Ministry: Reflection of Christ Alone?

Gerhardus Vos once wrote:

 

“Paul beholds the glory of Christ as in a mirror, or, according to another rendering, reflects it as a mirror.  His entire task, both on its communicative and on its receptive side, can be summed up in his reflecting back the Christ-glory caught by himself unto others.  To behold Christ and to make others behold him is the substance of his ministry.  All the distinctive elements of Paul’s preaching relate to Christ, and bear upon their face his image and superscription.  God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. In the procuring of righteousness Christ is the one efficient cause.  In Christ believers were chosen, called, justified, and will be glorified.  To be converted is to die with Christ and to rise with him.  The entire Christian life, root and stem and branch and blossom, is one continuous fellowship with Christ.”

New Cov’t: Christ-dispensation

Gerhardus Vos once wrote:

 

“[T]the greater distinction of the ministry of the New Covenant springs from this that it is in the closest conceivable manner bound up with the person and work of the Savior.  It is a Christ-dispensation in the fullest sense of the word.  What is possessed by the New Covenant is not the glory of God as such, but the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Gospel: Wherein We Behold Christ’s Present Glory

Gerhardus Vos once preached:

 

“In the Judaistic controversy which shook the early church, forces and tendencies were at work deeply rooted in the sinful human heart.  In modernized apparel they confront us still to the present day. There are still abroad forms of Christless gospel. There prevails still a subtle form of legalism which would rob the Savior of his crown of glory, earned by the cross, and would make of him a second Moses, offering us the stones of the law instead of the life-bread of the gospel. Let us pray that it may be given to the church to repudiate and cast out this error with the resoluteness of Paul. Let us pray that the gospel of Christ might be preached by Christ’s servants and thus be what it was to Paul and his converts, a mirror of vision and transfiguration after the image of the Lord.”

Glory: Fading, World

Seeyon Kim has written:

“When Paul is expecting such individual and cosmic salvation from God, and very shortly at that, how interested would he be in changing the present “scheme of the world” that “is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31), in order to make life in it a little fuller during the short interim period (v. 29) before such total salvation?

Natural Revelation and the Gospel

Here’s one reason from ‘natural revelation’ that makes me rejoice in the greatness of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Go here to view: Privileged Planet

 

Ps 103.11

As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him…

 

Rom 5:8

…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

1Jn 4:9-10

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

 

The Depths of the Gospel

Walt Chantry writes:   

“However, concern for the nobleman’s soul (Mark 10:17-22) was not the supreme motive that moved Christ to witness to this sinner. Running even deeper within His breast was a love of God. Though induced by a desire to save men, Christ was primarily motivated by a longing to glorify His Father. You cannot carefully read the Gospels and fail to see that our Lord’s chief aim in every act was to do the will of His Father and to make His glory known to men.”

 

Scripture = Word Capturing Glory

Leon Morris wrote: “The chief impression that a study of the atonement leaves with us is that of the many-sidedness of Christ’s work for men. When he died for us on the cross, he did something so infinitely wonderful that it is impossible to comprehend it in its fulness. However man’s need be understood, that need is fully and abundantly met in Christ. The New Testament writers are like men who ransack their vocabulary to find words which will bring out some small fraction of the mighty thing that God has done for us. And yet, though it is so complex and so difficult, it may be put very simply: ‘the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20).”

Faith = Faced toward Christ!

John Owen once wrote:  “It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die.”

Behold, none but Christ, none but Christ!

Thomas Foxcroft on Gospel Ministry:   “Thus, in imitation of the apostolic way of preaching, there must be a beautiful texture of references to Christ, a golden thread twisted into every discourse to leaven and perfume it so as to make it express a savor of the knowledge of Christ. Thus every mite cast into the treasury of the temple must bear this inscription upon it, which was once the humble language of a pious martyr in the flames, “None but Christ, none but Christ,” so that everyone, beholding in the Word preached as in a glass the glory of the Lord, may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory.”

Behold and Be Changed – Amen!

Thomas Goodwin:    “That as a glass in itself is but an empty thing, unless the objects to be seen in it be directly placed before it, and by light discovered in it, a glass represents nothing to us; and such I confess the gospel is in itself, a mere verbal representation; but to believers, the saints in the text, the Spirit of the Lord joins with these words, presents Christ by a secret, hidden, and unheard of act to the eye of faith in the preaching or reading of it, opens heaven, and causes the glory of Christ to shine as present in it in a lively, real manner. And so it follows in that 2 Cor. 3:18, ‘We all behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, even as by the Spirit of the Lord;’ and lastly, which is the strangest of all the rest, ‘are changed into the same image.’ That whereas a man may look long enough upon other pictures, though never so rich and glorious, and go away as he comes, his countenance no whit altered; but this is such a representation as, by beholding of it, we are changed into the same image, and the riches of Christ are made ours; which riches are ‘Christ in you,’ says the text; the strangest glass and picture that over yet was seen in the world.”

THE “Gospel” is the Image!

Thomas Goodwin:    “Now, as Christ is thus in regard of his person and works the liveliest image and representation of God’s glorious riches, which is otherwise invisible; so is the gospel the image of Christ, who otherwise should be invisible to us in this life. When he dwelt with men, the apostles and believers who saw and heard him and his works, saw his glory then, ‘as of the only begotten Son of God,’ John 1:14. But Christ was to be taken up to glory, John 16:7, ‘It is necessary that I go away.’ And though we shall see him when we are taken up also; see his glory which he had before the world was, John 17:24, yet how should believers do in the mean time to see him, and the riches of God’s glory in him?

Therefore hath God framed and revealed the doctrine of the gospel, in the preaching of which, Gal. 3:1, Christ is said to be evidently set forth or pictured, proegrafh, before our eyes. And as he is the liveliest image of God, so the gospel is the liveliest representation of Christ that could possibly be made, for it is a glass, 2 Cor. 3:18, and a glass is the liveliest way of representing things absent that over could be invented, not in dead and lifeless colours only, which pictures only do. And indeed it is a middle way of representing a man, from that either when we see his person directly before our eyes, or when we see his picture drawn in colours; for though it be less clear and perfect than seeing the man himself, yet is more lively than all the pictures in the world; for quod videtur in speculo non est imago, it is more than a bare image which is seen in a glass, even the person himself, though by a reflex and reverberated species, that is his likeness beaten back again to the eyes, which otherwise when we behold him face to face is received more directly; and therefore is a more obscure and imperfect way of seeing a man than to see him face to face, as the apostle says, 1 Cor. 13:1, 2, as in heaven we shall do Christ, yet in the mean time this puts down all the pictures in the world. And such is the knowledge of Christ under and by the gospel, in comparison of that knowledge which was had of him under and by the ceremonial law, Heb. 10:1, which he calls the ‘shadow,’ those representations under the gospel, ‘the image of good things to come;’ which the apostle calls but a shadow of him, Col. 2:17, drawn in wan and lifeless colours, and of that sight and knowledge we shall have of him in heaven, when we shall see him as he is; this knowledge of him in the glass of the gospel is as a middle way of seeing him between both, less lively than the one, yet infinitely more bright and real than the other, even as I said before, that the image of God in Christ which shineth in his works of mediation is a middle image or representation between that which shone in Adam and that which is substantial in his person.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel Reveals More of God’s Justice

Thomas Goodwin:    “…for in the gospel, and works of redemption, they came to see all that they saw before; and this more clearly and largely, wherein they see more power in Christ, ‘the power of God,’ 1 Cor. 1:24. In raising himself up from death to life, declared with power thereby to be the Son of God, Rom. 1:4, and also the exceeding greatness of his power in raising us up also, Eph. 1:19, as might easily be shewed greater than in the creation.

“Wherein they likewise see a greater and clearer instance and manifestation of his justice, in putting to death his own Son, taking on him to be a surety for sin, than if a world of worlds had been damned for over. And in that his Son also, they came to see a greater and more transcendent righteousness than ever appeared either in the law or is inherent in the angels; for if all their righteousness were put into one, it could but justify themselves, it could not satisfy for the least breach of the law in another. But in the gospel, and work of redemption, we see a righteousness of that breadth that is able to cover the sins of millions of worlds; of that length that it reacheth to eternity, and no sin in God’s people can wear it out or nullify the virtue of it.

 

 

 

God, Not Content With Law Alone

Thomas Goodwin:    “But all this [giving of the Law covenant, etc. – mm] contented him not; God would make known a further mystery, another larger, deeper way, an act found out of the depths of his wisdom, namely, this doctrine of the gospel, which he kept hid and close in his own breast; not a creature knew it, no, not the angels, who were his nearest courtiers and dearest favourites; it lay hid in God, Eph. 3:9, hid even from them, verse 10.”

How about last week?

Jonathan Bowers:  Why it’s okay that I can’t remember last month’s sermon.

 “What is most important about a sermon is the immediate effect that it has on me while I am listening. Does it make me see Jesus? This is how I change: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Whether or not I can recall its content at a later time is secondary.

 

A prayer…

My prayer: that the comforts and accomplishments of the Cross of Christ would bear directly upon our whole persons, now and forever more.  That we would continue finding ourselves drawn to the magnitude of the historic and heavenly event done in Christ alone.  Not only that we might personally benefit from being obsessed with this Jesus, but that our children and children’s children…might have very firm grounds for both faith and life.

 

It never ceases to amaze me as to how important this Gospel (Good News about God’s reconciling all things in and through Christ) is in our having something of God-given identity, which no one or no thing can take from us, regardless of our faults and frailties.  Today, like never before, I find myself more consciously resting in the work of the Father’s hand.  This, and this alone, has an ability to deal with the twin-sins of pride and fear, both of which are nothing other than manifestations of an underlying sin (the womb of all sin), that is, idolatry. 

 

I keep working through this type of thinking which brings the root cause (idolatry) to the surface.  In coming to see more clearly what idolatry is, there is an associated growing in liberty to serve God and man with good will and clarity of conscience.  Seeing idolatry for what it truly is — our placing confidence or acceptance anywhere but on God in Christ (his cross-work and current priestly work) — will gradual lead to our serving others without the motive of fear or pride.

 

This day marks a time when the greater glories of Christ are shining all the more brightly.  This is one passion that doesn’t wear-thin.  

 

May it be the case, that, each day is marked by a continuing and maturing passion for the glories of Christ found in that emblem of shame, the Cross.

If not Christ, then what?

Bill Wilder:  “If I could issue a plea to our pastors and priests and ministers of the Word in the world today, it would be this: Give me Christ, or else I die.

“I mean that in the most specific sense—not just what Christ can do in me or to me or for me or through me (or the church or the world), but Jesus Christ himself, clearly portrayed as crucified and preached as having been raised from the dead. Not Jesus Christ as the assumption or foundation or the means for all that is preached, but as its very content and core.

“So, please, preach Christ. Preach him in all of Scripture….

“This is what I need to hear. Because my attention is so easily drawn to lesser things—to my plans, my ambitions, my problems, my triumphs, my failures, my family, my friends, my church, my community. So, please, turn my eyes upon Jesus. Help me to look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely clear in the light of his glory and grace.


“Do you want me to repent of my sins? Then show me Jesus—in his robust goodness and love and self-sacrifice. Linger on that. Do you want to bring me to hope in the midst of suffering? Then show me Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross and scorned its shame. Do you want me to know what it really means to be human? Then show me Jesus in his cruciform love and resurrection glory. Do you want me to worship God? Then show me Jesus, the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.


“What I really need is a vision (not of myself or my community or even the church or the world but) of Christ! Give me that and all these things will be added unto me.

 

G’muse: What more essential thing is there to preach upon and worship than the Lamb of God who is the essence to all our existence now and forever?  Sadly, going to church on Sunday is too often (commonly) a taste of death, for Jesus Christ ends up merely an appendage to so much else that claims centrality.  Hence, the tail ends up wagging the head.