Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My first book- The Life, Teaching, and Legacy of Martin Luther- now available to order from Amazon

[I'm posting this on Christmas Day because I just received the proof copy of this book yesterday evening.]

The book I've written- The Life, Teaching, and Legacy of Martin Luther- is now available for purchase at the following link:

In writing this book, my goal was to present the life of the Reformer in a way that is easy-to-read, accurate, and spiritually edifying.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"How Many Kings" by Downhere

This is still Abby's and my favorite Christmas song:


Monday, December 23, 2013

Matthew: A Gospel from the Jews to All Nations

In writing his particular Gospel account, Matthew's purpose appears to be twofold. First, he desires to persuade his Jewish readers that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Second, he desires to persuade the Christian community (composed, in its earliest stage, almost entirely of Jews) that God intends the good news of the Messiah to be spread unto all the nations (and that they must be about the business of spreading the good news).

The Jewish character of The Gospel According to Matthew is readily apparent. The first verse of Matthew's Gospel identifies Jesus as "the son of David, the son of Abraham." The rest of Matthew 1 is a genealogy that traces the line of Christ through the Old Testament and beyond. Matthew often records how the events in Jesus' life fulfill OT Scripture (see, for example, Matt 2:15, 17). In Matthew 10:5-7 Jesus sends the Twelve to spread the good news of the kingdom of Heaven, and He tells them NOT to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans, but only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." In Matthew 15:24 Jesus tells a Canaanite woman whose daughter was tortured by a demon, "I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

On the other hand, this most Jewish of Gospel accounts is also keenly concerned about the inclusion of Gentiles into the kingdom of Heaven. Even the mention of Abraham in Matt 1:1 and the fact that Matthew's genealogy of Jesus begins with Abraham provide a hint of Gentile inclusion, as the LORD had declared that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through Abraham (Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18). Within Matthew's genealogy of Jesus, four Gentile women (or women with Gentile connections) are mentioned, and each one of these women is connected with a major movement of God's redemptive activity involving the nation of Israel:

  • Tamar is connected to Judah and the establishment of tribal Israel.
  • Rahab is connected with the story of Joshua and the establishment of Israel in the Promised Land.
  • Ruth is connected with the period of the judges.
  • Bathsheba (Matthew refers to her as "the wife of Uriah the Hittite," emphasizing her Gentile connection) is connected with the Davidic kingship.

Part of Matthew's rationale for including these women is to show that Gentiles were involved in every stage of God's redemptive purpose, which was centered on the nation of Israel, but never entirely exclusive to the Jewish people. [I'm indebted to Mitch Chase for insight into the women in Matthew's genealogy.]

Furthermore, Matthew 2 records the account of the Magi visiting Jesus as a child. These Gentiles go through a great ordeal to worship Jesus. The Jewish leaders in this account acknowledge that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, in accordance with Scripture, and they are anxious that the Messiah may have been born. Yet they do not bother to go the short distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in order to honor Him.

Jesus begins His public ministry in an area that includes the "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Matt 4:15). Matthew also emphasizes instances in which Jesus' miraculous healing ministry [a ministry confirming His proclamation of "the gospel of the kingdom" (Matt 4:23)] impacted Gentiles: instances such as the healing of the centurion's servant [in which Jesus declared concerning the Roman centurion: "I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel" (Matt 8:10)] and the healing of the Canaanite woman's daughter. After Jesus had told the Canaanite woman that He "was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel"- a statement which would have certainly been met with approval from the Jewish leadership- He then, nevertheless, heals the Canaanite woman's daughter while publicly commending the woman's faith in Him.

As with the other Gospel accounts, Matthew's Gospel narrative reaches its climax with the crucifixion. As He is beaten then suffers and dies on the Cross for the sins of His people, Jesus is called "the king of the Jews" (Matt 27:29, 37). The Gentiles who use this title for Jesus during His suffering do so in mockery, but Matthew would have the reader understand (based on previous references to Jesus being the Son of David) that those mocking Jesus are unwittingly telling the truth about Him. As He is dying, Jesus cries out- "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"- using the words of a Davidic Psalm (Matt 27:46; Psa 22:1). When Jesus dies, a Roman centurion sincerely confesses that He "was the Son of God" (Matt 27:54). The Jewish religious leadership, who should have welcomed Him as the Messiah, reject Jesus. In contrast, the Gentiles- both irreverently and reverently- use Messianic titles of Jesus.

Matthew's Gospel account ends with a contrast between the Jewish religious leadership- who denied Jesus as the Messiah even after His resurrection, and spread lies about Jesus' disciples (Matt 28:11-15)- and Jesus' own disciples, who "worshiped Him though some doubted" (Matt 28:17). The resurrected Jesus tells His disciples- those who trusted in Him as the Messiah, "the son of David, the son of Abraham"- to "make disciples of all the nations" (Matt 28:19), and He promises to be with them [and now us] "alway, end unto the end of the world" (Matt 28:20).


Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Number Seven in Scripture

I've always been somewhat wary of the statement that a certain number in the Bible carries a certain meaning. This is because readers cannot find explicit statements in Scripture saying 'this number carries this meaning,' so it often sounds like preachers and teachers are engaging in sheer speculation in their statements about the Bible's use of numbers.

I have, however, become convinced concerning the idea of the number seven signifying fulfillment or completeness, based on the consistent way that the biblical authors use seven and multiples of seven. G.K. Beale notes, “The idea of completeness [for the number seven in the Bible] originates from the creation account in Genesis 1, where six days of creation are followed by the consummate seventh day of God’s rest… Sometimes seven is both literal and figurative (e.g., in Leviticus 4-16 ‘sprinkling seven times’ is both a literal action and a figurative representation of a complete, effective act). Other times it is purely figurative for completeness (e.g., Lev 26:18-28: God will punish Israel ‘seven times’ [or ‘sevenfold’] if they do not repent– not seven distinct punishments but a complete chastisement)” [Beale, The Book of Revelation, 186 (emphasis added)]. Seven and a multiple of seven are used in the prophecy given in Dan 9:24ff. (where “seventy weeks” = “seventy sevens”), a passage pointing to the fulfillment of several spiritual realities. By the New Testament era, “seven” had become synonymous for completeness to the extent that when Simon Peter strove to imagine the number of times he must forgive someone in order to be considered completely forgiving, he came up with “seven times” (notice that Jesus also corrects Peter using a figurative multiple of seven: “seventy times seven” Matt 18:21-22).

Acknowledgement that the Bible uses "seven" as indicative of fulfillment or completeness can help in recognizing aspects of what the Holy Spirit is communicating in specific passages: as in the Book of Revelation, in which multiple sequences of seven are found.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty and the Current Controversies

Dr. Russell Moore
I love Duck Dynasty as entertainment.

Near the beginning of his blogpost on the Duck Dynasty controversy, Dr. Russell Moore (President of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention) wrote, "Let me stipulate that I’m not really much of a fan of reality television. I think it’s largely inane and not worth watching."

I agree with Dr. Moore, and it is for this reason (and because the commercials did not make the show look entertaining at all) that I never watched an episode of Duck Dynasty until three or four months ago.

While working on a construction job near Washington D.C. (I was re-doing part of the interior in a Sports Authority at nights), I ended up with several free hours one day. After doing Bible study, praying, and talking with some friends and family members on the phone, I finally sat down to eat with some co-workers in the house where we were staying. The other guys had the TV tuned in on AandE. It was in this context- somewhat against my will- that I first encountered Duck Dynasty, which I expected to be simply awful.

I was more than surprised- I was shocked!- at how hilarious the show was. In the first episode that I watched, Jase had the idea of turning the loading dock behind the Duck Commander/Buck Commander warehouse into a duck pond so that they could test the duck calls in a realistic environment. As I viewed Jase pontificate on how this idea was the greatest stroke of genius he had ever had, followed by Willie's sheer rage at his brother and fellow employees for flooding the loading dock, I was almost in tears with laughter.

Since then, I've watched the show several times, usually while visiting my in-laws. (They DVR the show, and we don't have cable TV at my house.)

I have concerns about the impact of Duck Dynasty within evangelicalism.

While Duck Dynasty is- in my opinion- the funniest and most morally clean live-action show on television, I have had some concerns about both the show and its impact within the evangelical community. The Robertson family, while certainly more upright than other TV families, can speak to each other in extremely rude ways. It is not unusual to hear them call each other "stupid" or "you idiot." I certainly don't want my children using this kind of language (they have usually been out of the room when Abby and I have watched the show), and- based (for example) on Jesus' words in Matthew 5:22- I believe the Robertsons need to repent of the way that they often speak to each other.
Mark Lamprecht

I am also deeply concerned about the way that the Robertsons and their church have taught about baptism and its relationship to salvation. Through an uncritical acceptance of what the Robertsons say about baptism- or by giving the Robertsons an open and expanded platform to proclaim their message at evangelical churches, in evangelical bookstores, and over evangelical radio stations- evangelicals may unwittingly undermine the Good News that sinners are counted right in God's sight by faith alone. (Mark Lamprecht has faithfully blogged about concerns along these lines.)

I was NOT surprised by Phil Robertson's "controversial" statements on homosexuality.

Phil Robertson:
The Duck Commander
Even a casual observer of Duck Dynasty should have been able to guess what Phil Robertson- the patriarch of the "Duck Dynasty" clan- thought about homosexuality and homosexual "marriage." On the show, Robertson often mentions his belief in the Bible. In passing, he has mentioned that sexual activity should be reserved for marriage. Dr. Denny Burk- who seems to have the real gift of prophecy, but only for bad things [ :) ]- has written that several months ago he predicted "it would only be a matter of time before the media sniffed out the views of the Duck Dynasty guys about sexuality." And now, thanks to a GQ reporter, they have. Phil Robertson has been suspended for saying things that offend people. AandE, the cable station on which Duck Dynasty appears, has the right to suspend someone from one of their shows if he says things that the station finds repugnant, and the fans of Duck Dynasty have the right to protest AandE's decision. As Trevin Wax noted yesterday: "Whatever you think about the whole Duck Dynasty fiasco, no one can deny that plenty of free speech was on display today."

Medgar Evers:
murdered due to his opposition
of Jim Crow laws.
I WAS surprised by Phil Robertson's insensitive statements about race relations.

Robertson was suspended from Duck Dynasty due to statements identifying homosexual behavior as sinful. His suspension for these remarks is, however, not as surprising as the remarks that he was NOT suspended for. In the GQ interview that caused the current kerfuffle, Robertson stated the following concerning the pre-Civil Rights era South:

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash. We're going across the field.... They're singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people'—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

The statement that "no one was singing the blues," with the implied message that things were hunky-dory for African Americans during the Jim Crow era South, is ludicrous. Seriously: do like five minutes of research on lynching across the American South even through the 1960s. Even if Robertson in particular grew up in some kind of hither-to unheard-of Southern racial utopia, and even if- as Joe Carter plausibly suggests– Robertson’s main point was that godliness yields happiness, Robertson should not make such statements, which fail to demonstrate sensitivity for the experiences of many African American brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thabiti Anyabwile
I was SOMEWHAT surprised with the terms Robertson used to express his views on homosexuality.

A lack of sensitivity- or a lack of sense of propriety in language- may also characterize the WAY- in one instance- that Robertson described his objection to homosexual behavior. Some of the language used by Robertson in the GQ interview that sparked this controversy was, as Dr. Albert Mohler (President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) wrote yesterday, "rather crude and graphically anatomical." Dr. Mohler wisely noted, "The Apostle Paul made the same arguments, but worshipers in the congregations of Rome and Corinth did not have to put hands over the ears of their children when Paul’s letter was read to their church."

Perhaps a magazine interview was not the best place for Robertson to speak in the way he did. But Robertson used no obscenity. In fact, he only used proper medical terms for body parts. And such frank discussion DOES need to take place in some venue. As Thabiti Anyabwile properly noted in an article which contains much more graphic anatomical language than that found in the Robertson interview: those pushing for "gay marriage" want to divert attention away from the perverse acts they are promoting, and instead focus on "love and commitment." They want to remove the "yuck factor" of homosexual activity.

Several of my friends approvingly linked to an article that objected to Phil Robertson's comment concerning the proper use of male and female body parts in toto. In this article, Wesley Hill summarized Robertson's point as: "gay men should just wake up to how awesome women’s body parts are." Hill's objection is based on the idea that: "the mysteries of human nature and all the ways our hearts are opaque, even to ourselves." Hill is certainly correct to point out that bare knowledge or mere mental assent is insufficient to bring about  change for a person who is struggling with homosexual attraction. But this does not change the fact that our Creator originally established a certain order, and deviation from this order is a sin. This is how Jesus reasons about marriage in Matthew 19:4-5. That homosexuality is against nature is the exact line of reasoning that the Apostle Paul takes in Romans 1:26-27. So, in a certain since, men SHOULD naturally "wake up" to how awesome women- including their "body parts"- are.


Robertson was not suspended from Duck Dynasty for how he expressed his objections to homosexual behavior. Even his racially insensitive comments were overlooked. Instead, Robertson was suspended for daring to call homosexual behavior a sin, while paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Christians must be aware: the idea that homosexual behavior is a sin is no longer tolerated. If a person reads 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 aloud-

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

-and says, "I agree with the New Testament," then that person is considered a bigot. Christians must be mentally prepared for the cultural derision that they will face for upholding the biblical view of sexuality. We must be prayed up and soaked in Scripture so that we can withstand the cultural pressure that we will face to compromise when it comes to calling out sin for what it is: an offense against our Creator. We must be ready to point men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can save us from all our sin.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Christmas Sermon


26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you." 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement and was wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. 34 Mary asked the angel, "How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?" 35 The angel replied to her: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the holy child to be born will be called the Son of God.
(Luke 1:26-35 HCSB)

8:21 They will wander through the land, dejected and hungry. When they are famished, they will become enraged, and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 They will look toward the earth and see only distress, darkness, and the gloom of affliction, and they will be driven into thick darkness.
9:1 Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future He will bring honor to the Way of the Sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of darkness,
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased its joy.
[The people] have rejoiced before You
as they rejoice at harvest time
and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.
4 For You have shattered their burdensome yoke
and the rod on their shoulders,
the staff of their oppressor,
just as [You did] on the day of Midian.
5 For the trampling boot of battle
and the bloodied garments of war
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 8:21-9:7 HCSB)

31 Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day). They requested that Pilate have the men's legs broken and that their bodies be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other one who had been crucified with Him. 33 When they came to Jesus, they did not break His legs since they saw that He was already dead. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth.
(John 19:31-35 HCSB)

10 as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one. 13 Their throat is an open grave; they deceive with their tongues. Vipers' venom is under their lips. 14 Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and wretchedness are in their paths, 17 and the path of peace they have not known. 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says speaks to those who are subject to the law, so that every mouth may be shut and the whole world may become subject to God's judgment. 20 For no flesh will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now, apart from the law, God's righteousness has been revealed--attested by the Law and the Prophets 22 --that is, God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
(Romans 3:10-24 HCSB)


For many families across the English-speaking world, reading (or viewing one of the movie versions of) Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is a holiday tradition. This classic tale of the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve due to spiritual intervention begins with the following confirmation concerning the death of Scrooge's former business partner, Jacob Marley:
Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'change for anything he chose to put his hand to.
Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
[Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (Mahwah, NJ: Watermill Press, 1980), 1]

The significance of Marley's deceased condition is explained a few paragraphs later:
There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not convinced that Hamlet's father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out in a breezy spot- say Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance- literally to astonish his son's weak mind.
[Ibid, 2]

Another Christmas tradition for many families across the United States is the viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. In this cartoon, the character Linus tells viewers the true meaning of Christmas through a recitation of the biblical account concerning the angel of the Lord announcing the birth of Jesus from Luke 2:8-14.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that one thing that makes this angel's announcement so striking is the background we are given to this announcement in Luke 1. The fact that a woman of Bethlehem gave birth to a baby and swaddled him is, in and of itself, hardly worthy of an angelic visitation. Even the fact that the child was laid in a feeding-trough would seem to merit nothing more than neighborhood comment. But, as in the fictional story of A Christmas Carol, in the true story of the Nativity the wonder is dependent upon what the reader knows to have occurred beforehand. In Luke 1:26-35 [which is given above], as the angel Gabriel speaks to Mary of her upcoming pregnancy, the point is belabored that Mary is a virgin. A birth is far from uncommon, but a birth from a virgin is a miracle of God that we would expect the angels to proclaim. Furthermore, this birth from a virgin indicates that the child is indeed a human- that He was born of of a woman (cf. Gal. 4:4)- but that He is also deity- as Luke 1:35 says, "the Son of God."

Old Testament Background

Jesus' birth is anticipated not only by Gabriel's visit to Mary, but the Nativity is foretold in the Old Testament Scripture as well. [See, for example, Isaiah 8:21-9:7 above.] Again, the context is crucial to gaining a proper grasp for these words recorded by the prophet. This passage comes in the midst of a prophecy foretelling the conquest of North Israel by Assyria. National Israel had become a mighty kingdom under God's friend David and had enjoyed a time of peace and prosperity under King Solomon, David's son. Solomon seemed to be the fulfillment of a prophecy God had given to David concerning a son that would rule over His people forever. But Solomon's heart was drawn away from devotion to God due to his many idolatrous wives and Solomon eventually died; at the beginning of the reign of Solomon's son national Israel fragmented and weakened. The Assyrian invasion foretold by Isaiah was the beginning of the darkest time in Israel's history. But the prophecy given in Isaiah 9:1-7 is a message of great hope. This message tells of a glorious restoration coming for God's people. This restoration would come about by a child who would be born: but not just any child, for this child would be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The only child worthy of these names was the One born to the Virgin Mary: Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Reason for the Nativity

Jesus Christ was born as a Man in order to live a perfect human life- keeping every one of God's commandments- and to die on behalf of sinners, taking the full punishment for sin in the place of everyone who would trust in Him alone for salvation.

So, as others have noted, there is a real sense in which Jesus was born for the purpose of dying.

And the death of Jesus is crucial to the Christian message. This is why the Apostle John is so specific in relating his eye-witness account of the death of Christ in John 19:31-35. John includes the gory details of the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ's corpse and he is emphatic that he is telling the truth because he wants his readers to know that Jesus surely died. This historical fact is so important for readers to grasp because it sets the stage for subsequent information John will present: for John tells us that Jesus not only died, but He was laid in a tomb- a tomb that was found empty three days later- and that Jesus was seen alive. This sinless Man, who had been tortured to death so publicly, was found living! His empty tomb was open for public examination, causing His enemies to invent lies to account for it; hundreds of His followers- as we are told in First Corinthians 15- saw Him alive after He had been dead! Jesus Christ, the child of the Virgin Mary and the Son of God, who was perfect God and perfect Man, conquered sin and death.


The opening chapter of the story A Christmas Carol is not wonderful unless we understand that the character Jacob Marley died before the story began, so it should have been impossible for him to appear to Scrooge. The history of Jesus' birth (which we may call the first Christmas) does not fill us with appropriate awe unless we realize that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived, so it should have been impossible for her to have a child. The prophecy from Isaiah concerning this first Christmas is not properly understood unless we realize the utterly hopeless condition of God's people and the glorious hope offered by the coming Messiah. The Good News that Jesus has conquered sin and death, having been risen from the grave on the third day after His burial, is nonsensical unless we understand that Christ did, in fact, die on the Cross as a sacrifice for sin.

To appreciate how this Good News applies to your life, there is some background information you must know about yourself. This information is revealed in Romans 3:10-18. "Nobody's perfect" is a common enough saying, but we do not realize how serious this assessment is unless we consider that we will be judged by a perfect God whose standard is perfection. God created humankind to be in a right relationship to Him, to understand Him, to seek Him, to honor Him, but we have turned away, we have become useless to His purposes by choosing to ignore Him, by choosing to lie for our own convenience rather than speaking the truth, by choosing to speak unkind words to others in our own selfish frustration rather than speaking compassionate words to encourage.

Dear reader, if you are honest with yourself, you must admit that these things are true in your life. You have sinned against God's perfect Law in these and many other ways. And so God does not owe you anything accept judgment. If He gives you what you deserve, you will be separated from His love, which means separation from all that is good and banishment to Hell.

But God has provided salvation from sin and Hell through the His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as described in Romans 3:19-24. If you come to see yourself as a sinner (as described above) and then call out to God for mercy, not trusting in your own imperfect attempts to pay for your sins, but trusting only in Jesus' payment for sins that He made through dying on the Cross and trusting in His resurrection- that He conquered sin and death- then you will be saved. Turn away from your sins today and turn to Christ for mercy.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Real Christmas Story w/ John MacArthur

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Do the seven churches in Revelation 1-3 represent seven distinct periods of church history?

"Write what you see into a book and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea." (Revelation 1:11)

In Revelation 1:4, John addresses the entire book of Revelation to “the seven churches in Asia.” Likewise, the command in Rev 1:11 seems to refer to the entire book, not just chapters 2 and 3, in which specific words are spoken to the various churches. The churches are mentioned according the order in which a messenger traveling from Ephesus in a clockwise direction through Asia Minor would have visited them.
Some commentators would assert that the churches mentioned in Rev 1:11 (and further addressed in Rev 2-3) are intended to be indicative of successive periods of church history (the individual churches representing the overall state of the Church in seven distinct time-periods). Readers should reject this view on exegetical and observational grounds. Exegetically, there is nothing within the text of Revelation that would indicate that readers should interpret the churches in such an allegorical manner; identifying these churches with seven church-ages is something that must be read into the text, rather than derived from the text. Furthermore, the letters to the churches in Revelation– along with the letters to other churches in the rest of the New Testament­– show that from the very beginning different churches had different strengths and/or weaknesses; they were not all part of a single “Ephesian age” of church history.[1]
Observationally, readers should note that not all churches today can be regarded as a single homogenous entity. It is simply not the case that all churches are lukewarm in nature. When one considers (for example) the underground churches in China or the persecuted churches in the Middle East, the conclusion that we are currently in the “Laodicean age” seems to be influenced more by alarm over the current state of European and American culture than by a sober, holistic view of the state of the Church across the globe. Furthermore, the notion that we are now in the Laodicean age of church history seems to be influenced by nostalgia; it is easy to overlook the faults of churches in the previous generation and imagine that they were part of an irreproachable “Philadelphian age” while emphasizing the faults of churches in our own generation, counting them as “Laodicean.”
The words written to each of the seven churches– not only to the church in Laodicea– are applicable to churches today, just as in the rest of the New Testament words originally addressed to the churches in Corinth, Galatia, Phillipi, Collosae, etc., are applicable to churches today. Each of the letters in Rev 2-3 ends with the command, “Let he who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” This indicates that the words addressed to each of the seven churches are revealed for the benefit of every church (“what the Spirit says to the churches”). Indeed, every Christian (“he who has an ear”) is accountable to heed the words to each of the seven churches.
Certainly there may be many churches in America that suffer from Laodicean-style tepidity and pride. On the other hand, a church may find itself more in the position of the church in Pergamum, struggling with the incursion of false teachings, or the church in Ephesus, with a passion for orthodoxy, but lacking evangelistic zeal. Each church and each Christian must carefully and prayerfully discern which of the admonishments or encouragements from Rev 2-3 is most applicable in a given situation.

            [1]Steve Gregg, Revelation: Four Views (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), 62-63.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Seated With Christ Upon His Throne

To the conqueror: I will give to him to sit with me upon my throne, as I too conquered and sat with my Father upon his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
The idea of the enthronement of the saints was revealed as early as in Daniel 7:18, 27.[1] The revelation here is in keeping with the Lord’s earlier words to the apostles, recorded in Luke 22:28-30. In Revelation 3:21, Jesus says that the victor will sit with Him on His throne. How many can sit upon a single throne at one time? As the ancient world knew of a bisellium– a throne that was a single piece of furniture with two seats– the image here should bring to mind one piece of furniture with multiple seats.[2] The persevering Christian follows the example of Christ, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). Not only do we follow His example, but we also get to share in His reward, being promised that we will get to sit on His throne with Him.

[1]Aune, Revelation 1-5, 261.
[2]Ibid., 262.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Does "Calvinism" teach that God is the author of sin?

Recently a friend of mine promoted an article titled "Refuting What Calvinists Believe with What Calvinists Know" by Dr. Patrick Johnston. Referring to the article, my friend declared, "This is one of the best explanations of calvinism I have seen." I objected to my friend's characterization of this article, pointing out that it is flawed on several levels. Primarily: Dr. Johnston misdefines his subject. In his explanation of "Calvinism," Dr. Johnston's first point is, "Calvinism teaches that God is the author and Creator of sin." Dr. Johnston cites no source for this statement, but he is certainly wrong. The Westminster and 1689 Baptist Confessions (documents that systematically state what "Calvinism" teaches) plainly assert, "God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin."

Defending the article, my friend first charged the Reformed Confessions with self-contradiction (since they say that God decrees everything that happens), then he brought forth the following quotes from John Calvin's Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God:

Certain shameless and illiberal people charge us with calumny by maintaining that God is made the author of sin, if His will is made first cause of all that happens. For what man wickedly perpetrates, incited by ambition or avarice or lust or some other depraved motive, since God does it by his hand with a righteous through perhaps hidden purpose--this cannot be equated with the term sin.

Must we then impute the guilt of sin to God, or invent a double will for Him so that He falls out with Himself? I have shown that He wills the same as the criminal and the wicked, but in a different way. So now it is to be maintained that there is diversity of kinds while He wills in the same way, so that out of the variety which perplexes us a harmony may be beautifully contrived.

While Reformed Baptists certainly do not feel obligated to agree with everything written by John Calvin (objecting to Calvin's doctrine of baptism, ecclesiology, and his view on church/state relations), Calvin's teachings on subjects such as predestination have certainly been influential among Reformed Baptists, so quotes from him on this subject are clearly relevant.

But notice what Calvin says (and what he does NOT say) in these quotes. In the first sentence quoted, Calvin is denying, not affirming, that God is "the author of sin." His opponents charged that the outcome of his exegesis was that God would necessarily be seen as the "author of sin," but Calvin denies that this is an implication of his teaching. In the second sentence quoted, Calvin denies that God contains a "double will" of such a nature that "He falls out with Himself;" this is the main point that Calvin is defending in the passage cited: that God is NOT like the "double minded man" of Jas 1:8. There is "diversity of kinds" regarding the way in which God- who is in control of all things, never out of control- wills what comes to pass. This "variety... perplexes us," but everything finds "harmony" in God, who works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).

In these passages and others, Calvin is affirming the same doctrine found in the Westminster and London Baptist Confessions, mentioned above: that God is NOT the author or approver of sin AND that God's will is the "first cause of all that happens."

This doctrine MUST be maintained in light of passages such as Gen 5:20 in which Joseph tells his brothers, "[Y]ou meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Joseph does NOT say, 'You meant evil against me, but God didn't mean for that to happen.' Instead- in regard to the very same activity- there were two kinds of intentions at work: the brothers' intentions, which were truly evil, and God's sovereign intention, which was truly good. Other passages could be mentioned in this regard. For example, in Isaiah 10:5-7; 12, God calls Assyria "the rod of My anger" and foretells that He will use this "rod" to punish Jerusalem, yet He also says that He will punish Assyria because while God's sovereign intention in the matter is entirely righteous, the king of Assyria is characterized by "pomp" and "haughtiness." Finally and chiefly we look to the Cross. NO aspect of Christ's suffering was a surprise to God or outside of God's control. God's hand and His purpose predestined everything that occurred on that glorious and awful day (Acts 4:28). Yet "Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel" (Acts 4:27) perpetrated great wickedness against Jesus. This wickedness was according to God's decree, but God committed no act of wickedness in it: the fault was all on the part of the sinners.

When we sin we can blame no-one but ourselves: we can never claim "God made me do this."

When we are saved we can give credit to no-one but God Himself: we can never claim "I contributed to this."

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On the Definition of "Sudoku" (and "Calvinism")

[The following blogpost was originally published on 2/13/07.]

Imagine that you'd never before heard the term Sudoku, from any source except the following video:

Then, imagine that after seeing this video, you heard other people talking about that horrible place called "Sudoku," "where bad kids go to dig with spoons for moon rocks." Of course, you probably wouldn't ever believe such a place really exists, but you would be left with a negative feeling toward the idea of "Sudoku" and you would probably pity or mock anyone who said they really enjoyed Sudoku.

You see how a false definition can engender an unnecessarily negative reaction.

Likewise, the first time I remember hearing someone try to explain the term "Calvinism" I was in a college American literature class in which we had to read Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." The professor explained that Edwards was a Calvinist, which meant that he believed God had arbitrarily decided from before the foundation of the world who would go to Heaven and who would go to Hell, so that basically God would take some to Heaven against their will while consigning others to Hell who had lived saintly lives: one could therefore never be sure of his or her eternal destiny.

Sadly, though this definition of "Calvinism" does not have much more to do with the true historical meaning of the term that the definition offered in the song above has to do with Sudoku, it is all too common to hear people offer this kind of rhetoric when speaking of "Calvinism." Bogus definitions of "Calvinism" are frequently put forth, not only by liberal college professors, but also by gospel preachers who should know better.

Consider the following parable from Nelson Price, which is supposed to clarify what "Calvinism" entails:
A mass of people are gathered at a bus stop marked “Planet Earth.” Along comes the Celestial Bus marked “Destination Heaven.” It pulls up and stops. The driver, who is God, opens the door, and says, “All destined for heaven get on board.” A number do. A missionary couple who with zeal have served Christ all their lives start on and God says, “Step aside. You haven’t been chosen to ride this bus.” A couple of infants start on and God tells them to step aside. Persons who from youth have loved and ministered in Christ’s name are told to step aside. As the bus is about to depart and the door is closing God says to those not on board, “Catch the next bus.” “No,” they plead, “here comes the next bus and it is driven by Satan and marked ‘Destination Hell!’” 
“Sorry,” says God. “I didn’t choose to save you. Your love and commitment to Jesus doesn’t matter.”
Reformed Baptist apologist James White responded to the above illustration by sending an open letter to Nelson Price, saying:
No Reformed theologian, no Calvinist, with the slightest knowledge of their faith, would ever own your story as their own. Not a one. It is a mockery at best, sir. Consider: The Bible teaches men are dead in sin, enemies of God, incapable of doing what is pleasing to Him. Hence, as Paul said, there are no "God-seekers," and therefore, the very idea that there would be anyone who, outside of God's efficacious grace, believe in Christ, is absurd on its face. Hence, there would be none who "want to get on the bus" outside of God's grace in the first place. The entire foundation of the illustration involves a direct denial of the truth itself as presented by Reformed believers. We believe every single person who trusts and believes in Jesus Christ will be saved. We simply accept what Jesus Himself taught, that no one has that capacity outside of the work of the Holy Spirit drawing them to the Son (John 6:37-44).
Contrast the illustration from Nelson Price with the following definition of Calvinism from Charles Spurgeon:
"Salvation is of the Lord." That is just an epitome of Calvinism; it is the sum and substance of it. If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, "He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord." I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. "He only is my rock and my salvation." Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, "God is my rock and my salvation." What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ—the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.
Though every Christian will proclaim, "Salvation is of the Lord," and no true Christian would wish to receive any credit for contributing to his or her own salvation, teaching that fails to focus upon salvation as being a sovereign work of God (a primary emphasis of Calvinism) leads people to start proclaiming errors such as, “God did 99% of the work in saving you, leaving only 1% for you to do– you must accept Jesus” (a message I’ve heard from a famous evangelist in the past) or “God has cast a vote for you, the Devil has cast a vote against you, and you must cast the deciding vote” (an old distortion noted by Timmy Brister). Notice that if God has left 1% of the work of salvation up to Man or if Man must cast the deciding vote, then it is Man’s work or Man’s vote that becomes the most important consideration in salvation. This teaching would demote the work of God to mere background information. On the other hand, if God sovereignly assures the salvation of those who will believe on Him– if His work even assures the faith of those who will be saved (as Jesus is declared to be the author and perfecter of our faith in Hebrews 12:2)– then we truly have a basis for praising God for salvation, which salvation is all of grace.

So I encourage everyone reading this post to think on these things, to make sure that your understanding of the Doctrines of Grace (commonly called "Calvinism") is informed by people who are accurately representing what these doctrines teach, and to form your understanding of salvation according to what the Scriptures teach, to the glory of God alone.

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Monday, December 09, 2013

John Murray on Original Sin

Notes from The Imputation of Adam's Sin (these notes are from the 1963 lectures available on the Westminster Theological Seminary website). I originally published these notes to this blog in three parts, corresponding to the three parts of the original audio recordings from John Murray. I've combined the notes, seeking to present a completed outline. Murray's thesis, based on exegesis of Romans 5:12-19, is that condemnation and death reign over all men by reason of the one sin of the one man, Adam. A focus on the Doctrine of Original Sin would help counter the Pelagian and Liberal tendencies plaguing the Church today.

I. Sin Defined

A. "Sin is a real evil"
1. "Sin... is not simply the absence of something else..."
2. "Sin involves a depraved disposition.
3. "A depraved disposition is not simply the absence of a good disposition."

B. "Sin is a specific evil... to be distinguished from those evils which are the consequence of sin."
1. "Death is the wages of sin, and all those evils [associated with death] are the consequences of sin... [but] death is not sin, disease is not sin, calamity is not sinful."
2. "To be subject to the wrath of God is an evil, but you cannot call the wrath of God sin...
3. "Sin is not to be associated with a physical evil or a penal evil."

C. "Sin is a moral evil... sin is a violation of the law of God."
1. The law of God is an expression of His character.
2. The law of God is all-pervasive: there is never a circumstance in life in which we are free from the obligation to love and obey God.
3. The law of God sets the parameters for and lends "sanctity" to human ordinances: if a human law is not contrary to the law of God, then violating that law is a sin.

D. "Sin involves pollution, blame, and liability."
1. Pollution denotes the defilement of the heart from which all sin proceeds.
2. Blame denotes that which is in contravention of a divine obligation, by:
a. Omission
b. Commission
c. Falling short
3. Liability refers to the penalty that accrues to the person because of his blameworthy disposition and action = "guilt."

II. Observations Concerning the Nature of Sin

A. "Sin is wrong:" "not only undesirable, but damnable."

B. "Sin is a contradiction of God:"
1. God rightly responds to sin with wrath.
2. It is a "divine impossibility" that God would be complacent regarding sin: God cannot deny Himself.

III. The Imputation of Adam's Sin (Key Passages: Rom 5:12-19; 1 Cor 15:22)

A. Rom 5:12-19
1. Syntactical Construction
a. The Apostle develops both the similarities and the contrasts involved in Adam as a type of Christ through a parenthetical construction in vv. 13-17.
b. The pivotal clause in this whole passage is the last phrase of v. 12.
2. Sin Contemplated
a. eph hō pantes hēmarton  "In that all sinned."
b. This phrase gives the reason why death and condemnation passed to all people.
c. We must determine the meaning of this phrase, not by grammatical possibility, but by contextual consideration.
d. Pelagius held that this phrase refers to the actual sins of all men: people sin and die through following the example of Adam, who sinned and died.
e. The current popular exegesis of this clause is after the Pelagian pattern, the only difference being that now the historicity of Adam is questioned.
f. Neither the grammar nor syntax of Rom 5:12 in themselves refute the Pelagian view.
g. Nevertheless, the Pelagian view is refuted on sound observational and exegetical grounds.
i. It is NOT factually true that all die because they actually sin; infants die, but they have not personally and voluntarily transgressed the Law of God.
ii. In vv. 13-14 the Apostle states the exact opposite of the Pelagian view.
iii. In vv. 15-19 the Apostle repeats the assertion 5X that condemnation and death reign over all men by reason of the one sin of the one man: Adam.
iv. The emphasis is on singularity rather than plurality; the only thesis that can provide a parallel to justification is the teaching that Adam's sin is the ground for condemnation and death for all men.
3. The Union Involved
a. The Roman Catholic view is that the habitual sin of Adam-the loss of original sanctity, resulting from Adam's original transgression-is passed on to his posterity through natural generation. BUT NOTE:
i. It is very difficult to reconcile this position with the Apostle's use of the aorist rather than the perfect tense.
ii. Again, the central comparison of the passage is between sin and justification;
iii. Again, the sustained emphasis of the passage is that condemnation and death reign over all men by reason of the one sin of the one man.
b. Calvin's view was that Original Sin, following the Augustinian tradition, indicates not only the loss of original sanctity, but the radical corruption of fallen human nature.
c. When Paul wrote "all sinned" and "one man sinned," he was referring to the same historical fact.
4. The Nature of the Imputation
a. The first sin of Adam is immediately imputed to his posterity.
b. Charles Hodge charged Jonathan Edwards with teaching mediate imputation, but B.B. Warfield rightly saw that he did not; those who accuse Edwards of teaching mediate imputation do not recognize that in the passages they quote Edwards was not examining the mode of imputation but the nature of the sin imputed.
c. Mediate imputation is expressly contradicted by the sustained emphasis on condemnation and death reigning over all men by reason of the one sin of the one man.
d. The ground of humanity's condemnation and death is the "one trespass" of Adam.
e. In this passage, the Apostle is concerned with the correlation of sin, condemnation and death on the one side and the correlation of righteousness, justification, and life on the other side.
f. Not only does death and condemnation come upon all due to the "one trespass" of Adam: sin comes upon all due to the "one trespass" of Adam.
g. The only doctrine that provides a parallel to the doctrine of justification- the parallel that is established in this passage- is the doctrine of the immediate imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity.
h. Death is the wages of sin; it is impossible to think of death apart from sin: in Adam all sinned; now, therefore, all die.
5. Sin Imputed
a. All are involved in Adam's sin.
b. Charles Hodge defined imputed sin only as the obligation to satisfy justice: i.e., the punishment due to Adam's sin.
c. On the contrary, Paul teaches that more is involved: that the guilt of Adam's sin is also imputed.
d. Again, there is a parallel with justification: in justification, righteousness, not just the benefits of righteousness, is imputed; in original sin, guilt, not just the consequences of guilt, is imputed.
e. We can never think of the sin of Adam in abstraction from the depravity and perversity that it involved; we can likewise never think of imputed sin in abstraction from depravity and perversity.

B. 1 Cor 15:22

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Saturday, December 07, 2013

R.C. Sproul on Original Sin

Notes from R.C. Sproul's Chosen by God Chapter 4 "Adam's Fall and Mine:"

The Federal or Representative View of the Fall

I. "Adam acted as a representative of the entire human race."

II. "The curse of the Fall affects us all."

III. The curse of the Fall affects all of creation (Rom 8:20-22).

IV. "[W]e suffer as a result of Adam's sin" (Rom 5:12-19).

V. An analogy of guilt due to representation from our own legal system:

A. If a person hires a contract killer to assassinate someone, and the killer carries out the homicide, that person may be charged for murder even though he or she did not actually pull the trigger; the hitman's action, performed while acting as a representative of his client, is imputed to the person whom he was representing.

B. Admittedly, this analogy is not absolutely perfect, and some will object that we did not choose Adam as our representative, but the analogy does demonstrate how the actions of one person may be justly imputed to another.

VI. An objection cleared: we did not choose Adam as our representative.

A. Generally, people object to someone else choosing a representative for them because they feel that if they do not choose their own representative, then the representative will not accurately represent them; the founding fathers of the United States would have thus objected to King George choosing representative for them rather than their being allowed to vote for themselves.

B. However, the One who appointed Adam as the representative for the human race was not King George but Almighty God, who cannot err.

C. In this regard, we must acknowledge that even when we choose our own representatives, those representatives do not necessarily act in accordance with our wishes; when we vote someone into office, that person often governs in a manner contrary to his or her campaign promises.

D. God is more capable of choosing a representative for us than we are of choosing a representative for ourselves.

E. People falsely assume that if they had been in the Garden of Eden, then they would have made a different choice than Adam made.

VII. There is no unrighteousness in God: God never performs an unjust act; the fact that people commonly assume that God did wrong in appointing Adam as our representative only emphasizes "how accurately we were represented by Adam."

VIII. The Fall and Predestination

A. "God's decree [of predestination] was made both before the Fall and in light of the Fall" [emphases in original].

B.  "When God predestines people to salvation he is predestinating people to be saved whom he knows really need to be saved."

C. "Adam [sinned] by his own free will, not by divine coercion."

D. "[God's] predestinating grace is gracious precisely because he chooses to save people whom he knows in advance will be spiritually dead."


Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Names of Jesus and the Nature of His Work from Matthew 1:18-25

The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. So Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins." Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel , which is translated "God is with us." When Joseph woke up from his sleep, he did as the Lord's angel had commanded him. He took his wife home, but he did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.
(Matthew 1:18-25 HCSB)

During the Christmas season, as we see the name of "Christ" everywhere- at least as it is attached to the word "Christmas"- and as we even hear the Bible story of Christ's birth recited on network television in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," it is good for us to take some time to seriously reflect on what God's Word has to say about the birth of Jesus Christ. By meditating on the names for Jesus given in Matthew 1:18-25, we see how these names reveal some crucial aspects about who God is. By meditating on the nature of Jesus' work as declared in Matthew 1:18-25, we see how the declarations made about Jesus reveal some crucial aspects about what God has done on behalf of sinners.

The first name in Matthew 1:18-25 to which I would like to draw readers' attention is the name "Christ." In Matthew 1:18 we read:

The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. (HCSB)

"Christ" here is actually a title given to Jesus meaning "Messiah" or "anointed one". The term "anointed one" refers to a king who is promised by God to deliver His people from their enemies. This term comes from the way that the first kings in ancient Israel were appointed by God. God had His prophet Samuel use oil to anoint Saul and later David as He chose them to be kings. As Samuel poured oil on the heads of these men, this action symbolized God pouring out His Spirit on them so that they would be empowered to rule over His people, as we read in First Samuel chapter 10. In the Old Testament Scripture, God promised an ultimate "anointed one"- that is, the Messiah, or Christ- to rule over His people and deliver them from their enemies for all time. Through Jesus, who is named as Christ, God fulfills these Old Testament promises. By the name "Christ" in this passage, we see that God is revealed as one who is faithful to keep His promises, for He has provided a ruler and deliverer for His people.

Jesus is Christ. He is the ruler and deliverer for His people. The question to you today is whether you have submitted to Jesus as your ruler and have called out to Him as your deliverer from sin.

God is faithful to fulfill His promises, by trusting in Him through Christ you can be delivered from your sin and brought into the kingdom of God.

God's faithfulness to His promises is brought into even greater focus as Matthew 1:22-23 gives an example of a specific prophecy that is fulfilled through the birth of Jesus:

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
See, the virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel , which is translated "God is with us." (HCSB)

In addition to the faithfulness of God, these verses tell us that God is actually "with us." God is revealed throughout the Bible as the great king of the universe who is holy and just in all respects. By being born in an impoverished condition through the baby Jesus- who, as the Gospel account of Luke tells us, was laid in a manger because there was no room for Him in the inn- God reveals that He also sympathizes with us in our weaknesses. Jesus was with His people in His earthly ministry- His perfect life, His death for our sins, and His resurrection- and He remains with His people through the Holy Spirit, who is given to everyone who trusts in Christ. So that whatever heartaches that we have, whatever hard times that we face, by faith we must must cling to the promise that, in Jesus, "God is with us."

"Jesus" means, simply put, "God saves." Matthew 1:21 informs us that the son of Mary would be given this name because "He will save His people from their sins." I would like to briefly call your attention to three points concerning the work of God that are revealed by the statement, "He will save His people from their sins." The points from this verse to which I would like to draw your attention are: 1. The specific work of God; 2. The specific people impacted by the work of God; 3. The nature of the work of God.

The Specific Work of God Declared in Matthew 1:21
First of all, Matthew 1:21 informs us of an action that will certainly be accomplished by God through Jesus. "He will save His people from their sins." This is important for us to understand because there are many forms of religion that claim an allegiance to Jesus, but they disregard the very meaning of His name as revealed to us in this verse. This fact is demonstrated in that salvation from sin is declared in Matthew 1:21 to be a work that God Himself will accomplish. False systems try to subtly add human works to this statement, giving the impression that God has made us savable, and that there is some action that individuals must perform to 'seal the deal,' so that they will be saved by cooperating with God. These false systems have the effect of belittling the glory of God and exalting sinful people.

The Specific People Impacted by the Work of God in Matthew 1:21
So, the name "Jesus" tells us of a particular action- our salvation- that is actually accomplished by God. Next, Matthew 1:21 informs us of a particular people who benefit from God's work of salvation. For this verse declares that God will save His people from their sins. And it is clear from the teaching of Jesus later in Matthew- and the other Gospel accounts- that there are some people who will not be saved from their sins. Some people will die having never turned away from their sinful lifestyle and having never trusted in Jesus as their Savior. These people will die in their unbelief and they will be judged by God according to their sins- they will suffer His just wrath against sin for all eternity in Hell.

But God has chosen for Himself a people- His people- whom He will save from their sins. And His people are revealed by their faith in Jesus.

The Nature of the Work of God Declared in Matthew 1:21
Finally, Matthew 1:21- this verse that gives an explanation of the name "Jesus"- reveals to us what God will save His people from. God will save His people from their sins. For the people of Israel at the time of Jesus looked for the Messiah- the Christ- who was a king that God had promised to send to deliver His people from their enemies. But the people of Israel expected this king to be a political leader who would set them free from the Romans who held control over the nation of Israel. What the Israelites did not understand- what no one understood- is that their true enemies were not the Romans but their own sinful desires that battled against God, making them His enemies. Jesus came to set His people- people from within national Israel as well as people from all over the world who would believe in Him- free from their sins. This is the nature of the work that God promised He would accomplish through Jesus. And due to the nature of the salvation that God accomplished through Jesus, His people are, in fact, saved from their sins. In the lives of God's people, there will be a change. Our salvation from sin will be manifest in a growing hatred for sin and a growing love for God.

The Question
The question, then, is, are you a member of the particular group mentioned in this verse: are you one of God's people? Has God saved you from your sin? Is God's salvation from sin demonstrated in your life by a growing hatred for sin and a growing love for God? If you can not answer "yes" to these questions, then I beg you to cry out to Jesus to save you. Jesus alone can save you from your sin. It is for this reason that He came into the world:

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief. (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV)

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