Friday, December 13, 2013

PARADOX


The Bible is no stranger to paradox. Indeed, some base their unbelief in God on what they believe to be contradictions in the Bible! How can anyone believe in God if the Bible (that is supposed to tell you about God) is full of contradictions? Quite! If ‘All Scripture is God breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16a) and is ‘truth’ (John 17:17) then one has a right to expect the Bible to pass the ‘non-contradiction’ test. This is where the word ‘paradox’ comes in. In the following we shall touch on three ‘apparent contradictions’ found in the Bible.

How can God be one and many at the same time? The three Persons, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, are one God and each Person in the Godhead is of one substance, power, and eternity. Saint Patrick asked if a shamrock was one leaf or three. It is both! Therefore, why cannot God be three in one? The one does not lord it over the many or the many the one. Cornelius Van Til called this ‘equal ultimacy.’

It is on account of God’s triuneness that Jesus can be God and Man at the same time. The Son of God is also the Son of Man. He is of the same substance, power, and eternity as God while being of the same substance, frailty, and finitude as man. Contradiction? No! Jesus has a divine and a human nature. He is no alloy. Like oil and water, the two natures do not mix. Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time. As to His divinity He knows all things. As to His humanity His knowledge is limited. As to His divinity He is everywhere at once. As to His humanity He remains local, occupying only the space His body takes up. As to His divinity He is all-powerful. As to His humanity His strength is limited. Jesus is Creator and creature at the same time. Like a hand in a glove so the Creator clothed Himself in His creation when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. As it is with the Godhead so it is with the two natures of Christ. Each Person in the Godhead is distinct but not separate from the Others, so each of Christ’s two natures are distinct but not separate. Jesus is one Divine Person with two distinct natures forever.

How can God punish the innocent and pardon the guilty and still remain just? Or to put it another way, how can sinners gain access to Heaven without their earning it? Or another way yet again, how can God’s justice be reconciled with His grace? The answer is Jesus Christ is the substitute for sinners. ‘God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ 2 Corinthians 5:21. ‘He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love’ Ephesians 1:4. In eternity past the Son was in agreement with the Father’s proposal that, a) the Son become flesh, b) live a perfect life, and c) lay down His human life to redeem a people innumerable from  God’s justice on them for their sins. The Father chose the people. The Son redeemed them. And, the Holy Spirit with the Word testifies in time to the Good News of their salvation.

Substitutionary atonement is a legal transaction performed by God as Judge, whereby Christ’s righteousness is imputed to sinners and sinners’ unrighteousness is imputed to Christ. The Father then pours out His wrath on the Son as He hangs on the cross. ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God’ 1 Peter 3:18a. The penalty we owe to God’s justice is thus paid. Therefore, because God’s justice has been satisfied believers are now free to live their lives to God’s glory without fear of not having done enough to earn their own salvation.

Jesus is the perfect Mediator between God and us. As the Middle Person in the Godhead He can identify with God and as a Man He can identify with us and all our frailties. When we look at God through Jesus Christ we see ourselves as sinners. When God looks at us through Jesus Christ He see us as saints! Paradoxically Christians simultaneously are saints and sinners! 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

CHRISTMAS


Christmas

It may seem redundant to say that Christmas is about Christ. However, surely in a consumerist society we need to be reminded of this annually. Christians have the Secularists agreeing with them that Christ is the reason for the season, for, after having had some success they now wish completely to remove Christ from Christmas. Why? because they have no room for Jesus in the type of society they envisage. However, this is nothing new. Christ is used to being shunned.

Joseph and Mary, when she was just about to give birth to Jesus, were turned away from an inn because there was no room for them (Luke 2:7). Therefore, Jesus was shunned even on the very first Christmas. Indeed, lots of people had no room for Jesus, ‘He is rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him’ Isaiah 53:3. And, ‘He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him’ John 1:11. Why all this rejection at His birth and at His death? Well, this is where the Gospel comes in.

The Gospel is the good news that God has reconciled mankind to Himself through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God (the Middle Person of the Trinity) in the flesh (John 1:1-2; Matthew 28:19). He is the Mediator between God and men (1Timothy 2:5). Now, if we need to be reconciled to God and if we need a mediator then this must mean that we are having a dispute with God. It must mean that we have no room for Him. Having no room for God began in the Garden with our first ancestors, Adam and Eve. They exercised their free will and decided that they wanted to live in a state exactly as that sought after by today’s Secularists. They, and all mankind after them, wish to live their lives without any interference from God (Romans 3:11-12; 5:12f.). Therefore, is it any wonder that God in the flesh, i.e., Jesus, is rejected? God became a social outcast in the Garden. He became a social outcast when Israel rejected Him over and over throughout the Old Testament years. In the flesh He became a social outcast on the very first Christmas Day. Indeed, He was a social outcast as He hung dying on a cross, ‘But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people’ Psalm 22:6. Yet many, who perhaps would not ordinarily, awaken on Christmas morning in Western societies and take the time to consider the plight of social outcasts and even desire to give them food and clothing. Christmas has that effect on some people!

The Hebrews became a nation under Jacob when Joseph enabled his family to enter Egypt to live there (Genesis 42). In Egypt Israel settled in Goshen (Genesis 46:34). Why Goshen? The Hebrews were shepherds, and, ‘Every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians’ Genesis 46:34b. Why Israel’s fixation with sheep? It was because of the Old Testament sacrificial system. It prefigured the shedding of Christ’s blood as, ‘The Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). On the day of His birth Jesus, the Lamb of God, was visited by shepherds (Luke 2:15-17). Afterwards, Joseph took Mary and baby Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod who wished to murder Jesus (Matthew 2:14-15). The baby Jesus, ‘that great Shepherd of the sheep’ (Hebrews 13:20) was rejected by King Herod on the very first Christmas Day. He is rejected by many today. Do you have any room for Jesus in your world this Christmas?