David Westerfield

Gospel. Culture. Technology.

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Why Christ Was Crucified – John Calvin, Institutes II.XVI.VI

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.xvii.html

rp_calvin1.jpgThe very form of the death embodies a striking truth. The cross was cursed not only in the opinion of men, but by the enactment of the Divine Law. Hence Christ, while suspended on it, subjects himself to the curse. And thus it behoved to be done, in order that the whole curse, which on account of our iniquities awaited us, or rather lay upon us, might be taken from us by being transferred to him. This was also shadowed in the Law, since the word by which sin itself is properly designated, was applied to the sacrifices and expiations offered for sin. By this application of the term, the Spirit intended to intimate, that they were a kind of kaqarmavton (purifications), bearing, by substitutions the curse due to sin. But that which was represented figuratively in the Mosaic sacrifices is exhibited in Christ the archetype. Wherefore, in order to accomplish a full expiation, he made his soul a propitiatory victim for sin (as the prophet says, Is. 53:5, 10), on which the guilt and penalty being in a manner laid, ceases to be imputed to us. The Apostle declares this more plainly when he says, that “he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:21). For the Son of God, though spotlessly pure, took upon him the disgrace and ignominy of our iniquities, and in return clothed us with his purity. To the same thing he seems to refer, when he says, that he “condemned sin in the flesh,” (Rom. 8:3), the Father having destroyed the power of sin when it was transferred to the flesh of Christ. This term, therefore, indicates that Christ, in his death, was offered to the Father as a propitiatory victim; that, expiation being made by his sacrifice, we might cease to tremble at the divine wrath. It is now clear what the prophet means when he says, that “the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all,” (Is. 53:6); namely, that as he was to wash away the pollution of sins, they were transferred to him by imputation. Of this the cross to which he was nailed was a symbol, as the Apostle declares, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth 440on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ,” (Gal. 3:13, 14). In the same way Peter says, that he “bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” (1 Peter 2:24), inasmuch as from the very symbol of the curse, we perceive more clearly that the burden with which we were oppressed was laid upon him. Nor are we to understand that by the curse which he endured he was himself overwhelmed, but rather that by enduring it he repressed broke, annihilated all its force. Accordingly, faith apprehends acquittal in the condemnation of Christ, and blessing in his curse. Hence it is not without cause that Paul magnificently celebrates the triumph which Christ obtained upon the cross, as if the cross, the symbol of ignominy, had been converted into a triumphal chariot. For he says, that he blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross: that “having spoiled principalities and powers he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it,” (Col. 2:14, 15). Nor is this to be wondered at; for, as another Apostle declares, Christ, “through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God,” (Heb. 9:14), and hence that transformation of the cross which were otherwise against its nature. But that these things may take deep root and have their seat in our inmost hearts, we must never lose sight of sacrifice and ablution. For, were not Christ a victim, we could have no sure conviction of his being ajpoluvtrwsi”, ajntivlutron, kai; iJlasthvrion, our substitute-ransom and propitiation. And hence mention is always made of blood whenever scripture explains the mode of redemption: although the shedding of Christ’s blood was available not only for propitiation, but also acted as a laver to purge our defilements.

Resources for this Good Friday

The Antipathy at the Root of Theological Liberalism Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

Penal substitution is under fire, has been for quite some time. But not just from the PCUSA. HT @Mheerema.

The Alabama Baptist (Bob Terry): “Why Disagree About the Words of a Hymn?” http://www.thealabamabaptist.org/print-edition-article-detail.php?id_art=28401&pricat_art=10

Some popular theologies do hold that Jesus’ suffering appeased God’s wrath. That is not how I understand the Bible and that is why I do not sing the phrase “the wrath of God was satisfied” even though I love the song “In Christ Alone.”

One well-known Baptist theologian said it clearly: “Reconciliation is not the appeasement of God. It is God’s own work in restoring man to proper relationship with Himself.”

In response:

Secular Mind Sacrilege

If your overarching (or inadvertent) goal is to be liked by the world as a believer, you will inevitably have to pare off the rough edges of truth, as Spurgeon called it, and do massive editing to make the message more acceptable.

The gospel is an offense, in particular, that blood would be required by God for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22) and at that, His own Sons’ blood. This doctrine, penal substitutionary atonement, has been called “divine child abuse” from some within evangelicalism (Steve Chalke in particular, though many seem to agree with his assessment). This heart-truth of the gospel is absolute sacrilege to the secular mind.

There’s no way around it: what we believe about the truth of God’s Word, and actually, the fact we believe it speaks truth at all into the world, is itself an offense, let alone the doctrines contained within that it speaks to.

Question From a Friend on Hell and What Christ Underwent at the Cross

Hey David! I have a theological question for you that has sprung from a few discussions I’ve had with a friend if you have some time. The question is whether or not Jesus went to hell when he suffered and died on the cross. My understanding is that He experienced hell in the spiritual sense- meaning complete separation from God – (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”). If this is correct, does heaven and hell, in the physical sense, exist right now or not until the final judgment?

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Staring into the Abyss of Wrath

“And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'” (Mark 14:34-36)

Reading through this passage this morning presented me once again with the awful reality of what Jesus was staring into in the garden, looking into the dreadful cup of God’s wrath that He would have to endure if we were to be saved. The Father’s justice had to be satisfied if we were to be counted righteous. What lied in that cup of God’s just anger is terrifying beyond all of the physical torment He experienced. Its contents more hopeless and painful than any situation we could find ourselves in upon this Earth. What lied in that cup was hell. And He drank it down to the dregs.

Jesus was stricken for our sins, smitten and afflicted on our behalf, as prophesied in Isaiah 52:13-53, amongst other places. Jesus was looking into being cut off from the land of the living, taking on the curse that rightfully should fall on us sinners, becoming the final sacrificial lamb for all time, that we may be made right with God through faith alone, apart from works.

And not only did He endure the curse for us, but He prevailed triumphant in the resurrection, raised to life and thus sealed the hope of our salvation. He defeated sin, death and hell. What love must this be that would motivate the God of the universe to become a man, to bear our punishment though guiltless in Himself, and take on the very judgment our sins deserved? What a wonderful Savior!

Cursed is Everyone Who is Hanged on a Tree

“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.” – Deuteronomy 21:22-23

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'” – Galatians 3:13

I came across this passage in reading Deuteronomy today (and thought about its fulfillment in Galatians 3:13) and it got me to thinking in light of the saddening and disheartening revelation concerning The Shack author William P. Young’s denial of substitutionary atonement: Did Jesus commit any crime punishable by death at all? No, we all say together, He was sinless. Yet He willingly gave Himself over to a criminals death based upon this passage in Deuteronomy, right? Right. So if He was sinless, why was He condemned to this awful punishment? It must be that it was for someone other than Himself, for there is no other explanation, other than those that fall infinitely short of a satisfactorily Biblical answer. For whose crime was He willingly entering into and suffering then? The undeniable answer of the Bible is He suffered for sinners who admit their guilt and believe in the only name of the Son of God, resting in His work alone on their behalf to save them. Romans 3:21-26 is the best place to see this great news.

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A Beautiful Picture of Justification

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments.” – Zechariah 3:1-5

I came across this passage recently in my reading plan. This is such a wonderful illustration and picture of what being justified in God’s presence looks like. Notice Satan is there to accuse Joshua. By all means, Joshua was guilty of his own sins, being displayed in this passage by the filthy garments he was wearing. And then the angel of the Lord removes his dirty garments and puts clean garments on him instead, garments that he himself had not made clean by any effort of his own. It was all an external work on his behalf, given to him as a gracious gift.

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Spurgeon on Universal Atonement, John Wesley, and George Whitefield

Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, “It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself,” they say, “to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty.” I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins.

Once again, if it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption. To think that my Saviour died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the Substitute for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterwards punished the sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice.

That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the just and wise and good!

There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley.

The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one “of whom the world was not worthy.” I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths [Doctrines of Grace], or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.

Excerpt taken from A Defense of Calvinism by C.H. Spurgeon: A Defense of Calvinism

Related article, what a defense! For Whom Did Christ Die? & What Did Christ Actually Achieve on the Cross for Those for Whom He Died? – John Piper

Approaching the Lord Biblically

Earlier, I was talking with my brother, Stephen (who is in Baghdad right now with the Army) on instant messenger. We were talking about the Gospel and how we must be constantly fighting to center every facet of our lives upon it. Our conversations, our relationships, our marriages, our toil, our pain, our struggles, our blessings, our families, everything. Otherwise, we risk either falling into antinomianism, that is, the abuse of God’s grace with total disregard for obedience and submission to Him, or legalism, that we try and please God with our actions as the basis for our relationship with Him, which fails constantly. Both of these errors oppose the Gospel itself because both say, “I am my own Lord and Savior.”

And Stephen said something really practical and encouraging that has helped in his pursuit of Christ while out in the Arabian deserts of Iraq, in particular a war zone, that on its face we may all inherently know but often forget as a rudimentary part of our daily approach to God. I’m simply unpacking what he said to give it some backing. It may help some of you in your respective ministries in helping people towards Christ. He said, “I’ve figured out it’s a matter of taking the time to meditate on who I am and who God is,” to which I then added, “Then we must consider what He did in Christ to bring us to Himself.”

Those three things are vital for the Christian life. When we approach God, these are things we must always consider: 1) who we are, 2) who God is, and 3) what God had to do to bring us to Himself.

All of this is sobering, humbling, and yet because of the third point, all of it brings about the most glory possible for God and the most joy possible for us who believe in Christ, because we are now finally, ultimately accepted before the only One who ever mattered. The first point involves the doctrine of sin and total inability as sinners, as MacArthur spoke about at the T4G conference this past week (MP3). We are enslaved to sin, rebellious toward God. We are desperately sick, rotting on the inside, and arrogant toward Him in our actions and words. The second point involves who God is, His nature, His essence, His character, His justice, His wrath against our sin, and His holy, correct regard for the highest value in all the universe: His name, honor, and glory. But then, the third point, we must always consider what it took for God to bring us to Himself, which reveals His infinite love and mercy toward sinners who disregard Him in all they do.

1) Who we are.

This gets right down to a good, solid, Biblical understanding of who we are as humans in Scripture. If we fail to get this, none of the other parts of the Gospel make any sense: the hell we deserve for that sin, Christ’s blood as necessary to appease God’s wrath, as just two examples, will be regarded as absolute foolishness if we believe we are not this bad. If we merely compare ourselves to others around us in regard to our righteousness, we will not appreciate the Gospel at all. One fault here in our understanding of who we are will taint our understanding of the lengths God had to go in Christ to make us acceptable in His presence. However you cannot have this proper understanding of who you are until you have rightly and Biblically compared yourself to the majesty and holiness of God (in the second point). Isaiah got it in Isaiah 6. So did Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1. And finally, so did Paul in Acts 9. And they got it only because the Lord acted upon them. Ask God to act upon you to show you your desperate condition before Him, and then patiently wait upon Him to act.

Until you see yourself in stark contrast to His nature, His character, His perfections, His frightening majesty, you cannot appreciate how awful you really are before Him. We need Scripture to see this reality, that when the Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men (all of us) to see if there are any who are righteous, He finds not one (Psalm 14:2-3). We need the Holy Spirit, coupled with Scripture, to show us our awful estate before Him, for apart from this, we do not see ourselves as nearly as bad as we should. It is necessary to getting the Gospel right.

2) Who God is.

We must not disregard the Old Testament pictures of who God is in His justice and wrath. Many say the Old Testament presents us with a God of wrath, but the New Testament shows us a God of love and that’s who we need to focus on. This is fallacious. God is both at the same time, always has been, always will be. We must focus on all His attributes, summed up in the person of Christ. Both the Old and New Testaments show us a God of justice and love, paradoxically.

This is most clearly seen in the cross, where Christ, in His love for sinners, satisfied the justice and wrath of God in Himself. God is holy, regards His name and honor above all things in the universe, and our sinning against Him has so greatly offended Him, because each sin treads His glory, name and honor, the essence of His being, in the ground. We cannot be accepted in His presence unless something is done about our offense. We are separated from God because of our rebellion.

There is one and only one God, and yet God Himself exists in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a mystery, but is clearly presented in the Scriptures, particularly when Jesus says Himself, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) Three persons, One God, united in being and essence.

We must see that God is the highest essence of being in the universe, that His glory emanates forth in such beautiful and frightening array, both at the same time. There is no potential in God as if He could become greater than He already is, for He is infinitely great in every way already. He is the most courageous and powerful in all the universe, and yet He is the gentlest, mildest, and meekest of all. He is nothing like us. He is holy and burning with righteousness. Should we approach the throne of God without His righteousness on our side, we would be obliterated in destruction forever, because we are filthy, despicable sinners who have despised His name in all our ways.

3) What it took for God to bring us (sinners) to Himself.

When we approach God through Christ though, God come in the body of a human, by His righteousness on our behalf through faith, we can stand upright in the face of God’s judgment, and boldly approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown through Christ our own (Charles Wesley). Through Christ’s life-work, from His birth to His resurrection after His crucifixion, and we, being united to Him at every point through faith, do not have to fear the eternal judgment-obliteration spoken of in the last point.

But what lengths God had to go to make us acceptable before Him! He could not just let us pass before Him without regard to His honor and name that have been trodden in the dirt. Something had to be done to bring us to Himself. From eternity, this was the plan of God, to reconcile to Himself a people for His own possession, through the sacrificial death of His own Son for us, all to the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:5-6). Christ, from eternity past, glorious in all His perfections, infinitely intertwined in the love of the Father and the Spirit, emptied Himself by becoming a human in history, taking on our very existence. In doing so, He could sympathize with us in our weakness. As a human, He lived perfectly as we never have though, loving the Father with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength, thus fulfilling the entirety of the Law. He did this to the satisfaction of the Father, who then proclaimed at the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

Whereas we have all fallen infinitely short of God’s standards of righteousness and can never succeed in making Him love us with our deeds (Isaiah 64:6), He succeeded in doing so, fulfilling the Law on behalf of those with the faith of Abraham. The only one in all the universe, infinitely worthy of glory, gave up all His rights and instead stood in the place of condemn sinners, taking in Himself the full measure of the wrath of God by His blood on the cross. The love He had with the Father and the Spirit from eternity past was cut off at the cross and He experienced hell, a hell beyond anything we humans can comprehend, because this was the God-man who was made utterly miserable. He gave up His life willingly so that He could save many (Mark 10:45). By His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Death did not conquer Him though, but He rose triumphant over sin, death, the devil, and hell. These historical acts, in particular His resurrection, confirm that all He said and did were true. Those who believe and trust in Him and His work for them are truly free and no longer does condemnation breathe down their neck with every breath they take. Rather, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Keeping these three points in our approach to God gives us a proper sense of the reverential fear we should have before Him, and at the same time it gives us the freedom to approach Him without any hindrance, namely our sin. These two results coming from the Gospel creates within us a joy the far exceeds anything in the world. Our response should be, “Why did you save me? A Sinner of sinners? How can it be!?” Praise Christ for triumphantly achieving a reward for those who believe, a reward we don’t deserve: the enjoyment of God forever, the highest of joys, and then giving Him glory for accomplishing that enjoyment for us through Christ!

Further reading on Christ and all of His excellencies:

The Excellency of Christ – Jonathan Edwards

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