Jesus the Son of God Book Review

jesus-the-son-of-god-a-christological-title-often-overlooked-sometimes-misunderstood-and-currently-disputedWhat does the bible mean when it refers to Jesus Christ as the Son of God? There are varying opinions that have surfaced in the history of Christianity and the discussion continues even in our generation. Many theologians have written on the subject from the perspective of the Trinity and the purpose of the coming of the Son of God as well as the pre-existence of the Son. Few however have really delved into a biblical study of the usage of this title.

While many works tend to focus on the title “Son of God” in the grander view of the Trinity, D.A. Carson has given us this important book Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed (To purchase in Moncton, please go here) focusing entirely on the title Son of God. The book was published by Crossway in 2012 and is approximately 108 pages in length spreadout into three chapters.

Carson begins the book with a survey of the shorter version of the term in the usage of “son of” in scripture. He points out that the term “son of” without a modifier generally refers to a biological son. With this in mind, this is not the only sense the title has. Carson explains that the title “son of” is used in a metaphorical sense as well (son of a bow, sons of thunder). It also takes on an indicative reference of who has trained an individual or a reference to your master (Son of the devil) or can even signify your trade (sons of the singers). Carson brings out that in this study that the term “son of” can also demonstrate the heir of a promise and it is not always biological. The Sons of Abraham were heirs by faith not by physical hereditary entitlement (Galatians 3:7). Carson has some really interesting information on the translation of the title “son of” and how in some modern translations it can sometimes be muddied with an over emphasis on a translational methodology called dynamic equivalency. This will become important in his argumentation in the 3rd chapter.

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Isaiah 53 & Definite Atonement

crossThere are many individuals who believe that the doctrine of particular redemption or definite atonement cannot be substantiated biblically. They argue that the bible simply does not teach that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ actually saves those for whom it was offered but mingle the intellectual assent of man in the mix. The idea that there are no texts that teach definite atonement is a mere caricature. There are a number of texts that could be examined to demonstrate the biblical doctrine of the atonement especially in light of its particularity. We think of texts such as John 10 and Revelation chapter 5 as clear examples of this blessed doctrine amongst many others.

Recently I had purchased from Faithful Servant Books a small booklet by W.E. Best on the examination of definite atonement from another proof text mainly the text of Isaiah 53. Best does a remarkable job at demonstrating that the suffering servants death would in fact be a perfect sacrifice that could not fail. It would actually purchase and redeem men for God and that this death would be victorious. I was pleased to see that the book is now available online in PDF for those who wish to read through Best’s exegesis and analysis of Isaiah 53.

Book Review: From Heaven He Came and Sought Her

heavenFrom Heaven He Came and Sought Her is a book that was released shortly before the end of 2013. It is a multi-author volume edited by David & Jonathan Gibson and published by Crossway. FHHCSH addresses the topic of Definite Atonement[i]. For those who are unfamiliar with Definite Atonement, it is the discussion of the extent, intent and effect of the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It deals with the questions for whom did Christ die, what did the Father and Son have in mind that the death of Christ would result in and what was that result after Christ’s death. The subject has been a controversial point amongst most Christian of the idea that the atonement was universal in its scope.

The book is an in-depth and rich look at the topic it addresses. It stands at close to 700 pages of actual materials spread out in 23 chapters and divided into four sections. The four sections are

  • Definite Atonement and Church History
  • Definite Atonement in the Bible
  • Definite Atonement in Theological Perspective
  • Definite Atonement in Pastoral Practice

I will give a brief overview of each chapter in the book and at the end of this review I would like to give a few general observations

Introduction

The foreword to the book was written by none other than J.I. Packer and anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy Packer especially his introductory essays. This portion was not disappointing to say the least and sets the tone for the rest of the book.

The opening chapter was an overview written by the editors David and Jonathan Gibson. They laid out some of the themes and topics that would be addressed throughout the book. I felt that they explained well by means of introduction to some of the arguments that would be laid out in future chapters as well as some opposing arguments that would be addressed. For someone who is not familiar with the whole discussion, this chapter will be essential.

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I Love Jesus

i_love_jesus_hat-p148424148520374003enwxo_216I took a walk on Friday to my favorite little coffee shop on Main street Moncton to get my daily little boost to get me through the day. The girls that work at this coffee shop always provide fantastic service and they are very pleasant which makes my experience all the better. When I entered the shop I noticed that the girls were having a “hat day’ since, well, they were all wearing hats. One particular hat that stood out was a hat that said “I love Jesus”. Obviously, being a Christian, this caught my attention and several questions began to run through my head. The first question was is she serious about that statement or is she ridiculing the name of Christ as most people in the Moncton area do. While I wanted to ask her why she had such a hat I figured it would lead to a bigger discussion which unfortunately I didn’t have time to engage in. I’m honestly hoping to get an answer in the near future! Anyone that knows coffee breaks knows they are essentially a marathon.

While I was walking back to work, another question began running through my mind which was mainly who is this Jesus that she loves? I know this sounds like a weird one but when we think about it how many people have a different Jesus. Some have a Jesus that is a great moral teacher, others a Jesus that is an example of love while still others a Jesus that is like a genie in a bottle who simply answers all their prayers. This enquiry is foundational to the Christian faith! Who is Jesus Christ?

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The Birth of Christ

Govert_Flinck_-_Angels_Announcing_the_Birth_of_Christ_to_the_Shepherds_-_WGA07928Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said:

“My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. “And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him. “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. “He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home…

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Christophanies

300px-Jacob_Wrestling_with_the_AngelGenerally whenever I want to recommend a blog post or an article I prefer using Twitter since it is far easier to post these types of recommendations. With that said, I read a post today from Steve Hays at Triablogue that I found exceptionally important and I thought I would actually post it here. The post is on the topic of Christophanies especially in light of the usage of the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament. I have found the study of Christophanies extremely useful in my defense of the Deity of Christ and in an all around study of Christology. I enjoyed the fact that Mr. Hays interacts with some leading commentaries in regards to the identiy of the Angel of the Lord in the OT. I hope that perhaps it will peak the interest of one of my readers for further study on this extremely important topic. I highly recommend taking the time to read through what he has to say.

Two Important Christological Hymns: Part 2 of 2

Theater-at-Philippi-1Philippi was an ancient city in northern Greece that bore the name of Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II of Macedon. The region of Philippi had, much like other biblical cities, many religious systems that were accepted among its residence but there was truly a predominant religious movement or a state religion in the worship of the emperor and his family members such as Julius, Augustus and Claudius. There would have obviously been much “competition” by the surrounding systems and some had even infiltrated the church as we will see.

It is thought that Paul visited the city around 49 A.D. where he was accused of proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe being Roman (Acts 16:21). This is where Paul saw Lydia converted by the power of God (Acts 16:14-15)as well as where we are told that the crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to bebeaten with rods. 23When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commandingthe jailer to guard them securely; 24and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. (Acts 16:22-24) It is presupposed that Lydia, the Philippian jailer and those addressed in the letter (Euodia, Syntyche) must have had much influence in that particular assembly to have been named in the epistle. Certainly their conversions where early on and they may have been the very first Christians in fellowship in this particular district.

The epistle was written from prison (1:12-25) but we are uncertain which imprisonment was spoken of even though most scholars agree it was from Rome. This would identify the letter as being written between 60-61 A.D. Paul felt that his imprisonment was a means to show the lengths he was willing to suffer and promote the gospel. He was willing to suffer and die for it which offers some weight to his credibility. Paul’s entire focus was to the proclamation of the person of Christ and the good news found in Him. I feel this should be an example in of itself to the faithfulness of the apostle and its exhortation to us to be faithful even to the point of imprisonment for its proclamation.

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Two Important Christological Hymns: Part 1 of 2

Colossae-300x225The City of Colossae was situated in the valley of Lycus approximately 10-12 miles past Laodicea. It was an area which had much diversity in regards to philosophical and religious life. The Colossian Christians were surrounded by these mixtures of ideals but were seemingly not willing to recant or mix their belief in Christ with other religious systems and may have had tremendous struggles in the process.  Paul’s writing was to encourage them and also, indirectly, to respond to those false teachings in which they were being exposed to. It wouldn’t have been easy to resist some of these erroneous teachings since false/alternative teachers were very persuasive in their approach. Yet, Paul commands them to resist them (Colossian 2:4,8,16,18) at all cost. There was one main advantage that these Colossian Christians had and that was they had the very personification of wisdom and knowledge in the Lord Jesus. The very thought of truth flows from the person of the Lord Jesus and they could find courage to hold on to the teaching through Him. The letter is a bit different from other epistles dealing with false teaching in that it is a bit more vague. Paul never really comes out to name the false teaching or teachers. I believe the reason he is writing this way is due to the vast array of thinking they were being exposed to. The language used in the letter seems not to point to a particular teaching but perhaps a few different religious beliefs. It is important then to carefully examine the exact terminology used by the apostle in order to give some sense whom he is addressing.[i] I have a leaning however towards the two particular groups based upon some internal evidence. I feel the heretical movements challenging the church in Colossae were based upon a form of Judaism[ii] and most likely Gnostics[iii]. Gnostics in the day of Paul held to a variety of different beliefs but two main tenets seemed to have some popularity in their circles mainly that they had a special privilege in the enlightenment of knowledge. It would not have been rare to hear the Gnostics speak of terms such as wisdom (Sophia) or knowledge (epignosis) as they held to the pursuit of knowledge as a means of final salvation. The other tenet that was popular among them was dualism. The Gnostics viewed their god as ultimately pure and holy and men as corrupt and purely evil. They had difficult reconciling how a pure and perfect god could create something as evil and impure as man. In order to solve the problem they created a lineage where their god created what was called “aeons” which were mediatory angelic beings (or demi-gods) who were grouped into what was called ‘fullness” (pleroma). These aeons are godlike creatures, often identified as angels when Gnosticism encountered Jewish or Christian belief.[iv] Greek Scholar Kenneth Wuest writes:

The more numerous the emanations, the farther away from Deity they became, and as a result the divine element in them became more feeble, until it became so diffused that contact with matter was possible, and creation took place. Thus, the gap between a holy creator God and matter which, according to the Gnostic is evil, is bridged by these emanations from God that are so far removed from a Deity who is holy, that matter could be created which is inherently evil, and this act of creation could not be attributed to a holy God”[v]

Seemingly these Gnostics were said to be from the Valentian School of Gnosticism and were highly influential. We can argue this simply from looking at the amount of space given in scripture to their refutation (1-3John)[vi] and also through the writings of many early church fathers.

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The Priesthood of Jesus Christ in Hebrews 7

melFor, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. 20 And inasmuch as it was not without an oath 21(for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “THE LORD HAS SWORN AND WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND, ‘YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER’”);22 so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.23 The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them 26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.

The topic of the “The Priesthood of Christ” is a very important and there is real power found in understanding what the priesthood  of the Lord Jesus entails.  The text in Hebrews 7:20-28 is a tremendous witness to that priesthood and a thorough study of this passage will receive many blessings. Even though what I am posting here is merely my notes on a talk I did at the assembly I attend, I hope that perhaps these few thoughts might benefit my readers in some way to perhaps ponder the things in this passage a little further.

The book of Hebrews was written as an exhortation to men and women who had come to know the Lord Jesus and hence Christianity and as a result departed and forsook their former religion; Judaism. Due to their departure, these early Christians were going through tremendous struggles and persecution on many fronts including being hunted by the Roman government who had outlawed it, attacked by their former religious leaders and also from family members. Their departure from Judaism came at a tremendous cost! Those religious figures from their former lives were insisting that they what they had left was what Jehovah had established. They were being pressured to return to this religion because in their minds they had left the truth of the blessing of God.  The writer of Hebrews is penning this epistle to demonstrate that all that was given in Judaism by Jehovah was only a shadow of better things that came which were the realities behind these shadows.

In these texts, the writer compares the priesthood of Aaron and Levi to that of the priest they had come to know, the one from the order of Melchizedek, Jesus Christ.  A priest was a man appointed by God to offer sacrifices, worship and prayer on behalf of God’s people. He was a representative or a middle-man between Jehovah and men. The writer argues that the priest that they had come to know was a far greater and more powerful priest than anything they could have known in the old.

In this section I would like to bring out an argument as to why this priest, the Lord Jesus, is a better priest than any of these priests. I also want to spend a few minutes as well to perhaps share the practical outlook of these verses since I believe that what is described in these verses is absolutely crucial to your faith in our day and age.

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