Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius: How does the Salvation of Creation Tie in with Human Salvation?

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday, as we cozy up at the feet of Uncle Athanasius.

This post takes a glance at a little Athanasian eschatology, sometimes known as Christus Victor in today’s parlance. To put it briefly, this is the holistic view of salvation wherein not only are humans saved from God’s wrath and from corruption, but the entire world will be restored by the same act of reconciliation, through the cross of Christ. Check him out…

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Will the rest of the natural world be saved along with humankind? We see corruption everywhere.

Well,

You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body.

He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men.

We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.

There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.

Regenerating human beings ends up including a regeneration of our world. Picture it like God reaching down to scoop us up in His hands of grace, and because He grabbed so widely, He ends up grabbing the earth and cosmos too. All things to be reconciled to Jesus! (Compare Matthew 19:28, Colossians 1:19-20, and Revelation 21-22).

My favorite uncle.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 1, sec. 1, http://www.ccel.org.

Martin Luther on the Chief Doctrine of Christianity

Martin Luther (b. November 10, 1483 – d. February 18, 1546) was enlightened to the doctrine of justification when as an Augustinian friar he read Romans 1:17 by the light of the Holy Spirit:

For in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (NKJV).

This most precious truth gave him freedom from the condemnation of the Law of God, and also gave freedom to love God for the first time. Under a tormented conscience, Martin had been a frequent visitor to the confessional booth, but never seemed to be able to get true assurance that God had forgiven him (though he regarded private absolution highly). The day he found the gospel there in Romans 1:16-17, he was freed from the fear of condemnation and became the great hero of the Protestant Reformation – restoring light to the Bible for the peoples of Europe. (Yes, that was a simplified version)…

And so we thank God for this (very flawed) man, through whom the chief doctrine of the Christian life was restored to the Church. On this topic, Luther bluntly states

This is the true meaning of Christianity, that we are justified by faith in Christ, not by the works of the Law. This is the highest article of our faith, and if one should abandon it as the Jews do or pervert it like the papists, the church cannot stand nor can God maintain His glory, which consists in this, that He might be merciful and that He desires to pardon sins for His Son’s sake and to save. If this doctrine of justification is lost, the whole Christian doctrine is lost.

This doctrine can never be urged and taught enough. If this doctrine is overthrown or disappears, then all knowledge of the truth is lost at the same time. If this doctrine flourishes, then all good things flourish, religion, true worship, the glory of God, and the right knowledge of all conditions of life and of all things. [1]

So let us defend to our deaths the doctrine of God’s justification of sinners, based solely on the merits of Christ’s life, penal substitutionary death, and resurrection for our justification. By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, revealed in Scripture alone. That is our Reformation heritage.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

[1] Martin Luther quoted by Robert D. Preus in Luther and the Doctrine of Justification, Concordia Theological Quarterly, vol. 48, num. 1 (Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary, 1984), 1.

What do Lutherans Think of Roman Catholicism? Saturday Theovideo

Not that I am Lutheran, but I love hearing their perspective on theology (old Martin Luther was sort of the shining star of the Reformation).

Pastor Jonathan Fisk is a zealous young Lutheran pastor who uses his video blog Worldview Everlasting to impart loads of doctrinal wisdom, and to share his theological gold from his deep pockets of learning. Here he answers a Roman Catholic’s question about Romanism, and he sheds fresh light on the history, doctrine, and critical problems of that false religion.

The religion of Rome is the enemy of Christ Jesus and His gospel – and the Pope is an antichrist. Pastor Fisk explains it well:

What do you think? I think he did a great job making clear distinctions here, exposing some of the most heinous heresies of the Roman religion. I hope you’ve been helped by this.

Thanks for watching,

-Adam

Prophesy Fridays: Isaiah Sees the Atonement 740 Years Out

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy, so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your mental mouth.

Hot Peppers

Be sure to subscribe to the Citizen on the right side column to get an e-mail when a new post is published.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God. Isaiah wrote over 700 years before Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, but he wrote so clearly about Him that we might suspect old Isaiah had been the first time traveler.

How did he see Jesus so clearly from seven centuries before?

This is the signature of the divine Holy Spirit, guiding and carrying the authors of the biblical text, and should be more than enough “evidence” for each of us to bow the knee in repentance from sins, faith and trust in the magnificent, mighty Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s look at Isaiah 25:6-9, where the prophecy of the atonement is clear, glorious, and weighty.

What do you see, Isaiah?

I see…

On this mountain Yahweh Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples, (the body of Jesus upon which we feast at communion)
a banquet of aged wine— (the blood of Jesus which we drink in at communion)
the best of meats and the finest of wines. (there is no sacrifice and meal like His)
On this mountain he will destroy (Jerusalem = “this mountain” where Jesus died)
the shroud that enfolds all peoples, (spiritual darkness over the nations)
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever. (when the Son of God died for the sins of the world!)
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth. (reconciliation has been achieved in the body of Jesus for all peoples)
Yahweh has spoken. (it is as good as accomplished)

In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is Yahweh, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation” (NIV 1984). (and so it is – all these things have come to pass)

Do you see Him there? Do you see the Son of God in flesh, taking on the sins of the world, dying in your place? If you see Him, be baptized in His Name for the forgiveness of your sins, and rise to take the bread and wine of the communion supper with the rest of His people. We will be with Him in the New Jerusalem, beloved. Rejoice!

We’ve been peppered by the prophet.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

P.S. I recommend milk or bread for cooling a spicy, burning mouth.

Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius: Why is Repentance Not Enough to Save Us?

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday, as we cozy up at the feet of Uncle Athanasius.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Is repentance all it takes to be turned back from our corruption in sin, or was something more necessary?

Well,

As we have already noted, it was unthinkable that God, the Father of Truth, should go back upon His word regarding death in order to ensure our continued existence. He could not falsify Himself; what, then, was God to do? Was He to demand repentance from men for their transgression? You might say that that was worthy of God, and argue further that, as through the Transgression they became subject to corruption, so through repentance they might return to incorruption again. But repentance would not guard the Divine consistency, for, if death did not hold dominion over men, God would still remain untrue. Nor does repentance recall men from what is according to their nature; all that it does is to make them cease from sinning.

Had it been a case of a trespass only, and not of a subsequent corruption, repentance would have been well enough; but when once transgression had begun men came under the power of the corruption proper to their nature and were bereft of the grace which belonged to them as creatures in the Image of God. No, repentance could not meet the case.

What—or rather Who was it that was needed for such grace and such recall as we required? Who, save the Word of God Himself, Who also in the beginning had made all things out of nothing? His part it was, and His alone, both to bring again the corruptible to incorruption and to maintain for the Father His consistency of character with all. For He alone, being Word of the Father and above all, was in consequence both able to recreate all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be an ambassador for all with the Father.

My favorite uncle. Christologically delicious!

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 2, sec. 7, http://www.ccel.org.

Prophesy Fridays: Jesus Drops in on Samson’s Parents

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy, so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to blow your minds.

Peppers

Be sure to subscribe to the Citizen on the right side column to get an e-mail when a new post is published. Here we go… our first installment of Prophesy Fridays.

Are you willing to do a little trekking with me through the Bible? Our reward will be a stronger faith, a greater appreciation for God’s salvation come to us in Jesus.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Do we need any clearer statement about the point of prophecy? Away with endless speculations and craziness! If a prophecy is not drawing us to Jesus, and terminating with Him, it is false.

Manoah and his wife lived about 1,200 years before Jesus was born. The book of Judges was written at least 1,000 years before Jesus was born. Yet Jesus is standing so tall in chapter 13 you’d think you’d opened a children’s pop-up book. He’s just there, in all His pre-incarnate divine greatness. He is appearing here to solidify our faith in Him, and to claim His place as the central focus of the Bible. Let’s have a look.

Judges 13 (click the link and follow my summary of the narrative) – Manoah and his bride are living their little Hebrew lives in northern Israel. Nothing special about them… until the Angel of Yahweh drops her a visit in the field one day.

Yeah, the Bible is just like that. People are busy doing this and that – just like you and me – and God is just suddenly standing there in their path, telling them how it’s going to be from now on. He’s got the authority to “drop in” on us however He pleases, if you catch my drift.

Anyways, you’re maybe noticing that it says “Angel” of Yahweh – not “Son of God,” or “pre-incarnate Messiah.” True that – but let’s get out our Messiah-scope and look closer.

This “angel” (which means ‘messenger’) appears to Manoah’s wife, and tells her that she’s going to have a baby (no more barren womb). That baby will be Samson, the physically powerful judge of Israel and hammer of the Philistines. That aside, Mrs. Manoah goes home and tells her hubby all about it. Our first point of focus is how she describes the angel (messenger):

A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name… (Judges 13:6 ESV)

She’s not sure what His nature is, because she calls Him a “man,” yet describes Him as extra-ordinary, as “very awesome” (indeed!). Who is He? Just an angel? Well, Manoah is gung-ho to meet Him, so he prays to God that the man would appear again – and He again appears to the woman alone. Mrs. Manoah runs to get her husband, and they approach Him together… and Manoah asks Him

Are you the man who spoke to this woman? (v. 11)

And the angel-man replies… and get this:

I am.”

Hmm… OK – and so they discuss the birth and life of Samson, which is the purpose the angel-man has appeared to them in the first place. Yet something curious happens after their conversation about Samson, and it is a dead giveaway to the identity of this angel-man. Look:

 Manoah said to the angel of the Yahweh, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” (v. 15)

Standard Middle-Eastern hospitality, but the response is not normal:

“If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to Yahweh.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of Yahweh.) (v. 16)

This would be very poor behavior for someone to refuse such a kind, hospitable offer – Manoah is trying to show Him honor. This person/angel-man had to have been someone very mighty and important to have declined this invitation, and Manoah immediately picks up on this, and so he asks

“What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?”

We here in the West don’t understand the gravity of a question like this. In the culture they were in, and in many cultures like it today, to ask a stranger their name was to basically ask them to entrust themselves to you, and even to submit to you as an equal… but this angel-man was no equal to Manoah. No, He was much more than the man and his wife – and His reply gives it all away:

And the angel of Yahweh said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is Wonderful?”

“No, Manoah, I will not tell you My Name. I am above you in stature, and My Name is not for you to know.”

He is the Supreme! But look closer with me, and notice what the angel-man calls Himself:

Wonderful

Any other time an angel (when he is no more than a created angel) appears in the Bible, he has no problem revealing his name. But our Angel here in Judges 13 gives only a description of His Name. He is the only Wonderful one, and by now you should be thinking of Isaiah 9:6-7, written at least 300 years after Judges was written, where a very special advent prophecy is given:

6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of Yahweh of hosts will perform this. (NKJV)

The Hebrew word for “Wonderful” is the exact same one in both passages! It’s Jesus in Judges 13, appearing 1,200+ years before His incarnation in the womb of the virgin. Once He has answered Manoah with His title-name “Wonderful,” something else happens in order to clinch His identity for us:

19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to Yahweh, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of Yahweh went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.

21 The angel of Yahweh appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of Yahweh22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”

Now Manoah knew whom he had seen – Whom he had come face to face with, and Whom it was that he had dared ask a name. It had been God Himself, appearing in the form of an angel- man, giving prophecy to Samson’s parents, and exerting His divine right to veil His true identity.

For us, we look back on this unfolding of Christ Jesus through the Old Testament, and how in His advent He fulfilled these pictures and appearances of Himself. Yet there is a Day still future, when He will appear again, to judge the living and the dead. All will know His Name in that Day, some with joy and relief, many with fear and hopelessness.

The main point of these things is that He, our God and Creator, has entered into His own creation – into our human history, and has spoken with us. He even became like us and was born of a woman, sinless, and laid down His life as a sacrifice for the world of human sin. He rose from the dead, victorious over the grave, and He ascended into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of His Father, also God. He has sent His Holy Spirit into the world, who is also God, and who points us all back to Jesus – to have faith and trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins, and repentance from sin in His Name… His Wonderful Name. Repent of your sins, and recognize His sovereign power as your Creator and Judge, and the One who came into the world to forgive sinners, making them right in God’s sight.

Manoah saw Him, His disciples saw Him, and you will see Him. May you believe His truth and rejoice at His second coming…

He is the Messiah of promise, the Messenger of God, and God the Son. He is the pinnacle of the Bible, and the reason for all things that exist. He is worthy to be trusted, loved, and exalted.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin