Category Archives: Paul

“The Old Testament is the book of Christ” by Herman Ridderbos

“Paul proclaims Christ as the fulfillment of the promise of God to Abraham, as the seed in which all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gal. 3:8, 16, 29), the eschatological bringer of salvation whose all-embracing significance must be understood in the light of prophecy (Rom. 15:9-12), the fulfillment of God’s redemptive counsel concerning the whole world and its future.

This redemptive-historical significance of Paul’s Christology also comes to light in the pronouncements, so characteristic of him, concerning Christ as the revelation of the mystery.

Here the past is not described only as a time of darkness and ignorance, but rather as the preparation of the work of God in the course of the centuries.

The grace that has now been revealed ‘was given in Christ Jesus long ages ago’ (2 Tim. 1:9), in the purpose and promise of God and in their initial realization; it was promised by God who cannot lie, before times eternal (Tit. 1:2).

Therefore the mystery that has been revealed with the advent of Christ must also be made known and understood ‘by means of the prophetic writings’ (Rom. 16:26).

The nature of that which has taken place in Christ becomes clear in the light of the fulfilling action of God how much the Old Testament is the book of Christ (2 Cor. 3:14; 1 Cor. 10:4; Gal. 3:16).

For this reason one of the leading motifs of Paul’s preaching is that his gospel is according to the Scriptures (Rom. 1:17; 3:28; cf. Rom. 4; Gal. 3:6ff; Gal. 4:21ff; 1 Cor. 1-10; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 9:10; 2 Tim. 3:16).

However this use of the Old Testament by Paul is further to be judged in detail, a most basic conception of Christ’s advent and work lies at the root of this whole appeal and use, that of the divine drama being realized and fulfilled in His advent and work; this fulfillment was not only foretold by the prophets, but signifies the execution of the divine plan of salvation that He purposed to Himself with respect to the course of the ages and the end of the times (Eph. 1:9, 10; 3:11).

This is the fundamental redemptive-historical and all-embracing character of Paul’s preaching of Christ.”

–Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966/1975), 51.

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“The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory” by B.B. Warfield

“Our self-abnegation is not for our own sake, but for the sake of others. And thus it is not to mere self-denial that Christ calls us, but specifically to self-sacrifice: not to unselfing ourselves, but to unselfishing ourselves.

Self-denial for its own sake is in its very nature ascetic, monkish. It concentrates our whole attention on self—self-knowledge, self-control—and can therefore eventuate in nothing other than the very apotheosis of selfishness.

At best it succeeds only in subjecting the outer self to the inner self, or the lower self to the higher self; and only the more surely falls into the slough of self-seeking, that it partially conceals the selfishness of its goal by refining its ideal of self and excluding its grosser and more outward elements.

Self-denial, then, drives to the cloister; narrows and contracts the soul; murders within us all innocent desires, dries up all the springs of sympathy, and nurses and coddles our self-importance until we grow so great in our own esteem as to be careless of the trials and sufferings, the joys and aspirations, the strivings and failures and successes of our fellow-men.

Self-denial, thus understood, will make us cold, hard, unsympathetic,—proud, arrogant, self-esteeming,—fanatical, overbearing, cruel. It may make monks and Stoics,—it cannot make Christians.

It is not to this that Christ’s example calls us.

He did not cultivate self, even His divine self: He took no account of self.

He was not led by His divine impulse out of the world, driven back into the recesses of His own soul to brood morbidly over His own needs, until to gain His own seemed worth all sacrifice to Him.

He was led by His love for others into the world, to forget Himself in the needs of others, to sacrifice self once for all upon the altar of sympathy.

Self-sacrifice brought Christ into the world. And self-sacrifice will lead us, His followers, not away from but into the midst of men.

Wherever men suffer, there will we be to comfort.

Wherever men strive, there will we be to help.

Wherever men fail, there will be we to uplift.

Wherever men succeed, there will we be to rejoice.

Self-sacrifice means not indifference to our times and our fellows: it means absorption in them.

It means forgetfulness of self in others.

It means entering into every man’s hopes and fears, longings and despairs: it means manysidedness of spirit, multiform activity, multiplicity of sympathies.

It means richness of development.

It means not that we should live one life, but a thousand lives,—binding ourselves to a thousand souls by the filaments of so loving a sympathy that their lives become ours.

It means that all the experiences of men shall smite our souls and shall beat and batter these stubborn hearts of ours into fitness for their heavenly home.

It is, after all, then, the path to the highest possible development, by which alone we can be made truly men. Not that we shall undertake it with this end in view.

This were to dry up its springs at their source. We cannot be self-consciously self-forgetful, selfishly unselfish.

Only, when we humbly walk this path, seeking truly in it not our own things but those of others, we shall find the promise true, that he who loses his life shall find it.

Only, when, like Christ, and in loving obedience to His call and example, we take no account of ourselves, but freely give ourselves to others, we shall find, each in his measure, the saying true of himself also: ‘Wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.’

The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory.”

–B.B. Warfield, “Imitating the Incarnation,” in The Saviour of the World (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1916/1991), 268-270. This sermon is from Philippians 2:5-8.

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“A Prayer for Spiritual Reformation” by D.A. Carson

“And now, Lord God, I ask your blessing on all who read this book, for without it there will be no real benefit.

We may have education, but not compassion; we may have forms of praying, but no fruitful adoration and intercession; we may have oratory, but be lacking in unction; we may thrill your people, but not transform them; we may expand their minds, but display too little wisdom and understanding; we may amuse many, but find few who are solidly regenerated by your blessed Holy Spirit.

So we ask you for Your blessing, for the power of the Spirit, that we may know You better and grow in our grasp of Your incalculable love for us.

Bless us, Lord God, not with ease or endless triumph, but with faithfulness.

Bless us with the right number of tears, and with minds and hearts that hunger both to know and to do your Word.

Bless us with a profound hunger and thirst for righteousness, a zeal for truth, a love of people.

Bless us with the perspective that weighs all things from the vantage point of eternity.

Bless us with a transparent love of holiness.

Grant to us strength in weakness, joy in sorrow, calmness in conflict, patience when opposed or attacked, trustworthiness under temptation, love when we are hated, firmness and farsightedness when the climate prefers faddishness and drift.

We beg of You, holy and merciful God, that we may be used by You to extend Your kingdom widely, to bring many to know and love You truly.

Grant above all that our lives will increasingly bring glory to Your dear Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip us with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

–D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 225-226.

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“Heaven is not heaven without Christ” by Richard Sibbes

Question: Why doth Paul not say, I desire to be in heaven?

Answer: Because heaven is not heaven without Christ. It is better to be in any place with Christ than to be in heaven itself without Him.

All delicacies without Christ are but as a funeral banquet. Where the master of the feast is away, there is nothing but solemnness.

What is all without Christ? I say the joys of heaven are not the joys of heaven without Christ; He is the very heaven of heaven.”

–Richard Sibbes, “Christ Is Best,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 1 (ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1638/2001), 1: 339.

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“For to me to live is Christ” by John Eadie

“Christ, says the Apostle, shall be magnified in my body by life, ‘for to me to live is Christ.’ Christ and life were one and the same thing to him.

Might not the sentiment be thus expanded? For me to live is Christ:

—the preaching of Christ the business of my life
—the presence of Christ the cheer of my life
—the image of Christ the crown of my life
—the Spirit of Christ the life of my life
—the love of Christ the power of my life
—the will of Christ the law of my life
—and the glory of Christ the end of my life.

Christ was the absorbing element of his life. If he travelled, it was on Christ’s errand; if he suffered, it was in Christ’s service. When he spoke, his theme was Christ; and when he wrote, Christ filled his letters…

And when did the Apostle utter this sentiment? It was not as he rose from the earth, dazzled into blindness by the Redeemer’s glory, and the words of the first commission were ringing in his ears.

It was not in Damascus, while, as the scales fell from his sight, he recognized the Lord’s goodness and power, and his baptism proclaimed his formal admission to the church.

Nor was it in Arabia, where supernatural wisdom so fully unfolded to him the facts and truths which he was uniformly to proclaim. It sprang not from any momentary elation as at Cyprus, where he confounded the sorcerer, and converted the Roman proconsul.

No, the resolution was written at Rome in bonds, and after years of unparalleled toil and suffering. His past career had been signalized by stripes, imprisonment, deaths, shipwreck, and unnumbered perils, but he did not regret them.

He had been ‘in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness,’ but his ardour was unchilled; and let him only be freed, and his life prolonged, and his motto still would be—’For me to live is Christ.’

It did not repent the venerable confessor now, when he was old, infirm, and a prisoner, with a terrible doom suspended over him, that he had done so much, travelled so much, spoken so much, and suffered so much for Christ.

Nor was the statement like a suspicious vow in a scene of danger, which is too often wrung from cowardice, and held up as a bribe to the Great Preserver, but forgotten when the crisis passes, and he who made it laughs at his own timidity.

No. It was no new course the Apostle proposed—it was only a continuation of those previous habits which his bondage had for a season interrupted. Could there be increase to a zeal that had never flagged, or could those labours be multiplied which had filled every moment and called out every energy?

In fine, the saying was no idle boast, like that of Peter at the Last Supper—the flash of a sudden enthusiasm so soon to be drowned in tears. For the apostle had the warrant of a long career to justify his assertion, and who can doubt that he would have verified it, and nobly shown that still, as hitherto, for him to live was Christ?

He sighed not under the burden, as if age needed repose; or sank into self-complacency, as if he had done enough, for the Lord’s commission was still upon him, and the wants of the world were so numerous and pressing, as to claim his last word, and urge his last step.

It was such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ, who placed on record the memorable clause, inscribed also on his heart—’for me to live is Christ.'”

–John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians (ed. W. Young; Second Edition.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1884), 51–51-52.

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“Christ crucified” by Stephen Charnock

“Christ crucified is the sum of the Gospel, and contains all the riches of it. Paul was so much taken with Christ, that nothing sweeter than Jesus could drop from his pen and lips. It is observed that he hath the word ‘Jesus’ five hundred times in his Epistles.”

–Stephen Charnock, “The Knowledge of Christ Crucified,” in The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, Vol. 4 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1684/1865), 495.

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“The message of the cross is a living, busy, active, mighty thing” by Stephen Westerholm

“Admittedly, Luther is prone to seeing his own circumstances reflected in biblical texts (if this is a fault); and (herein lies a very great fault), when he writes polemically, his terms and tone are often monumentally lamentable.

Still, one has only to read a few pages of his writings (most any will do) to realize that, in crucial respects, he inhabits the same world, and breathes the same air, as the apostle. Both are driven by a massive, unremitting sense of answerability to their Maker.

For both, the message of God’s grace in Christ is a source of palpable liberty and joy, and of prodigious παρρησία. For both, the faith in God awakened by the message of the cross is a living, busy, active, mighty thing; for both, works without faith are dead.

Neither makes the slightest gesture toward cloaking his horror and indignation at any perceived tampering with the divine kerygma or infringement of divine prerogatives. Such kindredness of spirit gives Luther an inestimable advantage over many readers of Paul in ‘capturing’ the essence of the apostle’s writings.

On numerous points of detail, Luther may be the last to illumine. For those, however, who would see forest as well as trees, I am still inclined to propose a trip to the dustbins of recent Pauline scholarship—to retrieve and try out, on a reading of the epistles, the discarded spectacles of the Reformer.”

–Stephen Westerholm, “The ‘New Perspective’ at Twenty-Five,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul (eds. D.A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid, vol. 2, 181st ed.; Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament; Grand Rapids, MI; Tübingen: Baker Academic; Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 38.

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