April 29, 2007 § Leave a comment
“God of Eternity, Lord of the Ages,
Father and Spirit and Saviour of men!
Thine is the glory of time’s numbered pages;
Thine is the power to revive us again.
Pardon our sinfulness, God of all pity,
Call to remembrance Thy mercies of old;
Strengthen Thy Church to abide as a city
Set on a hill for a light to Thy fold.
Head of the Church on earth, risen, ascended!
Thine is the honour that dwells in this place:
As Thou hast blessed us through years that have ended,
Still lift upon us the light of Thy face. Amen.”
Australian Presbyterian, Ernest Northcroft Merrington
April 28, 2007 § Leave a comment
“It is proper and right to praise, bless, glorify, thank, and worship Thee in all places of your dominion. For Thou art God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, ever-existing and always the same, Thou and Thy only-begotten Son, and Thy Holy Spirit. Thou hast brought us from non-being into being, and when we fell Thou raised us up again, and Thou didst not cease doing everything until Thou leadest us to heaven and grants us Thy kingdom to come. For all these things we thank Thee, and Thy only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit, for all things of which we know and of which we do not know, for benefits apparent and unseen that have been bestowed upon us.”
“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are filled with Thy glory. Praise the Lord in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Amen.
The Orthodox Liturgy
April 28, 2007 § Leave a comment
John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In this article I want to discuss some implication that must be necessarily inferred from these two related text of scripture. This is the first installment of what I hope will be a much more comprehensive treatment of Christ’s substitutionary penal sacrifice/satisfaction.
The first thing that should be noticed is that both of these texts appear in a passage of scripture dealing with the incarnation of God the Son. The Word became flesh (John 1:14). Jesus partook of the same nature of flesh and blood as those he came to save (Hebrews 2:14). This must certainly be the beginning point of our understanding of Christ’s work on behalf of fallen men. So, first and foremost we must acknowledge, as do the early Christian Creeds, the full and common humanity of Christ. So right here at the very beginning we have a Christ who is representative of and relating to all men, i.e. the whole human race. In this way, sin excepted, Christ shares that nature which is common to every individual member of the entire human race that has ever or ever will exist. By this I am simply stating the undeniable biblical and historic Christian doctrine of the incarnation and nature of the God-man.
Now, this being established, lets take another step in our examination of Christ’s penal substitutionary sacrifice/satisfaction. Why did the Son come to this world and take to himself the nature that is common to all men? The answer to this question is, all men are condemned by the law of God and therefore judged deserving of God’s wrath, being condemned in/by the disobedience of Adam (Romans 5:17-19). So therefore in order to save even one man Christ had to come in the likeness of sinful flesh to condemn sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3). Hebrews 2:14, teaches us this same truth, i.e. in order to save even one man given to Him, He had to partake of the same nature as that man, and to suffer the death that man deserved. Therefore, it must follow that is so far as Christ is a man, as Hebrews 2:9 states, He tasted death for everyone. Or we could state it like this, to substitute for even one man, Christ necessarily, objectively, substituted for every man. This necessarily follows from the fact that He shares that nature which is common to every man, and suffered the death that each and every man deserves. So when we read the declaration of John the Baptist, in John 1:29, we must take it at face value and and infer necessarily, that the penal substitution was indeed, inherently, in the place of the WORLD.
Now, let me pause for a second and remind you, dear reader, least you think I have “forgotten” my own “calvinism”, I am discussing the inherent/objective nature of the work of Christ’s penal substitutionary sacrifice/satisfaction. I am not, in this particular article, discussing the application of this penal satisfaction to particular individuals. So, let us now resume our examination of the inherent nature of the work of Christ.
I believe what I have stated thus far is undeniable in regards to the inherent nature of the God-man and his substitutionary work. Next, I want to do a couple of things. First I want to ask a few rhetorical questions in light of what I have already stated, and then draw what I believe is the necessary conclusion from the answers to these questions. Then second I want to illustrate the conclusion from what we know for certain about two men found in the scriptures.
First the questions:
Question 1. Was Jesus Christ fully human? Answer: Yes.
Question 2. Is every man that has ever existed and will ever exist fully human? Answer: Yes.
Question 3. Is every man judged by the law as sinful and therefore deserving of the wrath of God and death which is the penalty of the law? Answer: Yes.
Question 4. Did Christ suffer the wrath of God and die the death which is the penalty of the law? Answer: Yes.
Question 5. Did Christ suffer as a man, being partaker of the common human nature with all men? Answer: Yes.
Question 6. Did Christ by his life and sacrificial death (suffering the full wrath of God) fully satisfy the justice of God? Answer: Yes.
Conclusion: Therefore we have provided by Christ, the God-man, suffering as a representative of the human race, in the place of the whole human race, an inherently sufficient, substitutionary, full penal satisfaction.
Now, the obvious question that I am sure is right now in your mind, dear reader, is this, “If this conclusion is true, then why are not all men therefore saved?” Well, you will have to come back to read the next installments in which I will discuss th subject of this question and others. But, just to alleviate some of your fears, I am in no way advocating the salvation of all men. This penal satisfaction must certainly be applied by the Spirit before anyone can benefit thereof. The illustration that I now want to use to reinforce the necessary conclusion of the previous questions I posited will lay some of the ground work for understanding the application of the penal satisfaction wrought by Christ.
Let’s consider Peter and Judas. Here with Peter and Judas we have examples of two biblical categories: 1. The Elect = Peter, 2. The “reprobate” or non-elect = Judas. I hope that you will agree with me that we can, with biblical certainty, classify Peter and Judas thus. So, what I want to do now is compare Peter with Judas in relation to the inherent nature of Christ’s substitutionary work. First we know that both Peter and Judas are certainly members of the human race, therefore Christ as man partook of the same human nature that is common to both men. Second, both Peter and Judas are certainly descendants of Adam, therefore they both are condemned and made sinners in Adam and judged by the law of God as deserving of death because of their sins. Therefore, when Christ suffered the wrath of God and died, he certainly suffered that which both Peter and Judas deserved. So we must conclude that the inherent nature of Christ’s substitution must encompass, objectively, both Peter and Judas, and by extension, all the Elect and Non-elect together, or i.e. the whole human race. There is nothing lacking in the sufficiency of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ that is needed and therefore offerable/applicable to both Peter and Judas alike.
The undeniable reality, from the nature of the case, is that it is biblically and logically impossible to limit, inherently/objectively the substitutionary penal satisfaction of Christ, to Peter/the elect alone. The only place of limitation is in it’s application to Peter (and all the elect), by grace through faith. This being the work of the Holy Spirit, in drawing effectually all those given to Christ. But, as for Judas, though it was offered to and certainly sufficient for him, he because of the wickedness of his own heart and as fulfillment of God’s purposes, despised this very provision he needed and was lost eternally.
As I intimated early in this article my intension is to explore this subject in more depth, and in so doing, also cover the limited application of the benefit of Christ’s satisfaction as well. But for now let me leave you with a wonderful quote from John Calvin:
“We must now see in what way we become possessed of the blessings which God has bestowed on his only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us. Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him, all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him. And although it is true that we obtain this by faith, yet since we see that all do not indiscriminately embrace the offer of Christ which is made by the gospel, the very nature of the case teaches us to ascend higher, and inquire into the secret efficacy of the Spirit, to which it is owing that we enjoy Christ and all his blessings.” (Institutes Book 3, Chapter 1, Section 1)
Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West
April 26, 2007 § Leave a comment
I want to post last weeks Pastoral Letter, written to the congregation of Covenant Church. Rev. Gentry decided on the subject of the letter after being inspired by one of our little covenant children at Covenant Church. Her name is Brenda Noami West. Yes, she is my precious little daughter, who is seven years old. Brenda and her little sister, Trinity Grace (3yrs), will be receiving their covenant baptism this coming Sunday, as our family is received as members of Covenant Church. So, if you will indulge me, I, a very blessed and proud father, want to show my thankfulness to my Gracious Triune God, by posting the letter here on this blog. I hope you are blessed by this letter.
“Shall We Dance?”
Pastoral Letter By Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Gentry II
Grace to you and peace. beloved. May the Lord be with you in all His fullness.
Little Miss Brenda West is a blessing to me. I appreciate her honesty. Spend any time around her and you’ll know what I mean. She doesn’t hesitate to ask a question if she doesn’t know the why or what of something. She isn’t to proud to admit she doesn’t know, and she isn’t to proud to ask others for help. In martial arts class two weeks ago I directed the students to sit on the ground, jokingly telling them to sit on their “bombossity.” True to form, Brenda raised her hand to ask a question. When I called on her, she said, “Soke, what’s a bombossity?” I smiled and told her it was her bottom. I explained that I was asking her and the others to sit on their bottoms. She understood that. They all understood that, and down they went. In that instance and others, Brenda reminded me that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are trusting and simple. I didn’t say gullible and simplistic, but trusting and simple. As a child of the covenant, Brenda trusts and believes. Is her faith nuanced? No. Is her faith particularly articulate? No. It’s not supposed to be at that stage of her spiritual growth. Never doubt, however, she is growing spiritually. Brenda and all of our covenant children are growing and maturing and moving from glory to glory as their faith goes from paedofaith to adolescent faith to adult faith. The stages and expressions may be differant, but the common denominator is faith. As David said of God in Psalm 22:9-10, “You are he who took me out of the womb; You made me trust while on my mother’s breasts. I cast upon You from birth. From my mother’s womb You have been my God..” To be sure, this is a Messianic Psalm (i.e. a prayer of the Messiah) but it is also a prayer of David. He really did pray these things, describing his faith as an infant. What David describes here is normative of covenant children. They belong to God from the womb. In that sense, when we baptize them we are baptizing believers with a baby faith. The faith, however, is real and effectual. Brenda’s faith is real and effectual. The faith of all covenant children is real and effectual. Our commitment as parents is to see that such faith is nurtured in the cradle of the home and the Church as we raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The command to train up a child in the way that they should go is tied to a promise. What is that promise? Is it that when they are old they will finally be converted and come to Christ? Is it that after years of evangelistic work among our “covenant” children we will finally see the fruit of our labors and they will become Christians? No. The promise is that they will not depart from the ways of God when they are old. The assumption is that they are in the ways of God when they are young. This is a great blessing to us as heirs of the Covenant of Grace. The promise is to us and our children. This is the hope of the covenantal gospel. Brenda demonstrates that. All our covenant children demonstrate that. They don’t have problems with God being their God. They understand that when we tell them Jesus loves them and died to save them from their own wicked hearts that it is true. They should and do believe us when we tell them that their baptism is the sign of the promise from Jesus that they belong to Him. They are formed by the very faith we live. We don’t give them the faith, however. God gives them the faith, just as He gave us faith. We are used by God to nurture their faith, but the promise that salvation is by grace through faith alone is true for all those in covenant with God, literally from womb to tomb. That’s the blessed hope we know in Christ. That’s the blessing Brenda shares with all born into Christian homes. Brenda isn’t just invited, she has arrived by the grace of God. In just a few weeks we will see her baptized. We will see her receive the sign and seal of the covenant that she enjoys along with the rest of her family. As it were, Brenda will visibly and officially take her place in the life of the Church where she will grow to maturity as a child of God. You may have noticed that she was play dancing with the Pastor; smiling and trusting all the while. She belongs on the dance floor, and the music is hers and ours together. Welcome to the dance.
Wow! I was brushing away tears, as I was retyping this letter here on the blog, thinking of the awesome grace of God to give us such precious gifts. May I, the father of Brenda, Zach and Trinity, along with my beautiful wife Esther, be faithful to nurture my children’s faith, believing to promises of God in Christ, our covenant Lord.
Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West
April 24, 2007 § Leave a comment
Mat 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
In the first 4 “beatitudes”, Jesus describes what is lacking in the heart of the sinner, the truth about himself, that the sinner see so clearly, when he has been effectually brought to Christ and his kingdom. Christ is, therefore, teaching us what we have need of, by showing us our want of anything in ourselves that is good or holy. Thus teaching us to look to him, for that which we are in desperate need. Now here in this text, as Jesus continues teaching, we begin to see the outworking of the spiritual life, of the kingdom of heaven, in the hearts and lives of it’s citizens, i.e. the law of the kingdom being written upon the heart.
Jesus, by beginning with mercy, teaches us that is attitude of the heart found in the citizens of the kingdom, is appropriately, the first to be stimulated by the work of the Spirit, and must certainly flow out of all that has been experienced and made known in the first 4 “beatitudes”. For we, who have seen our poverty, our sin and corruption, our lowly place before God and his law, and thus been given a deep hunger and thirst for righteousness, should surely show to others, that are in the same state as we, the same kind of mercy that is so graciously ours, by the Spirit because of the work of Christ for us, his covenant people.
The scripture in many places, (Matt. 18:23-35; Matt. 6:15; James 2:13; Col. 3:13) admonishes us to be merciful and forgiving because of the great mercy and forgiveness we have received for the sake of Christ.
Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
We are truly, as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, people who “stand[s] in a middle point, between a mercy received and a mercy yet needed.”(Richard C. Trench)
Father, I pray that by your, Holy Spirit, we may ever be merciful and forgiving, so that in this way, we my be truly your children, and thus show forth the life of the kingdom that we have so graciously been made citizens of, in Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West
April 21, 2007 § Leave a comment
Mat 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
And so the first three “beatitudes”, of verses 3-5, brings us to this text. Here we see that the glorious and inevitable result, of experiencing one’s utter destitution (i.e. poverty of spirit), and mourning over one’s exceeding sinfulness, which causes the soul of such a man to see himself as truly lowly and humbled before his Holy God, thus recognizing his utter dependence upon Christ for his salvation and life, is to then hunger and thirst for the righteousness that is revealed in the law of the kingdom. Such a one as this can only be satisfied by the “bread from heaven” (John 6:33&35).
Our satisfaction comes first in the glorious truth of the imputed righteousness we have, upon being united to Christ by faith. Knowing that, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, our sin has been placed upon Christ and that he has accomplished a complete satisfaction of the justice of God by his substitutionary suffering of the wrath of God, i.e. the death which we, as fallen sinners, so deserve.
But, our hunger and thirst goes beyond this, for we also passionately desire that our lives also reflect the glory of our Lord, as the law of the kingdom is written upon our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit, and so we hunger and thirst to be conformed to his very image, having our hope in the promise that he will be faithful to make us like himself.
We who know our poverty, who mourn over sin, who are humbled before God, can no longer find any satisfaction in ourselves nor the world, but have become as the Apostle Paul, counting all things as loss in light of the worth of Christ, we despair of our own righteousness that comes by our own efforts at obeying the law, but will be satisfied only with the righteousness of God that comes by faith in Christ (Phil. 3:8&9). The kingdom of heaven becomes to us, as citizens thereof, a treasure and a pearl of such worth that we with joy sell all that we have to possess the life found therein (Matt. 13:44-46).
Just as with the previous “beatitudes”, so this one also, is a repetition of that which is found in the old covenant, the promise of which is so gloriously fulfilled in the new covenant. Here again, the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary is quite instructive on this verse.
“But, in so comprehensive a saying as this, it is clearly to be taken – as in Mat_5:10 also – in a much wider sense, as denoting that spiritual and entire conformity to the law of God, under the want of which the saints groan, and the possession of which constitutes the only true saintship. The Old Testament dwells much on this righteousness, as that which alone God regards with approbation (Psa_11:7; Psa_23:3; Psa_106:3; Pro_12:28; Pro_16:31; Isa_64:5, etc.). As hunger and thirst are the keenest of our appetites, our Lord, by employing this figure here, plainly means “those whose deepest cravings are after spiritual blessings.” And in the Old Testament we find this craving variously expressed: “Hearken unto Me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord” (Isa_51:1); “I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord,” exclaimed dying Jacob (Gen_49:18); “My soul,” says the sweet Psalmist, “breaketh for the longing that it hath unto Thy judgments at all times” (Psa_119:20): and in similar breathings does he give vent to his deepest longings in that and other Psalms. Well, our Lord just takes up here – this blessed frame of mind, representing it as – the surest pledge of the coveted supplies, as it is the best preparative, and indeed itself the beginning of them. “They shall be saturated,” He says; they shall not only have what they so highly value and long to possess, but they shall have their fill of it.”
Our deepest hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God is indeed satisfied in our new covenant communion with Christ, in our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. For we have come not the the mountain that cannot be touched for fear, but we have come to sit down, with Christ and be taught of him the life of the kingdom of heaven, on Mount Zion!
So let us pray with David, this prayer of Psalm 17:13-15.
Arise, O LORD! Confront him, subdue him! Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O LORD, from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants. As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. Amen.
Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West
April 20, 2007 § Leave a comment
Mat 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Here in this verse, once again, Jesus is continuing to describe that disposition of heart and attitude that characterizes those that are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. And, again, he does so by stating another paradox of meekness possessing the earth, or having all the rights of inheritance of the earth.
To reiterate what was stated in my treatment of verses 1 & 2, here we have the “Sinai” of the new covenant, Mount Zion. Jesus is teaching the kingdom of heaven, the fulfillment of that which is promised, the substance of that which is typed and shadowed in the old covenant. So, in this text we certainly have a repetition of the promise of Psalm 37:11,
“But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”
The land of Canaan, was a type and foreshadowing of the inheritance found in the new covenant, the kingdom of heaven being the fulfillment of that promise. As citizens of the kingdom of heaven, (i.e. being brought in to union with Christ by the Spirit, and therefore adopted in to the family of God, being children and heirs of God [Romans 8:15-17]), the meek have rights to all that is under the Lordship of Christ, for he is “the heir of all things”(Hebrews 1:2). Paul teaches us in, Romans 4:13, that the promise given to Abraham and to his offspring (i.e. the “land” promise), that he would be the heir of the world. Therefore, the meek, who have been made citizens of the kingdom of heaven, having come to sit with Abraham, Issac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11), have that promise of inheritance of the “land”, i.e. the world.
How glorious a promise it is that the earth/world is graciously given to the meek to inherit. To the lowly, to those humbled by seeing themselves in light of the glory and holiness of God. To the meek, who have seen their utter destitution, that indeed truly mourn over their own sin and the sin and wickedness in the world around them.
The following portion of the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary I found very helpful. I don’t think I could say the following any better, so I want to quote it here for your benefit as well. In this quote we have a biblical description of the meek, along with the scriptural admonitions of cultivating a meek and humble attitude as exampled by our Lord.
“It is impossible, indeed, that “the poor in spirit” and “the mourners” in Zion should not at the same time be “meek”; that is to say, persons of a lowly and gentle carriage. How fitting, at least, it is that they should be so, may be seen by the following touching appeal: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men: For We Ourselves Were Once Foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures … But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared: … according to His mercy He saved us,” etc. (Tit_3:1-7). But He who had no such affecting reasons for manifesting this beautiful carriage, said, nevertheless, of Himself, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Mat_11:29); and the apostle besought one of the churches by “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2Co_10:1). In what esteem this is held by Him who seeth not as man seeth, we may learn from 1Pe_3:4, where the true adorning is said to be that of “a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price.” Towards men this disposition is the opposite of high-mindedness, and a quarrelsome and revengeful spirit; it “rather takes wrong, and suffers itself to be defrauded” (1Co_6:7); it “avenges not itself, but rather gives place unto wrath” (Rom_12:19); like the meek One, “when reviled, it reviles not again; when it suffers, it threatens not: but commits itself to Him that judgeth righteously” (1Pe_2:19-22). “The earth” which the meek are to inherit might be rendered “the land” – bringing out the more immediate reference to Canaan as the promised land, the secure possession of which was to the Old Testament saints the evidence and manifestation of God’s favor resting on them, and the ideal of all true and abiding blessedness. Even in the Psalm from which these words are taken the promise to the meek is not held forth as an arbitrary reward, but as having a kind of natural fulfillment. When they delight themselves in the Lord, He gives them the desires of their heart: when they commit their way to Him, He brings it to pass; bringing forth their righteousness as the light, and their judgment as the noonday: the little that they have, even when despoiled of their rights, is better than the riches of many wicked (Psa_37:1-24). All things, in short, are theirs – in the possession of that favor which is life, and of those rights which belong to them as the children of God – whether the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are theirs (1Co_3:21, 1Co_3:22); and at length, overcoming, they “inherit all things” (Rev_21:7). Thus are the meek the only rightful occupants of a foot of ground or a crust of bread here, and heirs of all coming things.”
These dispositions and attitudes of the heart, set forth in these first 3 verses of the “Beatitudes”, as descriptions of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven, are glorious and gracious works of the Spirit in the hearts of all those who are in Christ, in those who have the privilege of new covenant communion with Christ in coming to Mount Zion, the city of God. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe…”(Hebrews 12:28).
Holy Spirit, produce in us these most precious fruits, apply to us all that is promised and found in Christ. Enable us to go forth, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we who have been given the “land” as our inheritance, and declare to this world the gospel of the kingdom and thereby show forth the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord who rules over all things. Amen.
Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West