God’s Delight in Saving

God delights in saving; it’s part of His character. Sometimes, that’s why hard things come–not because of what we’ve done or have to learn, but for the illustration of God’s delight in deliverance.

There was a man born blind in Jesus’ day, and His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9) The answer Jesus gives sheds light: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Why was this man born blind? Why did he stumble around in the dark, helpless and probably making a living by begging? We know he was “of age”–at least 13–but that his parents were both still alive. Why didn’t God spare this son of Israel, and give him a healthy body so that he could work and further the kingdom? What must seem a mystery up to the day of the miracle becomes delightfully obvious when Jesus touches the young man’s eyes. His blindness was for God’s glory! The hardness of sin and disease was in his eyes so that Jesus could show His love in deliverance!

Joseph was repeatedly scorned, abused, and had his life drastically changed, again and again. Sitting in prison, falsely accused, Joseph must have questioned why. After all, hadn’t he followed God’s commands? Hadn’t fled evil and done what was right, even under adverse circumstances? But God showed Himself mighty in saving Joseph from the pit, and made Joseph a type of Christ when He provided salvation through Joseph for the family of Israel. Wouldn’t it have been simple for God to keep the famine away from Cannan, and there to be plenty of food? Of course God could have made Abraham’s descendants into a great nation where they were at, and avoided the exodus from Egypt, the trials in the desert, and even the conquest of the Jordan. But that’s not the point.

God arranges history for the good of those who trust in Him. He does it because He loves us, and to demonstrate His glory. History is full of the delight of God’s salvation, and how wonderfully he has rescued us. As David has it,

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18)

In Christ

The phrase “In Christ” is found 90 times from Romans to 1 Peter, and forms the foundation of our identity as Christians.

The statement “in Christ” takes us back to the core relationship of Christ and His church. The redeemed are the bride of Christ (Jeremiah 3, Ezekiel 16, John 3, Ephesians 5, Revelation 19). This mystery is profound, and yet it is not a metaphor used just in a few places. The two shall become one flesh, and the idea of being the body of Christ is another frequent term used to describe the Church.

A large number of spiritual and doctrinal issues depend on us being in Christ. In Adam, all died. Historically, the Church has interpreted this in light of all people being created from Adam’s body, and thus were rather literally, “in Adam”. But in Christ, all were made alive–that is to say, all in Christ were made alive in Christ. And our redemption, our justification, our eternal inheritance, our present blessings, and our adoption as sons of God the Father all depend on us being in Christ, having Him as our head and lord.

When God the Father sent Christ to propitiate our sin, and to unite us to himself, all the infinite blessings of Christ have been copied to us. In fact, our very existence emanates from our status in Christ. He chose us in him before the creation of the world; in Christ you died; and in Christ you will be made alive. From eternity to eternity, we are in Christ.

All eternity centers on the fact that God sent his Son, because He loved His bride.

But God…

Christian, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, following the course of this world, and children of wrath. But God, because of His great mercy, made you alive with Christ, seated you in Christ in the heavenly places, and adopted you as His child. (Ephesians 2:1-5)

You are indeed the Elect of God. Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, you are set aside to be holy and blameless before Him. Your doctrine of free will does not matter here, the context of the sovereignty of God. Free will is merely the reflection of what God has done from eternity.

But what God did from eternity He also did in this temporal world. Christ came and propitiated the wrath of God towards us. The man Jesus died to fulfill the blood sacrifice. As He rose and ascended to heaven, He became the precedence for our residence there, and our current legal position as citizens of heaven.

Presently, God does not rest with His past work of redemption (though it is complete), but the Holy Spirit is at work in the life of the Christian. Taking him from a temporal child of wrath to an eternal son of the Father, the Spirit initiates and produces in us the visible marks of faith and obedience. (James 2)

In the future, God will work Glorification in us, bringing us into a perfect likeness of Christ. This is all guaranteed by God himself–there is no work that the Christian must fulfill to maintain His favor. No lack of sacrifices, prayers, holy war, penance, confession, or pilgrimage can separate us from the love of God. In fact, nothing on earth has the power to separate the Father from His adopted children: no power of hell, no scheme of man, no force of nature, no random chance. He Himself guarantees it, today and with us just as He did in His covenant with Abraham. (Genesis 15)

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

Children of Wrath

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. – Ephesians 2:1-3

Children of wrath. In Adam, all die. For all mankind, having descended from Adam by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in his first sin.

The sin nature is a hereditary condition, passed down to all mankind from Adam, due to His original sin. As we are all part of Adam’s family, so we have inherited his curse. Family curses do indeed exist, for the Lord metes out punishment for the ungodly to the third and forth generation of those who hate Him.

Christian, your heritage from Christ is at war with your heritage from Adam. For in Christ, you have been made alive. We were children of wrath, but God, who is rich in mercy, adopted us as sons through Jesus Christ. The Lord punishes to the third and fourth generation, but shows kindness to thousands of those who love Him. The first field of dominion is not at the doors of the state and culture, but at the doors of your heart. Sanctification is the process of evicting the old man, and installing the new man created in Christ.

Inheritance goes both ways–not only are there familial curses but covenantal blessings for the children of God. Not only do wicked fathers curse their prodigy by their sinful deeds, but righteous men create canopies of blessing that protect and provide for their families. In Christ, we have obtained the richest blessings of our Heavenly Father.

The Holocaust

Something bad only happened to a good man once. Only once did a righteous man suffer. The term ‘Holocaust’ originally referred to the burning or destruction of something holy, before it was redefined to refer to the Jews fate at the hands of the Nazis. Jesus Christ is the only holy, good and righteous man in the existence of the world. For all have sinned, but Christ is righteous. While we are made to be like Christ, He is the Head, the Cornerstone, the Firstborn.

A sacrifice was needed to effect the salvation of the elect. God’s justice prohibited them from simply getting off scot-free. Holy Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb to fulfill the blood requirement. Conceptually, the image of the infinite eternal creator of life laying down His life on a hill in Judea is as paradoxical as the perfect, holy, sinless lamb taking on Him the iniquity of us all.

And yet, it happened. This paradox opened the door for the christian to have life in His name. Not only life, but righteousness. Christ’s physical body died, but he did not cease to exist–He satisfied the wrath of God, and as very life itself, death could not hold Him. Through this transaction, He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

In a few hours, Christ’s infinite nature absorbed the wrath of God towards His adopted children, bearing the full force of the brute of its fury. His infinite worth propitiated the wrath of God towards us. Then, it was finished. The work was done. The Holocaust was over.

Death, sin and curse.

The promise of God to the Christian is that He will wipe every tear from their eyes. That is part of the glorification process. But here on earth, we are still subject to the pains of sin and sorrow as our process of sanctification progresses. But we can count on God delivering us from death and sanctifying us completely.

In the beginning, the world was perfect. Then, God tells us how sin and death entered His ideal creation, through the disobedience of man. This rebellion against God was the crime that brought the King’s righteous wrath and indignation upon us. The fall of man, therefore, is the cause of our depraved natures, and the desire for utter depravity. The grace of God holds in check the evil of mankind, only for the sake of Christ and His elect.

God is a just King. He will not let the righteous suffer (with one exception), nor the wicked escape punishment (with one exception). Aside from Christ, we are all wicked, vile perverts. Because none are righteous, we all deserve punishment. But for the sake of Christ, the Father has shown mercy to His people. For through Christ, we are righteous in His sight. And “I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his children begging for bread.” Through Christ, we are the Father’s own children, and He will not leave His own to die on the battlefield.

Pain, death and suffering is a natural consequence of man having lost faith in God, and disobeying His righteous decrees. As Adam sinned, he created a family culture of sin that was passed down to all generations, endowed us with a natural predisposition to evil, and, as evidenced by his immediate ‘flight’ from the presence of God, an inbred fear.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t excuse you from the consequences of sin; no, it delivers you from them. The trials and hard work and sadness don’t go away, but God gives the strength to carry through, and glorifies His servants to eternal life. Being sad over sin is a good, healthy thing. Weeping at death is proper. Mourning the curse is right. But there is hope also; there is joy. And that is for the Christian, the one belonging to Christ.

Fight sin with every ounce of your strength, it is your most important battle. Your weapons are at hand, go out in faith and obey the King’s commandments.

Editor’s note: I’ve received some feedback that paragraph 3 was confusing–how can God take at the same time let good, Christian friends die and yet, not leave one of His elect to “die on the battlefield.” For additional context, see the comments on this post.

The Wrath of God

Being the enemy of a omnipotent God is not a good idea. But one of the facts of being a man in rebellion against his Creator is that the wrath of God is decreed against him. For some Christians, it’s hard to grasp that God could be anything less than sweet, loving and kind. After all, God has shown us (the elect) His infinite loving kindness in Christ. But outside the circle of protection that is Christ, sinful man has no shield against the wrath of God.

Ezra spoke well to the King Artaxerxes: “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” And Moses told the people Israel: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.”

For as great as the kindness God has stored for us is the wrath that he has stored for the reprobate. And as full as the love He has extended us now is the measure of HIs hatred towards those who will not repent. Their condemnation is just. How great is the sentence for so vast a crime as rejecting the One so worthy of all praise, adoration, and honor? Infinite. Utter terror. Deep blackness. Complete loneliness–except the presence of a just God who is righteously punishing you. Pain to the point of agony. Horror unspeakable. And no escape. Eternal punishment. All the worst, most terrifying, evilest of earth is no comparison to the infinite wrath of an infinite God over an infinite crime–rejecting His authority. All the horror of the world is God’s wrath held in check for the sake of HIs elect, for the sake of Christ. In hell–eternal damnation–there is no check.

God’s wrath is not a pleasant subject. Nor should it be. But if you are unrepentant, it should strike terror into your soul. And that terror is the beginning of wisdom. Though God has sovereignly chosen some to be vessels of honor and some to dishonor, He does not desire that any should perish. God will glorify Himself in His victory over His enemies. But His wrath is also of a secondary purpose–through discipline and the rod, to guide those whom He has called to Himself. The wrath of God calls you to repent. The King Himself guarantees the way–you have the opportunity to repent, and God will become at peace with you through Christ.

Take heed that you, Christian, are at peace with God, for He is at peace with you.

Propitiation of Sin

What does the word ‘Salvation’ mean to you, Christian? In the modern evangelical context of watery gospel, preachers only talk about what we are ‘saved to’. Saved to glory/heaven, saved to fulfillment, saved to a wonderful plan for your life, saved to an ice cream cone, whatever. But in the English context (and historical Biblical context), folks are not ‘saved to’, they are ‘saved from’. Saved from getting run over, saved from falling, saved from a defeat, saved from instant death, are but a few examples. When we receive good things, that is grace, not mercy.

The idea of propitiation has a double context. Not only are we saved from the wrath of God on us, Children of wrath, but we are given a vast store of the Father’s goodwill towards us in Christ. Not only are our sins forgiven, but we are righteous in the sight of God, in Christ. (Our nature being imputed to Christ, and His nature imputed to us.) Not only are we made at peace with God, but God is now ‘for us.’

Christ’s actions at the cross have reconciled us to God–placating His wrath–destroying the enmity of God towards us, and through the process of sanctification and glorification, breaking down our enmity towards God. So then, brothers, let us shod our feet with the readiness of the Gospel of peace, and live in its light.

The Core of our Faith

At the heart of Christianity is the Gospel. In fact, the case could be made that Christianity is the gospel. The Gospel is the truth about God and his acts, as revealed in Jesus, the divine Word. If we are to respond in faith and obedience, we must have an intricate understanding of who God is (faith) and what He does (obedience).

As James says, faith without works is dead. What you truly believe will shine in your actions. So an understanding of the Gospel is not only of what your heart is to think, but what your hand is to accomplish. We are not only to think God’s thoughts after Him, but also to do God’s deeds after Him.

Jesus preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” When he sent His disciples into the surrounding towns, Christ commanded, “Proclaim as you go, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand!'” And, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like His master. Paul exhorts, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.”

You see, the actions of God are our pattern for action on earth. And the heart of the actions and character of God is the Gospel.