Beale on Typology

One of the most controversial and potentially difficult issues within the realm of biblical interpretation is that of typology.  How are the people, places, events, and circumstances of the Old Testament text to be interpreted and understood insofar as their connection to subsequent people, places, events, and circumstances is concerned; especially as they relate to Christ and the church?

Greg Beale, in his forthcoming book, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation (Baker Academic, 2012), provides a helpful definition for considering that which may be properly understood as having typological significance.  He defines biblical typology as:

The study of analogical correspondences among revealed truths about persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God’s special revelation, which, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature and are escalated in meaning. (p. 14)

After defining biblical typology, he offers two helpful points of clarification regarding “escalation” and “retrospection”.

Beale notes, “By “escalation” is meant that the antitype (the NT correspondence) is heightened in some way in relation to the OT type.  For example, John 19:36 views the requirement of not breaking the bones of the Passover lamb in the OT epoch to point to a greater reality of the bones of Jesus not being broken at the crucifixion…”  Additionally, “…escalation would be the correspondence of God providing literal manna from heaven for physical sustenance and providing the manna of Christ from heaven for spiritual sustenance.”  Clarifying “retrospection”, Beale says, “By “retrospection” is meant the idea that it was after Christ’s resurrection and under the direction of the Spirit that the apostolic writers understood certain OT historical narratives about persons, events, or institutions to be indirect prophecies of Christ or the church.” [Please read the qualification Beale cites regarding the “retrospective” characteristic of biblical typology, noted in the “Comments” section.]

While some interpreters are extremely leery of deeming anything in Scripture a “type” that isn’t expressly stated as such, Beale’s definition and subsequent study promises to be handled with scholarly precision and care, and, undoubtedly, a reverence for both God and his Word.

  • WTSbooks.com has a sample chapter and audio lecture available, as well as some overall info on Beale’s forthcoming work.
  • Amazon.com has the book for a deeply discounted pre-order price of $9.67 (Reg. $17.99)
  • Baker Book House is offering the opportunity to win a copy of the book this week at their blog (Giveaway ends, Friday, August 17, 2012, at 6AM EST).  I’m hoping to win a copy myself, so I can continue the study above! 🙂
Advertisements

CHRISTIAN FOCUS AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Philip S. Ross

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in the Christian Focus Publishers blog tour, which featured Philip S. Ross’ masterful work on the tripartite division of the law, From the Finger of God: A Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law.  You can read my review of Ross’ work by clicking here.

For some, the issue of discussing the threefold division may initially seem quite arbitrary.  However, its impact on one’s understanding of sin and the atonement is incredibly profound.  Truly, the more we understand the law and its purpose, the more clearly we’ll be able to see the glorious nature of Christ’s work in the gospel.

Philip so kindly agreed to answer a few questions in relation to his book.  I trust his answers will be of great benefit whether you’re a person well acquainted or newly acquainted with the topic of the threefold division of the law.

KF: For the person unfamiliar with the topic, what is the threefold division of the law and why is this distinction important?

PR: The threefold division of the law describes a framework for interpreting Old Testament Law. Those who accepted it throughout church history believed it was derived from a coherent reading of the Old and New Testaments. The three categories of the division are moral (ever-binding statutes recorded in the Ten Commandments), civil (judicial laws of the Israelite state that are now binding only in their underlying principles), and ceremonial (laws regulating the sacrificial system and ceremonial purity that are so fulfilled in Christ that they are no longer binding).

KF: Is this distinction relatively new, or one that’s been historically embraced by the people of God?

PR: Although the term ‘threefold division’ may be relatively recent, it has justifiably been described as ‘the orthodox position’. Most Reformation confessions incorporate the threefold division, Aquinas states it plainly, and a variety of early Christian theologians have been pinpointed as its source. The most exhaustive survey of the subject in a specific ancient Christian writer is probably Stylianopoulos’ work, Justin Martyr and the Mosaic Law, which argues that we find a tripartite division of the Law in Justin. The basic categories of the threefold division and the approach it describes can be traced back throughout church history, but like many Christian doctrines, it was refined and restated with increasing precision as the centuries passed.

KF: What caused you to be interested in this discussion, and address it at length in your doctoral dissertation?

PR: Two things: First, a general interest in diverse questions related to the continuity and discontinuity of the testaments, such as the New Testament use of the Old Testament, or how we should read the Old Testament today. For example, is Psalm 16 only about deliverance from a near death experience (Peter C. Craigie) or resurrection from the dead (Peter and Paul)? Second, my interest was sparked when I read in Calvin’s Institutes that the threefold division of the law came from the ‘ancients’, yet some twentieth century writers seemed content for Calvin and his ‘ancients’ to be taken outside and shot in the head. It was as if they operated with the underlying assumption that  the opinions of theologians or churchmen who predated the dawn of evangelicalism need not even be weighed in the balances to be found wanting.

KF: What bearing does our understanding of the Law have on our understanding of the person and work of Christ and the gospel?

PR: One has a bearing on our understanding of the other; it goes in both directions. If sin is transgression of the law, or lawlessness (1 John 3:4), and the gospel message focuses on the Christ who came to save his people from their sins, then our understanding of the law has an impact on the most elementary matters of the gospel. From what sins did he come to save his people? Of what law is sin the transgression? By what standard will God judge the deeds of all men on the last day? Can the redefinition of sin as something other than transgression of the law coexist with an orthodox view of the atonement?

All Christians accept that Christ came to fulfill the law, but what did he mean when he said so in Matthew 5:17? Despite saying in the same breath that he did not come to abolish the law, some interpretations of ‘fulfill’ demand nothing less than the abolition of the law, leaving us with a Teacher who spoke in unfathomable riddles. In addition, when interpreters look at Matthew 5 in one of several self-imposed contextual microcosms it leads to stifled portrayals of Christ’s fulfillment of the law.

I believe that Christ’s fulfillment of the law had to be in harmony with what the law itself demands. He did not come to redefine or transform the expectations of the law, but to fulfill them. These expectations were grand and comprehensive—moral, soteriological, and eschatological—yet his fulfillment left no snagging list. When the Beloved Son comes into the world, he has the law within him and he delights to do it; not for a moment does he become one with whom the Father could not be well pleased. The law demanded retribution and restitution. Every penalty in the civil law went as far as it could to restore shālôm, yet it was never enough. Animals might compensate for animals (Exod. 22:4), but not even a life for a life (Exod. 21:12; 22:20) could raise the dead or restore God’s honour. Only the unblemished second Adam can meet the law’s demands so that it is enough. Guiltless, he suffers a penalty that no other could bear; the Prince of Peace becomes a crucified wreck to reconcile us to God. And his fulfillment of the law does not end there: He ensures that it will be written on the hearts of those he chooses and Emmanuel will be with his disciples as they teach others to obey.

KF: You state in your book, “Unbuckle the Sabbath, and you are well on your way to mastering theological escapology.”  Could you explain what you mean by this and why it’s relevant to the discussion?

PR: I made that statement in the context of Tim Keller’s comment that all office-bearers in the PCA subscribe to The Westminster Confession of Faith ‘with only the most minor exceptions (the only common one being with regard to the Sabbath).’ While the fourth commandment is of no more importance to the threefold division of the law than any other commandment, many of those who object to the division do so in the context of anti-sabbatarian argument or because of a deep-seated sabbaphobia, sometimes triggered by encounters with legalistic sabbatarianism. It would not matter, however, to what commandment of the Decalogue one took exception, ‘minor’ is probably not the word that the Westminster Divines would have applied to it, and the concept of ever-binding moral law defined as the Ten Commandments is so foundational to the theology of the Westminster Confession that the whole structure depends on it. Foundational supports may be pulled out and everything sit in precarious suspense for a time, but as soon as someone moves or the structure faces stress—‘KerPlunk’—the church loses her marbles.

This structural risk does not apply exclusively to Westminster theology, but to Reformed theology in general—the historic catholic teaching that the Reformers sought to recover and reaffirm. Two pages following on from the statement you mention, I quoted Hugh Martin who wrote in The Atonement that ‘So long as philosophy and theology shall conserve the distinctive peculiarity of Moral Law…the Westminster doctrine, which is the Catholic doctrine, of Atonement is impregnable.’ He also asks the question, ‘What instrumentality or efficiency towards any thing like this [the believer’s freedom from the law’s condemnation] can possibly be ascribed to the Incarnation of God’s Son, if there be no strictly moral and authoritative juridical law?’ I am not persuaded that those who take exception to commandments of the Decalogue, or who reject the Reformed and catholic approach to ‘moral law’, while still maintaining their doctrine of atonement, have given satisfactory answers to such questions.

KF: Is the Christian still bound by the Mosaic Law?  You note that parts of the law are “non-binding, another binding in its underlying principles, and another ever-binding.”  Could you explain that distinction and how the law functions in the life of the believer in Christ?

PR: As your quotation implies, the threefold division of the law does not give a yes or no answer to this question, nor, contrary to the frequent assertion of critics, does it ‘neatly’ divide the Mosaic Law. The ceremonial laws are non-binding because they prefigured Christ, but they may still imply moral demands (1 Cor. 5). From the outset, the civil laws were binding ‘in the land’ (Deut. 4:5, 14; 5:31; 6:1; 12:1) and while the apostles called for obedience to commandments of the Decalogue, they recognised that the civil laws were of temporary jurisdiction when they declared the legitimacy of the ruling authorities, calling on Christians to submit to them (Rom. 13:1–4). This does not mean, however, that the civil laws were an irrelevance; the underlying principles, which are the principles enshrined in the Decalogue, still bind.

The only part of the law that the church has claimed should be ever-binding is the moral law, but this does not mean that everyone who has held to the threefold division agrees on the role of the law in the life of believers, or on the specific application of individual commandments in the Decalogue. For Reformed Christians, obedience to Ten Commandments has never been the means by which believers are justified before God, yet those who are justified will seek to live in obedience to those laws and to learn from the entire Scriptures how to apply them to their lives. They value them not as a ten keys to health, wealth, and happiness, but because they reveal their sinfulness to them, driving them to seek forgiveness, renewal, and life everlasting in Christ, to whose image they long to be conformed.

KF: What role has the civil law played in redemptive history?  How are we to understand the apostles’ application of case laws in the NT? (i.e., 1 Cor. 5:13 is a direct quote from Deut. 17:7; 19:19; 22:21, 24; and 24:7… In its OT context it refers to putting an individual to death, whereas in the NT it refers to church discipline.  Could you briefly discuss this issue?)

PR: Beyond the role of civil law common to all nations of preserving peace and security, Israel’s civil law was part of God’s revelation, which should have been a source of delight and wisdom to her (Ps. 1:2, 119:97–9) and a missionary witness to other nations (Deut. 4:6–8). On the apostolic application of case laws, I focused on some of the less transparent examples, such as the application of Deuteronomy 25:4 in 1 Corinthians 9:8–10. In that case the apostle’s citation reflects the Decalogue sub-structure of Deuteronomy, linking the themes of integrity and contentment found in the ninth and tenth commandments. Concerning 1 Corinthians 5:13, Sean McDonough has argued that the context of Deuteronomy 17:7 shapes that section of 1 Corinthians (JTS, 56.1), but I have yet to consider his arguments in detail, and while ‘you shall purge the evil’ may be a direct quote from one of those passages, it describes the application of Mosaic penology rather than being an actual case law.

_________________

Again, my sincere thanks to Philip for taking the time to answer these questions and to Christian Focus for connecting me with Philip.  I wholeheartedly commend From the Finger of God to your reading.  I trust it will be helpful in growing your understanding of God’s good, gracious, and righteous demands in the Law and the glory of Christ’s atoning work.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, OR TO PURCHASE FROM THE FINGER OF GOD, CLICK HERE.  Philip S. Ross is a theological editor who studied in Wales. He worked extensively on the well-received Christian Heritage editions of The Marrow of Modern Divinity and subtitled four John Owen works – The Glory of Christ, The Holy Spirit, Communion with God and The Priesthood of Christ. Philip lives near Loch Lomond in Scotland with his wife and three children.

The Ascension of Christ

Garofalo's "Ascension of Christ"

I am thankful for Nate Palmer’s reminder that though today, Ascension Day, is an oft forgotten day for many Christians, its significance is well worth meditating upon!  Being that the Ascension of Christ is frequently overlooked by many Christians, Louis Berkhof’s remarks on its doctrinal significance are helpful.  Berkhof writes:

It may be said that the ascension had a threefold significance. (1) It clearly embodied the declaration that the sacrifice of Christ was a sacrifice to God, which as such had to be presented to Him in the inner sanctuary; that the Father regarded the Mediatorial work of Christ as sufficient and therefore admitted Him to heavenly glory; and that the Kingdom of the Mediator was not a kingdom of the Jews, but a universal kingdom.  (2) It was also exemplary in that it was prophetic of the ascension of all believers, who are already set with Christ in the heavenly places, Eph. 2:6, and are destined to be with Him forever, John 17:24; and also in that it revealed the initial restoration of the original kingship of man, Heb. 2:7, 9.  (3) Finally, it was also instrumental in preparing a place for those who are in Christ.  The Lord Himself points to the necessity of going to the Father, in order to prepare a place for His disciples, John 14:2, 3.

[Excerpt from: Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1941), 351.]

May you be encouraged in the truth of the gospel today…We are saved by, and serve, a risen and ascended Christ who has all authority in heaven and on earth!

A TIMELINE OF HOLY WEEK.

BibleGateway.com posted a timeline visualization of the events of Holy Week at their blog.  I found this a helpful way of tracing the circumstances leading up to the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus.  I hope you find it helpful as well as you meditate on the most important week, in the life of the most important Person, in human history.

Click the following links to download the timeline as a high-resolution image and/or PDF.

Below is an explanation of the graphic from BibleGateway’s blog:

Here’s a new visualization we created that harmonizes the four Gospel accounts of Holy Week and lets you examine the “who,” “what,” and “where” of events leading up to and through Easter. Follow the lines in the chart to see at a glance what people were doing, where they were, and whom they were with at any point during the week.

For example, below is a closeup of the chart showing Jesus in Gethsemane and his betrayal by Judas. First Jesus draws aside Peter, James, and John and entreats them to pray while Jesus also prays. Then Judas and a crowd arrive; Judas betrays Judas with a kiss, Jesus is arrested, and the disciples flee, while Peter and John follow at a distance. The visualization shows you the main actors in the story and provides Bible references for you to read the story yourself…

…Because the Gospel writers weren’t concerned about writing strict chronological accounts, the details and timing of some events are open to interpretation. For example, when exactly did Judas meet with some of the Jewish leaders to agree to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver? What did Jesus do on Wednesday? The chart shows one of several possible sequences of events.

If you’re interested in reading a harmony of Holy Week that includes the text of the relevant Scripture passages, Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition put one together in 2010. Our visualization is based partly on Justin’s work (which in turn is based on work by Craig Blomberg); we also consulted study Bibles and other Bible reference materials.

The visualization format itself is based on a 2009 XKCD comic that illustrates the structure of several movies, including Lord of the Ringsand the Star Wars trilogy.

We hope this chart leads you to contemplate more deeply the meaning behind the ancient words that Christ “was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures” as we move closer to celebrating his resurrection this Easter.

(HT: Cardiphonia/BibleGateway)

WHAT MIGHT MACHEN SAY TO BELL?

What might J. Gresham Machen say to Rob Bell, if Machen were still alive today?  Perhaps the following:
“Jesus did not invite the confidence of men by minimizing the load which He offered to bear.  He did not say: “Trust me to give you acceptance with God, because acceptance with God is not difficult; God does not regard sin so seriously after all.”  On the contrary Jesus presented the wrath of God in a more awful way than it was afterwards presented by His disciples; it was Jesus—Jesus whom modern liberals represent as a mild-mannered exponent of an undiscriminating love—it was Jesus who spoke of outer darkness and the everlasting fire, of the sin that shall not be forgiven in this world or in that which is to come.  There is nothing in Jesus’ teaching about the character of God which in itself can evoke trust.  On the contrary the awful presentation can give rise, in the hearts of us sinners, only to despair.  Trust arises only when we attend to God’s way of salvation.  And that way is found in Jesus.  Jesus did not invite the confidence of men by a minimizing presentation of what was necessary in order that sinners might stand faultless before the awful throne of God.  On the contrary, he invited confidence by the presentation of His own wondrous Person.  Great was the guilt of sin, but Jesus was greater still.  God, according to Jesus was a loving Father; but He was a loving Father, not of the sinful world, but of those whom He himself had brought into His Kingdom through His Son” (emphasis mine).
—————————————————-
[Taken from: J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 72-73.]

FRIDAY MORNINGS IN THE VALLEY: THE GOSPEL WAY

This Friday’s prayer from the Valley of Vision means a lot to me, as my wife, Susan, and I had an adapted version of it read at our wedding.  My deep appreciation for this prayer is also based on the intensity with which the author sees his continued need for the gospel every day.  How true it is that the same gospel that saves us also sanctifies us until we see the Savior face-to-face!

This morning and throughout today, pray also for those in Japan in the wake of a magnitude 8.9 earthquake/tsunami.  The Philippines and nearly 20 other countries have been issued tsunami warnings as well.  God is faithful to accomplish his good and sovereign purposes.  May the good news of the gospel be amplified above the sounds of the earth, wind, and waves!

“BLESSED LORD JESUS,

No human mind could conceive or invent the gospel.

Acting in eternal grace, thou art both its messenger and its message,

lived out on earth through infinite compassion,

applying thy life in insult, injury, death,

that I might be redeemed, ransomed, freed.

Blessed be thou, O Father, for contriving this way,

Eternal thanks to thee, O Lamb of God, for opening this way,

Praise everlasting to thee, O Holy Spirit,

for applying this way to my heart.

Glorious Trinity, impress the gospel on my soul

until its virtue diffuses every faculty;

Let it be heard, acknowledged, professed, felt.

Teach me to secure this mighty blessing;

Help me to give up every darling lust,

to submit heart and life to its command,

to have it in my will,

controlling my affections,

moulding my understanding;

to adhere strictly to the rules of true religion,

not departing from them in any instance,

nor for any advantage in order to escape evil,

inconvenience or danger.

Take me to the cross to seek glory from its infamy;

Strip me of every pleasing pretence of righteousness by my own doings.

O gracious Redeemer,

I have neglected thee too long,

often crucified thee,

crucified thee afresh by my impenitence,

put thee to open shame.

I thank thee for the patience that has borne with me so long,

and for the grace that now makes me willing to be thine.

O unite me to thyself with inseparable bonds,

that nothing may ever draw me back from thee, my Lord, my Saviour.”

[“The Gospel Way” in The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions (ed. Arthur Bennett; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1975), 35.]

*For a creative way to pray through then entire collection of prayers in the Valley of Vision, click here.

THE GOSPEL & THE PERSON OF CHRIST: Incarnation

The gospel is good news.  The gospel, as a matter of fact, is the greatest message, the greatest announcement ever to be proclaimed in the world. It is a declaration about something that has been done, something that has been accomplished.  To guard against confusion, the gospel is not something we do, or something we’ve done.  The gospel, rather, is the good news about what God has done to save sinners through his Son, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, the all-important question is not, “WWJD?: What would Jesus do?”, but “WHJD?: What has Jesus done?!”  What has Jesus done to save those who believe in him?

Some would certainly answer, and rightly so, “Jesus died for me.”  Again, while that is gloriously true, it is not all that Jesus has done for our salvation. We must not minimize the gospel to simply the death of Christ in the place of sinners.  The gospel is the good news of all of Christ’s saving work in his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and return.

Over the next 8 weeks, we will briefly look at how each aspect of Christ’s work in the gospel is essential to the believer’s salvation.  The implications of the totality of Christ’s work in our place are far reaching, and the fuel by which we continue to live for his glory in this life!

THE GOSPEL AND THE INCARNATION

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:1-5, 14, ESV

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Galatians 4:4-5, ESV

The plan of God the Father in the person and work of his Son, Jesus Christ, creates a chasm of difference between Christianity and every other world religion.  Where the other religions of the world teach what one must do in order to earn and keep the favor of their “god(s)”, Christianity declares, emphatically, what God alone has done to graciously save, and bestow his favor upon, his people.  While the other religions of the world speak of ascending to god, Christianity dramatically differs in its news about the work God has done in his coming to seek and save the lost.  Not only has God himself accomplished everything needed to be done to restore repentant sinners into a right relationship with himself, he has graciously revealed his saving work to us through his Word; all of which centers upon his Son, Jesus Christ.

God reveals himself to us in Scripture as one God, eternally existing in three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 3:13-17).  Before time began, the triune God existed in perfect, joy-filled community within himself and was in need of nothing.  It was because of God’s good pleasure that he chose to create the universe to manifest his glory in all of creation.

God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, being distinct from all creation, chose to create humankind (male & female/Adam & Eve) in his image and likeness.  He placed them on earth [in the garden of Eden] as his representatives, and they were to worship him as Creator as they joyfully stewarded his creation and multiplied to fill the earth (Gen. 1:28).  Choosing to refuse God’s good and gracious rule, acting as gods unto themselves, they were deceived by Satan*, and willfully disobeyed God’s command; sin then entered and spread like cancer in the world.  Because Adam and Eve broke God’s good law, they became guilty of sin, incurred God’s just curse for their disobedience, were condemned to death, and cast out of God’s presence to bless.

Because of his faithful grace, God promised that through the offspring of the woman (Eve) a Savior would come to defeat Satan, sin, and death (Gen. 3:15). He would redeem God’s people from the curse, restoring them into a right relationship with God, and finally renewing all of creation through his work.  God, being the first mover, chose to continue to relate to his people through unfolding covenants that pointed toward a new covenant through which he would save a people to the praise of his glorious grace.  [We’ll look more specifically at aspects of these covenants in the weeks ahead.]

John wrote in his gospel that the eternal Word of God, Jesus Christ (God the Son), became flesh and made his dwelling among us (cf. John 1:14).  Conceived by the power of the God the Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, God himself entered human history in the person of his Son.  God fulfilled his promise to Adam and Eve in the garden, in the giving of himself.  He came to be the Savior of his people.

Theologians refer to Christ’s taking on of human flesh as the incarnation.  The word “incarnation” comes from a Latin term, which literally means, “in meat.”  God the Son wrapped himself in human flesh in the incarnation.

Dr. Robert Reymond explains the incarnation as follows:

“Without ceasing to be all that he was and is as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the eternal Son of God took into union with himself in the one divine Person that which he had not possessed before-even a full complex of human attributes-and became fully and truly man for us men and for our salvation.  Jesus of Nazareth was and is the God-man.”

[Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 546.]

Simply stated, Jesus, God the Son, uncreated and pre-existing infinitely in eternity past, added to his eternal divine nature a fully human nature, thus having two full natures united in his person.  As Reymond stated, “Jesus of Nazareth was and is the God-man.”

What does the incarnation have to do with the gospel?  Why was the incarnation necessary?

 

As human beings, because of the guilt inherited from Adam, we’ve all been born sinful, spiritually dead, and separated from God and are sinners to the core.  Apart from a Savior who can make us new, all we can do is sin.  And, because our sin is against an infinite God, the penalty we incurred is of infinite measure.  We deserve death and eternal separation from God.

Jonathan Edwards wrote on this matter:

“The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to obey him.  And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligations to love, and honor, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty.

Our obligation to love, honor, and obey any being is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority…. But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellence and beauty….

So sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving infinite punishment….”

[Jonathan Edwards, “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners.” In The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), 669. Cited in John Piper, Desiring God (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2011), 60.]

We need an infinite person to take upon himself our infinite penalty.  We also need someone who can completely identify with us in our humanity to be qualified to stand in our place.  Jesus is the only person who has ever met those qualifications.  He alone is qualified to be our Savior from God’s righteous wrath, our sin, and the eternal death we deserve.  We are people in desperate need of God Incarnate.  Praise be to God that, “when the fullness of time had come, [he] sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

Some gospel conclusions in light of the incarnation:

  • Jesus wrapped himself in human flesh so we could be wrapped in his righteousness.
  • Jesus set aside his glorious position with the Father and Spirit in eternity past so, through him, we could be welcomed into the joyful communion of the Trinity for all of eternity future.
  • Jesus was the ultimate missionary who was sent by the Father to reveal God to humankind; humbly dwelling among those he came to save. And, by Jesus’ authority, we are commanded to be on mission with God in all the world, proclaiming the good news about what God has done in Christ.
  • Jesus added full humanity to the fullness of his deity to fully redeem fallen human beings and fill them with his Spirit.
  • At the incarnation, Jesus, the Uncreated, entered creation so that the created could dwell forever in the New Creation with the Uncreated.

ENDNOTES |

*Satan is a created angelic being who, at some point in eternity past, set himself up to be worshipped as God.  He was cast out of heaven, along with the angels who followed him, destined for eternal damnation (2 Pet. 2:4Rev. 20:10).

“THE GOSPEL & THE PERSON OF CHRIST” SERIES:

Introduction

The Gospel & The Incarnation

CHRISTMAS, AS A SHOCKING REMINDER…

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I were at the Warrenville Public Library.  She was doing some research for a paper she was writing for her English class at NIU, and I was preparing a sermon to be preached that weekend.  As we were on our way out of the library I had noticed some featured books placed on top of the shelving within the “Children’s Books” section.  One section featured books under the title “Happy Hanukkah!” and the other “Happy Kwanzaa!”  Figuring I had overlooked the “Happy Christmas!” section, I set out to see where those books had been displayed, interested to see what kind of Christmas literature the public library had set aside for the kids.  After about 5 minutes of checking almost every aisle…my growing suspicions were verified…  There wasn’t a “Happy Christmas!” section after all.  Honestly, I wasn’t all too surprised.  Mostly saddened.  Because the good news of Christmas is truly the happiest of all.  But happy only after one has come to grips with how shocking it truly is…

N.T. Wright, in his book, For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church, writes:

“For many, Christianity is just a beautiful dream.  It’s a world in which everyday reality goes a bit blurred.  It’s nostalgic, cosy, and comforting.  But real Christianity isn’t like that at all.  Take Christmas, for instance: a season of nostalgia, of carols and candles and firelight and happy children.  But that misses the point completely.  Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place.  It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes unchecked, where children are murdered, where civilized countries make a lot of money by selling weapons to uncivilized ones so they can blow each other apart.  Christmas is God lighting a candle; and you don’t light a candle in a room that’s already full of sunlight.  You light a candle in a room that’s so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are.  The light shines in the darkness, says St. John, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Christmas, then, is not a dream, a moment of escapism.  Christmas is the reality, which shows up the rest of ‘reality’.  And for Christmas, here, read Christianity.  Either Jesus is the Lord of the world, and all reality makes sense in his light, or he is dangerously irrelevant to the problems and possibilities of today’s world.  There is no middle ground.  Either Jesus was, and is, the Word of God, or he, and the stories Christians tell about him, are lies.”

For similar thoughts, see C.J. Mahaney’s post on William H. Smith’s article in WORLD Magazine.