, not a few of those professing the Christian faith.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Heb 3:16-19 Christ - To Be Received by Faith

Heb 3:16-19 Christ - To Be Received by Faith

Heb 3:16-19 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Prescriptive and not descriptive; that is what this admonishment is to the Hebrews. It is not saying that they can be lost again, after having been saved. It is saying that each person professing belief must examine himself to see if he is in the faith {2Co 13:5} and take appropriate corrective action based upon what he finds. An evil unbelieving heart excuses sin, is attracted to darkness, avoids correction and displays rebellions against God’s revealed wisdom. Believers can do this. That’s right - believers can do all these things. But they cannot do them for long and they certainly cannot do them and be happy about it. True believers will be truly miserable when they flee the light.

God wrote the story of Israel in history with His omnipotent finger. It is a real story - an historic series of events preserved for the benefit of all those who follow. He did bring the whole nation out of Egypt, but we must remember that not all who are Israelites are true Israel. True Israel is the children of the promise who live by faith and not by sight. They are spiritual and not fleshly. But how were they discovered to the world and to themselves? Was it not through their living? Was it not by means of their own cut and thrust, and their interaction with what God had to say?

The life lived, and the choices made in the light given will lay bare the heart of a person. Israel was given great light - far greater than any other nation on earth - and it is by this light that they were judged. God spoke most clearly to and through the nation and its leaders and the Word of God separated the light from the darkness. He did this in creation and He did it in Israel and He does it down to this very day. He separated light from darkness. He does it in the world and in the hearts of men. God’s word delineates, illuminates and pierces the soul.

Note then that it was always the Word that did the separating and the will of men that illustrated it by displaying their true nature. God gave grace and He gave commands to Israel through a covenant relationship and a leader. Men showed what their hearts were truly like by their inability and unwillingness to keep that covenant. Almost all Israel rebelled. Only two of the adults (Joshua and Caleb) and all those who were not of accountable age in the refusal to enter the promised land because of lack of trust in God, finally entered Canaan over Jordan. The rest perished for their unbelief. God did not fool around. God is both kind and severe. And this history lesson is laid before the wavering Hebrews.

Is Christ truly in them? Then they will heed and they will persevere. Are they fooling themselves? Are they false professors - self-deceived and finally exposed? Then they will fall away. But what will make the difference is for them to be found entirely in God, and not in themselves at all. If they are to enter into God’s rest then they must do so not by their own acts or attempts to please God - but through faith in God. They must simply trust in what He has said He will do - or, post-incarnationally, what He has already done in Christ. Neither should they put their faith in their faith. Faith is not what saves a person - but the object of that faith. Faith is merely the means by which the object is apprehended.

So the disobedience of man is the antithesis of faith in God. Disobedience is the fruit of unbelief, or even a wrong belief in God. Salvation is the fruit of a right belief in God. Who said that doctrine was not important? And how we conduct ourselves will depend on what we believe. Disobedience reveals an underlying evil and unbelieving heart which may or may not be evidence of perdition. So why take the chance (so to speak)? Why not root it out and bring it to God humbly and repentantly. The true children will do so because He will not allow them to fail. But God will preserve them through their perseverance.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Blasts from the Past
The Salvation of All Men - John Calvin

John Calvin is often either misquoted or partially quoted by those who would attack the doctrines of grace, including that of unconditional election. Indeed, early on in this Calvin discourse it would be all too easy to think that he was happily signing off on a picture of God that allowed Him to be impotently hoping that men themselves would take advantage of a salvation offered to all.

But by the time he's finished you won't think that. That's because he balances the whole counsel of God to properly exegete, without going beyond what is written, the manner in which the Scripture reveals God's will to men. Then he puts it all properly against the background of the Bible's unmistakable teaching that men are totally depraved. With the right context properly brought to bear, Calvin introduces the correct Biblical teaching that only those whom God chose to draw to Himself in Christ before the world began are actually so drawn.

He does not deny the sufficiency of the atonement for all men, nor yet impugn the proffer of the gospel to all men who come under it's proclamation - but he does clearly and succinctly illustrate that the gospel message is effective only upon the hearts of those whom the Holy Spirit has prepared to receive it, in accordance with God's eternal decree of election.

Our Arminian friends would have us believe that God essentially prepares the hearts of ALL men through a mechanism called "prevenient grace" - rendering them able to respond savingly to the gospel "if they will". So far was this from the orthodox teaching that the Dutch Reformers anathematized the Remonstrants at the Synod of Dordt (Dordrecht) and initially banished many of the ministers holding to such views. Enjoy this blast from the past...

The Salvation of All Men - John Calvin

[WARNING: This is a Calvinist devotional blog - not a debate blog. Call me on the facts if you think there is error, but don't come here trolling for arguments that have been competently answered countless times by people more qualified than I.]

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Books That Helped Me

Books That Helped Me

As Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun." If I know anything at all it is because I have heard it, seen it or read it somewhere, sometime. And that "somewhere" was when somebody else uttered something I found wise, insightful, interesting or useful.

Of course, all Christians would agree that God alone is the source of all that is wise and good - and that the Bible is the complete and final authority on life and faith. But I have read many other things over the course of my life SOME of which have been helpful in my Christian pilgrimage. Occasionally, there have been some really harmful things, too. And then there are authors I have read who have brought into focus one or other particular aspect of the faith with great clarity, but who later on seemed not to be completely orthodox in other areas.

Since then, I have learned that there isn't an author anywhere with whom I could completely agree on everything. We've all got our blind spots and our heresies - especially me. So hopefully we all keep going back to the Bible to check not only our own beliefs, but also those of the authors we are reading. It's called being a good Berean.

So, without further ado, here is a list of books I have found helpful over the years, with some contextual explanation as to why.


I was introduced to this book well before I was saved by a well-meaning school fellow who was looking for the worst kid in the whole school to invite to church. He chose me. You can fill in the blanks yourself.

In the end, going to church with him at this stage of my life was not helpful. But he was caught up in his own sort of rebellion against the religion he found in his church, and decided that Calvinism was the bees knees as far as his purposes were concerned. The elders universally hated Calvinism and this gave him every opportunity to butt heads with them.

I read the whole book (the unabridged version - not the Banner of Truth Trust revision) and almost all of it went right over my head. But the one thing that stuck was the nagging idea that if there was going to be a God then it would have to be one who was in charge of everything. If nothing that existed had existence apart from Him, and if He was truly God then all things would ultimately have to be reconciled through His sovereignty. No accidents; no competing powers but those that he permitted to struggle like flies on fly paper; no superior mind or will. He would have to ACTUALLY be the beginning and the end.

This was so unlike any Christianity within the realm of my limited experience that I just blew the whole thing off and got on with making a train wreck of my life.


Having been brought up in a family that was not a part of any church, and by a father who became progressively more cynical about things spiritual, I absorbed much wrong information as a youngster. I had "learned" that the Bible was a bunch of fables, utterly without historical support and cobbled together by an interest group for the control of the weak minded. Whoever "they" were, they were both incredibly dumb and fiendishly clever at one and the same time.

When I at last began to rebel - not yet out of conviction, but more out of that perversity which accompanies adolescence - I stumbled upon this book and found out that a reasonably sane person with a better education than me could contradict my father in ways I had not dreamed of. Though this discovery did not immediately lead to a right faith, it did teach me to question every authority in my life - which very thing I was eager to do. I am still somewhat of a contrarian.

But Bruce made a good case for the historicity, not only of the NT Writings, but of the characters and the teachings that they espoused. Imagine that! Historicity as a foundation for belief! You'd never get that past the average evangelical today! Nosiree! Today many people crave personal experience and tout that as the basis of faith. At least I was spared much of that error by the twin anvils of my father's cynicism and my own contumacy.


You might call McDowell "F.F. Bruce on steroids"! Here was somebody who was NOT in my father's generation and certainly not in that of F.F. Bruce. McDowell was a reasonably young person at the time, but still somebody who had taken the trouble to track down lots of historical information regarding the veracity of the the Bible, both OT and NT.

Here was man ready to defend the Bible from the very history that my father had said had once for all DISproved the Christian religion and exposed it for the sham that it was. This was an educated person! This knowledge grated against the avowal that I had been indoctrinated with - that the more educated a person was the less he was inclined to believe religious drivel.

With Bruce and McDowell I was still in the realm of history. Philosophy and theology were not yet really a part of what I was awakening to. I was discovering facts that had previously been denied any existence at all - but I had no clue as to the the import of those facts, or why my father and, for that matter, most of the people I knew either denied or didn't care about those facts.


Having been edified by the first McDowell book I read, I made the sometimes logical (and sometimes dangerous) connection that other works by the same author would be every bit as good. In McDowell's case this was sound assumption.

This second book built on the historical case for the believability of the facts of the Christian religion by dealing with some very difficult (to me) material about why people like my Dad thought the way they thought. Through McDowell I discovered how the Christian church was poisoned by liberal scholars in the 19th Century - most notably the Documentary Hypothesis of the Higher Critics of the Graf-Wellhausen school and the Form Criticism of the Bultmannian schools. These had been people who, in the name of scholarship, brought humanism and humanistic philosophy into the learning institutions of the church.

From there it filtered down into practical religion, art, media and - eventually - descending like black rain upon the unschooled and unsuspecting culture in which my father grew up. I began to understand why I thought the way I did and to develop an interest in finding out more. All of this was still the merely pretentious intellectual curiosity of somebody whose hormonal acne had barely cleared up.

Well - a man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps, right? I was saved from a purely intellectual and philosophical pursuit of religion by a very frightening introduction to the reality of the the spirit world.


It was about this time that I was genuinely converted. Having absorbed much of my father's humanistic cynicism about anything non-material I naturally thought that coming to believe was simply a matter of getting enough information to make a conclusion; and this is partly right. But my purely human way was to set myself up in judgment of God as if MY believing would give Him a legitimacy He otherwise lacked. At the very least, I would get great kudos from a grateful God for the time, effort and natural intelligence spent on getting to the truth. In other words, I was quite ready for a "natural" religion with a tame God Who could be conformed to my ideas.

Well, many of you will immediately recognize the sort of comeuppance which immediately ensues from this mindset, leading to very great fall. And mine was about to happen. It was the other side of conversion I'm talking about; the side where the Holy Spirit does a completely unaided and unbidden work in the heart, revealing the beauty and truth that is in Jesus Christ.

Now, this did not happen APART from the facts I had been learning. But it did not take place in any way because of ME. There are many people who know the facts and don't believe. (I'd venture to say that most of the Higher Critics fall into such a category). The facts are means. They are the means God uses to draw people to Christ - but, absent the Holy Spirit regenerating the soul, the facts could go a-begging for ever.

In my case, by the grace of God, I was knocked off my intellectual horse and introduced to spiritual forces of which I had previously denied even their existence.


And to show my perversity, I actually pick up with an author who did me great harm at first, but eventually was used for my good. I read this book right after discovering Hal Lindsey's other book of note, "The Late Great Planet Earth". When I read Lindsey's view of premillennial, dispensational Christian eschatology and spiritual warfare I had just been spiritually awakened. Prior to that my indoctrination from childhood in rationalistic, deterministic humanistic nihilism viewed all religious and spiritual matters as hopelessly naive constructs. They were, I had been told, just mankind's way of dealing with the hopelessness of a meaningless existence. Lindsey's dispensational views and his linkage of Biblical imagery to past and present history opened up to me a whole new understanding of the spiritual realm; for me, he connected the spiritual and the religious world with the tangible world. Finally I had found a framework in which the spiritual could be interpreted as interacting with the physical.

I could say a lot here about my state of mind and my stage of life - but I will just summarize by saying that this book led me to a spell in the lock-up of a mental hospital. The world (and the very qualified doctors) all saw a mental breakdown; pressure in the job; overly serious attention to religion; emotional instability. Whatever. I was carried over the hospital threshhold in an apparently catatonic state, yet I was completely aware of everything. To this very day I am convinced it was a demonic oppression.


The works of Francis Shaeffer came to me after my mental state had stabilized and a few years had intervened. My ardor for Christ had waned but was never utterly extinguished. Schaeffer's works such as the one listed introduced me to an understanding of what he called "the line of despair" - a place of inevitable nihilism that followed the erosion of belief in the absolutes of God. He showed me, using the names and words of a succession of "thinkers" - many of them arising form WITHIN the church - how the philosophy of men leads to greater and greater folly until eventually, all meaning is lost and the despair of nihilism takes hold.


When I later found that the man I had been forced to read in Grammar School as a science fiction writer ("Out of the Silent Planet", "Perelandra", "The Hideous Strength") was actually a professing Christian I began to devour his non-fiction religious works.

In Lewis I discovered a man from another social class who sprinkled his material with Latinized phrases at the drop of a hat, and spoke in informed terms about nuances of the Greek Classics that I had never read, such as Homer (or the Latin ones like Virgil). I was impressed and intimidated at the same time. But, as I read more and more of Lewis I discovered the man behind the words.

He had both an uncompromisingly logical and a sensitively spiritual take on things. He had humor (The Screwtape Letters), honesty (Surprised by Joy) and a humilty and depth of feeling (A Grief Observed). In other words, Lewis was a flesh and blood human being who had honestly struggled with the implications of faith in Jesus Christ throughout a life which, like all our lives, was far from an even ride. And he was a man - an intellectual man - who persevered in and to the end. He found not ALL the answers, but sufficient reason to trust in Christ no matter what.

Lewis helped put the last nail in the coffin of humanism for me, dispelling the dregs of that rationalistic and unbelieving poison which I had absorbed from childhood.


My life was far from ideal obedient service to Christ, even though I had been stripped of much of my self-reliance and my historical prejudices. I had a foot in the world, so to speak - which Christians are not to do. Maybe I wasn't yet one of the true professors.

But I read this Bunyan book in what I can only describe as a "state of grace". The Holy Spirit just overpowered me and, from the copious and ubiquitous scripture in the text of the book, showed me the endless spiritual warfare that made up the life of Christian. I saw that Christians have good and bad days. I saw that they stumbled and fell - often grievously (Castle Despair) or that they came within an inch of losing (the fight with Apollyon) or that they sometimes displayed a weak and wavering faith (crossing the river at the end). But what I saw most of all was that God was at work supplying guidance, reproof, chastisement and loving correction almost DESPITE the dumbness and perversity of our wonderfully human friend, Pilgrim. He was me in spades.

Finally I read Book Two and saw how a submissive and obedient attitude, listening to the Paraclete, enabled Pilgrim's wife, Christiana, and children to endure the very same journey with none of the trauma. That is a lesson I'm still learning.

And so - for what its worth - these are some (not all) of the books that helped me. They aren't systematic theologies and they are absolutely no substitute for the inspired and infallible Word of God. I'm not saying that reading books should take the place, nor even priority over reading the Bible. But I am saying that God made other people who learned things from Him that they share with the saints and the world. And I am saying that, wherever we find these things to be in accord with what God had said, there is benefit to be found, to the praise of His glorious grace.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Heb 3:13-15 Christ - Sustainer of His Church

Heb 3:13-15 Christ - Sustainer of His Church

Heb 3:13-15 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

The danger of apostasy is very real to all believers when they cease to be watchful. Any who thinks he stands should take heed lest he falls. I would add that any who thinks he stands (that is, by his own power) has already fallen - because he has failed to abide in the One Who alone is able to make him stand.

Watchfulness is something we must do ourselves, but is also something we must do for each other. We are often myopic when it comes to our own condition. There is none so blind as the hypocrite and we are all have hypocrisy in us. The sin we do not see or acknowledge is the one to which we are most vulnerable. Or the sin to which we have become inured by degrees may be our downfall unless another sees and admonishes us.

Yet all sin finds its root in disbelief. Sin is deceitful. It distorts our perception of truth and reality. It clouds judgment, urges self-justification, hardens the heart - but it does so in a way that is sly and slippery. It rarely attacks frontally unless it is already sure of its subject.

But this is a wrong way of expressing it. Sin does not actually have an existence - it has no expression - apart from the sinner. Sin is impossible without a being in which sin is conceived, permitted, expressed and worked out. So when sin is called deceitful it actually traces back not to the sin itself, but to the person who commits and is responsible to God for that sin. Satan, the tempter is himself subtle and full of guile, and he will relentlessly press upon us, either probing for or exploiting our weaknesses - but he is often given credit for what we ourselves actually do. Satan does not sin for us.

It is, however, also true that a person having sinned is caught in a web of such darkness and deceit, by his own actions that he is on the hopelessly blinded downward slope that leads to oblivion. One sin was enough to enslave and deceive a whole world because sin separates from God, who is the light. Our hope is, of course, the incarnate and written Word of God by which light comes into the fallen world. But this light is so alien to our sin-soaked and trespass-loving hearts that we should all hate it, ignore it or persecute it unless God was working by grace (common and saving) to restrain and to change us.

And surely believers understand that looking over the precipice is frightening indeed. We have been delivered. We have, to some degree, seen the fruit of sin for what it is. We have seen it in ourselves and despised what we were, and what we should revert to if God was not on our side. Yet if the righteous are scarcely saved then what of the unrighteous? And should we wish to approach so near to sin that we court danger? Would it not be infinitely better to be like Joseph and flee the adulterous wife of Potiphar as if she had the plague? (which she did - but that’s another lesson).

Yet God’s warnings are necessary even for we who believe. They are his means of keeping us in the Way. There is both rod and staff there, and the warnings are the staff by which severer chastenings of the rod may be avoided. So let us not think that because we are saved and because our faith is in God alone for our salvation and preservation that we do not need to exercise care and avail ourselves of all of the means of grace. Preaching, teaching, fellowship, prayer - all of these are themselves the very tools that God uses to keep us.

Now here is something vitally important that is so easily overlooked or minimized by careless exegetes. We are told that "we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence to the end." At first glance in many translations it looks as if we must ourselves grit it out to the end in order to be able to claim a share in Christ. But this would be to deny the very essence of the true gospel, which tells us that we cannot earn, merit or deserve anything from God. God is no one’s debtor and salvation is both full and utterly free in Christ; it is entirely the work and the free gift of God. So this cannot mean what it seems to mean on the surface. And here is the true interpretation...
μέτοχοι γὰρ γεγόναμεν τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐάνπερ τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς ὑποστάσεως μέχρι τέλους βεβαίαν κατάσχωμεν
The Greek verb referring to "we share in Christ" is the (second) perfect tense and refers to an action once for all taken in the past. It does not have reference to the future and is not conditional upon anything yet to take place. So the correct understanding is that if we have (truly) come to share in Christ we will indeed hold our original confidence to the end. Or, put another way, all those who once for all in the past put their trust and Christ and received him will persevere to the end no matter what. And what confidence can we have in this assertion? All the confidence in the world, because it is God that works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

But once again, our preservation is through our perseverance, which is in turn fashioned by God through the obedience of our faith in hearing and heeding his Word. We are clay in the hands of a God who is, even as we live, fashioning us into what we shall be more perfectly in that Day. We choose, we act, we stumble and fall, we pray and mourn, we hear, we submit - all of these things are in the hand of Almighty God and - if we are truly his - are means by which he makes us into what He wills. A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. {Pr 16:9}

These things we review in order to understand the position of the Hebrew professors to whom this letter is addressed. They had their temptations and trials to give up and to turn back - but so do the saints of today. We are beset on all sides by the world and the evil thereof. Weak belief and the guilt of sin embraced cloud our understanding and our judgment, as they did the Hebrews.

But the writer gives dire warnings and admonishments as he exhorts them to keep on keeping on. The sheep do indeed hear His voice and they are warned and exhorted not to harden their own hearts, but to keep short accounts with God. Today is the hour for acting upon what is heard. Today and not tomorrow is when the pricked conscience and the stinging pride must be brought into the light and the right thing be done. Today and not next week or next year is the time to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. And as it was for them, so it is for all Christians in all ages.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Name Above All Names
This hauntingly lovely worship song about the names of God is from Sharalee Ward and is part of a collection of music from many artists which is approved for podcasting use free of charge (as long as credit is not taken for the original work). Her personal web site can be found here.

For this one you have to click the link below to open it in your native mp3 player.

The Name Above All Names

And, while you listen, here is a list of His Names and their meanings (not necessarily exhaustive - for a longer list go here - but be a Berean with their theology)
# Elohim (God)
# Jehovah/Yahweh (the self-existent one: I AM)
# Jehovah-jireh (the Lord will provide)
# Jehovah-rapha (the Lord who heals)
# Jehovah-nissi (the Lord our banner)
# Jehovah-Shalom (the Lord our peace)
# Jehovah-ra-ah (the Lord my shepherd)
# Jehovah-tsidkenu (the Lord our righteousness)
# Jehovah-shammad (the Lord is present)
# Jehovah-Elohim (the Lord God)
# Jehovah Sabaoth (the Lord of hosts)
# El Elyon (the most high God)
# Adonai (our master)
# El Shaddai (Almighty God, the strength giver)
# El Olam (everlasting God)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Heb 3:7-12 Christ - Preached as Means of Preservation

Heb 3:7-12 Christ - Preached as Means of Preservation

Heb 3:7-12 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works 10 for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.”’ 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

And here we have a perfect picture of what the theologians call "means" at work. We are neither saved nor preserved apart from means. The preaching of Christ is one of the means by which salvation comes. The exhortations and warnings of scripture are part of the means by which the saints are guided and kept unto that Day.

Here, the wavering Jewish professors are warned and exhorted about the dangers of their flirtation with apostasy. Yet the warning itself is the means by which the true believers will be turned from their dangerous path. And those who turn, if they turn at all, will do so by means of faith and obedience, for apart from these it is impossible to please God. Those that have ears to hear will hear, and the rest will be hardened and may prove themselves never to have been truly children of the King.

But see the overarching grace in the warning, which goes out to all. Those who eventually fall away are no less the genuine objects of the message than those who are turned back into the right path by it. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But this is not the whole picture, for apart from God’s saving and sanctifying grace, none would ever come and none would ever abide in Him. So there is both a general and an effectual call - there is both common and saving grace. And God alone knows definitively which He is working in particular people.

Take, for example, the Israelites who were delivered from Egypt - as the writer does here. They were all called out of Egypt, including those that perished in the wilderness, and about whom God swore that they would not enter His rest. In other words they would not be found in Christ, in Whom all the saints rest from their own labours. (that is, their spiritual labours to rest in justification and glorification by God in Christ).

This is a serious admonition. Many are indeed called. Many answer the call - but few persevere to the end, by which they would prove themselves to be genuine children, regenerated and kept by the power of God. Many answer in a fleshly way. They hear the advantages to their flesh of deliverance from some present tribulation - but when that tribulation is removed and some other takes its place, they become disheartened and cold - and they eventually fall away. Were they saved and then lost their salvation? No! Of course not! For it is impossible for them to be snatched from the Saviour’s hand - even by themselves.

Until a person desires not simply to be delivered from his circumstances, but to be delivered from his very self - from the sin that is embedded at the very root and core of his own being - he cannot be regarded as a child of God. He is a carnal person with outward goals that outwardly coincide with others who are on the true journey of saving and sanctifying faith through (that is to say "by means of") tribulation. Most of the Israelites that came out of Egypt brought at least a measure of Egypt with them in their hearts. The tribulation they encountered, at least some of which was brought about by their unbelief and disobedience, served to confirm those of true faith by increasing their separation from the world, and to harden the merely outward professors and show them to be what they always were underneath.

This is the way of things. It is how God has ordained life to unfold and sheep to be known from goats in this earthly journey. The true children will (ultimately) be confirmed and grown through the very same tribulation that offends and hardens the false professor. It may happen quickly - or it may take a lifetime, but God knows and God is the judge. We, on the other hand, are to listen, to hear, to respond and to obey. If we do, it will be by the grace of God. If we don’t, it will be due to our own intransigent, resisting, wilful, disobedient and rebellious hearts.

The admonition to take care lest an unbelieving heart in us leads us to fall away is not, repeat not an admission that people can be saved one minute and lost the next. It is the warning means by which true sheep are guided towards the eternal fold. They hear their Shepherd in the admonition, and they follow Him.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Perseverance 101
If you persevere to the end you will realize that it was God that upheld and preserved you. If you don't persevere to the end you will realize that you were trying to uphold and preserve yourself.

Gleanings 16.112

Monday, November 16, 2009

Heb 3:5-6 Christ - Faithful as Heir of the Church

Heb 3:5-6 Christ - Faithful as Heir of the Church

Heb 3:5-6 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. {Some manuscripts insert firm to the end}

Again, here there is a contrast drawn between the creaturely service of Moses and the sovereign grace of Christ’s ministry - with the objective of encouraging the weakening Jewish believers to remember the difference between the shadow and its anti-type. Moses was indeed the great and noble and obedient and faithful leader of Israel in the past, but he was a mere fallen and flawed man, just as much in need of a Savior as anyone else. But Christ was the final fulfillment of all the prophets and prophesies, including those of Moses. Moses was the forerunner of the reality which came once for all in Christ. Moses was a man, but Christ was both son of man and eternal Son of God.

This was the reality to which the writer was urging the Hebrews, and of which he was reminding them. They had grasped and professed these truths when they first believed. Now they had to hold fast to them in order to make their calling and election sure. They had to boast only in the finished work of Christ and to keep themselves forever cut off from the self-justification that attempted law-keeping exposed. Christ was the fulfillment of the law for all who believed - but the proof of their having been truly regenerated was to be found in their perseverance to the end. They would be preserved through their perseverance. And to this end, the writer exhorts them here to be so found.

Now, a person who is wavering can only come to perseverance through faith in what Christ has already done. That is God’s design. Faith itself is not what saves a person - but the object of that faith. And the object of the faith of all Christians is Christ, and His death and His completed, glorified life, which alone make us acceptable to the Father. More than this, it is through believing in the sufficiency of Christ that we apprehend the breadth and depth, and the height of God’s love for us and in which we rest through all tribulations and temptations.

So it is important to get things in the right order because this sort of sentiment is often to be found in the New Testament, but is frequently misunderstood. We do not persevere in order to ensure our salvation. But rather, through looking to Christ we find/maintain confidence that God has, in fact, saved us - and we receive assurance to persevere to the end, believing that He will preserve us, as God always promised to do for His elect children.

Only God’s true children see this distinction and rest solely in Christ for their deliverance. To the others the distinction is not even there because they are still abiding in the idea that salvation and/or sanctification relies, to whatever degree, on some “little something” that they themselves must contribute. But, as Luther pointed out to Erasmus, "A little something is not nothing."

Note then, that we are the house and Christ is the builder. The house does not - nor can it - build itself. The distinction is that Christ is God, the originator, the author, the creator, the builder, the power, the planner, the architect - and we are the clay that He molds according to His will and purposes. He is the Savior and we are the saved. He is the doer and we are the do-ees. He is the giver and we are the recipients. He is God and we are the work of His hands. Our hope is to be entirely in Him and not the least bit in ourselves, our wills, our faith or our perseverance.

The hope we boast in encompasses our own utter impotency and our total reliance upon God’s elective and sustaining grace - and it boasts in the fact that the awareness and ability to boast in even these things is itself the gift of God to us, who were once alienated, sinners, inveterate enemies and utterly opposed to Him Who saves us. He changed us - we did not and could not change ourselves by any thought, word, deed or inclination of the will that found its root in what we were. Luther had something to say touching the concept of God’s complete aseity in loving His people, as follows:

"The love of god does not seek that which it desires (or is pleased with) but creates it." Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation - Thesis 28

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Exploring the Issues of Messianic Prophecy
This Sunday School Class is part of a Hermeneutics series from Twin City Fellowship in Minneapolis, MN. The teacher is Pastor Ryan Habbena.

This section of a very extensive program at Twin City has been selected specifically because it deals with the underlying complexities of OT prophecies. And the fulfillment of OT prophecy is also a very large part of the arguments of the writer to the Hebrews. Consequently, in the Hebrews study, we shall run into some difficulties which are quite similar to the "seed promise" prophecies discussed here.

Two observations come to mind:

One is that this is material being taught to a regular Sunday School class, and the vast majority of those in attendance are ordinary Joes and Janes like you and me. That's a far cry from the quality of stuff being disseminated at so many churches today.

A second observation is that, though I have never studied Hermeneutics, I was amazed to find Pastor Habbena making observations about prophecy that are similar to those I make in Hebrews, though his are, of course much clearer and more succinct than mine.
In any event, I think that some listeners will benefit from catching this one while diving into the early parts of Hebrews. Enjoy...

Exploring the Issues of Messianic Prophecy - Ryan Habbena

Saturday, November 14, 2009

James White on The New Testament Documents

Here again is Dr. James White - this time in an interview on the program "Ancient Paths". This material is very technical for the average reader, but it does contain some things that will help in seeing how the New Testament documents came down to us, how reliable they are and how apostates, heretics and atheists never cease to attack with what are often largely proven to be specious arguments.

Men like Dr. White labor in the deep dark dungeons of textual criticism, language interpretation and apologetic debate because the light must shine in every dark corner of this world, bringing honor and glory to Christ. I couldn't do it. Maybe you can't do it. But God has raised faithful men who can. Here's one of them...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Heb 3:1-4 - Christ the Creator of All

Heb 3:1-4 - Christ the Creator of All

Heb 3:1-4 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)

On account of all that has been said so far, then those who are holy brothers on account of God’s calling (that is, on account of his effectual call) ought to have this Jesus foremost in their minds. It is this Jesus who is the true and eternal high priest of all the chosen ones. He is missionary and messenger, establisher and founder, priest and sacrifice of and to all that are in Him through faith. We confess - it is our confession - but we confess what He has accomplished in our behalf. We confess, we witness, to His finished, satisfactory and exemplary atoning work. He is both priest and propitiation, as stated in verses 17-18 of the last chapter. He intercedes on our behalf and He turns away the fierce wrath of God upon our sin forever because He is eternally accepted as our substitute.

There are parallels. There are always parallels and figures and types and symbols. The former analogies were given so that when the perfect of which they spoke actually came, He would be recognized for what He is. The sacrificial system, the priestly system, the kingdom - all these pointed with historical facts to the Person they prefigured. It’s almost as if history was a sort of throw-away draft of the final product in Jesus Christ. I say "almost," because God is more than able to make history meaningful on one level and the Son’s incarnation into history meaningful on another, infinitely higher, level.

Moses was a "type" of Christ. He was appointed as the intermediary and the guardian of the God’s chosen nation. And, in his fallible human way, he was stunningly faithful in fulfilling the charge given to him by God. This, the nation of Israel always understood - giving honor and recognition to the greatness of the man in his service to God on their behalf. But what the writer is saying here is that Moses was but a mere shadow of He who was to come. The Christ was of an entirely different order, and his work was in a completely different dimension. Moses and Christ shared their humanity, but the Lord Jesus Christ was infinitely more than a mere human being. He was not less than human. He was not non-human. In his humanity he was not super-human. But he was eternal Son of Almighty God living in human flesh; not living in a human suit that had been somehow pulled over his eternal frame (if that were possible), but God living as fully human, having both natures simultaneously and completely.

The writer expresses it simply by casting Moses as the work of Christ’s hands and Christ as the creator of all things, including Moses. In other words, Moses is only a part of God’s creation and his faithfulness, great thought it was, was owed to his Creator and Redeemer. God made Moses faithful. Moses walked in it, but God chose, equipped, guided and upheld Moses throughout. Moses was, therefore, beholden to God for all that he was and did. He was, in fact, the humblest man that ever lived because he understood precisely what is being asserted here, namely - if it is good, then God did it.

The focus is upon Christ, as it should be. In Christ, the Living Word, God was at work reconciling the world to Himself - and in the process he was creating something heretofore unimagined. God spoke in the complete and completed incarnation of the Living Word - and it was. God spoke redemption, reconciliation, propitiation and regeneration in the Person and work of his Son and, just as in Genesis, it was so. But this focus is upon Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised and foreshadowed in God’s dealings with Israel.

I think care needs to be taken with the concept of Christ having been "counted worthy" - a thought also found, for example in Revelation {Re 5:9,12}, though not expressed in the same words. Christ is certainly "counted worthy" by we who have been redeemed. Our eyes have been opened to His eternal worthiness, which He always possessed. His nature is and always was and will be "worthy" of all praise and honor and glory, but we have had our eyes opened to that by our redemption and rebirth.

There is also a sense in which I suppose that the Father counts the obedient life and death of His incarnate Son as "worthy" for the purpose for which it was given. Christ came for a purpose, fulfilled that purpose completely and, on account of that, He was counted worthy to be the eternal representative of (redeemed) humanity. His worth was expressed in human form and utterly human obedience on behalf of all who would believe in Him. He did not become more worthy in His divine essence, but He walked worthily in His humanity.

Christ’s perfectly obedient human life was infinitely valuable on account of the fact that it was God the Son living it. Moses’ imperfectly obedient ministry was valuable only insofar as God was at work in Him bringing about faithfulness in a fallen creature.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Justice and Love
In Jesus the man, God is saying first and foremost, "I will die for what I AM." He is saying, "I will die rather than that my justice and holiness be compromised by my love, though I AM love." This is both profound and terrible, and if it does not answer all of our questions, at least it should stop our mouths.

Gleanings 16.111