Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Does God Elect Persons Based on Their Foreseen Faith?

--By John Hendryx 

The Scripture teaches that everything related to the gospel is designed to glorify Christ and abase man's pride in thinking he can save himself. So it follows that anything that diminishes Christ’s glory is inconsistent with the true gospel. So my purpose in raising this issue is not to be contentious but to glorify God by aligning our thoughts with His. This short essay is meant to challenge the unbiblical position that some modern evangelicals hold regarding "foreseen faith". Specifically, I would like to confront the position, held by some, which believes that God looks down the corridors of time to see who will believe and then "predestines" them based on the exercise of their autonomous free will to choose Him. I do understand that one of the main purposes that some Christians believe this concept is that they wish to preserve God’s indiscriminate love to all and can't imagine a God whom would  "arbitrarily" choose some and condemn the rest.  If unconditional election were true, they reason, then why doesn't God save everyone? Wouldn't choosing some and leaving others make God arbitrary in His choice? These are understandable objections that I hope to address in what follows:

If I understand the "foreseen faith" position correctly, the following three ideas express the central concepts that this position holds:
1. The salvation of individuals is ultimately the result of their choice rather than divine appointment (alone).
2. Election is based upon God foreseeing the faith of certain individuals rather than only being in accordance with His pleasure and merciful will.
3. Election is conditional, based upon the acceptance of Jesus Christ and not the determination of God, even though God's grace is certainly involved in this process.
Before we enter a discussion of the merits of the reasoning (logic) itself we should first consider that Christianity is not something we derive from mere speculative philosophy. God has indeed given us reasoning faculties and the tools of logic, but as Christians, these are always to be used within the biblical framework He has graciously given us. To think Christainly is to recognize that we can only know God as He has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures, and the Scriptures themselves give no evidence of the "foreseen faith" position. So to base ones theology on unaided human reason alone is no less than deriving the deepest held presuppositions of our faith from extra-biblical sources.

Biblical View of Knowledge
While the Scriptures, in fact, do say, "... those whom He foreknew, He also predestined" (rom 8:29) but it would be poor exegesis to conclude that this must mean "foreseen faith". It is a stretch well beyond what the text actually says and plainly a reading of ones theological presuppositions into the Text. Even those of the foreseen faith position will admit that it is placing an additional concept in the verse that is just not there. In fact the text in question does not say that God foresees some event (our faith) or action people perform, but rather, says "those He foreknew..." In other words Paul communicates that God foreknows people. In the Scriptures whenever it speaks of God "knowing" people it refers to those objects He has set His personal affection on. It expresses the intimacy of personal knowledge within the framework of the covenantal relationship between God and His people. The relationship implies a commitment on God's part. There are many instances in the Scriptures where this kind of covenantal commitment is expressed by the word "knowledge". An example of this can be found in Daniel 11:32:
"By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. Daniel 11:32
Here in Daniel those who broke covenant are set in direct contrast to "the people who know their God". In other words, the concept of knowing God in biblical terms is to keep covenant with God. God has an oath-bound commitment to His people, so "to know" is obviously a great deal more than an an intellectual awareness of impersonal data about a person.

The same concept is also carried over to the New Testament. Jesus tells certain individuals that He never knew them (Matt 7:23). When speaking of not knowing them, Jesus is clearly referring to the idea that some are outside His covenant and He therefore has no commitment to them. Romans 11::1-2 gives further proof that foreknow really means "previous covenantal commitment" rather than an historical event. Here it reads, "God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew". The obvious issue raised here is that God has not cast aside the previous covenantal commitment (those He foreknew) He made with Israel.

The Lord also says to Jeremiah, ""Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." God has determined beforehand to affectionately set apart certain people, but not as a result of their decisions (Amos 3:2; Mt. 7:23; John 10:14; Eph 1:4,5). In fact the Bible teaches that God's grace in choosing us is free, based on His gracious will alone and not influenced by the innate capacities, spiritual desire (ROM 9:16, John 1:13), religious merit, or the foreseen faith of the people He sets apart as His own (Eph 1:5, 2:5,8). Rather, God acts in accordance with his highest purpose, which is His own glory.
Everyone who is called by My name,
And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made..." Isaiah 43:7

Logical Inconsistencies
But aside from the lack of biblical evidence by the "foreseen faith" camp I also wish to point out the fatal flaw and inconsistent logic of the unbiblical presupposition itself. While some portray "foreseen faith" as giving great liberty to every man's free choice, upon greater reflection, this idea turns out to give no real freedom to man at all.  For if God can look into the future and see that a person #1 will come to Christ and that person #2 will not come to faith in Christ, then those facts are already fixed, they are already determined. God's foresight of believers' faith and repentance implies the certainty, or "moral necessity " of these acts, just as much as a sovereign decree. "For that which is certainly foreseen must be certain." (R.L.Dabney) If we assume that God’s knowledge of the future is true (which evangelicals all agree upon), then it is absolutely certain that person #1 will believe and person #2 will not.  There is no way their lives could turn out differently than this. Therefore it is more than fair to say that their destinies are still determined, for they could not be otherwise.  The question is, by what are their destinies determined? If God Himself determines them then we no longer have election based on foreseen faith, but rather on God's sovereign will.  But if God does not determine their destinies then who or what determines them?  Of course no Christian would say that there is some powerful being other than God controlling people’s destinies.  Therefore the only possible alternative is to say they are determined by some impersonal force, some kind of fate, operative in the universe, making things turn out as they do.  But of what benefit is this?  We have then sacrificed election in love by a personal and compassionate God for a kind of determinism by an impersonal force and God is no longer to be given the ultimate credit for our salvation. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

Furthermore, no one could then consistently hold that God foreknew who would believe and be saved and then also preach that God is trying to save every man. If God knows who will be saved, then it would be absurd for Him to reason within Himself that more persons might be saved than the original persons He knew would choose Him. It would be inconsistent to assert that God is trying to do something which He already knew could never be accomplished. Likewise no one could consistently say that God foreknew who would be saved and then turn around and teach that the Holy Spirit does all He can do to save every man in the world. In this scheme, The Holy Spirit would be wasting time and effort to endeavor to convert a man who He knew from the beginning would not choose Him. The unbiblical system collapses in on itself.

Some will answer that it is neither election not foreseen faith but somewhere in the middle.  But this option is excluded, by definition, unless you believe that God is somehow ignorant of the future.  In other words, the only way the “middle position” could be true in this case is if you limit God's omniscience, (an impossibility). Either God knows and decrees the future or He does not.  If God knows the future and your position of foreseen faith is true, then God has left us in the hands of impersonal fate.  Our choice would then be prearranged by an impersonal determinism.  Your “middle ground” position could theoretically be true only if you fastened ignorance on God about the future, but then God would not know who would choose Him and your whole theory would break down since it was based on foreseen faith to begin with.  To conclude, unless you are willing to believe that an impersonal force determines our salvation, and that God does not know the future (the Open Theism heresy), the foreseen faith position is both biblically and logically impossible. In order to honor God we must, at this point, derive our authority from the Scriptures and be careful not rely merely on what we have been taught at our church.

Is God Arbitrary
First I would challenge you to wrestle with the following verse. Paul encountered the very same argument against election; that it would make God unjust and arbitrary.
Romans 9:18-23
18   So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
19   You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?"
20   On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?
21Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same  lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
22   What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His  power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for  destruction?
23   And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,
To begin with, Paul would not ask this hypothetical question unless He believed the ultimate determination of ones salvation to be in the hands of God alone. Paul is saying that God has the sovereign right to do with us whatever He wants.  Will you deny Him this right? Furthermore, since we know the character of God we must not think that, on His side, God had no reasons or causes for saving some and not others  - - “since the divine purpose always conspires with His wisdom and does nothing without reason or rashly; although these reasons and causes have not been revealed to us. In His counsels and works no cause is apparent, it is yet hidden with Him, so that He has decreed nothing except justly and wisely according to His good pleasure founded on His gracious love towards us.” (Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics) Just because we don’t know why He chooses some to faith and not others is not reason enough to reject it.  In the absence of relevant data, we, therefore, have no reason whatsoever to assume the worse, so there are no legitimate grounds for doubting the goodness of God here.  Therefore, to doubt that God can choose us based solely on his good pleasure, is to doubt the goodness of God. The "foreseen faith" people are, in effect, saying that they cannot trust God in making this choice and prefer it to be left up to the fallen individual, as if he would make a better choice than God. Let's summarize then the response to the charge of God being arbitrary:
"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 29: 29 1.      Election is grounded in God's moral character (i.e., goodness, compassion, empathy, integrity, non-duplicity, non-favoritism, justice, etc.)
2.      God does have "causes and reasons" for His choices, though these are "internal" to God  (i.e., not found in the creature). We know He is good and therefore can trust that He would make a better choice than we would.
3. He 'does NOTHING without reason' --- He  'does NOTHING rashly’. He has simply not revealed these reasons and causes to us--although they certainly exist.  Since they haven’t been revealed, we cannot try to figure them out but since we know the trustworthiness of God we can rejoice in His wisdom. God does not 'lack just reasons’ for His actions. These 'just reasons' are merely hidden from us.
4. Salvation is not conditioned upon anything that God sees in us that makes us worthy of His choosing us.  NONE of His decrees were done except justly and wisely".
We must always keep in mind that God is obligated to save no one and that we all justly deserve His wrath.  Therefore, if God saves anyone, it is purely an act of His mercy.  All evangelicals agree that it would have been just of God to wipe out all mankind in judgment, so why, then, would it be unjust for Him to judge some and have mercy on the rest.  If six people owe me a debt, for example, and I forgive four of them their debt but still require the remaining two to pay up, I am totally within my right.  How much more so God? (Read The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard: Matt 20:1-16) 

“It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (ROM 9:16).

Thursday, January 1, 2015

6 evangelical theses about the Bible

Gavin Ortlund 12/26/14

Sometimes it’s helpful to state the obvious—to step back and remind ourselves of the forest so that we don’t get lost in all the trees. Within academia, hyper-specialization and the tyranny of the pedantic often obscure the obvious; within our everyday life, routine and the tyranny of the mundane often veil the obvious. So we need continual reminders of the obvious—not only in our relationships and everyday life, and also in our theology and spiritual life.

Here I list 6 evangelical theses about the Bible in the spirit of “naming the obvious,” with an implication for each one for how we read and/or preach the Bible. My hope is these might be helpful for those of us choosing and starting in on some kind of Bible reading plan for 2015. What kind of a thing are we planning to read? What is the forest we are about to enter?

1) The Bible is shaped as a story
I say “shaped as” because obviously not everything in the Bible is a story; rather, as a whole, story or narrative is what shapes the Bible’s form. It starts with narrative; it ends with narrative; the middle bulk of it is mostly narrative (roughly 75%); and even the prominent non-narrative genres arise only in tight relation to this narrative backbone. The exodus and the exile, for instance, are the two poles of the Old Testament narrative of Israel, and so the law and prophetic oracle tend to cluster around these historical events.

Even the wisdom literature of the Bible is unintelligible apart from the surrounding historical narrative because so much of it assumes a corporate context, and corporate context means Israel, and Israel means the story of Abraham starting in Genesis 12 as God’s answer to the wreckage of human sin in Genesis 1-11. You cannot understand, say, Psalm 68 unless you have read about God saying to Israel, “you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6).

In short, narrative is the skeleton of the Bible; things like epistle or psalm are the organ and tissue.

Implication: read the particular parts of the Bible in relation to the unified whole
If the Bible is a narrative, it should be read more like a novel than like the newspaper or a fortune cookie or a collection of Aesop’s fables. The whole thing hangs together, and the concrete parts are most meaningful when viewed in relation to the whole. When you start to see each tree as a part of the forest, a whole world opens up in Bible reading. You start noticing larger patterns and rhythms—thematic lines starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation that guide you through each individual book. All the odd little corners of the Bible—say, the book of Ruth, or the sacrificial system, or that strange bit at the end of Ezekiel about a new temple—suddenly take on a much larger significance and meaning.

I would say this art of reading thematically across the Bible (sometimes called pan-biblical theology; or just biblical theology) is maybe the single greatest neglected tool among both preachers and lay Christians reading the Bible. Without it, so much of the Bible is just weird. With it, so much starts to make sense. I would be far less eager to preach from the Old Testament without biblical theology, for instance—it is my constant recourse for finding Christ there in a non-forced way. For a great starting point in learning about biblical theology, check out Greg Beale’s writings . . . . He is the most helpful writer in this area I have read.

2) The Bible comes in two basic installments
The Bible contains two basic chunks: an earlier collection of writings that primarily look forward, and a later collection of writings that primarily look backwards. There is a longer, more concrete, Hebrew part; and a shorter, more abstract, Greek counterpart. Of course, there are further subdivisions; but the fundamental structure of the Bible is a two-fold promise –> fulfillment movement.

Now this is obvious. We talk about the Old Testament and New Testament all the time. But do we think about the implications of having two-stage deposit of revelation? This is relatively unique among religions, and it provides some unique advantages (see number 3 below for more on this).

Implication: read the entire Bible, not just the New Testament
The Old Testament, at least much of it, can feel more foreign and difficult than the New Testament. Sometimes we might think of the New Testament as superior; or at least the Old Testament as somewhat outdated. Even if we won’t formally acknowledge this, we functionally affirm it when we read books like Mark or Philippians 5 or 20 times more frequently than books like Ezra or Nahum.

The truth is that the New Testament disconnected from the Old Testament is just as impoverished as the Old Testament disconnected from the New. Promise is empty without fulfillment; but fulfillment is meaningless without promise. We need both Testaments; and we need to read both in relation to the other. What Hebrews says about Jesus’ death will be immeasurably more meaningful to you if you’ve struggled with the purity motif in Leviticus; the apostles’ sermons in Acts will start to click more once you’ve been disappointed with and perplexed by the slow decline of the monarchy in Samuel-Kings; and you won’t be able to make heads or tails of the majority of the imagery and language or Revelation until acquaint yourself with books like Ezekiel and Zechariah.

Another subsidiary implication should be humility and patience in awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises. Judging by the seeming slowness and unexpectedness of how the B.C.’s went, we in the A.D.’s probably have some surprises and some bumps in the road still to go. How many godly Jews sincerely expected the Davidic Messiah to go through both Isaiah 53 and Psalm 16:10 in one weekend? How many could have envisioned that 2,000+ years of expansion to the Gentiles would then follow before Isaiah 65:17-25 would be fulfilled? And so forth.

3) The Bible has lots of diverse parts
The Bible is not just a book. It is a collection of many different books (if “books” is an elastic enough word). The extent of the Bible’s diversity makes it stand out from other sacred texts, and really from all other pieces of literature. The Bible is diverse with respect to genre, ranging from law code to proverb, oracle to parable, poetry to apocalypse. It is diverse with respect to history (spanning roughly a millennium), cultural and political framework (from ancient middle-Eastern theocracy to persecuted minority in the Roman empire) and language (Hebrew + Greek, and a little Aramaic). It has diverse human authors (everything from Kings to fishermen, doctors to shepherds) and diverse means of inspiring those authors. It is even diverse in how it conveys theological truth: Esther and I John are both about God, but they convey truth about him very differently.

Once again, this is obvious; but sometimes we take it for granted. Think about this: if we had never encountered the Bible, but had heard that there was such a thing as “God’s Word”—what would we anticipate? How would we conceptualize a generic holy book? For some reason, I envision one smaller book, with one author, primarily or exclusively in the genre of oracle, more demanding and harsh in its tone, and more elevated in its topics.

Interestingly, this is similar to what we have in the claims of the Koran, which comes fundamentally from one man, at one time, in one language, one basic genre, directly from God, and in one basic historical process (following the prophet Muhammad’s alleged encounter with the angel Gabriel in the cave of Hira in 610). Though I don’t reduce the reason solely to this, I don’t think its incidental that Islam tends to assert Arabic culture rather than contextualize its message into new cultures. By contrast, the Bible’s message must be contextualized because it is already contextualized to different cultures within the Bible itself.

Implication: read different parts of the Bible differently
Because the Bible is very diverse, we have to tackle its different parts with different reading strategies. There are lots of hermeneutical directions this point could go, but let’s just make a practical point here: if you are doing a yearly Bible reading plan, it may be helpful to take larger chunks per day for certain genres (like narrative), and smaller chunks for others (like Proverbs).

I find momentum is key for faithfully executing a Bible reading plan. So I do whatever I can to not lose steam and have to play catch up. Therefore, I will often read medium-length books like Hosea or Daniel in one sitting, and take larger chunks of narrative for as long as I can sustain my attention (one year I read I and II Kings on a Sunday afternoon in one sitting). If you read the same amount every day, you would need to read a little over 3 chapters every day to get through the Bible in a year. It can be difficult to absorb over 3 chapters of Leviticus or Romans in one sitting. So if you take longer chunks whenever you can, you relieve the pressure on yourself and allow yourself time to digest the more compact parts. That way you can take a whole day for, say, Psalm 23 or Romans 8.

Another practical thing to do is read certain parts of the Bible out loud; it might seem strange at first, but it is only appropriate given that many of the Bible’s books were intended to be heard rather than read. And it’s amazing the effect reading out loud can have for both sustaining attention and focusing the message.

4) The Bible was mainly written for ordinary people
The Bible is strikingly down-to-earth and honest. It has books on sex and what we would call existentialism (Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes). It is as practical as can be imagined: “whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing” (Proverbs 27:14). It is also as honest as can be imagined: “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping” (Psalm 6:6).

The primary audience is not scholars, but ordinary people without theological training. It is not first and foremost a textbook or a curiosity to be studied, but as a divine Word to be received and obeyed. This does not mean the Bible is not profound or that it should not be studied with rigor. But the overwhelming majority of people who have read the Bible across the ages have not had any kind of formal training, and the Holy Spirit seems to have inspired a kind of book that accords well with this fact. The Bible is not intimidating and opaque, like an obscure scholarly conference; but inviting and humane, like a kind neighbor.

Implication: prayer and spiritual desire are just as important as scholarly tools (if not more so)
We should never give the impression that our brains are the primary way to get the Bible’s message. Of course, our brains play an important role, and scholarly resources can help with that part of it; but it is always ultimately the state of our hearts that determines whether we understand the Bible in the most important way it needs to be understood. Hence Jesus is always saying, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear;” not, “he who has a brain to understand, let him think.”

My sense is that too many lay Christians get intimidated by the mass and depth of biblical scholarship available to us. Commentaries and Study Bibles, for instance, are great resources, and there are so many of them around. Compare what is available to us to what was available in the average library of a medieval monastery and it’s embarrassing and overwhelming. Sometimes it is also paralyzing, and so it is good to remember that you can usually get the main point of the Bible simply by reading the Bible thoughtfully, humbly, slowly, and carefully. People like John Bunyan got a pretty good theological education from doing just that. And it is nothing short of amazing how much scholarly treatment of the Bible ends up making obscure what the Bible intends to make clear. I would rather read the Bible with an imaginative 5th-grader who at least remembers the biblical stories and distinguishes the good from the bad than with a PhD who is over-specialized, under-curious, and asking all the wrong questions.

Don’t think of the Bible’s meaning as some esoteric secret, available to the experts. God has put his truth on the bottom shelf. His target audience is not scholars but peasants and farmers and maids. Scholarly resources can help, but the most important thing is a humble heart and a spiritual appetite.

Another implication: preachers should make the meaning of their sermons plain. If a Junior High student with average intelligence cannot understand you in the main point of your sermon, you are probably making the Bible more complicated that it makes itself. That is bad. If the Bible itself determines our level of erudition, our sermons will have both shallows that children can happily splash in as well as deeps that drown the pride of philosophers.

5) The Bible is the Word of God
Once again, this is obvious; Christians believe that God has spoken to us through this book. But as with this other points, how often we miss the implications of what is obvious. For instance: how amazing that God conveys himself to humanity through a book! Of all things! That the words “God” and “Word” can be correlated should not be assumed in advance. Many religions teach a doctrine of God that would simply make this impossible: God is thought to be the absolute, the ineffable, the un-namable. Therefore, connecting him with verbal revelation (or any concrete thought) is considered crass and irreverent, or at least foolish and misleading. Rather, God can only be accessed through private experience—some kind of mystical, “beyond rationality” encounter.

In the Christian faith, God subjects himself to our rational mediums of communication. He condescends to our squawky languages. His divine majesty stoops to ink on a page. He deigns to put himself into a form of communication that could be compared to Sophocles or Shakespeare, and that operates within the boundaries of the limitations and crudity of human language. As Calvin put it, God lisps to us.

Implication: Ask God to speak to you every time you read the Bible
Augustine said, “When the Bible speaks, God speaks.” This is perhaps the nerve-center conviction that orthodox, faithful Christians have always intuited when dealing with the Bible. Even those doctrines of Scripture that are formally divergent—say, neo-orthodox vs. evangelical—share the conviction that the fundamental animating force behind the Bible is God himself. When we come against the Bible, we are coming up against not merely a new philosophy or teaching, but God Himself. When we read the Bible, we hear that voice from beyond the world, that voice of Him to whom we owe everything and to whom we will give an account.

Therefore, the shaping impulse of our Bible reading should always be, “Lord, speak to me.” We don’t simply read the Bible to learn, but in a vital spiritual encounter with God. This requires constant personal application and self-reference when reading the text. As Thomas Watson put it:
Make every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: ‘God means my sins;’ when it presseth any duty, ‘God intends me in this.’ Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written; but if you intend to profit by the word, bring it home to yourselves: a medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.

6) The Bible is about Jesus
Jesus is the great subject matter and focal point of the entire Bible. Everything converges on him, and he casts light back on everything else (Luke 24:44, John 5:39). He is the key that unlocks the front door, and he is the garden to enjoy in the back yard. He is the training wheels by which you first learn to ride; and he is the destination toward which you aim. He is the roots that give life and support to the tree; and he is the branches that sprout outwards high in the sky. But different texts reveal Christ in different ways. As Bryan Chapell puts it, “every [scriptural] text is predictive of the work of Christ, preparatory of the work of Christ, reflective of the work of Christ, and/or resultant of the work of Christ.” Therefore, we have to work hard to consider how the person and work of Christ relate to any given text.

Implication: work hard at finding Jesus in every text.
I don’t always know how to do this well. It’s not easy or formulaic. It is always a spiritual matter as well as a hermeneutical one. We must learn to pray, “Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see Christ in this text.” But He is always there, and we need to look for him. That is probably what most excites me about (Lord willing) a lifetime of preaching: seeking to correlate each text to the person and work of Christ in an authentic way. One person who does this well is Tim Keller. For instance, while many of us rightly feel concerns about allegorical interpretation of the Bible, anyone who has struggled to relate the individual stories of the Old Testament to the gospel cannot help but appreciate his comments during his 2007 talk at the Gospel Coalition National Conference:
Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.
Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.
Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.
Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”
Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.
Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.
Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.
Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.
Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.
Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

May God bless your reading of his unified, two-stage, diverse, clear, divine, and Christ-centered Word in 2015!