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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Land, Seed, and Blessing in the Abrahamic Covenant | Main | Studies in John (Lesson 1: Introduction and Prologue) »

    A Brief Meditation on the Christ-Centeredness of Everything

    Christ is not only the hero and central figure of the sacred scriptures, both Old and New Testaments: he is also the very sum and substance of all history and reality. Which is an assertion that demands a little more clarification and substantiation, as follows:

    1. Christ is the sum and substance of all history

    History is neither a random process of chance occurrences (as the modern secularist would hold), nor a series of Divine responses to exigencies created by man’s free will (as the Arminian believes). On the contrary, it was planned out exactly and minutely before time began. God is a God who ever “works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11); moreover, he is a God unto whom were already “known all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). Which is just to say that, from the beginning of the world, God knew his every work, and had laid out his minutely designed plan; and then he sovereignly and unerringly worked it all out to perfection.

    And what was the heart and essence of this eternal and immutable will of God? In a word, the sacrifice and triumph of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. He was not just slain in time; he was, in the divine decree, “slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Then, “in the fullness of times” (Galatians 4:4), the rulers of this earth were gathered together to do nothing but what God’s hand and God’s counsel “determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27-28); which is just that Christ should be crucified, as God had planned from the beginning. The crucifixion of Christ, then, was in the eternal decree of God the very pinnacle and crowning moment of all history; and, in fact, that for which history was designed.

    This plan was not only fore-determined by God the Father; but its accomplishment was also solemnly undertaken by the Son, in an inter-triune covenant, made before all creation. For it was then that the Father said to Christ our Savior, “ask of me, and I shall give you the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession” (Psalm 2:8). And, in keeping with the eternal covenant, Christ came down in history, and accomplished all that the Father had designed; in accordance with which, just before his final, perfect self-sacrifice, he prayed to the Father, “I have glorified you on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do. And now, O Father, glorify me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world was. I have manifested your name unto the men which you gave me out of the world: they were yours, and you gave them to me; and they have kept your word” (John 17:4-6).

    So then, the cross of Christ was the pinnacle of the ages, that for which all of history was planned, and for the accomplishment of which, Christ entered into an eternal covenant with the Father. This climactic achievement of the world was accomplished in human time, when Christ came down to live a perfect life, and offer himself up as a substitutionary sacrifice for those whom the Father had covenanted to give to him, in exchange for his marvelous work of grace. In this actual event, which was confirmed, finalized, and crowned by his victorious resurrection from the dead and his ascension to the right hand of the Father, Christ fulfilled the Father’s perfect law (Hebrews 5:8-9); redeemed those for whom he came (Galatians 4:4-5); triumphed over the Serpent (Colossians 2:15; Romans 16:20), in accordance with the first prophetic promise of grace given to fallen mankind (Genesis 3:15); and finally conquered every evil effect of the curse, even its most hideous and universal offspring, Death (I Corinthians 15:25-26). And what was the ultimate purpose of this history-climaxing event, with its monumental and victorious results? It was so that Christ might be worshiped by every tongue, that every knee might bow to him (Philippians 2:5-11), that he might lead his children in victory (Ephesians 4:8), and rule over his enemies with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9). In sum, it was so that, “in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth” (Ephesians 1:10); and so that, “in all things he might have the preeminence…in him should all fulness dwell” (Colossians 1:18-19). In conclusion, there is no person, event, or activity in all of history, however insignificant, that does not find its true meaning and purpose only in relationship to Christ’s great work on the cross.

    2. Christ is the sum and substance of all reality

    Not only is Christ the sum and substance of all history, as we have certainly demonstrated; more than that, he is the sum and substance of all reality. For first of all, it was only through Christ that anything was created in the first place (John 1:1-3); and then, it is only by Christ, that all things continue to have subsistence, to stay in existence from moment to moment (Colossians 1:17). Not only this, but all things were made for his pleasure and his glory (Revelation 4:11, Isaiah 43:7); and all things were made to be put under his feet (Ephesians 1:22-23), to be governed by his rod (Psalm 2:9). But we have already touched on that, and so we move on to our final point, that

    3. The new creation, redeemed by Christ, will be the culmination of history and the perfection of reality

    It would be a myopic and self-centered point of view to see the effects of Christ’s great redemptive work extended only to us, when the very greatness of the Redeemer demands that they be universal and infinite. And that is indeed the scriptural witness, which sees Christ’s redemptive work extended to all creation, utterly overturning every evil effect of sin and the fall, trampling on that old Deceiver, the Serpent, and turning all of this curse-bearing creation into a joyously good and fruitful world once again. This is what creation itself is groaning for (Romans 8:19-22); and this is where creation is certainly headed. That blessed prophet Isaiah sees the mighty effects of Christ, the suffering servant of Israel, swelling and growing up until the entire earth is newly created again in perfection and fruitfulness (Isaiah 65:17-25). And so, not merely the redemption of mankind, but the redemption of all creation, is the final result of Christ’s glorious accomplishment. The goal of history is wrapped up in the universal glorification of Christ, for his climactic work on the cross.

    This new creation will be truly perfect. It will be everything that paradise was originally, and more: for Christ, our second Adam, regained far more than what our first Adam lost (Romans 5:16-21). In this new creation will be nothing associated with sin and its effects: there will be no sorrow, no tears, no sickness, no death, no curse, no darkness – but only ever-increasing worship, joyful adoration, and unending service to the One in whom the very purpose of history resides, Christ the triumphant Lamb (Revelation 21:1-5)!

    So then, we have noted that Christ is the sum and substance of history; and the new creation will be the final, flawless consummation of history. Christ is the sum and substance of all reality; and the new creation will be the very perfection of universal reality. The new creation, then, is the final display of the victory and majesty and glory of our great God and Redeemer, Jesus Christ! Let us meditate long upon this blessed consummation, the likes of which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard” (I Corinthians 2:9). For as we look upon these unseen things, which do testify and proclaim to us Christ, whom, “having not seen, we love” (I Peter 1:8), only then will our inner man be renewed day by day (I Corinthians 4:16-18), until we find ourselves perfectly redeemed, to the glory of our Savior, in our final resting place, the heavenly kingdom of Christ.

    Posted by Nathan on December 2, 2006 11:55 AM

    Comments

    WOW

    HOLY HOLY HOLY
    LORD GOD ALMIGHTY
    WHO WAS
    WHO IS
    WHO IS TO COME!!!

    Joh 12:28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."
    Joh 12:29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
    Joh 12:30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine.
    Joh 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.
    Joh 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

    Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
    Rev 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,
    Rev 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
    Rev 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
    Rev 22:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

    michael

    AMEN!...and what Michael said too...How could I add more than that...
    ~Terri

    Good piece, and beautifully states why our hope cannot be anywhere else.

    Just one small quibble...

    When you say Christ is the "substance of all reality" you have to be careful. Reformed thought makes a clear distinction between the Creator and the creation. So that Christ is the sustaining force or power behind the creation (the point your making), yet He is seperate from it and distinguished as the Creator. This simply helps us from falling into a pantheistic view of creation. Again a quibble, but worth noting.

    Understanding that redemption is the purpose of the Bible. And Jesus Christ is the story of the
    Bible. I have yet to understand the purpose of thinking that every verse in the Old Testament is
    about Jesus Christ.

    Are we finding it impossible to approach the O.T. teaching without imposing our N.T.understanding on Old Testament?

    Are we imposing regeneration of the New Testament back on the Old Treatment?

    When we are teaching in the Book of Jonah, did Jonah go to Nineveh and PREACH Jesus Christ?

    The recorded sermon Jonah preached was 3:4 "and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown, so the people of Nineveh believed God...."

    Are we putting Jesus Christ in these verses?

    Yes, we are today in our message to preach Jesus Christ. And yes, Old Testament saints had to
    be regenerated in order to be saved. But what did Jonah preached? Where do you find "Jesus
    Christ" in the text in Jonah?

    Charles

    Charles,

    The extent to which the Old Testament saints understood the truths about Jesus Christ varied, and were probably always less than the understanding we have today. But I would make the following points:

    1. The story of Jonah was a sign which pointed to Christ (see Mat. 12:39-40, as well as Mat. 16:4, Luke 11:29-30). What better sign could be given than a prophet who was cast out, as it were, to death, for the sake of those he was with, who spent three days as good as dead, and after his miraculous deliverance, typical of a true resurrection, proclaimed the news of God's judgment to the nations, and saw even the Gentiles repent and find mercy. No matter how much Jonah or the Ninevites understood it, his life was, as Christ made clear, sovereignly designed to be a type of Christ.

    2. Not only Jonah, but all the Old Testament scriptures point to Christ, as Jesus himself clearly teaches, in John 5:39, and Luke 24:25-27.

    3. Before any of the Old Testament scriptures had been written, the OT saints had a clear promise of the coming of Christ, who would deliver them and destroy the serpent, and a symbolic representation of his substitutionary death in the sacrificial system (Genesis 3:15, Gen. 4:4) -- so they had at least the basis for a Christ-centered hermeneutic of their sacred writings.

    4. Christ clearly testified that at least one Old Testament saint, Abraham, "Saw my day, and was glad" (John 8:56).

    5. The clear example of the NT authors, as they used OT scriptures, was that they understood them as being written specifically to teach of Christ (see Acts 15:12-19, Hebrews 9:1-5, Romans 9:25-27; 10:5-9, and many, many more).

    So yes, I believe our great fault is not that we stretch too far to find Christ in every verse, but that we are not Christ-centered enough in our understanding of the OT scriptures.

    Nathan

    Natan

    I understand looking back into the Old Testament that much of the text is about the coming of Christ as our Saviour. But would you say much of the cross was a mystery to those in the Old Testament Saints?

    God does save by His grace. But was it necessary for those in the Old Testment as those in Jonah's day to believe in the Cross as we do today? Was not their belief in the wrath of God and there was need of repentance.

    Doesn't Jonah also show that God reached passed Israel and reached into the nations of the world to same some from every nation.

    Isn't there other messages that God wanted us today to know in the Old Testment.

    Charles

    Charles,

    "Would you say that much of the cross was a mystery to those in the Old Testament Saints?"

    Yes, to a certain degree. I Peter 1:10-12 indicates that even the OT prophets knew less of the things of Christ than we for whom they prophesied. Romans 16:25-26 speaks of the truths of Christ as hidden before now, but now revealed through the OT -- so yes, to a degree, the truths about Christ that the OT teaches were not always known as fully as they are now.

    However, I think that the basic truth of a coming Messiah, born of the woman's seed, who would die a substitutionary death amd rise again was understood from the beginning. Gen. 3:15 plus the clothing of animal skins and divine institution of the sacrificial system taught that much even as early as Adam. And I think that Abel showed his faith in the sub. sac. of Messiah in his blood sacrifice (unlike Cain). Then, proceeding: Enoch seemed to prophesy explicitly (although not in nearly as much detail as later prophets) of the coming of Christ (Jude 14-15). Job, perhaps the earliest writer of scripture, expressed his faith that his "Redeemer lives, and will stand on the latter days upon the earth." Abraham, as I mentioned, saw the day of Christ. Moses taught the basic truths of the gospel, through passover, the sacrifices, etc. In fact, Paul says that Moses preached the same gospel he preached, that, "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, etc." Romans 10:5-13. David spoke, self-consciously, of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:23-32). So, while they knew much less, and few specifics, the OT saints believed in the coming death and resurrection of the Messiah. Faith, not as an abstraction, but in Christ, has always been, and always will be, the means of justification.

    Yes, Jonah may have had some different themes and emphases -- but not a single one of them, nor a single message or emphasis in any of the OT scriptures, can be rightly understood if it is divorced from God's over-arching plan of redemption in Christ. And I don't think the Ninevites are an example of being truly regenerated, justified, etc., on the basis of a message of wrath and repentance alone. I think that, because of their repentance, God withheld the imminent, physical judgment he promised, but that stops short of saying they were justified and eternally saved. I think they may serve as typical examples of the benefits of redemption spreading to the nations (as were the Sidonian widow in Elijah's day, and Naaman the leper in Elisha's). But as types, I don't think they were actually regenerate. But if they were, I am certain that it could only have been because of a faith in Christ.

    For more discussion on the Christ-centered faith of OT saints, check out this article, by Robert Reymond (part of his excellent Systematic Theology).

    Thanks for the discussion. Blessings from the cross,
    Nathan

    Natan
    I must say the Ninevites account you gave was surprising. You see them as types rather than literally been regenerated? Very insightful. I will study more on this point.

    I would agree that the institute of the sacrifices was to be understood as a type as well.

    Every saved person becomes is saved in the same manner, I would agree, whether before the cross or after the cross. I would say that they knew the sacrifice would have to be by death. I guess we understand that the death would be by the means of the cross. Where as they may not have. ?

    Yet we read that those who are saved were named before the foundation of the world, and in eternity past. God saved them through the death of Christ on the Cross.

    Thus those saved in the Old Testment had to believe in a Redeemer.

    Thanks, Nathan

    Charles

    I could be wrong about the Ninevites. That's how I see it right now, but I could be persuaded otherwise if someone offered a good reason to the contrary. And I agree that the OT saints wouldn't have understood about the Roman cross as a method of execution -- but the substitutionary death they would have.

    Thanks again for the discussion.

    Nathan

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