Category Archives: God

Holiness That Leads to Hatred – Matthew 12:13-14

My wife and I are currently reading through The Holiness of God with our oldest son. Reading good  Christian books together has been a good way for us to stimulate our thoughts and our discussions. Reading this book has definitely been making me spend more time pondering the holiness of God and how it does and should impact my faith and worship. Last night as part of our reading, we hit the following quote:

Holiness provokes hatred. The greater the holiness, the greater the human hostility toward it. It seems insane. No man was ever more loving than Jesus Christ. Yet even His love made people angry. His love was a perfect love, a transcendent and holy love, but His very love brought trauma to people. This kind of love is so majestic we can’t stand it (The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul, p. 67).

In the Bible, we see this hatred of Jesus holiness in any number of places. In one example, Jesus lovingly heals a man’s withered hand:

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.  (Matthew 12:13-14).

Now, you can argue that the Pharisees hatred for Jesus was based on a number of issues, but a big part of it was their hatred for Jesus’ holiness. As Sproul argues elsewhere in his book, the Pharisees had a superficial, fake holiness. Jesus had a real holiness. Until Jesus came along, the Pharisees may have appeared holy to the others around them. But, when Jesus arrived on the scene with his transcendent, perfect holiness, the holiness of the Pharisees was exposed for the empty facade that it truly was.

I wonder how I would react if confronted directly with God’s holiness. Would I fall at his feet and worship like Thomas (John 20:28), beg for him to go away from me, the sinner, like Peter (Luke 5:8), or conspire as to how to destroy him like the Pharisees? How would you react? The one thing the Bible makes perfectly clear, we cannot be indifferent once confronted with the holy, holy, holy God.

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God’s Intercession

In the book of Hebrews we read of Jesus’ work of intercession:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).

In the book of Romans we read of the Holy Spirit’s work of intercession:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

Now this is a topic that deserves a lot more attention than I am going to be able to give it today, but how amazing is that two persons of the Triune God are making intercession on the behalf of Christians! Jesus’ intercession is for our justification. The marks in his hands and feet are what give me the ability to draw near to God through him. While I may now be counted righteous before God, I am not actually righteous. So, the Holy Spirit intercedes for me as I bring my prayers and my needs to God. I do not know what to pray, I do not know how to pray and I do not know the will of God. The Holy Spirit takes care of that and intercedes for me.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit interceding for me! It is their works of intercession that give me assurance of my salvation and confidence to draw near to the throne of grace. And is yet another of the countless reasons I will give thanks to the Triune God forever.

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable (Psalm 145:1-3).

 

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The Exact Imprint of God’s Nature – Hebrews 1:3

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3).

Jesus is described here in the ESV translation as having the “exact imprint” of God’s nature. Other translation render this as the “exact representation” (NASB) or “express image” (KJV), but the idea is the same. Now, this book of Hebrews was written to, well naturally, Hebrew people. That is, people who had come from an Old Testament Jewish background. And how does Old Testament define the nature of God?

  • Eternal – “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).
  • All Powerful – “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).
  • All Knowing – “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5).
  • Omnipresent – “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24).
  • Unchanging – “For I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6).

wax_sealThis is only a partial list of the characteristics of God’s nature. If you omit any of these characteristics, you have grossly neglected describing the one true God of the universe. And if Jesus did not possess any of these attributes, then he would in no way be the “exact representation” of his nature as described in Hebrews chapter 1. But Jesus did possess all those characteristics and all the others I did not list, because he was truly God in flesh. And this was to fulfill what had been foretold by God through the prophet Isaiah long before Jesus’ birth:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

The Mighty God came down in the form of a child to save his people from their sins.

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At the right hand of God – Acts 7:55-56

Just before being stoned to death for preaching the Gospel, Stephen had a vision of Jesus in his glory:

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56).

The book of Hebrews likewise uses similar terminology to describe Jesus at the right hand of God:

After making purification for sins, he [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).

Many groups use these verses to argue that God the Father must have a physical body like people because Jesus is said to be at his “right hand”. This is often thrown out like some kind of trump card as if, by itself, it proves the Father has a body of flesh and bones. If we used that same type of simplistic analysis, we would learn some other remarkable things about the physical characteristics of God. For example, that right hand is incredibly large; large enough to hold seven stars:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand (Revelation 2:1)

And we would learn that God has wings:

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 36:7).

And those wings have feathers (pinions):

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge (Psalm 91:4).

His nostrils send out smoke, and fire comes from his mouth:

Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth (Psalm 18:8).

And he can fly on the backs of the angelic beings:

He rode on a cherub and flew (Psalm 18:10).

As you might expect, these groups do not believe God has giant hands, or feathers, or smoke-filled nostrils. Just as these images are figurative, the term “right hand” is also figurative. It describes Jesus’ position of highest honor, his authority,  and his glory. This understanding of “right hand” makes all the more sense when you examine Jesus’ use of the phrase:

And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).

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The wicked surround the righteous – Habakkuk 1:2-4

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted (Habakkuk 1:2-4).

The book of Habakkuk is a personal favorite although its message also terrifies me, just as it did the prophet Habakkuk:

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us (Habakkuk 3:16).

I see the forces of evil growing in strength within our nation and world. I see them uniting against Christians and can only wonder if this is the coming judgment of the sovereign God. Certainly it would not be the first time God has used the wicked for his divine purposes. Ultimately, my inability to clearly see God’s purpose in allowing this growing wickedness leaves me wholly dependent upon the God of my salvation:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

Like the prophet Habakkuk and the apostles under Jesus, there is nowhere else to turn even if we are uncomfortable with the message:

So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69).

Sometimes, when our faith is weak, it can be hard to trust. But then, we remember that there is only one God and one Lord Jesus Christ. To whom else could we go?

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Salvation in no one else – Acts 4:11-12

crossMost Christians are familiar with the passage in Acts 4:11-12 in which we are told that Jesus is the only way we can be saved:

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:11-12).

It is interesting that the Old Testament records a passage written about 700 years prior to Jesus in which we are taught that the LORD (literally Yahweh) is our only Savior:

You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior (Isaiah 43:10-11).

Sine we know that Jesus is also fully God, these passages are easy to harmonize. It is also a great reminder that God’s ultimate plan of redemption for his people has never changed. The depth of the revelation culminated in the coming of Christ Jesus, but the plan was clear from the beginning.

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Jesus is Lord and God – Jude 1:5

The little book of Jude packs quite a wallop into its 25 verses. While most of it is focused on calling out false teachers, there was one little word that really caught my eye when looking through it this week:

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe (ESV, Jude 1:5).

Can you guess which word it is? I know that every preschooler at church would guess the word because they shout it out as the answer to 90% of all questions – JESUS! Take a look at that verse above again. We usually do not think of Jesus being the one leading the people out of Egypt a few thousand years before his birth. But, Jesus himself affirmed his existence prior to that event:

Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)

ClockNow, depending upon your translation of the Bible, you may have either “Lord” or “God” in place of “Jesus” in Jude 1:5 as there are ancient textual variants on this verse. The modern translators have to decide which ancient version is most likely the original. But, ultimately it does not matter much since we Christians, like Thomas before us, proudly declare Jesus to be both our Lord and our God:

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

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