Salvation: A Work of the Trinity

“God the Father gave his Son to save rebellious, God-hating people, knowing that he would be despised and rejected by those he had made, that he would be a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. He spared sinful people from condemnation, death and punishment, but he did not spare his own beloved Son, with whom he was well pleased.

God the Son gave himself, willingly undertaking the task appointed for him by his Father. He veiled his glory in a human body, experienced every temptation we face without succumbing to any, and lived a perfect human life. Yet he took out sin and guilt upon himself and died a cursed death, suffering in his human nature the infinite torment of the wrath and fury of his Father. After three days he was vindicated in his resurrection before being exalted to his heavenly throne. From there he rules his kingdom, awaiting the day of his glorious appearing when every eye shall see him, every knee bow before him, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God the Holy Spirit, having been sent by the Father and the Son, now works in our hearts through the proclamation of the gospel to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment, to draw us to Christ in repentance and faith, and so to unite us to Christ that we may share in every blessing he has won for us.

God the Holy Trinity thus turned aside his own righteous wrath against sinful humanity; endured and exhausted the curse of the law that stood against us; cleansed us of our sin and clothed us in Christ’s righteousness; ransomed us from our slavery to sin, the world and the devil by paying our debt, canceling the devil’s power of accusation against us, and liberating us to live new lives empowered by the Spirit; triumphed over all evil powers by punishing evil in the person of the Son; and reconciled us with himself by removing the barrier of sin and enmity between us; in order that we may stand blameless and forgiven in his glorious presence, credited with the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, as adopted Children of God, gazing upon his face for all eternity.

God vindicated his truthfulness by remaining faithful to his promise that sin will be punished; he manifested his justice by punishing sin and acquitting the righteous; he glorified his name by exalting his Son and placing all things under his feet; and he demonstrated his love by dying for sinners and reconciling to himself those who were once his enemies.”

-Jeffery, Steve, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach. Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007, 104.

True Faith Requires Compassion

“We ought to feel compassion when we think of the wretched state of unconverted souls, and the misery of all men and women who live and die without Christ. No poverty like this poverty! No disease like this disease! No slavery like this slavery! No death like this: death in idolatry, false religion, and sin!

Ask ourselves this: Where is the mind of Christ, if we do not feel for the lost? I lay it down boldly, as a great principle, that the Christianity which does not make a person feel for the state of unconverted people is not the Christianity which came down from heaven hundreds of years ago, and is embalmed in the New Testament. It is a mere empty name.”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Athens; http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/03/05/possessing-compassion-for-the-unconverted/ Read the full tract here: http://www.reformedsermonarchives.com/ryle39.htm

And Can It Be?

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself (because of) love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

-Charles Wesley, 1738

The Lord is our Salvation

The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.

The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.
The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.
I will not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the LORD.
The LORD has disciplined me severely,
But He has not given me over to death.

Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD;
The righteous will enter through it.
I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me,
And You have become my salvation.

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
This is the LORD’S doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day which the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O LORD, do save, we beseech You;
O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD;
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and He has given us light;
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I give thanks to You;
You are my God, I extol You.
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

-Psalm 118:14-29

Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God

John Piper gives a hard, but scriptural response to the devastating tornadoes which afflicted our nation. We grieve suffering because we see the pain it brings. But suffering is a result of the Fall and our sin, and thus we cannot blame God. His divine purposes are perfect and aren’t we thankful that He sent His Son to rescue us from the consequences of the Curse!

Posted at Desiring God:  http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/fierce-tornadoes-and-the-fingers-of-god

“Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?

If God has a quarrel with America, wouldn’t Washington,D.C., or Las Vegas, or Minneapolis, or Hollywood be a more likely place to show his displeasure?

We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil.

God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.

•“The wind of the Lord, shall come, rising from the wilderness, and it shall strip Ephraim’s treasury of every precious thing” (Hosea 13:15).

• “The Lord turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea” (Exodus 10:19).

• “God appointed a scorching east wind” (Jonah 4:8).

• “God commanded and raised the stormy wind” (Psalm 107:25).

• “Even winds and sea obey Jesus” (Matthew 8:27).

But why Marysville and not Minneapolis? Why Henryville and not Hollywood?

God has spoken about these things. Consider three ways he addresses — all of us.

1. Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job’s ten children died because “a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people” (Job 1:19).

Job cries out to God, “Why have you made me your mark? . . . Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? . . . Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?” (Job 7:2013:2421:7).

In other words, Why Henryville, and notHollywood?

God’s answer to Job is not that he was a worse sinner than the “wicked” — or that Maryville had some dark secret.

His answer was, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” (Romans 11:33–34Job 15:836:22f).

Job’s loss was not a measure of his immorality. “Job was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1).

In fact, perhaps God chose Job for that deadly wind because only the likes of Job would respond: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

2. Luke 13:4–5, “Unless you repent.”

A Tower fell and killed 18 people in Jesus’ day. Jesus spoke into that situation: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5).

This is a word to those of us who sit safely in Minneapolis or Hollywood and survey the desolation of Marysville and Henryville. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Every deadly wind in any town is a divine warning to every town.

3. 1 Peter 4:17, “God’s own people are not excluded.”

We are not God’s counselors. Nor can we fathom all his judgments. That was the lesson of Job. Let us beware, therefore, of reading the hand of providence with too much certainty or specificity. God is always doing a thousand things when he does anything. And we see but a fraction.

But stir into your mental framework this truth: When a time for judgment comes, it usually includes, and begins with, God’s own people. That’s what the apostle Peter says.

“It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17Jeremiah 25:29Ezekiel 9:6Amos 3:2).

Therefore, God’s will for Americaunder his mighty hand, is that every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every person of every religion or non-religion, turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus rules the wind. The tornadoes were his.

But before Jesus took any life in rural America, he gave his own on the rugged cross. Come to me, he says, to America— to the devastated and to the smugly self-sufficient. Come to me, and I will give you hope and help now, and in the resurrection, more than you have ever lost.

You can show your partnership in suffering, and help lift the load, at Samaritan’s Purse.”

-John Piper, 03-05-2012

Jesus’ Plea

The Lord Jesus does not bid the laboring and heavy-laden “go and work.” Those words would carry no comfort to heavy consciences – it would be like requiring labor from an exhausted man. No! He bids them “Come!” He does not say, “Pay Me what you owe.” That demand would drive a broken heart into despair – it would be like claiming a debt from a ruined bankrupt. No! He says, “Come!” He does not say, “Stand still and wait.” That command would only be a mockery – it would be like promising to give medicine at the end of a week to one at the point of death.” No – He says, “Come!” Today; at once; without any delay, “Come unto Me!”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Come,  http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/02/02/the-plea-of-jesus-come-unto-me/

What Must I Believe to Be Saved?

What must I believe to be saved? Which truths are necessary for conversion? Here’s what Jonathan Edwards taught:

“It is essential to Christianity

that we repent of our sins,

that we be convinced of our own sinfulness,

that we are sensible we have justly exposed ourselves to God’s wrath,

that our hearts do renounce all sin,

that we do with our whole hearts embrace Christ as our only Saviour;

that we love him above all, and

are willing for his sake to forsake all, and

that we do give up ourselves to be entirely and forever his.”

Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, 334;  http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/what-is-essential-to-being-a-christian

Reason to Believe Quotes

“The Old Testament, in spite of its manifestations of the wrath of God, remains a history of God’s grace and long-suffering with a rebellious people. There is wrath unparalleled in the New Testament and grace overwhelming in the Old Testament. A false dichotomy between the Testaments is foreign to the biblical writers themselves.”

“If man has in fact committed cosmic treason against God, what reason could we possibly have that God should provide any way of redemption? In light of the universal rebellion against God, the issue is not why is there only one way, butwhy is there any way at all? I know of no way of answering that question.”

“The innocent native who never hears of Christ is in excellent shape, and we need not be anxious about his redemption. The innocent person doesn’t need to hear of Christ. He has no need of redemption. God never punishes innocent people. The innocent person needs no Savior; he can save himself by his innocence.”

“For a Christian to be a Christian, he must first be a sinner. Being a sinner is a prerequisite for being a church member. The Christian church is one of the few organizations in the world that requires a public acknowledgement of sin as a condition for membership.”

“The suffering of the Christian or anyone else in this world is never ultimately an accident. All suffering is within the pale of divine sovereignty. All suffering comes within the broader context of the sovereignty of God.”

-R. C. Sproul, Reason to Believe, Complements of: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/great-quotes-reason-believe/

David a model of restoration?

Does David’s life teach us that God can restore an adulterer to ministry? After all, David was a murderer and an adulterer, as well as a liar and poor father. Polygamy aside, his family life was a catastrophic train crash matched only by the debacle in 2 Samuel 11.

Yet God did not remove him from the throne, and allowed his reign to directly last 40 years, and indirectly forever. Why? What is the lesson there?

The wrong lesson is this: God does not take sin seriously. I have heard people who commit immorality point at David and say, “See! God let him be king, so he can return me to ministry despite my unbiblical divorce and/or adultery.”

Let me be clear about two things. First, God does use sinners (those are the only kind of people there are!). At the same time, there are some sins that in the church disqualify someone from being an elder or church leader. Second, it is possible for people who have committed certain disqualifying sins to eventually be restored to pastoral ministry after an extended time away. An excellent book on that topic is The Stain that Stays, as it provides principles to apply in  those situations. This post does not want to go down the road of looking at those principles.

But I have heard Christian leaders who have committed disqualifying sexual sins point to David as justification for thier refusal to take time away from ministry. The goal of this post is to explain why David’s life does not function as an example of God blessing the ministry of a disqualified leader.

If you are familiar with David’s life, you know that after his affair with Bathsheba his reign was marked by one tragedy after another. Four of his sons died, all as a direct result of his sin with Uriah’s wife. Because David abdicated his war-time leadership to Joab, he effectively lost control of his army and his kingdom. One of his sons raped his wives on top of a platform built specifically for the purpose of showing off their violation.

David and Uriah

Because of his sin with Uriah’s wife, Absalom revolted, and David was exiled from Jerusalem. As he was fleeing his capital city, he was showered with rocks and insults. And in a sign of how far David had fallen, he could not even tell his soldiers to shield him from the attacks. Instead, perhaps thinking of Uriah’s murder, David surmised that the attacks may have been because “Yahweh has said to him, ‘Curse David” (2 Samuel 16:10). David’s life had become so broken and desperate that attacks and coups may very well signs of the Lord’s displeasure with his sin.

David is simply the wrong person to look at for comfort that saints can sin and still be used by God. Even after Joab put an end the insurrection and summarily executed the pretend king (followed by a rebuke to David for not getting the basics of being king), David’s kingdom did not end well. Years of drought, followed by the public execution of Saul’s grand-sons and a humiliating vigil by a mourning mother, David sinned again by conducting an unauthorized census. That sin directly led to the deaths of 70,000 Israelites.

David’s reign is a trail of tears, in large part brought on by his own sin. In reality, most of our OT heroes are closer to David than to Enoch. Noah was a drunkard, Abraham and adulterer, and Moses was a murderer. You have to admit that the portion of Scripture which describes the days before the Spirit of God indwelt believers does not generally contain happy stories.

Nevertheless, David was a man after God’s own heart. While Saul had the kingdom ripped from him, David’s son inherited the throne. Why? Does that say something about God not hating David’s sin?

There are two answers to that question. First, way before Uriah was murdered; God had promised David that his kingdom would endure forever. This was an unconditional covenant, and not dependent upon anything David would or would not do. It would survive even Manasseh. So David’s endurance speaks to the promise of the Messiah, not to God’s restoration of adulterers.

The second reason David is a man after God’s own heart is because he repented of his sin. When confronted by Nathan, David broke. He gave up pretense and pompousness. He did not dwell on the laziness or lusting, nor did he mention the murder or the molesting. Instead, he simply said “I have sinned against Yahweh” (2 Samuel 12:13). He repented, and threw himself at the feet of Yahweh by submitting himself to the word of God’s prophet.

The consequences of David’s sin remain—four of his sons died, his wives were raped, and his crown was stolen from him, all because of this sin. But the eternal consequence was removed (the exact phrase Nathan used was “Yahweh has put away your sin, you shall not die”). Is this because God thinks little of adultery?

The opposite is actually true. David’s sin is removed because David’s son was killed for it. Not Ammon, not Absalom, not Adonijah, and not the newborn. Because Uriah was killed and his wife was taken, Jesus was crucified. His death becomes a demonstration that God hates sin, and it simultaneously opens up a way for sinners to have forgiveness.

David’s life shows the catastrophic and irreversible consequences of some sin. It shows the hatred God has for that sin. But it also shows the power of God’s promise to bring about a king better than David, and it shows the freedom and power of forgiveness that comes through repentance, based on faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

David stayed king not because of God’s pattern of restoring sinners to ministry, but rather because of the strength of God’s Messianic promises, as well as the sufficiency of the Messiah’s death.

-Jesse Johnson, http://thecripplegate.com/adultery-restoration-to-ministry-and-david/

Do All Those Who Die in the Womb Go to Heaven?

I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say.  It is certainly possible that they do. It is also possible that they don’t. It is, in turn, possible that some go to heaven when they die and some do not. Christians have, over the years dealt with this heart-wrenching question a number of different ways.

Some suggest that such children have no need to be saved from the wrath of God because they do not stand guilty before Him. While most of these would agree that even the youngest are tainted by sin (see Psalm 51:5), a few go so far as to suggest that the very young are without sin. Both positions suggest that the Bible leaves room for what they call the “age of accountability,” an unknown time (some suggest age 13 on the basis of the practice of bar mitzvah, when a Jewish boy becomes a man) when children do become responsible before God for their sin. The closest supportive text here is II Samuel 12:21-23.

Some suggest that the children of believers are welcomed to heaven, and leave open the question of the end of the children of unbelievers. The best text in defense of this position is I Corinthians 7:14, where the children of at least one believing parent are said to be “holy.”

Still others take the position that the elect among those dying in the womb go to heaven, and leave open the question of whether or not all or only some such children are elect. Finally, some take a mildly agnostic position, suggesting that “the God of heaven and earth will do rightly.”

I, though I agree that all and only the elect will enter into heaven, and that the judge of all the earth will do rightly, embrace none of these positions. In the end I believe that the texts cited do not warrant the conclusions drawn from them. Thus my bold response- I don’t know. What I am persuaded of is this. All humans, from conception, are sinners and stand guilty before a holy God. Their only hope is the work of Christ applied to them. That work is applied always and only through faith, and that only the faith of the one saved.  Babies in heaven are there not by virtue of their age, nor their election, nor their parents. They are there by virtue of Christ, applied to them by their Spirit-given faith.

But can unborn babies believe? Not by themselves, just like you and me. It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to make that happen.  Do we have reason to believe that He sometimes makes that happen? II Samuel 12:21-23 suggests He might. I Corinthians 7:14 suggests He might. Add to that John leaping in the womb at the presence of Christ (Luke 1:41) and we have reason to hope.

This could, of course, include all children dying in the womb. It could include none of them. Either way the Judge of all the earth would have done rightly. This is, clearly enough, an emotional issue. It is not, in my own life, merely abstract. My wife and I lost seven children to miscarriage, and have one precious 14 year old with the capacities of a one year old.  Our emotions, however, should not lead us to add to the Bible, nor to muddy the precious saving waters of the work of Christ given to us by faith. Our hope for them is the same as our hope for anyone. We are all sinners, and all without hope save for the work of Christ. But praise be to His name, He came into this world to save sinners.

-R.C. Sproul Jr., http://www.ligonier.org/blog/do-all-those-who-die-womb-go-heaven/