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What is the glory of God? I would suggest that the glory of God is the weight of the majestic goodness of who God is, and the resulting name, or reputation, that he gains from his revelation of himself as Creator, sustainer, Judge, and Redeemer, perfect in justice and mercy, loving-kindness and truth.
– Jim Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, Kindle location: 923-25
Many hold to such a view of God’s sovereignty that man’s choices and actions end up being null and futile. Others go too far in the other direction that they’re left with a God who at best is involved only when and to whatever degree we allow Him to be.
I believe the Bible clearly rejects both conclusions. Our God reveals Himself to be sovereign over all things (Eph 1:11; Isa 45:5-7), and still He commands us to act and holds us responsible for our choices (Josh 24:15; Acts 17:30).
Yet there is a deeper truth still; we as Christians owe our obedience to Him. It would be a mistake to say that God is doing 50% of the work and we have to do the rest, or that God only works in us when we allow Him. In fact, Paul says the very opposite:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
— Philippians 2:12-13
It’s clear that Paul wanted the Philippians to know that their obedience and even their desire for obedience both come from God. Every ‘success’ we have in obedience should result in our gratefulness for Him working in us.
An illustration that I often use in my classes might be helpful here. You are walking near to a cliff (as you do) and you stumble and fall, fortunately grasping onto the edge before you fall to your death. You feel your fingers slipping, and start to panic, but suddenly a strong hand grabs hold of you. You look up and before you is the strongest man you’ve ever seen holding on to you. He says,
Don’t worry, I’ve got hold of you and I won’t hold on to you any stronger than you’re holding on to me.
That’s not much of a relief! What good is his strength or his promise to help if he limits them both to our strength? I believe the same is true with God. He is not limiting Himself to our ability to serve Him; in fact He is the strong man pulling us up into obedience!
However, this information should not inspire laziness, but motivate us! What a fuel for our obedience to know that we have the very Living God working in us through His Spirit to obey Him.
This is the promise of the New Covenant that we now experience:
And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
— Ezekiel 36:27
This is Paul’s experience also:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
–1 Corinthians 15:10
God has not forgiven us and then left us to do the rest. He loves us too much.
According to Bruce Ware (The Man Christ Jesus), there are at least three distinct but related senses in which the title “Son of God” is used of Christ throughout Scripture. I’ve adapted these and quoted relevant Scriptures below:
1) The Eternal Son. Before His incarnation, the second person of the Trinity is known as the “Son of God”. (see also, John 3:16-17; Heb 1:1-2; 1 John 4:9-10).
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law.
(Galatians 4:4 ESV)
2) Incarnate and Historic Son. Jesus the Messiah, son of David, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of Mary, is known as the “Son” of God. This is the man Jesus being known as Son of God, the Davidic Messiah. (see also, John 1:33-34, 49; Gal 2:20)
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
(Luke 1:31-33 ESV)
3) The Risen and Triumphant Son. Jesus, crucified and risen, currently exalted and reigning Messiah is also referred to as Son of God. This appears to be used in a unique way post-resurrection to refer specifically to Jesus’ exaltation (e.g., Psalm 2; Acts 13:32-33; 1 Cor. 15:27-28; Heb 4:14)
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)
This insight is particularly illuminating and helps us distinguish between seeing every use of “Son of God” to refer to Christ’s divinity (despite sometimes making no sense in the larger context), and also seeing a merely human meaning behind every use of “Son of God”; both errors to be avoided.
Seminary professor David Murray (blog) interviewed a Presbyterian pastor friend in Scotland about the spiritual state of the country. I’d encourage anyone who has a heart for Scotland to read this first-hand report and see how we can better pray for the Lord to move.
A few of the more sobering questions:
11. Do most of those who are raised in the church remain in the church?
No, in the last 10-15 years many (probably the majority) have left. Churches are declining in number all over.
16. Where do you think it is headed?
Well, humanly speaking it is going down and in many cases the candlestick is being removed. That sounds pessimistic but it is more the reality. I think that unless the better churches can work together then we have a big problem. There are some pockets of good news here and there, but the general picture is bleak.
Find the report here.
From the garden to the plains of Moab, the Torah proclaims the glory of God in salvation through judgment. Yahweh speaks the world with a word, and it is. When his word is broken, the creation itself is subjected to futility. In the judgment, though, comes a hint of the future salvation. some few hold to that hint, and the hints and promises grow, waiting for the day when the seed of the woman arises to crush the head of the serpent and his seed.
– Jim Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, Kindle loc. 2571-74
Special thanks to Penny Glover and IVP UK for providing a review copy of this book.
T. Desmond Alexander has provided the church with a magnificent work of Biblical Theology that is both accessible and scholarly.
From Eden to the New Jerusalem (UK, USA) attempts to give a big picture (meta-narrative) of God’s plan for creation by tracing six central themes throughout the Bible. With this thesis, Alexander hopes to address an area of neglect that he sees in Biblical scholarship, showing how the Biblical storyline works as a whole.
God’s Presence on Earth
The first theme is the presence of God on earth, which others are built upon. As a result this chapter proves to be the most substantial (61 pages out of 193 total), which is welcome considering the concept being foreign to many.
God’s plan to dwell amongst His creation is details from Genesis to Revelation. Like Beale’s work, Alexander identifies the Garden of Eden as the first ‘temple’ with future temples containing both Edenic and cosmic imagery, reflecting God’s worldwide plan. Moving forward, the church as Christ’s body is also identified as the temple of God in passages such as Ephesians 2:19-22 and others; expanding throughout the world as people come to Christ and receive the Spirit. The final stage of the story is found in the New Jerusalem, a worldwide city that is entirely filled with God’s presence.
Having just read Beale’s mammoth work on the temple, it’s quite a wonder to see the same key points clearly explained in 60 pages (rather than Beale’s 400!). This chapter is heavily grounded in Scripture and very persuasively argued. Unfortunately, Christ as the temple is only briefly touched on, which seems to me a significant oversight since Christ is not only the hero of our story, but also because He and His work are the hinge on which God’s presence turns from being limited to a holy building to indwelling a now-holy people.
Kingship and God’s rule over the earth is addressed next. God’s authority is overturned with sin in the Garden, is partially re-established on earth through theocratic Israel, and now by Christ ruling through His church, then is finally restored in the New Jerusalem.
In the next two related chapters, Christ triumphs over the serpent and his seen in His obedience to the Father in the face of temptation, His power over darkness, and His sin-conquering death. Next, Christ’s sacrificial death is discussed by examining His identification as the ‘Lamb’. Alexander follows the themes of Passover and Exodus, showing how these find their fulfilment in Christ.
The next chapter details how all nations will be holy in the future. Holiness, cleanness, uncleanness, and the Levitical law are all explained with detail and clarity and would be especially helpful for one unfamiliar with these Biblical topics.
The final chapter was a little confusing as no clear overarching thesis could be discerned. An interesting comparison of Babylon to the New Jerusalem quickly morphed into a mini-‘sermon’ against capitalism. While this is natural in discussing Babylon, it felt like a misstep and distraction from the book’s overall purpose.
My most significant issues with the book are a) the neglect that Christ receives in some chapters rather than being central, and b) a lack of discussion about the role that heaven plays as a temporary waiting place for the New Creation.
However, I must praise this tremendous book highly. It is amazingly concise given the Scriptural wealth found within. Alexander sets a great example in his very clear writing, bringing sometimes-complicated truths down to earth for the rest of us in this thoroughly eye opening and Biblical book.
I would eagerly recommend this to both new and seasoned Christians, as I believe both would benefit greatly from this book.