Category Archives: Joel Beeke

“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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“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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“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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“Christ spoke prophetic words on the cross” by Joel Beeke

“The death of Christ is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for man (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8). What love is this, when God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up to save His enemies (Rom. 8:32)!

It appeared to be a a tragic display of foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18), the waste of the best of lives, but in fact it revealed God’s wisdom and power to save sinners through the most amazing means (1 Cor. 1:23-25).

Furthermore, Christ spoke prophetic words in His passion, including His seven words, or sayings, from the cross, which revealed the following:

  • God’s grace to forgive sinners through Christ: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
  • God’s salvation through Christ for the repentant: “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
  • God’s creation of a new spiritual family in Christ: “He saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:26-27).
  • God’s abandonment of Christ to suffer divine judgment as He bore our sins: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
  • God’s fulfillment of His promises and prophecies in Christ: “Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst” (John 19:28).
  • God’s complete accomplishment of salvation by Christ: “It is finished” (John 19:30).
  • God’s acceptance of Christ’s spirit because He completed His work, in anticipation of His resurrection: “Father, into thy hands commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Christ’s greatest revelation of God took place when His deity was most hidden in suffering and shame. This hidden revelation can be accessed only by faith, a a faith that humbles our pride “that no flesh should glory in his presence,” but “he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:29, 31).

Christ is the Prophet of the cross, and we can receive His revelation by the way of the cross.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 959.

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“Without the Trinity, the gospel disappears” by Joel Beeke

“The link between the gospel and the Trinity is Christ’s incarnate mediatorial work.

The Father’s work revolves around the mission of the Son whom He sent into the world.

The Son’s work is never abstracted from His taking human nature, walking by faith, living in human obedience to God’s law, suffering and dying under the penalty of that law, and rising again to receive God’s blessing– all on behalf of His people.

The Spirit empowered the incarnate Son and comes to His people through His mediation. Thus, the Trinitarian gospel is Christ-centered.

The gospel is essentially Trinitarian. Every member of the Trinity performs an indispensable function in our salvation.

Without God the Father, there would be no one to send the Son and Spirit into the world, to accept the Son’s sacrifice, or to hear the Spirit-wrought prayers of the redeemed.

Without the obedience and sufferings of God the Son, no one could escape God’s curse or enjoy God’s blessing in the Spirit.

Without the renewing work and indwelling presence of God the Spirit, no one would benefit from Christ’s redemptive work or have any assurance of being reconciled to God as his child. Apart from the divine Spirit, God could not dwell within the hearts of the redeemed to relate them to the Father and the Son.

Without the Trinity, the gospel disappears.

Ryan McGraw says, ‘The greatest proof of the doctrine of the Trinity is that the authors of the New Testament could hardly explain the Gospel without it.’

How fervently we should love the doctrine of the Trinity! Too often it is consigned to the dusty shelves of confessed but neglected doctrines– regarded as abstract dogma without practical implications.

In reality, however, the triune God is the only Savior. We should cherish this doctrine, study it in the Holy Scriptures, meditate upon it until it inflames our hearts, and teach and defend it with all the resources of the church.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 1: Revelation and God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 1: 879.

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“Turn from broken cisterns and drink from the Fountain of living waters” by Joel Beeke

“This is only a sampling of the many false views about God. Calvin rightly said, ‘Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.’ (Institutes, 1.11.8)

It is not our intention, however, to look down upon other people and thank God that we are not as other men, but to reflect upon ourselves and cry out, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ (Luke 18:11, 13).

The sad fact is that the idols we have just exposed exist in hearts that attend Christian churches every Lord’s Day. To indulge in sin is practical atheism. If our hearts are divided in loyalty, we are guilty of polytheism.

Whenever we give our adoration to created things, we live as practical pantheists. Our trust in our own thoughts and feelings as if they had divine authority is no better than panentheism.

When we fail to trust God’s sovereign providence and plan for the future, we engage in finite theism. We might add other idols to the list, such as greed for material things (Col. 3:5).

John’s warning ‘Keep yourselves from idols’ (1 John 5:21) is directed to believers, and the only idols he specifically lists in that epistle are ‘the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’ (1 John 2:16).

How pitiful are such things compared to the true God! He is the great ‘I AM,’ the infinitely personal and immanently sovereign Lord. His beauty shines in the world that He created, but He is not the world.

Instead, He transcends the cosmos in glorious and eternal independence. Unspeakable splendor and joy dwell in His presence. And all who trust in Christ have access to His presence, the holy place, even while they sojourn on earth.

God’s wisdom, righteousness, and power radiate from the crucified Christ. At the cross, while all natural glory lay in ruins, God was redeeming the nations.

The resurrected Lord now reigns over all things as the only Mediator of the kingdom of grace. He will return with the holy angels to Judge the wicked and reward those made righteous by grace.

God’s call for men to repent of idolatry is not the death knell of human happiness, but the beginning of real life. God commands us to turn from broken cisterns and drink from the Fountain of living waters.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit say, ‘Come, eat and drink.’ The feast to which they summon us is nothing less than fellowship with the One true and living God.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology: Revelation and God, Volume 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 1: 602-603.

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