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 New Georgia Baptist Church.

Monday, July 21, 2014

True God and True Man: Reflections on the Hypostatic Union, Part 4

Texts to Consider

"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (Mark 13:32 NASB).

The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. (Luke 2:40 NASB)

And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52 NASB)

Introduction

Each Christian must personally confess with Thomas that Jesus Christ is "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28), that Jesus-the Word-was God (John 1:1), that Jesus-God the Son-shared in the glory of the Father before the world began (John 17:5). This divine person-the second person of the Trinity-is the person who took on a human nature (Phil 2:7) in order to fulfill the Law (Matt 5:17; Gal 4:4) and to die for our sins (1 Cor 15:3). Having been raised from the dead on the third day (1 Cor 15:4), Jesus freely offers eternal life to all who will believe in Him (John 3:16), and He is now present with believers always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20).

In considering the truths just mentioned, along with the biblical texts cited at the beginning of this blogpost, certain questions arise. How can a divine person-a person who is fully God-be said to increase in wisdom? How can such a person indicate that He did not know something that the Father knows?

In considering these questions, we must more fully explore what we MUST CONFESS about the Person of Christ and what we CANNOT KNOW.

What We MUST CONFESS About the Person of Christ

The second person of the Trinity is immutable according to His divine nature (Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb 13:8 NASB). Thus, as to His divinity, Jesus cannot grow in wisdom or knowledge.

According to the eternal plan in the divine will-from before the world began (Eph 1:3-12; Rev 13:8)-the second person of the Trinity was predestined to become incarnate-taking on a human nature-in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4). The human nature of Christ had all the necessary attributes of humanity. Christ became like us in all ways, sin excepting (Heb 2:17; 4:15). In His human nature, Christ experienced physicality, limitation, change, humility, temptation, and the need to grow in wisdom and knowledge (as expressed in the verses at the beginning of this blogpost, along with others, such as: Matt 4:2; John 4:6; Phil 2:7; Heb 4:15).

The incarnate Christ (before His glorification) normally related to people through His human nature. Except at His transfiguration (Matt 17:1-2; Mark 9:2-3; Luke 9:28-29), those looking upon the human Christ would have considered Him physically unremarkable. As the Prophet Isaiah declared, "He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him and no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isa 53:2b ESV).

Even so, the second person of the Trinity is the divine subsistency through whom creation is sustained (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3). This consideration-along with the confession of divine immutability-means it is impossible that Christ, in taking a human nature, surrendered His divine being or His divine activity when becoming incarnate.

Moreover, though some theologians have claimed that Christ, during the entirety of His incarnate earthly ministry, only acted as a Spirit-empowered human being, the Gospel writers certainly record instances in which Jesus manifestly exercised divine power. Matthew 9:1-8 (paralleled by Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:18-26) provides two examples. First, Jesus forgives sins, an activity that His enemies rightly understand as indicative of deity. Second, Jesus knows the thoughts of the scribes and Pharisees, exercising a feature of divine omniscience (1 Cor 2:11; Psa 44:21; 139:2). While having a human nature and experiencing true humanity, Jesus still consciously exercised divine power at least on occasion.

What We CANNOT KNOW About the Person of Christ

Though we may sometimes think that marriage would be easier if we could just read our spouse's thoughts, it is a fact that no mere human can listen in on what someone else is thinking. Much less can we discern the uncommunicated thoughts of God. As the Apostle Paul notes, "For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:11 ESV). Therefore, we cannot possibly imagine the inner thought-life of a Person who is both God and Man.

What parents have not gazed into their baby's eyes wondering what manner of thoughts an infant might have? Christ-at one time-was an infant, normal in all ways that do not involve sin, yet He was also-at the same time-the eternal second person of the Trinity, sustaining the universe. How could Mary and Joseph ever have guessed at the thoughts of their child?

We know the thoughts of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit has revealed them in Scripture. We who love the Lord should seek to know Him better through searching Scripture, praying for the illumination of the Holy Spirit. We should seek to deepen our understanding of Christ through careful comparison of Scripture with Scripture. We should NOT be too quick to throw up our hands and say "mystery!" or otherwise give up in seeking to understand the fulness of Christ as presented in divine revelation simply because it takes sustained mental effort.

Yet there is certainly a limit to what our finite minds can comprehend concerning Christ. There are "secret things" that belong to the LORD (Deut 29:29). His thoughts are immeasurably higher than ours (Isa 55:9). So we must praise Christ, giving Him glory BOTH for what we can know about Him through divine revelation AND for being greater than we can ever fully know.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

True God and True Man: Reflections on the Hypostatic Union, Part 3


Two Persons?

In order to be faithful to the doctrine of the hypostatic union (and thus, I would argue, faithful to Christ Himself), one CANNOT speak of Jesus as if He is two people: as if there were a human person Jesus who can be divided out from the divine person of Christ. The idea that Christ is two persons is the heresy called "Nestorianism" (named after Nestorius, a fifth century archbishop, who apparently taught some version of this heresy). This heresy destroys the unity of Christ, which is expressed in Bible passages such as 1 Timothy 2:5, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (emphasis added).

Theotokos

In order to combat Nestorianism, the Council of Ephesus (431)–following Gregory of Nazianzus and other great theologians–affirmed the practice of calling Mary theotokos (meaning: "God-bearer" or "mother of God"). In using this term, the Council of Ephesus was NOT suggesting that Mary was/is the "God-bearer" or "mother of God" in the sense of being a source for Christ's divine nature, but they WERE strongly affirming that the baby in Mary's womb was more than a mere human person: Mary bore a person who was and is fully God.

Communicatio idiomatum

The affirmation of Mary as theotokos also raises the issue of Communicatio idiomatum, meaning, “the communication of attributes.” Though there are some denominational differences concerning how we should understand Communicatio idiomatum, at its most basic level, Christians agree that–due to the hypostatic union from the Incarnation–when we speak about Christ, we should not be hesitant to speak of Him as a single Person, who has attributes from both His divine and human natures.  Due to the Communicatio idiomatum, the NT authors can even speak of the Lord of glory as having been crucified (1 Cor 2:8) and the church as purchased with God’s own blood (Acts 20:28). Jesus certainly suffered and died on behalf of sinners according to His human (rather than His divine) nature, yet because it was Jesus who died, it is proper to speak of God shedding His blood and the Lord of glory having been crucified for our salvation. Because it was Jesus who died-one with a human nature, but who is also fully God-it was impossible that death should hold Him (Acts 2:24).

Dear reader, if You call out to Christ to save you from sin, death, and Hell, you will find one Person-one Mediator between God and men-who is fully God and fully Man: compassionate and mighty to save.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

True God and True Man: Reflections on the Hypostatic Union, Part 2


One Nature?

In order to be faithful to the doctrine of the hypostatic union (and thus, I would argue, faithful to Christ Himself), one CANNOT speak of Jesus as if He has only one nature following the Incarnation: as if He were divine without being fully human (body and soul) or as if He has a nature that is some kind of synthesis between divinity and humanity. The idea that Christ, following the Incarnation, has one nature is the heresy called "monophysitism" (from mono, meaning "one," and phusis, meaning "nature").

Monophysitism and Gospel Matters

Monophysitism is a serious heresy for a number of reasons:

1. It misrepresents the clear biblical record. While there are Bible passages that speak of Christ as God (for example, Titus 2:13) and passages that speak of Christ as Man (for example, 1 Timothy 2:5). There are no passages that speak of Christ of having a nature that  is some kind of hybrid.

2. It misrepresents the divine nature of Christ. In the orthodox view, the divine Word takes on a human nature. The divine nature does not become human in the sense of changing or being synthesized into something that it was not. Such an activity (if possible) would imply a change in God's nature. God, however, is immutable (unchangeable), as the Bible declares in passages such as Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17.

3. It misrepresents the human nature of Christ. Scripture declares in Hebrews 2:17 that Jesus was "made like His brethren in every respect." From several passages (including Heb 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22) we know that the humanity of Christ did not include sin. But in every respect necessary for Christ to experience a true (yet sinless) humanity, Jesus was just like us. This would not be the case if His human soul was replaced by a divine soul or if His soul was some sort of human/divine mixture.

4. It undermines the gospel:

a.   The good news of salvation is based on the immutable nature of God. As Scripture declares in Malachi 3:6, “Because I–the LORD–do not change, therefore you–the sons of Jacob–are not consumed.” By asserting change in the divine nature, monophysitism erodes the basis of our hope for salvation. If God can change as to His very nature, how can we be sure that He will not change His mind concerning the salvation of His elect?
b.   The good news of salvation is based on the true, full humanity of Christ. As Scripture declares in Hebrews 2:17, "Therefore, [Christ] had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (NASB emphasis added). Christ our great high priest had to become like us and He had to be chosen out from among men (Heb 5:1). One reason that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb 10:4) is because these animals are fundamentally NOT like us, and so they are improper as substitutes. But in the monophysite view, Jesus in His humanity is fundamentally NOT like us in that He lacks a human soul. As Gregory of Nazianzus righly asserted:

If anyone has put his trust in [Christ] as a Man without a [fully] human mind, he is really bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which He has not assumed He has not healed.
Christ HAD to take on a fully human nature, body and soul (with a mind) in order to be a substitute for human beings: making propitiation, bearing our penalty for sins that we have committed in body and soul, and bringing healing to our souls (and eventually to our bodies as well, in the resurrection).

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Monday, July 14, 2014

True God and True Man: Reflections on the Hypostatic Union, Part 1


Basic Definition

The divine nature of God the Son (the second Person of the Trinity) subsists in a hypostatic (personal) union with a human nature. The hypostatic union has existed from the moment that the Word became flesh (John 1:14), being conceived in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18; Luke 1:35). The hypostatic union continues on everlastingly: For in Christ all the fullness of deity dwells [present tense] in bodily form (Col 2:9 emphasis added). As the second Person of the Trinity existed before the Incarnation (John 1:1; John 17:5), what the hypostatic union means is that in the Incarnation, the Word of God (a divine Person) took upon Himself a human nature. On the other hand, the humanity of Christ consists in a nature, which derives its personhood from the eternal Word. (The idea that the Word took on a distinct, non-divine human person is the heresy called "adoptionism.")

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jonathan Edwards on Original Sin, Part 2 (The Universal Natural Tendency to Sin)

[The following post is re-edited from notes originally published on this blog on December 7, 2010.]


  • Edwards asserts that proof of universal sinfulness and universal guilt provide evidence for a universal natural tendency to sin.
  • Several arguments by analogy are given; for example, if a person were to cast dice repeatedly and always get the same number, then it would be reasonable to assume that there was something in the nature of the dice that caused them to tend toward that number.
  • Those who seek to argue against the idea of a universal natural tendency to sin end up using language that assumes such a tendency anyway.
  • It is not sufficient to argue that people sin due to external circumstances rather than a natural tendency; the circumstances of this world may be so corrupt that people everywhere, who would otherwise be naturally good if they were not in this corrupt world, fall into sin. But sinfulness is characterized by a wrong relationship of people to the world in which God placed them, and if they consistently fall into sin, then they must be thought of as having a natural tendency to sin.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Mission of the Body of Christ: Sermon Notes from Matthew 16:13-20 (Sermon by Keith Stell)

[These notes are taken from the evening service this past Lord's Day at New Georgia Baptist Church.]

Matthew 16:13-20.
Keith Stell

I. "But who do you say that I am?"

A. This is the single greatest question we might be asked.

B. This question implies mission, as we are to be saying something about Jesus, and it is important that we say something correct.

C. This question was a kind of catechism.

II. What is the Church on Mission?

A. Ecclesia = "called out" ones; we are called out of sin.

B. The Church is a congregation: a body gathered for a purpose.

C. The Church is designed to reflect the glory of God's grace.

III. Whose Church is It? What is Its Guarantee?

A. Peter is not the foundation of the Church.
1. Peter, after the statement in Matt 16:18, denied Jesus three times.
2. Peter, after the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, was rebuked by Paul, as recorded in Galatians.
3. In 1 Peter 5:1, Peter refers to himself as a fellow elder.
4. The question of "who is the greatest?" which the disciples posed to Jesus, was not answered by an appeal to Petrine primacy.
5. The different terms for "rock" point away from Peter being identified as the foundation of the Church.

B. The Role of the Apostles is Foundational to the Church
1. Ephesians 2:20.
2. Revelation 21:14.
3. Acts 2:42.

C. Ultimately, the Rock is Christ
1. Jesus said, "My Church."
2. Christ has preeminence in all things.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Mistakes, Disease, and the Humanity of Christ: Necessary Inferences and the Burden of Proof

Say that an evangelical pastor/teacher has come to the conviction that, following His incarnation and  prior to the Cross, Jesus made factual mistakes and/or that Jesus suffered from diseases. If this pastor/teacher limited himself to speaking on biblical examples of Jesus making mistakes or suffering from particular diseases, what would he say? Nothing at all. There is NO biblical example of Jesus making a mistake or suffering from a disease.

Should this fact end discussion of these matters outright? Not necessarily. There are such things as necessary inferences from Scripture.

Concerning the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, the Westminster Confession of Faith paragraph 1:6 declares:
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.
Paragraph 1:6 of the Second London Baptist Confession begins with the exact same wording, except that in place of the Westminster phrase, "or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture," the Baptist Confession has the phrase "or necessarily contained in Scripture." As Fred Malone notes:
Fred Malone
Likely they [the Baptists] did this [i.e., changed the wording at this point] in order to distinguish true good and necessary consequence, which should always be limited by the containment of Scripture, from the abuse of good and necessary consequence as logical inference alone. [Fred A. Malone, The Baptism of Disciples Alone (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2007), 20.]
In the work cited above, Malone had previously noted:
[I]t is a valid hermeneutical method to draw inferences from Scripture. Drawing good and necessary inferences is required to draw up confessions, to do systematic theology and to engage in pastoral applications to people.
Given the validity of necessary inferences, the question is: does the humanity of Christ necessarily imply that He made mistakes and/or that He suffered from disease? I have argued that the answer is "no." Mistakes and diseases are not necessary to the definition of humanity: Adam in Eden would not have made mistakes or contracted diseases; refraining from mistakes or avoiding disease does not make one less than human. Even in light of the Fall, we find that the Gospels record Jesus facing situations in which we who are affected by sin would normally make mistakes or contract disease, yet in the accounts of these situations there is no hint that He made a mistake or contracted a disease. Furthermore, the idea that Jesus made mistakes and/or that He contracted diseases raises problems for important biblical considerations: namely, inerrancy and the unique work He performed in His passion. (I grant that the idea that Jesus was without error is more clear and crucial in this regard than the idea that He was free from all disease.)

The burden of proof, then, is firmly on those who would argue-without direct scriptural example-that we must infer mistakes and/or diseases as necessary to Christ's humanity. Are necessary inferences being made in these matters? The answer to this question must NOT lie in human reasoning about how the fallen world around us normally looks. Rather, we must form our thoughts upon the analogy of faith.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jesus Without Disease

[The following is updated from a blogpost originally published on 12/13/2010.]

Near the end of his article declaring that Jesus made mistakes, Sam Storms offers speculation regarding the physical life of the fully human Christ during His earthly ministry. Storms asks questions which include the following:

Sam Storms
"Did Jesus ever get sick? When he hit his thumb with a hammer while working in his father's carpenter shop (assuming he did!), would he have been susceptible to getting an infection? ... Could Jesus have caught the flu from one of his family members? Could Jesus have suffered from a 24-hour stomach virus (with all its unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diahhrea) caused by drinking dirty water from the Jordan River?"

Storms concludes: Yes, most likely.”

In an article titled, "Did Jesus Ever Get a Stomach Virus?" Dr. Russell Moore emphatically answered, "[Jesus] was not exempt from something as common as sickness."

Russell Moore
While I do NOT think that differences on this issue have such immediate negative consequences as the assertion that Jesus made errors or mistakes, I DO think that we should consider that Christ was not subject to disease. Reflect, dear reader, upon the following:

1. Sickness is not a necessary element of humanity; Adam, before the Fall, would not have gotten sick. Illness was not was not a necessary experience for Christ, as He is the new and better Adam (Rom 5:14; 1 Cor 15:45). 

2. Human weaknesses of Jesus are specifically mentioned in the Gospel accounts; He hungered after fasting (Matt 4:2), He grew tired after physical exertion (John 4:6), etc. These experiences ARE necessary to humanity, due to our physicality, finitude, and mutability. The inspired Gospel writers seem keen to record the truly human experiences of Christ. But the Gospels never mention Jesus being sick, which-if He had gotten sick-would have been similarly notable.

3. On the other hand, the Gospels DO record that Jesus faced situations in which we who are affected by sin would normally contract disease, yet in the accounts of these situations there is no hint that He contracted a disease. For example, Matthew 8:1-4 records that Jesus healed a leper by touching him. Jesus certainly did not cease to be human when He touched the leper. Yet, unlike any of us, Jesus did not contract leprosy. His true humanity did not necessitate that He catch the disease.

4. Sin, sickness, and death appear to be related in the Bible (for example: Isaiah 53:4Matthew 8:17); just as Jesus, being sinless, would not have "naturally" died as we "naturally" die-rather, He laid down His life on His own accord (John 10:18)-Jesus wouldn't have "naturally" fallen ill.

5. In so emphasizing the Incarnation, I fear we run the risk of under-estimating the uniqueness of the Cross. We may miss the idea that Jesus, at a specific point in His ministry, began to bear the sins of His people upon His own body and endure divine wrath on our behalf. Jesus did not experience the wrath of God against sin throughout His entire life; He would not have cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" (Matt 27:46) at His baptism.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Jesus Without Mistakes: Christ as the New Adam and Inerrant Word

Someone has made a mistake:
either the Lord of glory,
or this gentleman preaching
in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt.
To Be Human is to Err?

"To err is human..." This proverb, though not found in Scripture, is certainly reflective of our normal daily experience. But is the obverse true as well? Is 'to be human to err'?

Mark Driscoll, in discussing the true humanity of Christ, seems to think that the answer is 'yes,' and-responding to objections against Driscoll on this issue-Sam Storms has emphatically answered in the affirmative. Driscoll and Storms both believe that in order to be truly human, Jesus must have made errors or mistakes.

Driscoll and Storms are both careful to say that they are not asserting that Jesus made any moral errors or mistakes. Rather, Driscoll believes-and Storms asserts-that Jesus made factual errors or mistakes.

On The Distinction Between Moral and Factual Errors

5, 280!
The distinction between moral and factual errors or mistakes can indeed be meaningful. The antiChrist himself (as a Reformed Baptist, I mean Pope Francis) may be able to say how many feet are in a mile (or meters are in a kilometer) without making a factual error or mistake. Yet, due to the radical corruption of human nature through Adam's fall, none of us can relate even the most commonplace facts in a way is free from moral error. This is because God created all things for His own glory, but when we consider the things that He has made and principles that He has established, we never glorify Him to the level we ought. When we fill out our multiplication tables in elementary school, even if we make no factual errors, we never perform this activity in a way that is characterized by complete, untainted love for God: heart, soul, mind and strength.

So, making moral errors or mistakes is a necessary part of what it means to be a fallen human being. But-laying aside the question of fallenness, as Jesus was (and is) sinless-is making factual errors or mistakes a necessary part of what it means to be a human?

On the Proper Distinctions Between God and Man

What are the necessary characteristics of humanity? Specifically, what are the necessary characteristics that distinguish God and Man (considered apart from the Fall)? Most obviously, Man is embodied: as the Baptist Catechism declares, "God made the body of Adam out of the ground and formed Eve from the body of Adam" (Gen 2:7, 21-23; 3:19; Psa 103:14). On the other hand, "God is a Spirit, and does not have a body like men" (John 4:24; 2 Cor 3:17; 1 Tim 1:17).


The other necessary characteristics of humanity-the characteristics that distinguish people body and soul from God-are summed up in two terms: finitude and mutability. Man is finite and mutable, which is to say that people (unlike God) have limits and are subject to change. God alone is infinite and immutable. Jesus' (post-resurrection) statement to His disciples that He is with us always, even unto the end of the age, as we go into all nations (Matt 28:19-20)-a statement indicating that He is limitless-and the declaration by the author of Hebrews that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb 13:8): these are indicative of His divine, not His human, nature.

Jesus is fully human. Jesus is embodied (even now, as Colossians 2:9 declares in the present tense). Touching His humanity (at least during His earthly ministry), Jesus was finite and mutable. During His time on earth, "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).

Growth in Wisdom: Some Needed Distinctions
Sam Storms

Driscoll and Storms believe that the human characteristics mentioned above imply that Jesus must have made factual errors. Sam Storms writes, "[D]id Jesus ever 'mistakenly' think that 5x5=30? ... When, as a young boy, he looked up at the sky, did [Jesus] ever wonder whether the sun might orbit the earth?" Storms gives a few other examples, and he asserts that these kinds of questions should be answered "yes."

Not all of Storms' examples are alike, and when writing about Jesus' education, Storms fails to distinguish between ignorance, confusion, and false assertions.

In His human experience, Jesus-like all other people-went from not knowing to knowing. In this sense, the Son of Man experienced ignorance, which had to be overcome through education. There is no culpability in this. As with all other children, Jesus had to learn to walk and talk, and He had to be educated day by day. The experience of ignorance, and having one's ignorance overcome through education, does seem to be a necessary part of human experience.

But not knowing is different from being mistaken. I believe that Driscoll and Storms go astray-and lead others astray-from a right understanding of Christ when they indicate that He experienced confusion and seem to indicate that He may have made false assertions concerning matters of fact.

Unlike ignorance and growth in knowledge, confusion is not a necessary part of what it means to be human. When God created Man and declared him "very good" (Gen 1:31), was Man in a state that necessarily included confusion and error? Is the promised paradise of God (Rev 2:7) a place-because people are present-that will contain confusion and error? (I have no doubt that we will be ignorant about many things when we arrive in the new heavens and new earth, and that we will spend eternity growing in knowledge.) God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33). Without diabolical influence, the people in Eden would have lived in simple faith: growing in knowledge certainly, but never experiencing confusion.

Even more problematic is the idea that Christ may have made false assertions concerning matters of fact. Notably, Storms-in making inferences concerning Jesus' education-never directly states that he believes Jesus spoke statements contrary to fact. Storms clearly believes that Jesus would have, at times, held to mistaken notions about factual subjects like Math or Astronomy. Would He have ever spoken about such mistaken notions? If not-if He actually held to erroneous beliefs concerning matters of fact, but was somehow prevented from speaking these beliefs-then His experience of human life was certainly unusual. (Storms seems zealous to promote Jesus as having a rather normal daily human experience, including confusion and error.) If, on the other hand, the Son of God spoke factual errors, then hopefully no one wrote them down!

The Practical Importance of This Consideration

The idea that Jesus would have thought-or possibly voiced-false assertions leads to a matter of practical importance in this consideration. While the distinction between factual and moral errors is meaningful on one level (as noted above), a great deal of overlap between these categories seems unavoidable. Even the most basic factual error (say, to take one of Storms' examples, an assertion that 5x5=30) improperly reflects the created order. In this sense, factual errors are indicative of something broken or marred in the way that humans display the image of God. This is one reason, when defending biblical inerrancy, the Chicago Statement declares, "We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science" (more on this below).

You say Jesus made mistakes?
I agree!
But many questions of fact have even more immediately apparent, long-lasting spiritual consequences. To give two examples: in Matthew 19, Jesus gives authoritative statements concerning marriage, divorce, and adultery; in John 14:6, Jesus declares that He is the exclusive way to the Father. Both of these passages involve assertions of fact. Now, if Driscoll and Storms are correct, then Jesus was liable to making factual mistakes. Isn't it possible, taking this view, that Jesus was unknowingly wrong concerning questions of fact touching the doctrine and practice of the Church? If Jesus-like the rest of us-is liable to make factual mistakes, then maybe we should reexamine His statements and see if we should take different views: re-defining marriage; being more inclusive in our view of other religions. This is the position held by many liberal theologians.

Evangelicals who follow Driscoll and Storms' line of thinking on this subject, and who wish to avoid giving credence to liberal questions or denials of Jesus' teaching, may wish to assert that the words of Jesus found in Scripture are free from mistakes or errors. But on what basis are the words of Christ in Scripture inerrant? Isn't it because the Holy Spirit superintended the writing of Scripture? As the Chicago Statement again declares, "We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write."

In writing true and trustworthy Scripture, free from error, the prophets and apostles did not become omniscient. They did not become more than human. In writing the New Testament, the apostles received prophecy and clarity concerning Christ from the Holy Spirit (John 2:22; 16:13-14). They began in ignorance concerning some of these matters, and they grew in knowledge. On the other hand, when penning holy Scripture, the apostles were never confused about what they should write down. They certainly never included false assertions in the Bible.

The beliefs that evangelicals readily affirm concerning the production of the Spirit-inspired written Word of God should also be affirmed concerning the life of the Spirit-anointed incarnate Word of God. Scripture, though penned by humans, is inerrant. Jesus, though truly human, is (and always has been) without error or mistakes.

Ignorance Without Errors

If I am correct, then Jesus, while having experienced ignorance and growth in knowledge as a human, was never confused, nor did He make any false assertions. How could this distinction be maintained in Christ, practically speaking? Certainly, no mere human being knows another's thoughts (1Cor 2:11), and we can never come close to fully comprehending the thought-life of a theanthropic Person who is able to read our thoughts (and was able to read other's thoughts during His earthly ministry, even before the resurrection: Matt 9:4; 12:25; Luke 11:17). But I believe that Mark 13:32 provides a helpful basis for considering how Jesus could be ignorant without being confused or led to false assertions. As recorded in this verse, Jesus declared concerning the destruction Jerusalem, "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (NASB).

As a human being like us, Jesus-during His pre-ascension earthly ministry-experienced ignorance concerning certain matters of eschatology. How, then, did Jesus deal with ignorance in a way that did not involve confusion or false assertions? He admitted it! Jesus was perfect in humility. When-as a Man-He did not know something, He did not offer up fallible speculations. Instead, He said, 'I don't know.'

This presupposes, of course, that Jesus-as an unfallen human being, not suffering the noetic effects of sin-did not experience confusion. He never thought He knew something that He didn't actually know. In this way, He was free from the error of making false assertions.

Conclusion

Driscoll and Storms are correct to declare that Jesus was and is truly and fully human. We should understand this to mean that touching His humanity (at least during His earthly ministry), Jesus was like us in being finite and mutable. Jesus experienced ignorance, which had to be overcome through education. This placed Jesus in the position of needing humility.

In their consideration of His humanity, I fear that Driscoll and Storms have failed to properly account for certain aspects of Jesus' human existence. Jesus is the new and better Adam (Rom 5:14b; 1 Cor 15:45). Taken out of the mass of humanity-as the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15) and the descendant of David (Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8)-Jesus became a new beginning. Sinless like Adam, Jesus did not experience the noetic effects of sin. He never experienced confusion. When His disciples woke Him up during the middle of a storm (Matt 8:23-27)-though He was obviously very weary (showing His real humanity)-Jesus did not respond to the situation with the shock and confusion that we all would have likely experienced. He did not make any confused statement, which He did not really mean.

Driscoll and Storms also fail to properly consider the inerrancy of the Word. They would, I believe, affirm the inerrancy of the written Word of God. The inerrancy of Christ should be affirmed on the exact same principles as scriptural inerrancy. I sincerely pray that they-and those on whom they have influence-will see that the incarnate Word of God is (and always has been) free from errors or mistakes.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Willing to Follow: Sermon Notes from 2 Timothy 2:8-13 (Sermon by Dr. James R. Burdette)

[The following are sermon notes from yesterday morning's worship service at New Georgia Baptist Church.]

2 Timothy 2:8-13.

I. The Lord's Preeminence (v. 8)

A. The Lord is risen from the dead.

B. The Lord is "of the seed of David."

II. The Lord's Word [Unchained] (v. 9)

A. Scriptural cross-reference: Philippians 4:22; even as Paul was imprisoned, the Lord's Word had reached the household of Caesar.

B. Historical reference: John Bunyan, who ministered and wrote Pilgrim's Progress while in prison.

C. Contemporary reference: the spread of Christianity in China, despite government prohibition.

III. The Lord's Work [Election] (v. 10)

A. The certainty that some will believe is a great encouragement.

B. Salvation is a work of God.

C. God sends us to proclaim the gospel to everyone.

IV. The Lord's Blessing (vv. 11-13)

A. We "need to remember the promise of God."

B. 2 Tim 2:12b, xref. Jn 3:18.

C. 2 Tim 2:13, xref. 1 Jn 1:9.

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