Categories
Theology

The Father’s Cup

This is a sobering post about Jesus’ crucifixion by Rick Gamache. I would highly encourage you to make this a part of your Good Friday today. You can also listen to Rick narrate it.

Then Jesus is startled by a foul odor. It isn’t the stench of open wounds. It’s something else. And it crawls inside him. He looks up to his Father. His Father looks back, but Jesus doesn’t recognize these eyes. They pierce the invisible world with fire and darken the visible sky. And Jesus feels dirty. He hangs between earth and heaven filthy with human discharge on the outside and, now, filthy with human wickedness on the inside.

The Father speaks:

Son of Man! Why have you sinned against me and heaped scorn on my great glory?

You are self-sufficient and self-righteous — consumed with yourself and puffed up and selfishly ambitious.

You rob me of my glory and worship what’s inside of you instead of looking out to the One who created you.

You are a greedy, lazy, gluttonous slanderer and gossip.

You are a lying, conceited, ungrateful, cruel adulterer.

You practice sexual immorality; you make pornography, and fill you mind with vulgarity.

You exchange my truth for a lie and worship the creature instead of the Creator. And so you are given up to your homosexual passions, dressing immodestly, and lusting after what is forbidden.

With all your heart you love perverse pleasure.

You hate your brother and murder him with the bullets of anger fired from your own heart.

You kill babies for your convenience.

You oppress the poor and deal slaves and ignore the needy.

You persecute my people.

You love money and prestige and honor.

You put on a cloak of outward piety, but inside you are filled with dead men’s bones — you hypocrite!

You are lukewarm and easily enticed by the world.

You covet and can’t have so you murder.

You are filled with envy and rage and bitterness and unforgiveness.

You blame others for your sin and are too proud to even call it sin.

You are never slow to speak.

And you have a razor tongue that lashes and cuts with its criticism and sinful judgment.

Your words do not impart grace. Instead your mouth is a fountain of condemnation and guilt and obscene talk.

You are a false prophet leading people astray.

You mock your parents.

You have no self-control.

You are a betrayer who stirs up division and factions.

You’re a drunkard and a thief.

You’re an anxious coward.

You do not trust me.

You blaspheme against me.

You are an un-submissive wife.

And you are a lazy, disengaged husband.

You file for divorce and crush the parable of my love for the church.

You’re a pimp and a drug dealer.

You practice divination and worship demons.

The list of your sins goes on and on and on and on. And I hate these things inside of you. I’m filled with disgust, and indignation for your sin consumes me.

Now, drink my cup!

And Jesus does. He drinks for hours. He downs every drop of the scalding liquid of God’s own hatred of sin mingled with his white-hot wrath against that sin. This is the Father’s cup: omnipotent hatred and anger for the sins of every generation past, present, and future — omnipotent wrath directed at one naked man hanging on a cross.

The Father can no longer look at his beloved Son, his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself. He looks away.

Jesus pushes himself upward and howls to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Read the whole thing.

Categories
Theology

The Great Discovery of the Gospel

The Father peculiarly fixes [love] upon the saints; this they are immediately to [look at] in him, to receive of him, and to make such returns thereof as he is delighted withal. This is the great discovery of the gospel: for whereas the Father, as the fountain of the Deity, is not known any other way but as full of wrath, anger, and indignation against sin, nor can the sons of men have any other thoughts of him (Rom. 1:18: Isa. 33:13-14; Hab. 1:13; Ps. 5:4-6; Eph. 2:3)—here he is now revealed peculiarly as love, as full of it unto us; the manifestation whereof is the peculiar work of the gospel.

– John Owen, Communion with the Triune God, ed. by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 107.

Categories
Life Theology

Does God give eternal life to those with faith or obedience?

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. (Romans 2:6-10)

Paul tells us that the people who have eternal life are those “seek for glory and honor and immortality.”  How do they seek these things?  They seek glory, honor, and immortality “by patience in well-doing” or, also, “perseverance in a good work.”  In verse 10, Paul says that glory and honor and peace will be given to “everyone who does good.”  Later on in Romans, Paul will make clear that man is not justified on the basis of good works (3:20, 24, 28; 4:5; 5:1).  So what does he mean here?  Is Paul speaking of real obedience or hypothetical obedience?  The ESVSB writes that Paul is speaking of real obedience that is made possible by the Holy Spirit (i.e. heart circumcision; see 2:26-29).

If Paul is not speaking of actual obedience, then verse 6 should not be taken literally and therefore, there may not be a day of judgment according to works.  But that is not what the rest of the Bible teaches, and that is certainly not what Jesus taught (see Matt. 25 among other passages).  It is true that in the context of this section (1:18-3:20), Paul is clear that all people are unrighteous and sinful and no one is right before God.  However, as the ESVSB points out, the only way people can be righteous and blameless before God is one whose heart has been circumcised by the Spirit, not by obeying the law.  It is a complete reversal of logic: those who cannot obey the law are empowered to obey the law, not by trying harder, but by being transformed by the Holy Spirit. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explains that the good soil represents those people who have been saved by God and circumcised in the heart.  Jesus points out that these people have heard the word, hold it fast in an honest and god heart and “bear fruit with patience” (Lk. 8:15).

Douglas Moo, on the other hand, points out that another possible interpretation of this passage is that Paul is setting forth the biblical conditions of salvation apart from Christ.  Moo writes that “the stress in v. 6 on man’s work as the criterion in the determination of a person’s salvation or condemnation makes it difficult to fit grace into the situation at all (p. 142).   This is not convincing for me because 1) Scripture never tells us that God promised eternal life based on good works; 2) Paul does not say works are “the” criterion, he merely says that he will render a judgment “according to…works.”  This is not “on the basis of” or “because of the merits of.”  It is “in accordance with”; 3) In this chapter, Paul is not talking about hypothetical situations; he seems to be speaking in a very straightforward way about what will really happen to real people for all eternity; and 4) Paul, later in Romans and also in Galatians, says that eternal life that is given is in accordance with good works (see 6:22; 8:12-13; Gal. 6:8-9).

What Paul does not mean is that Christians are saved another way apart from faith (as we saw in the points above).  What Paul does mean is that truly justified, regenerate, Spirit-filled Christians obey God and do good works and will be rewarded accordingly.  Their good works are in accordance with their salvation, but not the foundation of salvation.  The “proof is in the pudding,” so to speak.

True Christians are those who continue to good with patience, for they must work with patience in this life because true, godly, Christ-centered good works in the economy of this world are seldom rewarded.  In their good works, a true Christian does not seek for recognition or self-gain or worldly success (though there may be remnants of those sins they battle against).  Instead, as Paul writes, they “seek for glory and honor and immortality.”  Not self-glory, for they want glory to go to their Father in heaven; not their honor, for they want Christ and his church to be honored; not immortality for the sake of escaping hell, for they want to be with Christ, in his presence and comfort, for all eternity.

Categories
Life Theology

Three Questions about God’s Wrath

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18).

Three important questions need to be answered:

1. Who is it revealed against? Paul writes that God reveals his wrath against ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.  He is revealing his wrath against those who are not believers—those who do not believe the gospel.  In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9, Paul says that “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict [Christians], and to grant relief to you [Christians] who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”  In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 Paul writes, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”  In our verse, of course, God is revealing his wrath against those who “suppress the truth.”  Those who belong to Satan, not God, who are perishing, not living, are those who are the recipients of God’s manifested wrath in the world.

2. How is it revealed? Paul does not give us much as for how God’s wrath is revealed.  But from the immediate context, we do have some clues.  The word revealed in Greek is in the present tense.  And I believe it is more than just a cognitive disclosure to the mind.  Just like the same word in verse 17, it has some historical reality to it, letting us know that something is physically being manifested in the world.  Verses 24-28 in chapter 1 tell us that God has given people to the lusts of their hearts to commit impurities (v. 24), to the dishonoring of their bodies (v. 24), to dishonorable passions (v. 26), and to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done (v. 28).  All of these things show us two paradoxical, yet non-contradictory facts: 1) God is sovereign over man’s sin, yet 2) people are to blame, not God.  Though God, in his sovereign wisdom and insight, causes people to be given over to depravity, he is never to blame.  We are sinners by nature and by choice.

In Romans 1, God’s wrath is something that is real, not just cognitive, something historical and not just futuristic.  It is something that is being manifested in the daily life of unregenerate people.  We can say that God’s wrath is revealed as a constant, ongoing reality in and through a sinful, unhappy, wasted life that is lived for the pleasing of self and not God.

At this point it might be helpful to say something to those who would think that a God who is full of wrath is either an archaic, mystical God, or simply no God at all.  First of all, think of this question.  If you were holy, perfect, and righteous, had never committed sin, and were completely and utterly pure, would you get angry at things that were not perfect, holy, and pure?  I’m willing to bet you would.  So God, in his perfection and righteousness, gets angry at all that is not righteous.  Paul David Tripp has said, “You wouldn’t want to worship a God who didn’t get angry.”  Some people would not argue with God getting angry at rape, murder, theft, or other “awful” vices.  But when it comes to them personally, whether it is abortion, domestic violence, drunkenness, gluttony, impatience, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or any number of other sins, they would say, “It’s my life.  A God who gets angry at me is no God at all.”  But turn the table.  What if one of those awful things happened to you or someone you loved.  Wouldn’t you want God to get angry at that sin?

The other problem is so-called Christians who don’t believe the God of the Bible gets angry.  The problem above is one thing.  This is altogether another.  To say that the God of the Bible is not an angry God is simply nonsense.  From Genesis to Revelation we see God hating sin, punishing unrepentant people, and destroying those who will not turn to him.  Moo (p. 100) points out that “the OT regularly pictures God as responding to sin with wrath” (see Ex. 4:14; 15:7; 32:10-12; Num. 11:1; Jer. 21:3-7).  He also notes that Paul stresses “the working and effects of God’s wrath.  Paul speaks of wrath as a present reality under which people outside Christ stand” (see Rom. 3:5; 4:15; 9:22; Eph. 2:3).

3. When is it revealed? The tense and mood of the verb “revealed” tell us when God’s wrath will be manifested.  The verb shows us that God’s wrath is continually being revealed. It is a present tense verb in the indicative mood (the exact same as verse 17).  Moo said that it is difficult to give the same form of the same verb a present reference in one and a futuristic reference in another (p. 100).  Paul does teach a lot about future, cosmic events that will bring God’s wrath once and for all at the end of history (e.g. Rom. 2:5, 5:9; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10).  However, in this verse, it is an actual, present reality for people who are not believers.  They are feeling God’s wrath now in an unhappy, wasted life—even if they don’t see it that way.  And at the same time, as we know from other Pauline Scripture, they are also storing up wrath for themselves on Judgment Day (see the passages above).

These people upon whom God’s wrath is resting are experiencing this because they (literally) “hold in the truth in unrighteousness” (that is, to “suppress” [ESV]).  God’s “truth” is not something that simply needs to be acknowledged or memorized.  It is something that needs to be believed as true and obeyed.  When someone suppresses a truth they are not giving themselves over to it in order to be developed and shaped by it.  They are not living by that truth and thus make a mockery of God and all that he is and stands for.  Finally, what is causing this suppression?  Their very own unrighteousness.  They are blind and dead, in the darkness of sin, and have no excuse (see 1:20; 2 Cor. 4:4-6; Eph. 2:1-5; cf. John 3:19).  Their inability to make themselves believe the truth does not alleviate their guilt.  It only increases it.  It shows how totally depraved man is.

Categories
Life

Why should judgment cause rejoicing?

The fact that God will judge the world should cause his people to rejoice. Why? God’s judgment proves that he is a God who cares about justice, righteousness, and holiness. Psalm 98:4, 8-9 reminds of of this:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

…Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

Going beyond this precious fact, what truly grips my heart and causes it to rejoice even more is that Jesus Christ, the God-man, is the One who will be judging the world.  In John’s gospel, Jesus said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (5:24-29).