Archives For Theology

And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”
- John 12:23–26 -

Jesus is acknowledging that the time for His crucifixion is near. We learn from the next verse (which we’ll look at in a minute) that He was troubled. And that’s not terribly surprising. It’s not that He’s just going to die an agonizing and ignominious death at the hands of those who have perverted His Father’s holy Law, and have subjugated His people under a yoke of slavery that no one in history has been able to bear (Ac 15:10). That would be enough to trouble any of us, certainly.

But Jesus’ trouble went deeper than that. He was troubled at the fact that soon He would lose the delightful and exuberant fellowship that He had always enjoyed with the Father. There would, for the first time in eternity, be a horrible change in their relationship; it would go from one of perfect communion, love, blessing, joy, and delight in each other, to abandonment, hatred, cursing, wrath, and shame. On the cross, Jesus would experience the full exercise of the righteous wrath of His Father—wrath He had known objectively but never experientially. The bitter cup that He never deserved to drink would soon be pressed to His lips, and the delightful, well-pleased smile of His Father—the apple of His eye from all eternity—would be hidden from Him.

In a very real sense, Jesus is about to go through hell.   

And so He’s troubled. But even at that point (in John 12:23–26), He is comforting Himself with the His Father’s promises. He speaks of His impending death—both physical and spiritual—as being “glorified.” Rather than focus on the condemnation He will suffer for His people, He remembers that His Father will not let His Holy One undergo decay (Ps 16:10), and that as a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see and be satisfied (Isa 53:11), He will be allotted a portion with the great (Isa 53:12). And so He reminds Himself that His death will eventually mean His glorification. He reminds Himself and His disciples that it is through this kind of self-sacrifice that one doesn’t waste his life, but bears much fruit—that eternal life knowing the Father and knowing Christ (Jn 17:3) is better than a comfortable life on earth for 80 years.

And yet in the moment, He still says, “Now My soul has become troubled.”

And then He asks, “…and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.”

That’s so beautiful. “Father, I am troubled. My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death (Mt 26:38). I don’t want to leave You. I don’t want to be abandoned by You. I don’t want to lay aside the privilege of the consummate joy and love and delight that We’ve had for all eternity. I want to continue to know Your blessing and Your smile. I want to continue to be well-pleasing to You. Father, I am troubled.

“But Father I trust You. I entrust Myself wholly to You (1Pet 2:23). For I know You are in control of all things. And I know that You are most wise. And I know that at the heart of Your very Being that You are good, for I have witnessed firsthand the overflow of Your beneficence in all creation and providence. So I will not ask that You deliver me out of this trial. No, this is precisely why I have come.”

And so He doesn’t ask that His suffering be removed. But what is amazing, what is staggering, what is so refreshing, is what He does ask for.

“Father, glorify Your name.”

That’s what He wants! That’s what comforts the Savior’s soul! He wants to see His Father’s name be magnified and honored and made to look as big and as sweet and as desirable as it actually is! He wants to see His Father’s glory! The glory of the Father is so pleasing, so delightful, so enjoyable to the Son that it is what He asks for to comfort Him before the greatest trial, the greatest suffering, that anyone has endured in history.

Oh, we’ve got to see this. This is not just amazing self-sacrifice on Jesus’ part. Jesus is not merely saying, “I’ll give it all up as long as God is glorified.” He’s saying that, but that’s not nearly the whole story. He’s actually saying that what He wants to calm His troubled, deeply grieved soul is the sight of His Father’s glory! This is what reassures Him of His Father’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness. It is knowing that He Himself will be glorified with this glory that He so enjoys, as He enjoyed before the world was (Jn 17:5), that comforts Him and gives Him strength to do this terrible, awesome work. The Father’s glory is the joy that was set before Him for which He endured that shameful cross (Heb 12:2)!

And the Father grants His Son’s request: “Then a voice came out of heaven: ‘I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.’”

How I pray that you and I would be made to feel the weight of that interaction!

And how instructive it is for us in our Christian life, especially through the trials and sufferings that God has granted to us (Phil 1:29). In every aspect of our lives, what should be our comfort? What should be our request to God for strength to do the work He’s given us? Our request should be, “Father, glorify Your name.” Our comfort should be the seeing and savoring of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2Cor 4:6; 2Cor 3:18; Ex 33:18).

I can bear the scoffing and mocking of an unbelieving generation. I can gladly sacrifice popularity among my friends. I can endure the disowning and snubbing of my own family. I can face cancer, disease, and arduous medical procedures with joy. I can live my life with next to no money and worldly comforts for these 80 short years. I can lay down my lifeif

if my Father will glorify His name. If the name of my God would be lifted up and exalted and magnified, if I can see Him and enjoy Him in all His majesty, well then for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me;
Show Thy face, and all is bright.

On this Good Friday, dear friends, be instructed and be comforted by what the Lord of the universe is comforted by.

Death by ObedienceJesus’ food was to do the will of His Father (John 4:34). He had come down from heaven, not to accomplish some sort of independent, personal agenda, but to carry out the will of the One who had sent Him (John 6:38). And that total, loving, delightful allegiance to His Father doesn’t stay in the realm of the theoretical. Jesus’ obedient submission to His Father’s will doesn’t keep Him on Easy Street. He had received a commandment from His Father to lay His life down (John 10:18), and He was intent on continuing His obedience.

To the Point of Death

Philippians 2:8 says that Jesus “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” Surely, as the eternal Son of the Father, Christ had always, from eternity, obeyed His Father and experienced the joy and the fellowship of that obedience. But in His incarnation, obedience to the Father meant greater and greater opposition from all those who were around Him, until they eventually would kill Him.

Here is humility shining like the sun in its full strength. “How can it be, that Thou, My God, shouldst die for me?” The Author of Life humbly submits to death. The One who is without sin humbly submits to sin’s curse. The One who has life within Himself (John 1:4; 5:26)—the One who gives life to whomever He wishes (John 5:21), humbly releases His grip on His own life in submission to the Father and in love for those whom His Father has given Him. “’Tis mystery all: Th’immortal dies!”

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Jamie Pierre, 250 Foot Cliff Jump, Grand Targhee Backcountry, WYFor many who live in high alpine terrain, mountain sports like skiing are a way of life. As with any such sport, carnage comes with the territory. On one particular occasion, I watched a friend missile himself off a 60 foot cliff on a day which skiers would label the snow conditions as “boiler-plate” (referring to the penetrability of the snow). When he finally landed, the boiler-plate-like snow gave 4 inches (though he stopped, his skis continued airborne without him for another quarter of a mile). By the numbers, he was going about 40mph, landed, came to a complete stop in a fraction of a second, with only 4 inches of snow-cushion. That’s probably less forgiveness than landing on hot asphalt. Needless to say, he compacted a few vertebrae and was laid up for a month. And once it was clear he was still alive, the stunt provided for a powerfully learning experience as one might imagine: among other things, don’t imitate Eddy the Eagle on boiler-plate snow conditions.

unforgivingThe falls and mishaps of others are never occasion for juicy gloating though they must be for humbly learning. At our local resort, you’re the mountain chump if you chuckle at a big fall. But you’re also the mountain fool if you fail to learn from them.

As normal for any era between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20, these past few months have seen a far share of ministry falls, scandals, apology-kind-of-things, disqualifications, and hard-to-name-types-of-things. As the church, this provides opportune learning occaions for us to understand the times and know what to do.

This is by no means exhaustive, but here are 7 suggestions in light of recent events:

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Have you ever thought about heaven as a city?

In the apostle John’s account of the new earth in Revelation 21-22, prominent attention is given to the New Jerusalem, the capital of the eternal heaven. Nearly half of Revelation 21 is devoted to describing the physical properties of the magnificent metropolis. Its glorious splendor will be the heart of the new earth, for it is here that God Himself dwells.

New_Jerusalem

Christians rarely think of heaven as a city, and yet that is precisely how God describes it (Heb. 11:16; cf. John 14:2). Cities have buildings, streets, houses, and citizens. They are places of political power, economic industry, higher learning, refined culture, and impressive architecture. These characteristics are true of the heavenly city as well, though the New Jerusalem will far outshine any of earthly city in both its magnificence and its might. Continue Reading…

angelThis post is part 5 in our series on the gift of tongues. (To access previous posts, please click here.)

In particular, we are considering the continuationist claim that tongues in the New Testament were not necessarily real human foreign languages. One leading evangelical proponent of this position is Sam Storms, who articulates his views in The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts. In this series, we have been responding to the arguments presented by Storms in that book.

In today’s post, we will consider one of the most common arguments for a type of tongues-speech that is non-earthly and non-human in character.

Continuationist Argument 4: The reference to “tongues of angels” in 1 Cor. 13:1 demands the possibility of heavenly (non-earthly) languages.

Sam Storms articulates this argument as follows:

Paul referred to ‘tongues of men and of angels’ (1 Cor. 13:1). While he may have been using hyperbole, he just as likely may have been referring to heavenly or angelic dialects for which the Holy Spirit gives utterance.

I am thankful that Storms (as well as other continuationists like D. A. Carson) allow for the possibility of hyperbole in 1 Corinthians 13:1, because I am convinced from the context that that is exactly how the phrase ought to be understood. Why?

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Many years ago, I was an upperclassman at a bible college.  Like most upperclassmen in bible college, I had spent a few years learning vast quantities of information and was both eager and embarrassingly incompetent to make “real world” applications of all the things I had learned.  In an effort to connect the theological dots I had assembled, I–along with several other Bible geeks–had a lunchtime discussion club where we would entertain issues of what we called “theoretical theology”.  We would think of (usually) bizarre theological questions, analyze them, and then attempt to come up with solutions to those conundrums. Most of the time, the questions were ridiculous but still involved big theological issues (i.e. dispensationalism, creationism, pacifism, Calvinism, the second coming, etc.) in a roundabout way.  The questions often were hilarious and allowed us to address serious issues in a humorous way that often ended up in carefully articulated responses.

One of the questions I remember the most was:

- If I am a New Testament Christian and I got a DeLorean with a flux capacitor and went back to the time of Moses, would I still be saved by grace or would I suddenly lose the Spirit and have to keep the law?

back-to-the-future-DeLorean

Now that question is both silly and impossible, but it was the manifestation of a few budding theologians attempting to struggle through and apply the numerous biblical/theological truths they were learning.  I’m sure that some people now want me to address that crazy question, but that’s not the one I’m going to focus on.  In my first post in this series, I gave an illustration of how the scripture often addresses matters more clearly than we may think.  In my second post in this series, I gave an (ill received) illustration of how the Bible directly speaks about far more issues than we often expect.  Both of those two involved matters that the scripture directly addresses and in the first post I made passing reference to “applying hand lotion to a penguin” as a theological question.  I mentioned in the comment thread that I would get back to that idea and now, here I am.

Am I seriously going to talk about the application of hand lotion to penguins as a “theoretical theology” question?

Yup.

Not the whole bird of course; that would be silly and needless.  Just their feet.

Let’s not be totally absurd! Continue Reading…