Job’s Daughters & The Inheritance of Sons

You know those period pictures where a daughter in a poor family with no brothers needs to go marry some wealthy lord because she has no inheritance? In most cases, the wealthy dude starts off like a real jerk and makes faces like this…

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But eventually, so the story goes, he falls madly in love with the poor man’s beautiful daughter, sweeps her off her feet, and they live happily ever after and she shares in his vast inheritance.

The Bible, from the very beginning, has a lot to say about sonship and inheritance. Isaac, Abraham’s son, inherits the blessing of his father. Jacob, Isaac’s son, through deceit, gains the birthright and blessing of the firstborn Esau. It is the sons who get the property of the family, and it is the firstborn who inherits a “double-portion” of the father’s house (Deut. 21:17).

However, one of the earliest books in the Old Testament canon, tells the story of another wealthy man named Job who follows a different pattern. At the end of the story Job shares the inheritance of his house with both his sons and daughters.

“And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land could women be found who were as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance alongside their brothers.” (Job 42:13-15)

Toby Sumpter elaborates on this,

Job’s sons remain nameless, but his daughters are named and we are told that they are the most beautiful daughters in all the land (42:14-15). Not only this, but Job gives his three daughters an inheritance among their brothers. In other words, Job gives them an inheritance of sons. In Job’s family, there is neither male nor female. (Job Through New Eyes: A Son for Glory, 196)

Beautiful.

Here, as far back as the book of Job, we see a father giving all of his estate to his sons and daughters. This is a startling picture of the eternal purpose of the heavenly Father in granting the abundance of his kingdom to his sons and daughters. Now God doesn’t switch-up the pattern entirely. After all, it his Son, Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, to whom belongs all of his Father’s estate. And it is this Son whom we–male and female–are united to by faith in him.

Therefore there is no difference between the wealth of the kingdom, salvation, and eternal life that men and women who have trusted the firstborn Son inherit. All who are in the son–both genders–inherit the entirety of the Son’s estate. Furthermore, the sons and daughters share in the very glory of the Son (Ro. 8:17).

Jesus is better than Mr. Darcy.

The book of Ephesians reveals this at another glorious angle. Not only do men and women share in the whole portion of Jesus’ inheritance and share in his glory, the chosen sons and daughters are the inheritance of God himself.

We inherit God and his cosmic victory in Christ, and God inherits us (Eph. 1:18). We possess the possessions of God and God possesses us. We are his personal possession. The beloved of the Triune God. His chosen. And this from all eternity.

Whether you are a poor single mom or the unsuccessful brother surrounded by successful brothers, if you are trusting Jesus, “all things are yours…and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23).

Saints and/or Sinners: The Desiring God Conference for Pastors 2014

It appears that I wasn’t the only one thinking about the identity of the Christian believer at the recent Desiring God Pastor’s Conference on union with Christ in terms of whether believers are simultaneously saints and sinners or simply saints who sin. My question (one of my sentences blended with others) was one of many fielded by the conferences plenary speakers John Piper, Michael Horton and Sinclair Ferguson [Audio here: 3:30-14:25]. I asked,

“If we are definitively “in Christ” and no longer in Adam (Ro 5-6), are we not definitively saints and not sinners?”

The answers were a bit mixed and appeared combined with some uncertainty and I wish I could have pushed back a little more to clarify what I was intending. My basic reason for asking the question is, to use Sinclair Ferguson’s phrase later in the panel, I think we live far under our privileges as Christian believers. And I wonder if one of the reasons we do this is that in trying to keep us from the errors of Christian perfectionism we undercut our glorious gospel identity. In no way was my question an attempt to minimize the radical nature of sin or the struggle of indwelling sin that resides within every believer.

Dr. Piper got at what I was after in speaking of his friend that came out of a homosexual lifestyle and became a Christian. This man would not let Piper use homosexual as a noun for him because this is not who he was. At conversion this dear man knew that his identity had fundamentally switched no matter what his struggle with a particular sin might be. The sin did not define him anymore. His name had changed.

And I am not certain that we should use “sinner” as a noun for any Christian. Dr. Ferguson, in his earlier talk at the conference, discussed baptism as a “naming event” and the fact that Jesus was baptized into sinners in Adam so that we might be baptized into him. Romans 5 and 6, which Ferguson beautifully unpacked, is clear that Christians have been taken out of Adam completely and placed into Christ. It is not a one-foot in and one-foot out deal.

In fact, many Reformed types don’t seem to bat an eye at speaking of those “in Christ” having undergone a fundamental identity switch in several categories, but we seem hesitant on the sinner/saint category. (I think primarily because of Martin Luther’s maxim simultaneously saint and sinner, Simul iustus et peccator, that Dr. Horton mentioned.)

We are not children of wrath and sons of God. We are not in the dark and in the light. We are not dead in sin and alive to God. We are not servants of the prince of the power of the air and servants of King Jesus. We are not slaves of sin and slaves of righteousness. The transfer is fundamentally complete in all of these categories even though our experience varies. So are we doing a disservice to our gospel identity when we don’t make the transfer from sinner to saint definitive?

To get back to Piper in the Q&A, Christian evangelicalism is indeed infected with those who minimize sin. The Osteenization of Christianity makes those with a high view of sin want to do all they can to preserve the seriousness of sin and to keep us from a chipper view of sinful men and women apart from Christ or a passive attitude toward making war on indwelling sin. Those in revivalistic parts of the charismatic movement who speak of walking weeks at a time without sinning cause the same reaction from those who will not deny the lingering tentacles of sin on the best of days. These super-rarely-ever-sinning-Christians are walking on the precipice of breaking the Apostle John’s warning in 1 John 1:8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” These are aberrations. However, it is also the charismatic movement that seems to have a focus upon the identity of the Christian believer that the Reformed camp could use a bunch more of.

Nowhere can I find New Testament writers calling God’s people sinners.

That is except possibly one place.

Paul called the people of God, even at their worst, saints (see those Corinthians in 1 Cor. 1:2), but he did speak of himself as the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). I wonder though if this was more of a reference to all that Christ saved him from than a reference to his self-consciousness as a Christian believer? This appears intended more to demonstrate the radical lengths God’s vastly gracious gospel goes in saving sinners no matter what their sins than in defining the fundamental identity marker for the Christian believer. Paul was deeply conscious of what God had saved him from and what God had saved him to.

It is good for us to remember who we were apart from Christ and who we are in Christ. The structure of Paul’s letters demonstrate that it is imperative we remember both. There are those in charismatic circles who seem to want us to forget entirely who we were and those in Reformed circles who seem to minimize who we are. Rehearsing the fact that you were a child of wrath reminds us of all that we have been saved from, and remembering that we are sons of God reminds us of what we have been saved to. Both are critical. Otherwise Paul wouldn’t structure his letters to remind us of these realities in the way he does. Nor should Christians only do one at the exclusion of the other. Depressive defeatism and overly optimistic triumphalism are both errors.

Piper thought this question might be contextually dependent: if you are a pastor surrounded by those who are continuously walking around defeated you need to emphasize saint, and if you are a pastor surrounded by those who walk around treating their sin lightly you need to emphasize sinner. I understand what he is getting at, but I’m not certain this is correct. I don’t know that Paul thought that this was a contextual issue.

Paul may go a little more Romans 1 and Ephesians 2:1-3 and jump into warning mode on those who minimize their sin, but I’m not certain he would—at the identity level—call true saints sinners. Would he name them presently in categories that belong both to their sinful past and their eternal inheritance? Wouldn’t this obstruct the privileges of the believer as God’s beloved sons in the family with big brother Jesus? Paul didn’t keep his beloved churches from sin by labeling them as simultaneously inside the realm of sin and inside the realm of righteousness. I don’t see him calling believers simultaneously saints and sinners, but I do see him reminding believers of who they were and who they are now.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones summed Paul’s appeal to the people of God in his use of indicatives and imperatives in the phrase: “Be who are!” And from what I’ve been seeing lately, this does not mean, be a sinner and a saint. Rather it means, be a saint, and put sin to death and put righteousness on accordingly.

You have a new name. You are new creation. Act like it.

But I admit: I’m still working through this. Thoughts?

Waiting to Feel Better: The Greatest Snare in the Christian Life

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his typical hyperbolic preaching style, explains how important it is for Christians to know who they are:

“The whole matter of putting on the new man is in essence the application of truth to ourselves. It is the most important thing that one can ever discover in the Christian life. The real secret of Christian living is to discover the art of talking to yourself. We must talk to ourselves, we must preach to ourselves, and we must take truth and apply it to ourselves, and keep on doing so. That is the putting on of the new man. We have to hammer away at ourselves until we have really convinced ourselves. In other words, this is not something that you wait for passively. If you wait until you feel like the new man it will probably never happen. We must be active in this. There is no greater snare in the Christian life than to entertain the idea of waiting until we feel better, and of then putting on the new man. On the contrary, we have got to go on telling ourselves the new man is already in us. In his Epistle to the Romans the Apostle Paul says, ‘Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God’ (6:11).” Darkness and Light, An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17-5:17, 191-192

Christian, Stop Generalizing the Love of God

If a Christian is anything they are ones who are loved of God.

There is a general John 3:16-kind-of-sense in which God loves the whole world—every person, believer or unbeliever, without exception—but there is also a unique way in which God loves the Christian. When Paul writes to the Christians in Rome and calls them “beloved of God” (Ro. 1:7), he is not saying to them that God loves them just like he loves everyone else on the planet. He is making a distinction between them and other unbelieving Romans.

The fact that he addresses the letter specifically to Romans who are “beloved of God” and “called to be saints” (1:7) explicitly shows that he is not talking to everyone in the city. He is talking about Christians. He is writing to those who have received the good news of the gospel and trusted God’s Son, Jesus.

At the outset of the letter, Paul is identifying the believers in Rome and reminding them of who they are at the level of their identity. He is saying to them that God uniquely loves them. Please do not misunderstand. Certainly God loves all people, no matter what they might think of him, but not all men and women are the beloved of God. To put it another way, God loves everyone enough to invite them to the wedding, but not everyone is his Bride.

None of us emphasizes God’s magnificent love for everyone enough, but I am also convinced that because we tend to speak of the love of God in such a general way we underestimate the exceptional love God has for the believer. By speaking so much of all who are loved of God we minimize the inimitable beloved of God.

From what I gather (and I’m no Greek scholar), the background for this word “beloved” is revealing. It contains the following:

• Especially loved.
• Dearly loved. Or: even dearest love.
• A one-of-its-class kind of love.
• Particularly cherished.
• Something like loved squared. That is, love to the second, third, fourth, etc., power.

This same word Paul uses here for God’s people in Romans is used of Jesus at his baptism in the Matthew’s Gospel:

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17)

If we really believed this it would change everything about us. So much of our identity is caught up in so many other things, even good and important things, like construction worker or teacher or pastor or dad or mom. We often tie our identity to these significant things, but it is not the most important thing about us. God’s love is. We can even get used to biblical categories of identity like disciple or saint, but what safety, what endearment, what grace is found in being the beloved of God. To be loved eternally, no matter what, unleashes massive confidence and freedom. This should permeate all our other identities and inform their significance—not the other way around.

There is something about being loved by anyone that is overwhelmingly powerful to the human soul, but to be loved by the Creator of heaven and earth who gave himself for us and to us, though we often ignore, belittle, and reject him, is flabbergasting. If you know Jesus, stop thinking of God’s love for you in some general way, it is personal, elective, husband-like love.

The Nineteenth century evangelist D.L. Moody wrote,

I know of no truth in the whole Bible that ought to come home to us with such power and tenderness as that of the Love of God; and there is no truth in the Bible that Satan would so much like to blot out. (Source)

Satan and your own sin will try to get you to minimize and blot this out of your heart everyday. Fight with all your might against this. Stop generalizing the love of God as some impersonal category. Set as a seal upon your heart the marvelous reality that you come at each and every day—with all that you do, don’t do, and should have done—“wrapped in the love of God the Father” (Jude 1:1, NET).

6 Reasons Not to Be Discouraged & Depressed Over Your Sins

William Bridge, a seventeenth century Puritan minister, and author of A Lifting Up for the Downcast, fills his book with ways to be encouraged when you are under discouragement or depression. In one particular chapter titled “A Lifting Up in the Case of Great Sins” he outlines several ways to be lifted up even after committing great sins.

One of the reasons he recommends for not being discouraged over your sins is that discouragement itself is a sin against the gospel. Countering the question, “Shouldn’t I be discouraged because of such and such a sin?” He answers, “No! for discouragement itself is a sin, another sin, a gospel sin.” (68). The biggest problem with discouragement is that it doubts the gospel. Depression over sin believes that sins power is greater than gospel power. Consequently, we must fight proneness toward discouragement and depression with all our might.

The biggest problem with discouragement is that it doubts the gospel. Depression over sin believes that sins power is greater than gospel power.

In the following I summarize and elaborate on some of Bridge’s reasons for Christians not to be depressed and discouraged over their besetting sins:

1. You will never be condemned for your sin because Christ was condemned for you. Since Christ was made sin for his saints, Bridge argues, “…sin shall not hurt them” (69). He quotes Luther, who wrote, “‘Christ is made sin-damning, our sin is sin damned: I confess, indeed…that I have sinned, but sin-damning is stronger than sin-damned, and Christ was made sin-damning for me'” (69).

2. You will never be forsaken by God for your sins even though you may lose a sense of the presence of God because of your sins. Your “sins may hide God’s face…but shall never turn God’s back” (70).  God’s covenant of mercy with his people is unalterable, and as a part of the people of God mercy is yours forever. You will be disciplined for sin, but never experience God’s wrath for your sin. The comforts of God’s presence may be felt as lost, but the privileges of the believer remain. “This sin of mine, indeed, it is a pest, and the plague of my soul, and a leprosy…[and] although I cannot come to the use of Him as I did before, yet I have right unto Jesus Christ now, as I had before” (73).

3. Your abundant sins are overruled by God’s superabundant grace. Paul, in Romans 11:32, says that God “shut up all to disobedience” in order to have mercy on all. Therefore “God never permits His people to fall into any sin but He intends to make that sin an inlet unto further grace and comfort to them” (71). Furthermore, “He never permits any of His people to fall into any sin, but He hath a design by that fall to break the back of that sin they do fall into” (72).

4. Your power for great sin is not as strong as God’s greater power to forgive. Bridge asks, “Is your sin as big as God, as big as Christ? Is Jesus Christ only a Mediator for small sins? Will you bring down the satisfaction of Christ, and the mercy of God, to your own model?” (74). David sinned greatly and confessed it in Psalm 25:11, and if David’s great sins can be forgiven so can yours.

Discouragement sees only God as Judge, while humility sees God as a just Judge and loving Father.

5. The commandment you have broken by sinning always has a promise attached to it. He states,

God has joined commandment and promise together; the promise and the commandment are born twins. There is never a commandment that you read of but has a promise annexed to it, a promise of assistance, a promise of acceptance, and a promise of reward. If you look upon the commandment itself without a promise, then you will despair; if you look upon the promise without the commandment, then you will presume: but look upon the promise and the commandment…together, then you will be humbled if you have sinned, but you will not be discouraged (83-84).

6. You should be humbled by your sins but not be depressed by them because God is a forgiving Father. The author continues,

God is not pleased with grief for grief, God is not pleased with sorrow for sorrow. The purpose of all our sorrow and grief is, to embitter our sin to us, to make us prize Jesus Christ, to wean us from the delights and pleasures of the creature, to reveal the deceitfulness and naughtiness of our own hearts (79).

The difference between humility over sin and depression over sin is the difference between a God-centered view of sin and a man-centered one. Man-centered views of sin bring massive discourgament because one is primarily focused one their own condition and says, “I have sinned; I have thus and thus sinned, and therefore my condition is bad, and if my condition be bad now, it will never be better; Lord what will become of my soul? (81). On the other hand, God-centered views of your sin are primarily focused on sin as an offense against God. Since sin is an offense against the God who is revealed also as a forgiving God, one can be forgiven and humbled for sin instead of discouraged and proud. Discouragement sees only God as Judge, while humility sees God as a just Judge and loving Father. Humility and discouragement have an inverse relationship. Bridge states, “…the more you are discouraged, the less you will be humbled; and the more humbled you are, the less discouraged you will be” (83). Therefore labor to seek true humility by focusing on the God-centered nature of your sin and seeking to know your Father more.

 

5 Encouragements from Predestination

I preached on predestination recently at our local church (audio here) because Pastor Bob Hapgood has been scaling the Kilimanjaro that is Romans 9, and one of the things I tried to do was show how encouraging this doctrine is to those who trust Jesus. Often predestination and election get treated as something meant for controversy and debate or as a mystery to be pretty much left alone and avoided. This is a sad, and, in my opinion, weakens the church because of the tendency to either dodge or debate this glorious aspect of its identity.

Predestination should enhance your joy not disturb it.

I’m convinced that if you ignore or just argue about the doctrine of predestination you will miss out on one of God’s ways of blessing you (Eph. 1:3). The first several verses of Ephesians 1 unpack predestination in order to show that it is a part of the multifaceted ways that God has blessed you in Jesus Christ. Therefore predestination should enhance your joy not disturb it. What follows are a few of the many encouragements for Christians to draw from the reality that God predestines:

1. God chose you because he loved you. Ephesians 1:4-5, in the ESV translation, says, “in love God predestined”. Therefore predestination is motivated by love. This means that God’s choice of you derives from his love for you. Sovereign choice doesn’t detract from God’s love it is the fountainhead of God’s love. We don’t go deeper into love by sidestepping predestination. We go deeper into love by diving into its deeps. We are familiar with the fact that God so loved the world that he gave his Beloved Son, but need to become more familiar with the fact that God so loved the world that he predestined adopted sons in the Beloved from all eternity (Eph. 1:5).

2. You are a gift of love from the Father to the Son. John 17 reveals that your salvation was planned in the heart and mind of the Triune God before there ever was a you (17:2, 24). This means that God’s love for you is bigger than you. It is tied to the love for which the Father has for his Son. And the reason this is encouraging is because the size of God’s love for you is not to be gauged by his love for you but by his love for Jesus. From his very own mouth, Jesus said, “[Father] you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (17:23). The astonishment that we should feel at being loved by God becomes even more mind-blowing because God’s love for us flows in the same stream as God’s love for God.

3. Your present sins may be many but your future sinlessness is certain. Romans 8:29 tells us that we have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of [Jesus].” As a son of God, you are guaranteed one day to look like the Son of God. Therefore you fight sin in hope not in defeated depression. Your Christlikeness is not dependent upon your performance but upon God’s predestination.

Your Christlikeness is not dependent upon your performance but upon God’s predestination.

4. Your very identity is “elect” because God has named you that. The apostle Peter begins his letter to those in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia by calling them “God’s elect” (1 Pe. 1:1). Contemporary Christians don’t normally go around calling each other “predestined” or “elect” or “chosen” or “called”, but there is no reason why we shouldn’t. In fact, if we were named this by God, what stops us from calling each other that? What kind of massive encouragement would it bring to believers to have spoken over their lives the fact that God has picked them? Psychologically we see in various social situations that many times a person lives up to what they are called to. If you are called “loser”, “failure”, even “sinner”, and the like over and over again you will probably live up to it. If you trust Jesus, you can be confident that God has given you a new name. You have been chosen. God has called you something that you are not in and of yourself to make you something that you are in him. So act like it. Be who you are. Be what you have been called to be. Live up to your name.

The little phrase “to the praise of the glory of God’s grace” helps us see that one of the best ways to do everything to the glory of God is to do everything celebrating and enjoying God’s grace.

5. God’s predestination of you enables you to live life to the highest purpose of your existence, namely, “to praise of the glory of [God’s] grace” (1:6). All of us have heard the phrase “do everything to the glory of God” and too often it becomes a cliché that means nothing in practice. The little phrase “to the praise of the glory of God’s grace” helps us see that one of the best ways to do everything to the glory of God is to do everything celebrating and enjoying God’s grace. Predestination has a unique way of drawing this out of us because it drowns out our propensity toward boasting and relying upon works and establishes the fact that it flows from the sovereign heart of God uninfluenced by human decision and work. Election strips us from taking one ounce of salvation and putting it in our portfolio and propels us into praising God exclusively for everything. Predestination is exceptional at displaying that every piece of salvation is gift, and one’s who have been given such a great gift will joyfully praise and glorify the Giver. We live “to the praise of the glory of the grace of God” when we recognize that predestination is all of grace and for God’s glory.

Be encouraged! Predestination is meant to bedazzle your heart not just boggle your mind.

The Great Exchange & The Great Reconciliation

“For our sake [God the Father] made [Jesus the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

This verse expresses the beautiful doctrine of substitutionary atonement: Jesus dies for, and, in the place of, sinners. At the cross, Jesus is treated as sinful as a sinner bearing the full weight of the wrath of God, and sinners who trust Jesus are treated just as righteous as Jesus is. As a result of the death and resurrection of Christ, God no longer counts sinners sins against them but counts them righteous (5:19).

Some have called this The Great Exchange: Jesus takes my sin and I receive his righteousness. Others think this is far too transactional and even some have called it a legal fiction because sinners are named what they in reality are not, namely, righteous. Regardless of these critiques, the weight of this text stands, and The Great Exchange and the imputation of an alien righteousness that belongs to Jesus is given to sinners so that God views those who trust Jesus as pure and blameless in his sight.

Don’t simply engage in developing a good theology of justification and lose the experience and daily benefits of adoption and reconciliation.

But there is something else at work here too. Substitutionary atonement is not only transactional, but is also thoroughly relational. If you are a Christian, you don’t have righteousness like you have a handful of one hundred dollar bills in your hand. You are righteous. This takes place at the level of your identity not at the level of your pocket. New Testament scholar David Garland writes,

“We do not simply have righteousness from God, we are the righteousness of God as a result of being in Christ.” [2 Corinthians, NAC, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 1999), 302. Emphasis added.]

Your identity itself is caught up in Jesus himself, because you have been placed in him. God has not only initiated The Great Exchange but also The Great Reconciliation. You are not simply a beneficiary of money or credit from the family estate, but you are tightly knit to and in relationship with the Father. Not only did God conduct a transaction, but he also created a new creation and made enemies friends through reconciliation (5:17-18). In Jesus God has made sinful rebels sons of God. Garland puts it this way:

The judge enters into a personal relationship with the accused. This is necessary because the judge is the one who has been sinned against and is the focus of the personal hostility. God does not simply make a bookkeeping alteration by dropping the charges against us. God gives himself to us in friendship. [Ibid., 290]

Jesus work on the cross is transactional and personal. Yes, you are righteous before God and you are also friends of God. God is Judge and God is Father. He is your “Abba”. Don’t simply engage in developing a good theology of justification and lose the experience and daily benefits of adoption and reconciliation. God has accomplished The Great Exchange and made you righteous to give you the enjoyment of The Great Reconciliation by making you friends.