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(64 posts)

This passage from my morning reading was especially encouraging today. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:14–16 What does this passage tell us? Does it tell us, as many of today’s popular preachers would, that we ought not feel unworthy? No, it does not. The first thing it says is that we have a high priest. Who needs a priest? It is precisely and only those who are unworthy to enter the Father’s presence who need a priest to intercede for them. And we have such a priest. A priest who lived as we live, suffered as we suffer, yet without sin, and made the perfect sacrifice for our sin, and now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. Therefore, we can come boldly, casting all our anxiety on Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). And when we come before the throne, we will obtain mercy, which we desperately need, for we are guilty; and grace, without which we are utterly helpless. So come boldly, though your hands are not clean and your heart is not pure. Hold fast to your faith in Christ. Come, confessing your sin and seeking forgiveness. You are truly unworthy, but you have a high priest who intercedes for you. Come, obtain mercy. Receive grace. Come boldly.

Horror and Glory

Sinclair Ferguson on the priesthood of Christ: [O]n the Day of Atonement, Aaron slew a sacrifice, entered the Holy of Holies with the blood, and poured it out on the mercy seat between the cherubim (Lev. 16:15–16). This ritual was an acted parable, a copy of what Christ was to do on the great day when He made atonement. The blood of animals is both inappropriate and inadequate to provide the cleansing necessary to approach God. Animal sacrifice could not atone for human sin. Neither could any finite individual atone for sin against the infinite God. Only the blood of the divine image incarnate could cleanse our sin and enable us to enter safely into the presence of God, who is a consuming fire (Heb. 1:3; 12:29). The work of atonement took place in the presence of the God of heaven. Indeed, it involved a transaction within the fellowship of the persons of the eternal Trinity in their love for us; the Son was willing, with the aid of the Spirit, to experience the hiding of the Father’s face. The shedding of the blood of God’s Son opened the way to God for us (Acts 20:28). That is both the horror and the glory of our Great High Priest’s ministry. —Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), 54–55.

Lord’s Day 33, 2008

I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1) The Glorious Gospel of the Blessed Godby Samuel Stennett (1727–1795) What wisdom, majesty, and grace, Through all the gospel shine! ’Tis God that speaks, and we confess The doctrine most divine. Down from His starry throne on high, The almighty Savior comes; Lays His bright robes of glory by, and feeble flesh assumes. The mighty debt that sinners owed, Upon the cross He pays; Then through the clouds ascends to God, ’Mid shouts of loftiest praise. There He, our great High Priest, appears before His Father’s throne; Mingles His merits with our tears, And pours salvation down. Great God, with reverence we adore Thy justice and Thy grace; And on Thy faithfulness and pow’r Our firm dependence place.—Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004). Psalme 144 (Geneva Bible) A Psalme of David. 1 Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth mine hands to fight, and my fingers to battell. 2 He is my goodnes and my fortresse, my towre and my deliuerer, my shield, and in him I trust, which subdueth my people vnder me. 3 Lord, what is man that thou regardest him! or the sonne of man that thou thinkest vpon him! 4 Man is like to vanitie: his dayes are like a shadow, that vanisheth. 5 Bow thine heauens, O Lord, and come downe: touch the mountaines and they shall smoke. 6 Cast forth the lightning and scatter them: shoote out thine arrowes, and consume them. 7 Send thine hand from aboue: deliuer me, and take me out of the great waters, and from the hand of strangers, 8 Whose mouth talketh vanitie, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood. 9 I wil sing a new song vnto thee, O God, and sing vnto thee vpon a viole, and an instrument of ten strings. 10 It is he that giueth deliuerance vnto Kings, and rescueth Dauid his seruant from the hurtfull sworde. 11 Rescue me, and deliuer me from the hand of strangers, whose mouth talketh vanitie, and their right hand is a right hand of falshood: 12 That our sonnes may be as the plantes growing vp in their youth, and our daughters as the corner stones, grauen after the similitude of a palace: 13 That our corners may be full, and abounding with diuers sorts, and that our sheepe may bring forth thousands and ten thousand in our streetes: 14 That our oxen may be strong to labour: that there be none inuasion, nor going out, nor no crying in our streetes. 15 Blessed are the people, that be so, yea, blessed are the people, whose God is the Lord. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Cosmic Treason

Sin, R. C. Sproul writes, “is cosmic treason.” We rarely take the time to think through the ramifications of human sin. We fail to realize that even the slightest sins we commit, such as little white lies or other peccadilloes we are violating the law of the creator of the universe. In the smallest sin we defy God’s right to rule and reign over His creation. Instead, we seek to usurp for ourselves the authority and power that belong properly to God. Even the slightest sin does violence to His holiness, to His glory, and to his righteousness. Every sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is truly an act of treason against a cosmic King. There are two aspects of the one problem we must understand if we are to grasp the necessity of the atonement of Christ. . . . God is just. In other words, He cannot tolerate unrighteousness. He must do what is right. . . . The other aspect of the problem [is that] we have violated God’s justice and earned His displeasure. We are cosmic traitors. We must recognize this problem within ourselves if we are to grasp the necessity of the cross. —R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Reformation Trust, 2007), 32–33.

Power in the Blood

Thursday··2008·10·02 · 1 Comments
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder working pow’r In the blood of the Lamb; There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder working pow’r In the precious blood of the Lamb. Or is there? The blood of Christ is often given magical, mythical power in the minds of Christians. In the classic 1959 movie Ben-Hur, the blood of Christ drips from the cross. As it begins to rain, the blood merges with the rain water, and as the rain falls on Judah Ben-Hur’s leprous mother and sister, they are healed. Healing power was attributed to the physical blood of Christ. John MacArthur has been branded a heretic by some for denying that the physical blood of Christ possesses any divine character or power. Is there “power in the blood”? If so, what does that mean, biblically? R. C. Sproul answers the question, “What is the significance of the shedding of blood in the atonement?” The idea that there’s some intrinsic or inherent power in the blood of Jesus is a popular concept in the Christian world. It even crops up from time to time in various hymns and praise songs. This idea reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of the blood as it relates to atonement from a biblical perspective. I once heard my dear friend John Guest, who is an Anglican evangelist, preach on the cross and the blood of Christ. He asked this question: “Had Jesus come to earth and scratched his finger on a nail so that a drop or two of blood was spilled, would that have been sufficient to redeem us? That would have constituted the shedding of blood. If we’re saved by the blood of Christ, wouldn’t that have been enough?” Obviously the point John was trying to make is that it’s not the blood of Christ as such that saves us. The significance of the blood in the sacrificial system is that it represents life. The Old Testament repeatedly makes the point that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11). Therefore, when the blood is poured out, the life is poured out. That’s significant, because under the covenant of works in the Garden of Eden, the penalty that was laid down for disobedience was death. God required that penalty for sin. That is why Jesus had to die to accomplish the atonement. When the blood is shed and the life is poured out, the penalty is paid. Nothing short of that penalty will do. —R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Reformation Trust, 2007), 155–156.
What does the statement that Jesus is the Son of God mean? Jews and Muslims maintain that this claim makes Christianity polytheistic. Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, believe that the biblical designation Son of God indicates that Jesus was a unique being, in a special class by himself, but still a created being not possessing divinity in the same sense as the Father. This is not a new idea, but goes back to the Arian heresy of the first century AD. Even before that, the phrase Son of God was not commonly understood in the biblical sense. John’s Gospel was written to present Jesus as the Son of God to peoples who would have been confused by the title, Jews who used it as a title for the coming human Messiah, and Greeks whose mythology included many sons of gods. John’s Gospel was concerned with destroying those misconceptions and introducing the Son of God as no less than God Incarnate. Packer writes, [John] does not bring the term Son into his opening sentences at all, instead, he speaks first of the Word. There was no danger of this being misunderstood; Old Testament readers would pick up the reference at once. God’s Word in the Old Testament is his creative utterance, his power in action fulfilling his purpose. The Old Testament depicted God’s utterance, the actual statement of his purpose, as having power in itself to the effect the thing proposed. Genesis 1 tells us how at creation “God said, Let here be . . . and there was . . .” (1:3). “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made. . . . He spoke, and it came to be” (Ps 33:6, 9). The Word of God is thus God at work. John takes up this figure and proceeds to tell us seven things about the divine Word. (1) “In the beginning was the Word” (1:1). Here is the Word’s eternity. He had no beginning of his own; when other things began, he—was. (2) “And the Word was with God” (1:1). Here is the Word’s personality. The power that fulfills God’s purposes is the power of a distinct personal being, one who stands in an eternal relation to God of active fellowship . . . (3) “And the Word was God” (1:1). Here is the Word’s deity. Though personally distinct from the Father, he is not a creature; he is divine in himself, as the Father is. The mystery with which this verse confronts us is thus the mystery of personal distinctions within the unity of the Godhead. (4) “Through him all things were made” (1:3). Here is the Word creating. He was the Father’s agent in every act of making that the Father has ever performed. All that was made was made through him. . . . (5) “In him was life” (1:4). Here is the Word animating. There is no physical life in the realm of created things except in and through him. Here is the Bible answer to the problem of the origin and suntenance of life, in all its forms: life is given and maintained by the Word. Created things do not have life in themselves, but life in the Word, the second person of the Godhead. (6) “and that life was the light of men” (1:4). Here is the Word revealing. In giving life, he gives light too; that is to say, all people receive intimations of God from the very fact of being alive in God’s world, and this, no less than the fact that they are alive, is due to the work of the Word. (7) “The Word became flesh” (1:14). Here is the Word incarnate. The baby in the manger at Bethlehem was none other than the eternal Word of God. And now, having shown us who and what the Word is—a divine Person, author of all things—John indicates an identification. The Word, he tells us, was revealed by the Incarnation to be God’s Son. “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father” (1:14). The identification is confirmed in verse 18: “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father” (KJV). Thus John establishes the point at which he was aiming throughout. He has now made it clear what is meant by calling Jesus the Son of God. The Son of God is the Word of God. We see what the Word is; well, that is what the Son is. Such in the prologue’s message. When, therefore, the Bible proclaims Jesus as the Son of God, the statement is meant as an assertion of his distinct personal deity. The Christmas message rests on the staggering fact the child in the manger was—God. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 56–57.
Jesus is fully God; but he was also fully man. This is a mystery that has been explained, and explained away, in several ways. Many have committed heresy on this count. I doubt that any have, or ever will, explained it adequately. J. I. Packer writes, The Word became flesh: a real human baby. He had not ceased to be God; he was no less God then than before; but he had begun to be man. He was not now God minus some elements of his deity, but God plus all that he had made his own by taking manhood to himself. He who made man was now learning what life felt like to be a man. He who made the angel who became the devil was no in a state in which he could be tempted—could not, indeed, avoid being tempted—by the devil; and the perfection of his human life was achieved only by conflict with the devil. The epistle to the Hebrews, looking up to him in his ascended glory, draws great comfort for this fact. “He had to be made like his brothers in every way. . . . Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. . . . For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been temped in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 2:17–18; 4:15–16). The mystery of the Incarnation is unfathomable. We cannot explain it; we can only formulate it. Perhaps it has never been formulated better than in the words of the Athanasion Creed. “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man . . . perfect God, and perfect man . . . who although he be God and man: yet he so not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking the manhood into God.” our minds cannot get beyond this. What we see in the manger is, in Charles Wesley’s words, Our God, contracted to a span; Incomprehensibly made man. Incomprehensibly. We shall be wise to remember this, to shun speculation and contentedly to adore. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 57–58.

Thou Most Worthy Judge Eternal

Judge—it’s a serious title, and one that does not evoke pleasant thoughts. It’s certainly not the first word we think of when we hear the name “Jesus.” But we do not understand Jesus rightly if we neglect knowing him as our judge. It is not always realized that the main New Testament authority on final judgment, just as on heaven and hell, is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Rightly does the Anglican burial service address Jesus in a single breath as “holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal.” For Jesus constantly affirmed that in the day when all appear before God’s throne to receive the abiding and eternal consequences of the life they have lived, he himself will be the Father’s agent in judgment, and his word of acceptance or rejection will be decisive. Passages to note in this connection are, among others, Matthew 7:13–27; 10:26–33; 12:36–37; 13:24–50; 22:1–14; 24:36–25:46; Luke 13:23–30; 16:19–31; John 5:22–30. The clearest prefiguration of Jesus as Judge is in Matthew 25:31–34, 41: “The Son of Man . . . will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations [everybody] will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another. . . . Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance. . . .” Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire.’” The clearest account of Jesus’ prerogative as Judge is in John 5:22–23, 26–29: “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. . . . The Father . . . has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man [to whom dominion, including judicial functions, was promised: Dan 7:13–14]. A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (RSV). God’s own appointment has made Jesus Christ inescapable. He stands at the end of life’s road for everyone without exception. “Prepare to meet your God” was Amos’s message to Israel (Amos 4:12); “prepare to meet the risen Jesus” is God’s message to the world today (see Acts 17:31). And we can be sure that he who is true God and perfect man will make a perfectly just judge. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 144–145. These last few posts have presented Jesus as quite fearsome, and fearsome he is. But there is more to the story of “Jesus as Judge.” Next time . . .

Judge and Savior

The last three posts in this series have presented Jesus as our judge. He is holy and righteous, and has received all power and authority from the Father to judge all men. The day is coming when he will do just that. This ought to be a cause for terror in the hearts of all who have not bowed to his lordship. But for those who are his, there is another side to Christ. Paul refers to the fact that we must all appear before Christ’s judgment seat as “the terror of the Lord” (2 Cor 5:11 KJV), and well he might. Jesus the Lord, like his Father is holy and pure; we are neither. We live under his eye, he knows our secrets, and on judgment day the whole of our past life will be played back, as it were, before him and brought under review. If we know ourselves at all, we know we are not fit to face him. What then are we to do? The New Testament answer is: Call on the coming Judge to be your present Savior. As Judge, he is the law, but as Savior he is the gospel. Run from him now, and you will meet him as Judge then—and without hope. Seek him now, and you will find him (for “he that seeketh findeth”), and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). So— Whilst I draw this fleeting breath; When my eyelids close in death; When I soar through tracts unknown, See thee on thy judment-throne; Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 146–147.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:28–39 When Jesus Died on the cross, he did not merely make our salvation possible; he actually secured that salvation—and all that it entails—for each of his elect. J. I. Packer expounds this truth from Romans 8: The thought expressed by Paul’s [question in v. 32] is that no good thing will finally be withheld from us. He conveys this thought by pointing to the adequacy of God as our sovereign benefactor and to the decisiveness of his redeeming work for us. Three comments will bring out the force of Paul’s argument. Note, first, what Paul implies about the costliness of our redemption. “He did not spare his own Son.” In saving us, God went to the limit. . . . We cannot know what Calvary cost the Father, any more than we can know Jesus felt as he tasted the penalty due to our sins. . . . Yet we can say this: that if the measure of love is what it gives, then there never was such love as God showed to sinners at Calvary, nor will any subsequent love-gift to us cost God so much. So if God has already commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (5:8), it is believable, to say the least, that he will go on to give us “all things” besides. . . . But this is not all. Note, second, what Paul implies about the effectiveness of our redemption. “God,” he says, “gave him up for us all”—and this fact is itself the guarantee that “all things” will be given us, because they all come to us as the direct fruit of Christ’s death. We have just said that the greatness of God’s giving on the cross makes his further giving (if the words may be allowed) natural and likely, but what we must note now is that the unity of God’s saving purpose makes such further giving necessary, and therefore certain. At this point the New Testament view of the cross involves more than is sometimes realized. That the apostolic writers present the death of Christ as the ground and warrant of God’s offer of forgiveness, and that we enter into forgiveness through repentance and faith in Christ, will not be disputed. But does this mean that, as a loaded gun is only potentially explosive, and an act of pulling the trigger is needed to make it go off, so Christ’s death achieved only a possibility of salvation, needing an exercise of faith on our part to trigger it off and make it actual? If so, then it is not strictly Christ’s death that saves us at all, any more than it is loading the gun that makes it fire: strictly speaking, we save ourselves by our faith, and for all we know, Christ’s death might not have saved anyone, since it might have been the case that nobody believed the gospel. But that is not how the New Testament sees it. The New Testament view is that the death of Christ has actually saved “us all”—all, that is to say, whom God foreknew, and has called and justified, and will in due course glorify. For our faith, which from the human point of view is the means of salvation, is from God’s point of view part of salvation, and is as directly and completely God’s gift to us as is the pardon and peace of which faith lays hold. Psychologically, faith is our own act, but the theological truth about it is that it is God’s work in us: our faith, and our new relationship with God as believers, and all the divine gifts that are enjoyed within this relationship, were all alike secured for us by Jesus’ death on the cross. For the cross was not an isolated event; it was, rather, the focal point in God’s eternal plan to save his elect, and it ensured and guaranteed first the calling (the bringing to faith, through the gospel in the mind and the Holy Spirit in the heart), and then the justification, and finally the glorification, of all for whom, specifically and personally, Christ died. Now we see why the Greek of this verse says literally (and so the KJV renders it), how shall he not with him also give us all things? It is simply impossible for him not to do this, for Christ and “all things” go together as ingredients in the single gift of eternal life and glory, and the giving of Christ for us, to remove the “sin barrier” by substitutionary atonement, has effectively opened the door to our being given all the rest. . . . Note, third, what Paul implies about the consequences of redemption. God, he says, will with Christ give us “all things.” What does that cover? Calling, justification, glorification (which in v. 30 includes everything from the new birth to the resurrection of the body) have already been mentioned, and so throughout Romans 8 has the many sided ministry of the Holy Spirit. Here is wealth indeed, and from other Scriptures we could add to it. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 264–266

Meek and Bold

Spurgeon on the unhesitatingly confrontational character of Christ: Brethren, the Savior’s character has all goodness and all perfection; he is full of grace and truth. Some men, nowaday, talk of him as if he were simply incarnate benevolence. It is not so. No lips ever spoke with such thundering indignation against sin as the lips of the Messiah. “He is like a refiner’s fire, and like a fuller’s soap. His fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor.” while in tenderness he prays for his tempted disciple, that his faith may not fail, yet with awful sternness he winnows the heap, and drives away the chaff into unquenchable fire. We speak of Christ as being meek and lowly in spirit, and so he was. A bruised reed he did not break, and the smoking flax he did not quench; but his meekness was balanced by his courage, and by the boldness with which he denounced hypocrisy. “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, ye fools and blind, ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” These are not words of the milksop some authors represent Christ to have been. He is a man—a thorough man throughout—a God-like man—gentle as a woman, but yet stern as a warrior in the midst of the day of battle. The character is balanced; as much of one virtue as another. As in Deity every attribute is full orbed; justice never eclipses mercy, nor mercy justice, nor justice faithfulness; so in the character of Christ you have all the excellent things. —Charles Spurgeon, “Sweet Saviour,” cited in John MacArthur, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore (Thomas Nelson, 2009), 99.

Hymns of My Youth: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

For the first time in this series, I think I’m presenting a hymn that should be familiar with many of you, and unlike any of the previous installments, I actually have this one in my mp3 library. My copy is from the Together for the Gospel Live album of 2008. With the difficulty I’ve had finding audio for some of these hymns, I’ve been thinking I might have to record them myself. Well, I guess it’s come to that now. I can’t quite make out my voice from the crowd, but I’m in there somewhere (I wonder what’s happened to my royalty checks?). The Concordia tune is Coronation, the same as the Together for the Gospel recording, and probably the most familiar and suitable for congregational singing. I am familiar with two other tunes, Diadem and Miles lane; both are very nice, but I’ve always liked Diadem, which requires a slight lyrical rearrangement as well. 7 All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all! Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all! Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race, Ye ransomed from the fall, Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, And crown Him Lord of all! Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, And crown Him Lord of all! Hail Him, ye heirs of David’s line, Whom David Lord did call; The God incarnate, Man divine, And crown Him Lord of all! The God incarnate, Man divine, And crown Him Lord of all! Let ev’ry kinded, ev’ry tribe, On this terrestrial ball, To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all! To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all! O that with yonder sacred throng We at His feet may fall; We’ll join in the everlasting song, And crown Him Lord of all! We’ll join in the everlasting song, And crown Him Lord of all! —The Concordia Hymnal (Augsburg Publishing House, 1960). Coronation Diadem

Christology in John 12:27–28

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” —John 12:27–28 Just a few of the doctrines found in this passage: The humanity of Jesus: “My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’?” Nor was it unsuitable that the Son of God should be troubled in this manner; for the Divine nature, being concealed, and not exerting its force, may be said to have reposed, in order to give an opportunity of making expiation. But Christ himself was clothed, not only with our flesh, but with human feelings. In him, no doubt, those feelings were voluntary; for he feared, not through constraint, but because he had, of his own accord, subjected himself to fear. And yet we ought to believe, that it was not in pretense, but in reality, that he feared; though he differed from other men in this respect, that he had all his feelings regulated in obedience to the righteousness of God, as we have said elsewhere. There is also another advantage which it yields to us. If the dread of death had occasioned no uneasiness to the Son of God, which of us would have thought that his example was applicable to our case? For it has not been given to us to die without, feeling of regret; but when we learn that He had not within him a hardness like stone or iron, we summon courage to follow him, and the weakness of the flesh, which makes us tremble at death, does not hinder us from becoming the companions of our General in struggling with it. —John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XVIII, Commentary on the Gospel according to John, Volume II (Baker Books, 2009), 32. Jesus’ submission to the Father’s will: “But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” But it may be thought, that it is unbecoming in the Son of God rashly to utter a wish which he must immediately retract, in order to obey his Father. I readily admit, that this is the folly of the cross, which gives offense to proud men; but the more the Lord of glory humbled himself, so much the more illustrious is the manifestation of his vast love to us. Besides, we ought to recollect what I have already stated, that the human feelings, from which Christ was not exempt, were in him pure and free from sin. The reason is, that they were guided and regulated in obedience to God; for there is nothing to prevent Christ from having a natural dread of death, and yet desiring to obey God. This holds true in various respects: and hence he corrects himself by saying, For this cause came I into this hour. For though he may lawfully entertain a dread of death, yet, considering why he was sent, and what his office as Redeemer demands from him, he presents to his Father the dread which arose out of his natural disposition, in order that it may be subdued, or rather, having subdued it, he prepares freely and willingly to execute the command of God. Now, if the feelings of Christ, which were free from all sin, needed to be restrained in this manner, how earnestly ought we to apply to this object, since the numerous affections which spring from our flesh are so many enemies to God in us! Let the godly, therefore, persevere in doing violence to themselves, until they have denied themselves. —Ibid., 33–34. The Trinity: “‘Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came out of heaven: ‘I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.’” It surprises me that neither Calvin nor any of my other commentaries directly address the Trinitarian doctrine in this text. J. C. Ryle touches on it implicitly, as does John MacArthur: For the third time in Christ’s earthly ministry, the Father’s voice came audibly out of heaven. On the other occasions, at Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:17) and the transfiguration (Matt. 17:5), the Father’s voice affirmed that He was pleased with His Son. Now, as the cross approached, Christ’s impending death in no way signified His disapproval. On the contrary, just as He had already glorified His name through Jesus’ life and ministry, He would glorify it again through His death. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection would mark not only the successful completion of the mission the Father had given Him to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) and to “give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), but also His return to His full glory in the Father’s presence. —John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: John 12–21 (Moody, 2008), 40.

Lord’s Day 44, 2010

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” The Beloved Son.Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” —Matt. iii. 17. It is the Father's voice that cries ’Mid the deep silence of the skies, “This, this is my beloved Son, In Him I joy, in Him alone.” In Him my equal see revealed, In Him all righteousness fulfilled; In Him, the Lamb, the victim see, Bound, bleeding, dying on the tree. And can you fail to love again? Far fairer he than sons of men! His very name is fragrance poured, Inmianuel, Jesus, Saviour, Lord! He died, and in his dying, proved How much, how faithfully he loved; At my right hand, his glories shine: Is my beloved, sinner, thine? O full of glory, full of grace, Redeemer of a ruined race, Beloved of the Father, come, Make in these sinful hearts a home! Beloved of the Father, Thou, To whom the saints and angels bow; Lnmanuel, Jesus, Saviour, come, Make in these sinful hearts thy home! —Horatius Bonar, Hymns of Faith and Hope, First Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878). John 14:27–31 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. 28 You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. 30 I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; 31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.” We ought not to leave the closing portion of this wonderful chapter without noticing one striking feature in it. That feature is the singular frequency with which our Lord uses the expression, “My Father,” and “the Father.” In the last five verses we find it four times. In the whole chapter it occurs no less than twenty-two times. In this respect the chapter stands alone in the Bible. The reason of this frequent use of the expression, is a deep subject. Perhaps the less we speculate and dogmatize about it the better. Our Lord was one who never spoke a word without a meaning, and we need not doubt there was a meaning here. Yet may we not reverently suppose that He desired to leave on the minds of His disciples a strong impression of his entire unity with the Father? Seldom does our Lord lay claim to such high dignity, and such power of giving and supplying comfort to His Church, as in this discourse. Was there not, then, a fitness in His continually reminding His disciples that in all His giving He was one with the Father, and did nothing without the Father? This, at any rate, seems a fair conjecture. Let it be taken for what it is worth. We should observe, for one thing, in this passage, Christ’s last legacy to His people. We find Him saying, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Peace is Christ’s distinctive gift: not money, not worldly ease, not temporal prosperity. These are at best very questionable possessions. They often do more harm than good to the soul. They act as clogs and weights to our spiritual life. Inward peace of conscience, arising from a sense of pardoned sin and reconciliation with God, is a far greater blessing. This peace is the property of all believers, whether high or low, rich or poor. The peace which Christ gives He calls “my peace.” It is specially His own to give, because He bought it by His own blood, purchased it by His own substitution, and is appointed by the Father to dispense it to a perishing world. Just as Joseph was sealed and commissioned to give corn to the starving Egyptians, so is Christ specially commissioned, in the counsels of the Eternal Trinity, to give peace to mankind. The peace that Christ gives is not given as the world gives. What He gives the world cannot give at all, and what He gives is given neither unwillingly, nor sparingly, nor for a little time. Christ is far more willing to give than the world is to receive. What He gives He gives to all eternity, and never takes away. He is ready to give abundantly above all that we can ask or think. “Open thy mouth wide,” He says, “and I will fill it.” (Psalm lxxxi. 10.) Who can wonder that a legacy like this should be backed by the renewed emphatic charge, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid?” There is nothing lacking on Christ’s part for our comfort, if we will only come to Him, believe, and receive. The chief of sinners has no cause to be afraid. If we will only look to the one true Saviour, there is medicine for every trouble of heart. Half our doubts and fears arise from dim perceptions of the real nature of Christ’s Gospel. We should observe, for another thing, in this passage, Christ’s perfect holiness. We find Him saying, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” The meaning of these remarkable words admits of only one interpretation. Our Lord would have his disciples know that Satan, “the prince of this world,” was about to make his last and most violent attack on Him. He was mustering all his strength for one more tremendous onset. He was coming up with his utmost malice to try the second Adam in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross of Calvary. But our blessed Master declares, “He hath nothing in Me.”—“There is nothing he can lay hold on. There is no weak and defective point in Me. I have kept my Father’s commandment, and finished the work He gave me to do. Satan, therefore, cannot overthrow Me. He can lay nothing to my charge. He cannot condemn Me. I shall come forth from the trial more than conqueror.” Let us mark the difference between Christ and all others who have been born of woman. He is the only one in whom Satan has found “nothing.” He came to Adam and Eve, and found weakness. He came to Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and all the saints, and found imperfection. He came to Christ, and found “nothing” at all. He was a Lamb “without blemish and without spot,” a suitable Sacrifice for a world of sinners, a suitable Head for a redeemed race. Let us thank God that we have such a perfect, sinless Saviour; that His righteousness is a perfect righteousness, and His life a blameless life. In ourselves and our doings we shall find everything imperfect; and if we had no other hope than our own goodness, we might well despair. But in Christ we have a perfect, sinless, Representative and Substitute. Well may we say, with the triumphant Apostle, “Who shall lay anything to our charge?” (Rom. vii. 33.) Christ hath died for us, and suffered in our stead. In Him Satan can find nothing. We are hidden in Him. The Father sees us in Him, unworthy as we are, and for His sake is well pleased. —J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker Books, 2007) [Westminster (PB) | Amazon (HC)]. 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");

What Day Was the Crucifixion?

Friday··2011·04·22 · 2 Comments
Originally posted April 13, 2006. On which day was Jesus crucified? It seems like an odd question, doesn’t it? The gospels give a clear record of a Friday crucifixion, so why even ask? Well, that is what I said, too, but there are some who claim that Jesus must have been crucified on Wednesday or Thursday, and they are not entirely without justification. A Friday night burial and Sunday morning resurrection allows only one full day and two nights in the tomb, when Jesus clearly said that he would be in the grave for “three days and three nights.” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, under divine inspiration, clearly chronicled a Friday evening burial and Sunday morning resurrection. So, who is wrong? Consider the Gospel accounts: Day 1, Friday: Death and burial 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. . . . 42 When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. —Mark 15 46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. . . . 50 And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man . . . 52 this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. 54 It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. —Luke 23 30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. 31 Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. . . . 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. . . . 38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. . . . 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. —John 19 Day 2, Saturday: Guards posted 62 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ 64 Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. —Matthew 27 Day 3, Sunday: Resurrection 1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. . . . 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” —Matthew 28 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. . . . 5 Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.” —Mark 16 1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. —Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. . . . 13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. —John 20 These are obviously three consecutive days. Jesus was crucified and buried on the first day (the day of preparation for the Sabbath), guards were placed at the tomb on the second (the Sabbath), and Jesus rose from the tomb on the third (the day following the Sabbath, the first day of the week). Friday, Saturday, Sunday. If it is so obvious, why even bring it up? Because eventually, you may be faced with this question, and it is good to be able to answer with more than, “I don’t know, I never thought of that, that’s a good question,” like I did when I was first asked. This is not just a crackpot theory that you will hear from the eccentric oddball who talks too much in your adult Sunday school class. I heard it first from Charles Swindoll. It is also a choice argument for those who like to point out that “the Bible is full of contradictions.” Those who question the Gospel accounts will do so based on Matthew, who refers to Jonah. for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. —Matthew 24:12 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. —Jonah 1:17 The gospels all agree that Jesus was crucified and buried on Friday, and rose early Sunday morning. It is easily understood that “three days in the belly of the fish/heart of the earth” does not have to mean a full seventy-two hours. He was buried on Friday, and rose on Sunday; three days. But it is only two nights. What about that third night? According to C.F. Keil, The three days and three nights are not to be regarded as fully three times twenty hours, but are to be interpreted according to Hebrew usage, as signifying that Jonah was vomited up again on the third day after he had been swallowed. —C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (Hendrickson, 1996), 10:269. John MacArthur writes, The matter of three days and three nights is often used either to prove Jesus was mistaken about the time he would actually spend in the tomb or that he could not have been crucified on Friday afternoon and raised early on Sunday, the first day of the week. But as in modern usage, the phrase “day and night” can mean not only a full 24-hour day but any representative part of a day. . . . the Jewish Talmud held that “any part of a day is as the whole.” Jesus was simply using a common, well-understood generalization. —John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 8–15 (Moody, 1987), 329. Those who insist on interpreting Matthew 12:40 according to modern idiom must explain away the details contained in the gospel accounts. They also create for themselves a no-win situation. Jesus was buried in the evening, and rose in the morning. Therefore, if he was in the grave for three nights, then he was in the grave for only two days, if you only count full days, and he was in the grave for five days if you count partial days. It cannot be exactly three full days and three full nights. No matter how you figure it, it does not add up. This is a good example of why correct biblical interpretation requires that we understand what the text meant to its original audience. Whatever it meant to them is what it means to us. Related: Dr. Walter Kaiser agrees, as does Pastor Phillip Way.

Hymns of My Youth II: Fairest Lord Jesus

You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever. —Psalm 45:2 Fairest Lord Jesus Fairest Lord Jesus! Ruler of all nature! O Thou of God and man the Son! Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou my soul’s glory, joy and crown! Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, Robed in the blooming garb of spring; Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, Who makes the woeful heart to sing. Fair is the sunshine, Fairer still the moonlight, And all the twinkling starry host; Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer Than all the angels heaven can boast. Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations! Son of God and Son of Man! Glory and honor, praise, adoration Now and forever more be Thine. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Hymns of My Youth II: How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:11–12 How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds How sweet the name of Jesus sounds In a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear. Dear name! the rock on which I build, My Shield and Hiding place; My never-failing treasury filled With boundless stores of grace. Jesus, my Shepherd, Husband, Friend, My Prophet, Priest, and King, My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End, Accept the praise I bring. Weak is the effort of my heart, And cold my warmest thought; But when I see Thee as thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought. Till then I would Thy love proclaim With ev’ry fleeting breath; And may the music of Thy name Refresh my soul in death. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Worship Christ, the … King

Monday··2011·12·19 · 2 Comments
Angels from the Realms of Glory Angels from the realms of glory, Wing your flight o’er all the earth; Ye who sang creation’s story Now proclaim Messiah’s birth. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Shepherds, in the field abiding, Watching o’er your flocks by night, God with us is now residing; Yonder shines the infant light: Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Sages, leave your contemplations, Brighter visions beam afar; Seek the great Desire of nations; Ye have seen His natal star. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Saints, before the altar bending, Watching long in hope and fear; Suddenly the Lord, descending, In His temple shall appear. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Sinners, wrung with true repentance, Doomed for guilt to endless pains, Justice now revokes the sentence, Mercy calls you; break your chains. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Though an Infant now we view Him, He shall fill His Father’s throne, Gather all the nations to Him; Every knee shall then bow down: Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. All creation, join in praising God, the Father, Spirit, Son, Evermore your voices raising To th’eternal Three in One. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Don’t get me wrong, I like this hymn. I like the theology it preaches, and I’ll admit liking it on the sentimental grounds that I’ve grown up with it and have always liked it. Still, I don’t care for the last line of the refrain: “Worship Christ, the newborn King.” We are not called to worship a baby Jesus (as many Roman Catholics sometimes do), nor were the shepherds. The angels announced “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” That Savior just happened to be an infant at the time, but his age was not really relevant to the shepherds. They didn’t go to Bethlehem to worship a newborn king, they went to worship the King who was, at the moment, newly born. John MacArthur writes, Christmas is not about the Savior’s infancy; it is about his deity. The humble birth of Jesus Christ was never intended to be a façade to conceal the fact that God was being born into the world. —John MacArthur, God’s Gift of Christmas, (Thomas Nelson, 2006), 9. To slightly paraphrase the sixth stanza of the hymn, and the refrain, Though an Infant then they viewed Him, He shall fill His royal throne, Gather all the nations to Him; Every knee shall then bow down. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the sovereign King.

The Firstborn of All Creation

Tuesday··2011·12·20 · 1 Comments
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. —Colossians 1:15–20 Paul says Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Those who reject the deity of Christ have made much of that phrase, assuming it means Jesus was a created being. But the word translated “firstborn” is protokos, which describes Jesus’ rank, not His origin. The firstborn, the protokos, in a Hebrew family was the heir, the ranking one, the one who had all the rights of inheritance. And in a royal family, the protokos had the right to rule. Christ is the One who inherits all creation and has the right to rule over it. In Psalm 89:27, God says of David, “I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” There the meaning of “firstborn” is given in plain language: “the highest of the kings of the earth.” That’s what protokos means with regard to Christ—He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16). God has appointed His Son “heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). He is the primary One, the Son who has the right to the inheritance, the ranking Person, the Lord of all, heir of the whole of creation. —John MacArthur, God’s Gift of Christmas, (Thomas Nelson, 2006), 14–15.

Lord’s Day 52, 2011—Christmas Day

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Hymn 12. (c. m.) Christ is the substance of the Levitical priesthood. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) The true Messiah now appears, The types are all withdrawn; So fly the shadows and the stars Before the rising dawn. No smoking sweets, nor bleeding lambs, Nor kid nor bullock slain; Incense and spice of costly names Would all be burnt in vain. Aaron must lay his robes away, His mitre and his vest, When God himself comes down to be The off’ring and the priest. He took our mortal flesh, to show The wonders of his love; For us he paid his life below, And prays for us above. “Father,” he cries, “forgive their sins, For I myself have died;” And then he shows his open’d veins, And pleads his wounded side. —from The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book II: Composed on Divine Subjects (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). 11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. style="margin: 0 0 1em 0; text-align: right;">—Hebrews 10 The Imperfect And The Perfect Priesthood. It is to the contrast between Christ and the ancient priesthood that I ask your attention; between the priesthood of the earthly and of the heavenly temple. It is this contrast that brings out the true nature and character both of Christ and of His work. I. The many priests and the one.—‘Every priest,’—‘this man,’ or ‘this priest.’ The Old Testament priests were many. Not one of them fully accomplished the priestly work. A continual succession was needed; and even by these many the work was not done. It remained at the last just where it was at the first. For these many were, after all, not doers of the work, but symbols or prophetical representatives of the great Doer of it all who was to come. They said, ‘The work shall yet be done; it shall be done completely; God shall be approached; the conscience shall be purged; but not by us; the Doer shall come; He will accomplish what we can only foreshadow.’ These many passed away, and in their stead there came the one—one to do the work which hundreds and thousands of priests and Levites could not do. Yes, one Doer; one work; one sacrifice; one blood shedding; one atonement. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. What a contrast! The whole tribe of Levi for ages; the tens of thousands of sacrifices; the rivers of bloodshed, and all incomplete! And, on the other, the one single Man, taking up the incomplete work of these thousands, and doing it all at once! This Man! This Priest! But what a Man! What a Priest! The High Priest of the good things to come! The others might do their symbolic work well; but the real priestly final work was beyond their power. That consummation was reserved for the greater than Aaron or Moses, the Son of God Himself. O finished work, how sufficient! O perfect High Priest, how glorious and complete! II. The many sacrifices and the one sacrifice.—In two senses were the sacrifices many. They were many (1) as to number, almost innumerable; (2) as to kind, burnt offering, trespass offering, sin offering, meat offering, drink offering, peace offering. Christ’s sacrifice was one, in both of these aspects. Only one sacrifice, once offered; and all the various kinds of sacrifice gathered, in Him, into the one sacrifice, which by its fullness satisfies the utmost need of the worshipper in every case. One full, complete, perfect sacrifice! ‘It is finished;’ ‘by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.’ His one sacrifice did the whole work. ‘By Himself He purged our sins;’ by His blood He purged our consciences. Let that one sacrifice do its work for us. We need no more. III. The many ministries and the one ministry.—Besides the offering of sacrifice, there were many duties connected with priestly ministry, some smaller, some more important. Each day and hour had their ministries or services. In a hundred different ways they ministered. Priest and Levite ministered in the various parts of the manifold temple worship. But now Christ has taken up all their various ministries into Himself. All the little or great things which we need as the sinful or the helpless, are ministered by the one priestly servant. Through His hands alone come to us the numerous blessings which we need every hour. Let us deal with Him about these. He is exalted a Prince and Saviour to bestow these. We have not to deal with many priests, nor are we perplexed with many ministers. All the channels and instruments through which blessings come to a sinner are now found in Jesus only. His one ministry has superseded all the rest. It is with His one priesthood that we have to do. IV. The daily and the everlasting work.—It is the daily many, and the everlasting one that are contrasted. Oh, what a routine of endless sacrifice and service for ages,—daily, daily,—yes, almost every hour! Always doing, never done! Each hour a repetition of past hours, without prospect of end! But the daily ceased, and the ‘for ever’ came at length. Everlasting salvation; eternal redemption! Once and for ever! Once for all! No second sacrifice; no daily repetition. How unsatisfactory that daily work; how satisfying, how pacifying, how perfecting that one everlasting atonement! Yes, it is for evermore! He has offered it once for all! What a gospel is brought out to us in the contrast between the daily and the forever! A pardon that lasts for ever! A peace that lasts for ever! A salvation that lasts forever! A reconciliation that lasts forever! V. The effectual work and the ineffectual.—What was daily offered up could never take away sin; it could not purge the conscience, nor give us confidence in drawing near to God. But the one true work was ‘for sin;’ i.e. it was meant to take away sin. The other sacrifices could not. This could and did. It was truly and fully sin bearing. Nothing else can avail but this. Guilt but half borne, half exhausted, will avail nothing. Sin laid on any one save the appointed priest and sacrifice, will not be taken away. It must remain. The one Sin bearer is He ‘who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.’ He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He has finished transgression and made an end of sin. VI. The standing and the sitting down.—The priests and Levites all stood. From morn to night they stood. There was no time for sitting down, for at any time they might be called on to offer a sacrifice; so that their work was never done. There was no place for sitting in any part of the temple where the service was going on, and. the sacrifices were offered. There were rooms at the side for sitting, but not in the courts of the altar and laver. There the priests must stand or move about. Theirs was perpetual and unfinished work, as their posture indicated. The king might sit when ruling and judging. The prophet might sit when giving his message. But the priest must stand. What a symbol was the priestly posture! What a truth was embodied in it! The one Priest sat down. As soon as He had finished His sacrifice He sat down. And this said, in language beyond mistake, both to heaven and earth, ‘It is finished!’ He sat down’ (1.) On the throne of grace.—The mercy seat was His throne. He sat down to dispense the free love of God to sinners. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace. (2.) On the seat of honour.—The throne of grace is the throne of heaven. It is the seat before which the ‘many angels’ as well as the ‘elders’ and ‘living creatures’ bow, singing, ‘Blessing, and honour, and glory’ (Revelations 5:11, 12). (3.) On the place of power.’The Father’s right hand is the place of power. Seated there, He is, in every sense, ‘able to save to the uttermost.’ (4.) On the height of expectation.—His throne is a ‘glorious high throne.’ From it He looks down on earth, sees its iniquity and rebellion, and calmly waits for the time, when His enemies shall be made His footstool, and earth become His glorious kingdom. Are we, too, looking for this? “Sit Thou at my right hand,’ is the Father’s word to the Son. In answer to that He sat down, and He is now sitting. That throne He occupies for us. From that throne He dispenses the gifts which, as the glorified Christ, He has received for the rebellious. All that belongs to Him of excellence and fullness is there; it is there for us. The glory of His person, the riches of His varied offices, the suitableness of His great propitiation, and the love of His gracious heart, are all there,—available for sinners, and that to the uttermost. Such is their value, and such their efficacy, that no amount of evil in us, of whatever kind, can in the least obstruct that availableness. It may be the evil of long and dark transgression, or of obduracy and stout-heartedness, or of backsliding and inconsistency and worldliness, or of imperfect faith and feeble repentance; it may be evil committed before our connection with this High Priest, or evil after our connection with Him, or evil in our deficient way of apprehending His work, or evil in our want of love and confidence, evil in our defective sense of sin and guilt, the evil of a hard and stony heart,—it matters not. None of these evils in us can exceed the boundless value of the expiation or the Expiator; nor surpass the divine perfection of the finished work either as bearing upon God or man; nor neutralize the preciousness of the blood of the Lamb; nor prevent the great burnt offering from sheltering the sinner beneath its wide shadowing and impenetrable canopy; nor repel the free love that comes out from the cross to the unworthiest of the sons of Adam; nor render less potent the fragrance of the sweet incense that is continually going up from the golden altar of ‘the more perfect tabernacle not made with hands.’ The fullness of the finished work covers all deficiencies, were they a thousand timed greater than they are or can be. Nothing but our rejection of that fullness, and our preference for something else, can prevent our being saved by it. Its sufficiency is infinite; its suitableness is perfect; its freeness unconditional; its nearness like Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being. Such is the provision made for the taking away of our sin, and for our drawing near to God. Such is the great love of God. There is nothing like it for greatness, either in heaven above or in the earth beneath. Truly He has no pleasure in the sinner’s death. He is not seeking occasion to destroy him; He is not trying to find out reasons for rejecting him or for disregarding his cries; He is not waiting for further amendment and repentance, or greater earnestness or bitterer remorse. He is stretching out His hands to him, just as he is. He is most sincerely desirous to bless even the worst. His compassions are infinite; His bowels yearn over His prodigals; He wants them to come back to His house. He knows what hell is, and He wants to save them from it; He knows what heaven is, and He wants to win them to it. His grace and pity are beyond all measure; and he who, on the credit of the divine testimony to them, given in the word of the truth of the gospel, goes to Him for pardon and life, shall be welcomed and blest, receiving not only what he goes for, but exceeding abundantly, above all he asks or thinks. —Horatius Bonar, Light & Truth: Bible Thoughts & Themes 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");

Above All Names

Faith in Christ requires an understanding of who he is. Jesus is Savior, and Jesus is Lord (Acts 2:36). Therefore, faith in Christ is infallibly marked not only by trust in his saving work, but also by submission to his Lordship. The New Testament’s names and titles for Jesus make for a rich and inspiring study. But what is the name that God has given Jesus, the name that is above every name? It often happens that Christians who read this passage assume that the name that is above every name is the name Jesus. But Paul had a different name in mind. He went on to say that God has exalted Christ and given Him the name above every name, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11). The name that is above every name is the title that belongs only to God, Adonai (“Lord”), which refers to God as the sovereign one. Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience in the role of a slave, God moved heaven and earth to exalt His Son, and He gave Him the name that is above every name, so that when we hear the name of Jesus, our impulse should be to fall on our knees and confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. When we do so, when we exalt Christ in this way, we also exalt the Father. —R. C. Sproul, The Work of Christ (David C. Cook, 2012), 16–17.

Hymns of My Youth III: Our Great Savior

for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” —Hebrews 13:5 154 Our Great Savior Jesus! what a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole. Refrain: Hallelujah! what a Savior! Hallelujah! what a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end. Jesus! what a Strength in weakness! Let me hide myself in Him; Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, He, my Strength, my vict’ry wins. Refrain Jesus! what a Help in sorrow! While the billows o’er me roll, Even when my heart is breaking, He, my Comfort, helps my soul. Refrain Jesus! what a Guide and Keeper! While the tempest still is high, Storms about me, night o’ertakes me, He, my pilot, hears my cry. Refrain Jesus! I do now receive Him, More than all in Him I find, He hath granted me forgiveness, I am His, and He is mine. Refrain —Favorite Hymns of Praise (Tabernacle Publishing Company, 1967).

Lord’s Day 43, 2013

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” . . . Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. —Hebrews 7:22–25 Hymns of Thanksgiving Hymn XII. Thanksgiving for general Mercies. Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Gracious Creator, thy kind hand In all thy works I see; Resistless pow’r and mildest love Are blended, Lord, in thee. When thou art wrath and hid’st thy face, The whole creation mourns; Thou art the attractive pole to which Thy ransom’d people turns. O let my heart be wholly thine. Thy property alone! No longer let me think it mine. Or call myself my own! Without reserve I quit the claim, And give up all to thee, For thou, my all-sufficient Lord, Art more than all to me. Only do thou refine my dross, And cleanse me with thy blood, To make th’ imperfect sacrifice Acceptable to God. Nor shall I fear, if Jesus pleads, Unworthy as I am, Being excluded from the feast And supper of the Lamb. —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). 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");

Lord’s Day 47, 2013

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:14–16 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. —Hebrews 5:7 So then, you will know them by their fruits. —Matthew 7:20 Hymn 125. (C. M.) Christ’s compassion to the weak and tempted. Heb. iv. 15, 16; v. 7; Matt. vii. 20. Isaac Watts (1674–1748) With joy we meditate the grace Of our High Priest above; His heart is made of tenderness, His bowels melt with love. Touch’d with a sympathy within, He knows our feeble frame; He knows what sore temptations mean, For he has felt the same. But spotless, innocent, and pure, The great Redeemer stood, While Satan’s fiery darts he bore, And did resist to blood. He in the days of feeble flesh Pour’d out his cries and tears, And in his measure feels afresh What ev’ry member bears. [He’ll never quench the smoking flax, But raise it to a flame; The bruised reed he never breaks, Nor scorns the meanest name.] Then let our humble faith address His mercy and his power; We shall obtain deliv’ring grace In the distressing hour. —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");

No End in Itself

As we look forward to celebrating the incarnation of our Messiah, let us remember that we are not to obsess over a baby in a manger. The birth of Jesus is no end in itself, but is part of the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption. Jesus exercised the offices of prophet, priest, and king in his role as mediator, and especially took on human flesh that he might suffer in that flesh, offering himself as a substitutionary sacrifice, to atone for the sins of his people. —The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), xi.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. —John 1:1 One of the first rules of hermeneutics is that the original meaning of the text—that is, how the original audience would have understood it—is the meaning of the text. So what did the Apostle John mean by calling Jesus “the Word”? According to Richard Phillips, One of the earliest Greek philosophers was Heraclitus (sixth century BC). He thought about the fact that things constantly change. His famous illustration was that you can never step twice into the same river; it is never the same because the water has flowed on. Everything is like that, he said. But if that is true, how can there be order in the world? His answer was the Logos, the word or reason of God. This was the principle that held everything together in a world of change. There is a purpose and design to the world and events, and this is the Logos. The Logos fascinated Greeks from Heraclitus onward. What keeps the stars in their courses? What controls the seasons? Order and purpose are revealed everywhere in the world. Why? The answer is the Logos, the divine logic. The Word. Plato said, “It may be that some day there will come forth from God a Word, a Logos, who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain.” In a stroke of divine genius, John seizes on this word and says, “Listen, you Greeks, the very thing that had most occupied your philosophical thought and about which you have been writing for centuries—the Logos of God . . . has come to earth as a man and we have seen him.” —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 143–144.

Word and Life

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. —John 1:4 Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” This is also the message of John 1:4. We should observe the link between John 1:4 and the preceding ones, that is, between Jesus as the Word and Jesus as the Life. It is through God’s Word that Christ’s life comes to us. This means that if you want to be green and growing—if you want to be flourishing with spiritual life—then you need to be drinking from God’s Word. Psalm 1 speaks of the man who is “blessed,” whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Ps. 1:2–3). —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 152.

Light Dispels Darkness

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. —John 1:4–5 ESV From the beginning, the forces of darkness have tried to extinguish the light. Satan caused Herod try to kill the infant Jesus. He caused Philip the Tetrarch to kill John the Baptist, who “came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:7). Satan tempted Jesus to abandon his path to the cross. Finally, when Jesus was laid in the tomb and it appeared that Satan had won, Jesus rose from the dead, once and for all declaring his dominion over death. The darkness cannot extinguish the light. The world cannot overcome the light of Christ, but how often his own people neglect it. Are you seeking to grow in grace through the light that shines in God’s Word? Are you walking in the light? In other words, are you living in conscious fellowship with Jesus, obeying his Word, living in step with his Holy Spirit, and enjoying his blessings of righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom. 14:17)? Walking in the light of Christ is the only way to live in the power of his salvation. You will never get rid of the darkness within you by trying to remove it yourself or by following some manmade program of life improvement. You don’t take a bucket into a basement to bail out the darkness; you turn on the light and the light chases it away. John writes in his first epistle: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 158–159.

God Speaks in Him

Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus “is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.” If we want to know God, we must know Jesus. Jesus came to provide the perfect revelation of God that men could receive. John describes him as “the only God, who is at the Father’s side.” This is why Jesus is greater than John the Baptist or Moses, not to mention Mohammed or the pope. Jesus is himself very God of very God, one in the divine Trinity. He is in intimate fellowship of love with God the Father; literally, John says, he is “in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18 KJV). Here, then, is the one who can show us God. Mark Johnson explains: “If God is to be known, it can only be as he is made known by Someone who already possesses true knowledge of him. Jesus is that Someone. Because of who he is—the eternal Son of God—he is uniquely qualified to reveal God.” This means that Jesus is the gloriously sufficient Savior for all who long to know God. The Greek word translated “made known” (exegesato) gives us our word exegete, a word Bible scholars use for interpreting the Bible. We exegete Scripture to give a full account of its meaning. This is what Jesus does—he interprets and explains and exposits God to us. To know what God is like and what God intends for the world, we need only study Jesus Christ. This is why John called him “the Word&rdquo: God speaks most plainly and eloquently in him. This is what we most greatly need, and what we should all most frequently seek: to know God through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 184.

The Preeminent Gospel-Driven Ministry

Wednesday··2014·01·15 · 2 Comments
Jesus’s mission is in some ways a model for our mission. But this invites the question, in what ways? How does the exalted Christ carry out his mission through us? Is it by empowering us to do what he did and to continue his incarnational presence on the earth? Or is it by empowering us to bear witness to all that he taught and accomplished? —Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? (Crossway, 2011), 53–54. In What Is the Mission of the Church?, DeYoung and Gilbert choose the latter, that is to say, biblical, answer. Contrary to some popular views, we cannot “be Jesus” to anyone. I doubt those who make such statements have really thought—biblically, that is—about what that would mean. The implications are enormous. Shall we, by our deaths, atone for sins? To answer affirmatively is blasphemy. No, our mission is not the same as Christ’s mission. Furthermore, his ministry is not in all ways a model for ours. That is not to say, however, that it is in no way a model for ours. But before we can follow his example, we need to understand the true focus of his ministry—and this is where many “missionals” go off the rails, claiming that Jesus mission was one of service. “There’s no problem with this formulation,” say Deyoung and Gilbert, “if we mean ‘serve’ in the Mark 10:45 sense of the word, that Jesus ‘came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” Unfortunately, what is generally meant is that “Jesus’s mission was to meet human need, whether spiritual or physical.” And that is a mistake. We know this sounds heartless, but it’s true: it simply was not Jesus’s driving ambition to heal the sick and meet the needs of the poor, as much as he cared for them. He was sent into the world to save people from condemnation (John 3:17), that he might be lifted up so believers could have eternal life (3:14–15). He was sent by the Father so that whoever feeds on him might live forever (6:57–58). In his important work on the missions of Jesus and the disciples, Andreas Köstenberger concludes that John’s Gospel portrays Jesus’s mission as the Son sent from the Father, as the one who came into the world and returned to the Father, and as the shepherd-teacher who called others to follow him in order to help gather a final harvest. If Köstenberger is right, this is a long way from saying that Jesus’s fundamental mission was to meet temporal needs. But that’s John, someone may object. His Gospel is always something of an outlier. What do the other three Gospels say? Well, let’s take a look at Mark as an example. No doubt, Jesus often healed the sick and cast out demons in Mark’s Gospel. Teaching, healing, and exorcism were the three prongs of his ministry (see, for instance his quintessential first day of ministry in Capernaum in Mark 1:21–34). And yet what drove his ministry was the proclamation of the gospel, the announcement of the kingdom, and the call to repent and believe (1:15). Jesus healed and exorcised demons out of compassion for the afflicted (1:41; 9:22), but the bigger reason for the miracles was that they testified to his authority and pointed to his unique identity (e.g., 2:1–12). Don’t miss this fact: there is not a single example of Jesus going into a town with the stated purpose of healing or casting out demons. He never ventured out on a healing and exorcism tour. He certainly did a lot of this along the way. He was moved with pity at human need (Mark 8:2). But the reason he “came out” was “that [he] may preach” (1:38). If anything, the clamor for meeting physical needs sometimes became a distraction to Jesus. That’s why he frequently commanded silence of those he helped (1:44; 7:36), and why he would not do many works in a town rife with unbelief (6:5–6). —Ibid., 55–56.

Human Alienation, Mediated Reconciliation

A number of authors have begun to argue that mankind is really just one part of God’s vast creation, and that man in fact derives his significance from being part of that creation. So, it’s said, God loves creation, and therefore he loves humans. God will redeem the whole of creation, and therefore mankind will be redeemed. —Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? (Crossway, 2011), 70–71. Among the problems with that thinking, say DeYoung and Gilbert, is that in the Fall, it was man, not creation, that was alienated from God; the salvific hope given in Genesis is not to the whole creation through Adam, but to Adam through Christ; and the theme of man’s alienation from God and mediated reconciliation is central to the biblical narrative. First, and most importantly, the prime problem that the Bible sets up in its first three chapters is the alienation of man from God. To be sure, there are enormous consequences that follow from man’s sin and alienation from God. Relationships between human beings themselves are disrupted. God tells the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16), indicating that she will sinfully desire to master her husband (cf. Gen. 4:7), and he will sinfully tend to dominate her. God also tells Satan that there will be “enmity between [his] offspring and [the woman’s]” (Gen. 3:15), the result of which will be strife not only in the family but throughout society (see Gen. 4:8, 23). Moreover, the created order itself is affected by Adam’s fall (Gen. 3:17). No longer will the soil willingly yield its fruit to Adam. Now he will have to work for his food, and work “in pain,” God tells him, and “by the sweat of [his] face.” In the midst of all this suffering, though, we must remember that all these tragedies—the alienation of man from his fellow man, and the alienation of man from his world—are symptoms of the underlying problem, the alienation of man from God. It was Adam’s decision to rebel against God that precipitated all the rest. Twice God makes this point in the curse he pronounces over Adam: Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree . . . cursed is the ground because of you. (Gen. 3:17) The fundamental problem, the one at the root of all the others, is man’s severed relationship with God. Second, we should notice that even in the first dreadful moments after Adam’s sin, the hope of salvation is not for Adam to work to return the world to its original “very good” state, but rather for God to effect salvation through a Mediator. In the midst of all this postfall bad news, the first hint of any “gospel,” any good news, comes in Genesis 3:15. There God promises Satan that the woman’s Offspring “shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” That is a poignant description of Christ’s victory over the Serpent, once you know the end of the story. Satan does indeed bruise Christ’s heel (a wound, but not a finally fatal one), but Christ bruises Satan’s head, crushing it by his death on the cross and his resurrection. That’s how God would bring about salvation. Again, there is nothing in the early chapters of Genesis that would lead us to believe that the work of returning the world to its original “very good” state falls to Adam. God does not give him such a charge, and the reason is that Adam has already blown it. To be sure, his original mandate was to protect the garden and “cultivate” it, even to build from it a society that would perfectly glorify God. But he utterly failed at that task. When God exiles Adam from Eden, it is not with a commission to continue the work of building the world into a God-glorifying, cultivated paradise. Adam’s existence in the world would not be one of continual progress toward godliness anymore; it would be one of frustration and painful work in a world that was now reluctant and even hostile toward him. No, the work of fixing the disaster fell to another, to the Offspring of the woman who would crush the Serpent’s head. Third, these themes of alienation from God and salvation by a Mediator are central to the whole story line of the Bible. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 21, the Bible is the story of how a gracious God who is also perfectly just and righteous acted to bring sinful human beings back into his presence and favor. It is the story of how God justly and righteously lifted the flaming sword of Genesis 3:24 and reopened for his own people the way to the tree of life. —Ibid., 73–75.

Extending the Kingdom

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” —John 18:36 Political and social activism do not extend the kingdom of God. Only one thing accomplishes that. [T]he New Testament uses the term “kingdom of God” to refer to God’s reign specifically over his redeemed people. It’s true, of course, that God’s rule extends over the entire universe. Nothing and no one is outside or independent from his sovereignty. And yet when Jesus and the apostles talk about the kingdom of God, they are speaking specifically of God’s benevolent, redemptive reign over those he has saved. Thus Jesus can talk about those who will and will not enter the kingdom (Mark 10:14, 23–25; Luke 18:17), and even those who will be cast out of the kingdom (Matt. 8:12; Luke 13:28). Paul, too, is quite clear that there are some people who are in the kingdom, and others who are out of it: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Cor. 6:9; see also Gal. 5:21). Paul even teaches that those who trust in Christ are transferred from one kingdom to another—from the “domain of darkness” into the “kingdom of [God’s] beloved son” (Col. 1:13). Biblically speaking, therefore, not everyone is a citizen of the kingdom of God. There are a few important ramifications that flow from understanding the kingdom of God as his redemptive rule. For one thing, understanding that kingdom is a dynamic, relational word rather than a geographic one keeps us from thinking that “extending the kingdom of God” is the right way to describe planting trees or delivering hot meals to the homeless. Sometimes people talk as if by renovating a city park or turning a housing slum into affordable, livable apartments, we are extending God’s reign over that park or that neighborhood. We’re “bringing order from chaos,” someone might say, and therefore expanding the kingdom. But as we’ve seen, the kingdom isn’t geographical. Rather, it is defined relationally and dynamically; it exists where knees and hearts bow to the King and submit to him. And therefore you cannot “expand the kingdom” by bringing peace and order and justice to a certain area of the world. Good deeds are good, but they don’t broaden the borders of the kingdom. The only way the kingdom of God—the redemptive rule of God—is extended is when he brings another sinner to renounce sin and self-righteousness and bow his knee to King Jesus. —Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? (Crossway, 2011), 120–121.

The Kingdom Is Future

The kingdom of God was inaugurated at Jesus’s first advent. That kingdom, however, has yet to be established. We are still living in “this present evil age,” waiting for the establishment of the kingdom when Christ returns. DeYoung and Gilbert write: That’s important to remember for at least a couple of reasons. For one thing, it protects us from a wrong and ultimately discouraging optimism about just how good we should expect to be able to make this world. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that creation will one day be “set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (v. 21). But he is equally clear that until that day, the creation remains “subjected to futility” and under its bondage to decay (vv. 20–21). We are afraid that many church leaders are doing their people a disservice by leading them to hope too much for the betterment of society in “this present evil age,” which still languishes in bondage and futility. Mission statements like “Transform the City and the World” and “Change the City, Change the World” express a commendable desire, but simply go too far beyond what the Bible tells us we should expect to see in the world during this age, before Jesus returns. And the result, we fear, is that over the years, as cities don’t become havens of virtue and justice, as poverty persists, as inadequate housing remains, as governments remain susceptible to corruption, Christians will find themselves discouraged and possibly even questioning the goodness or power of God—all because they have their hopes set too high and on the wrong things. . . . Another reason it is important to remember that the kingdom will be established only when Jesus returns is that it fixes our eyes firmly on the King, rather than on what the King brings—the Giver, not just his gifts. Our great hope as Christians is, as the refrain rings out through the Bible, “We will be his people, and he will be our God.” As John puts it in Revelation 22:4, “[We] will see his face” once again. That’s what we look forward to—not so much the golden streets and pearl gates, or even the world emptied of injustice and oppression. Great and wonderful though these are, ultimately they are not enough. We look forward to seeing our King, face to face. As Christians, we want our eyes to be not so much on the kingdom, as on the kingdom’s King. —Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? (Crossway, 2011), 129–130, 131.

By His Hand Alone

It seems as if a lot of people these days are taking credit for doing, or trying to do, what only the King of kings can do. If it is true that the kingdom will be fully established only when Jesus returns, it is equally true that it will be established by his hand alone. . . . When you look at the Gospels and examine the verbs associated with the kingdom, you discover something surprising. Much of our language about the kingdom is a bit off. We often speak of “building the kingdom,” “ushering in the kingdom,” “establishing the kingdom,” or “helping the kingdom grow.” But is this really the way the New Testament talks about the kingdom? George Eldon Ladd, the man who put kingdom back on the map for evangelicals, didn’t think so. The Kingdom can draw near to men (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; etc.); it can come (Matt. 6:10; Luke 17:20; etc.), arrive (Matt. 12:28), appear (Luke 19:11), be active (Matt. 11:12). God can give the Kingdom to men (Matt. 21:43; Luke 12:32), but men do not give the Kingdom to one another. Further, God can take the Kingdom away from men (Matt. 21:43), but men do not take it away from one another, although they can prevent others from entering it. Men can enter the Kingdom (Matt. 5:20; 7:21; Mark 9:47; 10:23; etc.), but they are never said to erect it or to build it. Men can receive the Kingdom (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17), inherit it (Matt. 25:34), and possess it (Matt. 5:4), but they are never said to establish it. Men can reject the Kingdom, i.e., refuse to receive it (Luke 10:11) or enter it (Matt. 23:13), but they cannot destroy it. They can look for it (Luke 23:51), pray for its coming (Matt. 6:10), and seek it (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:31), but they cannot bring it. Men may be in the Kingdom (Matt. 5:19; 8:11; Luke 13:29; etc.), but we are not told that the Kingdom grows. Men can do things for the sake of the Kingdom (Matt. 19:12; Luke 18:29), but they are not said to act upon the Kingdom itself. Men can preach the Kingdom (Matt. 10:7; Luke 10:9), but only God can give it to men (Luke 12:32). —Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? (Crossway, 2011), 131–133.

Do we love that yoke?

Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” —Psalm 2:1–3 We have, in these first three verses, a description of the hatred of human nature against the Christ of God. No better comment is needed upon it than the apostolic song in Acts iv. 27, 28: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” The Psalm begins abruptly with an angry interrogation; and well it may: it is surely but little to be wondered at, that the sight of creatures in arms against their God should amaze the psalmist’s mind. We see the heathen raging, roaring like the sea, tossed to and fro with restless waves, as the ocean in a storm; and then we mark the people in their hearts imagining a vain thing against God. Where there is much rage there is generally some folly, and in this case there is an excess of it. Note, that the commotion is not caused by the people only, but their leaders foment the rebellion. “The kings of the earth set themselves.” In determined malice they arrayed themselves in opposition against God. It was not temporary rage, but deep-seated hate, for they set themselves resolutely to withstand the Prince of Peace. “And the rulers take counsel together.” They go about their warfare craftily, not with foolish haste, but deliberately. They use all the skill which art can give. Like Pharaoh, they cry, “Let us deal wisely with them.” O that men were half as careful in God’s service to serve him wisely, as his enemies are to attack his kingdom craftily. Sinners have their wits about them, and yet saints are dull. But what say they? what is the meaning of this commotion? “Let us break their bands asunder.” “Let us be free to commit all manner of abominations. Let us be our own gods. Let us rid ourselves of all restraint.” Gathering impudence by the traitorous proposition of rebellion, they add—“let us cast away;” as if it were an easy matter—“let us fling off ‘their cords from us.’” What! O ye kings, do ye think yourselves Samsons? and are the bands of Omnipotence but as green withs before you? Do you dream that you shall snap to pieces and destroy the mandates of God—the decrees of the Most High—as if they were but tow? and do ye say, “Let us cast away their cords from us?” Yes! There are monarchs who have spoken thus, and there are still rebels upon thrones. However mad the resolution to revolt from God, it is one in which man has persevered ever since his creation, and he continues in it to this very day. The glorious reign of Jesus in the latter day will not be consummated, until a terrible struggle has convulsed the nations. His coming will be as a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap, and the day thereof shall burn as an oven. Earth loves not her rightful monarch, but clings to the usurper’s sway: the terrible conflicts of the last days will illustrate both the world’s love of sin and Jehovah’s power to give the kingdom to his only Begotten. To a graceless neck the yoke of Christ is intolerable, but to the saved sinner it is easy and light. We may judge ourselves by this, do we love that yoke, or do we wish to cast it from us? —Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Passmore and Alabaster, 1883) [read entire commentary on Psalm 2 at].

Lordship Defines the Church

The Lordship of Christ is so central to Christianity that it literally defines the church. R. C. Sproul writes: The title Lord is so central to the life of the New Testament Christian community that the English word church derives from it. The Greek word for church is ekklesia, which is brought over into English in the word ecclesiastical. The English word church is similar in sound and form to other languages’ word for church: kirk in Scotland, kerk in Holland, and kirche in Germany all derive from the same root. That source is the Greek word kuriache, which means “those who belong to the kurios.” Thus, church in its literal origin means “the people who belong to the Lord.” —R. C. Sproul, Who Is Jesus? (Reformation Trust, 2009), 38–39.

Temptation: A Test of Faith

Sproul describes the contrasts between the temptations of Adam and Jesus; in short, the temptation of Jesus was much more severe. Yet the two tests were the same in the one way that matters. The respective locations of the tests provide a study in contrasts. Jesus’ temptation took place in a desolate section of the remote hills of the Judean wilderness, a dreadful piece of real estate. The only creatures indigenous to the area were spiders, snakes, scorpions, and a few wild birds. It was rocky, barren, and hot, fit for neither man nor beast. Adam’s test took place in a garden of paradise adorned with lush and glorious surroundings. Where Adam beheld a landscape of floral luxury, Jesus stared at a rock pile. Jesus endured temptation in isolation, in what Soren Kierkegaard called the worst situation of human anxiety, existential solitude. Jesus was utterly alone. Adam was tested while enjoying the help and encouragement of a companion whom God had created for him. Adam was tested in the midst of human fellowship, indeed intimacy. However, Jesus was tested in the agony of deprivation of human communion. Adam was tested in the midst of a feast. His locale was a gourmet’s dream. He faced Satan on a full stomach and with a satiated appetite. Yet he succumbed to the temptation to indulge himself with one more morsel of food. Jesus was tested after a forty-day fast, when every fiber of His body was screaming for food. His hunger had reached a crescendo, and it was at the moment of consuming physical desire that Satan came with the temptation to break the fast. It is the similarity, however, between the tests that is most important for us to grasp. The central issue, the point of attack, was the same. In neither case was the ultimate issue a matter of food; the issue was the question of believing God. It was not an issue of believing in God, but believing God. There was no doubt in Adam’s mind that God existed; he had spent time in face-to-face communication with Him. Jesus was equally certain of God’s existence. The trial centered on believing God when it counted. —R. C. Sproul, Who Is Jesus? (Reformation Trust, 2009), 71–72. Likewise, each and every one of our temptations presents that same test.

The Camera Cannot Capture the Curse

With the coming of the Son of God movie it has been observed that, like The Passion of the Christ, Son of God will show crucifixion, not the cross. This will always be the problem with dramas and sermons that focus on the physical brutality of the execution of Jesus. R. C. Sproul writes: There is a sense in which Christ on the cross was the most filthy and grotesque person in the history of the world. In and of Himself, He was a lamb without blemish—sinless, perfect, and majestic. But by imputation, all of the ugliness of human violence was concentrated on His person. Once sin was concentrated on Jesus, God cursed Him. When the curse of the law was poured out on Jesus, He experienced pain that had never been suffered in the annals of history. I have heard graphic sermons about the excruciating pain of the nails in the hands, of hanging on a cross, and of the torturous dimensions of crucifixion. I am sure that they are all accurate and that it was a dreadful way to be executed, but thousands of people in world history have undergone the excruciating pain of crucifixion. Only one man has ever felt the pain of the fullness of the unmitigated curse of God on Him. When He felt it, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” . . . God certainly did forsake Him. That is the whole point of the atonement. Without forsakenness, there is no curse. God, at that moment in space and time, turned His back on His Son. The intimacy of the pros relationship that Jesus experienced with the Father was ruptured (in His human nature). At that moment God turned out the lights. The Bible tells us that the world was encompassed with darkness, God Himself bearing witness to the trauma of the hour. Jesus was forsaken, He was cursed, and He felt it. The word passion means “feeling.” In the midst of His forsakenness, I doubt He was even aware of the nails in His hands or the thorns in His brow. He was cut off from the Father. It was obscene, yet it was beautiful, because by it we can someday experience the fullness of the benediction of Israel. We will look unveiled into the light of the countenance of God. —R. C. Sproul, Who Is Jesus? (Reformation Trust, 2009), 88–89.

Lord’s Day 10, 2014

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. —Ephesians 5:1–2 Hymn LIV. Christ crucified. . John Newton (1725–1806) When on the cross, my Lord I see Bleeding to death, for wretched me; Satan and sin no more can move, For I am all transform’d to love. His thorns, and nails, pierce thro’ my heart, In ev’ry groan I bear a part; I view his wounds with streaming eyes, But see! he bows his head and dies! Come, sinners, view the Lamb of God, Wounded and dead, and bath’d in blood! Behold his side, and venture near, The well of endless life is here. Here I forget my cares and pains; I drink, yet still my thirst remains; Only the fountain–head above, Can satisfy the thirst of love. O, that I thus could always feel! Lord, more and more thy love reveal! Then my glad tongue shall loud proclaim The grace and glory of thy name. Thy name dispels my guilt and fear, Revives my heart, and charms my ear; Affords a balm for ev’ry wound, And Satan trembles at the sound. —Olney Hymns. Book II: On Occasional Subjects. 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");

The Cross Is Not Enough

It’s good to be “cross-centered,” I suppose, but I prefer to think of being Christ-centered. The cross is certainly a central landmark of the gospel (a colossal understatement, to be sure), but by itself, it is of no use. Nor is it enough to add the resurrection. R. C. Sproul writes: What could be more important than the cross? Without it we have no atonement, no redemption. Paul resolved to preach Christ and Him crucified. Yet without the resurrection, we would be left with a dead Savior. Crucifixion and resurrection go together, each borrowing some of its value from the other. However, the story does not end with the empty tomb. To write finis there is to miss a climactic moment of redemptive history, a moment toward which both Old and New Testaments move with inexorable determination. The ascension is the apex of Christ’s exaltation, the acme of redemptive history to this point. It is the pregnant moment of Christ’s coronation as King. Without it, the resurrection ends in disappointment and Pentecost would not be possible. —R. C. Sproul, Who Is Jesus? (Reformation Trust, 2009), 99–100.

Lord’s Day 24, 2014

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. —Hebrews 12:2 Paraphrases on Select Parts of Holy Writ Para. I. Names of Christ, expressive of his Offices, taken from various parts of Scripture. Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Low at thy feet, O Christ, we fall, Enabled to confess, And call thee by the Holy Ghost, The Lord our Righteousness. God over all Immanuel reigns, With his great Father one: The brightness of his glory thou, And partner of his throne. Author and Finisher of faith, In all that know thy name, A lion to thy stubborn foes, But to thy friends a lamb. Sceptre of Israel, Prince of peace, Immortal King of kings: The Sun of Righteousness, that shines With healing in his wings. The gift of God to fallen man, The Lord of quick and dead: A well of life to fainting souls. And their sustaining bread. Foundation of thy people’s joy, Their pardon and their rest: On earth our sacrifice for sin, In heav’n our great High Priest. The Lord of life who suffer’d death That we might heav’n regain; The source of blessing, who on earth. Was made a curse for man. Was poor that Adam’s needy sons Treasure in thee might find; Repairer of the dreadful breach, Restorer of mankind. Through thy desert a fallen race To God may gain access; With thy fine linen deck our souls. Thy perfect righteousness. With that celestial robe endued, We ev’ry foe defy; On earth it shall our armour be, Our glory in the sky. —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). 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");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Fairest Lord Jesus

Fairest Lord Jesus Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; Isaiah 33:17 Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature, O Thou of God and man the Son; Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou my soul’s glory, joy and crown. Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, Robed in the blooming garb of spring; Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, Who makes the woeful heart to sing. Fair is the sunshine, Fairer still the moonlight, And all the twinkling starry host; Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer Than all the angels heaven can boast. Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations! Son of God and Son of Man! Glory and honor, praise, adoration, Now and forever more be Thine! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Our Great Savior

Our Great Savior our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us Titus 2:13–14 Jesus! what a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole. Refrain: Hallelujah! what a Savior! Hallelujah! what a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end. Jesus! what a Strength in weakness! Let me hide myself in Him; Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, He, my Strength, my vict’ry wins. Refrain Jesus! what a Help in sorrow! While the billows o’er me roll, Even when my heart is breaking, He, my Comfort, helps my soul. Refrain Jesus! what a Guide and Keeper! While the tempest still is high, Storms about me, night o’ertakes me, He, my pilot, hears my cry. Refrain Jesus! I do now receive Him, More than all in Him I find, He hath granted me forgiveness, I am His, and He is mine. Refrain —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours 1 Corinthians 1:2 How sweet the name of Jesus sounds In a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear. It makes the wounded spirit whole And calms the troubled breast; ’Tis manna to the hungry soul And to the weary, rest. Dear name! the rock on which I build, My Shield and Hiding place; My never-failing treasure, filled With boundless stores of grace. Jesus, my Shepherd, Brother, Friend, My Prophet, Priest, and King, My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End, Accept the praise I bring. Till then I would Thy love proclaim With ev’ry fleeting breath; And may the music of Thy name Refresh my soul in death. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name . . . Jesus Christ is Lord Philippians 2:9–11 All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostrate fall, Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him, Crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, And crown Him, Lord of all. Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race, Ye ransomed from the fall, Ye ransomed from the fall; Hail Him who saves you by His grace, And crown Him, Crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, And crown Him, Lord of all. Let every kindred, every tribe, On this terrestrial ball, On this terrestrial ball; To Him al majesty ascribe, And crown Him, Crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, And crown Him, Lord of all. O that with yonder sacred throng We at His feet may fall, We at His feet may fall! We’ll join the everlasting song, And crown Him, Crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, And crown Him, Lord of all. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Join All the Glorious Names

Join All the Glorious Names . . . far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named . . . Ephesians 1:22 Join all the glorious names Of wisdom, love, and pow’r, That ever mortals knew, That angels ever bore: All are too mean to speak His worth, To poor to set my Savior forth. Great Prophet of my God, My tongue would bless Thy Name: By Thee the joyful news Of our salvation came, The joyful news of sin forgiv’n, Of hell subdued, and peace with Heav’n. Jesus, my great High Priest, Offered His blood, and died; My guilty conscience seeks No sacrifice beside: His pow’rful blood did once atone And now it pleads before the throne. Thou art my Counsellor, My Pattern, and my Guide, And Thou my Shepherd art; O, keep me near thy side; Nor let my feet e’er turn astray To wander in the crooked way. My Savior and my Lord, My Conqu’ror and my King, Thy scepter and Thy sword, Thy reigning grace, I sing: Thine is the pow’r; behold I sit In willing bonds beneath Thy feet. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).
In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. —John 16:26–27 In this passage Jesus seems to deny his role as mediator, saying, “I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf.” Calvin offers his explanation of this confusing statement: In that day you shall ask in my name. He again repeats the reason why the heavenly treasures were then to be so bountifully opened up. It is, because they ask in the name of Christ whatever they need, and God will refuse nothing that shall be asked in the name of his Son. But there appears to be a contradiction in the words; for Christ immediately adds, that it will be unnecessary for him to pray to the Father Now, what purpose does it serve to pray in his name, if he does not undertake the office of Intercessor? In another passage John calls him our Advocate, (1 John ii. 1.) Paul also testifies that Christ now intercedes for us, (Romans viii. 34;) and the same thing is confirmed by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who declares that Christ always liveth to make intercession for us, (Heb. vii. 25) I reply, Christ does not absolutely say, in this passage, that he will not be Intercessor, but he only means, that the Father will be so favorably disposed towards the disciples, that, without any difficulty, he will give freely whatever they shall ask. “My Father,” he says, “will meet you, and, on account of the great love which he bears towards you, will anticipate the Intercessor, who, otherwise, would speak on your behalf.” Besides, when Christ is said to intercede with the Father for us, let us not indulge in carnal imaginations about him, as if he were on his knees before the Father, offering humble supplication in our name. But the value of his sacrifice, by which he once pacified God toward us, is always powerful and efficacious; the blood by which he atoned for our sins, the obedience which he rendered, is a continual intercession for us. This is a remarkable passage, by which we are taught that we have the heart of the Heavenly Father, as soon as we have placed before Him the name of his Son. —John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XVIII (Baker Books, 2009), Commentary on the Gospel according to John, 2:157–158.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased. Luke 2:14 Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With th’angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!” Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” Christ, by highest heav’n adored; Christ the everlasting Lord! Late in time, behold Him come, Offspring of the Virgin’s womb: Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity, Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Union with God through Christ

In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. —John 16:26–27 From this passage some might conclude that God does not love his elect until they come to Christ in faith. The analogia scriptura prevents such an erroneous interpretation. Because you have loved me. These words remind us that the only bond of our union with God is, to be united to Christ; and we are united to him by a faith which is not reigned, but which springs from sincere affection, which he describes by the name of love; for no man believes purely in Christ who does not cordially embrace him, and, therefore, by this word he has well expressed the power and nature of faith. But if it is only when we have loved Christ that God begins to love us, it follows that the commencement of salvation is from ourselves, because we have anticipated the grace of God. Numerous passages of Scripture, on the other hand, are opposed to this statement. The promise of God is, I will cause them to love me; and John says, Not that we first loved Him, (1 John iv. 7.) It would be superfluous to collect many passages; for nothing is more certain than this doctrine, that the Lord calleth those things which are not, (Rom. iv. 17) raises the dead, (Luke vii. 22,) unites himself to those who were strangers to him, (Eph. ii. 12,) makes hearts of flesh out of hearts of stone, (Ezek. xxxvi. 26,) manifests himself to those who do not seek him, (Isa. lxv. 1; Rom. x. 20.) I reply, God loves men in a secret way, before they are called, if they are among the elect; for he loves his own before they are created; but, as they are not yet reconciled, they are justly accounted enemies of God, as Paul speaks, When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, (Rom. v. 10.) On this ground it is said that we are loved by God, when we love Christ; because we have the pledge of the fatherly love of Him from whom we formerly recoiled as our offended Judge. —John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XVIII (Baker Books, 2009), Commentary on the Gospel according to John, 2:158–159.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: One Day

One Day When they saw the star, they rejoiced . . . and worshiped Him. Matthew 2:10 11 One day when Heaven was filled with His praises, One day when sin was as black as could be, Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin, Dwelt among men—my Example is He! Refrain Living—He loved me, dying—He saved me, Buried—He carried my sins far away; Rising—He justified freely forever: One day He’s coming—O glorious day! One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain, One day they nailed Him to die on the tree; Suffering anguish, despised and rejected, Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He! Refrain One day they left Him alone in the garden, One day He rested, from suffering free; Angels came down o’er His tomb to keep vigil— Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is He! Refrain One day the grave could conceal Him no longer, One day the stone rolled away from the door; Then He arose, over death He had conquered, Now is ascended, my Lord evermore! Refrain One day the trumpet will sound for His coming, One day the skies with His glories will shine; Wonderful day, my belovèd ones bringing! Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine! Refrain —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Our Adoptive Father

The adoption of believers as children of God is no small matter. Indeed, J. I Packer called it the highest privilege that the gospel offers. This is a privilege that, as Sproul explains, we ought to hold very dear. The New Testament concept of Christ’s being the Son of God is central to biblical theology. Not only is Jesus the Son of God, but also He is what the Apostle John described as the monogenes, the only Son of God. We have a tendency to miss the significance of that today, [when] we hear repeatedly that we are all God’s children. People today believe in the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. In biblical categories God, naturally speaking, is the Father of One. He is the Father of the Son, the only begotten Son. Christ is the Son of God by nature. Scripture tells us that by nature we are children of wrath, children of Satan, so we must never take for granted the privilege of speaking of God as “Father.” In the first instance He is the Father only of Christ and, by extension, of us only when we are adopted into His family. We are not by nature the children of God. Jesus is by nature the child of God; we are by super nature the children of God. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 27–28.

The Church’s One Foundation?

If I’m going to criticize erroneous hymnody, I suppose I should be fair and include hymns I like. This doesn’t constitute any grave error—I’m sure I’ll continue singing the song—but the distinction is still important. The hymn “The Church’s One Foundation” contains the lyrics, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord.” I do not like the language used in that line of the hymn because, in the New Testament, the primary sense of the role of Jesus in the building is not that of the foundation. The New Testament says that no foundation can be laid except that which is laid in Christ Jesus, but He is not the foundation. When the New Testament speaks of the building, it speaks of the foundation as being the Prophets and the Apostles. They gave us the Word of God, which is established as the foundation of the whole edifice. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 64. Now I’ll wait for some over-caffeinated zealot to call me a papist.

Lord’s Day 8, 2017

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “The Lord has sworn And will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever’”); so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail. Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. —Hebrews 7, 9 Hymn 145. (C. M.) Christ and Aaron. Hebrews vii and ix. Isaac Watts (1674–1748) Jesus, in thee our eyes behold A thousand glories more, Than the rich gems and polish’d gold The sons of Aaron wore. They first their own burnt-off’rings brought, To purge themselves from sin; Thy life was pure without a spot, And all thy nature clean. [Fresh blood as constant as the day Was on their altar spilt; But thy one off’ring takes away For ever all our guilt.] [Their priesthood ran through sev’ral hands, For mortal was their race; Thy never-changing office stands Eternal as thy days.] [Once in the circuit of a year, With blood, but not his own, Aaron within the veil appears Before the golden throne: But Christ, by his own powerful blood, Ascends above the skies, And in the presence of our God Shows his own sacrifice.] Jesus, the King of glory, reigns On Sion’s heav’nly hill; Looks like a lamb that has been slain, And wears his priesthood still. He ever lives to intercede Before his Father’s face: Give him, my soul, thy cause to plead, Nor doubt the Father’s 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");

None but Jesus

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” —John 7:37–38 Our relationship to God the Father is a mediated relationship. We come to him through Jesus Christ, the Son (1 Timothy 2:5). This access to the Father through Christ is unique to Christian theology. While a presumptuous priesthood that can offer nothing real holds many at a distance, thirsty souls may—and must—go directly to Christ. He that thirsts and wants relief must come to Christ Himself. He must not be content with coming to His Church and His ordinances, or to the assemblies of His people for prayer and praise. He must not stop short even at His holy table, or rest satisfied with privately opening his heart to His ordained ministers. Oh, no! he that is content with only drinking these waters ‘shall thirst again’ (John 4:13). He must go higher, further, much further than this. He must have personal dealings with Christ Himself: all else in religion is worthless without Him. The King’s palace, the attendant servants, the richly furnished banqueting house, the very banquet itself—all are nothing unless we speak with the King. His hand alone can take the burden off our backs and make us feel free. The hand of man may take the stone from the grave and show the dead; but none but Jesus can say to the dead, ‘Come forth and live’ (John 6:41–43). We must deal directly with Christ. —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 357.

Unsearchable Riches

To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ —Ephesians 3:8 Paul referred to the message he was entrusted to deliver as “unfathomable [unsearchable, KJV] riches.” What is it about this message, that he would describe it in such lofty terms? No doubt he saw in Christ such a boundless provision for all the wants of man’s soul that he knew no other phrase to convey his meaning. From whatever standpoint he beheld Jesus, he saw in Him far more than mind could conceive, or tongue could tell. What he precisely intended must necessarily be matter of conjecture. But it may be useful to set down in detail some of the things which most probably were in his mind. . . . Let us glance briefly at some of them. (a) Set down, first and foremost, in your minds that there are unsearchable riches in Christ’s person. That miraculous union of perfect Man and perfect God in our Lord Jesus Christ is a great mystery, no doubt, which we have no line to fathom. . . . Infinite power and infinite sympathy are met together and combined in our Saviour. If He had been only Man He could not have saved us. If He had been only God (I speak with reverence) He could not have been ‘touched with the feeling of our infirmities,’ nor ‘suffered Himself being tempted’ (Heb. 2:18; 4:15). As God, He is mighty to save; and as Man, He is exactly suited to be our Head, Representative, and Friend. . . . It is a rich and precious truth that our Lord Jesus Christ is both ‘God and Man.’ (b) Set down, next, in your minds that there are unsearchable riches in the work which Christ accomplished for us, when He lived on earth, died, and rose again. Truly and indeed, ‘He finished the work which His Father gave Him to do’ (John 17:4)—the work of atonement for sin, the work of reconciliation, the work of redemption, the work of satisfaction, the work of substitution as ‘the just for the unjust.’ . . . (c) Set down, next, in your minds that there are unsearchable riches in the offices which Christ at this moment fills, as He lives for us at the right hand of God. He is at once our Mediator, our Advocate, our Priest, our Intercessor, our Shepherd, our Bishop, our Physician, our Captain, our King, our Master, our Head, our Forerunner, our Elder Brother, the Bridegroom of our souls. . . . (d) Set down, next, in your minds that there are unsearchable riches in the names and titles which are applied to Christ in the Scriptures. . . . Think for a moment of such titles as the Lamb of God—the bread of life—the fountain of living waters—the light of the world—the door—the way—the vine—the rock—the corner stone—the Christian’s robe—the Christian’s altar. Think of all these names, I say, and consider how much they contain. To the careless, worldly man they are mere ‘words,’ and nothing more; but to the true Christian each title, if beaten out and developed, will be found to have within its bosom a wealth of blessed truth. (e) Set down, lastly, in your minds that there are unsearchable riches in the characteristic qualities, attributes, dispositions, and intentions of Christ’s mind towards man, as we find them revealed in the New Testament. In Him there are riches of mercy, love, and compassion for sinners—riches of power to cleanse, pardon, forgive, and to save to the uttermost—riches of willingness to receive all who come to Him repenting and believing—riches of ability to change by His Spirit the hardest hearts and worst characters—riches of tender patience to bear with the weakest believer—riches of strength to help His people to the end, notwithstanding every foe without and within—riches of sympathy for all who are cast down and bring their troubles to Him—and last, but not least, riches of glory to reward, when He comes again to raise the dead and gather His people to be with Him in His kingdom. Who can estimate these riches? The children of this world may regard them with indifference, or turn away from them with disdain; but those who feel the value of their souls know better. They will say with one voice, ‘There are no riches like those which are laid up in Christ for His people.’ For, best of all, these riches are unsearchable. They are a mine which, however long it may be worked, is never exhausted. They are a fountain which, however many draw its waters, never runs dry. . . . Millions have drawn from Him in days gone by, and looking to Him have lived with comfort, and with comfort died. Myriads at this moment are drawing from Him daily supplies of mercy, grace, peace, strength, and help, and find ‘all fulness’ dwelling in Him. And yet the half of the riches laid up in Him for mankind, I doubt not, is utterly unknown! Surely the Apostle might well use that phrase, ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ.’ —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 384–387.

Hypostasis and the Real Presence

In the previous post, the reason was given for the burning of the English Reformers under Queen “Bloody” Mary: their denial of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Their conflict was with the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which claims that, in the Mass, the bread and wine are substantially changed into the actual body and blood of Christ. I try not to make unfair connections between Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, but the implications of this for Lutherans are unavoidable. Lutherans teach that the Lord’s Supper “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and drink” (Small Catechism) and that “the true body and blood of Christ are really present in the Supper of our Lord under the form of bread and wine” (Augsburg Confession, Article X). They are careful to distinguish their doctrine from the Roman, using the language of “in, with, and under,” but that doesn’t avoid the problem of the two indivisible, inseparable (Definition of Chalcedon) natures of Christ, divine and human—fully God, and fully man. Most Lutherans—most Christians of any stripe, for that matter—probably have not considered this, but while God the Father is omnipresent, the Son, being incarnate, is not. He took on human flesh at the incarnation, and ascended bodily into heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34). Consequently, he cannot be physically present with us, and therefore, neither can he be spiritually present, because of the hypostatic union of his divine and human natures. In short, Christ cannot be divided. He, fully God and fully man, is either here or there. He cannot be both. This is by no means a new or controversial doctrine. It was settled by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, long before the Roman Catholic apostasy, more than one thousand years before Luther, Calvin, and the Reformation, and is accepted by all orthodox Christians today, including Lutherans. It is the reason that both the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation and the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation must be rejected. The Council of Chalcedon: Serious Theologians in Funny Hats Addendum: “Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the Holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved; It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine thereby bodily received, or unto any corporal presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here: it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.”—Rubric at the end of the Communion Service in the Book of Common Prayer. —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 46–47.

Where is Christ, as man?

I suppose I’ve already posted enough on the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Table, but at the risk of beating a dead horse, here is one more. We know that Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, was, and remains, both God and man. These two natures, divine and human, are complete—that is, he is not half-God and half-man, but fully God and fully man. Consequently, his two natures cannot be divided. Therefore, the issue of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Table can be put to rest by the answer to one question: But where is Christ, as man? That is the point. Where is the body that was born of the Virgin Mary? Where is the head that was crowned with thorns? Where are the hands that were nailed to the cross, and the feet that walked by the sea of Galilee? Where are the eyes that wept tears at the grave of Lazarus? Where is the side that was pierced with a spear? Where is the ‘visage that was marred more than any man, and the form more than the sons of men’? (Isa. 52:14). Where, in a word, is the man Christ Jesus? That is the question. I answer in the words of Scripture, that ‘Christ is passed into the heavens’,—that he ‘has entered into the holy place,’ that,—’He has entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us’,—and that ‘the heavens must receive him until the time of restitution of all things’ (Heb. 4:14; 9:12–24; Acts 3:21). Let us mark this well. Christ, as man, is in heaven, and not in the grave. . . . If ever there was a fact proved by unanswerable evidence in this world, it is the fact that Jesus rose from the dead!—That he died on a Friday, is certain. That he was buried in a sepulchre hewn out of rock that night, is certain. That the stone over the place was sealed, and a guard of soldiers set around it, is certain. That the grave was opened and the body gone on Sunday morning, is certain. That the soldiers could give no account of it, is certain. That the disciples themselves could hardly believe that their Master had risen, is certain. That after seeing him several times for forty days, they at last were convinced, is certain. That, once convinced, they never ceased to teach and hold, even to death, that their Master had risen, is certain. That the unbelieving Jews could neither shake the disciples out of their belief, nor show Christ’s dead body, nor give any satisfactory account of what had become of it, is equally certain. All this is certain, certain, certain! The resurrection of Christ is a great, unanswerable, undeniable fact. There are none so blind as those that will not see. Once more let us mark this point. Christ, as man, is in heaven and not on the Communion Table, at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. He is not present at that holy sacrament under the form of bread and wine, as the Roman Catholics, and some Anglicans, say. The consecrated bread is not the body of Christ, and the consecrated wine is not the blood of Christ. Those sacred elements are the emblem of something absent, and not of something present. The words of the Prayer-book state this fact with unmistakable clearness: The sacramental bread and wine remain still in their very natural substance, and therefore may not be adored (for that were idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians); and the natural body and blood of our Saviour Christ are in heaven and not here, it being against the truth of Christ’s natural body to be at one time in more places than one.—Rubric at the end of the Communion Service. Let these things sink down into our hearts. It is a point of vast importance in this day, to see clearly where Christ’s natural body and blood are. Right knowledge of this point may save our souls from many ruinous errors. Let us not be moved, for a moment, by the infidel, when he sneers at miracles, and tries to persuade us that a religion based on miracles cannot be true. . . . Ask him to grapple, like a man, with the greatest miracle of all,—the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Ask him to explain away the evidence of that miracle, if he can. Remind him that, long before he died, Jesus Christ staked the truth of his Messiahship on his resurrection, and told the Jews not to believe him if he did not rise from the dead. Remind him that the Jews remembered this, and did all they could to prevent any removal of our Lord’s body, but in vain. Tell him, finally, that when he has overthrown the evidence of Christ’s resurrection, it will be time to listen to his argument against miracles in general, but not till then. The man Christ Jesus is in heaven, and not on earth. The mere fact that his natural body and blood are in heaven, is one among many proofs of the truth of Christianity. Let us not be moved by the Roman Catholic, any more than by the infidel. Let us not listen to his favourite doctrine of Christ’s body and blood being ‘really present’ in the elements of bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper. It is his common argument that we should believe the doctrine, though we cannot understand it; and that it is a pleasant, comfortable, and reverent thought, that Christ’s natural body and blood are in the bread and wine in some mysterious way, though we know not how. Let us beware of the argument. It is not only without foundation of Scripture, but full of dangerous heresy. Let us stand fast on the old doctrine, that Christ’s natural body and blood ‘cannot be in more places than one at one time.’ Let us maintain firmly that Christ’s human nature is like our own, sin only excepted, and cannot therefore be at once in heaven and on the Communion Table. He that overthrows the doctrine of Christ’s real, true, and proper humanity, is no friend to the Gospel, any more than he that denies his divinity. Tell me that my Lord is not really man, and you rob me of one half of my soul’s comfort. Tell me that his body can be on earth and yet in heaven at the same time, and you tell me that he is not man. Let us resist this mischievous doctrine. Christ, as man, is in heaven, and in heaven alone. —J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied (Banner of Truth, 2016), 247–272, 275.

The One Mediator

It is important to know that Jesus is in heaven. Having been both our priest and final, all-sufficient sacrifice, he now continues his priestly work of intercession on our behalf. We need not doubt that Christ, as our Priest, is ever interceding for us in heaven. It is written, ‘He is able to save them to the uttermost who come unto God by him because he ever liveth to make intercession for them’ (Heb. 7:25). It is asked by St Paul, ‘Who is he that condemneth?’ and one reason he gives why there is no condemnation for believers, is the fact that ‘Christ maketh intercession for us’ (Rom. 8:34). Of the manner of that intercession we cannot of course speak particularly: we may not intrude into things unseen. But it may suffice us to remember how our Lord prayed for his people in the seventeenth chapter of John, and how he told Peter he prayed for him, that his faith might not fail (Luke 22:32). Our great High Priest knows how to intercede. . . . We need not doubt that Christ as a Priest in heaven is continually doing the work of a Receiver of sinners, and a Mediator between God and man. The priest was the person to whom the Israelite was bidden to go, when he was ceremonially unclean and wanted forgiveness. The command was distinct: ‘Go to the priest’. The Heavenly Priest is the person to whom labouring and heavy-laden souls ought always to be directed when they want pardon and rest. He that feels the burden of sin on his conscience and wants it taken away, ought to be told that there is One appointed by the Father for the very purpose of taking it away, and that the first step he must take is to go to him . . . Let us thank God daily that Christ is doing the work of a Priest for us in heaven. Let us glory in his death, but let us not glory less in his life. Let us praise God daily that Jesus ‘died for our sins according to the Scriptures’; but let us never forget to praise him that he ‘rose again for us, and sat down at the right hand of God’. Let us be thankful for the precious blood of Christ; but let us not be less thankful for his precious intercession. . . . Christ’s Priesthood is the great secret of a saint’s perseverance to the end. Left to ourselves there would be little likelihood of our getting safe home. We might begin well and end ill. So weak are our hearts, so busy the devil, so many the temptations of the world, that nothing could prevent our making shipwreck. But, thanks be to God, the Priesthood of Christ secures our safety.—He who never slumbers and never sleeps is continually watching over our interests, and providing for our need. While Satan pours water on the fire of grace, and strives to quench it, Christ pours on oil, and makes it bum more brightly. Start us in the narrow way of life, with pardon, grace, and a new heart, and leave us to ourselves, and we should soon fall away. But grant us the continual intercession of an Almighty Priest in heaven,—God as well as Man, and Man as well as God,—and we shall never be lost. ‘Because I live’, says our Lord, ‘ye shall live also’ (John 14:19). Let us ever beware of any doctrine which interferes with the Priesthood of Christ. Any system of religion which teaches that we need other mediators besides Jesus,—other priests besides Jesus,—other intercessors besides Jesus,—is unscriptural and dangerous to men’s souls. . . . ‘There is no office of Christ,’ said John Owen, ‘that Satan labours so hard to obscure and overthrow as his priestly one’. Satan cares little, comparatively, for Christ the Prophet, and Christ the King, so long as he can persuade man to forget Christ the Priest. For ever let us stand fast on this point. That Christ is carrying on the office of a Priest in heaven, is the crown and glory of Christian theology. —J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied (Banner of Truth, 2016), 278, 280–282.

The Most Excellent Knowledge

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 There is no knowledge more excellent than the knowledge of Christ, because there is no object more excellent than Christ. The knowledge of the most excellent object is the most excellent knowledge, such is Christ’s. There is nothing in him but what is excellent. There is a mixture in all created beings; where there is something excellent, there is also something deficient. Search out the best accomplished creature on earth, and something or other will be found distasteful in it. The heavens, though they seem the most excellent of all things visible, and their excellency seems to be their lucidness and purity, yet in the Lord’s sight even they are not pure, Job xv. 15. Nay, the angels, though the most excellent of all invisibles, and their chief excellency be wisdom,—‘wise as an angel,’—yet the Lord charges them with folly, Job iv. 18. Those glorious creatures are conscious of something not fit to be seen by the eye of God; they cover their feet, Isa. vi. 2. Ay, but Christ he is altogether lovely; whatever is in him is excellent, nothing in him deficient, distasteful, imperfect; ‘fairer than the children of men,’ ‘higher than the heavens;’ so far transcends the angels, as they adore him, Heb. i. 6, as infinitely below him; nothing in Christ but what is worthy of all love, all delight, all admiration, everlasting praises of saints and angels. All excellencies that are in the creatures are eminently to be found in Christ. Take a survey of heaven and earth, and whatever you see that is truly excellent in any, in all things therein, look up to Christ, and you may see it transcendently in him. Whatever is truly amiable, desirable, delightful, or admirable, whatever takes thy heart, if it be worthy of thy heart, look upon Christ, and there it shines in its full brightness. Every excellency that is scattered here and there in the creatures, are altogether in Christ; all the several lines of perfection and transcendent loveliness do all meet and centre in him. All these excellencies are in him in a more excellent manner: perfectly, without any shadow of imperfection; infinitely, without any bounds or limits; unchangeably and eternally, they ebb not, they wane not, they are always there in the full, they alter not, they decay not. He is infinitely all excellencies, without variableness or shadow of changing. The angels kept not their first habitation, the heavens shall wax old as a garment, the glory of man is as the flower of the grass, but Christ is yesterday, and to-day, and the same for ever, for ever altogether excellent. Not only all that are in the creatures, but innumerable more excellencies than are in all the creatures together, are in Christ alone. Not only the creatures’ fulness, but the fulness of the Godhead dwells in him, bodily, i. e., substantially, personally. Besides all that he has communicated to heaven or earth, there are unspeakably more excellencies in him than eye ever saw, or ear heard, or can enter into the heart of man to conceive, Col. ii. 9. Oh how excellent must that knowledge be, whose object is so transcendently excellent! —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:257–258.

The Witness of the Apostles to the Divinity of Christ

Some ammunition for your next conversation with Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses: First of all, a point worth especial attention is the apostles’ teaching that what had been foretold concerning the eternal God had already been revealed in Christ or was someday to be manifested in him. For when Isaiah prophesies that the Lord of Hosts is to be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for the Judeans and Israelites” [Isa. 8:14 p.], Paul declares this prophecy fulfilled in Christ [Rom. 9:32–33]. Therefore he proclaims Christ to be Lord of Hosts. Similarly, elsewhere he says, “We must all stand once before the judgment seat of Christ” [Rom. 14:10 p.]. “For it is written, . . . To me every knee shall bow [Rom. 14:11, Vg.], to Me . . . every tongue shall swear” [Isa. 45:23, order changed]. Since in Isaiah, God foretells this concerning himself, and Christ, indeed, shows it forth in himself, it follows that he is that very God whose glory cannot be transferred to another. It is evident that what Paul cites to the Ephesians from The Psalms applies to God alone: “Ascending on high, he led the captivity” [Eph. 4:8; Ps. 68:18; 67:19, Vg.]. Understanding that an ascension of this sort had been prefigured when in a notable victory God put forth his power against the foreign nations, Paul indicates that it was manifested more fully in Christ. Thus John testifies that it was the glory of the Son which had been revealed through Isaiah’s vision [John 12:41; Isa. 6:1], even though the prophet himself writes that he saw the majesty of God. Obviously the titles of God that the apostle in The Letter to the Hebrews confers upon the Son are the most glorious of all: “In the beginning, thou, O Lord, didst found heaven and earth” [Heb. 1:10 p.; Ps. 101:26 p., Vg.; 102:25, EV], etc. Likewise, “Adore him, all ye his angels” [Ps. 96:7, Vg.; 97:7, EV; cf.Heb. 1:6]. And still he does not misuse them when he applies them to Christ. Indeed, whatever they sing in The Psalms, He alone fulfills. For he it was who, rising up, was merciful to Zion [Ps. 101:14, Vg.; 102:13, EV]; he who asserted for himself the rule over all nations and islands [Ps. 96:1, Vg.; 97:1, EV]. And why should John have hesitated to refer the majesty of God to Christ, when he had declared that the Word was ever God [John 1:1, 14]? Why should Paul have feared to place Christ on God’s judgment seat [2 Cor. 5:10], when he had previously proclaimed his divinity so openly, saying that he was “God . . . blessed forever” [Rom. 9:5]? And to make clear how consistent lie is in this respect, in another passage he writes that “God has been manifested in the flesh” [I Tim. 3:16 p.]. If God is to be praised forever, he, then, it is to whom alone all glory and honor are due, as Paul affirms in another place [I Tim. 1:17]. And he does not conceal this, but openly proclaims: “Though he was in the form of God, he would not have counted it robbery if he had shown himself equal with God, yet he voluntarily emptied himself” [Phil. 2:6–7 p.]. And lest the impious carp about some feigned god, John went farther, saying: “He is the true God, and eternal life” [I John 5:20 p.]. However, it ought to be more than enough for us that he is called God, especially by that witness who aptly declares to us that there are not many gods, but one [Deut. 6:4]. Moreover, it is that Paul who said, “Though many are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, . . . yet for us there is one God, from whom are all things.” [I Cor. 8:5–6 p.] When we hear from the same mouth that “God was manifested in the flesh” [I Tim. 3:16 p.], that “God has purchased the church by his blood” [Acts 20:28 p.], why do we imagine a second god, whom Paul acknowledges not at all? And no doubt the same was the opinion of all godly men. In like manner Thomas openly proclaims him his Lord and God [John 20:28], and thus professes him to be that sole God whom he had always worshiped. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.13.11.

The Witness of Christ to His Divinity

We have heard the witness of the apostles to the divinity of Christ. See now what Christ himself said: Now if we weigh his divinity by the works that are ascribed him in the Scriptures, it will thereby shine forth more clearly. Indeed, when he said that he had been working hitherto from the beginning with the Father [John 5:17], the Jews, utterly stupid to all his other sayings, still sensed that he made use of divine power. And therefore, as John states, “the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God” [John 5:18]. How great will our stupidity then be if we do not feel that his divinity is here plainly affirmed? And verily, to govern the universe with providence and power, and to regulate all things by the command of his own power [Heb. 1:3], deeds that the apostle ascribes to Christ, is the function of the Creator alone. And he not only participates in the task of governing the world with the Father; but he carries out also other individual offices, which cannot be communicated to the creatures. The Lord proclaims through the prophet, “I, even I, am the one who blots out your transgressions for my own sake” [Isa. 43:25 p.]. According to this saying, when the Jews thought that wrong was done to God in that Christ was remitting sins, Christ not only asserted in words, but also proved by miracle, that this power belonged to him [Matt. 9:6]. We therefore perceive that he possesses not the administration merely but the actual power of remission of sins, which the Lord says will never pass from him to another. What? Does not the searching and penetrating of the silent thoughts of hearts belong to God alone? Yet Christ also had this power [Matt. 9:4; cf.John 2:25]. From this we infer his divinity. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.13.12.

Reading between the Lines

The terms commonly used in the doctrinal discussion of the atonement, and drawn from Bible phraseology, such as Surety, Mediator, High Priest, Advocate—all representing Him as our substitute, who appears in the presence of God for us, and conducts our cause,—are not indeed found in the Lord’s own words descriptive of Himself. But, beyond question, the thing is there; and He acts as fully conscious that, except through Himself, as Mediator, God could have no intercourse with man, nor man with God. He understands and consults the best interests of His people in every respect: He took flesh, and knows the infirmities of human nature by personal experience, that He may sympathize with their condition, and compassionately conduct their concerns: He was lawfully called and appointed to this function. And not only so: the sacrificial language, which we find Him so frequently using, implies a Priest, though he does not expressly appropriate the term. These titles, both numerous and various, imply that He had a relation to mankind which is unique; that He stood between God and man; that He was not an individual unit of the race, as all the negative theology represents Him; but acting in a representative capacity for it. He assumes a position that no one but Himself could dare to occupy. Thus, when He calls Himself the way, in the saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John xiv. 6), He means that He is the exclusive Way; not only paving the way for others, but constituting, in His own person and work, the only way by which any could have access to God. That this is the meaning is evident from the subjoined words, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Could Christ affirm this of Himself, if He were nothing more than a teacher, an example, or a merely human founder of a new religion? Certainly not. It could not be maintained that there never was any other teacher, or that Moses, David, and the prophets were in no wise either commissioned or fitted to point out the way of acceptable worship. Neither could the words hold, if they were interpreted of Jesus as an example or as the founder of a new religion. There are other examples, though by no means so perfect as He; and were He only, like Moses, the instrument or founder of a new religion, men might accept the religion, and without much injury forget the founder. But the Lord says that He cannot be omitted, forgotten, or superseded, and that from first to last no man approaches God but by Him. This shows Him to be a Mediator, a High Priest, or introducer on the ground of His person and work, and cannot be affirmed of any prophet or apostle that ever trod the earth. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 52–53.

The Servant’s Wisdom

Isaiah says the servant of the Lord will “act wisely” (Isa. 52:13). The Hebrew word speaks of someone who performs a task with skill and expertise. One modern translation says, “My servant will prosper” (NASB). Both translations are valid. The Hebrew word speaks of prudent action that gains prosperous results. Wisdom and success are often linked in Scripture (cf. Josh. 1:7–8; 1 Sam. 18:5, 30; 1 Kings 2:3 where the same verb appears). The language accents the fact that the servant’s exaltation is not owing to accidental success or good fortune. His ultimate triumph is an accomplishment attained by adroit know-how. The servant’s amazing wisdom will result in the attainment of his purpose. He will not fail to accomplish God’s will, because he prudently employs righteous means to achieve the noblest results. Moreover, “the Servant’s wisdom is deeply self-denying, for it means accepting ends determined by God and willingly shouldering a burden of untold suffering to make them possible. Here God’s wisdom and humankind’s decisively part company (cf. 1 Cor. 1:17–25).” —John MacArthur, The Gospel According to God (Crossway, 2018), 54.
The Jews of Jesus’ day expected a Messiah who would deliver them from oppression and set up his Messianic kingdom. In that, they were not wrong. One day, all their expectations will be fulfilled. What they did not realize is that they were under a much heavier oppressor than the Roman Empire. Jesus is the true Messiah, and he will one day return to reign as King over all the earth. But he could not establish his kingdom (with all its promised blessings for Jews and Gentiles alike) until he had provided salvation. People cannot be delivered from their suffering until they are delivered from their sin. The countless millions of sacrificed animals offered under the sacrificial system did not atone for sin. “Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered?” (Heb. 10:2). The constant offering of those sacrifices was designed to remind people of their sin and the need for an adequate atonement. “In these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year” (v. 3). The sacrifices pointed to Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Only the death of a perfect substitute would truly satisfy the demands of God’s justice and pay the penalty for sin. Isaiah 53 is God’s promise that he himself would provide a suitable Lamb (cf. Gen. 22:8). —John MacArthur, The Gospel According to God (Crossway, 2018), 76.


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