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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Hebrews 9:22 says something that every Christian should know. Charles Spurgeon articulated its vitality in his sermon, An Unalterable Statute. Here are some notes from Spurgeon’s sermon and also thoughts on the atonement by Louis Berkhof and Wayne Grudem.

Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (NIV).

The shedding of blood, referenced in Hebrews 9:22 by the unblemished Lamb of God, atoned for our sins. In Systematic Theology (1941) Berkhof put it plainly, “When man fell away from God, he as such owed God reparation. But he could atone for his sin only by suffering eternally the penalty affixed to transgression.” God determined that death be the penalty for disobedience; subsequently, we were debtors to Him and He required either a personal or vicarious atonement as the penalty. The shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross is the vicarious atonement that God required in order “that God might be just when justifying sinners” (Berkhof).

The root of Hebrews 9:22 goes back at one point to Leviticus chapter 4. In Leviticus chapter 4 the Lord gives great detail to the Israelites about the sacrificial system which needed to be carried out in order to be forgiven for their sins: “The elders of the community are to lay their hands on the bull’s head before the Lord and the bull shall be slaughtered before Lord.” Berkhof states the laying on of hands “symbolized the transfer of sin to the offering, and rendered it fit to atone for the sin of the offerer.” This death took the place of that due to the offerer.

In Leviticus 17:11 the Lord said to Moses, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life” (KJV).

In his sermon, Spurgeon wrote, “under the law, there was never any pardoning of sin except by blood. Under grace, there was never any pardoning of sin except by blood.” He went on to say, “in every instance where sin had to be removed, blood must flow- life must be given” (Spurgeon’s Sermons, 1883). Wayne Grudem said it this way, “the blood of Christ is the clear outward evidence that his life blood was poured out when he died a sacrificial death to pay for our redemption” (Systematic Theology, 1994).

Grudem says, “the atoning work of Christ is a complex event that has several effects on us.” He goes on to point out four needs of sinners that are met by the atonement:
1. Our deservedness of death as the penalty for sin was met by Christ’s sacrifice (bad news: Rom 6:23; good news: Heb 9:26).
2. Our deservedness to bear God’s wrath was met by Christ’s propitiation (bad news: Eph 2:3; good news: 1 Jn 4:10).
3. Our separation from God by our sins is met by Christ’s reconciliation (bad news: Isa 59:2, Rom 3:23, Eph 2:13; good news: Rom 5:10-11, 2 Cor 5:18-19, Col 1:20).
4. Our bondage to sin and to the kingdom of Satan is met by God’s redemption (bad news: Jn 8:34, Gal 4:3, Rom 6:6; good news: Mk 10:45, Heb 2:15 and Col 1:13).

In Spurgeon’s sermon he stresses the magnitude of the atonement compared to repentance alone, prayer alone, and mortification/sanctification alone.

Spurgeon on repentance: “All the repentance in the world can not blot out the smallest sin. If you had only one sinful thought cross your mind, and you should grieve over that all the days of your life, yet the stain of that sin could not be removed even by the anguish it cost you.” Spurgeon on prayer: “There is no efficacy in prayer to blot out sin. All the prayers of all the saints on earth, and, if the saints in heaven could all join, all their prayers could not blot out through their own natural efficacy the sin of a single evil word.” Spurgeon on mortification/sanctification and self-denial: “There are persons who have thought that self-denial and mortifications of an extraordinary kind might rid them of their guilt.” But, “All of our attempts at reformation cannot pay for one sin.”

Spurgeon wrote, “Jesus Christ himself cannot save us, apart from his blood. Not the holiness of Jesus, not the life of Jesus, not the death of Jesus, but the blood of Jesus only; for ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no remission’” (Hebrews 9:22). “Thy faith must not be placed merely in Christ glorified, but in Christ crucified” (Spurgeon, 1883). Paul wrote in Galatians 2:21, “…if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (NIV)

The last thing Satan would want us to fix our minds on is the atonement and the power of the cross. Certainly it has been the work of Satan to drum up opposition to the power of the cross. Today’s culture has a strong aversion to the atonement, calling it “cosmic child abuse” and “unnecessary.” However, Berkhof wrote, “the atonement was necessary, therefore, because God sovereignly determined to forgive sin on no other condition” (Systematic Theology, 1941).

For, the cross is the only way of God, through His love and mercy, to provide a way of escape for sinners. Christ is the only one who could pay our ransom to set us free from sin, because He is the “infinite deity necessary to atone for our sins and to pay the infinite price required for our purification,” as Craig Blomberg wrote in How Wide the Divide (1997).

We must accept the sacrifice Christ made of Himself in our stead, or “suffer eternally the penalty affixed to transgression” (Berkhof, 1941). Spurgeon concluded his sermon saying, “Look away from all other confidences, and rely upon the sufferings and death of the Incarnate God who has gone into the heavens, and who lives to-day to plead before his Father’s throne, the merit of the blood which on Calvary he poured forth for sinners.”

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Thought I’d start posting reviews here along with on my GoodReads account…

The Courage To Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World by David Wells

An excellent read and challenging critique.  This book is a summary of Wells’ previous 4 volumes, so at times I wished I could have gone deeper into some of his arguments in order to fully understand them.  But nonetheless, a very challenging, edifying, and refining read for me.  Wells challenges the church “Let God be God” in the church and cling to the solas of the reformation.  Here is a quotation that is close to capturing both the thesis and the tone Wells uses throughout the book.

“In practice, many evangelicals – especially those of a marketing and emergent kind – are walking away from the hard edges of these truths in an effort to make the gospel easy to swallow, quick to sell, and generationally appealing.  They are well aware of the deep cultural hunger for spirituality in the West, and they are trolling these waters.  The problem, however, is that this spirituality is highly privatized, highly individualistic, self-centered, and hostile to doctrine because it is always hostile to Christian truth.  Evangelicals gain nothing by merely attracting to their churches postmoderns who yearning for what is spiritual if, in catering to this, the gospel is diluted, made easy, and the edges get rounded off.  The degree to which evangelicals are doing this is the degree to which they are invalidating themselves and prostituting the church.” (p. 237)

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To a Christian who does not think he can “be to sure” of where he will go when he dies

“For you have been born again, not of a perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:23

“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

“Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

“Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms with Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expresses in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9

“You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:19-20

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless He is born again.” John 3:3

“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.” James 1:18

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

Being “born again,” or “regenerated” like Jesus and Paul mention is totally a work of God. We don’t play an active role (we are passive)- “so that no man can boast.” All credit is due to God, none to us. Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” The New Testament often talks about a new spiritual rebirth. Christians are “not born of natural descent, not of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:13).

Alive in Christ; pardoned

A theme in the in the New Testament is that we were formerly “dead in our trespasses and sins,” but believers have been “made alive in Christ,” once and for all. The book of Hebrews points out the details of “the new covenant,” the benefits from it, and how radically different it is than the law.

No more sacrifices are required to appease God, because Christ, once and for all, met the demands of God for the atonement of our sins (Hebrews chapters 7-11). Jesus was the perfect sacrifice demanded by God to meet His requirements in order to reconcile sinners to Himself. Therefore we have “been reconciled” and as Hebrews talks about, “Christ is our mediator,” and He “intercedes for us.”

Paul says in Romans 8:33, “Who will bring any charge against those God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died- more than that, who was raised to life- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding of us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or danger or sword?” He continues in verse 38, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Our position before God forever changed when we accepted Christ by faith. At that time we are “justified” and “pardoned.” (We may or may not be able to point to a certain moment). At that moment we were “born again,” “regenerated,” meaning God has imparted new spiritual life to us. All of our sins (past, present and future) have been paid for in full. Because we are mysteriously “in Christ” God views us as unblemished children, not objects of wrath as we formerly were. When we are pardoned and justified by faith in Christ how can be we condemned? We have been put in the position of beloved children by God, not by ourselves. Therefore, our status before God is not dependent on our weakness; our status before God depends on His strength. God has chosen us (we have not chosen Him) as His children, and He will protect us. Christians are confident in his keeping rather than our losing.

Our Confidence

Our confidence comes from faith in Christ’s finished work on our behalf. And also knowing that God has imputed Christ’s work and righteousness to us; just like the bible says. Our assurance springs forth from certainty of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. The faith we have in those things has been given to us by God. We could not be convinced of those things in our own power as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The man without the Holy Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

We are not climbing a ladder to heaven. We can not work our way there. Our confidence does not come from our ability to “stay in grace,” but rather assurance that God will keep us there. If He has provided the means of grace for us, will He not provide security for us?

The Holy Spirit: Our Keeper

God knows we are fallen and has not entrusted fallen creatures to “keep their salvation” by their effort. So, God has given us the Holy Spirit to indwell in us. God the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in us. The Holy Spirit has “sealed” us and marked us as God’s possession. He (the Holy Spirit) also imparts spiritual wisdom, helps us, leads us into truth, guides us, comforts us, and counsels us. As Jesus says, in John 16:13-14, “He (the Holy Spirit) will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

The Holy Spirit puts a new nature in us and a new principle, new desires. Those Godly principles, (that Jesus said the Spirit would make known to us), conflict with the “natural man,” or the sin nature that still resides in us. Hence the struggle against “the flesh” that Paul talks about in Romans chapter 7.

The regenerated man’s life, including thoughts, words, deeds, should look different than the man whose life is ruled by the sin nature (and unenlightened) rather than the Holy Spirit. We all have friends who can not understand our principles and we can not understand theirs- this is evidence of the different type of “engine” in us. The Spirit does not set our minds on worldly things. The scriptures call us “aliens” and “foreigners” and that is what we should sometime feel like. We have been “set apart” for God’s glory in a fallen world. The cross is our motivation and inspiration- not money or accolades, sex, power, happiness or comfort- which does not make sense to most people.

Evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to know more, do more, repent more, believe more, love more, and walk closer with God. The Spirit produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” in a person (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the opposite of “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry, witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21).

Jesus, who is worthy of our confidence is why we are certain we will go to heaven when we die. A colossal hope, and consolation in our current suffering and trials, is looking forward to our earthly death. It is then we will be united to God and see Christ face to face, who is the all-satisfying treasure of our souls. That day will be glorious. We will be eternally free from our sins and consequences of them, and temptation, we will receive a resurrected and perfect body (1 Corinthians chapter 15), and there will be no more pain. What hope do we have if we are not longing for that day?

How can we be heavenly-minded, as we are told we are, if our salvation is in flux? Is the bible lying to us when it says we have been “forgiven” and “freed from the powers of darkness?”

Conquerors

We are humbled and privileged by these mind-blowing truths; knowing that the initiative was and is on God’s side. C.S. Lewis puts it in perspective: “God does not love us because we are intrinsically good or worth loving, but because He is intrinsically love and infinitely loving.” Lewis also said, “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”

It has been said the people who were focused most on heaven are the people who did the most on earth. Our having faith in the existence of an eternal home already prepared for us is motivating. Confidence, not fear of flux, is encouraging. One more Lewis quote: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

Jesus’ perfect life, His death for our sins, and His resurrection is what we rely on. We have absolutely zero confidence in ourselves. Our confidence comes from a “Spirit not of timidity” (2 Timothy 1:7), but from bold given to us by the risen and living God. We can be confident because of what He says He has done for us in His word. We can take Him at His Word. Jesus has “conquered sin” for us; He has lived the perfect life that we can not; He has “taken the sting out of death.” He told us these things so we can be confident in our forgiveness.

If Jesus has “triumphed over death” for us how can we still be subject to it? Was Paul lying in Romans 6:6 when he says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin?”

Paul goes on: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God.”

We can trust Him when He says we are forgiven.

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From A.W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God, quoting scripture and Spurgeon in support of predestination:

“As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48). Every artifice of human ingenuity has been employed to blunt the sharp edge of this Scripture and to explain away the obvious meaning of these words, but it has been employed in vain, though nothing will ever be able to reconcile this and similar passages to the mind of the natural man. “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” Here we learn four things: First, that believing is the consequence and not the cause of God’s decree. Second, that a limited number only are “ordained to eternal life,” for if all men without exception were thus ordained by God, then the words “as many as” are a meaningless qualification. Third, that this “ordination” of God is not to mere external privileges but to “eternal life,” not to service but to salvation itself. Fourth, that all-“as many as,” not one less-who are thus ordained by God to eternal life will most certainly believe.

The comments of the beloved Spurgeon on the above passage are well worthy of our notice. Said he, “Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read: ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,’ and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man. Is it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not He-in every case-dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for Him to purpose it before today-and, since He changes not-from eternity.”

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A couple resources for the newest and best in books to fill out your reading plan:

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What does John Piper mean when he speaks about God ordaining, within the context of his Sovereignty over sin?

There is design in what he permits.  And therefore when I say he ordains, I mean He has a history in view and He is going somewhere with what He permits to happen.  That’s what I’m talking about when I’m talking about the ordaining of, or the governance of, sin. (Resolved ’09: God’s Sovereignty Over Satan’s Fall)

I can rest easily upon that: “He is going somewhere in what He permits to happen.”

For more of this, check out the link above, and the second part to his message titled: How Sin Serves the Glory of Christ.

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The last “Weekly Notables.”  I have resolved to read more edited, published writing rather than spontaneous “off the cuff” blogging.  I’ll still send some good links along sporadically.

Reading: Francis of Assissi said what?  Preach the Gospel, Use Deeds When Necessary.

Health:  Do you think you know pain?  Check out this guy‘s visibly wincing pain at mile 22 of the San Diego Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon.

Reading:  Lot’s of it.  D.A. Carson’s contribution to the church is real nice, and so is making nearly all of it availabe for free.

Listening: Free audio download from Christianaudio: Eugene Petersen’s Christ Plays in Ten-Thousand Places.

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