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(16 posts)

An Epitome of the Gospel (explained)

As I observed yesterday, the entire gospel is summarized in Genesis 3:21: The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. Most readers will see the blood sacrifice prefiguring the crucifixion. But that is only half of the gospel. At the center of the gospel is the doctrine of imputation. In the bloody sacrifice, we see our sins being imputed to Christ (Isaiah 53). But thats not enough. That does not justify me before God. It isnt enough that Christ bore the penalty for my sin. I must be presented before God righteous. And my righteousness must be a real righteousness. God cannot merely pretend; that would be, as Rome and Finney called it, a legal fiction. Where do we get this righteousness? Adam and Eve thought they could produce their own: and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings (v. 7). Isnt that typical? Our first instinct, when confronted with our sinour nakednessis to try harder, do better. But as Adam and Eve learned, the best covering we can make is inadequate. Nice as it may be, it is still our own, and our own righteousness is no better than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Adam and Eve needed what we need: a covering not of their own making, but of Gods. So God killed an animal and made garments for them of the skin. He replaced their unrighteous garments with righteous garments. Christ did not die merely to take away our sins. A complete exchange was made on the cross: our sin for his righteousness. And its all there in Genesis 3:21.

Monergism, 1921 BC

Sarai was barren; she had no child. —Genesis 11:30 Genesis 11:30 tells us, “Now Sarai was barren.” And then the writer repeats himself (just in case you missed it the first time around): “She had no children.” Not to have children in a society where a woman’s value was measured by her fertility was a bitter blow indeed. Sarai must have shed many bitter tears over her inability to bear children. But, paradoxically, her inability in this area was a crucial part of God’s preparation of her for her role in his plan. In order for her to be the mother of the child of promise, it was necessary for her to be unable to bear children without the direct intervention of God. —Iain Duguid, Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality: The Gospel According to Abraham (P&R, 1999), 10. As we learned from Genesis 3, man has, from the beginning, attempted to stand in God’s place. Adam and Eve did it, Cain did it, and about two millennia later, Abraham and Sarah would try to take charge of fulfilling God’s promise. Today’s text points a finger directly at one of the most important words in soteriology: monergism. The doctrine of monergism states that “the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration—that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot coöperate in regeneration.” When we think of monergism, we seldom think beyond the specific supernatural act of regeneration. But the monergistic nature of God’s redemptive plan extends to every aspect of our salvation, not merely the present reality, but our future hope, and indeed, to every event in history upon which that plan depends. This is a message that God has declared throughout redemptive history. Two millennia before the incarnation of Christ, he revealed it to Abraham and Sarah in the promise of a seed through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed. But Abraham and Sarah missed it, and the majority of Christians still miss it today. God kept his promise in the womb of a barren woman. He keeps it still today in the barren hearts of men.

Lutheranism versus Calvinism

Yesterday I happened upon the following excerpt from Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. As a Lutheran-turned-Calvinist, I found it particularly interesting, and the more I considered it, the more I saw the truth of it. The difference seems to be conveyed best by saying that the Reformed Christian thinks theologically, the Lutheran anthropologically. The Reformed person is not content with an exclusively historical stance but raises his sights to the idea, the eternal decree of God. By contrast, the Lutheran takes his position in the midst of the history of redemption and feels no need to enter more deeply into the counsel of God. For the Reformed, therefore, election is the heart of the church; for Lutherans, justification is the article by which the church stands or falls. Among the former the primary question is: How is the glory of God advanced? Among the latter it is: How does a human get saved? The struggle of the former is above all paganism- idolatry; that of the latter against Judaism- works righteousness. The Reformed person does not rest until he has traced all things retrospectively to the divine decree, tracking down the “wherefore” of things, and has prospectively made all things subservient to the glory of God; the Lutheran is content with the “that” and enjoys the salvation in which he is, by faith, a participant. From this difference in principle, the dogmatic controversies between them (with respect to the image of God, original sin, the person of Christ, the order of salvation, the sacraments, church government, ethics, etc.) can be easily explained. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Baker, 2003), 177. Also yesterday, as it happened, I had done something I normally do not do: study a text without reading Calvin. So, with Bavinck in mind, I looked up both Luther and Calvin on Genesis 11:30. Luther wrote: But Sarai was barren; she had no child (11:29, 30). The Scriptures (here) report that Sarai (Sarah) had no children. This shows that at that time children were regarded as precious gifts of God, for the text represents Sarai’s barrenness as a great affliction. So the almighty God chastened this saintly man (Abraham) with this great tribulation as he lived in this sin-cursed world in which we all (by our sins) are deserving of hell. The wicked (meanwhile) had many children and a large generation, while Abraham’s marriage was without issue. But this was more than a mere trial of Abraham, for it also demonstrated very convincingly God’s adorable mercy, power and faithfulness, for barren Sarai, when she had become old and was beyond the years of bearing children, received a son, from whom there came a great people. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Genesis Volume I, trans. J. Theodore Mueller, (Zondervan, 1958), 203–204. and Calvin: But Sarai was barren. Not only does he say that Abram was without children, but he states the reasons namely, the sterility of his wife; in order to show that it was by nothing short of an extraordinary miracle that she afterwards bare Isaac, as we shall declare more fully in its proper place. Thus was God pleased to humble his servant; and we cannot doubt that Abram would suffer severe pain through this privation. He sees the wicked springing up everywhere, in great numbers, to cover the earth; he alone is deprived of children. And although hitherto he was ignorant of his own future vocation; yet God designed in his person, as in a mirror, to make it evident, whence and in what manner his Church should arise; for at that time it lay hid, as in a dry root under the earth. —John Calvin, Commentary on the Genesis, Volume I (Baker Books, 2009), 337–338. This text, at least, corroborates Bavinck. While Calvin interprets it as a mirror of God’s glory, Luther sees God’s purpose for Abraham.

A Unilateral Covenant

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, Do not fear, Abram,  I am a shield to you;  Your reward shall be very great. 2 Abram said, O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir. 4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir. 5 And He took him outside and said, Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them And He said to him, So shall your descendants be. 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. 7 And He said to him, I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it. 8 He said, O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it? 9 So He said to him, Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. 11 The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away. 12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 God said to Abram, Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete. 17 It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, To your descendants I have given this land,  From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite 20 and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim 21 and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite. Genesis 15 In this chapter, God once again demonstrates the absolutely unilateral nature of salvation. Iain Duguid explains:    At the conclusion of a covenant agreement, it was sometimes the custom for the parties to walk between the pieces of a torn up animal. This served as a kind of acted out curse. What they were saying was, If I break the covenant, may I be torn in pieces like this animal. But in Gods covenant with Abram, only one of the parties passed between the pieces: God himself in the form of a blazing, smoking torch (v. 17). That foreshadowed the pillars of cloud and fire on Mount Sinai. The one who would give the law was here showing that grace comes first, for this was a totally one-sided covenant. Iain Duguid, Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality: The Gospel According to Abraham (P&R, 1999), 39.

WLC Q17: Genesis 2:7; John 1:34

Originally posted at The Calvinist Gadfly. Q. 17: How did God create man? A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness,and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall. Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. John 1:34 It was a simple recipe: a little dirt, the breath of life, and just like that, Yahweh created man. So simple, it was, that one might wonder why we cant do it. After all, we have dirt, and we have life and breath, so why not? The answer is in the phrase breath of life. The truth is that God could have used anything to make man. It didnt have to be dirt. It could have been water, grass clippings, or tree bark. The thing that did the trick was the breath of life. This is not breath as we know it. It is an anthropomorphic expression, a figure of speech that projects human character onto non-human beings or thingsin this case, God. The Lord uses them frequently in Scripture help us gain some small measure of understanding of ideas and events that are humanly incomprehensible. God doesnt breathe. He doesnt have a body, cardiovascular system, lungs. He doesnt inhale oxygen-rich air and exhale carbon dioxide. The breath of life is not to be found in our atmosphere, or any other, because it doesnt exist as a thing to be measured and analyzed. The breath of life is life itself, and it proceeds from God alone. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. This life is more than just the mechanical workings of organic beingsGod is not an organic beingit is light, however we may define that. It is what separates us from the animals; it is understanding, spiritual existence, the image of God in us. It is the necessary essence that fits us to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever. Get your own copy of The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms here.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, In Isaac your descendants shall be called. He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. Hebrews 11:1719 Just a few quick observations from this text: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac . . . Genuine obedience is by faith (Romans 14:23). By faith Abraham . . . was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, In Isaac your descendants shall be called. . . . Abraham trusted God to keep his promise, in spite of incomprehensible evidence to the contrary. By faith Abraham . . . was offering up his only begotten son; . . . He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead . . . Abraham believed that God was able to do the impossible to keep his promise. By faith Abraham . . . offered up Isaac [and] also received him back as a type. This passage is thick with typology. First, Abraham typifies the Father, offering his only son. Isaac typifies Christ, willingly and knowingly laying down his life in obedience to his father. Abrahams faith is an example of saving faith in Christ: Abraham surely believed that Isaac would die, yet believed that God would keep his promise and raise him from the dead. Finally, the ram is a type of Christ, and an illustration of substitutionary atonement. Abraham owed God a supreme sacrifice. That sacrifice was his only son, who was more than just precious as a beloved son, but also the fulfillment of Gods promise of Abrahams future legacy. Isaac was Abrahams everything, his very life. And that is our debt to God, for our sin. We owe him a death, and he will be paid. But he has provided a substitute. Abraham called the place Jehovah-jireh (the Lord will provide, Genesis 22:14). Jesus is our ram caught in the thicket. Calvary is our Jehovah-jireh. Most immediately important to us is that, in Isaac, we see ourselves, desperately in need of a substitute that only God can provide.

Election: Sovereign but Not Arbitrary

Iain Duguid on election: The doctrine of election is a difficult one for many people. They struggle with the justice of the idea that God chooses some for salvation and passes over others. Some people, therefore, have argued that it is a matter of God���s foreknowledge. God knows in advance which people are going to choose him, and therefore he responds by choosing them. The Bible, however, is clear. God���s love for his chosen people existed long before their birth, all the way back to the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5). God does not love us because he foresaw we would love him. Rather, we love God because he loved us from the first (Rom. 9:16). Yet, as we pointed out earlier, even though God���s election is sovereign, it is not arbitrary or unjust. It is not as if Esau desperately wanted to be a chosen son and God harshly turned him away, not allowing him a place among his chosen people. No, Esau has twice turned his back on his spiritual birthright. First, he sold his birthright to his brother for a bowl of lentil soup (Gen. 25:31���34). Now he compromised the fundamental goal of God���s election: the creation of a separate, holy people for God. Under the circumstances, Esau could have no complaints about being passed over. We should also notice, however, that Jacob is not chosen because, in contrast to Esau, he is such a wonderful person. Jacob shows himself to be a scheming, conniving, calculating little rat, especially during the first part of his life. Nonetheless, because God���s choice rests upon him out of his sovereign mercy, God is going to work on Jacob, reshaping him, purifying him into a person he can use. Neither Jacob nor Esau deserves God���s grace in his life, but God���s sovereign mercy rests upon Jacob for his blessing, and so his grace begins the transforming work in his heart. So it is also for us. Our election and our salvation are entirely of grace. God did not choose you because you were better or smarter or more beautiful or holier than everyone else. God did not choose you because he foresaw that you would exercise faith while others wouldn���t. God chose us while we were still filthy sinners, because of his electing grace. Even with his transforming power at work in our hearts, thou, the best of saints make only small beginnings on the path of holy living. We never outgrow our need for grace while we live on earth. But God���s sovereign choice on salvation is not arbitrary. Those passed over by God have no cause for complaint. Their condemnation is thoroughly deserved. Even though we plead with them with tears to abandon their self-destructive course and find salvation in Jesus Christ, they will have none of it. The whole idea is foolishness to them. Those whom God chooses, he then begins to reshape into a people for his pleasure. As Ephesians 1:4 puts it, ���He chose us . . . to be holy and blameless in his sight.��� The result is that those chosen have no cause of arrogance. Their justification is undeserved by them. It is merited only by the righteousness of Christ that is credited to their account, and it is worked on them by the indwelling power o the Holy Spirit. All is of God, so that God may receive all the glory. That truth should give us boldness in our sharing of the gospel. We may freely call all who will come to Jesus and be saved. The invitation to the party is open to all. Whoever you are, whatever you have done, your sins too can be paid for by the death of Jesus on the cross. No one is too guilty or too defiled to come. You too can receive Christ���s righteousness credited to your account. You too can participate in the feast that God has prepared for all who are his people on the final day. It���s a genuine offer, and we pray fervently and intently that many people will respond to it in faith. But we trust the outcome of our evangelism to the care of a good god, who chose a people who would be his before the foundation of the world. That too is a comforting thought, given the imperfection of so much of our gospel witness. It is God who determines the outcome of our speaking for him, not the quality of our speech. It is God���s choice whither our words fall on the ears of an Esau, to whom they are all nonsense, or on the ears of a Jacob, for whom the road to faith may be long and hard but will eventually bring him to glory. It is God���s choice whether our words fall on the ears of an Abraham who is ready now to hear and trust and believe. We therefore invite all to come to Christ of receive the living water from him, confident that all those whom the Lord our God is calling to himself will hear his voice and will come. To him indeed be all the glory. This truth should also give us great joy on the midst of our manifold sins and failures. Do you know yourself to be a sinner in God���s sight? Are there areas of your life where you continue to fail God over and over again? If so, the bad news is that you are normal. But the good news is that if God has laid hold of you by his electing grace, he will sustain you by that grace through every step of your earthly journey. He will use even that son which you find so difficult to combat as a means of driving you back to the cross. And one day, at the end of all things, you too will be purified completely by his grace and will stand before him without fault or blemish. What a wonderful, heartwarming, comforting, doctrine the doctrine of God���s election is! ���Iain Duguid, Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac and Jacob (P&R, 2002), 27���29.

WLC Q31: Galatians 3:16

Originally posted at The Calvinist Gadfly. Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made? A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, And to seeds, as referring to many, but rather to one, And to your seed, that is, Christ. Galatians 3:16 Nineteen centuries (according to Ussher) before Christ, a covenant was made with Christ, and through Christ, with all who were chosen in him. There are two (that I see) directions we could go with this discussion. One is union with Christ, or what it means to be in Christ. The other is the unusual unilateral nature of the covenant. The latter will be the focus of this post. Look with me to Genesis 15: 9 [God] said to[Abram], Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. . . . 17 It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram . . . Did you see what happened there? Under normal circumstances, both parties to a covenant would have bound themselves in the covenant by passing between the bifurcated beasts. In this case, however, only one party made a promise and made the symbolic gesture binding himself to his oath. God, in the form of a smoking oven and a flaming torch, passed between the pieces. Abram stood by and watched. This was a unilateral covenant, a promise made by God alone. God was not working together with Abram. And this is the pattern for all of redemptive history. God makes the promises, and he keeps them, and we are the undeserving recipients of his grace. So it has always been, and so it will always be. Like Abram, we hear Gods promises, and we stand and watch him work. From the beginning, monergism has been at the core of Gods redemptive plan. Get your own copy of The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms here.

Gods Design, Gods Purpose

Then the Lord God said, It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him. Genesis 2:18 It was this lack of a soul-mate that God had in mind in saying the first not good. Adam needed a helper, and particularly a helper corresponding to him, for assistance and companionship. Adam would be in charge, as Scripture makes clear. But that would not mean that Adams wife was of inferior worth, since she would be corresponding to him. She alone, of all creation, would share humanity with Adam, would bear the image of God with him. The stubborn refusal to recognize the possibility of an equality of worth coexisting with inequality of function is simply a perversion of our culture. Never forget, then, Gods design: God created Adamas He created all thingsfor His service. As such, Gods design would never have been to create someone to make it harder or more miserable for Adam to serve Him. Rather, God would create someone to better facilitate Adams service to Him. Since this was the specific reason for which God created the first wifeto be a helper corresponding to himthis means that the woman would really find her greatest happiness in embracing what God created her to be. Unwise women might not think so (Prov. 14:1), but it remains true, nonetheless. Dan Phillips, Gods Wisdom in Proverbs (Kress Biblical Resources, 2011), 191.

Jacob’s Ladder

Genesis 28 tells the story of Jacob’s encounter with God at the place he would call Bethel. This is where we read of Jacob’s ladder, and from whence comes that theologically stupid song you learned in Sunday school. At Bethel, Jacob had a dream in which he saw a ladder upon which angels ascended and descended. Whatever happened to Jacobs ladder? The image virtually disappears in Old Testament history. Centuries pass with no mention of it. Then suddenly, it appears again in the New Testament: Philip found Nathanael and told him, We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Nazareth! Can anything good come from there? Nathanael asked. Come and see, said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false. How do you know me? Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you. Then Nathanael declared, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel. Jesus said, You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that. He then added, I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. John 1:4551 NIV Jesus words to Nathanael were radical. In this conversation He declared that He is the ladder of Jacob; He is the bridge between heaven and earth; He is the one who spans the chasm between the Transcendent One and mere humans. The angels of God ascend and descend on Him. He makes the absent God present among us. R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Tyndale, 1985), 173174.

God Clothed Them

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. Genesis 3:21* Steve Lawson comments on the symbolic picture of the future death of Christ for His chosen ones seen in the passage above: The Lord Himself killed an innocent animal and made coverings for the nakedness and guilt of Adam and Eve. This was the first death in Gods newly created worlda slain sacrifice. This animal was killed at the hands of God Himself, and He provided its skin freely for the first couple as an expression of His saving grace. Their garments of skin represented Gods provision for restoring Adams and Eves relationship with Himself. This bloody sacrifice pictured the coming of Christ into the world to redeem His people. Gods Son would be the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of His people (John 1:29, 36). His sacrifice alone would provide a covering for the exposed nakedness of Adam and Eves guilt. In explaining this substitutionary death, Boice points out that it symbolized the shed blood and perfect righteousness of Christ. Boice writes: In order to make clothes of skin, God had to kill animals. It was the first death Adam and Eve had witnessed, as far as we know. It must have seemed horrible to them and have made an indelible impression. So this is what death is; this is what sin causes, they must have exclaimed. But even more important, the death of the animals must have taught them the principle of substitution, the innocent dying for the guilty, just as the innocent Son of God would one day die for the sins of those God was giving to him. When God clothed our first parents in the animals skins, Adam and Eve must have had at least a first faint glimmer of the doctrine of imputed righteousness. . . . God saved Adam and Eve from their sins by clothing them in the heavenly righteousness of Jesus Christ, which he symbolized by their being clothed with skins of animals. Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 64. * Ive covered this before: An Epitome of the Gospel.
We have been reading to our children each morning from The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung. This mornings reading discussed the first article of the Apostles Creed: I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. On God as creator, DeYoung writes: God created the world ex nihilo, which is Latin for out of nothing. In the beginning there was God and nothing else. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Heb. 11:3). No stars, no sky, no light, no sun, no creatures, no water, no dustnothing. Its almost impossible to comprehend. We can fathom an uninhabited world, even a universe filled with an endless expanse of darkness, but prior to Genesis 1:1 there wasnt even a dark sky. There was nothing but nothingness. The only something was an invisible, spiritual, eternal God. Kevin DeYoung, The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism (Moody Publishers, 2010), 55. This is indeed a most mind-boggling truth. We simply do not possess the mental capacity to imagine nothing, not even empty space. More mind-bending is what that nothingness tells us about God. That God created everything that is from nothing is truly awesome and amazing, but consider this as well: the same triune God who existed in pre-creation nothingness also fills the infinite universe, and yet has never changed.

You shall be a blessing

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country,  And from your relatives  And from your father’s house,  To the land which I will show you;  And I will make you a great nation,  And I will bless you,  And make your name great;  And so you shall be a blessing;  And I will bless those who bless you,  And the one who curses you I will curse.  And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” —Genesis 12:1–3 I realize that explanations of grammatical technicalities might send you into a glassy-eyed trance, and I’m thankful that such discussions are not generally necessary. Thanks to quality English translations, Scripture is clear enough even to uneducated amateurs like me. Still, it is necessary to acknowledge the need for scholarly assistance at times. This is one of those times. Is Genesis 12:1–3 a missional command? At first, a closer look at the grammar of Genesis 12 seems to support a “missional” understanding of the text. There are two imperative verbs: “go” in verse 1 and “be a blessing” at the end of verse 2. So, contrary to the ESV translation, it looks as though Abraham has two commands: go and bless. [Christopher] Wright makes much of the grammar, arguing that “both [verbs] therefore have the nature of a charge or a mission laid on Abraham. . . . ‘Be a blessing’ thus entails a purpose and goal that stretches into the future. It is, in short, missional.” But it’s curious that Wright builds so much on this foundation when earlier he acknowledges that “it is a feature of Hebrew (as indeed it is in English) that when two imperatives occur together the second imperative may sometimes express either the expected result or the intended purpose of carrying out the first imperative.” In other words, the second grammatical imperative may not have the force of an imperative, but rather of a purpose or a result of obeying the first imperative. In fact, our English translations all render the end of verse 2 “you shall be a blessing” or “so that you shall be a blessing” or something similar. There are several other places in the Old Testament where an imperative verb should be translated as a result clause, rather than a command. Take Genesis 42:18 for example, where Joseph says, “Do this and you will live.” Both “do this” and “live” are imperative in form, but “live” is also clearly to be understood as the result of “doing this.” It’s not another command. We think this is how the second imperative in Genesis 12:1–2 should be translated—as a result clause, rather than as a command. This means, to quote Eckhard Schnabel, “Abraham does not receive an assignment to carry YHWH’s blessings to the nations; rather, the nations are promised divine blessing if and when they see Abraham’s faith in YHWH and if and when they establish contact with his descendants.” . . . Most crucially, the New Testament does not understand the call of Abram as a missional charge. Clearly, it is a glorious mission text announcing God’s plans to bless the whole world. But the blessing is not something we bestow on others as we work for human flourishing. Rather the Abrahamic blessing comes to those who trust in Abraham’s Offspring. This is Paul’s understanding in Galatians 3:9 when, after quoting Genesis 12:3 (“In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”), he concludes, “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” If there are missiological implications from Genesis, their emphasis is not “go and bless everyone” but rather “go and call the nations to put their faith in Christ.” —Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? (Crossway, 2011), 31–32, 33–34.

Lord’s Day 9, 2014

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son,indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” —Genesis 22:1 18 Hymn 129. (L. M.) Submission and deliverance; or, Abraham offering up his son. Gen. xxii. 6, &c.. Isaac Watts (1674–1748) Saints, at your heav’nly Father’s word Give up your comforts to the Lord; He shall restore what you resign, Or grant you blessings more divine. So Abra’m with obedient hand Led forth his son at God’s command; The wood, the fire, the knife, he took, His arm prepar’d the dreadful stroke. “Abra’m, forbear!” the angel cried, “Thy faith is known, thy love is tried Thy son shall live, and in thy seed Shall the whole earth be bless’d indeed.” Just in the last distressing hour The Lord displays deliv’ring power; The mount of danger is the place Where we shall see surprising grace. —The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Then Shall the Righteous Shine

And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel. —Genesis 3:15 Many of you that have believed in Christ perhaps may find some particular corruption yet strong, so strong, that you are sometimes ready to cry out with David, ‘I shall fall one day by the hand of Saul’ [1 Samuel 27:1]. But fear not, the promise in the text ensures the perseverance and victory of believers over sin, Satan, death, and hell. What if indwelling corruption does yet remain and the seed of the serpent bruise your heel, in vexing and disturbing your righteous souls? Fear not, though faint, yet pursue. You shall yet bruise the serpent’s head. Christ hath died for you and yet a little while and he will send death to destroy the very being of sin in you. Which brings me to show the most extensive manner in which the promise of the text shall be fulfilled, viz. at the final judgment, when the Lord Jesus shall present the elect to his Father, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, glorified both in body and soul. Then shall the seed of the woman give the last and fatal blow, in bruising the serpent’s head. Satan, the accuser of the brethren and all his accursed seed, shall then be cast out and never suffered to disturb the seed of the woman anymore. Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father and sit with Christ on thrones in majesty on high. Let us, therefore, not be weary of well-doing. For we shall reap an eternal harvest of comfort, if we faint not. Dare, dare, my dear brethren in Christ, to follow the Captain of your salvation, who was made perfect through sufferings. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head. Fear not men. Be not too much cast down at the deceitfulness of your hearts. Fear not devils. You shall get the victory even over them. The Lord Jesus has engaged to make you more than conquerors over all. Plead with your Saviour, plead. Plead the promise in the text. Wrestle, wrestle with God in prayer. If it has been given you to believe, fear not if it should also be given you to suffer. Be not any wise terrified by your adversaries. The king of the church has them all in a chain. Be kind to them, pray for them. But fear them not. The Lord will yet bring back his ark, though at present driven into the wilderness. And Satan like lightning shall fall from heaven. . . . My brethren in Christ, I think I do not speak thus in my own strength but in the strength of my Redeemer. I know in whom I have believed. I am persuaded he will keep that safe, which I have committed unto him. He is faithful who hath promised, that the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head. May we all experience a daily completion of this promise, both in the church and in our hearts, till we come to the church of the first-born, the spirits of just men made perfect, in the presence and actual fruition of the great God our heavenly Father! To whom, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed all honour, power, might, majesty and dominion, now and forevermore. Amen. —George Whitefield, “The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 61–63.

An Habitual Bent

Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. —Genesis 5:24 [W]alking with God consists especially in the fixed habitual bent of the will for God, in an habitual dependence upon his power and promise, in an habitual voluntary dedication of our all to his glory, in an habitual eyeing of his precept in all we do and in an habitual complacence in his pleasure in all we suffer. . . . walking with God implies our making progress or advances in the divine life. Walking, in the very first idea of the word, seems to suppose a progressive motion. A person that walks, though he move slowly, yet he goes forward and does not continue in one place. And so it is with those that walk with God. They go on, as the Psalmist says, ‘from strength to strength’ [Psalm 84:7] or, in the language of the Apostle Paul, ‘they pass from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord’ [2 Corinthians 3:18]. Indeed, in one sense, the divine life admits of neither increase nor decrease. When a soul is born of God, to all intents and purposes he is a child of God. And though he should live to the age of Methuselah, yet he would then be only a child of God after all. But in another sense, the divine life admits of decays and additions. Hence it is, that we find the people of God charged with backslidings and losing their first love. And hence it is that we hear of babes, young men and fathers in Christ [1 John 2:13]. And upon this account it is that the Apostle exhorts Timothy, ‘to let his progress be made known to all men.’ And what is here required of Timothy in particular, by St. Peter is enjoined on all Christians in general. ‘But grow in grace (says he) and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ For the new creature increases in spiritual stature. And though a person can but be a new creature, yet there are some that are more conformed to the divine image than others and will after death be admitted to a greater degree of blessedness. For want of observing this distinction, even some gracious souls, that have better hearts than heads (as well as men of corrupt minds, reprobates concerning the faith) have unawares run into downright Antinomian principles, denying all growth of grace in a believer, or any marks of grace to be laid down in the scriptures of truth. From such principles and more especially from practices naturally consequent on such principles, may the Lord of all lords deliver us! —George Whitefield, “Walking with God” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:69–70.


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