The Gospel of Reconciliation, Propitiation, Redemption

Moved by His incomprehensible love for mankind, the Triune God was pleased not to abandon our rebellious and corrupt race to the misery and hell that it justly deserved, but to undertake to save a great multitude of human beings who had absolutely no claim on His mercy.

In order to bring this plan into execution, the second Person of the Godhead, the Son, took unto himself a full human nature, becoming in all things like his brethren and sisters, sin excepted. Thus he became the Second Adam, the head of a new covenant, and he lived a life of perfect obedience to the Divine Law.

Identifying with his own, he bore the penalty of human sin on the cross of Calvary, suffering in the place of the sinner, the just for the unjust, the holy Son of God for the guilty and corrupt children of man.

By his death and resurrection he has provided the basis

  • for the reconciliation of God to humans and of humans to God;
  • for the propitiation of a righteous Trinity, justly angry at our sins;
  • for the redemption of a multitude of captives of sin whose liberty was secured at the great price of His own blood.

He offered himself as an expiatory sacrifice sufficient to blot out the sins of the whole world and secured the utmost triumph over the enemies of our soul: sin, death, and Satan.

Those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ are thus to be absolved from the guilt of all their sins and are adorned with the perfect righteousness of Christ himself. In gratitude to him they are to live lives of obedience and service to their Savior and are increasingly renewed into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This good news of salvation by grace through faith is to be proclaimed indiscriminately to mankind, that is to every man, woman, and child whom we can possibly reach.

(Roger Nicole)

Are Future Sins Forgiven in a Believer’s Justification?

The justification of a sinner is instantaneous and complete. . . . [It] is an all-comprehending act of God. All the sins of a believer, past, present, and future, are pardoned when he is justified. The sum-total of his sin, all of which is before the Divine eye at the instant when God pronounces him a justified person, is blotted out or covered over by one act of God. Consequently, there is no repetition in the Divine mind of the act of justification; as there is no repetition of the atoning death of Christ, upon which it rests.

–William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Volume 2 (New York: Scribner’s, 1891), 545.

HT: Dane Ortlund

What’s Worse than Natural Darkness

3. See the misery of man in the state of nature.  Before Christ becomes their prophet they are enveloped in ignorance and darkness. Men know nothing in a sanctified manner, they know nothing as they ought to know. I Cor 8: 2.  This is sad.  Men in the dark cannot discern colours so in the state of nature they cannot discern between morality and grace they take one for the other, pro dea nubem [They mistake the cloud for the goddess herself]. In the dark the greatest beauty is hid. Let there be rare flowers in the garden, and pictures in the room, in the dark their beauty is veiled over; so, though there be such transcendent beauty in Christ as amazes the angels, man in the state of nature sees none of this beauty. What is Christ to him? or heaven to him?  The veil is upon his heart.

A man in the dark is in danger every step he takes; so man in the state of nature is in danger, at every step, of falling into hell. Thus it is before Christ teaches us; nay, the darkness in which a sinner is, while in an unregenerate state, is worse than natural darkness; for natural darkness affrights. ‘An horror of great darkness fell upon Abraham.’ Gen 15: I2.  But the spiritual darkness is not accompanied with horror, men tremble not at their condition; nay, they like their condition well enough.  ‘Men loved darkness.’ John 3: I9.  This is their sad condition, till Jesus Christ comes as a prophet to teach them, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.

–Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, 6.3.3 (emphasis and paraphing mine).

The Look of Pleasing Grief and Mournful Joy

I saw one hanging on a tree
In agony and blood
Who fixed His loving eyes on me
As near His cross I stood
And never till my dying breath
Will I forget that look
It seemed to charge me with His death
Though not a word He spoke

My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there
But with a second look He said
“I freely all forgive
this blood is for your ransom paid
I died that you might live”

Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of Him who died
The Lamb I crucified
And now my life will sing the praise
Of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and gladly took my place

Thus while His death my sin displays
For all the world to view
Such is the mystery of grace
It seals my pardon too
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by Him I killed.

"The Look".  Original lyrics by John Newton.
New and alternate lyrics and music by Bob Kauflin. © 2001 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Father, Whose Everlasting Love

In the course of the past couple years, focusing my mind more on the pastoral implications of theology, I’ve found myself more humble in my theology, re-examining various theological positions I have held. And one of these areas which I have become less adamant at being overtly dogmatic about is the extent of Christ’s atonement.  I.e. Limited atonement vs. Unlimited atonement vs. Unlimited Limited atonement (a.k.a. Multiple Intentions).

Consider this classic hymn by John Wesley, titled “Father, Whose Everlasting Love“:

Father, whose everlasting love
Thy only Son for sinners gave,
Whose grace to all did freely move,
And sent Him down the world to save;

Help us Thy mercy to extol,
Immense, unfathomed, unconfined;
To praise the Lamb who died for all,
The general Savior of mankind.

Thy undistinguishing regard
Was cast on Adam’s fallen race;
For all Thou hast in Christ prepared
Sufficient, sovereign, saving grace.

The world He suffered to redeem;
For all He hath the atonement made;
For those that will not come to Him
The ransom of His life was paid
.

Why then, Thou universal Love,
Should any of Thy grace despair?
To all, to all, Thy bowels move,
But straitened in our own we are.

Arise, O God, maintain Thy cause!
The fullness of the Gentiles call;
Lift up the standard of Thy cross,
And all shall own Thou diedst for all.

How much of this hymn do you disagree with, and why?

The Gospel, The Whole Gospel, and Nothing but The Gospel (Part 1 of 3)

What’s included in the “whole” Gospel?
The Meaning, Implications, and Significance of the Good News of Jesus Christ
Last edited: Aug 13, 2008 8:35am EST

Ken Bellous, Executive Minister of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec (BCOQ), writes:

The whole gospel includes both spiritual and practical elements. The gospel certainly is all about our spiritual response to Jesus and the salvation that he came to bring. But the gospel is also about our response to one another, as Jesus directs us to “offer a cup of cold water in my name…” or see that those in need are clothed, visited, cared for. God’s spiritual provision of love needs our caring response toward others. The Baptist community that is represented in this web site has long expressed a holistic concern for both spiritual and compassionate aspects of the gospel message.

After reading this “executive message” from the leader of one of the largest Baptist convention in Canada, I am now confused as to what the whole gospel “includes”. It seems that from this quote, the gospel includes more than just the atoning work that Jesus Christ accomplished through his life, death and resurrection from the cross.

So the question that I will address over the next week in this 3 part blog series is this:

Is the gospel really “about” our response to one another, and not just about our response of faith to our Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice?

It seems that a reasonable person reading this quote would come out more uncertain about this traditional view of the gospel than more certain that the redemption accomplished and applied by Christ’s blood to the believer is the gospel.  The line of thinking in the above quote seems to imply that the Gospel is not an issue of “either or” (namely, what it includes — spiritual or practical elements), but that the gospel entails a “both and” (spiritual and practical elements).  With all due respect, I would assert that such vocabulary used in this explanation of the gospel undermines what Scripture says the gospel truly is, and contradicts what these practical elements actually are.  I respectfully disagree with Bellous — “the gospel” in all its purity as revealed in the Holy Bible does not include our response to one another.

Meanings of Words: A Word About Meanings

If terminology and words are to have any meaning, I would argue that these so-called practical elements are not included by what we would proclaim to be the “gospel”, but rather that they constitute Gospel implications without which would devalue the gospel’s significance. In this blog series, I am utilizing Robert H. Stein‘s hermeneutical delineation of “meaning”, “implication”, and “significance”, as the issues here are grammatical and hermeneutical in nature (A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, Baker: 1994). For hermeneutically speaking, there is only one meaning to a given biblical text, and many implications from which we can draw numerous significant applications for today.

Therefore, I am arguing that the gospel has only one meaning, but many kingdom implications that significantly apply in different ways to us in our own contexts. I hope to show that these practical elements that the whole gospel is said to include are not the gospel itself, but are rather the implications that arrive out of one who has been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.  For Christians who have been transformed by and trusted in the gospel, being a true bona fide disciple of Christ is about how we treat one another.

Let us, then, first consider the meaning of “the gospel”: Continue reading

God in Christ

Our substitute, then, who took our place and died our death on the cross, was neither Christ alone (since that would make him a third party thrust in between God and us), nor God alone (since that would undermine the historical incarnation), but God in Christ, who was truly and fully both God and man and who on that account was uniquely qualified to represent both God and man and to mediate between them.  If we speak only of Christ suffering and dying, we overlook the initiative of the Father.  If we speak only of God suffering and dying, we overlook the mediation of the Son.  The New Testament authors never attribute the atonement either to Christ in such a way as to disassociate him from the Father, or to God in such a way as to dispense with Christ, but rather to God and Christ, or to God acting in and through Christ with his whole-hearted concurrence.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986, 2006), p. 156.