Covenant Theology

  • The Parties include the mediator and the subject of the covenant.
  • The Promise can be natural or supernatural or both.
  • The Conditions are established at the behest of the mediator and must be met.
  • The seal or ceremony shows us something about the covenant as it also reveals the certainty of the promise.

 

A COVENANT

A promise given from one party to another upon which are imposed stipulations or conditions that are sealed by a token, symbol, or ceremony.

Trey teaches us about covenants and shows that when it comes to redemption, God meets the stipulations or conditions of the covenant that has been established and the promise is given to some before the conditions are even met. 

Ephesians 1:1–14

[1] Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

[2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love [5] he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight [9] making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ [10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

[11] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [12] so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. [13] In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)


Thomas (Trey) Mason is an elder candidate with GraceTruth Church and actively serves in areas of teaching, research and pastoral care.

 

 

God is Not Mad

Along US 25 in Waynesboro, Ga, Maranatha Community Church felt it was a good idea to post this sign. The message seems to be that God is never mad at anyone for any reason. The sign is clearly visible from the highway although best visible to northbound traffic. It is a permanently constructed, not easily changed sign, obviously constructed to last for a long time. For me this sign symbolizes for us the weakness and collapse of the evangelical church.

Examining it in the light of scripture, you can find that this sign is just flat contrary to scripture. If you look at Rom 1:18 it says “For the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteous of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”. Later in this chapter we learn that this refers all people who are not Christians. Thus we learn that God IS mad at all people for all sort of reasons. So this sign is a false teaching and a deceptive and false prophecy.

Now you could say, well, we’re just talking to Christians here. After all, Christians are not under the wrath of God (1 Th. 5:9). If that is so, then the sign should have been qualified so as not to be misleading. It should say “God is not mad at CHRISTIANS …” but that is not how it is written. It is also not placed so only Christians would see it. We therefore have to conclude that the intended audience is everyone passing by on US25.

If the objective, then, is to encourage “seekers” to enter the church with the idea of then giving them the true gospel, wouldn’t that be a bait and switch? If you are going to ultimately present them the gospel of sin, condemnation, Christ’s sacrifice and repent and faith, this would seem to start off in a deceptive direction which would make you look like a liar and turn people off immediately.

Now I know nothing about Maranatha Community Church, but it would seem that the sign is an actual expression of their belief and that they want to encourage unbelievers to come to their church with the promise of inclusion and acceptance of them no matter what their state or mode of life. The call might be “we don’t care what you are or what you do, we offer you the peace and acceptance of Christ. Come join with us! We don’t care if you an LGBTQ or if you are mafia hit person or a drug abuser, come join with us and received the acceptance of Christ!” If true, this would be a denial of the Gospel which calls for people to die to themselves and become slaves of Christ. The people who would compose such an assembly while they call themselves a church would in fact be an effective denier of Christ and thus an anti-Christian assembly.

This is what Schaeffer spoke of in Death in the City. Church, knowing the truth, have turned away from it. They propose externally focused religion, rejection of the Word of God, toleration for specific sins, and adoption of the world’s practices as the way to go rather than following the Word of God. In so doing the ministers trample God’s vineyard, scatter the sheep, distort and misuse God’s word. This not only leads God’s people astray, it also creates the wrong impression of God and His requirements in the hearts of people. This results in a diluted/destroyed witness and a lack of influence on society. As more and more assembly’s adopt this kind of teaching, the churches are weakened and polluted and the world receives more and more reason not to pay attention to it.

Schaeffer’s solution is to preach the true gospel, live the true Gospel and to call out those who are distorting the Word and misleading the people. Again, not knowing anything about Maranatha Community Church but that sign and what it means, we call on them to either correct that sign to represent a true statement or to take the sign down altogether. We further indicate to all people on the authority of the Word of God, that that sign does not represent what God would have us to know about Him and our relationship to Him.

Dr. Cuellar can be found on Facebook

As I finalize the final pages of my recent publication, I have decided to make an addendum inclusive of three final chapters. These will refer to recent (3 years) ongoings and attacks against me and others related to our congregation and teaching ministry for no real reason at all. The matter, while the theology is vital, really hurts me because the manner in which so many respond, attack or accuse their “brothers in Christ” is unbiblical and downright wicked. I forwarded a recent article to several brothers this week and below I have pasted a very good response to the matter . More will follow.

A Response to Dr. Michael A Cox’s Article: Is Calvinism Spiritual Racism? by Dr. Edward Dalcour, Ph.D.

I just read an article on the SBC Today site entitled: Is Calvinism Spiritual Racism?—by Dr. Michael A Cox—Pastor, FBC Pryor, OK (http://sbctoday.com/is-calvinism-spiritual-racism). Dr. Cox, as with others in the SBC, is now participating in the newest wrinkle of the SBC against Calvinism. Like the many others who have attempted to promote a patently synergistic soteriology, Cox takes it to an unusual level of mischaracterization and irresponsible scholarship.

First, it is not my intention here to provide a point by point exegetically refutation the passages that Dr. Cox misapplies (esp. John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; and 2 Pet. 3:9). This has been countless times by myself and by many others. My intention is to provide some clarity and accuracy pertaining to Calvinism in light of Dr. Cox’s inaccurate depiction and maltreatment of it. And hopefully cause folks that read his article to invest in a more scholarly examination of it from qualified sources.

In the beginning of his article, Dr. Cox’s likens Calvinism with Hinduism when he states at the outset: “I will contend that Hinduism, Racism, and Calvinism have many things in common.” This kind of argument is, of course, logically invalid, as is the argument “all Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Arminianism has many things in common such as conditional election; salvation being left in the hands of the unregenerate; faith and some kind of work(s) being required for salvation (regeneration); God cannot overpower man’s untouchable ‘free-will’ in salvation; etc.”

However, there is a rudimentary defect that is quite apparent throughout the content of his article. Dr. Cox’s assertions are grounded on mistaken views of what Calvinism (that is, the “doctrines of grace”) actually teaches. For example, Dr. Cox uses terms such as “spiritual determinism,” “spiritual caste,” “spiritual bigotry,” “spiritual prejudice,” etc. in his portrayal of Calvinism demonstrating his vast misunderstanding of it. This causes me to wonder if Dr. Cox has read even the most basic works on Calvinism and/or read any of standard Calvinistic/Reformed confessions.

Next Dr. Cox asserts: “It would be interesting to know how many non-Caucasians actually embrace five-point Calvinism as a genuine Bible doctrine.” Really? So here Dr. Cox uses an ad populum argument (fallacy) to validate biblical truth. Did Cox do any research at all on this? Is he aware of the Dutch Reformed movement in Africa, which is one of the largest movements in Africa? The Dutch Reform are a part of the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches—, which is one of the largest “Christian” international communions in the world. Embarrassingly, Dr. Cox is not well educated on religious demography—thus, he should not make these obtuse implications about how many non-Caucasians embrace Calvinism.

Further, in his effort to show that Calvinism is spiritually racist, Dr. Cox asserts: “Calvinism is nothing short of baptized racism, advocating the dogma that one group, the non-elect, is condemned by God to spiritual inferiority and another group, the elect, is destined to spiritual superiority.” Again, statements such as these only show his lack of knowledge on Calvinism. I wonder if Dr. Cox would see Paul’s statement in Rom. 9:21 regarding the Potter (God) having the right (exousian) to make (poiew) from the same lump(all men) one person/vessel for honor (timēn) and another for no honor (atimian), “nothing short of baptized racism, advocating the dogma that one group, the non-elect, is condemned by God . . . and another group, the elect, is destined to spiritual superiority”?

Apparently, Dr. Cox just cannot accept a God that would do this. Nor can Dr. Cox accept Paul’s presentation of vessels/men of wrath that God prepared (note the perfect passive form of katartizw) for destruction. To be sure, the God that Paul speaks of is not the God that Dr. Cox imagines.

Dr. Cox represents Calvinism as “nothing short of promoting a prideful theology of supposed spiritual superiority, due to election.” However, in Acts 16:6ff., we read that the Holy Spirit stopped Paul and Timothy from preaching the gospel in Asia in which many people died without ever hearing the gospel. So would Dr. Cox also charge the Holy Spirit with having a “prideful theology” of election and “baptized racism” since it was the Holy Spirit who chose to prevent some from hearing the gospel? (as the Father does, cf. Luke 10:20-22).

But what I find most befuddling is that Dr. Cox holds a DMin. with (as his bio states) an emphasis on biblical hermeneutics. However, Dr. Cox fast-ball pitches the big three Arminian passages (viz., John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; and 2 Pet. 3:9) into his article presupposing they support his views (with no hint of exegetical verification). It is evident to me that Dr. Cox does not apply the same hermeneutical (and exegetical) emphasis to these three passages that he does to passages he would use to affirm, say,  justification by faith alone or the deity of Christ. For Dr. Cox, it seems that “tradition” and his devotion to synergism dictates his so-called hermeneutical method.

Does Dr. Cox suppose that no one who reads his article, which is circulated outside the safety of his church bulletin, has (or will) meaningfully interacted with these three (and other) passages on a basic exegetical level arriving at an interpretation in opposition to his view? The fact that Dr. Cox casually tosses them into the mix in an attempt to prove his position shows that his interpretation of these three passages are really established by the removal of single passages out of its entire context and pre-assigning a universal meaning to pas (“all”) and kosmos (“world”). This, to be sure, is in no way an “emphasis on biblical hermeneutics.” Rather, it is an emphasis on tradition and high emotion—thus, not on the actual exegesis of the passages.

Next Dr. Cox says, “God has demonstrated his love for all people many times over. He did so by promising to make Abraham, a.k.a. Abram, from Ur of the Chaldeans (Gen. 11:31), a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:1-3). It is amazing to me that Dr. Cox would make this kind of hermeneutic mistake—applying a universal meaning to the phrase in Gen. 12:3, “all the families of the earth,” when the Apostle Paul tells us what is meant here: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you’” (Gal. 3:8). Hence according to Paul, “all the nations” (note Paul usage of ethnē, “nations/Gentiles” and not phulai [LXX] to explicate his point) refers to God’s eternal purpose in justifying (note the present indic. dikaioi, “justifies”) the Gentiles by faith (that which was foreseen in Gen. 12). In Acts 13:48, the Gentiles rejoiced at the fact that salvation was brought also to them: “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed [note the plu-perf. part, tetagmenoi] to eternal life believed.”

Virtually every time ethnē/ethnos is used in the NT, it referred to unbelieving Gentiles/heathens, and at times, believing Gentles, and only rarely was it used to denote “people” in a general sense. Dr. Cox seems oblivious to the apostle’s own interpretation of Gen. 12:3 overlooking the exegetical points and Paul’s defining context of the entire chapter of Gal. 3. Even more, in Gal. 3:29, Paul defines as to what nations are blessed (and thus, the promise of Gen 12): “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Thus, the ones who “belong to Christ” are the heirs according to the promise or blessing of Abraham. In the same sense, Rev. 5:9 states of the Son: “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation [ethnos].” Does Dr. Cox realize that God loving all of His people/family and sending His Son to die for them is consistent with Calvinism?

As seen, Dr. Cox’s conclusions of Calvinism (as “spiritual racism,” etc.) are built on faulty presuppositions. I do not think Dr. Cox would charge Calvinism with “spiritual racism” likening it to Hinduism and assert many other mischaracterizations if Dr. Cox reached at least an elementary level of understanding as to what Calvinism actually affirms.

Lastly, as with so many Christians who are so antagonistic to Calvinism, Dr. Cox 1) holds to a crass and mistaken understanding of Calvinism, 2) does not engage in proper exegesis on the passages he uses to endorse conditional election and universal atonement,which is especially seen when he applies a universal meaning to various OT passages and Greek terms such as pas and kosmos when they are contextually unwarranted, and 3) seems to have a disjointed view of the love of God limiting it to a universal redemptive love for every single person, which results in a view where God keeps waiting for and wanting all men to respond to His “great” plan of redemption, but He keeps failing in His effort to save all men every time someone dies in unbelief.

As a Christian apologist (and esp. for pastors), truth and providing an accurate representation of both biblical doctrine and other religious systems (Christian or non-Christian) is first and foremost. Dr. Cox presents in his article his “personal” views of Calvinism in which, in my assessment, are very misleading and inaccurate showing his lack of scholarship and basic understanding of Calvinism. As seen, he has fallen prey to the traditional ruse and pride of the autosoteric (self-salvation) system of Arminianism in which prompted him to launch an unreasonable and very haphazard attack on Calvinism.

Because Dr. Cox’s knowledge of Calvinism is apparently vacuous, he sees it as, among other things, a “prideful theology.” However, if he would ever take the time to do a scholarly study and educate himself on what it actually teaches he would understand that Calvinism, that is, the doctrines of grace exalts and recognizes God as the sovereign God in and of all things (cf. Eph. 1:1) including the eternal destiny of all menhence, salvation is of God alone! In contrast, Arminian soteriology sees man as sovereign over his own eternal destiny—thus, it is man’s so-called righteous “ability” cooperating with God’s plan (just as Rome teaches), not God’s grace alone. Hence, the Arminian system is a man-centered system (which we call pride), it is a  “I did it” scheme in which the ultimate decision of choosing Christ is essentially placed in the hands of the unregenerate sinner (in the face of opposing biblical passages, such as John 6:44; 63; 8:43-44, 47; Rom. 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; etc.)

Calvinism is called the “doctrines of grace” for the simple reason that Scripture presents that by God’s grace alone, He gave to Christ those whom He chose for Himself to deliver and set them free from the bondage of sin. He chose these in love, before the foundation of the world, not on the basis of a foreknowledge response to their works, but according to the kind intention of His will. These He made alive granting them faith justifying them in which He adopted them as sons when He was not obligated to do so—but by His grace alone: “So then, He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” And, “By His doing,” not our doing, we “are in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:3-31; cf. Rom. 8:28-30; 9:16, 21-23; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:8-10; Phil. 1:29; 2 Thess. 2:13; etc.).

– Dr. Edward Dalcour

Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, all the glory of God being pushed to the right…

A fitting parody most likely to be found this coming Lord’s Day. While I am not “unpatriotic” I find it less than distasteful to impute patriotism or nationalism in place of the worship of the Most High God and the hearing of His word. Sadly, many people have never considered it, but this year especially, it seems fitting to make a note that most of the world’s so-called christians are more concerned with the perpetuity of the United States than the eternal Kingdom of Christ. A patriotic service is when a congregation has a Lord’s day celebration that centers on America and is devoid the word of God or worse, uses the bible in a twisted application as if it were taking about America.

I could speak for days on this issue as a biblical error and show that scripture actually prohibits such idolatry, but for today I will give a few reasons I believe patriotic services happen in the name of “worship” and the theological consequences of it.

Each statement can be precluded with, “When worship of country happens in the place of biblical worship…”

  1. It puts a government (creation) above God (creator) in worship. Paul is careful to show that part of God’s judgment is to give people what they love as an idol over Himself thus revealing His judgement and wrath against them. (Romans 1)  There is no place for patriotism among the people of God during a time of corporate worship. It is idolatry and there is no other argument to be made. Stop putting temporal things in place of Jesus Christ and His eternal glory.
  2. It is boring beyond all measure. The difference in seeing water flow down the drain of a tub in comparison to the majesty of Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. There is no comparison and why would one want to trade the visible majesty of the most glorious Crown of the cosmos for the young and fading glory of a man-made democracy?
  3. It may lead people to thinking that God cares anything about countries. He doesn’t. God cares about people, not non-personal governments.  As a matter of biblical truth, God established governments in the same manner He established the ceremonial laws: to show something larger and to show their non-permanence in order to reveal HIS sufficiency.
  4. It will create division among the body which is satanic. Some people don’t feel the same about America. Maybe a governmental agency has hurt them or done them wrong. Maybe some people have a sense of pride that God has rid them of that will be rekindled. Maybe there are Christians who are not Americans so that it has absolutely no relevance at all to them. Period. Division among the body of Christ is evil, and making much of something not Christ is evil.
  5. It divides the eternal unity of the church by proclaiming a nation against all other nations (makes the book of Ephesians obsolete). Paul argues that ALL nations have ceased at the cross of Christ and he teaches that the wisdom of God is that HE (God) has created ONE people out of many.
  6. It fails to understand proper end-times where AMERICA has no place except where Babylon is resting; the lake of fire. See, governments of men are over in eternity. There is no purpose for them because Christ has finished the battle, there is no reason for governance, no need for punishment, no need for boundaries because all are holy.
  7. It may be a sign of a lazy shepherd who would rather do something “themed” than expositional. How easy it is to rant and rave about the problems, even moral ones, that plague the country and that the “country” must be in prayer in order to be healed by God. Well, God will never heal lands, He will heal HIS people from sin, others He will justly destroy in just anger.
  8. It may be opportunity to please man. Yep, believe it or not, many red blooded American patriots would rather don a flag than carry a cross and many pastors know this and love to get the support of the tear-stained hard nose who loves his country. I pray it isn’t you, if so, take this Sunday to resign your ministry. It would do the gospel well.
  9. It is guaranteed to get response. If your preaching the scriptures doesn’t get an AMEN, then celebrating America will. How amazing it is that people will amen what they love, except Christ, when presented with the opportunity.
  10. It brings people to worship other gods. Yep. In some sense, rights, liberties, power, etc. are other gods. I can honestly say that sometimes it seems that Christians are not willing to give up their freedom for the sake of the gospel. We should take more time to read Philippians.
  11. It belittles the mission of the church. Thankfully the church has not been set to the task of a fool and isn’t called to make morality the central theme of its mission. Biblically speaking it isn’t even in the top ten. Yes we are to affirm what is good and holy and speak out against that which is not, but in reality, there is so much blindness and wicked affection for dying things among the church that many are unable to see the log in their own eyes.
  12. It argues that MEMORIALS are important when they are supposed to REMIND of God and POINT us to Christ. As a historical scholar of the American church, I cannot find one legitimate example of such that could be used in place of Christ. Memorials are to bring glory to God, like the stones in the Jordan, it wasn’t for the Jews to celebrate their journey, but God’s doing. It was to point to Christ.  Where is patriotism pointing to Christ when all the New Testament details people losing ALL THEY HAD in following Christ.
  13. It establishes a superiority over other nations when MANY other nations are much more GOSPEL CENTERED than America. America is not greater than other nations and from a biblical worldview, this is a slap in the face of Christ.
  14. It creates barriers to the true gospel power in the life of a community by putting the emphasis on something that is temporal, endangered (by God), polarizing, and patriotism NEEDS no voice OVER CHRIST.
  15. It may wrongly make parallels that are unbiblical. For instance, some people invoke scriptural promises made to Israel and apply them to the USA. This is a grave error and more so that people forget that in all nations there are only TWO peoples: those who are the church in Christ and everyone else. Nations cannot be saved, governments cannot find salvation, only the church finds salvation, so let’s stop confusing the matter.
  16. It displaces the object of true joy with a fading one. Many people find their hope and joy in America and her future and in turn, some of them find themselves disgruntled at the pace of where things are with the government. This isn’t worship and actually is the result of idolatry. Christ is sufficient and is cause for eternal joy.
  17. It aspires glory to a “past” instead of learning to glory in Christ at the present time and forever more. Much of what is experienced in these types of services is about what America “used” to be or “should” be or really “stands for.” Well, stand for Christ and lose your life or lose eternal life.
  18. It sometimes assumes that certain political leanings are more Godly than another and supposes that different view points on matters of civil or economic issues are not “Christian” at the cost of concerning the church with what is actually taught in scripture, thus making everyone disobedient.
  19. It produces fellowship around the wrong motive and dream. And at times it produces “enemies” between brethren because of dissenting views about country and politics.
  20. It assumes that the darkness of the world is a threat to the American Way and not Eternal Life. It thwarts by action and affection, the sovereignty of God over all men.
  21. It distorts the prayers of the Saints who pray for a way of life rather than eternal life for others. This mistakenly puts the church in torment as they linger over a desire for God to “do something” and for people in government to “repent” when they do not belong to Christ in the first place.
  22. It will prove, if all some of the above take place, that those who are born again are convicted of idolatry while those that stand their ground on their “right” and “duty” to worship in this manner are proven to be NOT IN THE FAITH of Christ because they divide over worldly affections. (See 1 John 2:15-17)

So there. Now you have a taste of what a very polarizing opinion on a matter of little importance actually looks like. Sadly something like this could cause more harm than good, but I pray it will be received the way it sounds, concerned and greatly grieved over the loss of sublime interest in the church.

What should the body of Christ do in America on Independence Day?  The same thing the church in China would do or in Uganda: hear the word, pray, worship in song and prayer, celebrate Christ, engage in life together intimacy, care for the needs of each other and long for the day when they see their Savior. (among other things.) Just as all Christians are to VALUE governments (countries), they are also to PRAY for governments but never celebrate them over Christ.

As Americans we have a duty to live as citizens of HEAVEN as we traverse this temporary existence in the US. And in doing so we are to stand out from the world in which we live and VOTE as though we are not voting, engage in politics as though they are NOT VITAL and make sure our legacies are eternal in nature. We should be THANKFUL that God has used good and evil to create a very awesome nation with laws the provide us the opportunity to worship freely and EXERCISE those rights as we are able. WE are to exercise our rights in order to express our disdain against injustice, prejudice, evil, immorality and all things that are sanctioned by our government but all the while realize that these things are not ETERNAL and so we rest in peace and hope, not in this nation, but in Kingdom of Christ in which we stand, forever.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)

What should we do if our fellowship is planning such things? Pray and stay away. I am not saying that a mention of patriotism is prohibited, I am saying that when it replaces Christ it is wicked and evil and may be evidence that the leadership of the church should strongly consider what is vital to the life of the church before God removes what little light there is to shine in darkness.

How do I know? I’ve done it myself.

Pastor James

Abandoned Vinyard Pic crossGod surely had some words through the mouth of Amos and I have found a few chills this early morning considering how close I have come to being the just recipient of God’s holy justice.  Let the prophet’s words ring true in your hearts today as you pause and consider the gravity of sin and the glory of salvation.  And on the other hand, let us all take the morn to posture ourselves in examination and consider that God has truly given us a heart for Him thus proven by our hearts for others including our enemies and most certainly those “outside the gate” who are rejected by all — just as our Savior was and is.

Hear ye the words of the Lord…

They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. (Amos 5:10-13 ESV)

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James Tippins

“It doesn’t get any better than this…” I thought as I looked at my infant daughter surrounded by my four other children and bride of 18 years. Something wells up inside when I see the glorious beauty of my family and in the best of humility, I praise God for them and for His grace to afford me such joy in their lives and learnings. Holding an infant is one of those rare opportunities that few people actually do experience. I know for my other four children, their infant stages are a blur, mainly due to my double time activity schedule and pressure of ministry and the hail storms of expectations I placed on myself during those seasons. But this time it’s different. We are not burdened under a yolk of worldly expectations, but under the yolk of Jesus Christ. Therefore, this season in life is superb and grand in the scheme of them all and for this I am very thankful.

On the other hand, as I peel through the layers of what it all means and discern whether my esteem is idolatry or Christ-centered gratitude, it struck my heart, that this is NOT the best of times and that even though it comes easy to say that “it doesn’t get any better than this” I have fallen prey, just a moment, to the wrong point of focus. I know can hold my family and look wonderfully and joyfully into the reality that is God’s gracious mercy in them and say, “It Surely is gonna get better than this!” I have to think through this carefully so all can follow my thoughts. No better place to start than the beginning…

A Wedding

That wonderful Spring day in 1996 was the first time that I felt such things when as the doors of the vestibule opened for my eyes to gaze upon the bride of my soul.  Her beauty lodged glory into my heart that quickly grew in my throat as I was unable to swallow and I thought, “It doesn’t get any better than this…”  All the dreams and hopes and visions of what will be and for the most part, sans a few pebbles (and larger stones) along the way, it has be greater than I could ever have imagined.  But in all reality as Christ has revealed Himself more and more I see that the fullness of joy that came that day is a taste, a very very small taste of the complete and eternally full joy that will come when Christ and I are together along with my bride and my family, not as we are today, but as siblings in the same body!  The marriage of man and woman is a myopic pointer to the day of Christ’s return for His bride for whom He died.  My bride stood, and still does, at the door of that church in all beauty and splendor and one day, I too will stand as she stood, not just in dress and intention, but in pure righteousness.  It does get better than this, but this is good because it shows us just what we have yet to see! (Ephesians 5:25-)

Birth

Now having five children may seem like excess, but among our circles of friends across the globe, we are the minimalists and are about 40-60% complete as some would say.  But just in my introductory thoughts, the birth of a child is an amazing thing.  It reveals so much about the majesty of God’s power and how He alone can put all things together. (Col 1)  The miracle of life is so much more than just being well loved and having great and deep affection for a child; it bears the image of its Creator, a God who gives birth, not just physically to His creatures, but Spiritually as well.  Scripture teaches us that through suffering comes glory.  This is true in the whole of Biblical history and most specifically, it is true for the Christ, the Son of God who came to die in order to perfectly save sinners who were already dead.  Six weeks ago today we had just ended a 21 plus hour induction with cesarean and the fear at times was overwhelming and inexplicable. God’s grace carried us through and through all the suffering, all the darkness, all the fear, all the “dashed” dreams came LIFE.  A new life, not just one working out kinks and trying to be better or different, but NEW.  Completely fresh, a new beginning in this world.  I reflected on all the other four births and likewise, they all came the same way, though with different circumstances, they all had the same song: suffering yields life.  Jesus Christ came to suffer to bring life and the apostles tell us clearly that we who are in Christ will suffer like He suffered but in the end: Glory.  See 1 Peter chapter 1 for more on this.  In this way, my wife suffered so that life could emerge.  Jesus saves His own through His flesh and blood.  How amazing our God is to help us see His glorious good in our suffering.  We come out on this side, joyfully aware of this little blessing of life and joyfully aware of the grave suffering that our Lord endured for us.  “Light Momentary Affliction” prepares us for a weight of glory.

Rejoicing

So now the glorious part of all of this.  “It doesn’t get any better” fits really well here.  I smile, my wife smiles, my son smiles, my three other daughters smile and life is grand.  3 AM…. not so grand, but we still smile at the prospect of going through all of this again.  But no matter how good it is, it is only a small picture, a snow-globe of the real that we are just shaking through awaiting the full joy.  We are amazed at the love we have for this new child when we thought that there was no more love in us 🙂 we find more.  The birth of our new baby has rekindled the superb affections we have for our other children and each other as husband and wife and if we are not careful, we will lose sight as to why: so that we can see the love of God for us in a deeper way as His children.  The love God has for us is immeasurable in comparison and it blesses my soul to realize that the amazing love that I feel toward my children is nothing compared to the love that God has for us revealed gloriously in Christ Jesus who came to live righteous and holy and die willingly in order to justify us before the Father.

What does it all mean?

It means that no matter how good it is, it is only a small fraction of nothing of the goodness of the true One to whom it all points!  God’s faithful and certain promise to save His children and His amazing “great love” with which He loves us cannot be fathomed.  So until that day when we stand with Him and our Lord Jesus Christ and see for ourselves, we must look ever so carefully at the small glimpses of such things.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21, ESV)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can beagainst us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39, ESV)

The Goodness Of God endureth continually” (Ps. 52:1). The goodness of God respects the perfection of His nature: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). There is such an absolute perfection in God’s nature and being that nothing is wanting to it or defective in it; nothing can be added to it to make it better.

He is originally good, good of Himself, which nothing else is; for all creatures are good only by participation and communication from God. He is essentially good; not only good, but goodness itself: the creature’s good is a superadded quality, in God it is His essence. He is infinitely good; the creature’s good is but a drop, but in God there is an infinite ocean or gathering together of good. He is eternally and immutably good, for He cannot be less good than He is; as there can be no addition made to Him, so no subtraction from Him (Thomas Manton).

God is summurn bonum, the chiefest good.

The original Saxon meaning of our English word God is “The Good.” God is not only the greatest of all beings, but the best. All the goodness there is in any creature has been imparted from the Creator, but God’s goodness is underived, for it is the essence of His eternal nature. As God is infinite in power from all eternity, before there was any display thereof, or any act of omnipotence put forth; so He was eternally good before there was any communication of His bounty, or any creature to whom it might be imparted or exercised. Thus, the first manifestation of this divine perfection was in giving being to all things. “Thou art good, and doest good” (Ps. 119:68). God has in Himself an infinite and inexhaustible treasure of all blessedness enough to fill all things.

All that emanates from God—His decrees, His creation, His laws, His providences—cannot be otherwise than good: as it is written. “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Thus, the goodness of God is seen, first, in creation. The more closely the creature is studied, the more the beneficence of his Creator becomes apparent. Take the highest of God’s earthly creatures, man. Abundant reason he has to say with the Psalmist, “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well” (Ps. 139:14). Everything about the structure of our bodies attests to the goodness of their Maker. How suited the hands to perform their allotted work! How good of the Lord to appoint sleep to refresh a wearied body! How benevolent His provision to give the eyes lids and brows for their protection! So we might continue indefinitely.

Nor is the goodness of the Creator confined to man, it is exercised toward all His creatures. “The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing” (Ps. 145:15-16). Whole volumes might be written, and have been, to amplify this fact. Whether it is the birds of the air, the beasts of the forest, or the fish in the sea, abundant provision has been made to supply their every need. God “giveth food to all flesh, for his mercy endureth forever” (Ps. 136:25). Truly, “The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD” (Ps. 33:5).

The goodness of God is seen in the variety of natural pleasures which He has provided for His creatures. God might have been pleased to satisfy your hunger without the food being pleasing to our palates—how His benevolence appears in the varied flavors He has given to meats, vegetables, and fruits! God has not only given us senses, but also that which gratifies them; this too reveals His goodness. The earth might have been as fertile as it is without being so delightfully variegated. Our physical lives could have been sustained without beautiful flowers to regale our eyes, and exhale sweet perfumes. We might have walked the fields without our ears being saluted by the music of the birds. Whence then, this loveliness, this charm, so freely diffused over the face of nature? Verily, “His tender mercies are over all his works” (Ps. 145:9).

The goodness of God is seen in that when man transgressed the law of His Creator a dispensation of unmixed wrath did not at once commence. God might well have deprived His fallen creatures of every blessing, every comfort, every pleasure. Instead, He ushered in a regime of a mixed nature, of mercy and judgment. This is very wonderful if it be duly considered; and the more thoroughly that regime is examined the more it will appear that “mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13). Notwithstanding all the evils which attend our fallen state, the balance of good greatly preponderates. With comparatively rare exceptions, men and women experience a far greater number of days of health than they do of sickness and pain. There is much more creature-happiness than creature-misery in the world. Even our sorrows admit of considerable alleviation, and God has given to the human mind a pliability which adapts itself to circumstances and makes the most of them.

Nor can the benevolence of God be justly called into question because there is suffering and sorrow in the world. If man sins against the goodness of God, if he despises “the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering,” and after the hardness and impenitency of his heart treasurest up unto himself wrath against the day of wrath (Rom. 2:5-6), who is to blame but himself? Would God be “good” if He did not punish those who ill-use His blessings, abuse His benevolence, and trample His mercies beneath their feet? It will be no reflection upon God’s goodness, but rather the brightest exemplification of it, when He will rid the earth of those who have broken His laws, defied His authority, mocked His messengers, scorned His Son, and persecuted those for whom He died.

The goodness of God appeared most illustriously when He sent forth His Son “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). It was then that a multitude of the heavenly host praised their Maker and said, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). Yes, in the Gospel the “grace (Gr., benevolence or goodness) of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). Nor can God’s benignity be called into question because He has not made every sinful creature a subject of His redemptive grace. He did not do so with the fallen angels. Had God left all to perish it had been no reflection on His goodness. To any who challenge this statement we remind him of our Lord’s sovereign prerogative: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Matthew 20:15).

“O that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men” (Ps. 107:8). Gratitude is the return justly required from the objects of His beneficence; yet is it often withheld from our great Benefactor simply because His goodness is so constant and so abundant. It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events. It is not felt because we daily experience it. “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness?” (Rom. 2:4). His goodness is despised when it is not improved as a means to lead men to repentance, but, on the contrary, serves to harden them from supposing that God entirely overlooks their sin.

The goodness of God is the life of the believer’s trust. It is this excellency in God which most appeals to our hearts. Because His goodness endureth forever, we ought never to be discouraged: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and he knoweth them that trust in him” (Nah. 1:7).

When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord: whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same. (C. H. Spurgeon).