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Theological Reflections

The Incarnation Negatively Illuminates The Nature Of Salvation

If being human were morally questionable or reprehensible the Son could never have become incarnate.

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Therefore, salvation is not ontic.

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Quotations Theological Reflections

The Lord is Risen and Glorified

And Leo the Great

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has some glorious words to point out the implications of that, in his first sermon “On The Lord’s Ascension”.

And in the course of these and other miracles, when the disciples were harassed by bewildering thoughts, and the Lord had appeared in their midst and said, ďPeace be unto you,Ē that what was passing through their hearts might not be their fixed opinion (for they thought they saw a spirit not flesh), He refutes their thoughts so discordant with the Truth, offers to the doubtersí eyes the marks of the cross that remained in His hands and feet, and invites them to handle Him with careful scrutiny, because the traces of the nails and spear had been retained to heal the wounds of unbelieving hearts, so that not with wavering faith, but with most steadfast knowledge they might comprehend that the Nature which had been lain in the sepulcher was to sit on God the Fatherís throne. (…) And hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at His death on the cross and backward in believing His Resurrection, were so strengthened by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled with great joy. And truly great and unspeakable was their cause for joy, when in the sight of the holy multitude, above the dignity of all heavenly creatures, the Nature of mankind went up, to pass above the angelsí ranks and to rise beyond the archangelsí heights, and to have Its uplifting limited by no elevation until, received to sit with the Eternal Father, It should be associated on the throne with His glory, to Whose Nature It was united in the Son. Since then Christís Ascension is our uplifting, and the hope of the Body is raised, whither the glory of the Head has gone before, let us exult, dearly-beloved, with worthy joy and delight in the loyal paying of thanks. For to-day not only are we confirmed as possessors of paradise, but have also in Christ penetrated the heights of heaven, and have gained still greater things through Christís unspeakable grace than we had lost through the devilís malice. For us, whom our virulent enemy had driven out from the bliss of our first abode, the Son of God has made members of Himself and placed at the right hand of the Father, with Whom He lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

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Theological Reflections

A Thought in Preparation for the Lord’s Day

The great captain of Israel, Joshua, died while canaanites devoted to destruction still dwelt in the promised land. The children of Israel failed to destroy them as they had been commanded: indeed, after the death of Joshua and the generation that had originally invaded the land, they made alliances with these pagans and served their gods. Matthew Henry has a stimulating comment about this.

Though our Lord Jesus spoiled principalities and powers, we see not yet all things put under him; there are remains of Satan’s interest in the church, as there were of the canaanites in the land; but our Joshua lives for ever, and will in the great day perfect his conquests.

Joshua did not finish the work of exterminating the enemies of God’s people because he died. But Christ does not die, and will do His work perfectly. As Hebrews 7:25, speaking of the unchangeable priesthood of Christ says: Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

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Theological Reflections

Good Things that Must Have an Evil Occasion

There are some good things that are only called out by the presence of evil. For instance, medicine is in general a good thing. When I had strep throat, for instance, the spray that eased my bitter dolor and the medicine that quelled it were indeed glorious. But medicine is only called for when there is disease. When one has reason to believe that one is being followed for a nefarious and criminal purpose, an honest policeman is a wonderful thing; and yet, policemen are necessary because of the disagreeable reality of crime.

My first impulse, admittedly, was to think of such things as bad also; to say that they have only a relative good and are in themselves evil, inasmuch as they are only called for by evil. And however sweet it is to get relief from strep throat, I would certainly not choose to experience it again in order to obtain the relief. However there is an objection to calling such things only relatively good and in themselves evil. It is that without evil we should not have had occasion to know the longsuffering, mercy and grace of God. Now this in no way ought to be taken as a justification for sin. Though Paul can write that where sin abounded grace did much more abound he certainly does not mean to indicate that we ought therefore to sin in order to provoke abundant grace (Romans 5:20-6:1). And yet without sin we, as far as I can tell anyway, would not have known God as the God whose kindness is poured out on the guilty, and miserable because guilty. Without needing repentance we would not have known God as the God whose goodness leads us to repentance. I would not feel comfortable saying that the grace of God is a relative good –yet I feel that sin involved a bitter loss, and that I could not choose it.

This does help, me, though to understand that even though sin entered into the world, and death by sin, yet it was better so. I am not saying that sin is good; I am not saying that I would have chosen for things to be this way had the option been mine and I had had plenary knowledge of all consequences (though I am not saying that I wouldn’t, because I am not going to think that I am better than Adam in his original righteousness). But given that things are this way, I can rejoice in spite of the damage done by sin, precisely because God’s grace abounded upon the occasion of abundant sin.

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Theological Reflections

The Creator-Creature Distinction

The Westminster Assembly wrote: The distance between God and the creature is so great that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant (WCF 7.1).

The fact that there is a distinction between the Creator and man is obvious from the simple statement of Genesis 1:26,27 that God made man. Man cannot create; man is derivative, contingent, dependent. But God is none of these things. Paul expresses this truth in Romans 11:33-36. After having expounded the greatness of God’s plan of salvation, and His amazing method of procedure, Paul is constrained to worship and so he says:

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

It is obvious here that there is a distinction between creature and Creator. We have not searched out God’s judgments; we have not given to Him first. And this is true because all things are of Him. All things are derived from Him, contingent upon Him, dependent upon Him; but He needs none of them. God is absolute and independent.

This truth is expressed in poetic terms in Psalm 50:12, If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.

We find Paul making the same point again in Acts 17:24,25, God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with menís hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.

David expresses this truth in connection with our service to God in the confession: for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee (1 Chronicles 29:14b).

Now at first glance this doctrine of the absolute independence of God may be somewhat disquieting. If God does not need us, if He is so vastly different from us, how can we even be sure that He cares for us? But there is great comfort in this doctrine. One thing is unchangeable; the most basic fact in the universe is unalterable, because neither derived, contingent or dependent. So that no matter what I do, no matter what may happen, God will still be God.