Saturday, February 18, 2017

Buried with Him

We've noted before that the Gospel as described in 1 Corinthians 15:1–8 consists of four statements:

  1. Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3)
  2. He was buried (1 Corinthians 15:4)
  3. He rose the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4)
  4. He was seen by many witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:5–8)
1 Corinthians 15:1–2 tells us this is the Gospel which we have received, by which we are saved, and by which we stand.

We noted before that the burial of Christ is frequently overlooked in so-called Gospel preaching, but 1 Corinthians 15 makes it a fundamental part of the Gospel. We're not preaching the Gospel if we don't talk about the burial of Christ.

I mentioned C. A. Coates' excellent article "The Son of Man lifted up and buried." Coates points out that burial in Scripture carries the idea of hiding from sight.

The first time we read about burial in Scripture is Genesis 23, where Sarah has died, and Abraham buys the field of Ephron the Hittite to bury her there. Notice Abraham tells the sons of Heth, "give me a possession of a sepulchre with you, that I may bury my dead from before me" (Genesis 23:4, repeated in v. 8). Here's the idea of burial in Scripture: Abraham wants to "bury my dead out of my sight" (KJV, ESV, and NASB).

At the Crucifixion, the Pharisees were afraid to let the bodies of Christ and the two malefactors remain on the crosses for the Passover. They were applying Deuteronomy 21:22–23. If a man was put to death by hanging, his body wasn't to remain hanging overnight: it had to be buried the same day. Why? Because a hanged man is cursed by God. When we consider this in the light of Genesis 23, we realize that the man who is cursed of God needs to be removed from God's sight.

Notice Galatians 3:13 quotes Deuteronomy 21:23, applying it to Christ hanging on the Cross. We understand the how of Christ's death is important: Christ Himself pointed out He was to be "lifted up" (John 3:14). It's very important that Christ was "lifted up" to die: He was made a curse of God for us.

When we consider Christ buried, we remember that He bore our sins "in His body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). The same body that bore our sins was buried, taking our sins out of God's sight. They have been buried "from before [His] eyes" – God doesn't see them anymore.

So we recognize the finality of our forgiveness rests on the burial of Christ.

But of course there's more. Romans 6:4 tells us that we have been "buried with Him by baptism". Colossians 2:12 repeats the statement almost word for word. We have died with Christ, we have been buried with Christ.

We have been buried out of God's sight.

We don't bury a man who's not dead. Burial means we've given up on someone. Burial means we expect no more out of someone.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Psalm 84

At the start of this week I read the eighty-fourth Psalm during the Lord’s Supper. I don’t think my thoughts were very clear then, and I want to attempt to share them here.

The psalm starts out with the Chief Musician, which suggests it's at least partly Messianic.

As the Psalm opens, it tells us about an altar that's apparently abandoned: the sparrow and the swallow feel safe in building their nests and raising their young on it. We're told it's the altar of the Lord of Hosts, but it's apparently no longer in use (Psalm 84:3).

The unused altar suggests to us the need for sacrifice is over. It brings us to the state of affairs we see in Hebrews 10: one sacrifice has put away sins forever (Hebrews 10:11–13).

As we look further in the Psalm we come to two types of person: there are those who dwell in the Lord’s house (Psalm 84:4), and there is "the Man" whose strength is the Lord (Psalm 84:5). We understand it's because of this one Man that "they" can dwell in God’s house.

What is the prayer of those dwelling in God's house? It's "Look on the face of Your Annointed” (Psalm 84:9). That's our prayer too – "Don't look at me Lord, look at Him." This is our acceptance with God: He has looked in Christ and seen everything that He could look for in man. Christ is our "wisdom from God, and righteousness, and holiness, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:31).

J. N. Darby said, “The Christian is humble... because he has given up seeking good in himself to adore the One in whom there is nothing else” (J. N. Darby, "On Mysticism", Collected Writings, Vol. 32). That is really what it means to be “in Christ” – having no righteousness of my own (Philippians 3:9).

Finally the Psalm ends with a blessing: blessed is the Man who trusts in God (Psalm 84:12). The Pharisees accused Christ of trusting in God (Matthew 27:43). We bless that same Man.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Surety

Robert made the statement that there are two men in the Scripture who stand surety:

  1. Judah stands surety for Benjamin in Genesis 44:30–34
  2. Christ stands surety "for the New Covenant" in Hebrews 7:22

We often think of Christ standing surety for us, and we remember how the Old Testament warns against that. "It goes ill with him that is surety for another" (Proverbs 11:15). So far as I can tell, Scripture only tells us about one Man who stood as Surety for a stranger (Proverbs 6:1–2), and certainly He suffered for it.

Judah tells Joseph what it means to stand surety for another:

And now, let thy servant stay, I pray thee, instead of the lad a bondman to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brethren; for how should I go up to my father if the lad were not with me?—lest I see the evil that would come on my father (Genesis 44:33–44).
He effectively says, "I am surety for Benjamin, and how can I face my father without him?".

It's not a stretch to consider Judah as a pattern for Christ. Judah's words to Joseph echo Christ's heart for us: He was not willing to return to His Father without taking us along.

This is the point He was making in John 6:37–40. The Father has given some to the Son (John 6:37), with the explicit desire that the Son shouldn't lose any of them (John 6:39). Christ effectively says to the people, "I am unwilling to face my Father without those He gave me, and even if they die, I will raise them from the dead (John 6:40) rather than facing my Father without them."

Now, I'm not saying that Christ doesn't love us, but in John 6:37–40 He doesn't appeal to His love for us. Rather, He appeals to His duty to His Father. Just like Judah doesn't once mention any affection for Benjamin, but his duty to his father Jacob.

It's worth remembering at the start of a new year that Christ isn't willing to face His Father without us. It's not an issue of what we've done, nor even of His love for us. Christ losing even one of us would be His failing to keep up His end of the deal with His Father.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

He who comes out of heaven

I changed the title of this post after the discussion in the comment thread. The new title is from John 3:31. I thought it would be better to change the title in place and keep the comment thread intact than re-publishing the post and potentially losing the comments.

We don't want to lose sight of the most astonishing fact in Scripture: the Son of God came from Heaven to die for ruined sinners. John 1:1–12 brings us face-to-face with the wonder of that when it tells who He is from the beginning. He is the Word who is God, and who was with God (John 1:1). It's important we remember both of those truths together: if we remember He was with God but we forget He is God, then we fall into Arianism. If we remember He is God, but forget He was with God, then we fall into Sabellianism.

In point of fact, I have many times sat in a meeting where someone thanked the Father for dying for us. It's not right to make a man a transgressor for a word, but at the same time we should be very careful that our words reflect what Scripture actually says.

It is the fact of who Christ is that gives value to what He has done. The Son of God came here and died for lost sinners. Is there anything more astonishing than that? John 1 keeps coming back to this central point: He was the Creator (John 1:3), having come into the world He created (John 1:10). The more we contemplate that fact, the more we find ourselves asking, "What kind of Person is this?"

I once heard a man quote Luke 15:1–2 like this: "'This Man receives sinners and eats with them', thank God He does!"

In fact, the Pharisees didn't know the half of it. He came not merely to eat with sinners, but to give His flesh to be their food and His blood to be their drink (John 6:47–58).

Isaiah 64:1–3 tells us when God comes down, He does terrible things no one looked for (Isaiah 64:3) – He does things no one could have expected. Certainly when the Son of God came, He did what no one could have expected: He gave Himself to save lost sinners (Galatians 2:19–20).

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Twelve titles

A few weeks ago I was talking about John 1 in the assembly. I mentioned I'd counted seven titles of Christ there, but realized I'd missed at least two. So I enlisted the assembly to help me count them, and people started calling out titles they saw. We got up to twelve that day, but there's at least one more an older brother mentioned to me later.

Here's the working list I have so far:

  1. the Word (John 1:1)
  2. Light (John 1:8–10 )
  3. Only-begotten of the Father (John 1:14)
  4. Christ (John 1:17)
  5. Only-begotten Son (John 1:18)
  6. The Prophet (John 1:21)
  7. Lord (John 1:23)
  8. Lamb of God (John 1:29)
  9. Son of God (John 1:34)
  10. Rabbi (Teacher, Master) (John 1:38)
  11. King of Israel (John 1:49)
  12. Son of Man (John 1:51)

There's a lot to be said about John 1, it reaches back to before there was anything except God. It pulls the curtain back just a bit and lets us see what "before time" looked like. John 5 goes even further, but that's for another day.

I've been chewing over John 1 for several weeks now, and there's a whole lot in that chapter. It's been a good investment of my time.

Friday, October 28, 2016

So what?

I have a friend who speaks at Bible conferences a lot. I don't know how many times I've heard him say we need reality in our lives. Not only for our own benefit, but as a testimony to those around us.

We started out talking about how my co-workers and my neighbors and my friends and my family and the people in the little gathering here don't need to see me – not even the best version of me. They need to see the life of Jesus in my mortal body (2 Corinthians 4:10–11). Let's give some thought to that in practical terms.

2 Corinthians 4:10–11 tells us two things about this manifestation:

  1. it's self-evident that it has to be Christ Himself they see, not my imitation
  2. the cost is death working in me
May I suggest that the very first step is to go to the Lord Jesus in prayer, asking Him to manifest His life in my mortal body? May I also suggest that we ask for His patience and His grace as we contemplate the cost of death working in us? It is His work to do, but there will be very real pain associated with it, and we'll need His grace in the face of it.

The principle we keep coming back to is "abiding in Christ" (John 15:4). How do we abide in Christ? Robert commented

I was asked at the weekend, 'what does it mean in practice to abide in Christ'? I think John's answer may well have been, it means to be at the table and lean on His bosom John 13:23.
Paul's answer to the same question would have been, 'But we all, looking on the glory of the Lord, with unveiled face, are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit' 2 Corinthians 3:18

Colossians 3:1 takes up this thread and talks about setting our affections on things above because that's where Christ is. We understand that if I continue to look for fulfillment and meaning down here, I'm not looking for it up there. This, too, has to be the work of God in my heart. Can I suggest we ask the Father to show us His Son? Can I suggest we ask Him to put Christ between my eyes and this world, to keep me from being distracted by the bright and shiny things here?

Exodus 24:9–14 tells us the story of Moses and the elders of Israel seeing God on Sinai, "they saw God, and ate and drank" (Exodus 24:11). Verse 14 is particularly interesting, because Moses specifically told them to wait there for him to return. But they didn't wait for him: they got impatient and turned to idols (Exodus 32:1–2). We do exactly the same thing when we decide The Man who brought us up out of bondage (Exodus 32:1) has been "up there" too long (Colossians 3:1–4). We soon start looking around for something down here we can turn into a god. So the New Testament tells us again and again, "He's coming back!" "Don't give up waiting!"

Let's not get tired of waiting for Him to come back down from up there (Philippians 3:20–21).

We come back to this theme of eating in God's presence in Joshua 5:8–12, where four things are associated with Gilgal:

  1. circumcision, a rolling away of the reproach of Egypt (Joshua 5:8–9)
  2. the Passover (Joshua 5:10)
  3. eating the old corn of the land, a type of Christ in resurrection (Joshua 5:11, Leviticus 23:10–13, 1 Corinthians 15:20)
  4. eating manna, a type of Christ in humility (Joshua 5:12, John 6:32–33)
For us too, there are these four things. We've discussed Romans 6:11 and Colossians 3:1–4 at length. We have died with Christ. But Gilgal reminds us more of Colossians 3:5–7. Here there is a mortifying, a putting to death. There is a real pain associated with Gilgal that's not associated with the Red Sea. And there is a real pain in Colossians 3:5 that's not in Romans 6:11. It's relatively pain-free to reckon myself to have died with Christ; it's not at all pain-free to put to death my members on the earth.

Here again, we need to go to the Father and ask Him for grace and courage.

But of course it's not all pain in Gilgal: there's eating too. There are three meals mentioned: the Passover, the manna, and the old corn of the land. If you look closely at the timetable in Joshua 5, there was just one day when they ate both the old corn of the land and the manna. We, too, have a very narrow window of opportunity to eat both. We'll never get beyond feeding on Christ in resurrection, but we can only feed on Christ in humility while we're here. The supply of manna ends when we're out of the wilderness.

When we eat with Christ, we can expect to get what my buddy Caleb calls "Luke 24 heartburn" (Luke 24:29–32). We all need that kind of heartburn, and we should all ask the Father to give us a really "bad" case of it. That kind of heartburn comes from lingering over the table with Him and contemplating Him "starting with Moses and the prophets" (Luke 24:27).

I've heard this time and time again, but I still fail really to practice it... Can I start to see time spent with the Savior as an investment? The very best use of time is to spend it with Christ.

Those are some simple suggestions for "where to go from here". They're simple, but hopefully practical.

Links worth sharing

Several people have emailed me with links and quotations over the last few weeks that seem appropriate to share.

S. sent several links related to Election. The first is a letter by J. N. Darby:

This fresh breaking out of the doctrine of free-will helps on the doctrine of the natural man's pretension not to be entirely lost, for that is really what it amounts to. All men who have never been deeply convinced of sin, all persons with whom this conviction is based upon gross and outward sins, believe more or less in free-will. You know that it is the dogma of the Wesleyans, of all reasoners, of all philosophers. But this idea completely changes all the idea of Christianity and entirely perverts it.
The entire letter is on the STEM website.

Another from S. was this gem: an article entitled "Early Brethren Leaders and the Question of Calvinism" by Mark R. Stevenson. It's very interesting. The article considers current teaching among "open brethren" in comparison with "early brethren" when it comes to the question of Calvinism. It's more academic than I'd normally read, but it definitely grabbed my attention.

Rodger sent a link to an article on "New" and "Old" in Scripture:

It may be helpful to point out that there are four new things in Christianity — the new covenant, the new man, the new birth and new creation. In contrast to the new covenant we read of the old covenant, and in contrast to the new man we read of the old man. Yet we do not read of old birth in contrast to new birth, nor old creation in contrast to new creation. The reason being that when God styles a thing old He has done with it. In the cross of Christ both the old covenant and the old man were brought to an end judicially in view of the bringing in of the new covenant and the new man, but God has not yet done with the first birth or the first creation. We sometimes use the expression "old creation," but this term is not found in Scripture. The nearest approach to it is in Hebrews 1:11, "they shall wax old," but the actual term "old creation" is not used. We are thus still connected with the first birth and can glorify God in it; and He will yet fill the first creation with His glory as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14.
Again, the whole article is on the STEM website. This one caught my attention because I frequently use terms like "old creation".

I've been meaning to post this quote about J. N. Darby by William R. Newell from Romans Verse-by-Verse:

We know what debt under God all those who have the truth today owe to Darby, through whom God recovered more truth belonging to the Church of God, than through any other man since Paul, and whose writings are today the greatest treasure of truth and safeguard against error known to instructed believers.
Romans Verse-by-Verse, Chapter 12 (last checked 2016-10-28).

I wrote a blog post for my friend Scott's Digital Sojourner about reading Collected Writings of J. N. Darby. I should have included that quote, although it's likely I hadn't found it yet. Romans Verse-by-Verse is an incredible book, but it took me several years to read it through. In fact, I was given the book in 1996 and didn't finish reading it until 2015 or so...