Saturday, December 19, 2009

Five Points...of Christmas

...being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.

Philippians 2: 6,7
In these two verses Paul supplies a brief christology containing five nonnegotiable propositional statements. Think of it as the Christmas Story in its very essence. Leave out one of these truths and you will miss the gravity of the event in Bethlehem for which an ordinary manger was appropriated as the royal basinet for the King of kings.

First, He pre-existed His human conception and birth, or better, pre-subsisted, since, being God, His power to be came from His own essence as the Creator rather than from the dependence a created being has upon the Creator. The present participle conveys the eternal precedence of His being.

Secondly, as God in very essence, though He was rightfully entitled to every Divine privilege and prerogative, He did not cling to or grasp these entitlements when He humbled Himself as Paul describes in these verses.

Thirdly, He "made Himself of no reputation", or literally from the Greek text, He "emptied Himself," not of attributes or essence, but temporarily of His lofty position high above the heavens and the earth, and of His unapproachable splendor on His exalted throne. Instead, He lay as a helpless newborn in a feeding trough for animals as His family struggled to comply with an edict issued by a pagan dictator.

Fourthly, He "took upon Him the form of a servant." The extent of this servanthood is described in the rest of verse seven and in verse 8, stating that Jesus became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. The purpose of His being conceived as a human in the womb of His virgin human mother, so He could be born as a human infant, and grow up as a man, was so He would go to the cross and pay the sin-debt that we could not pay.

Finally, He "was made in the likeness of men." And this addition of the human nature to the fully Divine nature of God the Son, the eternal Logos, is permanent. Even after His crucifixion and resurrection Jesus Christ remains, for all eternity, the God-Man, fully Divine and fully human, a dual nature in one Person.

We might call them the Five Points of Christmas. If they are not the core of your Christmas celebration, then you are celebrating something other than Christmas.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Essential Evangelicalism

The state of Evangelicalism is the subject of Phil Johnson's blogpost yesterday. He compares the current character of the movement with Evangelicalism's foundational doctrines and finds that many of these truths have been vacated by a large number who claim the title. Many teachings which were previously considered essential and settled have increasingly been re-opened to negotiation by postmodernists who have commandeered the movement while others who might still hold technically to the historical essential truths have allowed themselves to be distracted by fads, trends, and PR concerns.

John MacArthur makes a similar case in chapter 7 of his book, The Truth War, pointing out that methodology and pragmatism have replaced theology and faithful proclamation of the truth in modern evangelicalism. On page 149 MacArthur says,

"The sad truth is that the larger part of the evangelical movement is already so badly compromised that sound doctrine has almost become a nonissue."

So neo-evangelicalism has both been infiltrated by those pretenders who deny the historical Scriptural truths of the faith and by those who deny that these truths can be affirmed with any certainty. In addition, there are those who are willing, when pressed, to acknowledge the validity of the foundational doctrines but are distracted by chasing the latest trend in pragmatic methodology, marketing, or showmanship. Still others fail to assert the truth out of fear that its bold proclamation will dishearten would-be "seekers".

Interestingly, the more wishy-washy and devoid of orthodoxy the mainstream denominations become, the more they continue to lose membership. But even were this not the case, gaining membership into an undefined organization which borrows a few labels but does not identify its core beliefs is not the goal of the Church. The Church must boldly proclaim and teach the truth. There will be those who accept and receive it, and there will be those who reject it. Let them at least have the opportunity to hear it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Substitute

Why would the Son of God, in anticipating the cross, state that He was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Matthew 26:38; also see Mark 14:34)? Why would the gospel writers describe Him as sorrowful, troubled, (Matt 26:37, Mark 14:33) and in such agony that "His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:44)?

There was no evil scheme that man could devise that could cause this response in Jesus; even though humanity would reveal its wickedness in full force on the day Christ was crucified, He feared no attack His enemies or this world could form against Him.

There is only one explanation for the agony and distress our Lord had concerning His mission and it is not the anticipation of any physical or mental distress men could inflict.

The reason for Christ's anguish was not that He would endure man's evil deeds, but that on the cross He would (and did) pay in full the sin-debt of believers by suffering, as our Substitute, the full measure of God's wrath and punishment for our sins. While the result was joyful the process was mournful, and it was the temporary separation from the Father which caused the Son to be distraught. It was the vicarious payment by the innocent Lamb of the sin--debt elect sinners could never have paid that caused His grief.

Those who deny that He went to the cross for the purpose of paying this debt deny the gospel.