We Are Now and One Day Will Be…Glorified

We began our study on soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, several weeks ago. Today we bring it to its conclusion by looking at the final doctrine in the ordo salutis, glorification. And when covering glorification there is one text we must go to, Romans 8:28-30. Here Paul says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.”

This passage, known to many as the golden chain of salvation, runs the whole gamut of the ordo salutis. The ESV Study Bible mentions this in it’s notes for v30 saying, “The chain that begins with the word ‘foreknew’ in v29 cannot be broken.” John Murray, in his commentary on John, says, “Three actions are mentioned, calling, justification, and glorification. There is an unbreakable bond between these three actions…serving the apostle’s purpose in delineating the divine plan of salvation from its fount in the love of God to its consummation in the glorification of the sons of God.” Although Paul describes our glorification in the past tense (glorified) it is intended to teach us a double meaning: we have already been glorified in Christ and we will be glorified in Christ when our salvation has been completed.

As a young boy and up through my teenage years our family vacationed in Sarasota, FL during the 4th of July weekend. We would eat at the same beachside diner every year, enjoy live music, we’d dance, shoot off our own fireworks, chase tiny crabs by the water with flashlights, and finish the evening by watching the firework show put on by a nearby beach resort. Most of you have seen similar firework displays, where there is all sorts of various booms, sounds, colors, and sizes of fireworks all leading up to the grand finale when they would set off hundreds of fireworks at the same time. This grand finale was always the highlight of the evening for me. The loud blasts, color displays, and sheer volume of lights in the sky were captivating to behold. In the same (but greater!) manner, the doctrine of glorification is the grand finale of our salvation, where all that God has done in our hearts for His glory and our good comes to its completion, He gives us resurrection bodies, and we enjoy Him forever and ever.

Romans 8 shows us this in a few others places. After speaking of our adoption and union with Christ 8:17 says, “…and if children than heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” Romans 8 presents the Christian life as a life of suffering, but in the midst of that suffering we must be reminded of a few things. Namely, that our suffering in this life is a sharing in the sufferings of Christ. This is not just a statement intended for those who die a martyr’s death. No, this is for the whole Church. By sharing in the suffering of Christ, I think Paul means that our Christian lives, which are lived out in this fallen world, will cause us to bump up against and inwardly feel much fallenness and suffering. Paul spoke of always carrying around in his body the death of Christ, and we who believe know what this is like living in a fallen world as fallen and simultaneously redeemed people. Paul’s promise here in v17 is that if we share in His suffering (which all Christians do to varying degrees) we need to remember that we’ll one day share in His glory. Or to put it like Paul does, one day we’ll be glorified with Him. This causes a certain change about a believer’s life. We see it in v18 when Paul continues saying, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

First, see a confirmation of v17 here. That phrase ‘this present time’ is why I interpret v17 to mean suffering as a born again creature in a fallen world. Again, the suffering Paul has in mind is suffering brought to Christians during ‘this present time.’

Second, do you see how Paul’s hope of a future glory changes how he encounters the suffering in the present? He thinks of this current suffering as something not even worth comparing with what’s to come. He says similar things in 2 Corinthians 4 when he speaks of how the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ being held in jars of clay like you and I causes us to not lose heart. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). In both Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 4 Paul uses comparative language. Comparing the sufferings of this present world with the glory that’s to come. And his conclusion in both of these passages is the same: because of the eternal weight of glory that’s awaiting us, these present sufferings are two things: 1) they’re not even worth comparing with that glory, and 2) they’re only light and momentary afflictions.

In the verses that follow (Romans 8:20-27) Paul continues to expand on this saying the whole creation, and we ourselves (who are helped by the Holy Spirit) groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoptions as sons. Then into that context, we hear the stunning promise of the golden chain, “Those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” There are no dropouts!

Let’s go further.

After the stunning promise of a secure and sure glorification is no surprise that Paul rejoices in v31-39 with some of the most well known and celebrated passages in the book of Romans. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Can it get any better? Indeed it cannot. Thus, we long for the day when this glorification, when this completion of God’s salvation in us will bring us to the city we have sought. The city whose maker and builder is God. We long for the day when we’ll be ancient in our youth again, when we’ll run and not grow faint, when we’ll sing and not grow weary!

The truth is this: God has saved us. By grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone, to the glory of God alone – and yet though He’s saved us, we are not now what we shall soon be.

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Faith: A Receiving and A Resting

One particular genre I always enjoy and in which we can see a great deal about who we are is music. There is a list of songs as long as the Mississippi river that mention faith. Faith is a very widespread concept in popular culture. But faith in this respect is usually spoken of in relation to a lover, or has having faith in yourself. Both of these fall enormously short of the Biblical idea of faith.

In the Bible when the word faith is used it more resembles an idea of trust, a believe, hope, conviction, confidence, expectation, reliance, and dependence upon God Himself. In question 86 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism it asks “What is faith in Jesus Christ? Answer: Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered to us in the gospel.”

Think of it like this – when we turn from or repent of sin we don’t turn towards nothing…we turn to faith, and not just faith in general like so many people speak of but faith in a Person, namely, the Person of Jesus Christ. And what happens in the heart once we turn? As the catechism says there are two things that happen: a receiving of Jesus and a resting in Jesus.

A Receiving of Jesus

As the Apostle John begins his gospel and begins unfolding the incarnation of the Son of God, the Word made flesh he says this in 1:9-13. “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people, did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” So Jesus came into the world that He had made. He came into to His own, yet His own did not know Him or receive Him. Then in v12 we find the wondrous moment of contrast where John points out that not all rejected Him, some did receive Him. What does it mean to receive Jesus? v12 continues and explains it for us, “…to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name…”

To receive Jesus, therefore, is to believe in His name. This word ‘believed’ in John 1:12 is the Greek verb ‘pisteuousin’ which is used by Paul in its noun form ‘pistis’ which we translate as ‘faith.’ So, to receive Jesus is to believe in His name. And, to believe in His name is the same as having faith in Him. v12 shows us what it means to have faith in Jesus, v13 shows us the origin of our faith in Jesus. When you receive Him, or believe in His name, or have faith in Him John says you become a child of God who is born, not by the will of man, but by the will of God. So the sovereignty of God is on display in the faith of man, in that, just as God grants repentance, so too God gives faith to His people. That’s why v13 is placed after v12.

That God gives faith as a gift to His people is confirmed in Ephesians 2:8-9 when Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” There are many important things to glean from this verse, it’s one of the pinnacle passages describing justification by faith alone. But one often overlooked thing in this passage is the small phrase “And this” in the middle of v8. What is the word ‘this’ referring to? Paul has just spoken of us being saved by grace through faith, so grace and faith are in view. When he continues on and starts the next sentence with “And this” he means “And grace and faith” are not your own doing, it is the gift of God. So both grace and faith are gifts from God.

A Resting in Jesus

To explain this idea of resting in Jesus I want to describe the conversion experience of Martin Luther. Some of you already know this story, but I know some of you don’t. Here’s how it played out. Looking back throughout Luther’s life there’s an intriguing pattern to notice. Every five years he was involved in, or had himself, a major controversy. In 1505 he was almost struck by lightning and ran into the monastery. In 1510 he visited Rome on an errand and became disenchanted with Roman Catholicism by all the wickedness he saw. In 1515 he had what proved to be his most pivotal controversy, and to this day it is called ‘The Tower Experience.’ After doing much in depth study of the Scriptures Luther came to believe that the proper way to interpret the Bible is to find the ‘sensus literalis’ which means we should interpret the Bible according to it’s literary genre. Well, later that year Luther was assigned to teach through Paul’s letter to the Romans. So in his private study in preparation for his lectures he came to Romans 1:16-17 and came to a screeching halt. That passage says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written (quoting Habakkuk 2:4) ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”

Luther came to a halt because he found v17 repulsive. It was the word ‘righteousness’ that haunted him. He said, “I hated that word ‘the righteousness of God’ by which I had been taught according to the custom and use of all teachers that God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.” This, for Luther, was a barrier to God, a chasm between the holy God and his unholy heart that cannot be crossed. Luther saw no way around it and despaired of all hope. He was not righteous, thus, he could not live by faith. But, then Romans 1:17 broke upon his soul. He saw that what Paul was teaching was that there is a righteousness that is received as a result of faith and not as a result of works, and that once a person received this by faith they were reconciled to God.

What made the difference for Luther was that he was now studying the Greek text of Romans, not the Latin. You see, in the Latin text of Romans the word for righteousness is ‘eustificare’ which comes from the Roman legal system and means to make righteous. So the Latin meaning of this word in Romans 1:17 is that God’s very righteousness is in view. But in the original Greek the word was different. The Greek word for righteousness was the word ‘dikaiosune’ which means to count or to declare one as righteous. This was Luther’s awakening. Luther saw that Paul was teaching, not of God’s own righteousness, but of a righteousness God gives freely by His grace to people who don’t have a righteousness of their own. Then he read St. Augustine on Romans and saw that he also believed this. Then Luther said this, “At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”

This ‘Tower Experience’ explains a lot of why Luther was the way He was. Luther was so unwavering and steadfast against the onslaught that would soon come his way for teaching the doctrine of justification by faith alone because he knew that when looked upward he beheld a reconciled Father because of Jesus’ work, not an angry Judge. Luther received Jesus by believing in His name and having faith in Him and as a result Luther rested in Jesus.

Phil. 3:8-9 confirms this rest of soul that comes by faith and shows us what all of this leads to. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…”

Luther’s boldness as we’ve seen, and our boldness comes from this. We can live like v8, we can count knowing Christ as better than all things, we can count all things as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus our Lord because God has done v9 to us! He has given us a righteousness that is not our own, a righteousness that stands full and final in our account never to be removed.

See a pattern in all of this:

Receiving Jesus leads to resting in Jesus.

Resting in Jesus leads to recognizing Jesus’ worth above all things.

Recognizing Jesus’ worth above all things leads to risking all for Jesus.

Receiving, resting, recognizing, risking – begun by faith, sustained by faith, and Lord willing…finished by faith.

We Must See Our ____ to Know What ____ is

As we saw yesterday, we often forget to look at the really broad picture of the Bible, especially when it comes to how individual books of the Bible are laid out.  Take Romans again for example.

Romans is a letter that has been broken up into 16 chapters.  These chapters have themes, and these themes form purposed arguments.  In other words, the words of the Bible AND the flow of the Biblical authors arguments are not by accident.  In Romans chapter 1:1 – 3:20 descends into the abyss of sin.  3:21 – 5:21 soars in description of the gospel.  6:1 – 7:13 responds to the gospel with a call to holiness, while the rest of chapter 7 (7:14-25) discusses man’s failure to live up to those gospel standards.  This is all clear, but notice what comes in the beginning of chapter 8?  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.” 

This structure teaches us many things, one of those things stands out in particular to me today.  One cannot get to the astounding love of God toward us through Jesus without going through the darkness of sin.  This calls out a couple of types of people.

1) Some of you draw from the well of God’s love so much that you have never or have no intention of ever looking yourselves in the mirror to see how wretched you really are.  This is wrong.

2) Others of you drink heavily from the darkness of your own sin and failures so much that you never look up out of your pit, and glance in the direction of God’s love at all.  This is also wrong.

You probably already know what I’m going to say next don’t you?  We must avoid both of these extremes to be Biblical.  In order to get to the glorious love of God in gospel theology, we must go through sin to get there first.  There is no other way to it.  We cannot have sin with no love, or love with no sin.  We must see our sin to know what love is.

I wonder, which side of the pendulum to you fall on?  Find out, and run toward the middle to have a rich gospel-centered theology.

Theology = Worship = Application

When we take a step back from books in the Bible to look at the whole book, we often see things that stand out.

The book of Romans makes this especially clear.  In Romans, the first 11 chapters give us some of the richest, deepest, and thickest theology in the entire Bible.  Paul deals with many things in the first 11 chapters which we ought to give long attention to.  If we look at Romans as a whole we see something that stands out at the end of chapter 11, something that acts as a bridge.

After writing this glorious treasure of theology in Romans 1-11 Paul explodes into praise and says this, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the LORD, or who became His counselor?  Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again?  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever.  Amen.” 

This praise from Paul has often been called the bridge in Romans because of where it comes from and where it leads to.  I say where it comes from because before the bridge we have such rich theology; and I say where it leads to because after this praise chapter 12 begins the last section of Romans that deals primarily with application.  Why is this important?  Is it any surprise that theology leads to praise, and praise then leads to application of theology?  No, at least it shouldn’t surprise us.  Imagine Paul writing this as a boiling pot of water getting hotter and hotter to the boiling point as he is finishing chapter 11.  He then explodes in praise, because that is what the theology has led him to.  The praise then leads Paul to describe how the theology affects our everyday relationships including other believers, our authorities, and weaker brothers.

Notice that this means, contrary to popular opinion, that theology leads to the praise of God.  So many people have given up on deep thinking about the things of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and in doing so they have given up the very thing that will lead them to white-hot worship.  I do not know whoever began saying that seminaries should be called cemetaries, but they obviously did not see this pattern in Romans.  If you’re a deep thinker of God and love deep theology, this is for you.  If you feel you can only scratch the surface of Paul’s thought, this is for you.   No matter if you dive in over your head, or jump in the shallow end of theology, it should lead you to praise, and that praise should lead to a practical out working of the great truths you have learned.

Romans 1-11 (Theology) = Romans 11:33-36 (Worship) = Romans 12-15 (Application)

Almost the Greatest Advice on Preaching I’ve Received

When it comes to preaching, I have very strong opinions, AS EVERY PREACHER SHOULD!  Anywho, the title of this post is exactly what I want to say.  The best preaching advice one can ever give or receive is simple: expository preaching (verse by verse preaching) is the best way to preach.  If you want to know what this is, find the “preaching” category below and you won’t have to go far to find posts on it.

Now for the second best advice you can ever give or receive.  In seminary, the first thing my preaching professor Dr. Bruce Lowe ever told me was this:

If you say everything, you say nothing.

Let me give you an example: Romans 5:1-2 says this, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  Let’s say this is the passage you’ve chosen to preach on, what will you say?  You could do one sermon, fully loaded on doctrinal items, going into depths of explanations like this:

How many doctrines are in Romans 5:1-2? “Therefore, having been justified by faith (Justification by Faith alone…), we have peace with God (…Propitiation, Atonement, Substitution, Satisfaction…) through our Lord Jesus Christ (…Christ’s Deity, Eternal Priesthood, and Mediatorial Work…), through Whom (…Sola Christus…) also we have obtained our introduction by faith (… Sola Fide…) into this grace (…Sola Gratia…) in which we stand (…Justification, Perseverance…);and we exult in hope (…Assurance…) of the glory of God (…Soli Deo Gloria…).”

If you were to do this, your people would surely get a head full of true and right doctrine, which is great.  But is this beneficial?  I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the doctrine I think is wrong, it’s the manner in which you bring it forth to your people.  Instead of doing one sermon on all these doctrines, how about doing one sermon on each of these doctrines (making it a sermon series on two Bible verses – awesome!), showing how this verse teaches it?  That would be far better, because your people would get deeper into each individual doctrine, and hear how it specifically applies to their lives.  This is far better of an option in preaching because…

…if you say everything, you say nothing.

The Biblical Meaning of Foreknowledge

Many people deny the doctrine of predestination because of the word in Romans 8:29-30, “foreknew.”

Here is the passage, “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.”

Those who deny predestination based on this have one thing right, and one thing wrong.  The one thing they have correct is that predestination is indeed founded upon God’s foreknowing those whom He will choose.  What they have wrong is their definition of what it means to “foreknow.”  To “foreknow” can be defined in two ways: the philosophical way and the Biblical way.  The philosophical definition of foreknowledge or “foreknowing” is simple.  To foreknow means to know something beforehand.  Therefore when you bring this philosophical definition to Romans 8:29-30 it means this: God, before the world was made, looked down into the hallway of time and saw those people who would choose Him.  Based upon the foreknowledge of these people’s choice of Himself, God chose, or predestined them.  This manner of defining foreknowledge and predestination is not Biblical.

The Biblical definition of God’s foreknowledge is different.  Rather than meaning God’s prior knowledge of decisions man will make, it means a specific and intentional act of God loving certain people and setting His affection on them alone.  Confused?  Therefore when you bring the Biblical definition to Romans 8:29-30 it means this: God, based solely on His sovereign grace, chooses (elects) to set His affection on some men, regenerating them and thereby opening their heart to His truth.

Look at Amos 3:2 “You (Israel) only have I known among all the families of the earth…” Does God only know of Israel on the planet?  Is he ignorant of all other people?  Of course not.  God knows all people, there is nothing hidden from Him (Heb. 4:13).  So what does it mean when it says God only knew Israel out of all the families of the earth?  It means God chose to set His favor and affection only upon Israel out of the all the families of the earth.  This is portrayed for us in the word ‘know’ throughout the entire Bible.  To know someone is to set a very intimate affection on them.  This is why the Bible refers to Adam and Eve’s sexual intimacy as ‘knowing’ in Genesis 4:1.

So what does “foreknowledge” mean?  It does not refer to God’s actual knowledge of anything beforehand (though He in fact does have that knowledge).  Rather “foreknowledge” refers to God’s setting His affection upon His people before the world was made.  God intimately chose and knows His people, just as a husband intimately chose and knows his wife.  It is true that this foreknowing is the foundation of predestination, and the Biblical definition of it makes this so much clearer.

Thus, if we were to translate the Biblical meaning of foreknowledge into Romans 8:29 it would read like this, “For those whom God intimately set His affection upon beforehand, He also predestined…” This meaning is in sync with the rest of the Bible.

Labor to rid your mind of philosophical definitions for Biblical words.  Let the Bible define words for itself.

The Fame Of His Name Sent the Son

Now we’ve come to our Advent text, Ezekiel 36:22-23, “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”

Last week I mentioned that in this text we find the why, how, and when of God’s action to restore His people. Why will God restore His people? Because He will act for the sake of His holy name, which is being profaned. How will God restore His people? By vindicating the holiness of His great name, so that all the nations (including Israel) will know that He is the Lord. In response to having His name be profaned by His people’s wicked living and the nations wicked scoffing God is stirred up to act.

Did you notice why God will act though? It is stark and blatant statement we cannot gloss over. He is He acting for who? Who is He acting in behalf of? Read 36:22, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My great name…” The reason God is about to vindicate His holiness before them is not because of His people, but because of His passion over the fame of His name. To put it another way, God is about to act for His glory.

This is why it says “all shall know that I am the Lord” after He acts in behalf of His great name. I cannot over emphasize this detail enough. The phrase “…and you shall know that I am the Lord…” up to Ezekiel 36:22-23 occurs 57 times in the book of Ezekiel. The only other place in the Bible this phrase is used so repeatedly is in the book of Exodus, showing that God saved His people out of Egypt for His own glory, that the Pharaoh and all Egypt would know who the Lord really is. What does this mean? It means that the reason God is about to show up and restore His people, the reason upholding and founding all other reasons, the reason that gives meaning and vibrancy to all other reasons is His own glory among the nations! This is why God saves His people. He did this way in Egypt and He is about to do it again when He saves them out of captivity in Babylon.

We have answered the question of why and how God will restore His people, but we have not yet answered the question of ‘when.’ God will act, not for the sake of His people but for the sake of His holy name, vindicating His holiness before all nations…but when will do this? Enter Christmas and our earlier question of getting down to the reason why we celebrate the momentous occasion of Christ’s advent among us each December. Why did Jesus come?

Listen to Paul’s answer in Romans 3:21-26, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

So you see what God promised to do in Ezekiel 36:22-23 He did on the cross. On the cross God publicly displayed His righteousness, crushing His Son for the sins of His people, and giving His people His Son’s holy and righteous credit in our account. This is the glorious exchange on the cross, where God vindicated the holiness of His great name for all who have eyes to see. But think about it, where does the road to the cross begin? The manger. The incarnation. But bring the whole of Ezekiel 36 forward with it: God did not carry out the whole of the incarnation for His people’s sake, He did it for the sake of His name which had been profaned among the nations, to vindicate His holiness, or as Paul said it, “This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

So why did Jesus come? What the reason beneath all other reasons that the first Christmas occurred? Jesus came for God, and as a result of His advent here among us all nations now know (more are knowing everyday) that God is the Lord. God is now seen as both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. The fame of His name brought the Son of God to earth, and the fame of His name now brings us to all nations with the message of the Gospel.

The Superior Good News of All of Romans 8

From the Desiring God Blog:

John Piper says that good news is so dense and so constant in Romans 8 — and so vastly superior to all earthly good news — that we scarcely feel the force of it until we take every verse of Romans 8 and restate it as the miracle it means for our lives.

So that is what he did.

As the apostle Paul described gospel ministry to be “God making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20), Pastor John speaks the truth of Romans 8 to us as if God himself were speaking them. They are God’s words to us, and in his final message of the 2014 National Conference, Piper encourages us to just listen. He encourages us to bring our minds and hearts into a “hungry readiness to hear the Lord himself speak kindly and deeply and powerfully to our souls.” In this excerpt, he mentions sixteen, which takes about four minutes.

  • In Christ, you are free from eternal condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
  • My Spirit in you will one day give life to your mortal bodies in the resurrection. (Romans 8:10–11)
  • I executed the penalty for your sin in the crucified flesh of my Son. (Romans 8:3)
  • My Holy Spirit is fulfilling in you the demands of my law summed up in love. (Romans 8:4)
  • My Spirit’s power is the only means by which you can kill your sin. (Romans 8:13)
  • My indwelling Spirit is the spirit of adoption, wakening the cry from your heart, “Abba Father.” (Romans 8:15)
  • As my children, you are my heirs and will share my glory after a life of groaning with me in this fallen world. But children, that groaning is not worth comparing to the glory that you will one day see and share. (Romans 8:17–18)
  • One day, this entire creation will attain its own freedom and glory after and from and for my glorious children. (Romans 8:21)
  • When you don’t know how to pray in your sufferings, my Spirit prays for you through your very groanings. (Romans 8:26)
  • But one thing you do know: I work everything for the good of those who love me and are called according to my purpose. (Romans 8:28)
  • From eternity I took note of you, acknowledged you, chose you, and destined you infallibly to magnify my Son by becoming like him as the great firstborn. (Romans 8:29)
  • I forged in eternity the unbreakable links of the chain: predestined, called, justified, glorified so that at no point is any of my elect ever lost. (Romans 8:30)
  • Do you see, then? I, the Almighty, am for you! No one can successfully be against you. (Romans 8:31)
  • I gave my own Son to save you. And so, with the hardest act behind me, nothing can stop me from giving you everything you need to enjoy me forever. (Romans 8:32)
  • No charge can stick against you. I, the judge of the universe, count you righteous in my Son, Christ Jesus, who died, and rose, and reigns, and intercedes for you before me. (Romans 8:33–34)
  • Therefore, everyone and everything that attempts to block my love for you will not only be removed but it will be swept into the river of my omnipotent love, and it will serve you for your good and my glory forever. (Romans 8:38–39)

Too Drunk on Grace – God Stands for Us in Jesus

The final word the Lord speaks over Nineveh in Nahum 2:13 is, “Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard.”

After the “fog of war” Nineveh hears again the Divine Warrior declare His wrath against them. Just in case Nineveh thinks the reason they fell was the anger of the Babylonians and Medes alone, God remind Nineveh it was Him who crushed them. It was Him who stood against them. “Behold I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts.”

I want our discussion on Nahum 2 with two things today:

1) Standing back and looking at Nahum thus far we see a pattern reveal itself. In 1:15 we have the promise of salvation for God’s people while in 2:13 we have the promise of God’s judgment of His enemies. 1:15 speaking of salvation saying, “Behold upon the mountains the feet of him who brings good news! Your enemies will be utterly cut off and I will rescue!” 2:13 speaking of judgment saying, “I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts.” This pattern of salvation first and judgment later is a foreshadow of what will happen in the last days.

Think about it, salvation came first at the first coming of Christ – “Come to Me, the Kingdom of God has come, all who thirst drink the living water that I along give and you will never thirst again. Come follow Me.” After this announcement of salvation first we know there will be a later judgment to follow. “God will throw all those who rejected His Son into Hell for an eternal punishment.” Salvation first and judgment second. This is the pattern. Historically there was some time between 1:15 and 2:13 in Nahum, so what were the people of God to do in the meantime? They’ve been promised salvation and are waiting for judgment. So too, what are we to do in the meantime, we’ve been promised salvation in Jesus and await the second coming of Christ when He’ll judge the world in righteousness. 2 Peter 3:14 has great benefit for us: “Therefore beloved since you are waiting for these things (coming judgment) be diligent to be found by Him without spot of blemish, and at peace.” 2 Peter 3:11-12 even calls us to live holy and godly lives in view of the coming judgment. Why? Because it is in view of the coming judgment that should encourage us to live lives of holiness and godliness in this day.

I fear we have become so drunk on the grace of God that we over look sin as if it doesn’t really matter and even treat it as acceptable. We’ve become so numb to the words “holiness” and “godliness” that when we think of them we don’t think of our own lives following the commands of Christ in Scripture but think of people like Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. Is this not ridiculous?  Church, pleasing God by our obedience is a neglected New Testament teaching.

Too often we find ourselves on either too soft in grace or too hard in legalism. We either water down the commands of Christ so much that we make the gospel into a kind of “easy-believism” where we merely believe in Jesus and hope everything else will alright, or we make the commands of Christ so burdensome we make the gospel into a kind of lifeless legalism where we’re merely checking off boxes in our obedience “to-do” list.

Friends, is there even a category in your life that God, through His Word, commands you to not do things, avoid things, or fight against certain things? Is there even a category in your life that God, through His Word, commands you to actively put certain things into practice, pursue things, or embrace other things? 1 John 3 tells us this is the difference between the non-Christian and the Christian. Christians please God by following His commands, non-Christians don’t. Jesus said His friends are those who keep His commands in John 15, and that those who make a habit of sinning resemble their father the devil. Who do you resemble?

Nahum does this. It turns you inward to reflect on your character, your life, the company you keep, and the decisions you make. If you find that you’re not on the right side of God, and that God is against you like He’s against Nineveh. Beware, if you continue in this manner of living you will go to Hell.

But be comforted with the second point I’ll end with.

Nahum 2:13 is a staunch reminder of the wrath of God against His enemies. “Behold I am against you declares the Lord of hosts.” Desolation will be the only reality for the enemies and mockers of Christ.  “I am against you declares the Lord of hosts” came to Nineveh. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” comes to those who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus to save.

Tempted to Be Ashamed of the Gospel?

Romans 1:16-17 says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and then to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”

Such an infamous passage for all of history isn’t it?  The verse that had such a profound impact on Martin Luther and, in his own words said, “It opened for me the gates of paradise.”  The verse which many people think is the bedrock foundation of the robust book of theology known as Romans.  The verse in which we learn it is by faith we live life in Christ, not by works.  The verse which teaches the gospel is itself the power of God, the very thing that reveals God’s righteousness.

But notice what the verse implies: Paul boldly says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”  Do you think Paul would have ever thought to say such a thing if there weren’t moments in his life when he was tempted with being ashamed of the gospel?  Why else would he so boldly state that he is not?  He must have felt tempted to believe the lie, to believe this gospel’s madness is ruining his life and making him out to be the biggest fool in the universe.  But was it?  No.  Which is why he is ultimately not ashamed of it.

When someone first told me this, it did wonders for me.  I had always thought of the Apostle Paul as a super-hero, an un-tarnished model of what it means to be a pastor, preacher, or missionary.  Yes of course he admitted sin, and struggles with not wanting what was good for him and wanting to do the very thing he hates.  But deep down I guess I did not believe him.  I do now.  Do you?  Have you ever been tempted to believe the lie that the gospel is something to be ashamed of?  I have.  It is a powerful one too.  Sneaky thoughts from the evil one saying things like, “Look at what this gospel has done for you?  Ripped you from your family, sent you all around the world preaching to people who hate you and want to kill you?  Hasn’t it done enough damage to your marriage?  Hasn’t it done enough damage to your congregation?  Hasn’t it done enough damage to your reputation?”

In the midst of those temptations Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and then to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”

Amen.

No Death More Shameful, Now No Exaltation Higher

Today is Easter Sunday.  Below was the sermon I preached to my congregation today.  I post it here for your Easter reflection.  He is Risen indeed!

The Fruit of Resurrection

The year was 33 A.D. The week was, scholars believe, March 29-April 5. This week is without a doubt the most important week in all of history. Into the outskirts of Jerusalem riding on a donkey came One who would change everything. The people praised triumphantly over the excitement of this King and His coming Kingdom. This initial crowd was largely filled with Galileans and disciples of Jesus. They said, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10) 5 days later by the time the morning of Friday April 3 came, the coming Kingdom looked completely crushed because the King was hanging on a cross. Shouts again filled the air, but this time it was not triumphant. It was horrific. A different crowd filled with Pharisee’s, other Jewish leaders, Roman soldiers, and common town-folk did not scream out “Hosanna!” but screamed out “Crucify!” (Mark 15:13) Jesus died that day. The Disciples went into hiding not knowing what to do. The rest of that Friday, all of Saturday, and Sunday morning they were lonely and frightened. Until, in triumph over death Jesus rose from death, remaking the very fabric of life. Seen first by a few women, then by His disciples, then by many, many, more. From that moment on, now, and until Jesus returns we will celebrate this monumental event called the Resurrection. What is known to some as Easter is known to others as Resurrection Sunday. What you call it doesn’t matter. What does matter is though it’s been 1,981 years since the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God, this event is still as applicable and powerful today as it was the day it took place. To make much of this event and its continuing application today we will be looking into Romans 6:5-11 and the fruit of resurrection.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus

As a young middle school student learning how to write papers, I had a teacher once tell me the importance of the “thesis statement.” “This statement” she would say, “is so important because it tells your reader what you’re going to tell them in the following essay. It reveals the grand purpose behind the content, and prepares the reader for what’s to come.” In our passage today we have such a statement, and in it, Paul is preparing us, as his readers, for what’s to come. His grand purpose statement is revealed, all his cards laid out on the table in one verse. It’s 6:5 which says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Paul intends for us to somehow see the link between Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrection. How do we see it? I think the key word in 6:5 is “united.” If we’re united with Him in His death then we shall be united with Him in resurrection. So, the weight on understanding what Paul is telling us in this purpose statement all lies in understanding the word “united.” So what does it mean? To “unite” is to merge together, to bring into close connection. It is to join, to link, to couple, to incorporate, to merge what was once two separate things into one new thing.

We know this from common experience. We live in the “United” States, some of us work alongside others in a “union”, marriage is two people coming into a “unity.” But why does Paul mention this word here referring to Jesus’ death and resurrection? He does so because there exists a reality in the Christian experience called our “union with Christ.” Where as soon as we repent of our sin, trust in Christ for salvation, and are saved – we are made one with Christ. He is the great Head of the Church, and we are brought into His body. It then leads next to note that as goes the Head, so goes the body. This is so pervasive throughout the New Testament people have often spoken of it as if this is the Apostle Paul’s one major focus in all his letters, explaining how through faith we enter into this union, explaining how we live in light of this union, and explaining what will one day happen to us based on this union. Every time Paul or another writer in the New Testament talks of being “in Him” or “in Christ” our union with Jesus is in view. Here are a few examples of Paul teaching on this.

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

1 Corinthians 1:4-5, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in Him…”

2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Ephesians 1:4-ff, “We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world…In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins according to the riches of His grace…In Him we have obtained an inheritance…In Him, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit….In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Colossians 1:19, “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”

Colossians 2:6-ff, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…rooted and built up in Him…For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

So we see our union with Christ in these passages, and this is just a sample of the vast amount of Scripture referencing our being brought into union with Christ through faith. Back to our verse. Remember the weight of understanding Romans 6:5 lies on the word “united.” What then does Paul mean by saying if we are united in Jesus’ death with Him we will also be united in His resurrection? Paul continues to explain this in 6:6-7, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.” The Christians union with Christ goes deep, so deep that if you’re united to the Son of God by faith, it has consequences for your past. You’re old man, you’re sinful nature was killed along with Christ on the cross. Why was it killed along with Christ? So that it would be brought to nothing, and that we would therefore no longer be enslaved to sin. Which means if you’re no longer enslaved to sin, you are free indeed! Jesus also says this in John 8:32 when He says, “…you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

It’s interesting to me that people say they don’t want to come to church, or believe in Jesus because it’s just a set of rules forced on you and we were made to be free with no one lording rules and judgments over our heads. I use to say this myself, until I became a Christian, and found out that the freedom I had always longed for was only found in Christ. What I wanted was freedom from sin and I didn’t know it, and what was provided for me was freedom from sin, and Jesus freely gave it. Now I am free indeed! The greatest freedom found in all the world is when one gives up their “freedom” to believe in Jesus and follow Him. Didn’t Jesus something like this once? “If you lose your life for my sake and the gospels you’ll find it.” (Matthew 10:39) C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body, in the end submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in…You will not find real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints. But there must be a real giving up of the self…Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.”

Paul goes on in 6:8-10, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”

Here Paul moves onto the subject, which he introduced us to in the thesis statement of this argument. We believe if we died with Jesus, we will also rise with Him!” Why? He’s the Head of the body. If the Head goes this way or that, so goes the body. If the Head dies, so does the body. And praise God that if the Head is raised from death, the body will be raised from death as well. Paul goes further, moving into deep waters of the implications of the resurrection. Because Jesus died and rose, He will never die again. In His death He died to sin, never needed to repeat it again, once and for all He conquered the grave. Now the victorious life He lives He lives to God. See the comparison there? He died to sin in His death, but now the life He lives He lives to God. Only God could do such a thing, and only those united to this God will do the same by their union in Him. 6:8 says it, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” If Jesus, from his death, will never die again – then it follows that if we have placed our faith in Jesus and thus become united with Him, if He will never die again, we can be assured that after our death we shall be raised as He was and never die again! Jesus also said this in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though He die, he shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” I call this sermon “The Fruit of Resurrection” because this is what we see in this text. Jesus rose from the grave, and because of this His resurrection bears fruit in all those in union with Him. He rose, never to die again, and one day we too shall stand where He is.

Jesus by His resurrection shows Himself to be the most unique Person in the history of the world. Gandhi, Sidaurta Gautama (Buddha), Confucius, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Elrond Hubbard, and countless other people lived their lives, taught people, and created massive followings, but then they died. Never to be heard from again. Jesus lived, taught, gained a massive following, and died too. But the grave could not hold Him down. He Himself says in John 10:18, “No one takes My life from me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” What does all this mean? It means you cannot dismiss Jesus as prophet, good teacher, or mere moral example – because He rose, He is God! Romans 1:4 says the same, that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” What proved His deity? What proved that He was more than a mere man? He didn’t stay dead when He died, death couldn’t hold him in its grip. He was too strong. He is still too strong!

The implications streaming out of this moment are stunning:

-We now have a Savior who can never die again, and who can be with us until the end of the age. Matthew 28:20 “Behold I am with you always.”

-We now can be born again.  1 Peter 1:3 “By his great mercy we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

-We now have the forgiveness of sin. 1 Corinthians 15:17 “If Christ has not been raised, your hope is futile and you are still in your sins…but Christ has been raised!”

-We now have no condemnation if we’re united to Jesus. Romans 8:34 “Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God.”

-We now can trust that all wrongs will one day be righted at the coming judgment. Acts 17:31 “God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”

-We now can be assured of our own resurrection from the dead. 2 Corinthians 4:14 “We know that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”

Church, we have such an unassailable life-giving Savior don’t we? By His resurrection Jesus stands forth as the Victor, conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might. He has burst the bands of death, trampled the darkness decisively. By the resurrection we know that His sacrifice on the cross was accepted, the wrath of God satisfied, the devil’s scepter split in two and his wrongful claim to the throne leveled. In Christ we died, and in Him we rise. In His life we live, and in His victory we triumph, and in His glorification we shall one day be glorified. He was crowned with thorns, and He is now wreathed with glory. No shame was deeper than the cross, no agony more bitter, and no death more cruel. Now, no exaltation is higher, no life more glorious, and no advocate more effective! In Christ the New Man has arrived on the stage of history, and now by His grace He is creating new men out of every people.

Romans 6:11, the last verse in our text, gives one final implication of the resurrection:

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Because of Jesus’ work in our behalf, if we’re in union with Him by faith, we must consider ourselves as Jesus considers Himself before God. We are now dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus. As sin can no longer have power against the Son of God, sin can now have no power against the sons and daughters of God. As Jesus is now completely alive never to die again, so too we have been given an incorruptible life never to fade away or vanish.

Friends, don’t miss the thing that’s been staring us in the face this whole time. These promises are only for those “in Christ.” Only they will rise again as He did, only they will receive the fruit of Jesus’ resurrection. Are you in Him? Are you united to Him by faith? If not, He’s alive and willing to save to the uttermost! Come, come to Him!

Who can command the highest praise? Who has the name above all names? Jesus, only Jesus, He stands alone, we stand amazed!

Jesus Came for Mercy

Yesterday I said if we believe that Jesus died for mankind before dying for the God, we have to believe Jesus saw greater pleasure in dying for us than in dying to prove His Father’s holiness. It is blasphemy to say Jesus desires us before He desires His Father.  I tried show this to you yesterday from Ezekiel 36, today I will aim to show it to you from Romans 15:8-9, which says:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”

Why did Jesus come?  Jesus became “a servant to the circumcised”, meaning He became human, for two reasons from this verse.  First Jesus became human to show God’s truthfulness, specifically to show us God’s surety and trustworthiness in keeping His promises given to the Old Testament leaders (patriarchs).  What was promised of God in the Old Testament has found it’s most ultimate climax in the Person and the Work of Jesus Christ, Son of God.  We are the learn that from looking at Jesus.

Notice there is a second reason in this verse?  Jesus came “in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.”  Jesus became human, lived, suffered, died, rose, and ascended so that, or for the purpose of bringing glorification to His Father for His great mercy.  The gentiles are to learn this from looking at Jesus.  They, along with all Jews, are a sinful, stiffed-neck people, who love evil more than good, desire hate more than love, and drink in iniquity like water.  Into this world a light has come, into this darkness a hope has arisen in the Person of Jesus Christ.  In Him we can find hope, light, life, peace, joy, delight, pleasure, salvation.  In Him all sinners have hope because He died the death sinners were supposed to and from this sinners can have what is not theirs, adoption into the family of God through faith in God’s Son.  This is mercy indeed.  Jesus came to put this on display.

Jesus came to glorify God for His mercy.

The Highest Art

turretinEvery now and then a quote hits me that explains what I feel about a certain passage of Scripture.  Upon reading the quote my spirit exclaims something like, “YES!  That’s exactly what ____________ (insert Bible verse) means!  I could feel what it was saying, so glad someone has put it into words for me.”

Below is such a quote.  Upon reading Romans 1:18-20 an interesting reflection could follow, which without careful guidance from good teaching, one could easily wander off into all sorts of error.  Francis Turretin (quote below and picture to the left) helps out a lot.

Romans 1:18-20 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Francis Turretin said:

“Not only do the heavens declare the glory of God, but every blade of grass and flower in the field, every pebble on the shore and every shell in the ocean proclaim not only his power and goodness, but also his manifold wisdom, so near each one that even by feeling, God can be found. Augustine says, “The prophetic voices excepted, the world itself by its own most regular mutability and mobility and the exquisitely beautiful appearance of all visible things, silently as it were proclaims both that it was made and could be made only by a God unspeakably and invisibly great, and unspeakably and invisibly beautiful….You may say perhaps that these things were so arranged by chance and by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. But I know not whether such an impious and absurd opinion is worthy of refutation, since these things denote not chance, but the highest art.”

Why Was the Old Testament Written?

Why was the Old Testament written?

Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

What does that mean?  That the entire Old Testament was wisely directed by God to be instructive to both its present audience (Israel) and for later centuries as well (us).  This means it is of infinitely great value to us today, because in it, God means to both instruct us give us hope through it.  How does God instruct us and give us hope in it?  By pointing us to Christ through foreshadows and types.  The Old Testament is the appetizer which prepares the way for the greater meal to come!

We Must See Our ____ To Know what ____ Is.

Often times we forget to look at the really broad picture of the Bible, especially when it comes to how individual books of the Bible are laid out.  Take Romans for example.  Romans is a letter that has been broken up into 16 chapters.  These chapters have themes, and these themes are form purposed arguments.  In other words, the words of the Bible AND the flow of the Biblical authors arguments are not by accident.  In Romans chapter 1:1 – 3:20 descends into the abyss of sin.  3:21 – 5:21 soars in description of the gospel.  6:1 – 7:13 responds to the gospel with a call to holiness, while the rest of chapter 7 (7:14-25) discusses man’s failure to live up to those gospel standards.  This is all clear, but notice what comes in the beginning of chapter 8?  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.”

This structure teaches us many things, one of those things stands out in particular to me today.  One cannot get to the astounding love of God toward us through Jesus without going through the darkness of sin.  This calls out a couple types of people.  1) Some of you draw from the well of God’s love so much that you have never or have no intention of ever looking yourselves in the mirror to see how wretched you really are.  This is wrong.  2) Others of you drink heavily from the darkness of your own sin and failures so much that you never look up out of your pit, and glance in the direction of God’s love at all.  This is also wrong.  You probably already know what I’m going to say next don’t you?  We must avoid both of these extremes to be Biblical.  In order to get to the glorious love of God in gospel theology, we must go through sin  to get there first!  There is no other way to it.  We cannot have sin with no love, or love with no sin.  We must see our sin to know what love is.

I wonder, which side of the pendulum to you fall on?  Find out, and run toward the middle to have a rich gospel-centered theology.