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Category Archives: Jesus

An Anchor for the Soul

How many different tools do we use to guarantee our promises? We take oaths, swear on the Bible, and employ the services of a notary public. If we are really serious, we will use a pinky promise or say, “Cross my heart and hope to die.”

When it comes to our salvation, we need to grasp the truth that our salvation is secure because it rests on God’s promises rather than our ability to be faithful.

The previous warning section (5:11-6:12) contains four key instructions. Don’t be immature (5:11-14). Pursue spiritual growth (6:1-3). Don’t fall away (6:4-8). Live out your faith (6:9-12). After reading those instructions, you may be ready to give up and fly the white flag. You may feel like you can never measure up. “My salvation is in trouble,” may be your conclusion. The author of Hebrews counters that viewpoint by explaining that our salvation is secure because of three things: the promise of God, the oath of God, and the hope of God.

The Promise of God (6:13-15). In talking about the things that accompany salvation (6:9), the author encouraged his readers to follow the example of godly people (6:12). He now introduces Abraham as the primary example of a godly man who believed God’s promises.

Rather than appeal to a higher authority, God guaranteed his promise with the statement, “I will …” In Genesis 12-15, God promised Abraham land, blessing, greatness, and countless descendants. In Genesis 22, God asked Abraham to take the son, Isaac, that he waited 25 years for, and to offer him as a sacrifice. Because Abraham obeyed, God promised to bless him greatly and give him more descendants than he could count.

The example of Abraham demonstrates that God’s promises do not depend on our character. They rest on God’s faithfulness.

The Oath of God (6:16-18). When we make a promise, we appeal to a higher authority. We place our hand on the Bible and say, “…so help me God.” While God’s promises do not require an oath, they become even stronger with an oath.

God used two unchangeable elements to demonstrate the trustworthiness of his promise. One is his purpose. God wants to bless us and save us from our sins. The second is his character. God cannot lie. Because of that, we have a safe harbor, a refuge, that we can run to. Our responsibility is to cling tightly to God’s promises.

The Hope of God (6:19-20). This promise, this hope, is a sure and steadfast anchor. It is sure because it won’t bend, twist, or break when it is under strain. It is steadfast because it won’t slip in the storm. Our anchor rests firmly with Jesus in the Holy of Holies in God’s presence in heaven. He is our faithful and eternal high priest.

Hebrews 6:13-20 demonstrates that our salvation is secure. God kept his promise to Abraham. God’s promise rests on his character. God guaranteed our salvation through the ongoing ministry of Jesus. Hold fast to the promises of God.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 16, 2019. It is part of an ongoing series in the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

The Extent of Christ’s Death

I was recently asked the question, “For whom did Christ die?” Did he die just for the sins of believers or for the whole world? Is the atonement limited or unlimited?

In answering the person’s question, I was reminded of a chart I put together several years ago when I was teaching a course on the doctrine of the church. I looked up all the verses in Scripture that dealt with the subject in order to find an answer. You will find my work below.

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Questions to wrestle with:

  • Did Christ die for the whole world?
  • Did Christ die for only the elect?
  • If for the whole world, why are not all saved?
  • If for the whole world, in what sense?
  • If for the elect only, then what about the justice of God?

Limited Atonement

Christ Died for The Elect

Unlimited Atonement

Christ Died for The Whole World

1 Timothy 4:10

10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

1 Timothy 4:10

10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

Matthew 20:28

28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

1 Timothy 2:6

6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.

 

John 17:9

9 “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine;

Titus 2:11

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,

Ephesians 5:25

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;

 

Hebrews 2:9

9 But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

2 Timothy 1:9

9 who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,

2 Peter 3:9

9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

 

Revelation 13:8

8 And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

 

1 John 2:1-2

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

John 3:16

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16-17

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.

John 15:13

13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

 

1 John 4:14

14 And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

Acts 20:28

28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

Isaiah 53:6

6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

 

Matthew 1:21

21 “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”

2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 18-20

14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

John 10:11, 15, 26-27

11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep…26 “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;

John 1:29

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 

Passages which indicate that some of those for whom Christ died will perish:

Romans 14:15

1 Corinthians 8:11

Hebrews 10:29

2 Peter 2:1

Passages which indicate that the gospel is to be universally proclaimed:

Matthew 24:14

Matthew 28:19

Acts 1:8

Acts 17:30

Titus 2:11

If Christ died only for the elect, how can the offer of salvation be made to all persons without some sort of insincerity, artificiality, or dishonesty being involved?

Matthew 11:28

2 Peter 3:9

“Christ died for the elect, not only in the sense of making salvation possible for them, but also in the sense of providing it for them when they believe.”

Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 241

 

“The sense in which Christ is the Savior or the world may be thus summarized: His death secured for all men a delay in the execution of the sentence against sin, space for repentance, and the common blessings of life which have been forfeited by transgression; it removed from the mind of God every obstacle to the pardon of the penitent and restoration of the sinner, except his willful opposition to God and rejection of him; it procured for the unbeliever the powerful incentives to repentance presented in the cross, by means of the preaching of God’s servants, and through the work of the Holy Spirit; it provided salvation for those who do not willfully and personally sin (i.e., those who die in infancy or those who have never been mentally responsible) and assured its application to them; and it makes possible the final restoration of creation itself.”

Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 241-2

“Those who hold to limited atonement assume that if Christ died for someone, that person will actually be saved.  By extension they reason that if Christ in fact died for all persons, all would come to salvation; hence the concept of universal atonement is viewed as leading to the universal-salvation trap.  The basic assumption here, however, ignores the fact that out inheriting eternal life involves two separate factors: an objective factor (Christ’s provision of salvation) and a subjection factor (our acceptance of that salvation).  In the view of those who hold to unlimited atonement, there is the possibility that someone for whom salvation is available may fail to accept it.  In the view of those who hold to limited atonement, however, there is no such possibility.  Although John Murray wrote of Redemption—Accomplished and Applied, in actuality he and others of his doctrinal persuasion collapse the latter part, the application, into the accomplishment.  This leads in turn to the conception that God regenerates the elect person who then and therefore believes.

Advocates of limited atonement face the somewhat awkward situation of contending that while the atonement is sufficient to cover the sins of the nonelect, Christ did not die for them.  It is as if God, in giving a dinner, prepared far more food than was needed, yet refused to consider the possibility of inviting additional guests.  Advocates of unlimited atonement, on the other hand, have no difficulty with the fact that Christ’s death is sufficient for everyone, for, in their view, Christ died for all persons.

The view that we are adopting here should not be construed as Arminianism.  It is rather the most moderate form of Calvinism or, as some would term it, a modification of Calvinism. It is the view that God logically decides first to provide salvation, then elects some to receive it.  This is essentially the sublapsarian position of theologians like Augustus Strong.  Those who would construe this position as Arminianism is not the view of the relationship between the decree to provide salvation and the decree to confer salvation on some and not on others.  Rather, the decisive point is whether the decree of election is based solely on the free, sovereign choice of God himself (Calvinism) or based also in part upon his foreknowledge of merit and faith in the person elected (Arminianism).”

Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, p. 851-2

We conclude that the atonement is unlimited in the sense that it is available for all; it is limited in that it is effective only for those who believe.  It is available for all, but efficient only for the elect.

Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 242

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I came to the conclusion that Scripture teaches both sides. I tend to agree with Thiessen that salvation is sufficient for all, but efficient only for those who believe. Christ died for the sins of the whole world, but only those who receive the gift will be saved.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2019 in Jesus, Scripture, Theology

 

Jesus Fulfills the Destiny of Mankind

Somewhere along the line, I picked up the saying, “The task of a preacher is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” That seems to be the advice that the writer of the book of Hebrews employs in his letter. He comforts his readers with the knowledge that Jesus is greater than the Old Testament prophets, angels, Moses, etc. But he also challenges and warns his readers about the danger of deserting the faith.

After encouraging his readers (1:1-14) and warning them (2:1-4), the author of Hebrews now returns to his discussion that Jesus is greater than (2:5-9). In so doing, he requires his readers to do a little bit of theology. He wants us to read Scripture according to the original storyline and see that Jesus is the fulfillment and climax of the story of Scripture.

While angels are important, they will not rule the world (2:5). Angels play a significant role in history. They moved between heaven and earth on Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28:10-17). Angels administered God’s plan for the nations (Deuteronomy 32:8). They helped deliver the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2). Angels battle demonic forces (Daniel 10:13, 20, 21; 12:1; Ephesians 6:12). As important as angels are, God has not entrusted them with the task of ruling the world.

Our destiny is to rule the world (2:6-8). Just because the author of Hebrews says, “It has been testified somewhere …” it doesn’t mean he is not aware of where the verse is located. It simply means he is emphasizing that Scripture is speaking, not just a human author.

The author quotes Psalm 8:4-6 to explain the role of man in creation. When the psalmist looked at human beings, they appeared puny and insignificant. Yet, despite their lowliness, God has given them authority over creation. This goes back to God’s original purpose in Genesis 1:26-28 for men and women to rule creation.

While everything has been placed under mankind’s authority, not everything is subject to us. Something has gone wrong. Because of sin, we are no longer the master of ourselves, let alone creation.

Jesus fulfills the ultimate destiny of mankind (9). The answer to our dilemma is Jesus Christ. He became a man that he might suffer and die for the sins of the world and to restore the dominion that was lost due to sin. The phrase, “taste death,” does not mean a mere sampling. It is an idiom that means to experience death fully.

There are times when we feel insignificant. It seems as if the entire world is against us. We can take comfort in knowing that we have a destiny far greater than the angels—to rule the world. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, our destiny is guaranteed. We will be crowned with glory and honor, and we will rule with Christ. Our hope is found in him.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 10, 2019. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

The Supremacy of Christ

If you were going to paint a portrait of Jesus Christ, what would you paint? Would you go for a traditional head and shoulders portrait? Would you paint an action scene and have him rescue Peter from the Sea of Galilee or perhaps have him feeding the 5,000? Would you have Jesus performing a miracle or teaching the multitudes?

I believe the writer of the book of Hebrews faced a similar question as he began his book. Rather than limit himself to one simple portrait, he uses seven phrases in 1:2-3 to describe who Jesus is. Some of them look to what Jesus did in the past, some point out what Jesus is doing in the present, and some look at what will take place in the future. The theme is the supremacy of Christ as God’s final word.

Hebrews 1:2–3 – but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Jesus is the Heir (2). This phrase probably alludes to Psalm 2:8 and explains that as the Son, Jesus will inherit all things. Nothing material or spiritual is excluded from the inheritance. This title anticipates his future reign. While the appointment has been made, it won’t be consummated until the end of the age.

Jesus is the Creator (2). The typical Greek word for world is “kosmos” from which we get our English word cosmos. However, the writer uses the word “aionas” which means “the ages.” Not only did Christ create the world, but he created time, space, energy, and matter. Christ created the whole universe and everything that makes it function.

The three titles in verse 2—Son, heir, and creator—point out that Jesus is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. They speak to his relationship with the Father from eternity past to eternity future.

Jesus is the Radiator (3). The moon reflects light; the sun radiates light because it is the source of light. Jesus does not simply reflect the Father’s glory. He radiates glory because he is part of it! Christ reflects the Father’s glory because he shares the same divine nature as the Father, yet he is distinct from the Father in his person.

Jesus is the Representor (3). If you examine a coin, you see the image or likeness of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. When you examine Jesus, you don’t merely see a general likeness of God, you see an exact duplicate of the Father.  Jesus revealed the Father to the world because he was fully God in human form.

Jesus is the Sustainer (3). The phrase, “he upholds the universe,” makes us think of the Greek god Atlas holding up the world. Whereas Atlas held a dead weight, Jesus carries the universe forward to its designed goal. It demonstrates what Jesus is doing right now. It gives us great confidence to know that the world will not fall into utter chaos and that God’s plans will triumph.

Jesus is the Priest (3). Whereas the priest in the Old Testament offered a sacrifice to make atonement for the sins of the people, Jesus was the sacrifice and died in our place. Through his death on the cross, Jesus removed our sins, provided for our forgiveness, and cleansed us from the stain of sin.

Jesus is the Ruler (3). In the Old Testament, the priest never sat down because his work was never finished. There was always another sacrifice to offer. In contrast, Jesus completed his work as High Priest and sat down at God’s right hand. The is the position of honor, authority, and power. Sitting down connotes a position of dignity, settled continuance, and rest.

Jesus Christ is the heir, creator, radiator, representor, sustainer, priest, and ruler. Jesus reigns supreme as God’s full and final word. Today we proclaim him as Lord and bow before him.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 17, 2019. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

God Has Spoken

We live in a multicultural, pluralistic world. We’re encouraged to be tolerant of other religious beliefs. We’re told that every religion will lead us to god.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” But in our pluralistic world, “Is Jesus enough?” Do I need to add some good works? Do I need to give up chocolate for Lent? Do I need to supplement Jesus with tradition? Do I need to live a perfect life? Do I need to give more money to charitable causes?

If life gets too difficult, should I abandon the church and my religious beliefs? Should I go back to what is easy and natural?

These questions are not new. In fact, they’ve been around for over 2,000 years. They are the same issues that Christ followers faced in the first century. It is why the author of the book of Hebrews penned his letter with the theme, “Jesus is greater than …”

While there are many theories as to who wrote the book, only God knows for sure who the author was. We do know that he was acquainted with Timothy (13:23) and was well known to his readers (13:18, 19, 23).

The book is written to believers (3:1, 12) who were immature in their faith (5:11-14). They faced persecution and abuse (10:32-39), but had not yet faced martyrdom (12:4). Because of their difficulties, they were wavering in their faith. Because the book makes many references to the Law and Judaism and emphasizes the Old Testament Covenant and priesthood, we can conclude that the recipients were Jewish believers whose world was falling apart. They ceased to grow in their faith and were tempted to give up and return to Judaism.

Since there is no mention of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70, the book was probably written between A.D. 64-68.

The theme of the book is the superiority of Jesus. The book is filled with the terms “better,” “superior,” and “more excellent.” The author stresses that Jesus Christ offers a better revelation, position, priesthood, covenant, sacrifice, power … and the list goes on. Because Jesus is greater than, we need to press on to maturity (6:1).

In the first two verses, we learn that God has spoken (1:1-2a). In the past (1), God spoke to our ancestors at many times and in many different ways. A survey of Scripture reveals that God spoke through creation (Psalm 19:1), a rainbow (Genesis 9:8-17), a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6), a voice at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-34), a donkey (Numbers 22:22-35), visions (Daniel 2 & 7), handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5), and angels (Luke 2:8-20).

In the past, God revealed truth progressively. This does not mean moving from less true to more true or less worthy to more worthy. Instead, it means he revealed truth from promise to fulfillment. God promised to provide redemption (Genesis 3:15) by choosing Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and then David (2 Samuel 7:8-16) and would then make a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) with people. All of this would culminate in Jesus Christ who revealed God to us and died for the sins of the world.

While God spoke through the prophets in the past, he speaks through Jesus in the present. While the prophets spoke the word of God, Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus is the highest and the best, the climax of God’s message for the world. The fact he is the “Son” emphasizes the unique character and nature of Jesus. It includes not only his words, but all of his life and ministry—incarnation, death, resurrection, and second coming.

 

Older Communication

Newer Communication

Era

In the past In these last days
Recipients To our forefathers

To us

Agents

Through the prophets By his Son
Ways In various ways

In one way (implied)

Since God has spoken through Jesus, we need to listen.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 10, 2019. It is the opening message in a series on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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Preach Christ

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2019 in Jesus, Preaching, Quotes

 

Treating People Like Jesus Did

Book Review: Love Like That: 5 Relationship Secrets from Jesus, by Dr. Les Parrott

The Great Commandment instructs us to love God and love people. The first part is certainly challenging but the second part seems impossible because of the culture in which we find ourselves. Dr. Les Parrott believes that by following the example of Jesus, we can be successful in practicing this commandment. That is the theme of his latest book, Love Like That: 5 Relationship Secrets from Jesus.

The author presents five ways to help us love more like Jesus. He devotes a chapter to each principle. (1) Be mindful—not indifferent—by seeing what others don’t. (2) Be approachable—not exclusive—by moving out of your comfort zone. (3) Be grace-ful—not judgmental—by not limiting your love to people who deserve it. (4) Be bold—not fearful—by speaking truthfully and risking rejection. (5) Be self-giving—not self-serving—by emptying yourself for empathy.

Each chapter follows a similar format. After an opening illustration, the author shows how the principle was demonstrated by Jesus. The author then provides a basic definition of the concept followed by several reasons that prevent us from practicing it. He includes a self-test to determine how well we are currently practicing the concept. He then explains what Jesus taught on the subject and then concludes the chapter with several practical ways to further practice the principle. Lest we think we can produce these qualities on our own, the author explains the role of the Holy Spirit in the Conclusion and how he empowers us to practice the five qualities.

The author combines biblical teaching, studies from psychology and sociology, insightful quotes, questions to ponder, as well as personal illustrations to explain his ideas. The book is relatively short and has a larger than normal font size which makes it very easy to read. A very helpful, practical book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2018 in Books, Jesus, Scripture