We Do Not Sever the Man from the Godhead

Gregory-NaziazenGregory Nazianzus, in writing to Cledonius regarding the Apollinarian controversy in the mid fourth-century, beautifully states the orthodox theology of Jesus Christ:

 For we do not sever the Man from the Godhead, but we lay down as a dogma the Unity and Identity of Person,

Who of old was not Man but God,

and the Only Son before all ages,

unmingled with body or anything corporeal;

but Who in these last days has assumed Manhood also for our salvation;

passible (able to suffer) in His Flesh, impassible in His Godhead;

circumscript (limited) in the body, uncircumscript in the Spirit;

at once earthly and heavenly, tangible and intangible, comprehensible and incomprehensible; that by One and the Same Person, Who was perfect Man and also God, the entire humanity fallen through sin might be created anew.

I’m grateful for the ancient heresies that arose to challenge the Church. It was in the heat of theological battle over the identity of Jesus our Christ that precise, life-giving definition was given and set in stone. We twenty-first century folks are in deep debt to the work of our forefathers in the faith.

Praise Christ!

-Justin

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. – Jesus

Since I’m a novice in Koine Greek, I wouldn’t yet try my own posts concerning exegesis of the original New Testament, but I can recognize a home-run when I see it. Enjoy (great blog over at treyjasso.com).

Seeking Understanding

This is a popular text that I believe is a great starting point in the discussion of God’s effectual work. It is in the Gospel of John 6:44.

I was talking about this verse with someone last night. And I pointed to this verse to help this person understand why I held the view that man has no ability to come to God on his own. That is another way of saying that man possesses an “inability”. The person challenged my understanding of the verse so now I would respond at length to demonstrate that if you want to hold to a view of Prevenient Grace or that all humanity possess an ability, this isn’t the place to look.

First we look at this in the Greek: John 6:44  οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐλθεῖν πρός με ἐὰν μὴ ὁ πατὴρ ὁ πέμψας με ἑλκύσῃ 
αὐτόν,κἀγὼἀναστήσω αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. 

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Why did the Word Appear in (Nasty) Human Flesh? Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius (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 sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far.

(The Greek mindset of the ancient world thought it impossible that God would ever do something so disgusting as taking on human flesh. They had a corresponding protest against the resurrection of the dead. You could see they might have had some difficulty swallowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ!)

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Don’t you think it was kind of… unworthy of the Word of God to become a lowly, gross human man? Why not something greater, like the sun, moon, or stars?

Well,

The answer is this. The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not [reducing] the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.

Moreover, nothing in creation had erred from the path of God’s purpose for it, save only man. Sun, moon, heaven, stars, water, air, none of these had swerved from their order, but, knowing the Word as their Maker and their King, remained as they were made.

Men alone having rejected what is good, have invented nothings instead of the truth, and have ascribed the honor due to God and the knowledge concerning Him to demons and men in the form of stones. Obviously the Divine goodness could not overlook so grave a matter as this. But men could not recognize Him as ordering and ruling creation as a whole. So what does He do? He takes to Himself for instrument a part of the whole, namely a human body, and enters into that. Thus He ensured that men should recognize Him in the part who could not do so in the whole, and that those who could not lift their eyes to His unseen power might recognize and behold Him in the likeness of themselves.

For, being men, they would naturally learn to know His Father more quickly and directly by means of a body that corresponded to their own and by the Divine works done through it; for by comparing His works with their own they would judge His to be not human but Divine. And if, as they say, it were unsuitable for the Word to reveal Himself through bodily acts, it would be equally so for Him to do so through the works of the universe. His being in creation does not mean that He shares its nature; on the contrary, all created things partake of His power.

Similarly, though He used the body as His instrument, He shared nothing of its defect, but rather sanctified it by His indwelling. Does not even Plato, of whom the Greeks think so much, say that the Author of the Universe, seeing it storm-tossed and in danger of sinking into the state of dissolution, takes his seat at the helm of the Life-force of the universe, and comes to the rescue and puts everything right? What, then, is there incredible in our saying that, mankind having gone astray, the Word descended upon it and was manifest as man, so that by His intrinsic goodness and His steersmanship He might save it from the storm?

That was Greco-Roman wrestling right there, and our Uncle just pinned Plato for the count.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

 

 

 

Grace Active: Valley of Vision Prayer

Sometimes I have trouble praying as I ought – but often I turn to the Valley of Vision for help in getting my engine started. One of Christianity’s greatest books from the past 2,000 years, VoV would be my second book choice if stranded on a desert island, right after the Bible, and right before The Existence and Attributes of God by Stephen Charnock. Oh, those Puritans.

Pretty ValleyI provide these prayers most Sundays for those of us who are weak in prayer, and who need help in devotion. Today’s prayer is a simple, childlike request for more grace for all the tricky parts of the Christian life. Please pray this with me.

Lord Jesus, great high priest, Thou hast opened a new and living way by which a fallen creature can approach Thee with acceptance.

Help me to contemplate the dignity of Thy Person, the perfectness of Thy sacrifice, the effectiveness of Thy intercession.

O what blessedness accompanies devotion, when under all the trials that weary me, the cares that corrode me, the fears that disturb me, the infirmities that oppress me, I can come to Thee in my need and feel peace beyond understanding!

The grace that restores is necessary to preserve, lead, guard, supply, help me.  And here Thy saints encourage my hope; they were once poor and are now rich, bound and are now free, tried and now are victorious.

Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess, but not more than is found in Thee, the divine treasury in whom all fullness dwells.  To Thee I repair for grace upon grace, until every void made by sin be replenished and I am filled with all Thy fullness.

May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened, that I may honour Thee by my entire dependency and the greatness of my expectation.

Do Thou be with me, and prepare me for all the smiles of prosperity, the frowns of adversity, the losses of substance, the death of friends, the days of darkness, the changes of life, and the last great change of all. May I find thy grace sufficient for all my needs.

Amen.

Thanks for praying with me,

-Justin

Jesus Claims to be God: Prophesy Fridays

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy (that’s sarcasm, folks), so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your life.

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

…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.

Picking on Poor Old Mark

One of the more intense opponents of Christianity is Bart Ehrman, a prolific author and scholar of the Bible. Ehrman works tirelessly to disabuse Christians of the notion that the Bible is a reliable historical record of anything that actually happened in first-century Palestine. In his critique of the four Gospels, Ehrman (along with the majority of modern scholarship) notes that the Gospel of Mark appears to be the earliest of the four. A part of this conclusion is the “underdeveloped” Christology of Mark – in other words, Mark sees a rather plain, human Jesus. Mark’s Jesus, according to Ehrman, is a man, nothing more, and perhaps had some extraordinary signs surrounding his ministry, but by the time the Gospel of John is written decades later, the plain-Jane Jesus of Mark has been morphed into a God.

For Ehrman and his ilk, the true Jesus was more like the one found in Mark than anywhere else. I have even watched as Muslim critics of Christianity have begun to take up Ehrman’s arguments against the historicity of the Gospels on this very basis.

shabir allyShabir Ally, a gentleman from Canada, in debating against Dr. James White, used Ehrman’s theory of a developing Christology from Mark through John to try and debunk any true witness to Jesus’ deity in the Gospel accounts. Never mind that if Shabir and the modern Muslim apologists used the same exact critical tools against the Quran, that it would be even more so than the Bible vulnerable to being debunked… but that’s another story.

So, are they right? Does Mark present the more authentic Jesus? I mean, being authentic is the greatest virtue of our age, and being a fake the worst sin, right?

Jesus Sets the Record Straight

Without delving into a major critical response to Ehrman/Ally, I must say that their thesis is empty. Even if we allow that Mark is the earliest account of Jesus’ life and ministry, there is no less the deity of Christ here than in the other two synoptic Gospels.

Let me give you one clear example (among many) of the witness of Jesus’ deity in Mark, and then a clear fulfillment of a key prophetic picture from the Old Testament (because it is Prophesy Friday after all).

A Clear Example of Jesus’ Godhood

A paralytic guy needed to be healed, and he knew Jesus could do it. His friends brought him out to see Jesus, but instead of just *shazam* healing the man, Jesus says “Son, your sins are forgiven you” (Mark 2:5b NKJV).

Now, the folks in the house knew exactly what kind of claim that was, “and some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?'” (Mark 2:6-7).

Got it? Every Jew knows that only God forgives sins.

Also, note that the scribes were reasoning in their hearts – not out loud. Watch this.

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic,“I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:8-12)

Jesus did not shy away from the claim to be God in flesh. He proved it.

Jesus Claims to be Fulfilling Prophecy

He isn’t done. A few years and 12 chapters later, the high priest is interrogating Jesus, who has been arrested and is facing charges of.. blasphemy. So he snarls at Jesus “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:61b).Trial

He doesn’t really think it possible that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) – it’s a question meant to lead to execution. The answer, however, is not that of an intimidated man. He isn’t scared of death, or the authority of the high priest.

Jesus said, “I am…”

Step 1: use the designation that belongs to God alone. Exodus 3:14.

“…and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power,”

Step 2: claim to be the divine figure from Psalm 110:1 who has the rightful place of authority at the right hand of God.

“…and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Step 3: claim to be the figure from Daniel 7:13-14 who inherits the universe as His own creation and right. Claim to be the Son of Man who was prophesied over 500 years before – the One who stands above the creation as its Master. Jesus was not afraid to die for the truth.

-Cue the wrath of the little inquisitor-

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?”

And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.

Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands (Mark 14:63-65).

Now that is a Man who knows His identity. He is not trembling before the opinions of His enemies. He has no hesitation to claim the divine rights He has always owned, from all eternity. He has no problem claiming that the Bible is all about Himself. Do you know Him?

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Even the Idolatrous Egyptians are Being Converted! Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

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 sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far.

 

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

You live(d) in Egypt, right?

Yes, kids, and the sunsets in Alexandria were glorious.

OK… well we were wondering, dear Uncle: what message finally got through to the Egyptian people to turn their hearts and minds away from the false gods of their ancestors?

Well…

Does Scripture tell of anyone who was pierced in hands and feet or hung upon a tree at all, and by means of a cross perfected his sacrifice for the salvation of all? It was not Abraham, for he died in his bed, as did also Isaac and Jacob. Moses and Aaron died in the mountain, and David ended his days in his house, without anybody having plotted against him. Certainly he had been sought by Saul, but he was preserved unharmed.

Again Isaiah was sawn asunder, but he was not hung on a tree. Jeremiah was shamefully used, but he did not die under condemnation. Ezekiel suffered, but he did so, not on behalf of the people, but only to signify to them what was going to happen. Moreover, all these even when they suffered were but men, like other men; but He Whom the Scriptures declare to suffer on behalf of all is called not merely man but Life of all, although in point of fact He did share our human nature.

“You shall see your Life hanging before your eyes,”

they say, and

“Who shall declare of what lineage He comes?”

With all the saints we can trace their descent from the beginning, and see exactly how each came to be; but the Divine Word maintains that we cannot declare the lineage of Him Who is the Life. Who is it, then, of Whom Holy Writ (Scripture) thus speaks? Who is there so great that even the prophets foretell of Him such mighty things? There is indeed no one in the Scriptures at all, save the common Savior of all, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. He it is that proceeded from a virgin, and appeared as man on earth, He it is Whose earthly lineage cannot be declared, because He alone derives His body from no human father, but from a virgin alone.

We can trace the paternal descent of David and Moses and of all the patriarchs. But with the Savior we cannot do so, for it was He Himself Who caused the star to announce His bodily birth, and it was fitting that the Word, when He came down from heaven, should have His sign in heaven too, and fitting that the King of creation on His coming forth should be visibly recognized by all the world.

He was actually born in Judea, yet men from Persia came to worship Him. He it is Who won victory from His demon foes and trophies from the idolaters even before His bodily appearing—namely, all the heathen who from every region have abjured the tradition of their fathers and the false worship of idols and are now placing their hope in Christ and transferring their allegiance to Him.

The thing is happening before our very eyes, here in Egypt; and thereby another prophecy is fulfilled, for at no other time have the Egyptians ceased from their false worship save when the Lord of all, riding as on a cloud, came down here in the body and brought the error of idols to nothing, and won over everybody to Himself and through Himself to the Father.

He it is Who was crucified with the sun and moon as witnesses; and by His death salvation has come to all men, and all creation has been redeemed. He is the Life of all, and He it is Who like a sheep gave up His own body to death, His life for ours and our salvation.

Ancient gospel, ancient Savior, same gospel for us, same Savior who saves Egyptians also saves all… The universal Word of Life!

My favorite uncle.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Spurgeon Quotation on Sanctification in Psalm 119

SpurgeonFrom Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Treasury of David (his commentaries on the Psalms). Here we meditate upon the relationship between the Christian and his sinful flesh.

Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to obey the Lord even though you have a new mind, a new heart filled with the Holy Spirit? We need to pray for the very thing we might think is automatically going to happen for us when we are born again. Let’s see what Spurgeon wrote on Psalm 119:36:

Incline my heart unto thy testimonies…”

Does not this prayer appear to be superfluous, since it is evident that the Psalmist’s heart was set upon obedience? We are sure that there is never a word to spare in Scripture. After asking for active virtue it was meet that the man of God should beg that his heart might be in all that he did. What would his goings be if his heart did not go? It may be that David felt a wandering desire, an inordinate leaning of his soul to worldly gain, — possibly it even intruded into his most devout meditations, and at once he cried out for more grace.

The only way to cure a wrong leaning is to have the soul bent in the opposite direction. Holiness of heart is the cure for covetousness. What a blessing it is that we may ask the Lord even for an inclination. Our wills are free, and yet without violating their liberty, grace can incline us in the right direction. This can be done by enlightening the understanding as to the excellence of obedience, by strengthening our habits of virtue, by giving us an experience of the sweetness of piety, and by many other ways.

If any one duty is irksome to us it behooves us to offer this player with special reference thereto: we are to love all the Lord’s testimonies, and if we fail in any one point we must pay double attention to it. The learning of the heart is the way in which the life will lean: hence the force of the petition, “Incline my heart.” Happy shall we be when we feel habitually inclined to all that is good. This is not the way in which a carnal heart ever leans; all its inclinations are in opposition to the divine testimonies.

And not to covetousness.”

This is the inclination of nature, and grace must put a negative upon it.

This vice is as injurious as it is common; it is as mean as it is miserable.

It is idolatry, and so it dethrones God;

it is selfishness, and so it is cruel to all in its power;

it is sordid greed, and so it would sell the Lord himself for pieces of silver.

It is a degrading, grovelling, hardening, deadening sin, which withers everything around it that is lovely and Christlike.

He who is covetous is of the race of Judas, and will in all probability turn out to be himself a son of perdition. The crime of covetousness is common, but very few will confess it; for when a man heaps up gold in his heart, the dust of it blows into his eyes, and he cannot see his own fault.

Our hearts must have some object of desire, and the only way to keep out worldly gain is to put in its place the testimonies of the Lord. If we are inclined or bent one way, we shall be turned from the other: the negative virtue is most surely attained by making sure of the positive grace which inevitably produces it.

Maybe something here will help you be motivated in prayer and holiness. I need these meditations far more often than I make them.

Grace in Christ,

-Justin