SALE: Carson/Gaffin/Piper

There is a great deal going on now at Westminster Bookstore… three books for $20! Get D.A. Carson’s “Collected Writings on Scripture,” and the respective festschrifts of Richard Gaffin and John Piper, “Resurrection and Eschatology” and “For the Fame of God’s Name”—all for just $20! Click the links above or image below for more info.

Of course, you could buy them individually for up to 72% off, but why not save around 80% by buying all three?

Notable & Newsworthy

Here are the links and stories for the day…

Get Ron Gleason’s “Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman and Theologian” for 50% OFF at Westminster Bookstore

Get Geerhardus Vos’ “Redemptive History and Biblical Theology: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos” and “Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments” for 43% OFF at Westminster Bookstore

Get William Edgar’s “A Transforming Vision: The Lord’s Prayer as a Lens for Life” for up to 67% OFF at Westminster Bookstore

Download R.C. Sproul’s “5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow” for FREE from Reformation Trust and Ligonier Ministries

Enter to win The Complete Sermon Collection of Charles Spurgeon (63-Volumes) for Logos Bible Software from Adrian Warnock

Enter to win an iPad Mini and a couple of books from 20 Schemes

Get Jeremy Walker’s “Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ” for only 99¢ for Amazon Kindle

Get Mark Dever’s “The Church: The Gospel Made Visible” for only $2.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get James Boice and Philip Ryken’s “14 Words from Jesus” for only $2.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get Walter Brueggemann’s “Spirituality of the Psalms” for FREE for Logos Bible Software and enter to win the 24-volume collection

Enter to win a subscription to Leadership Journal from The Brave Reviews

5 reflections on church revitalization

Get Christian Focus Publications 5-volume John Owen series for 50% OFF from Grace Books International

Download the Daniel and Romans commentaries from the Moody Bible Commentary for FREE

“I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of ages.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“A man who loves you the most is the man who tells you the most truth about yourself.” (Robert Murray M’Cheyne)

Thank you for visiting ACTIVE/didactic. Please take some time to browse the rest of the site (pages are located in the tabs above). Start with the Pastoral Theology page or Systematic Theology page first. Soli Deo Gloria!

The Nature and Extent of the Atonement

The following is an adaptation of a presentation I gave at the latest Northwest Ohio Reformation Society meeting. Our topic was “Redemption Accomplished and Applied,” borrowing from John Murray’s classic text on the gospel. I was tasked with covering the application of redemption and decided to focus on the nature and extent of the atonement.

What is Redemption?

According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, the concept of redemption “includes the ideas of loosing from a bond, setting free from captivity or slavery, buying back something lost or sold, exchanging something in one’s possession for something possessed by another, and ransoming.” In the Old Testament, there are three main ideas involving redemption: substitution, deliverance, and atonement. These themes are gradually unfolded throughout the Old Testament, and in the inter-testemental period (roughly 400 years between the time of Malachi and the birth of Jesus) they were generally understood to have an eschatological or end times’ fulfillment in the Messiah. They drew parallels from the bondage of Israel and Babylonian captivity and their own temporal circumstances or physical reality. While many people alive during Jesus’ earthly ministry saw the Messiah as a victorious military leader who would conquer Rome, deliver Israel from oppression, and set up a material Kingdom, we see from the New Testament documents that Jesus Messiah had other plans—His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). God’s plan for substitution, deliverance, and atonement involved the sinless Christ who would deliver His people from their sin as a vicarious propitiatory sacrifice. He would provide pardon and reconciliation by satisfying the wrath of God with His precious blood.

Redemption Accomplished

In the first section of his book, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied”, John Murray writes about four aspects of redemption, or the atonement of Jesus Christ; namely, its necessity, nature, perfection, and extent. I’d like to focus on the nature and extent of the atonement in this post.

The Nature of the Atonement
The redemptive work of Jesus Christ is a labor of obedience. According to John 5:30, Jesus says “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Likewise, in John 6:38, He says “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” So, Jesus will was perfectly in tune with the Father’s. He lived a life of perfect obedience to God the Father. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 5:19: “through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” He incorporates federal headship to explain the nature of the atonement. In other words, Adam our representative, committed cosmic treason and we have been alienated from God… but if we are united in Christ, if He is our representative—our federal head, we have been reconciled with the Father through the obedience of Christ. Theologians typically identify two types of obedience: Active and Passive.

Active Obedience
When we speak of “active obedience,” we are essentially talking about the life of Christ. While the active and passive obedience of Jesus should not be so starkly contrasted and categorized to indicate no overlap or continuity, for our purposes today, we will approach this aspect of obedience as his perfection with regard to the Law. Murray explains, “Christ as the Vicar [or representative] of His people came under the curse and condemnation due to sin and He also fulfilled the law of God in all its positive requirements. In other words, He took care of the guilt of sin and perfectly fulfilled the demands of righteousness. He perfectly met both the penal [or judicial] and the preceptive [or legal] requirements of God’s law.” (pp. 21–22) Paul says that “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4–5) Calvin comments: “from the time when he took on the form of a servant, he began to pay the price of liberation in order to redeem us.” (Institutes, 2.16.5)

Passive Obedience
When we say “passive,” it does not mean that Jesus was somehow absent from His exertion of obedience. Generally speaking, the passive obedience of Christ refers to His humbling Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death… on a cross (Phil. 2:8). According to Murray, this “obedience was vicarious [substitutionary] in the bearing of the full judgment of God upon sin, and it was vicarious in the full discharge of the demands of righteousness. His obedience becomes the ground of the remission of sin and of actual justification… It was that obedience, brought to its consummate fruition on the cross, that constituted Him an all-sufficient and perfect Savior.” (pp. 22, 23) The classic Old Testament Messianic prophecy of the Suffering Servant helps us here:

“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” (Isaiah 53:3–6)

We see here the language of substitutionary sacrifice… “He bore our griefs,” “He carried our sorrows,” “He was pierced through for our transfgressions,” “He was crushed for our iniquities,” “The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,” “we are healed by His scourgings,” “the Lord has cause the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Over and over, we read of the Messiah’s vicarious atonement.

Moving on, I’d like for us to take a look at a few of the concepts related to the atonement. Namely, Sacrifice, Propitiation, and Reconciliation.

Sacrifice
The sacrificial theme is at the heart of the Scriptures. We see in Genesis 22 when Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac, the Lord provided a substitutionary sacrifice via the ram in the thicket (v. 13). In Exodus 12, the Passover Lamb was an unblemished sacrifice that was slaughtered and the blood was a sign for the Lord’s wrath to “pass over” the households of the faithful. The Levitical system also has substitutionary and sacrificial relevance. Michael Lawrence points out the following details in his book “Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church” (pp. 156–157):

  • Only clean animals without defect can be sacrificed.
  • Every firstborn Israelite, who represents the nation as a whole, must be redeemed with a sacrificial substitute.
  • Prominent is the taking of life and the shedding of a blameless victim’s blood.
  • The idea of a substitute is also prominent… if anyone brings a sacrifice, “He is to lay His hand on the head of the burnt offering and it will be accepted on his behalf.” (Lev. 1:4)
  • Sacrifices now begin and end every single day in God’s temple, presented by priests who serve as intermediaries between God and His sinful people.
  • There are additional sacrifices that mark the beginning of each week, each month, and each season.
  • At the pinnacle of this entire system of sacrifice was the Day of Atonement. The high priest alone took the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat, the symbolic throne of God, to make atonement for His own sins and the sins of the people.

In the New Testament, it is plain to see that Jesus is the culmination and fulfillment of this sacrificial element of true religion. John the Baptizer calls him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Apostle Paul likewise says that “Christ our Passover… has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor. 5:7). The author of Hebrews also says that He offered Himself up as a sacrifice once for all (Heb. 7:28) and “at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Heb. 9:26)

Propitiation
Secondly, we see the language of propitiation with regard to redemption. Propitiation, according to Murray, “presupposes the wrath and displeasure of God, and the purpose of propitiation is the removal of this displeasure.” (p. 30) In other words, propitiation is satisfaction and/or removal of the wrath of God. It is fascinating that the word for “mercy seat” (‘kap-oh-reth’ in Hebrew), which was the lid to the Ark of the Covenant, was rendered “propitiatorium” (which means the place of propitiation) when the Old Testament was translated into Latin. While the mercy seat in the Levitical context, where the sprinkled blood of the spotless lamb symbolized propitiation… the true mercy seat and the true Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, made absolute propitiation by the shedding of His blood. According to Scripture, “God displayed [Jesus] publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.” (Rom. 3:25) “He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Heb. 2:17)

Reconciliation
Lastly, with regard to the nature of the atonement, I’d like to shift focus to reconciliation. As I mentioned earlier, sinful humanity has been estranged from God. The accomplishment of redemption reconciles sinners with the Holy God. Paul writes in Romans:

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Rom. 5:8–11)

Furthermore, we see the grace of God in reconciling us to Himself by the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:17–21)

Not only has God reconciled a people to Himself in Christ, but by His grace, He has made Christians ambassadors of reconciliation! Listen to Murray again: “The reconciliation of which the Scripture speaks, as accomplished by the death of Christ, contemplates… the relation of God to us. It presupposes a relation of alienation and it effects a relation of favor and peace. This new relation is constituted by the removal of the ground for the alienation. The ground is sin and guilt. The removal is wrought in the vicarious work of Christ, when He was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Christ took upon Himself the sin and guilt, the condemnation and the curse of those on whose behalf He died. This is the epitome of divine grace and love. It is God’s own provision and it is his accomplishment. God Himself in His own Son has removed the ground of offence and we receive the reconciliation.” (p. 42) God is the divine benefactor of reconciliation. He has taken the initiative upon Himself to accomplish redemption for His people. This leads us to the scope or extent of the atonement.

The Extent of the Atonement
The extent of the atonement is quite a hot-button issue. There has been no shortage of debate over the question: “for whom did Christ die?” The doctrine known as “Limited Atonement” is often misunderstood and gets a bad rap since the name seems to imply that there are limitations to the redemptive work of Christ. In discussion about the extent of the atonement, it has been observed that regardless of one’s position… everyone “limits” the atonement in one way or another. The Calvinist believes that the extent or scope of the atonement is limited in that it is reserved for a particular people—namely, the Church. But the Arminian limits the efficacy or power of the atonement by saying that Christ died for all people, even those who deny Him and await judgment and hell. This brings us to an important thing to consider when the question, “for whom did Christ die?” An appropriate follow-up question would be, “to whom is the atonement applied to?”

As I mentioned, the concept of “limited atonement” is often misconstrued. Partially responsible, is the terminology employed. A more appropriate phrase that many of you will undoubtedly be familiar with is “Particular Redemption.” This term is to be preferred since it alludes to the doctrine of election: there is a particular group of people (i.e. the Church) who will be redeemed. Also implied in this is that there is a certainty of accomplishment. Another expression that is employed is “Definite Atonement,” which carries a similar sentiment. Redemption was not just made possible by the work of Christ—it was actually accomplished. Murray points out, “[Redemption] does not mean redeemability, that we are placed in a redeemable position. It means that Christ purchased and procured redemption.” (p. 63) According to Titus 2:14, He “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” The atonement which Christ has made is effectual. As the accomplishment of redemption is effective, so is the application of it. This brings up an important point I alluded to earlier… those who receive the Holy Spirit—those who are born again by the effecual power of the Holy Spirit—are the same people whom Christ has died for. He has accomplished redemption for a particular people and they are the recipients of the benefits and blessings of its application.

I’d like to conclude by pointing out an important New Testament truth that Murray touches on… the fact that “those for whom Christ died, have themselves also died in Christ.” (p. 69) Paul writes in Romans 6 that “we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” (Rom. 6:4–7) Those who believe the gospel and trust in the Person and work of Christ have died with Him, been buried with Him, and will be resurrected and glorified in Him. It is evident here, that the answer to the question, “for whom did Christ die?” is “those who have died in Christ and have been raised to new life.”

Now, it is important to point out that this is a doctrine to throw around carelessly. We must exercise wisdom and pastoral concern with regard to “Particular Redemption.” Often, this teaching is oddly criticized because it appears to be elitist. That is, detractors imply that proponents of Definite Atonement are arrogant and have reason to boast since they have been chosen by God. This cannot be farther from the truth. Paul points in Ephesians 2 that we have been saved by grace through faith… it is not of ourselves—it is a gift of God—we cannot boast in our works. (Eph. 2:8–9) This doctrine is not of arrogance… it is of humiliation! There is nothing special in us that compels God to save us… it is because of the sovereign good pleasure of God that He decides to set His love upon us. The doctrine of election is not a very popular teaching in contemporary evangelicalism… but it is biblical. And we should faithfully preach it and teach it in our churches, emphasizing the grace of God in salvation for His glory.

For more on this subject, please visit the Systematic Theology page.

Recommended reading:

SALE: Iain Duguid Commentaries

Iain Duguid has just been appointed Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. To commemorate the occasion, Westminster Bookstore is offering an excellent deal on three of Duguid’s commentaries. You can get “Esther/Ruth” (Reformed Expository Commentary) for only $5, “Daniel” (Reformed Expository Commentary) for just $10, and “Ezekiel” from (NIV Application Commentary) for only $15… or ALL THREE for only $20 (73% OFF)!

Click the links or images above and below to be redirected.

Esther & Ruth $5.00 (72% OFF)
“Does God help those who help themselves? That may seem to be the message of the Books of Esther and Ruth. Some think that Ruth’s attractiveness won over Naomi and Boaz, or that Esther’s bold faithfulness saved her people. But a closer reading shows an embittered Naomi to have abandoned the Promised Land and God’s people, and Esther to have become thoroughly assimilated to the culture and values of Persian society… In Esther, God works in invisible ways to save his people. In Ruth, God’s grace comes to Naomi unexpectedly, and with it, a depiction of redemption for her people.”

 

Daniel $10 (72% OFF)
“The book of Daniel is both familiar and unfamiliar to many Christians. The stories of the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lion’s den are the staples of children’s Bible story books and Sunday school classes. Yet the latter chapters of Daniel’s vision are more unfamiliar and daunting to most believers… Iain M. Duguid reminds Christians that Daniel gives us more than moral lessons or a prophetic timetable. The whole of the book points us to Christ, whether as the one greater than Daniel who has perfectly lived an exilic life of service and separation for us or as the exalted heavenly Son of Man who took flesh amongst us.”

 

Ezekiel $15 (53% OFF)
“Most Bible commentaries take us on a one-way trip from our world to the world of the Bible. But they leave us there, assuming that we can somehow make the return journey on our own. In other words, they focus on the original meaning of the passage but don’t discuss its contemporary application. The information they offer is valuable—but the job is only half done! The NIV Application Commentary Series helps us with both halves of the interpretive task. This new and unique series shows readers how to bring an ancient message into a modern context.”


For more information, please visit the Westminster Theological Seminary.

 

Recommended reading:

Notable & Newsworthy

Here are the links and articles for the day…

Get Sidney Greidanus’ “Preaching Christ from Daniel: Foundations for Expository Sermons” for 50% OFF at Westminster Bookstore

Get 5-packs of New Growth Press’ minibooks for only $8 (over 50% OFF) at Westminster Bookstore (ends 05/28)

Enter to win a stack of books from Christian Focus and 20 Schemes

Enter to win a stack of books from Baker Publishing and Tim Challies

Take a survey and enter to win some autographed books and a $250 Gift Card to Lifeway from Thom Rainer

Get Calvin Miller’s “Letters to a Young Pastor” for FREE for Amazon Kindle

Get Kevin DeYoung’s “Crazy Busy” for just $3.99 for Amazon Kindle (sale ends 05/31)

Get Charles Quarles’ “Buried Hope or Risen Savior?” for just $0.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get R.C. Sproul’s “How Then Shall We Worship?: Biblical Principles to Guide Us Today” for just $2.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get R.C. Sproul’s “Pleasing God: Discovering the Meaning and Importance of Sanctification” for just $3.03 for Amazon Kindle

Get R.C. Sproul’s “God’s Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children” for just $3.03 for Amazon Kindle

Get R.C. Sproul’s “The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His Word” for just $3.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get Paul Tripp’s “Broken-Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad” for just $1.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get Tedd & Margy Tripp’s “Instructing a Child’s Heart” for just $1.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get Tedd Tripp’s “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” for just $1.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get J.I. Packer’s “Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging” for just $4.99 for Amazon Kindle

Check out Ligonier’s $5 Friday sale featuring Richard Phillips’ “What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?”

Tim Keller and D.A. Carson on the recent shake-ups at The Gospel Coalition

John Murray on justification and good works

David Helm on the dangers of the lectio divina approach to biblical interpretation

David Murray on evangelism according to the book of Proverbs

The benefits of developing a robust Christology

Tim Keesee on the advance of the gospel around the world

“You can drift into sin, but not into righteousness.” (Leon Morris)

”The kingdom of heaven is worth infinitely more than the cost of discipleship.” (D.A. Carson)

Please visit some of the other pages on this site (located in the tabs). You’ll find some excellent articles, FREE e-books, and book recommendations. Check out the Pastoral Theology page or Systematic Theology page first. Thanks!

Westminster Wednesday

THE WESTMINSTER LARGER CATECHISM

What Man Ought to Believe Concerning God…

Question 7:

Q. What is God?

A. God is a Spirit (John 4:24), in and of himself infinite in being (Ex. 3:14; Job 11:7–9), glory (Acts 7:2), blessedness (1 Tim. 6:15), and perfection (Matt. 5:48); all-sufficient (Gen. 17:1), eternal (Ps. 90:2), unchangeable (Mal. 3:6), incomprehensible (1 Kings 8:27), every where present (Ps. 139:1–13), almighty (Rev. 4:8), knowing all things (Heb. 4:13; Ps. 147:5), most wise (Rom. 16:27), most holy (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 15:4), most just (Deut. 34:2), most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth (Ex. 34:6).

 

QUESTION 6

 

THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH

Chapter I: Of the Holy Scripture

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

 

ARTICLE 6

 

For more on this subject, please visit the Systematic Theology page.

Recommended reading:

A Reader’s Review of “The Ascension”

My friends at Christian Focus have blessed me with another book to review. This time around we’ll be looking at “Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God” by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow. The book consists of three short chapters entitled “Ascended Priest”, “Ascended King”, and “Ascended Man” with an reflective and applicatory conclusion and an appendix featuring an “Ascension Hymn” (with verses that reflect the chapter titles).

The ascension of Jesus Christ is unfortunately one of the most underappreciated aspects of the gospel. It is often outshined by the majestic doctrines of the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection… but the exaltation of Christ, as the authors seek to draw out, is a supremely important and necessary element of redemption and a source of comfort for the Christian pilgrim in the present age.

There are three things about the introduction that are commendable: 1. It provokes the reader to think critically about the ascension of Christ; 2. It presents worship as a result of reflection upon the ascension of Christ; and 3. It points to the “glorious session” as a result of the ascension, where the enthroned Christ represents His people (with a view towards mission).

In chapter one, the authors rightly point out the ascension is “the fulfillment of all that sacrifice and priesthood represented in the Old Testament.” (p. 14) What follows is a survey of the types and shadows that point to Christ (Moses, the Priesthood, the Tabernacle, etc.) and His fulfillment of them as depicted in the book of Hebrews.

There is a nice balance of abstract theology and practical shepherding in this chapter. The reader is presented with weighty concepts such as the necessity of the ascension, but will also receive comfort by way of biblical assurance: “If Christ is not in God’s presence on our behalf then we are not in God’s presence… He is the complete sacrifice who has taken away sin for ever. He is the eternal priest whose ministry never ends. While He stands in heaven you are secure in God’s family” (pp. 22, 23)

The second chapter teases out the meaning of Christ’s enthronement… He is depicted as the sovereign King of the heavens and earth. Relying heavily on the book of Daniel and the writings of Luke, the authors share some fascinating insights:

1. The connection between Samuel (who anointed King David) and John the Baptist (who baptized King Jesus).

2. The connection between the enthronement Psalms (especially Ps. 2), the Davidic covenant, and the transfiguration of Christ.

3. The necessity of the cross as the preparation for the inauguration of Christ’s Kingdom in the ascension and the consummation upon His second advent.

4. The prophetic element of Daniel 7 in describing geopolitical developments over the next few centuries and the ascension of the Son of Man (Jesus, God the Son) into the presence of the Ancient of Days (God the Father).

5. The typological wilderness temptation failures of Adam and Israel realized in Jesus’ obedient response to His temptation.

6. The authority of Christ in the Great Commission and the extension of His reign “throughout the earth through the mission of His people” (p. 41).

7. The comforting truth of God’s sovereignty in the midst of a hostile mission field.

8. The relationship between the exaltation of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

9. The ascended Christ building His Church through the distribution of spiritual gifts. This section concludes by proposing that the true authority and Kingship of the ascended Jesus, which has been inaugurated (already), is the foundation for mission and gospel proclamation until the consummation of His Kingdom (not yet).

While most informed readers might anticipate a section on “Christ as Prophet”, the authors devote this last chapter to the humanity of Christ. Chester and Woodrow highlight the “scandalous” teachings of the incarnation of God and the exaltation of a man: “The scandal is not just that God has left heaven to be ‘enfleshed’ on earth, but that God will return to heaven in the flesh… Human flesh becomes a permanent fixture in heaven (a scandal to Greeks) and a permanent fixture for the Son of God (a scandal for Jews).” (p. 58) What follows is a brief survey of church history, discussing a number of heretical views on the person of Christ, and maintaining the importance of the full humanity of Jesus and His glorification with regard to redemption.

The authors then proceed to take a strange detour into the spacetime continuum and “relational” proximity. Rather than pontificating upon the finer points of quantum physics, the authors would have done well in heeding their own words: “The presence or absence of God always defies spatial definitions.” (p. 63) I understand what Chester and Woodrow are attempting to do here, but I believe this takes away from the overall point of the book and may confuse some readers. Despite the potential hindrance, there are still some statements in this section that deserve attention. For instance, the authors point out: “Space exists as a Trinitarian act between the divine persons, the Father creating through the Word and breathing life through the Spirit.” (p. 64)

Next, we have a series of short explanations of:

1. The necessity and security of the ascension.

2. The doctrine of the Lord’s Supper (i.e. Christ’s presence) during the Reformation (with special attention to the views of Calvin).

3. Mystical Union with Christ in the heavenly realms.

4. Inaugural eschatology and the “already” and “not yet” nature of the inter-advental period.

5. The restoration of humanity from its fallen, sinful state.

The chapter closes with a focus on mission, and one point is especially interesting. Chester and Woodrow posit an “ascensional” ministry approach over-against the “incarnational” approach. This is commendable, since the church is not a replacement of Jesus with its own agenda, but rather an assembly of disciples under His authority called to participate in His redemptive mission.

The conclusion is an excellent piece of biblical theology (largely influenced by G.K. Beale’s work) filled with mountain-garden-temple imagery, condescension/ascension theology, and Ezekiel’s eschatology. The authors show that Jesus is the fulfillment of these types and shadows and draw out the implications of the believers’ union with Christ before closing the book with the consummation in the New Jerusalem–where there is no temple–because “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).

Overall, this little book (96 pages) packs a punch. It is concise, but the authors present some weighty truths with clarity and precision. While I didn’t care for the inclusion of theoretical physics and some of the stylistic choices the authors made, I would still recommend it due to the sound biblical-theological teaching. Due to the contemporary obfuscation of the doctrine of Christ’s ascension and exaltation, this is a much-needed and welcome book that will comfort and encourage believers, and inform them of the necessity and sufficiency of our Savior’s authoritative session-ministry.

 

More recommendations:

Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK. 

God’s Zeal for His Own Glory

GOD’S ZEAL FOR HIS OWN GLORY

God chose his people for His glory (Eph. 1:4–6, 12, 14)

God created us for His glory (Isa. 43:6–7)

God called Israel for His glory (Isa. 49:3; Jer. 13:11)

God rescued Israel from Egypt for His glory (Ps. 106:7–8)

God raised Pharaoh up to show His power and glorify His name (Rom. 9:17)

God defeated Pharaoh at the Red Sea to show His glory (Ex. 14:4, 17, 18)

God spared Israel in the wilderness for the glory of His name (Ezek. 20:14)

God gave Israel victory in Canaan for the glory of His name (2 Sam. 7:23)

God did not cast away His people for the glory of His name (1 Sam. 12:20, 22)

God saved Jerusalem from attack for the glory of His name (2 Kings 19:34; 20:6)

God restored Israel from exile for the glory of His name (Ezek. 36:22–23, 32)

Jesus sought the glory of His Father in all He did (John 7:18)

Jesus told us to do good works so that God gets glory (Matt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:12)

Jesus warned that not seeking God’s glory makes faith impossible (John 5:44)

Jesus said that He answers prayer that God would be glorified (John 14:13)

Jesus endured His final hours of suffering for God’s glory (John 12:27–28; 13:31–32; 17:1)

God gave his Son to vindicate the glory of His righteousness (Rom. 3:25–26)

God forgives our sins for His own sake (Isa. 43:25; Ps. 25:11)

Jesus receives us into His fellowship for the glory of God (Rom. 15:7)

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Son of God (John 16:14)

God instructs us to do everything for His glory (1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31)

God tells us to serve in a way that will glorify Him (1 Pet. 4:11)

Jesus will fill us with fruits of righteousness for God’s glory (Phil. 1:9, 11)

All are under judgment for dishonoring God’s glory (Rom. 1:22, 23; 3:23)

Herod is struck dead because he did not give glory to God (Acts 12:23)

Jesus is coming again for the glory of God (2 Thess. 1:9–10)

Jesus’ ultimate aim for us is that we see and enjoy His glory (John 17:24)

Even in wrath God’s aim is to make known the wealth of His glory (Rom. 9:22–23)

God’s plan is to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory (Hab. 2:14)

Everything that happens will redound to God’s glory (Rom. 11:36)

In the New Jerusalem the glory of God replaces the sun (Rom. 21:23)

For more on this subject, visit Desiring God.

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Westminster Wednedsday

THE WESTMINSTER LARGER CATECHISM

Question 3:

Q. What is the Word of God?

A. The holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:19–21), the only rule of faith and obedience (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 22:18–19; Isa. 8:20; Luke 16:19, 21; Gal. 1:8–9; 2 Tim 3:15–16).

question 2

THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH

Chapter I: Of Holy Scripture

III. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.

ARTICLE 2

For more on the subject, please visit the Systematic Theology page.

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