The Deity Of Christ

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John 5:15-29

In a world of religious plurality, every religion and religious leader makes some claims. Of all the claims, Jesus’ were the most astounding. He made many exclusive claims no religious leader ever made. And that got Him killed.

He claimed to be God.

This claim sets Him apart from all other religious leader who ever lived. And if the claim to be God is false, then, it is blasphemous and Jesus cannot be trusted. Looking therefore at the gravity of His claims, either Jesus is God or He is not. There is no middle ground as C.S. Lewis says in his popular work, Mere Christianity:

Either this man[Jesus] was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God

Lord Over The Sabbath

In the opening text, a controversy over the identity of Christ occurred when He healed a man on the Sabbath (vv. 1-9). In verse 16, John tells us this miracle “…was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath“. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day added their own human traditions to the law and with these they sought to keep God’s people in bondage. Their interpretation of the Sabbath forbided doing good to our neighbour. They overlooked  God’s command of love towards ones neighbour. Jesus elsewhere asked them: “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11-12).

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5) and His words “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17) brings that out in clear terms. God doesn’t cease working because of the Sabbath. He is actively involved in running His world and taking care of people. The world is not on auto pilot. There is a God at work in sustaining and directing the course of the world. Christ says He is this God.

Christ’s Deity

When Jesus said “My Father is working until now, and I am working”, the Jews who heard Him clearly understood what He meant when He called God His Father and this exacerbated their resolve to kill Him:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (v.18).

Now, apart from the charge of breaking the Sabbath, Jesus was also charged with “making himself equal with God” and they understood His claim to be a claim of Deity. Church history is littered with many controversies over the person of Jesus Christ. The Nicea council, for example, in opposition to the arianian heresy which claims Jesus was a created being; stated that “Jesus is begotten, not made, and that His divine nature is of the same essence (homo ousios) with the Father”. ¹ R.C. Sproul explains that

This affirmation declared that the Second Person of the Trinity is one in essence with God the Father. That is, the “being” of Christ is the being of God. He is not merely similar to Deity, but He is Deity”²

One place we see the divinity of Jesus in the text is His assertion of His worthiness of honour just as the Father is worthy of honour: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him”. (vv. 22-24). Jesus is worthy of our worship–honour, just as we honour the Father. You can’t claim to honour or worship God and yet claim to not honour Jesus Christ or accept the claims He made about Himself. To honour God, you must also acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God who was sent by God to die for the salvation of sinners (John 3:16). Again, to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God is to acknowledge Jesus as God. He is God who was manifested in the flesh (John 1:14)

The Unity of the Godhead.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a fundamental Christian doctrine which speaks of God in three persons who are co-equal and co-eternal in existence. While defending Himself, Christ reveals to us the unity which exists in the Trinity: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise (v.19).

Divine work is Trinitarian in nature and the Godhead is in agreement in all they do. The Father works and Christ works. We see this from creation and in the work of Salvation. In Salvation, we see the active participation of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Salvation is Trinitarian: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). As we read further on in Ephesians, we see the Father predestined those who will be saved in the Son. The Son dies for those the Father predestined and then the work of the Son is applied to the heart of the elect into Salvation. Christ tells us He doesn’t work alone. What the Father, who is God does; the Son, who is equally God also does. Christ doesn’t work independently of the Father neither does the Father or the Holy Spirit. Because they are One, they always work in unison.

No claim offends religious people than the claim of Christ’s Deity. But for the Christian, any departure from the Deity of Christ is a departure from truth and from Biblical Christianity.

Notes:

1: R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith ( Kindle Edition)

2: ibid

A Reformed Church In Need Of A Reformation

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You might have seen this billboard in town. If you haven’t, then it is a healing crusade (whatever that means) Presbyterian Church of Ghana is holding with Dr. Lawrence Tetteh, who is described as world renowned evangelist (a title I guess Billy Graham will envy).

What Is The Presbyterian Church Of Ghana?

The year 1828 will forever remain significant in the life of our church because this was the year of arrival of the very first missionaries from Basel. [1]

The Presbyterian Church of Ghana[PCG] as part of the Reformed Church adheres to a distinctively, Reformed worship…[2]

Describing itself “as part of the Reformed Church…” points to the fact that PCG is “A Reformed Church”. The hard question however PCG will have to answer, is, if it is still a Reformed Church.

At a certain period in my life, I became convinced of Reformed Theology and was looking for a Reformed Church in Ghana to attend. From what I had learnt and read, PCG was my first choice church to switch to. So I moved from a Charismatic church to join PCG since it described itself as a Reformed Church. I went in with all zeal and passion to becoming a member of a Reformed Church. It wasn’t too long when after attending a few services, my passion and zeal were deflated. Was I really in a Reformed Church? Everything I was walking away from in the charismatic world was staring me in the face. Now attending PCG with my whole family, what am I going to tell my wife? that I was wrong to have moved the family to PCG? It wasn’t an easy discussion. But thanks to God’s providence, we found a Reformed Baptist church which we are currently attending. I am yet to make a decision between whether to be a Presbyterian or Baptist. But at least, finding a Reformed church to worship with is heart warming.

Doctrinal Cross-Fertilization

I believe discerning members of PCG should be able to tell their denomination has gone through a plethora of changes. There are a number of beliefs currently practiced in PCG which in my short stint with the church, I believe is in contrast with what a Reformed Church should believe.

I tease my Presbyterian friends in Ghana that they have become more charismatic than the Charismatics themselves. They speak in tongues. They hold prophetic meetings. They hold anointing services. They hold all-night meetings. On their bill for this month is a “3 Day Healing Crusade themed When The Holy Spirit Moves”. The speaker, is a Charismatic/Word Of Faith preacher, Dr. Lawrence Tetteh”. Recently I watched a video of the immediate past moderator Professor Martey titled “Healing with Professor Emmanuel Martey

Is this Presbyterianism? To answer, these words from Presbyterian Church Of Ghana Worship Book Normal will be helpful: “In doing this work [reviewing the 1965 liturgy], it was borne in mind that by unanimously accepting the motion to have the liturgy reviewed in 1993, the Church had a two-fold concern. The first was the spiritual needs of Christians. Added to this was the need to enhance the the spiritual edification of worshippers.[3] What you read is good and commendable. But then the bombshell follows immediately: “To these considerations can be added the influence of cross-fertilization between the different Christian traditions of our time“. [4]

This is the reason Presbyterian Church of Ghana is what it is today. Its doctrinal purity has given way to the influence of different Christian traditions of our time. It appears PCG is looking over its shoulders, stretching its neck into other doctrinal beliefs and allowing those beliefs to influence what they do. I have heard the excuse PCG was losing its youths to the charismatic churches hence needed to introduce things that will appeal to the youth to stay. Again, this excuse can be implied from these words: “An attempt has been made to provide variety and freshness in services“. [5]

Maybe PCG ought to be reminded it says it “adheres to a distinctively, Reformed worship”. To be distinctive in worship I believe is to be clearly different from others in their worship. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. PCG is engaged in cross-fertilization with other Christian traditions. I am no prophet of doom. But I fear for The Presbyterian Church of Ghana and where it is heading. It is throwing away its rich Reformed heritage for “crumbs of bread”.

I pray PCG experiences a Reformation and finds its roots backs to the 16th Century Reformation from which the church takes its heritage. To all Presbyterians in Ghana who might read this, I pray you begin asking questions of your leadership and of what you believe as Presbyterians. I will conclude with a quote from the worship book: “we wish to remind ourselves that our services [worship] must be “according to Scripture”, and consequently, simple, spiritual and reverent.[6]

Would PCG indeed remind themselves of what they have said in their worship book? I pray they do.

Notes:

1: http://www.pcg.pcgonline.io/brief-story-of-pcg/

2: Presbyterian Church Of Ghana Worship Book, Normal (Accra, Waterville Publishing House, 2010) P vi

3: ibid; P. xvi

4: ibid; xvi

5: ibid; xvii

6: ibid; pg 3

THE THREEFOLD USE OF THE LAW[OLD TESTAMENT] by R.C. Sproul

Every Christian wrestles with the question, how does the Old Testament law relate to my life? Is the Old Testament law irrelevant to Christians or is there some sense in which we are still bound by portions of it? As the heresy of antinomianism becomes ever more pervasive in our culture, the need to answer these questions grows increasingly urgent. 

The Reformation was founded on grace and not upon law. Yet the law of God was not repudiated by the Reformers. John Calvin, for example, wrote what has become known as the “Threefold Use of the Law” in order to show the importance of the law for the Christian life.1 

The first purpose of the law is to be a mirror. On the one hand, the law of God reflects and mirrors the perfect righteousness of God. The law tells us much about who God is. Perhaps more important, the law illumines human sinfulness. Augustine wrote, “The law orders, that we, after attempting to do what is ordered, and so feeling our weakness under the law, may learn to implore the help of grace.”2 The law highlights our weakness so that we might seek the strength found in Christ. Here the law acts as a severe schoolmaster who drives us to Christ. 

A second purpose for the law is the restraint of evil. The law, in and of itself, cannot change human hearts. It can, however, serve to protect the righteous from the unjust. Calvin says this purpose is “by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice.”3 The law allows for a limited measure of justice on this earth, until the last judgment is realized. 

The third purpose of the law is to reveal what is pleasing to God. As born-again children of God, the law enlightens us as to what is pleasing to our Father, whom we seek to serve. The Christian delights in the law as God Himself delights in it. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). This is the highest function of the law, to serve as an instrument for the people of God to give Him honor and glory. 

By studying or meditating on the law of God, we attend the school of righteousness. We learn what pleases God and what offends Him. The moral law that God reveals in Scripture is always binding upon us. Our redemption is from the curse of God’s law, not from our duty to obey it. We are justified, not because of our obedience to the law, but in order that we may become obedient to God’s law. To love Christ is to keep His commandments. To love God is to obey His law. 

Summary 

1. The church today has been invaded by antinomianism, which weakens, rejects, or distorts the law of God. 

2. The law of God is a mirror of God’s holiness and our unrighteousness. It serves to reveal to us our need of a savior. 

3. The law of God is a restraint against sin. 

4. The law of God reveals what is pleasing and what is offensive to God. 

5. The Christian is to love the law of God and to obey the moral law of God.

Biblical passages for reflection: 

Psalm 19:7-11
Psalm 119:9-16
Romans 7:7-25
Romans 8:3-4
1 Corinthians 7:19
Galatians 3:24

1. Calvin, Institutes, bk. II, 1:304-310.
2. Calvin, Institutes, bk. II, 1:306.
3. Calvin, Institutes, bk. II, 1:307.

Excerpt from Essential Truths Of The Christian Faith by R. C. Sproul © (Tyndale 1992)vbme0568

Originally Posted at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/sproul/threefold_law.html

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Limited Atonement By R.C. Sproul

I think thaTULIP-and-Reformed-Theology_620t of all the five points of Calvinism, limited atonement is the most controversial, and the one that engenders perhaps the most confusion and consternation. This doctrine is chiefly concerned about the original purpose, plan, or design of God in sending Christ into the world to die on the cross. Was it the Father’s intent to send His Son to die on the cross to make salvation possible for everyone, but with the possibility that His death would be effective for no one? That is, did God simply send Christ to the cross to make salvation possible, or did God, from all eternity, have a plan of salvation by which, according to the riches of His grace and His eternal election, He designed the atonement to ensure the salvation of His people? Was the atonement limited in its original design?

I prefer not to use the term limited atonement because it is misleading. I rather speak of definite redemption or definite atonement, which communicates that God the Father designed the work of redemption specifically with a view to providing salvation for the elect, and that Christ died for His sheep and laid down His life for those the Father had given to Him.

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THE REDEMPTION OF SPECIFIC SINNERS WAS AN ETERNAL PLAN OF GOD…ACCOMPLISHED BY THE ATONING WORK OF CHRIST. —R.C. SPROUL

One of the texts that we often hear used as an objection against the idea of a definite atonement is 2 Peter 3:8–9: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The immediate antecedent of the word any in this passage is the word us, and I think it’s perfectly clear that Peter is saying that God is not willing that any of us should perish, but that all of us should come to salvation. He’s not speaking of all mankind indiscriminately; the us is a reference to the believing people to whom Peter is speaking. I don’t think we want to believe in a God who sends Christ to die on the cross and then crosses His fingers, hoping that someone will take advantage of that atoning death. Our view of God is different. Our view is that the redemption of specific sinners was an eternal plan of God, and this plan and design was perfectly conceived and perfectly executed so that the will of God to save His people is accomplished by the atoning work of Christ.

This does not mean that a limit is placed on the value or the merit of the atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s traditional to say that the atoning work of Christ is sufficient for all. That is, its meritorious value is sufficient to cover the sins of all people, and certainly anyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus Christ will receive the full measure of the benefits of that atonement. It is also important to understand that the gospel is to be preached universally. This is another controversial point, because on the one hand the gospel is offered universally to all who are within earshot of the preaching of it, but it’s not universally offered in the sense that it’s offered to anyone without any conditions. It’s offered to anyone who believes. It’s offered to anyone who repents. Obviously the merit of the atonement of Christ is given to all who believe and to all who repent of their sins.

In the next post, we will consider the I in TULIP, irresistible grace.

Scriptures for further study: John 6:37–3917:6–12Romans 5:8–101 John 4:910Revelation 5:910


TULIP and Reformed Theology: Limited Atonement, from Table Talk Magazine  Copyright November 19, 2012, by R.C. Sproul, Ligonier.org, 800.435.4343, http://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-limited-atonement/

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election By R.C. Sproul

TULIP-and-Reformed-Theology_620 The Reformed view of election, known as unconditional election, means that God does not foresee an action or condition on our part that induces Him to save us. Rather, election rests on God’s sovereign decision to save whomever He is pleased to save.

In the book of Romans, we find a discussion of this difficult concept. Romans 9:10–13 reads: “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Here the Apostle Paul is giving his exposition of the doctrine of election. He deals with it significantly in Romans 8, but here he illustrates his teaching of the doctrine of election by going back into the past of the Jewish people and looking at the circumstances surrounding the birth of twins—Jacob and Esau. In the ancient world, it was customary for the firstborn son to receive the inheritance or the patriarchal blessing. However, in the case of these twins, God reversed the process and gave the blessing not to the elder but to the younger. The point that the Apostle labors here is that God not only makes this decision prior to the twins’ births, He does it without a view to anything they would do, either good or evil, so that the purposes of God might stand. Therefore, our salvation does not rest on us; it rests solely on the gracious, sovereign decision of God.

Tweet thisGOD DOES NOT FORESEE AN ACTION OR CONDITION ON OUR PART THAT INDUCES HIM TO SAVE US. —R.C. SPROUL

This doesn’t mean that God will save people whether they come to faith or not. There are conditions that God decrees for salvation, not the least of which is putting one’s personal trust in Christ. However, that is a condition for justification, and the doctrine of election is something else. When we’re talking about unconditional election, we’re talking in a very narrow confine of the doctrine of election itself.

So, then, on what basis does God elect to save certain people? Is it on the basis of some foreseen reaction, response, or activity of the elect? Many people who have a doctrine of election or predestination look at it this way. They believe that in eternity past God looked down through the corridors of time and He knew in advance who would say yes to the offer of the gospel and who would say no. On the basis of this prior knowledge of those who will meet the condition for salvation—that is, expressing faith or belief in Christ—He elects to save them. This isconditional election, which means that God distributes His electing grace on the basis of some foreseen condition that human beings meet themselves.

Unconditional election is another term that I think can be a bit misleading, so I prefer to use the term sovereign election. If God chooses sovereignly to bestow His grace on some sinners and withhold His grace from other sinners, is there any violation of justice in this? Do those who do not receive this gift receive something they do not deserve? Of course not. If God allows these sinners to perish, is He treating them unjustly? Of course not. One group receives grace; the other receives justice. No one receives injustice. Paul anticipates this protest: “Is there injustice on God’s part?” (Rom. 9:14a). He answers it with the most emphatic response he can muster. I prefer the translation, “God forbid” (v. 14b). Then he goes on to amplify this response: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (v. 15). Here the Apostle is reminding his reader of what Moses declared centuries before; namely, that it is God’s divine right to execute clemency when and where He desires. He says from the beginning, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” It is not on those who meet some conditions, but on those whom He is pleased to bestow the benefit.

In the next post, we will consider the L in TULIP, limited atonement.


TULIP and Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election, from Table Talk Magazine  Copyright November 14, 2012, by R.C. Sproul, Ligonier.org, 800.435.4343.http://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-unconditional-election/