Posts Tagged With: Christ

Preaching from the Old Testament

IMG_6767In the New Testament, the apostles and prophets proclaimed Christ (His person and work) from the existing canon of Scripture that they had, that is, from the Old Testament.  Based on their examples, we find several ways or methods to preach from the Old Testament.  Although in recent years there has been quite a bit of attention given in some circles to redemptive historical preaching, this hermeneutical method is only one of several methods of interpretation which ought to be applied to a given Old Testament passage.

Several important hermeneutics are listed as follows, with an example for each from Genesis 30*.

1. Redemptive-Historical — This method looks for cues to the progressive unfolding of God’s plan through human history.

Example: God caused Jacob’s favorite and beloved wife, Rachel, to have a son, named Joseph, whom he would love more than his brothers.  This was a part of the unfolding of God’s plan to save the family of Jacob from extinction in the great famine that would take place  years later when Joseph was prime minister of Egypt, after his brothers had sold him into slavery in jealousy, but God raised him to great status in Egypt.  Through this temporal salvation that God worked through Joseph, the nation of Israel was kept alive so that the Messiah would eventually spring of him.

2. Promise-Fulfillment — This method highlights specific and explicit prophecies God gave in the Old Testament that would come to pass in the time of the New Testament.

Example:  We see in the prospering of Jacob’s herds, and the diminishing of Laban’s herds, of a man who abused Jacob, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Jacobs’ grandfather Abraham, to bless him, bless those who bless him, and curse those who curse him.  This promise ultimately has reference to Abraham’s and Jacob’s Seed, who is Christ.  (Gal 3:16)

3. Typological — Looks for symbols in the characters and events of Old Testament narrative that point to something greater to come.

Example: The 12 patriarchs born of Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah, are a type of the 12 apostles that Jesus would set apart as the formative structure for His kingdom on earth, the Church of Jesus Christ, which is the New Israel.  (Acts 1:6-8)

4. Analogical — Analogical preaching uses a narrative to illustrate a doctrine of Scripture.  There is a danger here, since it is rarely the clear intent of a passage to provide an analogy to help explain a broader teaching.  Yet we find examples of such application in the New Testament, like with Paul’s analogy in Galatians using Hagar and Sarah to represent the law and the gospel.  While certainly not the first hermeneutic to bring to a narrative passage, it may have a place, as a method of instruction on a core New Testament doctrine.

Example:  The miraculous increase of Jacob’s herds and decrease of Laban’s herds are a picture of God’s sovereign building of His Church.  He builds one flock and diminishes another, by a secret and spiritual operation, according to His sovereign purpose, because, after all, it is He who builds her. (Matthew 16:18)

5. Moral Exemplar — Christ teaches Christians by His Word, how to live in a way that pleases Him, and His work of sanctification in us produces these fruits in us.  We see these fruits sometimes abounding, sometimes lacking, in the examples of people in the Old Testament.  From them we can learn to follow their good examples and avoid their bad examples.

Example:  It is the will of Christ, and His teaching, that a husband ought to be joined to one wife.  We see the example of Jacob, and the miserable strife and bitter rivalry that polygamy caused in his family.  This is an indication that polygamy is contrary to God’s moral will.  (1 Tim 3:2)

As the apostles did, and as the greatest preachers of Church History since apostolic times (Gregory Nazianzus, Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, etc.) have demonstrated, it is fitting and necessary to preach from the Old Testament in the Church of Jesus Christ.  Preaching from the Old Testament gives the people of God a balanced diet of the Word, and it is the will of God who gave 66 books of Scripture and not merely 27.  The discerning preacher-exegete will attempt to use all of these various methods whenever they seem to carry significant weight in a particular pericope, taken in context with the whole of Scripture.  He will make sure to give his hearers a balance of approaches by which Christ is seen to be proclaimed in the Old Testament.  Contrary to the claims of some, the redemptive historical hermeneutic is only one of several important methods of interpreting the Old Testament in Christ-centered way.

*For some of the categories represented in this post and line of thought followed, I am indebted to Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ From The Old Testament.

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Machen on the Imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience

machen 2That covenant of works was a probation. If Adam kept the law of God for a certain period, he was to have eternal life. If he disobeyed he was to have death. Well, he disobeyed and the penalty of death was inflicted on him and his posterity. Then Christ by His death on the cross paid that penalty for those whom God had chosen.

Well and good. But if that were all that Christ did for us, do you not see that we should be back in just the situation in which Adam was before he sinned? The penalty of his sinning would have been removed from us because it had all been paid by Christ. But for the future the attainment of eternal life would have been dependent upon our perfect obedience to the law of God. We should simply have been back in the probation again.

Here we begin to understand why Jesus’ passive obedience is not enough – if divorced from his active obedience. The passive sufferings of Christ discharged the enormous debt we owe, due to our sins and the sin of Adam. In effect, Jesus’ passive obedience alone would bring our account from hopelessly overdrawn back to a zero balance – our debt would be retired. But having our debt retired and our sins forgiven does not get us into heaven; it simply returns us to the starting point. More must be done if we are to gain heaven. Righteousness must be completely fulfilled, either by us or by a representative acting on our behalf.

Moreover, we should have been back in that probation in a very much less hopeful way than that in which Adam was originally placed in it. Everything was in Adam’s favour when he was placed in the probation. He had been created in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. He had been created positively good. Yet despite all that, he fell. How much more likely would we be to fall – nay, how certain to fall – if all that Christ had done for us were merely to remove from us the guilt of past sin, leaving it then to our own efforts to win the reward which God has pronounced upon perfect obedience.

J. Gresham Machen, quoted from: http://oldlife.org/2013/09/seriously/

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Satan’s Prosecuting

Afghanistan prosecutionAll that enter actions against others, pretend that wrong is done, either against themselves or against the King. Now Satan will never enter an action against us in the court above, for that wrong by us has been done to himself; he must pretend, then, that he sues us, for that wrong has, by us, been done to our king. But, behold, ‘We have an advocate with the Father’, and he has made compensation for our offenses. He gave himself for our offences.

–John Bunyan, The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate, Works, Banner of Truth, vol. I. p. 162

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Christ died to satisfy the Father, and defeat Satan

Christ, when he died, died not to satisfy Satan, but his Father; not to appease the devil, but to answer the demands of the justice of God; nor did he design, when he hanged on the tree, to triumph over his Father, but over Satan; ‘He redeemed us,’ therefore, ‘from the curse of the law,’ by his blood. Gal. 3:13 And from the power of Satan, by his resurrection. He. 2:14 He delivered us from righteous judgment by price and purchase; but from the rage of hell by fight and conquest.

John Bunyan, The Work of Jesus Christ As An Advocate. II. (3)

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When a father p…

When a father provides crutches for his child, he does as good as say, I count that my child will be yet infirm; and when God shall provide an Advocate, he doth as good as to say, my people are subject to infirmities. Do not, therefore, think of thyself above what, by plain texts, and fair inferences drawn from Christ’s offices, thou are bound to think.  What doth it bespeak concerning thee that Christ is always a priest in heaven, and there ever lives to make intercession for thee, but this, that thou art at the best in thyself, yea, and in thy best exercising of all thy graces too, but a poor, pitiful, sorry, sinful man; a man that would, when yet most holy, be certainly cast away, did not thy high priest take away for thee the iniquity of thy holy things.

John Bunyan, The Work of Christ as an Advocate, 7.

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To enable faith…

To enable faith to surmount the great difficulty, Scripture furnishes two auxiliary proofs, the one the likeness of Christ’s resurrection, and the other the omnipotence of God. Therefore, whenever the subject of the resurrection is considered, let us think of the case of our Savior, who, having completed his mortal course in our nature which he had assumed, obtained immortality, and is now the pledge of our future resurrection. For in the miseries by which we are beset, we always bear “about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh,” (2 Cor. 4:10). It is not lawful, it is not even possible, to separate him from us, without dividing him. Hence Paul’s argument, “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen,” (1 Cor. 15:13); for he assumes it as an acknowledged principle, that when Christ was subjected to death, and by rising gained a victory over death, it was not on his own account, but in the Head was begun what must necessarily be fulfilled in all the members, according to the degree and order of each. For it would not be proper to be made equal to him in all respects. It is said in the psalm, “Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption,” (Ps. 16:10). Although a portion of this confidence appertain to us according to the measure bestowed on us, yet the full effect appeared only in Christ, who, free from all corruption, resumed a spotless body. Then, that there may be no doubt as to our fellowship with Christ in a blessed resurrection, and that we may be contented with this pledge, Paul distinctly affirms that he sits in the heavens, and will come as a judge on the last day for the express purpose of changing our vile body, “that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,” (Phil. 3:21). For he elsewhere says that God did not raise up his Son from death to give an isolated specimen of his mighty power, but that the Spirit exerts the same efficacy in regard to them that believe; and accordingly he says, that the Spirit when he dwells in us is life, because the end for which he was given is to quicken our mortal body (Rom. 8:10, 11; Col. 3:4). I briefly glance at subjects which might be treated more copiously, and deserve to be adorned more splendidly, and yet in the little I have said I trust pious readers will find sufficient materials for building up their faith. Christ rose again that he might have us as partakers with him of future life. He was raised up by the Father, inasmuch as he was the Head of the Church, from which he cannot possibly be dissevered. He was raised up by the power of the Spirit, who also in us performs the office of quickening. In fine, he was raised up to be the resurrection and the life. But as we have said, that in this mirror we behold a living image of the resurrection, so it furnishes a sure evidence to support our minds, provided we faint not, nor grow weary at the long delay, because it is not ours to measure the periods of time at our own pleasure; but to rest patiently till God in his own time renew his kingdom. To this Paul refers when he says, “But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming,” (1 Cor. 15:23).

On Christ as the proof of our future resurrection: John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.25.3

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The Most Helpful Statement of the Trinity and the Person of Christ

[1] Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; [2] Which faith unless every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

[3] And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; [4] Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. [5] For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. [6] But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
[7] Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. [8] The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. [9] The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible. [10] The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. [11] And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal. [12] As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible. [13] So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty; [14] And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
[15] So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; [16] And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. [17] So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; [18] And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord. [19] For like as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; [20] So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say: There are three Gods or three Lords.
[21] The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. [22] The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten. [23] The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. [24] So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. [25] And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. [26] But the whole three persons are co-eternal, and co-equal. [27] So that in all things, as said before, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. [28] He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

[29] Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. [30] For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man. 

[31] God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of the substance of His mother, born in the world. [32] Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. [33] Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

[34] Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. [35] One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God. [36] One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. [37] For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ; [38] Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; [39] He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; [40] From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. [41] At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies; [42] And shall give account of their own works. [43] And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
[44] This is the catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.
Amen.

The Athanasian Creed, early 6th century.

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Being Sure of Your Salvation: part 2, The Principal Ground of Assurance

By Pastor Riley Fraas

Having established from Scripture the truth that Christians may be sure of their salvation, in this life, and without direct revelation from God, it now remains to be seen how this assurance is to be obtained.  The one who is really interested in knowing whether he is eternally saved will not be content with anything less but following God’s instructions for obtaining this blessed assurance.  The honest Christian has no interest in deceiving himself.  He doesn’t just want to soothe the conscience.  He wants to know the truth.  For him, ignorance is not bliss.  So he must follow the means that God has given to obtain full assurance of salvation.

The first, most principal ground, and root of the Christian’s absolute confidence in his or her own personal and eternal salvation is in the person and work of Jesus Christ Himself.  Though our sins are great, and our fears are many, yet Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God fully bore the wrath of God for sinners.  There is a way of salvation which God has given.  This way is in His Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus has promised that,All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (John 6:37)  This verse and others like it make clear that the only true way of seeking salvation is in Jesus Christ the Son of God.  He is the objective ground of true assurance.  The one who seeks salvation in good works, reputation, religious observance, or any other gods or savior is barking up the wrong tree!  Salvation is only to be had in the way that God has provided, and this way is His Son Jesus Christ.  Secondly, we find in this verse that there is full assurance of salvation for all those who come to Him, who are given to Jesus by the Father.  For all those who are trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation from their sins, who are believing in Him, resting all their hopes on Him and not in themselves, or any other person or thing, as He is revealed in Scripture, there is absolutely no reason for them to doubt their salvation.   Now, a couple of further comments need to be made on this point:

1.       Eternal salvation is fully assured for believers in Christ, because He is a full Savior. 

Christ as the Savior of sinners lives forever.  The one who is saved in Him, is saved forever.  It is absolutely certain that he will be in no wise cast out.  Salvation is eternally secure for the believer in Jesus Christ, not because of any worth, value, or strength of faith in the believer, or just because of some law or principle which dictates that he can never be lost, but because Jesus Christ Himself continues as Savior.  He is ruling and reigning in the hearts of His people, and he will not allow one of his sheep to go astray to the point of being finally lost.  Though the sheep, left to his own abilities and loyalty, is by nature able to wander very far from the sheep pen to the point of being irrecoverably lost, yet the Good Shepherd will not allow the sheep to get to that point.  (Luke 15:4)  Though the sheep strays, he will still be found and brought back to the fold, like the one sheep for which the shepherd left the ninety-nine in Jesus’ parable.  The believer’s confidence and assurance is therefore eternal.  And it is not based on anything but the personal character of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  The moment one places saving faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement for sin on the cross, that person is fully saved forever and nothing is ever going to be able to change that, because no one can thwart the will of the Savior who keeps him in His loving care.  The idea that a true believer, born again by Christ’s Spirit, and given to Him of the Father may then lose his salvation at a future time is an affront to Jesus as the Savior of all those who come to God through Him.

2.        This means coming to Jesus as He is revealed in Scripture.

The one who comes to the wrong Jesus, does not come to the Savior.  For though there is only one Jesus Christ, yet there are many who remake Jesus to suit their own imagination.  Some like the harmless baby Jesus in the mangers at Christmas time, who never seems to grow up.  Others like the social-activist Jesus, or the greasy-grace Jesus.  The Jesus of Scripture is the eternal Son of God, who became man to save hopeless sinners.  He is God.  He is holy.  He is righteous.  He is compassionate.  He is the Lord of glory.  He lifts the downcast and demands the impossible.  The one who comes to Jesus as a sidekick, a buddy, a good luck charm or a life-accessory is not coming to the true Jesus as He is revealed in Scripture.  Those who would be saved by Him must study the Scriptures to ensure that they are trusting in the true Savior, and hear Him speak to them about who He is in a church where His word is preached faithfully.

3.       This principal ground and root of assurance is something that the believer will have to return to again and again, especially when fears and doubts abound. 

Christians in this life are being made perfect, but they are not perfect.  Their life is a pattern of a progressive growth in grace, being made more and more in conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.  They often stumble, occasionally so horribly that it’s hard to tell the difference between them and an unbeliever based on their lives.  At these moments they won’t get any certainty of their salvation by looking at their own lives.  Self-examination in a time like this will only drive them to despair.  They may even question their own faith.  I do not say that they don’t have faith, but when they think about their own faith, they have big doubts.  At times like this, their only assurance can come from meditating on Christ’s finished work:  that he fully satisfied the guilt of sin for all those who come to God through Him, and that He lives on forever to intercede for them.  This is the unshakeable foundation of salvation.  By meditating on these truths, the believer beset by sin and doubt will be able to regain a full assurance of salvation, not by looking inwardly, but by looking to Christ.

It is possible to be absolutely certain that one is saved forever.  The main root and ground, the unshakeable solidity of this assurance is in the person and work of Jesus Christ the Savior of sinners.  All other supports and evidences for salvation are based on this.  If one is to really know whether one is saved, one will have to use the means that God has provided to obtain that assurance, and the principal foundation is Christ Himself.  He alone is the objective ground of assurance of salvation for the believer.  In following articles of this series we will explore the subjective evidences of eternal salvation in the life of the believer, and the danger of false assurance.

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Is Holiness Necessary for Salvation?

by Pastor Riley Fraas

Is Holiness necessary for salvation? The Bible says so:

holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14

But what does it mean, and why is it necessary?

Holiness is a setting a part for the use of God, a resignation to Him and from anything that is not pleasing to Him. Holiness extends to every part of human life, implying a pervasive faith, obedient submission, and continual honoring toward God in all of ones life. It necessarily requires a separation from the sinful world, not by living in seclusion or not making contact with unholy people, but by an utter personal rejection of the sins that pervade the world around us including everything which is not in accordance with God’s will as recorded in the Holy Bible.   

Holiness does not mean perfection, for no one is perfect in this life. It does mean a resolve, resolution, and effort to believe in, obey, and honor God in all of life as his will is shown to us in the Holy Bible. The one who is seeking holiness will not be content with compromising God’s instructions for living. He will do his utmost to keep all of God’s commandments in thought, word, and action, praying on his knees continually asking for God to assist him in his effort to obey.

Holiness is not a way of earning acceptance with God. All human beings have already violated God’s law.  Therefore they are utterly without hope of pleasing Him by their own effort. Yet, by His grace, many rotten sinners come to Him. And when they come to Him, they come to be holy, for He is holy. When we say that holiness is necessary for salvation, it does not mean that God accepts us for our holiness. It only means that all those who will one day go to heaven are made holy in this life.

Holiness is required of those who come to Jesus Christ to be saved, because He is holy. Let’s say there is someone who comes to Jesus without wanting to be holy. He wants to be saved from the eternal flames of hell, so he walks down an aisle and prays a prayer. In the meantime he intends to keep practicing his favorite sins. He doesn’t really think he needs to give them up; and deep down, he loves them. He lives in them. Perhaps he has heard a preacher say that he will be saved: that he is eternally secure because he made a decision for Jesus. But has he really come to Jesus, or is it just a figment of his imagination? There are many men named Jesus in the world, especially in Spanish-speaking countries. Just coming to “Jesus” isn’t enough. It has to be Jesus the Savior of whom the Bible testifies! Just forming ones own idea of who Jesus is won’t do, either. The one who comes to Jesus the Savior comes to Him as He is described in the Bible, or he doesn’t come to Him at all. Jesus is the Holy God. He is entirely other, separate, and apart from the sin of this world. That is:  He is holy. He is entirely untainted by sin. In fact, he never sinned. This is why He is the Savior of sinners. The one who comes to Him, must come to holiness, for Jesus is holy. Otherwise, that person has not come to the real Jesus.

Here is what holiness looks like:

1. Hearing and reading the Scriptures to know what pleases God.

You honestly can’t pretend to want to please God if you won’t make the effort to know what pleases Him, can you? Hearing is when you listen to the Scriptures preached in Church. Reading is reading your Bible. These are both equally important.

2. Praying to the Father in Jesus’ name.

Prayer is one of the great means God has provided for us to become holy. He answers prayer that is according to His will. One prime example of this is prayers for holiness.  When we pray for holiness, it engages our minds and our wills toward it as a goal, and puts our faith in the God who makes the unholy holy.

3. Worshiping God among His people.

The solemn worship of God in His Church is not just a formality or a nice option that can be done without. It’s your weekly chance to meet with the God whom you desire to please. This meeting pleases Him. If you don’t love these meetings, you don’t love Him.

4. Loving others.

Those who love God from the heart will also love other human beings, because they are made in His image. They will especially love others who are on the road of holiness because of their common connection to the Savior.

The one who comes to Jesus must come to holiness, because Jesus is holy. The one who doesn’t want to be holy, doesn’t want Jesus.

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