31 August 2009
My older brother Eric teaches Old Testament at Briercrest College and Seminary in Saskatchewan--I wonder if I spelled that right--after grad school at TEDS and the University of Edinburgh. His site Scatterings is updated a few times a week with substantial and thoughtful posts concerning what life in Christ looks like in a fallen world with forays into music and literature. (Eric is by far the wittiest of any of us.)
My younger brother Gavin just finished at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis and is now doing the internship at Capitol Hill Baptist with Mark Dever before looking for a pastorate next Spring. His blog Soliloquium is largely reflections on Scripture, analysis of stuff he is reading, and quotes from favorite writers such as Lewis and Tolkien.
And my dad is pastoring a young Acts 29 church he's recently planted in Nashville. If you want to hear some gospel-riveted preaching that is wonderfully disruptive and strengthening all at once, download the podcast--or see here for a taste. He blogs at Christ Is Deeper Still, updating roughly daily, mostly with life-giving quotes and occasionally addressing gospel living and questions about the Bible from his own store of wisdom.
I mention these guys to spread joy. If you follow them you will be helped. Enjoy, with me!
30 August 2009
[S]o short is the time of man's continuance upon earth, and so infinite the joys or miseries of the future world, that to make much of these little differences would be like estimating the weight of a feather, when engaged in weighing mountains. Who thinks it a matter of any concern, whether the circumstances of persons who lived a thousand years ago were affluent or destitute, except, so far as these external enjoyments and privations contributed to their moral improvement, or the contrary? If we could be duly impressed with the truths which respect our eternal condition, we should consider our afflictions here as scarcely worthy of being named.
--Thoughts on Religious Experience (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1844), 218
--Jonathan Edwards, 'Jesus Christ Is the Shining Forth fo the Father's Glory,' in The Glory and Honor of God: Vol 2 of the Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards (ed. M. McMullen; 2004), 235
29 August 2009
The basic issue is whether justification is the ground of sanctification so that sanctification is continually rooted in justification . . .
Justification . . . was not one specific phase among many on the way to salvation. It was the sweet word of pardon, which was and remained of all-embracing significance for the wholeness of life. Justification may never become a station along the way, a harbor which, once passed through, may be forgotten. On the contrary, only in intimate connection with justification does talk of sanctification make any real sense.
The Reformation, in its defense of the forensic, declarative justification that points us always to the free favor of God, has not endangered, but rescued the confession of true sanctification.
--G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Justification (Eerdmans 1954), 100
Thanks for pointing me to this book, Brian Martin.
Certainly, an idol is something we worship. As Keller puts it, a good thing that we turn into an ultimate thing. A legitimate joy or pursuit that we do not use to funnel up into the glory of God but into which we funnel the rest of our lives. Our emotional north star.
But a better way to describe these things is trust. In what do we trust? It is hard to see how I worship my reputation among academic peers; it is easy to see how I trust in my reputation. It's not intuitively obvious that I worship the idol of a swelling bank account; it's easy to see that I trust that as my deepest functional security. A stronghold of psychological refuge.
I've been helped to this by the Heidelberg Catechism, which makes this explicit. In its treatment of the 10 commandments, it explains the first commandment ('you shall have no other gods before me'--a question of worship, right?) like this:
Q 95. What is idolatry?
A. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in his Word.
Now there's a group of people who understand the human heart. And their Bibles--I was fascinated to discover this week how Psalm 115 speaks of idolatry. After a litany of descriptors of the impotence of idols, the psalmist sings:
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.
O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield. (vv. 8-9)
Luther was right: the first commandment, the call to worship no other gods than Yahweh, is a call to justification by faith alone. Psychological security by God, rather than psychological security by _________.
28 August 2009
Bavinck's whole discussion of imputation, if we replace the name Bellarmine with some modern ones, is strikingly relevant today. The same objections leveled today against imputation were given a century ago. Bellarmine argued that imputation is nonsensical because it does something only external to someone, and therefore the person is not in fact righteous, and not, therefore, to be called actually righteous if imputation is the controlling concept. See Bavinck deconstruct this false line of thinking on pages 212 to 214 of volume 4 of the Dogmatics. Here's the bottom line:
If God justifies the ungodly, that is not a fiction, a putative imputation, but a present and future reality. . . . For when God justifies the ungodly, he does it on the basis of a righteousness that he himself has effected in Christ. By Christ's sacrifice, against all hostile powers, he has acquired the right to acquit the ungodly. . . . And a justifying faith consists above all in an unshakable trust in that God of miracles with whom all things are possible.
Thank you Herman! I don't think you were nearly as grouchy as you look in all the pictures.
The mainspring of the controversy was not national interests or ecclesiastical ambition, but the central question: What does God require of man and how can man be justified before God?
. . . Now the union between Church and Jewry was Paul's ultimate hope. . . . He looked upon the breach between the Church and the Jewish people with deep sorrow and knew better than anyone what a great hindrance it was even to his work among the gentiles. But he brushed aside all ecclesiastical and national considerations. . . . He was solely concerned with the purely religious aspect of the matter in its deepest sense. As he saw it, his opponents had altered the substance of the Gospel by repudiating what had been accomplished by the Cross of Christ.
. . . The God who acted in Jesus was not a God who commands and demands, but a God who gives. Hence Christian piety involved the resolute rejection of every human claim to merit, and an equally resolute acceptance of reconciliation with God. These were the aims which made Paul enter the fray with might and main.
--Adolf Schlatter, The Church in the New Testament Period (1926), 169-71; emphasis original
26 August 2009
All that is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable in the whole of creation, in heaven and on earth, is gathered up in the future city of God--renewed, re-created, boosted to its highest glory.
The substance [of the city of God] is present in this creation. Just as the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, as carbon is converted into diamond, as the grain of wheat upon dying in the ground produces other grains of wheat, as all of nature revives in the spring and dresses up in celebrative clothing, as the believing community is formed out of Adam's fallen race, as the resurrection body is raised from the body that is dead and buried in the earth, so too, by the re-creating power of Christ, the new heaven and the new earth will one day emerge from the fire-purged elements of this world, radiant in enduring glory and forever set free from the "bondage to decay". . . . The state of glory will be . . . a re-formation that, thanks to the power of Christ . . . presents the entire creation before the face of God, brilliant in unfading splendor and blossoming in a springtime of eternal youth.
--Reformed Dogmatics, 4:720
25 August 2009
One thinker who had a profound understanding of the way idolatry captures the essense of sin in a holistic way as few other biblical-theological motifs do is Blaise Pascal. In his Pensees he talks about how resiliently and perversely sinful we are in that we continue to go back to our sins despite the fact that they have failed us every time; we convince ourselves that this time the sin (the idol) will satisfy. Then he says:
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.
God alone is man's true good, and since man abandoned him it is a strange fact that nothing in nature has been found to take his place: stars, sky, earth, elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, serpents, fever, plague, war, famine, vice, adultery, incest. Since losing his true good, man is capable of seeing it in anything, even his own destruction.
24 August 2009
23 August 2009
--C. S. Lewis, 1958 letter to the editor of The Christian Century, Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, 3:1006-7
We shall never find any rest anywhere in the world till we come to Christ. Wherever we go, we carry our guilty, accusing consciences with us. Men may still the cries of a condemning conscience by stupefying them and hardening themselves in sin, but that is curing the distemper by killing the man. But in Christ the cause malady is removed. The guilt of sin is forever abolished, and the soul is restored to a rational and well-grounded peace. . . .
It is the nature and genius of the whole frame and construction of the gospel that it is peaceable.
--'A Glorious Foundation for Peace,' in The Glory and Honor of God: VOl 2 of the Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards (ed. M. McMullen; 2004), 187-88
21 August 2009
20 August 2009
In God's view, there is never an inconsequential word that someone says. Every word counts. . . . When you climb into anything a person ever says, you actually find profound things revealed about what they're about, what they're after, what their intentions are, what their worldview is. Even in small talk, there is a revelation of the heart that God is searching out; he is weiging the intentionality of small talk. Small talk is counsel.
To put it simply: if we're just chatting small talk, at heart it is either a way for me to say 'I don't want to know you and I don't want you to know me, so I'm going to keep it light, and make it as quick as possible, and see you later.' Or, small talk is a way to say, 'I care about you. I'd like to get to know you.' We can talk about the football team, or the weather, and it's actually an expression of two human beings making that connection, but it's because we love each other or want to know each other. And small talk is going to be judged by God for the kind of deep intentionality that there is. In other words, small talk is counsel.
--David Powlison, in an interview with C.J. Mahaney, available here
19 August 2009
--letter of Martin Luther to Philip Melanchthon, June 5, 1530, LW 49:318, referring to a book he wrote exhorting the clergy who had gathered at the Diet of Augsburg
We cannot expound Paul's covenant theology in such a way as to make it a smooth, steady progress of historical fulfillment; but nor can we propose a kind of 'apocalyptic' view in which nothing that happened before Jesus is of any value even as preparation. In the messianic events of Jesus' death and resurrection Paul believes both that the covenant promises were at last fulfilled and that this constituted a massive and dramatic irruption into the processes of world history unlike anything before or since. And at the heart of both parts of this tension stands the cross of the Messiah, at once the long-awaited fulfillment and the slap in the face for all human pride.
--Paul: In Fresh Perspective (Fortress 2005), 54
My favorite passage came in the midst of Sweeney's seven 'theses for discussion' in light of Edwards' life.
Edwards shows us how God uses those who lose their lives for Christ. Those who live for themselves will lose themselves (Mt 10:39). But those who live for Christ, who die to themselves and cling to the cross, find themselves and their fulfillment in the One who loves them most. Edwards lived as a real martyr--a literal witness to his Lord--not a man with a martyr complex. He lived 'with all his might' for 'God's glory' while he lived. He shows us how to get over ourselves. . . . [H]e tried to let the Scriptures set the agenda for his daily life and ministry, refusing to make decisions out of inordinate self-concern.
--Douglas Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought (InterVarsity 2009), 198
18 August 2009
--Michael J. Gorman, Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul's Narrative Soteriology (InterVarsity 2009), 111; emphasis original
Two stories. Two pairs of men. Two times Jesus asks: 'What do you want me to do for you?' And both pairs of men are blind. James and John could see physcially but were blind spiritually, evident in their request for glory. The two beggars were blind physically but could see spiritually, evident in their request for mercy.
And Jesus granted it. In fact he not only granted the beggars sight, he brought along James and John, too. We'll be able to talk with all four of these men in the new earth someday. But why? How can it be that such blindness, whether physical or spiritual, can be healed in sinners like James and John, like the beggars, like you and me?
Because Jesus said 'What do you want me to do for you' a third time. Nestled into Matthew 20 (and Mk 10) is Jesus' statement that he came to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus asked the Father what he wanted, and submitted to it, laying down his life for the sheep. In other words: Jesus was the one person who ever lived who was, from the womb, seeing. And in giving his life as a ransom for many he allowed himself to be made blind so that you and I, blind beggars asking for glory, can see. For free.
I am not at all ashamed to speak, even in this day and generation, of 'the doctrine of justification by faith.' It should not be supposed, however, that that doctrine is an abstruse or intricate thing. On the contrary it is a very simple thing, and it is instinct with life.
It is an answer to the greatest personal question ever asked by a human soul--the question: 'How shall I be right with God; how do I stand in God's sight; what what favour does he look upon me?' There are those, it must be admitted, who never raise that question; there are those who are concerned with the question of their standing before men, but never with the question of their standing before God; there are those who are interested in what 'people say,' but not in the question what God says. Such men, however, are not those who move the world; they are apt to go with the current; they are apt to do as others do; they are not the heroes who change the destinies of the race. The beginning of true nobility comes when a man ceases to be interested in the judgment of men, and becomes interested in the judgment of God. (What Is Faith? p. 163)
This is wonderfully helpful. Machen is connecting the dots for us between justification by faith and one of the greatest struggles in this life, the temptation to seek the approval of people, something I'm thoroughly acquainted with myself. Justification by faith is not the idea that as long as we maintain the minimum intensity of faith, we'll be justified. 'Just have enough faith!' That is to turn justification by faith into its opposite. It is to make this doctrine self-dependent, the very thing the doctrine is turning upside down. Justification by faith is 'justification by God' and justification by works is 'justification by self.' Faith says: I will find my okay-ness in God's solid and sure gift of Christ rather than the wavering and fickle but alluring promises of idolatry, such as man-approval. Justification by faith gives us the resources now, emotionally and psychologically, to relinquish the need for human approval. Machen saw that.
Maybe Machen's insight helps us see why Paul begins Galatians, his charter on Christian liberty, his clearest statement of justification by faith, by declaring that he is not now trying to win the approval of men (1:10).
17 August 2009
Everything decent traces to love, everything indecent to a lack of love. The gas chambers of Dachau are only a more frightful exhibition of man's refusal to love God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. (p. 89)
16 August 2009
To the modern reader this form of address may sound quite awkward, especially since Catherine Luther was neither a doctor nor a preacher. These phrases lose their point, however, if they are interpreted as jokes, or as an allusion to Catherine's noble birth. Catherine had become for Luther a person of extreme importance, not only as mistress of his house, or as mother of his beloved children, but, and this above all, as spiritual companion. In her quiet, direct, confident, and sometimes blunt way she was both preacher and teacher to Luther, their children, and their friends; more than once she helped Luther to deal with his religious tensions and fears. (LW 49:236)
Who would Luther have been without Katie? How many of the great names through the ages made such a powerful mark on history largely due, under God, to their wives? I think of Sarah, for instance, Jonathan Edwards' wife.
And I am reminded what a gift of mercy my own dear Stacey is, such an encouragement and help to me.
14 August 2009
(Packer said: 'Bavinck's Dutch masterwork was the Everest of which the textbooks by Louis Berkhof and Auguste Leoerf were foothills and Berkouwer's studies in dogmatics were outliers. Like Augustine, Calvin, and Edwards, Bavinck was a man of giant mind. . . . Bavinck's magisterial Reformed Dogmatics remains after a century the supreme achievement of its kind.')
So in my attempts to relate (progressive) sanctification to justification this past 12 months or so I've recently gone to Bavinck. I'm finding him extremely helpful (the translator, John Vriend, has done a great job by the way) on this and other things (e.g. his discussion of 'all Israel' in Rom 11:26 is wonderful; and it is remarkable to see a systematic dogmatician so comfortable with not only Greek and Hebrew but the intertestamental Jewish literature--before Bibleworks!).
Anyway here are a few statements from his duscussion of how santification and justification go together. These deserve careful and submissive reflection. Italics are mine.
All the sects that arose in Protestant churches more or less proceeded from the idea that the confession of justification by faith was, if not incorrect, at least defective and incomplete and had to be augmented with sanctification. Pietism prescribed a specific method of conversion and then gathered the devout in small sealed-off circles . . . marked by a rigorous but also in many ways narrowly defined moral life. Methodism not only advanced a specific method of conversion but also gradually arrived at a special doctrine of sanctification. John Wesley not only distinguished justification from sanctification but separated the two. . . . (4:245)
To understand the benefit of sanctification correctly, we must proceed from the idea that Christ is our holiness in the same sense in which he is our righteousness. He is a complete and all-sufficient Savior. He does not rest until, after pronouncing his acquittal in our conscience, he has also imparted full holiness and glory to us. By his righteousness, accordingly, he does not just restore us to the state of the just who will go scot-free in the judgment of God, in order then to leave us to ourselves to reform ourselves after God's image and to merit eternal life. But Christ has accomplished everything. He bore for us the guilt and punishment of sin, placed himself under the law to secure eternal life for us, and then arose from the grave to communicate himself to us in all his fullness for both our righteousness and sanctification (1 Cor 1:30). The holiness that must completely become ours therefore fully awaits us in Christ. Many people still acknowledge that we must be justified by the righteousness that Christ has acquired but believe or at least act in practice as if we must be sanctified by a holiness we bring about ourselves. If that were the case, we would not--contrary to the apostolic witness (Rom 6:14; Gal 4:31; 5:1, 13)--live under grace and stand in freedom but continue always to be under the law. Evangelical sanctification, however, is just as distinct from legalistic sanctification as the righteousness that is of faith differs from that which is obtained by works. . . . (4:248)
[F]aith is not intellectual assent to a historical truth but a practical knowledge of the grace that God has revealed in Christ, a heartfelt trust that he has forgiven all our sins and accepted us as his children. For that reason this faith is not only needed at the beginning in justification, but it must also accompany the Christian throughout one's entire life, and also play a permanent and irreplaceable role in sanctification. In sanctification, too, it is exclusively faith that saves us. . . . (4:257; see also 3:528)
Faith . . . is the one great work Christians have to do in sanctification according to the principles of the gospel (John 6:29); it is the means of sanctification par excellence. . . . Faith breaks all self-reliance and fastens on to God's promise. It allows the law to stand in all its grandeur and refuses to lower the moral ideal, but also refrains from any attempt, by observing it, to find life and peace; it seizes upon God's mercy and relies on the righteousness and holiness accomplished in Christ on behalf of humans. It fosters humility, dependence, and trust and grants comfort, peace, and joy through the Holy Spirit. (4:257)
--F. W. J. Schelling, Ausgewaehlte Werke (4 vols; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftlichen Buchgesellschaft, 1968), 2:4; quoted in Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (4 vols; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003-08), 3:548
13 August 2009
You remember the story of the old minister who heard a sermon by a young man, and when he was asked by the preacher what he thought of it he was rather slow to answer, but at last he said, If I must tell you, I did not like it at all; there was no Christ in your sermon.' 'No,' answered the young man, 'because I did not see that Christ was in the text.' 'Oh!' said the old minister, 'but do you not know that from every little town and village and tiny hamlet in England there is a road leading to London? Whenever I get hold of a text, I say to myself, 'There is a road from here to Jesus Christ, and I mean to keep on His track till I get to Him.'
--C. H. Spurgeon, The Soul Winner (Eerdmans 1963), 78
. . . we might be forgiven?
. . . we would be pardoned forever?
. . . we would be reconciled to God?
All true theologically, but not what Peter says:
. . . having died to sins, we might live to righteousness.
He died to reverse the inveterate proclivity to (as Berkouwer put it) base our justification on our sanctification and instead base our sanctification on our justification.
--Jonathan Edwards, 'To Go with God's People,' undated sermon on Zech 8, The Glory and Honor of God: Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards Vol 2, p. 159
12 August 2009
Nothing could be more utterly unhistorical than the representation of Paul as a practical missionary, developing the doctrine of justification by faith in order to get rid of a doctrine of the Law which would be a hindrance in the way of his Gentile mission. Such a representation reverses the real state of the case. The real reason why Paul was devoted to the doctrine of justification by faith was not that it made possible the Gentile mission, but rather that it was true. Paul was not devoted to the doctrine of justification by faith because of the Gentile mission; he was devoted to the Gentile mission because of the doctrine of justification by faith. (Origin of Paul's Religion, 1978 Eerdmans, repr, 278-79)
That is exactly right.
In very many cases, people who decry controversy have already lost, or are in the process of losing, their own hold upon the great verities of the faith. They may not be conscious of relinquishing a single doctrine or a single fact that the Bible records. But the trouble is that what is not consciously given up in their minds has been removed from their hearts; they live only on the periphery of the Christian religion, and the really great things are lost from view. By such persons, whether in the pulpit or in the pew, the gospel in not indeed denied. But what is almost a worse thing than that is done--the gospel is not denied, but is simply ignored.
That last sentence is worth rereading.
--J. Gresham Machen, 'What is the Gospel?' in in J. Gresham Machen: Selected Short Writings (ed. D. G. Hart; P&R 2004), 125
In his little essay 'What Is Christianity?' Machen responds to those who say Christianity is a life, not a doctrine.
Of 1 Cor 15:3, he says:
Is it not an account of facts? That is a setting forth of things that happened; it is not an exhortation but a rehearsal of events, a piece of news.
The facts that are rehearsed are not, indeed, bare facts, but facts with the meaning of the facts. 'Christ died' is a fact; but to know merely that never did any good to anyone. . . . Christ died for our sins. . . .
But when you say 'fact with the meaning of the fact,' you have said 'doctrine.' We have already arrived, then, at the answer to our question. Christianity at the beginning, we have discovered, was not a life as distinguished from a doctrine or a life that had doctrine as its changing intellectual expression, but--just the other way around--it was a life founded upon a doctrine.
--"What is Christianity?" in J. Gresham Machen: Selected Short Writings (ed. D. G. Hart; P&R 2004), 95
It should be noted that the Apostle does not say, 'As many as observe the works of the Law are under a curse,' because this is false when applied to the time of the Law. He says rather: as many as are of the works of the Law, i.e., whosoever trust in the works of the Law and believe that they are made just by them are under a curse. For it is one thing to be of the works of the Law and another to observe the Law. The latter consists in fulfilling the Law, so that one who fulfills it is not under a curse. But to be of the works of the Law is to trust in them and place one's hope in them.
--Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (trans. F. R. Larcher; Albany, NY: Magi, 1966), 79; quoted in Moises Silva, Interpreting Galatians (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 235
We all know works of the law can't mitigate our falling short of the glory of God. But the question is deeper than that: what are you of? Not: what is your creed? What do you assent to doctrinally? But, at 7:30 p.m. in the living room with the family, what are you of? 'Do this and you will live' or 'the righteous will live by faith'? Which of those, when you or I get emotionally cut, bleeds out of us?
11 August 2009
Those who are familiar with these passages need to pause and attempt to hear them again as for the first time. The claim being made was indeed an astonishing one. Without other signs of renewed material prosperity, of liberation from Roman domination, or spiritual revival across the land, Jesus nevertheless proclaimed the realization of many of Israel's most cherished hopes. And without priestly, far less royal anointing or authorization, in his table-fellowship with the despised and irreligious, and in his pronouncing sins forgiven, Jesus was enacting the reality of God's hoped-for favor for his people. Eschatological salvation was now. (James Dunn, New Testament Theology: An Introduction [Abingdon 2009], 83; emphasis original).
In other words: eschartiology!
10 August 2009
--Rabbi Duncan describing the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, quoted in J. P. Alexander, A Priest For Ever: A Study of the Epistle Entitled 'To the Hebrews' (London: James Clark, 1937), 178
I know exactly what he means.
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul
When at the cross my Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day
When heaven came down and glory filled my soul
O what a wonderful day
I will never forget
When I was wandering in darkness away
Jesus my Savior I met
O what a tender compassionate friend
He met the need of my heart
Shadows disspelling with joy I am telling
He made all the darkness depart
09 August 2009
We sinned in the Garden, and immediately the impulse to self-save welled up. We know our nakedness, and we furiously yet subtlely strive to cover it. And we've been doing it ever since. We sense our sin and the impulse comes: 'Have patience, and I will pay you everything . . .' But the debt is unpayable. And to try to pay it is not to mitigate our debt but increase it.
Here's God's answer.
'Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.' (Ps 32:1) 'He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree . . .' (1 Pet 2:24)
08 August 2009
--Richard Gaffin, synthesizing Geerhardus Vos' treatment of the shortcomings of some systematic theology in Gaffin's introduction to Vos' Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos (edited by Gaffin; P&R, 1980), xx-xxi; quoted in Mike Williams, 'Systematic Theology as a Biblical Discipline,' in All for Jesus, 176
The concept of substitution may be said to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.
--John Stott, The Cross of Christ, 160
--Francis Watson, Text and Truth: Redefining Biblical Theology (1997), 38
[One must] refute the assumption . . . that faith prevents a properly historical perspective on Jesus.
--J. D. G. Dunn, New Testament Theology: An Introduction (2009), 28; emphasis original
07 August 2009
For Jesus, the love of the Father was directed even towards the despised and lost children. That he called them and not the righteous (Mk 2:17), was apparently the dissolution of all ethics; it seemed as if moral conduct meant nothing in God's eyes. The world around Jesus based man's relationship with God on his moral conduct. Because the gospel did not do that, it shook religion to its foundations. . . . The message that God wanted to have dealings with the ptochoi [the poor], the sinners, and that they were nearer to God than the righteous, provoked a passionate protest. . . .
In Jesus' view, nothing separates people so completely from God as a self-assured religiosity. (pp. 119-20)
06 August 2009
Jesus often castigated the sins of the religious leaders, particularly the Pharisees. Such strong indictments have raised the issue of anti-Semitism, especially when we consider the history of Christian mistreatment of the Jews. NT writers, however, never intended these indictments to provide a platform for the maltreatment of others. The religious leaders represented the tendency of all human beings when they rise to the top of a religious or social structure. Hence, what Jesus said to the religious leaders serves as an indictment of all who fail to repent and reveals what is naturally in the heart of every human being, Jew or Gentile.
--Tom Schreiner, NT Theology (Baker 2008), 511
Quibble with the theology and individualism if you want. There is a layer of trust and submission that some of us, for all our doctrinal rightness, never taste.
Song starts at 4:35.
'Behond, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD God is my strength and my song.' (Isa 12:2)
05 August 2009
This was what Paul came to see as he traveled to Damascus (Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:6).
--J. Louis Martyn, Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul (T&T Clark, 1997), 79; quoting Ernst Kaesemann
04 August 2009
03 August 2009
As Mr. Piper points out, . . . [Wright's] grand picture does not do justice to the New Testament, where the use of the word ‘justification’ and its many cognates cannot bear the meaning of ‘covenant faithfulness’ that Bishop Wright attaches to it. Whatever God’s ultimate purpose for the transformation of the world may be (and Mr. Piper does not deny that), the fact remains that the body of Christ on earth is made up of individuals, each one of whom needs the righteousness of the Saviour pleading for him if he is to enter the kingdom of heaven. Imputation is not a transfer of God’s righteousness to us, as Bishop Wright seems to think, but a reckoning of that righteousness, which is not and can never be ours, to us.
Read the whole thing.
HT: Mike Bird
You come to the doorsteps of the church with bags in your hands, your religion or your anti-religion, and the gospel tells you: Leave them all outside. They're of no value here. They're a hindrance, they're an obstacle, they're a nuisance. Why? Because the great message [of Christianity] is 'a new creation.'
What's that? A new creation is not an addition to what you have already--that's not a creation, that's an addition. Creation means making something out of nothing. That's how God made the world. It isn't creation if there was anything there. Creation is producing something out of nothing, nothing at all. And the New Testament way of describing the Christian is that he is a new creation.
--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "What Is Christianity? Part 2" (podcast available at oneplace.com)
02 August 2009
But then he says that the first two only have worth if they include the last one. He explains why by describing exactly what praise in the heart is.
Praise in the heart is an inward expression of love, joy, and admiration toward God under a sense of his excellency and grace. . . .
There may be admiration where there is no praise. The devils doubtless wonder at many things which God does. 'Tis probably they were surprised and amazed at the incarnation, death, and sufferings of the Son of God. Such a manner of expression of grace was what they did not in the least expect when man fell . . . but yet they don't praise but blaspheme. There may likewise be joy because of God's goodness when there is no praise because their joy does not arise from, nor is accompanied with, love. Wicked men rejoice in many things that are fruits of God's goodness to them, but they don't praise him because the foundation of joy is not anything that they see in God but only the good they receive in themselves.
Therefore then only is God praised when the heart is lifted up to God with love, joy, and wonder for what it sees in him and receives from him with a desire of expressing it to him.
--Jonathan Edwards, "It's a Very Decent and Comely Thing That Praise Should Be Given to God," in The Glory and Honor of God: Vol. 2 of the Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, 124