Jesus Christ Is Lord!

Well, of course, he is, you might respond, particularly if you, like myself, believe the Bible’s account that Jesus is not just a man, but that he is the eternal Son of God who became man. He was born of the Virgin Mary. He is the God man.

Wasn’t he always Lord, you might ask? True. As the second person of the Godhead, infinite glory and power always belonged to him and always will. Yet, without in any way compromising or diminishing his eternal power and glory, Paul can talk about an additional Lordship that is given to him by the Father as Jesus completes his work of redemption.

In Philippians 2:5, Paul tells you to have the attitude of Christ. Then, in verses 6–8 he describes the humility, suffering, and death of Jesus, as he gave his life in the place of sinners. Paul is calling us to reflect that servant’s attitude.

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The Gift of Suffering and the Usefulness of the Cross

The gift of suffering! Isn’t that the gift that nobody wants? To be sure, the Word of God doesn’t teach us to pursue suffering. But it does describe the life of the Christian, the life of the ordinary Christian, not just that of a martyr or some kind of super-saint, as a life of suffering. In fact, as Paul tells you in Philippians 1:29, if you believe in Christ you suffer with him: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him….” (NIV)

In preparing to preach on that verse, I re-read a superb article, written over 40 years ago. A longish quote, followed by a brief comment:

“We tend to think only of persecution that follows on explicit witness to Christ, or perhaps also of intense physical suffering or economic hardships that may result from a stand taken for the gospel. … But the ‘sufferings of Christ’ are much broader. They are the Christian’s involvement in the ‘sufferings of the present time,’ as the time of comprehensive subjection of the entire creation to futility and frustration, to decay and pervasive, enervating weakness…. Where existence in creation under the curse on sin and in the mortal body is not simply borne, be it stoically or in whatever other sinfully self-centered, rebellious way, but borne for Christ and lived in his service, there, comprehensively, is ‘the fellowship of his sufferings.’”

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Gaffin on Calvin on Ezekiel

gaffinWhat is the relationship between faith and works in justification? Recently someone pointed me to this post: Faith Without Works is Dead — John Murray, which I forwarded to several people. Dr. Richard B Gaffin was reminded of something he had written some time ago. He forwarded it to me and gave me permission to post it here. If  you prefer a pdf copy, click on Calvin on Ez. 18, 17.

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Calvin on Ezekiel 18:14-17 Justification, Faith and Works

Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: [15] he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, [16] does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, [17] withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. (ESV)

A passage from Calvin’s commentary on Ezekiel 18:14-17 has the distinction of being among the last, perhaps the last, of his comments on the relationship among justification, faith and works (progressive sanctification*), having apparently been written shortly before his death in 1564. Also, it is perhaps as pointed as Continue reading

Advice from Ned B. Stonehouse

kingdom_and_churchOne kingdom? Two kingdoms? How are the kingdom and the church related? Such questions bounce around in books, exchanges of articles, and blog posts. I was recently reminded of a foundational, very helpful work: The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church, by Geerhardus Vos (P&R Publishing, reprinted 1972).

In a side discussion during a committee meeting a few weeks ago Richard B. Gaffin quoted the late Ned B. Stonehouse as telling his students, “Every minister of the gospel ought to read Vos’ The Kingdom and the Church once a year.” Although I have read the little book (about 100 pages) a couple of times, and have used it more frequently as the Scripture index has been helpful in finding sections dealing with preaching texts, I was motivated to take Stonehouse’s counsel. The advice was Continue reading