Sin: Can’t Live With It, Won’t Live Without It

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Tim Challies:

Sin. I can’t live with it, but time and time again I have proven that I’m just not able to live without it. I know that I have been freed from sin—freed from the power of sin—and yet I still sin. The Bible tells me not to let sin reign, it tells me that if I am truly a child of God I will not go on sinning (Romans 6:12, 1 John 3:9). And still I sin. Even in those times that I focus my efforts on one particular sin I find that I am unable to stop, unable to put it entirely to death. My mind can’t do it, my heart can’t do it, my will can’t do it, my hands can’t do it. It may not reign as sovereign, but it continues to exist as a trial and a steady temptation.

In The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction Sinclair Ferguson writes about this tricky relationship of sin to the Christian and offers these words of assurance: “We are no longer what we once were; we are no longer related to sin the way we once were.” This is important for me to understand and to keep in the forefront of my mind as I battle sin—any sin. I am not what I once was. I am not who I once was. I was once a slave to sin, owned by it, inexorably drawn to it. But now I am the slave to a different master. I am owned by God and subject to him. My relationship to sin has been radically transformed.

And yet I still get angry. I still lash out in anger. I still simmer in anger. I still have desires that stem from anger and suffer the consequences of my anger. And that is just one sin. I still lust and am still jealous and am still thankless and still sin in so many ways. I have died to sin but sin has not yet died within. But here is the difference; here is the change: Sin no longer has dominion. And practically I cannot relate to it as if it has dominion. I have to ensure that my experience of sin is consistent with my theology of sin.

Anger does not own me. Christ owns me. Lust does not motivate me. Christ motivates me. Jealousy does not get the final victory. Christ gets the final victory. The cross stands there as assurance that I have been saved from its power and will some day be fully and finally delivered from its presence. Sin is in me but I am in Christ. And what is in me was put upon him on the cross. He triumphed over it then. He broke its power. And now I just wait, battling all the while, for him to speak the word and bring it to an end once and for all.

Restoring beauty to his bride

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Let us suppose, in the manner of some romances, that a king was betrothed to a beautiful wife, whose picture was sent to him before he himself saw her. But when she set out on her journey to him, she fell sick of some loathsome disease, such as the smallpox or leprosy.

But suppose that he knew before she came to him that she should be restored to her first primitive beauty, and that even though he knew he would be troubled by her disaster, distemper, or disease, he easily quieted himself for that little space of time in which her infirmity, though greatly disfiguring her, was to continue. For he himself would be her physician, the only one who could cure her and restore her to her first perfect beauty, which he know he could and should do. Thus he would show all love and peace toward her, even though her disease was loathsome, in full hope of her recovery.

This is the case between Christ and the church.

— Thomas Goodwin, A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009), 113

(HT: Of First Importance)

The eternality of the Son of God

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Kevin DeYoung:

There never was when he was not.

That was the bone of contention with Arianism, the fourth century heresy which rejected the full deity of the Son of God. The issue was not whether the Son was divine in some sense, but whether he shared the same essence (homoousia) as the Father. In particular, Arius held that sonship necessarily implied having a beginning. While Arius affirmed that Christ was preexistent and that all things were created through him, he also believed that the Father created the Son. According to Arius, “If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten has a beginning of existence; hence it is clear that there was when he was not.” Arius was careful not to use the word “time,” because he believed the Son existed before the ages began, but for Arius eternality and sonship could not go together. The Son was a divine being, but a created being with a derivative deity

How should we respond to this claim? It’s not enough to point to passages where Christ is worshiped or where the deity of the Son is broadly affirmed. Arius did not reject these conclusions and neither do modern day Arians. Where do we turn to defend the belief that there never was when the Son of God was not?

Four passages come to mind:

1) In John 8:58 Jesus says to his opponents, “before Abraham was, I am.” Not only does Jesus link himself to Yahweh’s great “I AM” statement of Exodus 3:14, he also makes allusion to the “I am” declarations  in Isaiah 40-55 (e.g., “I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he” [Isa. 41:4]). Jesus considered himself as eternal as the God of the Old Testament was eternal. Little wonder some unbelieving Jews thought him a blasphemer and tried to kill him (John 8:59).

2) Likewise, Philippians 2:5-11 places Christ Jesus right in the middle of the most exalted language of Isaiah 45-46. The prediction that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (v. 10-11), comes from Isaiah 45:23. Jesus is identified with the God who says “I am” and “there is no other” (Isa. 45:22), with the God who declares the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:9-10).

3) Hebrews 7:3 describes Melchizedek–the mysterious king of Salem from Genesis 14–as “having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” Whatever this means about Melchizedek himself (a pre-incarnate Christ or simply a type of Christ), for the analogy to hold (“resembling the Son of God”) Christ must also have neither beginning of days nor end of life.

4) Most convincingly, in Revelation 22:13 Jesus announces, “I am the Alpha ad the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Earlier in the book, God says the same thing, making specific reference to his eternality as the one who is and who was and who is to come (Rev. 1:8;21:6). In whatever sense the Father is the beginning and the end, so is the Son. One cannot be more or less eternal than the other.

No matter our experience of sonship (i.e., having a beginning), the divine must be the lens through which we understand the human, not the other way around. Without the eternality of the Son, we do not have a Christ who can fully save because we do not have a Christ who shares in all the attributes of deity. Without eternal Sonship, we cannot affirm that the Father has always been the Father. And if the Father has not always been in communion with the Son, then love cannot be eternal, for the Father would have had to create another being in order to give and receive love. Likewise, it is only with eternal Sonship that the economic Trinity (that which we see about God in the unfolding of redemptive history) corresponds to any real ultimate truth about God. The God who is must be the God who always was.

Authority

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Tim Keller:

Many years ago as a young Christian my attention was arrested by an article on ‘Authority’ by John Stott. Stott asked, “Why should people believe that the Bible is God’s Word written, inspired by his Spirit and authoritative over their lives?” (The Authority of the Bible, IVP, 1974,p.6) This was a big question for me. I had decided that I believed in Jesus Christ, but I struggled with the idea that I had to believe everything in the Bible.  Stott answered that we do not believe it simply because we want to be dogmatic and certain about our own beliefs, nor because the church has consistently taught this (though it has), nor because we just ‘feel’ the Bible is true as we read it. “No. The overriding reason for accepting the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture is plain loyalty to Jesus…Our understanding of everything is conditioned by what Jesus taught. And that includes his teaching about the Bible. We have no liberty to exclude anything from Jesus’ teaching and say, ‘I believe what he taught about this but not what he taught about that.’ What possible right do we have to be selective?” (p.7)

What did Jesus believe about the Bible? He said that not a ‘jot or tittle’ (i.e. not the smallest letter or even a part of a letter) would pass away from God’s Word until all was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18 cf. John 10:35.)

In Matthew 19:5, Jesus tells us that in Genesis “God said” that “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.” But when you go back to Genesis 2:24 you discover that it is only the human but inspired author of Genesis who wrote that. So, to Jesus, what Scripture says, God says. And Jesus did not simply believe the Bible, but he guided and regulated every step and detail of his life by it (cf. John 19:28.)

Stott’s question—‘what possible right do we have to be selective?’—is like a hammer blow to our contemporary way of life. We feel strongly that we have the right, even the obligation to select what parts of Jesus teaching we can accept and what parts we cannot. But that makes no sense. Why should you trust in him as Savior if you are wiser and smarter then he is? Either he is who he said he is, and his views judge our views, or he was lying or deluded about being the Son of God. So Jesus’ authority and the absolute authority of the Bible stand or fall together. If we believe he was who he said he was, then we must accept the entire Bible as God’s word.

Immanuel

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C.H. Spurgeon:

“‘Immanuel, God with us.’  It is hell’s terror.  Satan trembles at the sound of it. . . . Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, ‘God with us,’ back he falls, confounded and confused. . . . ‘God with us’ is the laborer’s strength.  How could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away? . . . ‘God with us’ is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of the angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. . . .

Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast. . . . But in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem.  Let him have a place in your hearts, give him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived him, but think most of all of the Man born, the Child given.

I finish by again saying, A happy Christmas to you all!

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the Old Testament (London, n.d.), III:430.

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

The Word became flesh

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David Mathis:

What Is the Incarnation?

The incarnation refers literally to the in-fleshing of the eternal Son of God—Jesus becoming human. The doctrine of the incarnation says that the eternal second person of the Trinity took on humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. A helpful way to remember the key aspects of the incarnation is John 1:14: “The Word became flesh.”

The Word…

The Word refers to the eternal Son of God who was “in the beginning with God” and who himself is God (John 1:1). From eternity past until he took on humanity, the Son of God existed in perfect love, joy, and harmony in the fellowship of the Trinity. Like the Father and the Spirit, he was spirit and had no material substance. But at the incarnation, the eternal Word entered into creation as human. He became a first-century Jew.

…became…

Became does not mean that he ceased to be God. In becoming man, he did not forsake his divine nature. It means that he became man by taking on human nature in addition to his divine nature. It is essential to the incarnation—and very helpful throughout all theology—to recognize that divinity and humanity are not mutually exclusive. The Son of God didn’t have to pick between being God and being man. He could be both at the same time. The eternal Word became human.

…flesh.

Flesh isn’t merely a reference to the human body but the entirety of what makes up humanity—body, mind, emotions, and will. Hebrews 2:17 and 4:15 teach that to save human beings Jesus had to be made like us “in every respect” except our sin. In the incarnation, everything proper to humanity was united to the Son of God. The Son of God didn’t only become like man; he actually became truly and fully human.

The Word Became Flesh

So the eternal Son of God, without ceasing to be God, took on a fully human nature. This is the incarnation.

And what a magnificent doctrine and fuel for worship this is! Jesus didn’t just become man because he could. This was no circus stunt, just for show. He became man “for us and for our salvation” (in the words of the old creed). The Word became flesh to save us from our sin and to free us to marvel at and enjoy the unique union of divinity and humanity in his one spectacular person.

The incarnation is not only the way in which Jesus became Immanuel—God with us—but it’s an eternal testimony that he and his Father are unswervingly for us.

The incarnation of Jesus

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Joseph Scheumann:

Christmas is about the incarnation of Jesus. Strip away the season’s hustle and bustle, the trees, the cookies, the extra pounds, and what remains is a humble birth story and a simultaneously stunning reality — the incarnation of the eternal Son of God.

This incarnation, God himself becoming human, is a glorious fact that is too often neglected, or forgotten, amidst all the gifts, get-togethers, pageants, and presents. Therefore, we would do well to think deeply about the incarnation, especially on this day.

Here are five biblical truths of the incarnation.

1. The Incarnation Was Not the Divine Son’s Beginning

The virgin conception and birth in Bethlehem does not mark the beginning of the Son of God. Rather, it marks the eternal Son entering physically into our world and becoming one of us. John Murray writes, “The doctrine of the incarnation is vitiated if it is conceived of as the beginning to be of the person of Christ. The incarnation means that he who never began to be in his specific identity as Son of God, began to be what he eternally was not” (quoted in John Frame, Systematic Theology, 883).

2. The Incarnation Shows Jesus’s Humility

Jesus is no typical king. Jesus didn’t come to be served. Instead, Jesus came to serve (Mark 10:45). His humility was on full display from the beginning to the end, from Bethlehem to Golgotha. Paul glories in the humility of Christ when he writes that, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6–8).

3. The Incarnation Fulfills Prophecy

The incarnation wasn’t random or accidental. It was predicted in the Old Testament and in accordance with God’s eternal plan. Perhaps the clearest text predicting the Messiah would be both human and God is Isaiah 9:6: “To us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

In this verse, Isaiah sees a son that is to be born, and yet he is no ordinary son. His extraordinary names — Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace — point to his deity. And taken together — the son being born and his names — point to him being the God-man, Jesus Christ.

4. The Incarnation Is Mysterious

The Scriptures do not give us answers to all of our questions. Some things remain mysterious. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God,” Moses wrote, “but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Answering how it could be that one person could be both fully God and fully man is not a question that the Scriptures focus on. The early church fathers preserved this mystery at the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) when they wrote that Jesus is “recognized in two natures [God and man], without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ.”

5. The Incarnation Is Necessary for Salvation

The incarnation of Jesus does not save by itself, but it is an essential link in God’s plan of redemption. John Murray explains: “[T]he blood of Jesus is blood that has the requisite efficacy and virtue only by reason of the fact that he who is the Son, the effulgence of the Father’s glory and the express image of his substance, became himself also partaker of flesh and blood and thus was able by one sacrifice to perfect all those who are sanctified” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 14).

And the author to the Hebrews likewise writes that Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

The incarnation displays the greatness of God. Our God is the eternal God who was born in a stable, not a distant, withdrawn God; our God is a humble, giving God, not a selfish, grabbing God; our God is a purposeful, planning God, not a random, reactionary God; our God is a God who is far above us and whose ways are not our ways, not a God we can put in a box and control; and our God is a God who redeems us by his blood, not a God who leaves us in our sin. Our God is great indeed!

Jesus is the Key to the Bible

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J. C. Ryle:

In every part of both Testaments, Christ is to be found – dimly and indistinctly at the beginning – more clearly and plainly in the middle – fully and completely at the end – but really and substantially everywhere.

Christ’s sacrifice and death for sinners, and Christ’s kingdom and future glory, are the light we must bring to bear on any book of Scripture we read…

Some people complain that they do not understand the Bible. And the reason is very simple. They do not use the key. To them the Bible is like the hieroglyphics in Egypt. It is a mystery, just because they do not know and employ the key.

In the last place, read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture is to testify to Jesus.

  • Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ.
  • Old Testament judges and deliverers are types of Christ.
  • Old Testament history shows the world’s need of Christ.
  • Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ’s sufferings, and of Christ’s glory yet to come.

The first advent and the second, the Lord’s humiliation and the Lord’s kingdom, the cross and the crown, shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright.

(HT: Trevin Wax)

A real coronation

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“When Christ uttered, in the judgment hall of Pilate, the remarkable words – ‘I am a king,’ he pronounced a sentiment fraught with unspeakable dignity and power.  His enemies might deride his pretensions and express their mockery of his claim by presenting him with a crown of thorns, a reed and a purple robe, and nailing him to the cross; but in the eyes of unfallen intelligences, he was a king.  A higher power presided over that derisive ceremony and converted it into a real coronation.  That crown of thorns was indeed the diadem of empire; that purple robe was the badge of royalty; that fragile reed was the symbol of unbounded power; and that cross the throne of dominion which shall never end.”

J. L. Reynolds, quoted in Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (Nashville, 2012), page 77, footnote 33.

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

He has anchored himself to us by the message of the Cross

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We ought never to set present communion with Christ, as so many are doing, in opposition to the gospel; we ought never to say that we are interested in what Christ does for us now, but are not so much interested in what He did long ago. Do you know what soon happens when men talk that way? They soon lose all contact with the real Christ; their religion would really remain essentially the same if Jesus never lived.

That danger should be avoided by the Christian man with all his might and main. God has given us an anchor for our souls; He has anchored himself to us by the message of the Cross. Let us never cast that anchor off; let us never weaken our connection with the events upon which our faith is based.

Such dependence upon the past will never prevent us from having present communion with Christ. Unlike the communion of the mystics it will be communion not with the imaginings of our own hearts, but with the real Saviour Jesus Christ. The gospel of redemption through the Cross and resurrection of Christ is not a barrier between us and Christ, but it is the blessed tie by which He has bound us for ever to Him.

— J. Gresham Machen What Is Faith? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 153-54

(HT: Of First Importance)

Your church: where Jesus calms the storm

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Ray Ortlund:

“How wonderful it is to come every Sunday into a liberating church!  All week long we swim in an ocean of judgment and negative scrutiny.  We constantly have to comply with the demands of a touchy world, and we never measure up. . . .

Then on Sunday we walk into a new kind of community where we discover an environment of grace in Christ alone.  It is so refreshing.  Sinners like us can breathe again!  It’s as if God simply changes everyone’s topic of conversation from what’s wrong with us, which is plenty, to what’s right with Christ, which is endless.  He replaces our negativity, finger-pointing, and self-attack with the good news of his grace for the undeserving.  Who couldn’t come alive in a community which inhales that heavenly atmosphere?

Here is where every one of us can happily take our stand right now: ‘The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20).  Our self-focus was crucified with Christ.  The need to conceal failure and display false superiority no longer lives.  Christ is enough to complete every one of us, without adding anything of ourselves.

As we humbly keep in step with the truth of this gospel, people will find a new kind of community in our churches where sinners and sufferers can thrive.”

Ray Ortlund, The Gospel: How The Church Portrays The Beauty of Christ (Wheaton, 2014), pages 90-91.

The Will of God Expressed in Christ

St Cyprian of Carthage

 

Now the will of God is what Christ both did and taught:

  • Humility in conversation
  • steadfastness in faith
  • modesty in words
  • justice in deeds
  • mercifulness in works
  • discipline in morals
  • to be unable to do a wrong
    and to be able to bear a wrong when done
  • to keep peace with the brethren
  • to love God with all one’s heart
  • to love Him because He is a Father
  • to fear Him because He is God
  • to prefer nothing whatever to Christ
    because He did not prefer anything to us
  • to adhere inseparably to His love
  • to stand by His cross bravely and faithfully
  • when there is any challenge on behalf of His name and honor
    to exhibit in our speech a consistent confession
  • in torture, that confidence with which we do battle
  • in death, that patience whereby we are crowned.

This is the desire to be fellow-heirs with Christ.

This is to do the commandment of God.

This is to fulfill the will of the Father.

- Cyprian, The Treatises of Cyprian: On the Lord’s Prayer, 15 [Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5], adapted

(HT: Trevin Wax)

We must get to the cross, and dwell there

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Every plant must have both soil and root. Without both of these there can be no life, no growth, no fruit. The root is ‘peace with God’; the soil in which that root strikes itself, and out of which it draws the vital sap, is the free love of God in Christ. ‘Rooted in love’ is the apostle’s description of a holy man.

The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety, and his daily intercourse with a crucified and risen Lord. All divine life, and all the precious fruits of it, pardon, peace, and holiness, spring from the cross. All fancied sanctification which does not arise wholly from the blood of the cross is nothing better than Pharisaism.

If we would be holy, we must get to the cross, and dwell there; else, notwithstanding all our labour, diligence, fasting, praying and good works, we shall be yet void of real sanctification, destitute of those humble, gracious tempers which accompany a clear view of the cross.

— Horatius Bonar God’s Way of Holiness

(HT: Of First Importance)

Our representative and our substitute

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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)

Life Together

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Justin Taylor:

Bonhoeffer on What a Christian Under the Cross Can Offer that a Secular Therapist Cannot

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together:

Whoever lives beneath the cross of Jesus, and has discerned in the cross of Jesus the utter ungodliness of all people and of their own hearts, will find there is no sin that can ever be unfamiliar.

Whoever has once been appalled by the horror of their own sin, which nailed Jesus to the cross, will no longer be appalled by even the most serious sin of another Christian; rather they know the human heart from the cross of Jesus.

Such persons know how totally lost is the human heart in sin and weakness, how it goes astray in the ways of sin—and know too that this same heart is accepted in grace and mercy.

Only another Christian who is under the cross can hear my confession. It is not experience with life but experience of the cross that makes one suited to hear confession. The most experienced judge of character knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the cross of Jesus.

The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot comprehend this one thing: what sin is. Psychological wisdom knows what need and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the ugliness of the human being. And so it also does not know that human beings are ruined only by their sin and are healed only by forgiveness. The Christian alone knows this. In the presence of a psychologist I can only be sick; in the presence of another Christian I can be a sinner.

The psychologist must first search my heart, and yet can never probe its innermost recesses. Another Christian recognizes just this: here comes a sinner like myself, a godless person who wants to confess and longs for God’s forgiveness.

The psychologist views me as if there were no God. Another believer views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the cross of Jesus Christ.

When we are so pitiful and incapable of hearing the confession of one another, it is not due to a lack of psychological knowledge, but a lack of love for the crucified Jesus Christ.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 5 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 114-16.

The necessity of a right gospel order

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Mark well the great advantages you have for the attainment of holiness by seeking it in a right gospel order.

You will have the advantage of the love God manifested towards you, in forgiving your sins, receiving you into favor, and giving you the spirit of adoption, and the hope of His glory freely through Christ, to persuade and constrain you by sweet allurements to love God again, who has so dearly loved you, and to love others for His sake, and to give up yourselves to the obedience of all His commands out of hearty love to Him.

You will also enjoy the help of the Spirit of God to incline you powerfully to obedience, and to strengthen you for the performance of it against all your corruptions and the temptations of Satan, so that you will have both wind and tide to forward your voyage in the practice of holiness.

— Walter Marshall
The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification
(Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1999), 97

(HT: Of First Importance)

Prophet, Priest and King

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Seventeenth-century Genevan theologian François Turrettini (1623–87), a major exponent of the Reformed tradition, here sets out the understanding of the threefold ministry of Christ:

This mediatorial office of Christ is distributed among three functions, which are individual parts of it: the prophetic, priestly, and kingly. […] The threefold misery of humanity resulting from sin (that is, ignorance, guilt, and the oppression and bondage of sin) required this threefold office. Ignorance is healed through the prophetic office, guilt through the priestly, and the oppression and bondage of sin through the kingly. The prophetic light scatters the darkness of error; the merit of the priest removes guilt and obtains reconciliation for us; the power of the king takes away the bondage of sin and death. The prophet shows God to us; the priest leads us to God; and the king joins us together with God, and glorifies us with him. The prophet illuminates the mind by the spirit of enlightenment; the priest soothes the heart and conscience by the spirit of consolation; the king subdues rebellious inclinations by the spirit of sanctification.

McGrath, Alister E. (2011-07-12). Christian Theology: An Introduction (p. 321). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

The folly of the cross and the wisdom of God

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Sam Storms:

What would have become of us if Jesus had died before he reached the cross? What would have happened if he had died in Gethsemane, or anywhere else for that matter, other than on a cross?

If he had, the true significance of his death would not have been apparent. Something more than merely dying was needed. It needed to be made perfectly clear that he was altogether innocent and righteous and was unjustly condemned by a human court. It was essential that he be subjected to a public judicial process in which he was condemned as a common criminal, although plainly innocent. His death was the sacrifice of the innocent for the guilty, or as Peter put it in 1 Peter 3:18, “the righteous for the unrighteous.”

It was essential that his death be more than merely a physical expiration. He had to be hung on a cross and exposed to public humiliation and made the object of human taunting and slander and mocking. In this way he took upon himself the shame of our sin and suffered to the full the wrath of God that we deserved.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:18, 22-24).

Is it not because you are looking to yourself?

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Is not the forgiveness of all your sins– the full justification of your person– your inalienable adoption into God’s family– the complete payment of all that great debt you owed, and the assured and certain prospect of being where Christ is, and with Christ, beholding His glory forever, a well-grounded source of joy? Most truly!

Why, then, are you not a more joyful believer? Why go you mourning all your days, without one gleam of sunshine, one thrill of joy, one ray of hope, one note of praise? Is it not because you are looking to yourself and within yourself, to the almost entire exclusion of Christ and of the great and complete salvation wrought for you in and by Christ?

— Octavius Winslow The Sympathy of Christ

(HT: Of First Importance)