Christ in Gethsemane: The Covenant Bond

     While our Lord in Gethsemane received no answer to his repeated knocking on heaven’s door, he knew, from that profound silence, that he must drink the awful chalice that the Father had placed in his hands. Always he was fully aware of the covenant bond between the Father, representing the Trinity, and himself, representing his people – the covenant of grace. Again and again he addressed the Father, a word so often on his lips, as ‘my Father’ and ‘my God’. That is covenant language.

Christ knew that the Father smote him for the salvation of his people. Before going to Gethsemane, he warned his disciples that they would soon forsake him, quoting from Zechariah, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’ (Matt.26:31). He willingly submitted to the rod. In Gethsemane he virtually said, ‘Here am I’. His obedience was covenant obedience. He was ever mindful of his eternal undertaking as the Surety and Mediator of his people, a thought that is dominant in his high priestly prayer (John 17). He never doubted that holy decree by which he came into the world to save sinners. And so the darker the night, the greater the storm and the fiercer the conflict, the more he reached out to his Father and rested in his sovereign will.

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 3, “Strengthened to Suffer” (based on Luke 22:43) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), p.14.

Christ in Gethsemane – Man of Sorrows

     Gethsemane means ‘the oil press’. David could say, ‘I am like a green olive tree in the house of God’ (Psa.52:8). Israel in her long history could say the same. But the suffering Savior could say it best of all, for there in Gethsemane – the oil press – he was crushed and bruised without mercy. But how and why? How is the sudden and dramatic change of atmosphere between the upper room and Gethsemane to be explained, even in a measure? Christ knew all along the death that awaited him. He had grappled with Satan and his legions more than once. He had repeatedly spoken of his death to his disciples, telling them what that death would accomplish. He had prayed with the utmost confidence in his high priestly prayer (John 17).

Why, then, is there this sudden plunge into such awful agony, why this shuddering horror? Why is this fruit of the olive tree so severely crushed? Why does the divine record say that in Gethsemane our Lord BEGAN to be sorrowful, sorrowful in a new and terrible way? Was it not because God began forsaking him then? How else is this sorrow unto death to be understood?

‘Jesus wept’, but never like this. No previous sorrow of his could match this. At the time of his arrest he declared, ‘Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?’ (John 18:11). That cup was constantly in view as he prayed in Gethsemane. What cup? ‘THIS CUP’ – not some future cup. The cup that was symbolized in the feast (Matt.26:27,28) and was now actual: God was placing it in the Savior’s hands and it carried the stench of hell.

But stop! Schilder is right. ‘Gethsemane is not a field of study for our intellect. It is a sanctuary of our faith’. Lord, forgive us for the times we have read about Gethsemane with dry eyes (pp.4-5).

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 1, “Man of Sorrows” (based on Matt.26:36,37) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996).

The Wonders of Redemption – Anne Steele

Asteele-quote

For our meditation on the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ in this time of year, we consider today this poem of Anne Steele (1717-1778).

The Wonders of Redemption
I Peter iii. 18.

I. And did the holy and the just,
The Sov’reign of the skies,
Stoop down to wretchedness and dust,
That guilty worms might rise?

II. Yes, the Redeemer left his throne,
His radiant throne on high,
(Surprizing mercy! love unknown!)
To suffer, bleed and die.

III. He took the dying traitor’s place,
And suffer’d in his stead;
For man, (O miracle of grace!)
For man the Saviour bled!

IV. Dear Lord, what heav’nly wonders dwell
In thy atoning blood?
By this are sinners snatch’d from hell,
And rebels brought to God.

V. Jesus, my soul, adoring bends
To love so full, so free;
And may I hope that love extends
It’s sacred pow’r to me?

VI. What glad return can I impart,
For favours so divine?
O take my all,—this worthless heart,
And make it only thine.

Here is some biographical material on the author:

Anne Steele was born at Broughton, Hampshire, in 1717. Her father was a timber merchant, and at the same time officiated as the lay pastor of the Baptist Society at Broughton. Her mother died when she was 3. At the age of 19 she became an invalid after injuring her hip. At the age of 21 she was engaged to be married but her fiance drowned the day of the wedding. On the occasion of his death she wrote the hymn “When I survey life’s varied scenes.” After the death of her fiance she assisted her father with his ministry and remained single. Despite her sufferings she maintained a cheerful attitude. She published a book of poetry Poems on subjects chiefly devotional in 1760 under the pseudonym “Theodosia.” The remaining works were published after her death, they include 144 hymns, 34 metrical psalms, and about 50 poems on metrical subjects.

Dianne Shapiro (from Dictionary of National Biography, 1898 and Songs from the hearts of women by Nicholas Smith, 1903

This material was taken from the website Hymnary.org. For more on Anne Steele and her poetry visit this page.

Published in: on February 28, 2016 at 7:26 AM  Leave a Comment  

Note to Self: Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves

As we prepare for worship tomorrow and for hearing the gospel, we may learn from these points of Joe Thorn in Note to Self:

We cannot properly preach the law without also preaching the gospel, for God has not given us his law as the end. But before we consider how to preach the gospel, it will be helpful to clarify the gospel itself. In one sense we must say that the gospel is history, It happened. Simply put, the gospel is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. …In the Bible, ‘gospel’ is not something we do but something we believe. It is the good news of what Jesus accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection.

At its core, the gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that in his life Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and he fulfills his righteous standard (the law). In his death on the cross he quenches God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice. In his resurrection he is victorious over sin and death. All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption…. This is therefore very ‘good news’ (pp.29-30).

Note-to-self-ThornWe can fault Thorn for being too simplistic about the gospel here (I believe he deliberately intends it to be so for his purposes.) and for being too vague with regard to the specific intent of Jesus’ saving work (a substitutionary atonement for those sinners chosen before time by the Father to salvation and life in Christ, that is, for the elect only), and for his use of the word “offer” in his presentation of the gospel (I am not sure he understands the controversy surrounding the use of that term and the “loaded” Arminian connotation it often has in our time), but we can appreciate his point that we need to preach this message of the finished work of Christ to ourselves daily.

Here is what he adds to this section:

When we get to the business of preaching this good news to ourselves, we are essentially denying self and resting in the grace of Christ in his life, death, and resurrection (p.30).

To that we can give our hearty Amen!

Taken from Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). For the previous post, visit this page.

Christ Made Our Sin; We, His Righteousness

2-Corinthians_5-21This morning we will celebrate the holy Supper of our Lord in our home church. Our bulletin shows that our pastor will be preaching from the familiar passage in 2 Cor.5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

The following is John Calvin’s interpretation (partial) of this text as found in his commentary on this epistle (Baker ed., vol.20, p.242):

     …Righteousness, here, is not taken to denote a quality or habit, but by way of imputation, on the ground of Christ’s righteousness being reckoned to have been received by us. What, on the other hand, is denoted by sin? It is the guilt, on account of which we are arraigned at the bar of God. As, however, the curse of the individual was of old cast upon the victim, so Christ’s condemnation was our absolution, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah liii, 5).

…The righteousness of God is taken here to denote – not that which is given us by God, but that which is approved by him…. Farther, in Romans iii. 23, when he says, that we have come short of the glory of God, he means, that there is nothing that we can glory in before God, for it is no very difficult matter to appear righteous before men, but it is mere delusive appearance of righteousness, which becomes at last the ground of perdition. Hence, that is the only true righteousness, which is acceptable to God.

Let us now return to the contrast between righteousness and sin. How are we righteous in the sight of God? It is assuredly in the same respect in which Christ was a sinner. For he assumed in a manner our place, that he might be a criminal in our room, and might be dealt with as a sinner, not for his own offenses, but for those of others, inasmuch as he was pure and exempt from every fault, and might endure the punishment that was due to us – not to himself. It is in the same manner, assuredly, that we are now righteous in him – not in respect of our rendering satisfaction to the justice of God by our own works, but because we are judged of in connection with Christ’s righteousness, which we have put on us by faith, that it might become ours.

Dwelling on Christ Crucified – “Christ is All”

Gal6-14From the “collection of Puritan prayers and devotions” titled The Valley of Vision (see information at the end) comes this edifying prayer-devotional for us as we contemplate the death of our Lord this week in a special way, in view of Good Friday.

The title of this devotional is “Christ is All.” May it be our theme not only this week, but each day of our lives as we live “under the cross” of our Lord.

O Lover to the uttermost,
May I read the meltings of Thy heart to me
in the manger of Thy birth,
in the garden of Thy agony,
in the cross of Thy suffering,
in the tomb of Thy resurrection,
in the heaven of Thy intercession.

Bold in this thought I defy my adversary,
tread down his temptations,
resist his schemings,
renounce the world,
am valiant for truth.

Deepen in me a sense of my holy relationship to Thee,
as spiritual bridegroom,
as Jehovah’s fellow,
as sinners’ friend.

I think of Thy glory and my vileness,
Thy majesty and my meanness,
Thy beauty and my deformity,
Thy purity and my filth,
Thy righteouness and my iniquity.

Thou has loved me everlastingly, unchangeably,
may I love Thee as I am loved;
Thou hast given Thyself for me,
may I give myself to Thee.
Thou hast died for me,
may I live to Thee
in every moment of time,
in every movement of my mind,
in every pulse of my heart.

May I never dally with the world and its allurements,
but walk by Thy side,
listen to Thy voice,
be clothed with Thy grace,
and adorned with Thy righteousness.

Arthur Bennett, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 18.

“Imagine, God Himself goes to hell for such worms as we are.” -Gerrit Vos

The following quote is taken from a meditation Rev. Gerrit Vos (pastor of Hudsonville PRC at the time) wrote for the March 1, 1964 issue of The Standard Bearer (Vol.40, #11), in connection with the church’s remembrance of the suffering and death of her Lord Jesus Christ. It is based on Matt.16:21“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”

The Unspeakable GiftLater, these meditations such as these were pulled together and published by the Men’s Society of Hudsonville PRC under the title The Unspeakable Gift: The Gift of God’s Son – Selected Meditations. This book is available through the Reformed Book Outlet in Hudsonville, MI.

Rev.Vos was gifted with a unique style of writing, a style that matched the intent of a meditation well (As did his preaching!). That is reflected in these words that form the closing part of the above-linked meditation. May its reflection on the gracious gift of God’s Son for us sinners serve to stir our souls and fill our mouths with humble thanks and praise to the God of our salvation.

However, when that happens, do not despair. But, rather, rejoice, and be very glad, for such was done primarily to Jesus, and to you for Jesus’ sake.

Partake of Jesus’ suffering, and . . . you will also partake in His glory.

For that is the third part of God’s program which must come to pass.

Although it seemed as though all was lost when Jesus hung on the accursed tree, He, nevertheless, obtained a glorious victory.

All the foregoing, no matter how horrible, was eternally necessary.

Jesus is the great Vicar, Substitute. Jesus is the Substitute for the elect church, which in itself is damn-worthy.

And Jesus takes over all their damn-worthiness and in their stead treads the weary pathway to everlasting death and condemnation.

And the elders, chief priests and scribes are the agents of God. Look up Acts 4:27, 25.

Necessary, I said. It was the only way of God’s wisdom. Only through the horrible spectacle of Golgotha could God come to the highest glory of His name. It took that Cross to reveal just how lovely and attractive our God is.

Looking at that bleeding Lamb unto all eternity it will not be too long to tell of His praises and to tell of His dory.

The cross of Jesus tells us of a lovingkindness that beggars description. Imagine, God Himself goes to hell for such worms as we are.

God does not need us at all. He is the Self-Sufficient in Himself. He needs no world, no angels, no elect men, no heavenly music and chorus of millions of voices in order to enjoy Himself unto all eternity.

He has His everlasting Covenant life in Himself, and is happy.

God was happy in eternity before the world was.

He does not need the creature.

But He wanted to show to untold millions how limitless is His love and lovingkindness. He wanted to make His Name and His power known, and so He willed the wicked and the devils and the hosts with their devilish howling about that Cross and that Suffering Servant of Jehovah. He wanted the Blood of the Innocent as a Testimony of the everlasting power of His love.

Oh yes, we see it, we love it, we adore it, and we sing of it. And we shall never grow tired of telling Him how we love Him.

And so our Jesus rose from the dead, and took our glorified new nature smith Him to heaven. And He works in heaven, and shall work until all the saints are safe and time ended.

In your suffering, shame and reproach, remember: God loves you!

“And so He (Christ, the Son of God) died.” – Rev. H.Hoeksema

After describing all that death is and what it signifies, Rev. Herman Hoeksema applies it to Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died on the cross at Calvary:

And so He died.

O, yes, it was necessary that He, too, should die the physical death. He might not simply suffer the agonies of death on the cross, in order then to be revived or glorified in the sight of the enemies. He must bear the wrath of God to the end. The sentence of God in physical death is that the sinner has absolutely forfeited every right to his existence in the world. This sentence must be executed upon Christ also. God takes away His whole earthly house. His very name perishes. His body, too, collapses, and He gives up the ghost. Also upon Him the sentence is pronounced that He is unworthy to exist on the earth.

Only, as the Head of His people, He agrees with the sentence of God with all His heart. He makes of death an act. His life He lays down even as God takes it. His spirit He commends to God, His body He delivers over into the place of corruption. His name and position He freely offers up to the righteousness of God. And in delivering up His soul unto death He confesses: ‘Thou, Father, art just and righteous, when Thou judgest that the sinner has no right to be, should be utterly destroyed from the earth, and should sink into everlasting desolation. Take my life, my name, my all. Freely I offer it in love to Thee. For even now it is my meat to do Thy will!’

…Only His death, the death of the Son of God Himself in human nature, could be so deep, so precious in the sight of God, that by His obedience many could be made righteous. Only when the death of the cross is the death of the Son of God can we have the assurance that our sins are blotted out for ever, and that in Christ we have the righteousness of God by faith.

Triple Knowledge-10vols-2015Taken from Rev.Herman Hoeksema’s explanation of Lord’s Day XVI (16), Q&As 40-44, of the Heidelberg Catechism, as found in The Death of the Son of God (Vol.3 of “The Triple Knowledge”; originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1946 and now being reprinted by the RFPA), p.247-250.

The Paradox of the Cross – H.Hoeksema

And the expression of this wrath, i.e., the pain and agony, the suffering and misery, the sorrow and anguish of soul, the desolation and darkness, the fear and terror, the death and hell, that becomes the experience of him against whom God directs His wrath, Christ experienced!

That is the explanation, but at the same time the paradox of the cross!

At the moment of His deepest and most perfect obedience, He endures the agonies of the damned!

At the moment when God is most highly pleased with Him, He experiences all the terror of being forsaken of God!

But this is exactly why hell is still a question, an outcry to God for an answer! And that is the reason, too, why, even from the darkness of hell, and in the condition of utter desolation, the obedient Servant can still cry out: ‘My God, My God!’

He, that knew no sin, is made sin!

And that is also the reason, why his question, pressed from His utterly forsaken and agonized soul, has an answer. In the hell of mere sinners there is no question. It is the answer, the final answer, the answer of everlasting wrath. But the suffering Servant of Jehovah, because He is obedient and yet forsaken, has a question: Why me? And it receives an answer presently, an answer to which the Servant responds even at the cross: It is finished!

Triple Knowledge-10vols-2015Taken from Rev.Herman Hoeksema’s explanation of Lord’s Day XV (15), Q&As 37-39, of the Heidelberg Catechism, as found in The Death of the Son of God (Vol.3 of “The Triple Knowledge”; originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1946 and now being reprinted by the RFPA), p.214

“Think upon Christ in that upper room!” – Rev.M.De Vries

SB-March1-2015The March 1, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer is out and it opens with a wonderful meditation by Rev. Michael DeVries, pastor of our Kalamazoo, MI PRC. Appropriate for the church season of remembering and reflecting on our Savior’s suffering and death, Rev. DeVries bases his meditation on the familiar passage in John 13 and the recorded event of Christ’s washing of His disciples feet.

He titles his meditation “Christ’s Example of Servanthood”, and after explaining its significance for Christ and His humiliation, he points us to its significance for us. It is from this section that I quote tonight, leaving you with some of his practical thoughts about what Christ’s example means for us, who also profess to be His disciples.

But what about this example?  Plainly there is a calling here that falls to each one of us in the communion of the saints:  “Ye ought also to wash one another’s feet”!  Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Master do this…”  What about it?  Is this beneath us?  Do we suppose that we are somehow exempt?  Or that we are too good, too important, too popular, too talented?  Are there some things that Jesus did that are simply beneath our dignity?  If this be the case, we are proud!  And we show that we have not learned the first thing about the kingdom of heaven.  “Be clothed with humility.”  That, is the heavenly example we must follow!  The followers of Christ are to manifest that humility that is in Him so beautifully and wonderfully!

What a struggle it is to count others better than ourselves, to be concerned, first, not with our own welfare and advantage but with the welfare of others.  Let us seek not the praise and honor of men, but the approval of the God of our salvation!  Our Heidelberg Catechism puts it so beautifully in Answer 55:  “… that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.”    Do you seek the good and spiritual welfare of the brother or sister?   That is the implication of washing one another’s feet.  Do you help one another in the daily battle of faith?  Do you do that as servant, not in haughty pride, not looking down your nose at the erring brother or sister, but in the humility of a servant, loving the brother, seeking the salvation of his soul?

How is that possible?   Christ is the power of our humility!  Always the humility that characterizes the life of the saints is a humility that is rooted in regeneration.  It is a virtue that comes by grace alone.  It is worked in us through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.  By His Spirit He works the humility of His own cross within our hearts.  Never does this humility come of ourselves!  God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14)!

…Let us pray then for the beautiful grace of humility!  May humility more and more characterize all of our lives.  Think upon Christ in that upper room!  Esteem each other better than yourself!  In love serve one another!  And in that way we truly serve our God.

To learn more about the contents of this issue of the “SB”, click on the cover image here. To learn about how to subscribe to this edifying Reformed magazine, visit the website link above.

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