Jesus is the Son of Man

To end our discussion of the names of Jesus, we come to third most frequently used name of Jesus in the Bible, the Son of Man.

Many critics of Jesus claim that His divine reputation came from the opinions of those around Jesus rather than Jesus Himself. Yet, this cannot be true, because while this is the third most frequent name or title attributed to Jesus in the Bible after Christ and Lord, Son of Man is the name Jesus uses the most when speaking of Himself. So of all the things Jesus prefers to be called, nothing is higher than Son of Man. This refutes the critics who think Jesus’ divinity was made up by others and not Jesus Himself because Jesus’ favorite name for Himself was Son of Man.

Some people think the name Son of Man refers to a humble or creaturely image Jesus wanted to portray, as if Jesus preferred Himself to be thought of as just a son of another man, this is not the case. We see this in the pinnacle text of Daniel 7:13-14 where we find the majestic and exalted definition of the name Son of Man.

Daniel 7:13-14 says, ‘I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.’

See the glory in this text. The Son of Man is one who comes to the Father, called here the Ancient of Days, and receives dominion, glory, and a kingdom, for the express purpose that all peoples and nations would ‘serve’ (which in Hebrew could also be translated as – worship) Him. The Son of Man is not only given all these things, but it says after this that His kingdom shall be everlasting, it shall not pass away, and shall not be destroyed. This is no humble or creaturely designation is it? No, it’s nothing short of a supreme and sovereign title.

R.C. Sproul comments on this passage saying, ‘In the New Testament usage of this title, the Son of Man is a heavenly person who descends to earth, and He represents nothing less than the authority of God. He comes to bring judgment to the world because He embodies the divine visitation, the day of the Lord. Therefore, this is an exalted title given uniquely to Jesus in the New Testament. As you read through the Scriptures and come upon this title, look at its context, and you will begin to see that it is a majestic and exalted designation for Jesus.’

So see in the names of Jesus, more than just names, see His character. Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is Lord, and Jesus is the Son of Man.

(Image courtesy of Gilbert Lennox Photography)

Jesus is Lord

After the title Christ the second most used name or title given to Jesus is the title Lord. Actually the statement ‘Jesus is Lord’ was the first creed or confession of the early Church. This was not only the first creed of the early Church, the statement ‘Jesus is Lord’ was the confession that put the early Church in serious conflict with the Roman Empire, because Caesar was known as Lord. So for the Church to claim another Lord than Caesar was no small offense, it was high treason.

This is why so many Christians were killed in the early Church, because they would no longer say ‘Caesar is Lord’ but would boldly proclaim the truth before their executioners ‘Jesus is Lord.’ Jesus Himself even does this at one point in His ministry when answering a question about taxes. In Mark 12:13-17 Jesus is asked, ‘Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ This person was obviously laying a trap for Jesus but Jesus answered wisely saying, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ In this brief statement Jesus made a clear distinction between the true God, His Father, and Caesar, a man who was wrongly held to be a god.

You should be aware though, that the Greek word for Lord, kurios, is not always used in royal language. It had three common uses.

First, the word was used as a polite address. So when someone today uses the word ‘sir’ they are being polite and respectful. In the first century the word kurios was used just like that.

Second, the word was used as a greeting for wealthy landowners who owned and employed slaves. When used in this manner the word kurios was intended to provide a distinction between slave owner and slave. So the landowner would be referred to as Lord while the slave was called ‘doulos’ which is often translated as servant or slave.

Third and lastly, the word was used as an imperial title. This is where the usage of Caesar is Lord comes into play. The Caesar chose the loftiest title to accompany his name, so Augustus was not merely called Augustus or even Emperor Augustus, as Caesar Augustus demanded to be called kurios, or Lord. This last usage is the usage being employed when we say Jesus is Lord. We do not intend to communicate politeness or even that Jesus is a person of means, no, we intend that Jesus is majestic, He is Lord over all.

This is what Peter meant to convey in John 6. After Jesus saw many people leave Him He posed a question to the disciples, ‘Are you going to leave too?’ Peter responds, ‘Lord, to whom else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ This imperial usage is what Thomas meant to convey in John 20. Remember he had doubted the resurrection because he couldn’t see it but when Jesus revealed Himself to him and he saw His wounds Thomas cried out, ‘My Lord, and my God!’ Perhaps the most famous use of the this title is found in Philippians 2:5-11 where Paul writes some of the most memorable words in Scripture (read passage). In this passage you really can make the argument that the name God gives Jesus that is above all names, the name at which every name will bow isn’t the name Jesus, but Lord.

(Image courtesy of Gilbert Lennox Photography)

Jesus is the Christ

It doesn’t take a long time reading the Bible to discover that names mean a great deal. Names of people, names of places, and names of events often describe much more than names do today. Today we don’t usually mean to teach something much when we name a person, place, or thing. There may be some sentiment or traditional notion behind the names we give things, but that’s usually where it stops today. In the Bible we find something different. We find the character of a person, place, or event wrapped up in its name. This is certainly true when it comes to names of human beings we meet in the Bible, but one thing most of us overlook is that it’s also true of God and the names He is called throughout Scripture.

If I were to go over every name God has in the Bible or every name He is called by in the Bible in detail whether it be the Father, Son, or Spirit we’d be here all evening. We could speak of the names: Elohim, Yahweh, Adonai, the Holy One of Israel, the Fear of Isaac, I AM, or the Lord of Glory. But tonight for our purposes here covering the doctrine of Christ I’ll just mention what I think are the most important names of Jesus we have in Scripture, and when it comes to those three rise to the surface: Christ, Lord, and Son of Man.

Christ

This is the most common name for Jesus that we use today, it’s so common to call Jesus, Jesus Christ, that many people think Christ is Jesus’ last name. But it’s not. His name is simply Jesus, Christ is a title given to Him. It’s actually the title given to Jesus more often than any other in Scripture. It’s used so often throughout the Bible sometimes we find it reversed and we read of ‘Christ Jesus.’ The word Christ is the Greek word christos which comes straight from the Hebrew word Messiah, or, the anointed One.

Jesus’ first sermon is recorded for us in Luke 4:18-21 where we see Him walk up to the scroll, open it to Isaiah 61 and read the following, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then after reading that passage from Isaiah Jesus said to those at the temple that day, text, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ By doing this Jesus was proclaiming to the world that He was the One Isaiah was speaking of. He was the Messiah, the anointed One, the Christ.

But if Jesus was to be the Christ according to Isaiah’s standards, He had to be more than what was reflected in Isaiah 61. Isaiah spoke of the Christ many times throughout his prophetic ministry. He said the Christ would be a shepherd, a king, a lamb, and a suffering servant. For all these things to culminate in one person would simply be amazing. The odds were astronomical, but remember, nothing is impossible with God. In fact, once Jesus comes on the scene in redemptive history at His first coming it is breathtaking to see all the different strands of prophecy come together into harmony in the Person of Jesus. He was the long awaited Christ, the Messiah, but spoke of Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep in John 10. He spoke of His Kingdom being at hand in Mark 1, and if He has a Kingdom He must be a King. This is why the Babylonian astrologers traveled an astounding distance to see the boy Jesus and give Him gifts, because He was a King.

John the Baptist spoke of Himself being the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world in John 1. That He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world shows us that Jesus is also the Suffering Servant who suffers and dies for His people. All of these things, and more, culminate in the one Person of Jesus.

This means Jesus is the Christ.

This is most famously stated by Peter in Matthew 16 when Jesus asks, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ To which Peter responds, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

(Image courtesy of Gilbert Lennox Photography)

4 Ways God Punishes Sin

Lastly, after spending two days on the origin of sin and the character of sin, today I’ll briefly discuss the punishment of sin. This is the result of sin in man. All this talk of guilt, pollution, corruption, depravity, and total and moral evil means little if God doesn’t take it seriously. Men may make light of it but God doesn’t, for He will punish all sin both in this life and in the life to come.

How? In 4 ways:

a) Spiritual Death

Our sinful nature is itself punishment for our sin. Sin is the great separator, separating man from man and more importantly, man from God. To be separated from God is a real kind of death, because only in communion with God can man really live. There is no life outside of Him (John 1:4-5 speak of the light inside of Christ being the life of men). So rather than going through life having a nature that always obeys, yearns for, and loves God we now (as a punishment from the fall) have a nature that rejects, runs from, and hates God. This is spiritual death.

b) Suffering in this Life

All suffering that takes place in this life is a result from and penalty of sin. Weakness, disease, distress, poverty, pain, sickness, sorrow, and everything other woe under the sun entered the world in Genesis 3 as a punishment for our sin. The true and lasting harmony of life has been ruined and wrecked so that we can never get past the fallen-ness of this present world. We feel this suffering in our souls, which no longer feels like paradise but a battleground. We feel this suffering with other men, rather than peace we have competition and strife. We feel this suffering in nature, rather than the ‘calm or cool of the day’ we see in Eden we experience destructive forces of nature like earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami’s, and floods. All of this suffering inside of us and outside of us is a punishment to us from the fall.

c) Physical Death

Adam, the first created man, would not have died if he had not sinned, but he did, and part of the wages of his sin was physical death. Romans 5 says in him all men fell as well, and so naturally we will one day face the wages of sin too in our own physical death. The soul was never meant to be separated from the body, but in physical death that is exactly what happens. Genesis 3:19, ‘For you are dust and to dust you shall return.’

d) Eternal Death

Lastly, and perhaps most sorrowfully, physical death is not the only death that comes into man’s existence as a punishment from the fall, eternal death comes too. For all those who reject the gospel in this life, will experience in full measure the fallen-ness they tasted on earth. Eternal death is the culmination of spiritual death. ‘The restraints fall away, and the corruption of sin has it’s full work. The full weight of the wrath of God descends on the condemned’ (Louis Berkhof). This condition of eternal death is the eternal corresponding form of their inward spiritual death. What this is like we’ll return to in our time in eschatology.

One of the Most Obvious Things I Could Say

This past Monday I wrote on the origin of sin, today I’ll focus on the character of sin. When speaking of the character of something we’re usually referring to the essential qualities of a thing. For example, one essential quality of all good cheeseburgers is grease. Without it, they may be healthier, but they sure aren’t as good. This is obvious isn’t it? It’s a fact that all people who have eaten a few cheeseburgers understand. When it comes to sin, there is an equally obvious statement I can say: sin is nasty, literally nasty. This is as obvious as 1+1=2.

Throughout the history of the Church many have tried to describe the sinfulness of sin and have done so with terrifying clarity. Over the course of my reading I’ve gleaned two prominent things about sin: it is total, and it is moral.

a) Total

One of the results of the fall was that man is now totally depraved. To say we are totally depraved is not to say we are utterly depraved. We are not as bad as we could be (even Hitler didn’t kill his own mother), but the fall of man affected the totality of man. No faculty within man was left untouched or unchanged by the fall of man. Our hearts are bent on rebellion against God, our wills prefer evil to righteousness, and our bodies wear out. This is why people get dementia, cancer, colds, and all other diseases that war against the body. So to say sin is total is to say it totally wrecks us spiritually and physically. Romans 3:10-18 is a good place to see this clearly.

b) Moral

Many people speak of evil these days, evil things that happen in the world, and evil things that happen to people. The one word people shy away from using in most of these instances is the word ‘moral.’ Because to use the word moral is to refer to a standard that all men must abide by, and since we live in a culture where the reality of an objective moral standard is rejected, the word ‘moral’ has lost much of its sway. But when it comes to God and His Word, we must see that sin is a moral evil. Scripture speaks of us missing the mark which implies there is a right way or path to seek and go down. Scripture speaks of us preferring darkness to light and rejecting God for our own desires, seeking to get out from under His authority. The Bible calls this unfaithfulness. This implies that embracing light over darkness, and obeying God over our desires is faithfulness. To be faithful or unfaithful are words that only exist in moral categories. This means the Bible speaks of sin in such a way as to show it’s ethical nature, and shows how life can lived rightly and wrongly.

We too often think of man’s problem as something done to us that requires an inner solution, when the Bible speaks of man’s problem in terms of something we’ve done that requires the solution of another. We have deliberately chosen to disobey God and follow what we think is better. Man is never passive in sin, we don’t fall into sin, we sin because we want to, and because of this intentionality we held responsible for our active opposition to God. This brings guilt, and guilt is a word (again) that only exists and functions in a moral context.

To the degree we lessen the sinfulness of sin, to that degree we lessen graciousness of God’s grace, until we begin to see all man as more or less good people. This is wrong, sin is not a lesser degree of good, but a moral evil. We’re either on the right side or the wrong side.

Did Sin Come From God or Man?

As long as man has been we have sought to answer the question of the origin of sin, the source of moral corruption, and the root of evil. As you can imagine there are many answers to this question throughout history, but though there are many answers, we can assemble them into a few groups.

The early Church fathers were split on this. The Eastern Church (Greek theologians) came to settle on a position known as Pelagianism, which denied any connection between Adam’s sin and our own, believing all men are not polluted in Adam. The Western Church (Latin theologians) came to settle on a position known as Augustinianism, which stressed the connection between Adam’s sin and our own, believing all men to be polluted in Adam.

As history progressed the majority of the Church would come to a middle position called semi-pelagianism, where believes man to be polluted from Adam’s sin, but believes the pollution is not as depraved as the Augustinians made it seem. Though the majority of the Church embraced this middle-ground position, there was a group who rejected semi-pelagianism, the Reformers, whom we stand with today. After the Reformation period, the sinfulness of man continued to decrease in the eyes of the Church (though the Puritans held to it) so that eventually it came to disappear all together.

Within the Church now, it seems to be prevalent to believe two things: 1) Adam was the first sinner, and 2) but his sin is not the cause of the sin in mankind.

What does Scripture say about this? How did mankind receive a sinful nature? What is sin’s origin? It may seem arrogant of me to speak so bluntly but the Bible is crystal clear on this. We can say the following things:

a) The Consequence of God’s Sovereign Will

The first thing we can say about origin of sin is that the fall of man is the consequence of God’s sovereign will.

Don’t mishear me. God is holy, holy, holy (Isa. 6:3), sin cannot be in His presence (Job 34:10), He hates sin (Ps. 5:4, 11:5), He cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no man (Jam. 1:13). God is not the author of sin, yet we can say that in His sovereignty God was pleased to permit and purpose the fall of man to His own glory. We can say this because it is an implication of God’s sovereignty. Since God is sovereign over all things, since He ordains whatsoever comes to pass, and since all things work according to the counsel of His own will we must conclude that God was not surprised when the fall took place. God didn’t say oops.

To deny such a thing is to place God in subjection to another who brought about the fall against the will of God. Romans 8:20 says this, ‘For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.’ All creation was subjected to futility, this means subjected to the fall, BY WHO? By him who subjected it in hope. Who subjected creation to futility in hope? It surely wasn’t Adam, he didn’t disobey God’s one command with an aim toward hope. No, God subjected the creation to the fall of man, in hope, that one day He would raise it to new life, just as raises His children to new life.

Thus we believe with Jonathan Edwards, ‘It is not sin in God to will that sin be.’ Romans 5:8 teaches us this principle as well. ‘God shows His love for us (He really desired to display His love toward us) in that while we were still sinners (there had to be sin) Christ died (there had to be death) for us.’ So by permitting, allowing, and ordaining the fall of man God opened the jaws of death that would eventually slam shut on His Son at the cross. The fall prepared the world for the Son of God to enter it and die.

b) The Consequence of Man’s Wicked Choice

The second thing we can say about origin of sin is that the fall of man is the consequence of man’s wicked choice.

Scripture does hint in a few places that sin existed before the fall of man in the angelic world (John 8:44, 1 John 3:8), but the place we mainly want to go to mention the origin of sin is Adam’s transgression in Eden. The tempter, who was already fallen, came to the woman and through her to the man and lied to them about God’s command. They gave in to the temptation and committed the first sin by eating the forbidden fruit. Pollution, corruption, depravity entered Adam and Eve, and into all their descendants after them, such that through Adam, as Romans 5:12 says, ‘death spread to all men.’

This is the transmission of sin. Louis Berkhof says it like this, ‘As a result of the fall the father of the race could only pass on a depraved nature to his offspring. From that unholy source sin flows on as an impure stream to all the generations of men, polluting everyone and everything with which it comes in contact’ (Systematic Theology, 221). Romans 5:12-21 teaches this and shows that Adam was the representative head for all mankind in the fall, just as Christ is the representative head for all the elect, who through faith in Him will one day find all the consequences of reversed.

The result of the origin of sin is fivefold:

1) All men are brought into the world not only polluted in sin, but guilty from that sin before God, totally depraved, meaning not that we’re as bad as we could be but that sin effects man totally.

2) Communion with God was lost, and man entered into a condition of spiritual death.

3) Shame came to bear on the soul of man, thus Adam and Eve ‘covered’ themselves.

4) Physical death entered the world in the human and animal world, we were made from the dust and to the dust we shall all return, or as Paul says, ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23).

5) Man’s residence changed from the Eden to exile.

Take caution though before you agree with me too quickly. The correct response to this isn’t, ‘Yep, I know this is true. We live in a messed up world, I see it everyday.’ No, the correct response to this is, ‘Yep, I know this is true. I see it in my own heart everyday.’ Unless you’re willing to acknowledge that this is true of you, you’ll never embrace the gospel that can save sinners.

(The above image is taken from Kevin DeYoung’s book, The Biggest Story)

 

Image and Likeness = Sanctification and Missions

Wednesday I spoke of man’s created role as God’s kings, prophets, and priests. Obviously when speaking of God making us to carry out these offices we must say that all of these offices find their apex in the Person of Christ, who then is (by no surprise) said to the very image of God throughout the new Testament, and this comes to us in the doctrines of sanctification and missions. Follow me here:

Adam, with the aid of his helpmate Eve, were to carry out these roles because God not only wanted Adam and Eve to rule over creation, but to spread His image throughout the earth by procreation. Adam failed to do this. Next, this same command is passed onto Noah and his family in Genesis 9:1-2, but Ham, Noah’s son, failed like Adam. This un-fulfilled command then becomes a promise God made Abraham. Rather than being told to spread God’s image across the globe, God promised Abraham that He would bless the nations through his descendants.

Did the cultural mandate just go away? No. It is fulfilled by Jesus.

Jesus is called the ‘last Adam’ in 1 Cor. 15:45, and is referred to in Romans 5:14 when Paul says, ‘Adam was a type of the One who was to come.’ These verses mean that in Adam we get a preview not only of what Jesus would be like, but also of the work Jesus will do. How so?

Jesus, unlike Adam fulfilled this command from Genesis 1:28 not by procreation (as Adam was to do) but by making new creations out of sinful human beings. Recall when a person places their faith in Jesus, they become new creations. They, who were originally made in the image of God (but are now marred by sin) are now through salvation more realistic displays of the image of God than they have ever been before because they are living in communion with God, and that’s what they were made for. In regards to sanctification – when one is saved by Jesus, Jesus begins to conform to His own image, which the Bible says is the exact representation of the image of God (Heb. 1:3, Col. 1:15-20). So being conformed into the image of Jesus in sanctification is God’s work of making us into what we are always meant to be – the image of God.

So you see, the more people come to Jesus, the more people are being made into the image of God by Jesus through what is called sanctification. What does this mean? Jesus is fulfilling the Genesis 1:28 command by making these new creations all over the globe.

Therefore, to be made in the image of God means we have an inherent dignity and sanctity, it means we were made to be God’s prophets, priests, and kings as we build and create culture, AND it means the image of God is now being spread throughout the whole earth by Jesus, through the gospel, with the aid of His helpmate, the Church.

Image and Likeness = Prophet, Priest, and King

Early on the Church fathers believed the image/likeness of God in man consisted of man’s rational and moral characteristics. Others (Irenaeus and Tertullian) viewed the image and likeness of God in man as two separate things; image being man’s bodily nature and likeness being man’s spiritual nature. The Roman Catholic Church still to this day believes these to be two separate things; image being rationality, reason, and volition, while likeness being an original righteousness added to man at creation.

The Protestant view, the correct view, differs. We believe the two words image and likeness to be two words which refer to the same thing (the theological word for this is a ‘hendiadys’). So to say we were made in the image of God is to say we were made in the likeness of God, and visa versa. In this manner John Calvin said, ‘Accordingly by this term (the image of God) is denoted the integrity with which Adam was endued when his intellect was clear, his affections subordinated to reason, all his senses duly regulated, and when he truly ascribed all his excellence to the admirable gifts of his Maker. And though the primary seat of the divine image was in the mind and the heart, or the soul and its powers, there was no part even of the body in which some rays of glory did not shine’ (Institutes, 1.15.3). See here that Calvin does not separate image and likeness but in talking of the image of God in man he speaks of both natural and spiritual characteristics of man.

So what does it mean, according to the Bible, to be made in the image of God?

Images were common in the ancient world the Old Testament was written in, and it was these varied images that represented someone like a god or a king. The 2nd commandment forbids the worship of images, yet see the beauty of man in that by making us, God made an image of Himself. At it’s most basic we must say this: to be made in the image/likeness of God is to be made to resemble God.

Therefore though God and man are different, we believe God and man are similar too.

We could say that what we see being taught in Genesis 1 is ‘man’s relationship to the rest of creation is similar to God’s relationship to the creation as a whole’ (John Frame). After Gen. 1:26-27 God gives man the Cultural Mandate in 1:28 which says, ‘And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”’ This means God has given man finite qualities that are replicas of God’s infinite qualities, and that God has made man like Himself to equip man for his task as a ‘lord’ who exercises dominion, while being a ‘lord’ who submits to God’s Lordship. This is to say that God made man to be lord of the world under Him.

In this role man must carry out, John Frame gives us a helpful pattern to think through. He says God’s three main Lordship qualities are: prophet, priest, and king, thus, we should see traces of each of these three in man because God made man like Him.

I want to take them in the order of King, prophet, and priest:

Man as king: the role of a king is a role of power. Man in the image of God has power, power that is God-given for us to have dominion over and subdue to earth, making it bear fruit for us. Everything God has made in the 4th – 6th days of creation man is to have dominion over, this is Genesis 1:28, the cultural mandate. See that the kingly task of man having dominion over the world is carried out when man takes creation and turns it into an environment suited to the needs and purposes of man. This not only involves growing crops for food, but also speaks of the arts, sciences, and literature. So see here an implication of such things: man is to be a culture builder according to God’s standards, and when we do so, we bring glory to God by living as lords under God, the Lord of Lords.

Man as prophet: the role of a prophet is a role of authority in language. Man in the image of God is a prophet in that God has given us language in order to exercise authority in the world. Man’s first experience with this was when they heard the authoritative prophetic voice of God commanding them in 1:28-31. Man’s second experience with this was when Adam used language authoritatively to name the animals in Genesis 2. Then the disastrous third experience was hearing the language of the serpent and believing his word over God’s. God then authoritatively used language to condemn the serpent, discipline Adam/Eve, and promise redemption. See the overall pattern here: as God first spoke words to man, man in turn is to speak similar words to his fellow man and by these words impose upon a rule, harmony, and order as he builds culture in the world, because insofar as man speaks according to God’s standards, man speaks with God’s authority.

Man as priest: the role of a priest is a role of mediation. Genesis 2:15 says God commanded Adam to do two things in the garden, ‘work it and keep it.’ Some have said Adam was merely a farmer of the world God had made. Yet, the only other place these two Hebrew words (work and keep) are used together again in Scripture is when Moses describes the priest’s duties within the tabernacle in Numbers 3:7-8, and 4:23-24, 26. As Adam was called to work and keep the garden, Moses calls the priests to work (or tend to) and keep the tabernacle. Conclusion? Adam was the first priest, in the first temple, whose duties were more priestly than agricultural. Which means Eden was not a farm, but was the first temple. So in our calling to build culture we must see our calling not as a secular one but as a spiritual one, where all of the culture we build relates to God. Partly this means that one of the most important institutions of culture is the local Church, where we ‘work and keep’ culture according to God’s standards, spreading His Word to nurture His people with the means God has intended for our nourishment.

Image and Likeness = Dignity and Sanctity

When talking of the nature of man today it is commonplace to hear man described as a ‘cosmic accident’ on the scene of history. This view, which is still being popularized by the evolutionary viewpoint, is that man evolved over millions of years from a puddle of slime into what we are today. Over the past century we have seen a large pendulum swing: as the theory of evolution gained wide acceptance in the world, the dignity of mankind and the sanctity of human life decreased and lost favor in the world. Now, as R.C. Sproul says, human life is seen as nothing more than ‘grown up germs’ in the vast evolutionary timetable.

It’s ironic that against the backdrop of such a pessimistic view of human life presented in the world, that you find the most optimistic and most honest view of man presented in the Bible and in the Church. Many people are put off that the Church speaks so often of the sinfulness of man and for this reason they reject Christianity. But don’t let them fool you. The reason we think the sinfulness of man is so evil, is in part, because of where man has fallen from. You see, we were not always fallen, sinful creatures. When God made us He made in His image. This means all mankind, believer and unbeliever alike, is made in the image of God and because of this, all of mankind has an inherent dignity and is to be treated with the utmost of respect.

Near the end of creation God said, ‘Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’ (Genesis 1:26-27).

God did something here that was not done before in all His creative activity. He had already made the world: the sky, the sea, the land, and then made the birds and the fish according to their kinds – but none of these things were made in the image and likeness of God. More so, directly before making man God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image’ indicating, as John Frame puts it, a ‘unique engagement of divine thought and counsel within the Trinity, which would lead us to believe that something correspondingly unique is about to take place.’ What was about to happen unique? God made man, male and female, in His own image, and because of this mankind is the pinnacle of all creation, we are ‘very good’ (Gen. 1:31).

This one thing is what separates all mankind from brute beasts small and large. And we must not be ashamed of this today. We live in a time where the life of an endangered gorilla and the life of a lion are valued more than the life of a human being. Do you see even here from Genesis 1 that to value the life of an animal over the life of a human being is to reverse how God intends things to be? We also live in a time when abortion, the murder of human beings in the womb, is not only widely accepted but seen as a woman’s right rather than a horrid atrocity.

The Church must not bow to the cultures view of man, we must continually teach and embrace the biblical view of the dignity of man and the sanctity of life.

Promised and Sealed by Covenant

This week I’m pointing you to three helpful blogs I’ve found this past week. Today, the post is a post from William Edgar on the Westminster Theological Seminary blog. It is below for you to linger on:

Reformed theology has always underscored the certainty of the perseverance of the saints, but not as a cheap eternal security. Believers will persevere, because nothing can separate them from God’s love. At the same time, though, they must persevere. Many warnings are given to us about the dangers of being disqualified or falling away. So perseverance is never independent of human effort. But that effort is energized by God. We are kept through faith by the Lord, who cannot fail (1 Peter 1:4–5). We want to avoid two dangers. The first is double jeopardy, that is, that once having saved us, God would condemn us again. The Bible speaks in the strongest terms against this view, arguing that if we could be lost again, then the work of Christ would have been ineffective. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ…nothing (Rom. 8:39). The second danger is antinomian security. It is deluded to think that our journey to the new heaven and new earth is without regard to our faithfulness and obedience. We will persevere, as we must persevere.

We persevere only because Jesus Christ…intercedes for us with the Father, who in turn gives us the Spirit.

How do we keep the balance? Many non-Reformed types of theology claim that salvation once gained may be lost. They will point to passages such as Galatians 5:4 or Hebrews 4:1 and 12:15, which imply that one may fall from grace or fail to keep it to the end. Those views begin properly with a concern to avoid antinomianism, but they end up sacrificing the full effectiveness of God’s grace for us. The passages are not saying that once saved you can become unsaved. Galatians 5:4 is a warning that relying on the law for justification disqualifies you from grace, because you are not relying on grace. You have “fallen away” from the whole principle of grace if you are trying to come to Christ by works. In verse 10, Paul expresses confidence that true believers will understand this and will confute those who teach otherwise. Similarly, Hebrews 4:1 and 12:15 are reminders to be careful not to miss the principle of standing in the gospel of grace, nor to listen to “bitter roots” who try to teach another principle. But, still, what do we make of those people who begin well but for various reasons never finish in the faith? The sobering truth is that the grace given to some is not effectual to begin with. There may be certain temporary signs of the work of the Spirit in a person’s life, ones that may be remarkable. Still, that is far different from true regeneration.

The parable of the sower is insightful (Matt. 13:1–9). The same seed may fall on good ground or on rocky ground. It may be snatched up by the crows. Similarly, people may respond to the gospel with preliminary signs of the new birth. But they may not persevere because the ground is not regenerate. Jonathan Edwards wrote powerfully of the different types of true and false religious experiences one may have but still not truly be awakened by God’s saving work. The list of signs of apparent Christian experience is extensive and includes many patterns good in themselves, like prayer, a forgiving spirit, church attendance, and theological correctness. But only true Christians will continue in the faith.

The possibility of such false manifestations is a warning, but it is not meant to scare us away from assurance. If anyone is in Christ, nothing can tear that person away. Very simply, all who come to Christ by faith will be kept by him. He will lose nothing that the Father has given him, but he will raise it on the last day (John 6:39). Otherwise, as we said, his work would be insufficient, ineffectual, incomplete. No, even though the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, God’s steadfast love shall never depart from us. He has promised it and sealed it by covenant (Isa. 54:10).

If we are in Christ, no matter how dark the journey, no matter how deep the fall, we will be restored.

How will we persevere? What is the guarantee? We persevere only because Jesus Christ, sitting at God’s right hand, intercedes for us with the Father, who in turn gives us the Spirit for our perseverance. The Book of Hebrews has a particularly rich teaching on the heavenly high priesthood of Christ, as it is called. From his place, because he himself was tempted, he can help us in our temptations (Heb. 2:18). We must persevere (Heb. 3:14; 4:11), but we will persevere because of our high priest (Heb. 4:14). His prayer for us, his children, takes the form of advocacy. “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). He is the lawyer for the defense, as it were. His plea is not, “There he goes again; please forgive him yet one more time.” Rather, his plea is, “He is forgiven because of my finished work of propitiation; sanctify him now in your truth, until the day of glory.” Jesus’s high priestly prayer, recorded in John 17, is the proof for the unshakable argument of his advocacy: “I have glorified you on earth, now glorify me in my people, and keep them in your name.” If Jesus had not glorified his Father on earth, then there would be cause to worry. But he did, so there is not.

If we find ourselves overcome by sinful patterns, the temptation is to short-circuit the process and wonder, are we elect, am I God’s child? But while caught in sin’s web we should not be distracting ourselves with speculation about our election; rather, we should be turning to God for forgiveness and restoration. If we are in Christ, no matter how dark the journey, no matter how deep the fall, we will be restored, because no true child of God can ever be orphaned. God will drive us back into the light.

This piece is adapted from William Edgar, Truth in All Its Glory: Commending the Reformed Faith (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2004), 207–9.

John Knox: Remarkably Ordinary

Throughout this week I’m pointing you to three blogs that I’ve found helpful recently. Today, I point you a recent post on the Ligonier Blog by Douglas Bond about the Scottish reformer, John Knox. His example is one we pastors ought to follow and learn from. Enjoy the post below:

From the first page to the last of John Knox’s written works, the reader is brought relentlessly back to the source of Knox’s greatness: Christ was at the center of every dimension of his life. It is this, and this alone, that made Knox mighty in his weakness.

Peel back the layers and read between the lines—there is never a hint of false modesty in the man; his statements about himself, good or bad, are corroborated by those closest to him. His was an age when one did not admit weakness; devouring lions crouched in wait to crush weak men. Yet Knox unabashedly admitted his fears: “I quake, I fear, and tremble.” It was that honest admission of his frailty, and his corresponding reliance on Christ, that gave him such force against the enemies of the gospel. He was not posturing when he admitted his fears. Because he knew himself to be a man of inherent weakness, and because he was an honest, humble man, he could say without pretext, “I sought neither preeminence, glory, nor riches; my honor was that Christ Jesus should reign.”

When a man is so subdued by the grace of God in the gospel that such a self-assessment is, in fact, accurate, that man—love him or hate him—stands out in the crowd. Thus, Knox had preeminence in Scotland. Yet disproportionate to that preeminence, he had neither glory nor riches. He gained preeminence because, like so few, he did not seek it; he did not set out to rule his world for himself. There was no pretext when Knox wrote, “It has pleased His merciful providence, to make me, among others, a simple soldier, and witness-bearer, unto men.” As such, he bent every spiritual nerve of his existence “that Christ Jesus should reign.” Surrounded by men of higher birth and greater formal learning, Knox nevertheless emerged in 1559 as the undisputed leader of the Reformation in Scotland. He remarkably managed to do so without hipster apparel, video streaming, or social media. He was a mega-preacher in a world unencumbered by such a category. Yet he was a tender pastor, a simple shepherd guiding simple sheep to a profoundly great Savior. In all of this, despite his stature, about Knox there was an aura of grandeur and force that defies modern measure.

This excerpt is taken from The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond.

Hearing the Voice of the Lord in Your Pastor’s Sermon

This week I’ll be posting the writing of other’s that I’ve recently found helpful. Today, I draw your attention to Danny Hyde who has given us 5 helpful ways to be better listeners during sermons. What follows is from Hyde over at Meet the Puritans:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Reformed churches believe God still speaks. While we do not believe he speaks via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we believe that via preaching God’s voice is as real and vital to us as it was through the mouths and pens of prophets and apostles. How can we say this? Here’s the doctrine formulated as simply as possible: when a lawfully called and ordained minister (Rom. 10) preaches the Word of God and not his own words (2 Tim. 2:15) and does so in sincerity to honor God and not himself (1 Thes. 2:3–6), God speaks. His words are “not . . . the word of men but . . . the word of God.” In the words of Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575): “Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called [per prædicatores legitime vocatos], we believe that the very Word of God [ipsum Dei verbum] is preached, and received of the faithful” (Second Helvetic Confession, 1.4). So how do you hear the voice of the Lord in your pastor’s sermon? Obviously I’m assuming the above is true of him. Here’s how:

1. Expectantly—“Lord, I expect you to speak” Since we gather together on the Lord’s Day to hear what Paul says is “not . . . the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God,” we need to come expectantly, crying out to God, “Lord, I expect you to speak.” This means that we need to prepare all week to hear him speak through the preaching of his Word on the Lord’s Day. We need to be preparing our hearts all week long with a spirit of anticipation. The prophet Isaiah spoke of our day, saying, the Lord’s mountain would be exalted and the nations would flow to his house: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (Isa. 2:3). Because of this we need to be saying to ourselves, “God’s going to speak. What’s he going to say? I can’t wait.”

2. Hungrily—“Lord, I need you to speak” When Sunday morning rolls around, we need to hear the Word hungrily, crying out, “Lord, I need you to speak.” Why? Why do we need him to speak through the words of men, which are in reality the Word of God? Because his Word is the food of our souls. In our age of instant gratification and having the world at our fingertips on our iPhones and Blackberries, we are ever-connected to each other and to information. But that feeling is passing. It does not last not does it satisfy our souls. Like our forefathers in the wilderness, our hungry souls need the Word. “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3). Like the prophets of old who ate their scrolls to signify the people’s need to have the Word within them to nourish them, so too we need to partake of the Word to satisfy our spiritual hunger. What kind of an appetite do you have? Do you want the empty calories, the quick sugar high of the devil’s words, the world’s words, your own words, and sadly, the words of so many professing Christian preachers today? What kind of appetite do you have? Do you want your ears tickled with promises of a better life now, health, wealth, and happiness? Instead, we are called to have an appetite for the Word like a nursing child has an appetite for milk. As Peter says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Milk is nourishing. Milk is healthy. Milk is satisfying.

3. Attentively—“Lord, I will listen to you speak” To make best use of that nourishment we need to hear the Word attentively. During the sermon, we need to be praying, “Lord, I will listen to you speak.” This means every week and even every moment of the sermon, we need to be saying to ourselves, “These are not the words of Pastor ____, but what they are in truth, the words of God.” As we recognize that God is in our midst and that he is speaking, we will be able to give our attentive listening to the Word. This is why the Westminster Confession calls the “conscionable hearing” of the Word an act of worship. We are hearing God, and hearing him, giving our minds and hearts’ full attention to every last word. One example of hearing the Word attentively is in Deuteronomy 32:47. At the end of one of Moses’ last sermons, he exhorted the people to recognize the profundity of what was happening in that sermon: “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life.” Here is a challenge for pastors as well as for parishioners. Can you say of the preaching of the Word in your church that it is not empty? Can you say of the preaching of the Word that it is your very life? Let me challenge you with all that is in me to think of preaching totally different after this sermon. Let me challenge you to fight fatigue, to fight distracting thoughts, and to fight what the devil wants you to think about all this, that it’s boring. Worship is the place and the time where God speaks!

4. Faithfully—“Lord, I believe you when you speak” You need to leave worship saying to God, “Lord, I believe you when you speak.” I know this is difficult to believe that in preaching it is not the words of men but the words of God. I know it must be hard to believe that your pastor’s words are not merely his words but God’s words, given that you know that he is a mere man, a sinful man at that. Because of this receive the preaching of the Word by faith as God’s word to you. Because preaching must be received by faith, that faith is inevitably going to be an object of the devil’s temptation. We too easily give into the devil’s subtle designs on this point. How? He wants us to judge the minister with our eyes—his appearance, his fashion or lack thereof, or even the fact that he may wear a robe to signify his office but that turns you off to the content of what he preaches. The devil wants us to judge the minister with our hearts. Don’t ever tell him your gripes, but hold grudges, hold spite, and hold adverse opinions about him that you are saving as weapons for a later time. He wants us to judge the minister with our minds. How easy it is to fall into the trap that one of my college professors said parishioners fall into when he said, “Some people know just enough Hebrew and Greek to be dangerous.” We puff ourselves up in our minds so that we can do mental battle with the preacher. All this is so that we do not listen to him.

5. Obediently—“Lord, I will obey you when you speak” Instead, God wants us to hear the Word obediently. He wants us to leave, saying to him, “Lord, I will obey you when you speak.” The Thessalonians heard the Word, they received the Word, and they accepted the Word. And it was that Word that was “at work” in them. The Word is never fruitless, but is always fruitful. As the prophet Isaiah said, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
 and do not return there but water the earth,
 making it bring forth and sprout,
 giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
 it shall not return to me empty, 
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
 and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:10–11). Are you a doer of the Word and not merely a hearer? We need to learn how to fine-tune our spiritual senses that we are able to hear the Lord in a world of noise. We can do that as we listen expectantly, as we listen hungrily, as we listen attentively, as we listen faithfully, and as we listen obediently. Let me challenge you to do so that your life will be saturated with the Word in every part and guided by the Word at every turn of your life. Let me close with a wonderful quote that summarizes it all. The Puritan Joseph Alleine once said—and I pray this is true for us all: “Come from your knees to the sermon, and come from the sermon to your knees.” Amen.

Mourning and Responding to Orlando

While politicians and presidential candidates are using the largest shooting in U.S. history as a platform for their prospective gun-control policies, most of the rest of us are just left saddened, confused, and angered by such a tragedy. Here are two ways to respond from The Gospel Coalition:

a) Mourning, Longing for Truth and Love (from Nabeel Qureshi):

As an ex-Muslim who loves America and my Muslim family, my heart is hurting beyond expression.

Today we witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history: 50 tragically killed in a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. The authorities announced the details just a few minutes ago: it was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a devout American-born Muslim who had pledged his allegiance to ISIL.

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Mateen’s father has said the shooting had “nothing to do with religion,” and that his son may have committed this crime because he saw “two men kissing in Downtown Miami a couple months ago.” But no one goes on a killing rampage for seeing two men kiss. Clearly there’s more to this than his father doesn’t see. I do not blame him, though. His son has just died, and he’s not in a state to think clearly. We ought to be praying for him.

None of us can think entirely objectively, especially at the heels of a terrorist attack charged with so many political controversies. The rhetoric and agendas are flying, even though the dust has not yet settled. Gun control? Homophobia? Islamophobia?

As we are clouded by agendas and struggling to react, two opposing positions are coming to the fore: “Islam is a religion of peace and Mateen’s actions therefore have nothing to do with Islam,” or “Islam is inherently violent therefore we must see all Muslims as latent threats.”

As an American and a former Muslim, my heart is torn by these two poles of rhetoric. Those who take the first position are endangering my country by overlooking the very real cause of Jihad, which are the teachings and history of Islam. (See my article “How Does Jihad Compare with Old Testament Warfare?”) Those who take the latter position are endangering my Muslim family and friends, loving and patriotic Muslims that are as innocent and American as the rest of us.

The fact is, the vast majority of Muslims are loving, peaceful people who would never want to hurt any American or homosexual. I know this because I was deeply rooted in the Muslim community, and not a single Muslim out of the thousands I knew were violent or harbored violent tendencies. (The community I am referring to is in Norfolk, Virginia, with Sunnis, Shias, and others attending the same mosque. It was an open-armed and diverse Muslim community.)

Regardless, Islam itself has always taught that gays should be executed. Muhammad commanded: “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done” (Sunan Abu Daud 4447). Imams who have been trained in these Islamic teachings are teaching in our communities. Just three months ago, an imam who is well known for proclaiming Muhammad’s teachings on homosexuality spoke in Orlando. In a prior speech about homosexuals he was noted to have said, “Let’s get rid of them now” (video and news article). The imam spoke at an Islamic center that is less than 20 miles from the site of today’s atrocities. Some American-born Muslims, such as Omar, are taking teachings like these at face value, listening to their imams and following Muhammad.

b) 5 Ways Christians Can Respond (from Joe Carter):

It happened again.

In the dark hours of this Sunday morning some 50 people were killed and another 53 were injured in a terror attack in gay nightclub in Orlando. President Obama has called it an “act of terror and an act of hate,” and it’s being described as the most deadly shooting in American history.

The news of such violent atrocities comes to us so regularly nowadays that we may feel numb, helpless to know what to do or say after such events. But as followers of Christ we can’t simply shut out the pain and despair. We must bring light and healing.

These horrible events of recent years have targeted a wide variety of people: military personnel, movie-goers, elementary school children, and now patrons of a gay nightclub. All have dignity as made in the image of God. The death of any leads to mourning, whether they were targeted at random or not.

Over the years several writers for TGC have provided wise guidance on how to respond. These five calls (pray, pause, grieve, love, hope) to action apply to the most recent in a string of tragedies.

The ‘So What?’ of Providence Leads Us to Sing

In light of all we’ve discussed regarding God’s providence this week, I want to apply these things to us today by pointing you to two songs:

a) The final lines of the hymn ‘In Christ Alone’ applies the doctrine of providence in this manner:

‘No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me. From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand, till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.’

From life’s beginning to final breath it isn’t fate or chance or luck or circumstance that governs all things, no, it’s God who commands and governs and directs our destiny. This deserves whole hearted acceptance, and it deserves grateful and exuberant praises! We need more hymns and songs like this in our life.

b) The whole song ‘The Secret Place’ (R.C. Sproul, Glory to the Holy One)

Who dwells within His most secret place
Is never far from His blessed grace
‘Neath His great shadow all will be well
No better place now for us to dwell

The secret place of God Most High
The shadow of our mighty King
The dwelling place where angels cry
Is where our praise will forever ring

Fear not the terror that comes at night
Nor flaming arrows by morning light
His truth is always our sword and shield
Against His power, all foes must yield

The secret place of God Most High
The shadow of our mighty King
The dwelling place where angels cry
Is where our praise will forever ring

A thousand fall now at ev’ry side
Ten thousand more may have yet to die
Yet plague and sword can
Ne’er kill the soul
His angels guard us now safe and whole

The secret place of God Most High
The shadow of our mighty King
The dwelling place where angels cry
Is where our praise will forever ring

Refuge and fortress for all who trust
No safer pasture for men of dust
‘Neath wings and feathers of Holy Lord
No greater comfort can He afford

The secret place of God Most High
The shadow of our mighty King
The dwelling place where angels cry
Is where our praise will forever ring

Again, it is by the powerful, sovereign providence of God that God gives us all He desires for us to have. Because of this, we will never lack anything in this life, or the next. Praise Him!

Psalm 84:10-11, ‘For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.’

(Image courtesy of Ruth Seefeldt)

God Our Provider

The first time we see the doctrine of providence explicitly coming into view is in Genesis 22 where God called Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.

You can imagine the torment in the heart of Abraham as he was walking up the mountain with his Isaac knowing what he is about to do. Isaac looks up at his dad and says in Gen. 22:7, ‘Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered saying in v8, ‘God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering my son.’ That phrase ‘God will provide’ is where we get the name for God Jehovah Jireh or ‘God our Provider.’ This is the first place in the Bible where we explicitly see God’s providence being spoken of. This is a great passage because it looks forward to God providing the greater Lamb in His Son for the greatest sacrifice of all, His death on the cross for us.

We can define God’s providence in this manner: the continued exercise of the divine work whereby God preserves all His creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end (Berkhof, 166). Or as the Westminster Shorter Catechism question 11 puts it ‘God’s works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions.’

This is shown clearly in the Bible, where we see God being providentially over 11 things:

1) The entire universe – Ephesians 1:11, ‘…all things work according to the counsel of His will.’ Psalm 103:19, ‘The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.’

2) The physical world – Psalm 135:6, ‘Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.’ Matthew 5:35, ‘…earth is His footstool.’

3) The brute creation – Matthew 10:29, ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.’ Matthew 5:45, ‘For He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.’

4) Over all nations – Job 12:23, ‘He makes nations great, and He destroys them, He enlarges nations, and leads them away.’ Psalm 22:28, ‘For kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations.’ Psalm 66:7 says God’s ‘eyes keep watch on the nations.’

5) Man’s birth and life – Psalm 139:16, ‘Your eyes saw my unformed substance, in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.’ Acts 17:26, ‘And God made from one man every nation on mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.’

6) Successes and failures of all men – Luke 1:52, ‘God brings down the mighty from their thrones, and exalts those of humble estate.’ Psalm 75:7, ‘It is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.’

7) Seemingly accidental occurrences – Proverbs 16:33, ‘The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.’ Matthew 10:30, ‘Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.’

8) The protection of His people – Psalm 4:8, ‘In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone O’ Lord make me dwell in safety.’ And the verse that began us tonight, Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.’

9) The wants of His people – Deuteronomy 8:3, ‘And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.’ Philippians 4:19, ‘And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.’

10) Answers to prayer – Matthew 6:32, ‘…our heavenly Father knows’ what you need. Matthew 7:7, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.’ Luke 18:7-8, ‘Will not God give justice to His elect, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily.’

11) Punishment of the wicked – Proverbs 16:4, ‘The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.’ Romans 9:22, ‘What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction…’

We can also make three distinctions when it comes to God’s providence: preservation, concurrence, and government.

Preservation: the continuous work of God by which He maintains the things which He created, together with the properties and powers with which He endowed them.

Concurrence: the operation of God’s divine power which causes all things to act as He ordained them to act.

Government: the continued activity of God whereby He rules all things purposefully so as to secure His divine purpose for all things.

Friday we’ll ask the ever pressing question: ‘So what?’

(Image courtesy of Ruth Seefeldt)