Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chapter 4, part 1

Note: If you are new to this blog, I suggest you start at post #1 ("Introduction") and work your way from oldest post to newest.

"The how of it"

One "instrument of conveyance" (p. 22) that God uses for giving us union and fellowship with Jesus is by revealing himself and his plans in the Bible.

1. Through the Bible, God makes known to us what Jesus is like and the fact that he is indeed in us.
[From the Bible]
[God] gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.

[From the Bible]
For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.
Colossians 1:27 New Living Translation
2. Through the Bible, we know that salvation is free to anyone who chooses to trust Jesus.
[From the Bible]
Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes on him is declared right with God—something the law of Moses could never do.

[From the Bible]
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. As the scriptures tell us, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced."
Romans 10:9, 11 New Living Translation

[From the Bible]
God has raised up his servant Jesus and sent him to you first to bless you by turning each of you away from doing evil.

[From the Bible]
This is a covenant not of written laws but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. Shouldn't we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God!
2 Corinthians 3:6b, 8, 9 New Living Translation
There are two steps in being united with Christ—first, believing the Bible (like accepting the cup of wine to the lips).
[From the Bible]
But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, "Lord, who has believed our message?" So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.
Romans 10:16-17 New Living Translation

[From the Bible]
"I [Paul] became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you."
1 Corinthians 4:15 New Living Translation
Then we need to tip up the cup and drink—that is, allow Jesus to come in.
[From the Bible]
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God reaised him from the dead, you will be saved. As the Scripture tells us, "Anyone who trusts him will never be disgraced."
Romans 10:11-12 New Living Translation
Marshall: "Having thus explained the nature of faith, I come now to assert its proper use and office in our salvation—that it is the means and instrument whereby we receive Christ, and all His fulness, actually into our hearts" (p. 23).

We’ll get to this in the next post.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chapter 3, part 4

Note: If you are new to this blog, I suggest you start at post #1 ("Introduction") and work your way from oldest post to newest.

"What Jesus didn’t come to do"

Jesus didn't come to enable us to produce holy natures in ourselves by our own efforts. It wasn’t possible before he came, and it was no more possible after.

Jesus makes our new natures himself and puts them in us, or we don't have them at all.

1. Jesus became a human for this purpose.

One reason God incarnated himself as a human being was so he could pass on his excellent nature to us.
[From the Bible]
The Scriptures tell us, "The first man, Adam, became a living person." But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.
1 Corinthians 15:45, 49 New Living Translation

[From the Bible]
"Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means 'God is with us.'"

[From the Bible]
For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.
Colossians 2:9-10 New Living Translation
Jesus came as living bread, so anyone who allows him to come in (as bread comes into the body), may live by him. Jesus has the life of God in him, and when he comes into us, we then have that life as well.
[From the Bible, Jesus speaking]
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me."
2. Jesus died for this purpose.

By his death, Jesus freed himself from the guilt of our sins which were charged to him and also from that innocent weakness of his human nature which he bore for our sakes.

Marshall: "And by freeing himself, he prepared a freedom for us from our whole natural condition, which is both weak as His was, and also polluted with our guilt and sinful corruption. Thus the corrupt natural estate, which is called in Scripture the 'old man,' was crucified together with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed" (p. 17).

It’s destroyed in us, not by our efforts to kill it or reform it or tame it or restrain it. We simply take what is already worked out for us by the death of Jesus. We symbolize this by baptism, where we show that we willingly allow Jesus to apply his death to our old natures.
[From the Bible]
Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Romans 6: 2-4, 10-11 New Living Translation.

[From the Bible]
The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

[From the Bible]
I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
Philippians 3:9 New Living Translation
3. Jesus rose again for this purpose.

Marshall: "He took possession of spiritual life for us, as now fully [acquired] for us, and made to be our right and property by the merit of His death; and therefore we are said to be [made alive] together with Christ" (p. 18).

His resurrection was our resurrection to the life of holiness, in the same way that Adam's fall was our fall into spiritual death. We don’t make our new holy natures any more than we made our original old corrupt natures. Both are "formed ready for us to partake of them" (p. 18).

By union with Christ, we take in that spiritual life that he took possession of for us at his resurrection, and by having it he makes us able to obey him.
[From the Bible]
So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.
Next post: The how of it.

Chapter 3, part 3

Note: If you are new to this blog, I suggest you start at post #1 ("Introduction") and work your way from oldest post to newest.

"No other way"

Although the truth about being united with Jesus is "above the reach of natural reason" (p. 13), yet we can discover it if we open ourselves to having God reveal it to us through the Bible.

1. It’s clearly expressed in the Bible that all things pertaining to our salvation are available to us in Jesus, and by having Jesus, and no other way.
[From the Bible]
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ ....
Colossians 1:19 New Living Translation

[From the Bible]
When you came to Christ, you were "circumcised," but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.
Colossians 2:11-13 New Living Translation

[From the Bible]
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.
Marshall concludes: All our spiritual blessings are in Jesus "and therefore we must have our holy endowments out of Him or not at all" (p. 14).

2. We get our holiness out of Jesus by fellowship with him.

fellowship: companionship, company, the quality or state of being comradely
Merriam-Webster OnLine
[From the Bible]
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

[From the Bible]
We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
Marshall: "There are other texts that reach the proof of the whole direction fully; showing, not only that our holy endowments are made ready first in Christ for us, and received from Christ, but that we received them by union with Christ" (p. 15).
[From the Bible]
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Colossians 3:10-11 New Living Translation

[From the Bible]
But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.
1 Corinthians 6:17 New Living Translation

[From the Bible]
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 New Living Translation

[From the Bible]
And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God's Son does not have life.
1 John 5:11-12 New Living Translation
Marshall sums it up this way: "We receive from Christ a new holy frame and nature, whereby we are enabled for an holy practice, by union and fellowship with Him...." (p. 15).

I sum up Marshall this way: First God had to give us the right equipment—a new nature, one formed in himself. Then and only then are we able to invite him to live in us in close companionship. From then on, we can turn to him for everything we need to live life to the fullest—and these resources always come from him, not from our old natures or anything we drum up.

Next post: What Jesus didn't come to do.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chapter 3, part 2

Note: If you are new to this blog, I suggest you start at post #1 ("Introduction") and work your way from oldest post to newest.

"What the Bible says about union with Jesus"

1. Jesus lives in believers.
[From the Bible, Jesus speaking]
"Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him."

[Jesus speaking]
"When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." John 14:20 New Living Translation
2. Jesus and believers are joined into one spirit.
[From the Bible]
But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.
1 Corinthians 6:17 New Living Translation
3. Believers are members of Jesus’ body, his flesh, his bones.
[From the Bible]
And we are members of his body.
Ephesians 5:30 New Living Translation
4. It’s like the union between God the Father and Jesus.
[From the Bible, already quoted]
"When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you."

[Jesus speaking]
"I pray that they will be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. An may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me .... I am in them, and you are in me ...."
5. It’s like the union between vine and branches.
[From the Bible, Jesus speaking]
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."
6. It’s like the connection between a head and a body.
[From the Bible]
God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.
Ephesians 1:22-23 New Living Translation
7. It’s like the connection between bread and eater.
[From the Bible, Jesus speaking]
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh." Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" they asked. So Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day."
8. It’s like the sexual union between a man and a woman.
[From the Bible]
As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.
Ephesians 5:31-32 New Living Translation
Marshall commented that our union with Jesus surpasses the sexual union with another human in both nearness and fullness "because those that are joined to the Lord are not only one flesh but one spirit with Him" (p. 16).

9. Though extremely close, our beings remain separate beings.

Marshall: "Though Christ be in heaven and we on earth, yet He can join our souls and bodies to His at such a distance, without any substantial change of either, by the same infinite Spirit dwelling in Him and us; and so our flesh will become His when it is quickened by His Spirit, and His flesh ours, as truly as if we did eat His flesh and drink His blood; and He will be in us Himself by His Spirit, who is one with Him, and who can make a more close and intimate union between Christ and us than any material substance can do" (p. 13).

10. There are different measures or degrees of the indwelling Spirit.

Marshall: "And it will not follow from hence that a believer is one person with Christ. Neither will a believer be necessarily perfect in holiness hereby, or Christ made a sinner: for Christ knoweth how to dwell in believers by certain measures and degrees, and to make them holy so far only as He dwelleth in them" (p. 13).

Next post: Marshall talks more about the Biblical teaching on our union with Jesus.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chapter 3, part 1

Note: If you are new to this blog, I suggest you start at post #1 ("Introduction") and work your way from oldest post to newest.

"New inclinations are truly new"

In chapter 3, Marshall’s makes two points, the first of which we’ll look at in this post:

We can only get the essential qualifications mentioned before by receiving them directly from Jesus, from our fellowship with him.

The great majority of Christians think that our "new nature" isn't actually new but that it's a fixed or reformed version of our old nature. Hence, we need to work on our old natures to get them to behave and change. This agrees with common sense, and anything else strikes us as a mystery.

Marshall: "This mystery is so great that, notwithstanding all the light of the gospel, we commonly think that we must get an holy frame by producing it anew in ourselves, and by forming it and working it out of our own hearts. Therefore many that are seriously devout take a great deal of pains to mortify their corrupted nature, and beget an holy frame of heart in themselves by striving earnestly to master their sinful lusts, and by pressing vehemently upon their hearts many motives to godliness, labouring importunately to squeeze good qualifications out of them, as oil out of a flint" (p. 11).

"Squeezing oil out of a flint" is a good description of what results from "... pressing vehemently upon their hearts many motives to godliness" (p. 11). Sounds like many a well-intentioned sermon, Sunday-School class, Children's Church lesson, Christian-school teacher's admonition, Christian book.

Marshall: "On this account they acknowledge the entrance into a godly life to be harsh and unpleasing, because it costs so much struggling with their own hearts and affections to new-frame them" (pp. 11-12).

"New-framing" an old nature is not merely an unpleasant task—it’s impossible. Marshall: "If they knew that this way of entrance is not only harsh and unpleasant, but altogether impossible...." (p. 12).

Yet, what are the options? To not try to obey God? Unthinkable. Salvation, we know, comes entirely from God. But sanctification, our common sense tells us, must be our job. Marshall: "They account that though they be justified by a righteousness wrought out by Christ, yet they must be sanctified by a holiness wrought out by themselves" (p. 11).

Of course they realize that they have to ask for God’s help every step of the way. Marshall: "And though out of humility they are willing to call it infused grace, yet they think they must get the infusion of it by the same manner of working, as if it were wholly acquired by their endeavours" (p. 11).

It makes sense. How could it possibly be wrong to try hard to obey God? As Marshall continued to point out, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to please and obey God. But trying to do so by changing and reforming one's old nature isn’t the way and doesn’t accomplish anything. And the Bible teaches a different way.

The different way is that our “holy disposition”—that is, our inclination to do God’s law—must come from Jesus "as a thing already prepared and brought to an existence for us in Christ...." (p. 11). It’s not a reformed bit of old nature; it’s not something we’ve made by fixing or changing or correcting our old natures—even with God’s help. It’s an entirely new and other thing, entirely from Jesus.

Marshall: "So that we are not at all to work together with Christ in making or producing that holy frame in us, but only to take it to ourselves, and use it in our holy practice, as made ready to our hands" (p. 11).

This is a radical idea. Is it Biblical?

Marshall claimed that it was, that it was clearly taught in the Bible. Even so, it was something humans would still not understand unless God made it known by supernatural revelation.

Marshall: "Yea, though it be revealed clearly in the Holy Scriptures, yet the natural man has not eyes to see it there, for it is foolishness to him; and if God express it ever so plainly and properly, he will think that God is speaking riddles and parables. And I doubt not but it is still a riddle and parable even to many truly godly, who have received an holy nature in this way; for the apostles themselves had the saving benefit of it before the Comforter discovered it clearly to them (John xiv.20)" (p. 10).

In other words, even those of us who are true Christians and have received our new nature and who read our Bibles might be confused about what it means to be "united" with the Holy Spirit or how to access our new motivations and inclination through this union with him. We might only in a small or bumbling way take advantage of or enjoy it. Jesus's own disciples were a case in point. Jesus told them, "When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you" (John 14:20 NLT).

More to come in the next post: What the Bible teaches about having fellowship with Jesus, being in Jesus, and having Jesus in us by a mystical union with him.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Chapter 2

Note: If you are new to this blog, I suggest you start at post #1 ("Introduction") and work your way from oldest post to newest.

"What do we need to tackle the job?"

Marshall made no bones about what we need to practice God’s law: "We need have very choice endowments as Christ had; at least as good or something better than Adam had at first, as our work is harder than his" (pp. 6-7).

Marshall named four endowments, or qualifications, that a person needs to even begin practicing holiness. The Big Question of how we get these qualifications Marshall postponed until another chapter. But putting aside for the moment our lack of them or the problem of how to get them, what are the qualifications?

1. We must want God’s will.

Marshall: "The duties of the law are of such a nature that they cannot possibly be performed while there is wholly an aversion or mere indifference of the heart to the performance of them, and no good inclination and propensity towards the practice of them ..." (p. 7).

We must love God’s law, like it, be delighted by it, long for it, thirst for it, find it sweet and refreshing. All the time.
[From the Bible]
I take joy in doing your will,
for your instructions are written on my heart.

I ... have treasured his words more than daily food.

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body long for you
in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

I am always overwhelmed with a desire for your regulations.

[The laws of the Lord] are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold,
they are sweeter than honey dripping from the comb.
As part of this, we must abhor evil:
[From the Bible]
The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.
Galatians 5:17 New Living Translation

They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots.
Love for God must come from a clean heart, a heart rid of evil preferences and inclinations:
[From the Bible]
The goal ... is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Another qualification we need to even begin to obey God’s law:

2. We must be convinced that we are reconciled to God—that he loves us and has blotted out our sins.

In addition:

3. We must be confident that there is a heaven and we are going there.

Jesus himself was motivated by his absolute assurance of what was ahead:
[From the Bible]
Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross ...
The same was true of the apostles:
[From the Bible]
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.

.... and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
The last qualification—what we must have before we can even think about obeying God’s law— is this:

4. We must be confident that God can and will provide sufficient strength both to will and to perform this duty acceptably.

Marshall: "Those that think sincere conformity to the law in ordinary cases to be so very easy, show that they neither know it nor themselves. I acknowledge that the work of God is easy and pleasant to those whom God rightly furnisheth with endowments for it; but those that assert it to be easy to men in their common condition, show their imprudence in contradicting the general experience of heathens and Christians" (p. 8).

The endowments must come from God.

Marshall: "Our Lord Christ doubtless knew the infinite power of His deity to enable Him for all that He was to do and suffer in our natures. He knew 'the Lord God would help Him, and that therefore He should not be confounded' (Isa. 50:7)" (p. 9).

The Bible shows what "plentiful assurance of strength" (p. 9) God gave to a long list of others (Moses, Joshua, Gideon, the Israelites, etc.).

Marshall ended the chapter by saying this. When God calls a person to do miracles, he first acquaints the person with the power he will give to do the miracles. It’s the same with us and sanctification. When God calls people who are dead in sin to a holy life, he will acquaint them with the gift of his power to do this. In Marshall's words, God will "encourage them in a rational way to such a wonderful enterprise" (p. 9).

In the next post: Where do we get these essential qualifications?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Chapter 1, part 2

Note: If you are new to this blog, I suggest you start at post #1 ("Introduction") and work your way from oldest post to newest.

"How do we get there?"

Many people, Marshall went on, aren't interested in knowing anything other than where we're going. Once the goal is set, they "account nothing wanting but diligent performances; and they rush blindly upon immediate practice, making more haste than good speed" (p. 3). In other words, they do a lot of pedaling without much forward progress.

What they lack is the "powerful and effective means" for accomplishing this "great and excellent end" (p. 4).

It's not just the people in the pews who often misunderstand the enormity of the task. Pastors, too, Marshall noticed, "spend all their zeal in the earnest pressing the immediate practice of the law, without any discover of the effectual means of performance" as if the accomplishment needed "no skill and artifice at all, but only industry and activity" (p. 3).

What is this "powerful and effective means?" That's the question. Marshall pointed out several things:
  • It's just as much the result of an act of God as justification is. That is, we can't sanctify ourselves any more than we can save ourselves.
  • It's something we can’t see on our own by just figuring it out or by effort or work; God has to open our eyes to it.
  • It requires the “double work” of first unlearning many deeply-rooted notions before finding the right way to go about it.
Marshall advised, "We must pray earnestly to the Lord to teach us, as well as search the Scripture that we may get this knowledge" (p. 4).

He hoped that God would bless his discovery of this "powerful means of holiness" so far as to "save some one or other from killing themselves" (p. 5). This was a man who knew first-hand the awful failure that results from trying to sanctify oneself!

His hope was that in the reading of this book that God would "enlarge the hearts of many by it, to run with great cheerfulness, joy, and thanksgiving in the ways of His commandments" (p. 5).

In the next post: the mindset we need before we can think about even beginning to practice holiness.