Knowing God, chapter 22: The adequacy of God (2)

This is the 25th and final post on Knowing God and is continued from yesterday.

B. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him graciously give us all things?” In other words, no good thing will finally be withheld from us. Paul points of the adequacy of  God as our sovereign benefactor and to the certitude of His redeeming work for us.

In this verse we see:

  • The costliness of our redemption. If the measure of love is what it gives, then there never was such love as shown by God on Calvary (Rom 5:8).
  • The effectiveness of our redemption. The NT writers view the cross as the basis of God’s offer of forgiveness, through which we enter into a right relationship with God.
  • The consequences of our redemption. God, says Paul, will with Christ give us “all things”. What things? In chapter 8, we count calling, justification, glorification, glorification. From the rest of Scripture, we have: material needs (Matt 6:33; Mark 10:30), etc. Continue reading

Knowing God, chapter 22: The adequacy of God

This is the final chapter in the book, which was probably my favourite. Due to its length, part two will appear tomorrow.

In this chapter, Packer deals with the book of Romans, and in particular, chapter 8.

The letter to the Romans is a high point of the Bible, says Packer. In it we find doctrine—truth about God on various themes, taught by God. It is a book of life, giving an analysis on the life of sin (chapters 1-3, 5-7, 9), the life of grace (3-15) and the life of faith (4, 10, 14). It is also the book of the church, explaining the church’s identity (the true seed of Abraham, Jew or not, chosen by God) and how the church should live. It is also God’s personal letter to His children, exposing their sin and evoking joy, assurance, boldness, and liberty which God gives to those who love Him.

You can only appreciate the magnificence of Romans “[T]he more you have dug into the rest of the Bible, the more you are exercised with the intellectual and moral problems of being a Christian, and the more you have felt the burden of weakness and the strain of faithfulness in your Christian life.” Continue reading

Knowing God, chapter 21: These inward trials

In this chapter, Packer takes on what he considers shortcomings of the ministry of evangelism, which arise from an inaccurate application of gospel truths.

* * *

The evangelistic ministry emphasises the difference that becoming a Christian will make in a person’s life. In stressing the positive aspects (forgiveness of sins, fellowship with God, the power of the indwelling Spirit), the not-so-positive side of Christian life gets downplayed (the daily chastening, the struggle with sin and Satan, the periodic valley moments). This may leave the recent convert with the impression that the Christian life is one in which problems no longer exist—or if they come, they only have to be taken to the throne of grace where they melt away.

It is also entirely possible to over-emphasise the rough side of Christian life, but this is a lesser extreme: false hopes are a greater evil that false fears. False hopes will lead to bitter disillusionment whereas false fears may lead to the pleasant surprise that all isn’t as gloomy as once thought.

God is very gentle with young believers, such that the start of their new life in Christ is marked by great joy, remarkable answers to prayer and fruitfulness un their acts of witness; thus God encourages them. But as they grow stronger, they’re able to bear more and God exposes them to as much testing as they’re able to bear (1 Cor 10:13), but not less (Acts 14:22). In this way, God builds their character, strengthens their faith and prepares them to help others. He glorifies Himself in our lives, making His strength perfect in our weakness. Continue reading

Knowing God, chapter 20: Thou our guide

Guidance is a problem to many Christians, not because they doubt the truth of divine guidance, but because they are sure of it. They have no doubt as to God’s ability to lead, having read on it in books and having heard of it from friends and public speakers. The problem arises in that they doubt their own receptiveness to the guidance offered by God. [How I can identify with this paragraph!]

* * *

Belief in the reality of God’s guidance rests on two foundational facts: first, the reality of God’s plan for us; second, the ability of God to communicate with us. God has a plan for individuals—He has an ‘eternal purpose’ which He accomplishes ‘in conformity with the purpose of His will’ (Eph 3:11, 1:11). He had a plan to redeem His people from bondage in Egypt; He had a plan to return them from exile in Babylon. He had a plan for Jesus, whose earthly ministry consisted entirely in doing His Father’s will. He had a plan for Paul, who in  5 of his letters announces himself an apostle ‘by the will of God’. Continue reading

Knowing God, chapter 19: Sons of God (2)

Continued from yesterday.

In the previous chapter, we saw that even though the word ‘propitiation’ may not verbally occur in one’s translation of the NT, nonetheless the concept it presents is fundamentally important in the NT. The same can be said of the word ‘adoption’. The two concepts link together, and Packer’s summary of the NT in 3 words is adoption through propitiation.

Packer now draws evidence from the epistles to show how adoption gives insights into 5 matters:

  1. the greatness of God’s love
  2. the glory of Christian hope
  3. the ministry of the Holy Spirit
  4. the meaning and motives of what the Puritans called ‘gospel holiness’
  5. the problem of Christian assurance
  • Our adoption shows us the greatness of God’s grace. The NT gives two yardsticks for measuring God’s love: the cross (Rom 5:8, 1 John 4:8-10) and the gift of sonship (1 John 3:1)

God adopts us out of free love, not because we are worthy to bear His Name, but despite the fact that we’re the very opposite. He wasn’t obligated to adopt us, He chose to. His love doesn’t end there either: His promise to us is an eternity of love, without distinctions of affection. Continue reading

Knowing God, chapter 19: Sons of God

This chapter will be split in two parts, with part two appearing tomorrow.

The richest answer to, “What is a Christian?” that Packer knows is, “one who has God for his Father.”

Not all men are children of God. In the OT, God is Father to the seed of Abraham (Ex 4:22-23a); in the NT, God is Father to those who’ve put their trust in Christ (Gal 3:26). The gift of sonship comes not through being born, by through being born again (John 1:12-13). It is an adoptive sonship.

The divine fatherhood of God is one aspect of the NT teaching that isn’t found in the OT. Believers as sons of God have a model in Christ and His fellowship with His Father. We learn this from John’s gospel and his first epistle. Packer says:

“In John’s gospel the first evangelical blessing to be named is adoption (1:12), and the climax of the first resurrection appearance is Jesus’s statement that He was ascending to ‘my Father and your Father, my God and your God’ (20:17, NEB). Central in John’s first epistle are the thoughts of sonship as the supreme gift of God’s love (1 John 3:1); of love to the Father (2:15, cf. 5:1-3) and to one’s Christian brothers (2:9-11, 3:10-17, 4:7,21) as the ethic of sonship; of fellowship with God the Father as the privilege of sonship (2:13, 23f.); of righteousness and avoidance of sin as the evidence of sonship (2:29, 3:9 f. – 5:18); and of seeing Jesus, and being like Him, as the hope of sonship (3:3). From these two books together we learn very clearly what God’s fatherhood implied for Jesus, and what it now implies for Christians.”

Jesus’ testimony as recorded in John’s gospel reveals four implications of God’s fatherly relation to Him: Continue reading

Knowing God, chapter 18: The heart of the Gospel (2)

Continued from yesterday.

The basic structural features of the NT are sin, propitiation and pardon. To see this, a prayerful study of Romans 1-5, Galatians 3, Ephesians 1-2, Hebrews 8-10, 1 John 1-3 and the sermons in Acts is recommended. Even though the word ‘propitiation’ may not appear in your translation of the Bible , the thought of it constantly does.

Christ’s death is depicted as

  • Reconciliation: Rom 5:10-11; 2 Cor 5:18-20; Col 1:20-22
  • Redemption: Rom 3:24; Gal 3:13, 4:5; 1 Pet 1:18; Rev 5:9
  • Sacrifice: Eph 5:2; Heb 9-10:18
  • An act of selfgiving: Gal 1:4, 2:20; 1 Tim 2:6
  • An act of sin-bearing: John 1:29; 1 Pet 2:24; Heb 9:28
  • An act of blood-shedding: Mark 14:24; Heb 9:14; Rev 1:5

(All these thoughts have to do with the putting away of sin and the restoration of fellowship between God and man.)

Not only does the truth of propitiation lead us to the heart of the NT gospel, but it also helps us see vital matters that cannot otherwise be grasped. Five of these are: the driving force in the life of Christ; the destiny of those who reject God; God’s gift of peace; the dimensions of God’s love; and the meaning of God’s glory. Continue reading

Knowing God, chapter 18: The heart of the Gospel

This chapter will be split into two, with part two coming tomorrow.

This chapter deals exclusively with the theme of propitiation—the averting of God’s anger by an offering—which runs throughout the Bible. In the OT, it is found in the prescribed offerings: the sin-offering, the guilt-offering, and the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 4:1-6:7, 16). The NT has four key passages on propitiation:

  • The rationale of God’s justification of sinners: Rom 3:21-26
  • The rationale of the incarnation of God the Son: Heb 2:17
  • John’s testimony to the heavenly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ: 1 John 2:1-2
  • John’s definition of the love of God: 1 John 4:8-10

In order to explain the love of God, the taking of human form by the Son, the meaning of the cross, Christ’s heavenly intercession, and the way of salvation, we have to pass through propitiation. Continue reading

Knowing God, chapter 17: The jealous God

Calling God ‘jealous’ sounds offensive. Nobody would invent a jealous God. However, His jealousy was one of the first things God taught Israel after rescuing them from Egypt (Exodus 20:5). A short time later, He told Moses “…the Lord whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

The Bible has a lot to say about God’s jealousy. In the Pentateuch: Deut 4:24, 6:15, 32:16,21. In the history books: Joshua 24:19; 1 Kings 14:22. In the Prophets: Ezekiel 16:38,42, 23:25; Joel 2:18; Nahum 1:2; Zephaniah 1:18, 3:8; Zechariah 1:14, 8:2. In the NT: 1 Cor 10:22.

* * *

How can jealousy be a virtue in God and a vice in men? Continue reading

Knowing God, chapter 16: Goodness and severity

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God (Rom 11:22, KJV)

In the verses preceding this one, Paul had  reminded his Gentile readers that God had rejected the Jews for unbelief, while at the same time bringing the non-Jews to saving faith. He invites them to take note of the two sides of God’s character as revealed in this transaction. They weren’t to dwell on His goodness alone, nor on His severity alone, but to contemplate both together. Continue reading