John

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The Lord Jesus Christ As The Word (C.H. Spurgeon)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:14-18.

“Lest, however, we should imagine Jesus to be a mere utterance, a mere word spoken and forgotten, our apostle is peculiarly careful that we should know that Jesus is a real and true person, and therefore tells us that the divine Word, out of whose fulness we have received, is most assuredly God. No language can be more distinct. He ascribes to him the eternity which belongs to God: ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ He peremptorily claims divinity for him: ‘The Word was God.’ He ascribes to him the acts of God: ‘Without him was not anything made that was made.’ He ascribes to him self-existence, which is the essential characteristic of God. ‘In him was life.’ He claims for him a nature peculiar to God: ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,’ and the Word is ‘the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’ No writer could be more explicit in his utterances; and beyond all question he sets forth the proper deity of that Blessed One of whom we all must receive if we would obtain eternal salvation.

Yet John does not fail to set forth that our Lord was also man. He saith, ‘the Word was made flesh’—not merely assumed manhood, but was made; and made not merely man, as to his nobler part, his soul, but man as to his flesh, his lower element. Our Lord was not a phantom, but one who, as John declares in his epistle, was touched and handled. ‘The Word dwelt among us.’ He tabernacled with the sons of men—a carpenter’s shed his lowly refuge, and the caves and mountains of the earth his midnight resort in his after life. He dwelt among sinners and sufferers, among mourners and mortals, himself completing his citizenship among us by becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. See, then, my beloved brethren, where God has treasured up the fulness of his grace. It is in a person so august that heaven and earth tremble at the majesty of his presence, and yet in a person so humble that he is not ashamed to call us ‘brethren.’

The apostle, lest we should by any means put a second person in comparison with the one and only Christ, throughout this chapter continually enters caveats and disclaimers against all others. He bars the angels and shuts out cherubim and seraphim by saying, ‘Without him was not anything made that was made!’ At the creation of the world no ministering spirit may intrude a finger; angels may sing over what Jesus creates, but as the builder of all things he stands alone. Further on, the apostle guards the steps of the throne against John, and virtually against all the other witnesses of the Messiah; albeit among those that are born of women there was not a greater than John the Baptist, yet, ‘he was not that Light.’ The stars must hide their heads when the sun shines; John must decrease and Christ must increase. Nay, there was one whom all the Jews reverenced and whose name is coupled with that of the Lamb in the triumphant song of heaven; they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb. But even he is excluded from the glory of this text, ‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ Moses must sit down at the foot of the throne with the tables of stone in his hands, but Jesus sits on the throne and stretches out the silver sceptre to his people. Lest there should remain a supposition that another person yet unmentioned should usurp a place, the apostle adds, ‘No man at any time hath seen the Father.’ The best and holiest have all alike been unable to look into that excellent glory; but the Word has not only seen the Father, but has declared him unto us.

The text is as Tabor to us, and while in its consideration, at the first we see Moses and Elias and all the saints with the Lord Jesus, receiving of his fulness, yet all these vanish from our minds, and our spirit sees ‘no man, but Jesus only.’ Gazing into this text, one feels as John did when the gates of heaven were opened to him and he looked within them, and he declared, ‘I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion.’ He saw other things afterwards, but the first thing that caught his eye and retained his mind was the Lamb in the midst of the throne. Brethren, it becomes us as ministers, to be constantly making much of Christ, to make him indeed the first, the last, and the midst of all our discourses, and it becomes all believers, whenever they deal with matters of salvation, to set Jesus on high and to crown him with many crowns. Give him the best of your thoughts, and works, and affections, for he it is who fills all things, and to whom all things should pay homage.” C.H. Spurgeon, “The Fulness of Jesus the Treasury of Saints,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on February 28, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 122-123.

Book review: The Miracles of Jesus: How the Savior’s Mighty Acts Serve as Signs of Redemption

Monday, March 28th, 2016

[Note: I received a complimentary review copy of the book in kindle format from the publisher.]

Vern Poythress, The Miracles of Jesus: How the Savior’s Mighty Acts Serve as Signs of Redemption. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016.

  Given brother Poythress’ occupation and credentials – he teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA and possesses doctorates in mathematics and theology respectively – I expected this book to be somewhat highbrow. I could not have been more wrong! He writes in a lucid, everyday style that avoids technical jargon and sticks to analogies that any reader can understand. I also anticipated a philosophical discussion of miracles, somewhat on the order of a more modern version of C.S. Lewis’ classic Miracles. Once again I was mistaken. Brother Poythress focuses on direct exegesis of the text of the Bible, paying particular attention to the Lord’s miracles in the Gospels of John and Matthew. Along the way he gives a practical tutorial in using Edmund Clowney’s chart of interpreting miracles in their context, as well as looking at greater things pertaining to the gospel that are typologically shadowed in the different types of signs that Christ performed.

  Of course, I don’t subscribe to every bit of interpretation that brother Poythress puts forth. As one would expect from a brother of Presbyterian affiliation, his soteriology and eschatology are thoroughly Reformed (I’m premillennial, dispensational, so some of our future chronology differs, as well as our approach to Israel and the Church!) Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it as a good primer for studying the gospel miracles in their context. As always, be good Bereans (Acts 17:11) and prayerfully compare everything with the Scriptures themselves!

Only one will not do…How many have you?

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

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Today, February 9th, is the birthday of notable historical figures such as the 9th President of the United States, William Henry Harrison, and the 18th century philosopher and political agitator – not to mention inveterate infidel – Thomas Paine.  Contemporary figures such as Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, the diminutive actor Joe Pesci, and the actress Mia Farrow were also born on this date.  More pertinent to my situation: 38 years ago today I was born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, USA.  This birth was somewhat surprising because I arrived 3 months early (I’ve always been partial to dramatic entrances!)  The local doctors looked at this scrawny baby who weighed a mere 2 pounds 7 ounces and opined that I only had a 30% chance of surviving.  Happily, there is a God who rules over all and determines the times appointed for men.  Thus, in His sovereign mercy He spared my life.

A Mother’s Faith & A Faithful God

Although premature and suffering from cerebral palsy – which would go undiagnosed until I was nearly two – I enjoyed many blessings.  My chief advantage was to be born into a household where the parents were devout Christians who had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and knew the value of intercessory prayer.  Anyone who has met my parents knows that my father is louder, larger, and much more forceful than my mother.  Nonetheless, in the early moments of my life it was my faithful Christian mother who offered a “Hannah prayer” to the Lord.  Those unfamiliar with this great woman of faith, Hannah, can consult 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2.  Hannah prayed that the Lord would give her a son so that she could give him back to the Almighty for His service.  Similarly, my mother said, “Lord if you spare the boy’s life, I’ll give him back to You for Your work”.  I did not learn of this prayer for many years.  It was only after I began preaching and teaching from the Word of God that she told me of her “bargain” with the Lord.  In His grace, He honored that prayer and I have now been preaching His Word for over 20 years, spending nearly 12 of those in full time service for His glory.

Of course, my second birthday occurred 7 years after my first.  Thanks to the faithful witness of my parents as well as countless sermons heard in our local church, I was well-acquainted with the story of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I knew that there is a God who sent His Son into the world to die on the cross for sinners (1 Tim. 1:15.)  I also knew that not having the Son of God as my Savior left me in the dreadful state of being under the righteous condemnation of God for my sins (John 3:36.)  As a boy of 7, alone on my cousin’s porch, I simply asked the Lord to save me based on what His Word said: that His Son died for me and rose again so that I could be given eternal life.  John 3 famously describes the conversion experience as being “born again”.  It could also be translated “born anew” or “born from above”.  2 Corinthians 5:17 assures us that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.  On that summer’s day I passed from a state of spiritual death – that is alienation from God and His life – to a state of spiritual life – knowing God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:24; John 17:3.)

Happy Birthday To Me (Twice)

So on this day, my 38th birthday, I give thanks to God for His mercy and grace towards me: for allowing me to receive the Lord Jesus as my Savior and serve Him throughout my adolescence and adult life.  In my local church when someone has a birthday, we often sing a second verse to the well-known birthday chorus; the lyrics are as follows:

Happy birthday to you, only one will not do!

Born again means salvation, how many have you?

I am so thankful to write that I have 2 birthdays.  The natural one on February 9th, and the spiritual one on a specific day whose date I have forgotten from the summer of 1980.  Nonetheless, Christ lives within me and I live in Him (Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:1.)  If you cannot say that you have two, I urge you to read John 3 and consider where you stand with the Lord.  If you are to be saved from your sin and gain eternal life, you must receive the Lord Jesus Christ or to put it as He did, “you must be born again” (John 3:7.)