The Rejected and Resurrected Cornerstone: Seeing Salvation and Judgment in the Cross of Christ

1920x1080-it-is-finished‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.’
— Psalm 118:22 —

There are few sentences in the Bible more important for understanding the cross of Christ than Psalm 118:22. And on Sunday we examined this verse through the eyes of Jesus, who in Luke 20:9–18 concluded his parable of the wicked tenants by citing the these words. Moreover, in that parable Jesus told a story of Israel’s longstanding rejection of God and the forthcoming judgment on Jerusalem’s temple. Though shocking to all who heard Jesus, this coming judgment was the way of salvation for those who trusted in Christ.

Indeed, this is parable not only teaches something about Jesus’s death, but it recalls the fact that all humanity will rise or fall in response to his cross. Even more, Christ’s cross is the dividing line that will ultimately determine what side of history someone will stand. Even now, the message of the cross is dividing humanity with its twofold message of salvation and judgment. And only those who respond in faith will enjoy the peace of God now and forever. For that reason, there are few more important messages than Jesus’s parable in Luke 20 and the meaning of the rejected stone who has become the cornerstone of a new temple and the founder of new humanity.

If you want to know more about God’s plans for his people and for all people, take time to consider Jesus’s parable of the wicked tenants. And this sermon will help give you a few insights into God’s salvation and judgment.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

A Bag of Treats or a River of Delights: A Halloween Parable

In a few weeks children, teenagers, and some adults will adorn super-hero suits, clown wigs, and other silly costumes all for the purpose of having some seasonal fun and gathering a bag full of candy.  Good Christians differ on what to do with this holiday, and without stepping into that firing line, I simply want to take note of the way that Halloween is a dramatic parable of the fleeting pleasures of sin handed out by the houses of this world.

In Hebrews 11, Moses is described as a man of faith because “he considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (v. 26).  Because he was looking to the reward, he chose to be “mistreated with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (v. 25).  With heaven in view, he sought God’s reward, instead of the treats of this age.

The same was true of Abraham.  Earlier in Hebrews 11, the father of faith is depicted as a man whose hope is set on the city whose architect and builder is God (v. 10).  Scripture says of him and his offspring, “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” (v. 15-16).

In these statements, we see that hope in God’s rewards defines the life of the Christian (Heb 11:6). While we do not yet see our treasure, we believe in the promises of God that Christ has gone away to prepare a place for us (John 14:2; Heb 11:16).  We live in this reality. We say no to the world’s offerings because our hearts are in love with the world to come.

Here is where Halloween provides such a fitting parable.  As trick-or-treaters dress up in search of candy, they hope to collect a sack full of Hershey miniatures and Starburst packets.  On that night, the collection is sweet.  Serious trick-or-treaters know where the best candy is, and they get there early to pull in the full-sized Snickers or Silver Dollar.  Yet, all that is gained on that single night is soon eaten and the costume outdated or outgrown.

The joy of Halloween is as light as cotton candy and as long-lasting as cheap gum.  Contrast this with the joy that comes from the Lord.  Psalm 16:11 says, “In God’s presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures evermore.” So too, Psalm 46 describes his dwelling place as possessing “a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (v. 4-5).

In terms of our parable, God’s house is the one who doesn’t stop you at the door.  He doesn’t demand a trick.  He doesn’t leave you hungry by giving you an itty-bitty bag of candy-coated chocolate.  Rather, his guests are invited to come and dine with him.  His food is satisfying and cost of admission is free.

But here is the rub.  In order to arrive at his home, the Christian must pass by all the other doors.  He must say “no” to constant offers of SweetTarts, Smarties, and Milk Duds.  Even when hunger sets in, he must keep plodding towards the mansion on the hill, whose invitation to dine with the king is sweeter than the houses in the valley of death.

So how will the Christian make it?  Like Moses and Abraham, he must keep before him the promises of God and the reward at the end.  Christian faith is not meant to be a stoic battle of the will, that says “I will do right, even when I don’t feel like it.”  No.  The Christian faith is much more like a long journey that says I will say “no” to the hospitality of this world, because I have the promise of an outstanding feast with the king ahead (See Isaiah 25:5-9).

To the world, this kind of reasoning sounds unappetizing.  They will say, “Just Trick or Treat!”  But to the Christian who takes God at his word, he becomes like the child who forsakes the city block to travel into the country to find the home he has never seen, but who has promised a Christmas dinner that is more than he could ask or imagine.

This fall, as you see children dressed in costume and pursuing an abundance of sugary treats, whether you partake or not, remember that such is the feasting of the world.  It comes through personal effort; it lasts for only a night; and its fruits fade away within days.  Contrast this with the city of God and the house of our Lord, whose gifts are never so small, never so fleeting, and never so empty… they only take time for them to come to us!

May we like Moses reject the fleeting treats of this world, because we remember that filling our bags with them is the devil’s trick.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Mystery of Marriage: A Parable of Christ and the Church

Marriage is a mystery!  Empirically speaking, this is proven every time blissful lovers get married and discover the unforeseen realities of married life.  A young wife may think, “Why didn’t I see that his charming idiosyncracy in courtship is actually a really annoying habit in marriage?”  In every generation and with every marriage, the mystery proliferates, because woven into the fabric of humanity is God-given peculiarity associated with sexual differentiation.  This was implicit in creation, and has been exaggerated by the Fall.  All the same, it is part of God’s plan.  Solomon captures this creational profundity, when he writes, “Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin” (Prov. 30:18-19).  From elementary school playgrounds, to high school dances, to twenty-five year anniversaries, the relationship between boys and girls that matures into the coupling of husband and wife is a profound mystery. 

Biblically speaking, marriage is also mystery; but in the Bible, the term “mystery” does not connote obscurity or uncertainty.  Instead, it is used to depict a reality hidden now revealed.  In Ephesians, Paul calls the ingathering of the Gentiles a mystery, describing the way in which nations outside the covenantal people Israel, were made “fellow citizens with the saints and the household of God” (2:19).  He also describes marriage as a mystery (Eph. 5:32).  In both instances, what was once only seen in types and shadows, has now been explained and made clear (cf. John 16:29-30).  The Old Testament promised salvation to gentiles but until Christ’s incarnation, the full plan of salvation for the nations had gone unnoticed.  Just the same, the pattern of men and women leaving and cleaving, coupling one with another in marriages has been patterned since Adam and Eve (cf. Gen. 2:24); yet, only in the fullness of time did the significance of this holy institution become known.  Pertaiing to marriage, it is important for us to understand that God’s telic purposes did not come after the first marriage, but rather they preceded the first marriage. 

J.V. Fesko has called this kind of understanding proleptic understanding of history, “protology,” meaning that in the beginning, God imbued significance to people, events, and institutions that in the fullness of time would find ultimate meaning in Christ and the effects of his redemptive work.  Looking backwards from the fully disclosed canon of Scripture, this could be called typology, but since it is prophetic and future-oriented, it seems better to call it protology (see Fesko’s Last Thing First).  In the case of marriage, when God brought Eve to Adam, he was taking strides to accomplish his eschatological goal of Christ and the church.  As Isaiah writes about our covenant Lord, “God declares the end from the beginning” (Is. 46:9), and in the case of marriage this is absolutely true.

Consider the words of New Testament scholar, George Knight III, as he described the eternal purposes of God in marriage:

Unbeknownst to the people of Moses’ day (it was a ‘mystery’), marriage was designed by God from the beginning to be a picture or parable of the relationship between Christ and the church.  Back when God was planning what marriage would be like, He planned it for this great purpose: it would give a beautiful earthly picture of the relationship that would someday come about between Christ and His church.  This was not known to people for many generations, and that is why Paul can call it a ‘mystery.’  But now in the New Testament age Paul reveals this mystery, and it is amazing.

This means that when Paul wanted to tell the Ephesians about marriage, he did not just hunt around for a helpful analogy and suddenly think that “Christ and the church” might be a good teaching illustration.  No, it was much more fundamental than that: Paul saw that when God designed the original marriage He already had Christ and the church in mind.  This is one of God’s great purposes in marriage: to picture the relationship between Christ and His redeemed people forever!  (George Knight III, “Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991], 175-76)

Marriages that embrace and embody this truth, of seeing themselves as miniature portrait studios of Christ and the church are blessed with knowing the reality for which they were united in covenant love.  Those who do not know this mystery are tragically living in the dark.  Still the saddest group of all may be those who know Christ and his salvation, but do not know how his relationship with the church should shape and inform their marriage.  By choice or ignorance, they embody an egalitarian marriage, and chaff against the gospel.  Scripture’s wise design for marriage as a parabolic representation of Christ and the church, that includes male headship and female submission is not a product of the curse, but a divinely-revealed mystery that God promises to bless.

May we who love God’s wise design in marriage and the gospel that it “mysteriously” reveals, pray for a vision to see God’s design for marriage incarnated in our own marriages and in those around us, so that the world may see a mosaic of marriages within the chruch that illustrate the mystery of Christ and the church.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss