The Doctor: Have You Been Made Nigh?

“I want to ask you a question. Have you been made nigh? I can tell you, very simply, how to know whether you have or not. If you are still talking about being good enough, you have not been made nigh. If you are still relying on yourself in any shape or form, you are still afar off. If you are still talking of not being good enough, you also have not been made nigh. Because as long as you keep on talking of not being good enough, what you really are saying is that you think you can make yourself good enough. But you never can. You will never be nearer than you are now. Never! If you lived a thousand years you would be no nearer. You will never be good enough to come into the presence of God. So if you are still saying: Ah, that is wonderful, but I am not good enough, I am a sinner, that means you are not made nigh. The one who is made nigh is one who says: I know that I am a sinner, I know the sins of the past, I know that I still have a sinful nature within me; but though I know that, I know that I am in the presence of God, because I am in Christ. I have listened to the voice of the blood of Christ and it has spoken to me of forgiveness, of reconciliation, ofexpiation, of God being satisfied, of God being ‘just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus’. The blood is sprinkled on my conscience. Let hell try to denounce me, that God accepts me; I am relying only, utterly, entirely, upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified. ‘His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood avails for me.’ In His merits alone I know that I have access to God and that God receives me, that I have been ‘made nigh by the blood of Christ.’” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation, (Baker Book House, 1987) p. 11

KO (Galatians 2:11–16)

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” —Galatians 1:11

Paul has already delivered a powerful one-two punch defending his apostleship and the gospel, now he finishes with a vicious uppercut. First comes the left jab in 1:10–24 where Paul demonstrates that his gospel did not come from or through men but through Christ. Paul didn’t get his gospel from Jerusalem to distort it. Second, Paul follows with the right cross of 2:1–10 showing the unity of the apostolic gospel. Paul took his gospel to Jerusalem where they recognized it. Now, in 2:11–16 he finishes with a strong uppercut for the KO. Here, Paul demonstrates that his apostolic authority stands even over another apostle when their conduct is contrary to the gospel.

Paul isn’t throwing Peter under the bus out of envy to establish that he’s the better apostle. The point in this isn’t the supremacy of Paul over Peter, but the supremacy of the apostolic gospel even over those who are apostles.

That this is so is evident in that our text opens not by contrasting Paul with Peter, but Peter with Peter. The “but when Cephas” of v. 11 is first in contrast to the “and when… Cephas” of v. 9. The contrast is between Peter as an apostle of the gospel and Peter’s behavior as a sinner saved by grace. Luther comments, “The apostles were not superior to us in anything except in their apostolic office. We have the same gifts they had, namely, the same Christ, Baptism, Word, and forgiveness of sins. They needed all this no less than we do; they were sanctified and saved by all this just as we are.”

Paul has already placed himself under the same standard in 1:8. The gospel is supreme, I don’t care who you are. And by the gospel, Paul has centrally in mind justification by faith alone. It isn’t Peter that Paul knocks out here, but the damnable teaching of salvation by works of law rather than faith in Christ alone.

Better Than We Deserve

C.J. Mahaney and Dave Ramsey oft reply to the social grace, “How are you?” with “Better than I deserve.” I like that. I thought about copying it, but I think it would come off as insincere because I would probably say it hypocritically most of the time. Some may be down on others saying such statements saying they are down on themselves. My response is twofold: 1. Don’t we have plenty to be down about (i.e. sin)? 2. They are not seeking to be down on themselves are much are they are seeking to be up on Christ.

It was a few weeks ago on a Saturday night. Bethany was cooking supper and I was upstairs trying to balance the checking account. Thirteen cents off! Isn’t amazing how such a minuscule figure can cause such disproportional stress? Any other time I would think thirteen cents insignificant. If something is on sale for thirteen cents off, big deal.  If something cost thirteen cents, no problem. Lose three pennies and a dime, oh well.  But thirteen cents when balancing the books is a major stressor. Then Bethany’s phone rang. A grenade was about to go off in my soul sending my emotions in a thousand different directions.

Our adoption caseworker called saying that they had two brothers, ages two and five, and wanted to know if we would be interested in adopting them. She then proceeded to tell us their story, a story that would melt your heart, but that’s their story. As she told us about the boys we were instantly in love. During the conversation it clicked, I had misdated the interest we had earned that month. How much was it? Yep, thirteen cents. We took some time for the emotional side to calm down and the rational side to process. We called family, consulted our pastor, and prayed to our heavenly Father. Later that evening the sewer backed up in our downstairs half-bath; so while Bethany was calling family, I was called the plumber.

Monday morning we let our caseworker know we were in. The emotional rollercoaster continued for a couple of weeks. Finally, yesterday we found out that it is final, the boys are ours. We will go get them next week. Our heavenly Father has blessed us with two beautiful boys.

We don’t deserve these two boys, they are a blessing. The Christian faith is not about desert, it is about grace. Again, I don’t deserve these two boys. I don’t deserve stress over thirteen cents or a backed up sewer either. I deserve worse. I deserve hell. I deserve wrath. I deserve judgment.

The reason I thankfully don’t get what I deserve is because God gave me something infinitely more valuable than these two sons. He gave me His Son. The Son who took my just deserts so that I might be justified.

So when we say “we don’t deserve this,” it’s not simply because we are down on self, but because we are rejoicing in the bountiful mercy of God to us in Jesus Christ. It’s not because we are negative, or pessimistic, labels I have issues with, but because we are full of joy and overwhelmed by grace. There is greater joy contemplating my Lord’s merits than in deluding myself into thinking I have any of my own.

So pray for these two sinners raising two younger sinners. Pray that the grace of God would be mighty upon us, not because we deserve it, but for His glory.