The Exegetical Systematician: The Future Determined the Past

There are other considerations, also, which may be derived from these passages, especially Hebrews 9:9-14, 22-28. They are the considerations which arise from the fact that Christ’s own sacrifice is the great exemplar after which the Levitical sacrifices were patterned. We often think of the Levitical sacrifices as providing the pattern for the sacrifice of Christ. This direction of thought is not improper—the Levitical sacrifices do furnish us with the categories in terms of which we are to interpret the sacrifice of Christ, particularly the categories of expiation, propitiation, and reconciliation. But this line of thought is not the characteristic one in Hebrews 9. The thought is specifically that the Levitical sacrifices were patterned after the heavenly exemplar—they were ‘patterns of the things in the heavens” (Heb. 9:23). Hence the necessity for the blood offerings of the Levitical economy arose from the fact that the exemplar after which they were fashioned was a blood offering, the transcendent blood offering by which the heavenly things were purified. The necessity of blood-shedding in the Levitical ordinance is simply a necessity arising from the necessity of blood-shedding in the higher realm of the heavenly. —John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied

The Exegetical Systematician: Love Constrains the Atonement

It is necessary to underline this concept of sovereign love. Truly God is love. Love is not something adventitious; it is not something that God may choose to be or choose not to be. He is love, and that necessarily, inherently, and eternally. As God is spirit, as he is light, so he is love. Yet it belongs to the very essence of electing love to recognize that it is not inherently necessary to that love which God necessarily and eternally is that he should set such love as issues in redemption and adoption upon utterly undesirable and hell-deserving objects. It was of the free and sovereign good pleasure of his will, a good pleasure that emanated from the depths of his own goodness, that he chose a people to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The reason resides wholly in himself and proceeds from determinations that are peculiarly his as the “I am that I am.” The atonement does not win or constrain the love of God. The love of God constrains to the atonement as the means of accomplishing love’s determinate purpose. —John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied

If (Colossians 1:21–23)

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. —Colossians 1:21–23

This once/now contrast is only a reality if. Colossians 1:21 is true of all men. All men were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, but for many, there is no contrasting now, as evidenced by the failure of this if. This is not to say that a Christian can revert from their now of reconciliation to their once of alienation. It is to say there is evidence that they never made the transition. Who they once were, they’ve always been and still are.

This is not an if of grounds, but an if of evidence. When a doctor says, “If you have these symptoms, then you have the flu,” the symptoms are not the grounds or cause of the flu. Coughing doesn’t make you sick; being sick makes you cough. Symptoms are not he grounds of sickness; they are the evidence of sickness.

Continuing in the faith does not make you reconciled, any more than sneezing makes you sick. Continuing in the faith evidences reconciliation. If one is reconciled, they necessarily show forth this evidence. “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 4:13).”

The saints of old spoke of “the perseverance of the saints,” whereas we hear “once saved always saved,” or “eternal security.” Perseverance does not say less but more than these other terms. “Once saved always saved,” taken alone, is a neutered version of perseverance. “Eternal security,” is a good enough term, but often disguises an emasculated doctrinal definition. Perseverance says God’s saving grace not only secures your justification and glorification, but keeps you on the road of sanctification that runs from one to the other. Listen to how the Westminster Divines teased this out.

They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

The flip side of perseverance is preservation. We persevere in the faith because God preserves our faith. What God gave, He keeps. By God’s power, we are guarded through faith for salvation (1 Peter 1:5). We will remain faithful because God is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24). Our continuing is the result of His sustaining (1 Corinthians 1:8–9).

If you do not continue, your once is your now. “But I walked an aisle, I said a prayer, I have a Bible with a date in it, I was baptized, my parents and my pastor told me I was saved.” There are two serious problems here. First, you’re grounding assurance of your salvation in something you did in the past instead of what Jesus did in the past. Second, you’re not meant to find assurance about your future by looking for grounds in the past, but evidence in the present. Is there fruit that you have the root of salvation in Jesus’ work of reconciliation? Are you continuing in the faith right now, stable and steadfast, not shifting?

If not, don’t try to continue in a faith that you’ve never had. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved with so great a salvation that you will continue in the faith.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” —Jude 24–25

The Exegetical Systematician: So Close

“The fact is that the Lord Jesus came not only into the closest relation to sinful humanity that it was possible for him to come without becoming himself sinful, but he also came into the closest relation to sin that it was possible for him to come without thereby becoming himself sinful.” —John Murray, The Death of Christ

The Exegetical Systematician: Why?

So in the death of Christ we encounter an absolute abnormality. In all other cases men and women deserve to die. He did not deserve to die. Yet he died. What is the reason?

But there is something, perhaps more astounding. This arises from who he was. He was the eternal and only-begotten Son of God and for that reason equal with God the Father in respect of Godhood, of divine identity. He, the Word, eternally pre-existing, eternally with God, and eternally God, became flesh. He was the eternal life with the Father and in him was life. So death was not only the contradiction of what he was as human. It was the contradiction of all that he was as God. This is the astounding feature of Christ’s death. He died. But death in his case was the contradiction of all that he was as divine and human, as God-man. This, therefore, points up the absolute uniqueness, the unprecedented unparalleled character of his death. And it points up the urgency of the question: why? —John Murray, The Death of Christ

The Apologist: The Battleground

The real battle for men is in the world of ideas, rather than in that which is outward. All heresy, for example, begins in the world of ideas. That is why, when new workers come to L’Abri, we always stress to them that we are interested in ideas rather than personalities or organizations. Ideas are to be discussed, not personalities or organizations. Ideas are the stock of the thought world, and from the ideas burst forth all the external things: painting, music, buildings, the love and the hating of men in practice, and equally the results of loving God or rebellion against God, in the external world. Where a man will spend eternity depends on his reading or hearing the ideas, the propositional truth, the facts of the gospel in the external world, and these being carried thought he medium of his body into the inner old of his thought, and there, inside himself, in his thought-world, either his believing God on the basis of the content of the gospel or his calling God a liar. …

It is for this reason that the preaching of the gospel can never be primarily a matter of organization. The preaching of the gospel is ideas, flaming ideas brought to men, as God has revealed them to us in Scripture. It is not a contentless experience internally received, but it is contentful ideas internally acted upon that makes the difference. So when we state our doctrines, they must be ideas, and not just phrases. We cannot use doctrines as though they were pieces to a puzzle. True doctrine is an idea revealed by God in the Bible and an idea that fits properly into the external world as it is, and as God made it, and to man as he is, as God made him, and can be fed back through man’s body into his thought-world and there acted upon. The battle for people is centrally in the world of thought.

The third conclusion is that the Christian life, true spirituality, always begins inside, in our thought-world. All that has been said in our earlier study of being free in this present life from the bonds of sin, and also of being free in the present life from the results of the bonds of sin, is meaningless jargon, no more than a psychological pill, if is divorced from the reality that God thinks and we think, and that at each step the internal is central and first. The spiritual battle, the loss or the victory, is always in the though-world. —Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality

The True Bride Doesn’t Settle for the House (Exodus 33:1–11)

Does the “depart” of Exodus 33:1 sound like God’s driving man out of the garden in Genesis 3? It should. If it doesn’t, then you do not know what the chief blessedness of the garden was. If it doesn’t, then you probably think Israel was getting a great deal here and don’t understand what all the tears were about.

Despite their great sin, God mercifully still gives Moses to lead the people. An angel, I would argue not the same Angel promised in chapter 23, will go before them and derive out their enemies. Further, they still get to enjoy the promised land flowing with milk and honey. It would seem that all lost in the garden and hoped for in God’s redemption and restoration will still be theirs.

So what is being denied to them? God! It is as though man having been driven from the garden is now permitted to return, only God isn’t there. Would this be disastrous news to you? If you have not seen the glories of chapters 25–31, you won’t see the disaster of Exodus 33:3-5. I’m not saying that chapters 25–31 will magically read more excitingly than the ten wonders recorded in chapters 7–12, but if upon meditating on the truths seen in chapters 25–31, you do not see that the supreme blessing and greatest glory of God’s redemption of His people is His dwelling among them, then you won’t see this as disastrous.

The greatest glory of Exodus isn’t what the people were saved from, but Who they were saved to, just as the greatest joy of marriage isn’t the leaving behind of singleness, but he embracing of intimate companionship. So, does this “depart” sound as disastrous as God’s driving man from the garden? If you think that Adam lost only life, health, and ease, then you don’t have a clue how far man fell. To have the promised land or the garden without God is worse than having the earth with no Sun. It could only be cold, dark, untethered, and lifeless. John Piper asks,

The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?

Picture a husband and wife radiant with love who build a cottage with striking intricate craftsmanship and a stunning garden. It is as though the house is a manifestation of the beauty of their love for one another. But, in a moment of immeasurable folly the spouse commits adultery. She mourns repentantly confessing and pleading with her beloved. The husband doesn’t utterly abandon her. He leaves her the house and promises provision, but he will not be with her. Will she enjoy the house? No! It will only be a continual reminder of the beloved she has sinned against and can no longer know.

Would you be happy if you got the house minus the Bridegroom? If so, you have never known Him. He is not yours, and you are not His.