Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: Steven M. Baugh and Richard A. Riesen
The Editor …………………………………………………………….…………… 2
1. A SERMON ON I CORINTHIANS 15:14
Geerhardus Vos ……………………………………………………….…………… 3
2. THE RAISING OF LEVI
Cornelius Tolsma …………………………………………………….…………… 14
3. PAUL ON THE DAMASCUS ROAD
James T. Dennison, Jr. ……………………………………………….…………… 21
4. JESUS, THE MULTITUDES AND US
Charles G. Dennison ………………………………………………….…...……… 29
5. FROM THE LIBRARIAN'S SHELF
James T. Dennison, Jr ……………………………………………….……………. 41
KERUX is a publication of Kerux, Inc. and appears three times each year. Editorial offices are located at 1131 Whispering Highlands Dr., Escondido, CA 92027. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $15.00 (U.S. and Canada); $20.00 (elsewhere). Costs per issue are: $5.00 (U.S. and Canada); $7.50 (elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U.S. funds.
ISSN 0888-8513 Vol. 2, No. 2
One of the goals for KERUX this year was to begin including reviews of useful biblical-theological tools. The present issue represents the inaugural fulfillment of that goal. The reader will find our first book review at the back of this issue. We hope to continue presenting reviews of basic biblical-theological tools in future issues. Even as the mechanic has his tool box, so the biblical-theologian needs some basic tools for his task.
This issue was to have featured a review of the preaching conference which was scheduled for Grand Rapids, Michigan in June. Unfortunately, the conference was cancelled due to poor pre-registration. In our December number, we plan to present a review of the book that was to have been used, in part, for discussion at the conference.
Several of the sermons in this issue have reference to the resurrection of our Lord. May they serve in declaring the reality of resurrection to you—the reality of being translated from death to life!
A Sermon on I Corinthians 15:14
Among the evils which threatened the life of the church at Corinth (and to correct which was Paul's chief end in writing this epistle) were certain doubts and errors on the subject of the resurrection. Evidently Paul attributed to these very great importance. You can infer this from the fact that in dealing with the various abnormal conditions in the church, he reserves the treatment of this particular evil for the close of the epistle. He wanted the impression of what he had to say on this point to be the final and most lasting impression left upon the minds of the Corinthians. All the other problems concerning such matters as divisions and partisanship, the relapse into pagan modes of living, marriages between believers and unbelievers— important though they were in themselves—belonged after all to the
periphery, the outcome, not the root and center of Christianity.
But with the resurrection, it was a totally different matter. Here the heart, the core, the very foundation and substance of the Christian faith were at stake. Paul felt that if on this vital point a serious departure from the truth were allowed to develop itself unhindered, then sooner or later, by the inexorable law of organic disease, the whole body was doomed to destruction. Thus, and thus only, can we explain the intensely earnest, careful, thorough-going manner in which the apostle conducts the battle for this part of the Christian position. Paul was so profoundly impressed with the vital character of this truth that no other method of vindicating it could satisfy him than one by which it was placed in the center of the Christian religion and all the light that streamed from its highest experiences and convictions focused upon it.
We may say Paul here exhibits the resurrection as that towards which everything in Christianity tends; the goal in which all thinking and striving and hoping of believers finds its perfect rest and triumphant solution. It seems to me we can set for ourselves no more appropriate or profitable task this Easter day than at the hand of the apostle to trace the inner nexus of our Christian faith with the resurrection of Christ. If the observance by the church of special seasons associated with the great epoches in the work of redemption is to be justified at all, it can be justified on no higher ground than that such seasons as Christmas and Easter and Pentecost invite us to rise for a moment from the poor fragmentariness of our average consciousness of salvation to that clearer and more blessed vision whereby as from a mountain top we span the entire origin of our faith. Everything belongs to us of right, brethren, because we are Christ's and Christ is God's; but we are consciously rich in so far only as we learn to place ourselves at least sometimes on those points of elevation from which we may survey the land of God's promises as a whole. Perhaps we do not sufficiently appreciate the extent to which the remembrance at stated seasons of these great facts of the incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection, the gift
of the Spirit, has kept alive in the church the spirit of true evangelical piety. I am sure we shall not have meditated upon the words in vain if our meditation leads us to realize in some measure how entirely our holy religion stands or falls with the resurrection of Christ.
Resurrection and Justification
There are three trains of thought that I would like briefly to pursue with you. Let us ask in succession: what does the resurrection of Christ mean for our justification; what does it mean for our regeneration; what does it mean for our glorification? First of all then we observe that the resurrection stands for Paul in the center of the gospel as a gospel of justification—of deliverance from the guilt of sin. To Paul the one religious question which overshadows in importance all others is the question: "How shall a sinful man become righteous in the sight of God?" Now if the resurrection of Christ had nothing to contribute towards the solution of this one stupendous problem, then (whatever significance in other connections might belong to it) it could scarcely be said to be of the heart of the gospel. It would have to recede into the shadow of the cross. As a matter of fact, this frequently takes place in our minds when we think of the forgiveness of sins. That justification depends on the cross is one of the commonplaces of our evangelical belief; so much so that we hardly deem it necessary to ask whether the resurrection perhaps may not have an equally important bearing on this great concern of our souls with the righteousness of God. Now it appears from these words of our text that to Paul the resurrection is an absolutely necessary step in the work of atonement and justification. "If Christ has not been raised," he says to the Corinthians, "your faith is vain." That is to say, your faith is ineffective and worthless. And in which respect, their faith would be ineffective and worthless on the supposition that Christ was not raised appears from the following words: "Ye are yet in your sins." It is justifying faith— faith in its connection with the forgiveness of sins—the efficacy of which is somehow bound up with the Savior's resurrection. "Ye
are yet in your sins" means "ye are yet under the condemnation of sin"; subject to the wrath of God; exposed to eternal destruction. This appears still more clearly from what the apostle straightway adds: "Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ have perished."
Nor is this the only place in the epistles of Paul where the justification of the believer and the resurrection of Christ are joined together. Elsewhere we read that our Christian faith, on which the imputation of righteousness depends, is in God as the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead (Rom. 10:9). Christ was delivered for our sins; he was raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25). Nobody can lay anything to the charge of God's elect; God justifies and none can condemn because it is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather that was raised from the dead (Rom. 8:33,34). To speak in one's heart despairingly, as if righteousness were still to be provided would be equivalent to saying: who shall ascend into heaven, viz., for the purpose of bringing Christ down to his life of suffering and humiliation; and who shall descend into the abyss, viz., for the purpose of bringing Christ up from the realm of death. The two things therefore on which righteousness depends are the descent of Christ from heaven to bear our sins and the resurrection. Hence, "if thou shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom. 10:9).
From all this, it is perfectly plain that we are not dealing here with an isolated form of representation, but with something which stood out in the apostle's teaching as a fundamental truth on which he dwelt repeatedly in the most various connections. We are therefore bound to put the question: "What is it that the resurrection contributes to our becoming righteous in the sight of God?" I think we can put the answer in the most simple form by saying, "The resurrection stands related to righteousness in the same way that death stands related to sin. If we once clearly understand what death meant to the apostle, then it will immediately become plain what the resurrection of Christ meant to him. Death is a word that looms
large in the Pauline epistles. By no one perhaps has the terribleness of death been so intensely realized as by the apostle. Death appears to him personified as a great enemy, a huge specter, casting its dreadful shadow over human existence, something that it is impossible to become reconciled to, more horrible than any other shape or form to be encountered in the spiritual world. Now to what does death owe this its unique terror in the mind of Paul? Is it simply the inevitable aesthetic recoil from its loathsomeness as a process of physical dissolution? Or shall we say that the apostle shrinks from death because of the strong, instinctive desire to live, as every living being shrinks from that which threatens to cut short its existence? Both of these feelings are to a greater or lesser degree present in the mind of every man. They were undoubtedly present in the mind of Paul and colored to some extent his intense consciousness on the subject. But they do not explain this consciousness exhaustively. In the apostle's attitude towards death, there is something more than this, something different from this; there is an element of moral revulsion. Paul abhors and hates death because it is the wages—the penalty of sin. Whatever else it might be, to him it appeared first of all as a minister of condemnation, the personified, incarnate sentence of God against sin. This is what death is when you strip it of all accidental features. Death is the exponent of sin. Its sentence and penalty is one with which the criminality of sin ineffaceably stamps the sinner. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, and the law is nothing else than God himself personally confronting the transgressor and rendering judgment: "The soul that sinneth it shall die."
Now if this be [the] significance of death in general, it follows that the death of Christ in particular must be interpreted on the same principle. Christ was made sin on our behalf. When he assumed our guilt, it became inevitable that not merely some general form of suffering entailed by sin should fall on him, but that also the one great typical punishment of sin should be visited on him—that he should die. Though his whole life in the flesh was sin-bearing from beginning to end, yet it was specifically in the cross and in the death
that took place upon the cross that the condemnatory power of the law was concentrated on Christ. There it was made manifest that he had become sin for us, the curse incarnate. But if this be so, then the significance of the resurrection for the atoning work of Christ immediately springs into view. If the Savior's death was the embodiment of the curse which rests upon the world, then so long as he remained under the power of death there could be no assurance that satisfaction had been rendered, the condemnation of the divine wrath removed. On the other hand, as soon as at any point the process of death is suspended and life permitted to emerge from death, this will be equivalent to a practical declaration on God's part that the curse has exhausted itself, the penalty been paid. Now Christ's bodily resurrection was the only way in which this could be impressively declared. As the curse laid upon him had assumed the visible form of separation between body and soul, it was necessary that in the same physical sphere, in the same palpable form, the divine absolution should be solemnly pronounced and placed on record. By raising Christ from death, God as the supreme Judge set his seal to the absolute perfection and completeness of his atoning work. The resurrection is a public announcement to the world that the penalty of death has been borne by Christ to its bitter end and that in consequence the dominion of guilt has been broken, the curse annihilated forevermore.
And all this was true of Christ not in his personal capacity so much but as our representative. We were concerned—you and I and all believers—in this momentous transaction. The principle of our justification was given here as an accomplished fact. It is just as impossible that any one for whom Christ rose from the dead should fail to receive the righteousness of God as it is that God should undo the resurrection of Christ itself. Consequently, knowing ourselves one with Christ, we find in the resurrection the strongest possible assurance of pardon and peace. Brethren, when Christ rose on Easter morning he left behind him in the depths of the grave every one of our sins; there they remain buried from the sight of God so completely that even in the day of judgment they will not be able to
rise up against us any more. And not only is this true of the resurrection as an accomplished fact, it is true in an even higher sense of the risen Lord himself. The very life of the exalted Christ is a witness to the blessed reality of the forgiveness of our sins. In the living Savior Paul would have us by faith grasp our justification. In the same real sense in which on earth he was identified with our sin, he is now in his resurrection-life identified with our state of pardon and acceptance. According to the profound words of the apostle, we are become the righteousness of God in him (II Cor. 5:20) because he has become the righteousness of God for us.
Resurrection and Regeneration
In the second place, the resurrection of Christ is of basal importance for the renewal of our life, for our regeneration and sanctification. We are all conscious that the creative, regenerating power which transforms our life, which expels sin and infuses holiness proceeds from the Spirit of Christ. And by this again Paul does not merely mean that in accordance with the Trinitarian constitution of the Godhead the Son sends the Spirit as his representative and agent to execute his task. The apostle clearly teaches that Christ as God-Man—as Mediator—in his exalted state has in a special, unique sense the disposal of the Spirit; inasmuch as the Spirit dwells in his own human nature and invests it with transcendent power and glory. Christ is Lord of the Spirit; nay in even stronger language we say with Paul, Christ is the Spirit (I Cor. 15:45; II Cor. 3:17). Now the point to be noticed for our present purpose is that this unique and close relationship between the Spirit and Christ dates from the moment of the resurrection. By the resurrection of the dead, he was effectually decreed to be the Son of God in power (Rom. 1:4). At the resurrection, he became the Second Adam who is a life-giving Spirit (I Cor. 15:45). In still another form the same thought is expressed when Paul represents the glory of Christ as the source from which supernatural power is brought to bear upon the believer (II Cor. 3:12). This glory of Christ again is none other than his
From various points of view therefore, we are taught by the apostle that the resurrection of Christ, besides being the divine acknowledgement of his perfect righteousness, is also the fountainhead of all the renewing and quickening influences that descend from him to us. To preach a risen Christ means to preach a gospel which claims to come with the demonstration of the Spirit and with power. It means to assume that this world is dead in trespasses and sins, that no word of persuasion, no force of example, no release from the body, in fact that nothing short of a new creation can give it life. Precisely here lies the point where the old apostolic gospel of Paul and the modern moralizing interpretations of Christianity part ways. Because the modern world has ceased to take sin seriously, it has lost its sense for the necessity of the supernatural in the work of salvation; and to such a state of mind the message of the resurrection of Christ no longer appeals. At present it is believed by many who call themselves Christians that all that is necessary to reach a state of perfection is the self-evolution of the natural man. Now so far as purely inward processes are concerned this modern naturalistic spirit finds it easy to clothe itself in the old Christian forms and to retain the old Christian ways of speaking. But it will immediately rise up in protest when confronted with an intrusion of the supernatural in the external, physical sphere, such as the resurrection of the body. Need we wonder then that where Christians have begun to give ear to this seductive spirit, the doctrine of the resurrection should gradually have come to be regarded as a source of weakness rather than of strength. The conviction seems to be gaining ground that all practical ends of religion will be equally well served and a possible cause of offense removed by exchanging this doctrine for a simple belief in the immortality of the soul with reference both to Christ and believers. We may learn from Paul, brethren, that scepticism on this concrete point is symptomatic of infection with the poison of naturalism in the very heart of the Christian faith. The most striking feature of Paul's treatment of the resurrection here and elsewhere is that, far from representing it as an
isolated fact, he makes it part of an organic work of renewal involving both the soul and the body of man. The resurrection is supernatural for no other reason than that from beginning to end—in regeneration and sanctification, and in everything—the work of grace is supernatural in the most absolute sense of the word. According to Paul the same exceeding greatness of divine power is displayed in the production of spiritual life in the sinner's soul as when God raised Christ from the dead and made him to sit at his right hand in heavenly places. The one is no more difficult to believe and no more essential to hold than the other. The great question for you and for me is not whether we shall believe or disbelieve the resurrection as a single historic event, but whether we shall maintain or surrender the character of Christianity as a resurrection-religion— a religion able to bring life out of death, both here and hereafter. Can the choice be difficult to any of us?
Resurrection and Glorification
In the third place, let us very briefly observe that the resurrection of Christ is fundamental for our glorification. Ours is a religion whose center of gravity lies beyond the grave in the world to come. The conviction that the gospel is primarily intended to prepare man for a future life and that consequently neither its true nature can be understood nor its full glory appreciated unless it be placed in the light of eternity—this conviction broadly underlies the apostle's reasoning both here and elsewhere. Christianity does many things for the present life, but if we wish to apprehend how much it can do, we must direct our gaze to the life beyond. What more eloquent expression of this feeling can be conceived than is found in immediate proximity to our text in the words: "If (nearing the end) we are such who have only hope in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable." What else does this mean than that the Christian's main thinking and feeling and striving revolve around the future state; and that, if this goal should prove to have no objective reality, the absoluteness with which the believer has staked everything
in its attainment must make him appear in his delusion the most pitiable of all creatures. What a gulf then lies between this statement of the apostle and the sentiment we sometimes meet with— that Christianity had better disencumber itself of all idle speculation about an uncertain future state and concentrate its energies upon the improvement of the present world. Paul could not have entertained such a sentiment for a moment because the thirst for the world to come was of the very substance of the religion of his heart. He felt deeply that the believer's destiny and God's purposes with reference to him transcend all limits of what this earthly life can possibly bring or possibly contain. Christ's work for us extends even farther than the restoration of what sin has destroyed. If Christ placed us back there where Adam stood in his rectitude, without sins and without death, this would be unspeakable grace indeed, more than enough to make the gospel a blessed word. But grace exceeds sin far more abundantly than all this: besides wiping out the last vestige of sin and its consequences, it opens up for us that higher world to whose threshold even the first Adam had not yet apprehended. And this is not a mere matter of degrees in blessedness, it is a difference between two modes of life; as heaven is high above the earth, by so much the condition of our future state will transcend those of the paradise of old.
It is for this reason that we know so little, and that even in the moments of greatest clearness of our spiritual vision we form such inadequate ideas of what awaits us hereafter. But, thanks be to God, in the resurrection of Christ for once the veil has been lifted. When Christ rose from the grave he rose as one whose human nature had been transformed into harmony with heavenly conditions. This was true not merely of his body, but of all the faculties and powers of his humanity hitherto exercised in humiliation and now set free and made fit for their perfect use in heavenly glory. In this respect the resurrection of Christ is prophetic of that of all believers. As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man (I Cor. 15:49). In the resurrection, therefore, we have the assurance that we ourselves also shall be made fit in
our entire nature for our habitation in heaven. It is only by understanding this that we can understand the true significance of the resurrection of the body. Not that our bodies as such shall be restored to us is the great hope of the Christian, but that they shall be restored to us in such a state as to resemble the resurrection-body of Christ; that through them our spirits may dwell in perfect accord with their heavenly surroundings and may lead in its consummate form the life that knows no end.
In conclusion let us observe that these three aspects of the resurrection of Christ are not merely each for its own part fundamental, but are also, when taken together, a comprehensive summary of the gospel which we are commissioned to preach. Peace of conscience, renewal of life, assurance of heaven: what more than this could we endeavor to bring to our fellowman? What less than this could we dare to offer them under the name of the gospel? As preachers of Christ and the resurrection, let us always remember to give due prominence to these three great things. Is there not a special satisfaction in being able to proclaim a gospel which so completely covers the needs of a sinful world? "If Christ has not been raised—then is our preaching vain and vain the faith of all that hear us." But now that Christ hath been raised from the dead and brought righteousness and life and heaven to light, now we can be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Preached in Princeton Chapel
on Easter, April 23, 1905
The Raising of Levi
Go back to the town of Capernaum of old. Ask the people in town, "Who is your chief sinner?" Who would they point out? One of their likeliest candidates would be the man sitting in the tax collector's booth—Levi. If you are a small boy and you've done something wrong, you may hear your father say, "Don't do that! You don't want to grow up to be a criminal, do you?" In New Testament times, your father may have said, "You don't want to grow up to be a tax collector, do you?" That's right! They bunched the tax collectors together with the criminals, with the murderers and with the
thieves. And Levi chose to be a tax collector.
The Problem of Our Sin
Let me tell you a little bit about those old time tax collectors and how they got that kind of a reputation. In New Testament days, a tax collector would buy his job and then do all he could to make a big profit. He looked for a top return on his investment. In order to get a top return, he would use all the tricks of the trade: lying, fraud, extortion, cheating, bribery. He was notorious for squeezing the little guy and swindling the government. And Levi chose to be a tax collector.
So what if they put him out of the synagogue. Levi took the job. So what if they called him a crook. He wore the badge—tax collector. He sold out his religion, sold out his people, for the big buck. The Pharisees had him pegged. The townspeople had him pegged. Levi was a sinner. Levi was a bad Jew. Yes, if anyone in town had a heart of stone, it was Levi. Levi chose to be a tax collector.
One day, Jesus met Levi, the tax collector. He did not deny Levi's problem. He didn't say, "Levi isn't all that bad." He knew the truth about Levi's heart of stone. He knew that Levi had a serious problem. He called Levi a sinner. He tells us that Levi is lost: lost from God; a slave to sin; bound for hell. If the paralytic needed to be raised from the bed of his sickness, Levi needed to be raised from the bed of sin's infection. If Lazarus was to be called out of a grave in Bethany, Levi needed to be called out of the grave of hell. Levi needed to be saved.
When the Pharisees saw Levi, they would turn their faces and spit. They hated sinners. They hated Levi. They thanked God that they were not like this tax collector. But one of the best Pharisees would finally know. Paul would know. He would write it down for all to read: "...all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23). He would point
out that we are all dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1,5). Paul would look at Levi and see himself. He would call himself the chief of sinners. He would admit that he was as bad as Levi, the tax collector. Do you see the lost of mankind in Levi? Do you see yourself in Levi?
Praise God! Jesus saw the sin-stained life of Levi and he did not turn his face and spit. Christ was drawn to Levi. He was drawn to Paul. He was drawn to sinners then; he is drawn to sinners now. "I am come to seek and to save that which is lost." Jesus had come "to call sinners to repentance."
Mike was a teenager. It was more than his scruffy appearance that made Mike look older. Mike's battle with drugs and alcohol was adding years to his life and sorrow to his soul. Mike was a sinner and Christ had come to save sinners.
The Power of Our Savior
Have you ever gone out to buy something and when you got home, you found that it didn't do what it was supposed to do? Does that get you all steamed up? Has someone ever promised to do something for you and then not done it? Jesus came loaded with promises: the solemn vow of all the Old Testament promises and the fresh promises of his own lips. Is he God's Messiah come to save his people? Will he meet Levi's desperate need? And Paul's? And mine? And yours?
Jesus went down the street in Capernaum. He went down the street to meet Levi. Jesus went to meet this man paralyzed by sin, dead in sin, under the divine curse, far from God. When he got to Levi's tax booth, he told Levi, "Follow me." There is the money piled high in Levi's life. Leave it, Levi, and follow Jesus. There is the sin captivating Levi's soul. Rise up, Levi, and be reconciled to your God.
Wait a minute! You mean, leave this? The question seems natural. A man like Levi was sure to ask it. We look at Levi's lucrative business. He's got insider information, power politics and cold ambition going for him. Feel the cash box heavy with silver and gold. Indeed! "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God." How hard it is for the materialist. "Then who can be saved?" Jesus said, "The things impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:24-27). Jesus turns to Levi, dead in his materialism and says, "Follow me." The grand old Bible call to decide between following idols and following Jehovah (cf. I Kings 18:21) is renewed in Jesus. This call to turn from idols and follow the Lord comes true in Jesus. "And Levi got up, left everything and followed him." The amazing grace of God has come in Christ and transformed Levi.
Levi was dead in sin. But the dead in sin hear the voice of the Son of God and live (John 5:25). Levi has a heart of stone. But "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezk. 36:26). Levi is a sinner. But "I will put my law within them, and on their heart I will write it . . . for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more" (Jer. 31:33,34). The Old Testament promises wait for the Messiah to keep them. Jesus has the power to forgive sin here and now on earth. The Messiah called out to Levi and Levi rose up and followed him.
Jesus claimed the right to forgive sin when they brought the paralytic to him. Matthew, Mark and Luke bring the two stories together: the story of the paralyzed man and the story of Levi (cp. Luke 5:17-28; Mat. 9:2-9; Mark 2:3-14). Luke uses the same word to describe the action of the paralytic and the action of Levi. The miracle of the rising (anastas) paralytic gives way to the miracle of the rising (anastas) sinner. You remember the story of the paralytic brought to Jesus for healing. Surprisingly, Jesus first said to the man, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." This provoked the Pharisees: "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins,
but God alone?" How beautifully and clearly Jesus responded. "But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins," he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, and take up your stretcher and go home." And the Bible tells us that immediately the man rose and went home.
Jesus doesn't step back when they question his right. He carefully shows what it means for him to have power to forgive sin on earth. He boldly adds testimony to testimony and proof to proof. Watch him. He walked out of that house, down the streets of Capernaum to Levi's office—to Capernaum's chief sinner. And he said to Levi, "Follow me." That you might know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins, he said to this notorious sinner, "Follow me." And Levi arose from the death of sin and followed him. Jesus explained it this way in the parable of the prodigal: "for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found" (Luke 15:24). That you might know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins, he went from there to the cross where he died the sacrifice for sin and rose from the grave so that all who believe in him would be raised to everlasting life.
The Day of Salvation is here! The big bang of the new creation has begun. See it as Levi rises from the power of sin to become Matthew, the disciple, the apostle, the gospel writer. See it as Jesus is risen from the tomb. Death is swallowed up in victory. This Jesus is the friend of sinners. This is the assurance for all who trust in him. Yes, I am a Levi, but that doesn't destroy hope. It was to Levi that Jesus came and Jesus is the Messiah come with the power of new life. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us" (Eph. 1:7-8).
Mike's father and mother wanted him to come to church with them. They had come to know the power of new life in Christ themselves and they prayed that Mike would find his hope in Christ. How glad they were when he consented to go.
The Testimony of Our Salvation
That day in Capernaum, Jesus had an audience. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were watching as he raised the paralytic and as he raised Levi. A general assembly of them had gathered to examine this Jesus. Was he the Messiah? The wonder of salvation is to be heralded to men on earth, to angels in heaven, even to hordes of demons and the prince of darkness (Eph. 3:10; 6:12). See it in the Pharisees. See the power of God in Christ give life to Levi. Here is a sovereign demonstration of the forgiveness of sin and the gift of new life. Christ has come to reconcile his people to God. Even tax collectors are brought into the family. Even the worst are led to repentance. The great confrontation between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of heaven has begun and the victory of heaven is sure. Jesus is the victor and his people are the beneficiaries.
Jesus is urging the Pharisees to join him in this great work, to be part of the new Israel that is to proclaim the coming of the Messiah to the world. They stand on the sidelines. They see all this take place. What do they think? Jesus, don't disappoint us. Stay away from sinners like Levi. That's what they thought. Thank God Jesus did not take their advice.
Mike went to church with his parents. Sure, he looked like a bum, but he was only a scared kid trying to find a place for himself in this world—a breathing place in his fight against drugs and alcohol. Now he had come to this church where the gospel was supposed to be preached. Then someone came up to him and snarled in his ear, "What are you doing here. We don't want the likes of you in our church."
How different Levi was. At once, he took up the business of introducing sinners to Jesus. And it is there in the fellowship of the redeemed sinners that the triumph and glory of Jesus is revealed. Where will you be found? with the Pharisees as they deny the power
of Jesus or with Levi as he lives out the joy of salvation in his life?
"I have wiped out your
transgressions like a thick cloud
Falls Orthodox Presbyterian
Paul on the Damascus Road
JAMES T. DENNISON, JR.
Light shined on the Damascus Road. Brilliant light broke forth; light from the realms of glory burst upon the midday hour; light ineffable, light effulgent, light from the light-maker. And the light shined in the darkness.
Darkness walked upon the Damascus Road. Black darkness, deep darkness, darkness full of dread and chaos; darkness blinded, darkness from the prince of darkness.
Let there be light!
And from that light comes darkness; eye-blind darkness. What darkness this is! Marvellous darkness, wonderful darkness! Darkness which turns to light. By means of light—through the light—out of the light, comes darkness. Darkness before the dawn; dark night of the soul about to awaken with the coming of the light; dark blindness which is eyesight for the first time. Light of glory drives out the darkness. Light-maker shines upon the darkness.
Let there be sight!
He who was present in the beginning is present on the Damascus Road. He who was there at the creation is there at midday. And he says, "Let there be light!" He who was present in the beginning is present on the Damascus Road. He who was there at the creation is there at midday. And he says, "Behold a new creation!"
There is creation imagery here because there is a new beginning here. The act of God on the Damascus Road is nothing less than a new creation. A new creation which reverses the old man; a new creation which transforms the old man into the new man in Christ Jesus. Saul experiences transformation; Saul becomes a new creature; Saul experiences the death of the old man; Paul experiences the birth of the new man.
The eyesight which guides him on the desert path must be reversed; he must be turned back to darkness. Turned back to darkness in order to see—yes, at last, to see; see for the first time. Circumcised the eighth day—darkness! Of the nation of Israel—darkness! Of the tribe of Benjamin—darkness! A Hebrew of the Hebrews— darkness! Regarding the righteousness of the law blameless— darkness! Confidence in the flesh—darkness!
Into that inky darkness, the light shines. Not a glimmer; not a flicker; not a solitary ray: the full splendor of the light of glory
bursts forth more brilliant than the sun at high noon. Break forth O beauteous light. The eyes—sightless; the corneas—glazed. But day dawns within the soul; sunrise for the first time. Out of the darkness—light! And the transformation is complete; the reversal is reversed.
Ananias opens Saul's eyes, but he has already seen the light. Behold, a newborn son of the light; indeed, behold, a new creation.
Life appeared on the Damascus Road. Life incarnate; life disentombed; life resurrected. Resurrection-life appeared on the Damascus Road. Life from the dead.
Death walked upon the Damascus Road. Death breathing out itself—death incarnate. Death threats, death wishes, death edicts, death indictments.
And death met life—and death died! Saul, Saul, look upon me. Behold, life not death. Saul, Saul, look upon me! Behold, resurrection life not a shroud of grave cloths. Saul, Saul, look upon me! Behold, acquittal—not accursed. Saul, Saul, look upon me!
And Saul sees! Saul sees the resurrection face to face. Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee, looks upon the resurrection from the dead. Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee, looks upon the first-born from the dead. Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee, looks upon the firstfruits of them that sleep. Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee, looks upon the justified. Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee, can be Pharisee Saul of Tarsus no more! The end of the age has come upon him and he has been translated out of death into life.
The resurrection of the dead was the turning point. The turning
point between the present age and the age to come: the turning point was marked by resurrection. Pharisee Saul had been trained to look for the resurrection of the dead as the mark of transition—the transition to the end of the age. The Pharisee longed for the appearance of the Messianic era and the resurrection from the dead at the end of the world. But on the Damascus Road, Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee, looks full into the glorious face of resurrection. It is the risen Messiah who meets him. On the Damascus Road two thousand years ago, resurrection appeared and a Jewish Pharisee became a Christian.
The transformation of unbelieving Saul is found in the resurrection apocalyptic. J. Christian Beker of Princeton is right this far— Paul's gospel begins in apocalyptic. But another Princetonian long before Beker recognized that—Geerhardus Vos called it the Pauline eschatology. It is this encounter with the risen Christ which transforms Saul. It is this resurrection apocalypse—this Christophany—which brings about the great reversal from death to life.
I have suggested that the transformation in Saul the Pharisee may be found in the eschatological transformation which occurred in the resurrection of Christ. The eschatological meaning of the resurrection apocalypse makes it clear that the end of the age has come forward. If Christ be risen from the dead, the eschaton breaks in! And Saul has seen its glory.
Others have suggested that the change in Paul may be traced to a religious experience. He was prone to mental visions, you see, and he experienced a vision of Jesus. It was actually an hallucination created by a conscience burdened with remorse—remorse for treating Christians so mercilessly. Others have suggested that Paul's transformation may be traced to his moralistic fervor. From his youth, Paul was taught to keep the law. He tried. Oh, how he tried! But he could not. On the other hand, Christians seemed to have a righteousness apart from the law. Torn between the two, Paul finally gave in to Christianity on the Damascus Road. Still others have
argued that contextual factors produced the change in Paul. The members of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule (history of religions school) maintain that Hellenistic or Jewish cultural factors finally triumphed on the Road to Damascus and Paul converted.
No! hallucinations do not produce a theology anchored in a new creation. The new creation is a pivotal aspect of the Pauline theology; pivotal because Paul felt it. At a real place in history, at a real time in history, a real historical change occurred in Saul of Tarsus because the Lord of the new creation really appeared to him and transformed him. Paul was made a new creation by the very person who brings the new creation to history.
No! moralism and cultural factors do not produce a theology rooted in the dawning of the resurrection-age. The age of resurrection had arrived, right before his eyes. What Paul had formerly dismissed as preposterous because it was to be delayed until the last day of history—that was now a reality in the midst of history. Paul experienced resurrection now! Before the last day, here and now, resurrection appears to him. The Messianic era of life for the dead has begun. And Saul—Saul the Pharisee—who had been dead in trespasses and sins; Saul is seized by the resurrected Jesus and raised up together with him. Paul had experienced the resurrection; on the Damascus Road, he had been raised from death to life. Saul's living death is behind him: the persecution, the blood-letting, the threats, the indictments, the hatred—all these are put to death. Nailed to death; buried to death. Saul the Pharisee dies on the Damascus Road. Jesus puts him to death. And he who is the firstfruits of the dead raises up Saul. He who brings the age of resurrection brings Saul into that age and Saul lives. "When we were dead in transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with him . . "
The Servant of the Lord appeared on the Damascus Road. The bond-slave of God breaks forth on the Damascus Road. The one called from his mother's womb; the one named while he was in
his mother's belly—this one appears on the Damascus Road, Ebed Yahweh—light to the nations; salvation to the ends of the earth. The Servant of the Lord appears on the Damascus Road and he is salvation to the Gentiles.
The servant of Satan walked on the Damascus Road. Bond-slave of the prince of darkness; drudge of the Devil—enthralled with enmity, murder, cursing, bloodshed. Commissioned with the ministry of death.
The servant of Satan walked on the Damascus Road and the Servant of the Lord met him and Satan fled. The bond-slave of that dark prince was emancipated. He became indentured to a new lord, to a new master, to a new Dominus. From henceforth, Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus, enthralled with-joy, peace, love.
The transformation in servitude is complete—the reversal is reversed. The great eschatological Servant of the Lord transforms this Pharisee to become his servant. From his mother's womb, he has called him; now in the fullness of time (yea, begotten out of due time), he commissions him. The Servant of the Lord sends his servant to the nations—to the Gentiles. And this Pharisee, now become apostle, goes forth as light to the Gentiles. A commission of life and immortality brought to light through his gospel.
The great Isaianic Servant of the Lord reproduces his mission in his bond-slave. Paul is sent forth a servant of the Servant, conformed unto his glorious mission to translate those who dwell in darkness out of that kingdom into the glorious light of the gospel of God our Savior. Paul can use the language of the Servant Songs to describe his own ministry because he has become an imitator of Christ Jesus. His life is so identified with Christ that he too is Ebed Yahweh!
For Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee, the road to Damascus is a new creation; the dawn of the age of resurrection; the indenture of the
servant of the Lord commissioned as the light to the Gentiles.
But where is your application, you ask? Did you miss it? Did you not sense the invitation of the Holy Spirit to feel the power of the Pauline theology? Have you been so conditioned by modern preaching that you cannot find your life in the text of the Word of God? Have you been so conditioned by the demand to extract something from the Scriptures for yourself (how selfish that is! how completely self-centered and man-centered that is!) that you cannot find your life in the text of the Word of God? Have you been so conditioned by contemporary self-centered, man-centered preaching that it is not Christ in whom you find your life, but in the program, in the agenda, in the activity—or whatever else is placed as a barrier to a Christocentric realization of the Word of God.
But in case you did miss it, let me point out once more how your life is hidden with Christ in God. The Pauline experience on the Damascus Road becomes the basis of the Pauline theology. For Pauline experience, Christ is central. For the Pauline theology, Christ is central. The Pauline theology places the new creation in Christ Jesus at the center. Paul knew it because Paul experienced it; he was made a new creature in Christ Jesus. Hence the churches grounded in Pauline preaching were churches where people experienced the new creation in Christ; where they were translated out of darkness into the light of the gospel. Their existence was in Christ—the Light of the World. And it was in that light that they walked. Our life is hid with Christ in God—the darkness has disappeared, the light has shined in our hearts to give the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
For the Pauline experience, Christ is central. For the Pauline theology, Christ is central. The Pauline theology places the resurrection of Christ at the center. Paul knew it because Paul experienced it. He was raised up together with Christ. He was put to death together with Christ in his crucifixion; and Christ made him alive from the dead by his resurrection. Hence the churches grounded
in Pauline preaching were churches where people experienced the resurrection of the dead, where they were translated out of death into life by the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. Their life was in Christ—the Resurrection and the Life. And it was in that resurrection-life that they walked. Our life is hid with Christ in God. O death, where is thy sting? Resurrection has broken forth—thanks be to God!
For the Pauline experience, Christ is central. For the Pauline theology, Christ is central. The Pauline theology places the servanthood of Christ at the center. Paul knew it because Paul experienced it. He was indentured by the Servant of the Lord; he was made the bond-slave of Christ—the bond-slave of Christ for the sake of the Gentiles that they might serve the Lord. Hence the churches grounded in Pauline preaching were churches where people experienced servanthood; where they experienced conformity to the bond-service of Christ. Their life was in Christ—the Servant of the Lord, the Light of the Gentiles. And in his service, they walked reflecting his light to the nations. Our life is hid with Christ in God; he has reduced us to slavery, the slavery of serving him. There is liberty; there is freedom indeed!
In Christ, we are free at last—new creatures—raised from death to life.
Jesus, the Multitudes and Us
CHARLES G. DENNISON
And When He Saw the Multitudes
Jesus preaches the gospel of the kingdom and demonstrates its power and the crowds gather (Mt. 4:17,23ff.). When they do, he measures them in ways that more than estimate their size and apparent eagerness. His eyes judiciously survey them. He penetrates them as if, in their soul, they are transparent to him. His scrutiny transcends their ability to comprehend themselves. He sees them in the brilliant yet awesome colors of the end of the world, in the radiant yet searing
light of the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom dawning in him.
Those who gather are Jews. "I was sent only," Jesus elsewhere testifies, "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt. 15:24). These Jews, although not all Israel, nevertheless stand in the place of all. Their gathering signifies the gathering of all God's scattered, disconsolate people as if Israel were being established afresh in her integrity.
Moses spoke of a day when
Jeremiah also spoke of
Some have thought these promises exhausted by the restoration of Israel from the Babylonian captivity. But both passages are proximate descriptions of a new and better covenant, an administration fitting the end of the ages in which Israel's heart is circumcised, and she serves the Lord from the greatest to the least (cf. Dt. 30:6; Jer. 31:31ff.). The restoration from Babylon proves no end in itself . Here is a shadow of the time of consummate blessing. When the crowds gather around Jesus, the true restoration, the end-times, has commenced.
And how could it be otherwise? At the heart of the promise of restoration and the coming end-times is the coming of God himself.
Jeremiah tells us of the Lord's declaration: "then I myself shall gather the remnant of my flock" (23:3). The Psalms repeatedly testify to this hope. Psalm 96:13 says, "He is coming ...." Isaiah's prophecy is filled with the message about the coming of God and about Immanuel, a name meaning "God with us."
Matthew's gospel has made a great deal of the name Immanuel (1:22,23). Jesus Christ is God with us. His appearance signals the arrival of the true restoration, the arrival of the end-times. When, therefore, Matthew tells us that the crowds congregated from Syria, Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the Jordan (4:23-25), we should perceive in these locales more than an arbitrary listing. These places represent the full complement of Jewish territory promised to the fathers and even the reunification of Israel, north and south. The multitudes, as Jesus sees them, read as all Israel restored for blessing in the day of God's visitation.
But Jesus' perception is more profound still. These multitudes are penetrated at the level of the covenant and the entire range of its application. Matthew is openly sensitive to this. After all, he opens and closes his gospel with statements of great covenantal significance. Jesus Christ is "the son of David, the son of Abraham" (1:1). Here is the true heir!
Matthew then charts the course by which Christ arrives at his inheritance, through his sacrificial death and resurrection. He concludes in a way that confirms the order of his brief, opening genealogy—David before Abraham. In other words, David's longed-for glory and authority reach the nations in blessing fitted to Abrahamic expectation (28:18,19). David's greater son, through his emissaries, touches the ends of the earth with his glorious rule.
Because of this, we cannot settle for only a provincial or strictly Jewish interpretation of the places mentioned at the end of Matthew 4. Some of these multitudes hail from Gentile regions. Galilee is "Galilee of the Gentiles" (v. 25; cf. v. 15). Decapolis and the
regions beyond the Jordan reflect a deliberate cosmopolitan flourish in which we can discern, as if in miniature, the gathering of the nations.
Jesus surveys the multitudes, therefore, and appraises them in the depths of this covenantal and eschatological significance. Actually, his estimation flatters them far beyond even their most exalted opinion of themselves. He understands them as assembled before God and as the wider expanse of his church, Jew and Gentile, whose gathering unto him is possible because of his mission for them.
Matthew repeatedly underlines this positive appraisal. In chapter 4, he uses the verb "to follow" three times in the stories of Jesus' call to the two sets of brothers (vv. 19,20,22). He uses it a fourth time in describing the multitudes (v. 25). Discipleship is defined as following Jesus and the multitudes are generously included under that definition.
The wonderful poignancy of Matthew 9:35-38 is difficult to miss. Here, the wider range of God's elect is mirrored in the harassed, cast-down multitudes that have no shepherd. Jesus, the true shepherd, has come with compassion to lead them.
The multitudes appear in Matthew 14 where we again are told they followed Jesus (v. 13) and in chapter 15 where they are said to come to him (v. 30). Interestingly, the language of this latter passage parallels the conclusion of Matthew 5:1; there the disciples come to him. So, the multitudes come like disciples. They are fed and filled with loaves and fishes that speak of the better food of Christ's teaching about the kingdom of heaven. In this lies the high intent of the popular stories about the feeding of the five and four thousand.
Yes, the multitudes are repeatedly seen in this favorable light, a light so favorable in fact that we cannot but help recognize the gathering before the Lord for blessing of all Israel and the nations. There is, however, a reverse side. As if with divine omniscience, Jesus grasps the multitudes' unnerving ambiguity; they are bewildered; they are hardened and reject Jesus. While preaching the universal sweep of God's election, they become the occasion for observing divine discrimination at work.
For one thing, the multitudes lack real perception. They never, in their confession, properly acknowledge Jesus. To be sure, they occasionally sense something of his magnitude (e.g., Mt. 7:28,29). Still, he remains an enigma. "This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?" they query (12:23). At Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, with all the excitement, the best they can do is, "this is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee" (21:11; contrast 16:16).
In the end, they are as loathsome as they were lovely. Unlike the disciples, who were terrified and scattered at Jesus' arrest, the multitudes are party to it (26:47). Easily they had been drawn to Jesus; easily they are persuaded to demand his execution (27:20).
Jesus may well be an enigma, the heart of the divine mystery. But the multitudes are an enigma too. Positively anticipating the final convergence of all before God, they simultaneously express their hostility to him and his judgment of them. For this reason, Jesus' attitude toward them is not exhausted by reflecting on their glory, nor by reflecting on those examples of our Lord's selfless ministry toward them.
Matthew 5 tells us that "when he saw the multitudes, he went up on the mountain." We are to see in this nothing less than a deliberate withdrawal. It is a discriminatory act by which Jesus distinguishes between his disciples, who then come to him, and the
The pattern of this scene repeats itself again and again in Matthew. In chapter 8, verse 18, the crowds surround him; he gives orders to depart and his disciples, distinct from the crowds, follow him (v. 23). In Matthew 13, a passage paralleling Matthew 5 and the Sermon on the Mount in many ways, Jesus teaches in the hearing of the multitudes, but in parables. When his disciples question his method (v. 10), he responds, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom ...." And in words shocking to many, he says, "To them it has not been granted" (v. 11). Penetrating his words are his actions. In Matthew 5, he withdraws into the mountain, here into the house (v. 36).
These scenes are overlaid with testimony to Jesus' ultimate withdrawal. He shall withdraw into the mount of glory and into his house above. Only his elect will follow, only they will participate in the true and eternal blessings there. His ministry pervades Israel and the world. In fact, it is as if all Israel and all nations are gathered. Yet, only a few genuinely belong to him (Mt. 7:14).
Jerusalem's house is left desolate (Mt. 23:38). Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum descend into hell (11:21-23). All the nations are gathered before him; and he separates them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (25:32). Arresting itself is the truth of divine election. Indeed, "many are called, but few are chosen" (22:14; cf. 20:16 KJV).
For Jesus, the generous perspective on the multitudes does not inhibit a forcefully articulate and unembarrassed devotion to the divine prerogative. The invitation is offered indiscriminately; enjoyment of its blessedness lies within the discretion of the Father and Son (Mt. 11:25-30). How odd that, according to so many who presently claim to follow Jesus, it does not, and for some, it cannot.
And When We See the Multitudes
But more than odd, the situation is tragic. Just how tragic should be abundantly clear from the fact that the stories of Jesus and his people are so tightly bound together. Severing that bond at any point, as has been the case for a large portion of the church with regard to the doctrine of election, spells spiritual discouragement, if not calamity.
The Twin Images
After all, we are twin images, Lord and people, beheld side by side in the mirror of the word. While we have no difficulty identifying ourselves in the commissioned Church of Matthew 28, we must also see ourselves beside the commissioned Christ throughout the gospel as a whole. His ministry anticipates ours. Ours is conformed to his.
When the multitudes gather in Matthew 4 and Jesus "disciples" them, we discern the outline of our own discipling of the nations. We, in keeping with his heavenly vision, are compelled to see them overlaid with glory. As they are drawn by the message of Christ's power, they gather as a portent of the final, everlasting assembly, the fullness of the Lord's harvest among the nations.
We view them with compassion, not condescension. Two reasons weigh heavily upon us. One, we ourselves have been graciously called from among the nations. The other, we are molded after the image of our Savior. Therefore, we serve the multitudes as slaves to their deepest need. We, after him, give up our lives for their sake (cf. Mt. 20:28), always teaching them by our words and actions the transcending and supreme importance of the kingdom of heaven.
But such a perspective demands that we keep the twin images
in view. We must keep our eyes on Jesus and match ourselves afresh to the gospel. How easily we are distracted! We have found ourselves victims of irresponsible pietism, serving a willful gullibility, refusing to think ill of anyone.
Our foolishness multiplies when we baptize such nonsense with sociological and political rhetoric. We mix sentimentality with revolution and democratic fantasies. We bathe our romanticism in what we imagine to be realism. The multitudes are the masses which, by their now quasi-divine nature, leave us in a worshipful swoon. They are impeccable; their inner potential must not be repressed, nor their rights denied. They are destined to rule this world and all forces inherent to this world conspire to that end. Here is our gospel, so we are told.
The truth of the matter is that the Jesus of the Bible stands a million light years removed from any such evangel. His is a parabolic and consistently redemptive reading of the multitudes, something abhorrent to those of us who have hopped aboard the train of so called realism. He begins with glory and ends there. But we who have dropped our eyes and now have forgotten the twin images are concerned only with the horizon of this world.
Unfortunately, many of us who are more conservative are as bad, if not far worse. For different reasons than our liberal counterparts, we also labor before an earthly horizon. Even though energetically evangelistic, we have transformed Jesus' approach into a social enlistment program. We have lost the vision of glory and a concern for it. Instead we pursue a fraternity of support and affirmation in this world.
We interpret the multitudes even more crassly than the liberals. Here, no ray of benevolence shines. All that is known is the statistical, economic, self-affirming potential of those that gather. The multitudes become a gauge by which we measure our abilities. Woe to the humble, unspectacular gathering! Or extending things a bit
further, woe to that modest assembly of saints! Hardly capable of measuring up to our expectations or enhancing our portfolio for success, we seek to rob them of the overlay of glory seen by Christ. In the interests of a subtle quest for personal authentication, we jettison our Lord. The twin images no longer stand; only a solitary one remains—ours.
That Christ's is the fainter image even when retained by us is evident. We never have felt comfortable with his withdrawal from the multitudes. John Dewey freely admitted that biblical Christianity is committed to the doctrine of "the elect and the reprobate." But we must rid ourselves of such a vision, he said, if we are to insure the American dream; or, we might say, the dreams of anyone else who courts the world.
Although not liberal like Dewey, we, too, reject this harsh doctrine. Preaching on Jesus' withdrawal in Matthew 5 and other places, we approach it from the standpoint that we all need to get away. Pastors especially need adequate vacations from the pressing demands of their profession. Otherwise, we find Jesus' withdrawal inconceivable, since we are always running after the crowds.
Actually, in marring the picture of our Lord, we have marred our own. We, the church, if we understand ourselves aright, are a testimony to God's sovereign election. While not everyone in the church is saved, we collectively signify our Lord's withdrawal and his gathering to himself those who are his from the multitudes of the earth. The final day will vindicate this truth, just as the ministry of Jesus asserted and demonstrated it. Our denial does not refute it; instead it testifies to the lack of correspondence between us and the one we say we serve.
The Double Exposure
Obviously, there should not be discrepancies at any point. The
twin images, Lord and people, should coalesce. We should be a reflection of Jesus, our example. If we are sensitive to this and our own deficiencies, we are driven to examine his image more carefully.
A closer look, however, leaves us amazed. It is as if we have just received our prints of a roll of film only to discover a double exposure. Not two pictures matching each other, but our picture superimposed on another. Our image, that of the church, has been superimposed on that of our Lord.
Looking then to Matthew's gospel, we find more than the Savior's story. In reading Christ's, we are reading our own since we are in him. His story spells sufficiency, accomplishment, completion. It communicates finality.
How delighted we are when we come across the double exposure! We realize its significance for our redemption. Jesus' death and resurrection have superimposed on them our own. Dealing strictly with the twin images, we could be tempted to think his death a mere example of sacrificial giving for us to emulate, his resurrection a mere encouragement concerning our eventual destiny. Now we know better. His death is a ransom by which we, purified from sin, stand in him before the Father. His resurrection is life in the world to come in which we through him already participate.
Because of this, we confess that we not only are to live like Jesus, but we live in Jesus. Our life in him, however, exceeds the scope of his death and resurrection. The double exposure introduces us to the certainty and finality of his mission to the multitudes.
To be sure, we follow after him and in one sense we are at work "completing" his business with this world. Yet, in another and more profound sense, our actions and words are already found in him. His death and resurrection declare accomplishment, finality; no less his ministry among the multitudes. Both are vicarious and we, being superimposed on him, have entered into that consummated reality
found in him.
Jesus' treatment of the multitudes and subsequent ascent of the mountain in Matthew 5 testify to this. He has evangelized the multitudes, separated his church and, as he takes his seat above, gathered us before his throne in glory. Everything is, as it were, resolved, completed. Even the message with which we are to disciple the nations, he supplies in the sermon from his throne.
The apostle Paul, as deeply as anyone, appreciates the double exposure. Repeatedly, he speaks in the language of the twin images. In its strongest expression, he says, "I do my share on behalf of his body . . . in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Col. 1:24). However, in the previous verse, he has also given us one of the strongest statements of the double exposure. He says, "The hope of the gospel . . . was preached to every creature which is under heaven" (KJV). He speaks of the evangelization of the entire created order as an already accomplished fact.
It could be pointed out, and rightly, that Paul is here speaking about his apostolic mission and not Christ's. The fact remains that his confidence with regard to his own ministry is expressive of the central theme in Colossians: Christ is the one in whom we have been made complete (2:9,10). Paul's apostolic mission, as well as ours of today, participates in the sufficiency and finality of Christ's.
We may search in vain for any treatment of Colossians 1:23 in the mission studies and evangelism literature that clutters Christian bookstores and pastors' desks. But rather than betraying Paul's balminess, it witnesses a magnificent grasp of the gospel's fullness by building upon the indispensable ground for assurance in our mission to the multitudes. The point is this: before we set about our mission, Jesus has executed his in such a way as to include us. We, therefore, do not face our task devoid of a serene confidence that it is already completed in him.
Far from eclipsing our zeal, as some may be tempted to charge, we have opened before us the proper basis for its genuine biblical expression. Accordingly, we honor the eschatological significance of Jesus' ministry. We magnify the grace of the gospel—truly, all is of the Lord—and compound immeasurably our gratitude to him. We exalt his power and sufficiency and draw into sharper focus his promise, "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world." Yes, he accompanies us "to cheer and to guide." But more, he is our life, our accomplishment, to whom we have come and found rest even in our mission to the multitudes.
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian
From the Librarian's Shelf ...
Xavier Leon-Dufour, ed. Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Second edition, Revised and Enlarged). New York: Seabury Press (now distributed by Harper & Row), 1973, xxxii+712pp., $29.95 cloth.
The value of this dictionary cannot be underestimated. Pastors and laypersons alike will be rewarded with thematic insights into numerous key ideas and images of Scripture: all traced through the corpus of biblical revelation. There are fresh insights to be discovered here as well as the reinforcement of familiar biblical truths. Whatever reservations and cautions we may have—and there are several—should not detract from the overall concept of this work and from the actual realization of that concept in many areas. Unfortunately, the volume is currently unavailable. Harper & Row hopes to have a paperback version on the market next summer. Still our readers may find cloth
copies on the secondhand market (as this writer did recently) and many library religion collections will hold the volume.
The dictionary is a by-product of the post-World War II neo-orthodox biblical theology movement. The inadequacies of this approach to revelation are well known (its obituary having been penned by Brevard S. Childs in 1970). But it did generate interest in the thematic study of the entire Scripture. The liberal dichotomy between Old Testament and New Testament was dismissed. Neo-orthodox biblical theology regarded the entire Bible as Word of God (albeit distinguished as historisch and geschichtlich). Hence the new 'theology of revelation' (as crisis theology was called) emphasized the unity of Scripture and reflected on the unfolding pattern of promise-fulfillment.
Xavier Leon-Dufour has been a central figure in this movement from within the Roman Catholic church. Beginning in 1958, he assembled a team of 70 (largely French) Catholic biblical theologians (including such notables as Ceslas Spicq, M.-E. Boismard, Pierre Benoit, Henri Cazelles and others) and assigned the various articles. Their goal was to produce a work more thorough than von Allmen (A Companion to the Bible ) and Richardson (Theological Wordbook of the Bible ), while not as extensive as Kittel (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [German ed. 1932-1973; English trans. 1964-76]). The present English translation (undertaken by the Bellarmine School of Theology of Loyola University in Chicago) was made from the second French edition of 1968 (the original edition was published in 1962 as Vocabulaire de theologie biblique). Forty new articles were added to the revised edition and virtually every original article was completely revised. Arrangement is alphabetical; articles are devoted to themes (e.g., Exodus, Messiah, Pentecost), images (e.g., cloud, fire, glory, mountain), motifs (e.g., life, pilgrimage, rest); a few articles deal with personal names [e.g., Adam, David, Jesus Christ, Peter (sic!), but not Paul]; treatment is synthetic (as opposed to diachronic) and generally follows the major development of the canon
(e.g., Law®Prophets®Gospels/NT). Each article is signed (initials of the English translator are also included) and references to related articles in the dictionary are indicated by an asterisk (*). The whole is introduced by a 16-page section on the nature and function of biblical theology, followed by a 9-page literary history of the Bible. The latter is heavily dependent on increasingly outmoded critical assumptions, i.e., the so-called Documentary Hypothesis. Nevertheless the discriminating and critical reader will be able to discard these unnecessary presuppositions while following the path of the biblical themes.
Besides the questionable neo-orthodox presuppositions, the most frustrating aspect of the dictionary is its pitiful indexing. Unlike Bauer's Sacramentum Verbi (1970 English translation of the 3rd edition of Bibeltheologisches Worterbuch ), there is no cumulative Scripture index, nor is there an index to Hebrew and Greek terms. In addition, unlike Bauer, no bibliographies are appended to the articles. The Analytic Table at the back is inadequate for a thorough searching of related themes. In order to make the fullest use of the information contained, a complete Scripture index is essential.
While noting these deficiencies in method and format, the dictionary still deserves high praise for what it contains. Each article is a model of succinctness: theological aspects of each theme are identified and traced. If biblical theological method is at least an organic unfolding of redemptive themes, this tool is a boon to the enterprise. The article on the Exodus begins with Israel's bondage in Egypt—the reflection of impotence. God's saving act of emancipation is not only liberation, it is omnipotence in action. The instrument of redemption is a lamb by which death passes over. The result of exodus is new life—life in obedience. When Israel forsakes her exodus and is turned back to bondage (cf. the prophetic threats of exile), prophetic expectation projects a new exodus in the eschatological future. Prophetic eschatology contains the image of a release from bondage, passing through the sea, sojourn in the wilderness, assembly at the hill of the Lord. Gospel fulfillment is
expressed in exodus imagery. The New Testament is replete with identifications of Christ as the bringer of a better exodus—not Egypt, but sin; not Pharaoh, put the prince of darkness; not the paschal victim, but the Lamb of God. The church finds herself heir of the prophetic eschatology—participants through Christ in the release from slavery; joint heirs of the heavenly Canaan.
The entry on Adam avoids questions of historicity (as one might expect) while laying out the theological dimensions of first and second Adam. In genuinely Pauline fashion (cf. Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15), the reader is treated to a contrast between the man of the earth and the man from heaven. Interwoven is the imagery of paradise and the garden of God—lost in the first man; reclaimed and restored in the last man.
In the more strictly doctrinal articles, we find more Catholicism than we would like—a testimony that despite ecumenical claims to the contrary, biblical theology has not hurdled the barriers of conciliar dogma at all points. For example, the article on justification is introduced with a typcially Roman evasion of forensic categories. It is suggested that "to justify" means to treat as is deserved. Surely this is a counsel of despair. What guilty sinner could ever stand before God hoping for justification if he were to be treated as he deserved? The article continues by confusion justification with regeneration and internal moral renovation. This is simply more of the old Tridentine approach in 20th century dress! We read nothing of the imputed righteousness of Christ; nor do we discover any of the glories of the eschatological character of justification as acquittal. While there is allusion to the justification of Jesus (redemptive-historically), there is no exploration of that definitive justification for those who are in Christ Jesus via mystical/covenantal union.
Still, there are many suggestive comments which will stimulate the preacher, teacher, or student to appropriate the full-orbed character of divine revelation.
On clothing: fallen men and women "are perpetually surprised by their nakedness, like a mirror which does not reflect God's image." God's provision of skins (Gen. 3:21) "does not suppress their nakedness but is more a sign of their permanent call to the dignity they lost." On night: "the time when the history of salvation is achieved in unique fashion" [cf. the night before the Exodus, the night at Gethsemane, the (coming) night of the thief, the day when night disappears]. On people: all the titles of the old Israel are applied to the new people in Christ Jesus—special race, holy nation, flock of God, bride of the Lord. On scandal: "Jesus in fulfilling God's covenant has consecrated the human power of scandal on Himself; it is then His disciples who must not be scandalized." On trial: the trials of those in Christ are the trials of Christ in them. On witness: the New Testament concept of witness to Christ is patterned after "the traits of the prophets of old."
Used with care and discrimination, this volume can aid the orthodox pastor and student in ranging over the history of redemption. In so doing, it is hoped orthodox students of Scripture will improve upon the biblical theology of this Dictionary: more organic, more synthetic, more panoramic, more Christocentric. In a word, may this book enable us to be even more biblical as we pursue biblical theology.