|1. SHARING CHRIST||3|
|2. HEAVEN AND EARTH||11|
|3. NATURAL AND SPECIAL REVELATION: A REASSESSMENT||13|
|4. ON CHRIST'S RESURRECTION AND JUSTIFICATION||35|
|5. SALVATION AND THE HOUSE OF A HARLOT||37|
|6. CALVIN ON DVD||45|
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[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 3-10]
If there is one thing that is central to the teaching of Paul and to the Scriptures, it is union with Christ. There are other things, of course, that are very important, but if you were to choose just one item, it would be that we have our life in union with Jesus Christ. Now that's a theological concept indeed which is taught throughout the Scriptures, particularly in Ephesians 2 and Colossians 3. But it's more than that and that's what we're going to see here this morning. It was the warp and the woof of the life of the apostle Paul. It was that which captured his soul; it was that which motivated him. It was that which controlled him in his ministry in the church. And I trust that for everyone here, it will be a controlling idea as well; but especially our student and those who minister in the Word.
We're going to see that in the union with Christ, we are united to his righteousness; we are united to the power of his resurrection; and we are united in the sufferings of Christ himself.
When Paul went to Philippi, he was called there in the Macedonian call out of Asia Minor. This was the first city that he reached in Macedonia. When he arrived, there was no synagogue of the Jews and so he went down by the river, found some devoted women and there proclaimed the gospel to them. As you
Paul is now in prison, probably in Rome. He has good hopes that he will be released from prison because he has more work to do. For him to live is Christ, to die is only gain. And so it is that as he writes to these Philippians, he comes now to the third chapter. Here in particular, we find that he calls upon all the people of the church to rejoice in the Lord. Prior to this in the epistle, he has talked about rejoicing, but this is the first time he says, "Rejoice in the Lord." Now he is going to center his attention precisely upon the Lord and the relationship with the Lord. But before he gets to explaining his own personal relationship with the Lord, he warns them of the Judaizers who have infiltrated the ranks. Evidently, these Jewish Christians looked for these places, even though there was no synagogue there in the beginninglooked for the places where they could come and spread their doctrine. They thought of themselves as watchdogs, but that's not what Paul says of them. In great satire he says, "you're dogs." Dogsthose were the words that were used of the Jews, the true Jews when they referred to Gentiles. They were the unclean. Dogs went around scouring the streets, eating garbage. That's what dogs did in those days. They weren't friendly household pets. And he says, you're like that. You're bringing the impure into the pure: you're dogs.
Yes; and he says, you're men who do evil. You think you're keeping the law. You think you are righteous and doing what is right, but in actual fact what you are is converting, and changing and destroying what God is building up through his Son Jesus Christ. Therefore you are doing evil. You think you are the circumcised, the peritome, but really what you are is the katatome. You are mutilators, like those prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel who cut themselves in their ritual to worship their god Baal. Yes, that's what you are. You are cutting the flesh. You want to see to it that every man out there, every Gentile in the church too is circumcised. It's only of the flesh.
We are the circumcised. We, who are now Israelwe are the true people
of God, the covenant people of God. And we are therefore the circumcised:
not necessarily circumcised in the flesh, but circumcised in the heart as the
He says if you think you're all so good in that regard, look at my heritage. I was circumcised on the eighth daynot on the ninth day, not on the seventh day, not later on as a proselyte into the church. I had it done precisely as it was decreed by God to Abraham and carried out through the dictates of the law. On the eighth day! I am indeed properly circumcised. I am of the tribe of Israel. I am born into the descendants of Israel-Jacob. I am a real Jew all the way. I didn't have to fake my papers; I didn't have to be brought in through some other means. I am a real Jew of the Jews. And furthermore, he says, I am of the tribe of Benjamin. My name is Saul. You remember the great king who was a BenjamiteSaul, the first king of Israel. I was named after him; I'm part of that. And you remember the Benjamites. They stayed with Judah and they followed the true way of God. They aligned themselves with Jerusalem when all the ten tribes to the north went their way and were eventually taken into Assyria. Yes, I'm a Benjamitethe finest of the finest, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I didn't have to go to synagogue school to learn Hebrew. We spoke Hebrew in the home. Yes, I am a true Hebrewa Hebrew of the Hebrews. That is my lineage, that is my genealogy and it is impeccable.
And all these Judaizers who think they are so Jewish who come in and tell you about their credentials, they don't know about my credentials. And furthermore, as to my personal life, I followed the way, the proper way. Yes, I followed the law and I didn't do so as a Sadducee. I wasn't loose in my way of handling the law. I was a Pharisee, a true Pharisee who kept track of that law, who saw to it that every jot and tittle was therewho studied at the feet of Gamaliel, the finest teacher of the Pharisees. Yes, I was one who upheld the law in all of its ways.
Those are quite some credentials, aren't they? He shows who he was in relation to these Judaizers who are trying to promote the flesh. But notice what he says. He says, "Whatever was to my profit I consider loss for the sake of Christ." Now those are two very interesting words in the Greek, profit and loss. They come from the financial world. The world whereby you add up all the numbers and when you come to the end and get to the bottom line, it's either black or red. It's either a profit or a loss. And so when he added up all these things that were true of him and the way he lived, then he could come and say, "Yes, there was a profit. I was a good Jew and I was righteous according to the standards of being a good Jew. There was a profit there, not a loss." However he says, "I now consider it all a loss for the sake of Christ." I gave it all up. It wasn't really a profit after all.
I am a new person in Christ. All of these things have changed. My standards have changed. My view of life has changed. My realization of righteousness and sin has all changed. All of that which was part of my former life is gone. It's a loss. I consider it a loss. I put it in the loss column for the sake of Jesus Christ. "Not only so," he says, "but I consider everything as a loss for the sake of Christ." Prestige, power, wealth, standing in a society, being accepted by menall of that I consider as a loss, that I may know Christ. Yes, it's a loss because of its comparison with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ my Lord. Yes, Christ my Lord. In knowing Jesus Christ there is a submission to him as Lord. You know that he who controls the universe, he who rules in the heavenly courts over all things, and in particular over his churchhe is my Lord! The direction he gives me in life is the direction I must go. The provisions he gives me in life are the provisions that are necessary and that all of this fleshly accounting is for nothing. My life is in the hands of my God and I know him. I consider everything as garbage. It's actually stronger than that. It means dung. "I consider them garbage that I might gain Christ" that I can have the profit on the ledger in Christthat I might be found in him.
And Oh, how important it is that that be the foundation for the
church. The problem, of course, is that foundation in many places is crumbling
these days. That foundation is being attacked. E.P. Sanders says in his book,
Paul, the Law and Jewish People (page 44), these words concerning this passage
in Philippians: "There is a righteousness which comes by Law, but it is now
worth nothing because of a different dispensation. It is this concrete fact
of Heilsgeschichte which makes the other righteousness wrong." That's
rubbish! That goes in the same ash can with the Judaizers. There is not a
righteousness that comes by the law. That was never correct even in Old
Testament times. The Heilsgeschichte, yes the "salvation history," is that
from Adam's fall until the end of time there's only one way to be saved and that
is through faith in Jesus Christ. No other way. You cannot be saved by
keeping the law. That was true of Noah, that was true of Abraham, that was true
of Moses and Joshua, David and Solomon. They all had to be saved by
looking forward to the coming of Jesus Christ and his fulfillment of the law. All of
the sacrifices of the Old Testament are there to show us that we cannot keep
You know you're going to find that that's so important in your ministry. Very important because, you know, sometimes you're going to get up and you're going to preach and you're going to say, hey, that's a pretty good sermon. I like that one. And you're going to get accolades from people when you walk out the door. Oh, that was a great sermon. Then you're going to feel pretty good about yourself. Maybe I can do this job pretty well. I think you've already had a few of those things. On other occasions, you may be up half the night with mental turmoil or with some sickness or something else and then get to the pulpit and fumble around. And you're going to say, Oh that was terrible. And this old lady comes to you at the door and says, Oh that was a tremendous sermon, Domine. And you're going to say to yourself, what was she listening to? It sure wasn't my sermon and you're going to have all of these ups and downs that will invade your life. There are weeks when it is going to look like the congregation is growing, you've got visitors coming. There will be week after week when nobody new shows up and maybe somebody leaves here and somebody is moving there to another city and you say to yourself, I wonder if this thing is going to go. There will be all of these ups and downs and you have to find your life not in what is happening, not in what you are doing but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You go back and cling to him. Your place before God is not in all the things that you do or in all the things the Lord has called you to do, but your place in God is in Jesus Christ and you are accepted in him and you sit with him in heavenly places now. Whatever transpires has to be taken with a grain of salt. All the ups and downs, the ins and the outs. I hope you learn that early. It will help you a lot, believe me.
But union with Christ, you see, if its foundation is in the righteousness
of Christ, is more than that. It's not only the position that you have in Christ,
that you are now raised with Christ, that you have died with Christ, that you now
sit with Christ in heavenly places. It's not only that. It is that and upon that
you rest. But it is more than that. As Paul goes on to say here in this
marvelous verse. He says, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. I
want to know Christ." It's not just something that you have that is a present
Indeed, the Lord has given you great talents and you have demonstrated those talents while here in this institution. But it's the power of his resurrection. He must keep you; he must motivate you; in him, you must find your confidence for your ministryno one else. Otherwise, you will stumble and fall because it is Christ who has called you to this ministry; it is Christ who will equip you for this ministry; it is Christ who will use you in this ministry. The power of that ministry is in Christ and in his resurrection alone.
But Paul doesn't stop there. He not only wants to know Christ and
the power of his resurrection, but also the sharing in his suffering. Now a lot
of people want to leave that one out. That's not quite so pleasant, is it? How
do you share in his sufferings? You have to go hang on a cross somewhere
and there share in hanging on a cross? There are some foolish people who
think that that's what is being meant here, but that's not true. No. Christ
indeed completed his sufferings when he declared, "It is finished." But in a way
those sufferings continue. We read in Colossians 1:24: "Now I rejoice in what
was suffered for you and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to
Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body which is the church." How can he fill up
the afflictions? Well, this is his body, is it not? this church that's on this earth?
It's his body and his body is still going through all the turmoils and the
troubles and the afflictions. All that is transpiring and we are involved in that. We're
in the world, but we're not of the world. We are here participating in all of
the effects of sin that invade this world and we're groaning until the day when
it shall be redeemed. But he's not referring just to that. If you're part of
the church, you're identified with Jesus Christ and when you are identified
with Jesus Christ, you are identified with his sufferings. And as he is suffering in
his church until we are conformed to his image, as he is suffering in your life and
in my life and in everyone else's life here, so that has to continue and we have
to participate in it. When someone is weeping, you have to weep. When
someone is going through great turmoil, you have to go through great turmoil with
them. You cannot just stand to the side and say I feel sorry for you, brother. This
is a terrible hard time you are going through. We understand. Let's pray.
Most of us like to avoid suffering. There's always the strange one who climbs in the bathtub full of ice and says, I do this because it's so good when I get out. Strange people. The world has plenty of strange people. But this is a biblically oriented participation in Christ, a sharing in his sufferings because we have to go through suffering to glory; because it is a part of sharing in the church; it's part of the ministry of the church. Someone calls and they're going through great hardships. You can't say, well it's my day off, I'll talk to you tomorrow. Oh, I know ministers who do. I've had that experience right in my own family. It's horrible. It does not represent Christ properly. It does not cause us to grow in Christ and to have that intimate, absolutely intimate union with Christ whereby we participate not only in his power that comes through the resurrection but also in his suffering. Yes, that is what we must do so that we will become like him in his death. We have to die to our own selfish ideas, die to our aggrandizing of our own position and ways. We have to die to this world. That's part of that union with Christ so that in the process of going through this development of union with Christ, we arrive finally at the resurrectionto somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that Paul's feeling that he's not going to make it. That's not the idea at all; that's what it sounds like to some, but that's not what he is referring to at all. Rather this is the means by which he gets to that attainment.
Well, that's the ministry. That's what it's all about. We welcome you to the ministry. I trust you know what's coming and I trust that, like Paul, you will seek to know more of Jesus Christ in union with him. Amen.
How we need that good ol' gospel,
only the good ol' gospel will do;
or even a good ol' conversion,
a preacher that weeps a bit, too.
Not one of those trite off-the-street types
with strained and fire-voiced whine,
but a fireside, reborn-at-noon fellow
recently party to crimes.
Give me a fellow from Oxford,
a man whose wenching is done,
who retells his story for profit,
whose poems are hailed as the sun.
Enough of these predictable pastors,
these affordable five and ten grinds,
these preachers with sins too respectable,
those with their lusts too refined.
Some of them talk about heaven,
their shrill prattle infecting the air;
they would drive us, it seems, from this world,
to onewho knows if it's there?
"Then God said, `Let there be light;' and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning the first day" (NKJ Gen. 1:3-5).
As God created the light on the first day of creation, and he separated the light from the darkness, I ask you, should we understand the creation of the light as natural revelation or special revelation? I think we tend to say, natural revelation.
Let us move quickly ahead and glance at the dawn of the new creation!
Later in John's gospel, the Light in John's prologue speaks to usour Savior Jesus Christ affirms: "I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (Jn. 8:12; cf. Rev. 21:23).
As the new creation dawns by the coming of the Light of life into the world (Jesus Christ), should we understand Christ's redeeming work in the world as natural revelation or special revelation? I think we tend to say that Christ's redeeming work is special revelation.
It seems that we understand the distinctionright? God's creation of light on the first day of the original creation is an expression of natural revelation, whereas God sending the divine Light, Jesus Christ, to usher in the new creation is an expression of special revelation.
The boundaries and the limits of natural revelation and special revelation are set. Natural revelation is a distinct and separate revelation, communicating God's imprint upon the created universe; special revelation is a distinct and separate revelation, communicating God's saving activity to humanity. Although distinct and separate, the two revelations are complimentary and do not contradict each other. Indeed, we have an efficient, tightly defined system that distinguishes both revelations. It has been said, therefore, that natural or general revelation provides the "evidences that a supreme being has created the universe, but we do not see that the being is triune, nor do we see a plan of redemption anywhere in the created order."2 Rather, for humanity to see that
With this typical distinction between natural and special revelation before you, permit me to ask this question: does the Bible present natural revelation and special revelation within such rigidly defined boundaries? In order to stimulate your thinking, permit me to set before you a few observations from the twentieth century Reformed apologist, Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987). Van Til questions whether nature reveals nothing about God's grace.4 In fact, he writes: "Saving grace is not manifest in nature; yet it is the God of saving grace who manifests himself by means of nature."5 It is not entirely apparent what Van Til means by the first phrase, but as one wrestles with the entire statement in the context of his apologetic, it becomes clear that Van Til holds the position that God displays his saving grace upon the landscape of nature. Perhaps, it can best be said in this manner: saving grace is not nature itself, but saving grace is always displayed by the free and sovereign action of God upon the natural terrain of created history. For this reason, Van Til does not speak of two distinct and separate revelationsnatural and special; rather, he understands revelation as a unity that is disclosed in two formsnatural and special. Van Til writes:
Any revelation that God gives of himself is therefore absolutely voluntary. Herein precisely lies the union of the various forms of God's revelation with one another. God's revelation in nature, together with God's revelation in Scripture, form God's one grand scheme of covenant revelation of himself to man. The two forms of revelation must therefore be seen as presupposing and supplementing one another. They
4 Christian Apologetics, ed. William Edgar, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), 66.
Perhaps, an example will help; let us turn to one of Van Til's favorite Biblical characters and stories, Noah and the flood.7
In the flood, God executes his wrath upon unbelief; he uses nature (flood) to wipe the reprobate from the earth. On the other hand, God's grace is displayed to Noah and his family on the landscape of nature; God preserves their lives from judgment as they take up residence in an ark that was constructed from natural materials. Certainly, God's covenant of grace is a saving grace, and after the flood that covenant is mediated through Noah to his descendents and to every living creature (Gen. 8:21; 9: 9-11). In fact, God uses a natural object to be a "sign" of the covenant that he would never again destroy all flesh with a flood; that natural object is the rainbow (Gen. 9:12-15). The rainbowa natural objectis not saving grace, but it is a sign of God's saving grace to Noah in what Van Til called "a limiting notion."8 In other words, the "sign" is always a "limiting notion" until it is completely fulfilled in its "reality"the saving grace that can only be fulfilled in the future redemption of Christ for Noah. Hence, in the story of Noah, Van Til directs our attention to the fact that saving grace is "mediated through nature." Specifically, we see throughout Biblical revelation in the Old Testament that nature serves "the purposes of redemption. The forces of nature are always at the beck and call of the power of differentiation that works toward redemption and reprobation."9
7 See Christian Apologetics, 67-68.
8 Ibid., 68. Bavinck states, "The covenant that after the flood was made with Noah and in him with the new human race is a covenant of nature, yet no longer natural but the fruit of non-obligatory supernatural grace" (Prolegomena, 311).
9 Van Til, Christian Apologetics, 68. Interestingly, Jonathan Edwards conveyed the same idea in the eighteenth century, i.e., that creation serves redemption. Edwards wrote: "This seems to have been one reason why God made the world by Jesus Christ, viz. that the creation of the world was a work that was subordinate to the work of redemption," The "Miscellanies" (Entry Nos. 501-832), vol. 18 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Ava Chamberlain (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 289.
(1) the triune God of the Bible, and (2) God's "one unified comprehensive plan for the world."10 First, concerning the triune God of the Bible, we must keep in mind that the God of Scripture has no facsimile to deism or pantheism. Specifically, nowhere in the Bible, or more specifically, in the history of revelation (since the beginning of the creation) is God pictured through the lenses of deism. In other words, nowhere does the Bible teach that natural revelation is without the complement of supernatural revelation. Or, to put it another way, nowhere in the Bible does the Word of God display nature as a product of natural laws set by a supreme being who put everything in motiona theistic adaptation to Aristotle's unmoved mover. Simply stated, it does not seem to me that Aquinas's view of natural revelation can be rescued from laying the foundation of seventeenth and eighteenth century deism.11 In contrast to those who maintain that natural revelation does not reveal the triune God of the Bible, Scripture as well as the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that natural revelation (creation) is the product of the Father (Gen. 1:1), Son (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16), and the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2; cf. WCF IV:1). The entire creation bares the blueprint of the triune God of heaven and earth, and furthermore, the Bible presupposes that no one can interpret or understand the theistic construction of the creation unless one stands in the palm of the triune God of Scripture.
Furthermore, nowhere in the Bible, or more specifically, in the history of revelation (since the beginning of the creation) is God pictured through the lenses of pantheism. In other words, nowhere does the Bible teach that natural
11 Perhaps, the contrast here can be seen in the way Guido de Brès intended the opening of Belgic Confession, Article II to be understood. The opening phrase presently reads, "We know Him by two means," which refers to creation (natural revelation) and Scripture (special revelation). As it presently reads, many find in this phrase a construction that fits with Aquinas. However, it is known that in the original draft de Brès wrote: "we confess to know Him as such by two means," which stresses the organic union of the two revelations (one revelation in two forms) rather than a sequential movement of two revelations (Aquinas) (see G. C. Berkouwer, General Revelation [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955], 275).
Second, concerning God's "one unified comprehensive plan for the world," Van Til's conception is insightful and crucial. Van Til holds that natural revelation and special revelation must be viewed from within the spectrum of God's "all-comprehensive plan for the created universe."12 To repeat from an earlier quotation that I placed before you, Van Til states, "the two forms of revelation
Let us return to my opening remarks and briefly sketch how this works. We can never understand fully the creation of light on the first day of creation unless we understand the eschatological Light of the new creationJesus Christ. In fact, Jesus Christ brings the light of the original creation into existence (Jn 1:3; Col. 1:16). Furthermore, Jesus Christ, the special revelation of God is the pattern for the natural light of natural revelation in the original creation.15
14 Ibid., 76. Van Til comments further: "It is not that we are merely brought into existence by God, but our meaning also depends upon God. Our meaning cannot be realized except through the course of history. God created man in order that man should realize a certain end, that is, the glory of God, and thus God should reach his own end" (The Defense of the Faith, 3rd ed. [Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1967], 40). Edwards also seems convinced that we need to understand the beginning from its end: "The work of redemption may be looked upon as the great end and drift of all God's works and dispensations from the beginning, and even the end of the work of creation itself; yea, the whole creation. It was the end of the creation of heaven: the preparing that blessed and glorious habitation was with the eye to this" ("The "Miscellanies," 284).
15 Edwards was emphatic about his point: "That the recovery of the world from confusion and ruin is by Christ, who is the wisdom of God and the brightness of his glory and the light of the world; and that the first thing that was done in order to the recovery of the ruined world, was the giving of Jesus Christ to be the light of the world to put an end to its darkness and confusion" (ibid., 284-285).
On the basis of such a Biblical construct of revelation, the believer possesses an unique epistemological self-consciousness against modern naturalistic science because one should never look at natural phenomenon outside the eschatological reality of Christ. Furthermore, no natural phenomenon can be understood correctly outside the integrated work of God's plan for the creation. We can say it like this; if there is no new creation, there can be no original creation. Any understanding of the original creation without the new creation is reductionistone has removed oneself from the integrative fabric of supernatural revelation!
Van Til's position is helpful in addressing some challenging texts found in Paul's epistle to the Romans: 10:18; 8:18-30; and 1:18-25. I wish to begin with Romans 10:18 and make our way back to Romans one because Romans 10:18 presents us with a major problem which possibly sheds light upon a better understanding of Romans 8:18-30 and Romans 1:18-25.
We may continue, however, to press the point that many in the world still have not heard the gospel; they have not had a preacher come to them to instill faith in Jesus Christ. So, are we to be content that the gospel has been preached to many people but not all people; and are we to be content that the gospel has been received in faith or rejected by many people but not all people? If you are one who is hung up with the "many" versus "the all," then Paul's rhetorical question may be a bombshell (vs. 18): "But I say, have they [all] not heard?"Paul answers: "Yes, indeed [the all]," and then Paul proceeds to quote Ps. 19:4: "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world." Paul says that the communication of the Word of God concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached to the ends of the world. Paul makes his case by quoting Ps. 19:4; in other words, Paul quotes Ps. 19:4 as a defense that everyone has heard the gospel on the face of the earth.
17 In fact, the Belgic Confession (1567) captures the element of communication that pertains to natural revelation in Ps. 19 when it discusses that natural revelation is a book that is read. After all, as the Psalmist says that nature speaks and propels knowledge, we note that such speech is so broad that everyone has heard its voice. Hence, Reformed theologians have said correctly that natural revelation manifests the truth that all humanity has heard the voice of God.
18 There is a wide range of perplexity over this text, particularly Paul's use of Psalm 19:4. Charles Hodge was clear that Paul does not intend that Psalm 19:4 be applied specifically to the "preaching of the gospel." Rather, Hodge contends that Paul uses Psalm 19:4 to state that the "proclamation of the gospel was now free from all national and ecclesiastical restrictions" in order to go to Jew and Gentile (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Philadelphia: Grigg & Elliot, 1835], 443-44). John Calvin rejects the ancient "allegorical" interpretation in which the sun equals Christ (Ps. 19:4) and the heavens equal the apostles (Ps. 19:1). Rather, for Calvin, Paul invokes his teaching from Romans 1. Paul is using Ps. 19:4 not to declare that "the Gospel" has gone to the Gentiles, but that "the whole workmanship of heaven and earth spoke and proclaimed its Author by its preaching." In the fashion of Aquinas, Calvin is holding that Paul's use of Ps. 19:4 here is a reference to natural revelation alonethat God preaches through natural revelation his "divinity" to Jew and Gentile (The Epistles of Paul The Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. Ross MacKenzie [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1960], 234). John Murray saw the "difficulty" here. Murray wonders if Paul has a lapse of memory since he seems to be quoting Ps. 19:4 in the context of special revelation instead of natural revelation. After all, we must remember
First, in respect to the creation declaring the supernatural deeds/acts of the Lord we note that in various passages in the Old Testament the heavens are described as witnessing and testifying to the acts of God. For example, in passages in Deuteronomy, God seems to be holding court, and the witnesses are the "heavens and the earth" (4:26; 30:19; 31:28; 32:1). Simply, the witness is the created order (also true for prophetic literature: Isa. 1:2; Am. 4:13; Mic. 6:1, 2). Isaiah (1:2) may capture best the point I am attempting to make. The Lord testifies to the heavens that he has "nourished and raised his children" (they are objects of his acts of redemption) and that those same children are sinful and corrupt, and therefore, objects of God's anger (judgment). The Lord makes his appeal to the heavens because they have witnessed God's blessing and judgment with respect to God's activity; on the terrain of the creation God
that the Psalmist deals with general revelation in verses 1-6 and with special revelation in verses 7-14. For Murray, although in the strict sense Ps. 19:4 applies to natural revelation, Paul has the liberty to use it in any way he pleases. Simply put, according to Murray, Paul is using Ps. 19:4 as a pattern for the gospel going "to the uttermost parts of the earth." To put it another way, general revelation (Ps. 19:4), as it testifies of God to all humanity, is now an analogy for the gospel (special revelation) going out to all humanity (Romans, 61). C. E. B. Cranfield suggests a simple solution; he holds that "probably all that he [Paul] wants to assert is that the message has been publicly proclaimed in the world at largethe significant thing is that it has been quite widely preached to the Gentiles " Like Murray, Cranfield maintains that Psalm 19:4 is being used by Paul as an analogy of expanding the preaching of the gospel (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2 [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1979], 537). Karl Barth avoids the reference of Psalm 19:4 altogether. In light of his dialectical view of transcendence and cosmos this is not surprising. Barth will avoid the traditional view of natural revelation with respect to Psalm 19:4, and thus, he will place the verse in the context of the preaching of the Word of Christ within the church. As the church goes into the world, it proclaims the kerygma (The Epistle to the Romans, trans. Edwyn C. Hoskyns, 6th ed. [1933; reprint, London: Oxford, 1972], 389. N. T. Wright holds that Paul's quote of Psalm. 19:4 is directing us back to the "created order" as stated in Romans 1:18-20, but Wright admits that Paul is not clear concerning how the reference to Psalm 19:4 is related to the gospel. Wright realizes that Paul's use of the Psalmist is a reference to the proclamation of the gospel, but he does not know how (Paul for Everyone: Romans: Part Two: Chapters 9-16 [London: SPCK, 2004], 37).
Second, I have noted that within the fabric of natural revelation lies the essential nature of supernatural revelation. In order to illustrate this point, I want to direct our attention to Romans 8:18-31, and then on the basis of some observations about that text, I want to make a connection with Romans 10:18 and Ps. 19:4.
In Romans 8, Paul opens by speaking of the believer in union with the effectual work of Christ; there is no condemnation for those in Jesus (vs. 1). On the plain of redemptive-history a transformation has occurred in the believer by virtue of the coming of Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit. The believer is now under the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ" who has released the believer from the law of sin and death (vs. 2; 5b). The believer's life in the Spirit is now in distinct contrast to walking according to the flesh (vs. 3, 5a, 7-8).
With this context before us, Paul tells us that the believer has received the
Paul is so overcome by the final glorified state of believers, i.e., when they become joint-heirs with Christ, that he holds that the present state of suffering in this world cannot be compared with the glorious state of heavenly inheritance (vs. 18). As Paul makes his argument, verse eighteen serves as the hinge pin for what follows. For not only do we suffer in this world as an anticipation of our glorified state, but also the creation shares in our suffering condition as the creation itself waits for the glorification of the "sons of God" (vs. 19; cf. Ps. 102:25-28; Isa. 51:6). As we keep in mind that the creation is in the state of futility and bondage because God has subjected it to such a state by virtue of Adam's fall into sin (vs. 20-21),20 Paul directs our attention to the fact that like the birth of a child, the creation is going through the pains of laborgroaning and crying out for the release of her child and the ceasing of pain (vs. 22). Likewise, the believer, who already has received the firstfruits of the Spirit, groans like a mother in labor for the final adoption of their glorified body (vs. 23; cf. vs. 26). Simply, for Paul the parallel is clear; the believer lives the life of suffering waiting for his release, and likewise, the creation exists in a state of suffering waiting for its release.21 Paul seems to infer here that the creation can
21 Wright draws the analogy between Israel and their bondage, not Christ (Romans, I: 151). Cranfield goes so far as to say that Christ is not in view at all in verses 18-23 since Paul does not mention him (Romans, I: 416-417). On the other hand, Charles Hodge thinks the phrase "glorious liberty" in verse 21 (cf. also vs. 18) is a phrase that has been applied to Christ, and now is applied in a similar manner to the creation (Romans, 337).
Let us draw out the pattern more directly. One must not miss the fact that Christ sets the pattern! The pattern of Christ's redemptive work is from suffering here on earth to glorification in heaven. Likewise, following the pattern of Christ, the pattern for the believer is suffering here on earth to glorification in heaven. Do not stop there; likewise, following the pattern of Christ and the believer, the pattern for the creation is suffering in its present state while it waits for the glorification of the "sons of God." Here is the point: since the fall, God has subjected the creation itself to the visible pattern of Christit is one of suffering to exaltation. Hence, God wrote the pattern of suffering to exaltation upon the very fabric of natural revelation; the creation was not meant to be an end for itself. Rather, the creation's own pattern of suffering to exaltation is always a witness and a testimony to Christ's pattern of suffering to exaltation as well as the believer's pattern of suffering to exaltation. In fact, the creation takes this pattern because it is the fiat creation of Christ; as the product of Christ's creative word, the creation takes on the pattern that the Father has marked for his Son as Christ is delivered into the creation.22 In light of this Christocentric pattern, the special revelation of the gospel's pattern of suffering to glorification is written upon the very fabric of natural revelation. For this reason, as Paul moves to his discussion in the tenth chapter about the gospel being heard by all, he quotes Ps. 19:4 as the sure evidence that creation itself has proclaimed the kerygmathe gospel message of suffering to exaltation has been preached to every single person on the face of the world. Everyone has seen and heard this testimony. Indeed, the creation proclaims its message in sermonic form. As the creation groans and cries, it is declaring the pattern of the cross for the exaltation of Christ's church! In this way, Paul applies Psalm 19:4, which is usually bound by theologians to the realm of natural revelation, to the universal proclamation of the gospel!
The Biblical picture should be becoming more apparent; God's revelatory work and activity comes to humanity in two forms: special revelation and
Before we look at Romans chapter one, permit me to remind us that we have been proceeding in reverse order: Romans 10:18, 8:12-30, and 1:18-3:20. If we pause, however, to look at these texts in sequence, we can make the following observation. In Romans 1:18-3:20, Paul sets up the strict antithesis between the righteous and the unrighteous upon the landscape of revelational-
Even so, in contrast of the sequence of the text, we have made our journey in reserve order. I have taken this approach in order to offer a challenge with respect to an organic understanding of supernatural revelation. In my mind, if the problems surrounding the exegesis of Romans 10:18 can approach resolution, then issues in Romans 8 and Romans 1 may be reexamined in a better light. Indeed, Paul tells us by quoting Psalm 19:4 in Romans 10:18 that the heavens have witnessed the supernatural activity of God upon the plain of the natural creation, and furthermore, the creation proclaims that testimony every single day to all men. Moreover, in Romans 8, Paul notes that an essential characteristic of the gospel is inherently written upon the fabric of natural revelation; it is the pattern of suffering to exaltation (a component of special revelation). Let us keep these fundamental truths about the fabric of supernatural revelation before us as we now proceed to Romans 1.
Paul's argument in Romans 1 is redemptive-historical; in verses 17-25 Paul does not intend to prescribe the foundations of theological prolegomena for future theologians along the line of a defense for theism and/or a construct for natural theology. Rather, Paul places us in the midst of the redemptive-historical drama between the seed of the woman (the kingdom of God) and the seed of the serpent (kingdom of Satan). The contrast is grounded in eschatology, i.e., the present and final revelation of the righteousness of God (vs. 17) in contrast to the present and final revelation of the wrath of God against all ungodliness
The reason that unbelievers are condemned is because they are "without excuse" to believe (vs. 20: avnapologh,touj); their rebellion is self-imposed.26 They not only know God as image-bearer (vs. 19 "sense of divinity within them"), but they also know God "through the things that are made" (vs. 20). For Paul, the knowledge of God is not limited to the divine attributes of a theistic being deduced logically and exclusively from natural revelation. Why? First, according to Paul, the God who is revealed and known is the God of the Bible. Human beings are the image-bearer of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1:19 corresponds to Gen. 1: 26-28), and the creation is the product of the activity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1:20 corresponds to Gen. 1Father; Jn. 1: 2-3Son; Gen. 1:2Holy Spirit). Second, the arena on which the triune God of the Bible displays himself is upon the creation (1:20). In light of this point, I want to reassess verse 20. Let me reiterate that Paul has placed the reader of this passage within the spectrum of the entire story of the history of redemption. We are viewing Paul's analysis of the landscape of redemptive-history "since/from" the creation of the world. Simply, Paul is telling us that since the creation of the world, the "invisible things of the Lord are clearly seen" upon the continuum of history.27 John Murray indicates that Paul seems to be caught in an "oxymoron" here, i.e., how can something invisible be
25 Murray sees the passage in the context of strict antithesis as well: "`The wrath of God' stands in obvious antithesis to `the righteousness of God' in verse 17" (Romans, 35).
26 One can say that unbelievers are literally "without an apology""without a defense"against the testimony of the true God and his supernatural revelation.
28 Romans, 38; Cranfield also places the concept of oxymoron before us (Romans, I: 115); Calvin ties the text to Hebrews 11:3 (Romans, 32).
29 On the basis of Greek and Roman literature, Cranfield sees this as a reference to the "attributes" of God (Romans, I: 115; e.g. Homeric hymns, Hesiod, Cicero). Cranfield's assessment can be questioned. What is known, what is seen, and what is perceived are the "invisible things of God" (vs. 20). Paul is not arguing from the visible to the visible; rather he moves from the invisible to the visiblethe invisible is revealed in the visible, and from the visible the invisible is known. We cannot overlook the Greek term that Paul uses here with respect to God's revelation of the "invisible" (avo,ratoj adjective nom. pl.). When this particular form of the Greek word for "invisible" appears in the New Testament, it has either a direct or indirect reference to Christ (Col. 1: 15, 16; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27). Simply put, the invisible things of God include the person, identity, and ordained work of Christ. Look at Col. 1: 15, 16; as Paul refers to the things that have been made in Romans 1, i.e., as Paul looks at God's activity in creation, we do well to look at the Colossians passage as further commentary. In, by, through, and unto Christ were all things createdvisible and invisible, including the basic patterns which are found in Christ's creative
Let me illustrate by using Israel's exodus from Egypt as an example! Again we must keep in mind that "since/from" the creation the invisible things of God, i.e., his eternal power and divinity are clearly seen by virtue of the things that he is doing. In this light, we need to pick up simply upon such statements from the Lord in Exodus 14:4, 18 about the unbelieving nations:
" `Then I harden Pharaoh's heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.' And they did so" (vs. 4) " `Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen'" (vs. 18; cf. also Josh. 23:4-9).
activity in the original creation (Gen. 1) as they come to be found also in the gospel centered on Christ: e.g., light testifies to the Light; chaos testifies to order; void testifies to fulfillment; formlessness testifies to resolution; a first day testifies to a final day of consummation (Sabbath day); and eventually, a fallen groaning creation testifies to the deliverance of God's children. Indeed, Christ, as the "firstborn of all creation" (vs. 15) points to Christ being the "firstborn from the dead" (vs. 18), i.e., having the position of priority (pioneer, go before) in the creation order as the second person of the Trinity points to the fact that he also has the position of priority in the resurrection of the dead on behalf of his body of believers, the churchthe invisible is made visible as his Father makes the tomb vacant! Christ, as the great "I am of God" (Ex 3:14; cf. Jn. 6:35, 38) made his invisible person known to Moses out of a bush (the invisible in a visible natural object) that would not be consumed as Moses' faith exchanged fearing the wrath of God for not fearing the wrath of Pharaoh (Heb. 11:27). The same Christ took Paul on a similar path like Moses (cf. 1 Tim. 1:12-17). In my judgment, when we fully grasp what Paul means by "the invisible things of him [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen" (Rom. 1:20a), it is not the attributes of a theistic being that is revealed, rather the attributes of the triune God of the Bible as well as the essence of his being are revealed which are exhibited in the pattern of the gospel itself.
We must not stop there; we must press on from the antithetical structure of Romans one to the consummation of creation in Romans 8. After all, the exodus is a preview of the consummation of God's activity upon the landscape of creation history. In the exodus the creation witnesses its own preview of its eager expectation of the glorification of the sons of God (in this case, the Israelites final release from bondage; cf. Rom. 8: 19). In fact, the creation subjects itself to God's sovereign activity in the exodus in the hope of being delivered from its own bondage through the glorious freedom experienced by the children of God (the exodus itself; cf. Rom. 8: 21).
Moreover, we must not stop there; we must press on to the present nature of preaching the gospel (Rom. 10:18). The exodus is also a preview of the Lord preaching the gospel through the testimony of the creation (Rom. 10:18)! Was not God's special revelation organically connected with the natural revelation in this event; or to put it another way, in the exodus, are we not witnessing the supernatural revelation of God in its two overlapping formsnatural and special revelation? For we are told that the "Angel of God" (Jesus Christ) and the
"the pillar of cloud" (Holy Spirit) which led the camp of Israel moved behind the camp of Israel and stood between the Egyptians and the Israelitesgiving the Israelites protection during the night (Ex. 14:19-20). In fact, in the morning, as the Egyptians pursue the Israelites through the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and cloud (Holy Spirit) played havoc upon the Egyptian chariot wheelsso much so that the Egyptians say, "Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians" (Ex. 14:25). Indeed, the creation witnesses and now testifies (preaches) that it has seen the gospel upon the landscape of creation history. The creation testifies that the children of God have gone from bondage to freedom, from slavery to resurrection by virtue of the joint operation of the Father, Son (Angel of God), and the Holy Spirit (pillar and cloud). The creation testifies to all humanity that has seen the gospel upon its site (cf. Josh. 2:9-12; 5:1; 9:1-2, 8-9).
As we focus upon this paradigm in Romans, it becomes a strong tool
in the apologetic arena of ideas. For example, at the beginning of the
19th century, William Paley's work on
Natural Theology was a popular academic textbook
in the field of science throughout Britain. Like others in England, a young
Charles Darwin was educated in the field of natural science and human anatomy
by using Paley's natural theology as a textbook. When Darwin began to
challenge the conclusions of Paley's natural theism, he, like many others, thought
that the issue was merely to remove God out of the picture of naturalism.
Since many naturalists had already rejected the Christian themes of redemption
in Christ, they thought that all that remained was to reject the God of
naturea God of natural theology! Herein lies the genius of Paul's thought as well as
the full-orbed understanding of Christian theistic revelation. Paul does not
teach natural theology plus supernatural revelation; he does not even teach
natural revelation plus supernatural revelation. Rather, the Biblical theistic position
is that natural revelation can never be truly comprehended without special
revelation, or natural revelation is always organically linked or united to
special revelation in the entire spectrum of God's supernatural revelation. An
BWHEBB, BWHEBL [Hebrew]; BWGRKL, BWGRKN, and BWGRKI [Greek] Postscript® Type 1 and TrueTypeT fonts Copyright © 1994-2002 BibleWorks, LLC. All rights reserved. These Biblical Greek and Hebrew fonts are used with permission and are from BibleWorks, software for Biblical exegesis and research.
Resurrection and Justification1
For seeing that external kingdom is not restored, nor that we ought to look for restitution, we must have respect unto Christ, who reigns in heaven, and in them which are his and shall reign eternally. Concerning his death and resurrection, Christ alleged the types of Jonah the prophet (Mt. 12:39; 16:4); and in many such places, the death and resurrection of Christ was shadowed. Again, it is to be noted that these things which so went before were only types and shadows of the Lord's death and resurrection; but after a sort had in them the very truth itself of those things. For seeing that those holy men suffered many grievous things, and that in a while, help and deliverance came by God, insomuch as they were the members of Christ and had Christ for their Head, it follows that Christ in them both suffered and was delivered. Wherefore we say that the passion and resurrection of Christ began even from the first times, but that afterward they took place more manifestly in Christ himself, and yet still become more evident unto the church through the present death, which it daily
Augustine, in his 16th book against Faustus, seems to bring this interpretationthat our faith is chiefly directed unto the resurrection of Christ. That he dies, the Ethniks2 also grant; but that he rose again, they utterly deny. And therefore, seeing faith is said to be the thing whereby we are justified, Paul would make mention of the thing wherein faith is most conversant. And for confirmation of his saying, he cites a place out of the tenth chapter to the Romans, "If with thy mouth thou confess thy Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in thy heart that he was raised from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (v. 9). By which words it appears that salvation and justification are attributed unto the faith of Christ's resurrection.
of a Harlot
She was a lady of the night. They were spies who had penetrated the defenses of this enemy city. They came to her home for refuge, but it seemed that refuge was to be short-lived. Soon after their arrival, a knock sounded on the door. Government agents had come looking for them. What would happen next? Would they be betrayed? Their fate lay in the hands of a harlot.
This may sound like the plot from a John LeCarre novel. It surely is a tale of espionage and intrigue. But this tale comes not from the pages of modern fiction, but from the annals of history. Indeed, the story of Rahab is part of redemptive history, that grand story of God's acts of revelation and redemption. As her story unfolds, we will be called to look back to God's previous acts and promises and also to look forward to promises later to be fulfilled. The theme of the story is salvation. We will see that theme developed at several levels as we consider salvation and the house of a harlot.
Joshua could look back over forty years of wandering in the desert
wilderness. Forty years ago the children of Israel had been perched on the edge
of the Promised Land. From Kadesh Barnea, twelve spies had been sent out
And now, at Shittim, they are once more perched on the edge of the Promised Land. Moses has died and Joshua is the leader. He sends out spies again, but this time their number would be that of the faithful few who had gone before: "Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove [Hebrew, Shittim] to spy secretly, saying, `Go, view the land, especially Jericho' (v. 1)."
They came to the house of a harlot named Rahab. We are not told why they did so. Had they received some word that she might be sympathetic to their cause? Or was the house of a harlot simply a place where a few foreign men might blend in without being noticed? The text is silent on this point. What becomes clear is that Yahweh's sovereign hand is guiding them.
While the spies enter the city successfully, they do not do so in complete secrecy. Word quickly reaches the ears of the king of Jericho that men of Israel have entered the city on a mission of espionage. He sends agents to Rahab's door demanding that she surrender the men. It is a moment of vulnerability for the spies. They are trapped and at the mercy of a Canaanite prostitute.
Rahab had already hidden the men under stacks of drying flax on her roof. Now she concocts a tale designed to deceive the king's agents. "Yes," she admits, "those men came here, but I didn't know where they were from. They left about the time of the shutting of the city gate." Rahab proceeds to send the king's men on a wild goose chase: "I'm not sure where they were going, but if you hurry you can overtake them." They took the bait and sped off toward the fords of Jordan, where they expected the spies would try to cross back to their camp. With the city gates just closing behind them, they must have thought they were hot on the trail. Surely, the spies couldn't have gotten far.
Rahab had risked her life by lying to the king's agents in order to save the lives of the spies. Why had she done so? We learn that her motives were not entirely altruistic. The one providing salvation was also in search of salvation.
When the king's men have gone, Rahab joins the spies upon the roof and makes a remarkable confession:
I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. (vv. 9-11)
This confession is remarkable on several counts. First, it demonstrates that Yahweh keeps his promises. Hear some of the prophetic words of the song of Moses after the Red Sea passage:
All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; by the greatness of Your arm they will be as still as a stone, till Your people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over whom You have purchased. (Exodus 15:15-16)
Yahweh, through his prophet Moses, had declared that the peoples
would hear of his great redemptive acts and would fear before the children of
Israel. He had said, "Fear and dread will fall on them;" and Rahab reports, "the
terror of you has fallen on us." Moses had sung, "all the inhabitants of Canaan
will melt away;" and Rahab declares, "our hearts melted." Using the very
Second, Rahab's confession is remarkable as it reveals her to be a good history student. Consider how the Israelites had failed repeatedly in this regard. They had seen with their own eyes the miraculous parting of the waters of the Red Sea and they had passed through those waters themselves. Then they witnessed Yahweh's judgment upon the pursuing Egyptians as he caused the waters to crash down upon them with all their drowning fury. And yet, having experienced that deliverance, they murmured at Marah (Ex. 15.23-24). In the wilderness of Sin they cried out in unbelief, "Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full!" (Ex. 16:3). Though Yahweh had cleansed the waters at Elim and provided quail and manna in the wilderness of Sin, the people complained once again about a lack of water at Rephidim (Ex. 17:1-3). We've already reflected upon the failure of faith at Kadesh Barnea, when they believed the evil report of the faithless spies rather than heeding the call to believe and conquer issued to Caleb and Joshua. What was wrong? The children of Israel knew the facts of history. Indeed, they had been participants in that history, again and again experiencing Yahweh's gracious deliverance and provision. Yet they failed to interpret history faithfully and, thereby, to trust in the God whom that history revealed.
Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, did understand. She looked at the drying up of the waters of the Red Sea and at the victories over the Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, and she drew the proper conclusion. Yahweh had done these things, and it would be fearful and foolish for anyone to try to stand up against him. Before the onslaught of Yahweh, the appropriate response of his enemies was melting hearts and draining courage. Rahab had learned from history.
Third, Rahab's confession is remarkable because it portrays her as a
believer in Yahweh. After rehearsing and properly interpreting the facts of
history, Rahab concludes, "the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and
on earth beneath" (v. 11). This is an amazing concession coming from a
Canaanite. The Canaanites believed in dozens of deities. Rahab was supposed to
believe that Baal and Asherah were the greatest of these gods. But now she takes
In making this confession her own, Rahab is transferring her allegiance from the false gods of the Canaanites to Yahweh, the true God of Israel.
Rahab's confession has revealed Yahweh as a faithful promise keeper and Rahab as a good history student and a believer in Yahweh. Because she recognizes Yahweh as the true God, she recognizes these spies as his messengers. Indeed, the spies are called "messengers" elsewhere in Scripture (Josh. 6:25, Jam. 2:25). Rahab saw the spies as emissaries from Yahweh bringing a message of salvation. Just as Jacob had wrestled with a divine messenger until he received a blessing, Rahab now "wrestles" with these messengers:
Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. (vv. 12-13)
Rahab's "wrestling" is effectual. She extracts from the men an oath of protection for her and for her family when the Israelites take the city. It is a deadly serious oath: "our lives for yours" (v. 14). The spies personally promise to protect all who are within her house when the attack comes: "whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him" (v. 19). This personal covenant did have obligations for Rahab to fulfill: (1) she was to tell no one of the spies' business; (2) she was to mark her house with a scarlet cord that her attackers could recognize; (3) she was to be certain all her family remained in her house when the attack came. With this agreement made, Rahab helped the spies escape through her window and directed them on a safe course to elude their pursuers.
The sequel shows that Rahab fulfilled her obligations and the spies kept their oath. When the attack is launched, Joshua directs the spies personally to deliver Rahab and her household. They proceed to do so:
And the young men who had been spies went in and brought our Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel . And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (Josh. 6:23, 25)
In saving this Canaanite prostitute and her household, Yahweh demonstrates that his grace and mercy were never intended to be limited to Israel. He had promised Abram, "I will bless those who bless you, I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:3). Rahab blesses the God of Abraham and her family is blesseda token of God's grace to the Gentiles. Yes, the story of Rahab is a story of salvation to the house of a harlot.
We have learned of salvation in the house of a harlot and salvation to the house of a harlot. But that is not the end of the story. Joshua 2 begins with Joshua sending out the spies and it ends with Joshua receiving their report. But we have not understood this story of Rahab fully until we look ahead to a second Joshua, a greater Joshua who was to come.
In Joshua 6, we see that Rahab and her family are ultimately incorporated into the people of Israel as Gentile converts who have received the grace of Yahweh. Rahab is a celebrated proselyte. She is held up as an example of one who demonstrated her faith by her works in James 2:25: "Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?"
Rahab also receives New Testament praise in Hebrews 11:31: "By faith
the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she
had received the spies with peace." Here in this great chapter celebrating the
heroes and heroines of faith, Rahab finds her place alongside the likes of
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. What an unlikely place to find the name of
For the least likely place, we must turn to Matthew 1 and its genealogy of our Lord. In verse 5, we learn that Boaz was a descendant of Rahab (a Canaanite). Boaz married the Ruth (a Moabitess). The line descending from them included Obed, Jesse, and David, the King of Israel. Not only was Rahab incorporated into Israel, but she became a forebear of King David! What a distinction for a sinner from among the Gentiles.
But, of course, that is not the greatest distinction, for if David descended from her then so did the greater David, the anointed Messiah, Jesus himself. Rahab's story is not some isolated event from Old Testament history. It is a story that continues to unfold until the coming of Christ. In highlighting foreigners like Rahab, Tamar, and Ruth in his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew wants his Jewish readers to be absolutely certain that the gospel was never intended to be the unique property of the Jews. The promise to make Abraham a blessing to all nations is evident in the fulfillment found in the lineage of Jesus. Salvation has come through the house of a Gentile harlot.
What majesty and mystery we find in the gospel. Through Rahab's descendants came the Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet, this same Christ was the object of Rahab's faith and the source of her salvation! She knew of Yahweh's deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt and through the wilderness. The apostle Paul tells us that Christ was the Rock that gave the Israelites spiritual drink in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:4). Faith in Yahweh was faith in the Triune GodFather, Son, and Holy Spiritand faith in his promises, including the promise of the Messiah. What Rahab knew in shadowy form, we know clearly in the light of the glory of Jesus Christ.
Oh, it is a mystery. Christ was with Israel in the wilderness. Christ brought to the Israelite spies salvation in the house of a harlot. Through Joshua's men, Christ brought salvation to the house of a harlot. And Christ is the beginning and end of the salvation that came through the house of a harlot.
Be encouraged, this day, by the message of salvation and the house of
a harlot. God used the faith of a Canaanite prostitute as part of his plan to
bring salvation to all nations through the work of Jesus Christ. What is the
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"(Rev. 7:9-10)
May our voices join the chorus of Rahab, and all the other recipients of God's grace throughout history, in praise of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. How great is the salvation that has come to us through the house of a harlot!
My apologies to our readers if my title is somewhat misleading. No, this DVD does not bring us John Calvin redivivus. It does not preserve his voice (impossible!), nor does it give us live video of Calvin preaching at St. Pierre (also impossible!). It does not contain all of his works in English (certainly a worthy project), nor even those works which have been translated into English over the past four and one-half centuries. And yet, this DVD does contain the Calvin corpus, i.e., the whole body of his works from the edition printed in the Corpus Reformatorum. All 59 volumes of that particular compilation of Calvin's collected works have been scanned into pdf files and are fully searchable, retrievable and printable.
Calvin scholars cannot but rejoice at the release of this tool. It allows searches, Boolean and otherwise, of the entire works of the Geneva Reformer in seconds. Granted, the languages are Latin, French and a smidgen of German. This means that the user must have some facility in Calvin's original tongues. But the availability of this tool will greatly advance research into the Calvini Opera ("Works of Calvin").
The "Browse" mode allows the user to select any title from the 59-volume corpus in order to search it in particular. Alternatively, the entire 59-volume corpus may be searched, thus permitting the user to locate every use of a term
Navigation through searches is accomplished by clicking/highlighting the next document on the "Hits" list. Navigation within a document is performed by using the dark black right and left arrows at the top of each page (one is viewing the actual page of the Corpus Reformatorum edition on screen). In other words, the user is able to page forward and backward from within each document; or he may go to the next occurrence of his search criterion using the "Hits" list.
Clarity of output is very good. Anyone who has sat before the hardcopy of the Corpus Reformatorum knows that the pages are sometimes dark and yellowed, and the typeface fuzzy in places. This digitalized version is quite clean. Even where greater definition is necessary, the page may be "blown up" by using the + icon in pdf mode. NB: the DVD permits adjustments for "fuzziness" in the original. However, the user should be aware that increasing and/or decreasing the "fuzziness index" often alters the number of hits. Each user will need to experiment with this feature in order to insure the maximum number of hits for his specific criteria.
Computer system requirements are: Windows 98 or above; 256 Mb of memory; 5 gigs of free hard disk space; Adobe Acrobat reader. Transfer of the DVD to your computer hard disk is automaticsimply load the DVD and follow the on-screen directions. The process takes about two hours.
The Instituut is to be congratulated for making this tool available. It will aid Calvin research considerably. And though the cost is somewhat pricey (249 Euros or about $320 for individuals; 799 Euros or about $1025 for libraries), how much would you pay to search Calvin page by page by hand and the naked eye? This DVD becomes a great bargain as well as an immense time saver, given that prospect.
[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 47-49]
David Bagchi and David Steinmetz, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 289 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-521-77662-7. $25.99.
At the conclusion of this volume on the theology of the Reformation (the reader should not expect to learn about the history of the Reformation from these pages), the co-editor, David Bagchi, asks about the "way ahead," i.e., the future of scholarly research in Reformation theology. He is evidently confident that this volume has summarized the state-of-the-art on the topic to date. In the main, he is correct in that assessmentseveral of the essays in this volume are gems; in fact, models of summary and explanation of their respective topics. The authors of these outstanding essays have obviously been chosen for their expertise on their subjects: W. P. Stevens on Zwingli; David Wright on Scotland; David Steinmetz on Trent. What more can be said? Bagchi notes that the untapped corpus of the Reformers is their sermons. In this, he is certainly correct. The integration of the theology of the Reformers as it interfaces with pulpit and treatise has not greatly occupied scholars heretofore and thus, there is more work to do. While this reviewer does not expect any major revisions of the theology of the Reformers to arise from thorough analysis of their sermons, nonetheless this unexplored body of primary material remains a new frontier for the scholars of the future. Bagchi (254) also notes that the roots of Protestant scholasticism are indigenous to the 16th century and are not reserved to the post-Reformation (17th century) era. Vermigli, Musculus, Bucanus, Zanchius and others echo "Here! Here!"
And yet this volume does give us Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, Cranmer, Knox, as well as the Anabaptists and Roman Catholicism of the Council of Trent. Zwingli's endorsement of the third use of the law (98), more balanced biblically than Luther's law-gospel antithesis, will also be advocated by Melanchthon against Amsdorf (60). Nor is this the sole modification of Luther advocated by his great successor. Luther's "bondage of the will" yields to a more natural ability of the sinful will, which Melanchthon defends in his debates with Spangenberg (74-75). Calvinism, as Muller argues, develops and matures; it is not mutated by a post-Reformation revisionism, as neo-orthodox scholars once argued. Reformed scholasticism of the 17th century is a more precise and mature form of orthodoxy, not a rejection of it. This reviewer might note that Muller's inclusion of Amyraldianism (17th century theology of the Academy of Saumur) in the orbit of Reformed orthodoxy (141) is probably more generous than the 17th century opponents of Saumur (i.e., Francis Turretin, André Rivet, Frederick Spanheim, etc.) would grant. Steinmetz's observation that Reformation covenant theology articulated one covenant of grace "under different administrations" (117) is certainly reflective of the primary documents.
The chapter on the Anabaptists reminds us of their `radical'
posturerestorationist, not reformationist (208). This laying of the ax to the root of
the 16th century tree does not just involve baptism (paedo- versus
anti-paedobaptism). Anabaptism stressed orthopraxis over orthodoxythe
emphasis falling on the practice of Christianity, not its abstract formulation. It
is sufficient to be reminded of what the Reformers themselves regarded as
All in all, a handy "companion" to the subjectcertainly helpful as an introduction and overview of the theology of the era, with attendant bibliographies (257-76) for more extensive study. Even lay persons will benefit from this title. And those seeking an orientation or refresher on the topic could not do better for $26.00.
James T. Dennison, Jr.
[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 49-51]
Edmund P. Clowney, Preaching Christ in All Scripture. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003. 189 pp. Paper. ISBN: 1-58134-452-X. $15.99.
Ed Clowney began teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia the year before I entered the school to study for my B.D. degree. I had him as my teacher for all of my courses in practical theology. He had a profound effect on my thinking, since prior to seminary I had no formal training in the Reformed faith. I was a new Christian and came to Reformed convictions by reading the Bible. What I especially appreciated about Ed's classes was the way he drew his teaching from Scripture and emphasized that the theology that came from the Bible tied the whole message together.
Since Ed was just formulating his courses and we were in a way his guinea pigs, I was very curious to find out what he had to say in this the last of his volumes on preaching. In the course of his maturing thought, what had he learned that could be of benefit to me in my preaching and teaching?
From the first chapter, it was evident that he has maintained his
insistence upon the centrality of Christ for the message of the Bible. Jesus is the
culmination of what the Old Testament is anticipating. He has come not to restore
the old ways, but to bring them to their eschatological fulfillment. He spends
a good deal of time showing that the relationship of the Old Testament to
Christ is in symbols and types; thus to use allegory or moralistic application
The second chapter is entitled, "Preparing a Sermon That Presents Christ." I must admit that I was expecting a practical presentation about dealing with various texts and molding them into a sermon with Christ at the center. This is not at all what he does. Rather his concern is to present principles that must be observed to have a Christo-centric message. For instance, to avoid having explanation with application at the end of the sermon, or having little sermonettes with application after them and thus dividing up your message without a central theme, by placing Christ as the center of the message, you make him the focus of your explanation and application. Clowney also says, "all presentation of Jesus has a narrative dimension" (p. 50). He then spends the next pages showing how Jesus is involved in the Old Testament narrative and in the New Testament narrative. He then urges us to use direct address when referring to Christ, to preach with much prayer, and to practice the presence of the Lord. I found this chapter to be weak and somewhat scattered.
Following this there are 11 sermons which illustrate how Clowney preached Christ-centered messages. This is followed by two other messages that were delivered on other occasions. One was delivered at Inter-Varsity's Urbana Conference in 1973 and the other does not indicate when it was delivered.
Without question the sermons give excellent evidence of how to preach Christ in all Scripture. They take very important texts and plainly show the centrality of Christ, most of them being in the Old Testament. If you have any questions about preaching Christ in these passages, this is the book to pick up and read.
However, I must confess that I was not a little disappointed. For one
thing, he seems to be very enamored of the narrative style of preaching. That
is indicated in the quotation made above and also in the sermons that he chose
to include in this collection. They are all of the narrative genre. Of course,
the Bible has a great deal of narrative in it, but not all of the Bible is narrative. I
was hoping that in his later years he could help us with learning how to preach
on the wisdom books, for instance. How do you preach Christo-centrically on
Job or Proverbs? And what about the variety of Psalms? Not just the 23rd
Another disappointment that I experienced in his sermons was the lack of dealing with the specifics of the text. He emphasized this in the classroom when I was a student. But in the printed sermons, he seemed to be sacrificing the particulars of the text in its context to the flow of the story. Again, he seemed to be falling prey to the modern enthusiasm for narrative sermons. Maybe my problem is that I was looking for too much. But then, having received so much from him years ago, was it wrong to expect even more today?
J. Peter Vosteen