Archives For Mike Riccardi

TrinityAs the debate over eternal functional subordination continues in the various corners of the blogosphere, Jesse entered the fray yesterday, responding to Goligher’s (one, two) and Trueman’s original posts. He argued for a functional subordination in eternity past primarily on the basis that the divine plan of salvation takes place before the incarnation. And the Son, in agreeing to come as mankind’s Mediator, necessarily places Himself in subjection to the Father’s will. As I was interacting with Jesse’s post, I began writing a comment in response. Before too long, that comment was blog-post length, so I thought I’d just give it its own post. He graciously agreed.

I still think it’s premature for me to take a hard stance in either direction yet, because I think good questions still need to be answered by both sides, and especially by Grudem and Ware, but also by the non-EFSers as well. (My M.O. has just been to argue with whomever I’m talking to at the moment, no matter which position they take, until somebody satisfies my questions and objections.) Really excellent posts from Darren SumnerMark Jones, and Matthew Barrett have moved the discussion forward in what I think are helpful ways. If we keep pushing one another, respectfully and graciously, as brothers, I think the potential is there for some sort of agreement. As it stands now, I think I’m leaning toward the non-EFS side, while it seems Jesse may be leaning in the other direction. But, for reasons I hope this post will explain, I think what non-EFSers are most concerned to safeguard isn’t so much that we don’t call the Son’s decision to undertake His saving mission “submission” or “obedience,” but rather that we don’t say that there is authority and submission within the inner life (ad intra) of the Trinity. At the very least, those are where my concerns lie.

In this post, Jesse’s words from yesterday are in italics, while my responses follow. It does read less like a regular blog post and more like a long blog comment, because, well, that’s what it is. I hope it’s helpful to you anyway.

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Here is my attempt at a very brief summary of the current debate or discussion surrounding the eternal functional subordination (EFS) of the Son to the Father.

Number 1We all know the incarnate Son submits to the Father, but is His submission something that extends to His eternal role/relationship as Son? Is the Son subordinate to the Father from all eternity? Is there authority and submission within the inner life of the Trinity, even before creation and redemption?

2Proponents of EFS say yes. Opponents say no.

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Over the past few weeks, we have been taking a look at how Jeremiah responded to Judah’s suffering at the time of the Babylonian exile, with the goal of learning lessons on how the believer can respond to suffering righteously. We’ve seen that Jeremiah weeps with those who weep, that he acknowledges the role of sin in suffering, that he trusts in God’s absolute sovereignty, and yet never finds fault with God but recognizes the proper enemy. Today we come to the final, and perhaps the most important, lesson that Jeremiah teaches us on suffering well. In the midst of his intense suffering and deep anguish, Jeremiah does not mourn as one who has no hope (1 Thess 4:13). Rather, he sets his hope entirely on, and rests in, the character of God. He hopes in the restoration of God’s people according to His character and His covenant.

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Having grown up in the densely populated state of New Jersey, I learned to drive in one of the more hostile traffic environments in America. Between the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and the occasional foray across the George Washington Bridge or the Lincoln Tunnel into some part of New York City—especially Manhattan—I’ve been in my share of close calls and quick decisions. When you add the fact that I now live in Los Angeles and use some of the busiest freeways in the country on a daily basis, it’s rather a miracle that I’m still alive. In fact, there are often times when I consciously thank the Lord while driving that I was spared from this or that potential accident. I certainly know that my passengers have improved their prayer lives while driving with me from time to time.

Because of this absolutely ridiculous vehicular heritage, I often make it a point to observe the different patterns other drivers follow and decisions they make while I’m driving. Sometimes I even think to myself, imagining what I would have done if a driver lost control or decided to change lanes abruptly, or whatever. “If he made a mistake and needed to jump in front of me, could I get out of his way?” Stuff like that.

Now, some people without the NY/NJ/LA driving heritage might think I’m going a little overboard here. And they might be right. But I realize that in certain situations I might have only a fraction of a second to react. I need to be so prepared with a sound way of avoiding an accident that my reactions are just second nature. Because in the moment, I won’t have time to think clearly and dispassionately evaluate my options. The craziness of the moment simply won’t allow it. At least not where I’m driving.

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Several years ago, Justin Taylor linked to a moving and encouraging account of a pastor coming to grips with the fact that his second child, like his first, would be born with spina bifida. Amazingly, this man has found great comfort in rejecting the common notion that God will merely use this bad situation for good, rather than the biblical truth that He has ordained it for His glory and His people’s good.

Stories like these continue to confirm the reality that we must prepare ourselves to undergo suffering and trials righteously. We need to learn how to suffer well. And, as I’ve said over the past couple weeks, the way we do that is by being equipped with a theology of suffering while not yet in the midst of a particular trial.

And to that end we’ve been looking to Jeremiah’s experience with devastating suffering at the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and hoping to glean some lessons on how to respond to suffering righteously. First, we learned that a righteous response to others’ suffering includes suffering along with our brothers and sisters who suffer. Secondly, we learned that we must acknowledge the role of sin in our suffering. Today, we find a third lesson from Jeremiah’s righteous response to suffering: we must acknowledge, and trust in, God’s absolute sovereignty even in the unpleasant and painful circumstances.

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A while ago I met with a prospective seminary student for lunch. As is common for first-time meetings at Grace Community Church, our discussion began with testimonies of how the Lord saved us. This particular brother had a Christian friend whose very welcoming family often shared the Gospel with him and invited him to church. As friendly and as clear as they were, though, the seed of the Gospel fell on fallow ground—until the father of the family had contracted a life-threatening illness. When this young man saw how the family responded to suffering with such confidence, joy, and peace, his heart began to pay attention to the Source of that steadfastness. He began to read his Bible with greater earnestness and listen to the sermons he heard in church with greater interest. Eventually, the Lord saved him.

I tell that story because it only further legitimizes the need for Christians to learn how to suffer well—how to suffer righteously. I mentioned in last week’s post how necessary it is to be equipped with a theology of suffering while not yet in the midst of a particular trial. The fact of the matter is, the heat of an intensely trying time often clouds our vision and our judgment, so that we fail to act the way we know we should. We respond to suffering sinfully because we have not prepared to suffer righteously beforehand, when our vision is clear.

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Many times when we suffer, the first Bible book and Bible character that pops up in our mind is Job. And that makes sense. That’s why the book of Job is in the Bible—to teach us how to actually trust in God’s sovereignty and respond to suffering righteously.

But the suffering that Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, endured at the time of the Babylonian captivity was just as severe. Job’s sufferings were indeed horrifying, yet there’s something to be said for the fact that his sufferings were fairly personal. Jeremiah’s sufferings, on the other hand, were on behalf of an entire nation wickedly brutalized and ripped from its land. On top of that, Jeremiah himself had not followed in the unfaithfulness of his countrymen which brought this judgment upon them. All the while, he acted righteously and proclaimed the word of Yahweh as the sole voice of faithfulness. Certainly his suffering is worth considering, and the way he responds is worth imitating.

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I recently had the privilege of sitting down with the brothers of the Glory Books ministry and talking with Pastor Will Costello about my book, Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-Given Holiness. It was a pleasure to be a guest on their Inner Revolution podcast and to talk about the foundational truths concerning the believer’s growth in Christlikeness. I hope our conversation will be edifying to you as well.

3:23 – Could you tell us a bit about the sanctification debate that has been going on in the last four or five years?

10:13 – You’ve contributed to this discussion in your book, Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-Given Holiness. What did you want people to take away after reading your book?

13:15 – You describe sanctification as an internal and supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, which He accomplishes through means. A key thought in your book is that the foundational means of sanctification is beholding the glory of Christ. Can you unpack what it means to behold the glory of Christ?

22:05 – Comments on looking at Christ as the example of our holiness, as well as beholding Christ as the fuel of our holiness.

24:11 – Is it right to say it’s our responsibility to actively behold Christ, but that we are passively transformed by the agency of the Holy Spirit?

28:04 – So is it right to say that sanctification is both a gift and a reward? A reward because we have to work for it, and a gift because we can never achieve it ourselves?

31:06 – Understanding God’s role and man’s role in sanctification.

32:42 – I like that you say in the book that sanctification is glorious because it is through sanctification that God gets what He is worthy of in us.

34:33 – Sometimes people speak of sanctification negatively. They’re having a hard day and they say something like, “Yeah, well I guess this is supposed to work for my sanctification.” It’s not very joyful. And yet Scripture wants us, on the front end, to consider it pure joy when we enter various trials, because that suffering is designed to conform you to Christ. What do we need to keep in mind so that we can embrace sanctification as a wonderful thing?

39:30 – A quote from John Owen on sanctification, one of the greatest paragraphs Mike has read outside of the Bible.

Sundays ComingOver the last three weeks, we’ve been considering the biblical and theological implications of the resurrection of Christ. First, we examined the significance of the resurrection as it relates to the person of Christ. Over the past two weeks, we took a look at eight implications the resurrection of Christ has for believers in Him. Because of the resurrection, the believer enjoys the blessing of regeneration and deliverance from the fear and slavery of death; the resurrection is the foundation of justifying grace, the guarantee of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the present intercessory ministry of Christ, the ground of our sanctification, power for holiness and for ministry, and the guarantee of the promise of a resurrection body of our own, free from sin and decay.

But today I want to ask: What does the bodily resurrection of Christ say to the unbeliever? What is the significance of the resurrection for those of you who remain outside of Christ? Whether you’re an atheist or agnostic; Buddhist, Hindu, or any other religion; or even if you call yourself a Christian but have only an outward attachment to Christ—you would regularly attend church, and even read the Bible and listen to sermons—but you have no vital union to Christ, no living relationship, and you still cling to your sin and aim to be lord of your life: what is the significance of the resurrection for you?

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Empty Tomb 2Because it’s easy to limit our reflection and meditation on the resurrection of Christ only to Holy Week, we’ve been doing some post-Resurrection-Day reflection on the significance of the resurrection. Two weeks ago, we looked at some theological and practical implications of the resurrection as it relates to the person of Christ. Last week, we began considering the significance of the resurrection for believers. There we learned that the resurrection is the ground of our regeneration, the ground of deliverance from death’s fearful slavery, and the very foundation of the Gospel.

But that’s not all. There are more benefits the resurrection brings for the believer in Christ.

The Holy Spirit

Fourth, the resurrection guarantees the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In his Pentecost sermon, Peter is explaining the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit that has manifested in the disciples speaking in languages they had never learned. And he says in Acts 2:32–33: “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore”— that is, on the basis of this raising up of Jesus—“having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”

So Scripture links the coming of the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit to the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

Jesus Himself teaches this in John 16. As He is with His disciples in the upper room on the eve of His betrayal, preparing them to live the Christian life without His physical presence, He says, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). The Spirit will come to permanently indwell the disciples because He is going to the Father. If Christ had simply died and remained in the grave, He would not have gone to the Father, and the Spirit would not have come.

And note how glorious Jesus views the privilege of the indwelling presence of the Spirit. He sees it as so valuable that He Himself says that it is to the disciples’ advantage that He—their Lord, their Master, their Savior, the Author and Perfecter of their faith, the one in whom all things hold together—go away from them! The permanent indwelling of the Spirit must be a phenomenal blessing! And it is ours as a direct result of the resurrection of Christ.

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