Category Archives: Biblical Theology

“This is the mystery of the Divine love” by Herman Bavinck

“The sacrifice of Christ is related to our sins.

Already in the Old Testament we read that Abraham offered a burnt offering in the place of his son (Gen. 22:13), that by the laying on of hands the Israelite caused a sacrificial animal to take his place (Lev. 16:1), and that the servant of the Lord was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (Isa. 53:5).

In the same way the New Testament establishes a very close connection between the sacrifice of Christ and our sins. The Son of man came into the world to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:27 and 1 Tim. 2:6).

He was delivered up for, or for the sake of, our sins (Rom. 4:25), He died in relationship to our sins, or, as it is usually put, on behalf of our sins.

The communion into which Christ, according to the Scriptures, has entered with us is so intimate and deep that we cannot form an idea or picture of it. The term substitutionary suffering expresses in only a weak and defective way what it means.

The whole reality far transcends our imagination and our thought. A few analogies can be drawn of this communion, it is true, which can convince us of its possibility.

We know of parents who suffer in and with their children, of heroes who give themselves up for their country, of noble men and women who sow what others after them will reap.

Everywhere we see the law in operation that a few work, struggle, and fight in order that others get the fruit of their labor and enjoy its benefits.

The death of one man is another man’s livelihood. The kernel of grain must die if it is to bear fruit. In pain the mother gives birth to her child.

But all of these are but so many comparisons, and they cannot be equated with the fellowship into which Christ entered with us.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, though one might conceivably die for a good man. But God commends His love towards us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:7-8).

There really was no fellowship between us and Christ, but only separation and opposition. For He was the only-begotten and beloved Son of the Father, and we were all like the lost son.

He was just and holy and without any sin, and we were sinners, guilty before the face of God, and unclean from head to foot.

Nevertheless, Christ put Himself into fellowship with us, not merely in a physical (natural) sense, by putting on our nature, our flesh and blood, but also in a juridical (legal) sense, and in an ethical (moral) sense, by entering into the fellowship with our sin and death.

He stands in our place; He puts Himself into that relationship to the law of God in which we stood; He takes our guilt, our sickness, our grief, our punishment upon Himself; He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

He becomes a curse for us in order that He should redeem us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13).

He died for all in order that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again (2 Cor. 5:15).

This is the mystery of salvation, the mystery of the Divine love.

We do not understand the substitutionary suffering of Christ, because we, being haters of God and of each other, cannot come anywhere near calculating what love enables one to do, and what eternal, infinite, Divine love can achieve.

But we do not have to understand this mystery either. We need only believe it gratefully, rest in it, and glory and rejoice in it.

He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep had gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5-6).

What shall we say of these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

He spared not His own Son hut delivered Him up for us all. How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.

Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God and who also makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:31–34).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1956/2019), 336-337.

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“Practical Christianity” by J.C. Ryle

“The world would be a happier world if there was more practical Christianity.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 289. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:29-37.

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“Our need of Christ’s blood and righteousness” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us not forget, in leaving this passage, to apply the high standard of duty which it contains, to our own hearts, and to prove our own selves.

Do we love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind?

Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?

Where is the person that could say with perfect truth, “I do?”

Where is the man that ought not to lay his hand on his mouth, when he hears these questions?

Verily we are all guilty in this matter!

The best of us, however holy we may be, come far short of perfection.

Passages like this should teach us our need of Christ’s blood and righteousness.

To Him we must go, if we would ever stand with boldness at the bar of God.

From Him we must seek grace.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 284. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:29-37.

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“The enormous advantages enjoyed by believers” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us observe, finally, the peculiar privileges of those who hear the Gospel of Christ.

We read that our Lord said to His disciples, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them, and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.’ (Luke 10:23-24)

The full significance of these words will probably never be understood by Christians until the last day.

We have probably a most faint idea of the enormous advantages enjoyed by believers who have lived since Christ came into the world, compared to those of believers who died before Christ was born.

The difference between the knowledge of an Old Testament saint and a saint in the apostles’ days is far greater than we conceive.

It is the difference of twilight and noon-day, of winter and summer, of the mind of a child and the mind of a full-grown man.

No doubt the Old Testament saints looked to a coming Saviour by faith, and believed in a resurrection and a life to come.

But the coming and death of Christ unlocked a hundred Scriptures which before were closed, and cleared up scores of doubtful points which before had never been solved.

In short, ‘the way into the holiest was not made manifest, while the first tabernacle was standing.’ (Heb. 9:8) The humblest Christian believer understands things which David and Isaiah could never explain.

Let us leave the passage with a deep sense of our own debt to God and of our great responsibility for the full light of the Gospel.

Let us see that we make a good use of our many privileges. Having a full Gospel, let us beware that we do not neglect it.

It is a weighty saying, ‘To whomsoever much is given, of them will much be required.’ (Luke 12:48)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 280. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:21-24.

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“His praise will know no end” by Jim Hamilton

“The One to whom the Scriptures point, whose coming we await, is the true and better Adam, bridegroom and beloved.

He is the great Priest over the heavenly house of God, giving us the new and living way by which we draw near.

Our Prophet like Moses, by whom God accomplished the fulfillment of the exodus.

The King of God’s creation, He is the righteous sufferer, who Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree.

His praise will know no end.”

–James M. Hamilton, Jr., Typology: Understanding the Bible’s Promise-Shaped Patterns (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2022), 360.

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“Salvation flows from its deep source in the triune God” by Fred Sanders

“Salvation flows from its deep source in the triune God, who is the fountain of salvation.

This phrase, fountain of salvation, goes back at least to a Latin hymn from the sixth century that praises God as fons salutis Trinitas. As one English translation renders the lines, ‘Blest Trinity, salvation’s spring, may every soul Thy praises sing.’

The sense that the nature of salvation is only understood properly when it is traced back into its principle in the depth of God’s being is evoked by Scripture’s own way of speaking.

The Old Testament bears witness to it in an intensely personal idiom, as for instance in Isaiah 12:2’s confident boast, ‘Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.’

The connection here between God and salvation is direct: He is it.

When Isaiah goes on to spell out an implication of salvation being in God, that is, that there is exuberant resourcefulness to be drawn from, then he uses our fontal image: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’ (Isaiah 12:3)

According to Christian teaching, salvation’s source is God, and the manifestation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the gospel is what opens up that fountain in its fullness and depth.”

–Fred Sanders, Fountain of Salvation: Trinity and Soteriology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2021), 14-15, 17.

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“Zeal without knowledge is an army without a general” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us notice, secondly, in these verses, the extraordinary conduct of two of the apostles, James and John.

We are told that a certain Samaritan village refused to show hospitality to our Lord. ‘They did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.’ (Luke 9:53)

And then we read of a strange proposal which James and John made. ‘They said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did?’ (Luke 9:54)

Here was zeal indeed, and zeal of a most plausible kind,—zeal for the honor of Christ! Here was zeal, justified and supported by a scriptural example, and that the example of no less a prophet than Elijah!

But it was not a zeal according to knowledge. The two disciples, in their heat, forgot that circumstances alter cases, and that the same action which may be right and justifiable at one time, may be wrong and unjustifiable at another.

They forgot that punishments should always be proportioned to offences, and that to destroy a whole village of ignorant people for a single act of discourtesy, would have been both unjust and cruel.

In short, the proposal of James and John was a wrong and inconsiderate one. They meant well, but they greatly erred.

Facts like this in the Gospels are carefully recorded for our learning. Let us see to it that we mark them well, and treasure them up in our minds.

It is possible to have much zeal for Christ, and yet to exhibit it in most unholy and unchristian ways.

It is possible to mean well and have good intentions, and yet to make most grievous mistakes in our actions.

It is possible to fancy that we have Scripture on our side, and to support our conduct by scriptural quotations, and yet to commit serious errors.

It is as clear as daylight, from this and other cases related in the Bible, that it is not enough to be zealous and well-meaning.

Very grave faults are frequently committed with good intentions. From no quarter perhaps has the Church received so much injury as from ignorant but well-meaning men.

We must seek to have knowledge as well as zeal. Zeal without knowledge is an army without a general, and a ship without a rudder.

We must pray that we may understand how to make a right application of Scripture. The Word is no doubt ‘a light to our feet, and a lantern to our path.’

But it must be the Word rightly handled, and properly applied.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 254-255. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:51-56.

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“He is always ready to save” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us notice in these verses, the steady determination with which our Lord Jesus Christ regarded His own crucifixion and death.

We read that “when the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) He knew full well what was before Him.

The betrayal, the unjust trial, the mockery, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the spitting, the nails, the spear, the agony on the cross,—all, all were doubtless spread before His mind’s eye, like a picture.

But He never flinched for a moment from the work that He had undertaken. His heart was set on paying the price of our redemption, and going even to the prison of the grave, as our surety.

He was full of tender love towards sinners. It was the desire of His whole soul to procure for them salvation.

And so, ‘for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame.’ (Heb. 12:2)

Forever let us bless God that we have such a ready and willing Saviour. Forever let us remember that as He was ready to suffer, so He is always ready to save.

The man that comes to Christ by faith should never doubt Christ’s willingness to receive Him.

The mere fact that the Son of God willingly came into the world to die, and willingly suffered, should silence such doubts entirely.

All the unwillingness is on the part of man, not of Christ. It consists in the ignorance, and pride, and unbelief, and half-heartedness of the sinner himself. But there is nothing wanting in Christ.

Let us strive and pray that the same mind may be in us which was in our blessed Master.

Like Him, let us be willing to go anywhere, do anything, suffer anything, when the path of duty is clear, and the voice of God calls.

Let us set our faces steadfastly to our work, when our work is plainly marked out, and drink our bitter cups patiently, when they come from a Father’s hand.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 253-254. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:51-56.

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“None ought to be so humble as a Christian” by J.C. Ryle

“Of all creatures none has so little right to be proud as man.

And of all men none ought to be so humble as a Christian.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 250. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:46-50.

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“The head may be very dull when the heart is right” by J.C. Ryle

“We have, lastly, in these verses, an example of the spiritual ignorance which may be found even in the hearts of good men.

We are told that our Lord said to His disciples, “The Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.”

They had heard the same thing from His lips little more than a week before. But now, as then, the words seemed lost upon them. They heard as though they heard not.

They could not realize the fact that their Master was to die. They could not realize the great truth that Christ was to be “cut off” before He was to reign, and that this cutting off was a literal death upon the cross.

It is written, “They understood not this saying,”—“it was hid from them,”—“they perceived it not.”

Such slowness of understanding may surprise us much at this period of the world. We are apt to forget the power of early habits of thought, and national prejudices, in the midst of which the disciples had been trained.

“The throne of David,” says a great divine, “did so fill their eyes that they could not see the cross.”

Above all, we forget the enormous difference between the position we occupy who know the history of the crucifixion and the Scriptures which it fulfilled, and the position of a believing Jew who lived before Christ died and the veil was rent in twain.

Whatever we may think of it, the ignorance of the disciples should teach us two useful lessons, which we shall all do well to learn.

For one thing, let us learn that men may understand spiritual things very feebly, and yet be true children of God. The head may be very dull when the heart is right.

Grace is far better than gifts, and faith than knowledge.

If a man has faith and grace enough to give up all for Christ’s sake, and to take up the cross and follow Him, he shall be saved in spite of much ignorance. Christ shall own him at the last day.

Finally, let us learn to bear with ignorance in others, and to deal patiently with beginners in religion. Let us not make men offenders for a word.

Let us not set our brother down as having no grace, because he does not exhibit clear knowledge.

Has he faith in Christ? Does he love Christ? These are the principal things.

If Jesus could endure so much weakness in His disciples, we may surely do likewise.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 247-248. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:37-45.

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