Angels Worship Him

Why Do Christians Worship Jesus? Because He is the Creator God as well as Redeemer. In previous posts I have shared, in my limited way, my growing admiration for the Person of Jesus – Who He is – as Charles Wesley proclaimed in the hymn, “How can it be that Thou my God should die for me.”

Jesus is the central figure of Scripture and history is really ‘His Story’. For those who accept Him as Lord and Saviour His story becomes personal. What he did 2000 years ago was for us, including me. So, some more of my thoughts on Jesus, this time from the Book of Hebrews.

Reading the ‘Letter to the Hebrews’ we get impressions of a crisis in the life of the Jewish converts to Christianity. In Hebrews 10: 32-39,  we pick up more than a few hints of some of the problems the Hebrews faced. In chapter 10:32-39 the author writes about those earlier days when his readers stood their ground in the face of conflict and suffering. In verse 39, in the New International Version: “the author says, “we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”

They had stood side by side with those who had been imprisoned for the gospel’s sake. Some had even experienced confiscation of their properties because they believed they had a better future to come because of their belief and trust in the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ. But Hebrews 5:11-14 tells us they had not grown or matured in their faith. They were still on the milk of the word.  Some of the church had begun to drift away and so in verse 25 the author exhorts and encourages his readers not to give up meeting together as some are doing.

So one can see why the author opens up the book in drawing attention to the Person of Jesus, in a similar way that John does in his gospel, John 1:1-3, 14, 18: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” 14 “”The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[a] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” In Luke 1:35, we read that Jesus is unique, He is son of Mary, but also the Son of God.

The author uses superlatives throughout the book to describe Jesus and his heavenly ministry. Jesus is so superior to all who have gone before Him. He is superior to the prophets whom God chose to speak to the Hebrews of the past; He is superior to the angels, angels worship Him (1:6).

The Triune God has spoken through the Incarnate Son (1:2) who, according chapter 1:3, is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” That is where the apostle begins the Book of Hebrews, and towards the conclusion in chapter 13:8 he describes the eternity of Jesus as, “the same today, yesterday and forever.”

The readers are encouraged not to forget the superiority of the Person of Jesus over everything and everyone else, and that Jesus’ ministry is so superior to anything to which they might return. The earthly priesthood and earthly sacrifices no longer had any significance – Jesus has fulfilled their intention so their purpose had ceased and the Temple ministry became obsolete at the cross (Matthew 27: 50 “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.”

But one can see the attractiveness of the ritual of the temple services, and the distraction of continuing persecution from family and friends as well as enemies, because of their conversion to the Christian faith. So in this letter to the Jewish converts to Christianity, the author reminds his readers of Who they have come to know and believe in – He is Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest.

The author pulls out all the stops to show that Jesus has no rivals. He is the Incomparable Christ. Although voluntarily subordinate to the Father for His earthly mission for humankind, Even in His humanity, the author asks, in verse 5, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son” 6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.

It is difficult to read this section of Scripture without seeing the writer telling us that Jesus is not just like God in every way, but is God in every way.  We read that Jesus has all the nature and attributes of deity. Towards the end of the letter in Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” And in this introduction it says everything that is in the universe originated through Him, “he made the universe.” “He sustains all things.” He provides purification for our sins. And, being the exact representation of God, He sits at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

Key words that we find in this letter are the words “better“, or “superior.” The author elevates Jesus above all of creation, we see him giving sheer praise to Jesus, and we find him asking his readers to do the same. He is saying, look how great this Person is!

God’s angels are wonderful beings.  In 1:7 he tells us that angels are “spirits” or “winds”. How powerful can the wind be? The wind is a mighty force of nature to be reckoned with. In the same verse the author also likens angels to “flames of fire”. The horrific happenings in our time show us the power of both wind and fire.

Combine the elements of winds and fire, and we have a description of the kind of energy that angels have. Isaiah 37:36 tells us that one of God’s angel destroyed 186,000 of the Assyrian army in one night! Like wind and fire, angels are great forces to be reckoned with.

When a centurion and his armed guard were appointed to make sure Jesus stayed in the tomb after his burial Matthew 28 tells us that an angel of the Lord came down to remove the stone from the tomb.  Then verse 4 says, “The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became as dead men.”

But we find that same angel engaging some women in conversation – without them feeling the slightest threat from his presence! (Matthew 28:1-7).

The guards were so fearful we are told that they fell as dead men. But the women showed no fear. There was nothing about the angel for which to be afraid!  As Hebrews 1:14 tells us, “Are not all the angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

But the focus of the ‘Letter to the Hebrews’ is not angels.  The focus is Jesus. If we were to look at Colossians 1:15, and 16, we would read there that Jesus, “Is the image of God, the first-born of all creation; for in Him all things were created, in heaven and in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or principalities or authorities, all things were created by Him and for Him.”

Angels are powerful beings.  The Bible tells us we will see their power when Christ comes in all His glory, and with all His holy angels to raise the dead in Christ on resurrection day (Matthew 24:30,31).

But as great as these angels are, the author of Hebrews says Christ is so much greater than the angels!  Matthew 24: 31 says he will send ‘his’ angels. Jesus created the angels!  “All things were created by him and for him“! To prove his point the writer to the Hebrews then draws on some Old Testament Scriptures.  He leaves his readers in no doubt about who Jesus is.  The rest of what He has to say in this book depends on the foundation he lays in this chapter.

In Hebrews 1:4 Jesus “has obtained a more excellent name than the angels.”  To impress his Jewish Christian readers, in verse 5 we see him combining two Old Testament passages. The first is from Psalm 2:7: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” The second Old Testament Scripture comes from 2 Samuel 7:14, which has a primary application to Solomon, but which the writer sees as having a secondary application to Jesus: “I will be to him a father, and he will be to me a Son.”  Again, this phrase implies the idea of “begotten”. We see what the author is saying in the beginning of verse 5.  “To which of the angels did God ever say that?”  And of course, the answer is, none!  In fact, verse 6 says, “Let all God’s angels worship Him.”

Harking back to my previous post,  I do find it difficult to understand fellow Christians who say the Old Testament is now obsolete. The Old Testament was the Bible of the Early Christian church and Jesus said in John 5:39, 40 that those Old Testament Scriptures were all about him and his provision for eternal life.

What we find in the Scriptures we sing in that wonderful hymn of praise by Edward Perronet,  “All hail the power of Jesus name, let angels prostrate fall . . .” or, as Hebrews 1:6 expresses it, “Let all God’s angel’s worship him.

Now there are many Bible believers who find the teaching on the Trinity and the Deity of Christ very difficult to accept. There are Adventists who want us to go back to the teachings of the founders of the Adventist movement. Many of the Adventist pioneers came from Unitarian churches and so were anti-Trinitarian in their teachings. The Trinity doctrine was something that evolved as the church grew and found itself being challenged by the teaching of the Trinity. You could say that the Adventist church had to go through its own ‘Council of Nicea’ but there are still those within the church who protest at its Trinitarian teaching.

The writer of Hebrews does say Jesus was born into this world as a man. He even describes Jesus as the “first-born,” and one who is “begotten.” The writer does go on to explain about the human nature of Jesus in chapter 2.  But in this chapter, it is difficult not to see that for the writer, Jesus is very God!

This chapter refers to Jesus as the originator of all things. It says, “he made the universe.”  It says He sustains the universe. It says He provides purification for our sins, and that being the exact representation of God He sits at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Jesus has all the attributes of deity and is deserving of our worship! However great other beings are, ‘even the angels worship Him!’ And that is the First Angels’ Message of Revelation 14:6,7. It is the call to “worship him who made heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of waters.” That final scenario is described for us in Revelation 5:11-14.

The Bible tells us that Jesus made the heavens and the earth.  Colossians 1:16 says, “For in Him all things were created in heaven and earth.”  In John 1:10 it says, “He was in the world and the world was made through him.”   How can I make these statements to say other than what they say?  Jesus made the heavens and the earth, and so we are called to worship Him.

The Gospel is not just about the redemption of lost mankind, or of salvation to all those who choose to believe in Him. It is about that.  But it is also about the restoration of God’s authority in this world.  And that authority begins with the believer’s confession, that “Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:11).

For the author of the Letter to the Hebrews the greatness of Jesus excited awe and reverence. Jesus is Someone to be adored!  He is Someone to be praised and worshipped in every aspect of our lives.  Jesus is both Creator and Redeemer!

The very thought produces gratitude in the believer’s heart – for who He is and what He has done for us.  And the thrill is, that we are invited into His presence where angels desire to worship Him!

The Bible tells us that it is should be the natural desire for God’s creation to always want to worship Him, on earth now, and in the sin-free eternity to come (Revelation 5:11-14).

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Posted in Apologetics, Bible, Christ's Sacrifice, Incarnation, Jesus, Origins, The Gospel, Trinity, Worship

The Old Testament Is The Basis For The New

Carrying on from the previous post – I recently read something which is quite relevant to the discussion supporting both Old and New Testaments as integral to understanding the gospel and who Jesus is.  It has already been stated in the discussion that Jesus drew attention to the Old Testament being about Him (Luke 24:25-27; 45-47; cf. John 5:39-40; 45-47. But this also is supported by Paul’s preaching and teaching in the Book of Acts, as in 26: 22-23; 28:23.

But also in “The Book of Acts,” by Wilson Paroschi, published by PPPA, March 2018 (ISBN 978-0-8163-6354-4), there is a very valuable insight for us on pages 66-67 of chapter 7, ‘Paul’s First Missionary Journey’. There the author writes:

“Hospitality was also a Jewish practice (Mark 6:10), and many synagogues had guest rooms for this purpose. This not only made it convenient for Paul to frequent synagogues on his journeys but also gave him direct access to God-fearing people who could then provide a bridge for reaching other Gentiles.

But the main rationale behind Paul’s practice was primarily theological. As a life-long Jew, he understood his Damascus experience as a conversion to Jesus Christ, and not from the Jewish faith and its fundamental aspects. Though he experienced a radical change with respect to many of his religious concepts (cf. Philippians 4: 3-11), he never understood this transformation in terms of leaving one religion and embracing another.

Organised Christianity did not yet exist as a separate entity, so for most Jews, including preconversion Paul, the followers of Jesus was just another radical sectarian movement (Acts 9:1, 2). For most outsiders, including the Roman authorities, the differences between Christians and Jews were an internal Jewish affair (Acts 18:12-16). This scenario would change only after the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64. The inferno, which historians suspect Nero ordered, cleared the land for a new palatial complex, the Domus Aurea. Nero subsequently targeted Christians in his effort to diffuse blame, ordering them to be tortured and executed.

As for the early Christians, they believed themselves to be the true holders of the Jewish traditional faith and hope (Acts 2: 22-24). Paul was persuaded that he had been called by the God of Israel who had always demanded exclusive worship. For him, faith in Jesus Christ was not a desertion of Jewish monotheism (1 Corinthians 8:6); it was a logical extension of his understanding of God. He remained loyal to the Jewish Scriptures and consistently drew his theological concepts from the history and literature of Israel, not from the history and literature of the Greeks.

He came to the Gentiles determined to share the richness of God’s revelation to Israel (Romans 15:27), and not to translate the Jewish faith into Greek thinking. Though he spoke and wrote in Greek, the vocabulary and key concepts of his thoughts were biblical and developed with particular attention to Israel’s religious history (2 Corinthians 3:7-18). It should be noted, however, that his forays into this history do not indicate a radical discontinuity between the Old Testament and the new era of salvation. In Galatians, for example, he reflects on the specific transitory role performed by the law within the old covenant (Galatians 3:19-25; 4:1-7, 21-31), knowing full well that the law transcends that role (Romans 7: 12-14), does not contradict the enduring principles of the Abrahamic covenant (Romans 3:31; Galatians 3:21), and is not invalidated by the grace of salvation (Romans 3:3).

Paul never compromised his belief in Israel as God’s covenant people (Romans 3:1-4; 11:1-5), even as Gentiles began to outnumber the Jews in the faith (cf. Romans 11:11-32). Though he no longer conceived Israel’s election in the narrow sense, he did believe in Israel’s role in salvation history granted them priority in the preaching of the gospel (Romans 1:16). This was not only Paul’s understanding; it was the priority Jesus envisioned in His Acts 1:8 commission to His disciples.

Paul’s attachment to the synagogue, therefore, was not just for logistic and pragmatic reasons, He remained faithful Jew; and wherever there was a Jewish community

Nevertheless, his “heart’s desire and prayer to God” (Romans 10:1, NIV), yearned for the conversion of the Gentiles and their hope in bringing more Jews to Jesus (Romans 11:14, 23, 26).

(The author concludes with a footnote: ‘On Romans 11:26, see chapter 13 of this book).

About The Author: “Wilson Paroschi is professor of New Testament Studies at Southern Adventist University. He previously served at the Latin-American Adventist Theological Seminary at the Adventist University located in Brazil. He holds a PhD (2003) from Andrews University and a postdoctoral degree from the University of Heidelburg, Germany. He has authored several books and articles, both in Portuguese and English, for scholarly as well as popular readership.”

On the back cover of his “The Book of Acts” we read:

“Thirty years – that’s all it took. In those 30 years the Christian church gained sufficient growth and credibility to become the largest religion the world has ever seen and to change the lives of hundreds of millions of people. And it all began with a dozen men, a handful of women, . . . and the Holy Spirit. Acts is their story.

“While it is tempting to think of the early Christian church, as the pinnacle of unity, purity, and perfection, this is misleading. Author, Wilson Paroschi writes, ‘We find the early believers, including the apostles, entangled with misconceptions, personal conflicts, prejudice, and several other difficulties of human nature. They were not infallible. What they were able to accomplished in such a short period of time, however, is a perpetual testimony of how powerfully God can work when men and women, despite their limitations and failures, humble their hearts in prayer and submit their lives to the control of the Holy Spirit.’

“We should not look at Acts as a retelling of the missionary success of the apostles, but rather, as an example of the amazing things God was able to accomplish through them in reclaiming humanity for Himself.”

Posted in Apologetics, Bible, Gospel, Jesus, Law of God

Things in Common – on Law and Gospel

I was browsing the Christian Websites and one was headed: Megachurch Pastor Says Christians Are Not Required to Obey Old Testament Commands.

Another website asked, “Should We Unhitch The Ten Commandments?”  I like to read those who disagree with some of my own Christian beliefs and allow myself to be challenged by their observations, but I also get encouragement from those with whom I have ‘things in common’, in fact, a lot of things in common, and two of those are addressed in the above responses of ‘The relevance of the Old Testament’, without which the New Testament would not make sense, and the Perpetuity of the Law of God.

I have addressed these subjects elsewhere but I am currently reading again through some sermons from vol. 28 of Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, by that preacher of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon (published by the Banner of Truth Trust). I have several of these volumes and the price of them might give my age away when I say each volume is priced £1.50! But keeping to the subject I see there are two sermons in this volume on the Law of God, with his endorsement of the importance of the Old Testament for the Christian. The first is his exposition of Matthew 5:18 titled, “The Perpetuity of the Law of God”, where Spurgeon writes, “The relationship of the law to myself, and how it condemns me: the relationship of the gospel to myself, and how if I be a believer it justifies me – these are two point which every Christian man should clearly understand.”  The second is an exposition of Jeremiah 31:33, titled, “The Law Written on the Heart.” There, Spurgeon says, “In our text we observe the excellency and dignity of the law of God. The Gospel has not come into the world to set aside the law. Salvation by grace does not erase a single precept of the law, nor lower the standard of justice in the smallest degree; on the contrary, as Paul says, we do not make void the law through faith, but we establish the law.” “God demands obedience under the law: God works obedience under the gospel.”

“At the height of his fame Spurgeon is said to have drawn crowds of up to 20,000 when he was 22 years of age. . . . In his day Spurgeon was an inspiration to many of his colleagues in the ministry and through his writings he continues to challenge and stimulate.”

Posted in Apologetics, Faith & Obedience, Gospel, Law of God, Salvation, Saved By Grace

A Lamb And A Lion

Referring back to chapter 4 of the Book of Revelation the Apostle John sees the same Person in chapter 5:1. He is the centre of attention in chapter 4, sitting on the throne in heaven, worthy of receiving adoration and worship of heavenly beings, He is the eternal Father.

In verse 1 of chapter 5 the Father is pictured on His throne with a book in His right hand that is sealed with seven seals. From the throne room a mighty angel proclaims a challenge to the inhabitants of the universe – but it is met with silence! No one is worthy enough to open the book – or look inside it to reveal its contents.

It caused the Apostle John to weep, profusely. The NIV of verse 4 says that he “wept and wept,” because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or look inside. But then, one of the elders mentioned in chapter 4, assured John that the “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” had triumphed.  We read in verses 5-6 of chapter 5 that He is able “to open the scroll, and its seven seals.”

John is told to behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but when he looked he saw a Lamb which seemed to have been slain, standing in the centre of the throne (Rev. 5:6). In verse 29 of the Gospel of John, John the Baptist declares Jesus to be the “Lamb of God!” The author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us in verses 11-12 of chapter 9 that Jesus entered the  Heavenly Sanctuary as our High Priest he also “entered the Most Holy place, once and for all by His own blood having obtained eternal redemption.” This is what we read in verse 6 of Revelation 5: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as though it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, . . .

But in the chapter 5 we see Jesus pictured symbolically as both Lion and a Lamb! What could be more opposite in nature, in appearance and characteristics? But both of these symbols of Lion & Lamb represent Jesus Christ.

No creature could possible better represent meekness, humility, and innocence as does a lamb. Lambs are never aggressive or revengeful. They don’t complain about the way they are treated. Jesus didn’t complain about the way He was treated when on earth. In vision the prophet Isaiah said of the Christ: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all . . . he was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; He is brought as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is dumb, so He opened not his mouth” (Is. 53:6-7). What a contrast in nature to that of a lion!

We can read of another contrast in Isaiah 9:6. Foretelling the birth of Jesus: “For to us a child is born, to us a child is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and He will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Take the first two phrases: “For to us a child is born, to us a child is given;” what can be more vulnerable that a new born child? And yet further in the text it says He is the “Mighty God;” He is the One who provides and cares for His creation (See Colossians 1:16-17).

When Jesus became man, it would be a mistake to say that He was no longer the “Mighty God.” Christianity speaks of this as the miracle of the Incarnation. The two natures in one Person, the God Man. And yet those identities are still separate.

When Jesus became man, he had not ceased to be God. As the 17th century Puritan theologian, John Owen, put it in a memorable couplet, “It was not that He gave up what He was, but He became what He was not.”

We see the paradox of God becoming man in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians in chapter 2, verses 5-8. Describing Christ’s condescension the apostle Paul writes, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross.”

Just take the first phrase in verse 6, “Who being in very nature God,” and compare that with the last phrase in verse 8, “and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross.”

“Being in very nature God” contrasts with Him being human and – “death on a cross.” Divinity cannot die. Jesus had all the attributes of divinity, but chose not to use his deity in His favour when He became one of us in His humanity (John 1:14). He voluntarily “made Himself nothing,” taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross.” Where Adam failed, our Messiah succeeded for our sakes. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).

Divinity did not die on the cross, it was His humanity that died. Although obedient unto death He took the consequences of our disobedience and died the death we should die. And when we accept Christ as Lord and Saviour, His obedience is imputed to us, so that God looks upon us as if we have never sinned. “The wages of sin death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The miracle of the Incarnation is not just that Jesus became the God-Man, but that He should do that to take what we deserve, to give us eternal life that we don’t deserve!

The Apostle John gives us the same picture of the divine human nature – the God/Man, in John 1:1. There he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Verse 3 tells us that, “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” And then in verse 14 of the same chapter he tells us under inspiration, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

But we see the paradox expressed in verse 10 as well, “He was in the world,” in His humanity; but then we read, “and though the world was made by Him,” – there we read of His creativity as deity, but then, back to, “the world did not recognise Him.” He became one with us, and despite His goodness and purity verse 11 says, “He came to that which was His own, but His own received Him not.” One senses the hurt and pain in the text as the rest of the Gospel of John recounts how He was dismissed as a nobody and an upstart, who ended up on a cross made for a criminal (John 19: 18- 37).

Speaking of the events which fulfilled the Isaiah 53 prophecy, the Apostle Peter said: “Who when he was reviled, He reviled not again; when he suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to him who Judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).

In that text we see the sympathetic Jesus, “the Lamb that was slain.” But what about the Lion? I would not want to meet the king of the jungle head on! There is power and strength and a fearlessness with a Lion that you have to respect. Although gentle, meek and humble at heart, Jesus had no fear of wicked men nor devils. Devils were afraid of Him! There was no fear of the scribes and Pharisees! He rebuked them for their hypocrisy. He called them “fools,” and “hypocrites,” and “blind guides.” He likened them to “serpents” and “whited sepulchres” and a “generation of vipers.” That’s tough fearless talk! That is one thing we can’t copy Jesus in, calling people names. He is the only perfect one who can read minds and hearts, we can’t.

He was not afraid to overturn the tables of the greedy money-changers when they robbed the poor through the Temple exchange rates at Passover time.  He was not afraid to drive out all who were making His Father’s house a “house of merchandise” and a “den of thieves.”

He was no coward. Genuine meekness shouldn’t be confused with weakness or timidity. He could face down His detractors. He wasn’t afraid to meet people face to face, either to win them or rebuke them. Jesus possessed both meekness and courage and strength that is symbolized by both a lamb and a lion.

Divinely meek His very life was in harmony with God. So He could meet every obstacle. . . .

The one who knows He is one with God – does not permit trivialities to bother him. We read sometimes of Christians who forgive people who have been subject to such atrocities. We read it of Iraqi Christians who have suffered so badly at the hands of ISIS.

Anything we put up with in the Western world must be just slight irritations compared to pillaging, torture and killing suffered by Christians in the oppressive regimes of our world. When we know what so many people in this world have to put up with, are we offended at comparative trivialities? Can we withhold forgiveness?

Jesus warned His disciples of what they would have to face in the future, but He also promised them a peace that only He could give them (John 14:27). It is only Jesus who can give that peace of mind and a self-control that is evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Such people are masters of their emotions rather than mastered by their emotions.

This was true of Jesus. He neither gave offence nor stored up offences. He was too great for that, too busy going about His Father’s business.

Jesus has been described as the meekest of the meek, but there will come the day when the presence of the Lion of Judah will be felt by those who oppress His people. Said Jesus to His disciple John in the closing chapter of the Revelation: “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy. Behold In am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”

The purpose of the gospel is to prepare us to live out the manifesto of His kingdom to come (Matthew 5:1-12). He has gone to prepare a place for those who appreciate the reason for His first mission (John 14:1-3) and are looking forward to enjoying His unchallenged rulership in a world made new (Revelation 21:1-5).

One day, what we read in chapter 5 of Revelation will repeat itself. I can never forget being included in a massed school choir of around 700 at the National Eisteddfod in Caerphilly back in 1952. Said to have held about 7000 people the portable pavilion was erected alongside the girls’ grammar school, and opposites Caerphilly Castle (the second largest in Europe next to Windsor).

Everyone was standing for the next chosen piece, the Hallelujah Chorus (sung in Welsh of course). In my late teens I attended the Albert Hall with friends to hear Handel’s Messiah conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. But it did not compare with my schoolboy experience, being part of the 700 schools choir, accompanied by the BBC Welsh Orchestra. It’s different being part of it than listening, as thrilling as that may be. But even that will not compare with the collective voices of the redeemed who will one day be part of that massed choir of the universe numbering thousands upon thousands, who will sing in all their different parts, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise

Easter reminds us of the Lamb, who would go as far as to die for us! He became the Lamb that was slain! – For all who will accept Him not just as Creator but as Saviour and Lord, and will praise the Lamb, as verse 13 of Revelation chapter 5 describes of those who are gathered from heaven and earth, “singing: ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!” What an experience that will be!

Posted in Christ's Sacrifice, Easter, Forgiveness, Gospel, Incarnation, Jesus, Salvation, Saved by Faith, Saved By Grace, Second Advent

Jesus in the Writings of Peter (1)

I have been enjoying the 2nd Quarter’s studies for 2017 in 1st and 2nd Peter. Week eight deals with “Jesus in the writings of Peter.” These are some comments copied from the study that I might keep for reference

  1. Jesus our Sacrifice
  2. The Passion of Jesus

Whatever the specific issues he’s addressing, Peter’s focus was on Jesus. Jesus permeates all that he writes; it’s the golden thread woven through the letter.

From the first line, where Peter says that he is an “apostle” (“one sent”) of Jesus Christ, until the last, when he writes, “Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus” (1 Pet. 5:14, NKJV), Jesus is his key theme. And in this epistle he talks about Jesus’ dying as our sacrifice. He talks about the great suffering that Jesus went through and uses Jesus’ example in that suffering as a model for us. He talks about the resurrection of Jesus and what it means to us. In addition, he talks about Jesus not only as the Messiah, the Christos, the “anointed one,” but about Jesus as the Divine Messiah. That is, we see in 1 Peter more evidence of the divine nature of Jesus. He was God Himself, who came into human flesh and who lived and died so that we can have the hope and promise of eternal life.

Jesus, Our Sacrifice

An overarching theme of the Bible, maybe even the overarching theme, is that of God’s work in saving fallen humanity. From the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis to the fall of Babylon in Revelation, Scripture in one way or another reveals the work of God in seeking to save “that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). And this theme is revealed in Peter’s letters, as well.

First Peter 1:1819 describes the significance of the death of Jesus this way: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” There are two key images in these words: redemption and animal sacrifice.

Redemption is used in the Bible in several ways. For example, the firstborn donkey (which could not be sacrificed) and the firstborn son (Exod. 34:1920) were redeemed by the sacrifice of a substitute lamb. Money could be used to buy back (redeem) items that had been sold because of poverty (Lev. 25:2526). Most important, a slave could be redeemed (Lev. 25:47-49). First Peter informs readers that the cost of buying them back (redeeming) from their “futile ways inherited from your fathers” (1 Pet. 1:18, RSV) was nothing less than the “precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish” (1 Pet. 1:19). The lamb image, of course, evokes the concept of animal sacrifice.

Peter thus likens Christ’s death to that of a sacrificial animal in the Hebrew Bible. A sinner brought a sheep without blemish to the sanctuary. The sinner then laid his hands on the animal (Lev. 4:3233). The animal was slaughtered, and some of its blood was smeared on the altar; the rest was poured at the base (Lev. 4:34). The death of the sacrificial animal provided “atonement” for the one who offered the sacrifice (Lev. 4:35). Peter is saying that Jesus died in our place and that His death redeemed us from our former lives and the doom that would otherwise be ours. The substitute sacrifice showed the Old Testament believer that he was utterly dependent on the Messiah to come for salvation.

The Passion of Christ

Christians often talk about “the passion of Christ.” The word passion … usually refers to what Jesus suffered in the final period of His life, beginning with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Peter, too, dwells on the theme of Christ’s suffering in those last days.

1 Peter 2:21-25 remind us what Jesus suffered on our behalf. There is particular significance to the suffering of Jesus. He bore “our sins in His own body on the tree [a reference to the cross; compare with Acts 5:30], that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24, NKJV). Sin brings death (Rom. 5:12). As sinners, we deserve to die. Yet, the perfect Jesus-who had no guile on His lips (1 Pet. 2:22)-died in our place. In that exchange, we have the plan of salvation.

Isaiah 53:1-12 predicted that Jesus would suffer as He worked out the plan of salvation in our behalf. What does this tell us about the character of God?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Christ's Sacrifice, Conditional Immortality, Forgiveness, Gospel, Jesus, Salvation, Saved By Grace, Trinity

But Go, Tell Peter

But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee.   There you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16:7, NIV

Oh, the gentleness of Jesus! On that Easter morning, just risen from the dead, He sends an angel to speak to Mary Magdalene and the other women who have come to the tomb. And as the angel tell them the good news of the resurrection, he singles out Peter. Tell the disciples, he said, and make sure you tell Peter, also.

On the fateful Friday morning when Jesus stood in the judgment hall, Peter failed the test.   He capitulated before the words of a servant girl; he shrank in the face of questions about his relationship to the Master. With oaths and coarse language Peter denied his Lord. He forfeited his right to a place among the apostles, let along his accustomed role as leader.

But Jesus turned and looked at Peter. He looked not in condemnation but in sorrow, not in anger but in love. That look melted Peter’s heart. He rushed from the high priest’s courtyard and into the night with bitter tears.

The Sabbath that followed must have been the bleakest of Peter’s life. Jesus was dead. His hopes for an earthly kingdom lay in ruins. His self-confidence was shattered. The other disciples mistrusted him.

We are Peter. We have abandoned Jesus in His hour of need.   We have capitulated before the mocking crowd. We have denied the Lord we profess.

But Jesus looks at us in sorrow and love. That love melts our heart, and we want to run out into the night. We wonder what lies ahead, search for a glimmer of hope.

Then Jesus sends the word to us. He calls us by name, includes us in the good news He gives other humanity. “Tell Peter,” He says.

“Tell Tom, Dick and Harry; tell Mary, Martha and Jane. Tell them that I am alive forevermore and do not hold their sins against them. Tell them that I am the Lord of new hope and new starts. Tell them that they can have a second chance – that although they abandoned Me, I will never abandon them.”

Gently, lovingly Jesus calls us back to Himself. Gently, lovingly He leads us over th

e same ground so that we may learn to lean on His mighty arm and, leaning, overcome.

          Jesus, call my name today!

by William G Johnsson – from “Jesus”

https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Heart-William-G-Johnsson/dp/0828019886

 

 

Posted in Election, Forgiveness, Gospel, Jesus, The Resurrection

GOD WITH US

What do I believe about Jesus? Matthew in his Gospel (1:20-23)  says, “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).”

Two observations for me from that text is that “he will save his people from their sins”, and he can do so because in reality he is “God with us.”

We don’t know the day Jesus was born,  varying dates were considered by the church fathers, but eventually they settled on the 25th December in the West, with “Western Christians first celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25 in 336, after Emperor Constantine had declared Christianity the empire’s favoured religion.” But how easy it is to lose sight of the original intention of Christmas and to get caught up in the glitter and tinsel and all the self-interest that accompanies Christmas, and to forget the purpose of the Incarnation, that he had come to save his people from their sins, and he can do that because he is, “God with us.”

In Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2: 8-11) we read, 8 “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” The King James Version describes him as, ‘Christ the Lord’.

That is how the Bible presents Jesus. In “1 Corinthians 8:6 we read, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” Whatever can be said of the Father can be said of Jesus.

In John’s Gospel (1:1-18)  we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

And in a letter to the Philippians (2:5-11)  the Apostle Paul expresses more fully the purpose of the divine visit to our world when he says:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

In my previous post,  I said there was “a subject dear to my heart, that of the Deity of Jesus. Having come from a direction in life where I treated God with indifference, and even at times with hostility, and ignoring the graciousness of God as described by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-11. I consider that my attitude was really a truly treasonable posture, a creature’s total disrespect and indifference towards his Creator. . . I have become very sensitive of any suggestion that Jesus Christ is anything less than the Creator, and would always want to say with Thomas, “my Lord and my God,” John 20:28.”

But that is what I read so frequently. It is in the Philippians text that we are informed the God the Son voluntarily became one of us to show Adam need not have sinned in his place of paradise while Jesus resisted temptations in the hostile wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).  Instead he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” There is nothing in Scripture that suggests the subordination among the Trinity, except in Christ’s role as our Saviour coming to planet Earth as both God and Man, to provide the bridge for fallen humankind to come back to God. The Bible says “The Word was God,” and “the Word became flesh” (John 1:1,14). When Jesus became one of us “It was not that he gave up what he was but became what he was not” (John Owen).

In all my reading since my last post, I have read quite extensively on the subject of the deity of Jesus, and I find John Stott’s book Basic Christianity to be one of the most succinct explanations of who Jesus Christ is and the reason for his incarnation. The Amazon review section on that promotion is mostly 5 star, and deservedly so. Millions of this little book has been sold and is well worth the read.

There seems to be such an avalanche of anti-Trinitarianism on the Internet to confuse readers that I see this little book as one of the best to ‘un-confuse’. No Christian objects to the existence and status of God referred to as the Father, but for many the Holy Spirit is merely an expression of the Father and Jesus the Son as Someone brought into existence at some time in eternity by the Father, and is and always was subordinate to the Father. For the Trinitarian this demeans not just the action of Christ on our behalf but demeans our understanding of the Trinity in their distinct roles in the saving of fallen humankind.

Not that we can know everything about the Trinity as we might like; to know everything about God would make us God. Instead, as the very good article on the BBC website makes clear.  We cannot know all we want to know about God, but we can just humbly accept we are his creatures (Colossians 1:16).

For me, A. R. Torrey  expresses well my understanding on the Deity of Jesus it is where I feel comfortable. When Jesus was born into this world he was as the angel announced, “God with us.”

Posted in Christ's Sacrifice, Gospel, Incarnation, Jesus, Salvation, The Gospel, Trinity