Means of Grace — Not Superfluous

A couple quotes about the sacraments.

“In His sovereignty God has bound Himself to impart His grace not on account of our use of the means, but along the route of the means that He has prescribed for us” (Herman Bavinck, Saved By Grace, 102).

“Nature and grace are distinct, yet they do not stand detached from one another. The same God who regenerates His elect in Christ through the Holy Spirit is the one who, as Creator and Sustainer, cares for them and leads them also to the moment when He visits them with His grace. Therefore the means of grace are not superfluous; and how we make use of them is not an insignificant matter. . . . For grace is imparted by means of warnings; and to the degree that we perform our obligation readily, to that degree will the benefit of God who works in us be the more excellent” (154).

God has freely and sovereignly bound Himself to work in us and impart grace through the means that He has prescribed. Believers partake of God’s grace by the means of grace, indeed.

After A Bigger Gospel

So, there has been the historic church fight between those who say Jesus died for the sins of the elect only and those who say that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. And then each side has a bag of verses and they begin to throw them at each other.

Of course, context matters for each of the verses used, and you can find many a good debate on Youtube about such matters. I am not interested in debating that at the moment, but I would like to put forward a typological argument that incorporates what I think is right from both sides of that debate. Essentially, we need a bigger Gospel. A Gospel that envelopes the forgiveness of sins for the elect, and God’s love for His creation and its renewal.

Jesus is the victorious King, and in His victory was His death for sins the only thing He accomplished? No. It is one of the things He accomplished.

What else did His death accomplish?

Jesus accomplished the greatest exodus in history. When He was on the mount talking with Moses and Elijah, this is what they were discussing, His exodus to come (Luke 9.31). We are accustomed to the Exodus story. God was coming in wrath upon the land of Egypt. He was bringing death upon all people there, the Israelites included. And what they needed was a substitute. God, through Moses, proclaimed that if anyone would spread the blood of a lamb on the posts of the door of their homes they would live. This message went out to the Israelites and the Egyptians.

The lamb is slain, the blood is spilled, and God’s wrath passes over those under the blood. For those who disregarded the word spoken, the firstborn died.  The death of the lamb brought salvation for those who trusted God’s Word, and destruction to those who disregarded it.

And Jesus came to fulfill the greatest exodus in the history of the world.

He is the Lamb that was slain, and it is His blood that delivers us from the old world and from the penalty of our sin. This is typology. The old Adamic world is typified in Egypt, for example.

An exodus has two dimensions Either the death of the lamb, or the death of the first born. Those are the options. Salvation and wrath.

Jesus fulfills Passover in His body and blood, and Christians can generally track with Jesus being the Lamb of God, but is there anything going on with Jesus being the first born? He is the Incarnate Word, the Son of God, the new man born by the Spirit, and He is Mary’s firstborn, after all.

What did the firstborn of Egypt receive on the night of the death of the lamb? Death. The first born receives the death penalty for the unbelief of the household. Jesus as the first born, the new Adam received the sort of death the entire old creation deserved.

What did the Adamic world deserve as the firstborn? Death. But Jesus, the first born of God, took the death of the world upon Himself.

So, perhaps as Lamb, He dies for His people, and as First Born He dies for the world. In this sense, we can say that God so loved the world. All those in Adam have the proclamation made to them, and are called to join the covenant, and all those in the covenant have their sins covered in the blood of the Lamb.

Not only did Jesus take His people out of Egypt (the old world) He is transforming Egypt (the old world) into a city of God, the New Jerusalem. In union with Christ, we are new creations.

Andy Stanley’s “Stand Alone” Resurrection

This is part 2 of my review of Stanley’s “Aftermath” sermon series. Andy plays “Scripture Alone” off “stand alone” to try to establish that the first “Christians” didn’t even have a Bible (a claim he makes), but instead focused solely on Jesus’ resurrection. This resurrection makes Christianity unassailable, where an “absolutely true book” makes Christianity a “house of cards.”

Short answer: a covenantal understanding of word and event is the remedy to Stanley’s errors.