9/11: My “Where Were You?” Story

On September 11th, 2001, I was two weeks into the fall semester of my third year at Bible college in a small town in Canada. I skipped breakfast in the cafeteria that morning and attended daily morning chapel. I arrived a few minutes late and sat in one of pews in the back row. The worship songs had already started, so I did not have the chance to talk to any other students. After a few worship songs, there was a time of prayer and the person leading prayers mentioned the situation in the United States. I did not know about what was going on in the United States and, being a student from the United States, I immediately leaned forward and asked another student. This student briefly told me that there had been a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. 

I am a west coast guy, so I knew little about the World Trade Center or the landscape of New York City. I thought maybe there was a bomb explosion in a building and thought little of it at first, but at the end of chapel there was an announcement that there were televisions set up in the cafeteria showing the news coverage. This caused me to think that the situation was more serious than I had originally thought, so I left chapel immediately and rushed to the cafeteria.  

Upon arriving at the cafeteria, I saw the news footage of the planes crashing into the twin towers and the news footage of the south tower collapsing. The footage shocked me. I could not believe that this was happening in my home country. Several U.S. students were glued to the televisions. We watched the live footage of the north tower smoldering, wondering if it would soon collapse like the south tower. The Canadian students consoled us as we all tried to make sense of such a large-scale terrorist attack through the use of commercial airplanes. Then we watched live as the north tower collapsed. I dropped to one knee in shock. This was the most devastating and distressing thing I had ever witnessed. 

I watched the news coverage in the cafeteria through the lunch hour and when other students, knowing that I was a U.S. student, asked me what I thought about the attack, I had little to say because I was in shock and disbelief. Also, the thought of processing the attacks while being away from the U.S. for the school year was becoming a reality. While my country was panicking and grieving, I was stuck at a Bible college in Canada. After the lunch hour, I had watched enough of the news coverage and met with one of my professors for prayer and to get help with processing my emotions. This was helpful and enabled me to continue through the rest of the day.

Because I was in an academic theological setting, the days that followed 9/11 were filled with thoughts and conversations about God’s relationship and involvement in world events, the philosophical problem of evil, the worldviews and practices of religious extremist groups and the justification of U.S. retaliation and war in Afganistan. I was young in my theological understanding, and so I was catapulted into these topics for the first time. I just started to scratch the surface on these complicated topics. I followed the aftermath news on the internet and read about all the efforts that were going on at Ground Zero. One story that has stuck with me throughout the years is about a New York City priest/chaplain and his ministry at Ground Zero the days following 9/11.

A New York City priest became involved in the rescue efforts at Ground Zero following the attacks on 9/11. Alongside many rescue workers, he spent hours upon hours, day after day at Ground Zero. He spent most of his time ministering to people and praying with them. Everyone from distraught family members of missing people to exhausted rescue workers to traumatized New York citizens. He led daily candlelight prayer vigils and, like many others working at Ground Zero, he went weeks with very little sleep. In an interview, he talked about the overwhelming trauma and the overwhelming need for spiritual care at Ground Zero. He explained that the need became so great that he just had to start briefly laying his hands on people and quickly blessing them with a simple verbal “blessings.” That is all he could do amid the overwhelming pain and suffering, amid overwhelming darkness and amid his overwhelming exhaustion. He had to trust that God would use his simple verbal “blessings” to comfort and minister to people.  He had to trust that his simple presence as a follower of Jesus was light in a dark place, life in the midst of death and love in the aftermath of hate.  

This story stuck with me because I was training to become a pastor, and I viewed the priest as an inspiration for my life as a minister. His experience is an outstanding example of how even small ministry acts can work in a profound way. In life, we will be confronted with overwhelming situations where the only things we can do is to be present and to say a few words that comfort the souls of others. Throughout the last twenty years, I have remembered and reflected on 9/11 and on the lives that were lost and the lives that were affected, and I have tried to follow the example of the priest in my daily life by saying “blessings” to others in moments when few words can be said.    

A Friday Reflection: Biblical Hebrew Syntax

 וְהֶאֱמִן בַּֽיהוָה וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לּוֹ צְדָקָֽה׃

And he was believing in the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

In this Hebrew verse, the first word וְהֶאֱמִן starts with a וְ (waw conjunction) meaning “and.” The rest of the word הֶאֱמִן is a hiphil perfect verb from the basic root אמן meaning “firmness” or “certainty.”[1] In the hiphil stem it means “stand firm,” “trust” or “believe.”[2] Typically, the hiphil stem describes causative action or the causing of an event by an agent.[3] The hiphil stem is in the active voice, and the key words “caused” or “made” are often inserted. For example, “they caused to kill” or “they made someone king.”[4] However, the hiphil stem may also express a simple action which would preserve the qal stem meaning and negate the causative meaning mentioned above.[5] This is most likely the case with הֶאֱמִן in this sentence,[6] but verbal aspect must also be considered to understand the reason for the hiphil stem and to determine the meaning of הֶאֱמִן.

For this discussion, it is important to focus on two forms of verbal aspect in Biblical Hebrew: qatal and wayyiqtol. The qatal aspect is associated with the perfect designation to express a state or a condition that requires duration or repetiton or to view a situation or action as a complete whole that is temporally undefined.[7] The wayyiqtol aspect involves an imperfect verb plus waw consecutive. In general, an imperfect verb denotes an incomplete action or describes an event without the end in view,[8] but when an imperfect verb is prefixed with waw consecutive, it will be translated with a similar aspect as a perfect verb.[9]

Next, it is important to point out that these two forms are often together in narrative. According to H.H. Hardy,

wayyiqtol verbs depict the mainline events of a narrative. The story is moved along from one event to another using successive wayyiqtol verbs. When additional setting material, contrasting statements, summaries, epexegetical remarks, background information, or any out-of-sequence occurrence is provided, the sequence is interrupted by a switch in verbal form. If this information is also perfective, then the verbal form is qatal.[10]

This is the sequence of the general context leading up to הֶאֱמִן in Genesis 15:6. In the first few sentences of the narrative of Chapter 15, Abram and God are having conversation

(v.2) Abram said (wayyiqtol verb)

(v.3) Abram said (wayyiqtol verb)

(v.4) God took Abraham outside and said (wayyiqtol verbs)

(v.5) God said (wayyiqtol verb)

(v.6) (Abram) he was believing הֶאֱמִן (qatal verb)

This shows the verbal form switch of Genesis 15:6, but this switch goes undetected in most english versions of the Bible that translate  הֶאֱמִן in 15:6 as “he believed.” This is certainly within the translation possibilities of the hiphil perfect (qatal) form. As mentioned above, the hiphil stem can express a simple action like the qal stem, but the interruption of verbal sequencing points to the writer trying to emphasize something in the narrative. The writer switches to the qatal aspect to emphasize Abram’s belief in the Lord as a complete whole that is temporally undefined. Abram did not start to believe in the Lord at this point in the narrative, rather Abram started believing in the Lord in Genesis 12.  For Abram, believing in the Lord was not a one time thing in 15:6, nor was it finalized at this point, but it was a repetitious process of believing. Thus, an appropriate translation of הֶאֱמִן is “he was believing.” The writer uses וְהֶאֱמִן “and he was believing” to emphasize that Abram’s faith was a journey. His journey of faith wasn’t perfect, but Abram was believing in the Lord, and it was because of this believing that the Lord “counted it to him as righteousness.”

Just like Abram’s faith, the Christian faith is not a one time thing, but a journey of believing. It is a life of trusting in the promises of God. We are living and growing in belief, and we are called friends of God.

Footnotes:

Continue reading “A Friday Reflection: Biblical Hebrew Syntax”

A Friday Reflection: God’s Greatness and Goodness in Glorification

Glory, in the theological usage, refers to the greatness of God’s entire nature, to his brightness, splendor, magnificence, and fame, to his visible and dwelling presence among people. “The Lord Almighty, he is the King of glory” (Psalms 24.10), and “his glory covered the heavens” (Habakkuk 3.3) and “filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40.34). 

When God creates humans, he shares his glory by crowning them with glory and honor (Hebrews 2.7b). This reveals the goodness of God. He creates humans in his image and likeness, and thus humans experience the grandeur of his being and reflect his glory back to him. This is how humans glorify God. They are to be holy as he is holy; they are to be good as he is good; they are to love as he loves. They are to live as signposts pointing to God and spotlighting his greatness and goodness. 

After the fall of Adam and Eve and the entrance of sin in the world, the human privilege of reflecting God’s glory was forfeited, and the glory diminished in humans. “God made people upright, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path” (Ecclesiastes 7.29). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23). “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3.19). Sinful humans are separated from God. They are seeking their own glory. They want others to glorify them. This is pursuing false glory because true glory belongs to God alone, and he does not share his glory with rebellious humanity or idol gods. 

The human condition did not deter God’s greatness and goodness towards humanity because he continued to reveal his glory throughout history and ultimately through Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1.3 states that “he [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” John 1.14, referring to Jesus, states, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” God-the Father sent God-the son (Jesus) as a visible dwelling presence among people. Jesus is the glorious divine light that shines in the darkness, and he came to sacrifice his life for the sins of the world. At Jesus’ crucifixion, his status as “the Lord of Glory” was veiled (1 Corinthians 2.8), and they esteemed him stricken of God (Isaiah 53.4). To say that any good could come through crucifixion was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1.23). 

But in the greater scheme of things, the glory of God was revealed in Jesus’ death, and he was raised from the dead in glory. In Acts 3.13-15, the apostle Peter preaches that although Jesus, the Holy and Righteous One, was disowned and killed, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has glorified his servant and raised him from the dead. When Jesus was raised from the dead, he conquered the physical and spiritual death that began at the sinful fall of Adam and Eve. The glory that was universally defaced and perverted at this sinful fall is restored and consummated in Christ. He is the firstfruits of the glorious resurrection life. Jesus’ glory and resurrection life is not only for himself but  is shared with others.

Because of his greatness and goodness, God calls people to Jesus Christ so that “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6.4). Those who are followers of Jesus partake of his glorious new life. They “with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3.18). But like Jesus before his resurrection, Jesus’ followers will experience suffering. They will share in Jesus’ sufferings in order that they may share in his glory (Romans 8.17b), but “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4.17). Thus, Jesus’ followers are to rejoice because they experience the sufferings of Jesus, which will result in great joy in the future when Jesus’ glory is revealed (1 Peter 4.12-13)

In this present age, followers of Jesus undergo the process of sanctification (of being made holy). Sanctification is closely related to glorification, in that glorification involves the completion of sanctification. While glorification has begun in this present age, final glorification occurs in ‘the life of the world to come’ at the glorious return of Jesus (Colossians 3.4). 1 John 3.2 states, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” This is “the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” and when he appears, his people will “receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (Titus 2.13; 1 Peter 5.1, 4). Future glorification depends on the greatness and goodness of God. God could have left humans in their sinful self-glorifying state, completely separated from him and his glory, but because of his love, mercy and grace, God made a way of redemption in order that humans could experience and share in his glory once again. Because of his power, almighty God carried out his plan of salvation through Jesus so that humans could receive glorification into the image and likeness of his glorious son. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! (1 Timothy 1.17)

Sunday Prayers

O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants, the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land. Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame. This is true of all of us, including the people of Judah and Jerusalem and all Israel, scattered near and far, wherever you have driven us because of our disloyalty to you. O Lord, we and our kings, princes, and ancestors are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. —Daniel’s Prayer (Daniel 9:4-9)

I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. —Apostle Paul’s Prayer (Ephesians 1:16b-21)

God, you are gracious and merciful to hear the prayers of all your saints. We stand in awe of your goodness and loving kindness towards us. We repent of our prayerlessness because of unbelief, prideful self-reliance and guilt because of disobedience and because of worshipping other things. Help us to always look to you and to ask you with faith, to lament and to rejoice with gratitude, to intercede and to pray the requests of others. Help us persevere and to be patient in waiting upon you to answer our prayers. We yield our lives to you as servants in your kingdom. May we always be praying “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen. (My Prayer)

Doctrinal Musing on Eschatology (Last Things)

I believe death is the cessation of the physical life, but it also has a spiritual meaning of separation from God which transitions into eternal spiritual death meaning eternally separated from God. Everyone experiences physical death because of the Fall of Adam and Eve and the entrance of sin into the world (Gen 2:17; Rom 5:12, 6:23; 1 Cor 15:21-22). Death is inescapable and irreversible (Ps 89:48; Heb 9:27; Job 16:22). Believers experience physical death, but they no longer experience spiritual death or eternal death. When believers die, their bodies return to dust, but their souls depart from the earthly life to be with God (Ecc 12:7; Luke 23:43; 2 Cor 5:8), “being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies.”[1] Upon death, the bodies of unbelievers also return to dust, but they continue to experience spiritual and eternal death. Their souls go to Hades where they await the final bodily resurrection and subsequent eternity in Hell (Matt 10 :28, 25:30; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:22-24; Heb 10:27).

I believe in the “personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels,”[2] wherein he will establish his eternal kingdom (Matt 16:27, 24:30-31; Acts 1:11). I believe in a classic premillennial return of Christ, and so at Christ’s return, believers who have died will receive resurrected bodies and will join the other believers on the earth, and all will reign with Christ on the earth for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-6). During the thousand-year reign of Christ, many unbelievers will turn to Christ for salvation. At the end of the thousand years, Satan will receive his final defeat and will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur” where he will be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev 20: 7-10). Then there will be a final bodily resurrection of unbelievers followed by a final judgement and assignment to the final state separated from God in Hell (Rev 20:11-16).

At this point, believers will be with God for eternity in his kingdom and in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev 21).[3] Jonathan Edwards comments on the final state of believers with God by writing,

There this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love![4]

Moreover, Edwards explains that the saints will be perfected in love, holiness and peace. The heavenly community will be in harmony with God and with one another. He writes,

Every saint in heaven is as a flower in that garden of God, and holy love is the fragrance and sweet odor that they all send forth, and with which they fill the bowers of that paradise above. Every soul there, is as a note in some concert of delightful music, that sweetly harmonizes with every other note, and all together blend in the most rapturous strains in praising God and the Lamb forever. And so all help each other, to their utmost, to express the love of the whole society to its glorious Father and Head, and to pour back love into the great fountain of love whence they are supplied and filled with love, and blessedness, and glory.[5]


Footnotes: Continue reading “Doctrinal Musing on Eschatology (Last Things)”

Doctrinal Musing on Ecclesiology (Church)

I believe the church is the people of God who are the one community called by God comprised of all faithful believers of all ages.[1] The church consists of people who are chosen (1 Pet 2:9), called (Rom 1:6), and loved (1 Pet 2:10) by the Father, and who are true believers in Jesus Christ and his redemptive work, and who are indwelt, sealed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.[2]

The universal church is invisible and consists of all people from all times and places who are united by their faith in Jesus Christ. The universal church is Jesus’ new humanity, “the first fruit of the new creation, the whole company of the redeemed through the ages.”[3] The universal church is the body of Christ (Rom 12:4-5; Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:24) of which Christ is the divine head (Col 1:18; Eph 1:22). The universal church is the flock of Christ (John 10:14-16; 1 Pet 5:2-4) and the bride of Christ (Eph 5:25-27; Rev 21:2). It is God’s temple (1 Cor 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:5) and his household or family (Gal 6:10; Eph 2:19).

The universal church is manifest in local and temporal form (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 1:2; Acts 9:31) as the visible church which “is both embassy and parable of the kingdom of heaven, an earthly place where his will is done and he is now present, existing visibly everywhere two or three gather in his name to proclaim and spread the gospel in word and works of love, and by obeying the Lord’s command to baptize disciples (Matt. 28:19) and celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:19).”[4]

Baptism is a washing with water, which symbolizes the cleansing of believers from the stain and dirt of sin through the grace of God (Acts 22:16). Baptism is associated with repenting of sin and believing in the gospel (Acts 2:38, 41, 18:8), and so it is a sign and declaration of one’s union with Christ and association with his death, burial and resurrection (Rom 6:3-4).

The Lord’s Supper is a sacramental sign and spiritual truth of the believer’s redemption by Christ’s death. I agree with John Calvin when he writes, “I hold then… that the sacred mystery of the Supper consists of two things—the corporeal signs, which, presented to the eye, represent invisible things in a manner adapted to our weak capacity, and the spiritual truth, which is at once figured and exhibited by the signs.”[5] Thus, when believers partake of the Lord’s Supper, they do so in a heavenly and spiritual manner. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the King of heaven and his people of earth meet in celebration of Christ’s accomplished redemptive work and in anticipation of the heavenly banquet. I believe Christians meet with Christ in the Lord’s Supper and participate in and benefit from the spiritual meaning of his atoning sacrifice. We receive “forgiveness of our sins, the strengthening of our union with Christ and one another, and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet which is our nourishment in eternal life.”[6]

I believe in the unity and fellowship of the church. The church is one in essence and transcends all barriers because it is founded on one gospel, united to one Lord and indwelt by one Spirit. The Apostle Paul writes, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom 12:5) and “[i]n Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11). “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Php 2:1-2), and “[m]ake every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). The unity of the church is expressed in fellowship by meeting together (Acts 2:46), by greeting one another (1 Cor 16:19-20), by extending hospitality (Rom 12:13), by sharing resources (Acts 2:44-45), and by suffering together (2 Cor 1:7).

Although Jesus Christ alone is the head of the church (Col 1:18) and the Holy Spirit directs the church (Acts 13:2), God calls and equips individuals to lead and to oversee the church (Eph 4:11; 1 Tim 3:1, 8). I believe in a congregational church government model with plural local elders which includes the lead pastor as one of the elders (Acts 15:22, 20:17, 28).  I believe the church exists to worship (Eph 5:16-19; Col 3:16) and glorify God (Rom 15:6; 2 Thess 1:12; Eph 3:21), to edify believers (1 Cor 14:26; Eph 4:12-13; Col 1:28), to show mercy by caring for the poor and needy (Acts 11:29; 2 Cor 8:4; 1 John 3:17) and to evangelize lost people of all nations (Matt 28:19; Acts 1:8). “The Church is at the very centre of God’s cosmic purpose and is his appointed means of spreading the gospel. But a church which preaches the cross must itself be marked by the cross”[7] which demonstrates Jesus’ sacrificial love and service towards others. 


Footnotes: Continue reading “Doctrinal Musing on Ecclesiology (Church)”

Doctrinal Musing on the Holy Spirit

I believe in God-the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor 3:17-18; Heb 9:14), the third person of the Holy Trinity (Matt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Peter 1:1-2). The Holy Spirit has both unity and distinction within the Godhead and “is of one substance, majesty and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God,”1 “and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified”2 (Gen 1:2; Rom 1:4; Rom 8:2; 1 Cor 2:10-11; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 Pet 4:14).  The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son (John 15:26; John 16:7) as “the unseen yet active personal presence of God in the world”3 (Psa 139:7; John 3:8) in order to bear witness to Jesus4 (John 15:26; 1 John 4:2-3), continue Jesus’ redemptive ministry (John 14:12-17; Acts 1:8), and unite believers to Jesus5 (Titus 3:5). 

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin and its consequences (John 16:8-11; 1 Cor 14:24-25) and “by his powerful and mysterious work regenerates spiritually dead sinners, awakening them to repentance and faith”6 (Ezek 36:26-27; John 3:5-8; 6:63; Eph 2:1-5). The Holy Spirit indwells believers (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Tim 1:14) and seals them, marking them out as belonging to God (2 Cor 1:21-22; Eph 1:13-14). He “guides, instructs, equips, revives, and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service”7 (Rom 8:14; 1 John 2:27; 1 Cor 12:3-7; 2 Cor 4:16; 2 Cor 3:18). He sanctifies believers enabling them to live holy lives dedicated to the service of God (Matt 3:11; Rom 8:13; Rom 15:16; 2 Thes 2:13).

The Holy Spirit wisely and sovereignly distributes gifts to the church for the edification and benefit of the body of Christ and for the witness in the world  (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Eph 4:11; 1 Pet 4:11). The Holy Spirit unifies the body of Christ (Acts 2:44-47; Eph 2:18-22; Eph 4:3). The Holy Spirit inspires prophecy, gives knowledge and inspired the writers of Scripture (Num 24:2-3; 2 Pet 1:21; 1 Cor 12:8; 2 Tim 3:16). The Holy Spirit assures believers of their final victory in Christ and assures their inheritance in the age to come in the eternal kingdom of God (2 Cor 5:5; Eph 1:13-14).  


Footnotes: Continue reading “Doctrinal Musing on the Holy Spirit”

Doctrinal Musing on Soteriology (Salvation)

I believe in the necessity of salvation due to the universal rule of sin in human nature (Isa 64:6; Rom 3:19-23) which separates humanity from God (Isa 59:1-2; Eph 4:18), causes spiritual death (Rom 5:15-16; Col 2:13) and enslaves humanity to evil (Hos 5:4; Rom 7:14-20; 2 Pet 2:13-19). 

“From all eternity God determined in [love and] grace to save a great multitude of guilty sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation, and to this end foreknew them and chose them”[1] (Eph 2:4-5; Rom 3:22-24). God accomplished his salvific plan through the life and work of Jesus (John 3:16; 1 Tim 1:15; 1 John 4:9,14). 

God made “provision for human wrongdoing, corruption, and guilt, provisionally and typologically through Israel’s Temple and sin offerings, then definitively and gloriously in the gift of Jesus’ once-for-all sufficient and perfect sacrificial death on the cross (Rom. 6:10; 1 Pet. 3:18) in the temple of his human flesh (Heb. 10:11-12).”[2] Thus, the death of Jesus was an atoning sacrifice for the sins of humanity (John 10:11; 1 Cor 15:3; Gal 1:4; 1 Pet 3:18; 1 John 3:16). Jesus bore the punishment for the sins of humanity satisfying God’s justice and removing humanity’s guilt and oppression and reconciling humanity to God (Isa. 53:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:21; Col. 2:14-15).

God calls people out of a state of sin and death to grace and salvation by Christ[3] (1 Cor 1:9; Eph 1:8; 2 Pet 1:10). This call leads to conversion which involves turning to God with repentance and with faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross (Luke 24:46-47; John 1:12; Acts 10:43, 20:21). Closely related to conversion is regeneration which involves the Holy Spirit renewing a person’s inner being, creating new life and transformation (John 3:5-8; 2 Cor 5:17; Php 1:6; 1 John 5:1).

Through faith in Jesus, believers are declared righteous before God (Rom 1:17, 3:28, 5:1). The righteousness of Jesus is imputed to believers (Php 3:9). On account of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the demands of the law of God are fulfilled (Rom 8:3-4) and believers are shielded from God’s wrath (Rom 5:9). Believers are adopted into God’s family (Gal 4:4-5; Eph 1:5) where they have access to the Father (Eph 2:18), to the inheritance of Christ (Rom 8:17; 1 Pet 1:4), to the provisions and protection from the Father (Matt 6:31-33), and to the loving discipline from the Father (Heb 12:6). 

God continues the work of salvation through the process of sanctification. This process of sanctification is the divine act of making Christians holy (Rom 12:1-3). It brings people’s moral condition into conformity with God’s holiness (Matt 5:48; 1 Pet 1:15-16) and with the legal status started in justification (1 Cor 6:11). Sanctification is accomplished by the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11; Rom 8:13; Rom 15:16; 2 Thes 2:13), but Christians also must strive to work and grow in sanctification (Rom 8:13; Php 2:12-13).

Genuine believers “can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved”[4] (John 10:28-29; 1 Pet 1:5,9). All true believers will be glorified. Glorification is the final step in the salvation process. It involves the completion of sanctification, the removal of spiritual defects and the ultimate transformation of the body into a new glorified eternal body (1 Cor 15:38-52; Php 3:20-21; Jude 24; Rev 21:1-2).


Footnotes: Continue reading “Doctrinal Musing on Soteriology (Salvation)”

Doctrinal Musing on Christology

I believe in God-the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity (Matt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14) and the co-equal and co-eternal Son of God-the Father (John 1:2, 10:30, 14:9; Col 1:17). The Son is the “very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father.”[1] The Son is “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made.”[2]

The Son became incarnate as the man Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:14; Rom 8:3; Col 1:15). When the Son became human, having been conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:18; Luke 1:35; Gal 4:4), he did not cease to be God (Col 2:9; Heb 1:3; 1 John 5:20). Rather, Jesus, the Christ, was the God-man, “fully God and fully human, one person in two natures”[3] (John 1:14; Gal 4:4; 1 Tim 3:16). In other words, “two whole and perfect Natures…the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man.”[4]

Jesus, in all respects, lived a common human life with all the essential human characteristics and frailties, yet he lived without sin[5] (Luke 2:40, 52; Heb 2:14-17, 4:15; 1 John 1:1). Also, Jesus was holy (Mark 1:24; Luke 1:35; John 6:69) and righteous (Luke 23:47; Acts 22:14; Heb 1:8-9) and perfectly obedient to the Father (Matt 26:39; John 4:34; Rom 5:18-19; Heb 10:9). Through the incarnation, Jesus revealed deity and “in his words, deeds, attitude and suffering embodied the free and loving communication of God’s own light (truth) and life (salvation).”[6] Jesus fulfilled the roles of prophet (Matt 12:41; John 3:34; Luke 24:19; Acts 3:20-23), priest (Heb 2:17-18, 5:5-6, 10:19-22), and king (Matt 21:1-9; Luke 1:33; John 18:36-37; Rev 1:5, 11:15), and he is the only mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim 2:5).

Jesus accomplished human redemption (Rom 3:24-25; Eph 1:7; Heb 9:12) and reconciliation with God (Rom 5:6; 2 Cor 5:18-19; Col 1:20) through his death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate (Matt 27:11-56; Mark 15:1-41; Luke 23:1-49) and through his bodily resurrection from the dead on the third day (Matt 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; Acts 1:3; 4:33; 1 Cor 15:4) and through his ascension into heaven being exalted and glorified at the the right hand of the Father (Luke 24:51; Acts 2:33; Eph 1:20; 1 Pet 3:22).

The exalted Jesus continues to work as savior (Acts 5:31; Heb 7:25), high priest and advocate (Rom 8:34; Heb 4:14; 1 Jn 2:1). Jesus will physically return to the earth with glory (Matt 24:30; Acts 1:11; 2 Thes 1:7; Php 3:20; Rev 1:7), and he will establish the fulness of the eternal Kingdom of God (Luke 22:18; 1 Cor 15:24; 2 Tim 4:1; Rev 11:15).


Footnotes: Continue reading “Doctrinal Musing on Christology”

Sunday Prayers

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things to your beloved Son, whom you anointed priest forever and king of all creation: Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united under the glorious and gentle rule of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (1978 Lutheran Book of Worship, pg. 30)

Keep your Church alert, Holy Spirit, ready to hear when you are calling, and when you challenge us. Keep us hopeful, Holy Spirit, knowing that Christ will come again. Rouse our spirits, Lord Jesus, that whenever you come to the door and knock you may find us awake, ready to admit and serve you. Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people that, richly bearing the fruit of good works, they may by you be richly rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (1989 A New Zealand Prayer Book, pg. 659)

Jesus is Lord, Christ is King! His kingdom come, his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus, we look to you as the king of the already not-yet in full kingdom of God. We confess that often we fail at living out your kingdom ethics and that often we are complacent in furthering your kingdom mission. Help us yield our lives to your rule and reign while loving you with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength. Fill our lives with your love that we may love others while being envoys of light and life. Amen. (My prayer)