Agonizomai: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Fitting End to the Winter Olympics
Just scroll down to the final result - it speaks for itself...

Sermon of the Week
The Peacemaker - Joseph Losardo

I have to admit that I didn't do a very good job recently making the case for the active obedience of Christ. I think it was partly because I got it into my head that proof-texting someone who didn't agree with the doctrine would not help until that person saw the bigger picture. A friend told me that I ought to refer to scripture more and I didn't listen. I was stuck on concepts. He was probably right.

But the whole concept of active obedience is also a matter of systematics - like the Trinity or the TULIP. Such things are constructs garnered from the whole counsel of scripture. In this sermon you will find the doctrine of the active obedience of Christ seamlessly integrated into the sermon in the appropriate place because Reformed believers historically and rightly have always held to it as accurately representative of Christ's justifying work, along with His passive obedience. However, active obedience isn't Losardo's main message. His focus is the peace of God.

This is Losardo's text:

Ephesians 2:14-17: For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

The Peacemaker - Joseph Losardo

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Autosoterism - Warfield
"...surely this teaching (Liberalism) has overspread the world. We are told by Erich Schader that during his professorial life no student has ever come before him on the mind of whom the presentation of the two parables of the Pharisee and the Publican praying in the temple and of the Lost Son, in the sense that the forgiveness of God is conditioned by nothing and no atonement is needed, has not made for a longer or shorter time a great and deep impression. It is a Pelagianism, you see, which out-pelagianizes Pelagius. For Pelagius had some recognition of the guilt of sin, and gave some acknowledgement of the atoning work of Christ in making expiation for this guilt. And this theology does neither. With no real sense of guilt, and without the least feeling for the disabilities which come from sin, it complacently puts God’s forgiveness at the disposal of whosoever will deign to take it from his hands. The view of God which is involved, some one has not inaptly if a little bitingly called "the domestic animal conception of God." As you keep sheep to give you wool, and cows to give you milk, so you keep God to give you forgiveness. What is meant is grimly illustrated by the story of poor Heinrich Heine, writhing on his bed of agony, who, asked by an officious visitor if he had hope of the forgiveness of his sins, replied with a glance upwards of mocking bitterness, "Why, yes, certainly: that’s what God is for." That’s what God is for! It is thus that our modern Liberal theology thinks of God. He has but one function and comes into contact with man at but one point: he exists to forgive sins.

In somewhat the same spirit we hear ringing up and down the land the passionate proclamation of what its adherents love to call a "whosoever will gospel." It is no doubt the universality of the gospel-offer which is intended to be emphasized. But do we not shoot beyond the mark when we seem to hang salvation purely on the human will? And should we not stop to consider that, if so we seem to open salvation to "whosoever will" on the one hand, on the other we open it only to "whosoever will?" And who, in this world of death and sin, I do not say merely will, but can, will the good? Is it not forever true that grapes are not gathered from thorns, nor figs from thistles; that it is only the good tree which brings forth good fruit while the evil tree brings forth always and everywhere only evil fruit? It is not only Hannah More’s Black Giles the Poacher who may haply "find it difficult to repent when he will." It is useless to talk of salvation being for "whosoever will" in a world of universal "won’t." Here is the real point of difficulty: how, where, can we obtain the will? Let others rejoice in a "whosoever will gospel:" for the sinner who knows himself to be a sinner, and knows what it is to be a sinner, only a "God will" gospel will suffice. If the gospel is to be committed to the dead wills of sinful men, and there is nothing above and beyond, who then can be saved?

(read the entire section here)

B.B. Warfield - The Plan of Salavtion - Part II

Friday, February 26, 2010

Heb 10: 05-09 - Christ - The Perfect Fulfiller of God's Will for Us

Heb 10 - 05-09 - Christ - The Perfect Fulfiller of God's Will for Us

Heb 10:5-9 Consequently, when Christ (Greek "He") came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”’ 8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.

Looking at verse 9 we need to be reminded of what it is that He abolished and what it is that He established. What was abolished? The Old Covenant with Israel by which they were never effectually justified, but only reminded of their need for justification. They were neither declared nor made righteous by the old system. But he who through faith is righteous shall live. {Hab 2:4} And what was established was the new covenant in His blood - the gospel of grace wherein an alien righteousness is imputed (justification) and an experiential righteousness is imparted (sanctification/glorification) to undeserving sinners.

Old and new. The old was never designed to do what the new does. Yet the new was foreshadowed in the old. And this is because God is party to both covenants in order to show his faithfulness and natural man’s constant, unwavering, intransigent delight in breaking God’s covenants. Grace saved a remnant of Israel under the old, and grace saves a remnant of all humankind under the new.

The writer to the Hebrews bolsters these points by referring the readers back once more to their own historical sacred writings. He quotes scripture to them. He shows them Christ in Moses and the prophets. The exact source of the citation in verse 5 is from the Psalms. {Ps 40:6} The astute reader will at once notice that the original is translated not as "a body you have prepared for me," but as "you have given me an open ear" or "you have opened my ear" and this is, at first quite puzzling to the lay reader.

Unbelief will immediately pounce upon such things and use them to undermine the reliability of text. But faith, once satisfied that both translations in the Old testament and the new are as accurate as we know how to make them, will bow before the wisdom of God believing that there is no real discrepancy, and be open to other explanations. And the one most put forward by the commentators I have read is that the "opening of the ear" is a reference to the Mosaic ordinance whereby a slave could have his ear bored to the lintel as a sign of his lifelong, undying and total commitment in love to his master. This is a picture of Jesus’ commitment to the will of the Father, which he could fulfill as a man only if he had a body in which to do it. Thus "a body you have prepared for me".

We must not let this detour prevent us from seeing the point. The old system of sacrifices was of no real value for effectual atonement of sin - thus God did not desire them in the sense of taking any real pleasure in them (even though he commanded them). On the other hand, the writer points to the same Psalm {Ps 40:7-8} for the very words of Christ in which He announces that He comes to do what no man could do - He comes to do the will of God - completely and perfectly. That will was done not only in a life lived in perfect obedience, but in a sacrifice of His body - also offered up in perfect obedience. Note once more that the sacrifice of Christ was an act of obedience, meaning that it was the will of God. The Son was the gift of the Father, and the whole of the Godhead, being of one substance, was eternally united in the decree and the plan of salvation. When Christ lived the life of love, He was expressing the love of the Father, yet through obedience, as a man.

Once more, the point - Christ came and abolished altogether the old sacrificial system when He sacrificed His own body on the tree. This He did, as had been decreed from eternity and according to the deliberate plan and foreknowledge of God. The consummation of salvation came in Jesus Christ, the ultimate and eternally effectual sacrifice. The implication for the Hebrews being this; "Are you out of your minds, thinking about returning to the shadow when the reality has come!!?"

You cannot have Christ and law as justification. If you want to be justified in the slightest degree by law then you must keep the whole law because Christ is of no avail to you. But if you receive the good news of the gospel of grace and trust in Christ alone for justification, then you do not need to keep law (as if you could, anyway!) in order to be accepted with God. The two systems cannot be mixed. Nothing made the Apostle Paul hotter than attempts to mix law and grace in matters of justification.

Like the Hebrews, we all need to see that application here. We all have vestigial impulses towards self-justification. The flesh wants to contribute and, thereby, to get credit. We need to be constantly reminded of the gospel so that we don’t slide into such a mindset. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those that believe - that is for the believing ones. Believing is not something you do once, but something that is ongoing - and it is something that is ongoing because it is the gift of God. But Christ abolished the old covenant of law by fulfilling it on our behalf and giving that fulfillment to us as a gift of His grace.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

All in All
The righteous work of God in Christ glorifies the saints. The righteous works of the saints in Christ glorify God.

Gleanings 16.604

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heb 10: 01-04 - Christ - The End of Sacrifice

Heb 10: 01-04 - Christ - The End of Sacrifice

Heb 10:1-4 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Now this passage has been anticipated in much that has been said already. It stands for me as the ultimate refutation of [that dispensational view first systematized by Darby, and taken up since then by many others, including Schofield and Ryrie] the idea that the old sacrificial system itself actually led to anyone being justified with God. For it states plainly here that not only were the sacrifices and ceremonies, the temple and priesthood and all that was concerned with these matters mere shadows of the realities found in Christ, but there was no power in any of it to actually remove sins. It would be hard, therefore, to think of the Jews of the Old Covenant as having been justified with God solely, or even partly, on the basis of their adherence to this system.

The idea that God dealt differently with Israel in the matter of justification/salvation than with the church is completely refuted by this passage. It is not that Israel had the covenant of works and the church had the covenant of grace. On the contrary, what this passage points clearly to, is that either all the Jews that lived under and by the law perished eternally, or that there was something else in play. And that something else was the covenant of grace, which preceded the law, ran concurrent with it and was fully disclosed in Christ.

As has been stated elsewhere, the law and ceremonies never had the ability to justify, but only to show the need for justification. {Ro 3:19-20} They had the power to convict, but not to change a person. Remember, real theology takes the real fall really seriously. If you have a defective understanding of the depravity of man then it is easier to believe that man can, by acts of his unaided obedience and will, both seek after God and do that which pleases Him. The Bible flatly and emphatically denies this. {Ps 14:2-3} A fuller bibliography of this condition, as taken from the Old Testament, can be found in Paul’s writings. {see Ro 3:9-18}

The writer here even makes it plain that the annual sacrificial sprinkling in the Holy of Holies by the High Priest was but a reminder (and not an expiator) of sin. And again, it is impossible for the blood of mere animal sacrifices to appease the righteous wrath of a thrice holy God. Obviously! God is infinite, eternal, and of purer eyes than to behold sin. Therefore something infinite, eternal and spotlessly pure in God’s eyes, must be the real sacrifice that atones for sin. This is the lifeblood of the eternal Son of God given for that purpose by God the Father himself. This is Jesus Christ - the spotless Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (in God’s eternal purposes).

Reminded of this, surely the Hebrews who were faltering must by now see that immeasurable contrast between the old system and Christ. One was almost nothing - a cipher, a shadow, a type; the other is all truth and reality. One is of the earth and the other of heaven. One is fleshly and the other spiritual; one is the signpost and the other is the destination.

The Greek word used here for "consciousness" is anamnesis, which is where we get our word "amnesia". Amnesia, as we know, is literally the inability to remember; loss of memory. When you were saved did you literally lose all memory of your past sins? I doubt it. Perhaps this is why some translations use the word "conscience" instead of "consciousness". The context would certainly suggest that meaning, as would the rest of scripture. Attention is directed towards a verse in this very chapter that seems to throw more light in this. {see Heb 10:21-22} The idea is that, having a great high priest in the heavenlies, seated at the right hand of God, eternally presenting Himself to the Father on our behalf, we have no more need of guilt over former sins. They are forgotten by God and so they ought to be forgotten by us in the sense of the guilt that arose from our consciousness of them. With regard to the grace of God in providing a substitute for us in bearing the penalty of our sins, however, we ought never to forget. Neither shall we, for our eternal praises in heaven will be to the glory of His grace - which grace necessarily implies our salvation from our sins.

The good news is that there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. That is the point here. That, and the fact that it is only in Him - and not (never) by conformity to the law or through the merits of animal sacrifices, that this removal of guilt is effected. A person who sees this, who truly grasps and owns it, is free indeed. The truth that makes free is a Person - the God/man Jesus Christ - and He did it by atoning for sin and redeeming a people that God had given Him.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

News Flash

Artifact suggests Bible written centuries earlier
Writing indicates Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century

This article found on the MSNBC website headlines the amazing news that a recent archaeological discovery "could mean that portions of the Bible were written centuries earlier than previously thought". Wow!!

Notice the extremely tentative language in the above quote and in the header where the find "suggests the Bible was written centuries earlier". Compare this with the tone that would be used if the discovery were, say, a scientistic "proof" of Darwinian evolution. Under such circumstances we wouldn't be reading "suggests" and "could" and "portions" but "proves" and "does" and "entire".

On its own this is a very small thing. I bring it up only to illustrate how language itself can be used to influence a reader and to shape or introduce nuanced bias into the story.

I never had any doubt that there was an Israel in 1,000BC and even earlier. Nor did I have a doubt that the Torah was handed down through the patriarchs, starting with the Pentateuch and added to by the kings and prophets just as it presents itself. This is hardly news. Nor is it revelatory to a believer - and not even to a fair-minded reader who accepts secular things with far less substantiation than has existed for the Bible for ages.

Just sayin'.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Heb 9:27-28 - Christ - Christ - Savior AND Judge

Heb 9:27-28 - Christ - Christ - Savior AND Judge

Heb 9:27-28 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

What is being spoken of here is not the salvation that is received and abided in through faith, but the salvation that Christ brings with Him on His return to the earth. When we first believe, that aspect of our salvation is called justification. When we live in the light of this through faith we are being sanctified. Ultimately, when we either die and return with Christ, or when He comes back for us, we shall have manifested in us that concluding aspect of our salvation which is known as glorification. It is the latter that is being spoken of here. The consummation of all things in the actual bodily presence of the Lord.

But notice that the salvation spoken of is in conjunction with the judgement. All men will be judged after they die. Now all are sinners and fall short of the glory of God, so all deserve to be punished. There are, however, a number (many) whose offences against God were put upon Christ, and those are the ones who will be saved from the condemnation of judgement for their sins.

Those who are not covered by the sacrifice of Christ will fall under this "dealing with sin" that is spoken of. This is not a light thing. When He returns He will indeed save His people to the uttermost, but He will also unleash the wrath and condemnation and judgement of God upon all who have not believed and trusted in Him. So, the writer is speaking eschatologically. Christ the Lamb will re-appear as God the judge. And it is His Own once-for-all-time sacrifice that will shelter those who believe from the fury that is to come.

So the point of the whole Mosaic/Levitical sacrificial system summed up as "the law" was to point to the deliverance from the wrath of God that is found only in Jesus Christ, the eternal sacrifice.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blasts From the Past
The Wesleyan Doctrine of Sinless Perfection

I am presently reading (though very slowly) B.B. Warfield's work called "Perfectionism". In it, he traces and critiques what came to be known as Oberlin Perfectionism, named after the College seminally founded by John J. Shipherd, established by Asa Mahan as President and joined by C.G. Finney as Professor of Theology. It is an interesting read.

Oberlin Perfectionism, though different from the Wesleyan variety, nevertheless owes something of its emergence to Methodistic teaching on the topic. Whether Oberlin or Wesleyan, I agree with Warfield that Perfectionism is a dangerous and unorthodox doctrine which has lent much to later movements, such as the "Higher Life Movement", "Pentecostalism" and others.

I was pleased the other day to stumble upon a short article entitled "Wesleyan Doctrine of Sinless Perfection", published over at Michael Bremmer's blog, Sola Scriptura! The original is from the mind and pen of R. L. Dabney - a 19th Century theologian and teacher whom we have quoted with pleasure before, on the nature of the will.

So I decided to record this article, not only for my own enrichment as an adjunct to the Warfield book, but also to share with others the intricacies, arguments and dangers of perfectionist teaching. I'm not reprinting the article here. If you want to read along with the audio, or if you want to download/read the original article, it can be found here. Enjoy...

Wesleyan Doctrine of Sinless Perfection - R. L. Dabney

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Exploring Biblical Jordan
I found this video at Premier TV and thoroughly enjoyed the solidly Biblical background to the archaeological evidences displayed in it. Narrator David Nunn is very easy to listen to and eminently believable. This one's almost an hour long and well worth the time. Get some popcorn and a tall drink and enjoy...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Heb 9:23-26 - Christ - The Eternal Reality Behind the Passing Symbols

Heb 9:23-26 - Christ - The Eternal Reality Behind the Passing Symbols

Heb 9:23-26 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Notice that the earthly things were copies of the heavenly. These were types - representative symbols - pointers. It was always that way and never the reverse. The heavenly things were not developed or evolved from the earthly as men might suppose - particularly carnal men. The eternal things always were and always will be. It is the temporal things that were commanded, ordained and created so that some understanding of the heavenly realities might be garnered by mortal, finite, fallen mankind. The whole sacrificial system was ultimately pointing to Christ as the real and true sacrifice.

Heavenly things require a heavenly sacrifice. The purification of things for the heavenly places and the presence of God requires an infinitely better, infinitely more valuable price than mere temporal and temporary things do. All the things of earth are passing away because the universe has been tainted by the sin of humanity. The sacrifices of animals on behalf of sinners by men who were themselves in need of redemption was like children throwing a toy rocket into the air in place of a starship soaring to the infinity of the universe.

The blood of Christ makes us and the things we touch in heaven clean in God’s eyes. His life given for us - a perfect life perfectly lived and perfectly offered as a sacrifice - is now our life. He gave it to and for us. When God looks at us, He sees us in Christ because He sees the blood of Christ which was His life given for us as our substitute.

But the point being made here is not only the excellence of Christ’s gift, but the permanence of it. Under the shadow system sacrifices went on endlessly, year after year because they never themselves achieved the actual redemption of which they spoke. But Christ, the reality, did actually achieve the redemption of His people once for all. He is the eternal sacrifice because He ever lives to make intercession for us. No more sacrifice - no more death is necessary in order to reconcile us to God because we are reconciled.

And Christ is not continually offering himself as a sacrifice - repeatedly playing out a death. He came at a specific time ordained by God - the right time - to effect the salvation of all who believe, both past and present. To the writer of this sermon, it was the end of the ages. It was the time of the culmination of all that Jewish history pointed to. The scope and power of Christ’s sacrifice was of a completely different order than the repeated and temporary rituals that had taken place in Israel for more than a thousand years, and in the world at large for many times that.

Sin had been put away for all who believed in Him. It was not put away in part, but in whole. It was not a temporary fix or a balm for today’s trespasses until tomorrow’s were committed. It was a provision for all the sins of all God’s people once and forever. Not only past sins, but future ones, too, were paid for with the sacrifice of Jesus. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. We are justified eternally. Now we must simply work it out with fear and trembling.

It is the unbidden, unlooked for, free, gracious, total and eternal forgiveness of sin because the price was paid by a substitute (a substitute Who was God Himself in human flesh) ... it is this, fully apprehended in the soul, that changes a life. Is it embraced and believed in such a way that it penetrates the whole of the person? Or is it mere intellectual knowledge of the facts? It has to be more than that, although it can never be less. The facts apprehended must change the heart subjectively and experientially. And this is something that the mind alone cannot do. The Spirit of God must do it.

The Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of Christ. It says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those that believe. But belief itself is not native to the fallen mind; saving faith is unnatural – it is supernatural. In the end, a person must cry out to God until that faith which transforms through gratitude for what has already been given is evidenced in the life.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Left Coast Olympic Data

Inane Darwinian Assumption - Reprise

Dear readers - do you remember IDA the Lemur? If not please refresh your minds by visiting this link to an earlier post of mine.

You may recall that scientism announced that the definitive "missing link" had been discovered in this fossil, and some so-called scientists were running around calling it the discovery that would be the watershed moment for evolutionary biology, anthropology and paleontology for the next 50 or 100 years. Stuff like that.

Well here is proof of what we used to call the Gi-Go system. Garbage in-garbage out. In this case it becomes clear that a scientific education is no guarantee of common sense. A well educated fool is still a fool.

And in support of this, I now give you this latest article. Note the spin in the article which emphatically avows:
"Experts protested that Ida wasn't even a close relative. And now a new analysis supports their reaction."
Try to find in this earlier article (making the original announcement) anything remotely resembling what this retrospective spin is now stating. And when you don't find anything then at the very least question the reportage.

But with a little digging you will easily find other articles and comments about IDA made at the time of the original article in which "scientists" are practically dancing a jig at the discovery of the so-called long awaited final "proof" that we are products of evolution, rather than creations of God. Mark this process well. It is the same one used for over a hundred and fifty years. Widely publicized assumptions presented as facts which, being proven false later, receive either no publicity, or redacted reportage that tries to preserve the integrity of a broken process.

I know that some will view this later article as proof that the scientistic community has policed itself and corrected it's earlier poor assumptions. Look, then, for the international media coverage at the repudiation of the earlier interpolation of this fossil. Surely the self-policing scientistic community is anxious to correct misconceptions with the same fervor and diligence with which the original foolishness was promoted. But don't hold your breath waiting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Heb 9:16-21 - Christ - Testator of Eternal Life in God

Heb 9:16-21 - Christ - Testator of Eternal Life in God

Heb 9:16-21 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

This "for" is connected to the fact that there is an inheritance - an eternal inheritance - resulting from the death of the perfect sacrifice. The death itself was the price paid for the redemption of sinners. The death was, in fact, a necessary antecedent to the benefits that derive from it. The new covenant, or testament, is language associated with wills. The "testator" and the "beneficiary" are "will" language.

It was always the way, even under the Old Testament - that the life given in the sacrifice (through the faith and obedience of the sinner, and in the symbolic form of an animal without spot or blemish) established that without the shedding of blood there would be no remission of sins. Not that the animal itself was worth anything, nor even the blood of the animal - but that, through the obedience of faith in the God of all grace and mercy, the symbols served as a sort of place-keeper until God Himself would provide.

Note that it was "under the law" that these symbols were given and required to be rigorously observed. Under the old covenant. As "law" there was a duty to observe them. But we are no longer under law, but under grace. This does not in any way make the law a bad thing. The law is good. But under grace, we are free to fail, even though we strive not to. That is to say, we are free to fall short of God’s perfect righteousness because it has been fulfilled on our behalf by God the Son. But, in being free to fall short, we have been given new hearts that do not desire to fall short. No one who belongs to God has the attitude that they are free to deliberately sin - to sin the more that grace may abound. Such an attitude is almost perfect proof that the opposite is true – that they never belonged to Him.

Under the law blood was required (commanded) by God for the purification of all sorts of things. Underlying this was the non-negotiable requirement of God that sin always led to death and that a death was necessary in order for the offence against Him to be paid. Ultimately, eternal death would pay for the eternal offense against an infinite God. In the meantime, the idea of substitution was introduced through the sacrifice. The animals never could be real substitutes, their blood being only symbolic of the real thing - the life of God the Son, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Jesus is the real substitute, upon Whom all the sins of the redeemed are laid. God did not overlook the sins of the redeemed; Jesus paid the price for them. This is substitutionary atonement. And this was the whole point of the Mosaic Levitical codex pointing to the One and only True Substitute, to be received by faith.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nature is content with little; grace is content with less.
Luxury is seldom satisfied; lust is never satisfied.

Gorham Abbott - "The Family at Home", 1833

Monday, February 15, 2010

Heb 9:15 - Christ - The Message

Heb 9:15 - Christ - The Message

Heb 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

On account of all these things - the inferiority of the law and the ceremonies and its inability to purify the conscience - the Son of God came from heaven and took on humanity, offering himself up as the spotless sacrifice with eternal and infinite value, by which men are truly and forever reconciled to God. All who believe will be saved.

He alone is the mediator (which was the role of the old priesthood) between God and man. This is why there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved. If you aren’t trusting in what God has done in Christ then you are lost and the wrath of God abides on you still.

But now read closely what is being said here. Christ is mediator so that those who are called may receive eternal life. Remember, eternal life is not simply living forever. It is a quality of life that receives its character from the indwelling Spirit of God. To know God is to have eternal life, when the word "know" is the same as the biblical concept of "knowing" a person - an intimate loving relationship.

So what does "called" mean here? Are all men called? Do all hear the gospel? Has God said that those who never hear it will be saved some other way? Well obviously not all men hear the gospel. Think of the countless pagan lands that were not evangelized until the last 250 years or so. People lived and died in those lands every day without hearing about Jesus. Were they called?

The church has traditionally divided the concept of the call of God into two categories, namely:
1) The general call which goes out to all who fall under the preaching of Christ. Anybody to whom Christ is properly preached is called under this general call. This does not mean that all hear the gospel, or that all will be given a chance to hear it, nor yet that those who do not hear it will be given a pass.

2) The effectual call which refers to the people among those hearing the general call who actually believe. When they do believe, it is because God has regenerated them by his Spirit and this is why it is called the effectual call. God does not regenerate people because they believe but, rather, people believe because God has regenerated them.
In this particular passage the proper inference is the simplest that those who hear the gospel preached may (through believing it) receive the promised eternal inheritance. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of Christ. {Ro 10:17} The gospel is the Power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. {Ro 1:16}

The preaching of Christ is, then, God’s ordained means by which men receive the promises of God - which are life eternal, in fellowship with him. Now, it is not just having the words said or even having the sounds falling on the eardrums of people that saves them. That is not how the power of God works. It work by the facts about Jesus life, death and resurrection being received through the mind, and changing the life of a person by renewing his heart. The power of the gospel is not in the diction, nor in the speaker, but in the meaning as conveyed by one animated by same Spirit who is able to renew the heart of the hearer. God is all in all.

Having heard and having received, the children of faith rest in the finished work of Christ, believing he is their eternal mediator. In other words, His work is of eternal value, having been done once and for all. He now ever lives and is ever in the holy of holies in the heavenlies, at God’s right hand, representing all who believe. And even though those who believe still commit transgressions - some of them very grave indeed - it is not their transgressions that characterize their relationship with God but their abiding in Jesus Christ by faith. Faith and not the individual’s moment to moment victory over the sinful nature is the hallmark of the redeemed.

This sermon is specifically to the Jews. But the old covenant of law has some application to the Gentile. All men have a conscience, and all many will try to justify themselves to whatever power they assume controls or influences their lives. They do this by carnal and dead acts of worship or sacrifice. They try to reach up to their higher power and make things right. Christianity says that this is impossible. Men cannot act rightly in order to be reconciled to God - rather, they must be reconciled to God in order to act rightly. This is what Christ has done for all who believe. He has reconciled them so that they may act rightly towards God and man.

Whatever "covenant" a man fell under before Christ there is no doubt he was a sinner {Ro 3:23} with transgressions that need to be paid for. No animal sacrifice could actually do that. Christ did it by giving His Own life. He paid for the sins of His people. God did not overlook sin (He never does that) - He laid the penalty upon His Son.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sermon of the Week
God Helps Those Who Cannot Help Themselves
Here's Jeff Noblitt of Muscle Shoals Community Baptist Church again. (Don't you just love the way he says "Bab-diss" for "Baptist"?)

This time he's making sure the congregation understands the nature of their natural depravity in contrast to the ineffable holiness of God - such that they are helpless and hopeless and utterly lost in sin, bound for hell and powerless to change it - unless and until GOD does something.

This video is supposed to show in an embedded Windows Media Player. If it does for you then double click the video for full-screen viewing. If the player doesn't show for you then click the link to open it in audio only in your native default player.

God Helps Those Who Cannot Help Themselves - Jeff Noblitt (Audio only)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lord Let Me - Roxylee

Lord Let Me

Lord, I give my life to You today
Fill me with Your Spirit, Lord, I pray
Make my life become a prayer to You
Giving thanks for everything you do

May your Spirit take control of me
Streams of living water, flowing free
May your love touch everyone I know
Abiding peace, Lord, everywhere I go

Lord, let me be your hands and your feet
your fragrance so sweet
as I pass through this place
Lord, let me live your truth and your grace
As I seek your face every day of my life

Hallelujah, Lord, you are wondrous to me
Hallelujah, Lord, you are Holy

My Jesus, my king, your salvation is here
May the seekers draw near
and give glory to You
May your love and Your truth
be revealed to the lost
That they may know the cost
of what you did-for all.

Hallelujah, Lord,You are wondrous to me
Hallelujah, Lord, you are Holy

If you have trouble playing this on my site then go to Roxylee's and feast on this and her other stuff. Her Creative Commons License terms can be found here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Heb 9:11-14 - Christ - The Heavenly Sacrifice

Heb 9:11-14 - Christ - The Heavenly Sacrifice

Heb 9:11-14 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Previously we mentioned the summing up of all things in the finished work of Christ. Here we are reminded that Christ is the high priest of the good things that have come. In the gospel age, it is not a matter of looking forward to a reconciliation with God, but of experiencing it through faith. It is no longer future, but present. To be sure, the saints all have been saved, are being saved and will be saved - so there are temporal aspects - but it is all one salvation. Reconciliation is manifested once in regeneration and adoption, over time in sanctification and at the end as glorification.

But the common thread is faith. Our faith is in God and what God has done in Christ And we can be assured that even the things of salvation which are future to us are the outworking of God’s eternal decrees, which cannot be broken.

The Hebrews, on the other hand, had looked forward by faith, often not having a clear picture, but trusting in the God of mercy and of the promise. Their blood sacrifices had to be mixed with faith. The blood of animals had no power or persuasive effect upon God. They were symbolic of "the good things that have come". They were symbolic of what God would do to appease himself, and not of what they could to appease him.

Redemption is both now and eternal. Eternal life starts at the moment of regeneration. {John 11:25-26} It is spiritual life from God. The body is still under the sentence of death and the resurrection and glorification of the body will be the last manifestation of God’s glorious accomplishment in Christ on behalf of his people. But we are accepted now because he has offered up the eternal sacrifice by his Own blood (representing his life) and right now he is in the holy of holies in heaven - in the presence of God - representing us. He is just and righteous and therefore we are accepted as just and righteous. He is the federal head of all those who are in him through faith.

Some might be confused by verse 13, which does not say that the blood of goats and bulls actually sanctified anyone. It says if people were purified by such sacrifices, it was only outwardly - what is called "the purification of the flesh". But purification of the flesh, if there was such a thing, was of no avail in appeasing God, who is Spirit. All human flesh has corrupted itself. Our carnal bodies are the instruments of our fallen hearts and are polluted in ways that are uncountable. Even our minds do not work righteously.

Only faith apprehending truth (the Word of God) by the Spirit can please God - and it does so for Jesus’ sake. So animal blood is a shadow of the blood of the Lamb of God. The former is of the earth, but the latter is of heaven. The one was part of an outward system of symbolism and the other is the reality of eternity.

This is the continued theme of the superiority of Christ over the system of Moses - repeated and repeated so that the Hebrews will never consider giving up the real for the shadow - of returning to the lesser from the greater.

The "dead works" referred to here harken from verse 9 {Heb 9:9} because those gifts and sacrifices were imperfect, and only the perfect could purify the conscience from dead works to serve the Living God. Christ alone, rightly believed - and God alone in Christ rightly trusted - can assure the soul of eternal reconciliation and peace. Christ believed is salvation from the living death of lostness. Christ believed is sanctification in the present circumstance. Christ believed is the assurance of the ultimate redemption of our bodies and their eternal glorification.

So Christ’s work was only partly in the body. His work was also in the realm of the Spirit. He came as a man and conquered sin and death through the eternal Spirit. He vanquished the forces of death and darkness and put the devils to an open shame. Had He not been 100% human He could not have acted on our behalf and so He walked as any man ought to walk. But it all had to be accomplished through the power of God (by the Spirit, through faith). Since Christ was never regenerated, it follows that He never needed to be. He was human, but not a son of Adam. He was Son of God taking on humanity.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Importance of Right Theology
Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear… Before the church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. The church simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” and goes on from there… The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place.

A.W. Tozer - The Knowledge of the Holy

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Heb 9:6-10 - Christ - The True Sacrifice

Heb 9:06-10 - Christ - The True Sacrifice

Heb 9:6-10 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

As an aside, here is another reason to believe that this sermon was written before AD70 - the language speaking in the present tense of ceremonies that ceased when Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus.

But the writer, having referenced some of the reverence-inspiring particulars of the sanctuary, limits his observations to only a few things. He is careful to show that there is a progressive exclusivity the nearer one comes to the inner sanctuary. No one but the priests may perform duties involving the sacred objects and ceremonies. None but the high priest could ever enter the holy of holies - and that only once a year, and not without making offering for his own sins. And even then, we read elsewhere, he had a rope tied to his ankle lest he might offend God in some unknown particular and die instantly, and need to be extracted from the inner sanctum.

Looking at the temple we see the progressive need for purity as the centre is approached. The court of the Gentiles lay outside of all, then of the women, then of (the men of) Israel. Then, the sanctuary where only Levites could engage in the work. Finally, the inner sanctum where only the high priest was allowed, once a year.

And we are reminded of the ubiquity and immanence of blood sacrifice which was needed even for unwitting sins. Ignorance was no excuse. So pure and undefiled and so consuming a fire of holiness is God that, unwitting or not, He cannot abide the presence of any sin whatsoever, and His anger at it must be assuaged by the shedding of blood - which means the giving of life. Sin requires death. Sin deserves death. God demands death upon all sin. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." "The wages of sin is death."

Under the old system, all the blood that was shed had no power to assuage God’s righteous anger against sin - nor could it salve the guilty conscience of the sinner. God was never bought off by the blood of bulls and goats. They were not substitute human beings. They had no connection with the fallen race of humanity. Their lives were but the lives of dumb beasts - no doubt valuable in their own way, but infinitesimal in comparison to the life of a man made in God’s image, and absolutely without any basis for comparison to the life of the Son of God.

While it is true that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins" - even in the old system that shed blood was only of avail if it was mixed with faith. The sacrifice offered by faith in the God of the promise availed in this sense - that it looked to God alone for mercy and grace, and it in some sense trusted that a true sacrifice, a true means of reconciliation lay in God’s hands and would be provided in due course. Until then, faith in the God Who would provide it was enough that he passed over former sins in anticipation of the day when the real sacrifice would be made.

If we follow this through to its conclusion and draw upon what has gone before, we see that if sacrifice was a man-initiated means of appeasing the wrath of God it was useless paganism. Salvation was, is and always will be a God-initiated act of grace and mercy to the utterly undeserving. The old sacrificial system still reflected the system of grace, but in a veiled way. It was veiled in law - righteous, just law that was the duty of every son of Israel to obey. Nevertheless, the remnant according to election always understood that justification was by faith in the God of the promise and not in the outward efforts of the flesh to gain acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation. These things always had to be entirely gifts of God.

Now these things were not fully open to the understanding of even true believers in Israel. But faith was the always the key, and any peace or forbearance on God’s part was always on account of His grace. All the outward stuff involving the ceremonial law was window dressing and advertisement heralding the coming attraction, which was the summing up of all things in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Mercy and Cruelty

"Showing mercy to the wolf is showing cruelty to the sheep."


Monday, February 08, 2010

Heb 9:1-5 - Christ - Prefigured in the Ceremonial Objects of the Tabernacle

Heb 9:01-05 - Christ - Prefigured in the Ceremonial Objects of the Tabernacle

Heb 9:1-5 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2 For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

The matters of the tabernacle, the ceremonial objects and the Ark of the Covenant were all very fraught with reverence and awe for the Jews. They had been trained that way. And that training was instituted by God Almighty, Who desired that they have awe and reverence and, yes, fear in these matters. But He had a higher purpose than simply wanting people to shake in their boots, or to be overcome with the opulence, as we shall see.

These things were sacred, almost secret, very exclusive and somewhat mysterious. And there were far more details to their institution and their use than needed to be given for the present argument. But that is not to say that every minute detail of the tabernacle and the ordinances of worship did not also have a spiritual significance as typical of the work and office of Christ. The writer, however, limits himself to a few salient points in the next number of verses.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Blasts From the Past
The Potter and the Clay - George Whitefield

It is in the nature of men to first honor, then lionize and finally make an idol of what they regard as great men of the past. This has happened outside the church with people from Julius Caesar to Charles Darwin, though each also has his detractors.

But there is no excuse for it inside the church. We may honor men of the past because we are to render honor to whom honor is due. We may respect their devotion, for those who proved true to the heavenly calling and thereby were found to be obedient to their responsibility to their Maker. But such great men of the past would never, themselves, have brooked anything bordering on their own glorification by men. They would have pointed to Christ as the author and Perfecter of their faith - and the Savior of their souls.

Such is George Whitefield. He, like all of the heroes of the Bible who went before him in history, was a man with feet of clay; imperfect, flawed, uneven. And God always has it so - that it may be seen that the transcendent power belongs to God, and not to the men in whom He deigns to work.

I think that the sermon presented here is an indicator of this truth. By Whitefield standards it is not long (only about 56 minutes). And while it is unquestionably Biblical in content, and clearly presents both law and gospel, it is in many ways unremarkable. Even allowing for the fact that moderns like me have short attention spans it drags on at times.

Of course, I don't have Whitefield's remarkable voice which resonated so much that, in days without microphones, he could be clearly heard by crowds of as many as 30,000 people - which number regularly were drawn to his outdoor preaching during the Great Awakening. But I think that the, dare one say, "mundane nature" of this offering serves only to underscore that fact that no matter how resonant, clear and studied the speaker - absent the power of the Spirit of the Living God all is just so many words and concepts.

Thousands flocked to hear Whitefield from England to the Colonies over a period of 40 years. Untold numbers were saved through his preaching. The Great Awakening was moved forward by this man's answering of the call of God on his life. But it was all moved forward by God working in and through such men in order to accomplish His eternal purposes. Had the Spirit not been working in the preachers, the words and the hearers then there would have been no Great Awakening. That's worth remembering as we honor Whitefield today. Here then, is his sermon "The Potter and the Clay"...

The Potter and the Clay - George Whitefield

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Calvinism and Arminianism
This is the second lecture in two weeks from Bruce Ware at Biblical The first lecture was posted last week here.

In this lecture the basic differences between the two prevailing systems of Evangelical belief in our present age are traced in history and critically examined. He rightly starts with the Augustine/Pelagius conflict and goes on from there. He is particularly gracious to Arminius and to Classical Arminianism, though not buying into their theological arguments. Yet the speaker is, in fact, a self-declared "4 point Calvinist"**, which troubles me. But that's for another time. (see Below)

**[If you want to hear a reasonable presentation of Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption - which is usually the sticking point with 4 point Calvinists - listen to the sermon below:

Grace Secured: Limited Atonement - Brian Borgman

Friday, February 05, 2010

Heb 8:13 - Christ - Savior of Sinners

Heb 8:13 - Christ - Savior of Sinners

Heb 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

So, the old covenant was both inferior to and superseded by the new. Replaced. Done away with. Rendered obsolete. All of this constant hammering about obsolescence was all the more necessary for the Hebrew believers. The Gentiles certainly came to the faith with their own baggage (usually immorality), but they never had the self-inflicted baggage of thinking themselves able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make themselves acceptable to God by some variation or combination of law-keeping and ceremony.

This is why the Gentiles embraced the gospel so quickly and so readily. To them it was truly good news. They were immoral, impure, carnal creatures who knew what they were when convicted by conscience, but who previously had no hope of reconciliation to God. The Jews, on the other hand, carried all the advantages of bearing the oracles of God, along with all the disadvantages of thinking that merely possessing the law, or having been chosen to be the keepers of the oracles, gave them some sort of free pass. Or, if not, it certainly laid out for them the means by which they could reconcile themselves to God. Wrong!

Due to its inability to reform hearts and its limitation to convicting of sin, the old covenant of law was always a system destined to obsolescence in God’s plan. That time had arrived with the gospel age. Christ had come and so the new covenant had come and rendered the old obsolete. Remember, the old said, "If you do this, I will do that," without actually imparting the power for the hearer to do what was commanded and required. The new covenant said, "Because Christ has done this, I will do that," wherein God swore to and by Himself that he would regenerate a people and give them a heart that loved him.

Because of their tradition and their heritage, some Hebrew believers were tempted to either hold onto, or to go back to the old ways. They were in danger of mixing the gospel of grace with something else. That would make it "another" gospel, though there is really no other. This would, in effect, be apostasy and, if fully embraced, would be irrecoverable. That is why the writer has written to them - to guide them away from the deceptions of false teaching (Judaisers) and from an obsolete system (Judaism).

During this period (arguably after the resurrection, but before the destruction of Herod’s temple in 70AD) the two covenants seemed to overlap because outwardly they existed side by side, at least in the perceptions or memories of that generation. But the external had been exposed for what it was by the coming of Christ, and it was apparent that the kingdom of God was within and among believers, that the props and ceremonies of the past were now understood to be symbols of invisible and heavenly things pertaining to a kingdom that was not of this world, though it was manifested in it - a kingdom of the spirit, in which the Spirit of God was the power and the risen Christ was the King.

The symbols and ceremonies of the law were literally passing away. Temple worship and sacrifice were either already stopped by the destruction of Jerusalem, or were about to be. God was working to put the full stop on the old covenant by judging the unfaithfulness of Israel. No more sacrifices, no more (earthly) temple. But the symbolism was as valid as ever, as we shall see.