The Cataclysmic Cross

Galatians 6:14–­15:

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Ben Witherington III, Grace in Galatia, 450:

Paul is saying his conversion to a belief in a crucified messiah entailed an enormous transvaluation of values, and an adoption of a new paradigm of what God was really doing in the world, how he was doing it, and therefore what the believer’s life meant. But notice Paul is not simply talking about an experience that happened to him. He also says that the world was crucified to him, by which he means that he believes that the death of Christ on the cross changed the world, it had cosmic effects. Paul has partially addressed this subject when he spoke about what the Galatians had been freed from — the elementary principles of the universe which enslave fallen human beings, and it is attended to even more fully in the later Paulines (cf. especially Col. 2:15 to Eph. 4:7–10). Here Martyn is quite right to stress the importance of this phrase and the mention of the new creation [v. 15] and connect them both with Gal. 1:4.

In Paul’s view the present evil age exists, but has been dealt a deathblow by the crucifixion of Jesus. All of the world’s basic values and assumptions and operating procedures have been put on notice that they are passing away (cf. 1 Cor. 7:31). What really matters are the new eschatological realities brought about because of the death of Christ. In Paul’s view, even the Law, as well as other good things about the material world, are part of the things that are passing away or are fading in glory (cf. 2 Cor. 3). Having lost their controlling grip on a human life when Christ came and died, one must not submit to such forces again, but rather live on the basis of the new eschatological realities. The new age has already dawned and Christians should live by its light and follow the path it illuminates.

Lift Up Our Hearts!

C.S. Lewis wrote the following in a corrective letter to his friend, the 78-year-old Don Giovanni Calabria [12/26/51; Letters, 3:152]:

. . . This emboldens me to say to you something that a layman ought scarcely to say to a priest nor a junior to a senior. (On the other hand, out of the mouth of babes; indeed, as once to Balaam, out of the mouth of an ass!) It is this: you write much about your own sins. Beware (permit me, my dearest Father, to say beware) lest humility should pass over into anxiety or sadness. It is bidden us to ‘rejoice and always rejoice.’ Jesus has cancelled the handwriting which was against us. Lift up our hearts!

Permit me, I pray you, these stammerings. You are ever in my prayers and ever will be.

Farewell.

C.S. Lewis

The Multidirectional Cross

Robert Peterson in his new book Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ (Crossway, 2011), page 301:

What is the place of the cross of Christ in this cosmic restoration? As was the case in the previous passages that we explored, the cross is front and center in reconciliation in Colossians 1 too. God was pleased “to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (v. 20). The cross, therefore, is multidirectional. Taking into account all of Scripture’s teaching, the cross is directed toward God himself (in propitiation); toward our enemies, including demons, to defeat them; toward men and women to redeem them; and toward the whole creation to deliver it from “its bondage to decay” and to bring it into “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Why will all of these things occur? Why will we be finally saved? Why will the Devil and evil angels not ruin the shalom of the new creation but instead be cast into the lake of fire? Why will there be a new heaven and a new earth? All of these questions have the same answer: because the Son of God died and rose again on the third day.

For You

From the sermon of Octavius Winslow (1808–1878) titled “The Vitality of the Atoning Blood”:

The moment the ransomed and released soul enters glory, the first object that arrests its attention and fixes its eye is the interceding Savior. Faith, anticipating the glorious spectacle, sees him now pleading the blood on behalf of each member of His Church upon earth.

“By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” [Hebrews 9:12]

“For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, NOW to appear in the presence of God for us.” [Hebrews 9:24]

There is blood in heaven! the blood of the Incarnate God! And because it pleads and prays, argues and intercedes, the voice of every sin is hushed, every accusation of Satan is met, every daily transgression is forgiven, every temptation of the adversary is repelled, every evil is warded, every need is supplied, and the present sanctification and the final glorification of the saints are secured.

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” [Romans 8:33–34]

Draw near, you Joshuas, accused by Satan!

Approach, you Peters, whose faith is sifted!

Come, you tried and disconsolate!

The mediatorial Angel, the pleading Advocate, the interceding High Priest, has passed into the heavens, and appears before the throne, for you.

If the principle of the spiritual life in your soul has decayed, if your grace has declined, if you have ‘left your first love,’ there is vitality in the interceding blood of Jesus, and it prays for your revival. If sin condemns, and danger threatens, and temptation assails, and affliction wounds, there is living power in the pleading blood of Immanuel, and it procures pardon, protection, and comfort.

Law and Gospel

The purposes behind the OT Law are various and complex and often debated. But one of its main functions is articulated beautifully by my favorite theologian (Herman Bavinck) writing in an often overlooked, but outstanding, volume on theology (Our Reasonable Faith). These are his words on page 81:

So far from being opposed to the promise, the law serves precisely as the means in God’s hand to bring the promise constantly nearer to its fulfillment. The law put Israel under restrictions, as a prisoner is put under restraint and denied the freedom of movement. Like a ‘pedagogue’ the law took Israel by the hand, accompanied her always and everywhere, and never for a moment left her out of its sight. As a guardian and supporter, the law maintained a strict watch over Israel in order that Israel might learn to know and to love the promise in its necessity and its glory.

Without the law, so to speak, the promise and its fulfillment would have come to nothing. Then Israel would quickly have fallen back into paganism, and would have lost both her revelation of God with its promise and her own religion and her place among the nations.

But now the law has fenced Israel in, segregated her, maintained her in isolation, guarded her against dissolution, and has thus created an area and defined a sphere in which God could preserve His promise purely, give it wider scope, develop it, increase it, and bring it always closer to its fulfillment. The law was serviceable to the fulfillment of the promise. It placed everybody under the wrath of God and under the sentence of death, it comprehended everybody within the pale of sin in order that the promise, given to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ, should be given to all believers, and that these all should attain to the inheritance as children (Gal. 3:21 and 4:7).

Packer: “As I grow old, I want to tell everyone…”

J.I. Packer, who turns 85-years-old today, wrote these words:

An evangelical theologian, dying, cabled a colleague: “I am so thankful for the active obedience (righteousness) of Christ. No hope without it.” As I grow old, I want to tell everyone who will listen: “I am so thankful for the penal substitutionary death of Christ. No hope without it.”