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The apprehension of God’s infinite knowledge should fill the Christian with adoration. The whole of my life stood open to his view from the beginning. He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet, nevertheless, fixed his heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before him!
Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids, MI: 1975), 26.
Christ’s union with us in the incarnation is the foundation for our union with him, both now and in the eternal future. It is a pledge of our sonship, as Calvin wrote, for “our common nature with Christ is the pledge of our fellowship with the Son of God; and clothed with our flesh he vanquished death and sin together that the victory and triumph might be ours. He offered as a sacrifice the flesh he received from us, that he might wipe out our guilt by his act of expiation and appease the Father’s righteous wrath.”
-Robert Letham, Union with Christ: In Scripture, History, and Theology (Phillisburg NJ: P&R, 2011) 41, quoting John Calvin, Institutes, 2.12.3
…weakness may be consistent with the assurance of salvation. The disciples, notwithstanding all their weaknesses, are bidden to rejoice that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20). Failings with conflict, in sanctification should not weaknen the peace of our justification and assurance of salvation. It matters not so much what ill is in us, as what good; not what corruptions, but how we regard them; not what our particular failings are so much as what the thread and tenor of our lives are, for Christ’s dislike of that which is amiss in us turns not to the hatred of our persons but to the victorious subduing of all our infirmities.
Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1998), 96.
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)
God does not have a only one means of exhorting us in live in obedience. He is not a one string banjo which only has one cord to harp on.
You can, however, hear different people try to reduce it down to one. They will do it either in their practice or in their teachings. One will say, “Just preach the gospel of justification.” Others will say, “Work hard to follow the example of Christ.” The list can go on.
Now, such statements are true in part. That is why they can profit an individual. One person has been crushed by their guilt for most of their Christian life. When they hear about living in light of the gospel they start to live in joyous freedom and see so much sanctification in their life. Another never knew the sustaining grace of Christ until they were pushed outside their comfort zone to be obedient in a particular area. They pushed themselves and witnessed power and grace sustaining them.
Now, what these people might be tempted to do is to take their individual experience with the sanctifying work of the Spirit and make it the standard by which all must walk with God. They take the part and make it the whole. So the only thing people need is to know justification by faith alone or to be pushed hard to live out their faith.
But what this section of 1 Peter 2 reminds us is that there are multiple ways that God exhorts us in our pilgrimage as believers to live obediently.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
- Here we see the example of Christ given. Christ lived His perfect life “so that” we could strive to walk as He walked. Believers are to be looking to the life of Christ to give instruction as to how they are to live and thus move to live it.
“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
- The person of Christ is given as the One we are to look upon in our warfare. Peter does not tell them to look within themselves to find the courage to obey. To the complete contrary, he tells them, and us, to look away from ourselves and fix our eyes up the Christ who went before us. The person of Christ is who we are to look upon so that His beauty can encourage us to endure as we follow after Him.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
- Here we are told to behold the power that is ours over sin because of Christ. His death to sin means that we are dead to sin. His resurrected life raises us up to live a life of righteousness. The wounds which killed His body bring life to both our souls and bodies making us capable to live for Him. We are, thus, given the greatest healing possible! No sin will have dominion over us! Resurrection power is at the believer’s disposal.
“For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
- Finally, in this passage, we are told to remember what God has done for us. To the persecuted believers Peter is writing to he directs the attention to what God has done for them. They were straying but now have be brought back. The Lord is their Sheperd and Overseer. They are now counted as members of God’s flock who are being watched over by the Lord Himself. They are not forgotten, pointless commodities. The Shepherd will not lose one of His sheep. Look at all the Shepherd has gone through to bring them under His care (vs. 21-24)!
Thus we see that the ways the Lord brings sanctifying truth to His people are multiple. We could even find more by exploring others texts in 1 Peter (or the whole bible). We can even see the truths crisscrossing over the above texts. There is not one phrase, one truth that is the silver bullet to press believers on in their sanctification. As this text demonstrates the truths are multiple.
This means for us that we should be as multifaceted as the bible is when we exhort believers to be like Christ. We are in the dominion of grace in Christ. But that grace may take the form of gentle gospel reminding comforts or it may be the hard confrontation of warning. Truth, wisdom, and love are to guide us as we seek to apply biblical truth to individual lives and circumstances.
Andrew Fuller was a Particular Baptist minister in England in the 1700s and into the 1800s. His most known work was The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. In the work he argued against the prevailing notion of day amongst English Particular Baptists that the gospel is only for the elect and should not be openly proclaimed (a.k.a Hyper-Calvinism). Fuller’s work against this belief was the tipping point which saw the Particular Baptists move to be more evangelic in their life and theology (proclaiming the gospel openly).
The other night I was reading a overview of Fuller’s work by Dr. Peter Morden, “Baptist and Evangelical: Andrew Fuller and the Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation.” (Strict Baptist Historical Society, Bulletin 2011, Number 38). In his work Dr. Morden gives two influences which helped Fuller craft and argue his position: The Bible and Jonathan Edwards. I believe seeing these things at work in Fuller can help us as we work to understand the teachings of the bible. (Note: All quotes are drawn from Dr. Morden’s work)
The first is Fuller’s commitment to let the bible be the final authority upon what he believed. Fuller wrote the following as a personal ‘covenant’ to himself,
Let not the sleight of wicked men, who lie in wait to deceive, nor even the pious character of good men (who yet may be under great mistakes), draw me aside. Nor do thou suffer my own fancy to guide me. Lord, thou hast given me a determination to take up no principle at second hand; but to search for everything at the pure fountain of thy word. (Ryland Jr., Andrew Fuller, 1st edn., pp. 203-204)
Fuller committed himself to going back to the bible to let it be the authority as to what he believed. Fuller did know that he was susceptible to error. But it did not keep him from pursuing truth as much as he could.
Along with this commitment was a secondary influence of Jonathan Edwards. Not only did Fuller study the bible but he used the thinking of others help him understand what the bible taught. This was very apparent when it came to the issue of how we can offer the gospel to people who do not have the ability to believe it (non-elect). Fuller turned to the bible but he also turned to the writing of Edwards on the Freedom of the Will. And it was Edwards who helped him unlock the puzzle as Fuller describes (speaking of himself in the third person),
He had read and considered, as well as he was able, President Edwards’s Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will, with some other performances on the difference between natural and moral inability. He found much satisfaction in the distinction; as it appeared to him to carry with it its own evidence – to be clearly and fully contained in the Scriptures .. The more he examined the Scriptures, the more he was convinced that all the inability ascribed to man, with respect to believing, arises from the aversion of his heart. (Fuller’s Works, Vol. 2, p. 330)
While thinking through the scriptures Fuller relied on Edwards to describe what the bible was teachings. And Edwards’ work was no light reading! Fuller took time and energy to read and grasp what Edwards was showing about how God can command men to do things which they do not have the ability to preform while not infringing upon His justice. Fuller considered what Edwards was saying against the teachings of Scripture. But without Edwards he would not have been able to develop what the scriptures were teachings with regards to this particular objection.
Thus, we see the blend of personal study with the aid of what others have studied. God wants us to use our personal minds to think through His word and discover, through the work of the Spirit, what is revealed there. But He also has the very same relationship with every other believer. With the bible as the norming norm we are to use God’s working with others as we think through what the bible is teaching.
But what is true and what makes a man great? “In this,” says the Prophet, “let him that glories, glory that he understands and knows that I am the Lord” [Jer. 9:24]. This constitutes the highest dignity of man, this is his glory and greatness: truly to know what is great and to cleave to it, and to seek after glory from the Lord of glory. The Apostle tells us: “He that glories may glory in the Lord,” saying: “Christ was made for us wisdom of God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written: he that glories may glory in the Lord” [1 Cor. 1:30-31]. Now this is the perfect and consummate glory in God: not to exult in one’s own righteousness, but, recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness, to be justified by faith in Christ alone.
-Basil of Caesarea
Quoted in Michael A. Haykin, Rediscovering The Church Fathers: Who They Were And How They Shaped The Church (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2011), 113.
We confuse growth in knowledge and insight with genuine life change. But insight is not change and knowledge should not be confused with practical, active, biblical wisdom. In fourteen years of seminary teaching, I have met many brilliant, theologically astute students who were incredibly immature in their everyday life. There was often a huge gap between their confessional and functional theology. Students who could articulate the sovereignty of God could be overcome by worry. Students who could expound on the glory of God would dominate classroom discussions for the sake of their own egos. I have counseled students who could explain the biblical doctrine of holiness while nurturing secret worlds of lust and sexual sin. I have seen many men who were months away from ministry who had not yet learned how to love people. Students who could explain the biblical teaching of God’s grace were harsh judgmental legalists.
Paul David Tripp, Instruments In The Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), 242.
God’s Grace reaches down to the lowest depths of our need and meets all the exigencies[urgent needs] of the moral and spiritual impossibility which inheres in our depravity and inability. And that grace is the grace of regeneration.
God effects a change which is radical and all-pervasive, a change which cannot be explained in term of any combination, permutation, or accumulation of human resources, a change which is nothing less than a new creation by him who calls the things that be not as though they were, who spake and it was done, who commanded and it stood fast. This, in a word, is regeneration.
-John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: , 1955), 96.
Take aways from this and the last post:
1. We should never over look God’s regenerative work in our lives. We are sinful and dependent upon Christ’s righteousness for acceptance every moment of our lives. Yet, we are to rejoice in God’s present work in our lives. He is working and it is real.
2. We are not to be downcast about our condition. Sin in us, as believers, is pervasive. And in this we mourn. But the new birth of the Spirit and all the sovereign, transformative power He wields is just as pervasive! We are new in Christ Jesus and there is nothing to be downcast about that!
3. There is no sin which is out of the Spirit’s reach. His effect upon the believer is all pervasive. No sin is to far away. No action is totally removed from His holy influence. Never think you are beyond His transformative work.
4. We should declare the goodness the Spirit’s works in us and others. Christians can be good because they are indwelt with the Spirit who is good. His works do become manifest in the believer. And it is actually the believer. The Spirit does not shut the person down and perform the good works. The person, being recreated by the Spirit, produces the good works. And it is praise to the Lord to proclaim His works.
The Spirit’s work in regeneration is thus total in the extent of its transforming power. It is the individual as an individual who is regenerated, the whole man. For regeneration is the fulfillment of God’s promise to give us a new heart (Ezk. 36:26; cf. Je 31:33), indicating that the Spirit’s renewing work is both intensive and extensive: it reaches to the foundation impulses of an individual’s life and leaves no part of his or her being untouched.
Regeneration is, consequently, as all-pervasive as depravity. On the basis of such statements as ‘the heart is…beyond all cure’ (Je. 17:9), theologians have spoken of total depravity, meaning not that man is as bad as he could be, but that no part of his being remains untainted by the influence of sin. Regeneration reverses that depravity, and is universal in the sense that, while the regenerate individual is not yet as holy as he or she might be, there is no part of life which remains uninfluenced by this renewing and cleansing work. Indeed, just as total depravity leads to moral and ultimately even to physical disintegration, so total regeneration leads to moral, but also ultimately physical renewal, in the regeneration of the whole being in the resurrection (Phil. 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:42-44). The new man is put on; he is constantly being renewed by the Spirit (Col. 3:10), and finally will be resurrected and glorified through his power.
-Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, Contours of Christian Theology, ed. Gerald Bray (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 122-123.
Reposting in light of Resurrection Sunday tomorrow. May every believer grasp what is theirs in Christ Jesus because of His resurrection!
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:5)
All that [Christ] accomplished for us in our human nature is, through union with him, true for us and, in a sense, of us. He died to sin once; he lives to God (6:10). He came under the dominion of sin in death, but death could not master him. He rose and broke the power of both sin and death. Now He lives forever in the resurrection life of God. The same is as true of us as if we had been with him on the cross, in the tomb and on the resurrection morning!
We miss the radical nature of Paul’s teaching here to our great loss. So startling is it that we need to find a startling manner of expressing it. For what Paul is saying is that sanctification means this: in relationship both to sin and to God, the determining factor of my existence is no longer my past. It is Christ’s past. The basic frame work of my new existence in Christ is that I have become a “dead man brought to life” and must think of myself in those terms: dead to sin and alive to God in union with Jesus Christ our Lord.
~Sinclair B. Ferguson, Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification, p. 57