Category Archives: Christ

William Spurstowe on The Profound Mysteries in the Bible

William Spurstowe, one of the Westminster Divines, wrote on various topics on which to meditate over his life time. This quote comes from some of the mysteries one encounters in the Bible. The subject matter of meditation from which this quote came is “On the Bible.”

Was it ever heard, that he who was the maker of all things, was made of a Woman? That the Ancient of days was not an hour old? That Eternal life began to live? That he, to whose nature incomprehensibility does belong, should be enclosed in the narrow limits of the womb?[1]

[1] William Spurstowe, The Spiritual Chymist: or, Six Decades of Divine Meditations on Several Subjects (London, 1666), 166.

Christ’s Exaltation and His Resurrection

I will be removing all my Larger Catechism posts eventually because I am updating all of them. The updated versions will directly interact with many of the Westminster divines. If the author quoted has a † symbol, then it denotes that he was one of Westminster divines. I am close to finishing my first draft of my study on the Larger Catechism but I did not incorporate the divines own writings. This post on LC 51 & 52 will serve as an example of my first attempt at interacting with the divines for this study. If the Lord wills and grants me the grace and strength necessary, I hope to re-write my entire study of the LC. I am finding it to be stimulating, arduous, and at times tedious. I consider it a great privilege to read through the enormous corpus of published works by our divines. If the Lord does not permit me to finish this study, the time spent in pouring over these godly divines will have benefited my soul nonetheless. For that, I am grateful to my heavenly Father. Soli deo gloria.

The Larger Catechism

Questions 51-52

51.       Q. What was the estate of Christ’s exaltation?

A. The estate of Christ’s exaltation comprehendeth his resurrection,[202] ascension,[203] sitting at the right hand of the Father,[204] and his coming again to judge the world.[205]

52.       Q. How was Christ exalted in his resurrection?

A. Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death, (of which it was not possible for him to be held,)[206] and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof,[207] (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life,) really united to his soul,[208] he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power;[209] whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God,[210] to have satisfied divine justice,[211] to have vanquished death, and him that had the power of it,[212] and to be Lord of quick and dead:[213] all which he did as a public person,[214] the head of his church,[215] for their justification,[216] quickening in grace,[217] support against enemies,[218] and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.[219]

Scriptural Proofs and Commentary

[202] 1 Corinthians 15:4. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. [203] Mark 16:19. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. [204] Ephesians 1:20. Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. [205] Acts 1:11. Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Acts 17:31. Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. [206] Acts 2:24, 27. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it…. Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. [207] Luke 24:39. Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. [208] Romans 6:9. Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. Revelation 1:18. I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. [209] John 10:18. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. [210] Romans 1:4. And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. [211] Romans 8:34. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. [212] Hebrews 2:14. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. [213] Romans 14:9. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. [214] 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. [215] Ephesians 1:20-23. Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Colossians 1:18. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [216] Romans 4:25. Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. [217] Ephesians 2:1, 5-6. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Colossians 2:12. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. [218] 1 Corinthians 15:25-27. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. [219] 1 Corinthians 15:20. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

The Estate of Christ’s Exaltation

Without the estate of exaltation, Christ would have labored in vain. The two phases, humiliation and exaltation, conveniently summarize Christ’s full work.  Quite often, many forget or do not consider these facets. The four facets[1] of His exaltation consist in His resurrection, ascension, session, and return and judgment. Judgment can only come about with His return.

Vos has noted that His resurrection and ascension are past events (for us) and his Session is in the present and His return and judgment are in the future. Each one of these will be addressed separately. The ascended Lord’s present ministry is quite often overlooked because we readily speak about what He did for us in the past (His death on the cross) and about what He will do in the future (His return). His removal and departure cannot overshadow His present effectual ministry. Each phase of His exaltation must be carefully delineated.

The Importance of the Resurrection: Christ’s Exaltation

The resurrection was not a natural event but a supernatural one. It was more than a miracle; it was a supreme theological event, in that, it represents something of an epochal shift in history. It signified the transition from Christ’s state of humiliation to His exaltation. The Greek Orthodox, Lutherans, as well as the Papists believe that Christ’s exaltation began with His descent to Hell.[2]

Resurrection “is referred to explicitly in seventeen books of the NT and is implicit in most of the remaining ten. Nearly all of the letters within the Pauline corpus refer to it (the exceptions are 2 Thess, Tit, Philem). Indeed, Romans 10:9 makes confession of the resurrection the equivalent of acceptance of the lordship of Jesus Christ and a necessary condition of salvation…”[3] Romans 10:9 says, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That verse underscores the significance of the resurrection of Christ in the Christian faith. We take it to be one of the essential elements of orthodox Christianity. Most of us believe that the doctrine of the resurrection simply means that we will live again and receive a glorified body. Though those things must be maintained, much more must be understood and believed. 

For, example, how many of us would be able to say with Paul (Phil 3:10-11), “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” We can clearly confess our yearning to know Christ but what does knowing the power of his resurrection mean? Those words sound foreign if not unintelligible. Yet, Paul’s wraps his passion and piety in the truth and reality of the resurrection. I suspect very few of us have ever truly confessed and owned those words to be their very own.

What do those verses mean? Richard Vines† (1599/1600-1656) explained those verses to mean that the “power of Christ’s Resurrection…taketh place in a sinner that is sanctified and regenerated.” In fact, “Christ’s Resurrection” would be “copied out in every Christian that knoweth Christ” and that “the Resurrection of Christ is not onely an Article of your Creed, but is a mould into which every believer in Christ must be cast.” So the power of Christ’s resurrection would be “copied out” in each believer and that each believer would cast into the same mould of Christ’s resurrection. That is, what happened to Christ would happen in the believer spiritually: “The Resurrection of Christ hath a place in the spirituall quickning or the raising up a sinner from spirituall death.” [4]

Modern commentators have said something similar. They teach that Paul wishes “to know Christ by experiencing the power which he wields in virtue of his resurrection, to know him, that is, as the redeeming, saving Lord he now has become.”[5] Hawthorne adds, “He wishes to know him alive and creatively at work to save him from himself, to transform him from “bad” to “good,” to propel him forward toward a life of service to others, to inaugurate “newness of life,” life in the Spirit, in a word, to resurrect him from death in sin to life in God, to quicken and stimulate his whole moral and spiritual being…”[6]

In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians he prays that believers might comprehend “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead…” (Eph. 1:19, 20). Paul wants believers to know of this resurrection power working in them and in the Philippian verse, he himself wants to experience that power.

The other important part of the Philippian verse is “and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” The triumph of Christ’s resurrection power goes together hand-in-glove with suffering with Him.[7] It is often through suffering in Christ a believer begins to feel the power of the resurrection at work in Him. He wants to be fully identified with Christ, his suffering, death, resurrection, and glorification — that is the essence of Paul’s yearning. Again, Richard Vines explains, “It is not meant a share and a part in the Merit of his suffering; but ‘tis nothing else, but that I may know to suffer with him, to bear his cross, to indure his shame, to undergo, yea, to take up the cross, or any suffering, in the cause, and for the sake, of Christ.”[8]

Christ being raised is the firstfruits of those who belong to Christ (1Cor. 15:20, 23) – if we are united to Him by faith, we will be raised with him because “he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus” (2Cor. 4:14).  Resurrection means the new age has come; the old age and its ways have been dispensed. Mortality will give way to immortality; the perishable will put on the imperishable (1Cor. 15:53, 54). To be resurrected at Christ’s return means all is done, the end has come and we are glorified in Him. For that reason, experiencing the powers of the resurrection now means the intrusion of the end in the present (the already-not-yet tension). All this avail only for those who united to Christ by faith — “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Rom. 6:8; cf. 2Tim. 2:11).

The Nature of the Resurrection

The first thing the LC addresses is the nature of Christ’s body. The body that died did not see corruption: “Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death, (of which it was not possible for him to be held,)…”. The phrase “not having seen corruption in death” —  is taken from Ps. 16:10, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” This verse is used by Peter in Acts 2:27, 31 to prove the resurrection. Since David died and his body decayed (“he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” v. 29), it follows David was speaking about Jesus: “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (v. 31). Peter’s interpretation may seem odd since “my soul” and “the Holy One” seem to be referring to David but as it is, Peter’s Christological interpretation (an apostolic interpretation) is inspired and entirely appropriate. Though the Psalm may not read like it was speaking about the resurrection (at first glance) yet that remains the ultimate divine intention and meaning of the verse as interpreted to us by the Apostle Peter — it was about the Messiah.

The ravaging effects of death cannot take hold of Christ because He was raised from the dead. The phrase “not having seen corruption in death” means Acts 2 serves as the Scriptural proof for the resurrection in the OT. The phrase also has been interpreted to mean that God’s “peculiar hand of providence” prevented the body from being corrupted.[9] In addition, Ridgeley believes it might have been a further demonstration of Christ’s holiness since his body would not permit the filth of sin (i.e., corruption) to cling to Him. Daniel Featley† (1582-1645) argued something similar: “Christ by the divine unction was preserved from corrupting in the grave: because there was no corruption in his soule, his body could not corrupt, or at least God would not suffer it…”[10]

The other phrase “(of which it was not possible for him to be held,)” is taken from Acts 2:24, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”  Johannes Vos takes the phrase to mean the following two things. “(a) Because of his deity; being the Son of God, he could not remain under the power of death. (b) Because the penalty for sin had been completely paid and canceled; therefore death had lost its claim on him.”

The context of the verse adds another (if not a more) important element. It seems to be Peter’s way of saying that what was foretold had to be fulfilled; the prophecy demanded that the Messiah be raised. “If we ask why death could not hold back Jesus, Peter’s reply would be that Jesus was the Messiah (see the evidence in verse 22), and that the Messiah could not be held by death.”[11] The prophecies about the death as well as the resurrection had been foretold — He died and now the other part of the prophecy, His resurrection, had to come to pass. Because of God’s Word, promise, and prophecy, death no longer could hold Jesus.

Thomas Case† (1598-1682) offered another important element about the resurrection. He argues that God’s works of creation and providence provides another proof for the resurrection. Most modern theologians have never argued this peculiar, if not insightful, point. He observes that as the day dies in the evening so it rises again in the morning and as the corn dies in the sowing and burial so it rises again in the blade. Creation testifies to truth of the resurrection. The book of nature serves as a “Schoolmistress” to teach us about the resurrection. Thomas Case develops this argument from 1 Corinthians 15. Here is Case in his own words:

For, as Tertullian sayes, God printed resurrection in the Book of Works, before he writ it in the Book of the Word; He preach’d by his power, before he preach’d it by his promise: He set Nature to be our Schoolmistress, before he gave us Scripture to teach us; that being first trained up in the School of Philosophy, we might be the better Proficients in the School of Divinity.…The denial of a Resurrection is founded in a foolish neglect of God in his works of providence, especially in the quickening and raising of our seed, when it hath lien dead and rotting the ground: Thou fool, shall God give thy seed a body, and not his own seed?…The constant revolution of the Creature, is an infallible evidence of a Resurrection.[12]

That is not to say that one could guarantee that the resurrection was going to happen from the light of nature. Thomas Case simply argued that nature’s light remains consistent with God’s special revelation. John Wallis† (1616-1703), a non-voting scribe of the Assembly, argued the same point clearly: “the Doctrine of the Trinity; of Salvation by Faith in Christ; and the Resurrection of the Body; Are purely matters of Faith; and their Certainty depends onely on Divine Testimony. That God is Able to raise the Dead, and that there is no Inconsistence in the thing; may be discoursed from Natural Light.”[13] Edmund Calamy† (1600-1666) set forth pretty much the same argument Thomas Case and John Wallis did. The doctrine of the resurrection is “above reason, but not against reason: For there are many resemblances of this even in nature; which though they be not sufficient proofs, yet they are great inducements to cause us to believe this truth.”[14] Calamy even referenced the corn illustration from 1 Corinthians 15 like Thomas Case. Of course both writers were following Paul the apostle.

One of the reasons for insisting that the doctrine of resurrection was both above reason and yet not against it had to do with Socinians who insisted that articles of faith should not be received until it can be seen or proved by the light of reason alone (like the doctrine of resurrection). Francis Cheynell† (d. 1665) exposes and refutes the Socinian appeal to the sufficiency of reason.[15] Of the several articles of faith which reason on its own could not discover as true is “that there shall be a Resurrection of these selfe same bodies…”[16]

The Resurrection Body

The resurrection body was the same body that died. That is the meaning of the phrase “having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof”; the peculiar phrase “the essential properties thereof” simply means “the properties or characteristics which identified it as Christ’s true human body” (J. Vos).

Lutheran divines maintain that that the same body was raised which Christ had “assumed from the Virgin Mary.”[17] But the phrase “the essential properties thereof” quickly disposes of the Lutheran notion of the ubiquity of Christ’s body. Christ’s glorified body did not participate in the properties of divinity; it retained its “essential properties.”[18]

Though God raised Jesus with the same body, that resurrected body had been glorified as well. The LC adds the following parenthetical note: (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life,). The divines did not list all the common infirmities except one (death). Jesus was exempt from death on account of the resurrection. Jesus was raised “without mortality.” Romans 6:9 says, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” (cf. Heb. 7:16) God glorified His Son (cf. Acts 3:13). 1Cor. 15:42-42 says this of the resurrection body, “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.” No more fleshly infirmities can be found in Jesus since He has been “raised in power.”

A question is often asked about how much change did Jesus’ resurrection body undergo? Ridgeley says, “But how far his human nature was changed, as to all its properties, it is not for us to pretend to determine; nor ought we to be too inquisitive about it. Yet we may conclude that, though it was raised incorruptible and immortal, and exempted from the common infirmities of this life, it was not, while on earth, clothed with that luster and glory which was put upon it when he ascended into heaven.”[19]

This next phrase is rarely pondered because we do not sufficiently reflect on these truths. When our Lord died, what happened to His soul? The Catechism says that at the resurrection he was “really united to his soul.” What does that mean and how do we know that? First of all, we learn that when Christ died, his soul went immediately into paradise (Luke 23:43).[20] Edmund Calamy stated, “When Christ was crucified, his soul was not crucified; for while he was crucifying, he said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.’”[21] In order for Christ to be fully human when he was resurrected, His raised body had to be united to his soul. Rev. 1:18 states “I am… the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” The same “I” who died is the same “I” who lives — when on earth, He had a human soul and when He rose from the dead, He was reunited to it. Perhaps more accurately, his soul was united to his resurrected and glorified body.

The Time of the Resurrection

Lastly, in describing the nature of the resurrection, they stated that “he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power.” This is simple enough but some matters should be explained. First of all, Scripture makes it clear that the Triune God is the author of the resurrection for a mere man cannot resurrect himself. Yet, we are told that the Father raised our Lord Jesus up (Rom. 6:4, “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father”; Gal. 1:1, “God the Father, who raised him from the dead”; 1Pet. 1:3, etc.). It also teaches that the Son raised Himself up (John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”; also see Jn. 2:19).[22] We are also taught in Rom. 8:11 that the Spirit Himself raised Jesus from the dead:  “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” However, the predominant emphasis in Paul’s writings is that the Father raised up the Son.[23]

Nonetheless, the divines greatly emphasized the Son’s role (to refute the Socinians).[24] He rose from the dead “by his own power.” One of the Westminster divines, Edward Reynolds† (1599-1676), said that Christ’s “exaltation was voluntarie …and from his own Power, for he was not to have any assistant in the worke of our redemption, but to doe all alone…”[25] He does not deny the Father’s role but emphasized Christ’s own power and the need for Christ to work out our redemption without assistance. The well-known divine, Thomas Goodwin† (1600-1680), explained why Christ had to raise Himself:

And the truth is, (my Brethren) it was necessary that he that was your Mediatour should be able to raise up himself. Why? Because in the works of Mediation, whereof this was one, he was to borrow nothing, it must all be his own. If he had borrowed any thing (mark what I say) it had not been a Mediator’s work, for he had been beholding to God. If there had not been some sense wherein what he did, and what he was, had been his own so as not his Father’s, all his works had not been works of Mediation…[26]

Jesus makes it clear that He would raise Himself from the dead when He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn. 2:19). Jesus’ own veracity was on the line. He will raise Himself up to show that He has the power and by implication proving His divinity since only God can raise the dead. Socinians denied this because they believed this was obscure and metaphorical.[27] Christ, the Socinians said, spoke of the power to raise His own body is an “obscure” passage.[28] They affirmed that He was raised from the dead by the Father but denied that He had power to raise Himself because they also rejected Jesus’ divinity. It is probably for that reason the divines emphasized the Son’s role in the resurrection. If we highlighted only the Father’s role, then it could make Christ look like any other man whom God raised. The Socinians could have easily denied Jesus’ divinity had He not been able to raise Himself up from the dead.

The Implications of the Resurrection

If Christ has been raised from the dead, then what are the implications? The LC answers this question by listing four important things. As Christ was raised by His own power, he was declared to be the Son of God — “whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God.” The text used to support this is Rom. 1:4, “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,…” This verse does not mean that Jesus was not the Son of God before the resurrection but rather, the resurrection is the new phase of His sonship, from humiliation to exaltation. “By his resurrection and ascension the Son of God incarnate entered upon a new phase of sovereignty and was endowed with new power correspondent with and unto the exercise of the mediatorial lordship which he executes as head over all things to his body, the church.”[29] This verse does not teach that it was at this point Jesus became the Son of God. The divines seem to be concerned to show that Jesus’ divine Sonship since He raised Himself up. That is true but that is not particularly the burden of this verse. Again we cite John Murray:

What is contrasted is not a phase in which Jesus is not the Son of God and another in which he is. He is the incarnate Son of God in both states, humiliation and exaltation, and to regard him as the Son of God in both states belongs to the essence of Paul’s gospel as the gospel of God. But the pre-resurrection and post resurrection states are compared and contrasted, and the contrast hinges on the investiture with power by which the latter is characterized.[30]

The resurrection also means that Jesus must have satisfied God’s justice — “to have satisfied divine justice.”[31] If God raised Him from the dead, then God has been appeased; His righteous demands have been satisfied. The divines use this verse: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:34) The verse teaches that God no longer condemns us because Christ Jesus satisfied divine justice. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. In addition, Christ’s intercession also means that Jesus had satisfied divine justice.

In Hebrews 2:14, we read: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” The resurrection means that the devil has been defeated since he had the power of death — “to have vanquished death, and him that had the power of it.” In what sense did the devil have power of death? He has power secondarily and not primarily. William Gouge† (1575-1653) said that the devil has the power of death in this sense: “he is the executioner of God’s just judgment.”[32] He further adds that though the devil has “great power” yet has no more than what was given him.

Death entered on account of our sin and from that moment on, death has been passed upon all (Rom. 5:12). He has the power in the sense we continually remain in league with him through our disobedience to God (who is life). As long as we remain under sin’s dominion, the Devil is our father who “the prince of the power of the air.” In following him, death envelops us and his accusations against us ring true — we deserve death because we sin. The wicked one has power over us in the realm of sin and in that realm nothing but death reigns. Being in league with him plunges us into death.[33]

It is like a drug addict who comes under the power of the drug pusher. Because the addict is in bondage, as long as he remains under the bondage of drugs, he remains under the power of the pusher who can pretty much demand whatever he desires from the addict. The drug pusher has power over him. In a similar way, Satan has the power of death in our lives because we are sin addicts, under the bondage of sin. As long as we remain under the power of sin, the wages of sin (which is death) hang over us. Satan is instrumental in maintaining sin in our lives both by temptation and accusation so as to wield power over us.

So the resurrection means he vanquished death: “O death, where is your victory?” (1Cor. 15:55) It also means He destroyed the devil who had the power of death as Heb. 2:14 states. Because of this victory over death (as it was visibly demonstrated by His resurrection), He is now the Lord over all — “and to be Lord of quick and dead.” Romans 14:9 says, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”  F. F. Bruce says, “By virtue of his death he is Lord of the dead; by virtue of his resurrection he is Lord of the living. Therefore in life and death alike his people are his; he is Lord of all (Phil. 2:11).”[34] As we are united to him, Jesus’ lordship holds sway over our entire existence. In our life and death, Christ exerts His lordship. He has authority and power in both the realm of the living and the dead.

Sadly, many believe death is a means of escape from the miseries of this world or a means of just pushing everything out of our minds. Christ is Lord over all realms and as Lord, He will render to each man accordingly. We cannot escape Him.

The Benefits of the Resurrection

Believers benefit from Jesus’ resurrection. But in order for an individual to derive any benefit, Jesus’ resurrection must be for them. The Bible teaches that Christ’s resurrection affects His people: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Cor. 15:21-22). Paul says that “by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” We must remember that all that Jesus did, he did as a public person (“all which he did as a public person”). That is, He represented His people and His fortunes would benefit them. In particular, He would become the head of the church (“the head of his church”). We are told that the resurrection includes His headship. As the exalted and resurrected Lord, God gave Him as head over all to the church (Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18).

Paul clearly taught that Christ was “raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25). For that reason, the catechism includes the important phrase “for their justification.” Thomas Schreiner says, “To say that Jesus was raised because of our justification is to say that his resurrection authenticates and confirms that our justification has been secured…”[35] Christ’s death enabled us to be justified.

The phrase “quickening in grace” denotes all those “graces” or benefits that emerge in the life of a believer. We were “made …alive together with Christ” and raised up with Him (Eph. 2:5, 6; Col. 2:12). Consequently, being made alive, we exhibit the holy traits and graces of our new life in Christ. All believers have been made alive and therefore they must and are enabled to make alive those “graces,” those good characteristics, etc. that accompany their salvation. Paul draws out some of the implications of being “raised with Christ” in Col. 3:1ff. — that is, we must “seek the thing that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

We understand the phrase “support against enemies” to mean that Christ has been raised to protect us and sustain us against our enemies, especially the devil. He is putting all His enemies under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25-27) since He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18). God has made Him Lord and Christ (Acts 2) with His resurrection and therefore He is able to support us against all His and our enemies.

Lastly, the catechism states something that most of us tend to put first in the list of benefits: “and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.” Reynolds† similarly said, Christ’s resurrection “assures us of our resurrection; for as the head must rise before the members, so the members are sure follow the Head. The wicked shall rise by his judiciary power, but not by the vertue and fellowship of his Resurrection; as the faithfull, who are therefore called Children of the Resurrection, Luke 20.36. 1 Cor. 15.20.23.”[36] Though the LC does not mention the resurrection of the wicked on account of Christ’s resurrection, Reynolds connects Christ’s resurrection as the basis for Christ’s judiciary power to raise the wicked. Christ is the firstfruits of those who will rise from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20). In our union with Christ, we have been raised up with him and have been seated with him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). If we are Christ’s, then His resurrection guarantees ours. He acted as a “public” person. What befell him and what he achieved became ours through faith in Him.

[1] I chose the words “facets” and “phases.” James Fisher used the word “steps” in his exposition, The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained (Totton: Berith Publications, 1998), 149ff. I suppose the differences between these words cannot be all that significant. James Ussher utilized the word “degree” in his A Body of Divinitie, or the Summe and Substance of Christian Religion, Catechistically Propounded, and Explained, By Way of Question and Answer: Methodically and Familiarly Handled (London, 1645), 183: “What is the first degree of this estate? His glorious Resurrection; for after he has in his manhood suffered for us, he did in the third day rise again by his own power from the dead, Eph. 1.19. Luc. 24.7. 1 Cor. 15.4.”

[2] Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2005), 224; John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934), 295-298; Joseph Pohle, Soteriology: A Dogmatic Treatise on the Redemption, 3rd ed., ed. Arthur Preuss (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1919), 91ff.

[3] “Resurrection,” in Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin and Daniel G. Reid, ed., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993).

[4] Richard Vines, Christ a Christians Onely Gain (London, 1660), 226-228.

[5] J. Hugh Michael, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, ed. James Moffatt, The Moffatt New Testament Commentary (New York; London: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1927), 151.

[6] G. F. Hawthorne, Philippians, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 43 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), 197. G. Walter Hansen says, “The power of God is demonstrated in the life of the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13; 1 Cor 2:4-5). Paul knows by experience that the power of God that was demonstrated in the resurrection is now demonstrated by the power of the Spirit in his life and ministry. In contrast to all his attempts to experience the power of God through strict observance of the law, Paul now knows the power of God by knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection” (The Letters to the Philippians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009], 244).

[7] Cf. Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 331.

[8] Richard Vines, Christ a Christians Onely Gain, 229.

[9] Thomas Ridgeley, Commentary on the Larger Catechism, 2 vols. (1855; reprint, Edmonton, AB Canada: Still Waters Revival Books, 1993), 1:607.

[10] Daniel Featley, “The Tree of Life Springing Out of the Grave: or Primitiae Sepulchri,” in Clavis Mystica: A Key Opening Divers Difficult and Mysterious Texts of Holy Scripture (London, 1636), 172.

[11] I. Howard Marshall, Acts, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: IVP, 1980), 81.

[12] Thomas Case, Sensuality Dissected; Or, the Epicure’s Motto Opened, Censured, Improved (London, 1657), 13-15.

[13] John Wallis, The Resurrection Asserted (Oxford, 1679), 24

[14] Edmund Calamy, “Of the Resurrection,” in The Morning Exercise Methodized (London, 1659), 583-584.

[15] Francis Cheynell, The Rise, Growth, and Danger of Socinianisme (London, 1643), 40-42.

[16] Cheynell, The Rise, Growth, and Danger of Socinianisme, 41.

[17] Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 4 vols. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 2:322. Cf. Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith (Philadelphia: The United Lutheran Publication House, 1905), 153-154.

[18] Admittedly, Lutherans do not argue for the communicatio idiomatum in the locus dealing with Christ’s two states but in locus dealing with Christ’s person. However, Geerhardus Vos also addresses the Lutherans when dealing with the nature of Christ’s exaltation and resurrection: “Yes; it must be material if it will truly remain a body. And as material it must also be subject to the limitations of matter, circumscribed in space. The conditions for its movement through space will differ considerably from those that apply to us, but in principle the relationship is the same. We do not believe with Lutherans in a ubiquity of the human nature, neither of the soul nor of the body.” See Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., trans. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., vol. 3 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–2016), 229.

[19] Thomas Ridgeley, Commentary on the Larger Catechism, 1:612.

[20] Paradise is heaven as show in 2Cor. 12:3 (And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—) and Rev. 2:7 (He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’). Lutherans and Papists believe Christ’s soul went into hell, see Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 2:356-358 (13.15.1-6).

[21] Edmund Calamy, “Of the Resurrection,” 579-580; cf. the same in Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689: Being the Morning Exercises at Cripplegate, ed. James Nichols (Wheaton: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981), 5:440.

[22] An interesting point is made by W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2 vols. 3rd ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), 2:278: “As God the Father raised Christ from the dead, and Christ also raised himself from the dead, so also God the Father deserted the human nature, and God the Logos also deserted it.”

[23] See Richard Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Co., 1987), 62ff.

[24] Turretin explicitly pits the Reformed position against the Socinians on this question, see Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 2:364ff. (13.17.1ff.).

[25] Edward Reynolds, An explication of the hundreth and tenth psalme (London, 1642), 523. He adds another important point related to Christ raising Himself: “it comforteth us in all other calamities of life which may befall us; hee that raised up himself from the dead, hath compassion and power to deliver us from all evill, and to keepe us from falling” (p. 525).

[26] Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, D.D., Vol. 1 (London, 1681), 401. Goodwin offers several other reasons as well as the role the Father played. He also cites the classic Trinitarian rule, Opera Trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa (pp. 401-402).

[27] See Ridgeley, 1:614; Turretin, Institutes, 2:364.

[28] Thomas Rees, The Racovian Catechism (London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, et al., 1818), 362: “…first, that testimonies so few in number, and so obscure, expressed in figurative language, cannot be opposed to so many plain testimonies of Scripture,…”

[29] John Murray, Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959-1965), 1:11.

[30] John Murray, Epistle to the Romans, 1:112

[31] See LC #38 for a full exposition of this phrase. Thomas Goodwin states the same, “for it is a sign that he hath satisfied God, for otherwise death would have held him…” (Works, 1:403).

[32] William Gouge, A Learned and very Useful Commentary on the Whole Epistle to the Hebrewes (London, 1655), 222.

[33] “As the one who through his seduction of Eve first brought death into the world, and as the one who loves to destroy, the devil stands for death as God stands for life. But his ‘power of death’ (like his designation as ‘ruler of this world’ in Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11 NASB) is only temporary, until Christ’s victory over him (Mk 3:27; Lk 11:21-22). Now Christ’s own death has ‘broken his power’…” R. T. France, “Hebrews,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews-Revelation, ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, rev. ed., vol. 13 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 55-56.

[34] F. F. Bruce, Romans, ed. Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: IVP, 1985), 246.

[35] Thomas Schreiner, Romans, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998), 244.

[36] Edward Reynolds, An explication of the hundreth and tenth psalme (London, 1642), 524-525.

Basic Reformed Theology 4

Basic Reformed Theology 4

No part of Reformed Theology (RT) is as much rejected as the doctrine of Limited Atonement in TULIP (sometimes called “definite atonement” or “particular redemption”). Yet this biblical doctrine coheres well with the rest of RT and to deny it would put disharmony into the Trinity. Limited Atonement means that Christ died only for those whom the Father gave to Him (Jn. 10:28, 29). Jesus paid the full penalty for the sins of those chosen by God the Father. Remember, His name is Jesus “for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt.1:21).

The Nature of Atonement

In the OT, God provided animals to make atonement for the people’s sins. Since life is in the blood, they were forbidden to eat blood. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (Lev. 17:10) The shedding of blood meant death and without the shedding of blood there was no forgiveness of sin (Heb. 9:22). Yet the blood of “bulls and goats” could never “take away sins.” (Heb. 10:4) Those provisional sacrifices were always limited to God’s people and for specific offenses.  The priests never offered the atoning sacrifices for everyone without exception. For example, only God’s people benefited from the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:26-32). If a specific individual did not comply with the requirements of the atonement, he would be “cut off from his people” (v. 29). That provisional and definite atoning sacrifice washed away the sins for whom it was offered.

Design and Accomplishment

Those chosen by God the Father had to be redeemed by God the Son. Particular election requires a definite atonement. God gave a people to His Son and He was to raise them up on the last day: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raiseit up on the last day.” (Jn. 6:39) God’s design was for the elect and Christ accomplished his redemption by dying for them.

If Christ died for everyone without exception then Christ labored in vain for those who would perish. The Son always pleases the Father (Jn. 8:29) and the Father is well pleased with Him (Mt. 3:17). Jesus said He accomplished the work given to Him (Jn. 17:4; cf. 5:36). If Jesus paid the penalty for everyone, then why doesn’t the Father forgive everyone? Isn’t the Father pleased with the Son’s work given to Him? The Father is pleased with the Son and will lose none for whom the Son gave eternal life (Jn. 10:28-30). No discord exists between the Father and the Son. For that reason, Jesus only prays for the ones the Father gave Him: “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (Jn. 17:9)


All theories of atonement limit either their effectiveness or extent. Universal atonement limits its effectiveness because it secures no one’s redemption. It makes all men “salvable” and technically Christ’s death could have secured no one’s salvation (only made salvation “possible” for all upon the condition of faith). It is like a very wide bridge that never makes it across the river though everyone could go on it. Limited atonement limits the extent. Christ’s atoning sacrifice fully atoned the sins of God’s elect and it is effective for them alone. Using the same bridge analogy, this narrow bridge goes fully across to the other side but only for the numerous elect of God. The Son came to seek and save (Lk. 19:10; 1Tim. 1:15), to deliver us (Gal. 1:3, 4). Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us… to purify for himself a people” (Titus 2:14). He did not come to make sinners salvable, deliverable, redeemable, purifiable, etc. Jesus “loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). He died to bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18) and gave himself for the church (Eph. 5:25).

Christ’s death secured everything for the specified sinners (full atonement, full forgiveness, full work of the Spirit as a gift, full acceptance with the Father, etc.). The sinner does not “add” his faith to secure the benefits of Christ’s death but his own faith is the gift because Christ removed all the righteous legal barriers (his guilt, sin, judgment, etc.). He has secured all the spiritual blessings for the elect (Eph. 1:3, 4).


We don’t know for whom Christ has died so we can’t say Christ died for you. It doesn’t matter. We can unreservedly declare that Christ died for sinners and that He will save all who believe in Him. God will draw the elect and enable them to believe.

All and World? What about Jn. 3:16 and the other passages that refer to “all” (Rom. 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; 1 Tim. 2:4-6; Heb. 2:9; 2 Pet. 3:9) and “world” (Jn. 1:9, 29; 4:42; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 Jn. 2:1, 2; 4:14)? The word “world” in Jn. 3:16 refers to the wicked world of sinners — he loves them and whoever would believe will be saved. God’s general love for all does not mean He loves everyone the same way. We are all required to love everyone but we do not love them all the way we love our family, close friends, parents, etc. Usually the word “all” denotes all men without distinction but not all men without exception. God does desire the salvation of all people (1 Tim. 2:4) but it does not mean He will surely save all. Jesus’ ransom for all (“who gave himself as a ransom for all” 1 Tim. 2:6) perfectly illustrates all without distinction. If it was “all without exception”, that means all have been ransomed (not all have been “ransom-able”). If it was for everyone without exception then everyone has been truly ransomed, bought or purchased — that cannot be correct since not everyone is saved.

Efficacious or efficient for the elect but sufficient for all! Some have carefully noted that Christ’s death was sufficient (of such worth and value) that it could have technically saved everyone without exception. Limited atonement no way diminishes the value of Christ’s work on the cross. The design or intent behind Christ’s death was only for His people. The benefits of His death would be applied only to God’s chosen people; it is efficacious to them alone.

How do I know if he died for me? Remember, that is not the question you should be concerned about. He died for sinners and if you would repent and believe you will be forgiven, justified, and sanctified. Then you’ll be able to say that Jesus “loved me and gave himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

The Glory of Heaven for the Dregs of Earth

The Glory of Heaven for the Dregs of Earth

These three sentences from Stephen Charnock represent only a small sample of the veritable riches of heart warming theological reflections and meditations found in his The Existence and Attributes of God. Though it is taking me an interminably long time to work through his classic work, I cannot complain because I have been relishing these opportunities to read it.

Technically, the second sentence cannot be a “run on sentence” but if it were, it would be a glorious run on sentence! He has been delineating the numerous ways in how our God is GOOD. The following passage comes from one of the sections detailing this statement: “In God’s giving Christ to be our Redeemer, he gave the highest gift that it was possible for divine goodness to bestow” (324). The Father’s Son was given to rescue us “by his death.” Meditate on the wonders of God’s goodness to us in all that our gracious Lord Jesus underwent for us!

He gave him to us, to suffer for us as a man, and redeem us as a God; to be a sacrifice to expiate our sin by translating the punishment upon himself, which was merited by us. Thus was he made low to exalt us, and debased to advance us, made poor to enrich us, 2 Cor. 8:9, and eclipsed to brighten our sullied natures, and wounded that he might be a physician for our languishments; he was ordered to taste the bitter cup of death, that we might drink of the rivers of immortal life and pleasures; to submit to the frailties of the human nature, that we might possess the glories of the divine; he was ordered to be a sufferer, that we might be no longer captives, and to pass through the fire of divine wrath, that he might purge our nature from the dross it had contracted. Thus was the righteous given for sin, the innocent for criminals, the glory of heaven for the dregs of earth, and the immense riches of a Deity expended to re-stock man.[1]

[1] Stephen Charnock, The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864–1866), 2:326.

The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth

The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth

Have you ever wondered why Christ should care for you as a believer? Why should He love you after your repeated failures and sins? Since He is in heaven and exists in His exalted state, why should He care about me? We feel ourselves to be most unworthy of the least of his mercies. Yet we need to be convinced of our Lord’s goodness, kindness, and love before we draw near to Him by faith. Thomas Goodwin addresses a concern many of us might have had but may not have pondered it as deeply.

We learn from the Gospel accounts that Christ was compassionate and tender. While He was on earth, He exhibited great acts of kindness. But He is in heaven now, no longer in His estate of humiliation. He is physically removed from us and reigns in might and glory. Doesn’t He now despise the lowly things He once experienced? He performed His covenant obligations by obeying His Father unto death. Wouldn’t He be less concerned since He finished His work and reigns in His estate of exaltation? This is how Goodwin pursued the issue.

Goodwin masterfully and almost exhaustively argues that Christ’s disposition, love, tenderness, etc. has not changed in heaven. If He loved while on earth, then He surely loves in heaven. Remember, Jesus beckoned us to come to Him because He is meek and lowly of heart (Mt. 11:28). We must not think that Christ is less concerned and less meek because He has been exalted and removed from us. His nature has not changed even though His estate has. Goodwin says,

Yea, but (may we think) he being the Son of God and heir of heaven, and especially being now filled with glory, and sitting at God’s right hand, he may now despise the lowliness of us here below; though not out of anger, yet out of that height of his greatness and distance that he is advanced unto, in that we are too mean for him to marry, or be familiar with. He surely hath higher thoughts than to regard such poor, low things as we are. And so though indeed we conceive him meek, and not prejudiced with injuries, yet he may be too high and lofty to condescend so far as to regard, or take to heart, the condition of poor creatures. No, says Christ; ‘I am lowly’ also, willing to bestow my love and favour upon the poorest and meanest. (63-64)

But isn’t Christ so Holy and exalted that He could no longer tolerate all our various provocations? That is, we offend Him so often and He is so Holy, why would He take any interest in us?

We are apt to think that he, being so holy, is therefore of a severe and sour disposition against sinners, and not able to bear them. No, says He [Christ]; ‘I am meek,’ gentleness is my nature and temper. As it was of Moses [who was deemed to be meek], who was, as in other things, so in that grace his type; he was not revenged on Miriam and Aaron, but interceded for them. So, says Christ, injuries and unkindnesses do not so work upon me as to make me irreconcilable, it is my nature to forgive: “I am meek.” (63)

Underneath this argument is something Goodwin established earlier in his little treatise. Christ has been appointed to save the people whom the Father gave to Him and to love them to the end. That commission did not end with His humiliation. He willingly, as well as obediently, loves His people in both estates – in the estates of humiliation and exaltation. This pleases the Father. Therefore, we can be certain that Christ still has a heart for us (hence the title): The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth.[1] The longer title summarizes the whole treatise: “A Treatise Demonstrating The gracious Disposition and tender Affection of Christ in his Humane Nature now in Glory, unto his Members under all sorts of Infirmities, either of Sin or Misery.”

Goodwin’s little work is quite difficult to read. He is no Thomas Watson. I’ve read enough Puritans over the years and find Goodwin to be more difficult than most. His writings are dense and difficult to follow — he is creative as well as frustratingly speculative at times. Even Owen is easier (at least for me). However, expending your energy on his writings will be well worth it because it will yield great benefits to your soul as well as weighty thoughts for your mind. You have to follow him closely because he develops a string of arguments that come to a firm and helpful conclusion. If you do not follow him closely, you will not be able to appreciate the conclusions he draws. Because you didn’t see how he got there, his conclusions may not convince you. Often, I’ve had to rehearse his line of thinking to see how he came to a specific conclusion. He trudges through seemingly small and impertinent points but they are being used as little bridges to the next point. So, read him carefully with coffee in hand. Don’t rush through this book and I’m convinced you will greatly appreciate it and immensely benefit from the short treatise. The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth is a gem and probably his best work.

[1] I am using the Banner of Truth edition — Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2011). This edition is only 158 pages long! Various Kindle versions are available and cheaper but the BOT edition is much easier to read.