Defending Substitution According to the Scriptures

“Scholars have proposed a number of possible explanations for why Paul says Christ’s death and resurrection on the third day each take place ‘according to the Scriptures’ …. One of the most important ingredients for 1 Corinthians 15:3, however, is Isaiah 53.

As we shall see, Paul knows the passage, referring to it elsewhere. The suffering servant, as the only human instance of vicarious death ‘according to the Scriptures,’ is the closest model for Christ’s death. There are similarities in the structure of the formula as well as in the language of ‘death’ and ‘sins.’ […]

First chapter 53 must be read within the wider framework of the surrounding chapters in Isaiah. The people of Israel are hard-hearted and in a state of disobedience; they refuse to repent and be gathered to God [….]

Second, despite this, God undertakes to redeem them. he gives them words of comfort in chapter 40, he promises in chapter 44 (vs. 21) that he has not forgotten Israel, and he even insists that in the absence of repentance on Israel’s part, he will accomplish it himself (chap. 46).

Third, we see how this will happen. As these chapters (the 40s and 50s in Isaiah) go on, it becomes clearer that God is raising up a servant who is distinct within the nation: the servant is not just a way of talking about Israel as a whole but is an individual who is going to be instrumental in saving the people. This character is the one who suffers in chapter 53. He is cruelly forsaken by the nation as a whole, and yet the Israelites later come to realize that he had accomplished their salvation [….]

There is considerable debate in scholarly circles about whether there is a ‘center’ to Paul’s thought. Among those who think there is one, there is debate about what that center is …. We may not have a ‘center’ here in 1 Corinthians 15, but we do clearly have a statement that the gospel, consisting of Christ’s substitutionary death and his resurrection is primary in Paul’s proclamation.

This is what Paul means by saying that he passed it on to the Corinthians ‘first’ or ‘as of first importance’ in verse 3. It may be difficult to discover which concept occupied the center of a dead person’s brain, but Paul himself tells us that the gospel as summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 does have primacy in his preaching.

–Simon Gathercole, Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul (Baker, 2015).

Dr. Gathercole’s Defending Substitution has received wide acclaim since its initial publication. Helpful reviews can be found at 9Marks, Reformation21, TGC, and in Themelios.

Also, Dr. Gathercole will be giving the Sizemore Lectures this week at Midwestern. You can learn more or find a link to the live stream here.

Christ In the State of Humiliation and Exaltation

For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:9 ESV)

“The three offices of Christ, they have this order in regard of manifestation. First, he was a prophet to instruct and teach his in himself, and likewise by his ministry. And then a priest to die for those that are his, to make intercession now forever in heaven. And then a king.

First, a prophet, then a priest, and then a king.

He was all at once.

The very union invested him in all these, but in regard to manifestation he was first a prophet to instruct us of the end of his coming into the world; and then a priest to do that grand office that we have most comfort by; and then a king to rule us. He could not be otherwise, for if he had manifested himself a King and a Lord in his glory, where had been his abasement? If they had known him to be the Lord of glory, they would never have crucified him.

Only some sparkles of his Godhead and lordship and kingdom and royalty over all flesh break out in his miracles; yea, in his greatest abasement there were some sparkles, I say. Even when he lay in the manger, kings came to adore him. When he paid tribute, he had it out of a fish by a command, by majesty. When he was on the cross he converted the good thief. So somewhat brake out of him that he was a person more than ordinary, but that was for special ends.

Ordinarily he went on in a course of abasement, and all that he might perform the great work of redemption. Therefore he made a stop of his glory and kingly office, that he might not manifest himself in that relation and office; that he might do the office a priest to die for us. … So you see here Christ’s offices, the state and condition of his humiliation and of his exaltation, and the use and end of all, ‘ that he might be Lord of the dead and of the living.’

And if we be anything offended with that abasement, that God should die, look to his rising and reviving and lordship over all, both living and dead; and if we be dazzled with his glory, look back again to God in our flesh, and God in our flesh abased, even to the death of the cross.

Oh, it is a sweet meditation, beloved to think that our flesh is now in heaven, at the right hand of God; and that flesh that was born of the virgin, that was laid in the manger, that went up and down doing good, that was made a curse for us and humbled to death, and lay under the bondage of death three days; that this flesh is now glorious in heaven, that this person is Lord over the living and the dead. It is an excellent book to study this.

Beloved, study Christ in the state of humiliation and exaltation.”

— Richard Sibbes, Christ’s Exaltation Purchased by Humiliation (London, 1639).

The Resurrection is the Defeat of Death

“Of old, before the Savior made his divine sojourn on earth, all lamented the dead as though destruction awaited them, but now that in these latter days the Savior has raised his body, death is no longer fearful–rather, those who are in Christ trample it as a thing of no account and choose to die rather than deny their faith in Christ.

For they know that when they die they are not undone but live and become incorruptible through the resurrection. But as for the devil, he who of old exulted basely in death, his labor is now undone, and he is left as the only one who is truly dead. […]

When after night the sun rises, and the whole of the neighboring land is illumined by it, not the slightest doubt remains that the sun who sheds his light everywhere is also the one who drove away the darkness and illumined everything.

In just the same way, death was trampled and brought into contempt from the time when the Savior made his appearance in the body for our salvation, and the end of the Cross became manifest; this was enough to make plain that he himself was the Savior, the one who had trampled death, and was displaying the trophies of victory over it every day in his disciples.”

–Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 27.2-3; 29.3 in Mark J. Edwards, ed., We Believe in the Crucified and Risen Lord(IVP, 2009), 147-150.

 

H2O and the Imagination of God

“Is oxygen-and-hydrogen the divine idea of water? Or has God put the two together only that man might separate and find them out? He allows His child to pull his toys to pieces: but were they made that he might pull them to pieces? He were a child not to be envied for whom his inglorious father would make toys to such an end! A school-examiner might seem therein the best use of a toy, but not a father!

Find for us what in the constitution of the two gases makes them fit and capable to be thus honoured in forming the lovely thing, and you will give us a revelation about more than water, namely about the God who made oxygen and hydrogen. There is no water in oxygen, no water in hydrogen; it comes bubbling fresh from the imagination of the living God, rushing from under the great white throne of the glacier.

They very thought of it makes one gasp with an elemental joy no metaphysician can analyse. The water itself, that dances and sings, and slakes wonderful thirst–symbol and picture of that draught for which the woman of Samaria made her prayer to Jesus–this lovely thing itself, whose very wetness is a delight to every inch of the human body in its embrace–this living thing which, if I might, I would have running through my room, yea, babbling along my table–this water is its own self its own truth, and is therein a truth of God.

Let him who would know the truth of the Maker, be come sorely athirst, and drink of the brook by the way–then lift up his heart–not at that moment to the Maker of oxygen and hydrogen, but to the Inventor and Mediator of thirst and water, that man might foresee a little of what his soul may find in God.”

–George Macdonald in C. S. Lewis, George Macdonald: An Anthology (New York, 1947), 81.

Seventy years ago, C. S. Lewis published in the USA his anthology of selections from the works of George Macdonald (1824-1905).

Lewis said, “My own debt to this book is almost as great as one man can owe to another: and nearly all serious inquirers to whom I have introduced it acknowledge that it has given them great help–sometimes indispensable help towards the very acceptance of the Christian faith …. In making this collection I was discharging a debt of justice. I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him” (18, 20).

Machen on Reformation Fire

“It is not true at all, then, that modern liberalism is based upon the authority of Jesus. It is obliged to reject a vast deal that is absolutely essential in Jesus’ example and teaching – notably His consciousness of being the heavenly Messiah. The real authority, for liberalism, can only be ‘the Christian consciousness’ or ‘Christian experience.’ … Such an authority is obviously no authority at all; for individual experience is endlessly diverse, and when once truth is regarded as only that which works at any particular time, it ceases to be truth.

The Christian man, on the other hand, finds in the Bible the very Word of God. Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or artificial thing. The Reformation of the sixteenth century was founded upon the authority of the Bible, yet it set the world aflame. Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God’s word is life. Dark and gloomy would be the world, if we were left to our own devices, and had no blessed Word of God. The Bible, to the Christian is not a burdensome law, but the very Magna Carta of Christian Liberty.

It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.”

–J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (1923), 66-67.

Reviving New England

Reviving New England: The Key to Revitalizing Post-Christian America
by Nate Pickowicz

“I firmly believe New England to be a region in desperate need of new churches. Here are just a few reasons:

First, the number of gospel-preaching churches is very small. It may be hard to believe, but there are whole towns and regions where there are no churches who actively preach the gospel. […]

Second, the number of Bible-teaching churches is very small. Even if a church may present the gospel once in awhile, it is exceedingly rare to find a ministry that teaches the whole counsel of God. […]

Third, new churches can reach people not reached by existing churches. Historically, New England is the oldest region in America, and there are many churches in the Northeast that are several hundred years old. Over time, a church may lose its witness and the locals simply aren’t keen to listen. A new church may appeal to those curious, and may be zealous and evangelistic enough to work harder to win people over to Christ.

Fourth, new churches are needed to help saturate the region. In my humble estimation, each town needs 3-5 new churches simply to match population density. With Bible-believing Christians making up only 2-3% of New England, there are simply not enough churches and resources to accommodate the large numbers of people should the Spirit work and add them to the church. […]

Fifth, new churches bring a level of excitement and vitality to a spiritually cold region …. This excitement can be contagious, and we need more strong believers with deep affections for Christ who will maintain a fervent witness. Again, some communities have never experienced a vibrant church full of believers who are in love with Jesus Christ.

Sixth, more churches means less travel for churchgoers and more opportunity for community involvement …. If believers could worship and serve in a body in their own town or area, their commitment would naturally increase and ministry would become more effective. […]

With such a large amount of territory and so many unsaved people, how does one even begin this work? Before any sermon can be preached, or any church planted, the work must begin on our knees.”

Reviving New England

Nate Pickowicz
Entreating Favor, 2017.

 

 

Would you like to see New England first hand? Travel with Midwestern Seminary professors to explore this unique mission field this May 17-24. We’ll walk where Edwards and Whitefield walked, visit everywhere from Yale to Harvard and coastal Maine to rural Vermont, meet with local pastors and church planters, and even take in a Red Sox game. Students can earn up to 6hrs of course credit. Learn more at www.mbts.edu/NewEngland17

 

Writing Theology for the Church

“The responsibility of making theology applicable to the church rests both with the theologian and the church.

Theology must be understandable to the church. Too often what theologians write is unintelligible for many church members. As someone has observed, our best minds are sometimes siphoned off to seminaries and graduate schools where they are expected to write highly technical research works for the limited number of people in the world who can understand what they are talking about.

Lest anyone misunderstand, I think that kind of scholarship should continue, especially at Baptist seminaries, but that cannot be the end of the theological enterprise. In the past, theologians of the church wrote so that literate people could understand, and it must be acknowledged that Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley are often much easier to read than many contemporary theologians.

Today we need theologians who can write in ways that are both accessible to and engaging of the church and the cultures.”

–David S. Dockery, Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal (B&H Academic, 2008), 159.

God Sets Them Working for Good

“If all things work together for good, hence learn that there is a providence. Things do not work of themselves, but God sets them working for good. God is the great Disposer of all events and issues. He sets everything working. ‘His kingdom ruleth over all‘ (Psalm 103:19). It is meant of His providential kingdom. Things in the world are not governed by second causes, by the counsels of men, by the stars and planets, but by divine providence. Providence is the queen and governess of the world. There are three things in providence: God’s foreknowing, God’s determining, and God’s directing all things to their periods and events. Whatever things do work in the world, God sets them a working …. That which is by some called chance is nothing else but the result of providence. …

Learn how little cause we have then to be discontented at outward trials and emergencies! What! discontented at that which shall do us good! All things shall work for good. There are no sins God’s people are more subject to than unbelief and impatience. They are ready either to faint through unbelief, or to fret through impatience. When men fly out against God by discontent and impatience it is a sign they do not believe this text. Discontent is an ungrateful sin, because we have more mercies than afflictions; and it is an irrational sin, because afflictions work for good. Discontent is a sin which puts us upon sin. …

See what cause the saints have to be frequent in the work of thanksgiving. In this Christians are defective; though they are much in supplication, yet little in gratulation.”

–Thomas Watson, All Things for Good or A Divine Cordial (1663).

That They May Have Life

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

“Every human life is intended by God from eternity for eternity. Human life is sacred because it is the creation of God, the Lord of life. ‘For you did form my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother’s womb’ (Psalm 139:13). Nature shares in the consequences of sin and innumerable lives are lost before they have an opportunity to develop in the womb, as many die in disasters such as famine, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Mortality is the common denominator of all life on earth. We are morally responsible, however, for the protection and care of life created in the image and likeness of God. The commandment ‘You shall not kill’ is the negatively stated minimum of what we owe to our fellow human beings.

The direct and intentional taking of innocent human life in abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and embryonic research is rightly understood as murder. In the exceedingly rare instance of direct threat to the life of the mother, saving her life may entail the death of the unborn child. Such rare and tragic instances are in sharpest contrast to the unlimited abortion license created by the Supreme Court, resulting in more than forty million deaths since 1973.

The blindness of so many to this moral atrocity has many sources but is finally to be traced to the seductive ways of evil advanced by Satan. Jesus says, ‘He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).

The direct and intentional taking of innocent human life may be attended by what is believed to be compassion, especially in the case of the dependent and debilitated aged. While we can sympathize with those who view their own life or the life of another as a burden and not a gift, and while, by the grace of God, there can be repentance and forgiveness for those who are guilty of committing great evil, there can be no moral justification for murder. We are determined to employ every legal means available to protect, in law and in life, the innocent and vulnerable members of the human community.

We plead also with our fellow citizens who do not accept the authority of God’s commandments or the good news that is the gospel of life to consider the consequences of having created a license to kill. In the present state of our tragically disordered law, citizens are given, in the case of abortion, a private ‘right’ to kill those who are too young, too small, too handicapped, too burdensome, or, for whatever reason, not ‘wanted.’ When this ‘right’ and the lethal logic that supports it is established in law, there is no principled reason why it should not be applied to the ‘unwanted’ at any point along life’s way, as advocates of eugenics, euthanasia, and assisted suicide logically contend.

The inescapably public question posed is whether we as a political community adhere to the founding proposition articulated in the Declaration of Independence that all people are endowed by their Creator with certain ‘unalienable rights,’ beginning with the right to life. The course of progress in our political history has been one of inclusion rather than exclusion. Most notable has been the inclusion of slaves and their descendants, and the recognition of the political rights of women. The foundational moral claim on which our polity rests is the claim that all human beings are created equal and are the bearers of rights that we are obliged to respect. [….]

There are no doubt many reasons for our society’s perilous drift toward a culture of death. One major cause is the abortion regime established by the Supreme Court by the Roe v. Wade decision of January 22, 1973. That decision is rightly described as an act of raw judicial power that eliminated in all fifty states existing legal protections of unborn children. It is an encouraging measure of the moral health of our society that the abortion license decreed by Roe has not been accepted by the great majority of Americans. It now seems possible that this question will be returned to the process of democratic deliberation and decision in the several states. In that process, we as Evangelicals and Catholics together pledge our relentless efforts to persuade our fellow citizens to secure justice in law for the most vulnerable among us. [….]

Finally, our society’s drift toward a culture of death will not be arrested and reversed without a bolder and more persuasive witness to the gospel of life centered in Jesus Christ who is ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’ Whatever our cultural circumstance, whatever the ebb and flow of political and legal fortunes, our first duty is evangelization: to share ‘in season and out of season’ (2 Timothy 4:2) the good news of the unsurpassable gift of eternal life, beginning now, in knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. [….]

We cannot and would not impose this vision of a culture of life upon others. We do propose to our fellow Christians and to all Americans that they join with us in a process of deliberation and decision that holds the promise of a more just and humane society committed, in life and law, to honoring the inestimable dignity of every human being created in the image and likeness of God. For our part, as Evangelicals and Catholics together, we refuse to despair of the power of public witness and persuasion in the service of every member of the human community, for whom Christ came ‘that they may have life and have it abundantly.'”

That They May Have Life, A Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, 2006.

See Timothy George and Thomas G. Guarino, eds., Evangelicals and Catholics Together at Twenty: Vital Statements on Contested Topics (Brazos, 2015).

Why We Should Worship God With Others on Sunday

“[The] word of God is everywhere in worship.

In the call to worship we hear God’s first word to us; in the benediction we hear God’s last word to us; in the Scripture lessons we hear God speaking to our faith-parents; in the sermon we hear that word reexpressed to us; in the hymns, which are all to a greater or lesser extent paraphrases of Scripture, the Word of God makes our prayers articulate.

Every time we worship our minds are informed, our memories refreshed with the judgments of God, we are familiarized with what God says, what he has decided, the ways he is working out our salvation.

There is simply no place where these can be done as well as in worship. If we stay at home by ourselves and read the Bible, we are going to miss a lot, for our reading will be unconsciously conditioned by our culture, limited by our ignorance, distorted by unnoticed prejudices.

In worship we are part of ‘the large congregation’ where all the writers of Scripture address us, where hymn writers use music to express truths that touch us not only in our heads but in our hearts, where the preacher who has just lived through six days of doubt, hurt, faith, and blessing with worshipers speaks the truth of Scripture in the language of the congregation’s present experience.

We want to hear what God says and what he says to us: worship is the place where our attention is centered on these personal and decisive words of God.”

–Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 2nd Ed. (IVP, 2000), 55.