Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Glorious Adornment of the Saints (Col. 3:12-17)

Col. 3:12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Just as Israel was called "God's chosen people" in the Old Testament (Deut. 4:37), the Christian Church is now called Chosen - as a "a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (1 Peter 2:9). God's purpose was for a people who would praise Him, serve Him, and glorify Him (Eph. 1:12, 1 Pet. 2:9) As we've seen in studying the book of Colossians, we have been made alive in Christ, new creations who are to walk in newness of life, clothed with His goodness, putting off the deeds of the flesh, and putting on the righteousness of Christ, our Savior. Paul goes into detail in the verses above about what this righteousness looks like. Let's take each of the elements and examine them one by one:

Compassion (v. 12)– Heartfelt sympathy that is shown in outward deeds of kindness
Matthew 9:35-38: 35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Kindness/Goodness (v. 12)– Also "generosity", "bounty", and "courtesy". The word expresses the abundant bounty God displays to His people, as in a harvest that is not just adequate, but is overflowing.
Luke 6:35: But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Humility (v. 12)– The Old Testament says repeatedly that God opposes the proud and arrogant, and will exalt the lowly and humble (Isaiah 2:6-22, Amos 2:6-7). The former think they have the resources to manage life on their own and can operate independent of God. By contrast, the latter know that apart from God they are not great, but because they are made in God's image and are loved by him, they are of great worth. They know they have no real hope without God.
Phil. 2:5-11. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gentleness/Meakness (v. 12) – This is a near synonym for humility; the two words are often paired in both Old and New Testaments. The meek in ancient times were the poor people who did not own land. They were the defenseless, those without rights, who were oppressed, cheated, and exploited. In deep need, they were apt to seek help from God alone (Psalm 40:17). The gentle person does not have a low opinion of himself; he is not occupied with self at all. Because he/she trusts in God's goodness and God's control over situations, the meek or gentle person does not have to worry about self-interest and looking out for number one. Meekness is not passive tolerance of injustice, but a reliance on God for vindication and a refusal to retaliate when insulted.
1 Peter 2:23 "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly."

Patience (v. 12) - Long suffering endures wrong and puts up with the exasperating conduct of others rather than flying into a rage and wanting revenge.

Isaiah 48:9
“For my name's sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.

Bearing with one another (v. 13) And forgiving one another as the Lord has forgiven us
Col. 2:13-14: 13 "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."

Above all (v. 14):And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Galatians 5:22-24 - 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Consider how Christian love binds all the other Christian graces together and how we are called to put love on top of all these other articles. Further study: 1 Cor. 12-13 - Love is called indispensable, the most excellent way, and the greatest of the gifts of the spirit.

Letting the Peace of Christ Rule

v. 15 - And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.

It is especially crucial that we practice these virtues among one another 
                
John 13:35 "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

                1 Cor. 12:12-26 – We are one body, with many members. And every member is vital to the effectiveness and mission of the body. If one part suffers, all suffer. If one part rejoices, all rejoice.


How the healthy church body functions (v. 16)

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
Studying the Word, attending the Church service, where the Word is preached, humbly asking the Spirit to let the Word change us from the inside out. 
teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
In fellowship,under the Word of God 
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
during the Sunday service, in our informal meetings, at home with our families, when we go to work, everywhere possible.

with thankfulness in your hearts to God.The grateful heart does not grumble and glorifies the Lord.
 And what should be included in every deed? (v. 17)

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The human heart was created to worship. If we flee from idols and turn to the Lord in faith, we can glorify Jesus by faith and in gratitude and praise to the Father. 

Becoming Who We Are (Col. 3:1-11)

Col. 3:1 "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all." (ESV)

I. Focus: Who We Are in Christ

More literally: "Therefore, if you have been..." (NASB and Mounce Greek interlinear translations).  Paul is connecting everything that he has said beforehand about the supremacy of Christ and our redemption (being set free from the bondage of sin) through faith in Him to the truth of who we are called to be in Him. "Therefore, if" or "Since then" is also setting the stage to compare how different the believer's life now is in contrast to her old life.

Part A - Paul sets the stage for who we are in Christ

1- We've "been raised with Christ" v.1 - Christ has been resurrected and is ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He rules and reigns and sits on the throne presently as our mediator and intercessor. He is still the God-man, truly God, truly human. He intercedes on our behalf as one who was fully tempted in every way we are tempted, but yet He was without sin. When we were saved, we were made new creations in Christ to walk in newness of life, by the power of the same Holy Spirit who raised Him from the dead. When Christ returns, we will also be resurrected with Him in glory (see #4 below for more).
Additional cross references: Ephesians 2:4-6 " But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus'
Romans 8:11 "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

2- Our minds and hearts now belong "set on things above" v.2 Philippians 2:8-9 "Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything excellent, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

3- We have "died with Christ" v3a. - Romans 6:4-7 "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin."

4- Our life is presently "hidden in Christ" v3b. Here are some of the ways the scriptures refer to our lives presently being "hidden in Christ" (although everything will one day be brought into plain view)

  • Nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39)
  • I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in me. I live by faith in Christ (Galatians 2:20)
  • No one can snatch us out of Jesus' hand (John 10:29) 
  • The LORD is our refuge and our fortress, in whom we trust (Psalm 91)
  • 1 Peter 1:3-7: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

5- We will "appear with Him in glory" v.4.
He will bring to light the things that are now hidden in darkness and secret; He will disclose all the purposes of our heart (1 Cor. 4:5) This truth by itself ought to terrify everyone of us!
-- BUT...
(for those who are in Christ) Phil. 3:20-21 " But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."
--AND--
We also have the promise that we who are God's children shall be like Him. (1 John 3:2)
Praise God for these graces!


Part B. What We are Called to Put Off v.5
(put to death/mortify/get rid of) 

Now that we are new creations - new women in Christ-- Paul makes it plain that we are no longer under the control of sin. We are called to wage battle against sin by putting to death evil practices, such as:
1. Sexual immorality...This includes prostitution, adultery, un-chastity, fornication -- every kind of unlawful sexual acts. Some of the churches that Paul planted, as well as this one at Colosse, had difficulty abandoning their tolerance of immoral sexual practices because they were so widespread and ingrained in the Greek culture.
2. Impurity... Generally applies to sexual misconduct, but also applies to other forms of moral evil, such as "impure motives" (as described in 1 Thes. 2:3) which denotes an overall lack of integrity.
3. Lust... The ESV states "passions"; however, it seems more accurate to say "shameful passions", since sin depends on the object of our passions and desires. For instance, Paul said that he longed to be with Christ. John Piper says that we are called to be "Desiring God". Instead it is "shameful passions" that is in view as being wicked. Also, it is true that lust does not only refer to sexual passions, but can be the excessive longing for anything other than that which leads us toward the Lord.
4. Evil desires... Similar to lust and shameful passions, the one who even looks on another individual (to whom he or she is not married) with sexual attraction in his or her heart, and especially with a desire to possess that person, must put to death such desires. (Matthew 5:28)
5. Covetousness, which is idolatry (also, Greed)... A covetous or greedy person seeks to lay hold of something that does not lawfully belong to him or her, often in an attempt to wrest personal satisfaction from in ways that only the Lord can provide -- which is why it is considered idolatrous.

All of the above sins are related to one another specifically because in each situation, the sinner is essentially worshiping something or someone else rather than God. All of these are blatant and outward manifestations of sin that are direct affronts to the goodness and holiness of God. The Lord hates sin so much that He cannot abide such evil. Thus, "On account of these (in v.5) the wrath of God is coming(v.6)".

In all of the above, we once walked, when we used to live in them or among them -- (however, we are now alive in Christ - new creations). We are called to put those old things away for good.

But, wait, there's more!
v. 8 says, "But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth." -- Not only the obvious, blatant, outward sins that are so easily connected to the old pagan life, but also "Respectable Sins" (as Jerry Bridges calls them in his excellent book). These are the ones that we as church-people so often justify in ourselves or neglect to root out. For instance, I've been taken back so many times with books that reveal the depth of remaining sin in my life that I hadn't even studied much or thought about. Some examples of these are: Resisting Gossip, Gospel-Powered Humility (sin of pride), Peacemaking Women, Uprooting Anger, The Holiness of God, etc..

Essentially, it would seem that Paul is telling the church at Colosse that these smaller, less obvious sins also much be mortified and that they lead to the same end as the more blatant ones. In verses 9 and 10, we read that we must put off the old self and "put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator". So, as we grow in God's grace by putting off the old, we will also be renewed to become more like Him. As Dr. Gregory Beale has written, "We become what we worship". If we continue to nurture sinful passions, we will become like mute and dumb idols. If we worship the Lord in all that we do and say, then He will make us more like His Son. Paul is calling us to right worship, so that we - collectively as the church universal - will become what we are called to be -- His body/His bride.


  • In fact, as we will come to see in the next few verses and the next couple of lessons, Paul seems to be saying that to neglect putting these sins to death will impair the mission and unity of the church.


Part C: The Body of Christ -- Unity in Diversity

1. No longer Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised v.11 - A major division in the early church. Both the Jewish people and the Greeks thought their culture was superior -- Jewish Christians had a hard time accepting Greek Christians who were uncircumcised and who did not keep all of the ceremonial laws. Greeks also had a great pride in their cultural history and often had a hard time associating with Jews.

2. Barbarian, Scythian, v.12 - At one time, anyone who did not speak Greek was considered a barbarian and uncivilized. And Scythians, who had a reputation for brutality, were considered little better than wild beasts.

So, both Jews and Greeks were deeply biased in how they treated others by their ethnicities.

3. Slave or free v.11 -- The class system was just as rigid socially as the ethnic barriers were in the Roman Empire. Roman law treated slaves as subhuman and as property.

Therefore, when Paul tells the Colossians: "Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all", this is not a non sequitur, illogical conclusion, or even a new or separate line of thought. This is essentially his crescendo - what he's been leading up to. Why does it matter that we put away malice, anger, envy, slander? Because we're being in-grafted to a body of members who are going to look, act, speak, and relate very differently and who are going to come from all over the earth, not just our own family or neighborhood. Unless we mortify our selfish desires, we are going to be in conflict with each other A LOT, maybe all the time. And that's not God's intent for the Church. He wants to renew us after the image of our Creator - to make us more Christlike.

As Paul goes into detail about what it looks like to "Clothe Ourselves with Christ" in the next Lesson, The Glorious Adornment of the Saints, he is building on this idea -- that we are the Body of Christ in which there is no inequality of persons, since all have been created in God's image and who have all been redeemed by His blood and adopted as His children. No "IN" or "OUT" group or class. No preferential status. We will see this more and more in the next lesson.

Here are two article excerpts that really drill down on the issue of "In" groups and "Out" groups. The first one discusses the negative outcomes of perpetuating the life of "The Inner Ring" and the second one highlights a reversal: what can happen when we forsake our human tendencies to stratify the church and instead model the body of Christ after "things above". Enjoy:

From C.S. Lewis, The Inner Ring:
"Once the first novelty is worn off, the members of this circle will be no more interesting than your old friends. Why should they be? You were not looking for virtue or kindness or loyalty or humour or learning or wit or any of the things that can really be enjoyed. You merely wanted to be “in.” And that is a pleasure that cannot last. As soon as your new associates have been staled to you by custom, you will be looking for another Ring. The rainbow’s end will still be ahead of you. The old ring will now be only the drab background for your endeavor to enter the new one."
There is a ton more in Lewis' article that I commend to you, but the paragraph above was chosen to highlight why the human tendency to have a stratified culture in the Church can be harmful and why we must be diligent to seek things above, rather than earthly patterns for the Church.

The next excerpt is from a testimony on HarvestUSA's website titled Silent Sisterhood. I hope you find it a powerful, uplifting and motivating example of how the Church can be the kind of different that it's called to be (even Women's Ministry!):
"So, as I came to know what I shouldn’t do, my heart cried out to God to know what He was calling me to be! There had to be more, my heart yearned too much for these deep changes to stop there. What was it? What was it I was tasting, glimpsing, that drew me to the cliff edge of choices, and to the realization that I had choices. It was in this place I first began to understand what it was to be a child of God – the child of a loving father.
Though it sounds simple, to move from seeing myself as a child of God to being His daughter was a momentous step... He teaches me in Word and leads me to women in church, in groups, and in friendships who, as in the words of Proverbs 31, are clothed in strength and dignity, who do not fear the future because of Him and who speak with wisdom and faithful instruction. These women move freely and enjoy the respect and confidence of others and shatter my old notions of strength, independence and freedom. These women are interdependent, they do not see themselves as separate, and they are connected closely to others and enjoy it! The connection is neither smothering nor exclusive as I found in lesbianism, but springs from being present to one another even in the hard, raw times that God uses to shape His daughters."
Praise God for that testimony and the example of what the body of Christ is called to be!

Next week's lesson: The Glorious Adornment of the Saints>>

Friday, July 11, 2014

Colossians 2: Man-Made Religion vs. Growth from God

Earlier this week, we continued in our church's Women's Summer Bible Study with the second part of Colossians Chapter 2, where Paul addresses the false teaching that has come into the church in Colosse. In particular he was highlighting key differences in emphases between man-made religion and true religion, which is growth that comes from God alone.

In his emphasis, Paul focuses on the concepts of "Shadow" and "Substance", juxtaposing false teaching with the truth of the knowledge found in Christ. As I prepared the lesson, I created the table below to depict the how Jesus, who is the substance of our faith, contrasts with the man-made religion to which Paul is warning the church not to be taken captive (v. 8-9):
"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Col. 2:8-9)


Man-made religion
Growth that comes from God
Scripture References:
Emphases:



Shadow
Substance
V.17
Keeping ceremonial laws/regulations
Trusting in Christ’s fulfillment
V.16/Hebrews
Asceticism/harsh treatment of the body/sacrifice
Holding fast to the Head - which is Christ
V.18,19
Sensuous, Worldly
Heavenly
V.18, 3:1
Worship of angels, counterfeits
Worship of Christ,
Our True Head
V.18/Hebrews
Visions/special knowledge
The Word of God/true wisdom
V.18/1 Cor.
Worshiping human reason, personalities, puffed up
The Head from whom the whole body is nourished/knit together
V.18, 19
Seen
Unseen

For Show, Worldly (elemental spirits)
Hidden in Christ
V.20, 3:3
Human precepts
The Word of God
V.21-22
Appearance of wisdom
Minds set on Christ Above
V.23, 3:2
Masks: Outward rule keeping
Heart: Died to earthly things
V.23,V.20
False humility – relying on human will
True faith - Trust Christ alone

Asceticism/severity to the body/false sacrifice
Filthy Rags
V.18 Isaiah 64:5
Vain, leads to indulgence of the flesh
Godly growth in Christ
V.23,19




Thursday, July 10, 2014

More on the Trinity: Eternal Generation of the Son

In my previous post I briefly discussed my concern with this article over at Reformation21, where the author referenced Geerhardus Vos in Biblical Theology as stating that Jesus was created in his human nature. The author specifically states, "With Vos, we say that relative to the divine essence, he is uncreated; relative to the human nature, created." Therefore, I assigned myself a two-fold project, first to research Vos for the exact quotation, in which I did find his statement on page 76 of my edition. The second part of my self-assignment was to pull together a collection from my personal library of scholars and creeds that directly address the false notion that Jesus was created. I am certainly not up to the task of taking on a theologian as great as Vos, but the following resources and excerpts should make my case with regard to the problem of saying that Christ is created in his human nature.
Heidelberg Catechism
The Heidelberg Catechism raises the question, “Why is Christ called the only begotten Son of God, since we are also the children of God?” and answers it, “Because Christ alone is the eternal and natural Son of God; but we are children adopted of God, by grace, for his sake.” -- Sanders, Fred (2010-08-31). The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (p. 160). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

Nicene Creed Arius' desire was to make the relation of the Father to the Son comprehensible by teaching several particulars that were rejected. Arius' claim that the Son is finite and created was chief among his errors. "This council produced the Nicene Creed, which affirms that Christ is “the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds,” and that He was “begotten, not made.” It further declares that He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God . . . being of one substance with the Father.” With these affirmations, the church said that scriptural terms such as firstborn and begotten have to do with Christ’s place of honor, not with His biological origin." - Sproul, R.C. (2011-07-01). What is the Trinity?: 10 (Crucial Questions Series) (p. 32). Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Chalcedon speaks of one Person and two natures: a divine and a human nature, but never declares the Son to have been created. “The Chalcedonian box” that defines the boundaries of orthodoxy by affirming four factors: deity, humanity, the unity of one person, and the distinction of the two natures. However, within the definition of the two natures, Jesus is never said to have himself been created.

Athanasian Creed
"In line with historic Christianity (in this case, the Athanasian Creed), orthodox theology has historically affirmed that:
 'the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible....'
  1. Since God the Father has no cause, then He has been the Father for eternity. He cannot have been the Father without a Son, which means the Son could not be a created being (as Arius taught, relying on Proverbs 8:22 for support) because that would mean there was a time when the Father was not actually the Father.
  2. The Son is described as begotten, which means he is a distinct person from God the Father.
  3. The begetting of the Son does not, in any way, imply that the Son is subordinate to the Father. This would mean that the Son is a lesser god and the Holy Spirit a lesser deity than the Son.
While affirming this truth, we must also affirm with the same creed that “the Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.”
K. Scott Oliphint (2011-09-11). God With Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (p. 41). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition. 

F.F. Bruce expresses the importance of accurate language in the creeds: "Inasmuch as the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity are embedded in the New Testament, although not explicitly formulated there, we must make the effort of wrestling with difficult terminology if we are not to fall an easy prey to misunderstanding or to actual heresy."

R.C. Sproul/Ligonier
"The clearest reference to Jesus’ deity in the New Testament comes at the opening of John’s gospel. It reads, “In the beginning was the Word [that is, the Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). In that first sentence, we see the mystery of the Trinity, because the Logos is said to have been with God from the beginning. There are different terms in the Greek language that can be translated by the English word with, but the word that is used here suggests the closest possible relationship, virtually a face-to-face relationship.... The apostle says more. He adds: “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (vv. 2–4). Here we see eternality, creative power, and self-existence attributed to the Logos, who is Jesus." -- Sproul, R.C. (2011-07-01). What is the Trinity?: 10 (Crucial Questions Series) (pp. 24-26). Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition.


Eternal Generation of the Son by Kevin Giles
In The Eternal Generation of the Son, Kevin Giles shows that the recent tendency of younger evangelicals adapting the view that Jesus was not the eternally begotten Son of God isn’t without historical precedent. Arius taught this as well: that the Son was a created being in time, not an eternally begotten being, and his doctrines were strongly opposed by the early church. The Nicene and Athanasian creeds, in no uncertain terms, oppose this theology. Giles' historical treatment of the subject spans more than two millenia of church fathers, reformers, councils and a host of experts to show that this has been the standard teaching of the church for most of our history.
Why is this important?
Most importantly, we do not want to go against the scriptures and the historic teaching of the Church. I believe there is enough evidence on the eternal generation/begotten, not made side of this debate to know where we should head. 
Summary response to Modifying Classical Theism:
God has given form and order to the history of salvation because he intends not only to save us through it but also to reveal himself through it. The economy is shaped by God’s intention to communicate his identity and character.” -  Sanders, Fred (2010-08-31). The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (p. 94). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jesus: Superior to the Angels

Hebrews 1:5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
    today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
“I will be to him a father,
    and he shall be to me a son”?
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God's angels worship him.”
Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
    and his ministers a flame of fire.”
But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
    the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
10 And,
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
    like a garment they will be changed.[a]
But you are the same,
    and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Modifying Classical Theism and the Nature of the Trinity?

Today I read an article by Nate Shannon at the Reformation21 site titled Modifying Classical Theism: Chalcedonian Theology Proper and Reformed 'Tradition', which appears to be a continuation of the dialog between Drs. Scott Oliphint (here) and Paul Helm (here and here). Now, I have some thoughts of my own on the particulars of this topic as they directly relate to culture and worldview (here), but that will have to be a different post for a later time.

What caught my attention in Mr.Shannon's article was the the following assertion:
"With Vos, we say that relative to the divine essence, he is uncreated; relative to the human nature, created. The person is divine; and it is proper to worship the Son of God in the flesh, and every creature will."
This train of thought is repeat several times throughout the article and attributed to Geerhardus Vos in "Biblical Theology".

The idea that the Son of God would be referred to as created in any sense seems to slide into the Arian fallacy, which the Council of Nicaea specifically addressed centuries ago, resulting in the Nicene Creed. The second line of the Nicene Creed:

"And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made."
In addition, at the end of the statements of the original council were the "anathemas" in which was included:
"[But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]"
The impetus for the original Council of Nicaea was to respond to Arius, a Libyan presbyter in Alexandria, who had declared that although the Son was divine, he was also created. Based on this along with the fact that I am a huge advocate of Vos, I became very concerned. Therefore, I've assigned myself the task of searching Vos' Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments in an attempt to find the references to his statements that Jesus was created. Unfortunately, I do not have an electronic version to easily search, but if Vos held an Arian view of the Trinity as Shannon states, I'd really like to see it for myself.

Back to Blogging?

After having taken some significant time away from the blog, I'm thinking it may be a good time to get back into the swing of things now. Some of my inspiration to start back came from attending The Gospel Coalition's Women's Conference last week, where thousands of women gathered to worship, learn, grow and share with one another.

Lately, I've been spending most of my social media time on Facebook and Twitter, but neither of those platforms are sufficient replacements for a good old fashioned blog. Even though I've had dozens of ideas for posts over the past seven or eight months, getting started again is not the easiest undertaking after one has stepped away from the regular routine of writing. In fact, what tends to happen is that every idea for a new article or post gets heavily scrutinized as to whether it is good enough to be "The Post" that restarts the blog. Well, I'm going to avoid doing that today with this post and simply get restarted by putting it out there. Back to blogging!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Have a Very Happy New Year!

"I've been talking of the past in order that you may turn from it forever. You can begin as if nothing had ever gone wrong. White as snow."-C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!


Books are Better than Blogs

Books are Better than Blogs (and that includes this one!)

Lately, I've reversed my trend which had become primarily consuming theological blogs and online magazine articles on a day to day basis, as opposed to my previous favored pass time, which was book reading. In doing so, I've learned a few lessons. One rather obvious and the other perhaps not so much.

The rather obvious lesson, of course, is that books are a far superior medium for communicating and fully developing the range of thinking on complex and weighty subjects, unlike blogs where it is exceedingly difficult to avoid over-simplification and much easier to lack nuance.

The perhaps less obvious lesson that has me re-valuing my book reading efforts has to do with how I think about and view the authors themselves. First I will explain what I mean and give a few examples of how that has worked its way out for me, and then briefly I'll consider my reason why it this is important.

Beginning with authors whom I've become acquainted with first through the blogosphere, I will offer two examples. One is Owen Strachan and the other is Denny Burk. My introduction with both of these authors is linked to their internet blogs on the topic of Biblical manhood and Biblical womanhood. Articles by Mr. Strachan that discussed the small percentage of men who stay at home with their children and muppets on the show Sesame Street depicted playing with dolls had me shaking my head and lamenting the future prospects of the CBMW. Likewise, on Mr. Burk's blog I had encountered some un-nuanced defenses of some ambiguous and controversial issues in the media that seemed overly strident. To me, the growing influence of these types of rising voices within the YRR movement on manhood and womanhood had seemed concerning.

Since I'm not a one-dimensional believer, however, I have remained open to watching, reading and learning on these topics, as well as being okay with the fact that I don't have to agree with everyone on everything to still learn from their expertise. Therefore, I gladly and gratefully purchased recent books published by both Strachan and Burk. 

In "The Meaning of Sex", I actually grew tremendously by seeing Mr. Burk's true passion for the straightforward presentation of what the scriptures actually say, boldly, simply, with careful precision, without any apologies, and without any fluffy story-telling. I could see that this is the type of writing that doesn't exactly go over well in the blogosphere generally, where the audience is from all walks of faith (or non-faith) and where caveats and nuance are otherwise usually spelled out clearly in order to prevent a flaming comment section. Now, I can honestly say that while I didn't actually learn anything particularly new theologically from Mr. Burk's book, I thought his approach to the topic of sex and marriage was spot-on Biblical and greatly beneficial.  If I read his blog today, I will have a different appreciation of his message and purpose, seeing him as a sort of sentinel, rather than a shepherd. Bottom line: reading the book in priority over the blog changes my expectations and perception of the author's content.

Similarly, Mr. Strachan's newest book, "Risky Gospel", was an eye-opener for two primary reasons. First, he addressed a chronic issue in the church today, that applies especially to millennials, but also to others like myself.  The issue of underlying fear holds many of us believers back from doing great things for the Lord by faith.  The way he unfolds his case is extremely helpful and relevant. The second and very unexpected benefit of reading this book, was how my perception and feeling for the author was radically changed. In this book, Mr. Strachan gives very personal and intimate examples from his own life that connected all of this teaching points in very dramatic and heartfelt ways, showing his great care for the audience for whom he wrote the book. It was quite convicting to me to learn how much love came through in the chapters of this book, since I had never once considered the author's motivation when reading his blog posts. Again, short, widely-disseminated articles on the internet can be read with the greatest distrusted when we are not acquainted with an author's background or intended audience. 

So, above I have offered just two examples of why I believe reading books is more fruitful ultimately than focusing mainly on blogs, from the direction of first encountering blog articles, and then working up to more formally published books. Perhaps there is a way to improve the quality of blogging by considering how the best elements of books could be incorporated... but that's not really my focus here.

In addition, I have a final illustration from the other direction. After having been acquainted with Carl Trueman's wonderfully written and researched books for some time, I began reading his blog posts on the Reformation21site. When I first read Mr. Trueman's blogging, I did something like a spiritual fist pump, because he was acknowledging some of the unfortunate changes happening in our churches these days to make them "hip" and "relevant". Like most people, my reaction was like watching Simon Cowell in the early days of "American Idol". I was glad and grateful for the guy who brought reality back into the reality show. The truly talented singers on this show exemplified a sort of Glory: the beauty and talent of up and coming vocalists. However, when everyone was told that they did well, it undermined the worthiness of "the best". Like Simon Cowell, in the reformed world, Mr. Trueman's candor and courage to speak up and call out silliness and wrongheadedness made many of us rejoice because we had felt that others had been weak in that area, and finally we had a truth teller.

Soon after, however, the criticism and correction started to point toward some of our "favorite idols". And the conviction went two-ways: 1-because perhaps we had elevated that particular "idol" to a level of non-reproach and couldn't tolerate any negativity AND/OR 2-because we felt the weight of the criticism and negativity that we had been participating in toward others and realized it was not proper or edifying. In fact, for many of us, it had been quite prideful and self-justifying, as we didn't have to look at any of our shortcomings so long as there were public figures at whom to gawk. Of complaining and criticism there can be no end (until Christ returns). No one, no matter how talented, can sing or serve perfectly day after day, night after night. We can always find something wrong with the other person. Always. Even the critic is not immune from blindspots, so for me, and for the benefit of my soul and my communion with the Body of Christ, I have stepped away from the critics and "discernment blogs". I'll stick with one of Mr. Trueman's good books that puts forth the positive, reformed view, but there's really not a great need for me to seek out examples of what's going wrong out there. That might be someone else's role, but I'm better off staying away from it. I can enjoy Mr. Trueman's blogs by leaving that aspect to him and focusing on the parts where I can grow and learn. 


In summary, I have found it more profitable to spend my time with great books rather than web-surfing through the wide-world of reformed blogs. I do check in on certain of my preferred blogs, but I also make a conscious effort to emphasized the deeper and meatier things. Even better than all of this: in 2014, I plan to do another YouVerse (iPhone) read of the Bible. That should be the most profitable of all, I pray. 

Merry Christmas! Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room!