The Holiness of God and the Sinfulness of Man

R.C. Sproul: One word that crystallizes the essence of the Christian faith is the word grace. One of the great mottos of the Protestant Reformation was the Latin phrase sola gratia—by grace alone. This phrase wasn’t invented by the sixteenth-century Reformers. Its roots are in the theology of Augustine of Hippo, who used it to call attention to the central concept of Christianity, that our redemption is by grace alone, that the only way a human being can ever find himself reconciled to God is by grace. That concept is so central to the teaching of Scripture that to even mention it seems like an insult to people’s intelligence; yet, if there is a dimension of Christian theology that has become obscured in the last few generations, it is grace. Two things that every human being absolutely must come to understand are the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. These topics are difficult for people to face. And they go

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When we see the necessity of the atonement

“All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical salvation to secure it. WHen, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely ‘hell-deserving sinners’, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.” — John Stott The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 109 (HT: Of First Importance)

Edwards on why hell is eternal

“The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to obey him. And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligation to love, and honour, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty. Our obligation to love, honor and obey any being is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority. . . . But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. . . . So sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving infinite punishment. . . . The eternity of the punishment of ungodly men renders it infinite . . . and therefore renders it no more than proportionable to the heinousness of what they are guilty of” “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners,” The Works of Jonathan

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The centre of the Old Testament

Bruce Waltke: [T]he center of the OT, the message that accommodates all its themes, is that Israel’s sublime God, whose attributes hold in tension his holiness and mercy, glorifies himself by establishing his universal rule over his volitional creatures on earth through Jesus Christ and his covenant people. An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Zondervan, 2007), 144 (HT: Dane Ortlund)

Edwards on Why Seeing God Would Kill Us

From a sermon on James 1:17 God is arrayed with an infinite brightness, a brightness that doesn’t create pain as the light of the sun pains the eyes to behold it, but rather fills with excess of joy and delight. Indeed, no man can see God and live, because the sight of such glory would overpower nature, . . . ’tis because the joy and pleasure in beholding would be too strong for a frail nature. According to Edwards, it isn’t God’s holiness that would incinerate us. It’s the joy that would erupt within us that we can’t handle. Yet. –Jonathan Edwards, ‘That God is the Father of Lights,’ in The Blessing of God: Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, p.346 (HT: Dane Ortlund)

What is sin?

What is sin? The Glory of God not honored. The Holiness of God not reverenced. The Greatness of God not admired. The power of God not praised. The Truth of God not sought. The Wisdom of God not Esteemed. The Beauty of God not treasured. The Goodness of God not savored. The faithfulness of God not trusted. The Commandments of God not obeyed. The Justice of God not respected. The Wrath of God not feared. The Grace of God not cherished. The presence of God not prized The person of God not loved. That is sin. – John Piper

The Meaning of All Misery

“The meaning of all misery in the world is that sin is horrific. All natural evil is a statement about the horror of moral evil. If you see a suffering in the world that is unspeakably horrible, let it make you shudder at how unspeakably horrible sin is against an infinitely holy God. The meaning of futility and the meaning of corruption and the meaning of our groaning is that sin — falling short of the glory of God — is ghastly, hideous, repulsive beyond imagination. Unless you have some sense of the infinite holiness of God and the unspeakable outrage of sin against this God, you will inevitably see the futility and suffering of the universe as an overreaction. But in fact the point of our miseries, our futility, our corruption, our groaning is to teach us the horror of sin. And the preciousness of redemption and hope.” – John Piper, “Subjected to Futility in Hope, Part 1” (sermon

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“You are accepted”

“Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. . . . In their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification. . . . Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude. In order for a pure and lasting work of spiritual renewal to take place within the church, multitudes within it must be led to build their lives on this foundation.  This means that they must be conducted into the light of a full conscious awareness of God’s holiness, the depth of their sin and the sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ for their acceptance with God, not just

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RC Spoul on Reformed Theology

“At the heart of Reformed Theology, at the heart of Luther and Calvin’s struggle, and in Knox and Jonathan Edwards, were men who were awakened to the greatness, to the majesty, to the holiness, and the sovereignty of God. By contemplating the holiness and sovereignty of God, they were driven to develop their doctrines of the grace of God. Because until you meet a God who is holy and is sovereign, you don’t know what grace means. I don’t think we are ever going to see a healthy evangelical church until the evangelical church is solidly Reformed, where it takes biblical Christianity seriously with a right concept of a sovereign God. That’s because unreformed Christianity has failed in our culture. It has been pervasively antinomian (no law, no Lordship), and has been pervasively liberal in it’s trends and tendencies away from Scripture, because there’s been no real basis in the sovereignty of God. Today’s evangelicals are never amazed by grace,

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Never Let the Gospel Get Smaller

I find myself increasingly drawn to the gospel and its application in my life every day. This piece from John Piper sums up the driving passion of my heart and ministry over the last 5 or 6 years: Here is a simple exhortation that I have been trying to implement in our family: Seek to see and feel the gospel as bigger as years go by rather than smaller. Our temptation is to think that the gospel is for beginners and then we go on to greater things. But the real challenge is to see the gospel as the greatest thing—and getting greater all the time. The Gospel gets bigger when, in your heart, grace gets bigger; Christ gets greater; his death gets more wonderful; his resurrection gets more astonishing; the work of the Spirit gets mightier; the power of the gospel gets more pervasive; its global extent gets wider; your own sin gets uglier; the devil gets more evil;

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Without the New Birth…

Without the new birth, we won’t have saving faith, but only unbelief. (John 1:11-13; 1 John 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:3). Without the new birth, we won’t have justification, but only condemnation. (Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:17 Philippians 3:9). Without the new birth, we won’t be the children of God, but the children of the devil. (1 John 3:9-10). Without the new birth, we won’t bear the fruit of love by the Holy Spirit, but only bear the fruit of death. (Romans 6:20-21; 7:4-6; 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; Galatians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 3:14). Without the new birth, we won’t have eternal joy in fellowship with God, but only eternal misery with the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41; John 3:3; Romans 6:23; Revelation 2:11; 20:15). — John Piper,  Why Do We Need to Be Born Again? (Part 2) (HT: Adrian Warnock)


The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone. ~ John Stott, The Cross of Christ (HT: Rick Ianniello)

Majestic God

From The Thirsty Theologian: I was reminded, as I read the passage that follows, of what David Wells has written on the imminence vs. the transcendence of God. That God is a personal, relational God is emphasized much these days. But what of his greatness and glory, his majesty? Majesty is a word which the Bible uses to express the thought of the greatness of God, our maker and our Lord. “The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty. . . . Your throne was established long ago” (Ps 93:1–2). They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works” (Ps145:5). Peter, recalling his vision of Christ’s royal glory at the transfiguration, says, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet 1:16). . In Hebrews, the phrase the majesty twice does duty for God; Christ, we are told, at his ascension sat down “at the right hand of the majesty in heaven”

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Santa Christ?

Justin Taylor posts this topical piece from Sinclair Ferguson: we may denigrate our Lord with a Santa Claus Christology. How sadly common it is for the church to manufacture a Jesus who is a mirror refection of Santa Claus. He becomes Santa Christ.Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been “good enough.” So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners. Or Santa Christ may be a Semi-Pelagian Jesus — a slightly more sophisticated Jesus who, Santa-like, gives gifts to those who have already done the best they could! Thus, Jesus’ hand, like Santa’s sack, opens only when we can give an

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John Murray on Justification

The doctrine of justification (like other “big Bible words”), is viewed by many as something that is either hard to understand or irrelevant to everyday life.  Why is this the case? I’m sure there are many answers, but here’s an insightful one from the late John Murray: Far too frequently we fail to entertain the gravity of [sin]. Hence, the reality of our sin and the reality of the wrath of God upon us for our sin do not come into our reckoning. This is the reason why the grand article of justification does not ring the bells in the innermost depths of our spirit. And this is the reason why the gospel of justification is to such an extent a meaningless sound in the world and in the church of the twentieth century. We are not imbued with the profound sense of the reality of God, of his majesty, and holiness. And sin, if reckoned with at all, is

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