One Ransom for All: The Beautiful Scandal of God’s Universal Particularity (1 Timothy 2:5–7)

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One Ransom for All: The Beautiful Scandal of God’s Universal Particularity (1 Timothy 2:5–7)

On Sunday we focused on the death and resurrection of Christ. While Psalm Sunday directs us to Christ’s triumphal entrance to Jerusalem, we focused on Paul’s message of the cross in 1 Timothy 2:5–7. As 1 Timothy 2–3 spend time on Christ’s death and resurrection, we considered how his one death ransomed people from every nation.

Indeed, speaking into the divided context of Ephesus where the Law was separating Jews and Gentiles and urging Gentiles to become like Jews, Paul speaks of the all-sufficiency of Christ’s death once and for all. In this context, we see why this is good news for us and for all time.

You can listen to the sermon online. And you can response questions and further resources below. Continue reading

The One for All: 7 Reasons Why 1 Timothy 2 Teaches Definite Atonement (and 3 Reasons Why It Matters)

andrew-seaman-746845-unsplash.jpg 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
— 1 Timothy 2:1–7 —

Universal Atonement is the theological doctrine that says Christ’s death on the cross was offered for every single person without exception. This view of the cross stands against a “limited” view of the atonement, better termed Definite Atonement. Advocates of Universal Atonement typically make their case from various proof texts in the Bible and from theological commitments like God’s universal love and the universal offer of the gospel.

Combining textual proof with theological commitment, few passages in the Bible appear to support Universal Atonement more than 1 Timothy 2:4–6 and 1 Timothy 4:10. The former speaks of God’s will that all people be saved and Jesus ransom for all; the latter of God being savior of all people. From a first reading, these verses seem like a slam dunk for Universal Atonement. What else could Paul mean, but that Christ died for all people without exception?

In context, however, there are multiple reasons—textual, covenantal, and theological—which argue against such a reading. Such a statement may evoke disinterest, even disgust. Few are the cultural winds that blow in the direction of particularity today. Rather, our modern world loves to speak of universal equality and tolerance without distinction. Theologically, few doctrines have been left unscathed from the effects of individualism and modernity’s penchant for ubiquitous choice.

Yet, as is often the case in the Bible, God’s ways are not man’s ways. And what we find in Paul’s letter to Timothy is a very clear account of salvation that establishes Christ’s death as the one way of salvation for all people. All people, however, is not an individualistic word in Paul’s letter; it is a word that speaks of all kinds of people—especially, the categories of Jew and Gentile.

Echoing his earlier words to the Ephesians (2:11–220, Paul is proclaiming a message of the cross that is good for all kinds of people (1 Timothy 2:7). And as we will see his words do not support a universal atonement for individuals; they speak of a definite atonement for God’s people, whatever their country of origin. That said, we need to see from the text, how Paul speaks of one ransom for all people and how God is the Savior of all, especially those who believe.

Today, we will look at 1 Timothy 2. Some day soon, we will consider 1 Timothy 4. In truth, these chapters should not be read separately. They inform one another and reveal a unified vision of salvation. Yet, for sake of time, with open Bibles, we will address one and then the other. Continue reading

Christ is a Superior High Priest: Three Reasons Why Jesus Is Greater Than Aaron

jason-betz-274375-unsplashIt has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 
— Hebrews 2:6–9 —

The key idea in Hebrews is priesthood. However, I believe sonship is equally important to understanding the flow of the book, not to mention the nature of Christ’s priesthood. In other words, Jesus is a greater priest because he is a greater son (see 4:14; 7:28).

Making a similar point, B. B. Warfield once commented on Hebrews 2:6–9:

The emphasis is upon the completeness of the identification of the Son of God with the sons of men . . . The perfection of His identification with us consisted just in this, that He did not . . .  assume merely the appearance of man or even merely that position and destiny of man, but the reality of humanity. (The Power of God Unto Salvation, 5, 10; cited in Zaspel, The Theology of B.B. Warfield, 256).

Highlighting the personal nature of Christ’s union with his people, Warfield touches on the very weakness of the priesthood of Aaron. And in so doing, he highlights three ways Christ’s priesthood is greater than that of Aaron. Continue reading

The Four Seeds of Abraham: Natural, National, Christ, and “In Christ”

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Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring.
It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one,
“And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
— Galatians 3:16 —

Who is Abraham’s offspring? Or is it, Who are Abraham’s offspring? Is it one or many? Or both?

In the Bible one of the most important realities to grasp is how the Bible presents itself. In other words, because Scripture is the inspired interpretation of God’s actions in the world—even as God’s Word is itself a divine action—it is vital to see how God’s earlier revelation prepares the way for his later purposes.

Sometimes this is called an “eschatological” reading of Scripture. That may sound complicated, but it’s not. Eschatology means “the study of last things” (eschatos = last), and most of the time people immediately jump to what they perceive are the “last things” in the Bible. However, if we consider that God stands outside of time and created all things for the purpose putting them under his Son’s feet (see Ephesians 1:10), then we must read the Bible as one unified-but-unfolding plan of redemption.

In this way, eschatology doesn’t begin in Revelation, or Daniel, or Zechariah, it begins in Genesis. And from Genesis to Revelation, God is working all things for the purposes of his people—the offspring of Abraham.

But who is/are Abraham’s offspring? Continue reading

You Were Made for This: An Introduction to the Priesthood (and Yourself)

priestcolor“You were made for this!”

This phrase seems to be thrown around quite a bit these days: Sports commentators talk this way about athletes; teachers about pupils; mentors about those they coach. In short, it is a way of speaking that comes from a recognized “authority” on someone who is ascending in their field. It is language meant to boost esteem and put everyone on alert, that the next star is rising.

In our celebrity-crazed culture, everyone wants to be special. Indeed “special” is the carrot that has motivated so many to aspire to greatness. I’ve felt this pull and have thanked God that my dreams of athletic glory were mercifully cut short. Still, the hunger for this kind of glory remains.

And it remains with such a strong pull because we were made for glory! Not just some of us, but all of us were made to enjoy and exhibit the glory of God. And thus, until we discover the true source of glory, we will chase glory in vain. Therefore, we must see what Scripture says about the glory of God.   Continue reading

The Lord’s Supper as the Origin of Christ-Centered Hermeneutics

jesus.jpegThere are many arguments for reading the Bible with Christ at the center. But where do they come from? Are they the product of biblical interpreters? Or is there a source found in Scripture itself?

In answer to this question, the best place to see the Bible’s Christ-centeredness may come from Christ himself. Not only does he say explicitly that all Scripture speaks of him (John 5:39), but in the Passover he interprets the most important event in Israel’s history as his own. As Alastair Roberts and Andrew Wilson note, “Jesus is specifically identifying the unleavened bread as representing his body, . . . and he is telling his Jewish followers to celebrate the Passover in memory of him, not just their liberation from slavery in Egypt” (29). Continue reading

How Should I Give a Testimony?

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Let’s say you are called upon to share with a small group or a large congregation the recent happenings at Vacation Bible School, a missions trip, or some other event at school, church, or elsewhere. How will you do it? What priorities will inform your 60 seconds or 6 minutes?

In college, Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) taught me three (maybe four) “rules” for giving a testimony. I share them here for anyone who may be called to give a testimony, plus a couple others. For the sake of memory, they follow the first six letters of the alphabet.

Six “Rules” For Giving a Testimony

A – Be Audible

You can’t bear witness to God’s goodness, if you can’t be heard. Therefore, be sure to speak clearly. Of course, this may mean making sure the microphone is on, but more importantly, it means knowing what you will say before you say it.

Often times poor delivery comes from a lack of confidence in what we will say. Therefore, know what you are going to say. Pray for God to help you say it. Say it. And give thanks to God for helping you speak with boldness, clarity, and volume. Continue reading

Unshakeable Faith: Seeking Christ Through Haggai’s Temple – Part 2 (Haggai 2:1–23)

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Unshakeable Faith: Seeking Christ Through Haggai’s Temple (pt.2)

The book of Haggai centers on God’s great promise to restore the temple during the days of Judah’s return from exile (520 BC). In this little book, there are four messages from the Lord. The second, third, and fourth messages in Haggai are all found in chapter 2, and respectively they speak about the temple (2:1–9), the priesthood (2:10–19), and the kingdom (2:20–23). These were the three focal points of this week’s sermon.

As we considered in this sermon the Lord encouraged the people by telling how he was restoring his dwelling place to Jerusalem, his priesthood to Levi, and the kingdom to Zerubbabel. Yet, we also learn that this restoration is not immediate or ultimate. Rather, like so many things in life, his plans fit into his larger aims bringing his Son to the world and leading his people to place faith in the Son.

In this week’s sermon, we place this book in the larger plan of God’s redemption and learn how Haggai helps us understand what God was doing and now has done in Christ. You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and resources for further study are found below. Continue reading

“I Will Shake the Earth”: Reading Haggai in Canonical Context

jay-dantinne-199087-unsplash.jpgHow should we understand the earth-shaking, temple-making promises of Haggai 2?

Twice in this short book, “Haggai the prophet” announces that heaven and earth will be shaken by the Lord (2:6–7 and 2:21) and that on the other side of this cosmos-shaking event (or events), the Lord will establish a greater temple (2:9) and restore hope for David’s throne (2:22–23). Because of the apocalyptic nature of these words, some have seen in them a prediction for a future millennial temple. For instance, Mark Rooker says when addressing the temple in Ezekiel 40–48, “Similar references to a temple in the messianic kingdom include Isaiah 2:2–4 and Haggai 2:9” (A Case for Premillenialism, 130–31). Likewise, David Turner writes,

The prophet Haggai alludes to the fact that this temple was unimpressive when compared with the first. However, the word of the Lord confirms to Zerubbabel the promise that God is with the nation. With words that anticipate Revelation 21:24–26 and 22:2, Haggai 2:6–9 promises that God’s judgment of heaven and earth (cf. Heb. 12:26) will result in the nations’ bringing their glory to the temple. Thus its latter end will be characterized by a greater peace and glory than that of the first temple. (David L. Turner, “The New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:1–22:5,” in Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church, 269).

Interestingly, none of the big books of dispensational eschatology that I have on my shelf (e.g., Millennialism: The Two Major Views by Charles L. Feinberg; Things to Come by J. Dwight Pentecost; Christ’s Prophetic Plans by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue; The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism by Robert Saucy) address Haggai exegetically. Pentecost lists Haggai 2:1–9 as one of the passages he will later expound on the concept of God’s kingdom in the Old Testament (442), but he never returns to this passage. In fact, the most comprehensive exegetical statement I’ve found on Haggai is contained in the MacArthur Study Biblewhere the comments interpret Haggai as testimony to a millennial kingdom with a rebuilt temple. Here are two examples.

2:6, 7 I will shake. The shaking of the cosmic bodies and the nations goes beyond the historical removal of kingdoms and the establishment of others, such as the defeat of Persia by Greece (Dan. 7). Rather, the text looks to the cataclysm in the universe described in Rev. 6–19, the subjugation of the nations by the Messiah, and the setting up of His kingdom which will never be destroyed (cf. Dan. 2:44; 7:27; Zech. 14:16–21; Matt. 25:32; Luke 21:26; Heb. 12:26; Rev. 19:19–21). (1334)

2:9 this latter temple. The Jews viewed the temple in Jerusalem as one temple existing in different forms at different times. The rebuilt temple was considered a continuation of Solomon’s temple (cf. v. 3). However, the eschatological glory of the millennial temple, i.e., the latter temple, will far surpass even the grandeur of Solomon’s temple (the former temple). I will give peace. This peace is not limited to that peace which He gives to believers (e.g., Rom 5:1), but looks ahead to that ultimate peace when He returns to rule as the Prince of Peace upon the throne of David in Jerusalem (Is. 9:6–7; Zech 6:13; Acts 2:30). (1335)

From these comments, we get a clear perspective of a dispensational reading of this passage. But is that the best reading? Should we conclude that Haggai, dated to 520 BC in the second year of the reign of Darius (1:1), is talking to the people of Israel about a future kingdom and temple that comes on the other side of the messiah, whose kingdom they have not yet seen or understood? I don’t think so, and in what follows I will aim to provide an interpretation of Haggai 2 that pays closer attention to the historical context of his message and the canonical message of the kingdom of God come in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

In other words, instead of constructing a brick and mortar temple in the future with the words of Haggai, we should see how his words speak to the remnant addressed in his book (1:12, 14; 2:2) and then how they speak to the people on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11). Continue reading

In What Did Old Testament Saints Believe?

daniel-mccullough-539577-unsplash.jpgIn discussions about salvation and interpretation of the Old Testament, two related questions are often asked.

  1. How were the Old Testament saints saved? Or, in whom or what did they believe?
  2. How much did the Old Testament know about the coming Christ?

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Recently, in reading through The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher, I came across a succinct, if slightly archaic, answer to these questions. In conversation form, Fisher explains how the Old Testament saints beheld Christ through the types and shadows of the Law. In short, he answers that the salvation we possess is of a piece with those under the old covenant. There are not two ways of salvation, but one, as Hebrews 11 suggests.

The difference between Israel and the church (which is today composed of Jews and Gentiles) is less about how they are saved, but how they came to know the one savior, Jesus Christ the Son of God. The former saw Christ through a veil of old covenant shadows and types; the latter have seen him in the substance of his person and work, now proclaimed through the witnesses of his apostles.

As always, such questions require elongated consideration about the whole Bible. But for short answers, what follows helpfully explains how the Old Testament saints beheld Christ. Continue reading