Now there were among the Hebrews three outstanding offices of dignity, which made the nation famous, firstly the kingship, secondly that of prophet, and lastly the high priesthood. The prophecies said that the abolition and complete destruction of all these three together would be the sign of the presence of the Christ. And that the proofs that the times had come, would lie in the ceasing of the Mosaic worship, the desolation of Jerusalem and its Temple, and the subjection of the whole Jewish race to its enemies…The holy oracles foretold that all these changes, which had not been made in the days of the prophets of old, would take place at the coming of the Christ, which I will presently shew to have been fulfilled as never before in accordance with the predictions.” (Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica VIII)
Posts Tagged With: Christ
Although Kline wants to restrict the works principle to Israel’s inheritance of Canaan and associated temporal blessings, he considers these as typological of the blessings of the covenant of grace. These blessings, received by us through grace, are founded on Christ’s meritorious obedience to the covenant of works as the second Adam. Let us suppose for a moment that this was so. If this argument is correct, the archetypal blessings of salvation in Christ would be received by grace through faith, as Kline acknowledges, but Israel would receive the typological blessings, such as Canaan, by meritorious law-keeping according to the works principle. These, Kline has stated, are two alternative, antithetical ways of inheritance. But a type corresponds to the antitype. If the one is a type of the other, we conclude either that the blessings of the covenant of grace are received by law-keeping on the part of the recipients – in which covenant were to be received by grace, which undermines Kline’s argument. The only other possibilities are either that law and grace work together, in distinct ways, or that the typical relationship is untenable; in both cases the argument is undermined.
Robert Letham, “Not a Covenant of Works in Disguise”, Mid-America Journal of Theology, vol. 24, 2013.
by Pastor Riley Fraas
As Zechariah’s visions continue, we get a glimpse of God’s authority over the whole earth, and a picture of hope for the future. Our great God rules over all the earth, and He has established “The Branch”, our Lord Jesus Christ, as King to build His temple, to rule and defend us, and as our Priest to bring us forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the LORD by His own precious blood.
Zechariah 6:1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.
2 In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses;
3 And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses.
4 Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord?
5 And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.
In the beginning of this oracle we see a vision of the armies of the LORD. Horse-drawn chariots were the most fearsome military weapon system then known. They could attack with deadly speed and impact. The LORD is King over all the earth. His power has no limit. He is even now ruling over all the earth and executing His will through His army, the angelic host. There is not any corner of the globe that is out of His reach. No matter what we as God’s people, His chosen nation and the kingdom of His rule, that is the Church of Jesus Christ face, our God is stronger. Though we are weak in the eyes of the world, yet our God is more powerful than all. He is the one who protects and defends us. Nothing can harm His kingdom, and He rules over all the earth. Since our God rules over all, we His people have nothing to fear, anywhere in the world. No one can do anything to us outside of His perfect will. He has a plan and He is executing it perfectly.
6 The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country.
7 And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth.
8 Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.
The north country is a reference to Babylon. The nation of the Jews had not long before endured captivity in Babylon for seventy years. That northern country had been a source of shame, death, and enslavement for the people of God. But God was going to make of it a quiet, peaceful situation, taking it over it with His mighty army. What had been a threat in the past was only a tool in the loving hand of Almighty God to chastise His people when they had been unfaithful. But now He has quieted that hornet’s nest of Babylon.
God sometimes uses the evil actions of wicked people and nations to confront His people with their sin, to restrain their rebellion, and to bring them back to their knees, to rely on Him and Him alone instead of being self-secure in their independent mindset. But woe to those evil people that God uses! There is nothing on earth that can harm us, because no one can do anything to us apart from God’s will. Let us not fear those chastening enemies that come against us, whether circumstances, or temptation, or tribulation, or being in need, or opposition. Instead, let us trust in the merciful hand of God who is using these things for His own good purpose, and who is in total and utter control. One day these things which come against us and militate against the Lord will be obliterated or fully conquered, and the peace of God will reign over the entire earth.
9 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
10 Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah;
11 Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;
12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord:
13 Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.
14 And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the Lord.
15 And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.
The LORD commands Zechariah to crown Joshua the High Priest. Doing that, Zechariah is to prophesy to the beleaguered people of God a glorious age when a man named “The Branch” will reign in Jerusalem and will build the temple of the LORD. There will be a close council between Him and the priest at His side. This picture is that of the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King and High Priest of the people of God.
If we, God’s people, have enemies against us, we have a King to rule over and defend us. If we have sinned against the LORD, we have a great high priest who shed His own blood for us, who continually intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand. It is He who is building His Church (Matthew 16:18), the holy temple of the LORD, and He knows exactly what He is doing! Let us take comfort and draw hope in these things, that no matter what we may go through in this life, we are under the rule and protection, and beneficiaries of His priesthood. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Therefore let us be fitted together like stones, as the Church, His building and holy temple, continuing our life together in prayer, in worship, and mutual discipline and fellowship as we glorify our great King and Priest.
But when at length the Wisdom of God was manifested in the flesh, he fully unfolded to us all that the human mind can comprehend, or ought to think of the heavenly Father. Now, therefore, since Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, has arisen, we have the perfect refulgence of divine truth, like the brightness of noon-day, whereas the light was previously dim. It was no ordinary blessing which the apostle intended to publish when he wrote: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1, 2); for he intimates, nay, openly declares, that God will not henceforth, as formerly, speak by this one and by that one, that he will not add prophecy to prophecy, or revelation to revelation, but has so completed all the parts of teaching in the Son, that it is to be regarded as his last and eternal testimony. For which reason, the whole period of the new dispensation, from the time when Christ appeared to us with the preaching of his Gospel, until the day of judgment, is designated by the last hour, the last times, the last days, that, contented with the perfection of Christ’s doctrine, we may learn to frame no new doctrine for ourselves, or admit any one devised by others. With good cause, therefore, the Father appointed the Son our teacher, with special prerogative, commanding that he and no human being should be heard. When he said, “Hear him” (Mt. 17:5), he commended his office to us, in few words, indeed, but words of more weight and energy than is commonly supposed, for it is just as if he had withdrawn us from all doctrines of man, and confined us to him alone, ordering us to seek the whole doctrine of salvation from him alone, to depend on him alone, and cleave to him alone; in short (as the words express), to listen only to his voice. And, indeed, what can now be expected or desired from man, when the very Word of life has appeared before us, and familiarly explained himself? Nay, every mouth should be stopped when once he has spoken, in whom, according to the pleasure of our heavenly Father, “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and spoken as became the Wisdom of God (which is in no part defective) and the Messiah (from whom the revelation of all things was expected) (John 4:25); in other words, has so spoken as to leave nothing to be spoken by others after him.
Jean Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.VIII.7
In a recent story by Owen Jarus, an ancient text reveals clues about the location of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant is a gold-overlaid box, covered on top by the wings of two golden angel sculptures, with the tablets of the law, the manna (bread from heaven that the Israelites ate in the wilderness on their way to the promised land of Canaan), and Aaron’s rod which budded. It was a symbol of God’s presence among His people, and the centerpiece of worship in the tabernacle, and later in the temple after Solomon built the temple of the LORD.
God gave instructions for making the Ark in Exodus chapter 25:
10 And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. 11 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about…13 And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold…17 And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. 18 And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat…21 And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. 22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
The ark was carried on long wooden poles by the descendants of Levi. One time, when the ark was placed on a cart, it was tipping over. Uzzah tried to catch the ark with his hand to keep it from falling to the ground. He was struck dead by God on the spot for his indiscretion, because the ark was holy, not to be touched by human hands.
2 Samuel 6:6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.
The Ark was the center of worship, the most holy thing in the tabernacle, the symbol of God’s presence among His people, from which He spoke to them. It was to be handled strictly as God commanded and not otherwise.
The Ark was lost when the Chaldeans under King Nebudchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and stole all the gold items from the temple of the LORD. It was never found again. It has been popular to speculate on where the Ark might be found today. Some have claimed that it rests in Ethiopia. The 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark popularized the lore surrounding the recovery of the Ark, which, in the film, struck the soldiers of the 3rd Reich with deadly supernatural power which they were trying to harness for their own evil purposes.
Is the Ark going to be found? And if it is, what will be its significance? Some have said, for example in the article linked above, that in the time of the reign of the promised Messiah, the Son of David, the Ark will be found and regain prominence in the worship of God’s people. But what do the prophets say about it? Jeremiah spoke of the future day of the reign of the Messianic King, a time of spiritual blessing and prosperity, in these words:
Jeremiah 3:14b I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: 15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. 17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
We see a few things in this picture of the Messianic age: 1. Jews would return to Zion. 2. Pastors would feed the people of God with knowledge and understanding. 3. The Ark would not be remembered or visited. 4. The nations would gather to Jerusalem to obey the LORD.
The Ark will never again be a center of worship. In fact, according to this prophecy, it will not “be remembered.” Now, we know that the Ark has not been visited ever since it was lost centuries before the birth of Christ. But how is it that it is no longer “remembered?” It’s because now Christ Jesus, the Messiah of the Jewish people, is the center of worship. While the Ark was merely a symbol of God’s presence, Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) It is unto Him that the nations are gathering, and the remnant of the Jews, God’s elect from every nation. The place of His presence is His Holy Church, which is Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. (Hebrews 12:22) He has appointed pastors to feed His flock with knowledge and understanding. (Ephesians 4:11) Although He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, He is present with His people in Spirit, especially in the fellowship of the redeemed, which is His body. There, that is, in every true church on earth where His word is authentically proclaimed, He speaks to His people and makes His word effective by His Spirit working in them.
So what does this mean, when it comes to stories and clues about the present location of the Ark of the Covenant? It will probably never be found, and certainly, is no longer needed. If it ever is found, which I doubt that God will allow, it will be nothing more than a museum piece. It will not be remembered or visited as before. It is not needed at all because Jesus the Messiah is God, present among His people in word and Spirit.
Christmas is historically about affirming the truths expressed in the Nicene creed about the person of Christ, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. As we enjoy this festival, let us reflect on these words:
The Nicene Creed (325 AD)
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
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.
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
(text from http://www.reformed.org)
Unmasking “Corporate Election”
February 23, 2010
“Corporate Election” has been gaining in popularity among some biblical scholars in recent decades. It purports to offer an alternative framework to understand passages that deal with the topic of election such as Romans chapter 9 and Ephesians chapter 1. “Corporate Election”, (as presented by its proponents,) denies the traditional Reformed or Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election. That is, it claims that these passages do not teach that God has chosen a fixed number of humans for salvation not based on any choice or will of theirs[i]. Its main arguments are as follows: Both the historic background and Old Testament context of the New Testament epistles indicate that election needs to be understood in a group vs. individual context. In other words both Jews and Greeks in the first century A.D. would have understood “he predestined us[ii]” as speaking about the group having been predestined. Each person’s individual chosen status depends on whether or not he or she is part of the group or not. It is by being part of the elected group that ones election is determined. One becomes elect by joining the group, and if one leaves the group, one is no longer elect. In the teaching of the New Testament, it is said, individuals join the group of God’s elect people by exercising faith in Christ, and therefore, it is not necessary to interpret these particular New Testament passages (Romans 9 and Ephesians 1) as ruling out human choice as the original distinguishing factor between those who are saved in Christ and those who are not. If Christians join the body of Christ by exercising faith in him, and then become “elect” by virtue of their membership in the “elect” group, then, goes the argument, there is no need for us to think that God has determined who will be saved and who will not be saved with no regard to their own independent “free will” choice. I will attempt to show that this idea of “Corporate Election” misses the point of the New Testament teaching on election. I will do this by making especial use of the epistle to the Ephesians, and also show why this issue matters to the body of Christ. Ephesians chapter 1:3-14 presents a flowing summary of God’s plan to save “us” in Christ, from his predestination of “us” before the foundation of the world, to redemption, adoption, inheritance, holiness, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit[iii]. Its major theme is God’s grace shining in this whole plan from start to finish, and the scope of the whole is God’s glory. The reference to God’s plan being “in Christ” is repeated eleven times in these eleven verses! Obviously Christ is central in this whole plan of salvation from start to finish, (from election through the obtainment of the promised possession.) Commenting on this passage, Dr. Brian Abasciano writes, “the idea is not that God’s choice was based on our foreseen faith per se. It is that the Church’s election is intrinsic to the election of Christ[iv]”. A proponent of “Corporate Election”, Dr. Abasciano argues that Christ is the primary object of election, the original “Elect One” and that secondarily those who unite themselves to him by faith become members of his body, and therefore, they are elect in Christ and individually. Dr. Abasciano is an Arminian theologian, but his take on “Corporate Election” presents a nuanced argument that differs somewhat from the traditional Arminian argument: that predestination is based on God’s foresight of individual faith. However, Abasciano’s argument fails to take into account the place of Christ in God’s plan as revealed by God in the New Testament. God the Son became man and undertook the office of Christ the Mediator not simply to be the object of the Father’s choosing, (as he had no need of being chosen, himself being God from all eternity,) but to save a people. Without an elect people having been loved and chosen by God from all eternity, and a plan to save them by means of Christ, there would have been no need for an incarnation, no Savior. From the announcement of the angel that Christ would be born to “save his people from their sins[v]” to Jesus statement that “the Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many[vi]”, to Paul’s statement that God the Father “predestined us to adoption through Jesus Christ to himself[vii]”, the place of Christ in God’s eternal plan of salvation is that he is the means of accomplishing the objective of God’s whole plan, which is the salvation of God’s elect, to the praise of his glory. From our perspective, then, as Paul shows us in Ephesians chapter 1, it is in union with Christ that we receive all the blessings and benefits that God’s grace has bestowed on us in the New Covenant. He is the means to every spiritual blessing for us as we have been united to him. However from the divine perspective of God’s plan, Christ is the means to saving God’s elect people whom he loved before the foundation of the world. The Savior presupposes a beloved people whom God intended to save. And this is the teaching of Paul in Ephesians chapter 1, that before the foundation of the world, God predestined his elect to adoption “through Christ” (1:5.) “Corporate Election” ignores Paul’s description in Ephesians of God’s plan as incorporating individuals who are not part of Christ into him. In other words Paul does not merely present an elect group who are viewed as already having been united to an elect head; rather he presents God’s work of gathering disparate persons into one group under one head. Paul describes the “summing up” of all things to Christ. Ephesians 1:10 says, “in order to the administration of the fullness of time, when he will sum up[viii] all things in Christ, whether things in heaven or things on the earth.[ix]” Paul is not only describing a fixed group united to Christ which existed in the mind of God before the foundation of the world, but individual disunified parts and how he would gather or “sum” them up unto him. Persons who were not part of a group and not under any one head are brought together by God’s sovereign working under one head, that is, Christ, and only then do they belong to the group. Therefore, the election of the group necessarily presupposes the election of individuals. Those who were not a people have now become a people, taken out (selected!) from out of the great mass of sinners in the world. And this gathering is presented as God’s own work from start to finish. In chapter 2:1-3 of Ephesians Paul makes reference to the former state of those who are now united to Christ, having been by nature deserving of God’s wrath and conducting themselves after the course of the whole mass of sinners in the world. But how had they become part of Christ? Paul addresses this in chapters 1 and 2, and ascribes all to God. For example, the apostle speaks of the believers’ first exercise of faith in Christ (1:11-14), ascribing even this “first hoping in Christ” to God! He says, “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, in order that you might be to the praise of his glory, who first hoped in Christ.” And, “In which also when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in which also, believing, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.” Notice the apostle’s reference to God’s sovereign working of all things according to the counsel of his will (1:11) as if to say, “not only did God choose us, he worked it all out in time, uniting us to Christ, just as he works his will in everything else. What he had planned he also brought to fruition.” Notice in verse 14 the ascribing of glory to God for the faith of God’s people in Christ, in particular for their first “believing” on him. If this faith which unites them to Christ were not a work of God in them as part of his sovereign and immutable plan to save his elect people and draw them individually out of the whole mass of sinners, gathering them unto one head, that is Christ, Paul could not have praised God’s glory for their first exercise of faith as he does in verses 1:12 and 1:14. “to the praise of his glory.” It is not only election of a group that is in view, but the election of sinners who are not yet part of a group (2:1-3) and the means by which God planned to gather them together under one head, that is, by working faith in them (1:12, 14; 2:5-8.) I believe that I have shown that “Corporate Election” ignores major parts of God’s plan of salvation based on what is presented in the epistle to the Ephesians, particularly how God planned to gather individuals from a common sinful mass into a new group united to Christ by granting them faith on him. But “Corporate Election” does not only ignore this part of God’s plan, it inserts an element quite foreign to the sweeping theme of Paul in this epistle, which is God’s glory. It ignores the parts of the plan I have discussed in order to make room for the Arminian idea of a “free will” choice of sinners to believe in Christ. By denying that God intended to save a fixed set of individuals by union with Christ in his election of him, and by asserting furthermore, that sinners unite themselves to Christ by exercising an autonomous choice to believe in him, and that they become “elect” because of their resulting union with him, the proponents of “Corporate Election” introduce a break in God’s plan of salvation. The plan that was for Paul one sweeping crescendo of praise to God now acquires gaps. There is a link in the chain which we must supply ourselves, one which cannot be ascribed to God’s glory. But force of many, many passages in the Scriptures presents an unbroken chain of blessed acts and workings of God, for which he gets all the glory and the individual Christian gets absolutely none, especially Ephesians 1 and 2 but also Romans 8, 9, 1 Corinthians 1, etc. The idea that the individual believer has supplied some part in his own salvation which cannot in itself be ascribed to God as a matter of praise is quite far from the whole point of Ephesians 1, and the apostle leaves absolutely no room for such an idea. Not only does he ascribe all praise to God for every part of the salvation of Christ’s body, including the first believing of sinners in Christ, he also describes their former state as having been “dead in trespasses and sins.” The Apostle describes our former state as death and service to sin as a natural state of enmity to God both in our conduct and in our “minds” (2:3). The human mind is the source of all human will and choices. Therefore those who are in such a spiritually dead state of mind are naturally unable to exercise faith in Christ while they remain in that state according to Paul’s teaching. For this reason the apostle highlights the sovereign power of God to raise the spiritually dead to spiritual life (2:5). And this involves the work of the Holy Spirit to produce faith in them, as we also saw in chapter 1. For this reason in 1:15 Paul says, “having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Paul is giving thanks to God for the Ephesian believers’ faith in Christ. Certainly Paul would not have been able to give thanks to God for the Ephesians having believed in the Lord Jesus unless it were God’s work. One does not receive thanks for things that one did not do. If it were the Ephesians who had first exercised faith in Christ independently of God, or even with his help but with them completing the act of faith independently, Paul would be thanking the Ephesians for believing in Christ and not thanking God that they had believed in Christ. The fact that the giving of thanks to people for believing in Christ is so foreign to the New Testament is not merely a matter of style; it is because God has actually performed every part of salvation from start to finish, including the ends and the means. That is the reason why God always gets all the thanks, all the glory, and Christians never get any, as we see here. Having shown how the idea of “Corporate Election” conflicts with Paul’s teaching, I would like to answer the “So what?” question. Is this not a subject on which genuine Christians may safely disagree? I submit that this topic bears significant implications for the sanctification of believers, and it bears on both doctrine and practice of the people of God. It is a matter of holiness and godliness to have the correct view on this topic. For it is a question of whether or not God gets all the glory for our salvation. In speaking of the doctrine of election, Paul says, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” so that no man may boast before God[x].” and elsewhere, “you are saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, in order that no one may boast[xi].” The point of Paul’s teaching on election is that Christians may ascribe all glory to God for their salvation and none to themselves. The reference to “boasting” occurs not merely to prevent boasting, but makes a larger point. It is that we cannot think that we contributed anything to our salvation. We must give all the glory to God. Why then is it important that this topic be decided in the minds of Christians and in the teaching of the Church? Certainly there are dear brothers and sisters in Christ who take the wrong view on this topic, who would never claim to have any reason to boast of their salvation, not the least of whom is my professor Dr. Abasciano. But the point is not whether or not they are boasting. The issue of the question is whether there is room left in the still-sinful hearts of Christians who are being sanctified for them to secretly and quietly think of themselves as wiser or smarter than those who have not made a decision to follow Christ. The Arminian idea that humans may make a “free will” choice to believe in Christ without complete dependence on God’s grace for this choice does mitigate God’s glory in salvation and leaves a little boasting room in the still-sinful hearts of believers. This boasting room the apostle is careful to exclude. But why is boasting excluded? Not just because boasting is immoral but because in fact Christians have nothing in salvation to take credit for, not even one little decision. And so the great plan of salvation from start to finish and all means occurring in between is a subject for the praise of God’s glorious grace. For this reason “Corporate Election” must be tossed in the trash with all other doctrines that rob God of any part of his glory in salvation.
In the third chapter of Zechariah the LORD gives a fifth vision speaking of deliverance and restoration. It in it we see Satan, the accuser of the people of God, and the Angel of the LORD, a pre-incarnate appearance of God the Son, standing with Joshua the high priest.
Zechariah 3:1-3 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
The scene begins with a cast of three: The Angel of the LORD, Satan, and the high priest named Joshua. The Angel of the LORD is God the Son prior to his having been conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary. He is the LORD, (“LORD” in all caps stands for Jehovah or Yahweh in most English Bibles,) called by the covenant name of God. Jesus the Son of God is God Himself, equal to the Father, and when He speaks, even Satan must listen. “Satan”, meaning, “adversary” is the accuser of the people of God, their self-appointed prosecutor and accuser before the seat of God’s righteous judgment. An angel fallen from heavenly glory after having rebelled against the Most High, he stands to “resist” God’s chosen people represented by the high priest named Joshua. The high priest was one called and set apart to minister the commandments of God in the temple, make sacrifices, represent God to the people by preaching the word of God and performing the required ceremonies, and representing the people to God in prayer on their behalf. The name, “Joshua” means in Hebrew, “The LORD saves”, commonly transliterated into Greek as “iesous” and is the same as the Latinized “Iesus” or “Jesus.” This is the name of the high priest who was serving in the temple when Zechariah prophesied these words. Even his name points to the Lord’s salvation through One named Jesus, who is our great High Priest forever. When Satan accuses the people of God of sin, Christ Jesus, here termed “the angel of the LORD”, defends them based on the truth that He is on their side. Of what can Satan accuse God’s elect? (Romans 8:33) He rebukes Satan for accusing Joshua, and in him God’s chosen people. Joshua’s garments are filthy, stained with muck. Despite his uncomely appearance, clearly visible in the light of a torch pulled out of the fire, Satan’s accusations don’t stick. The devil’s accusations of God’s chosen people are just empty words. No matter how darkly stained our garments, God will defend us and not condemn us. But why?
4-5 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
The Angel of the LORD is the one speaking here. He is God the Son, who will clothe Joshua with new priestly garments. Here is the answer to the question of how God’s chosen people are to be acquitted and justified by God rather than condemned as Satan would prefer. It is through a change of clothing wrought by the Angel of the LORD. He places a new garment and a tall priestly hat: a “mitre” upon Joshua. Although the sins of God’s chosen people are many, yet He will place His own (Christ’s own) righteousness upon them as a new garment replaces the filthy one. Our beauty and acceptability to God is not based on our own righteousness or good works, for even at our best we are just filthy rotten sinners; it is based on Christ’s own righteousness imputed to us as our covering, clothing our sinful nakedness with the splendid beauty of holiness which is pleasing to God, Christ’s works. He stands by us His elect (v. 5) as our comfort and assurance that God has forgiven us our sins and accepted us for His (Christ’s) sake. What assurance of salvation! What comfort! There is nothing in this universe which compares to the glory of God seen in the justification of sinners deserving only condemnation by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
6-10 And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by. Here now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.
Being forgiven of his sins, justified in God’s sight, and with the help of God’s Son standing by him, Joshua the high priest is obligated to devote himself genuinely and fully to the service of God out of thankfulness for the grace he’s received. This applies to all those who have been saved by grace, to all citizens of chosen Israel. Have you been forgiven of all your sins and counted righteous in God’s sight for the sake of Christ? Then live accordingly by thankfully obeying all His commandments, trusting in His aiding grace to do His work in you as He stands by you.
“The BRANCH” is a reference to Jesus Christ, a branch grown from the family tree of David. (Jeremiah 23:5) He is the eternal God, knowing all things, symbolized in verse 9 as a stone with seven eyes representing Him who sees and knows all things perfectly. (7 in the Bible is the number of perfection.) The promise of forgiveness and justification is in Him, through Him, and to Him. It is in reference to Christ the “BRANCH” that this vision promises such blessing. Because of Him, a great period of blessing will come in, when neighbors will have fellowship together and enjoy the good things of the LORD represented as the fruit of the vines and fig trees.
God’s message in this prophetic oracle is that although Israel would be delivered of her enemies and restored fully from captivity to foreign nations (Babylon and Assyria), yet her sins would remain. These would be taken away by replacing his filthy rags with new glorious garments. Our salvation is not first and foremost about the healing of our physical bodies or restoration from earthly difficulties, but about the forgiveness of our sin and justification by God’s grace in imputing Christ’s righteousness to us. Let us remind ourselves of these blessed truths of God’s word daily in order that we may be inspired to live for Him with thankful hearts overflowing with praise for what He has done.
I had an interesting exchange today on Twitter with popular blogger and non-divisiveness guru Rachel Held Evans.
Now, let’s lay aside the fact that the eternal economic subordination of Christ to the Father has been recognized by all orthodox theologians since the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A. D. My first thought at being called heretic on Twitter by Rachel Held Evans was confusion. I mean, I thought we were just supposed to love and not divide over doctrine? It’s only angry, conservative, evangelical, racist, misogynist, homophobic white men with entitlement complexes who throw around the “H” bomb! (She has since tweeted me to the effect that she did not call me a heretic. She only said that I was communicating heresy. OK, semantics.) “Dude”, certainly not something you would expect from the post-evangelical, progressive, millenial spokeswoman.
Moral of the story? Snarky rebel bloggers like Rachel Held Evans should leave theologizing to the theologians, and they just might learn something. (Yes, even complementarianism.)
Amid the rampant unbelief in the world, one often hears people putting up roadblocks and obstacles by describing that which keeps them from believing the good news of reconciliation with the Creator through Jesus Christ. The most common objections verbalized tend to be along the lines that evidence is lacking for God, for the integrity and truth of the Bible, that the morality revealed in Scripture is outdated, or that the Bible’s record on such things as creation is contradicted by modern science. But as we know from human experience, things are not always as they appear when it comes to people saying why they do not accept something. People are prone to not indicate the real obstacle that prevents them from coming to Christ.
Would it surprise you to know that the biggest obstacle to people’s acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ today is not a lack of evidence, but self-righteous pride? The Bible humbles the pride of man. It describes him not as righteous, but as ungodly, unholy, evil, undesirable, and unworthy of any consideration or favor from the Creator. According to the Scriptures, the good news is that God has offered eternal blessing in Christ to those who only deserve His eternal curse and punishment in hell forever.
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:
17 And the way of peace have they not known:
18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
People just cannot accept the picture that God paints of them in Scripture. They are offended by what He says about them in His word: that they are vile, corrupt, and worthy only to be cast into hell forever. That is the biggest obstacle that the average person has to receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is pride. It is an unwillingness to accept that they are as worthless as God says they are. For it is only those who recognize their need as sinners, and their utter inability to help themselves or to do anything pleasing to the Creator, which makes them ready to receive the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ the Savior. The world’s biggest obstacle to receiving the gospel is not a lack of evidence for God or the Bible; It is the pride of humans who think they are good people.
Ebenezer Pemberton, a Congregational minister who served as the pastor of the Old South Church, Boston from 1700-1717, puts it this way,
“The freedom and riches of divine grace to the greatest of sinners is an essential part of the glory that is displayed in the gospel. But we are naturally slow of heart to believe; a self-righteous spirit appears in a variety of forms to obstruct our approaches to God through Jesus Christ*.”
Thanks be to God that for those of us who have embraced Christ when we heard the gospel, the Lord subdued our self-righteous pride and stubborn will, informing us of our miserable condition, making us willing and able to receive Him as He was offered to us as Savior.
*Ebenezer Pemberton, Don Kistler, ed., The Puritan Pulpit, Orlando, FL: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2006, p. 207.