Wednesday, February 16, 2011

That the World May Know…

What is the Savior’s great message to the world?

that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me… John 14:31

The living God is a relationally loving God. This has been true in all eternity past, and it will be true forever without end. And this essential attribute of love has always found perfect expression within the Trinity; even before the creation of the angels and mankind. You see, long before the foundation of the world, the Father loved the Son, and with perfect reciprocity, the Son has always loved the Father:

John 1:1,18 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

John gives us two expressions, in the first chapter of his Gospel, that help us to understand better the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son. First, John says that the Son was with God. This brief statement is in no way insignificant, especially in view of John's use of the preposition pros rather than para or meta. While context ultimately determines the use of these words, these latter prepositions [para and meta] tend to represent a more general form of association. But pros normally means towards, which represents a more intense notion of proximity or relationship. For example, you could be sitting with or beside someone at a restaurant and perhaps never talk to them, especially if your back is to them. However, in an intimate dinner with a loved one, you are positioned towards them, even face to face in private discourse. This is the picture that John gives us, as William Hendriksen affirms:

And the Word was face to face with God (pros ton theon). The meaning is that the Word existed in the closest possible fellowship with the father, and that he took supreme delight in this communion.[1]

The Son of God was not casually with the Father, but He was intimately towards the Father in a personal and eternal love relationship.[2] John’s second description of the Son's relationship with the Father comes in verse 18 of the same chapter, where he describes the only Begotten Son as being in the bosom of the Father. For the Apostle of love this imagery was very personal to him, for at the last supper of Christ it was he who was reclining in the Savior's bosom. In both cases, this is the unmistakable image of familial love. As a picture of the Son's love for the Father, it shows us that His love abounds with an eternal affection and esteem. The myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands of angels could never, in all eternity, tabulate the extent of the Father's love for the Son, nor the Son for the Father. So how important is this message of Trinitarian love to our world today? What relevance might this have to this generation, or any generation for that matter? Plenty:

John 14:31: …but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here. [Bold, mine]

The Son's love for the Father was so important that He wanted the whole world to know it! Consider the context of this important passage for a moment: this expression of Christ’s love for the Father stands between His betrayal by Judas (John 13) and His coming crucifixion (John 19). Therefore, when He said to His remaining disciples "come now; let us leave" He was inviting them to proceed with Him towards Gethsemane where He would be arrested, and subsequently crucified at Golgotha. But before they were to proceed on this journey towards His own death, He wanted them to understand this crucial truth: what He was about to do, He would do out of a great love for the Father (John 14:31). This is indeed a compelling thought. When we think of the worldwide message of the Gospel, we most often think of Christ's love for mankind. But we must also comprehend that the other worldwide message that Christ desires to be spread abroad is His love for the Father which led Him to the cross. But these are not separate messages; rather they are indelibly linked as one. You see, the Son, who laid down His life for His sheep, did so as an act of loving obedience to the Father. This is why Christ declared that His worldwide message was twofold: 1. "I love the Father" and 2. "I do exactly what my Father commanded me." Thus, when Christ died for our sins, He did so out of His tender affections for the Father:

John 6:38-39: 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

Christ's obedience to the Father was not a mere mechanism consisting of duty alone; rather His obedience was infinitely embedded in the eternal love relationship between the Father and the Son.[3]

As the children of God it is our high privilege and calling to herald and imitate such love. This is the highest affection and motivation heralded in all of Scripture: to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30) – and our Savior was the greatest example of such devotion, such as the world has never seen. May the world see and know of our Savior’s love for the Father: the very love in which we ourselves are enveloped in the Beloved – if we have placed our faith and trust in Him. If you do not know Christ, and have not experienced such love, then please consider the contents of this Gospel presentation below:

[1] William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, The Gospel of John (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan), p. 70.

[2] John 17:24 “Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world.”

[3] Excerpt from All Nations Under God, Chapter 1 - Christ’s Victorious Atonement Defined, pp. 35-36

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Our Rancorous use of the Word: “Racist”

The historic reality of racism is a very serious and grave matter. Throughout my years in the ministry, I have had to confront this issue many times when sharing the Gospel with others. The Apostle Paul himself had to address this same abhorrence when preaching the Gospel to the Athenians (Acts 17: 16-34). Genuine racism reveals mankind’s hatred for God via a hatred of men who merely appear to be different by  various means: physical features, various ethnic distinctions, and/or skin color. It is God who has made all the nations of men through one man (Acts 17:26) – and this He did for His manifold glory. Men who hate God’s manifold glory, frequently disdain the manifold beauty of all that He made.

This is a grave issue - it is no laughing matter.

Sadly, within this modern culture of ours, the term “racism” is often thrown around with very little thought about its meaning and history. Thus, it is not uncommon to find public debates degrading into ad hominem contests via the invective: “racist.” Such a term as this incorporates dark images of hooded KKK members, skinheads, and Nazism. Those who champion this form of argumentation (without a solid basis in the charge) reveal a certain bankruptcy and desperation in their position. We see this most often in the heated political debates of the modern day. Whenever such debates reach a certain boiling point, the charges of racism begin to fly like a churlish food-fight among children. Such is the bad inheritance of ad hominem argumentation. When we vilify our opponents with extreme labels, we essentially eliminate the need for debate. After all, who wants to waste their time talking to someone whose views are supposedly so extreme and vile. Such vilification is another way of saying “talk to the hand," as they say. But such a procedure does more than merely shut down dialogue. It renders a kind of personal attack through a vilification of the thoughts, intentions, and attitude of the opponent – because real racism is a very grave issue of the heart. It is quite unfortunate when people use unwholesome expressions for their own gain. Whenever individuals employ such expressions in a superficial and meaningless way, they provide a kind of false cover to real thing. In the end, we degrade word meanings, and even history itself, when we employ terms in a reckless manner.

In conclusion, our political discourse in this nation needs to improve, and we as Christians, amidst this dark world, should be the most guarded in such matters.

The above video is part of the ten video series entitled: Where Do You Stand?: (, & Facebook).

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Science and Art of our Scriptural Meditation

Jeremiah 23:5-6:
5. “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. 6. “In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord our righteousness.’

It is important that we invest ourselves in the Scriptures in a manner similar to how a scientist and artist might invest themselves in the examination of the grand canyon.  The scientist examines the geological details of the canyon – its peaks, valleys, and everything in between.  With the size and magnitude of evidence before him, such a scientist would be well supplied with a treasure trove of geological data. The artist, examining the same peaks and valleys, would step back and marvel at the grandeur and beauty of such a view.  The landscape, the expansive backdrop of the sky, and the majestic depth and brilliance of the colors before him would fill the artist with a sense of overwhelming wonder. Our meditation on, and examination of, the Scriptures must entail both senses.  If we do not examine the details and data of the Word, we will fail to comprehend its meaning and message, but our labor does not end in the science of exegesis alone.  Our diligent studies must also send us to our knees as we behold the beauty of it all.  Both in the detail and the broader picture of things, God’s Holy Word is altogether beautiful and reveals the majesty and glory of the One who authored it all. 

I say this in order to point out John Calvin’s commentary on Jeremiah 23:5-6.  In his notes, he reveals himself to be both scientist and artist.  His presentation of the technical details of the text is crucial, but he then proceeds to draw the reader back in order to see the beautiful tapestry of God’s gift of justification through the person and work of Jesus Christ – who is “The Lord our Righteousness”:

Calvin, Commentary on Jeremiah:  But by saying, God our righteousness, the Prophet still more fully shews that righteousness is not in Christ as though it were only his own, but that we have it in common with him, for he has nothing separate from us. God, indeed, must ever be deemed just, though iniquity prevailed through the whole world; and men, were they all wicked, could do nothing to impugn or mar the righteousness of God. But yet God is not our righteousness as he is righteous in himself, or as having his own peculiar righteousness; and as he is our judge, his own righteousness is adverse to us. But Christ’s righteousness is of another kind: it is ours, because Christ is righteous not for himself, but possesses a righteousness which he communicates to us. We hence see that the true character of Christ is here set forth, not that he would come to manifest divine justice, but to bring righteousness, which would avail to the salvation of men, For if we regard God in himself, as I have said, he is indeed righteous, but is not our righteousness. If, then, we desire to have God as our righteousness, we must seek Christ; for this cannot be found except in him. The righteousness of God has been set forth to us in Christ; and all who turn away from him, though they may take many circuitous courses, can yet never find the righteousness of God. Hence Paul says that he has been given or made to us righteousness, — for what end? that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (1 Corinthians 1:30.) Since, then, Christ is made our righteousness, and we are counted the righteousness of God in him, we hence learn how properly and fitly it has been said that he would be Jehovah, not only that the power of his divinity might defend us, but also that we might become righteous in him, for he is not only righteous for himself, but he is our righteousness.1

We can thank the Lord for this truth – the One who is called, by name, Jesus Christ the righteousness, is also the One who is the “Lord our righteousness.” In Him, our standing is sure; apart from Him, we remain condemned. Without the science of sound biblical exegesis, such a beautiful portrait of our Savior would be horribly mangled and obfuscated. 

All in all, let the student of Holy Writ labor as both scientist and artist.

Note: The consistency of Calvin’s teaching on imputation is observed elsewhere, as in the case of God’s justification of Abraham (Genesis 15):

Calvin, Commentary on Genesis: For God reconciles to himself those who are born only of the flesh, and who are destitute of all good; and since he finds nothing in them except a dreadful mass of evils, he counts them just, by imputation. But those to whom he has imparted the Spirit of holiness and righteousness, he embraces with his gifts. Nevertheless, in order that their good works may please God, it is necessary that these works themselves should be justified by gratuitous imputation; but some evil is always inherent in them. Meanwhile, however, this is a settled point, that men are justified before God by believing not by working; while they obtain grace by faith, because they are unable to deserve a reward by works.2

1. Calvin, J. (1998). Calvin's Commentaries: Jeremiah (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Calvin's Commentaries. Albany, OR: Ages Software.

2. Calvin, J. Calvin's Commentaries: Genesis (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Calvin's Commentaries (Ge 15:6).

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

His Authority, Commission, & Presence

On Sunday evening, January 23rd, we were privileged to participate in a baptismal service held at Lewisville Baptist Church.  What can I say about this, but that any baptismal service is a joyous celebration of Christ’s work of redemption.  It is also a great opportunity to share Christ with the Lost.  I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but the brethren at Lewisville videotaped the service, and kindly supplied the raw video for the event.  Provided below is the message and baptism itself:

Soli Deo Gloria

Matthew 28:18-20: 
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  “Go therefore and make disciples
of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son
and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe
all that I commanded you;
and lo,
I am with you always,
even to the end of the age.”