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Archive for May, 2008

Here’s a christological motto to live by: Nicea comes before Chalcedon.

What do I mean by this?  I’m glad you asked.

It’s common in christological debates to begin by thinking of the Council of Chalcedon, 451 AD (btw I’m not guaranteeing the quality/accuracy of the wikipedia links).  There a two-nature christology was hammered out in which

We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division, or separation (ἀσυγχύτως, ἀτρέπτως, ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀχωρίστως; inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseparabilter).

And so, typically, thinking on the Person of Christ begins with a consideration of these two natures, humanity and divinity, which subsist in the one Person without confusion or change (upholding the integrity of Christ’s genuine humanity and divinity) and without division or separation (upholding the unity of His humanity and divinity in one Person).  Yet is this really where our thinking should begin? 

Chalcedon is pretty universally regarded as a good ring-fence – defining the bounds of orthodox christology.  But ring fences do not make good foundations! 

So where should we begin?  Well note that Nicea comes before Chalcedon.  It was in 325 AD that the Council of Nicea considered the identity of Jesus of Nazareth.  And crucially Nicea declared what the Scriptures clearly teach – that Jesus of Nazareth is ‘of one being with the Father’ (homoousios).  Now here’s the crucial thing – Nicea does not simply say ‘the eternal Son’ is ‘of one being with the Father.’  This is of course true, but Nicea says more than this.  It is the Jesus who was born of the virgin Mary, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, who is declared homoousios with the Father.

Let me diagram it.  Nicea does not simply say this:

 

 Instead Nicea makes the bold but necessary assertion that Jesus of Nazareth is a full participant in the divine nature:

Now why do I say that this was a necessary assertion from Nicea?  Well, starkly put, who cares if the eternal Son is God if we can’t say the same of Jesus of Nazareth!  It’s Jesus of Nazareth who says ‘If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.’ (John 14:9)  It’s Jesus of Nazareth who says ‘Son your sins are forgiven.’ (Mark 2:5)  It’s the Man Jesus who lives our life and dies our death.  If salvation is truly from the LORD then it has to be Jesus ‘born of the virgin Mary and suffered under Pontius Pilate’ who is declared fully God.  Nicea necessarily and clearly does this.

And what does this mean?  It means that before we’ve even gotten to Chalcedon we’ve affirmed that the Person of Jesus who is fully man and fully God exists entirely within the circle of divine fellowship which constitutes the being of God.  Jesus the Man is of one being with the Father.  If we could not affirm this then the revelation of Jesus would not be the revelation of God (contra John 14).  If we could not affirm this then the salvation of Jesus would not be the salvation of God (contra Mark 2).  But no, Jesus and the Father are one – not simply ‘the Son’ and the Father.

Why am I labouring this?  Well I have a sneaking suspicion that the christology story most people have in mind is a little different.  My fear is that people think the order of things goes something like:

1) we all know what divine nature is (some kind of essence probably!)

2) then (at Nicea) we insist that there is a trinity of Persons who we ought to confess as divine (and therefore in equal possession of this God-stuff)

3) then (at Chalcedon) we turn our attention to this pesky issue of how Jesus (who looks very different to our assumed conception of God-stuff ) is made up of God-stuff and man-stuff.  And it’s pretty freaky, and a mystery, but hey orthodoxy demands it so we’d better confess it.

It’s caricature obviously but does that kinda vibe resonate with anyone else?  It’s a theological journey that treads this path:

Being of God (divine nature) => Trinity => Christ (two nature christology). 

Or to put it even more crudely: “We all know God’s essence is a load of ‘omni’s; then (weirdly enough) we affirm that these omnis are parcelled out equally among Three Persons and then (strangeness of all strangenesses) we declare that one of the Three not only has a God-nature (defined by these omnis) but also a man-nature (that’s really very unlike His God-nature as defined by the omnis).”  I confess that I have seen a lot of this kind of thinking in my own theology in the past.  And it’s pretty awful to be honest.

Here’s what Chalcedon looks like when you’ve forgotten the crucial assertion of Nicea:

 

Here the divine nature of Jesus is thought of as that which is homoousios with the Father.  But on this way of thinking, the human nature (contra Nicea’s insistence) is not.  And of course you’ve then introduced massive problems.  Not only is there a humanity to Jesus that is not considered fully God but this humanity actually gets in the way between us and God.  Jesus in the incarnation has concealed rather than revealed God.  And what we’re left with is a whole set of tricky questions about how this God-nature and man-nature can really co-exist in the one Person without sounding like Jesus is a double-headed monster.

But… Nicea comes before Chalcedon.  This is not just true chronologically, it should also be true in our theological method.  Nicea teaches us that our doctrine of the being of God; the trinity; and christology must be held together.  These three concepts must mutually inform each other or else all three will be misconstrued. The Being of God is the relationship of the Three.  And these Three are One not only as Father, Son and Spirit but equally (and crucially) as Father, Incarnate Son and Spirit.  In this way divinity, trinity and christology are held together.  Go here for another post of mine on Nicea.

The divine nature is precisely the communion of the Three – a communion that is in no way compromised by the incarnation.  Jesus is fully God because He is the Son of the Father and the Anointed One with the Spirit.  It is no wonder that He is so often identified as ‘The Christ, the Son of God.’  Christ’s deity consists in these relationships and is never diminished by taking flesh.  Thus His full humanity in no way contradicts His full deity.  The Man Jesus exists fully and without remainder within the circle of divine life.  Chalcedon upholds the full integrity of Christ’s humanity, the complete perfection of His divinity, the absolute unity of His Person.  What Chalcedon does not say, and what it must never be made to say, is that there is a humanity to Jesus that is beyond the divine homoousios.  Nicea has for all time assured us that the Man Jesus is within the circle of triune fellowship which is the divine nature.

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Revelation 19

Preached on Revelation 19 tonight.  Really enjoyed it.  Jesus is always more than we can grasp…

He has a name written on Him that no-one knows but He Himself (Rev 19:12)

Here’s the sermon (audio now uploaded).

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The Me Monster

My wife has long taught Sunday school children that sin is a power called the ‘Me Me Monster.’  But I’ve never seen it expounded so hilariously…

H/T Justin Taylor

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The End?

Ok time to bring these thoughts to a close (for now).

For links to the 14 posts in this series go here.

For the full text of the 14 posts go here.

Let me finish with a plea from the heart of true doctrine…  Jesus is the Word of God.  He is not the best Word.  He is not the ultimate Word.  He is not the seal of series of improving words.  He is the Word.  There is no knowledge of God that is not mediated through the Son.  Please consider these foundational verses.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  (John 1:1-2)

No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known. (John 1:18)

He is the Image of the invisible God, the Firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created  (Col 1:15-16)

The context for these verses is not incarnation.  The Word became flesh long after the Word was.  The Son has been the revelation of God from before the creation of the world.  Incarnation does not make Jesus the Word, rather the pre-existing Word became flesh.  At the risk of sledge-hammer repetition: Jesus is the Word and Image of God prior to incarnation.  He has always been the one Way, Truth and Life.  To be ignorant of the Son pre or post-incarnation is to be ignorant of God.

Consider additionally these crucial passages:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No-one knows the Son except the Father, and no-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matt 11:27)

Christ in the OT is not an irritating hobby horse that some people ride and we wish they didn’t and would let us alone ‘cos we all get to Jesus in the end’.  It’s about the identity of Jesus.  Is He the revelation of God or is He something less? 

Is solus Christus true in revelation just as it is in salvation or is it a case of ‘Jesus and…’?  Are there other ways? Other truths?  Or does Jesus retain for Himself all the glory?

Ok so what are your thoughts on this issue?  Boring?  Irrelevant? Untrue?  Are my arguments overstated? Unworkable? Old hat? Garbage?  What?

Over to you…

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Some more sermons

Here are some more Revelation sermons I’ve preached recently.  

Revelation 13-14 (recorded afterwards at home)

Revelation 15-16

Revelation 17-18 

I’m preaching the last four chapters in the next month (So all you pre and post millers have about a week to convince me before I preach chapter 20!)

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Preached on money on Sunday.  Here’s the sermon – Matt 6:19-24 was the text.

 Here are some other sermons on money that have helped me.  Check them out, but be warned:

These sermons could seriously harm your wealth (i.e. your earthly treasure !)

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Mark Prentice on Matt 6:19-24 (seriously awesome)

John Piper on Matthew 6:19-34 – part one and part two.

Tim Keller on Radical Generosity (2 Cor 9:6-15), Treasure vs Money (Matt 6:19-34), Grace and Money (Acts 4:32-37), Two Men with Money (2 Kings 5:13-19; Luke 19:5-10)

Anything by KP Yohannan (Update: links now work!).  Why not start with Christ’s Call part one and part two. Or how about Investing Your Life in the Harvest part one and part two

And once convicted – why not give to Gospel for Asia.  I dare you to find a better kingdom investment!

 

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Baptism strikes me as a good instance of how we all need to have a rich and deep theology.  To answer the question ‘Should I baptize my child?’ will require some pretty serious considerations of the nature of faith and salvation and church and covenant and OT/NT relations etc.  I hazard to suggest that those who say “You have your theology, I just have my bible” simply couldn’t come up with an argument for paedo or credo baptism without some kind of systematic considerations.

You might have guessed (being an Anglican and a covenant theologian) that I believe in baptizing infants in Christian households.  I digress into this issue here in a sermon on Genesis 17.  To put it briefly…

I believe that OT saints were to circumcize all in their households (on the 8th day) as an entrance into the covenant community.

They were meant to grow up from within that covenant community as full members.

But for that very reason they were urged to inwardly own this outward sign. In other words they ought to have also had a circumcized heart (Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4).

Without this circumcized heart they forgo all the benefits of the outward sign. In fact, to go against their circumcision renders them not merely ‘as-good-as-uncircumcised’, it makes them covenant-breakers – a fearful position to be in.

In this sense I believe in baptizing infants in Christian households – baptism being a NT version of circumcision.

I do think Colossians 2:11-12 makes the link between circumcision and baptism though not directly but through Christ.

Baptism is the NT sign of belonging to the covenant people.  In this sense it is appropriate to baptise youngsters (just as they circumcised 8-day-olds), to proclaim the gospel promises over them, to treat them as full members of the church and to urge them as they grow up to own the meaning of their baptism inwardly (a baptism of the heart).  That kinda thing.

Anyway, there’s a guy in our congregation who wants to talk through who we should baptize.  Anyone got any suggestions for some good books we could look at?  (From any perspective)

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Ok, let’s continue with this issue of the NT’s handling of the Old.

If we take the reformation cry of sola Scriptura at all seriously we must allow the Bible to interpret the Bible. Historical-grammatical hermeneutics, archaeology, even the most careful exegesis conducted by the best scholarship must all bow to God’s own word.  He determines His meaning.  He is the only fit witness to Himself.

Yet, in contemporary Biblical studies it is commonly said of New Testament writers that they re-interpret the meaning of Old Testament Scripture.  Thus, it is asserted that an Old Testament passage can be shown conclusively to mean one thing via a thorough application of historical-grammatical hermeneutics, and then when Jesus or an Apostle quote from it they invest it with a new Christological meaning.  Diligent exegesis yields one reading, the New Testament gives another.  Yet rather than bow to the Apostles and re-think their methods of exegesis, these Bible students assert without any New Testament support that these two meanings co-exist in the text.  Thus it is routinely suggested that Jesus and the Apostles did not faithfully exegete the Hebrew Scriptures (defined by contemporary models) but rather, with special license from the Holy Spirit, made Christological assertions that are not derived from exegesis itself.  Their treatment of the Old Testament is therefore not to be emulated.  What we primarily learn from their handling is the audacious apostolic authority invested in them.

But what if we were to take Jesus and the Apostles as our models in the Christian life? (radical thought!).  If we do that we’ll see that the New Testament does not model a two-level exegesis of the kind: ‘David said ‘X’, but now we can re-read this through Christian eyes as ‘Y”.  The New Testament simply says Abraham met Christ (John 8:56).  It states boldly that Isaiah saw Jesus (John 12:41).  It asserts that David looked ahead to the resurrection and spoke explicitly of Christ (Acts 2:31).  It declares that Christ saved the people out of Egypt and accompanied them in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:4,9; Heb 11:26; Jude 5).  The New Testament does not say ‘Abraham had an experience which we can now re-interpret as ‘meeting Christ”.  It does not say ‘Isaiah saw a vision which Christian eyes know to be Jesus’.  It does not say, ‘David looked to types of Christ later fulfilled in His Person’. It does not say, ‘retrospectively we can see signs and types of Jesus of which the Israelites were unaware but which manifested a Christ-like presence in their midst.’  Yet how often is the OT handles in this way?

If you continue, I’ve listed a number of New Testament texts which handle the Old Testament.  Just see the way New Testament writers read the Old.  Only the Bible can teach us to handle the Bible.  If we do not read the Old Testament the way these men did – we are wrong.  We must change.  Let these examples challenge our own reading of the Scriptures.

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By the way, I’m collecting all the posts in this series into one page – Christ in OT.

Now I’d like to share one more reason why I think this stuff matters . It’s this:

When we see that the OT is already a witness to Christ before and even without the NT then we see that the prophets aren’t idiots and the apostle’s aren’t weirdos!

It’s important to counter this notion because I suspect it lurks just beneath the surface of all our thinking.  So easily we think of the prophets as groping around in a sub-Christian darkness.  And married to this idea is the one that the apostles, when interpreting the prophets as illuminated Christian witnesses, are doing something really weird.  But no, the prophets aren’t idiots and the apostle’s aren’t weirdos!

You will have noticed that I haven’t really mentioned the NT at all in these posts.  My argument is not that the Old Testament is truly Christian because Jesus and the Apostles give us a new hermeneutic with which to re-read the Hebrew Scriptures.  My argument is that the Christian meaning (that is, the messianically focussed trinitarian meaning) is the intention of the original authors and the understanding of the faithful saints.

Thus when, for instance, Paul says: “That Rock was Christ” ( 1 Cor 10:4) it’s not audacious apostolic authority that’s allowing him to re-read the history of Israel!!  It’s the fact he’s a believer who simply takes the Hebrew Scriptures seriously.  When Jude says “Jesus saved the people out of Egypt” (v5) it’s not some fancy telescoping of redemptive stories, it’s just the plain fact that Jesus actually led the people out of Egypt.   When John says “Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him.” (John 12:41) it’s not because he’s retrospectively awarding to Isaiah an encounter with Jesus.  He’s just explaining the plain fact that Isaiah actually saw His glory (Isaiah 6!) and wrote the rest of his prophesies about this King who was high and lifted up (cf Isaiah 52:13).

New Testament handling of the Old is not a novel Christianization of an otherwise sub-Christian text.  It’s simply stating the obvious.  Which means – thank GOD! – that the Apostles can actually teach us how to handle the bible.  This is so important because many want to claim that Apostles are doing weird things which cannot be copied.  The argument (much caricatured!) runs something like this:

  • When I read OT passage X, I don’t immediately see it as refering to Jesus
  • Instead I think the assured findings of the grammatical-historical method yield a sub-Christian meaning.  i.e. it refers to David or Solomon or ‘God’ in the abstract.
  • Then I come across Jesus or an apostle who simply asserts that X is speaking of Christ
  • At this point I have two options
    • A — I can say “I was wrong about X all along.”  I can confess the paucity of my passion for Christ and the foggy-ness of my spiritual vision.  I can admit that my presuppositions in reading the OT are not those of Jesus and the apostles and I can repent.   Or…
    • B — I can say “I was right about X all along” and hold onto my sub-Christian reading of X which is given no expression anywhere in the Old or New Testaments.  I will assert that my sub-christian understanding of X is in fact the intended meaning of its author! And then I will claim that Jesus and the apostles add an unintended Christian gloss.
  • I will probably not even consider A (it shocks me how rarely “A” occurs to the people I talk to!) and will, at the speed of thought, plump for B.  My justification?  I will proffer one of two quotations with an almost biblical assurance: Either, “The New is in the Old concealed.  The Old is in the New revealed,” or “They spoke better than they knew.”
  • If challenged on the Scriptural warrant for this view I’ll mumble something about 2 Cor 1:20 or 1 Peter 1:10-12

Well let’s look at those Scriptures:

19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No”, but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Cor 1:19-20)

Notice here that Paul claims “In Him it has always been Yes.”  I never see v19 quoted with v20 when used in these debates.  The promises of God find their Yes in Jesus Christ – and always have!

Let’s look at the other oft-quoted passage:

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. (1 Pet 1:10-12)

Astonishingly, people – intelligent godly people – can quote this verse to support the view that the prophets didn’t know what they were talking about.  But look at what these prophets knew.  They knew the Spirit of Christ in them, they knew the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow, they knew that they weren’t serving themselves – they weren’t prophesying simply about contemporary events but knew they spoke of future gospel events.  What did they not know?  The time and circumstances.  There they were, full of the Spirit, fixed on the coming Christ – His sufferings and glories – they just didn’t know when it would happen.  They would have been asking “Is this the time?”  “Are these the circumstances into which the Messiah will come?”  How on earth you get from this verse to “They didn’t know what they were talking about” is truly beyond me.

So please let’s see that the prophets weren’t idiots and neither were the apostles weirdos.  Jesus and the apostles are not weird examples of a specially mandated NT exegesis which is off limits for us.  When we get this straight then they are seen truly as fellow exegetes with the prophets, laying bare the intended and understood meaning of the prior Scriptures and showing us how it’s done.  Because if Jesus and the apostles don’t teach you how to do hermeneutics, who will??

I heard of a hermeneutics professor who told his students that the Apostle Paul would have failed his class.  Well that’s just backwards.  It’s Paul who should have been teaching him.  But actually that’s very typical of how many people think.  They know how to do exegesis (the text critics have taught them well).  Paul doesn’t match up so he must be doing something weird – let’s sideline him, claim that we mustn’t follow the apostle and keep going with our own interpretive techniques before adding Paul’s stuff as a weird extra.  But no, we must be taught everything in the Christian life including and especially how to read the Scriptures.  Let’s not call them weird.  The Scriptures never claim that Jesus or the apostles are specially mandated in their interpretations.  They never ward us away from following them, quite the opposite.  They never claim to be going beyond what Moses and the prophets were saying (Acts 26:22).

So please don’t buy into “The prophets spoke better than they knew.”  What about this for a crazy idea – “They knew what they were talking about.”  Doesn’t that make a bit more sense?!  Doesn’t that give you greater confidence in reading them!?  The prophets were not idiots.  And the apostles were not weirdos.

Next post…

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Quotes from Church History continued…

JOHN OWEN

Genesis 3

… a revelation was made of a distinct person in the Deity, who in a peculiar manner did manage all the concernments of the church after the entrance of sin. (Works, vol 18, 216)

He by whom all things were made, and by whom all were to be renewed that were to be brought again unto God, did in an especial and glorious manner appear unto our first parents, as he in whom this whole dispensation centred, and unto whom it was committed.  And as, after the promise given, he appeared ‘in human form’ to instruct the Church in the mystery of his future incarnation, and under the name of Angel, to shadow out his office as sent unto it and employed in it by the Father; so here, before the promise, he discovered his distinct glorious person, as the eternal Voice of the Father. (ibid, p220)

Genesis 18

Neither is there any ground for the late exposition of this and the like places, namely, that a created angel representing the person of God doth speak and act in his name, and is called Jehovah; an invention to evade the appearances of the Son of God under the old testament, contrary to the sense of all antiquity, nor is any reason or instance produced to make it good. (ibid, 225)

Genesis 19:24

…in this place it is Moses that speaketh of the Lord, and he had no occasion to repeat ‘The LORD’ were it not to intimate the distinct persons unto whom that name, denoting the nature and self-existence of God, was proper; one whereof then appeared on the earth, the other manifesting his glorious presence in heaven…  There is therefore in this place an appearance of God in human shape, and that of one distinct person in the Godhead, who now represented himself unto Abraham in the form and shape wherein he would dwell amongst men, when of his seed he would be ‘made flesh’.  This was one signal means whereby Abraham saw his day and rejoiced; which Himself lays upon His pre-existence unto His incarnation, and not upon the promise of His coming, John 8:56, 58. (ibid, 225)

Genesis 32:24-30

From what hath been spoken, it is evident that he who appeared unto Jacob, with whom he earnestly wrestled, by tears and supplications was God; and because he was sent as the angel of God, it must be some distinct person in the Deity condescending unto that office; and appearing in the form of a man, he represented his future assumption of our human nature.  And by all this did God instruct the church in the mystery of the person of the Messiah, and who it was that they were to look for in the blessing of the promised Seed. (ibid, 225)

Exodus 3:1-6

He is expressly called an “Angel” Exod. 3:2 – namely, the Angel of the covenant, the great Angel of the presence of God, in whom was the name and nature of God.  And he thus appeared that the Church might know and consider who it was that was to work out their spiritual and eternal salvation, whereof that deliverance which then he would effect was a type and pledge.  Aben Ezra would have the Angel mentioned verse 2, to be another from him who is called ‘God’, verse 6: but the text will not give countenance unto any such distinction, but speaks of one and the same person throughout without any alteration; and this was no other but the Son of God. (ibid, 225)

That the faith of all believers, from the foundation of the world, had a respect unto him [Christ], I shall afterwards demonstrate; and to deny it, is to renounce both the Old Testament and the New. (Christologia, VIII)

From the giving of that promise [Genesis 3:15] the faith of the whole church was fixed on him whom God would send in our nature, to redeem and save them. Other way of acceptance with him there was none provided, none declared, but only by faith in this promise. The design of God in this promise–which was to reveal and propose the only way which in his wisdom and grace he had prepared for the deliverance of mankind from the state of sin and apostasy whereinto they were cast, with the nature of the faith and obedience of the church will not admit of any other way of salvation, but only faith in him who was thus promised to be a saviour. (ibid)

JONATHAN EDWARDS

From ‘A History of the Work of Redemption’

When we read in sacred history what God did, from time to time, towards His Church and people, and how He revealed Himself to them, we are to understand it especially of the Second Person of the Trinity. When we read of God appearing after the fall, in some visible form, we are ordinarily, if not universally, to understand it of the Second Person of the Trinity… John 1:18. He is therefore called the image of the invisible God – Col 1:15 – intimating that though God the Father be invisible, yet Christ is His image or representation, by which He is seen.

It is now revealed to Abraham, not only that Christ should come; but that he should be his seed; and promised, that all the families of the earth should be blessed in him.

Thus you see how much more fully the covenant of grace was revealed and confirmed in Abraham’s time than ever it had been before; by means of which Abraham seems to have had a clear view of Christ, the great Redeemer, and the future things that were to be accomplished by him.

The main subjects of these songs were the glorious things of the gospel; as is evident by the interpretation that is often put upon them in the New Testament: for there is no one book of the Old Testament that is so often quoted in the New, as the book of Psalms. … here Christ is spoken of by his ancestor David abundantly, in multitudes of songs, speaking of his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, his satisfaction, intercession; his prophetical, kingly, and priestly office; his glorious benefits in this life and that which is to come; his union with the church, and the blessedness of the church in him; the calling of the Gentiles and the future glory of the church near the end of the world, and Christ’s coming to the final judgment.  All these things, and many more, concerning Christ and his redemption, are abundantly spoken of in the book of Psalms.

Next post…

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Quotes from Church History continued…

 

MARTIN LUTHER

All the promises of God lead back to the first promise concerning Christ of Genesis 3:15.  The faith of the fathers in the Old Testament era, and our faith in the New Testament are one and the same faith in Christ Jesus…  The faith of the fathers was directed at Christ…  Time does not change the object of true faith, or the Holy Spirit.  There has always been and always will be one mind, one impression, one faith concerning Christ among true believers whether they live in times past, now, or in times to come. (Luther’s Commentary, Gal 3:6-7)

JOHN CALVIN

John Calvin’s three essentials to be borne in mind when reading the OT:

“First, we hold that earthly prosperity and happiness did not constitute the goal set before the Jews to which they were to aspire… Secondly, the covenant by which they were bound to the Lord was supported, not by their own merits, but solely by the mercy of the God who called them.  Thirdly, they had and knew Christ as Mediator, through whom they were joined to God and were to share in His promises.” (II.10.2).

“Holy men of old knew God only by beholding Him in His Son as in a mirror.  When I say this, I mean that God has never manifested Himself to men in any other way than through the Son, that is, His sole wisdom, light and truth.  From this fountain Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others drank all that they had of heavenly teaching.  From the same fountain, all the prophets have also drawn every heavenly oracle that they have given forth. (IV.8.5)

For Christ not only speaks of his own age, but comprehends all ages when he says: ‘This is eternal life, to know the Father to be the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent’ [John 17:3]… From this it follows that no worship has ever pleased God except that which looked to Christ. (II.6.1)

Even the Old Covenant declared that there is no faith in the gracious God apart from the Mediator…  The law plainly and openly taught believers to seek salvation nowhere else than in the atonement that Christ alone carries out.  I am only saying that the blessed and happy state of the church always had its foundation in the person of Christ…  So, then, the original adoption of the chosen people depended upon the Mediator’s grace.  Even if in Moses’ writings this was not yet expressed in clear words, still it sufficiently appears that it was commonly known to all the godly.  For before a king had been established over the people, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, describing the happiness of the godly, already says in her song: “God will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his Messiah” [1 Samuel 2:10]…  Therefore David proclaims: “Jehovah is the strength of his people, the saving power of his Christ” [Psalm 28:8]… From this it is now clear enough that, since God cannot without the Mediator be propitious towards the human race, under the law Christ was always set before the holy fathers as the end [objectum] to which they should direct their faith.(II.6.2)

The hope of all the godly has ever reposed in Christ alone.(II.6.3)

Faith in God is faith in Christ.  God willed that the Jews should be so instructed by these prophecies that they might turn their eyes directly to Christ in order to seek deliverance…  apart from Christ the saving knowledge of God does not stand.  From the beginning of the world he had consequently been set before all the elect that they should look upon him and put their trust in him…  God is comprehended in Christ alone… So today the Turks, although they proclaim at the top of their lungs that the Creator of heaven and earth is God, still, while repudiating Christ, substitute an idol in place of the true God. (II.6.4)

The fathers, when they wished to behold God, always turned their eyes to Christ.  I mean not only that they beheld God in his eternal Logos [sermone], but also they attended with their whole mind and the whole affection of their heart to the promised manifestation of Christ. (Commentary, John 1:18)

There is no other way in which God can be known but through Christ, who is the image and pattern of his substance…  Although Jews, Turks, and other infidels boast that they worship God the Creator of heaven and earth, yet they worship an imaginary God: however obstinate they may be, they follow vague and uncertain opinions instead of truth; they grope in the dark and worship their own imagination instead of God. In short, outside of Christ, all religion is deceitful and transitory and every kind of worship ought to be abhorred and condemned. (Commentary, Isaiah 25:9)

Previous Post (Justin Martyr, Irenaues)

Next post (John Owen, Jonathan Edwards)

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Here are some now updated quotations about Christ in the OT from heavy-weights in church history.  In this post we’ll look at Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.  Next post we’ll look at Luther and Calvin, then finally John Owen and Jonathan Edwards.  I’ve been very selective, not wanting these posts to go on too long.  There are more at my site.  And check out Dev’s collection of Justin quotes here.

JUSTIN MARTYR

Jesus, as we have already shown, while He was with them, said, “No one knoweth the Father, but the Son; nor the Son but the Father, and those to whom the Son will reveal Him.”The Jews, accordingly, being throughout of opinion that it was the Father of the universe who spake to Moses, though He who spake to him was indeed the Son of God, who is called both Angel and Apostle, are justly charged, both by the Spirit of prophecy and by Christ Himself, with knowing neither the Father nor the Son. For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign,having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe on Him, He endured both to be set at nought and to suffer, that by dying and rising again He might conquer death.  (First Apology, chapter LXIII)

And where it has been said, ‘O God, give Thy judgment to the king,’ since Solomon was king, you say that the Psalm refers to him, although the words of the Psalm expressly proclaim that reference is made to the everlasting King, i.e., to Christ. For Christ is King, and Priest, and God, and Lord, and Angel, and Man, and Captain, and Stone, and a Son born, and first made subject to suffering, then returning to heaven, and again coming with glory, and He is preached as having the everlasting kingdom: so I prove from all the Scriptures (i.e. the OT). (Dialogue with Trypho XXXIV)

IRENAEUS

The Holy Ghost, Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, Made Mention of No Other God or Lord, Save Him Who is the True God. Therefore neither would the Lord, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the apostles, have ever named as God, definitely and absolutely, him who was not God, unless he were truly God; nor would they have named any one in his own person Lord, except God the Father ruling over all, and His Son who has received dominion from His Father over all creation, as this passage has it: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” Here the [Scripture] represents to us the Father addressing the Son; He who gave Him the inheritance of the heathen, and subjected to Him all His enemies. Since, therefore, the Father is truly Lord, and the Son truly Lord, the Holy Spirit has fitly designated them by the title of Lord. And again, referring to the destruction of the Sodomites, the Scripture says, “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven.” For it here points out that the Son, who had also been talking with Abraham, had received power to judge the Sodomites for their wickedness.  (Against All Heresies, III.6.1)

With regard to Christ, the law and the prophets and the evangelists have proclaimed that He was born of a virgin, that He suffered upon a beam of wood, and that He appeared from the dead; that He also ascended to the heavens, and was glorified by the Father, and is the Eternal King; that He is the perfect Intelligence, the Word of God, who was begotten before the light; that He was the Founder of the universe, along with it (light), and the Maker of man; that He is All in all: Patriarch among the patriarchs; Law in the laws; Chief Priest among priests; Ruler among kings; the Prophet among prophets; the Angel among angels; the Man among men; Son in the Father; God in God; King to all eternity. For it is He who sailed [in the ark] along with Noah, and who guided Abraham; who was bound along with Isaac, and was a Wanderer with Jacob; the Shepherd of those who are saved, and the Bridegroom of the Church; the Chief also of the cherubim, the Prince of the angelic powers; God of God; Son of the Father; Jesus Christ; King for ever and ever. Amen. (Fragment LIII)

Quotes from John Calvin and Martin Luther…

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Ok, here are 10 11 reasons this matters.  (Dev’s reminded me of an absolutely crucial one). I’m not going to spend very long elucidating any of them.  I’m sure they’ll become rants of their own in future posts:

Why it’s important to see the Hebrew Scriptures as already and inherently a messianically focussed trinitarian revelation:

  1. To make sense of the OT text.  I’m not sure how many passages I’ve quoted in the last 7 posts, maybe 40?  More?  I really don’t think I’ve been monkeying around with the texts, but I do think that these passages get a serious stream-roller treatment when people read them as uni-Personal passages. Let’s release ourselves from a basically unitarian hermeneutic of the OT because when you take these texts seriously they burst such arbitrary bonds
  2. Identifying Christ in Scripture is pretty fundamental!  To fail to correctly identify Christ in Scripture is a spiritual error, and a serious one at that.
  3. Christ is not simply the best Word of God.  He is not the ultimate revelation of God or the seal of a series of improving revelations of God.  He is the one Word and Wisdom and Image and Way and Truth of God.  The OT is a fundamental test case about whether we believe this, or whether Christ is just the ‘cherry on the cake.’
  4. We refocus on the main point of the incarnation – not new information but salvation!
  5. The Old and New Testaments really belong together.  And they don’t belong together simply because both are revelations of “grace”.  I hope to post on this in the future but proclaiming “grace alone” without such grace being the natural outcome of “Christ alone” empties grace of its gospel character.
  6. What is Faith?  Key question. If we are to emulate father Abraham’s faith are we simply to emulate the fact that he was trusting?  Isn’t the Object of faith the decisive issue? We stand shoulder to shoulder with Abraham, Moses and Isaiah not because we are all believers per se but believers in the Christ.
  7. Jewish evangelism!  We do not tell the Jew that they’re basically right about their interpretation of the Scriptures but please allow us to add a meaning Moses had no idea about.  If they believed Moses they’d believe in Jesus for he wrote about Jesus.
  8. Other religions.  Let us block off entirely the claim that other religions can know God apart from Christ.  It’s not unusual in debates on that issue for people to claim “Of course it’s possible to know God apart from Christ – OT Israel was in just that position.”  No they weren’t!  There never has been a revelation of God apart from Christ.
  9. The Trinity really is the foundational truth about God.  It is not a nuance to be added to a simple doctrine of the one God as taught by Moses and the Prophets.  All revelation of God has always been trinitarian.
  10. Personal distinctions in the Trinity go all the way down. By this I mean that Christ’s difference to the Father is not simply a function of the incarnation.  Often times people see the differences between Jesus and His Father as only the result of Jesus having taken flesh.  And it is a very simple step from there to a Nestorianism that says the human nature of the Son is separate from the divine nature.  But no, prior to incarnation the Sent One from the LORD is a distinct Person who nonetheless has the Father’s Name dwelling in Him (Exodus 23:21).  It has always been ok for the Divine Servant to be distinct from the LORD, we don’t need to assign all differences we see in Jesus to His human nature.
  11. Here’s a crucial one from Dev: “Refocusing Scripture on Jesus rather than on self. Therefore living for Him and not using Him to get on with my own life.”  If the law is about you – what kind of Christian life will you lead?  If Psalm 15 is about you, how will you cope?  If David slaying Goliath is a type of your battles – what’s the moral?  But if the law describes Christ and His righteousness… If Psalm 15 is about Him… If David is Christ defeating the head of the house of the wicked and winning victory for the people of God… then we are put in our right place.  We confess “I am not the righteous one described in the law, but a sinner.”  “I am not the Blameless One, but I have taken refuge in Him.”  “I am not the victorious King, but He has won my victory for me.”  (I may have misconstrued Dev’s point horribly – sorry about that, but that’s where my rant has led me.)

There are others but 10 11 is a nice round number.  I’m sure others can add more.  What say you?

Next post…

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Download this sermon.  Close your eyes, raise your hands and worship the ascended King of Glory!

By the way if I die, I want all my blogroll entries to be replaced by Dev’s blog – it’s brilliant stuff.  Go check it out.

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Might be worth a little mini-post on Psalms.

It would be tempting to highlight “particularly Messianic” Psalms and say “There, see, Jesus is spoken of here and there in the psalter.”  But I’m not sure that’s right.  I once told a friend I was helping preach through an 8 week series called “Jesus in the Psalms”.  He said “Right, so you’ll get through Psalms 1-8, when are you going to do the other 142??”  I was chastened!  That’s absolutely right.  It’s not like Messianic Psalms form a sub-division of the psalter: like there’s imprecatory Psalms, Psalms of lament and messianic Psalms.  You’d never think of having the ‘God Psalms’ as a sub-category! Christ is not a sub-category of Christian revelation or experience.

And that’s the real danger with all of these posts I’ve been writing.  I’ve been quoting specific passages in the OT to show that messianically-focussed trinitarian faith is plainly taught there.  But I don’t want to give the impression that it’s only in those passages.  Rather those passages are meant to show us the dynamics that are inherent to the whole of the Scriptures.

Think of the doctine of sola fide (faith alone) for instance.  There are a number of passages that we can readily turn up to demonstrate its truth.  And a paper on sola fide will spend time going through those specific passages, but not so as to prove that sola fide holds in those cases alone.  We look to the specific passages to show that this pattern holds for all God’s dealings with man.  And it holds even for those parts of the Scripture which opponents may erroneously claim refutes it.  It’s like this with solus Christus (Christ alone).  We look at the specifics to demonstrate a divine dynamic which holds for all Scripture.

So as we think about Christ in the Psalms we’re not going to pick out messianic mentions here and there.  Instead we’re going to look at Psalms 1 and 2 and see how these model for us what to expect in the rest of the Psalter.

Psalms 1 and 2 are often called the gateway to the Psalms.  They belong together for many reasons not least the “blessed”s at the beginning and end.  Just as with the Sermon on the Mount, the “blessed”s tell us exactly who is in on what’s about to be discussed.  In the Sermon on the Mount, the “blessed”s tell us who’s in the kingdom which Jesus describes.  In the Psalter, Psalms 1 and 2 tell us who’s in on the worship of the living God.  And who is the blessed man??

Well He is an ‘ish – a representative man.  In fact He is the Man.  This is an audacious claim.  (I rarely even claim to be a man!)  Verse 2 says He is a night-and-day Bible-meditator, which makes Him a king (cf Deut 17:18-20; Josh 1:8).  Verse 3, He is also like a tree (think ‘Branch’ or ‘Root’ or ‘Vine’ – kings are described like this).  Not only this but He can make others become prosperous (causative hiphil stem).

This one Man, this definitive Man, is contrasted in v4 to the many wicked. The Psalm does not begin by comparing righteous people to wicked people but rather The Righteous Man is contrasted with the wicked masses.  Then (presumably through the Man/Tree-of-Life causing many others to prosper like Him) we hear about other righteous ones (v5-6).

When we turn to Psalm 2 we see the Man given more names.  The LORD’s King (v6) is here called “Anointed One” (Messiah, v2), and “Son” (v7).  Though He is raged against, He will be poured out on Zion (v6) and publicly vindicated by the Father (v7) before claiming universal rule. (v8-9)  All must love and take refuge in Him – both Judge and Saviour. (v10-12)

Here is the gateway to the Psalms.  We ought not to rush into the Psalter without stopping here and asking who is welcome in the Psalter.  And the answer is: “Blessed is the Man… and Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”  We must be rightly related to Christ to be welcome in the worship of the living God.  He, supremely, is the Scripture-meditating, righteous, flourishing, tree-of-life-like Worshipper.  But as Calvin comments on Psalm 22:22, He also is the heavenly choir-master who tunes our hearts to sing God’s praises.

Now what implications does this have for how we read the rest of the Psalter?  Well one big help we have received in this, the gateway, is that we’ve been introduced to the four main characters in the Psalms.  Here we have:

(1)   the LORD;

(2)   the Christ, the Blessed Man;

(3)   The Righteous who take refuge in Him; and

(4)   The Wicked who oppose Him.

All the Psalms are about the interaction of these four groups.  In some, like Psalm 1, the Blessed Man is shown before the LORD and then the righteous and the wicked are contrasted.  In some, like Psalm 2, the righteous complain to the LORD about the wicked and then He reminds them about the Blessed Man, Christ.  In some we have simply the words of Christ.  In others we have the words of the LORD to Christ.  In some we simply have the words of sinners like us taking refuge in Him.  But all of the Psalms are about the inter-relation of these four groups.  And they all work together to speak to us of Christ. Let’s be alert to that as we read the Psalms, they are related to Christ.

Here’s a sermon manuscript of mine on Psalms 1 and 2

And here’s Mike Reeves on Psalm 1 and on Psalm 15 and on Psalms in general– brilliant stuff!

Next post I’ll get down to the implications of all this…. (promises, promises…)

Next post…

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Ok lets look at a few more key OT passages.

Here’s a favourite of a friend of mine who uses it on Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Genesis 19:24

Then the LORD rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah from the LORD out of the heavens.

This even works in the New World Translation:

Then Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah from the heavens

Having turned it up in their Watchtower bibles my friend asks: “To which Jehovah are you witnessing, the one on earth or the one in the heavens??”  Brilliant.

Because as even the New World Translation admits, it is the LORD (Jehovah!) who appears to Abraham in Gen 18:1, who along with two angels (cf Gen 19:1) eats the food Abraham and Sarah prepares (18:8).  While Abraham intercedes with this LORD the two angels go onto Sodom (Gen 19).  In verses 1-23 we see the angels get Lot out of Sodom and then… The LORD rains down judgement from the LORD out of the heavens.  This raining down is in the hiphil stem – it is not a reflexive.  The LORD who ate with Abraham now judges Sodom with fire from the LORD from heaven.  To which LORD do we witness?  Here we are presented with two divine Persons working in concert.  The Father has entrusted all judgement to the Son!

Another one that works in JW bibles is Exodus 33.  Here we see in the same chapter two Persons called LORD.  First, parenthetically, Moses tells us what used to happen in the tent of meeting (Ex 33:7-11).

Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting”. Anyone enquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp… The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young assistant Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

The narrative has been following events on top of the mountain but here Moses deems it necessary to tell us about his previous face-to-face encounters with the LORD in the tent.  This is so that we get the full importance of his meeting with the LORD on the mountain. Because this Person says to Moses unequivocally:

“You cannot see My face, for no-one may see Me and live.” 21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near Me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”

Now Moses has gone out of his way to lay side by side these two incidents: Face to face fellowship with the LORD in the tent and then a meeting with the LORD on the mountain who says His face must never be seen.  I haven’t had the chance to do this yet, but the next JW that comes knocking will definitely be asked, “To which Jehovah are you witnessing?  The face-to-face Jehovah or the unseen Jehovah??”

Interestingly Moses had been asking the LORD on the mountain who would go with the Israelites.  He is told ‘My Presence (Face, paniym) will go with you.’ (v14, cf Deut 4:37; Ps 51:11; 139:7; Isaiah 63:9).  Moses considers this essential.  Unless the Presence of the LORD continues to deliver them he prefers to rot in the desert.  Later, when the unseen LORD declares His Name (Ex 34:6-7), Moses understands that the Name of the unseen LORD is in the promised Presence of the LORD (cf 23:21).  He realizes that in the Angel who has delivered them they already have the fulness of deity in their midst.  And so, satisfied, he says:

“O Lord, if I have found favour in Your eyes,” he said, “then let the Lord go with us.” (Ex 34:9)

The unseen Lord delivers them through the Lord in their midst who is His Presence and Angel in Whom dwells His name and nature.

When we get to Isaiah we see that his vision of the LORD’s future deliverance is patterned upon this trinitarian exodus:

7 I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which He is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us–yes, the many good things He has done for the house of Israel, according to His compassion and many kindnesses. 8 He said, “Surely they are My people, sons who will not be false to Me”; and so He became their Saviour. 9 In all their distress He too was distressed, and the Angel of His Presence saved them. In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. 10 Yet they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit. So He turned and became their enemy and He himself fought against them. 11 Then His people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and His people–where is He who brought them through the sea, with the Shepherd of His flock? Where is He who set his Holy Spirit among them, 12 who sent His glorious arm of power to be at Moses’ right hand, who divided the waters before them, to gain for Himself everlasting renown, 13 who led them through the depths? Like a horse in open country, they did not stumble; 14 like cattle that go down to the plain, they were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD. This is how You guided Your people to make for Yourself a glorious name.  (Isaiah 63:7-14)

Isaiah looks back upon this trinitarian salvation and claims that the future deliverance will be along the same lines.  See for instance Isaiah 48.  Verse 12 introduces us to One who says:

I am he; I am the first and I am the last

Read on and the I AM says this:

And now the Sovereign LORD (Adonai Yahweh) has sent Me, with His Spirit.

He is the great I AM sent from the Sovereign LORD with the Spirit.  In the power of the Spirit, the I AM accomplishes the Sovereign LORD’s salvation.  And of course Isaiah has just told us that the Sovereign LORD anoints One called ‘the Servant’ with His Spirit:

“Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My chosen one in Whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations.” (Is 42:1)

The Servant and the I AM seem to be the same Spirit anointed Person.  Other Isaiah passages pick up the essential empowerment of the Spirit in the work of the divine Servant.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD– 3 and He will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; 4 but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash round His waist. (Is 11:1-5)

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Is 61:1-3)

It is the work of the Sovereign LORD’s Servant in the power of the Spirit to bring about His cosmic redemption.

Ok, enough for now.  If you want to study some more why not just pick up the book of Zechariah.  All of it!  Check out the Angel.  See how He is described, how He relates to another called LORD, how He is called LORD and speaks as the LORD.  See how the LORD says He is sent from the LORD (eg 2:9,11) and… well, check it out yourself. It’s an absolute treasure trove.  And then just read the whole OT and see if you don’t spot trinity everywhere!  Once you put aside the expectation of a monadic doctrine of God you release the OT from a unitarian straight-jacket and allow it to speak as the Christian revelation it has always been.

Next post I’ll list some ‘so what’ implications and then I’ll give some juicy quotes from church history.

Next post…

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