Tag Archives: Christ

A Great Light

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Isaiah 9:2

The Scripture’s great contrast between light and darkness is here on display through the words of the prophet Isaiah concerning, in the near, hope in the midst of the Assyrian invasion, yet in the far, a future greater in hope found in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the context of Isaiah’s prophecy, which like so much of Old Testament prophecy looks toward the future and sees an amalgamation of events (often called prophetic perspective) this prophecy is set in the midst of the coming judgment on Israel as God-ordained punishment for their apostasy from God. The darkness expresses the hopelessness of the current situation, yet the language of Isaiah, “…have seen a great light” is that of the prophetic perfect, used to express the surety of a future event as though it has already happened. Commenting on this passage Calvin writes,

“He speaks of future events in the past tense, and thus brings them before the immediate view of the people, that in the destruction of the city, in their captivity, and in what appeared to be their utter destruction, they may behold the light of God. It may therefore be summed up in this manner: “Even in darkness, nay, in death itself, there is nevertheless good ground of hope; for the power of God is sufficient to restore life to his people, when they appear to be already dead.”[1]

Certainly, a restoration from the hands of Israel’s captors is in view, yet we must not limit our understanding of this prophecy to the events surrounding Israel and Assyria, particularly since this passage is referenced elsewhere.

Written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel of Matthew 4:15-16 cites this passage from Isaiah 9 in the context of Jesus beginning His earthly ministry

“12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:12-17

This further illumination by the Spirit of God, the Divine Author of Scripture, aids in our understanding of the fullness or fulfillment of the prophecy found in Isaiah, namely that found in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the great light that offers hope in the midst of a darkened world. Turning again to Calvin we read,

“If, therefore, we wish to ascertain the true meaning of this passage, we must bring to our recollection what has been already stated, that the Prophet, when he speaks of bringing back the people from Babylon, does not look to a single age, but includes all the rest, till Christ came and brought the most complete deliverance to his people. The deliverance from Babylon was but a prelude to the restoration of the Church, and was intended to last, not for a few years only, but till Christ should come and bring true salvation, not only to their bodies, but likewise to their souls.”[2]

Christ Himself makes this connection in John 8:12 when He states,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

In John’s Gospel, this statement is buttressed with the truths about Christ being the Light from chapter 1, verses4-5, 9 and chapter 3:19-21. Our Lord’s declaration that He is light has profound biblical meaning. Primarily, it asserts His deity bringing to mind such Old Testament declarations such as Exodus 13:21, where the pillar of fire led the way for the Israelites in the wilderness; Psalm 27:1 “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear”; Micah 7:8; Isaiah 60:20; as well as 1 John 1:5. The declaration of light is a declaration of purity and holiness, in which there is no shadow or defect (James 1:17).  Additionally, several Old Testament passages assert that God’s Word is light (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23) adding to the profundity of John 1:1.

Secondarily, by stating He is light, Christ assumes the role that God had intended for Israel to occupy as a city on a hill whose light was to shine forth to the world, yet because of their disobedience failed to properly fulfill the mission of God. Therefore, God has appointed His True Servant Israel, His Son, to go forth as a light unto the nations bringing salvation to the ends of the world. Isaiah 42:6; 49:6

This advent season, may our eyes be drawn to the Light of the world. May we realize that He alone can shine forth in a world of darkness. This Light alone possesses the light of life. Walking in spiritual darkness, dead in our trespasses and sins is a hopeless and dire situation that leaves us under the wrath of God and destined for the experience of His everlasting judgment. May we look toward the light, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and see Him as our only hope. Surety in a world of darkness and a beacon for all who come to Him in repentance and faith.

 

 

[1] Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries Vol. VII Isaiah 1-32, Baker 2005, pg. 298.

[2] Calvin, pg. 299

The Exclusivity of Christ

The history of Christianity has held without apology to the exclusivity of Christ, namely that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, being God Himself is the only, i.e. exclusive, path to God. In short, familiar language it might be phrased, “Jesus is the only way to heaven.” To see this, we needn’t immediately jump to the New Testament, though we could. Instead, we may turn to the beginning, of creation that is, to see Jesus, the Promised seed of God as the only hope for mankind to be redeemed from their sin and have their relationship with God restored.

Many people today have given themselves over to the view that “All paths lead to God” arguing that you’re ok and I’m ok as long as we do good and live right. But this assumes a variety of errant thoughts not the least of which is a denial of the authority and truthfulness of Scripture. It is here we must turn if we are rightly to understand the exclusivity of Christ.

In Genesis 3 we read of the familiar account of Adam and Eve in the garden.

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[c] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:1-15

Immediately, it is important to come to terms with the truthfulness that Scripture establishes concerning the historical reality of Adam and Eve. It’s clear that they were actual people whom God created and that all mankind can trace their lineage back to them. This is the elementary truth that secularism tries to destroy in the name of science in order to avoid accountability for sin and the judgment of God, but it simply cannot be denied. The historicity of Adam can be readily found in the numerous genealogies of Scripture (which is why they are there, to establish the validity of the line of Messiah); see Genesis 5; 1 Chronicles 1-9; Luke 3:23-38.

Additionally, the prophet Hosea through the divine inspiration of the Spirit, draws a relationship between Adam’s disobedience and the disobedience of Israel and Judah, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.” Hosea 6:7 If Adam is not real, then one has to arrive at a different origin for the entire nation of Israel and has to then make sense of the correlation made between Adam’s covenant unfaithfulness in the garden and Israel’s covenant unfaithfulness as a nation. In similar fashion, Romans 5 provides yet another example of the historicity of Adam and again shows a parallel relationship with Adam’s sin though this time the counterpoint is Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Here we see that because of Adam’s sin, condemnation came to all men and this is an inclusive term to include all mankind. That means every single individual person who has ever lived, because of their relationship to Adam, are condemned. Though alive, are spiritually dead, alienated from God and under His wrath of God. All people, regardless of the religion with which they identify or the race/origin/color/sex that they claim, all. All are condemned in Adam. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Secularists, Atheists, Agnostics, Nominal (in-name only) Christians, Villagers on a remote island. All. In Adam. Condemned.

With this in mind, we now return to our original passage from Genesis 3 and can better feel the weight of the actions committed by Adam and Eve in the garden. Literally billions of people condemned because of a single act of rebellion against a holy God. Let that sink in the next time you think God doesn’t take the “smallest” of sins seriously. He is infinitely holy and the slightest of sins is enough to condemn the entirety of mankind.

Certainly God knew the outcome, that so many would be born condemned because of this treasonous act. Certainly God would have been just to simply destroy creation at the fall, never to allow sin’s progression or its guilt and condemnation to advance beyond the Garden. But this was not the plan of God. As He justly delivers the sentence to the serpent and Adam and Eve, we read the following verse:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

As has been noted before, here in Genesis 3:15 is the “first Gospel”, the first message of good news. It is hope in the midst of despair because God 1) Lets Adam and Eve know they will have offspring, not suffering immediate physical death and 2) Lets them know that there will be retribution and redemption that comes through the offspring of the woman. This is precisely what we read about in Romans 5 above and precisely what we likewise see in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

The only hope for all of mankind is the seed of the woman, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. The only hope to overcome the condemnation that came to man through Adam, is by way of the second Adam, the Messiah who perfectly obeyed the commands of God, suffered death on the cross under the wrath of God for sinners, and overcame death through His resurrection, now ascended into heaven and seated with power and glory at the right hand of the Father. The hope is exclusively His. All authority has been granted unto Him and He alone commands the way to God “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me” John 14:6

There is simply no other way. Not through Islam, nor Buddhism, nor Judaism, nor Atheism, nor Secularism, nor any other works based religious system, but exclusively through Christ by faith in Him alone. This message is offensive because it assaults the independency of man and his innate desire to earn his own righteousness. It is offensive because we live in an age of tolerance and “Coexist” stickers that wants to see everyone make it to “heaven” through whatever path they choose, ultimately not for their own good but spun out of a self-preservation mentality that takes comfort in saying “my way is ok, so yours must be too.” Either that is a lie or the Son of God is lying when He claims exclusivity. Perish the thought. It is in Christ alone that salvation comes through repentance of sin and faith in Him. There is only one path to God and it is entered into by the narrow gate of Christ. This path is narrow, difficult, and blazed by Christ Himself. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36

Solus Christus!

Christ, The Mediator of the New Covenant Part 2

In a long overdue post on the New Covenant I’d like to look at Hebrews 9:15 and see if it helps round out what has been discussed here in previous posts.

Hebrews 9:15 “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

In the last post we looked at the relationship between Christ’s mediatorial work through His death on the cross and the inauguration of the New Covenant (see also Hebrews 8:6-13) and we again see that in the first part of this passage, “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant”.  Recall that in the last post on Christ as Mediator we also concluded that membership in the New Covenant was limited to those who have been born again or regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  The evidence of their regeneration is repentance and faith, outwardly displayed in baptism, and continuing with their participation in the Lord’s Supper.  However, we made mention of a particular view that some within the Reformed Baptist tradition hold, namely the inclusion of all the elect in the New Covenant.  Others in this tradition, such as myself, hold to a more narrow view of those included in the New Covenant, i.e. what we’ve previously defined as the regenerate.  But this brings up a couple questions 1) How does God’s election unto salvation relate to the New Covenant benefits given to the regenerate? 2) If Christ’s death inaugurates the New Covenant, on what basis did the OT saints receive eternal life?

First, the question of election and its relation to the New Covenant.  As pointed out above, some have concluded that all the elect are in the New Covenant, but really this confuses the issue and as we’ve seen expressed clearly in Scripture, the New Covenant benefits are reserved for those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit and have shown evidence of this new birth, or regeneration, by the fruits of repentance and faith.  However, note in the passage above the author of Hebrews states that Jesus is “the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance”.  The language of calling here is significant.  This calling, the Greek word kaleo, is familiar in the New Testament.  We see a form of it in 1 Thess. 5:24 as God is the one who calls, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”  Also in 1 Timothy 1:9, “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” And again in 1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”  God’s calling is not general, but rather  an effectual call that accomplishes all that it intends, namely the salvation of sinners.  With this understanding of God as the “Caller” our foundation is set to look briefly at another use of calling found in Paul’s letter to the Romans,

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30

Again, the emphasis is on God who calls “according to his purpose”, but here we read of some preceding events that must come prior to God’s calling, namely God’s “foreknowledge” and “predestination”, two words which have distinct meaning, but each of which reference God’s election according to grace.  Foreknowledge implies that God in His omniscience knows all things that are to come, literally knowing the beginning from the end (Isaiah 46:8-11); while predestination implies that not only does God possess knowledge of future events, but that He has ordained all things that will come through the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11).  In practical terms they refer to the plan of God that was made before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-14) and is unfolded in the calling of sinners to salvation.

Why all of this background on a passage from Hebrews discussing the mediatorial work of Christ?  Because, while the view that sees the elect as members of the New Covenant may lead to some confusion, it’s no less true that there is a relationship between God’s electing purposes and Christ’s inauguration of the New Covenant through His death.  Some theologians have sought to reconcile this confusion by describing the electing plan of God, established in Christ before the foundation of the world, as a Covenant of Redemption (see John 6:39, 17:2, 9, 24).  In this way, ALL those who the Father has given the Son, defined in the Covenant of Redemption and called the elect in Scripture, will be called and will be regenerated and will be partakers of the New Covenant, “so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”  In his commentary on Hebrews, John Owen writes, “Where there is not some degree of saving knowledge, there no interest in the New Covenant can be pretended.” This distinction sets clear the boundaries of New Covenant membership and maintains the integrity of this covenant with those whom have expressed evidence of their relationship to Christ through repentance of their sins and faith in Him.

Which brings us to our second question, of whether the OT saints even go to heaven and if so, then on what basis?  If you’ve followed along up to this point, then a likely question might be what became of those saints of the Old Testament who were under the Old Covenant (Abrahamic, Davidic, and Mosaic) ?  For this answer, we can also look to our passage from Hebrews above where we will find, “since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”  Christ’s work as Mediator of the New Covenant is not limited to only those who have believed on Him subsequent to His death.  The Old Testament saints had a forward looking faith (see Hebrews 11) in the coming of the Messiah to fulfill the promises, types, and shadows that God had expressed under the Old Covenant.

In Romans 4, we read of Abraham’s faith and the righteousness of Christ that  was imputed to him because of that faith, “Abraham believed God and it was counted [imputed – KJV] to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).  This isn’t strictly a New Testament concept because the passage that Romans 4 refers to can be found in Genesis 15:6, where we are told that “he believed the Lord” and God “counted [imputed] it to him as righteousness.”  This righteousness credited, accounted, or better imputed to Abraham was not one that he earned, nor one that was inherent to his nature.  Instead it was, as Martin Luther states, an alien righteousness.  In other words, in the life of Abraham 2000 years before even the birth of Christ, Abraham was imputed with the righteousness of Christ.  Because the death of Christ was the culmination of God’s plan for redemption, there was no uncertainty as to its accomplishment.  Therefore when we read in Hebrews 9:15 that the death of Christ redeemed those who lived under the Old Covenant we can rest assured that it was not through obedience to the law that they received eternal life, but through the precious blood of the Lamb.  Abraham, and those saints who believed, were not redeemed by way of the Old Covenant, but through the New Covenant promised in Genesis 3:15 and reaffirmed throughout the pages of the Old Testament until the inauguration of the New Covenant was made at the specified time (Gal. 4:4) through the death of Christ.  “This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forebearance he had passed over former sins.” Rom. 3:25

Any discussion on the afterlife of OT saints often leads to additional questions, but it should be clear on the basis of Romans 3 and 4 that through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and His death on the cross, both aspects of Christ’s work as Mediator of the New Covenant, the OT believers are partakers of the same covenant benefits as those of us who believe in Christ today.