Theology

Faith, Hope, Love

Faith, Hope, Love

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 Paul writes, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Religious Hijacking

There are two bundles of words that stand out: first, work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness (or endurance) of hope. These words have been hijacked by religious people to heap burdens on others. The second group of words you hear all the time, both in and outside the church: faith, hope, and love. These are very “Christian” words, but they’ve been gutted—look, for example, at “faith” in pop culture.

Knowing Jesus Changes Us

At the end of verse 3 the faith and love and hope are “in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul is not describing general principles; he is describing particular spiritual effects of being in relationship to Jesus Christ. Faith and love and hope that are “in our Lord Jesus Christ” give rise to work, labor, and endurance.

1 Thessalonians 1:3–6 refer to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The entire Trinity is involved in faith, love, and hope. They come from trusting in Jesus Christ. They are the result and evidence of being chosen (v. 4) by God the Father. And they are the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel.

God Gives Us Faith

Faith is a gift from God. Hebrews 11 says faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. The chapter describes a list of people who had faith in God and God’s actions on their behalf. That’s what faith is: trust in God and what he has done for you in Jesus. Through faith we trust in Christ. When we trust in Christ we experience grace, reconciliation with God, and forgiveness of sins. Romans 5:1–2 says, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

And faith produces works; that’s why the passage says “works of faith.” When we put our faith in Christ, God changes our hearts and desires so good works are actually possible (Philippians 2:13).

God’s love for us produces love in us.

God Gives Us Love

Like faith, love is a gift from God. Love was our problem. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? Jesus summarizes the law of God under two commands: 1) Love God, and 2) Love your neighbor (Mt. 22:36-40). But this is bad news for us because we stubbornly rebel against God and love ourselves way more than we love others.

1 John 4: 10 says, “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.” God’s love for us produces love in us: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and just as faith causes works, love produces our labor.

 

God Gives Us Hope

Like faith and love, hope is a gift from God. We can have hope because of what Jesus did. We can have hope for the future because of Jesus’ resurrection. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Hope produces endurance. We can carry through the difficulties of this life because we know God is good and he is not playing games with our life. He has a plan for us.  

God Works On Us and In Us

Because all the works God does in Christ are done for you, your sins are forgiven, you are declared righteous, and you will arise and live with him. Faith, hope, and love are possible for you because of Jesus. They are the works of God on us. Work, labor, and endurance are the fruit of God’s work in us.

 

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

History

From the beginning of the church, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy has been affirmed by orthodox Christians but is frequently challenged by opponents.

Inerrancy can be defined as “the doctrine that the Bible is fully truthful in all of its teachings.”(Christian Theology). When all the relevant facts are known, and when properly interpreted, Scripture never contradicts itself, nor does it misrepresent the facts.

Historically, the doctrine of inerrancy has been held by the earliest theologians of the church. J.N.D. Kelly cites Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Origen, and Gregory of Nazianzus as holding to the inspiration and subsequent inerrancy of Holy Scripture down to the smallest detail of its content. About the early church fathers, Kelly writes, “Their general view was that Scripture was not only exempt from error but contained nothing that was superfluous” (Early Christian Doctrines).

The concept of inerrancy is not humanly constructed doctrine foisted upon the text of Scripture…

The most substantial challenge to inerrancy came from the Enlightenment, which rejected all the supernatural elements of Scripture. Enlightenment critics of Scripture claimed the miracles of Jesus and the resurrection could not be verified and must be taken as nonfactual and false—an assertion that directly undermined the truthfulness of Scripture.

The Enlightenment gave way to 19th and 20th century theological liberalism in which Jesus was viewed as only a good person and teacher, but not God. Also, miracles were understood to be mythological stories, not true historical events. Out of this theological milieu the fundamentalist/modernist controversy arose. Theological modernists were privy to higher criticism and thought inerrancy unfashionable, but the fundamentalists were concerned with maintaining the orthodox fundamental doctrines of the faith. Some extreme fundamentalists pushed the divine authorship of Scripture so much that the human element of the Biblical text was rendered irrelevant.

In response to the many 20th century challenges to inerrancy, a council of evangelical leaders met at an international Summit Conference in the fall of 1978 and drafted The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI).

 

Content

The CSBI is composed of a short statement consisting of 5 points, a section of affirmations and denials consisting of 19 articles, and an exposition of the doctrine of inerrancy in relation to the other teachings of Scripture.

The short summary statement posits the Scriptures as God’s self-revelation written by men and inspired by the Holy Spirit, who authenticates and illuminates its teachings. In addition, Scripture’s very words in entirety are inspired (verbal plenary inspiration) and therefore without error (inerrant). Finally, it asserts that to deny or limit inerrancy undermines the authority of Scripture.

The section of affirmations and denials include several other important points:

  1. Scripture’s authority comes from its being the Word of God, not from the church or tradition, and is thereby authoritatively binding
  2. The finitude of human language does not preclude it being used as a medium for divine revelation
  3. While inspiration did not eliminate human authorship and literary style, it did guarantee that their utterances were true and trustworthy
  4. Only the autographs of Scripture were inspired, but this does not render the doctrine irrelevant since an accurate representation of the autographs can be constructed from the manuscripts we have
  5. While inerrancy and infallibility can be distinguished, they cannot be separated; that is, the Bible cannot be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions
  6. Inerrancy is rooted in the doctrine of inspiration
  7. While affirming inerrancy is not necessary for salvation, it is vital to the Christian faith, and its rejection leads to serious consequences in the individual and the church

 

Contemporary Relevance

While not to be given creedal status, the CBSI is an important statement that Christians ought to affirm. One of the reasons is, the CBSI navigates between liberalism and fundamentalism. Liberalism so analyzes and assesses the historical background and literary features of a text (the human features) that the text’s authenticity and factuality is negated in the process. Fundamentalism so emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s activity in the writing of the Scriptures (the divine features) that the human authorship of the text is severely minimized or denied.

…to deny or limit inerrancy undermines the authority of Scripture.

Liberals deny inerrancy because of the multitude of differing manuscripts we possess, while some fundamentalists assert that only one version of the text (the KJV) contains the inspired words of God. Both positions fail to do justice to the dual authorship of Scripture asserted by the CSBI. The CSBI assures the Holy Spirit was indeed present in inspiring the text of Scripture—thereby ensuring its factual accuracy—while still allowing for the human elements of style to be present in the process and textual transmission.

The concept of inerrancy is not humanly constructed doctrine foisted upon the text of Scripture, but a result of the reliability and trustworthy character of God and an inevitable corollary of the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. The CSBI took an important step in responding to the critics of an historic doctrine of the church and asserting the classical teaching in a fresh and thoughtful way. Their response also serves to bolster the confidence of believers in the Holy Scriptures.

 

For further reading see Inerrancy, edited by Norman Geisler.

 

Ransomed

Ransomed

The Apostle Peter writes to Christians:

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

    (1 Peter 1:18–21)

He highlights both our desperate situation (“futile ways”) and the high cost to God (“the precious blood of Christ”). These two are brought together when it says we were “ransomed,” which means “delivered from slavery upon payment.” A slave would only experience freedom if their master set them free or if somebody paid the price for their freedom.

The spotless lamb without defect died for the blemished, spotted, and scarred—you and me.

This is the context when Peter says we were ransomed when Jesus paid for our freedom. In the one word—ransom—we see that:

  1. We needed to be redeemed, because we were slaves
  2. Jesus Christ redeemed us with his death

 

We Were Slaves

We needed to be ransomed because we were slaves. Peter’s use of “ransom” easily would have caused the Gentiles to think of slavery. And for the Jews, he referred to the Passover Lamb in verse 19, which would have triggered images of their ancestors’ slavery in Egypt.

Peter is underlining the point of our helpless situation. He is using very intense imagery to describe how desperate we are.

Peter is not alone in using this language of slavery either. Jesus says, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). And in Romans 6, Paul explains that when you sin, you’re offering yourself as a slave to sin (Rom. 6:16).

 

Jesus Bought Us

Because of our need, God’s response is for Jesus Christ to redeem us with his blood & death.

Peter writes strongly regarding our situation in slavery, and he is equally strong about God’s response to our desperate need when he writes about the price of our ransom. Our salvation cost God the precious blood of Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that true grace “is costly because it cost God the life of his Son . . . God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life.”

This is why Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Paul also uses the language of ransom: “You were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 7:23).

 

The Ransom Was Priceless

Peter has the Passover lamb in mind when he says we were ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). That’s straight from Exodus 12 and Leviticus 22. Jesus is the Passover lamb that was sacrificed for us.

Being ransomed by the blood of Christ is all about substitution. But the point about “without defect or blemish” highlights his perfect life, his purity—the fact that he was not deserving of death. The spotless lamb without defect died for the blemished, spotted, and scarred—you and me.

 

 

 

The Councils of Carthage and Orange

The Councils of Carthage and Orange

Theological Anthropology

Theological anthropology refers to the doctrine of humanity, how humans relate to God, and the human condition before and after the Fall. Secular anthropologies root the evil in the world in oppressive social structures, inherited situations, or psychological disorders. Christian anthropology is very different as it deals with the contrast that exists between Adam’s created state before the Fall and the mess of the human condition after sin.

History and Content

In the fifth and early sixth-centuries, theological anthropology was a major topic of debate. The church articulated its doctrines of the Trinity, God, Christ, and Holy Spirit in the first four centuries after Jesus Christ. The Council of Carthage (418) outlawed Pelagianism in unambiguous terms.

Pelagius asserted (against Augustine) that humans were not born corrupt but gradually made corrupt after repeatedly sinning. Though the Council of Carthage ruled against this, affirming that humans had inherited a fallen nature from Adam, many disliked the rulings. Those who questioned Carthage thought that the idea that fallen humans were unable to freely choose good in their unredeemed state was contrary to the teaching of the Bible and led to fatalism. In the seventeenth century these “dissenters” were labeled “Semi-Pelagians,” which links them much closer to the Pelagian heresy than they actually were.

After the Council of Carthage, the Council of Orange (529) was the next to deal significantly with theological anthropology. The Council insisted that death was not essential to human nature but a contingent effect of Adam’s sin, that original sin was passed from Adam to every man, that baptism was the way in which this sin was to be cleansed, and that grace was not merely an add-on to assist our own free-will but a catalyst through which we were able to do that which we could not do on our own. In addition, the Council ruled that any conception of predestination to evil (i.e., reprobation) was heretical.

Some argue that the Councils were so concerned with Pelagianism that they ruled out legitimate understandings of the grace of God and human salvation.

Some today question how firmly we must hold the rulings at Orange and Carthage. For one, the Councils of Orange and Carthage were not ecumenical councils. This means that they were not universally-affirmed by the Eastern and Western branches of the church. In addition, some argue that the Councils were so concerned with Pelagianism that they ruled out legitimate understandings of the grace of God and human salvation.

Contemporary Relevance

There are several common threads that unite both those who side with Augustine and those who wanted to avoid the heresy of Pelagius without sacrificing legitimate expressions of human freedom. Both sides absolutely affirms “that humanity’s present condition does not correspond to God’s ultimate purpose and original intention in its creation.” Moreover, they agreed that humans are responsible for their sinful condition, and that God is ultimately responsible for reversing the curse and restoring that which had been broken. Put differently, salvation is by grace alone and nothing that humans can do could warrant their acceptance before a holy God. This is an offense to most contemporary secular anthropologies. Christians believe that the problem with humanity is not something imposed upon us over which we had no control. Instead, we understand that it is we who are the problem—we choose sin over obedience—death over life.

 

B.B. Warfield Says Jesus Has Emotions Too

B.B. Warfield Says Jesus Has Emotions Too

In his article “The Emotional Life of Our Lord,” B.B. Warfield begins: “It belongs to the truth of our Lord’s humanity, that he was subject to all sinless human emotions.” It is important that we understand that Jesus, while being fully God, is fully human in every sense of the word. That means we must understand him as an emotional being without sin.

 

Jesus Has Emotions

There is very little reflection upon Christ’s emotional life within the Christian tradition. Warfield focuses on Christ’s compassion, love, sorrow, anger, joy, indignation, and anguish. In referring to the historical account of Jesus, Warfield brings depth and concreteness to these emotions.

By going to the concrete acts and emotions of the real person, Jesus Christ, the full glory of God’s compassion for and identification with humanity is brought out in startling relief. Here we see God weeping over the lost and saddened by the plight of sinful humanity. Here we see God’s heart broken by the stubbornness of a world that has rejected him, and we see God’s compassion for all people in distress.

The affections of Jesus are not disconnected from the acts of Jesus.

What we know about God we get from looking at Jesus. God is who he has revealed himself to be and not who we necessarily expect him to be. The Christian tradition has always affirmed that God is immutable (incapable to change) and impassible (impervious to being acted upon), but this does not mean that God is aloof or capricious. As a matter of fact, God reveals his compassion powerfully in Jesus’ ministry.

 

Compassion

Warfield highlights compassion as the emotion “most frequently attributed” to Jesus.

  • When seeing the temporary physical hunger and weariness from travel of the multitude, Jesus feeds them (Mark 8:2–3).
  • When being approached by an unclean leper concerned about whether Jesus would be willing to heal, he heals him and makes him clean (Mark 1:40–42).
  • When faced with the death of his friend Lazarus and the weeping crowd around him—right before he resurrects Lazarus from the dead—Jesus weeps (John 11:30–46).
  • When attempting to take time for solitude and a crowd interrupts him, he feels compassion for their sick and heals them (Matthew 14:13–14).

Note that Jesus does not just act in compassion. He experiences feelings of compassion. The affections of Jesus are not disconnected from the acts of Jesus. His emotional life and his practical life are unified.

 

More Than Example & Empathy

The emotions of Christ are much more than examples to follow and an assurance of his understanding. Warfield’s study testifies to the passion and firm resolve that Christ manifested to perform God’s will in hope that though it might cost dearly, it would not cost indefinitely: “We must bear in mind that our Lord did not come into the world to be broken by the power of sin and death, but to break it.”

The emotions that Jesus feels toward broken humanity find their clearest expression in his dying in the place of sinners, conquering Satan, forgiving sin, and defeating death.

Because of emotions that Jesus feels for the suffering and sinful, he ultimately heals and forgives by his death and resurrection. The emotions that Jesus feels toward broken humanity find their clearest expression in his dying in the place of sinners, conquering Satan, forgiving sin, and defeating death.

 

Have the Heart & Affection of Jesus

The church is empowered by the Spirit of Christ to be on mission with this kind of empathy; having new hearts that feel these kinds of affections and seeing the blessings of God’s kingdom invade the present. But the truth the church is to proclaim is that Jesus is not simply an empathizer in solidarity with humanity but the Savior who is making all things new through his death and resurrection, which has guaranteed the coming of a new heaven and new earth without pain, disease, sin, suffering, and death.


 

 

Gratuitous Grace

Gratuitous Grace

Unconditional love is a difficult concept around which to wrap one’s mind.

Many of us think (whether we admit it or not) there must be some breaking point where God gives up on us. Even if we successfully avoid believing this fallacy, others’ overzealous cries still reach our ears: certainly there must be some sin or amount of sin that is just too much.

 

The Flood

My understanding of unconditional love and its implications deepened when I was ten years old and I flooded our next door neighbor’s home. Our neighbors had moved and they were trying to sell their house. One day I broke in through the back door and closed all the drains in all the sinks and tubs and turned on all the faucets. Then, I just sat there and watched water flood the entire house. I let the water run while I went home for dinner and finally returned a few hours later to turn it off.

 

The Feeling

I knew what I had done was wrong and I was even shocked that I just wanted to do something so destructive.  Our neighbors saw the damage the next day while showing the home to prospective buyers, they came to our house, and asked us if we had seen anyone around their place recently. On top of what I had already done, I lied to our neighbors and my parents.

Surely something so deliberate and cruel was just too much to forgive.

I felt completely messed up. I was destroying stuff for the sake of destroying, and then I lied blatantly to everyone. I had heard about asking God’s forgiveness (my dad had taught me the Lord’s Prayer), so I begged God to forgive me but was worried that He wouldn’t. Surely something so deliberate and cruel was just too much to forgive.

 

The Forgiveness

After a month of an uneasy conscience, I was finally found out. Another neighbor had seen me sneaking around and told my parents. My father called me in from playing outside with my friends and asked me if I remembered anything important about the flooding incident. I knew something was up, but I felt like I had to stick with the lie at this point. Finally, my dad told me that I was busted. I experienced an overwhelming sense of shame, guilt for my sins, and intense fear of the consequences. I sobbed and muttered, “Dad, I’m so sorry. I’ve been asking God to forgive me for so long for this and I don’t know if He ever will.” In a moment of parental love and great wisdom, my dad said: “If you asked God to forgive you, then you are forgiven. You deserve to be punished and this will cost lots of money to fix.  But, son, you are forgiven. Go back outside and play.”

He loved me because I was his.

In that moment, the reality of forgiveness and gratuitous grace powerfully moved me. Now when I confess my sins, I think of that experience of absolution. My dad didn’t take grace “too far.” He saw that my misunderstanding and fear of God’s wrath and my dad’s discipline threatened to crush me. He took on the consequences of my sins and literally paid for them for me.

 

The Faith

Instead of experiencing my fears unfold, I knew I was safe with my dad and I finally understood what he told me growing up: “I love you unconditionally.” I knew there was nothing I could do to cause him to love me less. And I also knew there was nothing I could do to cause him to love me more. He loved me because I was his.

 

God loves you like that. It’s gratuitous* grace, the only kind there is.

 

 


 

* In his Institutes of the Christian Religion(III.2.xxix), John Calvin writes: “We make the foundation of faith the gratuitous promise, because in it faith properly consists…Faith begins with the promise, rests in it, and ends in it.  For in God faith seeks life: a life which is not found in commandments or declarations of penalties, but in the promise of mercy, and only in a gratuitous promise. For a conditional promise that sends us back to our own works does not promise life unless we find it in ourselves…Therefore the apostle bears this witness to the gospel: that it is the word of faith (Romans 10:8). He denies to both the precepts and promises of the Law, since there is nothing which can establish faith except that free embassy by which God reconciles the world to himself (II Corinthians 5:19-20).” In Calvin’s theology, the knowledge of God the Redeemer focuses on the “gratuitous promise” as the main theme of scripture.  The various terms denoting the gratuitous promise of God exist throughout Calvin’s writings in countless variations: “gratuitous mercy” (Institutes III.31.vii and II.17.i), “gratuitous favor” (Institutes III.21.vii and II.16.ii), “gratuitous goodness” (Institutes II.7.iv), “mere good pleasure” (Institutes III.21.v and II.17.i), and “gratuitous love” (Institutes III.21.v and II.17.i).

 


 

This post is taken from Judgment and Love, a collection of 35 true-life stories that illustrate the powerful truth that when love is shown in the face of deserved judgment, lives are changed.Gratuitous Grace

 

Apologetics on Mission

Apologetics on Mission

What Is Apologetics?

The word “apologetics” is from the Greek word apologia, which means “the act of making a defense.” This word is used several times in the New Testament, but its usage in two passages is particularly relevant. In Philippians 1:7 & 16, apologia refers to a defense of the gospel, and in 1 Peter 3:15 it refers to a defense of the Christian hope.

Apologetics is “an activity of the Christian mind which attempts to show that the gospel message is true in what it affirms. An apologist is one who is prepared to defend the message against criticism and distortion, and to give evidences of its credibility.”


Defensive Apologetics

One form of apologetics is to defend the gospel from challenges. Defensive apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith by showing that the objections to the true claims of Christianity cannot and do not stand. Defensive apologetics addresses objections to the concept of God’s Triunity, to the problem of evil, to the Resurrection, to biblical criticism, and so forth.

For example, negative apologetics is used to rebut the claim that the doctrine of the Trinity “is an Error in counting or numbering; which, when stood in, is of all others the most brutal and inexcusable.” Negative apologetics will show that the doctrine of the Trinity is at least possibly true.

Another example is to defend against the charge that the Bible contains errors, contradictions, or inconsistencies. To give answers to the challenges that Jesus rose from the dead is also defensive apologetics.

 

Positive Apologetics

Another form of apologetics is to offer reasons to believe the gospel. Positive apologetics is the use of Christian evidences to demonstrate the viability of the Christian faith. Apologetics intends to “show,” in a positive manner, that the claims of the Christian faith are indeed intellectually defensible and rationally justifiable.

This is the method of making a positive case for the validity and truth of the claims made in Christian Scripture such as the resurrection of Christ, the existence of God, and the historical reliability of the Bible.

 

Critiquing Unbelief

Another use of apologetics is critiquing unbelief, which combines both the positive and negative forms. Some streams of apologetics seek to show that unbelief is irrational and that holding to views such as relativism will lead one to undesirable and irrational conclusions.

For example, holding to relativism entails that no universal ethical norm can be present since there is no objective truth to ground morality. This type of apologetics moves from the critique to a positive construction that shows how the Christian faith provides an alternative and logical worldview that best makes sense of the reality in which we live.

Apologetics is something that you engage in every time you share your beliefs and convictions with your fellow Christians, with your children, and with non-believers.

Explaining how karma is a cruel and devastating belief is another form of critiquing unbelief. Karma claims that if someone is suffering or in pain, they deserve it and to help them is to go against the cosmic law (dharma) at play.

Another example is that atheism leads to moral chaos. On what basis can an atheist say anything (genocide, sexual assault, child abuse, etc) is bad or wrong? If ethics is based on opinion or consensus, then morality is determined by whoever has the most power. If nature is “red in tooth and claw” and survival of the fittest is true and good, then domination of one animal over another in any form can’t be called bad or wrong in a naturalistic worldview but rather celebrated as the outworking of the principles of the atheist worldview.

 

Apologetics on Mission

Apologetics is something that you engage in every time you share your beliefs and convictions with your fellow Christians, with your children, and with non-believers. It is not an irrelevant or formal discipline reserved for intellectuals. Apologetics is a tool for mission.

 

Jesus Is a Karma Buzz-Kill

Jesus Is a Karma Buzz-Kill

During the Last Supper (Mark 14:12–25) with his disciples, Jesus talks about his impending death and initiates the practice of communion. Jesus says in Mark 14:27–28, “You will all fall away…But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

 

Failure Doesn’t Change God’s Plan

This is remarkable. Jesus doesn’t yell at them or condemn them. He simply states the truth about their failure and he states the truth about his faithfulness to them despite them. That’s because his focus is not on them (either their faithfulness or failure) but on what he is doing (dying and rising again). Their failure didn’t change his plans.

What does Peter do with this grace? He responds, “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29). He makes promises of his faithfulness. He is vehement in his proclamation.

Jesus’ focus is not on them (either their faithfulness or failure) but on what he is doing (dying and rising again).

Jesus tells Peter that before the night is over he’ll deny Jesus multiple times. Peter goes nearly crazy at this point claiming, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mark 14:31). His pious declarations got the others disciples going too. It was a riot of declarations of faithfulness.

Jesus is about to suffer a brutal, excruciating death for his disciples and the world, and they are cheering themselves on. Jesus is arrested (Mark 14:43–50) and stands before a jury stacked against him (Mark 14:51–65). He is put under oath and asked, “Are you the promised Messiah?” When Jesus says he is, the people around him beat him up for blasphemy. They blindfold him, spit on him, and mock him.

 

All It Took Was a Little Girl

While all of this is going on, Peter is watching from the courtyard. His determination to show himself faithful to Jesus brought him into the courtyard of the high priest where he is warming his hands around the fire with the very guards that arrested Jesus. That was a brave thing to do. But all it took was a little girl to connect him to Jesus, and Peter ran away in fear (Mark 14:66–69).

His only way out is to place himself under oath and swear that he doesn’t know Jesus. Remember that when Jesus was under oath he spoke the truth about himself, which caused him to get beaten. Now Peter is putting himself under oath (Mark 14:71) so he can lie and avoid a beating.

 

Unhinged

This is not just. But this is a picture of mercy, of substitution, of the gospel. The innocent get punished while the guilty are pardoned. Jesus freely opens his face to mocking, beating and spitting; and when the rooster crows, Peter covers his face in shame.

Jesus is a karma buzz-kill, because it’s the failure who gets grace upon grace.

At this moment, Peter “broke down and wept” (Mark 14:71). The word for “broke down” is the strongest word possible in the Greek. He was unhinged. He lost it. He almost heaved his guts up in sorrow. Peter literally went out and threw himself down on the ground in agony, remorse, and repentance.

 

Grace Upon Grace

What is Jesus’ response to Peter’s failure? It is in Mark 16:6–7. On resurrection morning, an angel met the women at the tomb and said, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Did you see that? He says, “….and Peter.” He singles out Peter, the failure, for this grace. This is a glimpse into the heart of God. All disciples needed to hear this good news, but especially Peter. Instead of getting him kicked out of Jesus’ favor, Peter’s failure got him special attention.

You can imagine Peter singing Psalm 30:11: “You have turned my sobbing into dancing. You have removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”

Jesus is a karma buzz-kill, because it’s the failure who gets grace upon grace. Paul is the same: “If you are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Tim 2:13).

 

That’s What Grace Does

  • The Law says, “You have not continued in all that I require of you, and therefore you are cursed.” And the gospel says, “Christ has redeemed you from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for you.”  
  • The Law says, “You are a sinner, and therefore you should be damned.” And the gospel says, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
  • The Law says, “If you disown Jesus before men, he will disown you before his Father.” And the gospel says, “Jesus has risen, go tell the disciples, but especially tell Peter.”