Sons in the Son – Book Review

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Sons in the Son (P&R Publishing, 2016) by David B. Garner goes deep into the doctrine of our adoption in Christ.

Adoption is one of those doctrines that warms and encourages the soul and needs to be dwelt upon.  It is also deeply foundational to who we are as united to Christ.  J.I. Packer famously wrote (and Garner is quick to quote) that if he could summarize the New Testament in three words it would be “adoption through propitiation.”

This book is a challenging and academic read, one that is good for enhancing,  deepening and poking at our gospel perspectives, while keeping Christ central.

In Garner’s first section of the book, he lays the adoption foundation -“Securing a family of adopted children occupied the mind of God since before the world’s origins…God purposed adoption, God accomplished adoption, and God applies adoption.” [19] After a brief survey of the concept of adoption in early church history and culture, Garner focuses on the Pauline references to huiothesia – the Greek term  (literally “son-placing”) for adoption which the Apostle uniquely uses for spiritual (not social) adoption.

In the second section, the author dives into the specific texts exegetically and theologically.  Ephesians 1:3-6 [“…God the Father…predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons thru Jesus Christ…”]  As Garner wisely puts it “the opening words of Ephesians affirm, without the all-wise counsel and eternal purpose in the mind of God, redemption would have never happened.”  Amen!  Praise be to God for his sovereign mercy and grace.  Garners stresses, as Paul does in his letters that adoption is in Christ (en Christo) and that union with Christ is paramount to keep in central focus.   Many things stem from this, but one I appreciated particularly was the connection between adoption and Christlikeness.  Eph 1:4 says that he “chose us…to be holy and blameless.”  We have a calling and a purpose therefore as his adopted sons and daughters – bring him glory by looking more like Jesus, through his abundant transforming grace.

The author brings in a redemptive-historical view of adoption when looking more closely at Galatians 4:4-7. [“…so you are no longer a slave, but a son…”]  We see that adoption was not only sovereignly planned, but accomplished in Christ.  As he powerfully writes “the stranglehold of the law and the power of it’s curse meet their defeat under the power of Christ and the cross…” [93] As a result, thru faith, we are no longer slaves to the law/sin – but we are adopted as sons in freedom! Romans 8:15-17 furthers the emphasis of accomplishment. [“…you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons…”]  This is indeed a powerful and central point, once again tied to Christlikeness in practicality – “The Spirit of adoption empowers the believer for spiritual renovation by mortification of sin, and he accomplishes  this empowerment in the mystical union with the Son by the Spirit, or as Paul puts it succinctly, by adoption.” [115]  Through this mortification of sin we grow into the reality of our adopted sonship.  [129]

Garner makes some big statements in this book, one of which he brings out in the context of Ephesians 1:4 to 1:11.  [“…works all things according to the counsel of his will…”]  “Or put in Pauline shorthand, adoption is the singular goal of redemptive history, an adoption that changes the state of the sons, the hearts of the sons, and even the bodies of the sons.” [143]  I can’t say that I disagree with this statement, but the author is laying the groundwork for some bigger statements to follow.

Section 3 contains the significant disconnect I have with the book.  While remaining faithful to the orthodox doctrine of the eternality of Jesus as the Son of God, Garner maintains that Jesus himself was adopted as the Son of God at His resurrection.   This point he carries then for the rest of the book, but devotes a whole chapter to it in chapter 7.  Again, Garners sets the theological foundation with boundaries – “That Christ is eternal Son does not mean, however, that there is therefore no progressive, functional dimension to his sonship.” [179]  Quoting Dunn, he claims this was the adoptionist perspective of primitive Christian teaching “…to have regarded Jesus’ resurrection as the day of his appointment to divine sonship, as the event by which he became God’s son.” [179]  This can be a dangerous perspective and I couldn’t help but take it as a thesis driven push point.  It colored the rest of my interpretation of the book.

The author mainly relies on Romans 1:3-4 for textual support  – ““concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 1:3–4 ESV). The centrality of the argument is the ESV (and KJV, NKJV, and NASB) translation of horisthentos as “declared” which Garner (along with NIV and the new CSV BTW) claims is actually better ” appointed” – thus surmising that Christ was appointed the (adopted) Son at his resurrection.  To be blunt, I can’t buy this, I don’t think it’s helpful, and again it can be dangerous.  Citing support from Gaffin [“…the resurrection of Jesus is his adoption.”] he claims this nuanced interpretation warrants serious attention. [187]

Where it troubles me further is the connection made to biblical Christology and biblical soteriology.  “To put it simply, without the human biography of Christ Jesus, capped by his own adoption as the Son of God, there is no salvation.” [195] – I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement, were it not for the singling out of Christ’s “adoption.”Hence, I cannot.  We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, I know the author agrees with that of course, but the addition of the adoption of Christ himself seems to obfuscate the overwhelming orthodox centrality of it.   Highlighting my concern are statements such as “…there is no adoption of believers in Christ Jesus without the adoption of Christ Jesus.”  As he continues to make the point, I find myself less and less convinced and more and more concerned.  Don’t get too excited – I realize that Garner isn’t denying the eternal divine sonship of Christ, he is stating that “…at his resurrection, Jesus enters a new phase and new dynamic of sonship.” [214], but I’m at a loss as to why this nuance is emphasized for half of the book.

I appreciated Garner’s discussion of the ordo salutis and rescuing it from a forensic, stale, sequential view. He returns to highlight the importance of sanctification resulting from our adoption, and brings a balanced perspective to a sometimes over-emphasized justification.  “Actual holiness is as important as declared holiness.”  [292] AMEN!  He expands the readers view of ordo salutis and it is appreciated and helpful.  “The golden chain of salvation then comes to the redeemed not as consecutive links, but at once as a gloriously completed crown of divine filial grace.”  Once again, AMEN!  Having sat thru many extended dialogs on “which came first” this is very refreshing and helpful.

All in all, I found this book equally helpful and challenging, but one that should be read with a Berean mindset as the priority given to Christ’s own adoption should not be read without significant personal prayer, study, and thought.

 

 

 

Signs of the Spirit – Book Review

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Jonathan EdwardsReligious Affections is one of the most foundational books on the life of a believer ever written. But reading Edwards can be a bit…challenging, shall we say?Henceforth – in Signs of the Spirit, Sam Storms takes on the massive task of recasting and commenting the treasure trove that is sometimes buried within his writing style.

Edwards wrote Religious Affections as a response to the controversy surrounding the Great Awakening, particularly answering the questions “What is the nature of true religion/conversion?” and “How can we tell between authentic and spurious holiness?”

What is the evidence of a genuine saving encounter with the Spirit of God?

Storms sets a foundation from Edwards and then he goes on to explain and apply Edwards’ 12 signs of genuine religious affections.

First, per 1 Peter 1:8, we see that love for Jesus and joy in Jesus are the essence of true spirituality. This love and joy should endure through trials and pain, knowing that God is working within us, like a sculptor who “chips away in us anything from our lives that doesn’t look like Jesus.” This then is no ordinary, temporary emotion, but more of an “inclination of the will,” or as Edwards puts it an “affection” of the heart.

Inclinations and affections should therefore not be half-hearted or lukewarm, but intense and vibrant – ultimately giving way to outward actions that are pleasing to God. As anyone knows, affections cannot (most of the time) be self-generated, we are thus dependent on God to bring them, and that’s where prayer comes in. Storms powerfully writes/summarizes “We are not to pray as if our petitions inform God of what he doesn’t know or change his mind or prevail on him to bestow mercy that he was otherwise disinclined to give. Rather we pray “to affect our own hearts with the things we express, and so to prepare us to receive the blessings we ask.” In fact, virtually all external expressions of worship “can be of no further use, than as they have some tendency to affect our own hearts, or the hearts of others.”

Likewise, our singing should be vibrant and stir our affections. Our preaching should aim to affect hearts, not just inform minds. Our enemy, Satan, is quite happy to see Christians fall into a zone of lifeless religious ceremony, stoicism, and routine. “There is no true religion where there is no religious affection, because if the great things of religion are understood, they will affect the heart.” Chief among these great things is the gospel of Jesus Christ! There should be our greatest joy, delight and affection.

The controversy therein is which are genuine, biblical affections and which are not. Sometimes people can appeal to affections which in actuality prove nothing of genuine spirituality. In Edwards day, as in today, there is a school of thought that would put all the weight on a “spiritual experience” rather than the fruit of genuine faith. We cannot rely on outward expressions, but rather something much more deep. This has everything to do with assurance of faith and Storms/Edwards is right in saying that there is no assurance of salvation in any other way, than by mortifying corruption, and increasing in grace, and obtaining the lively exercises of it.

This then sets the stage for an analysis of the twelve signs of authentic affections that Edwards provides. I’ll try to quickly list and comment on each.

  1. Authentic religious affections arise from supernatural influences on the heart. God, in response to our hearing of the gospel, through the power of His Holy Spirit, gives us new life – which includes new perspectives, feelings, desires, and appetites.
  2. An awareness that divine things are not for self-benefit. In short, it’s not about us. It’s about God and we are drawn then for more of God. The hypocrite rejoices in self, the child of God rejoices in God. Our primary joy must be of God Himself, and not in even in any perceived “experience” of God. I unfortunately see this all over the church today, primarily in the false gospels of prosperity and charismatics. We don’t come to God for what he can do for us, period.
  3. Affections that are founded on a belief of the goodness, sweetness, and beauty of divine things. Do we really believe that God is good, that his word is true and sweet, that prayer is joyful dependance, that the church is our spiritual family? Or do we consider other things more valuable, when they are in actuality pale substitutes.
  4. Affections that result from the mind being divinely enlightened about spiritual things. When God’s word is read, preached, spoken of – it becomes understood by us through the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, per the last point, spiritual things aren’t merely intellectually appreciated, they are savored in the heart.
  5. Affections that come with a level of conviction about the seriousness, judgement and reality of the gospel. These again, are not a mere intellectual belief, but a deeper conviction that spiritual things are indeed truth.
  6. Affections must be accompanied by humility. An awareness of one’s sinfulness and the gift of God in Jesus. Not to mention, deep pain at the signs of sin and the lack of deeper affections for God Himself.
  7. A change of nature must be visible. True conversion includes a gradual renovation of the thoughts, impulses, and actions.
  8. A reflection of the character of Jesus in love, humility, forgiveness, mercy…and many other things.
  9. A tenderness of spirit and a sensitivity toward sin. If we are claiming to be Christians, are we more inclined to determine what is sin and act on it?
  10. A symmetry and pervasiveness in Godly affections. It is a characteristic of the hypocrite to pick and choose where Christlikeness applies in their lives. This is still alive and well in the church in legalism. We pick and choose our pet issues and are willing to die for them, but then subsequently express an inconsistency and imbalance in applying sanctification in other areas of our lives.
  11. True religious affections want more. False affections are satisfied in spiritual complacency. We are called to grow (Eph 4:15) and to give ourselves to seeking God and applying his likeness in “ever increasing measures” so that we will not be ineffective or unfruitful. (2 Peter 1:3-8)
  12. Straight up – we bear the fruit of holiness in our actual lives. This is the most important of the signs. True Christians are never content with the presence of sin in their lives. True Christians will sin, but never completely forsake righteousness. Always fight, by the grace of the gospel, to be more consistent with their spiritual new life in Christ. As Edwards wrote “holy affections have a governing power in the course of a man’s life.” Then we have come full circle, because holiness fuels Godly affections.

Storms includes an additional part of the book about the personal spirituality of Edwards. If you haven’t read a biography on a saint like Edwards that has gone before, please do so. (PS:  Here is a good one on Edwards if you’d like.) They are tremendous soul building exercises. Storms includes a mini-biography in the final part of the book that explains in transparency how much Edwards believed and lived by his faith. We see a mini-tour of his confessions, struggles, and aspirations and it should encourage and give hope for us.

We have much to learn from the saints that have gone before us, your soul will benefit from getting to know Jonathan Edwards.  Thank you, Sam Storms for making these deep truths even more accessible.

Book Review – Discipling

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Discipleship can be a mysterious topic in churches.  How do we do it well? What does it look like? Is it a formal didactic lecture or an informal hang time?  Dever, as he tends to do well, simplifies the mystery in his book “Discipling” he provides a working definition of discipleship as quite simply “helping others follow Jesus.”

In this increasingly individualistic culture, it rubs against the grain to intentionally orient our lives towards others, but that is the foundation of discipleship – particularly, of course, with an eye towards gospel influence.  Yet, this is what the book, appropriately so, encourages.

The book is well organized into three parts, addressing some of the questions in discipling.  What is discipling? Where should we disciple? How should we disciple?  As is expected and appropriate, Dever highlights the centrality of the local church as the primary place for making and maturing disciples of Jesus.   If the church is doing it’s job, people will be diligently following Jesus and then others will be following their example in discipleship relationships.

This all should ultimately be based on the word of God, as the core of discipleship is about teaching truth from the Bible and applying it in our actual lives.  This looks differently for each situation.  I have seen people intimidated by a discipleship relationship thinking that it is a didactic lecture from the Greek text with PowerPoint slides each week, but it doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t!) look like that.  We share the word of God in our dailiy relationships which are born from the local church.

Truth needs to be taught and seen in peoples actual lives, with it’s chaos and unpredictability.  This is what Dever highlights as the “life-truth-life” pattern.  Our lives should attract people to listen, we teach truth from God’s word to them, and then their transformed lives illustration what is taught and in turn attract more people to listen to them…and the cycle repeats, and God is glorified!

 

 

Book Review – Hungry

prpbooks%2fimages%2fcovers%2fmd%2f9781629952017I’ll admit it, when I first started reading “Hungry” (P&R Books, 2016) I thought “OK…another book on idolatry.”  I was pleasantly surprised.  Lauterbach, a pastor’s wife, Bible study leader, and self-made expert chef not only has a clear grasp on the Scriptures, but is unintimidated in the challenge to apply them, and suitably transparent in the ups and downs of her own spiritual journey.  (Not to mention at times, quite funny.)

Lauterbach’s central idea behind the book is that as we have learned to feed ourselves with physical food, so should we learn to feed ourselves with our spiritual food – the Word of God.  This comparison, which I’ll admit I first what I thought was somewhat gimmicky, turns out to be an extremely powerful teaching and application point.  What certainly helps this cause is the author’s own expertise in cooking which only serves to deepen the analogy and make it more helpful.

All of our spiritual journeys start with a hunger, a hunger for a “perfect food that will delight and satisfy us without tempting us.”  The gospel of Jesus offers us rebirth into a completely new person, which then our food should be Jesus himself (“I am the Bread of Life” John 6:35) and His Word, but yet we are tempted by cravings to gorge (or snack) on sin…especially during those times when we are in the wilderness.   This is all a matter of the heart, as all idolatry is – as Lauterbach helpfully notes “we all instinctively feed on what we love.”

In the second part of the book, Lauterbach shows her strength as a Bible study teacher, discipler, and chef with powerful application of the foundational truths laid down in Part 1.

Just as a chef (or a parent feeding their children) would prepare, cook, and eat food to feed others – so we should observe, interpret, and apply God’s word to feed our souls. I wholeheartedly agree – God has provided His holy word to feed us and nourish us – why are we (myself included) sometimes so unintentional in how we come to the dinner table?  The author provides extremely helpful and accessible “ingredients” to help in making studying the Bible a meal that nourishes, instead of an act of frustrated half-obedience that brings guilt, discouragement, leaving us unsatisfied.  This is the real strength of the book. As a Pastor I’m obviously one to encourage people to regularly read and study their Bibles, but have often heard tales of the frustration and inability to understand it…which usually leads to a lack of proper eating and spiritual growth.  Lauterbach’s instruction here is much needed and very timely.

Ultimately, of course, we don’t read our Bibles to just check the box, but rather we read them to experience and get to know God himself.  The author rightly notes “When is our hunger satisfied?  Not when we read our Bibles, but when we see Jesus there.” Amen!

I recommend this book to all believers seeking to gain practical help in not only knowing our hearts in light of the gospel, but subsequently studying God’s Word to keep us growing and maturing!

 

 

 

 

Feelings…and Dr. Jones.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m thinking.  Martin Lloyd Jone’s (1899-1981) book Spiritual Depression has been testified about repeatedly by some of my greatest heroes in the faith (John Piper, CJ Mahaney, Bob Kauflin, Mark Driscoll…to name just a few).  So the big question is – why haven’t I read this sooner?  Duh.

Each chapter has been blowing my mind, but I felt lead to share this mornings chapter on “Feelings” as it is particularly practical. He is one of my new favorite dear old departed saints.

The starting premise is that feelings exist, they are altogether strange in their coming and going, and we are not to allow ourselves to be controlled by them.  We need to control them, with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that lives within us as followers of Jesus.  “Oh the havoc that is wrought and the tragedy, the misery and the wretchedness that are to be found in the world simply because people do not know how to handle their own feelings!”  Thank you, Dr. Jones, for starting us off with a bang.

Basics:

  1. Feelings are meant to be engaged
    • Do not be afraid of feelings (RuelNote: Does that count as feeling something about a feeling?)
  2. We cannot create feelings, nor command them at will.
    • We cannot generate feelings within ourselves.
  3. Nothing is as changing within us as our feelings
    • Ever just wake up in a bad mood for no reason at all?
    • Don’t underestimate the physical factors – are you exercising, eating right, and sleeping enough?
  4. Bad feelings do not mean we are not a Christian
    • Neither is happy lightheartedness Christian joy – but that doesn’t mean we give in to stoicism and thinking all happy feelings are bad.  (Turns out you can be a Christian and show some emotion.  Perhaps try that when singing! OK, I digress, back to our regularly scheduled program…)

So what do to/not to:

  1. Feeling depressed?  First check for sin.
    • If you are actively sinning and not repenting…guess what? You should be miserable.  There is something between you and God…
    • Confess, repent and run to the cross and soak in the grace God gave you in Jesus
  2. Do not over-concentrate on your feelings – they are not to be central.  We cannot let them control us.
    • Concentrate on the Truth – God’s Word.  Yes, the Bible.
  3. There is a difference between rejoicing and feeling happy
    • You cannot make yourself happy, but you can make yourself rejoice (Phil 4:4 anyone?)
    • Stir yourself up – remind yourself of your identity in Christ
    • When you are walking in the darkness, keep walking.  Don’t sit down in it.
    • Thirst after righteousness (Matt 5:6)
  4. Want the most supreme joy? Press hard into God
    • Psalm 16:11 – “You have make know to me the path of life; you fill me with joy in your presence.”

Discipline of Grace – Part 1

It’s a double blog kinda day!  Perhaps it’s all the coffee (I just had to make more coffee for my precious wife, lest she soon awake and find that I have in fact drank the first pot…)

I love Jerry Bridges.  I have for quite some time.  (Pursuit of Holiness, Gospel for Real Life, Respectable Sins…).  My in-laws got me “The Discipline of Grace” for Christmas and I haven’t really been able to put it down since. I’m half way through, but this morning’s chapter was a major light bulb moment for me, that I wanted to write down for future use.

In Chapter 6 “Transformed Into His Likeness” Bridges focuses on Sanctification.  The key verse is 2 Cor 3:18 which reads:

And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Bridges is focusing on SANCTIFICATION – straight up transformation of people.  God making new people, like only God can do!  I look back on who I was 15 years ago and it is usually a mix of shock, sadness, remorse, anger and eventual wonder of what God has done.  Don’t let yourself get bogged down in the negative – always bring your thoughts to the positive of what God has done and let that amaze you and let it cause you to praise him for Christ and the cross!

Bridges takes us through some great BBW’s (“Big Bible Words”) – first REGENERATION (The Spirit giving us new life  as new creations in Christ); JUSTIFICATION (saved from the penalty of sin) – then he gets to SANCTIFICATION.   As you know I’m a huge fan of BBW’s so I’m positively giddy by this point…

The goal of sanctification is to become like Jesus.  How do we do that? We study his character.  What will it look like if we are progressing in sanctification?

  • We will hate sin.  (In OUR life)
  • We will seek his will more than our own
  • We will seek to please him in our actions more than ourselves
  • We will be aware to test our motives in our hearts because we know God knows whats in there anyway

Always remembering that sanctification is a process, not an event.  Also always remembering that there will be conflict with our remaining sinful nature.  (Gal 5:17) Bridges gave a great illustration of sin being like a defeated army retreating into the hills to wage guerrilla warfare on us. This is the way it is and shouldn’t be a shock.  Also remember that while sanctification is a work of God – we have a responsibility – we need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this process.

We will also be aware that as the light of the Holy Spirit shines more brightly in our lives, “smaller” sins we be more clear to us.  Bridges illustrated this as a room with a light on a dimmer, as the dimmer gets turned up, things in the room become more clear – as we grow in sanctification – sins in our hearts will become more clear.

It is vital that we pray daily for God to continue to sanctify us and for us to submit to the Spirit in that work.  (Heb 13:21)

How does God sanctify?

  • First, remember it is the role of the Holy Spirit (see key verse above)
  • Thru trials and adversities, challenges
  • Exhortation and encouragement of fellow believers
  • Scripture
  • Prayer
  • MOST of all – thru JESUS CHRIST

It is vital, critical, paramount (here is the “a-ha moment”) that we appropriate the truth of the gospel BEFORE we get into the mindset of trying to knuckle down and grow in sanctification.  It is the foundation.

Bridges writes “It is the glory of Christ revealed in the gospel, the good news that Jesus died in our place as our representative to free us not only from the penalty of sin, but also from its dominion. A clear understanding and appropriation of the gospel, which gives freedom from sin’s guilt and sin’s grip is tin the hands of the Holy Spirit, a chief means of sanctification.”

“To the degree we feel that we are on a legal or performance relationship with God, to that degree our progress in sanctification is impeded. A legal mode of thinking gives indwelling sin an advantage, because nothing cuts the nerve of the desire to pursue holiness as much as a sense of guilt. On the contrary nothing so motivates us to deal with in in our lives as does the understanding and application o the two truths that our sins are  forgiven and the dominion o sin is broken because of our union with Christ.”

“The cleansing of our consciences from the guilt of sin must preceded our efforts to deal with the presence of sin in our daily lives.”

“We cannot serve God or pursue holiness with any vigor at all if we are dealing with a guilty conscience. Therefore we need the gospel to remind us that our sins are forgiven in Christ and that the “blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

This is WHY we preach the gospel to ourselves EVERY DAY.

This is WHY we never move past the gospel.

This is WHY the gospel of Jesus is of first importance and must remain so.

Otherwise we take our eyes off of Him and put them on US – and we then do not grow in the likeness of Christ – we do not stand on the rock solid truth that HE is our righteousness, our forgiveness, our innocence before God and we work FROM that identity, not FOR that identity as he transforms us from one degree of glory to another.

Snowed in and being blown away by Packer

So, I cracked open one of my Christmas books “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” by J.I. Packer.  We have about 2 feet of snow here in Northern NJ…so I have found some time to dig into this…

Wow.

I love this book.

I’ll just briefly share some of the things that I’ve highlighted, underlined, and written “AMEN” in the margin for you to whet your whistle…

For it is not true that some Christians believe in divine sovereignty while others hold an opposite view. What is true is that all Christians believe in divine sovereignty, but some are not aware that they do, and mistakenly imagine and insist that they reject it. What causes this odd state of affairs?  The root cause is the same as in most cases of error in the church – the intruding of rationalistic speculations, the passion for systematic consistency, a reluctance to recognize the mystery and to let God be wiser than men, and a consequent subjecting of Scripture to the supposed demands of human logic.

Packer continues…

the desire to oversimplify the Bible by cutting out the mysteries is natural to our perverse minds, and it is not surprising that even good people should fall victim to it.

Why is it that we have to try fit God into a human form? Why is it that we “dumb down” the message so much and not let it stand in it’s complexity and mystery? We try to understand everything God is doing in our lives and try to understand everything God has set up…we cannot do that!  He is not like us and we will not understand these things – if we did – that would make us…umm…God and we are not!  We need to let God be God and stop constantly trying to figure God out…this sometimes doesn’t sit well with us, does it?

Packer talks about Paul’s rejecting of the spirit of this questioning from Romans 9

…observe how Paul replies. He does not attempt to demonstrate the propriety of God’s action; instead, he rebukes the spirit of the question.  “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” What has the objector to learn is that he, a creature and a sinner, has no right whatsoever to find fault with the revealed ways of God. Creatures are not entitled to register complains about their Creator.

Those that know me, will not be surprised that I will bring this back to the gospel – and the role of the church to teach the gospel.  For the more we know of God and God’s plan the more we will rightly see our proper place in it.

…the good news was just this: that God has executed his eternal intention of glorifying his Son by exalting as a great Savior for great sinners.  Such is the gospel which Paul was sent to preach.  It is a message of some complexity, needing to be learned before it can be lived by, and understood before it can be applied. It needs therefore, to be taught.

To teach the gospel is his first responsibility: to reduce it to it’s simplest essentials, to analyze it point by point, to fix it’s meaning by positive and negative definition, to show how each part of the message links up with the rest– and to go on explaining it till he is quite sure that his listeners have grasped it.

You will note that Packer did not say that Paul’s goal was to preach pragmatic, men-centered lessons on how to “Unlock the 7 Secrets of the Happiness Code” – or “How To” lessons – it is the Gospel in the full counsel.  “to show how each part of the message links up with the rest…”

May we proclaim the mystery of God thru the Gospel!  2 Cor 4:1-2

1Therefore, having(A) this ministry(B) by the mercy of God,[a] we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced(C) disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or(D) to tamper with God’s word, but(E) by the open statement of the truth(F) we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.