Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Cross not only atones but also models a way of life.  McKnight, Scott. Kingdom Conspiracy, 173.
The cross reminds us that Jesus' death not only atones for our sin and makes it possible for us to be reconciled and restored to God through Jesus Christ,  it also reminds us that taking up our own cross is the requirement of the Christian life (Mat 10:38; 16:24).  Jesus said that unless “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  To deny oneself means to die to our own desires to be our own king ruling our own kingdom agenda and submit to King Jesus and his kingdom agenda!  In short, it means to die to our own self-will and embrace God's will at all cost.  

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Twisting of the Good and Evil in a Fallen World

In an apostate world (, the proper and fitting coincidence between emotions and their objects has been disturbed and destroyed by sin. A sinner hates the holiness which he ought to love and loves the sin which he ought to hate. The anger in his heart is selfish and passionate, not legitimate and calm. The love in his heart is illicit; and hence in Scripture it is denominated “lust” or “concupiscence” (epithymia). In a sinful world, the true relations and correlations are reversed. Love and hatred are expended upon exactly the wrong objects. But when these feelings are contemplated within the sphere of the holy and the eternal; when they are beheld in God, a most pure spirit, without body, parts, or passions, and exercised only upon their appropriate and deserving objects; when the wrath falls only upon the sin and uncleanness of hell and burns up nothing but filth in its pure celestial flame; then the emotion is not merely right and legitimate, but it is beautiful with an august beauty and no source of pain either to the divine mind or to any minds in sympathy with it.  Shedd, W. G. T. (2003). Dogmatic theology. (A. W. Gomes, Ed.) (3rd ed., p. 168). Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub.

Sin twists the good and thinks it evil and so celebrates evil as good.  That is the nature of sin.  We should not be suprised by it, though it should grieve us.  Only when we experience the new birth and our hearts are set aright that God bgins to restore his image in us that we can begin to see the good aright and feel it's beauty and correspondingly see the evil for what it is and loathe it's repugnance.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Michael Horton on Justification

Theologian Michael Horton has a new two volume work on Justification. They are available on Amazon. There are massive but worth the effort to read about a thousand pages. I just read an interview with Horton on Books at a Glance about them here. Here are a couple of gems from the interview.
On Justification – that in this marriage between Christ and us, there’s a great exchange of our rags for his riches; he becomes poor so that we may become rich; he becomes a sinner so that we may become justified; he becomes the most unholy thing in the universe so that we can be the very righteousness of God.

There are basically two trajectories or trends in the later Middle Ages. You could have Augustinians who are also modern, the via Augustini moderna, but the via moderna, the modern way, was more often associated with the nominalists. And the nominalists were, for the most part, Pelagian or semi-Pelagian. That is, they either believed that God’s grace wasn’t necessary at all, or they believed that God’s grace was something he gave after you, by your own free will, took the first step. You take the first step, repenting and believing in Christ and then he gives you grace for the rest of the way.

Other people, and I place myself in this camp, say that union with Christ is an umbrella term for all of the benefits that we have in Christ. We are chosen in him, redeemed in him, called effectually to union with him; where we receive, through faith, which is a gift, we receive justification, sanctification and glorification. But within that union that we have in Christ, sanctification can only come about, the process of being made new, being conformed to the image of Christ, can only come about on the basis of God’s verdict that we are declared righteous only for the sake of Christ. Think of adoption or marriage, analogies, of course, that the Bible itself uses for all this. First, you have to be legally married before you can sleep together and have a proper relationship in marriage. Before you go home and become part of the family, you have to be legally adopted. And so, justification really is the legal ground that gives us security and certainty. When we are justified, we can go home rejoicing, knowing that nothing can ever separate us from the love of our Father in Jesus Christ. We can grow in our marriage, our union with Christ more and more each day knowing that we can never be severed from his body. Why? Because Romans 5:1, having been justified through faith we have peace with God.
There’s no middle ground here. Well, the middle ground is precisely what the medieval church occupied. We are saved by grace, but we are also saved by our cooperation with that grace. Justification is that cooperation with grace. The reformers said, look at these passages, not just in Paul, but in the Gospels. Not only in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament. There’s nothing we can do. We can’t make the first move to God; he has to regenerate us; and he has to declare us righteous; we can’t make ourselves righteous. How much can you cooperate with grace in order to be justified? The Scriptures teach that we are justified, and therefore, we cooperate with God’s grace. It doesn’t tell us that we are justified by cooperating with God’s grace. What was Abraham doing in Genesis 15, when he believed God and was justified? He believed the promise and right then and there, hashab is the Hebrew word, he was justified, then and there. What does that mean? Well, Paul tells us what that means in Romans 4, and elsewhere. So, really, it was coming back to the Scriptures. When we come back to the Scriptures and see how they contrast the helpless condition of fallen human beings with the all-sufficient grace and power and mercy of God in Jesus Christ that we really understand the Gospel.

The only way you can be right with God is to come with your sins; to come with your doubts; to come with your despair; to come to him just as you are, as we sing, without one plea, except that Christ died for you and was raised for you. Think of the contrast that Jesus draws between the tax collector and the Pharisee. The Pharisee looks over at the tax collector and says, I thank you God that I am not like one of those guys. Notice, he wasn’t saying, what a great guy I am, I did it all by myself. He’s not a Pelagian, he’s not denying God’s grace. He says, I thank you God that I am not like this person over here. And then he goes on to list all the ways that he cooperates with God’s grace. But the tax collector can’t even lift his eyes up to heaven. Imagine this guy probably swindled old ladies out of their estates, and he can’t even raise his eyes to heaven. And he cries out, Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. And Jesus says that man went home that day justified, rather than the other.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Motivation for Reading Scripture

 “Formed by our reading of Scripture, we become better readers of Scripture. This is not because we become better skilled at applying biblical principles. The practice of reading Scripture is not about learning how to mold the biblical message to contemporary lives and modern needs. Rather, the Scriptures yearn to reshape how we comprehend our lives and identify our greatest needs. We find in Scripture who we are and what we might become, so that we come to share its assessment of our situation, encounter its promise of restoration, and hear its challenge to serve God’s good news.”  New Testament Scholar Joel B. Green.  

Friday, March 15, 2019

On the Credibility of the Apostles to the Christian Faith

On the credibility of the Apostle to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and to the Christian faith. . . 
Says Stillingfleet (Letter to a Deist): “If the Christian religion had been a mere design of the apostles to make themselves heads of a new sect, what had this been but to have set the cunning of twelve or thirteen men, of no weight or reputation, against the wisdom and power of the whole world? If their aim were only at reputation, they might have thought of thousands of ways more probable and more advantageous than this. Consider the case of St. Paul. Is it reasonable to believe that when he was in favor with the Sanhedrin and was likely to advance himself by his opposition to Christianity and had a fair prospect of ease and honor together, he should quit all this to join such an inconsiderable and hated company as the Christians were, only to be one of the heads of a very small number of men and to purchase it at so dear a rate as the loss of his friends and interest and running on continual troubles and persecutions to the hazard of his life?  Shedd, W. G. T. (2003). Dogmatic theology. (A. W. Gomes, Ed.) (3rd ed., pp. 141–142). Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Old Testament as Divine Revelation

The Old Testament is not the history of men’s thoughts about God, or desires after God, or affections toward him. It professes to be a history of God’s unveiling of himself to men. If it is not that, it is nothing; it is false from beginning to end. To make it the history of the speculations of a certain tribe about God, we must deny the very root of any speculations which that tribe ever had. For this root is the belief that they could not think of him, unless he had first thought of them; that they could not speak of him, unless he were speaking to them.  Fredrick Denison Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Gospel of Mark's Vision of the Church

"If we want to discover Mark’s vision for the Church, it is no good looking at the disciples! ... What the disciples represent is the typical human response to the gospel - enthusiasm for the good news, yet an inability to comprehend the ways of God; joy at what is offered, but reluctance to pay the price. Behind their inadequate response, we glimpse the Christian community of Mark’s own day — and of every day, for the disciples behave very much as Christians always behave. If we want to discover Mark’s vision for what the Church might be, we need to look first of all at what he tells us about Jesus himself, since the community is centered on him; and secondly at what Jesus demands of his disciples, but which they fail to give: a radical commitment to his gospel, even to the extent of literally taking up the cross. This is the demand that is addressed to everyone who would follow Jesus, and this is Mark’s Vision’ for the community that consists of all who respond to Jesus’ call." - Morna Hooker, "Mark's Vision for the Church."