Reflections From 2 KINGS 6-7: “ELISHA’S MIGHTY DEEDS CONTINUE”

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            This man of God continues to work God’s wonders in the most colorful and extravagant ways.  First, he makes a sunken axe float to the water’s surface.  He does this by using a stick of wood (6:1-7).  We know that wood does not attract metal magnetically, a magnet does.  Somehow, the “laws of nature” are superseded by God’s doing.  Some may frown on this as mere fable, but if God created everything that exists out of nothing through his word (Gen.1), most certainly then “bending” or “suspending” his creation’s usual function for his purposes is not only plausible but no big deal to him.

Second, Elisha hears the king’s war plans.  The Arameans were plotting against Israel but the God who is everywhere revealed it to the prophet and the nation of Israel was spared from calamity (6:8-12).  Again, there were no “bugs” or high tech devices to hear the enemy’s strategy, but the God who is in control of history and the affairs of man hears everything.            

            Third, Elisha petitions the LORD to open his servant’s eyes.  Israel’s enemy’s surrounded it and the ominous sight terrified the prophet’s servant so Elisha asks God to open his eyes to see the chariots of fire surrounding Israel’s enemies (6:14-17).  This reminds me that while I may be unaware of God’s help, it is always present.

Fourth, Elisha petitions the LORD to blind Israel’s enemies.  In every step of the way this man of God’s prayers steer how the enemy is crippled such that the blindness is only removed after it is to Israel’s advantage (6:18-23).  This reminds me of how critical it is for me to do battle in the unseen realm relying on God’s power and word manifested through believing prayer.  The times were so bad that famine drove many in Samaria to boil their children to death in order for others to live (6:24-29).  That is desperate times.

Fifth, Elisha promises the end of the famine.  But he also promises the death of the king’s messenger who doubted Gods word (6:32-7:1-2, 15, 20).  Whether it’s a word foretelling future events or a demonstration of that words’ power to make objects respond in ways contrary to their nature, God nevertheless moved powerfully through Elisha.  This was the LORDs doing.

In similar ways God moves through His people even though it’s often not spectacular, but common.  We may not raise the dead, call fire from heaven, multiply food, or even float axe heads, but we are still called to follow this eternal magnificent God who alone is worthy to be worshipped and adored.

(SDG)                

 

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Reflections From 1 KINGS 20-21: “THE LORD’S WORD COMES, BUT THAT DOESN’T NEGATE THE VALUE OF OUR ACTIONS”

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            When it comes to the issue of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, historically Christians of all stripes have differed and often very passionately.  The issue of how these two biblical truths interact can be very puzzling.  Generally one aspect of the issue is emphasized over the other (i.e., divine sovereignty vs. human free choice) and when this occurs, biblical passages usually end up contradicting the position(s) held.

This issue is particularly vexing for the thinking person who wants to faithfully make sense out of scriptural texts and get to know God more intimately.  Consider the life of Israel’s King Ahab which says:

“Surely there was none like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD…acted abominably in following idols according to all the Amonites had done…” (vv.25-26)

Nevertheless, he experienced a measure of Gods’ grace because he decided to humble himself before the LORD (vv.27-29).  God promised to eradicate Ahab’s name from the earth because he made Israel sin (21:19-22) and provoked the LORD through his idolatry.  The point is that Ahab put on sackcloth and ashes (a mark of repentance and humility) before the LORD.  God’s response to this:

“Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me?  Because he has…I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.” (21:29)  

Even this wicked king received mercy from the LORD because of his choice to humble himself.  His decision was significant indeed and God responded to this image bearer with kindness.

While our choices matter, God is nonetheless absolutely sovereign and in the wise council of the Trinity there’s always much more happening than we can immediately recognize.  Much like a play where the focus is on the main character, it’s usually the less obvious character(s) which gives the lead role a nuanced landscape of color, depth, breadth, length and height in order to make the story come alive.  So it is with the story of Ahab and even in our own.  The choices we make effect and affect not just the main character but a string of individuals in the grand scheme of things.  Of this I am often not aware.

(SDG)

Reflections From ROMANS 13:1-2 “RULERS, SUBJECTS, & GOD’S PROVIDENCE”

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In this chapter Paul seems to be continuing his message to believers of their need to walk in love with believers and toward outsiders.  Now he addresses the issue of government rulers and how believers are to relate to them for loves sake.  Paul begins:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

 Paul grounds the duty of believers specifically in how they relate to authorities on God’s existence and seemingly on His wise decree.  The fact that any ruler exists is not a Darwinian phenomenon, but a reality grounded in the God who is there and who is not silent—the governing authorities being proof positive of that.

Since God exists, and all authority ultimately is grounded in Him, Paul seems to be saying that God gives authority to rule to whomever He wishes, according to the wise counsel of His will and according to His good pleasure which fuels all His deeds.  One might rightly object “not all rulers are created equal or worthy to be morally followed”.  The polytheistic Roman rulers were not particularly empathetic to believers, but often ruthlessly mistreated Christians for their faith.  Paul knew this well when penning this letter and I can’t see him being any clearer.  Let’s wind back the clock of history for a moment.

In redemptive history, we observe God implicitly or explicitly raising-up rulers and monarchs in order to accomplish His purposes.  These purposes are often hidden to us until after the fact.  Pharaoh, Saul, David, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Cesar, and more were never ultimate, God always was and is and ever will be (See The Book of Daniel).  That is, in the hidden wisdom of God He exalts a ruler for a time and purpose known only to God, so that His over-arching redemptive plan for humanity and the entire created order may come to fruition.

In this mix are a whole lot of human tragedy, pain and suffering (i.e., Problem of Evil) which call into question both God’s existence, power, wisdom and goodness.  And yet none of these realities mute God’s voice through Paul.

Since this letter is written to believers, I take “every person” to mean that specifically believers are to heed the command and because of God’s mercy and grace that has been poured out on them through Christ, this submission to authorities is a means to demonstrate the love previously mentioned.  Moreover, it’s a way to placard that the Creator is alive and well in the affairs of men.  Paul continues with:

Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

He understands very well that many rulers are evil and the inclination to revolt against them is real and understandable…if God did not exist and He was not ultimately in charge.  But what is meant by “resist”?  The word that follows it is probably a good definition of it: “opposed”.  That is, to resist is to oppose, to be against the ruler and hate Gods ordinance.

Somehow Paul is saying that even if a ruler is evil, God is ultimate, not chance, luck, or human desire.  And thus, instead of revolting or being against the ruler, the believer is to submit understanding that God is ultimately ruling through the ruler. Some may object, but this is what seems logical to me according to the text.  The command given to “not resist” comes with a warning of God’s condemnation on the transgressor.

What is this condemnation?  We already know that believers are no longer under God’s condemnation because they have been justified by faith once for all according to chapter 8.  Could it be that those who resist are walking according to the flesh (for all sin is that) and not according to the Spirit?  Perhaps, and if that’s the case does it show that the one in rebellion is actually not regenerate, maybe?

The core of what I see being taught is not to have unquestioned loyalty and submission to a monarch by a believer (the following verses seem to argue against such a view) rather we are to understand that all authority comes from God who will hold to account every ruler for their actions whether good or evil and knowing this is what stays the believer from revolt.

(SDG)

Book Summary Available!

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Available now in summary form is The God Who is There by D.A. Carson.  This introductory resource on the big ideas of the`Bible is indispensable to aid both young and old with the main Biblical ideas and to see how they all point to Jesus.

This book in particular is an amazing example of writing a “salvation history” tome in terms a high school student can grasp without forfeiting theological rigor.

Too often the Bible is read like a “fortune cookie” whose ideas are not tied to any overarching theme or purpose.  This book explains the Bible’s unifying message in a way that models how to faithfully read the Scriptures so that the reader may actually hear God’s voice in a more sure, clear way.  Take up and read friends.

Summary of CHAPTER FOURTEEN: THE GOD WHO TRIUMPHS [Pages 213-224]

 

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In this final chapter, Carson first explains what it means “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also” from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt.6:21).  He explains that it means we are to choose our treasure, not guard our hearts. Here Jesus presupposes that our hearts will follow our treasure.

The term heart is that aspect of our being created in God’s image that contains what we think, cherish, and who we are.  It’s not merely our emotions.  The heart is that apparatus of the soul where we eat, drink, breath, sleep and dream of (x).

Our imagination lingers on those things we treasure most.  Unfortunately, good things become bad things when they keep our appetites only on the present state of affairs, at the expense of the new heaven/earth that are forthcoming.  This however does not happen in places like the Sudan/China where persecuted believers await the deliverance from said evils.

Moreover, unlike the Greek dualism of salvation—consisting of the flight of the soul from the earthly and transitory to the spiritual and eternal, the Biblical view is where—man is always placed on a redeemed earth, not a heavenly realm removed from earthly existence.[i]  The future of this earthly existence is specifically described in the book of Revelation.

Second, Carson explains the forthcoming New Jerusalem.  When the scriptures describe the New Jerusalem being built like a cube, we must understand that its’ symbol laden.  The only place a cube is found in all of scripture is the tabernacle—the Most Holy Place. This is where the Ark of the Covenant lay, the place of meeting with God—on the Day of Atonement.  This was the place where God manifested his glory when the blood of sacrifice was poured on it.

The New Jerusalem, the entire city is a cube which is a way of saying that we will forever be in the presence of God.  We will no longer need a mediating priest, neither a blood sacrifice, equivalent when the veil was rent in two after the crucifixion.  So not only is it described as a cube, but it’s also described in terms of negation—what is not there.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev.3-4)

Carson is of the view that the reason we speak of the New Jerusalem in terms of negation rather than in a positive description is because it’s easier to describe it negatively in light of the effects of the fall in our lives.  The negative description assures us there will be the absence of: tears, pain, mourning, death and nothing bad.  The positive side is incalculable pleasure.  We have yet to experience anything like this!

There are also many things missing from this city: the temple, sun and moon, impurity.  The reason for the temple missing is because God Himself will be there.  Here the heart of God is revealed for in a real sense we’re in His heart!

The sun and moon are lights no longer needed in light of Gods glory and the Lamb our lamp.  The ancients were given structured times through these two lights.  Moreover, they experienced much danger when night came—hence cities were closed at night for safety.  Thus when it comes to this city there will be no more danger, curse, sin or rebellion because God is in the midst.  Thus, an immaculate perfect moral state will obtain.  Such a thought is utterly foreign to any of our references to life.  And yet, an absolute God-centeredness will be the norm because that is the way it should be. This means that the culture in the new heavens and new earth will be infused with absolute shalom—whose measureless source is the God of heaven and earth.

When it comes to the best feature of the New Jerusalem, is the its’ peacefulness.  This peaceful habitation of the lion and the lamb will be amazing.  It’s the unfettered, unhindered beatific vision that will be most joyfully glorious.  It is the contemplation of the manifold perfections of our spectacular, unimaginable God.  Here, we see face to face and live for our sins have “been burned away”.

Third, Carson explains what means to live now in light of the new heaven and the new earth.  He points to the need that we understand that all I have is Christ; to live is Christ and to die is gain; God alone is our true heart’s desire; it is truly making it our aim to: love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and you’re your strength. 

Friend, are you ready for the new heaven and the new earth?  I’d like to say yes honestly and truly.  I fear that this world and the cares of this life want to drag me down so often.  I want to be more vigilant, resting in His grace that empowers me to say no to ungodliness and embrace the holiness purchased for me to walk in by Christ’s blood.  Lord, help me thirst for the new heaven and earth and help me be the light that I am.  (SDG)

[i] Mounce, The Book of Revelation, NICNT, pg. 368, © 1977 Eerdmans Publishing House]

Summary of CHAPTER THIRTEEN: THE GOD WHO IS VERY ANGRY [Pages 201-211]

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First, Carson opens the chapter by considering why talk about the wrath of God tends to make people so uncomfortable. In our culture according to Carson, “…it is hard to think about this topic because anger is often connected in the public mind with intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and bigotry”.  And yet, according to the “eternal gospel” in Revelation 14:6-7 the herald calls every nation, tribe, language and people to fear the God of all creation and give Him glory and worship for His judgment has come.  And the impending doom of paganism (e.g., Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great) is that of a “society that’s been set free of God is its own worst enemy”:

And I saw another angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

Second, Carson considers how Revelation 4&5 unpack the gospel.  According to Carson, revelation 4-5 unpacks for us what the gospel is.  Chapter 4 reveals that God is the God of creation and the entire created order is dependent on Him to live move and have its being.  Chapter 5 reveals God’s purpose for judgment and blessing and only the Lion, who is the Lamb, can open the seals. 

 Third, Carson looks at the meaning of two agricultural metaphors found in Revelation 14:14-20.   The grain and the treading of the wine press are teaching about the final judgment. 

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.”19 So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.

Grain Harvest means that a set time is coming when the harvest will happen, and there’s no escaping it.  It speaks of the goal of history, and end in sight, where time will be no more after the final judgment.

The Treading of the Wine Press means to emphasize the violent thoroughness of God’s wrath when it is finally poured out.  This imagery is horrific—it’s about the trampled blood of people by God’s thorough wrath.

 Fourth, Carson addresses the issue of manipulation when we talk about hell.    Many have charged that talking about hell is manipulative.  Carson rightly emphasizes that it’s not manipulative if it’s true.  After all, Jesus spoke of hell more than any other person in the Bible and he warned people of impending doom (Mt. 10:28).  However, if it were a lie, then it would be manipulative and the charge would be warranted. But, if it’s true, to not sound the alarm is vicious, cruel, and unloving.  Jesus warned people, we must also…but many times we have not.  That’s troubling!

When we preach about hell we want to be faithful to Christ’s attitude about it, not betray Him.  Moreover, we who have been pardoned by the sovereign grace of God through the Son were once under God s wrath.  We’re no better than any other person.  We are beggars/prisoners who know where to find bread, and who have received pardon.  Plain and simple!

Summary of CHAPTER TWELVE: THE GOD WHO GATHERS AND TRANSFORMS HIS PEOPLE [Pages 187-200]

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            In this chapter Carson first notes why scaling and measuring Christian commitment from nominalism to fanaticism is mischievous.  The reason is because the grace of God truly humbles us.  It is radically loving, forgiving, and generous.  That is because unlike other religions whose focus is on effort and moral improvement, such that the result is self-righteous, bigoted, over-confident, condescending people, Christianity is different when one is biblically faithful.

For Christianity underscores the fact of grace that transforms a Biblically faithful living out of the regenerated life where salvation is by grace, and is based on Christ’s work on our behalf, not on our own achievements.  This changes everything!  Even though true Christians have done awful things (e.g., Crusades, Slavery, etc.), it’s the very Christian message previously ignored that challenged and eventually toppled these enterprises.[1]  Christianity has often apologized for the Crusades but Islam has not.

Second, Carson considers the fact that something has to be ultimate.  If God is not ultimate then it will be the creature’s creation; be it the State, the Dictator, or any other idea. The reason for this is our “mannishness” which is designed to worship the Creator and when He is not then inevitably the image bearer concocts something to worship. 

            The gospel calls out people, gathers them together, and transforms them.  Thus, any so-called Christianity that does not incorporate the aforesaid reality into its vision, is not worthy of the name it carries.  For according to Ephesians 2:8-10 believers are saved by grace through faith in order to do the good works God prepared for them to walk in.  This means that new birth necessarily produces the fruit of the “new creation,” and while good works don’t secure our salvation, they attest to the genuineness of it.  Transformation must occur!

            Third, Carson considers whether or not one can be a biblically faithful Christian and separate themselves entirely from a local church.  He answers absolutely not and rightly so!  Consider Paul’s take in (Ephesians 2:11-22):

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

             The church is God’s household where we are being built up into a holy temple where Christ Jesus is the chief cornerstone.  In the Old Testament circumcision was the mark pointing to the one who belonged to the redeemed community.  In the New Testament baptism is the initiation one receives in order to join the ChurchThis is flows from the reality of new-birth in the early church.

In this community God speaks, sanctifies, transforms, and puts many into leadership positions.  The church is not a building, but rather the gathered people of God.  Thus, Biblically faithful churched people (while not perfectly) are the people of God who reflect His character among themselves and the world.

            Fourth, Carson speaks to the reasons for why Christians are moved to obey from a posture of gratitude for what Christ has done.    He points out that looking at things is utterly transforming because they force us to see that empty handed we came to the cross and filled with treasure we leave.  Where we once thirsted, now we are satisfied and this is apart from anything we do or bring, because it’s all based on what Christ has done and given to us—new creation! (Eph. 4:17-5:10)

            And while moral structures are definitely here, they are never nor ever can be the basis for gratitude when we see the gospel exemplified on Calvary’s cross.  We’ve been so deeply forgiven, how can we hold a grudge?  We’ve been given the Spirit securing our future inheritance how then can we be stingy and clinch to fleeting treasure? We are destined to be with Almighty God Forever!  Hence, everything changes!

            Fifth, Carson considers why greed is labeled idolatry.  The reason is because what you most want becomes your god.  It displaces God who is ultimate, it makes me long for that which is contingent, finite, and at the end of the day—what will fail me!  It’s the looking for our identity in someone or something other than God, that’s why it’s labeled greed.

            Sixth, Carson accentuates that for the Christian suffering is both a privilege and a sign of grace.  Suffering transforms our attitudes when we obey Jesus’ command to follow him, “take up your cross and follow me”.  This is stunning and too often utterly missed in the church.  Crucifixion was brutal, it was torture. (Mt. 16:24).  Death to self-interest is the point.  Though most of us will not be tortured for our faith, all of us face the issue of saying to God, “My will, not Yours’ be done, sorry–God”.  The scripture reveals that it’s been granted to us not only to believe on Christ but also to suffer on his behalf (Phil.1:29).

Both belief and suffering are equally gifts from God to us.  This is so counter-intuitive that unless it were so clear, I would today still miss it as I read these same words early in my Christianity and just glossed over them as impertinent to my situation.  Amy Carmichael and Jacob DeShazer have stories that depict a life of self-sacrifice where self-pity was not nurtured, but the transforming power that the gospel brings was exemplified.

            Seventh, Carson reflects on John Newton’s life and the lesson we can learn from him.  It goes something like, “that while I sin and do fall down, The Lord does lift me from the ground, And while I hate the sin I see, I’m not the man I used to be, For grace has given me new life, And when in death I close my eyes, Christ’s loving arms will be my prize.  That’s profound.

[1] I don’t think that all of the Crusaders were evil, but those who in their activity crossed the boundaries between what is clearly contra Christ’s teaching to hate what is evil and cling to that which is good.  See Rodney Starks book,  GOD’S BATTALIONS: The Case for the Crusades, © 2009 by Rodney Stark, Harper One, Harper Collins Publishing Company, New York, NY

Summary of CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE GOD WHO DECLARES THE GUILTY JUST [Pages 169-185]

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In this chapter Carson tackles the issue of how and why God can and does declare the guilty just.  It’s largely Paul’s argument in Romans 1-11 and is perhaps the most misunderstood aspects of the gospel transculturally.

First, Carson explains why it’s impossible to be acquitted with justice on the ground of the good things we do.   The reason is because we are all law breakers: those with the Book, and those without the Book.  All of us have broken even our own lesser standards.  It’s ridiculous for the murderer to appeal to his “good deeds” before the judge after he in fact has been properly convicted of committing the crime.  How much more before the judge of Creation?!  And yet, people tend to flock to this absurdity when it comes to eternal matters.

Second, the main theme of Romans 1:18-3:20 is precisely how everyone is justly guilty before God.  All are under judgement; all are guilty, because they have denied God the Creator.  They have thus become fools and Paul reminds us that there are none righteous, none who understands, none who seeks God, none who does good, not even one—their deeds and words condemn them, none who fears God.  Humanity is the core of all the evil there is, for in wanting to go our own way we have all disowned the God who is there, The One, who has made us.

Third, Carson explains several ways in which the Old Testament anticipates the arrival of Jesus.  There’s the sacrificial system of the blood of bulls and goats which testify to what was to come in the new covenant.  Here the high priest came with sacrifices into the holiest place on the Day of Atonement—all pointing to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.  Then, there are the Ten Commandments which anticipate a day when murder and adultery will not only be prohibited but unthinkable in the new heavens and new earth.  And there’s also the anticipated day from the law when the righteousness of God would be revealed in Christ. 

Fourth, Carson considers how God’s righteousness is available to all people without racial distinction but on the basis of faith.   The reason it’s good news for the above mentioned caption to be true is because all are guilty before God, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All means everyone under heaven’s sky, on earth’s dirt and in the oceans water.  Carson then explains three terms related to our salvation in Christ.

There’s righteousness, which is achieved through Christ’s redemption.  This redemption involves buying back from the slave market one who is indebted to another and has absolutely no possible means to pay for the debt.  A redeemer is one who purchases the one in debt and delivers him and his family from slavery to another.  Biblically, Jesus justifies us freely through faith by the redemption of his blood.  Thus, believers are justified before the God of heaven!

Then there’s the act of propitiation.  Propitiation is that sacrificial act whereby God becomes favorably disposed to us.  He is set over against us in wrath, but now by the sacrificial act of His son, He has become favorable toward us.

Another term is expiation, which is the act whereby God wipes out sin from the board, sin here is cancelled.  The object of expiation is sin, while the object of propitiation is God.   The text says that God propitiated God through the sacrifice of His son.  This is mind boggling in light of the fact that in the pagan world those offering sacrifices for propitiation to the gods were the worshippers.  Not so in the Bible, God propitiates God.  Thus, turning away of God’s wrath and the cancelling of sin are achieved by both expiation and propitiation.

 Fifth, Carson explains what is meant when Paul says that in the cross God is both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus.  God’s holiness must be maintained.  Therefore He must punish sin which He did through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  He maintained Justice!  God’s love has been demonstrated by paying for our sins on the cross. He displayed Love!  Unlike so many understand today, in the Bible faith is related to truth.  If it’s not true, it’s worthless.

In the Bible, Faith doesn’t mean that which makes you feel good and is not subject to verification.  Rather, it deals with that which is stated and argued as actually occurring in space-time history.  Paul does this in 1 Corinthians 15 where he affirms that if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead the first witnesses are all liars.  Again, if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead we are still in our sins.  Then if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead our faith is useless.  And that if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead we are to be pitied more than anyone else.  Our lives are a joke precisely because we consider that which is false to be true.

Conversely, if the resurrection is actually true, then all others rejecting the truth of these claims are sadly under the wrath of God and the “joke” is on them.  That’s sobering, sad, and must cause our hearts to live under God as we endeavor to shine in this world for Christ.

Summary of CHAPTER TEN: THE GOD WHO DIES AND LIVES AGAIN [Pages 151-167]

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Carson first addresses the reason for why the Bible insists that Jesus was born in order to die.  When we read biographies, never do we see, regardless of the person and their import; never is it emphasized that they were born to die.  Not Buddha, not Muhammad even though their deaths were recorded, it’s not the purpose for why they were born.  But the Gospel accounts are different.

In these biographies of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ it’s clear that his disciples did not understand why he insisted that he had to die; that Jesus understood that the Father’s purpose in him was to die; that his death was on his own initiative and that his death was not that of a martyr, but that of one willing to sacrifice (Jn. 10:17-18)

“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

In Paul’s account, the apostle makes clear that which is of first importance in (1 Cor.15:1-4ff.,) specifically that Christ died according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.   Miss this, and we strip Christianity of its substance.  It’s the doing away of our basis for belief, conduct, and understanding.

 Secondly, Carson speaks of the ironies of the Cross.  An irony is a word in its context that means exactly the opposite of what is said.  This section is very sobering and penetrating to my soul for it deals with the cross.  First, Carson relates that the man who is mocked as king, is King (Mt. 27:27-31)

 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, ” Hail, King of the Jews!” 30They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. 31After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.’

 Jesus is not just the king of the Jews, but also of the universe, and yet he humbly served his persecutors rather than exercise his power to destroy them (Mt. 20:25-28).

 The second irony is that the man who is utterly powerless is transcendentally powerful (Mt. 27: 32-40)

“As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, 34they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. 35And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. 36And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. 37And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 38At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. 39And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads 40and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

Jesus became the great meeting place between God and man—He is the temple of meeting.  He’s the temple of the living God.

The third irony is that the man who can’t save himself saves others (Mt. 27:41-42)

“In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, 42“He saved others; He cannot save Himself He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him.”

“Saving” in this gospel refers to saving people from their sin: from its guilt, its consequences, its eternal effects, and its power in this life.  Thus, the ultimate meaning behind physical healing, is the eternal effects of Christ’ rescue in this fallen evil age.  Had he saved himself, we would be lost.  It’s the very purpose for hanging on that cross so that he may bear the iniquity of us all in his body.  Had he saved himself, I would be damned!

Fourth, the man who cries in despair trusts God (Mt.27:43-51)

43“HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” 44The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. 45Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” 47And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.” 50And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.

Access to the holiest place has been purchased only because the son was in the darkest place for us. That’s amazing grace indeed.

Thirdly, Carson unpacks the issue of God dying.   In one sense it’s incorrect to say that God died, but Jesus is the one who died, not God the Father.   Thus the reason for some texts in the New Testament to warrant the truth that in one sense, when Jesus died, God died is to accentuate the cost that was paid for my ransom (Acts 20:28; Rom.5:8).  The truth is that you can trust a God who is not only sovereign, but One who also bleeds for you!

Fourthly, Carson unfolds the reason for why Thomas doubts that Jesus had risen from the dead.   This disciple did not want to be duped.  Can you blame him…no?! He believed that Jesus was the Messiah and all his hopes were dashed to the ground.  That’s a lot of pain.  He wanted to be sure that the body that died on the cross was the same body he would handle.

When Jesus appeared and Thomas saw he exclaimed, “My Lord and My God!”  Why does he say so much, rather than a smaller and weaker—you are alive! Perhaps because of all that Jesus had said and taught privately to the disciples; (e.g., before Abraham was I am, he who has seen me has seen the Father,).  It’s quite possible that the elation and utter joy expressed the overflow of the revelation of Christ and his previously spoken words pointing to himself, that Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord, and My God.”  How utterly personal is that?!

Lastly, Carson tackles the issue of why it is that in the ultimate sense God alone can forgive sins.  This is because only the offended party can forgive.  According to Scripture God is always the most offended party (Ps. 51:4; Mk. 2:5, 7) David and the paralytic.  “Who can forgive sins but God?”

Summary of CHAPTER NINE: THE GOD WHO LOVES [Pages 135-149]

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The Bible says that God is love, but it also says that God is just, holy and good.  In the area of judgement and discernment many seems American Christians that are very confused, affirming things that flatly deny the Scriptures plain teachings on said matters.

First, Carson considers the difference between being morally discerning from being judgmental.  He argued that having moral discernment deals with making distinctions that are based on revealed truth, where we humbly recognize our need to first deal with our own shortcomings in order to be able to see for the aid of another (Mathew 7:1-6)

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

To be judgmental is based on a hypocritical disposition where self-righteousness is in the heart.   This Jesus always condemns.

 Second, Carson lists five ways the Bible speaks about the love of God.  There’s love within the TrinityThis is a perfect love:  

 “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.” (Jn.3:35)

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” (Jn. 5:22-23)

but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me Get up, let us go from here.” (Jn.14:31)

Then there’s love and God’s general care over the creation (Mt.5:44-47).  This extends to friends and foes alike.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”

What follows is God’s Love that invites, commands, and implores (Ez.33:11).  This is where God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’

Then there’s God’s Love that’s selective (Mal.1:2-3).  Here He chooses one and not another:

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.”

Finally there’s God’s love that’s conditional (Jude 21).  This is where those in covenant with God experience his pleasure and displeasure based on obedience to Him: “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”

Third, Carson answers the question of the extent of God’s love.  To answer, “does God love everyone in the same way” is dependent on what is meant.  God does send the rain and the sun on both the righteous and the wicked, so the answer in this sense is yes!  But He chooses Israel over all the other nations as his special possession.  Thus in this sense, the answer is no!

Having said that, Carson considers the famously read/heard text of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world,” and points that what makes God’s love so wonderfully admirable is grounded on the objects of His love—humans. 

That is, we who are God hating, self-absorbed, murderous people, are nevertheless loved by God.  He loves all nations and ethnicities—Jews and Gentiles.  He does this not because we are so loveable, but because God is that kind of God.  He’s amazing!

 Fourth, Carson explains why the measure of God’s love for us is Jesus.  God gave us Himself in essence, the cost of which was the life of his treasured Son for God-haters!  Consider Jesus’ tenderness when he had compassion on a leaderless people; how he embraced little children; how Isaiah speaking of Jesus said that a bruised reed he would not break.  He is a tender God.  And while he rebukes the hardened one’s; He also weeps for them:

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt.9:36)

 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt.19:14)

Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel, nor cry out;
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20 “A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out, Until He leads justice to victory. 21 And in His name the Gentiles will hope.” (Mt.12:18-21)

 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.  16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.(Mt.23:15-16)

Then, consider Jesus’ individual-nessWhen he approached the rich young ruler he dealt with him in a very different way then he approached the Samaritan woman.  They were both broken lives who were both addressed truthfully yet compassionately.  What a Savior.  The rest he offers to all who are weary and burdened is precious:

 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”(Mt.11:28-30)

Then consider His crucifixionHe loved us to the end “forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Lk.23:34)  Forsaken by the Father on Calvary (Mt.27:45-46)

Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? ” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Fifth, Carson explains the purpose of God in giving us His Son.  It was that we might have life.  God gave his son not to condemn but to save the world!  He came in order that those already condemned may be delivered, rescued and set free.  To not believe means that people remain condemned.  Whereas to believe means that one has been rescued from impending doom.

Carson concludes the chapter by explaining that God’s love will rightly stir in us gratitude and joy as we consider our weakness and need as finite creatures who are rightly dependent on an all-wise infinite God that has revealed himself in the creation and ultimately in his precious son.  Nothing do I bring, to the cross alone I cling.