Luke: Discovering Jesus, the Son of God

For a few months, I have been studying the Gospel of Luke with some friends. It has been a joy to study the life of Jesus. Below is a Family Worship Guide that I created from our discussions. Just click on the image below. You will find questions with and without helps. I hope this is a blessing to you and your family.

Luke family worship guide

Let me know if you would like to make changes or additions. This is certainly a work in progress.

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Theology of suffering and victory from the book of Revelation

This article was written by my friend Scott Tiede. Scott attended Purdue University where he studied mechanical engineering. He worked as an engineer for about 10 years while serving and growing at Bethel Bible Church in Winomac, Indiana. He was called into a staff position at Bethel Bible Church in 2005, and he attended seminary at Faith Bible Seminary in Lafeyette, Indiana, earning his Masters of Divinity in 2010. Pastor Scott joined the staff at Delaware Bible Church in the summer of 2012. Pastor Scott married his wife, Tracy, in 1995 and has four children: Caleb, Keziah, Jacobi, and Elizabeth.

When it comes to the book of Revelation, there are various themes woven throughout the letter.  Of the many themes, two that are very apparent are suffering and victory.  The thesis of suffering and victory is nowhere better represented than by Christ Himself, who suffered death on the cross and now is triumphant (5:5-6).  These themes of suffering and victory present themselves in various ways throughout the book.

Suffering is used to encourage sanctification

This idea is on full display in the letter to the churches in chapters 2 and 3.  Each of the seven churches were contending with some type of trial (2:4, 10, 14-15, 20; 3:1, 10, 15).  Jesus Himself reveals that He will pour out some brand of suffering on each of the churches with the goal of repentance and restoration.  God is not one who does not fulfill His promises, but is continuously active in bringing the necessary countermeasure to sin in the lives of the faithful that will produce righteousness.  In the case of the seven churches of Revelation 2-3, those countermeasures include suffering (2:5, 16, 21-25; 3:2-3, 11, 16-18).  Bennetch states it this way, “Varied as were the trials and experiences that the saints passed through, he[1] was always in their midst, proceeding to fulfill his aim of perfecting the good work begun in each soul.”[2]  Revelation 3:19 makes it clear that the Lord rebukes and disciplines those He loves.  Suffering is used in Revelation to produce sanctification.

God pours out suffering in such a way as to demonstrate His mercy

Clearly the Creator of the universe has the power to wipe His creation away instantaneously.  In the book of Revelation, however, this is not the case.  Instead, there are three sets of plagues rolled out (seal, trumpet, and bowl), and each set of plagues ratchets up the amount of the severity of the suffering while also shortening the time span between judgments.  What is the reason for this?  Could it be that God is a merciful God and that these judgments are rolled out in such a way as to bring the greatest possible number of souls to Himself?  Thielman states it this way, “Prior to the end of all things, the steadily increasing level of suffering does not lie outside God’s control – it is both a punishment on the wicked for their evil, particularly for their persecution of God’s people, and a merciful pedagogical effort designed to extend to them every possible opportunity to repent prior to the final outpouring of God’s wrath on them.”[3]  In fact, the Greek word for repent (μετανοέω) is used 12 times in the book of Revelation, which constitutes over one-third of the total uses in the entire New Testament (34).  Indeed some of the wicked will repent during this time of suffering and will give glory to God (11:13).  The way that God releases His judgment upon the earth puts His great mercy on display.

God pours out suffering in such a way as to demonstrate His justice

If God’s mercy is on one end of the spectrum, then on the other end of the spectrum is God’s Justice.  After mercifully pouring out judgment and suffering on the earth so that all who might come to Him would repent, God’s justice is on full display in the vision of the glorious Rider on the white horse of 19:11-18 who comes to stand against the Beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies (19:19).  This mysterious Rider is none other than Christ Himself (19:11, 13 [cf. John 1:1, 14], 16).  As He comes, the evil forces who gather to make war against Him (19:19) instead find themselves captured or killed before any fighting can begin (19:20-21).  The fact that Christ can defeat His enemies without lifting a finger in battle shows His great power.  God’s justice is powerfully revealed in the fall of Babylon (chapter 18), the destruction of those who refuse to repent (20:15), the destruction of the Beast and the False Prophet (19:20), the destruction of death and Hades (20:14), and in the final destruction of Satan himself (20:10).  Strauss writes regarding the appearance of the Rider on the white horse, “These verses (19:11-21) introduce that great event anticipated for centuries and about which the Old Testament prophets wrote.  It is the golden age on earth when all creation shall be subject to its Creator and Redeemer.  But before He reigns He must subdue every enemy and opposing force.”[4]  The suffering in the book of Revelation points to God’s justice.

Suffering produces a division among people

The awful judgments poured out in the book of Revelation separate people into two different groups; those who align themselves with evil, and those who respond to God in faith.  This theme is present from the beginning when John writes, Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near (1:3).  Lenski states, “Revelation is a book of promise and of judgment.  The promise is intended for those who are sealed; the judgment is intended for Satan and for all who are allied with him.”[5]  The price of being on God’s side is not cheap.  Some of those allied with God had suffered death because they had maintained their testimonies (6:9).  On the other hand, those on the side of evil will experience enormous fear to the point of wishing that they could be hidden from the face of Christ (6:16).  The wicked will also experience great pain (9:4-5) to the point that they will seek death, but not find it (9:6).  Some of the wicked will die during the judgments (9:15).  Those on God’s side are to be sealed on their foreheads (7:3), while those who associate with evil receive the mark of the Beast (13:16-17).  Also, there is a contrast to the activity of each group.  While the godly are singing praises to Him (7:10, for example) and serving Him (7:15), the wicked refuse to stop worshiping idols (9:20), refuse to repent of their evil deeds (9:21), are gloating over the death of the witnesses of God (11:10), and are aligning themselves to make war against Him (19:19).  The wicked are burdened with sin, but the righteous have had their sins washed away by the blood of the Lamb (7:14).  Even in the intensity of the bowl judgments, the wicked curse the name of God and refuse to repent (16:9, 11, 21).  The end of the wicked is eternal torment (20:14), but the end of God’s people is an existence where there is no hunger, thirst, tears, scorching heat (7:16-17), or sin curse (22:3); instead there is eternal life (22:14).

Another key theological thread running through the book is that of victory.  In the end, God will be victorious over Satan and his minions.  This is apparent in at least three ways in the Revelation.

Victory is on display through Christ’s cross work

John speaks in Revelation about the fact that Jesus has achieved victory already through His death on the cross and resurrection.  John refers to Christ as the “firstborn from the dead” as well as “the One who has freed us from our sins by His blood” (1:5).  Revelation 1:18 refers to Christ as the one who has had victory over death forever.  When John is confronted by the fact that there is no one worthy to open the seals of the scroll (5:4), one of the elders tells him not to weep because Jesus is able to open the scroll (5:5).  Why is He able to do this?  The elder says that Christ can do this because he has overcome (5:5).  Before any of the judgments are manifested, Christ has already achieved the victory by His death on the cross and resurrection.  Revelation 7:14 makes it clear that people are being saved through Christ’s cross work when it says, “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  It is not the judgments being doled out in the end that will provide salvation for the faithful, but only the work Christ did on the cross.  Revelation 19:11-16 presents a scene wherein Christ makes a magnificent entrance into the world as a great and victorious Warrior King.  Standing in contrast to His entrance into Jerusalem on the back of a lowly donkey to eventually be crucified is the fact that Christ now sits upon a white steed dressed in splendor, and crowned with many crowns.[6]

Victory is on display in the Church

Endurance and perseverance are the keys to victory in the book of Revelations.  As Christ suffered horribly and died, but persevered, so believers are to remain strong in the face of suffering.  Beale states it this way, “The Lamb’s followers are to recapitulate the model of his ironic victory in their own lives; by means of enduring through the tribulation they reign in the invisible kingdom of the Messiah (see 1:6, 9).”[7]  In the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3, promises are made to each church if that church will overcome (Gk. νικάω).  These promises include being able to eat from the tree of life (2:7), authority over the nations (2:26), and the right to sit with Christ on His throne (3:21).  The key to these and the other promises mentioned in Revelation 2-3 is perseverance.  Flora states it this way, “Revelation says that one overcomes by endurance and by faithfulness — not just a quick fix saying, “Lord, I believe,” but the faith which walks that out in faithfulness every day of one’s life.”[8]  In the end, the faithful will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, overcome and will inhabit the New Jerusalem (21:24-27).

Victory is already complete, but will be fully realized when Satan is defeated

As mentioned above, Christ has already achieved the victory through His death on the cross and resurrection.  However, the effects of sin and Satan on the world remain until Satan is ultimately defeated for good.  In effect, the world is still under the curse of sin.  However, John reveals that after Satan, death, and Hades are thrown into the Lake of Fire (20:10, 14) the sin curse will be lifted (22:3).  This will open the door for Christ to renew all things, and a new heaven and a new earth will be the result (21:1).  John describes this as a magnificent place that is constructed and decorated with what appears to be precious metals and stones (21:11, 18-21), a place where no outside illumination is necessary because light is sufficiently provided by the glory of God (21:23).  John reveals that this future estate will be the fully-realized victory of God over Satan and evil.

To conclude this section on suffering and victory, John Walvoord summarizes well the anticipation of man since the fall, and the joyous eternal state that is described in the end of Revelation:

With the close of the prophetic narrative, the Biblical revelation of Jesus Christ also comes to its conclusion. In the beginning of eternity, all that was anticipated in the first and second comings of Christ is fulfilled, and Christ is honored as King of kings and Lord of lords. The eternity which stretches beyond the horizon of Scriptural revelation is one of unspeakable bliss for the saints and unending joy in the presence of God. In the center of the service and worship of the saints will be Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” To this eternal destiny every believing heart turns in anticipation and joyous expectation.[9]


[1]He refers here to Christ.

[2]John H. Bennetch, “The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse,” Bibliotheca Sacra 96 (July 1939): 364.

[3]Frank Thielman, Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 626.

[4] Lehman Strauss, The Book of the Revelation (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1964), 322.

[5]R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), 21.

[6]David J. MacLeod, “The First “Last Things”: The Second Coming of Christ (Rev 19:11-16),” Bibliotheca Sacra 156 (April 1999): 209.

[7] G.K. Beale, “Revelation (Book)” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. by T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D.A. Carson, and Graeme Goldsworthy (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 356.

[8]Jerry Flora, “New Testament Perspectives on Evil,” Ashland Theological Journal 24 (1992): 20.

[9]John F. Walvoord, “The Future Work of Christ Part IV: The Millennial Kingdom and the Eternal State,” Bibliotheca Sacra 123 (October 1966):299-300.

Theology of the glory of God from the book of Revelation

Many have tried to establish a theme for the Book of Revelation, but the following summary by George G. Weeber captures its theme and focus,

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, as the unveiling of our exalted, glorified, and sovereign Lord over His church and the world as the Revealer and Executor of the secret decrees of God in order to consummate His victory over the world of evil at His Second Coming and establish the royal kingdom of God.[1]

The glory of God is a theme that permeates the Book of Revelation. From chapter 1 through 22 there is a golden vein that describes and ascribes glory to God. This portion of the paper will describe the theme of God’s glory in Revelation as it relates to his holiness and incomparability.

The Glory of God Within the Literary Structure

Worship scenes play an important role in unifying the book because they are not just interludes, but part of the context. The hymn sections of Revelation usually provide commentary within the narrative visions in which they are embedded. The primary reason that the author introduced throne scenes was to serve as literary contexts for commentary on the hymns. This makes them important for the structural analysis of Revelation.[2]

Revelation is a hymnal of worship describing God’s glory as seen in His holiness and incomparability. The setting of the book of Revelation is within the throne room of God and the hymns are sung in this setting. The worship in Revelation is characterized by thanksgiving (11:17), praise (19:5), prayer (5:8), and song. Worship for God is expressed in the context of desolation and divine judgment.

The Book of Revelation has, like many letters, a prologue (1:1-8), body (1:9-22:5), and epilogue (22:6-21).[3] Within all three elements there is an overwhelmingly large emphasis given to the praise and glory of God. The author of Revelation teaches his readers a lot about how to worship God now in light of how we will worship Him in the future. Among the 22 chapters of Revelation there are 11 distinct worship episodes, which make up a sizable chuck of the book’s text.[4] The verb proskymeo (to worship) is used 24 times in Revelation compared to 59 times in all of Scripture.[5] One could say worship is what ties Revelation together.

The Glory of God is pictured within His divine characteristics

The Revelation of Jesus Christ is full of imagery and expresses John’s reverence for God. Within Revelation God is presented in all His majesty and glory. It is His glory that lights the heavens (21:23). We see God as holy, omnipotent, omniscient and eternal. There is an emphasis on His righteousness and judgment upon sin, but little about His love and mercy.[6] The character of God within Revelation is fitting to the role He plays as the Judge of mankind.

God is holy.  Those that are in the presence of God near His throne never cease to worship God day and night. They cry out to God, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” (Ἅγιος ἅγιος ἅγιος, κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ: 4:8; cf.4:9, 11; 19:2) There is no one that is like or will ever be like our God. He is incomparable. He alone is worthy of worship because He is holy.

God is Sovereign over all things, including the judgment of man and His dealing with evil.[7] God protects His people and punishes rebellion. The picture in Revelation is of God ruling history and the fact that He will bring about history’s consummation in Christ.[8] The overwhelming picture of God is of a mighty potentate seated on His throne (4:3), a picture that is determined by the visionary nature of the book and by the need to stress the sovereignty of God over the forces of evil.[9]

God sits on His throne (τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ: 4:9; 5:1, 7, 13; 6:16; 7:15; 21:5).[10] He rules and reigns over His people and their dominion with His supreme plan. He reigns on His throne as Judge and King.[11] It is God, not the evil one, who sits on the throne, and it is God who judges His enemies and blesses those who faithfully follow the Lamb of God.[12] The Book of Revelation is a letter written to encourage followers of Christ to focus their faith on the triumph of a sovereign God’s reign, which has now been disclosed through the exaltation and reign of Christ.

God is sovereign over all creation. The twenty-four elders proclaim God as the Creator of all things (4:11). He creates and He sustains (cf. 10:6; 14:7). The culmination of absolute sovereignty is seen in God’s creation of the new heavens and earth (21:1-22:5). At that time, He destroys the old earth tainted by sin and combines earth and heaven “making all things new” (21:5). The Book of Revelation conveys a sense of sovereignty that no other New Testament book approaches.[13]

God is Eternal as related to His Sovereignty. God is described as One who will be forever and ever. He is “the One who is and who was and who is to come” (ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος: 1:4, 8; 4:8-10; 11:17; 16:5). God is in control of the present in the same way He was in control of the past and will be in control of the future.[14] With this promise of His eternal control is the promise of His coming and judgment. God does not have a beginning or end, for He is described as “the First and Last” (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος: 1:17; 22:13). He not only controls the past and the future, but everything in between, for He is “the Alpha and Omega” (Ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ Ἄλφα καὶ τὸ Ὦ: 1:8, 17;21:6, 13).

God is Omnipotent as related to His Sovereignty. God is a mighty God.[15] He is the divine warrior and has all the power to do His will. Whatever evil is done in His sight by the evil powers of this world, God has more power still. God is stronger than the kings of earth. He will overcome and be the victor over evil. He will judge in His power and glory (18:8). God is “Almighty” (ὁ παντοκράτωρ: 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 19:6; 21:22), and all heaven ascribes power and might to Him (7:12; 12:10).

The Glory of God Seen Within His Son Jesus Christ

From the beginning of the text John greet his readers “from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” (1:5) The first vision of John in Revelation is Jesus in all His glory (1:12-20).

Jesus is referred to by John with many distinct divine names: the “I AM” (1:8, 17; 2:23; 21:6; 22:13, 16), Son of God (2:18), ruler of God’s creation (3:14), Word of God (19:13; cf. John 1:1-14 & 1 John 1:1-4), and the Lamb of God (13:11; cf. John 1:29, 36; 21:15) . These characteristics and more are vivid throughout the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Lamb of God (ἀρνίον) is a constant symbol for Christ in Revelation as the victor over the forces of evil and the Church as the body of Christ, which shares this victory with Him (17:14).[16] He has opened up the way for His people to have a glorious destiny. He is the Lamb worshiped by all heaven (5:6) and worthy to open the seven seals (6:1, 3ff). The greatness and glory of the Lamb is indicated in the way He is joined with God (cf. 7:9; 14:4; 22:1-3).[17] He is equated with God. Jesus is the supreme One and His glory makes His saving work possible.

There is a hint to the humanity of Christ as He is referenced to being from the tribe of Judah and the house of David. Greater emphasis, however, is placed on His deity. Revelation leaves us no doubt that Jesus Christ is the God of all. He is triumphant over death and regarded as the eternal One of infinite power and majesty who is worthy of all honor and adoration.[18] He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, slays the wicked, delivers the righteous, and reigns over the earth. John cannot help but fall before Him and worship. At the conclusion of two visions, he falls at the feet of the angel to worship, and the angel responds, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” (19:10; 22:9)[19]

The Book of Revelation is a cataclysmic reminder that through Christ life is stronger than death and eventually the kingdom of this world will be the kingdom of our Lord and His Messiah (1:6; 5:10).[20] He will reign forever and ever (11:15). There is no one like Jesus Christ. Jesus is supreme.

In conclusion, the Book of Revelation has a heavy emphasis on the glory of God. God’s glory is seen in the literary structure of the book, within His characteristics, and in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If one wants to grow in his or her understanding of God’s glory, the Revelation of Jesus Christ is a great place to start. God is enthroned in heaven and is working out His purposes on earth. Revelation calls us to respond with awe, godly fear, praise, faith, and obedience.[21] One day we will ourselves cry to the Lord, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”


[1]George G. Weeber, The Consummation of History: A Study of the Book of Revelation, (s.l: s.n., 1978,) 27.

[2] David E. Aune, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 22. (Word Books: Dallas, TX. 1997), xcviii.

[3]Dennis A. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary of Revelation, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing Co., 2001), 26-28.

[4]1:12-20; 4:1-5:14; 7:9-17; 8:3-5; 11:16-19; 12:10-12; 14:1-7; 15:2-8; 16:5-7; 19:1-10; 20:4-6; 21:1-22:5

[5]Leon Morris, New Testament Theology, (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1986), 296.

[6]John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), 10.

[7]Note there is a great conflict between good and evil (Ch.12-19; and reiterated in 20:1-10).

[8]Vern S. Poythress, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Co, 2000), 40.

[9] I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology, (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004), 573.

[10] There are also variations of this phrase cf. 4:2, 3; 7:10; 19:4; 20:11.

[11] His sovereignty is seen in His judgment through the 7 Seals, 7 Trumpets and 7 Bowls.

[12] Robert W. Wall, Revelation: New International Biblical Commentary, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), 39.

[13]D.A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 721.

[14] Grant Osborne. Baker Evangelical Commentary of The New Testament: Revelation, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), 32.

[15] The sovereign might of God is seen in the incredible use of εδοθη, a divine passive that points to Gods control of the events (6:2, 4, 8, 11; 7:2; 8:2, 3; 9:1; 3, 5; 11:1, 2; 12:14; 13:5, 7, 14; 13:5, 7, 14, 15; 16:8). Osborne, 32.

[16]Weeber, 27.

[17]Morris, 293.

[18]Walvoord, 27.

[19] J. Ramsey Michaels in His commentary suggests that the parallels in the two visions are intended to form a contrasting pair, each centering on a city personified as a woman—Babylon and Jerusalem, prostitute and bride. Interpreting the Book of Revelation: Guides to New Testament Exegesis, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), 65-66.

[20]Stephen F. Smalley, The Revelation to John (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2005), 19.

[21]Poythress, 40.

the God who reveals

Recently I visited Muir Woods just north of San Francisco. My wife and I were celebrating our third anniversary walking among God’s creation. As amazed as I was by the Redwoods, all the people taking pictures of the trees equally amazed me. If you think about it, doesn’t it seem weird that people are flocking to take pictures of big trees? Why do people take pictures of trees? Why is my brother in awe of the open horizon of New Mexico? Why does our jaw drop at the Grand Canyon or Teton Mountains? Simply, creation wows us and fills us with wonder. It’s amazing.

In the 1998 film The Truman Show, Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a generally cheerful insurance adjuster in a cozy island town whose days run like clockwork—until the day a stage light falls out of the heavens and crashes near his car. Little by little his world begins to give him clues that later help him discover the truth about the world (stage) in which he is really living. Likewise, your world is giving you clues that tell you something about God. He is not hiding.

1. God reveals He is through creation (Psalm 19:1-6)

People often wonder, “Where did all this come from? Why are we here?” What are some of the hints and clues you see in creation that point you to the existence of a Creator? And what are some of the aspects of creation that cause some people to believe that no Creator exists? Whether we understand creation or not it continually shouts out that God exists (1 Chronicles 16:31-34). Creation never presses pause on praise God. The picture you receive from this psalm is that the world acts as a loudspeaker, a stage, and an art gallery—all pointing to God’s glory.

However, man’s response to creation can be foiled (Psalm 19:3). First, people ignore the communication of creation (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:15). Second, people can miss or not hear God through creation because the communication of creation is not audible. In other words, general revelation (i.e. creation) is indirect communication unlike special revelation, which is written Scriptures or spoken through the God-Man Jesus Christ.

Think about the ways people attempt to guard themselves from God’s revelation. What are some of the most common ways we try to hide from God’s voice? What are some of the common ways we try to drown it out? God wants to be heard. General revelation goes further than just telling us that God exists. It also tells us what kind of God exists.

2. God reveals who He is through creation (Romans 1:19-20)

Suppose you came home one day to find a box at your door with a note attached: “These are the personal belongings of your twin brother.” Once you got over the initial shock of having a twin brother you never knew about, you’d open the box and look inside, hoping the contents might tell you something about him.  If the package contained keys to a Harley Davidson, a knife, and a tin of chewing tobacco, that wouldn’t tell you everything about your brother, but it would certainly give you an impression. But if the box contained a set of watercolor paints, a beret, and a tin of organic breath mints, that might give you an entirely different impression, wouldn’t it? The box’s existence would tell you that you had a brother, but the box’s contents would tell you a bit about him.

In the same way, the created world says you have a God, and what you see in the created world tells you some general things about Him. By seeing the general revelation of “the heavens” and the rest of the world, you can get a sense of God’s glory, the sum of His attributes. What knowledge of God’s attributes do you gain by looking at creation? The universe shows His eternality. The sun and rain show His goodness and grace. A volcano and hurricane show His power. When we look at His creation we see who He is and who we are too. Matt Chandler says, “Nobody stands at the base of the Rocky Mountains and says, ‘Remember that time I benched 300 pounds in high school?’”

Nor can anyone say, “I have never heard the gospel before. No one told me I am sinful and God is holy.” His attributes are seen in all humanity—sense of fairness, longing for justice, compulsion to create, etc. But what can and cannot God’s general revelation do? Romans 1:19-20 teaches about responsibility. General revelation is sufficient to hold us accountable for our sin, but not able to save us.

3. God reveals what His plans are through creation (Acts 14:11-18)

What did Barnabas and Paul want the people of Lystra to know? As the pagan demand for more sacrifices to a dead god continued, Barnabas and Paul desperately wanted these people to know the good news that Jesus has made the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, and He did so to honor the will of a Heavenly Father who had been far better to the unsaved people of Lystra than Zeus had been. The missionaries pointed to the evidence: “You have a witness that this is true!” they cried. “He has given you rain and harvest and good food and happiness.”

Acts 14:17 gives you an aspect of the gospel story. When looking at the world around you it is easy to recognize that this place is broken but there are visible aspects of God’s grace. In Matthew 5:45: “For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” The benevolent heart of God is made visible through common grace, which is available to every man on this planet. God intends for the happiness you experience in marriage, parenting, and His other good gifts to point you back to Him. The gifts everyone enjoys lead to the Giver.

In Romans 8:22, Paul writes, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.” The image is that of the earth giving birth, but the focus is on the pain as it gives way to newness. We look forward to the return of Christ and the new heavens and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13). The brokenness we see in “the whole creation,” is signaling to us that something is wrong and there is something better beyond this.

In conclusion, the world is a grand theater in which God showcases His glory. One thing we must say about this theater, of course, is that it is not itself the story but the stage for it. Like a good stage set, it tells us something of the story before the players even enter and begin reciting their lines. But it is the script (i.e. the Bible and Jesus) that really reveals. God is not hiding. He is in plain sight.

the God who is (eternal and existent)

How would you describe eternity? Eternity is one of the most difficult concepts to understand. The best description of eternity is, God. His name is El Olam (Genesis 21:33). His beginning and end are infinite. Whether you look His past or His future you will see that He is permanent and everlasting. That is difficult for our finite minds to wrap its brain around. Try, and you will be boggled, wowed, and flat out stumped. And that’s ok.

When considering the existence or eternality of God you must peer into His past, present and future. Together let’s wade into the mysterious depths of the God’s character. My aim is to stir your affections towards Him. To worship God is an act of hope—participation in the future, the eternal—and a look outside the cave.

“Suppose a man is born in a cave and spends his entire life tied to a post, facing the wall at the rear of the cave. He cannot look to the right or the left, only forward. The light from the outside shines from behind him on the wall he faces. Occasionally people and animals walk by the cave’s entrance and, as they do, their shadows are cast on the wall. These shadows and the dim light on the wall are all he ever knows of reality. To him they are reality. To speak of a world outside the cave, made of color and three dimensions, would be incomprehensible and unbelievable to him. But what would it mean if a mirror were held up to him, in which he could get a glimpse of the world outside the cave? Everything would change! He would then see the shadows in the context of a larger and deeper reality of depth and color.”[1]

The mirror is the Scripture. In His Word, you get a glimpse of God in all His eternal glory. It is there that you see yourself with the tens of thousands of angels in heaven around the everlasting God worshiping Him “who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).

the God who was

God has always existed. Before anything was He was. Before there was a created universe, before the planet earth was formed, or before the first human being walked on the earth, God was. The first information you read about God in the Scripture is straight to the point; “In the beginning, GOD” (Genesis 1:1). The verse is not a long drawn out argument, but simply a statement of fact that God was and is.

God said to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:4ff) And king David sang to God, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.” (Psalm 90:2)

Even Jesus always was, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3) “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Hebrews 13:8]

When John wrote the seven churches in Asia, he greeted them saying, “Grace to you and peace from Him who is (Exodus 3:14) and who was (John 1:1) and who is to come…” (Revelation 1:4)[2] Then John tell us whom “who” is, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (1:8; Cf. 4:8)

The Godhead has existed for a long time—like forever. He always existed in eternity past. Just thinking about eternity past makes my melon hurt. But for God, forever is who He is. He has no beginning. He always was.

the God who is

Although the Scripture says God exists, does not mean everyone believes He is still intimately involved within the affairs of mankind or creation. Some think that God is distant or has taken a hands-off approach towards dealing with the universe. What if someone says to you, “God is not real!” How would your respond? What if someone else says to you, “God does not care about me. He is distant from my world and this world.” What would you say? These kinds of statements are common in today’s culture, but they are not new; people have made these statements for millenniums.

The ancient God-fearer, Job said confidently, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25) The Bible portrays a God orchestrating history, sovereignly working out His purposes among humanity, and sacrificially stepping onto the planet to redeem mankind. God is not dead nor is He distant. Jesus is not buried is some tomb like so many great men of the past. He lives (Matthew 28:6; 1 Corinthians 15) and He intercedes on behalf of redeemed mankind, even at this moment (Hebrews 7:25), “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:9-11)

Why would you want to worship a God or a guy who claimed He was God if He were dead? After Jesus’ death an angel (and many others) declared, “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.” (Matthew 28:6) And He is still transforming lives today. There is great encouragement, knowing Jesus still lives and His Spirit dwells within the redeemed (John 15:26-16:15). As the old hymn sung at Easter trumpets,

Verse 1: I serve a risen Savior; He’s in the world today; I know that He is living, whatever men may say; I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him He’s always near.

Chorus: He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.[3]

Verse 2: In all the world around me I see His loving care, and tho my heart grows weary I never will despair; I know that He is leading thru all the stormy blast; the day of His appearing will come at last.

Verse 3: Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King! The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find, none other is so loving, so good and kind.

the God who is to come

God was and is and will always be. Christ promises to come back and rule all eternity as the King of kings and Lord of Lords. When Revelation 4:8 says, “Holy, holy holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come,” the last three words certainly include an anticipation of God’s future coming to earth to fill it with His glory in an unprecedented way (Cf. Isaiah 6:3).[4]

So God was and is and is to come, what does that mean for me today?

First, God created you an eternal being too. You are not meant to live in the back of the cave in the dark. If you repent of your sin and believe on the name of Christ you will live forever with the Light of the world. If not, you will forever be separated from God in eternal torment (Matthew 25:41-46; Revelation 14:11). And this leads to a serious question; will you forever live with Him?

“Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 10-12; Cf. John 3:16; 17:3)

Jesus will be glorified throughout all eternity—His kingdom is forever (2 Peter 1:11; Revelation 11:15), “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25; cf. 2 Peter 3:18)

There is not only a future hope of eternity for followers of Christ, but there is a present hope too. You do not have to wait to be blessed by the eternal God; you can be secure in His presence now. Isaac Watts in His great hymn, O Go, Our Help in Ages Past wrote, “Oh, God our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home. Within the shadow of Thy throne, Still may we dwell secure. Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure. Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame, From everlasting Thou art God, To endless years the same.”

Second, God is always present and always is working out His purposes within your life for your good and His glory. Even in the difficult parts of life, God is orchestrated His purposes. Suffering always precedes glory; just look at the way of the cross. Paul shared to young Timothy,

“But share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

God’s eternal existence may be a truth that is almost impossible to grasp from inside the cave, but it is one amazing truth that should cause us to be in awe of His awesome attributes seen in the mirror of His Word. He never ceases to exist nor will He ever fade from existence. Our God was and is and is to come.


[1] Ben Patterson and David L. Goetz, vol. 7, Deepening Your Conversation With God, The pastor’s soul series; Library of leadership development (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 99.

[2] Cf. 21:6; 22:13; [Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 44:6]

[3] Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 128.

[4] Note: The Lord comes to judge the earth (1 Chr. 16:33; we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:16); the coming of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1); when our Lord Jesus comes with all his saints (1 Thess. 3:13); where is the promise of his coming? (2 Pet. 3:4); Maranatha – our Lord, come! (1 Cor. 16:22); I am coming to you (Rev. 2:5); him who is and was and is to come (Rev. 1:4; Rev. 1:8; Rev. 4:8); you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26); come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20).

Concise Theology of General Revelation as seen in Muir Woods

Recently I visited Muir Woods just north of San Francisco. My wife and I were celebrating our third anniversary walking among God’s creation. Walking together is one of our greatest joys. And walking in Muir Woods is quite majestic. It smells of ancient forest. It sounds of pleasant birds and gentle water brook. We even saw a tame young fawn drinking from the water brook that carved through the huge ravine.

We were not alone in the woods. People drive from all over the country and the world to see these mammoth trees. Muir Woods is filled with giant Redwood trees that are bigger than your car in circumference and taller than a 20-story building. Your neck strains seeking to look at the top branches swaying in the ocean breeze.

As amazed as I was by the Redwoods, I was equally amazed by all the people taking pictures of the trees. If you think about it, doesn’t it seem weird that people are flocking to take pictures of big trees? You cannot help but take your camera out of your pocket and snap a few shots. However the photos never really do justice to their reality. It’s like taking a picture of a mountain; you cannot grasp its massiveness and grandeur. But we do not care because we must take a picture to remember what glory we’ve beheld.

It is natural to want to capture nature. We are enamored by nature. John Muir said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than [one] seeks.” Creation wow’s and fascinates us to our core. That’s why people were photographing Muir Woods beauty or spend a moment in silence within the particular grove of trees named, “The Sanctuary.”

Creation is just one of many ways He has revealed Himself to man. It is hard not to look at the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, or Muir Woods and think, “Wow, God made this.” Any other response is utter rejection of the obvious reality. This is called General Revelation.

Here is a concise theology of General Revelation as seen in Muir Woods:

God make Himself known through His creation.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” [Romans 1:19-20; Cf. Psalm 19:1-6]

Creation shouts the glory of God!

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” [Isaiah 55:12, Cf. 44:23]

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!” [1 Chronicles 16:31-34, Cf. Psalm 96:11-13]

Creation makes known the glory of His Savior Son.

“As He [Jesus] rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” [Luke 19:36-40′ Cf. Acts 14:11-18]

Creation along with humanity groans to gain back its lost glory after the fall, but is promised a restoration far better than its former glory.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” [Romans 8:18-22]

Is the book of Acts descriptive or prescriptive?

Acts tells the story of how His church began and how the message Christ spread. Christians who read the book of Acts are inspired by the explosive expansion of the early church. Thousands of people were coming to Christ, people were being miraculously healed, supernatural gifts like speaking in tongues were heard, and believers preached the gospel with boldness. Honestly, many desire this kind of outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the church today.

It is certain that Luke, a disciple of Christ, wrote the book of Acts. He writes the book as history in action,[1] particularly related to redemptive history and the spread of the message of salvation to the world.[2] Luke adds further details and personality sketches that help us understand what happened in the first century church.[3] He tells us the outcome of the story of Jesus contained in the Gospels and introduces the apostolic writings and their historical context, especially those of Paul.[4] He tells us what is happening during the early church days, but he rarely indicates what should happen today.

A Descriptive and Prescriptive View of Acts

Is the Books of Acts descriptive or prescriptive? In other words, are the facts in Acts for the church today? In Acts 6:1-6, Luke describes seven men who were chosen to wait on tables these men became the leaders of their churches. Then there are some amazing events like the extraordinary miracles God did through Paul (19:11-12), striking claims that caused people to perish (5:9-10), speaking in tongues after the filling of the Spirit (2:2-3), and so much more. Are we supposed to follow these orders within the church today? How are suppose to know if we are to follow them or not?

Much of the material in the New Testament falls into two categories: descriptive or prescriptive. Descriptive is a narration of what took place (i.e. Acts 10:45,46). Prescriptive are commands about how to live the Christian life through direct teaching on spiritual truths (i.e. 2 Timothy. 4:2; Colossians 2:9). Readers must be cautious to identify the type of passage they are reading, especially in the book of Acts. John Stott gives some great wisdom on how to deal with such texts:

What is described in Scripture as having happened to others is not necessarily intended for us, whereas what is promised to us we should appropriate, and what is commanded us we are to obey . . . What is descriptive is valuable (in determining what God intends for all Christians) only in so far as it is interpreted by what is didactic . . . We must derive our standards of belief and behavior from the teaching of the New Testament . . . rather than from the practices and experiences which it portrays.”[5]

A good principle is to interpret the descriptive in light of the prescriptive. We are not commanded to copycat what the Bible describes unless it is prescribed in direct teaching of timeless spiritual truth. In other words, we must interpret descriptions in the book of Acts in light of what the Gospels and Epistles prescribe and teach as timeless truths.[6] For example, Christians today cannot be witnesses in the same foundational sense that the apostles were (8:4; 11:19-21), but we can share in the task of testifying and witnessing Jesus’ redemptive message (1 Corinthians 15:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:10; 1 Peter 5:1; 1 John 1:2; 4:14).

The books of the Bible were written occasionally, which means they were written to particular people in particular places at particular times. Acts must be read as a history of God’s redemptive work in the early church, and only follow theological and doctrinal “patterns” that are clearly repeated and/or commanded within the text also appearing in the Gospels and Epistles. There is no one sentence of the Bible addressed to me today telling me what to do. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t apply to me today. This means that we must do theology with every book of the Bible, regardless of its descriptive or prescriptive character.

Since Acts is a narrative it is primarily descriptive telling us what the apostles did, and not necessarily prescriptive telling us what we should do.[7] There are numerous sermons in Acts, many of which record the basic message of the early church. Many of these sermons teach spiritual truth that transcends time. Just as Acts 1:8 gives a rough geographical preview of the book of Acts, so Luke gives us a preview of the theological message (Luke 24:46-49). Several sermons in Acts contain a portrayal of the gospel. These particular sermons argue that Jesus is the Messiah, that He fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, that God raised Him from the dead, and that He is the answer to Jewish and Gentile hope. These sermons are timeless truths placed within history.

Read the book of Acts Purposely

The purpose of Acts is not to serve as a model in every area of practice or experience for what individual believers or the church should do now. Acts is descriptive, not prescriptive—it is history, not law. However, there is much to learn from the experience and history of the early church. As Gordon Fee sates,

“We must not lose sight of the fact that Acts purports to narrate historical events such as: the founding and growth of the church, the career of Paul, and without Acts we would knowing nothing of the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, Stephens martyrdom, the early Jerusalem church and how the gospel first came to the Gentiles.”[8]

What we read in Acts does serve as a model for us in areas that are mandated in the rest of the New Testament when it comes to such dogma as evangelism, missions, prayer, sacrificial giving, church leadership, ministry and more. Acts overarching purpose that the church today can take home is that we must be risk takers for the sake of Christ redemptive message.


[1] Graeme Goldworthy shares that “Acts is a highly selective history and the presentation is carefully controlled by the author’s summary statements and transitional notes. The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Intervarsity Press. Downers Grove, IL. 2000. 286.

[2] Frank Theilman. Theology of the New Testament. Zondervan Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI.  2005. 114.

[3] “Luke is probably writing in the manner of the Greek historians Xenophon and Plutarch. What this means is that a selection of the hero’s acts…, historical vignettes which set forth the hero’s character, are his major concern. The Book of Acts, then, is not a mere chronicle of events, but a portrayal of the kinds of people and kinds of things that were taking place in the early church” William H. Baker, Acts: Evangelical Commentary of the Bible, edited by Walter Elwell, page 884).

[4] Goldworthy, 290.

[5] John R. W. Stott, Baptism and Fullness. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1975, pp. 15-17.

[6] Examples of interpreting the descriptive in light of the prescriptive:

Narrative: Acts 2:42 // Prescriptive:

Apostles’ teaching // Col. 3:16; 1 Pet. 2:2

Fellowship // Heb. 10:24,25

Breaking of bread // 1 Cor. 11:23-34

Prayer // Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17

Narrative: Acts 2:43 Wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles (2 Cor. 12:12).

Prescriptive Scripture: The phrase “signs and wonders” is used in connection with the apostles and their close associates to validate the truth of their message.

Narrative: Acts 2:44,45 Those who believed were together and had all things in common. They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

Prescriptive Scripture: The New Testament never prescribes communal living. Rather it affirms the legitimacy of private property (1 Thess. 4:11,12; 2 Thess. 3:11,12) and teaches us to be generous (1 John 3:16,17).

[7] Gordon Fee. How to Interpret the Bible for All It’s Worth.

[8] D.A Carson. An Introduction to the New Testament. Zondervan Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI.  2005. 316-317.

taco bell theology

Earlier today I was craving a chili cheese burrito. So I decided to head over to Taco Bell for lunch. Why does TB always sound so good, but you hate yourself for days afterwards?

It got me thinking. Taco Bell is a lot like sin. Okay, weird, I know. Just trust me on this.

Sin is fun. In the moment, sin sounds like a good idea. Just like my idea of Taco Bell: I could not resist the hankering for an ooey-gooey chili cheesy burrito (by the way, is that real meat in there?). It tasted so good going down. Mmm, yummy. However, it wasnt but a few minutes later that I already started feeling yucky and questioning why I had made such an idiotic decision. So it is with sin. The after taste of sin is disgusting, unsatisfying and leaving you with an empty gut of guilt. You see, sin is worse than silly Taco Bell. The Bible says, sin separates us from God and that sin is a slap in His face to the satisfying joy He desires us to have (Rom.3:23; 6:23).

I might be thinking outside the bun on this, but God is so more satisfying than Taco Bell. There is no comparison. Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” When we do not satisfy our hungers with God it is like eating 10 bean burritos at one sitting and expecting to run a marathon immediately afterwards. It ain’t happening.

I am incredibly thankful that God forgives us of our sin, cleans us from all unrighteousness and is more satisfying to the soul than anything on this planet. I am also thankful for the guy at the bank who gave me a breath mint!?

cat and dog theology

Growing up I had a cat named Solomon. He was mentally challenged, not from birth, but later in life because a car hit him. He had no teeth, drooled all the time and had to eat soft food the rest of its poor life. Before Solomon’s incident he was like any ordinary cat…all about himself.

 

Also, I had two dogs. Budo (Eskimo for ‘Beauty of the North’) a blue-eyed husky-cocker spaniel mixture that was the fieriest dog you have ever met. I have scares to this day from that beast chopping into me. Needles to say we got rid of Budo because he didnt live up to his name.

 

Shadow, our second dog was the most loveable golden retriever you had ever met. It was all about you….pleasing you, playing with you were her favorite things to do.

 

There is a joke about cats and dogs that conveys their differences perfectly. A dog says, ‘You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, you must be God.’ A cat says, ‘You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, I must be God.  [Note: cat and dog diaries below]

 

Using this metaphor in the Christian life dog theology says “Lord, You love me, You bless me abundantly, You gave Your life for me, You must be God.”  Whereas cat theology says, “Lord, You love me, You bless me abundantly, You gave Your life for me, I must be God.”

 

Our understanding of how we relate to God may not be wrong, but it may be incomplete. The God-given traits of cats (‘you exist to serve me’) and dogs (‘I exist to serve you’) can be similar to certain theological attitudes held by many Christians. In our personal theologies, some attitudes may draw us closer to God, and others can also pull us away from Him.

 

These thoughts are not entirely original. They came from a book I read called Cat and Dog Theology. Good read, and it’s short.

 

Justin Hutts [2.8.07]

 

 

 

“Excerpts from a Dog’s Diary*

8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!

9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!

9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!

10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!

12:00 pm – Lunch! My favorite thing!

1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!

3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!

5:00 pm – Milk bones! My favorite thing!

7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!

8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!

11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

 

* Excerpts from a Cat’s Diary*

Day 983 of my captivity.

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

 

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Jerks!

 

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.” I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

 

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow — but at the top of the stairs.

 

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released – and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now…

 

Did God die for You?

A look at Limited Atonement.

Warning: This may be deep

Limited Atonement is perhaps one of the most controversial teachings within John Calvins Institutes:

. . . Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. (Ch. III, sec. 6)

For starters Limited Atonement needs to be defined, Limited atonement is the theological position, which states that Christ saving work on the cross saved somemen of their sins before the foundations of the world. These men are known as the predestined, chosen or elect.To atone for sin is to clear sin from a person. “Atone” or “Atonement” in the Bible is primarily the Hebrew word “kaphar.” “Kaphar” means “to cover over,” “to pacify,” or “to make propitiation for.” “Propitiation” (“hilasmos”) in the New Testament means “to appease.” In 1 John 2:2, if by, “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world,”.

Why is Limited Atonement so controversial?

There are two basic views of Christs work in salvation:

1.        Armenians (freewillers or Universalists) Christ died for ALL men & man has the ability to chose to believe or not.

2.        Calvinist (God wills; He is sovereign) Christ died for SOME men & God knew before hand all who would believe.

It might be a cop-out or not academic to say that I can support both from Scripture. Who says, you have to fall into one camp or the other? Who can say, one theological position out-weighs the other?The sovereignty of God is seen all throughout Scripture. God is in control, all knowing, infinite, and rules over all that He has made. There is no question that God could save all men or some men, or cause all or some men to believe in His sacrifice. He is God; He can do as He pleases. He has elected/predestined some to salvation. But even within Scripture you see a balance within His character. Mans sin unleashes Gods wrath, but Gods grace unleashes His salvation to man. To say that Gods saving and sacrificing work on the cross only saved a selected few is a contrary look at Gods own character. I will not argue salvation is all the work of God. Salvation is 100 complete sovereign work of God. He is through and through within the beginning work of justification (regeneration, reconciliation and redemption), sanctification (progressively making man more like Himself after salvation), and glorification (perfecting man to be completely like Him after death). For example, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16), or “No man can come unto Me, except it were given him of my Father” (John 6:65).It is not belittling to God or the message of the gospel to say that man has a choice in the matter of His eternal destiny. In fact, it is honoring and glorifying Gods grace. God demonstrated His love to man by sending His Son, and man demonstrates His love for God by accepting His Son. Faith is a concept communicated all throughout Scripture (Rom.5, 8; Eph.2). Faith is buying into Gods impossible and unexplainable grace.As I exegete or study the original language in context, it is clear that our Scriptures present far too many passages in that speak clearly of the grace, love and justice of God to justify the view that the Atonement was limited in its intention to a chosen few persons. I cannot honestly present the Gospel to the world at large or to my next-door neighbor unless I am convinced that God really desires the salvation of all men equally.

Such a verse as John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish,” is surely without limitation in its implication. And such passages as those which speak of Christ as the “Savior of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14), or “the Savior of all men” (1 Timothy 4:10), or as the one who gave Himself to be “a propitiation for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2), or which affirm that He is “the bread of God which comes down from heaven and gives life unto the world” (John 6:33, 51), are so all-encompassing as to defy the concept of a salvation is confined to the elect of God while the vast majority of men are passed by. Statements like these, and there are many others, appear to prohibit placing limitations upon the intrinsic worth of that sacrifice or upon its intention in application.

 

Yet there are reasons to believe that another interpretation is possible, if not indeed more likely, both for these passages and others of a similar nature. That the Lord Jesus Christ should die for all, while only some avail themselves of his sacrifice, is surely to make a provision far greater than is required. It constitutes a kind of divine extravagance, which seems inappropriate in view of the appalling nature of the penalty paid in his own Person by the Lord Jesus. In the nature of the case the Father must have foreseen that the sacrifice of his Son would effectively have only limited application. It would seem only appropriate to make the payment limited accordingly: limited punishment to balance limited crime. The Lord Jesus pronounces this principle Himself when He said that the man whose offenses were few was to receive few stripes, whereas the man whose offenses were great was to receive many (Luke 12:47, 48). It is expected to say that the Lord’s sacrifice was sufficient for all, but efficient only for those who avail themselves of it. But to many people even this appears to be an evasion of the problem, a mere play upon words.

 

However, a careful reading of what Scripture does say about those for whom Christ died reinforces the impression that He did actually bear only the sins of his people, ‘You shall call his name Jesus for He shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)“The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep” (John 10:11)“Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25)Christ died for many(Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 20:28, 26:28), the church (Ephesians 5:25), the sheep (John 10:15), and those who will live for righteousness (1 Peter 2:24)Certainly the implications here are clear enough. It might yet be true that He gave Himself for us, while still dying for other men also.

 

Paul is very specific when he says: “He gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us” (1:4). And again in Galatians 3:13: “Being made a curse for us,” to the end that we might receive the adoption of sons” (4:5). To the Roman Christians Paul wrote: “He was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). In writing to Titus, Paul said: “He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a special people” (Titus 2:14).

 

Peter wrote: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), a picture reflecting Isaiah 53:5: “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by his stripes we are healed.”     

 

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews said, “By Himself He purged our sins” (Hebrews 1:3)“having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). And in 1 John 4:9: “In this was manifest the love of God towards us because God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him.”

 

It might be argued that these passages were written to those who were already saved, yes, but that doesnt prove anything. The majority of these passages are references to what Christ has done and is still doing within the unbelieving world.

 

The Calvinistic and Armenian views of salvation are simply logical ways to explain an unexplainable theological issue. Theology doesnt always follow logic. For example, how does One God equal three Persons? Thats not logical to the finite mind of man. Why did God save all men? Why didnt God punish all men? These are questions we leave to God and do not need to define.

 

In conclusion, not out of ignorance, but out of conviction I walk the middle road. Gods sovereignty in salvation and mans acceptance are two important and parallel and proven truths within Scripture. These two truths are like two rails of a railroad track. The moment you try to deny one you derail the cars/truths. By Gods grace and by faith I believe that Jesus Christ paid my eternal debt and has forgiven me of sins that held me captive. To the praise and glory of His grace. (Eph.1).