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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’


Sunday I preached on Jesus the Son of Adam. I spoke of Adam’s role as federal head for what is typically called ‘the covenant of works’. We see this in Genesis 2 when God issues him the commands and prohibitions. We also see Paul making much of this in Romans 5 since Adam was the type of one to come- another federal head.

I also spent time speaking about Adam (and Eve) as made in God’s image, which was distorted in his disobedience. Jesus in His humanity as Mediator is also the perfect image of God who restores that image in all who are united to Him as head of the New Covenant (we see this in Eph. 4, Col. 3 and Rom. 8).

Once in a while I remember that “you can’t say everything anytime you say anything”, as Richard Pratt taught us. I can’t say I did that on purpose this time, but there was an important thing I meant to say, but didn’t.

When I was a young Christian, some (non-Reformed) theologians tried to tie Jesus’ sufficiency as Savior to His divinity. It was years later, while reading Romans 5 that the quarter dropped for me that this was nonsense.

If Jesus’ death is sufficient for us due to his divinity, then how do we explain that “all sinned” in Adam? He surely isn’t divine.

Additionally, at the risk of sounding Nestorian we know that God cannot die. Because a man (Adam) had sinned, and we sin as humans, a man had to die. Jesus died on the Cross, and He died as a man.

Jesus’ death is sufficient for all who believe for the same reason Adam’s sin brought guilt to all of humanity born of normal conception (which exempts Jesus since Mary was overcome by the Spirit). Adam’s one sin is sufficient to condemn us, and Jesus’ one act of righteousness is enough to save us, because both are federal heads. They have been appointed by God as heads of covenants. This is the biblical and covenantal rationale for the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement for the elect.

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There are many books on love. Not all of them are good. They don’t seem to get to the heart of the matter- loving others is hard. By love I’m not talking about warm, fuzzy feelings. But sacrificing yourself for them day in and day out. Actually, it goes beyond hard.

“The problem is that we are less loving than we think we are and a lot less loving than we ought to be.”

Phil Ryken has written an excellent book on love with Loving the Way Jesus Loves. He brings us through 1 Corinthians 13 and illustrates each aspect of love from the earthly ministry of Jesus. As a result, you get a very Christ-centered book. Jesus is not merely an example to follow. He is the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Gal. 2:20). Apart from being loved by Him, we cannot love (see 1 John 3-4).

“He does not love us merely to love us but also to love others through us as we learn to love the way that he loves.”

This book is not a commentary. It draws from a number of commentaries and books by godly people thru the ages, but it isn’t academic in tone. It is pastoral in tone. While he is honest about our failures to love, he is not condemning. He offers hope in Christ who loved us and laid down His life for us. It is … gently convicting. I certainly felt convicted much of the time. I didn’t feel condemned. I felt I still needed to grow, and Jesus was at work growing me. But that is about me, this is about the book.

In a sense, the book is structured “artificially”. He structures it not according to the order Paul uses, but rearranged them so the life of Jesus is in chronological order. I think the book is better for that.

“This is what love does: it lets the needs of others set our agenda, rather than letting our agenda limit how much we are willing to serve- …”

In the process of explaining the nature of love, he reveals to us how unloving much of what we do really is. We don’t really ponder the true nature of things like irritability. It is only as we own up to the true of that matter that we will be set free to love. It is only as we repent of these things that we will begin to act in ways more consistent with love.

Ryken blends exegetical insights, biblical illustrations, helpful words from the saints of old (Edwards, Chrysostom, Tertullian and more), events from the lives of ordinary people and of course Jesus to offer a most helpful book about love. It is not about idealism. It is about how Jesus loves us, and how He teaches us to love others. This is a great need in the church, and Ryken provides some effective medicine for our disease.

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I know, I’ve been derelict in my duty. I have more important matters to attend to. But I have some spare time, so it is time to look at the second approach in Four Views on the Book of Revelation: idealism. Often this is called the Spiritual view. I’m not wild about that term since it wrongly implies spiritualization, which is a problematic way of interpreting the Scriptures.  Spiritualization treats the Scriptures as if they have special meaning that isn’t on the surface of the text. Typology, for instance, recognizes the historical events of the text, but says they also point to Christ and His work. Spiritualization does not recognize the historical events. I hope that makes sense. This view is NOT spiritualization.

The idealist view does a few things. First, it recognizes that The Revelation is filled with symbolism. To interpret it literally means to recognize the symbolism. Second, idealism recognizes progressive parallelism throughout the text in keeping with apocalyptic writings like we find in the prophets. The Revelation contains a series of visions about the same events from different angles, with increasing intensity. Therefore, the Book is not to be read chronologically (again, try to do that with the prophets and you’ll become very confused). Often, these different visions are indicated by “I saw heaven opened” (this is the title of Michael Wilcock’s commentary.) The third main feature of the position is that these visions represent patterns throughout history that culminate in the consummation at Christ’s return.

Most idealists hold to the amillennial position. This means that chapter 20 is a symbol representing the present age instead of chronologically following this age. This means that the battle at the end of chapter 20 is the same battle as we find in chapter 19. Christ returns at this end of this age to defeat His enemies, deliver His saints and restore creation. The amillennialist says that we are currently in the millennium. It is technically a post-millennial position.

As an idealist with some preterist leanings, I was not impressed with Sam Hamstra Jr.’s presentation. Commentaries that hold to this view, that are quite good, include Hendriksen’s More than Conquerors, Poythress’ The Returning King, Dennis Johson’s The Triumph of the Lamb and Derek Thomas’ Let’s Study Revelation. One thing that I found troublesome in Hamstra’s presentation, as opposed to the others, is that Revelation essentially becomes a book without a historical context (“They may have no historic connection with any particular event”). The book was intended to provide comfort to the original audience, and to us when we suffer in similar ways. We are not the original audience, but it applies to us too.

The letters to the seven churches are to the whole church, at that time. Here he recognizes the historical context. John is addressing their needs and trials. They do not represent 7 successive periods in the life of the church, as some people teach.

The big picture is the prominence of the throne of God. What plays out is a result of God’s plan and purposes for the world. History is under the direction of God, and the preservation of the saints and destruction of his enemies are a part of that. But we see rivals to God arising. The dragon, Beast and False Prophet comprise a counterfeit trinity and the Harlot is a counterfeit church (Poythress in particular is very helpful here). While they may prevail in the short-term, Jesus wins long-term, and His people preserve through the blood of the Lamb. He is a Lamb to us, and a Lion to His enemies. The Revelation is a revelation from Christ about Christ.

In the present, we see the power of the Beast in persecution, the False Prophet in deception (cults), and the Harlot in seduction. All three work in the power of the dragon, who is Satan as John tells us in Revelation 12. At any particular point in time, a church will experience one or two of those strategies. Here in America we are subject to seduction (consumerism) and deception (cults and secular humanism). At some point, we may experience persecution like many Christians around the world currently do.

This frees us from thinking the book is for our generation, though it applies to our generation. It frees us from thinking the books it for some far off generation, because it applies to our generation. This frees us from all the erroneous speculation that we see in dispensational teaching (Walvoord, Lindsey, LeHaye etc.). The point is not to generate fear- but for us to trust (rely upon) Christ who will prevail. We need to be vigilant about our lives, not obsessing about the European Union and bar codes.

The idealist position functions more as a theology of history than a chronology for the end of the world. As Hamstra notes, it is idea rather than event oriented. As a result, it helps us to apply the Revelation to any generation awaiting the return of Christ.

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I guess it was the Super Bowl that reminded me of a gift I once got for Christmas. It was a Patriots’ uniform, with pads, helmet, jersey and pants. It wasn’t really designed for a real game. But in my young mind I looked cool. I would put it on and play in our finished basement. I would toss a football to myself, trying not to skid it off the suspension ceiling. I imagined playing in the big game (at this point in time the Patriots hadn’t even been to a Super Bowl, much less won one). In my fantasy, I never failed.

It was the same when practicing baseball or basketball. I always caught the final out. If I missed the jump shot, miraculously there were another few seconds to hit the game winner. I suspect I was no different than any other kid growing up. That is the nature of fantasy- you always win the game. As we grow up the fantasy changes- you always get the girl or the really cool job.

But real life was different. When you were playing for real you were afraid you would strike out, miss the shot, or drop the ball. Not all of us are as crippled by that fear as one of the kids in the movie Parenthood. Steve Martin’s character was vexed by his son’s struggles, probably because he didn’t want his son to grow up like him- living in fear of failure and settling for a life of minimal risk.

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I wrote this on 9/13/01 for our church newsletter.  I tried to offer some perspective.  I hope to follow this up with a “now” take.

Spring 2001 from the Staten Island Ferry

What is probably the single most horrible act of terrorism in history has ushered America into reality.  The so-called reality shows that are so popular now can never top live footage of two passenger jets colliding, purposefully, into the World Trade Center.  Until this moment we have been under the illusion of being invulnerable.

The horrific bombing in Oklahoma was done by one of our own.  Other acts of foreign terrorism on our shores have been minimal and shut out of our national consciousness.  Never again.  The world is filled with such acts, though not on this scale.  And we will never be the same.

The responses in our hearts are mixed.  We weep for the victims, their families and even ourselves.  We’ve been stripped of that illusion and it is painful.  There is also anger, even outrage.  I’m reminded of the song “If I had a Rocket Launcher” by Bruce Cockburn.  It was written after witnessing similar horrible acts in South America in the mid-80’s.  If he had one “some son of a b—  would die”.  That is how I feel at times.  Do you?

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I am currently reading (among other books) The Great Work of the Gospel by John Ensor.  In proclaiming the greatness of God’s work for our salvation, John takes a very different approach than Rob Bell.  Bell, during his Sex God tour, talked about how God was not angry with sinners, but sinners only seemed to think he was.  Bell’s upcoming book seems to allude that God is not an angry God.

Ensor, on the other hand, spends a chapter on the great need for the great work of the gospel.  He focuses there on the justice of God’s judgment, or the reality of God’s wrath.

11 God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.  Psalm 7

In one of his sermons on Colossians 3, Matt Chandler distinguishes between God’s active and passive wrath.  His active wrath is clearly seen in judgment upon nations and people.  Think the flood, or Sodom and Gemorrah.  His passive wrath, as noted in Romans 1, is to give us over to our own dark desires.  He gives us over to the sin we love that it might ruin us.  Then, some of us cry out for mercy.

Ensor notes that the frequency with which the Bible speaks of God’s wrath should lead us to some startling conclusions.

“Either our sin and guilt is far, far greater than we ever knew, or God’s punishment far, far exceeds the crime.”

If God is just (and He is), then the latter proposition is not the case.  In other words, our sin and guilt are far greater than we ever imagined.  As Anselm noted to Boso, “You have not yet considered how great the weight of sin is.”  We need only look to the cross to discover the greatness of sin and guilt.  Our perception is off, by a large margin.  Instead of seeking mercy, we tend to excuse, overlook and ignore our sin and guilt.

Ensor, like Chandler, brings Romans 1 into the picture.  Our sin suppresses the clearly seen truth about God and his invisible attributes revealed in creation.  We exchanged the real God for any number of fake gods in creation: the Creator for the created.  We have turned our backs on God, and sought life in a wide variety of created goods- sex, money, family, music, food…

Hulk Smash!

Ensor reveals the compatibility of love and anger.  The sermon by Chandler, and one by Tim Keller, takes the same approach.  We tend to think of love and anger opposed to one another.  But anger is the proper response to a threat against that which is loved.  God hates sin because sin threatens to destroy creation, and people.  In the most recent version of The Hulk, the Hulk’s rage is greatest when the woman he loves is in danger.  Wrath seeks to eliminate the threat.  Sinful anger is sinful, in part, because it takes out more than the threat.  It adopts a scorched earth policy.  But love must get angry when the object of love is threatened.  If you don’t get angry when your spouse (or child) is physically or sexually assaulted, you don’t love them.

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A recent sermon was on Abram’s encounter with the mysterious Melchizedek.  Since it was a sermon, I just briefly mentioned that he was a man who was a type of Christ.  He was not, as some have thought, the pre-incarnate Son of God.

I had a question about that.  I did some more research, particularly on the Hebrews 7 passage at the crux of the issue.  I also went back to my unpublished work on the priestly ministry of Jesus.  Here’s what I said there (sorry the footnotes are incomplete):

The author then begins to explain what he meant all the way back in chapter 5.  He feels compelled to remind them of who this man was since he is such a mysterious figure.  Who he was has been greatly discussed over the course of history.  There has been no limits to the speculation some have engaged in.  We do well to heed Turretin’s warning about “the silence of Scripture imposing silence upon us here in a certain manner and checking our curiosity.”[1] We will find by the way the Apostle describes him that he never thought that Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Christ as some have supposed.  Neither are we to suppose that he was actually the Holy Spirit, or Shem, the son of Noah.

This man, at the time of Abraham, was a king of what was probably Jerusalem[2].  In addition to his duties as king he was also a priest.  In the midst of great paganism we find a priest to the Most High God, Jehovah.  Like Abraham, Melchizedek was a worshipper of Jehovah.

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