The Excellency of Christ

A rich and sumptuous feast of delight in the gloriously diverse person of Jesus our Savior — Every Christian should read this sermon – perhaps one of the single most impacting sermon that you may ever read.

Dear Beloved in Christ, I am oftentimes reminded of what C. S. Lewis said one time concerning the reading of old books. In essence, Lewis wrote that for every new book we read, we ought to read at least three old ones. What he wanted to communicated wisely to the Church was that the reading of old books takes us out of our culture and religious “present-tense” context and allows us to see a clearer and bigger picture of the teaching of Scripture without being hindered by the biases and narrowness of our present cultural milieu or context.

Recently, as I was studying and praying generally for the future of Christ’s Church, and considering more specifically gaining wisdom with regard to how to pastor Christ’s people, I came across a discourse, or study written by Jonathan Edwards in the early 18th century. Jonathan Edwards was a great and godly preacher of God’s Word, and was perhaps the finest and most able theologian America has ever produced!

The discourse or study is entitled ‘The Excellency of Christ’. The study struck me deeply in my heart and mind because it helped me to reflect on the glory of God in the incarnation, but perhaps even more practically, it helped me to think of how Christ builds and matures His Church in a way consistent with the incarnation, yet paradoxical with regards to the ways and methods of the world. Continue reading

Lamb of God

“Lamb of God” Music and Words by Jason Hansen, Bob Kauflin, and David LaChance, Jr. © 2015 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Lead Vocal: Rebecca Elliott
Piano: Bob Kauflin
Cello: Bethany Payne

Lyrics:

VERSE 1
O Lamb of God, all worlds obeyed Your will
From dark and void their being came
O Lamb of God, Your glories echo still
Creation sings its Maker’s praise
Eternal God, One with the Father
Before all time You dwelt in love
Eternal God, unlike all others
Yet You descended unto us

VERSE 2
O Lamb of God, in filthy manger lay
In humble dress You entered earth
O Lamb of God, Creator bows to save
The needy ones, helpless from birth
Incarnate Word, gift of the Father
To take our place and bear our sin
Incarnate Word led to the slaughter
You conquered death and rose again

VERSE 3
O Lamb of God now reigning on the throne
The Judge of all, faithful and true
O Lamb of God, You’ll make Your power known
When all Your foes receive their due
Victorious King, when history’s fading
You’ll call Your Bride to take her place
Victorious King, Creation’s waiting
For Your redeemed to see Your face

© 2015 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

From the album, Sooner Count the Stars: Worshiping the Triune God

The Ligonier Statement on Christology

In all good conscience I am happy to affirm along with its affirmations and denials.

Firstly, some introductory words from Dr. R. C. Sproul:

Who is Jesus? Nearly every adult person has formed some opinion of Jesus. These opinions may be superficial, uninformed, or downright heretical. The truth about Jesus, not mere opinion, matters . . . and it matters eternally.

Those who bear the name Christian profess to follow Christ as His disciples. They hold a Christology—a doctrine of Christ—that reflects their view of Christ. This Christology may be articulated implicitly or explicitly. It may represent the depth of biblical revelation and historic Christian reflection on Scripture, or it may be novel and disconnected from God’s Word. But no professing Christian lacks a Christology.

Since following Christ is central to Christianity, the church has labored for centuries to proclaim the Christ of history and Scripture, not the Christ of our imaginations. In such historic statements of faith such as the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Westminster Confession, Christians have articulated the biblical teaching on Christ.

Today these statements are often neglected and misunderstood, resulting in widespread confusion regarding the person and work of Christ. For the glory of Christ and the edification of His people, the Ligonier Statement on Christology seeks to encapsulate the historic, orthodox, biblical Christology of the Christian church in a form that is simple to confess, useful to help teach the church’s enduring faith, and able to serve as a common confession around which believers from different churches can rally for mission together. This statement is not a replacement for the church’s historic creeds and confessions but a supplement that articulates their collective teaching on who Christ is and what He has done. May Christ use it for His kingdom.

In the name of God’s Son incarnate, our Prophet, Priest, and King,

R.C. Sproul
Spring 2016

THE LIGONIER STATEMENT ON CHRISTOLOGY

We confess the mystery and wonder
of God made flesh
and rejoice in our great salvation
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

With the Father and the Holy Spirit,
the Son created all things,
sustains all things,
and makes all things new.
Truly God,
He became truly man,
two natures in one person.

He was born of the Virgin Mary
and lived among us.
Crucified, dead, and buried,
He rose on the third day,
ascended to heaven,
and will come again
in glory and judgement.

For us,
He kept the Law,
atoned for sin,
and satisfied God’s wrath.
He took our filthy rags
and gave us
His righteous robe.

He is our Prophet, Priest, and King,
building His church,
interceding for us,
and reigning over all things.

Jesus Christ is Lord;
we praise His holy Name forever.

Amen.

Affirmations and Denials

Explanatory Essay

Christ’s Deity, Voluntary Subordination & Perfect Humanity

sproul-77The Deity of Christ – R.C. Sproul

The confession of the deity of Christ is drawn from the manifold witness of the New Testament. As the Logos Incarnate, Christ is revealed as being not only preexistent to creation, but eternal. He is said to be in the beginning with God and also that He is God (John 1:1-3). That He is with God demands a personal distinction within the Godhead. That He is God demands inclusion in the Godhead.

Elsewhere, the New Testament ascribes terms and titles to Jesus that are clearly titles of deity. God bestows the preeminent divine title of Lord upon Him (Philippians 2:9-11). As the Son of Man, Jesus claims to be Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) and to have authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12). He is called the “Lord of glory” (James 2:1) and willingly receives worship, as when Thomas confesses, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Paul declares that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily (Colossians 1:19) and that Jesus is higher than angels, a theme reiterated in the book of Hebrews. To worship an angel or any other creature, no matter how exalted, is to violate the biblical prohibition against idolatry. The I ams of John’s Gospel also bear witness to the identification of Christ with Deity. Continue reading

The Begotten of the Father

Daniel Mann has taught at the New York School of the Bible since 1992 and blogs at www.MannsWord.blogspot.com. He is the author of Embracing the Darkness: How a Jewish, Sixties, Berkeley Radical Learned to Live with Depression, God’s Way (Xulon Press, 2004). In an article entitled “Jesus: The “Begotten” of the Father” he writes:

The letter to the Hebrews presents many teachings affirming the deity of Christ and His supremacy over the angels, Moses, and everything else that had come before Him.

However, after asserting that Jesus “made the worlds,” that He is “the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of His person,” and that He upholds “all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:2–3),1 this letter cites a controversial verse—at least controversial today—to prove that He is uniquely related to the Father as His Son: “For to which of the angels did He ever say: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’?” (Heb. 1:5; quoting Ps. 2:7).

Certainly, Scripture never does refer to angels in this manner. However, this verse suggests to some that Jesus is “begotten” in the sense of being created and having a beginning in time. If this is the case, then He can’t be eternal, and therefore He can’t be God. This same “problem” is also reflected in perhaps the most famous New Testament verse: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten [monogenes in Greek] Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Many cults understand this verse, and others like it, to affirm that Jesus was birthed into existence. Mormon Doctrine reads, “Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.”2

However, this is to understand the term “begotten” with our understanding and not from the perspective of scriptural usage. Hebrews 1:5 was quoted from Psalm 2, a psalm widely regarded as messianic, even among ancient Jewish authorities: “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son; Today I have begotten You’” (Ps. 2:7).

“Begotten” must be understood in the way it was originally intended, and we can determine this by examining the context. In this context, “begotten” can’t possibly mean, “to physically birth.”3 The One who is “begotten” is being addressed. He therefore already exists, even before He is “begotten.” The verse therefore can’t mean, “The Lord has said to Me… ‘Today, I am giving birth to you.’” Instead, “begotten” must mean something else. Besides, Hebrews quotes Psalm 2:7 to prove the superiority of Christ over the angels. Reference to a physical human birth could hardly demonstrate His superiority.4 Continue reading

Munus Triplex: Christ as Prophet, Priest and King

Text: Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Christ in His offices of Prophet, Priest and King meets our desperate need for trusted guidance, a sufficient sacrifice under His Kingly reign.

Jesus is God

TrinityShield_300Jesus is God: List of Bible verses (from James White’s book, The Forgotten Trinity (Chapter 9, endnote 2)

Mt. 1:21; Psa. 130:8; Isa. 35:4 [God will save His people]
Mt. 3:12; Rev. 6:16; Psa. 2:12; 76:7 [Fear God]
Mt. 5:18; Mk. 13:31 [God’s word is eternal; Jesus’ word is eternal]
Mt. 25:31-46; Psa. 50:6; 59:11; 96:13 [God is Judge, Jesus is Judge]
Jn. 1:3; Isa. 44:24 [Yahweh alone created all things]
Jn. 1:7-9; Isa. 60:9 [God is light]
Jn. 7:37-38; Jer. 2:13 [Yahweh the fountain of living water]
Jn. 10:11; Psa. 23:1; 110:3 [The Good Shepherd]
Jn. 12:41; Isa. 6:1 [The vision of Isaiah—Yahweh’s glory]
Jn. 14:6; Psa. 31:5 [God is truth]
Jn. 14:14; 1 Cor. 1:2 [Prayer to Jesus]
Jn. 14:26; 16:27; Rom. 8:9; 1 Pet. 1:11; Neh. 9:20; 2 Sam 23:2-3 [Spirit of Yahweh/God/Christ]
Jn. 17:5; Isa. 48:11 [Will not give His glory to another]
Acts 1:8; Isa. 43:10 [Witness of Whom?]
Acts 4:24; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 4 [Who is our Master?]
Rom. 10:13; Joel 2:32 [Call on the name of…]
Eph. 4:8-9; Psa. 68:18 [God leads the captives…]
Phil. 2:10-11; Isa. 45:23 [Every knee will bow…]
Col. 1:16; Eph. 5:25, 27; Rom. 11:36 [All things are to God…]
Col. 1:17; Acts 17:28 [We exist in God]
Col. 2:3; 1 Tim. 1:17 [Only wise God…treasure of wisdom]
2 Tim. 1:12; Jer. 17:5 [Trust in Yahweh—believe in Jesus]
Heb. 1:3; 1 Tim. 6:15 [Jesus’ power—God is only sovereign]
Heb. 1:10; Psa. 102:25 [Jesus is Yahweh]
Heb. 13:8; Mal. 3:6 [God changes not]
Jam. 2:1; Zech. 2:5 [Lord of glory]
1 Pet. 2:3; Psa. 34:8 [Taste that Yahweh is good]
1 Pet. 3:15; Isa. 8:13 [Sanctify Yahweh]
Rev. 1:5-6; Exod. 34:14 [Glorify Jesus]
Rev. 1:13-16; Ezek. 43:2 [God’s voice is the voice of Jesus]
Rev. 2:23; 1 Kings 8:39 [Jesus searches the hearts]
Rev. 3:7; Revelation 15:4 [God alone is holy]

“I have found two particular passages to carry the most weight in communicating this truth to those who believe that Yahweh is God, believe the Bible is true, but reject the deity of Christ: Hebrews 1:10–12 in comparison with Psalm 102:25–27, and John 12:37–41 in comparison with Isaiah 6:1–10.” – James White, The Forgotten Trinity, p. 132

HT: The Confessing Baptist

Tampering with the Trinity

Sam_WaldronThe following is a series of blog articles by Dr. Sam Waldron regarding a current debate/discussion concerning the Trinity. All posts are here for reference sake:

Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? (Part 1)

Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? That is the name of a book that is perhaps the most recent installment of a major debate going on among “evangelicals” on the subject of the Trinity. The subtitle of the book identifies the debate in question: An Assessment of the Subordination Debate. In this book Millard J. Erickson attempts an even-handed evaluation of the debate over the Trinity as it relates to what is called the eternal subordination of the Son. In case you are new to this debate it is intimately related to the ongoing debate between “egalitarians” and “complementarians” on the relation of men and women in the home and in the church. The two sides to the Trinitarian debate are often, described by these two names. Erickson, however, prefers to call the egalitarians “equivalentists” because they believe that each person is equivalent in authority with regard to one another. He prefers to call the complementarians “gradationists” because they believe that the Son and Spirit are subordinate to the Father among the persons of the Trinity. At the end Erickson (who is an egalitarian with regard to the relations of men and women) sides with equivalentists. He even suggests, though he acknowledges no gradationist holds that heresy today, a danger that gradationists in future generations will fall into Arianism.

Erickson’s views have been reviewed and criticized in at least two major articles. One is by Steve Wellum in the journal of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It is entitled, “Irenic and Unpersuasive: A Review of Millard J. Erickson, Who’s Tampering with the Trinity?” The other response is by Keith Johnson in Themelios(36:1). It is not a direct critique of Erickson, but mentions his views many times.

Though—quite honestly—I deplore Erickson’s conclusions on this subject, his book is a helpful primer on the whole debate. Again, though I think him quite insensitive to the nature of historical Trinitarianism on the issues under concern in the present debate, as a survey of Trinitarian approaches to this issue over the last 150 years it is quite helpful. Here are my conclusions from reading Erickson, Wellum, Johnson, and a host of others on the subject of the Trinity with a view to the modern debate over the eternal functional subordination of the Son. Continue reading

The Deity of Christ (in the Early Church)

opponents of this doctrine allege it was the invention of church history. In making such claims, they often point to historical developments in the fourth century—contending that belief in the Trinity began under Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicaea.

The cult of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (also known as the Watchtower Society) makes the claim:

“The testimony of the Bible and of history makes clear that the Trinity was unknown throughout Biblical times and for several centuries thereafter.”

“For many years, there had been much opposition on Biblical grounds to the developing idea that Jesus was God. To try to solve the dispute, Roman emperor Constantine summoned all bishops to Nicaea. . . . Constantine’s role was crucial. After two months of furious religious debate, this pagan politician intervened and decided in favor of those who said that Jesus was God. . . . After Nicaea, debates on the subject continued for decades.Those who believed that Jesus was not equal to God even came back into favor for a time. But later Emperor Theodosius decided against them. He established the creed of the Council of Nicaea as the standard for his realm and convened the Council of Constantinople in 381 C.E. to clarify the formula. That council agreed to place the holy spirit on the same level as God and Christ. For the first time, Christendom’s Trinity began to come into focus.” – Should You Believe in the Trinity? (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1989). A detailed response to this Watchtower booklet can be found in Robert M. Bowman, Jr., Why You Should Believe in the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993).

However, as Nathan Businitz has stated, “In keeping with the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura, evangelical Christians are rightly convinced that the truth of any doctrine must be established and grounded in the Scriptures. The authoritative basis for sound doctrine is the Bible, not church history. Consequently, evangelicals ultimately embrace the doctrine of the Trinity, not because it is affirmed throughout history, but because it is revealed in the Word of God.”

We believe in the Trinity because the Bible teaches (1) There is only one God and (2) God exists as three distinct Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each of Whom is equally and fully God.

However, if we ask the question “Did the Early Church Believe in the Deity of Christ?” (which is of course, a key component of the doctrine of the Trinity) the answer is unquestionably “yes” as the article below shows. Nathan Businitz writes:

Ask your average Muslim, Unitarian, Jehovah’s Witness, or just about any non-Christian skeptic who has read (or watched) The Da Vinci Code, and they’ll try to convince you the answer is no. From such sources we are told that the deity of Christ was a doctrine invented centuries after Jesus’ death — a result of pagan influences on the church in the fourth century when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion.

Emperor Constantine, in particular, is blamed for being the guy who promoted Jesus to the level of deity, a feat of cosmic proportions that he managed to pull off at the Council of Nicaea in 325. As Dan Brown put it (through the lips of one of his literary characters): “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea. . . . By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable” (The Da Vinci Code, 253).

So how can believers answer such allegations?

The best response, obviously, is to demonstrate from Scripture that Jesus is God. We can be confident that the early church affirmed Christ’s deity (and that we should do the same) because the New Testament clearly teaches that truth. The biblical case can be made from many places. Without going into detail in this post, here is a small sampling of texts that teach the deity of Christ: Isaiah 9:6; Matt. 1:23; John 1:1, 14, 18; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 1:24; 2 Cor. 4:4; Php. 2:6; Col. 1:15–16; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20.

But what about church history outside of the New Testament? Did the early church fathers affirm the deity of Jesus Christ? Or was it only after the fourth century (and the Council of Nicaea) that Christian leaders began to articulate their belief in God the Son?

Though it’s not an exhaustive list, here are 25 quotations from a number of ante-Nicene church fathers demonstrating their belief in the deity of Jesus Christ (with portions underlined for emphasis). These early Christian theologians all lived before the time of Constantine and the Council of Nicaea. As such, they provide incontrovertible proof (from post-New Testament history) that Constantine was not the first person in church history to affirm this doctrine. Rather, the early church embraced the truth that Jesus is God from the time of the apostles on.

1. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 50–117): For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit. (Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians, 18.2. Translation from Michael Holmes, Apostolic Fathers, 197)

2. Ignatius (again): Consequently all magic and every kind of spell were dissolved, the ignorance so characteristic of wickedness vanished, and the ancient kingdom was abolished when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life. (Ibid., 19.3. Holmes, AF, 199)

3. Ignatius (again): For our God Jesus Christ is more visible now that he is in the Father. (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, 3.3. Holmes, AF, 229) Continue reading