Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sloppy Handling of Scripture

I saw this video clip over at Big Orange Truck. This is typical of far too many in the KJVOnly crowd and an example of why we need more men who will carefully and accurately teach the Word of God.

(Warning:Crude Language)

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Atonement

Excerpt from The Atonement by John Murray

I. The Source. Any doctrine of the atonement is misdirected from the outset if it does not take account of the fact that the atonement is the provision of God's love. 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son' (John 3:16). 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins' (I John 4:10; cf. Rom. 5:8; 8:32; Eph. 2:4, 5; I John 4:9). The title 'God' in these texts refers specifically to God the Father. So it is to the initiative of the Father's love that our attention is drawn when we think of the fountain from which the atonement emanates. And all that has been achieved by Christ's vicarious undertaking must always be subordinated to the design and purpose of the Father's love. This is the orientation which the classic exponents of Reformed doctrine have always recognized, and it is a caricature of their position to suppose that they represented the love and compassion of the Father as constrained by the sacrifice of Christ.

In this fact that the love of God is the spring from which the atonement flows we encounter an ultimate of revelation and of human thought. It is the marvel that evokes wonder, adoration, and praise. It is a love that arises from the unsearchable riches of God's goodness. But though an ultimate of revelation, the Scripture not only permits but requires further characterization of this love. The love of God is differentiating in respect of its objects. It is the love of God the Father that Paul has in view when he speaks of Him who 'spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all' (Rom. 8:32). But it is within the orbit defined by Romans 8:29 that this love must be understood, and the latter text speaks of distinguishing love that predestinates to a determinate end — conformity to the image of his Son. Ephesians 1:4, 5 is to the same effect. God chose a people in Christ and in love predestinated them unto adoption through Jesus Christ. It would annul the witness of Scripture if we ignored the differentiation which the love of God institutes and failed to construe the atonement as the provision of this distinguishing love and as that which secures the design of God's electing grace.

II. The Necessity. The love of God is the cause of the atonement. But why did the love of God take this way of realizing its end? This is the question of the reason as distinguished from the cause. Notable theologians in the history of the church have taken the position that there was no absolute reason, that God could have saved men by other means than by the blood-shedding of His own Son, that, since God is omnipotent and sovereign, other ways of forgiving sin were available to Him. But God was pleased to adopt this method because the greatest number of advantages and blessings accrued from it. God could have redeemed men without the shedding of blood, but He freely chose not to and thereby He magnifies the glory of His grace and enhances the precise character of the salvation bestowed (e.g., Augustine, Aquinas, Thomas Goodwin, John Ball, Thomas Blake).

It might appear that this view does honor to the omnipotence, sovereignty, and grace of God and, also, that to posit more would be presumptuous on our part and beyond the warrant of Scripture. Is it not the limit of our thought to say that 'without the shedding of blood' (Heb. 9:22) there is actually no remission and be satisfied with that datum? There are, however, certain things God cannot do. 'He cannot deny himself' (II Tim. 2:13) and it is 'impossible for God to lie' (Heb. 6:18). The only question is: are there exigencies arising from the character and perfections of God which make it intrinsically necessary that redemption should be accomplished by the sacrifice of the Son of God? It should be understood that it was not necessary for God to redeem men. The purpose to redeem is of the free and sovereign exercise of His love. But having purposed to redeem, was the only alternative the blood-shedding of His own Son as the way of securing that redemption? There appear to be good reasons for an affirmative answer.

1. Salvation requires not only the forgiveness of sin but also justification. And justification, adequate to the situation in which lost mankind is, demands a righteousness such as belongs to no other than the incarnate Son of God, a righteousness undefiled and undefilable, a righteousness with divine property and quality (cf. Rom. 1:17; 3:21; 22; 10:3; II Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). It is the righteousness of the obedience of Christ (Rom. 5:19). But only the Son of God. incarnate, fulfilling to the full extent the commitments of the Father's will, could have provided such a righteousness. A concept of salvation bereft of the justification which this righteousness imparts is an abstraction of which Scripture knows nothing.

2. Sin is the contradiction of God and he must react against it with holy wrath. Wherever sin is, the wrath of God rests upon it (cf. Rom. 1:18). Otherwise God would be denying Himself, particularly His holiness, justice, and truth. But wrath must be removed if we are to enjoy the favor of God which salvation implies. And the only provision for the removal of wrath is propitiation. This is surely the import of Romans 3:25, 26, that God set forth Christ a propitiation to declare His righteousness, that He might he just and the justifier of the ungodly.

3. The cross of Christ is the supreme demonstration of the love of God (cf. Rom. 5:8; I John 4:9, 10). But would it be a supreme demonstration of love if the end secured by it could have been achieved without it? Would it be love to secure the end by such expenditure as the agony of Gethsemane and the abandonment of Calvary for God's own well-beloved and only-begotten Son if the result could have been attained by less costly means? In that event would it not have been love without wisdom? In this we cannot suppress the significance of our Lord's prayer in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39). If it had been possible for the cup to pass from him, his prayer would surely have been answered. It is when the indispensable exigencies fulfilled by Jesus' suffering unto death are properly assessed that we can see the marvel of God's love in the ordeal of Calvary. So great was the Father's love to lost men that He decreed their redemption even though the cost was nought less than the accursed tree. When Calvary is viewed in this light. then the love manifested not only takes on meaning but fills us with adoring amazement. Truly this is love.

Those who think that in pursuance of God's saving purpose the cross was not intrinsically necessary are, in reality, not dealing with the hypothetical necessity of the atonement but with a hypothetical salvation. For, on their own admission, they are not saying that the actual salvation designed and bestowed could have been enjoyed without Christ but only salvation of lesser character and glory. But of such salvation the Scripture knows nothing and no good purpose can be served by an imaginary hypothesis.

[The remainder of this article can be view at Grace Online Library.]

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Don’t Worry

25"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25; NASB)

Worry seems to be a natural part of life, and for some, it seems to be an incessant preoccupation. Unfortunately, unchecked, it can have severe consequences. It has a way of draining our energy and can take a severe toll on our health. It can also dominate our thinking to the point that we are essentially paralyzed and are afraid of any risks and take our focus of more productive endeavors. At times, worry can cause us to become irrational.

But the worst problem with worry is that it essentially sends a message that we really do not trust God. We are essentially saying that we do not trust in God’s provision and loving care. Yet it is an easy trap for all of us to fall into. But we need to approach worry for what it really is – sin.

What worries us is not so much the worry of owning luxuries. It is usually worry concerning our basic needs. There is probably nothing that worries us more than having enough of the necessities of life. Here, the people to whom Jesus spoke where worried about the basics. But we are commanded to do just the opposite – to trust in the Lord’s provision of our basic necessities. And it is too easy to justify our worry since these are the basics that everyone needs to survive.

Worrying about our needs is something that the Lord does not want to occupy our time. Our focus should be on things of eternal importance. To worry about even the basics is something that will distract us from the mission the Lord has for us in this life. Meeting our needs is something that our Lord promises to do and our obligation in this matter is to simply trust the Lord.

Jesus illustrates by turning our attention to how our Heavenly Father feeds the birds (Matthew 6:26). If He feeds and takes care of them, and we are worth more than they are, isn’t it true that He will take care of us?

26"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27"And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 26-27; NASB)

And what does worry accomplish? According to verse 27, we can’t even add any time to our life by worrying.

Observe the obsession today with clothing. There is never a shortage of advertising showcasing the latest fashions of the day. These fashions continually change and people are obsessed with keeping up with these latest fashions. Yet, with all the variety of fashion, it still cannot compare with the beauty of God’s creation. Even King Solomon’s clothing – whose pageantry and kingdom was world famous - could not compare with the beauty of God’s natural creation (2 Chronicles 9). Each petal of a flower is unique and exhibits a beauty unsurpassed by anything man can create despite all the ingenuity he can muster. Taking a moment to observe God’s creation can leave one awestruck at the incredible beauty and harmony of God’s creative work. But in the end, all of creation will be destroyed “with intense heat” (2 Peter 3:10). If God took so much care in His creation, despite the fact that it will be destroyed in the end, how much more will He take care of us, who are far more important (Matthew 6:30). Yet we can have the tendency to worry about what we will wear.

God’s wonderful provision is illustrated many times throughout Scripture. One example that we can observe in Scripture is that of Elijah. In 1 Kings 17, the Lord declared that He would bring about a drought should the people turn from Him to serve other gods. The Lord commanded Elijah to leave Israel and go to the brook Cherith, where He would provide drink and miraculously command ravens to provide food for Elijah. And the ravens did indeed bring Elijah bread and meat, morning and evening, and he was able to get his drink from the brook. After the brook dried up due to the drought, God continued to provide for Elijah’s basic needs. God directed Elijah to go to Zarephath, where He provided for Elijah’s needs through the meager means of a poor widow who didn’t even have enough to provide for her and her own son’s needs.

The concern with what we will wear, eat and drink is something that the world earnestly seeks after. The term “eagerly” in Matthew 6:32 means to seek diligently, to crave and pursue with all of one’s might. The people of the world are consumed and preoccupied with endeavoring to be satisfied with material goods. But this behavior and attitude is not to be characteristic of the child of God.

If God knows and lovingly cares for us, then we have the confidence that He will provide for us. He has all the resources at His disposal. In light of that, we should have the freedom to serve Him without anxiety. We have the confidence that we can bring our needs before Him, and this should bring peace to us as His children whom He loves.

“6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6&7;NASB)

Our duty as God’s children is to seek His kingdom.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

We are not to worry about what will happen in the future. No one really knows what will happen in the future and worrying about it will accomplish little. There are enough things to be concerned with for each day. There is never any shortage of things that can induce worry concerning the future. Many of these things may never materialize anyway. Even if they do, preoccupation with worry cannot change them. The same God who provides for our needs today is the same God who will provide for us tomorrow. Incessant worry will only paralyze us and hinder our mission for God.

"34So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:24; NASB)

The real question that we need to ask ourselves is whether or not we truly place seeking after God’s kingdom first. Do we earnestly desire for people to be brought to Christ and see God’s kingdom grow? Our peace and confidence in God’s provision for our needs gives strong testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeking God’s kingdom first means that we desire for Christ to rule in our life. The kingdom of God is revealed to the world through the righteousness, peace and joy that should be clearly evident in our lives.

We must never forget that when we came to Christ, we were enlisted in God’s service much like a soldier. We are not to preoccupy ourselves with the things of the world.

“4No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:4; NASB)

Worry is a sin that should not be a characteristic of a child of God. It is unnecessary due to the Lord’s loving provision and will distract us from our service to the Lord.