Saturday, December 13, 2008

Parallels from a Thorny Pulpit

In reading about my favorite Christmas hymn, I discovered a verse not in modern hymnals that expresses the truth of Christ as second Adam, abundantly overflowing in comparison to the first:

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
formed in each believing heart.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley (1739)

Speaking of comparison, behold: “…if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many” (Romans 5:15).

There’s a parallelism here in the midst of one of the most hermeneutically difficult passages in the Bible that boils my heart to praise and energizes me for battle. This worthless rat has become sensitive this year to any effort to make Jesus less than He is. A kind old man has been frequenting the neighbor, and bestowed on our household a book entitled “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.” He, knowing what I am (Baptist pastor – he is yet to encounter the rat, THOUGH HE WILL), gave this subtly blasphemous book. I, knowing what he is (Jehovah’s Witness), suspected from the title the lie for which he was living. There it was, in the first few pages: the assertion Jesus never claimed to be God, that He was, in fact, the first creation of God and not God at all. As I said, these sort of things are creating a roar in this rat that I hope never fades.

With that, I share this morsel from the latest series of Advent wanderings. Someone once said he had a vision of me walking the desert, preaching to coyotes, scorpions, and tarantulas from a cactus pulpit. The desert folk have received from Romans 5:12-21 this season of Christmas.

Look at this parallel:
- “the grace of God
- “the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ

He is God, the Giver of Grace, and He is Man, the Embodiment of Grace. Not half of each (you cannot divide true Divinity or true humanity and maintain the integrity of either). Not some new hybrid (for a Being different from what we are cannot pay the penalty for our sin; a Being different from God cannot keep His Law perfectly).

In the Pastorals there are two names given to Jesus that embrace the Definition of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), that Jesus is fully man and fully God:

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5,6).

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14).

Over and over and over – when we cease to make our assertions about Jesus with any doctrinal purity or theological depth, we lose the true Jesus. A jesus of “anything goes” replaces the true Jesus. Without the true Jesus, we have no salvation.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE’ - in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13,14).

Here’s another wonderful parallel to turn things upside-down:
- “the blessing of Abraham”
- “the promise of the Spirit”

Is the giving of the Holy Spirit (the giving of God Himself to His people) the complete fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises? Wouldn’t the gift of God Himself far exceed the gift of land, no matter how “promised” the land may (or may not) be?

“Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Bring us to God, not land! How can the created (land) ever satisfy as much as the Creator (God Himself)?

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:20-22).

Enough rambling,
though I’m content with rambling that names Jesus as truly God, truly man,
and wandering that proclaims God the song of our pilgrimage, not land.

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