Tuesday, December 31, 2013

P2 The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy - Practical reasons for understanding Biblical inerrancy

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

Introduction and review
Yesterday we introduced the historic and comprehensive doctrinal affirmation of Biblical inerrancy called: "The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy".  We saw the reason why the the document was drafted, why inerrancy matters to the Christian life and practice and why studying such a document can prove edifying to the Christian.  The reader may also had noticed the citation of the Baptist faith and Message 2000 definition of the Bible's character as the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  This citation was given to show where this blogger stands on this vital issue, and thus why the "Chicago Statement" is important for all Christians to know about in a day and age that wholesale rejects the authority of Scripture. 

Two practical benefits for gaining a better understanding of Biblical inerrancy Before we continue, a few words are in order as to why Christians need to understand the Biblical doctrine of inerrancy.  First, all preaching that aims to unfold the Bible one word, one verse or one chapter at a time assumes Biblical inerrancy.   When it comes to the Bible, the Christian can rest assured that the Bible that is preached, taught or heeded is without error, will never fail and is always trustworthy.  As a preacher myself, I have absolute confidence that the words of scripture that supplies the basis for my less than perfect preaching are inerrant words.  The same Holy Ghost who inspired the inerrant, infallible words of scripture is the same One Who applies them to the hearts of listeners. 

A second major important reason for considering Biblical inerrancy has to do with the practice of the Christian faith. Thankfully the Christian has nothing to fear when it comes to the scriptures. The scriptures are the inerrant, infallible Words of God that are sufficient for the church's and Christian's standard of faith, life and eternity. 

With those two thoughts, in today's post we continue on looking once again at the Chicago Statement by observing its "Short Statement" on what it means when it states the Bible to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  Again I urge the reader to look at the following link to see the entire text of the statement at:

A SHORT STATEMENT (from the document: "The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy)

"1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture
is God's witness to Himself."

"2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms; obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises."

"3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning."

"4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives."

"5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church."

More tomorrow....

Monday, December 30, 2013

P1 Introducing The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy: Why Biblical Inerrancy Matters

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."
When it comes to characterizing the nature of scripture's composition, contents and character, two terms stand at the head of the list: "inerrancy" and "infallibility". The SBC statement of faith: "The Baptist Faith & Message 2000", defines scripture in its first article: "The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation."

Such a definition summarizes beautifully what the scriptures are and how they function.  The importance of how Scripture's inerrancy functions for Christians in today's world cannot be over-estimated .  In today's post this blogger would like to introduce readers to what is the most extensive statement ever produced on the subject of Biblical inerrancy: "The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy".  

The particular group of Bible-believing scholars that produced this statement and subsequent others like it was named: "The International Council for Biblical Inerrancy". The group disbanded in the late eighties and transferred all of their documents to Dallas Theological Seminary.  What follows derives from the following link:  May these series of posts prove edifying and informative to the Christian reader. 


"The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God's written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master."

"Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority. The following Statement affirms this inerrancy of Scripture afresh, making clear our understanding of it and warning against its denial. We are persuaded that to deny it is to set aside the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of God's own Word which marks true Christian faith. We see it as our timely. duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstanding of this doctrine in the world at large."

"This Statement consists of three parts: a Summary Statement, Articles of Affirmation and Denial, and an accompanying Exposition. It has been prepared in the course of a three-day consultation in Chicago. Those who have signed the Summary Statement and the Articles wish to affirm their own conviction as to the inerrancy of Scripture and to encourage and challenge one another and all Christians to growing appreciation and understanding of this doctrine." 

"We acknowledge the limitations of a document prepared in a brief, intensive conference and do not propose that this Statement be given creedal weight. Yet we rejoice in the deepening of our own convictions through our discussions together, and we pray that the Statement we have signed may be used to the glory of our God toward a new reformation of the Church in its faith, life, and mission."

"We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we purpose by God's grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said. We gladly acknowledge that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences of this denial in the rest of
their belief and behavior, and we are conscious that we who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the divine Word."

"We invite response to this statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself, under whose infallible authority we stand as we speak. We claim no personal infallibility for the witness we bear, and for any help which enables us to strengthen this testimony to God's Word we shall be grateful."

Note to reader: The original document is located in the Dallas Theological Seminary Archives." Link:

More tomorrow.....

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why Christianity needs the Canon of scripture

Exodus 31:18 "When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God."

What is meant by the term "canon"
When we talk about the canon or canonicity of scripture, of what do we speak? Dr. Wayne Grudem defines the term canon or canon of Scripture as: "The canon of scripture is the list of all the books that belong in the Bible".1 Grudem goes onto say later: "The precise determination of the extent of the canon of Scripture is therefore of utmost importance. If we trust and obey God absolutely we must have a collection of words that we are certain are God's own words to us. If there are any sections of Scripture about which we have doubts whether they are God's words or not, we will not consider them to have absolute Divine authority and we will not trust them as much as we would trust God Himself."2

Another scholar, Dr. Norman Geisler, states: "The first link in the chain of revelation "From God to Us" is inspiration, which concerns what God did, namely, that He breathed out (spirated) the Scriptures. The second link in the chain is canonization, which relates to the question of which books God inspired. Inspiration indicates how the Bible received its authority, whereas canonization tells how the Bible received its acceptance. It is one thing for God to give the scriptures their authority, and quite another for men to recognize that authority."3

With the above thoughts in mind, I would like to explore today why we need the Canon of the Old and New Testaments. Perhaps this is something you have never thought of or have taken for granted.  However there are specific reasons why we must continue to stand by the 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament, otherwise known as "The Canon".  So why does Christianity need to the Canon of scripture?

We need the Canon of scripture to proclaim the Gospel
As Christian people we need to have an absolute standard by which know which God is the true God, the salvation He offers, to understand the world in which we live, the lives we are to practice, the eternity which awaits and how to know where we will go once we live this world.  The question of knowing what the authority is and determining its contents, boundaries and applications are all covered under the issue of the canon of scripture. 

How we know whether or not we are proclaiming the Gospel as it is supposed to be proclaimed is perhaps the most important issue when describing why we need to know which books are canonical, and which are not. For example, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." Which writings or scriptures I preach from is vital.  Why? Because if I preach from the wrong books (like the Quran or the Book of Mormon), then I preach a different Gospel and Jesus.  So we need the Canon of Scripture to preach the right Gospel, but notice a second related point...

We need the Canon of scripture to discern truth from error
Why did I make mention to the Quran and the Book of Mormon a moment ago? Consider what Paul writes in Galatians 1:8 "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" Mormonism and Islam claim to be revealed religions whose founders received alleged angelic messages (Muhummad and the Quranic Gabriel and Joseph Smith and the Mormon angel Moroni). Those books present a completely different message and Jesus that is non-saving, and thus a different Gospel. There is a reason why historic Bible believing Christianity deems both those books to be non-canonical, because they are non-inspired.  They do not portray the same Jesus and salvation of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.  Therefore Christianity needs the Canon of scripture to proclaim the Gospel rightly and to discern truth from error, but notice thirdly...

The canon of scripture is needed for authority in practical everyday life
In our Christian life and growth we essentially have different types of authority, with only one being the absolute authority above all others: experience, tradition, reason and scripture. 

A norm called experience
Experience is important because by experience do we accumulate understanding in the realm of responses and behavior.  However experience and levels of understanding gained from it varies from person to person.  Whenever we attempt to equate experience with scripture, we run the danger of reducing Christianity to paganism.  Experience by itself is inadequate and requires the absolute norm of scripture to judge and measure its conclusions. 

A norm called reason
Reason is vital to making decisions, weighing facts and thinking through arguments and situations.  However reason by itself needs experience or something outside source to validate its conclusions. Faith and reason are not enemies, but brothers, with faith being the bigger of the two. Though Christianity asserts salvation by grace through faith alone apart from reason, nonetheless we are saved by a faith that is most reasonable.  To place reason above scripture divests the Christian faith of its supernatural power and character. 

A norm called tradition
Tradition refers to the historical ways of doing things that have been passed down from one generation to the next.  Tradition can include such things as creeds, confessions, doctrinal statements, denominational distinctives and the like. If a large segment of the Christian church is doing a particular practice it believes to correspond to reason, experience and ultimately scripture, on the one hand that tradition can oftentimes be more reliable than any individual assumptions.  However traditions are subject to error and need an outside source that is not just man centered, but God sourced. If a tradition attempts to bind the conscience or compel the individual to violate his or her conscience, the tradition must be set aside or rejected out of hand in favor of the scripture, which alone can shape and mold the Christian's conscience.

The one true norm or standard that regulates the other three - scripture
Whenever we say that the Bible alone is the Christian's standard or "norm" of faith, practice, life and eternity, we are not excluding the role of tradition, reason and experience. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 itself states: "Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God.  Baptist churches, associations, and general bodies have adopted confessions of faith as a witness to the world, and as instruments of doctrinal accountability. We are not embarrassed to state before the world that these are doctrines we hold precious and as essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice." 3

With that said the BFM 2000 goes on: "It (The Bible) reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried." 4

In today's post I wanted to lay out practical reasons why we need to uphold the Canon of the 66 books of our Bible.  In other words: why does Christianity need the Canon of Scripture? We saw three reasons:

A. We need to know what the Canon is to proclaim the Gospel rightly

B. We need to know the Canon of scripture to discern truth from error

C. We need to know the Canon of scripture to have authority for Godly, daily living

1. Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Zondervan. 1994. Page 54.

2. Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Zondervan. 1994. Page 54.

3. Norman Geisler and William Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Moody Press. 1986. Page 203.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

A church favored by God - 1 Peter 5

1 Peter 5:12-14  "Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ."

A church favored by God
In today's post I want to briefly look at what it looks like when a group of God's people or a local church are favored by God.  To be favored by God is another way of saying that we have the Grace of God.  No doubt about it - Peter's aim is to encourage and exhort this church to stand firm in the grace of God.  In today's post I want us to consider the marks of a church that is favored by God.  What traits or qualities distinguish a local church that is relying upon and is empowered by God's favor or grace? 

1. Feeds on the Word.  1 Peter 5:1-4
1 Peter 5:1-2 states - "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder andwitness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness." A church that is favored by God will be a church that loves to feed on the word of God.  Peter's commands to pastors is to "shepherd" or "feed the flock" the word of God.  Undoubtedly these words from Peter's pen echo what he heard from Jesus' lips some 30 years prior as recorded in John 21:16 "He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”  Paul too gives similar instruction to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28.  Why such and emphasis - because it is by the scripture that God has so ordained to cleanse the church (John 17:17; Ephesians 5:26); empower the church (Hebrews 4:12); enlighten the church (1 Corinthians 2:10-13) and mature the flock. (Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:1-2)  Christians who regularly feed on the Word of God will be those who exhibit maturity - knowing good from evil.  God's hand of grace will be on a church that feeds from the scriptures preached and taught by God-called men. But notice a second trait of a church favored by God...

2. Humility. 1 Peter 5:5-7
1 Peter 5:5-7 "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." Humility is the number one trait, next to love, that demonstrates Christ-likeness.  In the realm of our attitudes and actions humility is the most royal of virtues as it serves others. Passages such as Philippians 2:1-5 urges us to have this same mindset as was found in Christ Jesus - humility. When I yield myself over to another for the sake of relationship - I am demonstrating the communicable attribute of humility that is germane to God's own nature. A church body that serves others and has within it service to one another is a church that will abound in God's supernatural grace and power. So a church that has God's favor will be one that loves to feed on the Word and exercise humility, but notice thirdly...

3. Fights faith's fight.  1 Peter 5:8-11
1 Peter 5:9-10 states - "But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."  In 1 Peter 5:9 the NASB renders the opening phrase as "stand firm in your faith". Though the pronoun "your" could very well be implied in the passage, other English translations handle this passage better in bring out the emphasis of "The Faith", objective Christian faith, the "capital 'F'" faith within which my "small 'f'" personal faith in Christ resides. The HCSB renders this passage as: "Resist him and be firm in the faith...", with the KJV and NKJV following suit.  The point of the matter is that whenever a church or a Christian is operating in the grace of God, they will want to fight the fight of faith.  The emphasis on "The Faith" reminds us of Jude 3 "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints."  The Christian's personal faith rests in the gifting of faith granted by God in His grace and persists.  And so a church favored by God, or operating on the basis of His grace will be marked by feeding on the scriptures, humility and fighting faith's fight.  But notice fourthly...

4. Stand in God's Grace.  1 Peter 5:12-14
This brings us to the close of Peter's letter and the chief point for which he wrote it. The whole theme of Peter's first epistle is that of "standing firm in the grace of God." Certainly in the final few verses of Peter's letter we see God's grace weave its way throughout the verses. In 5:12 we see the command to stand firm in God's grace, followed by a challenging field in need of God's grace (Babylon) with a character who was restored as a result of God's grace (Mark).  

Mark's story, like Peter's, is a remarkable story of success, failure, and redemption.  We first meet Mark (possibly) in Mark 14:51 as an anonymous young man fleeing from the Garden of Gethesemane right after Jesus' arrest. Later on in Acts 12:12 we see Mark's house being used as a meeting place of the early church.  Mark's ascendancy within the Apostolic circles of the early church came to an abrupt halt when he deserts Paul in Acts 13. In Acts 15:37-39 Paul refuses to have Mark accompany him on his missionary journeys due to the earlier desertion by Mark of Paul and his companions in Acts 12:12. Barnabas chooses to take Mark under his wing as some sort of protege.  

It is years later in Colossians 4:10 and later again in 2 Timothy 4:11 that we learn of Paul and Mark having not only been reconciled, but somehow Mark is deemed highly useful.  Church history tells the story of Mark penning the self-named second Gospel by Divine inspiration as he listens to the Apostle Peter preaching in Rome out of Matthew and a then soon to be released Gospel of Luke.  Mark is a supreme trophy of God's grace who in becoming an aid to the Apostle Peter is actually named by the great apostle.  Truly every local church should be God's trophy case full of trophy's of grace who owe their existence and success to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In today's post we walked through 1 Peter 5 with the singular question concerning what a church favored by God looks like. We discovered four main traits that marks such a church:
1. Feeds on the word.  1 Peter 5:1-5
2. Humility. 1 Peter 5:5-7
3. Fights faith's fight. 1 Peter 5:8-11
4. Stand's in God's grace. 1 Peter 5:12-14. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

1 Peter 4 The Crucified Mindset

1 Peter 4:1-2 "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."

Introduction: The crucified mindset taught by Jesus
Jesus taught his disciples in Luke 9:23-24 "And He was saying to them all, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it."  This statement was Jesus' to call his disciples to exercise reckless abandonment of reliance upon the self and to complete reliance upon Him. 1  This mindset being taught by Jesus is what we can term "the crucified mindset". 

The crucified mindset commanded by the Apostle Paul
As one moves deeper into the New Testament, the crucified mindset and its radical call to radical followership of Jesus Christ is reinforced by the Apostle Paul. In fact to conceive of Christianity apart from the cross leads to an utter departure from what it means to be a Christian. 

Paul writes for example in Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." Paul's identification with the event of Christ's crucifixion is due to the fact that supernaturally and spiritually the Holy Spirit connected him to that event in saving faith and maintains that connection in his ongoing sanctification.2 Furthermore, the crucified mindset determines to regard the self (self sufficiency, self-reliance, etc) as dead, focus on Christ instead and thus move on ahead. 

In another passage Paul writes in Galatians 6:14 "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."  Again Paul is stating the crucified mindset as it pertains to relating to the world or system of unbelief.  The self is the Christian's number one enemy as it pertains to the internal Christian life, and the world in turn is the Christian's chief opposition to the external Christian life.  Satan is the spiritual agent that drives the world system. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6) 

And so the crucified mindset refers to a radical resolve to follow Jesus, to die to self and die to the world in favor of singular focus on Jesus Christ. Not only is the crucified mindset defined, but also commanded. We will now turn to 1 Peter 4 to see how this mindset is explained and applied.

Peter explains the crucified mindset in relationship to the Christian's approach to their past, present and future
1 Peter 4 unfolds in detail how the crucified mindset is to be applied to the daily Christian life.  Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:1 "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin." Peter's words here are a call to war against sin and against the flesh.  As you read on down through 1 Peter 4, the crucified mindset is the Christian's approach to how they view their past, their future and their present. Certainly retaining a mindset like Jesus is commanded elsewhere in the New Testament. (Philippians 2:1-5). So the question is: how does the crucified mindset aid the Christian in understanding their past, future and present?

1. Die to the past  1 Peter 4:1-6
Peter states in 1 Peter 4:2 "so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."

2. Define life by Jesus' second coming. 4:7-11
1 Peter 4:7-8 sets the tone for this section - "The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins."

3. Depend on the Lord now. 4:12-19
1 Peter 4:12 and 4:19 reinforce the need to apply the crucified mindset as a constant, current reality.  1 Peter 4:12 "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you." Then 1 Peter 4:19 states: "Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right." 

I close out today's post with this observation from the great commentator Albert Barnes on applying the crucified mindset to everyday life: "Armor is put on for offensive or defensive purposes of war; and the idea of the apostle here is, that that state of mind when we are ready to meet with persecution and trial, and when we are ready to die, will answer the purpose of armor in engaging in the conflicts and strifes which pertain to us as Christians, and especially in meeting with persecutions and trials. We are to put on the same fortitude which the Lord Jesus had, and this will be our best defense against our foes, and the best security of victory."3

1. In the years before Jesus' public ministry there had been various men who would rise up in the regions of Galilee claiming to be the Messiah - among whom was one by the name of Judas the Galilean.  When Judas the Galilean made his claim, he convinced 2,000 other fellow Galileans to follow him and lead a revolt against the Roman empire.  Rome of course responded swiftly and had crosses erected along the roadsides of Galilee to send the message that if anyone followed a leader claiming to be Messiah or revolutionary against Rome - their fate would be the same as Judas the Galilean and his followers.  What Jesus was calling for would had been radical indeed, and the disciples would had been taken back to the days of Judas. 

2. All that Christ did and is in His humanity becomes mine in salvation.  The position of being declared "the righteousness of Jesus Christ" in salvation is what we call justification, and the power and person of Christ granted to us in justification is a result of the Spirit's baptism or uniting us to Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13) In saving faith I not only am granted the position of Christ's righteousness, but I am also granted the Person of Christ.  I have access to both His person and power, and He in turn is supernaturally united to me in fellowship.  Such a relationship and partaking of the Divine nature of Christ's person (2 Peter 1:3-4), as well as the human nature of Christ's person (Hebrews 2:11-14) is what the older Christians came to term "theosis". 

3. Albert Barnes. Notes on the New Testament. Kregel Publications. 1962. Page 1427

Thursday, December 26, 2013

How Jesus Shines in Advent

1 Timothy 3:15-16 (15) "but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (16) And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, 

Received up in glory." (NKJV)

In today's post I would like us to consider how Jesus Christ shined forth the light of His glory in the first advent when He came to this earth over 2,000 years ago. The underlined word in the above verses, "manifested", speaks of  making an appearance or shining forth in order to make one's identity visible to other people. The Holy Spirit by the Apostle Paul is using this early hymn sung by the Christians in Paul's day to explain the source for Godly living - union with Jesus Christ, and how Jesus came to make such union possible.

In context, Paul is explaining the whole point of the local church as being the "pillar and ground of truth" and as being all about God's people living Godly lives. In order for Christians in the local church to fulfill God's will for their lives, they have to understand their union and identity by faith in the God-man, Jesus Christ. The whole point of Christmas or advent centers around how Jesus Christ came to this world to partake in our nature and experiences.  He did this so that as Christians, we in turn could partake of His life and become more and more like Him in thought, word and deed. 

Advent season's true shining light is Jesus Christ. Thus let us take a few moments to see how Jesus shines forth in Advent from the six statements Paul makes about Christ's first coming in 1 Timothy 3:16. Jesus Christ shines forth in advent through...

1. Miracle birth
The first three statements of Paul's reflection on Christ's first advent reads:

a. "God was manifested in the flesh"
The word translated "manifested" here in the NKJV could just as easily be rendered "appeared" (NIV) and "revealed" (NASB). Quite literally the Person of the Son shined forth His glory through the taking on of a fully human nature by way of the virgin birth. The rendering of "He Who" (NASB, NIV, ESV) or "God" (KJV, NKJV) point back grammatically to the phrase "living God" of 1 Timothy 3:15. Quite literally the church of the Living God is the "Living God's Church" and this Living God is "God" ("He Who") was manifested in the flesh.

b. "Justified in the Spirit"
As Paul continues on in explaining to us how Jesus shines forth in His miraculous, virgin birth, He emphasizes the work the Spirit did in preserving the humanity of Jesus from sin. The NASB renders this word "vindicated", which gives the sense of the Holy Spirit bearing witness to all that the glory of the Son becoming man included Him being without sin.

c. "Seen by angels"
Nearly 20 times in the nativity accounts and Jesus' early life do we find mention of angelic involvement. Christ's miracle birth included the presence and activity of angels, further establishing the shining forth of His glory in His miracle birth in His Advent here on earth. But notice a second way in which Jesus shines forth His glory in the first advent, namely...

2. Message of the Gospel
The fourth and fifth lines of Paul's reflection on Christ's first advent reads:

a. "Preached among the Gentiles"
As we explore this early Christian hymn included in 1 Timothy 3:16 by Divine inspiration, what must be recalled is that this is a summary of Jesus' advent in song. This particular phrase emphasizes the preaching of the Gospel, and could include the preaching of Jesus and the Apostles during his earthly ministry, as well as the 20 or so sermons recorded through the book of Acts. The word for "preached" gives the idea of making a formal announcement concerning the royal decree of a King.  In this case the King is Jesus Himself, and the glory of His person is central to the message of the Gospel.

b. "Believed on in the world"
Those called by the Holy Spirit to respond to the Gospel about Jesus ended up believing on Him.  The First Advent and Christ's incarnation set the stage for its purpose: Christ's cross and resurrection. The Gospel proclaims the "event" of the Gospel, namely Christ's Person and work in the cross and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Secondly, the Gospel takes the "event" and ties it to how one can experience the salvation promised in the Gospel (John 3:16). Truly Christmas or advent season centers around Jesus Christ, who is also the center of the message through which He shines - the Gospel.

3. Massive Hope
The final line of Paul's reflection on Christ's first advent reads: "Received up in glory." Christ's virgin birth and incarnation summarize how he descended from heavenly glory to earth to accomplish His mission to save sinners, especially those who believe by grace through faith on Him. (1 Timothy 4:10) The wonder of this little hymn in 1 Timothy 3:16 is that it begins with glory and ends with glory.  Christ, having accomplished what He set out to do in His first coming, ascends back up to assume His Kingship at the Father's right hand.  Mark 16:19 records - "
So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God" (NKJV).

Now why is Jesus' ascension into heaven the cause for massive Hope? How does His ascension show forth the light of His glory in bring massive hope in His first advent? Simply put: Jesus' 1st advent sets the stage for what will be His 2nd advent.  Christmas points beyond itself to include the fact that Jesus who came is coming back yet again.  Titus 2:13 reminds us: "looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." 1 John 3:2-3 states: "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."

Conclusions and applications:
So how does Jesus shine forth His glory in this advent season? First of all He shines forth by way of His miracle birth.  Christ, in his humanity, experienced a miracle birth so that all those by by grace through faith could do so by way of a miracle birth of their own - the New birth. Secondly, Jesus shines forth in advent by way of the message of the Gospel.  Only through the Gospel can anyone believe and be saved, and only through the Gospel can saints know who they are and Whose they are. Then finally, Jesus shines through advent by providing massive hope.  His 1st advent paved the way for what will be His 2nd advent or coming.  We as Christians have the responsibility to tell a lost world to be ready for His appearing and to look to Christ by faith as the source of endless hope. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas' glorious King revealed

Luke 2:12-14 "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Introduction: What is the glory of God and why it is important?
When we talk about God's glory, the place to start looking for a clear definition is at Exodus 33:18-19 "Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” 19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” God's glory is when He puts the entirety of the goodness of His Divine nature on display. The Pocket Dictionary of Theological terms describes God's glory as: "The Biblical concept of glory carries with it connotations of inexpressible beauty and majesty."1 

Theologian J. Oliver Buswell writes this helpful insight on God's glory in regards to its significance: "That His love, His goodness, His holiness, and His justice should be infinitely magnified among all His creatures is the highest conceivable goal of all finite events. There is even a partial analogy, in the proper place of parents in the home, to the centrality of the glory of God in the universe. Parents who do not train their children to show proper respect are sinning against the entire household."2

How Christmas' glorious King is revealed
When it comes to the Christmas or advent season, the theme of God's glory is central. Salvation describes the chief work of God, with His glory being the main aim or purpose. God's glory is central to the Person of the Son coming to be virgin born, live, die, raise from the dead and ascend to the Father's right hand. God was pleased to have the fulness of the Godhead bodily dwell or be expressed through the Son as He came to also exist as a human being. (Colossians 2:9) When we focus equal attention on how God's glory will be revealed in Christ's second coming or advent, we find in Revelation 19:1-8 the theme of glory on His throne and His glory displayed in His church. With these thoughts in mind we aim in this post to briefly understand how Christmas' glorious King is revealed by consideration of four main thoughts:
1. The King's glory in His nativity. 
2. The King's glory on the cross.
3. The King's glory on His throne.
4. The King's glory in His church.

1. The King's glory in His nativity. 
Whenever we consider the events surrounding Jesus' nativity, the various witnesses of the infant Christ testify to His glory. Concerning the shepherds we read in Luke 2:16-19 "So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child." The shepherds "heard" of the glory of the Son from the heavenly hosts, however they also saw the glory for themselves by beholding God in human flesh in the manger. 

Let the reader note two other witnesses of the infant Christ and how they concluded that they were seeing the glorious King of Christmas. Simeon states in Luke 2:32 - "A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,And the glory of Your people Israel.” Shortly or near the same moment, the aged woman Anna the prophetess came and testified in Luke 2:38 "At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem."

Now how do we know that what these witness were beholding was nothing less than the display of the Son's Deity through frail humanity? Consider John's statement in John 1:14 "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." 2 Corinthians 4:6 plainly notes: "For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." Other passages in the New Testament letters testify to the fact that the Son's existence as a man did in no way take away from the fact that He was God at the same time. (1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 1:2) So Christmas' glorious King is revealed in His nativity. But notice also...

2. The King's glory on the cross.
Though Christ's journey to the cross would witness an increase in his humiliation, nevertheless He still retained the full glory of His deity - albeit veiled by His full humanity. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:14 - "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." The word translated "boast" is rendered "glory" in other English versions such as the KJV and Amplified Bible. Truly to boast about Jesus Christ is identical to glorifying Him. This is why the Holy Ghost says through Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:2 that he would have us to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The shadow of the cross is connected to the cradle. As the ancient church father Tertullian notes, the death of Christ necessarily implied His birth, being that whatever dies must needs have a birth. So Christmas' glorious King is revealed in His nativity, on the cross and thirdly...

3. The King's glory on His throne.
When we turn to Revelation 19:1-6 we see a four-fold hallelujah being sung on account of what will be the Son's glorious victory over his enemies: Satan, the anti-Christ and the evils of men. Revelation 19:1 states - "After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God." Now three main reasons are given in Revelation 19:1-6 as to why the glory of Jesus Christ on His throne is being praised:

a. The glory of His redemption, which display His grace and love for His people. 19:1

b. The glory of His judgments, which display His justice and holiness. 19:2-3

c. The glory of His Sovereignty, which displays the fact that He reigns. 19:4-6

The glorious revealed King, Jesus Christ, is coming again in power. In His first coming he came in frailty. The purpose for which Christ came the first time was to wear a crown of thorns and to be nailed to a cross to die. His resurrection and ascension heralded the fact that He would coming again a second time. The second coming will feature Him returning with a crown and a scepter of judgment in His nailed printed hand. Truly the glory of God manifested in fullness in Christ's humanity in His first coming will in the fullness of His glorified humanity display His endless power in His second coming.  So we see Christmas' glorious revealed King revealed in His nativity, His cross, on His throne and then lastly...

4. The King's glory in His church.
Revelation 19:7-8 states: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." Truly was this not the intent of Christ's incarnation in His nativity, His death on the cross and what will be the manifestation of His glory at His second coming? To reveal His glory through His saints. Ephesians 5:26-27 verifies this thought - Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." 

Based off of the thoughts of C.S Lewis, it was for this purpose that Christ came to become man, so that for all who believe, whom He has called, whom He has chosen to be His bride, may become sons of God. Hebrews 2:11-14 ties in the fact that Jesus Christ came to partake of our humanity by becoming a man, so that we as human beings could partake of His Divine nature and thus have union with His person. (compare 2 Peter 1:4)

This we know: the depths of God's glory in Christ reached down to a manger and a cross, and the heights thereof reach high to the very throne upon which He sits. However the breadth of that glory will be most supremely shown in and among and through all those believers whom He loves, and who in turn love Him both now and forever. 

 We have explored today how Christmas' glorious King is revealed by consideration of four main thoughts:
1. The King's glory in His nativity. 
2. The King's glory on the cross.
3. The King's glory on His throne.
4. The King's glory in His church.

May this serve to raise our hearts and minds to honor the King of Kings and Lord of Lord!

1. Stanley J. Grenz, David Gurtezki & Cherith Fee Nordling. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. IVP. 1999. Page 55
2. J. Oliver Buswell. A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion - Volume 1. Zondervan. 1962. Page 164.