Shepherds’ Conference 2017
Familiar sentences are familiar because of how defining they are.
These are revolutionary words.
They set Christianity apart from every other belief system
John is exegeting Genesis 1.
Why was the Spirit of God hovering over the waters?
He was there to anoint the word as he went out to do his work.
God speaks, and on his divine breath, his word goes out.
Light and life and all creation are brought into being.
It is not that in the beginning, the word came into existence.
The word was with God and was God.
We are not hearing here that God just happens to speak.
Other religions have their deity speaking.
But, it is of the very nature of this God to have a word to speak.
This God cannot b wordless.
For the word is God.
God could not ever be anything but communicative.
God cannot be without his word.
He cannot be reclusive.
God cannot be contained.
He is overflowing.
He is not needy but supremely full.
He is a glorious God of grace.
He loves to give himself.
Clearly, Genesis 1 was dominant in John’s mind as he wrote.
In the beginning.
The light shines in the darkness.
John has a Hebrew, Scriptural idea of what the word means.
This is not a Hellenistic import.
What else might have been on John’s mind?
John 1:14, the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
John used an unusual verb here.
The word tented among us.
Tent and glory are connected here.
John is thinking of the tabernacle.
It was the tent where God was with his people and where his glory was seen.
As the Israelites saw the bright glory cloud over the tabernacle, so the word shows us his glory.
In the inner part of the tabernacle, the Lord is enthroned above the mercy seat on the ark of the Covenant.
1 Samuel 4:4; Lev 16:2
The Ten Commandments were in the ark, the throne of God.
The Ten Commandments are the word of God.
The word belongs as near to God as possible.
The word displays the inner most reality of who God is.
He is the radiance of God’s glory.
He is the exact representation of his being.
He is God himself.
He is God’s Amen, the faithful and true witness.
Early church had to defend the humanity of Christ.
But the biggest battle was to display that Jesus truly is God, the Lord God of Israel.
God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father.
Those words are pastoral dynamite.
Owen, Communion with God, explained how many Christians labor under the misapprehension that behind gracious Jesus, the friend of sinners, is a more sinister being.
Is God the Father thinner on compassion and grace, beauty and goodness.?
Is he one we would less like to know?
Since Jesus is God, you can be rid of that horrible idea.
Jesus shows us what the Father is like.
Jesus is the perfect radiance of God.
There is no god in heaven who is unlike Jesus.
One with his Father, the word, the expression, the radiance, the glory of who his Father is.
If you have seen him, you have seen the Father.
Through Christ, I can know what God is truly like.
That upsets all my idols.
Through Christ, we see how much God detests sin.
And through Christ, I see that, like the sinful dying thief, a sinner like me can cry, “Remember me,” for I know how he will react.
I have seen how he has treated such as I.
I know what he is like towards people like me.
He is righteous and gracious.
Stephen Charnock quote
Light without darkness, purity without filth, all excellency to please
True knowledge of the living God is found in and through Christ.
This is deep and transforming.
It can make the dead spring to life.
Nothing of God looks terrible in Christ to a believer.
The sun has risen, shadows have vanished, God walks on the battlements of love.
Justice has left its sting in the Savior’s side.
In Jesus Christ, you exchange darkness for light when you think of God.
He shows us an unsurpassably full and desirable God.
He is a righteous and a Kind God.
God who makes us tremble in awe and rejoice in wonder.
All things were made through him.
Without him was not anything made that was made.
Christ the eternal word is the one through whom all things were made.
But, secular thinking in the west has eaten away at belief in this like acid in the church.
We think he is a Savior.
But, we deny him as Creator of all.
We sing his praises on a Sunday, and believe it.
But, walking home through the streets, past the people, past real life, we do not feel this is all Christ’s world.
It is as if the universe is a neutral place, a secular place essentially.
We act as if Christianity is something you can simply smear on top of secular, real life.
The result is that Jesus is nothing more than a comforting nibble of spiritual chocolate.
He is a nice option alongside other hobbies.
He is an imaginary friend.
The Bible knows of no such laughable little christlet.
But all things were made through him.
Therefore Christians are not playing with a hobby that we can put on one side when we walk out into the world.
He is the agent of creation.
All things bear his stamp.
The heavens cannot but declare his glory in his craftsmanship when they continue to exist and continue to move.
The glory of Jesus is intimately written into the very grain of the universe.
He continues each moment to uphold and sustain the creation he brought into being.
To think against Christ the logos is to think against logic.
To do so is to descend into folly.
In his world, all our faculties work better the more they are harnessed to faith in him.
Trusting in him, we are working with a map of the universe as he intended it.
That makes us able to think, be creative, and to reason rightly.
He is not just God’s eternal word, he is God’s eternal Son.
There is a difference.
Word speaks of his oneness with God.
Son brings out the other element, that he has a relationship with the Father.
This goes against every other belief system in the world.
This is an infinitely superior belief system.
No human mind has ever dreamed of such a thing.
John is saying that God is eternally a Father who has and loves his Son.
John 17:24, you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Every other system has nothingness before the world.
Or they have gods existing who hated each other.
Pagan gods are mean, like to throw their weight around, want slaves and so they create.
Here, at bottom, before anything, we do not see nothingness or chaos or gods exercising arbitrary power; here we see Almighty God who is love.
This God would not be who he is if he didn’t love.
‘To be the Father, he must love the Son.
To be the Father means to love, to beget the Son.
This is why the eternal Sonship is so precious to Christians.
Arius declared that there once was a time when the Son was not.
He had choirs sing his false theology.
Arius thought that God did not want to dirty his hands with creation, so he created the son to do his dirty work for him.
If Arius is correct, God is not eternally a father.
In fact, since he just created this thing, he is not a father at all.
And, Arius does not have the Father truly loving the Son.
The Son is just a workman for the Father.
The only way that the Son pleased the Father was by doing good works.
Thus, the way to get to the Father is earning it through good works.
No gospel of grace is available in this system.
Arius also had to miss Philippians 2
If the Son had never sat upon the throne as God, he was motivated to gain a position that he had never had before.
Thus, the motivation for the incarnation and sacrifice would have been for his own gain, not love.
Only with an eternal Son can this not be.
Jesus is eternally beloved and eternally at the Father’s side.
His motivation was not to get a glory he never had before.
He wanted to share with us what he had always enjoyed, sonship.
Who Jesus is entirely shapes what he offers in the gospel.
The person of Christ shapes the work of Christ and the nature of the gospel of Christ.
For the eternally beloved Son comes to share with us the very love that the Father has lavished on him.
He comes to us to bring us into the life that is his.
We are not just forgiven and not just righteous, he shares with us sonship, family, eternal love.
John 1:18, the Son is eternally in the bosom or lap of the Father.
In John 14, he wants believers to be with him where he is.
John 13:23, John was reclining in the bosom of Jesus.
John 17:23, you have loved them as you have loved me.
The Son sharing with us his sonship caps off every aspect of our salvation and sanctification.
The Son shares with us his own sonship.
Without the eternal Son, we don’t get that gospel.
If God is not a Father, he cannot make us his children.
If he does not have eternal fellowship with his Son, does he have fellowship to offer us?
If the Son had not been with the Father eternally, in the bosom of the Father, how could he share closeness with us?
If the Son had never been close, he could not bring us to that children of God relationship.
This would make salvation sound completely different.
John 17:23, love them as you have loved me.
No other deity could do this other than the God of the Bible.
No other deity could bring us so close.
Only this God could teach us to pray, “Our Father.”
The Most High delights to hear us as his children.
The eternal Son enables a hearty, delighted prayer life.
With this God, prayer can be a privilege.
Salvation is about grace from first to last.
If salvation is not about being adopted into the family of God, it is not clear that it is entirely of grace.
If our only problem is sin, we might try to work that out.
But sonship cannot be won by actions.
Effort can have nothing to do with your salvation.
Efforts can make you a slave. No amount of effort can make you a son.
All efforts to produce salvation will only produce slaves.
Sonship is free.
500 years ago, the neglect of the eternal Son and how his person and being shapes the gospel was at the very heart of the problem in the church.
At that time, the identity of Christ did not drive the gospel as people heard it.
Medieval views of grace were like spiritual Red Bull for the lazy.
Grace was there to give you the energy to do what you have to do to earn heaven.
The prize became heaven, not Christ.
Jesus was reduced to being one little brick in the wall in the system.
And, in fact, Jesus was not even necessary to be the one to give you the strength.
The other saints could do it for you.
But in the reformation, a profound truth was rediscovered.
God does not give you a thing called grace to strengthen you to earn heaven.
The eternal Son is the gift from heaven.
You receive him, not a separate thing called grace, and you receive the right to be called children of God.
In him you are adopted as the children of God.
In him you are saved.
In him you are kept to the uttermost.
When the church lost the vision of the sonship of Christ, when Christ became only the deliverer, the church lost the gospel.
Suddenly, merit became the center of the life of the church.
Heaven became the prize, not Christ.
Jesus was reduced to being one little element, one little brick in the wall, of the system.
God does not give us some thing called grace to energize us to do things to earn salvation.
No, we receive Jesus and have the right to become children of God.
It is in him, the Son, we are adopted.
In Him, we are saved and kept.
The reformation helped us to see that Christ is the treasure.
Solas Christos is the center of the solas.
It shapes what the reformers meant when they talked about grace and faith.
Grace alone, not that we are given a thing called grace, but we are given Christ by the grace of God.
Faith is not a thing we do, it is the empty hand that receives Christ.
Scripture, our supreme authority, is about him.
You cannot give God alone the glory without exalting Jesus Christ.
Only through Christ is the living God glorified.
There is no gospel without him.
There is no gospel if you do not preach Christ alone.
This is the center we must hold fast to and pledge ourselves to.
We see in him the radiance of the glory of God, so what better center is there to pledge ourselves to.
We preach Christ alone.
We preach him to ourselves, to our people, to the world.
We preach his glorious person and his all-sufficient work.
That is the beginning of all reformation.
This is what will reform lives and reform the church in our day.
When Christ alone is faithfully preached, the world will see his glory, and that is the only light that will drive out and overcome all darkness.