theology

The Use of the Incarnation

Because of the influence of self-righteousness….

…many see the birth of Jesus Christ as something to be admired, celebrated, and adored. If we learn anything from Israel, we learn that external behavior towards God does not replace His work in people for holiness. To bring to worship a heart of rebellion and selfishness is to create a horrible noise in the ears of God. This reality brings us to one of the “uses” of the incarnation. Because of the refusal of man to worship God as God, God became a man in order to lead His elect to Himself by means of atonement and propitiation; erasure of sins and satisfaction of righteousness. His birth is our example, not to be fulfilled self-righteously, but to condemn us in our inability to conform. Further, it is meant to call out to God for help.

 

In Philippians, Paul has to remind these dear saints of this very thing. They are commendable in many ways. However, they are on the verge of sliding down the slope that many of the NT churches were sliding. Paul’s teaching that would curb, halt, that slide is dependent upon the fact that Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Godhead, became a man and wore a man’s outer shell. That sacrifice is the only way that we can keep ourselves from falling into the useless position of so many Christians throughout the years-the position of selfishness.

V.1 “Therefore, if (there is) any encouragement in Christ; if (there is) any hope of love; if (there is) any fellowship of spirit; if (there is) any compassion and mercy…”

This verse/section begins with an inferential conjunction that says, “Based upon what is written before, this…”

Philippians 1:27–30 

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with

one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Paul has been admonishing them to unity and service to Jesus Christ.

Here, he does so by exhorting them to continued faithful unity in service to Jesus Christ by means of the faith of the gospel.

Those opponents to the faith are indicating their destruction and the Philippians’ reward and validation of their regeneration, as they suffer for the faith of the gospel; the content of the faith.

In fact, they are suffering the same way that Paul is suffering.

He is in jail in this letter.

He is writing from a Roman rented room, albeit under chains.

Each of these easily fits into the Roman hypothesis except the travel records. The strongest objection to a Roman hypothesis is the distance between Philippi and Rome. Objectors to the Roman hypothesis point out that the evidence calls for a minimum of four trips between Philippi and Rome, and perhaps as many as six would be necessary. The trips would have been: (1) news of Paul’s imprisonment was sent to Philippi; (2) Epaphroditus was sent from Philippi to Rome with a gift and an offer of help (2:25); (3) news of Epaphroditus’s sickness (after some time?) reached Philippi (2:26); (4) word reached Paul and Epaphroditus that the Philippians were concerned about Epaphroditus (2:26); (5) Paul hoped to send Timothy before he came himself (2:23–24); and (6) Paul possibly expected that Timothy would return and journey with him to Philippi.

The trip to Rome from Philippi was approximately 800 miles. From Rome, the traveler would follow the Appian Way to Brundisium (360 miles), take a ship across the Adriatic to Dyrrachium (2 days with favorable weather), and follow the Ignatian Way to Philippi (370 miles).45 Sir William Ramsay estimated that a foot-traveler covered 15–20 miles per day on the Roman roads.46 That equals 52 days by the slower rate and 39 by the faster. Imperial couriers traveled at a rate of 50 miles per day, perhaps with the help of carriages or horses.47 That makes the travel time only 15 land travel days, 2 sea travel days, and whatever intervals were needed for rest or inclement weather. Some estimate that the travel requirements of 5 months traveling round trip, and thus 10 months total for 4 one-way trips, easily fit into 1 year of time48 It is difficult to see how earlier commentators, such as A. Deissmann, claimed that the travel was impossible in less than 2 years.49 (Melick, Richard R. Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Vol. 32. The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), pp.34-35.

Paul writes to this church in order to express appreciation for their financial support in light of his imprisonment.

This is his first imprisonment as outlined in Acts 21:27-28:31.

During this timeframe of Acts 21-28 he spent about 2 years in custody in Cesarea in Herod’s summer palace called the Praetorium (See Acts 24:27; cf. Acts 23:34-35) after being arrested for his own protection as he was a Roman citizen (Acts 25-28).

During this arrest, Paul appealed to Ceasar, seeing that he was the center of ugly politics (Acts 25:11).

On to Rome he went, via a turbulent ship voyage on the Mediterranean Sea.

While in prison there, the Philippian church sent financial support to Paul for his needs, as they had done a couple times in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15-16).

In doing this, they “participated” in his ministry AND his suffering (Philippians 1:7).

However, even in a church committed to Paul and the furtherance of the gospel of the kingdom (Acts 28:30-31), there will be problems-troubles between saints and a disunited condition can result.

This is what Paul addresses here.

As mentioned, Paul urges, after hearing from Epaphroditus about their condition (Philippians 4:18), the church there to strive for unity while Paul is absent from them.

Although they financially supported him, he still holds them accountable to the standards of the Christ he preaches.

If anything, they must see him as a pattern to follow, along with Epaphroditus and others:

Philippians 3:17

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.

Ultimately, Paul is a follower of the Pattern of Jesus Christ:

1 Corinthians 11:1

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

v.2 “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

So, Paul’s words here are simple:

If there is any level of (all in Christ; I.e. In the pursuit of Christ’s kingdom):

Encouragement

Consolation of love

Fellowship of spirit

Affection/compassion

Compassion/mercy

Then…

Strengthen my joy by…

Being of the same mind

Maintaining the same love

United in spirit

Intent on one purpose

 

Therefore, for the Philippians to be unified as a whole church, all of them to give joy to their apostle, have the same mind, same love, unity of spirit and purpose, they must meet one objective.

 

V.3 “no longer according to selfish ambition; no longer according to empty (self) glory; but rather, in the lowliness of mind/thinking, be considering one another having above of yourselves.”

This command is given to them from the apostle because Epaphroditus had returned to Paul identifying the particular ways that the church had become a bit splintered.

For example, two women were fighting each other, the very women who had shared with Paul in the purpose of Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:1-3).

They were anxious about life (4:6).

They had sent money to Paul for his needs twice (4:16).

They had participated in Paul’s imprisonment and were willing to identify with him to their detriment (1:3-11).

They were even suffering some influence from “dogs” of the circumcision, which may have been the very source of their strife among themselves (3:1ff.).

Therefore, Paul gives them a set of prohibitions in order to protect themselves from their influence and distraction from the gospel.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition, empty (self) glory…your own personal matters…”

Rather,

“…In humility of mind consider one another as more important than yourselves…(have regard for) the things of others…”

Paul’s teaching here is to let go of the affairs of this world, and protecting your life, and strive for the concerns of other believers.

In fact, the depths of the heart of each believer, in love, must be filled with more of a concern for the affairs of others than for your own affairs.

In other words:

Luke 9:57–62

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”

But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”

But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The priority of the kingdom in all things demands a preoccupation with the welfare of other believers over and above a preoccupation with your own.

James 2:14–17

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,

and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

The admonition of the apostle is the same as that of another apostle, John.

He wrote the same thing as Paul and as James because it is a consistent tendency:

1 John 3:16–17

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

The perfect law of Christ, love, requires a refusal to be rich in the world and poor towards God.

The perfect law of Christ exhorts us to care for the needs of the saints tangibly and even above our own.

This might not fit into many people’s line items on their budgets, or their day-planner, or their schedule for the day, but you will always know who loves you when they are willing to sacrifice their time, money, health, and needs for yours:

Think of this:

Philippians 2:17-30

1 Thessalonians 2:8–12

Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;

just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,

so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

 

2 Corinthians 12:14–15

Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

 

2 Timothy 2:8–10

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,

for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.

For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.

Again, I agree with Paul, follow men and women who are willing to sacrifice their very souls for you…for you!

In our contemporary smug American evangelicalism, a mild form of health, wealth, and propsperity, we hold onto our lives…protect them.

Consider:

2 Corinthians 8:8–9

I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

How about you?

Do you practice becoming poor so that the saints around might be made rich?

Do you sacrifice for their interests (not hobbies, or pastimes).

Do you need to be sacrificed for so that you might excel in the provisions of Christ?

How can this be?

How can a church be united, intent on one purpose, and restore the fellowship of the eternal purpose and preaching of the kingdom of Christ?

 

V.5 “Think this among yourselves, even that (which was/is) in Christ Jesus.”

This is the command from the imprisoned apostle to the free disciples: think like Jesus.

The whole church must follow Jesus’ teaching AND example.

To follow His teaching and not do as He did is to ignore His teaching.

To follow His example apart from his teaching is to redefine His example.

Have this mind in yourselves.

It is the same mind which was in Jesus Christ during His earthly stay/ministry.

What kind of mind was it?

What kind of thinking did He have?

What was His purpose, intention, and practice?

Whatever it was, think, intend, purpose the same thing.

1 Peter 2:21–25

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

22who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;

23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

 

V. 6 “who, while existing in the form of God, did not consider (that) a thing to be grasped, that to be equal with/to God.”

Jesus Christ left the riches of eternal heaven and proximity to the Father in order to enter His fallen kingdom.

He did not enter it as God, in the outward form of God.

Rather, He entered it in the “form” of a man.

“Form of God…” = μορφή outward form; appearance; shape; expression. 

In this case, even though it might say “form of God,” it is impossible to resemble God and not be God.

There are no true imposters of God.

His actual outward appearance is the very expression of His nature:

Hebrews 1:3–4

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

So, this cannot merely be saying that Jesus was an outward form of God but was not divine in nature.

Further, since he did have the very outward appearance of God, the exact representation of the Father and the Spirit, that is what Paul is focusing upon here.

He is focusing upon Jesus’ “appearance.”

He., apparently, did not consider that appearance a “thing to be seized.”

“Seized” = snatch, seize, grasp.

He did not hold tightly to His outward form as God.

Rather….

“…That to be equal to God…”

Equal in what sense?

Did Jesus release His equality to God in his nature?

No, since Hebrews says that even while on this earth He was the exact representation of His nature and Paul said that He was even then, the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Jesus Christ did not set aside His eternal nature.

Paul called Him God here.

Peter recognized that He is divine in human flesh:

Matthew 16:13–16

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

15He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Even the demons called Him:

Mark 1:23–24

Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

If you believe that somehow Jesus set aside His very nature as God and became a mere man, without divine nature, you are not a Christian, the truth is not in you, you have defiled the faith and denied that He is Messiah.

The Christ must be God

1 John 1:1–3

1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—

2and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

3what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

 

1 John 4:1–3

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;

3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

What does it mean then?

Well, what was the exchange?

If John, Peter, and even the demons recognize the divine nature of Jesus Christ, then He did not set aside His divine nature, ok?

But, what did he set aside?

What did He do?

“He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped….”

His equal standing with God was not seized and held on to.

 

Vv. 7-8 “But rather, he emptied Himself while taking a form of a slave, while becoming in likeness of men; and while being found in the appearance (function) as a man. He lowered himself while becoming obedient until death, yet, the death of a cross.”

Matthew 20:25–28

25But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.

26“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,

27and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;

28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Does God Love the World?

Does God love the world? What does the Bible say? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does not? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does? Does it matter? It is important that we are willing to hear and understand what God says about this, not what supports or offends a popular notion about the love of God because every doctrine of Scripture, in one way or another, intersects with the love of God. Here goes:

1) GOD’S LOVE IS described as relationship to Himself. Intimacy and relationship to the Father is the gauge of love. Jesus said,

 
John 14:21–23
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Notice the disciples’ response: "You are going to disclose yourself to us and not the world…why?" What is the answer? "Because I love you and the Father loves you. The world does not share in that love."

2) GOD’S LOVE IS conditional. Intimacy and unhindered relationship is only for those who keep His commandments. And, that is not the result of man, but of God’s own will:

John 15:10, 14
10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.
(see also Deuteronomy 7:11-23; Daniel 9:4)

3) GOD’S LOVE IS lesser, much less, in degree for the world than for His own due to the fact that the world does not know God. This kind of love expressed toward the world is not the result of knowing the Father. It is the nature of God expressed to enemies in spite of their rebellion (1John 4:8, 16). This is love, but it is not given back to the Father, sadly. They are still enemies of God (James 4:4)

Matthew 5:44–45
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so 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.

In fact, the love of the world is not the kind of love that comes from the Father. God does not love the world in the sense that His affections are for the world or His pleasure is felt toward the world. It is not. John wrote that the kind of love that the Father has is not resultant in the love of the world:

1 John 2:15–16
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

4) GOD’S LOVE IS expressed purely and absolutely by the expression of His own will, and not the worth of man.

Deuteronomy 7:7–8
7 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

1 John 4:10, 19
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
19 We love, because He first loved us.

5) GOD’S SOUL HATES the sinner who does violence. And, by the way, every sinner does violence (Romans 3:10-18):

Psalm 11:5–7
5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
6 Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.

Proverbs 8:13
13 “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate.

Luke 14:26–27
26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

For many, the issue is not "Does God love the world?" For many the issue is, "How, now, do we relate to the world if indeed God hates those who commit sin? Should we now hate them too? (and since we simply cannot relate to this level of perfection expressed in hate and love in God, we usually have a fleshly definition of ‘hate’)" Jesus said in Matthew 5:43–48,

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so 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?
48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We must express mature, perfect, discerning love (Philippians 1:9–11
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God) to the world. To not do that is to be of no use to God, whether in the church or out of it (Galatians 6:10
10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith; cf. 1 Corinthians 13). However, to set affection upon the world is not wise either and is not God’s kind of love (1 John 2:15-16).

God’s people, who have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts (Romans 5:5) and who have been reconciled to God into a level of intimacy with the Father equal to that of the Son (John 14:23; 16:26-27!), can rejoice and praise God for His mercy in loving them first so that we might receive this love AND be able to return it back to Him in fulfillment of His commandment, "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart…" To Him belongs all praise, dominion, and affection!

Romans 11:33–36
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Family 101: The Children

We have covered the creation of the man, the creation of the woman, and creation itself. Now, we need to turn our attention to the subject of children. Although no children were created, or conceived, in the garden “pre-fall,” we have all that we need to know about children, how to raise them, as well as why they even exist, from the early chapters of Genesis, particularly the garden narrative. This will only be a summary, but will be much to think about.

One of the least developed theologies of the modern church, or historical church for that matter, is the theology of the Family, particularly, as it relates to children. I believe that if we can develop a theology of children from Scripture, and let Scripture instruct us concerning the glorious position of children, much in the family, and in the church, would be corrected. My desire is to introduce this theology here for your consideration.

To begin, I want to consider Jesus’ terms in Mark 10:13-16:

13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.

14  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

15  “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

16  And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

Without going into a full detail on this passage, it is enough for us to look at Jesus’ reference to children here as those to whom belongs the kingdom. That phrase delineates for us all that we need in order to understand your child. Yes, that is right. It was enough for Jesus, and, when understood, it is enough for us. The result of this understanding will be the action of Christ here-He took them in His arms and began blessing them!

Imagine seeing children as a blessing again to the extent that you express that to them! It stems from the kingdom purpose of children.

To say that to children belongs the kingdom, is to say that children are heirs of the kingdom. That is, the kingdom is for, and made up of, children (John 1:12-13). The Greek here is instructive, obviously. It literally reads, “…for of these kinds of ones is the kingdom of God.” This is not good English, but is good Greek. In other words, the children are pictures, or examples, of those who exist in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is all that God has created. It has been infiltrated and overrun with tares and goats. Yet, it is still the kingdom and one day Jesus will remove all these stumbling blocks from His kingdom (Matthew 13:41). Until then, they coexist with us. So, because of God’s original design in the garden, which began His eternal design for redemption, the kingdom is (made up of) those who are not only like children, but are children. That is the key to understanding your children from God’s perspective.

Some will look at this and say, “Yes, we must enter the kingdom like a child: humble, meek, helpless,” etc.… These things are true in a sense. To enter the kingdom, you must be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). However, that is not the point here. The point here is a comparison between biological children and spiritual children such that biological children become the comparison for spiritual children. That is, when God created Adam, He made him to be His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Adam was called a “son of God” (Luke 3:38) and as such was in the kingdom. When he fell, he was thrust from God’s kingdom and submitted to Satan. Once returned, He was in God’s kingdom once again, however the kingdom had taken on a new component-futility resulting from God’s curse (Genesis 3:17ff.; Romans 8:18-22). That condition exists in the kingdom now and will be purged at the coming of Jesus Christ to reign (Matthew 13:41).

Now, when the man and woman were created, they were given the privilege of procreation. By that would come children. Once born, these unique creations, then, would exemplify what it means to be in God’s kingdom. They were a real-live, physical, examples of the truth of being a son to God. Remember, all of God’s children were predestined to become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Romans 8:28-30). That was not simply the goal of redemption, but the original creation goal of the Father (Hebrews 2:9-15). This is a theology of sonship that is true of children. They are unique because they are born infants and grow, mature, and develop into a man or woman, who themselves bear the image of God. It is only unique to children that a boy can go from being a son to a father who then can bear sons. That dynamic, it seems, also replicates the glory of God in that He is a Son to a Father, and a Father to a Son. So, in a tremendously unique and distinctly profound sense, children are really the picture of the triune nature of God.

Therefore, children are heirs of the kingdom. To deny them access to Jesus Christ, as the disciples had done, was infuriating to Jesus for this very reason. Your children are pictures to you of the entire purpose of God in creating the kingdom in the first place-to give to the Son sons of His own to enjoy forever (Revelation 21:7)! So, please, treat your children accordingly.

Matthew 25:34

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Exalted Submission-pt.2

Last time, we were considering Ephesians 5:22 only. The summary of that verse is clear-“Wives be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Borrowing the participle from v. 21, it means that wives should exemplify appropriate subjection in their relationship to their own husbands. This assumes: 1) Husbands are to exercise authority over their wives, and, subsequently, their families. 2) Wives are under obligation to have a heart dedicated to subjection to their husbands. 3) The manner of submission to the Lord should also characterize her submission to her husband.

I also attempted to give a fuller picture of this submission. In God’s kingdom, the slave is supreme. In God’s kingdom, the one in subjection to the authority over them with faithfulness and a whole heart is that one who will, one day, be elevated in His presence (Mark 10:41-45). The woman who looks upon submission with disdain, is that woman who does not understand Jesus Christ. He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9). He is a High Priest, and yet became the sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-10). He was Lord, and yet became a slave (Philippians 2:5-11). He is the source of life, and yet gave His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Too man women demand their rights to places of seeming honor in the world. They seem to have forgotten the honor of subjection.

In Ephesians 5:23-24, we will see the profound reason why the wife is instructed by God to subject herself to her husband. It is, quite simply, the way God created the marriage relationship. But the purpose behind that marriage relationship is tremendously profound.

“For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:23–24, NASB95)

What Paul is teaching here is the proper outflow from chapters 1-4. In those chapters, the theme is, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14, NASB95)

The thrust of this entire epistle is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is that message by which we are made sons if we believe the claims of the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is that we, being dead in sins, can be made alive in God. Not alive like we used to be, but alive to God, indwelt with His Holy Spirit (who was the promise of the New Covenant-Ezekiel 36:26-27). That being said, Paul elaborates on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in that He will “cause” us to walk in the commandments of God (Ezekiel 36:27). That affects your marriage! How could it not?

Thus, the commandments of God that the Spirit of God enables us to obey are: wives be subject to your husbands, and husbands love your wives. But, our motivation in the New Covenant era is profound. The example before us is sufficient. The provision of the Spirit to enable us to do these things is enough. Thus, our task is to be filled with Him, i.e. to fill ourselves with the truth of Scripture (not philosophical knowledge, but comprehending and understanding the truths the Scriptures teach and subjecting ourselves to what it demands-Is.66:1-2). Doing that throughout our lives, fills us with the Holy Spirit since it is His Word and His power.

The Husband is the Head

Categorically, the husband is the head of the wife. There is no qualification. He did not say, “The husband should be the head of the wife”, or “The Christian husband is the head of the wife.” Paul teaches, on the basis of Genesis 1-2, that the husband, as far as God is concerned and as He has created, is the head of the wife. The husband, before God and in His eyes, is the head of the wife and the husband will give an account to God for that responsibility, whether squandered or taken seriously and done well.

What does this mean? What did Paul intend when he writes that the husband is the head of the wife? This is not the first time that he had written this instruction. Years before, he had instructed the Corinthian church on the very same issue. Just as it was then, it is now for the Ephesians, it is a matter of the image and likeness of God.

The Triune God

When God created man He said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Thus, the desire of God is that the man would be, in some way, the image and likeness of God. In other words, the man would be all that God is, in some representational, yet actual, way. It is out of man that came the woman. It is out of the man and the woman that would come children. Thus, in a very real way, the man is the head of everything in the realm of humanity. You could also say that he is the head of humanity because he, particularly, is made to represent God. Or as Asaph wrote centuries later, “I said, ‘You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.’” (Psalm 82:6; cf. John 10:34-35). The man is the unique person in whom God would display Himself, and as such, is highly accountable to that purpose of God.

So, when Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that “God is the head of Christ”, this is no small matter. God had made a man to be both a son and a father and thus uniquely would be the image and likeness of a God who is also both Son and Father. Yet, even in that holy, eternal, glorious, and immense reality of God, there is structure, recognition of authority (although neither has less authority than the other), and the willing submission of the Son to the Father out of love. Do we get this? Jesus Christ said in John 5:19, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” Further, Jesus said speaking to the apostate Jewish religious leaders, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me” (John 8:42). Jesus here indicates that in the eternal plan of God (Ephesians 3:10-11), the Father had planned to send the Son, the Son did not plan to come on His own. However, that does not mean that He came reluctantly. He came willingly, as an obedient Son. In fact, we can understand the mind of Christ from John 12:49-50 when He said:

“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

Jesus trusted the commandment of the Father. So much so, that He was willing to believe the Father’s purpose and will even to the point of death (see Matthew 26:42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 6:38). He was willing to obey, even to the point of death as a scoundrel (Philippians 2:7-8). This was willing, educated, and purposeful submission on the part of the Son to the will of the Father. And what was the motive? What would allow the glorious and powerful Son of God to obey the Father even through the cross? Love. Love is a willful choice to abide by the authority of another regardless of status or ability. Jesus Christ is God, Creator God. He is the King of the earth. He is the Lord of Lords. Yet, He is a Son to the Father and, as such, although of the same essence, loved the Father. The evidence of love is His willingness to submit to the Father from all eternity, and was exampled for us in His earthly life. The cross was the magnanimous display of such loving obedience-the eternal relationship between the Son and the Father.

So, when Paul writes that women should submit themselves to their husbands, why is it a problem? Jesus submitted to the Father. When Paul writes that husbands are the head of the wife, even as the Father is the head of the Son, why is that confusing? The Father was a loving and purposeful head, even during the crushing blows the Son received from the Father on the cross of for the sins of mankind (Isaiah 53:10).

The Gospel Is The Motivation In Marriage

With that as backdrop, what Paul writes here makes more sense. The husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the Head of the church. Jesus Christ only does what He sees the Father doing (John 5:19). Thus, the headship of Jesus Christ is commensurate with the headship of the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3). Jesus is the head over the church (Ephesians 1:22). So also, husbands are head over their wives. Remember, man was made in God’s image. This headship is of the same kind, although not of the same quality, as that of the Father over the Son. Further, this headship is of the same kind as Christ over the church. A loving head giving the Word of the Father to a lovingly submissive church. What a picture of marriage! How comprehensive!

However, the church was not always lovingly submissive. In fact, Christ died while we (the church) were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). We were unfaithful. We were dirty. We were unclean. Jesus Christ responded to His bride, not with disdain and hatred, but with a kind of love that He had already expressed to the Father-a willful love of sacrifice. You see, Jesus Christ did for the church what He also did for God. He sacrificed His life. Jesus Christ was obedient to the Father, even to the point of death, i.e. sacrifice. Jesus Christ loved the church even to the point of death, i.e. sacrifice. To the one was a satisfaction of the plan of the Father. To the other was a satisfaction of a debt of death owed (Genesis 2:17). To the One, He showed His love by dying on the cross. To the other, He showed His love by dying on the cross. Love truly covers. Husbands, that is the love you are to have for your wives! Further, a man with the love of Christ in himself, by the work of the Spirit, affects his entire household. You see this in 1 Corinthians 7:14. The believing spouse (a believer is characterized by sanctification, i.e. love) affects the condition of the entire household, and in fact can bring unbelieving family members to God. They are convicted by their own lack of love and may be won without a word (1 Peter 3:1). Thus the influence and affect of God’s love in the home is sufficient.

So, wives, chose to love God and submit to your husbands. They are head over you. Not by personal ability or wonderful character. They are head over you because God created it that way. Thus, to respond to what God designed with loving, willful, purposeful, submission is to emulate the One who rescued you from sin and hell.

The Joy of Marriage

Yesterday I began a series on Marriage and the Family. I believe it will be a foundational and important series because of the fundamental importance the topic holds in most everyone’s life.

The home is the place where a man, and his wife, have children. It is the place in which, or from which, all of life is lived out. It is in the home, that the newborn infant is cared for as well as the teenage son is trained. It is in the home where the husband and wife can enjoy the best of times, and the worst of times. It is in the home where relaxation can occur or the most horrendous conflict. The home is a very central place for any people, culture, or nationality. Whether you live in huts, or in a mansion, that home represents the decisions and habits of everyone living there. Therefore, a true and biblical understanding of marriage and the family is foundational to all of life for the church.

The first place you have to begin in this kind of teaching is to reiterate the sufficiency of God’s Scripture. God’s Word is not a fix-it kind of manual. It is not some kind of book of opinions and “try this, it might work” kind of a thing. Rather than looking for ways to “apply the Scripture” to my life, we should be trembling before it (Is. 66:1-2), and obeying its instructions. It is life and it is dangerous, as it will cut through to our hearts. Yet, it restores and replenishes our souls. Notice the process in 2 Timothy 3:14-16:

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14–17, NASB95)

Notice the process: in order for Scripture to be profitable, it first must be learned. Second, it must teach us. Third, it will reprove us. Fourth, correction has to take place. Fifth, the result is a training in righteousness that will ensue. Thus, the man of God will be equipped in this fashion. There is no other way. It hurts. It is hard. But, the “profit” is immeasurable. It, in fact, leads to life and joy.

When considering the family, this process is no different. The Scripture will confront all our failures, misconceptions, wrong ideals and then shred them to pieces. However, to those who are trained by it, it leads to life and the glory of God. So, let the Scripture have its way with you. It is to your benefit and leads to the joy of God. Jesus said it simply, “Sanctify them in the truth (Father); Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

Put simply, the foundation of every marriage and every home is the glory of God. That is, the original design for the home, marriage and children was ultimately and absolutely, for the display of the glory of God.

When God originally designed and created the heavens and the earth, he was purposeful. The apparent goal in it all, was His own glory. The heavens themselves cry out the glory of God day and night (Ps. 19:1). The animals He created were created as a display of His power (see Job 38-40). But the greatest display of His handiwork was the fantastic design and creation of the man and the woman. God is glorified by the heavens and the animals. However, God is on display in a personal way by the man and the woman. This is the foundation of marriage and the family.

How do we know this? In Genesis 1:26-27, Moses writes for us this very thing. He states,

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26–27, NASB95)

When God spoke within Himself for the creation of a man, He said that He intended to make a man to be His image and likeness. Thus, the man, inherently, would be the glory of God. This is true today according to 1 Corinthians 11:7 and James 3:9. The fact of the matter is, the man was created to display God and that did not change when he fell. He is still the image and likeness of God, however, he has been separated from the glory that accompanied that in the original creation (Romans 3:23). The power of the gospel is to restore that glory, through Christ, to the man and the woman respectively (2 Corinthians 3:18; see Ephesians 4:20-24). This is called sanctification. Sanctification is the restoration of the original glory we were designed to bear. However, this is no longer in Adam, but in Christ, which far exceeds Adam. Therefore, we can truly be sons of God.

In order to be the glory of God, man would have to display the nature of God as well as His character. The summary of all nature and character of God is found in the overall function of the man in that he would rule over the entire earth. God is a ruler. He is sovereign. And, as such, He would give to the man to rule as well. In reality, God would rule through the man as that man would represent Him on the planet. The man would have absolute authority and dominion, but with the character and nature of God Himself on display in him. Thus, there is no room for dictatorship, selfish ambition, cruelty and hatred. This rulership would be commensurate with the nature of God Himself. How glorious!

This foundational requirement of the man would demand multiplication. That is, for the man to exercise dominion over the earth and rule in the fashion that God does from heaven, the man would have to be accompanied by another. There are overtones of the Trinity in this. This is why God says that it is not good for man to be alone. If man is the image and likeness of God, then he cannot be alone since God is three Persons in One. God is singular, but Three. Thus, if the man would be the image and likeness of God, he would have to be more than one, and yet, in some way, still maintain his unity. The solution-put the man asleep, take from his side, fashion a compliment for the man, yet taken from the man. In other words, the man would be two from one. Thus, marriage is the reunification of the two into one. This is, as Paul says, “a great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). There is a representation of the Triunity of God in marriage. Adam and his wife are one, made of the same essence. Yet, they are two different persons with individual wills, minds, and hearts. However, the essence of marriage is the making of the two into one again in all those things. The relationship of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit were to be on display in the relationship of the man and the woman and then, in time, the children. Thus, the family would be a display of the image and likeness of God. Therefore, when Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is made up of such as children, He is referring to the fact that children are a display of that Triunion of God. It all stems from the original creation. By the way, this basic understanding is the groundwork for a biblical perspective of children, which we will cover in later posts.

Marriage, then, when understood in this light, is sacred. It is holy. It is exalted and it is joyous! So much for the superficial descriptions and so-called quick-fixes of modern psychologists and Christian therapists. Marriage is more than 5 steps of good communication. Marriage is the display of the immense and far-reaching glory of God!

With this foundation, we can then see why the woman would be submissive to her husband just as Christ is submissive to the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3). With this in mind, we can see why children are called to submit to their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3). With this in mind, we can see why fathers are given the responsibility to train their children, as all knowledge and instruction of God should come from the father just as it does the heavenly Father (Ephesians 6:4). And, with this in mind, we can see why there is so much trauma in a home that does not set its sights upon these glorious truths and put this into action.

The glory of God. that is the foundation of the home. The glory of God is the foundation of the family. The glory of God is the foundation of a marriage. Anything less will end up in empty self-made reformation. When will we, the church, return glory to God and pursue Him in our most fundamental components of life?

Over the next number of posts, I will be attempting to develop this “Theology of the Home”, as I call it. The realities that God instilled into this thing called marriage and its resultant fruit of a family are profound. Personally speaking, nothing less will do.

Preaching Christ From the Old Testament-Jesus and the Law of Moses-pt.6.

The last reference to Christ and the Old Testament as seen in the Law of Moses that I want to consider is the most important. In a sense, I have been waiting a long time to just get to this one reference.

Jesus said to the Jews of John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures because you  think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” Jesus was reprimanding the Jews for their misguided zeal and willful misplacement of Scripture. They, in their religious system, had taken Scripture, the Law of God, and believed that in bisecting and dissecting it to their own ends, they can gain eternal life. This is the heart of all their misunderstanding of Torah. Numerous times Jesus rebuked the Jews for their lack of understanding of Scripture. And, in many ways, Jesus, were He physically walking among His churches today, would say the same thing to us. Just like the days of the Jews, we too have taken the Scripture and used them to our own prescribed religious and personal ends. You know that this is the case when pastors, 1) Don’t believe that they really need to study in order to prepare for their messages on Sunday. 2) Don’t believe there is a need to know the original biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek (I would like to see a medical doctor get away with thinking, “I don’t need any specialized training.” 3) Have already convinced themselves of the meaning of the text before really dealing with the text. 4) Follow established systems of theology without subjecting that system to the exegetical findings of the actual text of Scripture. 5) Refuse to study anymore because they have been in the ministry for years and think they understand the Bible well enough by now. 6) They ridicule those who refuse to do all the above. You also know that this is the case with those attending church when, 1) They don’t carry a Bible to church. 2) They disagree with the Scripture when correctly understood. 3) They believe that they own the church because they give a certain amount of money. 4) They judge the pastor by the way he dresses, and not how he handles Scripture. 5) They expect to be entertained while in church and if that does not happen, then they threaten to leave. 6) They refuse to show love to someone who hurt them 20 years ago. 7) They make light of the sufficiency of Scripture, thinking in their hearts, “We can’t just study the Bible when we come to church. We need something more.”

The above scenarios divulge a modern-day Judaism that Jesus was essentially clamoring against. We use the Scriptures to our ends, but refuse to be taken by the Scriptures to God’s ends, namely Jesus Christ. Or worse, we build our methods and ‘ministries’ and attribute them to Jesus, when in reality they contradict and undermine His very work.

Jesus corrects the Jews. Rebukes them really. He says that they think that in the Scripture they have eternal life. That is, simply codifying the Bible like a textbook and following subsequent religious functions is what gains eternal life, and that is not so. It is true that Scripture is living and active (Hebrews 4:12; in that context, it is referring to the power of the Word of God to judge) and the “incorruptible seed” (1 Peter 1:22-25). However, the Scriptures testify of Christ for eternal life. Eternal life is the issue. The Scriptures did not die for sins. Our religious systems did not atone for our sins. Our Calvinism did not remove our sins from God’s books. My Doctrines of Grace did not permit God to justify me. Only Christ holds that supreme position. Only Jesus Christ is capable of these things, not the systems that we hold dear. I find it amazing that people are so proud of their Calvinistic leanings, their dispensational stance, their Covenantal tradition and their independent, fundamental history, and yet speak very little of the Person, work and economy of Jesus Christ. This tells me where their allegiance and worship is. And, by and large, just like the Jews, it is misplaced.

The Scriptures testify of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, they describe and define Him, His work, and His eternal kingdom. His accomplishment is the subject of Scripture. This is far more than a devotional understanding of Jesus. The depth and height to which God has gone in order to gain all the glory for redemption is breathtaking. And Jesus Christ is in the center of it all. However, we cannot breathe the air of that glory unless, as Jesus said, we are “willing to do the will of the Father” (John 7:17).

The panorama of God’s work of redemption (John 5:17), begins in seed-form. It, like a tree, begins with a small reference to the hope that God announced to the couple who plunged the universe into futility and separated man from his Creator and from their blossoms unto maturity in the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was also an announcement to the one heavenly being responsible for the generation of sin in the first place. The declaration to Satan by God is a judgment and a warning of his impending death. The passage that we will be examining in some detail is Genesis 3:15. It is the foundation of all the redemptive revelation found in the rest of God’s Word. Its shoulders are broad and strong. It is the footer upon which the entire building of redemption, both Jew and Gentile, is built. It is all summarized in one single sentence.

    And I will put enmity
      Between you and the woman,
      And between your seed and her seed;
      He shall bruise you on the head,
      And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Having already covered the first days of creation in past posts, I won’t do so now. However, it is important to realize that at this point, the pristine glory and beauty both in creation and in the man and woman are lost. They have ‘died’, as it were. Their hearts have been darkened and their consciences seared. This is all evident from the responses that God received from Adam and Eve after they ate of the tree. God, now, has to punish all parties involved. He does so.

He begins with a curse upon the serpent, the animal. He makes the animal to slither on the ground, changing the animal anatomically into eternal humility because of its role in corruption. However, the being who inhabited the snake, he sentences him not to eternal humiliation, but eternal damnation for his role in the whole event. It is to him that the above-mentioned verse is spoken.

Notice that God continues the sentence upon the serpent, speaking to the being behind the act of the snake, by using the conjunction “and.” In doing that, it continues the curse upon him that was started with the animal. The curse upon the being, Satan, is that God will put a hostile disposition between the offspring of Satan and the offspring of the woman, i.e. righteous offspring. Their “children” will be at odds. This is the source of all spiritual struggles (Ephesians 6:10-20).

However, there is something very unique about this curse. At the end of the verse, it states, “He shall…” We need to stop and ask, “Whom?” At this point, we understand that it is a singular, masculine pronoun. This is referring to a singular, male offspring of the woman. God did not say, “it”, or “she.” God specifically said, “He.” Further, God states that this One will “bruise you on the head.” There will be a final, fatal blow to the head that will end up in the death of the Satan. This will result in bruising which indicates fatal, internal damage. This intimates that the One giving the blow will be stronger than he. Thus, this seed must not be a human, since mankind has just bowed the knee to Satan via the man and the woman. And yet, He will be a human since He will be the seed of the woman. So, this will be one who is above Satan, and yet is made of the same material as those who bow to Satan, i.e. a man. Satan, then, is told that he will die at the hands of a child of the woman.

What is interesting is the reference to the woman. This is peculiar since obviously the seed is from the man. So, for God to relegate the seed to the woman indicates a purposeful peculiarity of the Child. So, this offspring of the woman will be the One who will fatally deal with the enemy of God, and thus, undo all his handiwork (Hebrews 2:14; 1 john 3:8), and he will be powerless to stop it. At this juncture, God’s plan for redemption of sinners is begun. And what a plan it is! The central figure in it all is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. He will crush the serpent. He will pay the penalty of death for man. He will be the unique seed of the woman, and not of a man. However, He will be fully man and yet without sin, which makes Him superior to Satan.

This reference to Christ as the seed of the woman and the enemy of Satan is what feeds the rest of Scripture. It is the hope of all the redeemed. It is the purpose and plan of God. It is the magnanimous foundation upon which the whole structure of God’s redemptive plan rests. And, it is spoken in just one sentence. Truly, our God is in the heavens, He does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: