The Glory of His Grace

The ultimate goal of God in initiating the entire plan of salvation before creation was that He would be praised for “the glory of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:6)

  • Predestination for the praise of God’s glory (1:4-6)
  • Existence for the praise of God’s glory (1:12)
  • Inheritance for the praise of God’s glory (1:14)

—John Piper, Providence, 52

Future Grace

For those not in Christ, this life is the best it will ever get. For those in Christ, . . . this life is the worst it will ever get.

—Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, 212

Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:5-7)

First Things First

Contrary to popular visual reproductions of the Decalogue, this document does not begin with a command (“You shall have not other gods besides me”), but with the gospel (“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery”).

—Daniel I. Block, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship, 85

The indicatives of grace are always prior to the imperatives of law and human obligation.

—James B. Torrance, “Covenant or Contract? A Study in the Theological Background of Worship in Seventeenth-Century Scotland,” Scottish Journal of Theology 23 (1970):56

The Grace of Worship

According to a biblical understanding, from both the Old and New Testaments, worship is an ordinance of grace. . . . the gift of the God of grace who provides for us a way of loving communion. . . . The liturgies of Israel were God-given ordinances of grace, witnesses to grace. The sacrifice of lambs and bulls and goats were not ways of placating an angry God, currying favor with God as in the pagan worship of the Baalim. They were God-given covenantal witnesses to grace-that the God who alone could wipe out their sins would be gracious.

—James B. Torrance, Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, 60

A Gift to Be Received

Christian liturgy should tangibly reflect the fact that participation in worship is a gift to be received more than an accomplishment to be sought, that Christians do not make corporate worship a divine encounter but receive it as such.

—John D. Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (dissertation), 230

The Plan

It’s not, I think, unwarranted to ponder the fellowship of the Trinity, and the Father and the Son conceiving (no coercion whatsoever) a plan whereby the Father consults with the Son of His willingness, and the Son consults with the Father of His intention, and a most magnificent agreement is reached: that the Son will, after the universe is created and has fallen, and after God has shown everything He wants to show about His holy self through 2000 years of Jewish history, then the Son would enter and die. That was the plan.

Again, Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:9: “God called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” So, before the ages of time began, the plan was for the revelation of the glory of the grace of God specifically through Christ Jesus.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2012

—John Piper, “Why Did God Create the World? John Piper” (sermon: September 22, 2012)  https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/why-did-god-create-the-world

The Center of History

This is a great word (ephapax): “once for all.”  [Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12,26; 10:10] The effect it has is to make Jesus the center of history. Every work of God’s grace in history before the sacrifice of Christ looked forward to the death of Christ for its foundation. And every work of God’s grace since the sacrifice of Christ looks back to the death of Christ for its foundation. Christ is the center of the history of grace.

—John Piper, “Our High Priest is The Son of God Perfect Forever” (sermon: December 8, 1996, Bethlehem Baptist Church)

Graced Encounter (2)

Graced liturgy need not imply that any particular technique is necessary to engineer God’s presence. This theme is prominently underscored by James Torrance. Torrance argues that a trinitarian understanding of worship changes the spirit in which worship is offered: whereas a unitarian theology of worship, one that relies on human effort, “can engender weariness,” a trinitarian theology “releases joy and ecstasy.” Losing the sense of worship as an event of divine grace, for Torrance, is “to lose the comfort and peace of the gospel.” Any worship leader, Torrance suggests, that feels the need to “whip up” the congregation to an experience of God misses the point that worship is more like a gift than an accomplishment.

—John Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (dissertation), 237

Graced Encounter

Christian liturgy is a graced series of personal, relational acts of encounter between God and the gathered community, acts that are made possible through the mediation of Jesus Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

—John Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (dissertation), 298

Captivated by Grace

One Lutheran theologian has defined sanctification as “the art of getting used to justification.” It is our being grasped by the fact that God alone justifies us by this unconditional promise. In other words, sanctification is the justified life, not something added to justification. The term refers to our being captivated more and more by the fullness and unconditionality of God’s grace.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 172

A Divine Irony

Who cannot but marvel at the redemptive genius at work here? Our contribution to our justification, and reconciliation, and to our inclusion in the life of the blessed Trinity was to reject and kill the Father’s eternal Son incarnate. And the Father transformed our treachery into our own death, resurrection and ascension in Christ, using our sin as the way of His forgiving embrace.

—C. Baxter Kruger, “God in the Hands of Angry Sinners,” in Trinity and Transformation, 104

Grace?

Sometimes even the very churches which have taken their avowed stand on “the doctrines of grace” are the very ones which then make their acceptance of others conditional upon their subscribing to their particular formulations of the meaning of grace.

—James B. Torrance, “The Unconditional Freeness of Grace,” in Trinity and Transformation, 277

Glory into Glory

A reciprocal relationship between God and humanity is both the condition and the content of Christian worship. Once God, by an irreducible act of will and for the irreducible motive of love, brings a responsive creature into being, He is seeking to draw such a creature into a communion with Himself which will be both the creature’s salvation and the realization of His own purpose. In worship we take in the outpouring of God’s creative and redemptive love, and we offer in return our thanks and supplications. In this personal exchange we are coming into the moral and spiritual likeness of our Lover. This transformation is our glorification in both the objective and the subjective senses: by grace we are being made partakers of the divine nature, and in humility God is being enriched by the requital of His love on the part of His creatures.  Our being changed from glory into glory is itself for the greater glory of God.

—Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and Life, 462

O Come, Let Us Adore Him! (2)

1 O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Welt ging verloren, Christ ist geboren:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Christ ist erschienen, uns zu versühnen:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

1 O thou joyful,
O thou wonderful,
grace-revealing Christmastide!
Jesus came to win us
from all sin within us;
glorify the holy child!

2 O thou joyful,
O thou wonderful,
love-revealing Christmastide!
Loud hosannas singing,
and all praises bringing,
may Thy love with us abide!

1 ¡Oh santísimo,
felicísimo,
Gratio tiemp de Navidad!
A este mundo herido,
Cristo le ha nacido:
¡Alegría, alegría, cristiandad!

2 ¡Oh santísimo,
felicísimo,
Gratio tiemp de Navidad!
Coros celestiales
Oyen los mortales:
¡Alegría, alegría, cristiandad!

—Johannes Daniel Falk, Heinrich Holzschuher

Indicative before Imperative 5

The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives.

The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made in Christian ministry. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our preaching our indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives. And so our teaching on holiness becomes a whip or a rod to beat our people’s backs, because we’ve looked at the New Testament and that’s all we ourselves have seen. We’ve seen our own failure and we’ve seen the imperatives to holiness, and we’ve lost sight of the great indicatives of the gospel that sustain those imperatives. . . .

Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament’s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice holy, triune God has — in Himself, by Himself and for Himself — committed Himself and all three Persons of His being to bringing about the holiness of His own people. This is the Father’s purpose, the Son’s purchase and the Spirit’s ministry.”

Sinclair Ferguson, message from the 2007 Banner of Truth Conference, Our Holiness: The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase