Category Archives: Incarnation

“He is, after all, the God of the exodus” by L. Michael Morales

“Among the last words he would ever pen, the apostle Paul wrote: “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8).

The resurrection: this is the hope, the living hope, set forth in all the Scriptures and embraced by all of God’s people throughout the history of the world. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Peter exclaims, “who by his abundant mercy has given us new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!” (1 Peter 1:3).

The sureness of this hope is grounded not only in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus but ultimately in the very being and character of God, who is the endless wellspring of life.

Jesus, rebuking severely the religious elite who were denying the resurrection from the dead, confessed that God “is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Mark 12:27). His own glorious resurrection was itself, then, a profession of the nature and goodness of God.

One blessed day God’s people will find themselves at last blinking in the dawn’s light of a new creation, together on the other side of history, on the other side of their own graves, experiencing the inexpressible joy of the redeemed, the nearly incomprehensible reality that, yes, the fear and the battle and death are done forever, and there will be no more tears or afflictions or tragedies or sadness—no more Satan, wickedness, sin, or decay.

All evil, within and without, along with its bedfellows of gloom and sorrow, will be forever banished. God’s people will be raised up in glory and brought into that life of cheer and peace in the land, for our Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep, says, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5), and he is well able.

“I am the Living One,” he says, “I was dead, and, look! now I am alive for ever and ever and I hold the keys of Hades and Death!” (Revelation 1:18). He has in himself already brought our humanity to its destined beatific end before the face of God.

Every soul who turns to Jesus Christ in sincerity will partake of the same glory, even the culmination of the Messiah’s exodus: “Behold, the Dwelling of God is with humanity, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples—and God himself will be with them and be their God!” (Revelation 21:3).

Until that day breaks, Paul’s question remains: Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? He is, after all, the God of the exodus.

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.”

–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 195-196.

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“He is the Rock through whom every divine promise pours out as a rushing river” by L. Michael Morales

“Coming to the fourth song, we enter through the veil of divine mystery and onto hallowed ground— we behold the servant led like a lamb to the slaughter, despised by men and crushed by Yahweh.

Here the eternal plans of divine wisdom—infinitely vast—for the redemption of Israel and the nations unfold, like so many rungs of a celestial ladder unrolling down onto the earth-and-dust of human history. While Isaiah 49–52 resounds with the anticipation of Israel’s salvation, and Isaiah 54–55 comprises a divine invitation for people to participate in Yahweh’s salvation, Isaiah 53 forms the bridge from anticipation to invitation.

This servant song sets forth the means of redemption, the unexpected, divinely orchestrated way of humanity’s restoration to God—namely atonement through the sacrificial suffering of the servant of Yahweh.

Structurally, the song has five stanzas, beginning and ending with the servant’s exaltation. Enveloped by this frame his rejection is described, with the heart and center of the poem unfolding the significance of the servant’s suffering (Isaiah 53:4–6).

“My servant,” Yahweh declares in the song’s opening verse, “will be high and lifted up and very exalted,” using terms of glory by way of contrast to the depths of lowliness his servant has endured. In the last stanza the servant’s exaltation is presented as his seeing his offspring, obtaining life, and succeeding in his mission, with Yahweh’s will prospering in his hand.

After his suffering, death, and burial, he is raised up, living and victorious, and “will divide the spoil” with the strong. The servant, therefore, fulfills the hope prophesied of the Messiah earlier in Isaiah, when the people are said to rejoice as when they “divide the spoil,” a joy ushered in with the kingdom of the child who is born for us, the son who is given for us (Isaiah 9:3, 6). What a son given for us means finds an awe-inspiring answer in this fourth song.

The servant’s rejection and suffering is described with language both unrelentingly brutal and intensely sympathetic, describing him as despised and rejected, acquainted with grief, a man of sorrows who was smitten, stricken, afflicted, wounded, and bruised, who bore chastisement and was lacerated with stripes.

Surprisingly, aside from the servant’s rejection by people, the ultimate actor against the servant—the one who planned the smiting, afflicting, wounding, and striking—is none other than Yahweh God himself, for it was “the will of Yahweh to crush him, to make him grief-stricken” (Isaiah 53:10).

Nevertheless, the servant was thoroughly rejected by many among Israel. Yahweh had judged Israel for its rebellion, hardening the people in their blindness and deafness (Isaiah 6:10) so that the servant’s rejection is understood as an outworking of Israel’s own spiritual blindness (Isaiah 53:1) but also as the ordained means for Israel’s remedy.

God’s own judgment on Israel, having given them over to their willful blindness, led to the despising and abuse of the servant, which in turn opened up the channel of divine forgiveness for Israel. The severe hammer-blow of justice cleft open the fissure through which heavenly mercy would flow, for the servant is God’s own sacrificial provision, the promised Lamb of God given as Abraham’s seed, Israel.

Just here it is crucial to understand how the servant as new Israel relates to his servants as the renewed Israel. Aside from Yahweh’s speeches in the frame, the fourth song is written from the later perspective of this renewed Israel. We hear, as it were, the confession of Israelites who had once despised and rejected this servant, assuming him damned of God.

They have since discovered to their shock that this same one, from whom they had hidden their faces, has been exalted, vindicated, and set forth by Yahweh as his faithful servant, the One through whom Israel would be raised up—even the seed of Abraham through whom the nations would be restored finally to God.

That is the incredible proclamation of the central stanza as it unfolds the significance of the servant’s life (Isaiah 53:4–6). With the awe-filled understanding of hindsight, through the lens of the servant’s divine vindication and exaltation, these Israelites turn their faces to look once more, fully on the sufferings of the despised One.

Healed of their blindness by the servant’s exaltation, they are enabled now to see clearly the wonders of Yahweh’s profound wisdom and provision: it was, in fact, our sorrows that he bore, it was for our transgressions that he was wounded! Although we had all gone astray, each one of us to his own way, yet Yahweh has laid on him all our iniquity.

The scorned servant was actually born for us; he was the Son given for us. No mere substitution, the servant dies for Israel to die with him; he is raised up for Israel to be raised up with him—herein lies the crux of Zion’s transformation.

Ultimately, it is Israel’s sacrificial system that illumines the theology of the servant’s suffering, that provides the categories for Israel to understand that Yahweh has redeemed his people through the Servant, by making “his soul a guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10).

The guilt offering, like the purification offering, was a sacrifice given by Yahweh for cleansing Israel from sin, making divine forgiveness possible (see Leviticus 4–5). Beyond purification from sin, the guilt offering also included the notion of making restitution for one’s offence against God—it brought in more fully the idea of restoration along with purification.

Signifying atonement and cleansing from sin, the purification and guilt offerings focused especially on the blood rite of the ritual—the collecting and sprinkling or smearing of blood. As Yahweh declared in Leviticus, he had given Israel blood on the altar as life for life (nefesh), or soul for soul, to make atonement for the sins of his people (Leviticus 17:11).

In Isaiah 53, Yahweh, having laid on his blameless servant the iniquity of his people, crushes him, making “his soul [nefesh] a guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10).

The servant suffers, then, as a vicarious substitute for the people of God, claiming for himself the depth and fullness of Israel’s judgement—this is the new revelation that dawns on the “we” who speak from within Israel and who now form the servants of Yahweh, disciples of the servant.

In seeing the significance of the servant’s suffering, these Israelites come to discern themselves and their own sinfulness more deeply. Indeed, the Israelites say as much about themselves, by way of confession, as they do about the servant:

However, it was our griefs that he bore and our sorrows he carried,
Yet we ourselves had thought him struck, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.
Upon him was the chastisement for our peace, by his wounds, there is healing for us.
All we like sheep had gone astray, we had each one turned to his own way,
But Yahweh himself laid upon him the iniquity of all of us. (Isaiah 53:4–6)

Through the servant, through his suffering and exaltation, they have come to see their own blindness and to condemn their own self-justification. In the light of his suffering, they are enabled to see the darkness of their own condition and, with profound humility, confess their own guilt, completely absolving the servant as blameless: our griefs, our sorrows, our transgressions, our iniquities, our need of chastisement and healing, our waywardness from Yahweh’s paths of righteousness—our iniquity.

And in the darkness of their need, they see the light in his suffering, that by his chastisement they find peace, that by his wounds they find healing. The servant’s suffering as a vicarious, sacrificial substitute is inescapable, for he “will bear their iniquities,” he “carried the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:11, 12). His soul serving as a guilt offering, he was “led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).

Here Yahweh’s own lamb undergoes the cultic exodus. What was once said even of the scapegoat’s role on the Day of Atonement—that it would “bear (nasa’) upon him all their iniquities” (Leviticus 16:22)—is echoed in the labor of the servant who “bore [nasa’] the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12).

The servant has been sent to deal with the ultimate problem of Israel and of all humanity, sin, which makes exile from God absolutely and unalterably necessary. Sin separates humanity from God and leads to death—to an eternal exile from the only fountain of life.

True restoration to God, a definitive exodus, must raise humanity up from sin and death and not only cleanse but finally transform—sanctify and glorify—human beings into true children of God, a path that will be pioneered and opened by the servant for Israel’s sake.

The summation of the servant’s labor, for it was a God-ordained mission, is that he made intercession for transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). For this reason, many have likened the servant to the figure of Moses, whose entire life was an act of intercession on behalf of Israel.

As those who have benefited from his redemption, the servants are given to penetrate to the profound reality that this servant’s suffering and vindication are the very means of God whereby both Israel’s restoration and Israel’s vocation among the nations will be fulfilled.

But the servant must indeed suffer and die and then be raised again—the suffering and the exaltation fill each other with significance and power, and it is only from his royal exaltation that the servant leads his people through the new exodus of his own suffering and glory.

By the New Testament’s illumination, we see that as a function of the servant’s exalted glory, so emphasized in Isaiah, he is enabled to pour out the Spirit upon the peoples for whom he was made an atoning sacrifice, uniting them to his own death and resurrection.

The servants of the servant who speak in the fourth song do so from the vantage point of their own spiritual resurrection. With the eyes of the old creation, as it were, they had only looked with loathing and scorn on the servant.

But now, having their sight healed and enlightened by the outpoured Spirit, their eyes see him as their Lord and Savior, who with unsearchable love laid down his own life to ransom them from the grave and redeem them from death.

All the streams of heavenly blessings converge through the one unifying sieve of this servant, the Messiah. He is the Rock through whom every divine promise pours out as a rushing river, transforming the wilderness of this age into the paradise of a new creation.”

–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 141-145.

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“In Adam by nature, in Christ by grace” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Union with Christ in His death and resurrection is the element of union which Paul most extensively expounds. But the principle of Romans 6 is a wider one: if we are united to Christ, then we are united to Him at all points of His activity on our behalf.

We share in His death (we were baptized into His death), in His burial (we were buried with Him by baptism), in His resurrection (we are resurrected with Christ), in His ascension (we have been raised with Him), in His heavenly session (we sit with Him in heavenly places, so that our life is hidden with Christ in God) and we will share in His promised return (when Christ, who is our life, appears, we also will appear with Him in glory (Rom. 6:14; Col. 2:11-12; 3:1-4).

This, then, is the foundation of sanctification in Reformed theology. It is rooted, not in our humanity and our achievement of holiness or sanctification, but in what God has done in Christ, and for us in union with Him.

Rather than view Christians first and foremost in the microcosmic context of their own progress, the Reformed doctrine first of all sets them in the macrocosm of God’s activity in redemptive history. It is seeing oneself in this context that enables the individual Christian to grow in true holiness.

This general approach is well illustrated by Paul’s key statements: ‘We know that our old self [anthropos, man] was crucified with [Christ] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin’ (Rom. 6:6).’

What is here said to be accomplished already is the central element in sanctification (we are no longer slaves to sin, we are servants of God). It is accomplished by doing away with ‘the body of sin’– an expression which may refer in the context of Romans 6 to the physical body, or more generally, to bodily existence as the sphere in which sin’s dominion is expressed.

In Christ, sin’s status is changed from that of citizen with full rights to that of an illegal alien (with no rights– but for all that, not easily deported!). The foundation of this is what Paul describes as the co-crucifixion of the old man with Christ.

The ‘old man’ (ho palaios anthropos) has often been taken to refer to what I was before I became a Christian (‘my former self’). That is undoubtedly implied in the expression.

But Paul has larger canvas in mind here. He has been expounding the fact that men and women are ‘in Adam’ or ‘in Christ’. To be ‘in Adam’ is to belong to the world of the ‘old man’, to be ‘in the flesh”, a slave to sin and liable to death and judgment.

From this perspective, Paul sees Jesus Christ as the second man, the last Adam, the new man. He is the first of a new race of humans who share in His righteousness and holiness. He is the first of the new age, the head of the new humanity, through His resurrection (compare 1 Cor. 15:45-49). By grace and faith we belong to Him.

We too share in the new humanity. If we are in Christ, we share in the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), we are no longer ‘in the flesh’, but ‘in the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:9). The life and power of the resurrection age have already begun to make their presence felt in our life.

What is so significant here is the transformation this brings to the Christian’s self-understanding. We do not see ourselves merely within the limited vision of our own biographies: volume one, the life of slavery in sin; volume two, the life of freedom from sin.

We see ourselves set in a cosmic context: in Adam by nature, in Christ by grace; in the old humanity by sin, in the new humanity by regeneration. Once we lived under sin’s reign; now we have died to its rule and are living to God.

Our regeneration is an event of this magnitude! Paul searches for a parallel to such an exercise of divine power and finds it in two places: the creation of the world (2 Cor. 4:6; 5:17) and the resurrection and ascension of Christ (Eph. 1:19-20).

Against this background Paul urges radical consecration and sanctification (Rom. 6:11-14). In essence his position is that the magnitude of what God has accomplished is itself an adequate foundation and motivation for the radical holiness which should characterize our lives.

In actual practice, it is the dawning of this perspective which is the groundwork for all practical sanctification.

Hence Paul’s emphasis on “knowing’ that this is the case (Rom. 6:3, 6, 9), and his summons to believers to ‘consider’ themselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11).

‘Consider’ (‘reckon’, KJV) does not mean to bring this situation into being by special act of faith. It means to recognize that such a situation exists and to act accordingly.

Sanctification is therefore the consistent practical outworking of what it means to belong to the new creation in Christ. That is why so much of the New Testament’s response to pastoral and personal problems in the early church was: ‘Do you not know what is true of you in Christ?‘ (Rom. 6:3, 16; 7:1; 1 Cor. 3:16; 5:6; 6:2, 3, 9, 15, 19; 9:13, 24).

Live by the Spirit’s power in a manner that is consistent with that! If you have died with Christ to sin and been raised into new life, quit sinning and live in a new way.

If, when Christ appears, you will appear with Him and be like Him, then live now in a manner that conforms to your final destiny!”

–Sinclair Ferguson, “Christian Spirituality: The Reformed View of Sanctification,” in Some Pastors and Teachers (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2017), 534-536.

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“Allusions to Eden in the Gospel of John” by L. Michael Morales

“Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection are situated more deeply within the Gospel’s creation theology by allusions to the Garden of Eden. Before His crucifixion, we read that Jesus and His disciples “entered a garden” (John 18:1).

The particular name Gethsemane supplied by Mark and Matthew is left out in John’s Gospel, which offers garden as something of a type-scene echoing Eden. The garden locale is mentioned throughout this section of John’s Gospel, as a contextual backdrop to the narrative (see John 18:1, 26; 19:41; 20:15), a usage all the more notable when we realize that the word “garden” (kēpos) is not used whatsoever in any of the other three Gospels, with one exception (in a parable in Luke 13:19).

Later we discover that “in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb wherein no one had ever been laid” (John 19:41). Within this setting of the garden, John’s Gospel adds the detail that Jesus was crucified “in the middle,” that is, between two others (John 19:17–18).

As Mary Coloe explains, the phrase “in the middle” (meson) “echoes the phrase in Genesis where God plants ‘the tree of life in the middle of the garden’ (Genesis 2:9). The evangelist depicts the Crucifixion with the iconography of Genesis 2: there is a garden, and in the middle of the garden is the cross, the tree of life.”

As a supporting argument, John uses similar Eden motifs in his Apocalypse, but in a more obvious manner. We read that a pure river of life flowed out from the throne of God and the Lamb, and “in the middle (mesō) … was the tree of life” (Revelation 22:1–2).

Grasping the Gospel’s layered depths, early church fathers understood the opening of Jesus’ side after his death in relation to Adam’s “sleep of death” within the Garden, when Yahweh had opened his side to create the woman for his bride (Genesis 2:21–25)—Jesus’ blood and water were poured out for the creation of the church as his bride.

Such Adam typology is evident already in the writings of the apostle Paul (Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22; Ephesians 5:25–33) and, as we have observed, informs John’s depiction of Jesus before his crucifixion when, robed in purple and wearing a crown of thorns, he is presented by Pilate with the words, “Look! The Man!” (John 19:5), alluding, as Jeannine Brown observes, “to that first man, Adam, in the first creation story.”

This creation theology also explains Jesus’ use of “woman” (rather than their names) for the various women that appear throughout the Gospel of John, including his own mother. As the last Adam, He has come to redeem His bride: Jesus calls his mother “woman” within the context of a wedding in Cana (John 2:1–12);

His encounter with the “woman” in Samaria takes place at a well, a familiar locale in Scripture for betrothal (John 4:1–26; see Genesis 24:10–28; 29:1–30; Exodus 2:15–22); and finally Jesus the “gardener” and a “woman” are found within a garden on the first day of the week (John 20:11–18).

“He who has the bride,” John the Baptizer had said, “is the bridegroom” (John 3:29)—indeed. That Jesus’ mother is called “woman” (John 2:4; 19:26) and designated “mother” (John 2:1; 19:25) may allude to the names given to the first woman: “She shall be called Woman” (Genesis 2:23); “The man called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).

In any case, the mother of Jesus, the Samaritan woman, and Mary Magdalene, and possibly the woman caught in adultery as well (John 8:2–11), each being called “woman” by Jesus, likely serve to recall Eve as archetypes—theological portraits—of the church, the bride of Adam, the only Son of God.

Jesus even compares His disciples’ sorrow at his death to the woman (hē gynē) in birth pangs, who finally rejoices with the birth of a “man” (anthrōpos, John 16:21), an image strikingly similar to that found in John’s Apocalypse where the Eve-like “woman” who represents the church cries with labor pangs and gives birth to a child, the risen Jesus, who ascends to God and his throne (Revelation 12:1–6).

Then in glory the church is described “as a Bride prepared” for the marriage and wedding supper of the Lamb, a “Bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 19:7–9; 21:2). Jesus is the last Adam; the church is both the children of God and the last Adam’s bride, the new Eve. Since the true exodus forms a reversal of the exile from Eden and a passage from the old creation to the new, this creation imagery is especially relevant to the Gospel’s message about Jesus’ new exodus.

The Eden imagery is developed even more richly for Jesus’ resurrection and appearances to his disciples (John 20). Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, having approached the garden tomb, sees Jesus standing before her and supposes him to be “the gardener” (John 20:15), an allusion to Adam within the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8–9; 9:20)—and he calls her “woman” (John 20:15).

Then, for the first and only time, Jesus calls a woman by name, “Mary!” (John 20:16). As the Greek form of Miriam, the name of Moses’ sister who rejoiced over the original exodus out of Egypt (Exodus 15:20–21), the use of her name at just this point—the new exodus of Jesus’ resurrection—may be part of the Gospel’s exodus motif. Later in the same chapter, Jesus breathes the Spirit on his disciples (John 20:21–22) just as Yahweh had once breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of the first human in the Eden narrative (Genesis 2:7).

A garden, a tree in the middle, two angelic beings, a gardener, and a woman—these aspects of the Eden narrative are equally present in John’s telling of Jesus’ passion and resurrection. Perhaps most telling, even the tomb is located “within the garden,” and described as “new, wherein no one had ever been laid” (John 19:41)—the tomb, in other words, is not associated with death at all but with newness and life, ultimately with the indestructible resurrection life of the Lord Jesus in the garden.

The Garden of Eden allusions with which John’s Gospel concludes enable readers to grasp the theological reality of Jesus’ crucifixion death, burial, resurrection, and ascension as the new exodus out of the old creation and into the new creation, out of this world and into the heavenly reality of the Father’s presence—all from the angle of the Bible’s main plotline: an exodus out of the primal exile and into paradise with God.

In chapter seven we observed the same plotline in how the Day of Atonement ritual portrayed the high priest as an Adam figure who once a year reentered the cultic Garden of Eden (the holy of holies) through the cherubim-laden veil with the blood of atonement.

One may discern a similar theological portrait in the Fourth Gospel: an allusion to the atonement lid of the holy of holies within John’s presentation of the garden tomb. Mary looks within the tomb and sees two angels sitting “one at the head and one at the feet” of where Jesus had lain (John 20:12), perhaps symbolizing the two cherubim positioned at the two ends of the atonement lid, with “one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end” (Exodus 25:18–19).

Outside the tabernacle texts, the only other place where cherubim are found in the Pentateuch is at the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24). Because the cherubim on the tabernacle’s veil and on the atonement lid of the ark are themselves allusions to Eden’s gateway, it seems probable that John’s Gospel also has both in mind: Jesus’ resurrection from the grave fulfills the Day of Atonement, for Jesus as a new Adam has reentered the garden of paradise.

It is perhaps not too much to say, then, that for John’s Gospel the taking away of the stone from the tomb forms the theological parallel to the rending of the temple veil in the other Gospels.

In sum, through allusions to Eden the Gospel of John presents the reality of Jesus’ new exodus as a reversal of humanity’s exile and an entry into the new creation. The first day of the week signifies the theological reality of the new creation and finds a man and a woman (back) inside a garden.

As with the historical exodus of Israel out of Egypt, the new exodus is the deliverance of God’s firstborn Son from death. And even as the sea crossing was narrated with creation imagery to convey that Israel had become a new people (Exodus 14), John’s Gospel uses creation imagery to convey the reality of the new creation ushered in with Jesus’ resurrection as a new humanity.”

–L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption, The Essential Studies in Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 169–172.

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“In Jesus Christ we find the key to comprehension” by Craig A. Carter

“‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb. 13:8), and the saints rest securely in His unchanging love.

Since God has come among us by miraculous actions in history, our knowledge of God arise from the contemplation of His actions in history.

What we seek in our contemplation of His action is certain knowledge of His eternal being. We want to know God as God is in the depths of His perfect nature.

This is what drives theology forward. But we do not see history itself as the revelation of God; we see divine self-revelation in the providential and miraculous history of redemption as interpreted by the prophets and apostles of Holy Scripture.

History itself is often inscrutable; in Jesus Christ we find the key to comprehension. The witness of the church focuses on Christ and the gospel, not on current events or the immediate past and imminent future.

History contains many false starts, wrong turns, and much regress as well as progress. But we know whom we have believed (2 Tim. 1:12).”

–Craig A. Carter, Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 305.

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“The whole Bible comes to us in red letters” by Joel Beeke

“The Bible has many human authors, but one divine Author speaks through them all: the triune God who draws near to us in the Mediator. Though Paul wrote his letters, he insists, ‘Christ is speaking in me’ (2 Cor. 13:3), and, ‘The things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord’ (1 Cor. 14:37).

Therefore, in the Bible, we continue to hear the voice of Christ today. In a manner of speaking, the whole Bible comes to us in red letters.

This makes reading the Bible and hearing it preached a wonderfully personal encounter with Christ. Christ said that the Good Shepherd calls His sheep, and ‘the sheep hear his voice… and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice’ (John 10:3-4).

Christ did not refer here merely to His earthly ministry to Israel, when people literally did hear His human voice. He included the calling of Gentiles: ‘Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd’ (John 10:16).

This is the assurance of Christ’s people: ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand (John 10:27-28).

Whenever we prepare to read or hear God’s Word, we should say to ourselves, ‘I am about to hear the voice of Jesus.’ Calvin said, ‘When the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached, it is just as if He Himself spoke to us and were living among us.'”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 963-964.

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“All His footsteps were nothing but mercy” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“You who are godly, ‘Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy’ (Hos. 10:12); ‘Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually’ (Hos. 12:6). In order to stir you up more to this end, give heed to the following matters with an obedient heart.

First, precepts teach, but examples attract.

Therefore, observe those compassionate persons who have gone before you, and have left you an example. The most perfect example is the Lord Jesus, whom you ought to follow joyfully and willingly, since He is altogether lovely to you.

Read only the history of His life, the gospels, and you will perceive that all His footsteps were nothing but mercy. Time and again you will read: “Jesus being moved with compassion…”

He was not merely moved, however, but His compassion culminated in deeds. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave the oppressed their dead again, and traversed the entire country doing good.

In doing so He has left us an example, so that we would follow in His footsteps. Therefore, out of love for Him, conduct yourself as He did. Your name “Christian” also obligates you to this.

Furthermore, add to this the example of Job. Who can read about his compassion without being moved to follow his example? “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor” (Job 29:15-16); “If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (for from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother‟s womb;) if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep” (Job 31:16-20). That was exemplary.

Add to the example of this man the example of a compassionate woman: Tabitha or Dorcas. Observe the following of her: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did … and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them” (Acts 9:36, 39).

She was a mother to the poor! She did not occasionally do a good deed, but rather she was full of, and overflowing with, good works and alms (gifts which are the manifestation of compassion). The Greek word ἐλεημοσυνῶν (elémosúne) is a composite word and a derivative of ἐλεέω (eleéo), which means to have compassion.

Thus, she did not only give, but rather she gave, being moved with compassion. First the heart was moved, and the heart thus moved, in turn moved her hand. She did not only buy material from which she made clothing, but her benevolent love was so great that it was her delight to do the sewing herself and to dress the widows with the work of her own hands.”

—Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 4: Ethics and Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1995), 4: 122.

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