Victory over the Corpus Peccati

Calvin copperThere is a victorious trajectory to the Apostle Paul’s words in Ro 6:6., “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Reading Calvin on this text recently was so heartening and union-with-Christ-centric:

“This old man, he says, is fastened to the cross of Christ, for by its power he is
slain: and he expressly referred to the cross, that he might more distinctly
show, that we cannot be otherwise put to death than by partaking of his
death. For I do not agree with those who think that he used the word
crucified, rather than dead, because he still lives, and is in some respects
vigorous. It is indeed a correct sentiment, but not suitable to this passage.
The body of sin, which he afterwards mentions, does not mean flesh and
bones, but the corrupted mass; for man, left to his own nature, is a mass
made up of sin.

He points out the end for which this destruction is effected, when he says,
so that we may no longer serve sin. It hence follows, that as long as we are
children of Adam, and nothing more than men, we are in bondage to sin,
that we can do nothing else but sin; but that being grafted in Christ, we are
delivered from this miserable thraldom; not that we immediately cease
entirely to sin, but that we become at last victorious in the contest” (Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. XIX, 224-25).

Ascension & Affections

As this Ascension Sunday approaches, my affections are raised.  I think two of the most precious, yet underserved teachings of the Bible are the transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36) and the ascension (Acts 1:6-11) of our dear and blessed Savior.  Here’s a little something to prepare your hearts for this Ascension Sunday.  Commenting on Jesus’ word to Mary in Jn 20:17, Calvin writes:

I ascend to my Father. By using the word ascend he confirms the doctrine which I have lately explained; that he rose from the dead, not for the purpose of remaining any longer on the earth, but that he might enter into the heavenly life, and might thus draw believers to heaven along with him.  In short, by this term he forbids the Apostles to fix their whole attention on his resurrection viewed simply in itself, but exhorts them to proceed farther, until they come to the spiritual kingdom, to the heavenly glory, to God himself.  There is great emphasis, therefore, in this word ascend; for Christ stretches out his hand to his disciples that they may not seek their happiness anywhere else than in heaven; for where our treasure is, there also must our heart be, (Matth. Vi. 21.)  Now, Christ declares, that he ascends on high; and, therefore, we must ascend, if we do not wish to be separated from him.

When he adds, that he ascends TO GOD, he quickly dispels the grief and anxiety which the Apostles might feel on account of his departure; for his meaning is, that he will always be present with his disciples by Divine power. True, the word ascend denotes the distance of places; but though Christ be absent in body, yet, as he is with God, his power, which is everywhere felt, plainly shows his spiritual presence; for why did he ascend to God, but in order that, being seated at God’s right hand, he might reign both in heaven and in earth? In short, by this expression he intended to impress on the minds of his disciples the Divine power of his kingdom, that they might not be grieved on account of his bodily absence.

Strong Doctrine of Grace, Sweet Doctrine of Baptism

I love the following from Hughes Oliphant Old’s The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Sixteenth Century (p. 139):

“At the very heart of the Protestant Reformation was the revival of Augustinian theology with its strong emphasis on the primacy of grace.  The Reformers believed that God took the initiative for humankind’s salvation.  In the light of such a strong doctrine of grace the baptism of infants was quite understandable.   In fact, the baptism of infants demonstrated very powerfully that our salvation rests not on any knowledge or work or experience or decision of our own, but entirely on the grace of God.”

Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ

As Summer fast approaches, I thought I would suggest a fat book to get you all the way through to Fall.  My dear friend and Professor of Systematic Theology, Dr. Robert Peterson, has done the Church a great service in his wonderful new book.  In his typical workmanlike, crystal clear, and deeply biblical method, he takes us through Jesus’ nine saving deeds: incarnation, sinless life, death, resurrection, ascension, session, Pentecost, intercession, and second coming.

This time of year, my affections are tuned for the doctrine of the ascension of Christ.  So, I would like to give you a taste of Dr. Peterson’s writing from his chapter on this much underserved doctrine:

The Ascension and Divine Reconciliation

Finally, the ascension takes to a new level the reconciliation of humanity and God.  After the fall in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were cast out of the intimate presence of God because of their rebellion.  Although we believe that God accepted them in the first promise of redemption (Gen. 3:15), the sweetest fellowship they enjoyed with him in Eden was a thing of the past.  While God continued to condescend to interact with his people, Israel, in the Old Testament, the closest relationship was not possible because of the sin that separated a holy God from an unrighteous people.  Through his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection Christ destroyed the power of sin and cleansed his people from the iniquity that prevented intimate relationship with God.  And, wonderfully this extended even to Old Testament Israel (Heb. 9:15).  Nevertheless, the fellowship enjoyed in Eden was never fully recovered.

Then Christ ascended into heaven, taking with him the complete human nature that he had during his incarnation (Acts 1:11).  Once there, Christ because a forerunner of humanity (Heb. 6:19-20).  Through Christ’s ascension (and subsequent saving events) he did everything necessary to reestablish intimate relationship between humanity and divinity.  He abolished everything that speared from God those who are now joined to Christ.  This is a source of great hope and assurance for humankind because one of our own kind has ascended to the right hand of God.  This sort of intimacy has not been possible since the time of Eden, and only Christ as the perfect human being could accomplish it.  God’s people will enjoy this fellowship in its fullness only as resurrected saints on the new earth.  But even now “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).  This is possible only because Christ died, arose, and ascended to God’s right hand (1 John 2:1-2).

Luke gives us the reaction of the apostles upon Christ’s ascension: “And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52).  Joy and worship should still be our reaction to the ascension today.  Karl Barth has put it beautifully:

The day of the Lord’s Ascension makes the devil lament, but the faithful to brighten with joy.  For now thepleasant spring comes forth and the beautiful young buds grow up: the vine shoots appear heavy with fruit: the olive trees come into flower: the fig tress bear early fruits: the closely sown fields are stirred by the west wind, imitating the billows of the sea: all things rejoice with us at the Lord’s Ascension.  Come now and I will sing you the words of David, which he himself proclaimed for us on account of the Lord’s Ascension: “O clap your hands, all ye people, shout unto God with the voice of triumph; the Lord has gone up with the sound of a trumpet” to where He was.  He has been received up whence He had not been separated.  For He who descended is He who ascended above the heavens.

Our Lord has ascended and, as Barth poetically puts it, even the creation rejoices in response.  Christ, who came in the full likeness of humanity, lived a faithful and sinless life, was obedient to the point of death on the cross, and rose victorious over the grave, has ascended into heaven to take his rightful place at the right hand of the Father and to reign over his creation.  He has moved from his earthly to his heavenly ministry, which he currently executes for the benefit of his people.

The chapter on the ascension, alone, is worth the price of the book.  Makes me wish I was back in class listening to him lecture.  This is great Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology, all grounded in a deep and reverent handling of the Bible and sensitive to Historical Theological development.

My shelves bulge with books on the work of Christ.  This one takes pride of place. In some ways, there is really nothing I know of quite like it, especially in its explication of the various pictures ofthe atonement.

Get it.

Read it.

Rouse your affections for Christ!

Revelation: a Book about a Lamb – It’s almost here!


Hey, beautiful words Sunday School class!

Sunday, April 15th, we will start Revelation: a Book about a Lamb together.  I just want to let y’all in on a few things that will help make for a fruitful study this upcoming year.

March Madness and June Jackpot

As I sit watching the NCAA Final Four, I am also taking in this cool video on what I  expect to be a stimulating book on Paul, edited by Michael Bird.  Guess I know what I will spend my allowance on in June.  Having had the pleasure of watching Thomas Schreiner, along with Frank Thielman, debate N.T. Wright at ETS a couple of years ago, I very much look forward to his material in this book.  Roman Catholic scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson is always interesting, as well.  While we wait on this title to come out, you can feast on Schreiner’s excellent volume, Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ.

But, to be sure, if you want to wade into Pauline waters, you absolutely must treat yourself to these two little gems from the pen of Richard Gaffin:



The Sweetness of Sibbes

I love the affectionate musings of so many of the Puritans. Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) is chief among them. Just a minute ago I read this:

“95. Many men are troubled with cold affections, and then they think to work love out of their own hearts, which are like a barren wilderness, but we must beg of God the Spirit of love. We must not bring love to God, but fetch love from him” (Divine Meditations and Holy Contemplations, The Works of Richard Sibbes, 7.195).