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Jesu, Juva

Posts Tagged ‘redemption

Redeemer

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It would be difficult to call a single book my best theological purchase ever, because of the different ways that books can come to us at just the right time and can interact with and build upon each other. Lewis was a particular help to me because I was in a season of doubt. If Van Til hadn’t taught me to be a conscious Calvinist, I would never have needed Carson to steer me out of the hyper-Calvinist ditch, nor would I have been willing to work hard enough at Vos to learn more. And Middle-earth and Narnia are clearly in the running. Plus, I just haven’t read enough to be making such lofty pronouncements.

But realizing this, and even though I’m only partway into it, in my own small way I think the James Jordan audio collection will stand as my best theological purchase ever. Jordan has really incredible insights into the Bible. There are many books worth of material here; five months in and I have only made it through his Genesis lectures and partway into Exodus. But I am hooked, and if nothing else, I feel much better prepared and much more excited for family Bible reading. Jordan has the ability to illuminate many of the “weird” parts of the Bible so that they begin to make sense, and I’m having to give up some patronizing attitudes toward parts of history. It’s exciting to see someone wrestling with why God gave us particular details or obscure passages, even if we don’t have yet have enough information to answer that in every case. Jordan is constantly drawing out vast connections throughout Scripture, including rich symbolism and typology. Here’s a small but surprising example: combining Genesis 39:1, 39:20-23, and 41:10, we see that Joseph never left Potiphar’s house in his imprisonment! It is not clear whether the “keeper of the prison” is Potiphar himself or another of Potiphar’s servants. Regardless, Potiphar seems to have recognized that God blessed him through Joseph, and perhaps even recognized Joseph’s innocence (which would heighten the injustice of Joseph’s imprisonment).

This week I am listening to Jordan’s comments on Exodus 21. While drawing connections to related passages elsewhere in the Pentateuch, he observes that Hebrew uses a single word, goel or ga’al, to convey both the idea of the kinsman redeemer and the avenger of blood. So the word conveys a person’s status as next-of-kin as much as it does these distinct responsibilities attached to it. Jordan has several valuable observations to make on the blood avenger; in particular, he distinguishes it from a mere family feud by showing it to be a real civil responsibility to guard against bloodguilt (Numbers 35:30-34). Otherwise the land itself will rise up to serve as avenger instead (as in Genesis 4:10-12, Leviticus 20:22, Leviticus 26:18-20). Considering the cities of refuge, Jordan points out that the death of the high priest’s cleansing the land (Numbers 35:28) is another type of Jesus.

Jordan also makes the fascinating offhand remark that this dual use for goel lends further support for the doctrine of particular redemption (or limited atonement). First, it is not possible to identify Jesus as redeemer in the abstract: he is the redeemer of particular individuals who share a kinship with him. Second, we cannot separate the office of redeemer from that of avenger: as a redeemer there are others estranged from him who will suffer his vengeance. Like so many other things, it comes back to adoption.

I’m not trying to prove the doctrine of particular redemption in offering this, and if I were I would take pains to guard against the hyper-Calvinist idea that there is simply no sense in which Jesus shows kindness to those who perish, or in which he died for the sins of the whole world. But as someone who holds to particular redemption, this is a neat confirmation, as well as a great example of the sort of depth that Jordan routinely offers even in passing comments.

Picture source: Rembrandt.

Conviction and the cure

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My pastors have been preaching through Exodus, and just finished ten weeks in the ten commandments. They have done an incredible job of helping us to feel the weight and glory of God’s holiness; but without letting us forget that the law sits on the bedrock foundation of the gospel (“I am the Lord your God, who brought you . . . out of the house of slavery”), and that our reading of the law absolutely must be infused with gospel hope.

Yet it is still so tempting for me to hear such a message and nurse my conviction, without really going any farther. Perhaps I resolve to change some things, but in reality my ears are tuning out the very gospel hope and power that are the only way I can possibly move beyond conviction. Mark Lauterbach critiques his sermons on this point, but we should also critique our listening — are our ears tuned in to savor conviction, or savor the gospel:

Is conviction of sin the measure of a sermon? … I used to notice that people would give me the most response to a sermon that was the most demanding. “Oh Pastor, that was such a wonderful sermon, I was so very convicted.” Should I have found this encouraging?

[But] while conviction is a gift to us, it is always conviction to lead people to the cross. I know the arguments about people needing to be slain by the law — and agree that awareness of need of forgiveness is crucial. But if I leave them there, I have not been faithful to the Savior. Conviction should drive people to the cross — and they should leave with hope toward the Savior.

We want to welcome the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and repent, but we shouldn’t get off the bus there. Our conviction should drive us to look upward to our Savior rather than inward on our sin; the gospel is our only hope and power for forgiveness and for real change.

How do we make that something more than a mantra? How can we practically seize this gospel power to change? Here are some regular practices that can strengthen our faith and empower our obedience; please comment to add more:

  1. Regularly recount the gospel to ourselves, thanking God that our sins are completely forgiven and that we approach him clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
  2. Regularly acknowledge that whatever success we have in obedience is a gift from God.
  3. Regularly pray for the Holy Spirit’s help to change, knowing that this grace and help will surely be given to us because of the cross.
  4. Remind ourselves of the reasons that we should obey. Regularly feed our souls with these truths as a way of provoking joyful, grateful, faith-filled obedience:
    1. God is my creator, and he is good; he knows what is best for me.
    2. True and lasting joy are only found in God and in pleasing him; these idols that I cling to cannot compare to God’s glory and beauty and goodness and joy.
    3. God has saved me from condemnation and wrath, and my gratitude at this precious gift should overflow in obedience.
    4. God is my loving father and I should reflect his character.
    5. Christ has purchased my very life with his blood and I should reflect his character.
    6. The Holy Spirit indwells me and empowers me to reflect Christ’s character.
  5. Read books that fuel our appreciation for the gospel and our love for God, such as Jerry Bridges’ The Gospel For Real Life, C. J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross Centered Life, and John Piper’s When I Don’t Desire God (download, purchase).

Crossposted to Reflections on Upchurch

Christ our mediator

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“If, then, we should seek for another mediator who would be favorably inclined toward us, whom could we find who loved us more than He who laid down His life for us, even while we were his enemies?” — The Belgic Confession, Article 26

HT: Nathan S

Murray on Vocation

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We know how intriguing, even to godless men, is the scientific quest (and the artistic quest!), and how untiring are their labours to discover the secrets of what they call nature (and what they call art!). How incomparably more intriguing and defeatlessly rewarding would have been the quest of sinless man when, at every step of his path and in every detail of progressive understanding, the marvels of the Creator’s wisdom, power, goodness, righteousness, and lovingkindness would have broken in upon his heart and mind, and every new discovery, every additional conquest, would have given cause afresh for the adoration, ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches’ (Psa 104:24). We get a glimpse of the stupendous undertaking and the unspeakable glory of it all. We begin, perhaps, to understand a little of what culture should be. This is the culture that would have engaged and inspired man if he had been confirmed in his integrity. It would have been culture untiringly inspired by the apprehension of the Creator’s glory and by the passion to apprehend and exalt that glory more. That our culture is so little inspired by that ideal is but proof that man has fallen. That any of this culture is found in the earth is proof of redemptive grace.

The earth is full of God’s riches, and one of the callings of the Christian — one of the ways we are to carry out our daily work — is to discover those riches and thereby magnify God.

HT: Daniel Baker

Written by Scott Moonen

January 24, 2007 at 8:27 am

Toplady on mercy, first and last

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A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
I come with Your righteousness on, my humble offering to bring.
The judgments of Your holy law with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which Your goodness began, the arm of Your strength will complete;
Your promise is yes and amen, and never was forfeited yet.
The future or things that are now, no power below or above,
Can make You Your purpose forgo, or sever my soul from Your love.

My name from the palms of Your hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on Your heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes I to the end will endure, until I bow down at Your throne;
Forever and always secure, a debtor to mercy alone.

— Augustus Toplady, A Debtor to Mercy Alone, as modified by Bob Kauflin

Packer on the incarnation

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How are we to think of the Incarnation? The New Testament does not encourage us to puzzle our heads over the physical and psychological problems that it raises, but to worship God for the love that was shown in it. For it was a great act of condescension and self-humbling. “He, who had always been God by nature,” writes Paul, “did not cling to his privileges as God’s equal, but stripped Himself of every advantage by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born a man. And, plainly seen as a human being, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, to the point of death, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal” (Phil 2:6-8 Phillips). And all this was for our salvation. . . .

The crucial significance of the cradle at Bethlehem lies in its place in the sequence of steps down that led the Son of God to the cross of Calvary, and we do not understand it till we see it in this context. . . . The taking of manhood by the Son is set before us in a way which shows us how we should ever view it — not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace.

– J. I. Packer, Knowing God, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993; pp. 58-59.

Written by Scott Moonen

December 16, 2006 at 7:44 pm

Andrew Osenga on humility and gratitude

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“And the bitter man is angry; angry man just thinks he’s right — too right to see mercy when he’s standing in its light! We can shed tears over dying, we can rage and we can fight, but we cannot forget that we were loved before we opened up our eyes — such foolish pride!” — Andrew Osenga, “The Story,” performed by Caedmon’s Call, In the Company of Angels II: The World Will Sing.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 20, 2006 at 11:59 am