Archive for the ‘theology’ Category

Christ’s Death Effects Our Glorification

Eph. 1:7, 2:4-7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

John Owen writes in his book, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, that Christ’s death effects our glorification. Grasping this truth  is very similar in difficulty to grasping the truth that Christ’s death effects our sanctification. For we can easily see Christ’s death bringing us reconciliation with God and bringing us justification we so desperately need and adoption as children of God.  However, the connection between Christ’s death and our glorification is often overlooked because it, like our sanctification, does not appear to us as directly connected to Christ’s death on the cross. In the believer’s experience, glorification, like sanctification, is not an immediately realized benefit. This is primarily why it is helpful for the Christian to consider ultimate things and the death of Christ purchasing those ultimate things for us.

The crucial question in this matter is what kind of connection does the scripture make between Christ’s death on the cross and the ultimate glorification of those who are in Christ. In other words, did Christ’s death on the cross purchase the glorification of those who are in Christ? If Christ’s death did purchase the glorification of those who are in Christ, then those who are in Christ are ultimately secure in their salvation. However, if Christ’s death only made it possible for those who are in Christ to be glorified then what, if anything, ultimately secures the salvation of those who are in Christ? Did Christ’s death secure the believer’s glorification or merely make it possible for them to be glorified? The New Testament’s answer? – Christ’s death on the cross secures the ultimate glorification of those who, in faith, look to Christ’s death on the cross as the only acceptable satisfaction of the penalty for our sins in the eyes of God.

Read John 6 and you’ll see the phrase used by Jesus himself over and over that he “will raise it/him up on the last day”

v. 39 – And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
v. 40 – For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
v. 44 – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
v. 54 – Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

The use of the word “him” or “it” above refers to those whom the Father has given to the Son, who look on the Son in faith, who are drawn by the Father to come to Jesus, and whose life comes from the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Notice the definite language that Christ uses. He doesn’t say it is a possibility that he will raise these up on the last day. He says he WILL raise these up on the last day.

You can see the connection in the first two chapters of Ephesians. The phrase that makes the connection appears in 1:7 and 2:7 – “riches of his grace.” In 1:7 the phrase is used to point the reader to the blood of Christ, shed on the cross, for our redemption – Christ’s death. Then in 2:7, Paul uses the same phrase to describe for us the kindness of God toward us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul explicitly proclaims to the reader of the epistle that part of God’s work in Christ was to raise up with Christ those who are redeemed by his blood and to seat them with him in the heavenly places – our glorification. Christ’s primary work is accomplished at the cross. This was Christ’s focus in his earthly ministry and it is what we will behold in our glorified state for all eternity as we sing the songs proclaiming the worth of the Lamb who was slain. Christ’s death effects our glorification.

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Christ’s Death Effects our Adoption

Romans 8:15-17 – For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba!  Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Christ’s death effects our adoption.  Consider the illustration of adoption in relation to our life in Christ.  Without Christ’s death on our behalf to pay for our sin, then we are not brought into God’s family as his children.  Adoption is a potent illustration of what happens in the life of a sinner when they are awakened to their need for Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross.  I recently heard of the experience of Dr. Russell Moore, the dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary, when he adopted two Russian baby boys.  I heard this story and I saw my life portrayed in the experience of these two little Russian boys.  Dr. Moore writes:

When Maria and I first walked into the orphanage, where we were led to the boys the Russian court had picked out for us to adopt, we almost vomited in reaction to the stench and squalor of the place. The boys were in cribs in the dark, lying in their own waste. Leaving them at the end of each day was painful, but leaving them the final day before going home to wait for the paperwork to go through, was the hardest thing either of us had ever done. Walking out of the room to prepare for the plane ride home, Maria and I could hear Maxim crying out for us and falling down in his crib, convulsing in tears. Maria shook with tears and I turned around to walk back in their room just for a minute. I placed my hand on both their heads and said, knowing they couldn’t understand a word of my English, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” I don’t think I consciously intended to cite Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 14:18. It just seemed like the only thing worth saying at the time.
When Maria and I at long last received the call that the legal process was over, and we returned to Russia to pick up our new sons, we found that their transition from orphanage to family was more difficult than we had supposed. We dressed the boys in outfits our parents had bought them. My mother-in-law gathered some wildflowers growing between cracks in the pavement outside the orphanage. We nodded our thanks to the orphanage workers and walked out into the sunlight – to the terror of the two boys. They’d never seen the sun and they’d never felt the wind. They’d never heard the sound of a car door slamming or had the sensation of being carried along at a hundred miles an hour down a Russian road. I noticed that they were shaking and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance. I whispered to Sergei, now Timothy, “that place is a pit, if only you knew what’s waiting for you. A home. With a mommy and daddy who love you. Grandparents. And great-grandparents. And cousins and playmates. And McDonald’s Happy Meals.” But all they knew was the orphanage. It was squalid but they had no other reference point, and it was home.
We knew the boys had acclimated to our home, that they trusted us, when they stopped hiding food in their high chairs. They knew there would be another meal coming, and they would not have to fight for the scraps. This was the new normal. They are now thoroughly Americanized, perhaps too much so, able to recognize the sound of a microwave ding from 40 yards away. I still remember, though, those little hands reaching for the orphanage. And I see myself there.

Why do we not live for Christ as we ought?  Why do we not hate sin as we ought?  It is because lying in a bed of our own waste is all we know and we spend little to no time considering what it is like to live beyond the walls of our orphanage – to live outside of our slavery to sin.  We’ve come to love our sin more than the one who can free us from our sin, just as those little boys had come to love that squalid orphanage more than those who had come to free them from it even though they were crying out to be freed from it.  The reason we continue to fall back into sin as if we were enslaved to it is because without even knowing it, we have become so comfortable with the conditions in the orphanage and have spent so little time thinking about the reward – Christ, whose death effects our adoption.

Christ’s Death and Sanctification

Romans 6:15-23

John Owen says that Christ’s death effects our sanctification.  So what is “sanctification”?  Wayne Grudem‘s definition of sanctification – “a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.”  Now, how does Christ’s death effect the progressive work of God and man making us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives?  To see how Christ’s death effects our reconciliation and justification is obvious.  However, it is not immediately obvious how Christ’s death effects our sanctification.  Spending some time in Romans 6 is helpful in trying to understand this connection though.

As I had been struggling with this for a few days, the Lord providentially brought it together for me on Sunday morning as I listened to the preacher.  He spoke of an individual’s perpetual state of enslavement – the preacher said, “We never stop being slaves.”  This thought does not occur to many Christians.  Yet this is the word picture Paul uses in Romans 6.  Either you are a slave to sin or to righteousness but you never stop being a slave.  It seems that many “Christians” love to speak of the freedom we have in Christ and, as a result, conveniently forget that when we were granted freedom from sin we became slaves of righteousness.  That is the key here to understanding why John Owen says that Christ’s death effects our sanctification.

Though I’m not at all familiar with the details, I’m aware that some believe a Christian to be sinless once they are regenerate.  From what I understand of the false-teaching is that when someone is saved from their sins, they no longer sin.  That kind of theology doesn’t fly when you consider what Paul writes in Romans 6 and 7.

Yes, the Christian is set free from sin by Christ’s death.  But the Christian doesn’t get set free from sin so that he/she can be in a state of spiritual anarchy.  We are set free from sin so that we can be free to obey God.  Christ’s death purchased our freedom from sin and made us slaves to righteousness when, by faith, we trust in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins.  Without this freedom from slavery to sin, the process of sanctification can never start.  I used to serve sin but God saved me from that fruitless way of life so that I could serve Him, as I was created to do, for all eternity.  So once we are saved from sin, we spend the rest of our lives proving it by living according to the Spirit and His sanctifying power at work in our lives.  Verse 22 sums it up for us – “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”  Christ’s death effects our sanctification.

Christ’s Death Effects Our Justification with God

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.

Justification is a forgotten, or at least a much neglected, necessity of the gospel.  Many speak of God’s forgiveness as though every human being needs it (after all – no one is perfect, right?) and every human being deserves it and every human being has it as his or her birthright.  I would agree that every human being needs God’s forgiveness (but it would be an understatement to say the issue only goes as deep as our “imperfection” – see this previous post).  However, we have no rights before God upon which we can claim his forgiveness or demand his forgiveness.  The scriptures are clear that we have no merits before God.  We are utterly undeserving of any of God’s gifts much more the free gift of his forgiveness.

This is why we should adore and tremble in the truth of Romans 3:21.  “The righteousness of God” – the standard we all must adhere to if we are to be justified before God.  Don’t be misled – because of God’s justice and holiness he does not just forgive sin.  The penalty for sin must be dealt out.  There must be justice.  And this is what makes v. 21 so sweet – because the righteousness of God came outside of the Old Covenant.  It was the righteousness of God that can be ours – not through works, but through faith in Christ.

The testimony of scripture is that we have all sinned and so there is no one who is righteous according to the law.  The imagery is of a courtroom.  The condemned, having been proven guilty, stand before the judge awaiting sentencing.  Imagine in our day a convicted murderer standing before a judge in one of America’s courtroom’s asking the judge to please forgive his murderous ways.  A judge who simply says, “you’re forgiven”, is no judge at all because, as a judge, his job is to deal justly with those who break the law.  Where is the justice in mere forgiveness?  You and I would not stand for such a thing even with our corrupt human standards.

You and I – we have broken God’s law and we stand before the Judge who is infinitely more righteous than any judge in the courtrooms of this world.  If the judges in this deal justly, how much more will The Judge of all the earth deal justly.  There is no sweeping of transgressions under the rug.  Justice must be executed.

The gospel does NOT mean that God merely forgives.  The gospel says that God justifies sinners – he makes us right with himself by pouring out the penalty for our sins upon the Holy One, Jesus Christ.  Sin’s penalty has been satisfied by a righteous substitute, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, those who will look to Christ’s death in faith as the means by which God’s wrath was absorbed (a propitiation) will not only be forgiven of their sins, but will receive the righteousness of God – 2 Cor. 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  That is justification.  Since God’s wrath is absorbed and the penalty for sins is dealt with in Christ, God is just in forgiving sins.  No one can say that God’s forgiveness granted to sinners is an injustice.  His forgiveness does not contradict his justice.  As Romans 3:26 says, he is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  Christ’s death effects our justification.

Some changes

I added some new links in the side bar under websites and blogroll.  I also added a couple of sermons to the sermons tab.

Also, another quote from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own Judgment or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human Judgment, feel perfectly assured—as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it—that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God. We ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our Judgment, but we subject our intellect and Judgment to it as too transcendent for us to estimate. This, however, we do, not in the manner in which some are wont to fasten on an unknown object, which, as soon as known, displeases, but because we have a thorough conviction that, in holding it, we hold unassailable truth; not like miserable men, whose minds are enslaved by superstition, but because we feel a divine energy living and breathing in it—an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it, willingly indeed, and knowingly, but more vividly and effectually than could be done by human will or knowledge…Such, then, is a conviction which asks not for reasons; such, a knowledge which accords with the highest reason, namely knowledge in which the mind rests more firmly and securely than in any reasons; such in fine, the conviction which revelation from heaven alone can produce. I say nothing more than every believer experiences in himself, though my words fall far short of the reality.

Christ’s Death Effects Our Reconciliation to God

Romans 5:6-11

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul writes in this text about the ungodly…about sinners…about those who need to be saved from the wrath of God…about enemies of God.  He is talking about me and he is talking about you.  Many may say, “But I don’t feel as though I’m ungodly, or a sinner, or under his wrath, or his enemy.”  But the issue is not about how you feel toward God.  The issue is how does God feel toward you.  Now we think naturally that God will love us no matter what because God is love.  However, the fact that God is love is the reason why he hates what is wrong and he hates sin and he judges sinners and pours out his wrath on the ungodly.  But this is completely foreign to our concept of God.  However, our concept of God centers around us and our good and not on God and his glory.  Our concept of God is devoid of God’s revelation and is filled with this world’s philosophy.

We always take pleasure in seeing God as good and that is fine, however, the problem is that we deny reality and also take pleasure in seeing ourselves as good.  If God is good and we are good then who needs reconciliation?  If we don’t need reconciliation then we certainly don’t need God to come in the flesh and die on the cross in our place.  So eat drink and be merry, right?

But consider your heart for a moment…if we brought the evidence of your life into the courtroom would you be proven godly or ungodly?  Would you be proven righteous or a sinner?  Would you be proven justified or guilty?  Would you be under the wrath of God or would you be a friend of God?  The reality is that if you have spent a second of your life as ungodly – then it proves you to be ungodly.  If you have spent a second in disobedience to the Creator God – then it proves you are a sinner, you are guilty, you are under the just wrath of God and you are his enemy.  The Bible says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it (James 2:10).”  The point of the law is not for you to keep it, but to demonstrate to you like a teacher, that you cannot keep it and so need to be reconciled to God.

I am ungodly.  I am guilty.  I spend most of my waking moments actively living with no regard for God and his glory.  And most of the time my life would not be considered “sinful” according to this world’s categories.  This is the essence of ungodliness.  If I drive home and do it in a way that gives no regard to God and his glory, or I watch a football game on TV and do it in a way that gives no regard to God and his glory – then I have been ungodly.  Now you may think – no big deal.  Does God really care about how we drive and how we watch TV?  But consider how many of us have done far worse – intentionally seeking worldly pleasures because it made us feel good and we had absolutely no regard for God and his glory in the process.  Really what is the difference – whether we actively sought base things or not we were still ungodly.  God says it like this in Isaiah 48:10 – “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned?  My glory I will not give to another.”  Sorry, you may think that you don’t need to be reconciled with God – but you would be wrong.  Jesus died for every single one of our ungodly moments – and there are too many for us to count, which makes us guilty before God and deserving of his just wrath.  And if you aren’t reconciled to God then you will stay in that condition for all eternity.  That is why Jesus died on the cross – 1 Peter 3:10, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…”

Be reconciled to God.  Let’s admit our ungodliness…our disobedience to God…our disregard for his glory.  And then let’s turn away from those things to trust in Christ’s death on the cross to bring us, reconciled, to God.

The Effects of the Death of Death (introduction)

I got John Owen‘s, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, for Christmas.  I spent many hours in J.I. Packer‘s introduction to the book and Owen’s note “To The Reader” (where Owen says, “If thou art, as many in this pretending age, a sign or title gazer, and comest into books as Cato into the theatre, to go out again, -thou hast had thy entertainment; farewell!”).  Packer’s intro is very instructive and if you get this book you should definitely get the one that has Packer’s introduction.  I’ll post more from Packer’s intro at at another time, although you can get a taste of it here.

After reading the first couple of chapters – and believe me…it is slow reading, I was just struck by this notion:  If you walked into your local Christian bookstore and went to the best seller rack you would not find as many scripture references in all the books on that shelf combined as there are in Owen’s first couple of chapters.  Every other sentence is straight out of the Bible.  It is remarkable.  What kind of Christianity is being sold to us on the best sellers rack in the Christian bookstore?  You could possibly make a case that it is not a biblical Christianity.

Anyways, back to Owen and his book…In the first chapter he talks about the end and the effect of Christ’s death.  Here are the effects that he lists:  Reconciliation, Justification, Sanctification, Adoption, and Glorification (though Owen does not use the word.  Instead he says it like this: “Neither do the effects of the death of Christ rest here; they leave us not until we are settled in heaven, in glory and immortality for ever.”)

A Quote from the Institutes

Since, I’m slacking on writing I thought I’d just share another quote from my reading of John Calvin’s, The Institutes of the Christian Religion:

At this day, however, the earth sustains on her bosom many monster minds—minds which are not afraid to employ the seed of Deity deposited in human nature as a means of suppressing the name of God. Can any thing be more detestable than this madness in man, who, finding God a hundred times both in his body and his soul, makes his excellence in this respect a pretext for denying that there is a God?

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion

More Quotes I Found While Reading the Institutes

Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own Judgment or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human Judgment, feel perfectly assured—as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it—that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God. We ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our Judgment, but we subject our intellect and Judgment to it as too transcendent for us to estimate. This, however, we do, not in the manner in which some are wont to fasten on an unknown object, which, as soon as known, displeases, but because we have a thorough conviction that, in holding it, we hold unassailable truth; not like miserable men, whose minds are enslaved by superstition, but because we feel a divine energy living and breathing in it—an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it, willingly indeed, and knowingly, but more vividly and effectually than could be done by human will or knowledge…Such, then, is a conviction which asks not for reasons; such, a knowledge which accords with the highest reason, namely knowledge in which the mind rests more firmly and securely than in any reasons; such in fine, the conviction which revelation from heaven alone can produce. I say nothing more than every believer experiences in himself, though my words fall far short of the reality.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

Reading “The Institutes”

Last week, my brother and I started reading John Calvin‘s “Institutes of the Christian Religion“.  Pick up a reading plan here and join us.  This week we finally got out of the preface works and into the first chapter.  Here are some of the quotes that I took note of…

…the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty.
…we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves.
…Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.
…If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities.
…not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or rectitude, or genuine truth, will anywhere be found, which does not flow from him, and of which he is not the cause; in this way we must learn to expect and ask all things from him, and thankfully ascribe to him whatever we receive.
…until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that nought is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; nay, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity.