What is the greatest threat facing mankind?

  Sam Storms: What is the greatest threat facing mankind? Many would say it is climate change, while others would point to the increasing presence of radical Islamic fundamentalism. Others would highlight the uncertainties of our global economy or perhaps the potential for new diseases that are resistant to all medical remedies. As important as those issues may be, the greatest threat to the eternal welfare of the human soul is divine judgment! The greatest threat to mankind in general and to individual men and women in particular, and that includes you and me, is that our sins have “made a separation” between us and God (cf. Isa. 59:2). Our greatest need, therefore, is that “eternal salvation” which in Hebrews we are told comes only from the redemptive work of Jesus Christ (Heb. 5:9). And thus our greatest need is for someone in some manner to heal this breach, to interpose himself, as it were, and bridge the gap between

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Just and Justifier

George Smeaton: The design or final cause which God had in view in the whole matter of the atonement is next subjoined: that He might be just, and the justifier (Rom. 3:26). The allusion is to the concurrence or harmony of these two perfections of God. The word JUST, applied to God, means that He asserts just claims and inflicts just punishment. It is a perversion of language to interpret the term as if it could mean anything else than justice in the ordinary acceptation of the word among men made in the image of God. The contrast in which it is placed to divine forbearance, and the allusion to the propitiatory, allow no doubt as to its import Justice seemed to slumber during that period of forbearance; now it is displayed. But this determines the character of the atonement Such language would be unmeaning, if it were not admitted that the atonement is in the proper sense of the word a

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What about those who have never heard?

Todd Pruitt: It is a vexing question for many: “What about those who have never heard?” How can God hold accountable for believing the gospel those who have never heard the gospel? Certainly God cannot send a man to Hell for not believing when he never even had the opportunity to reject the gospel in the first place. The very idea flies in the face of all our notions of justice. But the question itself is fatally flawed. Are we condemned for rejecting the gospel? Or are we condemned because we are sinners? The following is a helpful thought experiment from Francis Schaeffer: If every little baby that was ever born anywhere in the world had a tape recorder hung about its neck, and if this tape recorder only recorded the moral judgments with which this child as he grew bound other men, the moral precepts might be much lower than the biblical law, but they would still be moral

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How God’s Wrath Equals and Reveals God’s Worth

Jonathan Leeman: The “penal” in the doctrine of penal substitution, being tied to God’s wrath, has long been a source of controversy inside the church and out. It’s criticized as overly “legal” or “forensic.” People want to look to the cross and talk about Christ’s love, not his enduring the divine penalty. But it’s worth stopping for a moment and meditating on what is behind a penalty. What is behind wrath? The answer is God’s worthiness or God’s worth. God’s wrath is equal to God’s worth, and that the “penal” in penal substitution therefore reveals this very worth. Wrath and worth are perfectly matched together. The former takes the measure of the latter and expresses itself accordingly. One is as precious as the other. So drop the “penal” from penal substitution and you diminish God dramatically. Despise his wrath and you despise his worth. To see this, it’s worth meditating for a moment on what the purpose of law is. The Reformers talked about the

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God’s wrath and mercy belong together

“The cross is the perfect statement both of God’s wrath against sin and of the depth of his love and mercy in the recovery of the damaged creation and its damagers.  God’s mercy, patience, and love must be fully preached in the church.  But they are not credible unless they are presented in tension with God’s infinite power, complete and sovereign control of the universe, holiness, and righteousness.  And where God’s righteousness is clearly presented, compassionate warnings of his holy anger against sin must be given, and warnings also of the certainty of divine judgment in endless alienation from God which will be unimaginably worse than the literal descriptions of hell.  It is no wonder that the world and the church are not awakened when our leadership is either singing a lullaby concerning these matters or presenting them in a caricature which is so grotesque that it is unbelievable. The tension between God’s holy righteousness and his compassionate mercy cannot be

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Justice & Mercy are Reconciled at the Cross

“How can God have mercy on sinners without destroying justice? What can it mean that God forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clears the guilty (Ex. 34:7)? How can a righteous and holy God justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5)? The answer to all these questions is found at the cross of Calvary, in Jesus’ substitutionary death for his people. A righteous and holy God can justify the ungodly because in Jesus’ death, mercy and justice were perfectly reconciled. The curse was rightly executed, and we were mercifully saved.” – Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2010), 69. (HT: Of First Importance)

Three Precious Words

This piece from Todd Pruitt sums up the thrust of my teaching here in Rwanda. “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26 Martin Luther refered to Romans 3:21-26 as, ““the chief point, and the very

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Our Representative & Our Substitute

“God displays his righteousness by judging sin as sin deserves, but the judgment is diverted from the guilty and put on to the shoulders of Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God acting as wrath absorber. The atonement had to be costly because it was necessary in light of the nature of God, which must inflict retributive punishment on sin. A marvelous wisdom of God consists in his establishing the Lord Jesus as our representative and our substitute because only he could bear and absorb the judgment due to us. Being our representative makes him our substitute, and so he suffers and we go free . . ..” – J. I. Packer, “The Necessity of the Atonement” in Atonement, ed. Gabriel N. E. Fluhrer (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2010), 15-16. (HT: Of First Importance)

What Does the Cross Demonstrate?

Thabiti Anyabwile has reprinted a helpful section from Sinclair Ferguson’s Growing in Grace. Ferguson asks, “How do we find the grace of God in the cross? How has it become God’s instrument of salvation to those who have faith?” His answer is that the cross of Christ demonstrates: the love of God the justice of God the wisdom of God (HT: Justin Taylor)

Does God Hate Haiti?

Albert Mohler’s comments are worth quoting at length: Does God hate Haiti? That is the conclusion reached by many, who point to the earthquake as a sign of God’s direct and observable judgment. God does judge the nations — all of them — and God will judge the nations. His judgment is perfect and his justice is sure. He rules over all the nations and his sovereign will is demonstrated in the rising and falling of nations and empires and peoples. Every molecule of matter obeys his command, and the earthquakes reveal his reign — as do the tides of relief and assistance flowing into Haiti right now. A faithful Christian cannot accept the claim that God is a bystander in world events. The Bible clearly claims the sovereign rule of God over all his creation, all of the time. We have no right to claim that God was surprised by the earthquake in Haiti, or to allow that God

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No more “. . . or else.”

From Ray Ortlund: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”  Galatians 3:13 What is the curse of the law?  It is the or-else-ness of the law: “Do this, or else.”  Christ took the or-else-ness of the law onto himself at the cross, so that there is no more or-else for anyone in Christ, as God looks upon us now.  Or-else is gone forever from your relationship with God. “We, being delivered from these everlasting terrors and anguish through Christ, shall enjoy an everlasting and inestimable peace and happiness.” Martin Luther, commentary on Galatians 3:13.

Not Without Jesus

From Anthony Carter at the Gospel Coalition blog: At a recent prayer meeting someone asked the question, “How do people make it in this world without Jesus?” The answer to that question is that they don’t. There is a sentence of death over every one who has not professed faith in Jesus Christ. This sentence is executable at any moment. And the only reason that it is not executed and the sinner is not immediately experiencing the terrible judgment due for sin is because of the grace and mercy of God. Yet, even more is the reality that instead of having the sentence immediately executed, millions of people experience the grace and mercy of sunshine and rain; seed time and harvest. The fact that there is any light or joy in the life of a sinner is owing to God’s desire to show mercy and to be longsuffering. Nevertheless, those who have come into the knowledge of the truth and

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Three Questions

John Piper, Desiring God, p.60 | “When every human being stands before God on the Day of judgment, God would not have to use one sentence of Scripture to show us our guilt and the appropriateness of our condemnation. He would only need to ask three questions: 1. Was it not plain in nature that everything you had was a gift and that you were dependent on your Maker for life and breath and everything? 2. Did not the judicial sentiment in your own heart always hold other people guilty when they lacked gratitude they should have had in response to a kindness you performed? 3. Has your life been filled with gratitude and trust towards Me in proportion to My generosity and authority? Case closed.” (HT: Symphony of Scripture)

“God himself gave himself to save us from himself.”

“According to the Christian revelation, God’s own great love propitiated his own holy wrath through the gift of his own dear Son, who took our place, bore our sin and died our death. Thus God himself gave himself to save us from himself.” —John Stott, The Message of Romans (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press,  1994), 115 (HT: Of First Importance)

Redeeming love and retributive justice

“God’s wrath is his righteousness reacting against unrighteousness; it shows itself in retributive justice. But Jesus Christ has shielded us from the nightmare of retributive justice by becoming our representative substitute, in obedience to His Father’s will, and receiving the wages of our sin in our place.” […] “Redeeming love and retributive justice joined hands, so to speak, at Calvary, for there God showed Himself to be ‘just, and the justifer of him who hath faith in Jesus’. Do you understand this? If you do, you are now seeing to the very heart of the Christian gospel. No version of that message goes deeper than that which declares man’s root problem before God to be his sin, which evokes wrath, and God’s basic provision for man to be propitiation, which out of wrath brings peace.” – J.I. Packer, In My Place Condemned He Stood (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 40-41. (HT: Of First Importance)

The Great Exchange

John Flavel: Lord, the condemnation was yours, that the justification might be mine. The agony was yours, that the victory might be mine. The pain was yours, and the ease mine. The stripes were yours, and the healing balm issuing from them mine. The vinegar and gall were yours, that the honey and sweet might be mine. The curse was yours, that the blessing might be mine. The crown of thorns was yours, that the crown of glory might be mine. The death was yours, the life purchased by it mine. You paid the price that I might enjoy the inheritance. John Flavel (1671), from his sermon, “The Solemn Consecration of the Mediator,” in The Fountain of Life Opened Up: or, A Display of Christ in His Essential and Mediatorial Glory. (HT: Justin Taylor)

Substitution Is Not a “Theory of the Atonement”!

By Kevin DeYoung In chapter 7 of The Cross of Christ, John Stott looks at the four principal New Testament images of salvation, taken from the shrine (propitiation), the market (redemption), the court of law (justification) and the home (reconciliation). This beautiful chapter on “The Salvation of Sinners” ends with a masterful summary of the four images (198-99). “First, each highlights a different aspect of our human need. Propitiation underscores the wrath of God upon us, redemption our captivity to sin, justification our guilt, and reconciliation our enmity against God and alienation from him. These metaphors do not flatter us. They expose the magnitude of our need.” “Second, all four images emphasize that the saving initiative was taken by God in his love. It is he who has propitiated his own wrath, redeemed us from our miserable bondage, declared us righteous in his sight and reconciled us to himself.” Texts like 1 John 4:10; Luke 1:68; Rom. 8:33; and 2

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