Call it coincidence or the providence of God, but I have found myself reading a couple of books which remarkably parallel each other, my daily through-the-Bible reading plan and my preparation for a sermon series on the Ten Commandments at church. I think this is the third time that I have read JI Packer’s Knowing God. I have also been reading DA Carson’s The God Who Is There. My Bible reading plan is currently taking me through Leviticus. Today and yesterday’s readings from Knowing God was on God’s jealousy and propitiation. Today’s reading from The God Who Is There was, “The God Who Legislates”.
What’s amazing to me is that through these books and my own Bible reading, He is confirming the same thing. What God has given me a deeper understanding of His righteousness as revealed in the Old Testament Law. Maybe I’m just a little slow in my understanding. Or maybe God is revealing yet, another layer of Himself. Or exposing another layer of myself.
God is Jealous
Jealousy is a negative character trait for people. Or so we think. But what if a husband wants a mistress in addition to his wife. Wouldn’t his wife be jealous? Wouldn’t she do whatever she could to fight for her marriage?
That’s a picture of God’s jealousy. He so wants a relationship with his people (the church is the bride of Christ [2 Corinthians 11:2]), that He will do whatever it takes to woo them and protect them for Himself. That’s why He said He name is Jealous (Exodus 34:14) and why He prohibited His people from worshiping other gods. He loved them too much to share them with anybody or anything else. God’s jealousy shows the exclusivity of God (Carson, p. 61).
I’m sure this point will come out in the coming weeks as we look at the Ten Commandments at Center Point Baptist Church [gratuitous invitation to join us].
Most often when we think of the gospel message, we think of Jesus’ death as covering our sin so we can be saved and go to heaven. That is correct (partly) and can be described by the word expiation. However, propitiation – the word used in the Bible referring to what happened in the death of Jesus – goes much further than simple expiation. So what do those words mean? They aren’t words we use every day.
Expiation describes the ancient pagan custom of offering something of value to appease the gods in order to provide some kind of blessing or protection. Jim Dennison (my seminary Philosophy of Religion professor) calls this “transactional religion”. You give the pagan god something and it gives something to you. None of the various gods were omnipotent; each had their own quirks and special interests and would be offended by a small offering or if you gave another god a bigger offering. The ultimate offering was human sacrifice. In connection with human sacrifice, the Bible mentions the god Molech in Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5.
According to Packer, “Expiation is an action that has sin as its object; it denotes the covering, putting away or rubbing out of sin so that it no longer constitutes a barrier to friendly, fellowship between man and God. Propitiation, however, in the Bible, denotes all that expiation means, and the pacifying of the wrath of God thereby.” (p. 182)
The point I’m trying to make is that when we look at the gospel, we often look only at the expiation part of propitiation. We see Jesus’ blood as covering our sin, but we neglect the other problem of our separation from God in our fallen condition: God’s wrath. We think that God’s wrath is no longer an issue since we’re under the New Covenant. God in the New Testament is the God of love, not wrath, we tell ourselves and the people we seek to evangelize.
In seeing God in this light, we overlook the fact that God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6, Romans 1:18). The God of the New Testament is the same God as the God of the Old Testament. God as the Righteous Judge has a wrathful punishment that must be dealt with if He is to be truly Just/Righteous. To merely overlook our sin, pretending it isn’t there, would invalidate His justice.
Under the Old Covenant, the people’s sin was covered by the annual Day of Atonement sacrifice and God’s wrath was put off for another year. But they had to do the same thing year after year after year to keep delaying His just wrathful punishment.
In Jesus’ death, God poured out all of His wrath on Jesus in our place. All of it. Hence, as Jesus hung on the cross He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus took our place in receiving the just, wrathful punishment for our sin.
Jesus took your place as His Father poured out His wrathful punishment on himself. That’s the “good news” of the Gospel Message! Today, ask God to give you a fresh taste of the relief you enjoy as one of His children.
I had an “aha” moment as I read a chapter from JI Packer’s “Knowing God“.
Salvation comes, not as someone comes to “accept Christ”, but rather as someone comes to be accepted by Him.
This turns on its head a lot of our evangelism training by showing our need for being accepted, rather than being in a position to accept Him.
That may not seem like much to you, but it was eye-opening to me just now.
Recently on Facebook, a longtime friend posted a rebuke of Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life.
“Hey, Rick – “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” 2 Cor 6:14-15” She linked to http://www.ocregister.com/articles/muslims-341669-warren-saddleback.html, written by a secular journalist, which appears say that Rick Warren believes Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. The same day, someone else linked to the same article, requesting my feedback.
My longtime friend added in her next comment, “And what is so flagrantly missing from this article? That’s right… ANY mention of the Lord Jesus Christ.”. A mutual friend posted a link from Ed Stetzer (https://www.edstetzer.com/2012/03/rick-warren-interview-on-musli.html), which I “liked”. In that article, Warren himself clearly expresses his view that Christians and Muslims do not believe in the same God. The first friend responded,
“Thanks for popping in and also for the link. Say, for instance, that I were to concede that everything RW says in this *particular* article is true, unfortunately, there remains more than enough evidence to indict him on this and other counts. He has proven over and over again that he is quite the chameleon when it comes to what he believes. For example, when he was interviewed by John Piper, one would have thought he was an original reformer the way he waxed on so eloquently about reformed theology, Calvin, etc.”
After several more paragraphs, she concluded,
“RW is a wolf. He may be the nicest of men, but he is a false teacher. Wolves don’t blast in wearing red and carrying a pitchfork; they rise up from among us, and they creep in unaware. If he truly “loved Jesus” then He would be about the business of unashamedly preaching Christ crucified.”
The next day, she “mentioned” our mutual friend and me, requesting a response. She noted, “as ministers of the gospel, there is no way you should be supporting RW in any way, shape or form.”
For almost a week, I have pondered how I would respond, if at all, as Rick Warren’s name has come up before with this friend. Several months ago, I stated that I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Warren has said, but that he does have some very good things to say, which I often Tweet and post on Facebook. He has been instrumental in bringing more lost souls to Jesus than I probably ever will. (Phil 1:18)
Here is my response (and it has little to do with Rick Warren or any other specific pastor/teacher):
I have grieved as I have read the tone of your posts on Facebook. It is vitally important to expose heretical theology and unhealthy emphases in the church, as well as those who propagate them. If we hold the Bible to be our rulebook, we must deal with things biblically. There is a time, place, and manner to deal with these things. Facebook (and the blogosphere) is not one of them. But since you have opened the conversation in this environment, I feel that I must respond in turn.
In every instance in the Bible where church discipline is mentioned, the context is the local church. In a previous e-dialogue, I pointed out that Rick Warren is subject to the leadership at Saddleback and that you should take up your concerns with the elders there. Granted, times have changed and we no longer have an overall structure, as in the book of Acts, to deal with discipline, therefore we need to find new ways of application. But it should still start and end in the local church.
Biblical Church discipline will always have redemption as its goal. Now, I qualified my previous sentence with the word “Biblical” because most “church discipline” I have seen has been far from redemptive. The tone of all of your remarks about Rick Warren has consistently been punitive and downright hateful.
Unfortunately, Christians who hold to a “reformed” theology have a reputation for being prideful, mean and hateful. Your accusations and comments are exhibitive.
Yes, we should speak the truth, but we should speak it in love (Eph 4:15). Everything we say should be for the purpose of building up one another (Eph 4:29). Our conversation is to be full of grace (Col 4:6). We should always be ready to tell other people about our Hope with gentleness and respect (1Pet 3:15). Finally, it must be noted that love is the distinguishing mark of a disciple of Jesus (John 13:35), not espousing a correct theology or insisting on using any type of shibboleth.
Whether or not Rick Warren, or any other pastor/teacher, is being “heretical”, we must deal with such issues in the proper time, place, and manner. Airing our dirty laundry in a hateful manner in view of the world does nothing to further the Kingdom Cause. God is not glorified in that.
Perhaps we (all of us) should spend more time praying for those with whom we differ as opposed to Facebooking and blogging about them. In that, God would be most glorified.
Respectfully in Christian love,
Don’t rest on past reading. Read your Bible more and more every year. Read it whether you feel like reading it or not. And pray without ceasing that the joy return and pleasures increase.
Three reasons this is not legalism:
- You are confessing your lack of desire as sin, and pleading as a helpless child for the desire you long to have. Legalists don’t cry like that. They strut.
- You are reading out of desperation for the effects of this heavenly medicine. Bible-reading is not a cure for a bad conscience; it’s chemo for your cancer. Legalists feel better because the box is checked. Saints feel better when their blindness lifts, and they see Jesus in the word. Let’s get real. We are desperately sick with worldliness, and only the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, can cure this terminal disease.
- It is not legalism because only justified people can see the preciousness and power of the Word of God. Legalists trudge with their Bibles on the path toward justification. Saints sit down in the shade of the cross and plead for the blood-bought pleasures.
So lets give heed to Mr. Ryle and never grow weary of the slow, steady, growth that comes from the daily, disciplined, increasing, love affair with reading the Bible.
Do not think you are getting no good from the Bible, merely because you do not see that good day by day. The greatest effects are by no means those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The greatest effects are often silent, quiet, and hard to detect at the time they are being produced.
Think of the influence of the moon upon the earth, and of the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the dew falls, and how imperceptibly the grass grows. There may be far more doing than you think in your soul by your Bible-reading. (J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 136)