Jesus Christ

THE BELGIC CONFESSION – ARTICLE 10 (The Divinity of Christ)

Article 10 of the Belgic Confession deals with the deity of Christ -that He is the true and eternal God:

We believe that Jesus Christ according to His divine nature is the only begotten Son of God, begotten from eternity, not made, nor created (for then He would be a creature), but co-essential and co-eternal with the Father, the very image of his substance and the effulgence of his glory, equal unto Him in all things. He is the Son of God, not only from the time that He assumed our nature but from all eternity, as these testimonies, when compared together, teach us. Moses says that God created the world; and St. John says that all things were made by that Word which he calls God. The apostle says that God made the world by His Son; likewise, that God created all things by Jesus Christ. Therefore it must needs follow that He who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ, did exist at that time when all things were created by Him. Therefore the prophet Micah says: His goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. And the apostle: He hath neither beginning of days nor end of life. He therefore is that true, eternal, and almighty God whom we invoke, worship, and serve.

Article 8 of the Confession stated the doctrine of the Trinity. Article 9 gave the proofs for the doctrine of the Trinity. Now here in Article 10 the Confession states the doctrine of the true deity or divinity of Christ, along with the Scriptural proofs for this doctrine. (Likewise Article 11 does the same regarding the true deity or divinity of the Holy Spirit.)

The Doctrine of the Deity of Jesus Christ

The first part of Article 10 states the doctrine of Christ’s divinity:

“We believe that Jesus Christ according to His divine nature is the only begotten Son of God, begotten from eternity, not made, nor created (for then He would be a creature), but co-essential and co-eternal with the Father, the very image of his substance and the effulgence of his glory, equal unto Him in all things. He is the Son of God, not only from the time that He assumed our nature but from all eternity . . . .”

The Nicene Creed similarly states the divinity of Jesus Christ, that according to His divine nature he is “co-essential” or “of the same substance” with God the Father:

“And [we believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the only-begotten Son of God,

begotten of the Father before all worlds;

God of God, Light of Light,

very God of very God; begotten, not made,

being of one substance with the Father,

by whom all things were made.”

The Confession uses very similar wording to that which is found in the Nicene Creed, not only because the Creed has endured the test of time, and is worded in a rather careful, clear, and helpful manner; but also for apologetic purposes, to show the explicit connection and continuity between the teachings of the Reformed faith of the 16th century and the teaching of the ancient church. The Reformed faith affirms and teaches nothing new or novel about the Trinity and the deity of Christ, but rather affirms and upholds the true doctrine that the true church has always held regarding these things down through the centuries.

Not only does the Confession specify that that the Son of God is “co-essential” with the Father, but also that He is “co-eternal” with the Father as well. He is said to be eternally begotten, but “not made, nor created (for then He would be a creature).” If the Son of God were a created being (i.e. a “creature”), He could not then be truly God.

When the Confession states that the Son of God is “co-essential and co-eternal with the Father,” it is emphasizing the unity of the Godhead (i.e. that there is only one God in three Persons). To say that the Son of God is “co-essential” with the Father is to say that He is of the very same essence or substance with Him. To say that He is “co-eternal” is to say (contrary to the heresy of Arianism) that there was never a time when He was not.

The Confession then says that “He is the Son of God, not only from the time that He assumed our nature but from all eternity . . . .” This is contrary to the anti-Trinitarian heresy of Adoptionism, which taught that Jesus was basically just a very holy man whom the Christ Spirit indwelled at his baptism, so that God essentially adopted him as His Son. Rather we affirm and confess that the Lord Jesus Christ, according to His divine nature, is the Son of God from all eternity!

The Scripture Proofs for the Deity of Jesus Christ

The second part of Article 10 gives the Scriptural proofs for the doctrine of Christ’s divinity:

“ . . .as these testimonies, when compared together, teach us. Moses says that God created the world; and St. John says that all things were made by that Word which he calls God. The apostle says that God made the world by His Son; likewise, that God created all things by Jesus Christ. Therefore it must needs follow that He who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ, did exist at that time when all things were created by Him. Therefore the prophet Micah says: His goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. And the apostle: He hath neither beginning of days nor end of life. He therefore is that true, eternal, and almighty God whom we invoke, worship, and serve. ”

The Belgic Confession teaches that “these testimonies” (i.e the various passages of Scripture cited from both the Old and New Testaments), when taken or “compared together” with each other clearly teach the deity of Christ. Some of these “testimonies” or passages of Scripture that the Confession weaves together in the above paragraph are as follows:

  • “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, ESV)

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1–3, ESV, Italics added)

  • “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15–17, ESV, Italics added)

  • “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2, ESV, Italics added)

  • “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” (Hebrews 7:3, ESV)

All of these passages (and others as well), when taken together, clearly teach the true deity of Jesus Christ. As Mark Jones puts it in his book, Knowing Christ, “The Scriptures simply overwhelm us with proofs of Christ’s divinity” (p.35). The Confession here just points us to the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Scriptural proofs for this doctrine.

As article 10 puts it above, “Therefore it must needs follow that He who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ, did exist at that time when all things were created by Him” and also that He “is that true, eternal, and almighty God whom we invoke, worship, and serve.” And that is the point, after all, isn’t it? The deity of Christ is not just a doctrine for us to affirm, believe, and confess (although it certainly is those things); but rather because of this great truth regarding our Savior we must make it our aim to then “invoke, worship, and serve” the Lord Jesus Christ as our “true, eternal, and almighty God.”


“The Most Tender and Comforting Section in All of the Reformed Catechisms and Confessions” (Belgic Confession Article 26)


Article 26 of the Belgic Confession is about Christ as our only Mediator, and His intercession on our behalf. This is easily one of the longest articles found in the entire Confession, and much of it consists of an extended polemic against the Roman Catholic doctrine and practice of the veneration of saints.

In Roman Catholicism the saints and even the virgin Mary are viewed as additional mediators (or co-mediators). Worse yet, Mary is even taught to be the mediator (or mediatrix) between believers and Christ Himself! S. Lewis Johnson Jr. writes,

“Since the practice of praying to the saints increased during the Middle Ages, it is not surprising that Mary became especially popular. Jesus came to stand for the stern, forbidding, and unapproachable judge. The faithful were pointed to Mary, the compassionate mother who would act as mediator for them.” (Roman Catholicism, p.126)

And yet the Scriptures clearly teach that it is the Lord Jesus Christ alone who is our only true Mediator. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (ESV).

That the Confession deals with these things at such length might not sound all that noteworthy or relevant to some (especially to those who are not from a Roman Catholic background), but there is abundant assurance and comfort to be found for believers in the great truth of Christ as our only Mediator and His work of intercession on our behalf, as detailed here in this particular article. Daniel Hyde writes,

“Here we find the most tender and comforting section in all of the Reformed catechisms and Confessions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.” (With Heart and Mouth, p.353)

What is it about Article 26 that makes it so “tender and comforting”? It is, quite simply, its treatment of the love of Christ for believers. The opening paragraph of this article goes on to assure us of the infinite love and all-sufficiency of Christ our Mediator toward us:

“For there is no creature, either in heaven or on earth, who loves us more than Jesus Christ; who, though existing in the form of God, yet emptied himself, being made in the likeness of men and of a servant for us, and in all things was made like unto his brethren. If, then, we should seek for another mediator who would be favorably inclined towards us, whom could we find who loved us more than He who laid down His life for us, even while we were His enemies? And if we seek for one who has power and majesty, who is there that has so much of both as He who sits at the right hand of God and to whom hath been given all authority in heaven and on earth? And who will sooner be heard than the own well beloved Son of God?”

Here we are given three (3) reasons for confidence in Christ as our only Mediator. The very first of these reasons is the love of Christ. Who could possibly be said to love us “more than Jesus Christ,” who emptied Himself, was made in our likeness, and even “laid down his life for us, even while we were His enemies” (Romans 5:8). If you are a believer, there is no one who loves you more than the Lord Jesus Christ! No one.

And if no one loves you more than the Lord Jesus Christ, why would you ever even dream of seeking out other mediators (i.e. the saints, the Virgin Mary, etc.)? What a comfort it is to know that our Mediator is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2)!

The second reason given is the power and majesty of Christ. Not only does Christ love us more than anyone else could possibly do, but He is even now seated at the right hand of God, having all power and authority. Who could possibly be better-able to help us in our time of need than the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Mediator, and who ever lives to intercede for us at God’s right hand (Hebrews 7:25)?

The third and final reason given is the love of God the Father for His Beloved Son. Whose prayers for us will be sooner heard and answered by the Father than those of Christ, His own well-beloved Son? The saints? Mary herself? By no means! The Lord Jesus Christ Himself prays for us! What could be better than that?

How great a source of assurance and comfort these great truths of Scripture should be to the heart of every believer! No wonder the Confession spends so much time teaching us to believe and confess these things!


He Suffered Under Pontius Pilate

Institutes CalvinIn a sense it is remarkable that Pontius Pilate’s name is so well-known. Of course, he is famous (or infamous) for all the wrong reasons. He is known for playing a primary role in the crucifixion of Christ. Sinclair Ferguson writes that he was “a man whom history would have well-nigh forgotten were it not for his part in this drama” (Let’s Study Mark, p.255).

Not only is Pilate’s name mentioned repeatedly in all four (4) Gospels, but it also appears three times in the book of Acts (Acts 3:13, 4:27, 13:28) and once in 1 Timothy 6:13 as well.

Pilate’s name is even included in the Apostles’ Creed, which, in speaking of the sufferings and death of Christ for our salvation, it calls us to confess as an essential part of the Christian faith:

“He suffered under Pontius Pilate.”

Likewise the Nicene Creed also states that “for us men and for our salvation,” the Lord Jesus Christ: “was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.”

But why does it matter that Jesus specifically suffered under Pontius Pilate? Have you ever wondered why that is? Why did He have to suffer and die in that particular way (i.e. the cross)?

In the 1541 edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin includes an extended exposition of sorts of the Apostles’ Creed. In his comments on Christ’s sufferings under Pontius Pilate he notes:

For since by Christ’s death sins had to be wiped away and the condemnation which they deserved removed, it would not have been enough for him to suffer a different kind of death. To duly fulfil [sic] every part of our redemption, it was necessary to choose death in a form which allowed him to take upon himself our condemnation and the payment owed to God’s wrath, and so deliver us from both.” (p.246)

In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ’s death had to be a judicial death, a death involving the passing of a sentence of condemnation and death.

Calvin goes on to say,

“If thieves had cut his throat, if he had been murdered in an affray by the hands of individuals, there would have been no semblance of satisfaction [i.e. atonement or payment for sin] in such a death. But in that he was brought as an accused before a court of law, was denounced by witnesses and condemned by the mouth of the judge, we recognize that he appeared as a criminal.” (ibid)

And so for our Lord to be the Savior of sinners, He could not just die as a mere victim or even a martyr – He had to die as a criminal, one convicted and sentenced to death. For this very reason He was crucified between two robbers (Mark 15:27), and so the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled which said that He was “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

Not only that, but in suffering under Pontius Pilate, it was sure to come to pass that the method of execution (i.e. capital punishment) employed in His death would specifically be that of crucifixion – “death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Calvin states,

“The cross was accursed not only in the opinion of men but by decree of God’s law (Deut. 21:23). By being nailed to the cross Christ makes himself subject to a curse. This had to happen so that the curse merited by our sins and made ready for them should be transferred to him, that we might go free.” (p.247)

Deuteronomy 21:23 specifically states that “a hanged man is cursed by God” (ESV). And so for Christ Jesus to be executed in that way was to demonstrate that He underwent the curse of God in our place – the very curse that we deserve because of our sins.

These are some of the more important reasons why we confess (in reciting the Apostles’ Creed) that “he suffered under Pontius Pilate.”


He Ascended into Heaven

The ascension of Christ is easily one of the most neglected doctrines of the Christian faith. (And that is saying something!) Michael Horton writes,

Given the place of the ascension in the New Testament (especially in the Epistles), it is surprising that it plays a relatively minor role in the faith and practice of the church. Though affirmed, it does not seem to occupy the same status as Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection.” (The Christian Faith, p.533)

Horton is in no way overstating the case. We as believers should esteem the ascension of our Lord Jesus much more highly than we commonly do – even as highly as His incarnation, death, and resurrection. His ascension plays every bit as much a part in Christ’s accomplishment of our salvation as His incarnation, death, and resurrection.

Both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed include Christ’s ascension as an essential truth of the Christian faith:

  • “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
  • “and [He] ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father;” (The Nicene Creed)

Not only is the historical fact of His ascension recorded for us in the Gospels (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53) and in the book of Acts (Acts 1:1-11), but references to it are found throughout the rest of the New Testament as well.

A simple search of passages in the New Testament that speak of Christ being exalted to ‘the right hand of God’ comes up with nearly two dozen instances, a number of which include quotes from Psalm 110:1 (i.e. “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” ESV)

The book of Acts refers to Christ’s ascension repeatedly. (It cannot be understood properly apart from it!) The book of Hebrews does the same. One of the major themes of the book of Revelation is that Christ is reigning over all things for His church and will return in glory to judge the living & the dead.

The Apostle Paul refers to Christ’s ascension repeatedly in his letters. For example, in the book of Ephesians, he points us to it no less than three (3) times. In Ephesians 1:15-23 he writes,

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (ESV)

In the very next chapter Paul goes on to apply this great reality and doctrine in the lives of believers. In Ephesians 2:4-7 he writes,

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

So God not only made us alive together with Christ and saved us by grace (v.5), but He also “raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ! By virtue of our union with Christ (which in some ways was the grand theme or at least recurring sub-theme of Ephesians 1:3-14), believers died with Christ, were raised with Christ, and have even been seated with Him in the heavenly places!

But Paul isn’t done yet! In Ephesians chapter 4 he goes into some detail about the results of Christ’s enthronement in heaven.  In Ephesians 4:7-13 Paul (quoting Psalm 68:18), says that Christ giving Spiritual gifts to His church was the result of His ascension:

7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,

          “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
            and he gave gifts to men.”

9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (ESV)

Does the New Testament’s emphasis on the ascension of Christ surprise you? It probably shouldn’t. Christ’s work as our Mediator – His present & ongoing work for our salvation as our great Prophet, Priest, and King, all involve His ascension to the right hand of God the Father. (Again, see the book of Hebrews.)

May God grant us understanding into these things (even as Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:15-23, above), and move our hearts by His Holy Spirit, that we might be more inclined to live, worship, witness, and work in light of the truth that our faithful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is even now seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, reigning over all things for the sake of His church!

Justification (Shorter Catechism Q.33)

1710_largeThe 500th anniversary of what is commonly held to be the beginning of the Protestant Reformation is nearly upon us! For it was on October 31st, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his now-famous “95 Theses” to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s invitation to debate these 95 points of doctrine or contention has been called the spark that lit the flame of the Protestant Reformation.

With this momentous anniversary almost upon us, I thought it might be helpful to post something on the protestant doctrine of justification. Justification by faith alone (sola fide) is often called the “material cause” of the Reformation. In other words, it was front and center in many of the debates, discussions, and even trials. The “formal cause” of the Reformation – the underlying foundational issue – was the authority of Scripture (or sola Scriptura).

The doctrine of justification has been called the doctrine by which the church stands or falls (Martin Luther), and the hinge on which the Christian religion turns (John Calvin). So what is it? What is the biblical doctrine of justification?

I believe that the simplest and most helpful definition of justification is found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, where it says,

“Q. 33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

So the first thing we see there in that definition is that justification is “an act of God’s grace.” It is an act of the grace of God, and so it is a gift, freely given to all who are in Christ by faith. It is not earned, nor can it be. In other words, the basis of our justification is not found in anything inherent in us at all.

The second thing we see is that justification is a one-time act, as distinguished from sanctification, which is an ongoing “work of God’s free grace” (Q.35). There are no degrees of justification; there is no growth (or decay) in justification. In fact, as Westminster Larger Catechism Q.77 points out, justification “does equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation” (italics added). All genuine believers in Christ are equally, perfectly, and irrevocably (!) justified in Christ and so freed from God’s wrath! That is grace!

The third thing that we see here in this definition of justification is that this act of God’s grace in Christ includes the pardon or forgiveness of all of our sins. What a wonderful blessing (Psalm 103:2-3)! No wonder the Apostle Paul says,

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1, ESV)

Forgiveness and peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ! Is there anything that sinners could possibly need more than that? No wonder the gospel of Christ is good news!

But wait, there’s more! The fourth thing that we see in the Shorter Catechism’s definition of justification is that in it God not only pardons all of our sins, but He also “accepts us as righteous in his sight.” Being forgiven is one thing, but then also being accepted by a holy God as if we were righteous in His sight! Justification is much more than a clean slate! It is having a positively righteous slate or standing in the eyes of a holy God!

How is that even possible? How can sinners be accepted by God as righteous in His sight? What is the basis or ground of this new standing before God? The Catechism adds that it is “only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” When we come to Christ by faith, His perfect, spotless righteousness is reckoned or imputed to our account in God’s sight!

In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ did not just die in our place, but He lived in our place as well! This is often spoken of as the “active obedience” of Christ (in contrast to His “passive” obedience, wherein He suffered and died in our place). His obedience is reckoned as our obedience when it comes to our standing before God!

And how is the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us and received by us? By faith alone. Period. Not by something we do; not by faith in Christ plus something else – faith alone. And it is by faith alone in order to ensure that it is by God’s grace alone (Romans 4:16).

What a wonderfully full and yet concise definition of justification! And what a beautiful and comforting truth! That is certainly something well worth considering, meditating upon, and celebrating.


The Only Head of the Church (THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH 25.6)

1710_largeThe last section of Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 25 (“Of the Church”) deals with a point of doctrine which many readers today might consider as bordering on the irrelevant. It says,

“There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof.” (Westminster Confession of Faith 25.6)

Simply put, we believe and confess that there is only one true head of the church – the Lord Jesus Christ. No one else can rightly claim such authority, not even “the pope of Rome.”

In Ephesians 1:22-23 the Apostle Paul writes the following regarding the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ:

“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (ESV)

Similarly, in Colossians 1:18 Paul writes,

“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (ESV)

So the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ is the one true head of the church. How then, does He exercise His supreme authority in the church? In his commentary on the Confession of Faith A.A. Hodge notes that Christ does so through the following:

  1. His Inspired Word.
  2. His Apostolic Institutions (i.e. the ministry, sacraments, and ordinances).
  3. His Own Spiritual Presence. (p.318-319)

And so even though the Lord Jesus Christ is not now physically present on earth, He nevertheless rules over all things for His church from the right hand of God the Father Almighty. He needs no earthly vicar (a title often ascribed to the pope) to act as head in His place.

David Dickson notes that for the church to have any other head alongside Christ Himself would not be unlike thinking of her as a “monster” with two heads (Truth’s Victory Over Error, p.202).

The seven letters to the seven churches (found in Revelation chapters 2-3) portray the Lord Jesus as the one who “walks among the seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 2:1, ESV). The lampstands are the churches (1:20). And so Jesus is clearly portrayed, not as an absentee ruler, but as a very present King, walking among His churches and watching over them.

In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ needs no vicar, no pope, no other head to help rule over His church in His place. He is with us always, even to the end of the age, even as He Himself has promised (Matthew 28:20).


John Owen on the Communicatio Idiomatum

Owen (Glory of Christ)The communicatio idiomatum (or the communication of properties) is one of the more important doctrines related to the incarnation of Christ, and yet it is not exactly one of the more well-known or commonly-discussed doctrines in our day.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, in its chapter entitled “Of Christ the Mediator” puts it this way:

“Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature” (8.7).

That, for example, is why Acts 20:28 can speak of “the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (ESV, emphasis mine). Can God bleed? In the person of Christ, yes, but only according to His human nature. But because of the unity of His person, the Son of God can properly be said to have suffered, bled, and died.

The communicatio and some of its implications are helpfully summarized by Louis Berkhof:

“[The communicatio idiomatum] means that the properties of both, the human and divine natures, are now the properties of the person, and are therefore ascribed to the person. The person can be said to be almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, and so on, but can also be called a man of sorrows, of limited knowledge and power, and subject to human want and miseries. We must be careful not to understand the term to mean that anything peculiar to the divine nature was communicated to the human nature, or vice versa; or that there is an interpenetration of the two natures, as a result of which the divine is humanized, and the human is deified (Rome). The deity cannot share in human weakness; neither can man participate in any of the essential perfections of the Godhead.” (Systematic Theology, p.324)

In his book, The Glory of Christ, John Owen (1616-1683) explains how all of this relates to the earthly life, ministry, and death of Christ. He writes,

“The Lord Christ suffered and did many things both in his life and in his death as a human being. But all that he did and suffered as a human being was done and suffered by his whole person, even although what he did and suffered as a human being was not actually done and suffered by his divine nature. Because his human nature was part of his whole person, what he did as a human being could be said to have been done by God himself as God, e.g. God purchased his church ‘with his own blood; (Acts 20:28).” (p.43-44)

So we do not speak of the human nature of Christ dying for our sins, but of the death of Christ Himself (i.e. his whole person), according to His human nature. As Owen puts it, all that He did and suffered “was done and suffered by his whole person,” and yet also “not actually done and suffered by his divine nature.” Only this doctrine, properly understood, truly does justice to the incarnation of Christ, as well as to both His divine and human natures.

Book Review: Knowing Christ, by Mark Jones

Knowing ChristKnowing Christ (as the title seems to suggest) is something of a companion volume or follow-up to J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God (which is probably my all-time favorite Christian book). Packer’s Foreword in the beginning of the book makes it clear that he himself enthusiastically commends it.

It is no secret that J.I. Packer is a long-time aficionado of and expert on the Puritans, so it is especially fitting that someone like Jones (whom Packer calls “an established expert on many aspects of puritan thought”) would be the one to take up the proverbial mantel in writing this volume.

The influence of the Puritans is clearly evident throughout the book, as Jones freely cites such luminaries as Thomas Brooks, Stephen Charnock, John Flavel, Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, Richard Sibbes, and Thomas Watson. There are also numerous quotations from other giants in the Reformed tradition, such as John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, B.B. Warfield, Herman Bavinck, Abraham Kuyper, and Geerhardus Vos. Most importantly, Jones grounds everything in Scripture, and backs up much of what he says with references to the Reformed Confessions and Catechisms.

Having said all of that in the above paragraph, what if I told you that this is truly one of the finest devotional books that you will ever read? That is one of the most remarkable things about this book – Jones takes what can be a very complex subject (Christology), brings the writings of some of the greatest theological minds in the history of the church to bear on the subject, and somehow makes it all eminently readable and accessible. And he does all of that in only 232 pages! Perhaps my only complaint (if anything) is that I wish the book were about twice as long. (I also wish it were available in hardback, but I digress.)

There are few things more needful for Christians in our day (or any day!) than to know Christ better. And yet there are (as Jones himself points out in the Introduction) shockingly few books available on that subject. This book will go a long way toward helping to fill that void. It is far and away my favorite new book of 2015.

Get this book. Read this book. Re-read this book.

May the Lord Jesus Christ be pleased to grant this book a wide readership for many years and decades to come. And may many people come to know Christ and/or know Him better through what is found within its pages

Almost God?


Some wise words from J.Gresham Machen on the subject of the deity of Christ:

“[T]he church hurled anathemas at those who held that Christ, though great, was less than God. But those anathemas were beneficent and right. That difference of opinion was no mere trifle; there is no such thing as “almost God.” The thought is blasphemy; the next thing less than the infinite is infinitely less.” (J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith?, p.116)

For anyone (such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example) to claim that Jesus is “a god” (but not fully God) or that He is “almost God” is utter nonsense.  As Machen astutely points out, there is no such thing as “almost God” or almost infinite.  It is not only nonsense, but blasphemy as well. Jesus is either God or He is something far less that that. There really is no middle ground.


The Precious Blood of Christ


1 Peter 1:19 calls the blood of Christ “precious.”  And it is precious because of it’s power &  effect (that by it we we “ransomed” from the ‘futile ways  inherited from our forefathers’ – v.18), as well as because of the identity of the One whose blood it is.

J.Gresham Machen writes,

When we come to see that it was no mere man who suffered on Calvary but the Lord of Glory, then we shall be willing to say that one drop of the precious blood of Jesus is of more value, for our own salvation and for the hope of society, than all the rivers of blood that have flowed upon the battlefields of history. (Christianity & Liberalism, p.128)

As the chorus from that great old hymn by Charles Wesley “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” reminds us:

Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love indeed!

If you are ever tempted to doubt the love of God, look to the Cross!  And remember just who it is that died for your salvation & mine!  We who are in Christ by faith were ransomed and redeemed by the precious blood of the Lord of glory Himself!