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Life

Jesus: Son of God, Son of Man

I’m starting an in-depth study of Romans, so throughout this year as I work through the book I’ll post some of my notes here on the blog.  Here are some thoughts from Romans 1:3-4:

Paul says that the gospel of God is directly “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  The gospel is never removed from the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Paul does not give a systematic Christology in the rest of this letter, so it is important for us to note these two verses and Paul’s theology of who Jesus is and what he did.  These verses tell us two major things about Jesus:

  1. Jesus is the Son of Man: The gospel of God (the Father) is “concerning his Son,” Jesus, “who was descended from David according to the flesh.”  Jesus was born fully human, with human genes, a human family line, of human flesh.  This was to fulfill the Scripture (cf. v. 2) that the Messiah would come from David (see 2 Sam. 7:1-17).  The phrase “according to the flesh” implies that he has another nature, namely, a divine one.
  2. Jesus is the Son of God: The gospel of God (the Father) is “concerning his Son,” Jesus, “who…was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”  The phrase “in power” can mean, “Jesus was powerfully declared to be the Son of God” (Luther), or it can mean that Jesus has been declared the Son of God “in possession of that ‘power’ which belonged to him as the only begotten of the Father” (Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown; Calvin; Hodge).  It seems that the latter would make more sense.  After Jesus rose from the dead, he was no longer marked by lowliness and human limitation.  He became the powerful King, ruling over the world with authority (see Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 15:25-26).  Jesus was God before the world ever existed — even before his resurrection.  Jesus was in the beginning with God (John 1:1-3), is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), and is the exact representation of God’s nature (Heb. 1:1-3).  The point in verse 4 is to show that after his resurrection, Jesus took on a different role than he did before: he was no longer simply Son of God as Messiah, but now Son of God as Messiah and the powerful, reigning Lord (Moo, Epistle to the Romans, p. 49).
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Life

Growing in grace and knowledge is easier said than done.

Early this morning, a friend texted me and asked a question about 2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”  His question boiled down to: “How do you grow in grace?”

I gave him an answer you’ll read below, and then he asked, “How do you keep from getting puffed up with knowledge.”  My answer?  I haven’t figured that out yet, other than begging God for mercy. It is so easy for me to think theoretically and conceptually about the Bible. It is much harder for me to think practically — that actually requires effort and action.

What does it mean to grow in grace? From the immediate context of 2 Peter 2:14-18, it means taking caution, by God’s grace, to not be carried away with doctrinal error and losing your spiritual stability by believing man-made philosophy. It means studying, knowing, and loving what the Scriptures say, particularly the hard parts of Scripture (like what Paul writes, says Peter). It means not distorting those hard parts of Scripture, but instead, with the power of the Spirit, staying faithful to what the text says. It means means being found by Christ “without spot, or blemish, and at peace” (v. 14).

We know from Philippians 2:12-15 that being blameless before God is ultimately rooted in God’s work in us for his good pleasure. So to grow in grace also means that we come to a deeper love that God is in control of our lives and our sanctification. We are not the ultimate cause of anything good that happens in and through us. God is.

How does this, in fact, play out practically? It means begging God for mercy to constantly have this on our minds. It means laboring over Scripture (especially the hard parts) and memorizing it so that God’s words — not ours — consume our thoughts when we are tempted to doubt our sanctification or take credit for it. So often the epistles begin with “grace to you” and end with “grace be with you.”  We must be in God’s word if we want grace!  Finally, it means confessing sin and looking at the person and work of Jesus, because he is the only one who can present us blameless, without spot or blemish, to God so that we might have peace with him.

Father, help your people grow in grace, and we need grace even to do that. Make us people who love your word, take it seriously, trust in your sovereignty, and look to your Son as our perfect righteousness.

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Life

“Once for All (Free from the Law)”

By Philip Bliss (1873)

Free from the law, O happy condition,
Jesus has bled and there is remission,
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us once for all.

Chorus
Once for all, O sinner, receive it,
Once for all, O brother, believe it;
Cling to the cross, the burden will fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.

Now we are free, there’s no condemnation,
Jesus provides a perfect salvation.
“Come unto Me,” O hear His sweet call,
Come, and He saves us once for all.

“Children of God,” O glorious calling,
Surely His grace will keep us from falling;
Passing from death to life at His call;
Blessèd salvation once for all.

 

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Life

God is Always Behind the Scenes.

As I read Isaiah 45:1-13, there is one, single, consistent, mind-numbing, eternity-changing, thought:

God equips, empowers, and energizes even those who do not know him as Lord and Savior in order to accomplish his majestic purposes.

I ask, “Why does he do this?” The answer comes in verses 5-6:

So that everyone, from east to west, may know that Yahweh is God, and that there is no other.

Truly our God’s mind and will is unsearchable and inscrutable.  How awesome are his ways!

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Life

How do born again people love?

In 1 John 3:11-18, John gives us two ways that born again people love.

  1. Humbly rejoice at the greatness of others.
  2. Humbly sacrifice to meet the needs of others.

In verses 11-15, John tells us to rejoice at the greatness of others (especially Christians).  He also tells us how not to love.  He writes, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (vv. 12). Cain was jealous and was completely unable to rejoice with his brother Abel for his sacrifice offered to God.  John continues in verse 15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” When others succeed, the born again don’t murder them. They rejoice for them. I especially need grace in this. Lord, help me to celebrate the greatness of others instead of envying them!

In verses 16-18, John adds that a born again person loves others (especially Christians) by sacrificing to meet their needs.  He writes, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (vv. 16-17). The question is rhetorical. John says, “If you ignore the needs of people you don’t really have God’s love in you!” Lord, help me give sacrificially to others who are in need!

John ends with this tender, yet firm, command: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (v. 18). This doesn’t mean that we only love through actions. It doesn’t mean you are excused from saying to a Christian brother or sister, “I love you” (in a non-romantic sense!).  It also does not mean that people get saved because we give them food or drink.  Don’t mistake John: gospel people speak loving words, and the gospel message still needs to be spoken to non-Christians. Without loving, sacrificial actions (like rejoicing for people and providing for their basic needs), the gospel will not be taken seriously.

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Update: To clarify, when I say “greatness of others,” this may refer to whatever reflection of our Creator you see in others. No one has inherent greatness (see Rom. 3:10-12), but God bestows upon his people a taste of his glory in our character, personality, talents, abilities, etc. As for non-Christians, they are also made in the image of God and still have amazing talents, abilities, and creative capacities.  We should celebrate these things in them as well and help point them to their Creator who gave them these gifts.