Category Archives: God’s Excellencies

“This is the heart of the gospel” by Herman Bavinck

“There is one mediator between God and humanity, the true God-man Jesus Christ.

This is the heart of the gospel.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; vol. 1; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 237.

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“This Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing” by Joel Beeke

“One of the great functions of a priest was to pronounce God’s blessing, or benediction, upon his people. Melchizedek, “the priest of the most high God,” blessed Abraham, the covenantal father of all the faithful (Gen. 14:18–20), and did so as a type of Christ (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:1, 6–7).

The Lord chose the Aaronic priests to bless Israel in his name (Deut. 10:8; 21:5), saying, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:22–26).

The core elements of this priestly blessing, “grace” and “peace,” now flow from the Father and the Son to His people, as the greetings in the New Testament Epistles abundantly affirm.

Some theologians have considered blessing to be a distinct third function of priests after sacrifice and intercession. Aaron blessed the people after making sacrifices and again after going into the tabernacle to intercede (Lev. 9:22–23). Other theologians have seen the priestly blessing to be an aspect of intercession.

The blessing was a prayer that invoked God’s name upon His covenant people so that God would bless them (Num. 6:27). “The priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven” (2 Chron. 30:27).

What is clear is that Christ blesses his people as their Priest. Just before Christ ascended into heaven, “he lifted up his hands, and blessed” his disciples (Luke 24:50–51), just as formerly “Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them” (Lev. 9:22). Peter, citing God’s promise to bless all nations by Abraham’s seed, says, “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:25–26).

God’s blessing through Christ is covenantal. Sinners are under God’s curse for breaking the commandments of his law (Gal. 3:10). In his redeeming sacrifice, Christ received the curse of God’s law, absorbing its full fury in his sufferings while perfectly obeying the law, so that his believing people are delivered from the curse (Gal. 3:13; 4:4). They receive the blessing promised in the covenant with Abraham “through Jesus Christ” by faith (Gal. 3:14).

God’s curse against lawbreakers hangs over all the good things that they receive in this world (Deut. 28:15–19), mingles sorrow into all good (Gen. 3:17–19), and one day will take all good away from unrepentant sinners (Luke 6:24–25; 16:24–25). However, Christians may pray to their Father for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), “that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.” The ability of believers to enjoy earthly goods with God’s blessing presupposes that he is pleased with them (Eccl. 9:7–9).

Therefore, the goodness of all God’s providences toward his elect comes to them through Christ’s intercession (Rom. 8:28, 34). Paul says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by [or “in”] Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The core of God’s blessing is justification and the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:8, 14). Owen observed that the work of the Spirit is the “purchased grace” that Christ won by his obedience and sufferings. Christ obtains the Spirit for his people by his intercession: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). The fullness of the Spirit’s new-covenant ministry depends on the glorification of the Son (7:39). Christ himself sends us the Spirit from the Father’s side (John 16:7).

By these spiritual graces, the reality and efficacy of Christ’s invisible intercession in heaven is demonstrated on earth, for we have received the Holy Spirit and know the fruit of Christ’s intercession in our lives, as Perkins said. The best evidence that Christ prays for us in heaven is the Spirit’s work to make us pray on earth.

The exaltation of our great High Priest signals the fulfillment of the covenant of grace and the inauguration of the last days (Heb. 1:2–3; 9:26). Murray said, “Jesus as high priest is the surety and mediator of the new and better covenant.… The new covenant brings to its consummation the communion which is at the heart of all covenant disclosure from Abraham onwards: ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ … The heavenly high priesthood of Christ, means, therefore, that Christ appears in the presence of God … to plead on the basis of what he has accomplished the fulfilment of all the promises.”

Therefore, Christ’s intercession unlocks all grace and glory for his people. In union with Christ, they are blessed by the Father with “all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3).

The intercession of our Lord Jesus is a boundless field full of flowers from which we may draw sweet nectar for our souls. Let us consider some of the riches of knowing our Intercessor by God’s grace.

First, we must allow this doctrine to form in us constant reliance on the exalted Christ. We must run the race set before us, “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:2; cf. Col. 3:1). Brown said that Christ’s intercession glorifies him, for “in this way believers have an immediate dependence on Christ for ever.” Let us look to him for every grace.

Second, Christians may find here strong consolation and hope. Christ’s entrance into heaven as our forerunner confirms the unbreakable promise of God that he will bless his people (Heb. 6:17–20). If Christ’s death reconciled us to God when we were his enemies, much more will his living ministry deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:10). We can exult in hope.

Third, believers should look to Christ’s intercession for confidence in our justification. Christ was raised for our justification and intercedes to deliver us from condemnation (Rom. 4:25; 8:33–34). His appearing before the face of God confirms that his blood sacrifice has expiated the guilt of our sins once for all (Heb. 9:24). We should assure our consciences with this doctrine.

Fourth, knowing Christ as the Intercessor can encourage quickness to confess sin to God. Rather than remaining silent when God convicts us of sin (Ps. 32:3–5), let us immediately confess our sins with faith in Christ’s propitiation and intercession, for God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; 2:1–2).

Fifth, the doctrine of Christ’s intercession increases expectation and comfort in prayer. What is more comforting in trials than to go to a friend who knows how we feel and how to help us? Christ sympathizes with us perfectly. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16).

Sixth, given that all spiritual blessings come to us through Christ’s intercession, we should learn to exercise trust in Christ for the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us never separate the Spirit from Jesus Christ, for he is the Spirit of God’s Son (Gal. 4:6). Whether we need the Spirit’s power to mortify sin (Rom. 8:13), his fruit for works of love and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23), or his gifts to serve the church effectively (1 Cor. 12:7, 11), let us drink of his living water by exercising faith in the exalted Christ (John 7:37–39). Believers overcome trials, even unto martyrdom, by “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). Owen said, “The great duty of tempted souls, is to cry out unto the Lord Christ for help and relief.”

Seventh, the more God’s children meditate upon Christ’s intercession, the more they will increase in assurance of ultimate salvation and blessedness. We will be purged of legalistic perfectionism and rest in his perfection. We will learn to recognize all our good desires and good works as fruit of his priestly work. Then we will be able to rejoice and exult, for our Intercessor is able to save us completely (Heb. 7:25).

As long as this Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing, we may be sure that the true Israel will prevail over its enemies (Ex. 17:8–13).”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 1099–1103.

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“God stamped upon His Son all His glory” by Thomas Goodwin

“He is the Son of God, and second person, and therefore the express image and brightness of His Father’s glory, (Hebrews 1:3) the essential substantial image of His Father, which transcends infinitely more all other drafts of Him than the image of a king in his son begotten like him, and in a board or tablet.

But this image, you will say, it is too bright for us to behold it shining in His strength, we being as unable to behold it in Him, as we were to see His Father Himself, who dwells in light inaccessible, which no eye can attain to.

Therefore that yet we may see it as nigh and as fully and to the utmost that creatures could; this Godhead dwells bodily in a human nature (Colossians 2:9), that so shining through the lantern of His flesh we might behold it.

His human nature and divine make up one person, and being so, are united together in the highest kind of union that God can be to a creature, and the nearest and fullest communications follow always upon the nearest union.

To Him therefore as man are communicated these riches of glory that are in the Godhead, as nearly and fully as was possible unto a creature; and being thus communicated, must needs shine forth in Him to us to the utmost that they ever could unto creatures.

And therefore more clearly than if millions of several worlds had been created every day on purpose to reveal God to us.

God having stamped upon His Son all His glory, that we might see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, (2 Cor. 4:6).”

–Thomas Goodwin, “A Discourse of the Glory of the Gospel,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1862/2021), 4: 232.

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“He is in you, and you in Him” by Dane Ortlund

“Amid the storms of your little existence– the sins and sufferings, the failure and faltering, the waywardness and wandering– Jesus is going to walk you right into heaven.

He is not just with you. He is in you, and you in Him.

His destiny now falls on you. His union with you at both the macro and micro levels guarantees your eventual glory and rest and calm. You may as well question gravity as question the certainty of what your union with Him means for your final future.

So consider the darkness that remains in your life. The spiritual lethargy. The habitual sin. The deep-seated resentment. That place in your life where you feel most defeated. Our sins loom large. They seem so insurmountable.

But Christ and your union with Him loom larger still.

As far as sin in your life reaches, Christ and your union with Him reach further.

As deep as your failure goes, Christ and your union with Him go deeper still.

As strong as your sin feels, the bond of your oneness with Jesus Christ is stronger still.

Live the rest of your life mindful of your union with the prince of heaven.

Rest in the knowledge that your sins and failures can never kick you out of Christ. Let an ever-deepening awareness of your union with Him strengthen your resistance to sin.

See it in the Bible. Ponder his tireless care for you.

You have been strengthened with the power to fight and overcome sin because the power that raised Jesus from the dead now resides in you, living and active– for Jesus Christ Himself resides in you.

You can never be justifiably accused ever again. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

Draw strength from your oneness with Jesus. You are no longer alone. No longer isolated.

When you sin, don’t give up. Let Him pick you up and put you on your feet again with fresh dignity.

He lifts your chin, looks you in the eye, and defines your existence: “you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20).”

–Dane Ortlund, Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 66-67.

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“The miracle of miracles” by Joel Beeke

“Every miracle of personal salvation rests upon the person of Christ, who is the miracle of miracles.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 860.

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“Evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ” by Joel Beeke

“The Holy Scriptures demonstrate that Christ is God in many ways. We may summarize the lines of evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ as follows.

1. The preexistence of deity: indications that Christ was living and active before his entrance into this world as a human being (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6-7; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 1:1-4; John 11:25; Rev. 22:13).

2. The prophecies of deity: promises of God’s coming to his people fulfilled in Jesus, particularly promises that God would come as the divine Messiah (Isa. 40:3, 5, 9–10; Mal. 3:1–6; Psalm 45:6–7; 110:1; Isa. 9:6; Mic. 5:2).

3. The names of deity: the names and titles given to Christ, such as God (John 1:1), the Son of God (Matt. 16:16), Lord (Phil. 2:11), Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14), and God with us (Matt. 1:23).

4. The attributes of deity: traits such as holiness (Acts 3:14), eternity (John 8:58), sovereign power (Matt. 8:26), infinite knowledge (John 16:30), omnipresence (Matt. 28:20), self-existence (John 5:26), and immutability (Heb. 1:10–12). When we examine these divine attributes of Christ, we are led to confess with Paul, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). Wellum comments, “The entire fullness and sum total of deity inhabits the Son, who has added to Himself a human nature.”

5. The relations of deity: Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16), and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Son (Gal. 4:6). In the relations of the Trinity, Christ shares in the fullness of the divine life and activity with the Father and the Spirit.

6. The actions of deity: Christ does what only God does as Creator, Lord, and Redeemer (Col. 1:16; 1 Cor. 8:6; John 5:19; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; Mark 2:5-10; John 5:24-25).

7. The honors of deity: Christ hears prayer and receives worship (John 5:23; Matt. 2:1-12; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:9-12).

In summary, since the Bible reveals Christ’s activity long before He became a man; foretells the coming of Christ as the coming of God; calls Him by the names of God; ascribes to Him the attributes, relations, and actions of God; and gives Him the honors of God, then Christ is God.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 762–763.

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“God’s happiness is inseparably linked in with His holiness” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“To gain entire likeness to Christ, I ought to get a high esteem of the happiness of it. I am persuaded that God’s happiness is inseparably linked in with His holiness.

Holiness and happiness are like light and heat. God never tasted one of the pleasures of sin.

Christ had a body such as I have, yet He never tasted one of the pleasures of sin.

The redeemed, through all eternity, will never taste one of the pleasures of sin; yet their happiness is complete. It would be my greatest happiness to be from this moment entirely like them.

Every sin is something away from my greatest enjoyment. The devil strives night and day to make me forget this or disbelieve it.

He says, ‘Why should you not enjoy this pleasure as much as Solomon or David? You may go to heaven also.’

I am persuaded that this is a lie. I am persuaded that my true happiness is to go and sin no more.”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 154-155.

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