Monthly Archives: January 2012

New Testament Salvation

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Cor. 3:18 ESV

New Testament salvation is not walking the aisle or saying a sinner’s prayer, sitting in the pew and paying your tithe, and then waiting for heaven. Salvation is forgiveness of our past sin, present transformation of our hearts, and future obedience unto holiness. We have been saved from the penalty of our sin; we are  being saved from the power of our sin; and we shall be saved from the very presence of sin. Therefore, New Testament salvation is complete and total for the our entire lives, our entire hearts, and our entire behavior.

Our salvation is not earned, but received: a gift of God. Christ died in our place taking upon himself our just judgment. Our deliverance from sin is not based on our good performance, but based on Christ’s performance on the Cross. Through Christ’s death alone, do we receive God’s approval.

Faith tells us that what Christ did for us on the cross will be worked in us by the Holy Spirit preparing us for glory in the Father’s eternal presence. The Holy Spirit does in us what Christ did for us on the Cross. The work of the Holy Spirit in saving us from sin is a work that is past, present, and future.

The salvation which God has provided and procured, and proclaimed in the Scriptures, through Jesus Christ, is not merely a salvation that is designed to change a man’s eternal destiny: it is a salvation which is designed to transform his character into the likeness of Christ. Nothing less than this is New Testament salvation.

Eric J. Alexander, “Inner Renewal by the Spirit,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 27.

Eye and Ear

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:42

Growing up in a free church tradition, the emphasis was always on preaching. Indeed, preaching is essential for it has been ordained by God to be the means by which are lives are transformed by the gospel (1 Cor. 1:21). But, preaching is not the only thing that God has appointed for the edifying of his church and the strengthening of the saints. Christ gifted the people of God with the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

The sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist are physical, visible signs ordained by Christ for the encouragement, uplifting  and spiritual comfort of the people of God into the presence of God. Scripture proclaims that the Holy Spirit takes material objects: water, bread, and wine, infuses them with grace, so that by the partaking of them, we are made holy. By the power of the Holy Spirit, these outward physical signs lead us into the experience of inward spiritual truths of the Christian life.

In the preaching, we receive God’s grace through the ear and in the sacraments, we are empowered by God’s grace through the eye.

Both Word and sacrament bear witness to Christ. Both promise salvation in Christ. Both quicken our faith in Christ. Both enable us to feed on Christ in our hearts. The major difference between them is that the message of the one is directed to the eye, and of the other to the ear. So the sacraments need the Word to interpret them.

The ministry of the Word and sacrament is a single ministry, the Word proclaiming, and the sacrament dramatizing, God’s promises. Yet the Word is primary, since without it the sign becomes dark in meaning, if not actually dumb.

John Stott, Authentic Christianity, ed., Timothy Dudley-Smith (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1995), 277.


Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ

And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.

Gen. 45:4-8

In a recent post, we discussed choices: reacting or responding (Heb. 12:14-15). Reacting is being angry at our circumstances, frustrated with people, and despondent at not getting our way (James 1:20). Responding is seeing the bigger picture: God has an appointment in our disappointment. It is not God’s will that people sin, but when God allows their sin to touch our lives, then their actions have become God’s will for us (2 Cor. 4:7-12).

To grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord, we must have a yielded will: a willingness to allow God to use our trials and tribulations anyway he wants in order to produce the life of Christ in us (Phil 1:29, 3:10). We must trust that in God’s sovereign purposes, he is using selfish people, hard places, and broken things to give us our heart’s desire: Christlikeness (Rom. 8:17). We must believe that God has an appointment in our disappointment.

To penetrate deeper in the experience of Jesus Christ, it is required that you begin to abandon your whole existence, giving it up to God. . . . You must utterly believe that the circumstances of your life, that is, every minute of your life, as well as the whole course of your life-anything, yes, everything that happens-have all come to you by His will and by His permission. You must utterly believe that everything that has happened to you is from God and is exactly what you need.

Jeanne Guyon, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ (Gardiner, ME: Christian Books, 1975), 32.

Grace Unites Scripture (NT)


All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Tim. 3:16–17 ESV

In my previous post, Dane Ortlund discussed the unity of the Old Testament as found in the grace of God. Today, I post the grace theme as found in the New Testament books.

Remember, grace is pardon and power. Grace is the person, Jesus, extending himself to us in love. A love that relentlessly pursues us and never stops until he wins our hearts. His grace is a love which condescends, surrenders, and assists, a love which is gracious to the unloving, and patience with the unthankful. God’s grace is unmerited favor, but also power to overcome for the weak and needy. Grace lifts us out of the pit of our sin: grace renews, grace empowers, and grace elevates us into God’s presence.

Matthew shows God’s grace in fulfilling the Old Testament promises of a coming king. (5:17)

Mark shows God’s grace as this coming king suffers the fate of a common criminal to buy back sinners. (10:45)

Luke shows that God’s grace extends to all the people one would not expect: hookers, the poor, tax collectors, sinners, Gentiles (‘younger sons’). (19:10)

John shows God’s grace in becoming one of us, flesh and blood (1:14), and dying and rising again so that by believing we might have life in his name. (20:31)

Acts shows God’s grace flooding out to all the world–starting in Jerusalem, ending in Rome; starting with Peter, apostle to the Jews, ending with Paul, apostle to the Gentiles. (1:8)

Romans shows God’s grace in Christ to the ungodly (4:5) while they were still sinners (5:8) that washes over both Jew and Gentile.

1 Corinthians shows God’s grace in favoring what is lowly and foolish in the world. (1:27)

2 Corinthians shows God’s grace in channeling his power through weakness rather than strength. (12:9)

Galatians shows God’s grace in justifying both Jew and Gentile by Christ-directed faith rather than self-directed performance. (2:16)

Ephesians shows God’s grace in the divine resolution to unite us to his Son before time began. (1:4)

Philippians shows God’s grace in Christ’s humiliating death on an instrument of torture—for us. (2:8)

Colossians shows God’s grace in nailing to the cross the record of debt that stood against us. (2:14)

1 Thessalonians shows God’s grace in providing the hope-igniting guarantee that Christ will return again. (4:13)

2 Thessalonians shows God’s grace in choosing us before time, that we might withstand Christ’s greatest enemy. (2:13)

1 Timothy shows God’s grace in the radical mercy shown to ‘the chief of sinners.’ (1:15)

2 Timothy shows God’s grace to be that which began (1:9) and that which fuels (2:1) the Christian life.

Titus shows God’s grace in saving us by his own cleansing mercy when we were most mired in sinful passions. (3:5)

Philemon shows God’s grace in transcending socially hierarchical structures with the deeper bond of Christ-won Christian brotherhood. (v. 16)

Hebrews shows God’s grace in giving his Son to be both our sacrifice to atone for us once and for all as well as our high priest to intercede for us forever. (9:12)

James shows us God’s grace by giving to those who have been born again ‘of his own will’ (1:18) ‘wisdom from above’ for meaningful godly living. (3:17)

1 Peter shows God’s grace in securing for us an unfading, imperishable inheritance no matter what we suffer in this life. (1:4)

2 Peter shows God’s grace in guaranteeing the inevitability that one day all will be put right as the evil that has masqueraded as good will be unmasked at the coming Day of the Lord. (3:10)

1 John shows God’s grace in adopting us as his children. (3:1)

2 and 3 John show God’s grace in reminding specific individuals of ‘the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever.’ (2 Jn 2)

Jude shows God’s grace in the Christ who presents us blameless before God in a world rife with moral chaos. (v. 24)

Revelation shows God’s grace in preserving his people through cataclysmic suffering, a preservation founded on the shed blood of the lamb. (12:11)

by Dane Ortlund

Grace Unites Scripture (OT)

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.

John 5:39 ESV

While the Bible is not uniform, it is unified. The many books of the one Bible are not like the many pennies in the one jar. The pennies in the jar look the same, yet are disconnected; the books of the Bible (like the organs of a body) look different, yet are interconnected. As the past two generations’ recovery of biblical theology has shown time and again, certain motifs course through the Scripture from start to end, tying the whole thing together into a coherent tapestry–kingdom, temple, people of God, creation/new creation, and so on.

Yet underneath and undergirding all of these, it seems to me, is the motif of God’s grace, his favor and love to the undeserving. Don’t we see the grace of God in every book of the Bible?

Here is his OT list:

Genesis shows God’s grace to a universally wicked world as he enters into relationship with a sinful family line (Abraham) and promises to bless the world through him.

Exodus shows God’s grace to his enslaved people in bringing them out of Egyptian bondage.

Leviticus shows God’s grace in providing his people with a sacrificial system to atone for their sins.

Numbers shows God’s grace in patiently sustaining his grumbling people in the wilderness and bringing them to the border of the promised land not because of them but in spite of them.

Deuteronomy shows God’s grace in giving the people the new land ‘not because of your righteousness’ (ch. 9).

Joshua shows God’s grace in giving Israel victory after victory in their conquest of the land with neither superior numbers nor superior obedience on Israel’s part.

Judges shows God’s grace in taking sinful, weak Israelites as leaders and using them to purge the land, time and again, of foreign incursion and idolatry.

Ruth shows God’s grace in incorporating a poverty-stricken, desolate, foreign woman into the line of Christ.

1 and 2 Samuel show God’s grace in establishing the throne (forever—2 Sam 7) of an adulterous murderer.

1 and 2 Kings show God’s grace in repeatedly prolonging the exacting of justice and judgment for kingly sin ‘for the sake of’ David. (And remember: by the ancient hermeneutical presupposition of corporate solidarity, by which the one stands for the many and the many for the one, the king represented the people; the people were in their king; as the king went, so went they.)

1 and 2 Chronicles show God’s grace by continually reassuring the returning exiles of God’s self-initiated promises to David and his sons.

Ezra shows God’s grace to Israel in working through the most powerful pagan ruler of the time (Cyrus) to bring his people back home to a rebuilt temple.

Nehemiah shows God’s grace in providing for the rebuilding of the walls of the city that represented the heart of God’s promises to his people.

Esther shows God’s grace in protecting his people from a Persian plot to eradicate them through a string of ‘fortuitous’ events.

Job shows God’s grace in vindicating the sufferer’s cry that his redeemer lives (19:25), who will put all things right in this world or the next.

Psalms shows God’s grace by reminding us of, and leading us in expressing, the hesed (relentless covenant love) God has for his people and the refuge that he is for them.

Proverbs shows us God’s grace by opening up to us a world of wisdom in leading a life of happy godliness.

Ecclesiastes shows God’s grace in its earthy reminder that the good things of life can never be pursued as the ultimate things of life and that it is God who in his mercy satisfies sinners (note 7:20; 8:11).

Song of Songs shows God’s grace and love for his bride by giving us a faint echo of it in the pleasures of faithful human sexuality.

Isaiah shows God’s grace by reassuring us of his presence with and restoration of contrite sinners.

Jeremiah shows God’s grace in promising a new and better covenant, one in which knowledge of God will be universally internalized.

Lamentations shows God’s grace in his unfailing faithfulness in the midst of sadness.

Ezekiel shows God’s grace in the divine heart surgery that cleansingly replaces stony hearts with fleshy ones.

Daniel shows God’s grace in its repeated miraculous preservation of his servants.

Hosea shows God’s grace in a real-live depiction of God’s unstoppable love toward his whoring wife.

Joel shows God’s grace in the promise to pour out his Spirit on all flesh.

Amos shows God’s grace in the Lord’s climactic promise of restoration in spite of rampant corruption.

Obadiah shows God’s grace by promising judgment on Edom, Israel’s oppressor, and restoration of Israel to the land in spite of current Babylonian captivity.

Jonah shows God’s grace toward both immoral Nineveh and moral Jonah, irreligious pagans and a religious prophet, both of whom need and both of whom receive the grace of God.

Micah shows God’s grace in the prophecy’s repeated wonder at God’s strange insistence on ‘pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression’ (7:18).

Nahum shows God’s grace in assuring Israel of good news’ and ‘peace,’ promising that the Assyrians have tormented them for the last time.

Habakkuk shows God’s grace that requires nothing but trusting faith amid insurmountable opposition, freeing us to rejoice in God even in desolation.

Zephaniah shows God’s grace in the Lord’s exultant singing over his recalcitrant yet beloved people.

Haggai shows God’s grace in promising a wayward people that the latter glory of God’s (temple-ing) presence with them will far surpass its former glory.

Zechariah shows God’s grace in the divine pledge to open up a fountain for God’s people to ‘cleanse them from sin and uncleanness’ (13:1).

Malachi shows God’s grace by declaring the Lord’s no-strings-attached love for his people.

by Dane Ortlund

HT: Justin Taylor 


Christ Unites Scripture

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

Luke 24:44-45

As a young Christian, I tended to read the Bible as a handbook: I picked out the bits and pieces that helped me to survive emotionally and spiritually. I would looked for advice, devotional strength, and commands to obey.

As I grew in grace, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see the larger whole. Christ in the Old and the New covenants, Christ in the stories, Christ in the types and images of worship, and Christ in the mouths of the prophets. Christ as grace flowing through all the pages of the Bible. All of Christ, not as allegory, but as the Second Person of the Trinity operating in the lives of all the saints before and the after the birth of Christ.

You [God] taught your servant Athanasius that Christ unites Scripture and all things, for Scripture, as much as the world and human existence and history, is all about Christ. Scripture everywhere teaches about Christ. His life, death, and resurrection are the hinge on which the drama of Scripture turns, and you taught Athanasius to find shadows of Christ in the Old Testament, shadows that break forth in light with the fulfillment of the New. And you taught that Christ is the pattern not only for the Scriptures but for all things.

Peter J. Leithart, Athanasius, Foundations of Theological Exegesis and Christian Spirituality Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), xvii.

Every part of Holy Writ announces through words the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, reveals it through facts and establishes it through examples . . . For it is our Lord who during all the present age, through true and manifest adumbrations, generates, cleanses, sanctifies, chooses, separates, or redeems the Church in the Patriarchs, through Adam’s slumber, Noah’s flood, Melchizedek’s blessing, Abraham’s justification, Isaac’s birth, and Jacob’s bondage.

Hilary of Poitiers cited in Christopher A. Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 192.

Too Small

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

Eph. 1:7

We make the gospel too small. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is not only an experience at an altar call, but it transcends that solitary experience to an encounter with the living God that affects our entire lives. The gospel is forgiveness, but also it is empowerment to live in victory over sin. The gospel is the message of life, but also it is divine life flowing in and through us. The gospel is a changed heart that is no longer motivated by self and it is a life lived for Christ and others. Do not allow the gospel to be too small in your life. Allow the gospel to saturate your life with Christ’s victory over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil.

A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small.

A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small.

A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small.

A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small.

A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small.

Fred SandersThe Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 109.

Sprint or Marathon?

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Heb. 12:1

The Christian life is a long distance race that requires absolute determination to finish and to finish well. Endurance is a “looking unto Jesus” through the up’s and down’s of life with the goal of pleasing his heart and being transformed into his likeness. The fruit of endurance is a deepening maturity and a depth of character that attracts lives to the gospel.

Endurance, or perseverance, is a willingness to stand in God’s chosen situation, or advance at his speed, so that, the full fruit of the Holy Spirit can be revealed. Believers must not bow to society’s pressures, succumb to false teaching, doubt God’s promises, or be angry at unexpected setbacks, but persevere into the knowledge and love of Christ. A heart that endures is a heart that trusts that God has an appointment in our disappointments.

True religion is not only drawing nigh to God once in the Holiest, but a life to be renewed there every day; it is not only the entrance upon a new and living way, but a continually abiding life and walk in it. It is running a race with patience.

Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All: An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1993), 497.


Greatest Thing About Prayer

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Phil. 4:6-7 NLT

Prayer is an ongoing dialogue-a real and intimate conversation-between the Abba Father of Jesus and us, his beloved children. Prayer is standing before God in a real and intimate conversation sharing our hopes, desires, fears, and needs with our Abba Father who loves us and cares for us (Gal. 4:6-7).

If I wanted to tell what I think is the greatest thing we can learn about prayer from the Bible, then I would say that the greatest is that we come into the presence of our Father through the conversation of prayer, that we taste his peace in the midst of all unrest, and that we attain a place to stand against everything that presses in upon us and threatens to get the best of us.

Helmut Thielicke, How to Believe Again (Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1970), 99.

Who Is a Saint?

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.

1 Cor. 1:2 ESV

A saint is not someone who is perfect, but a sinner who looks to Christ for life-transforming grace in their chronic weaknesses and on-going struggles. Saints are not those who perform adequately in the spiritual life, but are those who most available to the Holy Spirit’s gifts and power. Saints are needy, they know they cannot live the Christian life in their own power. Biblical saints look constantly to Christ for help. They know their need for Christ. True saints are not the most adequate, but the most desperate for Christ and his love.

To be holy does not mean being superior to others: the saint can be very weak, with many mistakes in his life. Holiness is this profound contact with God, becoming a friend of God: it is letting the Other work, the Only One who can really make the world both good and happy.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger