God’s Piece to The Puzzle

I commented to Joyce that we were never apart long enough to write to each other, whereupon, she got up and a few minutes later returned with an armful of correspondence we wrote to each other while I was in the second semester of my junior year of college and she was still working in Southern Jersey.  (We were planning a wedding!)

I did not remember we did this. I am glad she saved them, though.  I have been reading somewhere around 175 letters. There is a story here.  Much of what we discussed was the kind of wedding detail that everyone talks over but there were elements that required small miracles to make it all come together—and for that, I affirm, there was God!

Some details of our wedding needed to “fall in place” that couldn’t have by happenstance. Two details come to mind: One, I needed a good job to support the marriage while finishing my senior year of schooling. I had no car and no license to drive one. Family argued that I should return to the place of my Nativity and save money. Talk marriage in a year. The other puzzle piece of obvious importance was a place to live.  There were none according to the realtors within a 10 mile radius of the school. Married couples on campus had already gobbled them up. Beside, I had no job, remember!

The year before, the faculty advisor for the yearbook offered me the assistant editor position in training for Editor-in-chief in my Senior year. It didn’t work out as planned, but I was introduced to the current Editor in Chief, Don, who also worked at Longacres in Franconia, PA where they made chicken products. A month before the wedding following an intense conversation with the Lord, I met Don who approached me with a job opportunity to work there. The following year, an H.R. department was set up at the company making this kind-of offer impossible.  But for now, according to the correspondence, I would start at 1.80 an hour, a fantastic wage in those days.

The apartment?  I met Frank while attending school.  Frank was refused admission because he did not complete high-school. Frank came across state from the Pittsburgh area to attend the school and he too was looking for a place to live for a family of four. There was a two room and a bath a mile down the hill from the college that was too small for them which the local realtor forgot he had. When Joyce and I enquired, we were turned away the first time but Frank said, “Go back!  It’s there!”  We did and the realtor apologized.  Fifty dollars, utilities  included. I still wonder how many students sought out that agency for something and were turned away.  Did God hold it for us, using a brother who traveled across the state to attend a college that didn’t want him?

The letters also documented a very stressful disapproval of both families and some friends that we were planning a wedding in August—just 9 months after we met on campus in ’67. With the job and apartment we moved the wedding up to June 22.  This week will complete 53 years together..

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Christ, Our Representative

Jesus’s death was not merely substitutionary but also representative. The dictionary reads,

When one person takes upon himself suffering which another would have had to bear, and therefore not only endures it with him, but in his stead, this is called substitution or representation—an idea which, however unintelligible to the understanding, belongs to the actual substance of the common consciousness of man….it has found its true expression in sacrifice….”⁠1

Paul advanced Isaiah’s message: Jesus not only took our place; we, too, were crucified with Him. His death becomes an inclusionary⁠2 substitution. Dr. Craig [in  Atonement and the Death of Christ: An Exegetical, Historical, and Philosophical Exploration. Waco, TX. Baylor University Press. 2020] explains this using the illustration of a proxy vote.  Whenever the shareholders meet to discuss any action to be taken over the funds I have investments in, I elect to sign my vote to a proxy.  I allow someone else to vote in my place.  But it is still on the record as my vote.   I am included. In this way, consider the possible explanation the Adam in the garden was our proxy. “…in Adam all die…” [1 Corinthians 15:22]  Adam was to blame and so was I …and you! We were in Adam at the time and sinned with him.  “…because⁠3 all sinned…” [Romans 5:12] And what is the benefit to including us in Adam’s sin?

This is great news because now God can show mercy to all who seek Him.  For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” [Romans 11:32]   Godet interprets this to mean moral solidarity or community of life.⁠4  Perhaps the logic that says we were there is not sufficient to satisfy reasonableness. But if we were to say, “all humanity was represented in Adam” we have a clearer understanding.  All died in Adam  or as Godet interprets,“in whom they [all] were embraced.⁠5  

Jesus’s victory over sin became ours! What was true of the first Adam, is true of the second Adam, Jesus. “He  [Adam] is a type⁠6 of the Coming One [Christ Jesus].” Paul taught [Romans 5:14]. But with a difference:  Jesus did not sin and through Him God offers the gift of eternal life to all who believe. Jesus’s sinlessness is a critical aspect of His life that makes His death representative.  In terms of our example of a proxy: My proxy has one vote.  It is either his or mine.  As my proxy, it is mine.  Jesus’s death on Calvary was for my sin, humanity’s sins, since He had none of His own to expiate.  

… the gift is not like the trespass.” Paul continues.  Adam brought death; Jesus brought eternal life. “For if [and it is true] by the one man’s trespass [Adam’s sin] the many [all humanity] died [spiritual death and natural death] , how much more [death is final but life is eternal] have the grace of God and [even?] the gift [the concrete expression of grace, i.e. our salvation] which comes through the grace of the one man Jesus Christ overflowed [as Paul wrote to the Ephesians 2:7, in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace] to the many [salvation is not universal but to those who believe].” [Romans 5:15]  By summary: we sinned in Adam, we were crucified with Christ. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” [Romans 6:6] 

And what is the ultimate truth here? “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, …So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 6:8, 11] The overarching message of the cross for us is being “alive to God,” being made in His image, at last by the transformation of our minds (and hearts) we again, as Adam before the fall, can walk in the will of God and perceive it [Romans 12:2] as good [Jeremiah 29:11], and acceptable [1 Timothy 6:6], and perfect [Ephesians 4:13] for us.  It will be, in this life, as if God rolled back time before the fall but this time we resist the snake. [Hebrews 5:14] When we reach the kingdom shore, we ought not look for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  It is not there, but the tree of life is. [Revelation 22:2, 14]


1 Keil & Delitzsch. vol VII. p 316
2 exclusionary is understood as “one party taking the place of another in such a way that the guilty party is excluded from the obligation or fate.” cp Craig page 81 footnote 2.
3 ἐφ᾽ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον.   ἐφ᾽ ᾧ  in its primitive meaning translates “near.”  With time it signifies “at the date of.” In a moral sense “on the ground of” and logically: “as may be seen by.” Professor Godet admits that the simplest interpretation might be “as a consequence” of Adam’s sin, all have sinned and all die, but he confesses that this meaning is “without precedent.” [Godet, Romans. 207ff]
4 Godet in his Epistle to  the First Corinthians, 352
5 ibid. 353
6 “a person … prefiguring a future person.” Thayer. 632
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Made In The Image Of God

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”⁠1 [Genesis 1:26] 

God made man in His image. Likeness means similitude or resemblance, which, indeed, speaks to the external appearance of one person compared to another. Seth did look like Adam, his dad.  “Seth was, [in turn?] in [Adam’s] own likeness, after his image.” [Genesis 5:3]  If this, however, means a father-son relationship could be established in their genomes (and indeed it could) the Biblical terms “image” and “likeness” must be expanded⁠2 to explain Adam in God’s image because “God is a Spirit.”[John 4:24] If I may paraphrase the rest of the Savior’s words:  We relate to Him, to God, on a spiritual—not a physical—level.  If you want to stroke His face, it is done in intercessory prayer not in a physical sense.⁠3

The word “image” is spoken of painting⁠4 and sculptures.⁠5 Adam was made in God’s image, as if God formed him from the dust of the earth while staying true to the details of His own image [Genesis 1:27].  (Abortion is a dangerous practice for which some will give answer! “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans his blood will be shed, for God made humans in his image.” [Genesis 9:6])

According to Athanasius of Alexandria:⁠6

Man is “..the impress of His [God’s] own Image, a share in the reasonable being of the very Word Himself, so that, reflecting Him and themselves becoming reasonable and expressing the Mind of God even as He does….” 

Man was made for fellowship with each other and God, therefore, God equipped him with a “reasonableness” or the ability to have such fellowship.

So, what is the comparison being made in Scripture between God and us? We used to maintain that unlike animals, we have a soul.  But Paul even seems to attribute a soul to the animal world claiming they, too, are “groaning together with labor pains until now.” [Romans 8:22]⁠7

There was one difference, though: Adam and Eve were capable of comprehending a “knowledge of good and evil.” [Genesis 2:9] In direct terms, we, who are made spiritually “like” God, are conscious of righteousness and sin.  Some animals may experience attrition, like fido, when his master catches him tearing into a sofa cushion.  But Fido doesn’t feel contrition nor can Fido repent.  There is something about us that has a built in consciousness of right and wrong even if we deny it. It is this simple condition of the heart that makes us capable of understanding and appreciating God and His holiness. And Holiness is the ultimate “likeness” God is working toward in us. [Romans 8:28-29]

Sadly society might be proposing an evolutionary redefinition of who we are. “Perhaps the greatest sin in the world today,” says Bishop Fastiggi of Sacred Heart Seminary, “is that men have begun to lose the sense of sin.”

 


1נַֽעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּכִּדְמוּתֵנוּ
2cp. Isaiah 13:4 “Listen, a commotion on the mountains, like that of a mighty people .” where “likeness” is simply “like referencing anone aspect of comparison—in this case the level of noise.  It is within the meaning of this word to make a comparison between God and Adam on another, non-physical-level,
3Exodus 32:11 CSB: “sought the favor of the LORD his God:” Hebrew: “to stroke the face (in flattering)” The BLB.
4Ezekiel 23:14 “male figures carved on the wall, images of the Chaldeans
51 Samuel 6:5 “images of your tumors and of your mice
6On the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria (The original writing of this work is public domain. Athanasius of Alexandria (2012-11-27T22:58:59). On the Incarnation . Blue Letter Bible. Kindle Edition. )
7cp Genesis 1:21 where the word “creature” is the word “soul.”
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Is Physical Healing In The Atonement?

[Taken from a work I am working on “The Cross: Why Jesus Had To Die, Everlasting Provisions of Grace“]

I must admit, I didn’t expect to read Isaiah say, “he himself bore our sicknesses; we are healed by his wounds.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) and if we want to equate this only with spiritual healing, i.e. salvation and not physical healing, we need to explain Matthew:

When evening came, … He healed all who were sick, so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: He himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17

He was referencing the verses above. But I remain a bit perplexed for a few reasons:

  • Peter seemed to be thinking about spiritual healing “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)⁠ [Interestingly, Peter switches persons from “we” to “You.”]
  • Calvary’s spiritual provisions are otherwise universal and immediate. The Cross represents the vehicle by which God provided forgiveness for sins and the opportunity by faith for us to to be reconciled to God. “we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10)
    • When we seek salvation, He saves us. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
    • But is this true of physical healing? Are believers in need of a physical touch from the Master but they fail to reach out and grab hold of the hem of His garment? Is physical healing available for the taking (in seeking the Lord for it) as is true of salvation? And if not, why not.
  • Faith is Faith. Is it appropriate to think of faith for salvation but not for healing? Would the Lord give us faith to trust Him for the one and not the other. Could we ever say God can be trusted to save but not heal?

There might be reasons why physical healing is not more apparent in the church in so-called civilized countries.

  • Perhaps, we lack a certain “faith” to trust God for healing being dependent more so on science or the medical professionals. “He was not able to do a miracle there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6a)
  • Perhaps, we are not serious about wanting a healing. “Do you want to get well? “ John 5:6
  • Perhaps, the complexity of life in which the spiritual and physical inseparably intertwine, healing is never a simple matter of physical well-being. “The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:15)
  • Perhaps, we need to ask again, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” (Matthew 9:5) Our Lord’s interest is always the spiritual. Does He utilize physical healing for spiritual growth?

“Therefore, … a thorn in the flesh was given to me, … to torment me so that I would not exalt myself.” For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

There is also something noteworthy about the language. Isaiah used an interesting form for the word “healed” in Isaiah 53:5. Scholars translate this as if it were a gerund. Perhaps a better translation might be “with His stripes healing is provided to us.” What is different is that this form is not used elsewhere in this chapter. Physical healing is a provision of Calvary but it is viewed in a different light. If we appeal to the Greek Septuagint or to Peter for clarity, both use a form indicating complete healing.  Isaiah agrees with this interpretation. God never leaves anything half done.

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A Powerful Message

The fifth chapter in The Acts of the Apostles is an historical reference to possibilities when the church learns to unite behind the Gospel. In verse 12 Luke tells us, “Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles.“ We read this as if this were a one-off event instead of the possibilities for which the Church was commissioned and authorized to promote. Verse 14, no surprise, testifies, “Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers…” Governments of the world, take notice!

When the sick were carried on cots out into the streets hoping that Peter might pass by, believing that just the apostle’s shadow was enough to heal them, the earthly authorities knew that God was getting out of hand. The theology in Jesus’s day was: touch Him to be healed (Mark 6:56). But for the apostles, their shadow was sufficient. (It had to be, obviously, during sunset when a person’s shadow was longer and more likely to sweep the crowd along the side of the road or Peter had to step over them!). What a parade! Touch or no touch, it is not a question of theology but of faith, and the crowds were there, swept up in the assurance that God was there and God would heal. They came—I dare say—by the hundreds, and now whoever saw themselves in office were under immense social pressure to stop it.

Verse 17, Luke noted, they were “filled with jealousy.” You see (not to preach but, just saying) God gets in the way of the would-be powerful, famous and rich, and they don’t like it! “So,” verse 18, “they arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.” That is that!

No that wasn’t that. The following morning, the political leaders, had to check it out for themselves. Peter and the apostles with him were in the public area, the Temple court, (verse 21) teaching. Teaching what? Verse 28: teaching “in this name” [Jesus’s name, i.e. The message of the Cross]

And how did they get out? I can imagine the soldiers being asked and replying, “Don’t ask, sir!” So now what do we do. An official statement with the force of law should be issued. It should work to silence them.

It didn’t. Peter and the others were re-captured and brought before the religious leaders. They’re in serious trouble now! Jesus warned them, “You will even be brought before governors and kings because of me.” (Matthew 10:18) He gave them a heads-up, “You will be hated by everyone because of my name.” (Matthew 10:22) And here we are!

(Reminds one of Martin Luther before the Diet of Wörms, a formal deliberative assembly called by the Emperor Charles V. to deal with this maverick. Luther dared teach against established religious order. According to tradition, Luther is said to have declared “Here I stand, I can do no other,” before concluding with “God help me.”)

Didn’t we strictly order you [Peter and those with you] not to teach in this name? [Freedom to speak has limits. Talk about anything or anyone you want, Peter … but not “Him,” not Jesus, not the Cross!] Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” This verse is psychologically rich. Peter’s message was not one of guilt but it was the Spirit’s opportunity to convict (John 16:8). Sad, when someone doesn’t see the difference, not knowing that “godly grief produces … repentance that leads to salvation without regret.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) Peter didn’t fill Jerusalem with anything …God did!

But what interests us here is the official executive order that was issued against teaching the Gospel message of the Cross and Peter’s and the other’s response: They replied, “We must obey God rather than people.” (Acts 5:29)

Make no mistake about it: “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11) is real. We must not be “…ashamed of the gospel, because it [alone] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16) If our message were the misinformed ramblings of a few unrealistic visionaries, we would be more entertaining than threatening (perhaps, an SNL parody in the U.S. we might laugh at). But this is not the case. The Gospel is empowered to change the world, to bring a sweeping spiritual revival that, subsequently, has political consequences for governments that find God somewhere between a nuisance to a genuine providential force that cannot be ignored.

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The Christian Message

The doctrine of the Atonement (or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, for our Catholic friends) is not only central to all Christian truth, it is all Christian Truth. “I decided to know nothing among you ,” Paul vowed to the Corinthians church, “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) As Pastor David Platt, Lead Pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C., so aptly states it, “The Gospel is the lifeblood of Christianity.” The missionary council meeting in Jerusalem in 1928 expanded, “The Gospel is the answer to the world’s greatest need. It is not our discovery or achievement; it rests on what we recognize as an act of God… We believe that men are made for Christ and cannot really live apart from Him…”

As believers, the Savior in our life is beyond question our trumpet call, our motive for living. Herein lies the Christian motive;” states the 1928 Missionary Council, “it is simple. We cannot live without Christ and we cannot bear to think of men living without Him… Christ is our motive and Christ is our end. We must give nothing less and we can give nothing more” [DuBose, Francis M. ed. Classics of Christian Missions. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1979 .] We are, in simple truth, missionaries to cultural change. And we must let that missionary side of our love realize more its potential in the hand of God. Jesus’s  life is what our lives are all about. “in him we live, and move, and have our being; …For we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17:28)

It’s All About The Blood

We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:10) With an unapologetic conviction, this is what our faith is all about! This is our living hope: the glorious return of the great God even our Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13) who shed His blood on a cross on our behalf, in our stead, to reconcile us to God. “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses..” (Ephesians 1:7)

Paul unambiguously declared “… through him to reconcile everything to himself … by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20)

The Confrontation

But this message runs counter to the cultural changes in the civilized world as Dr. Platt writes, “As followers of Christ, we are fooling ourselves if we don’t face the reality that belief in and obedience to the Bible in an anti-Christian age will inevitably lead to risk in one’s family, future, relationships, reputation, career, and comfort in this world.

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:23)

Make no mistake about it: “[Christianity’s] critical edge,” Graham Ward cautions, “is important … not only to read the signs of the times but to radicalize the postmodern critique by providing it with …a position outside the secular value-system.” In English: as Jesus prayed to the Father,

I have given them your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14)

Discussions around topics, like a nuclear family or infanticide, that appear peripheral and less important have been dragged into dialogue because we cannot escape certain conclusions about the God we are getting to know and to love. Somehow, we have discovered, that our faith, our love for God, our salvation, is a wisdom crying in the streets (Proverbs 1:20) pleading with us not to be lured in by worldly concepts that ultimately lead to denying who we are or who we want to become in Christ.

A Powerful Message

Now on the eve of Christ’s return, this makes our voice as necessary as it is unwelcome. Make no mistake about it: “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11) is real. We must not be “…ashamed of the gospel, because it [alone] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)

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Utopian Dreams

I was attracted to Cheryl Chumley’s book on socialism because of the subtitle: Christians Must Rise or America Will Fall. She dedicated her work to “Jesus, the hope of humanity.” Okay, to my liberal friends, it sounds like so much more right-wing political propaganda. But sometimes, it’s good to read outside our comfort zone, if we can stomach it.

What interested me is one tenet of the DSA’s ideology. [Democratic Socialists of America] to realize a “world without oppression.” [Chumley, 34 ] This is a notable idea, but this is also why I introduced on my FB wall a look at the Beatitudes of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. The disconnect between the  DSA credo and reality is the simple fact that “civic virtue,” to use the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s words [Chumley, 60], like any form of justice or righteousness, cannot be legislated or imposed in law. [Galatians 5:23] I get it, the poor are, indeed, oppressed. Even our Bible says that! [Isaiah 1:17]

Chumley prefers the word “collectivism.” It supports the idea of equality. (If everyone has the same rights and economic status, poverty no longer exists?) According to the Democratic platform of 2016, “..use government resources against inequality of all kinds.” [Chumley, 33] But  we live in a time when the hope for such a utopia is sadly, irretrievably, lost:   “postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races.”

To use a Biblical  idea, it has to be written “on the heart.” [Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26]  Jesus’ words must be heeded by His followers if the Church is serious about a heaven that is reachable. And that’s the Beatitudes! [Matthew 5:3-12]

History has been kind to FDR’s “New Deal” even if, as some historians reevaluate, it didn’t work to bring the nation out of “the” great depression. LBJ’s Great Society didn’t work, either—perhaps, the Vietnam war was a distraction. (And now, we are told that things are worse!?) As Jesus said, “… you always have the poor with you.” And then He added this caveat, “but you do not always have me.” [John 12:8]

Hidden in the stories of childhood are some serious truths. [a parody of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”]

As unforgivingly harsh as it sounds, we need to redirect the conversation away from utopian impossibilities to the biblical message of how best we can follow Christ. That’s what the Beatitudes are all about, even though, as Jesus recognized, they would be unpopular in a world that still carries the false hope of an evolutionary progress toward “equality for all.”

We need a humble realization of our utter need for God if oppression is to end. A humble heart cares about the poor because we equally need to be loved. When we learn to care enough we develop a passion for service which begins to realize heaven’s definition of justice (love).  Our merciful heart begins to grows. Mercy is God’s idea.  He shared His definition of it on Calvary.  You get the idea.

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Extending Our Lord’s Ministry

Forty years ago a thought crossed my mind that at the time seemed out of sync with the religious world. I felt it would only stand to scold good people who only wanted to serve our Lord but who were already reeling from the new responsibilities imposed upon them as christians experiencing cultural change.  I felt the timing was wrong; so, I pondered it in silence until in 2016 I wrote this:

The church is not an organization as much as it is an organism.⁠1 The church does not need to be incorporated as much as it needs to be empowered.⁠2 The church does not follow a constitution; it follows a commission.⁠3 The church’s success was never dependent on finance as much as faith, not planning as much as prayer, not ritual but righteousness for its identity, not size but the Spirit, not government but God, not our vision but His. It is this church that will survive through a postmodern age as a witness. It is this church that can adjust to a new normal without compromising its witness and without losing its own identity in a confused world of unanticipated change.

Whether or not you agree is not important because this, I firmly believe, becomes the church’s only recourse when persecuted if it is to survive …and the church in America is on the threshold of that persecution. The church will survive!

Early this morning I awoke meditating on Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (we are going over this in our Saturday Zoom Bible study)  and it “hit” me what Jesus was doing then that we should consider now. Beside the content of the sermon, itself,  Jesus was preparing a dozen men not just to minister to others but to extend His ministry.  They would not be following an academic education or a doctoral thesis or the science behind demographic studies of church growth—as much as these might appear to address the need for harvesting souls.  They were to allow His ministry in Israel and beyond to continue, after His ascension, through His church.

The Beatitudes are universal attitudes which Christ sinlessly exemplified. The secret to their endurance and influence in empowering God’s people for service is that they transcend cultural change. The application of them and the many principles outlined by the Savior recorded in Matthew 5-8 are key to our identity as being like Christ—extending His ministry—as we hope to in a cultural setting so much at odds. They profile the followers of the Savior who are passionate about extending His ministry in their own.

The ultimate test of our commitment and dedication to the Lord is to what degree we represent the Savior’s heart to our world displaying an undying hope (Mt. 5:4), an enduring peace (Mt. 5:9), an unconquerable love (Mt. 5:7), an unquestioning faith (Mt. 5:3), and an unquenchable joy (Mt. 5:12). These are the testimony that overcomes.

 

 

 


1 I Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
2 Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.
3 Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
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Divine Simplicity & The Atonement

Our knowledge of God is on a pre-heaven level —theologically speaking. So, we speak of His divine simplicity. The doctrine of simplicity, is a way of saying that (1) God is unlike any other being; “ (Psalm 145:3) and that (2) God is perfect, that is, God’s actions do not share in the limitations of human actions. God’s intentions, what He purposes to do, He does.⁠1 There is no “space” between what He intends to do and what He accomplishes. It is only in “time” we see these two ideas as distinct. (God’s predestination and His omniscience continues to raise theological discussions among the scholars.) But His Word declares: “my word…will not return to me empty” (Isaiah 55:11)  

Looking at God, then, through a single lens (and that of divine love), interpreting His actions in terms of His love for us, not only inspires our understanding of God’s Word (it is biblical) but it explains everything about our relationship with Him as believers. (Jeremiah 29:11) It is our limited reasoning, limited by how we experience life and what we have learned about our own humanity that we, in error, compare our thoughts with God’s and asks questions about Calvary that may not be answerable—for now. When we talk about justice, we picture a courtroom and a jurist but not necessarily what the Bible means by righteousness. (1 Corinthians 1:30) When we talk about “the Law,” Mosaic or criminal or whatever, there is much we do not know about God’s judgment seat. What is the “law of Christ”? (Galatians 6:2) Or the “Law of the Spirit” (Romans 8:2)

This much we do know: “…the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin’s power so that the promise might be given on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe..” (Galatians 3:22) God’s love was not going to let this matter go. He created us for His glory and that desire of His, His intention in this matter, remains unchanged and unchanging. (Isaiah 43:7)

Simplicity teaches that He does all things as an expression of His love. “The doctrine of simplicity, then,” Prof. Vidu explains, “must be defined such that mercy and justice are two different names for God’s only moral attribute: his love. Mercy and justice are therefore synonymous.”⁠2 (Ps. 33: 5; 89:14)

Perceiving God in this way, simplifies explanations.

So what exactly is the atoning work of Christ all about? Does it provide a punishment to satisfy injustice against the holiness of God or does it provide for our restoration to fellowship with a holy God. We can affirm: both because they are one and the same divine act by the one and only God whom we sinned against.

“The history of atonement theories,” Vidu asserts, “is really a debate about the nature of God,3 …that is to say, the nature of Divine Love.


1 The doctrine of divine simplicity is not intended as an apophatic sublation of all talk of divine nature.” … That is to say, we are not trying to minimize a conflict of interest between mercy and justice, or forgiveness and punishment, by arguing that justice is not justice, punishment is not really punishment. As Adonis Vidu points out, ““It is precisely such capriciousness, on the one hand, or impotence, on the other, that the concept of simplicity expressly denies.” -Vidu. 29, 31
2 Ibid. 29
3 Ibid. 236
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Happy Easter

It is basic to Christian thought to herald the Savior’s death as a substitute for ours. He died in our stead. Had He not died, there would have been no eternal life for you and I. This much we can accept as an irrefutable and basic truth. Jesus’s death was a requisite for our salvation—a necessary part of the divine plan to provide for that salvation.  Mark records, “Then he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days.” (Mark 8:31)

The necessity of Jesus’s crucifixion was tied to prophecy, as we know, “He was pierced because of our rebellion,” (Isaiah 53:5) but atonement theory proffers a judicial necessity in postulating His death as a penal substitution, i.e. The penalty for our sins in our place. Luther called it a wondrous exchange: “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin[offering] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

But the question, did Jesus have to die for our sins, remained an open one throughout church history. Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033/4–1109) in particular has argued that if God is to save, that He has to choose between satisfaction or punishment. Due to His justice. But what does it take to appease an offended God or satisfy His justice when the crime was our sinning and the penalty should be death?

According to the theologians, it becomes a debate within God, Himself, between His attributes and His nature. Between His love and his holiness, between a need for mercy and retribution. Even John Calvin argued for what scholars call, God’s “inner necessity.” Calvin argued that Jesus could not die just any death (disease, a street assassination) It had to be the Cross because He had to be sentenced and executed by a criminal court. His death was a “penal substitution” to satisfy the justice inherent in divine law.

Nor can He die in secret, in a quiet and peaceful death in old age in His own bed.  When God gave His Son, He offered Him to a depraved and hateful creation. His death became a public event burned into our memories forever.  The fact that dozens of prophesies foretold it only discloses the Divine heart while He, hanging there, proclaimed to fallen man what must inevitably come to pass because He couldn’t “unlove” them.  (John 3:16)

Two disciples were meandering down a country road to Emmaus, two disciples despondent beyond words for He was the promise of Israel now thought buried and forgotten.  But here He comes along side, though, their grief did not allow them to see Him.  Ever so slowly as He spoke He ignited once again that eternal hope that excites pure joy in the soul.  So when they reached Emmaus, they could not sleep but had to return to Jerusalem with the news.

He’s alive!!

How can the Day of Pentecost top this!!??

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