Key Theological Note on Root 1 #38

Moses had a special “axe to grind” when he spoke of God creating man in His own image.   Moses was preparing Israel for a wonderful event that would inaugurate the New Testament epoch.  Don’t forget that I am sending these parts of my book to you so that you will critique them.  Notice carefully what I am saying here and then send me an email of your critique.

Key Theological Note on Root #1

            Moses wrote about the image of God in man in order to prepare us for the coming of Jesus Christ.

Does that statement surprise you?  You are not alone if it does.  Even some Biblical scholars are not adequately aware of how Moses, in writing the book of Genesis is anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ.  But this is a part of that splendor that we find in the COVENANT OF GRACE.

Dr. J. V. Fesko is following this Christ-centered way of interpreting Moses when he says: “Genesis 1-3 sets forth the theological significance of the failed work of the first Adam, which serves as the entry point for the successful work of the second Adam, Jesus Christ.  Genesis 1-3 must be approached in the light of Christ.  17* (emphasis mine).”

Fesko’s point here is that Moses was a prophet who could see the coming Savior through God’s revelations to him. There is strong evidence for this fact which I will briefly describe here.

It is not that God revealed to Moses the historic details of Christ’s coming.  But from the moment God began speaking to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3) God was revealing to him in various ways, that an

epochal event was rising like the sun on the horizon of history. Through such a celebration as the Passover with its sacrificial lambs, for instance, God was revealing to Moses “the lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.”  Then, when God opened the Red Sea for Israel’s miraculous escape from the Egyptian army, God was revealing to Moses (and to all Israel, for that matter) that a time would come when God would perform a greater work of Redemption for them.  He would redeem them, not just from Egyptian bondage, but from an infinitely deeper bondage, the bondage of sin! This is God’s love reaching out to Israel in their desperate need, promising that the Messiah would redeem them in the fullest sense of that word.

Surely the greatest and most spectacular forecast of the Savior’s redeeming work was given through Moses in the miracle at Mt. Sinai.  From the heights of this flaming mountain God revealed to Moses and all Israel both the 10 Commandments and a design for building the Tabernacle. These 10 laws and the Tabernacle were a composite picture of Jesus Christ Himself.  Jesus would personify those laws and perfectly obey all of them, qualifying himself to offer himself as the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice for our sin. The Tabernacle was designed to reflect Jesus as our great high priest entering the Holy of Holies to redeem us from sin and present us to God as holy,  qualified to live in that Tabernacle in communion with a holy God.  In this supreme act of obedience to His Father, Jesus would display His redeeming love for all the world to see.

The manna was a picture of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and feeding his whole church with the “bread of life”.  The Shekinah Glory overshadowing the Tabernacle was nothing less than the radiant beauty of Christ illuminating the desert wilderness and leading Israel to the Promised Land.

The point is that Moses was a prophet commissioned by God to reveal these amazing pictures of the coming Savior to Israel.  The Passover, the crossing of the Red Sea, the revelations from Mount Sinai, the Manna and the Shekinah glory were Videos that Moses was showing to Israel to help them lift their eyes to a heavenly Savior that God was promising to send to them by way of His Covenant love for them.

Moses had told them about Adam being made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26) so that when they read of Adam’s fall into sin, his utter failure to please God, they could look forward to this greater Adam to be revealed in later history, this Jesus-Adam who would be able to succeed where Adam had failed.  As the apostle Paul would explain this in Romans 5:12 and I Corinthians 15:21-22, Adam as the “image of God” had represented Israel and all mankind when he fell into sin.  But Jesus would come, the new and perfect “image of God” in order to represent all of us fallen sinners.  He would not only die to cover our sins, He would also rise from the dead to restore us to perfect life in the “image of God” Colossians 3:10.  Then He would Ascend to the Father, there to display Himself as our Crucified and Risen Savior and secure for us a place in that same glory.

Of course Moses could not have explained that as Paul did because he did not know the historic details of Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension.  BUT, and here is the point that many miss in the Old Testament, Moses did understand the  unfolding Drama of Redemption so wonderfully anticipated in the books he wrote.  The words and actions of Moses were the VIDEOS mentioned above, enabling Israel to trust in a coming Savior and follow Him to the promised land.

In this way Moses helped Israel see the magnificent potential that they possessed in their “image of God” nature.  Then they would be both shamed by their failure to live up to their potential, and at the same time hopeful for a glorious restoration to the full powers of the “image” through the second Adam, the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.  This is the SPLENDOR of God’s love, the SPLENDOR of GOD’S COVENANT OF GRACE shining through Moses’ words.

Two Roots of the Covenant #37

    This is the THIRD part of Chapter 3: Many Splendored Thing.  Speaking here of the “Roots of the Covenant”, I am hoping readers will be developing an appreciation for the loving care that God exercised in drawing us into His Covenant.  It is remarkable beyond anyone’s ability to describe.  

My development of the first two chapters of Genesis is a bit unique here.  I have found it valuable to point out that there are two key truths presented in these two chapters.  These two truths are the ROOTS of the Covenant.  Seeing the way these two roots functioned both before and after the Fall is helpful to our understanding of the wonderful thing God was doing when he created man into Covenantal Relationship with Him.  Here is a preliminary glimpse of these two roots in outline form.       

(1) Mankind’s creation in the image of God, Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7,

(2) Mankind’s establishment in three Covenantal Relationships, Genesis 2.

  1. Covenantal Worship of God: 2:2-3
  2. Covenantal Dominion over Creation: 2:15-17, 19 -20
  3. Covenantal Marriage between Man and Woman: 2:18 & 20b – 25

In the rest of this chapter I will describe the first root as given in Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:7.  In the final part of this chapter we will look at the second root described in Genesis 2. The evidence continues to grow that God’s love for us is amazing at every level of his relationship with us.

These two roots themselves are full of the splendor of God and the splendor of his love for us.  The second root branches out into 3 “sub-roots” as we might call them.  While studying these two roots we will discover the climactic pattern present in this Covenantal plan.  At first glance this may seem a bit complex, but it is really the wonderfully simple plan that God made for us.  It is full of His amazing love and anticipates even greater wonders as history moves to its grand conclusion.

 Root #1: The Splendor of Our Creation in the Image of God

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  Genesis 1:26

            This is a simple but magnificent statement. In this verse we are overhearing God planning to create man as a being like himself.  This was the grand climax of the whole process of Creation.  Every act of creation is filled with the glory of God, but his creation of man is at the very pinnacle of it all.   It is truly a surpassing wonder, opening our hearts in adoring worship as we begin to understand what God has done in the act of creating us.  That creation itself is an awesome act of love, covenantal love for mankind.

There can be some value in comparing God’s act of creating us to the physical wonders we are discovering today.  The Hubble telescope, for instance has helped us discover that there are at least 100 billion galaxies whirling around us with an average of 100 billion stars in each galaxy, billions of light years separating these galactic marvels.  The sheer magnitude of such vastness takes our breath away.  Just this last week in Missouri we were able to see a magnificent display of meteor showers filling the skies (August 2015).  We are reminded that this was just the tiniest part of God’s vast “wonder of the skies.”

Then, after looking through the Hubble telescope at the glories above us, we turn to look down into our computer enhanced microscopes to examine the incredible complexities of the human genome with its billions of miles of DNA; our minds reel in a vain effort to get some kind of a grasp of these infinitesimally small and intricately amazing realities.

BUT, after looking first through our telescopes and then into our computerized microscopes, we must insist that these incredible physical realities pale into insignificance before the wonder of God’s creating us in his image.  There are no words adequate to describe this miraculous act of God, this amazing display of His love for the creature He formed in His own image and likeness.

John Calvin states that in creating man “Our Lord wanted to create a Masterpiece”*9.  E. J. Young calls man the “crown” of creation*10, and R. Kent Hughes calls this event “the apex of the narrative.*11”.   That sense of climax is then heightened by the straightforward statement in verse 27 of the manner in which God carries out the proposal he made in verse 26:

“So God created man in his own image,

                 In the image of God he created him;

              Male and female he created them.”

Both men and women are created in the glorious image of God.  They share equally in the dignity and honor of that image.  The sheer grandeur of this wonder increases as we consider our next point.

Trinitarian Origins Debate

There is a question here, a debate among Godly scholars:  “Why did God use the plural pronouns ‘us’ and ‘our’ in verse 26?  It was as if there were more than one person involved in His deliberation?”

You cannot believe the amount of scholarly debate that this question has caused.  I hesitate to take you into this kind of complexities when we are trying to concentrate simply on the SPLENDOR of the COVENANT, but I believe it is necessary here, and adds measurably to this very SPLENDOR which I am describing in God’s love, His covenantal love.

The debate has centered on whether the ‘us’ and the ‘our’ reflect the Trinity deliberating on this issue.  Are the three divine persons having a discussion among themselves or is there some other explanation for those plural pronouns?

On the negative side, Old Testament scholar Gordon J. Wenham insists that the Trinity is not reflected in this text. He contends, ‘it is now universally admitted that this is not what the plural [pronouns] meant*12.

Other scholars like Delitzsch and Waltke agree with Wenham*13.

But the tide may be turning against this negative opinion.

In his fine commentary on Genesis 1-4, Dr. C. John Collins gives a valuable exegetical study of relevant Biblical texts and studies of trustworthy scholars.  Then Collins concludes that “ the ‘us’ in Genesis 1:26 has God speaking to himself. I think we can go further and say that God is deliberating with himself; after all, we have already seen the Spirit of God in verse 2.” *14

In good scholarly form, Collins refuses to dogmatize, insisting only that the Genesis “narration allows it.” Collins is saying that the “narration” permits a Trinitarian interpretation but does not demand it.  At the same time, it seems to me that his commentary clearly favors the Trinitarian position.

In his book Last Things First, however, Old Testament scholar Dr. J.V. Fesko goes a short step beyond Collins, stating plainly, “Genesis 1:26 is a reference to the Trinity.  15*,” (emphasis mine) and alleging support for his opinion in a lengthy footnote. Fesko then quotes Dr. Anthony Hoekema as follows:

“Human beings reflect God, who exists not as a solitary being, but a being in fellowship – a fellowship that is described at a later stage of divine revelation as that between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 16*”

This is a truly amazing idea, based on the scholarly reasoning of a number of Godly thinkers.  Notice how the Psalmist David sums it up as he reflects on God’s creation in Psalm 8:3-5

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

            The moon and the stars which you have set in place

What is man that you are mindful of him

And the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

            And crowned him with glory and honor.”

We will have much more to say about these “image of God” features which God has built into mankind.  We will interact with humanistic and atheistic philosophers whose faulty reasoning leads them to deny that God had any part in man’s creation or his present life.  And then we will rejoice together in the strong evidence we find for God’s gracious work of creating us in his image.  Yes, we will rejoice especially in the love of God revealed in GOD’S COVENANT OF GRACE.  That love rescued us after our Fall into sin. At this point we need to pause for what we might call a key theological note.

God’s Covenant: A Powerful Force #36

Here is the second section of Chapter 3, A MANY SPLENDORED THING.  I am trying to define the Covenant here.  Please Help me if you think I have left gaps. 

God’s Covenant: A Powerful Force at Work

As I conclude my initial remarks about the definition/description of GOD’S COVENANT, I must insist on one other point, an important point which we should regard as an absolutely incontrovertible fact.  That fact is that GOD’S COVENANT is the most powerful force at work in our world today!  I emphasize it this way because the humanistic worldly mind wants to reduce God’s love, His Covenant love to a pale religious sentiment. The fact that the COVENANT is driven by the love of God, makes it not only the most beautiful but also the most powerful force at work in our entire universe. This is most encouraging to us.  It is also true that our Lord Jesus Christ is the living personification of the almighty power of God.  He, our Lord Jesus, excels all things in the sheer power of His love, drawing us to Himself irresistibly. Continue reading

Chap 3: A Many Splendored Thing #35

Here is the first part of chapter 3.  I must give it to you one piece at a time because it is too long for one blog. This is the part that may especially need your “brutal critique”.  Please let me hear from you.

“God Himself will be with them as their God” Revelation 21:3

In the Bible God’s love for us sinners is truly A Many Splendored Thing!  I see His love for us as the single most beautiful part of the Bible and its grand story of salvation.  It is a breath-taking wonder that dazzles our hearts with sheer glory and lifts us by faith into the joys of eternal life.

Students of scripture understand that God’s love for us comes in the setting of what they call THE COVENANT OF GRACE.             I hope you will see that theological term as valuable.  As I noted in the last chapter, it is kind of a shorthand way of describing the various aspects of God’s love in brief form. It is a brief but comprehensive description of God’s love for us.  We will take a step toward understanding it through the definition I am suggesting here.  I will begin with a question.

How would you “define” a diamond?

I bet you have never been asked to do that.  We are only asked to describe diamonds, never to define them.  When I was in London I remember gazing in amazement at the various displays of jewels imbedded in the crowns of previous kings and queens of England, fabulous diamonds alongside rubies and emeralds and gems I cannot even name.  Later, I made a few feeble attempts to describe those truly splendid displays, but I never tried to define them.  I was giving “descriptions” not “definitions”.

God’s love for us in this Covenantal setting is like those English crowns – a Many Splendored Thing.

While I recognize the difficulty in defining something as “many splendored” as the COVENANT OF GRACE, I believe there is value in making the effort.  I commend to you Dr. O. Palmer Robertson’s definition which he gives in his book, THE CHRIST OF THE COVENANTS*1.  He uses the entire first chapter of his book to develop his definition, showing that the word cannot mean “testament” as Dr. J. Barton Payne*2 proposed, nor can it mean a kind of “dynastic succession document” or “suzerainty treaty” as Dr. Meredith Kline*3 argued.  Robertson concludes with this very simple definition:


Though Robertson comments that this is “like asking for a definition of ‘mother’”, he suggests this definition. It seems to me that it qualifies as Biblical and it certainly fits the requirement for brevity.  So thank you Dr. Robertson for your book!  I have used it often when I teach or preach about the Covenant in recent years, occasionally referring to your definition.

While recognizing the real value of this definition, however, I prefer a more lengthy version. My definition is in full harmony with Dr. Robertson’s but simply amplifies it, incorporating elements found both in later chapters of his book and in other studies I have done on the COVENANT over the years. My definition is based on the entire Bible, promises found in the Old Testament and then fulfilled in the New Testament:

The COVENANT OF GRACE is God’s promise to fallen man to lovingly restore us to glory through the redemptive work of our lord jesus christ.

Yes, this is a bit too long for a good definition.  It may qualify more as a “description”, as I suggested above. Sorry, but I must define the Covenant in this way.  I am compelled to get all of this even into a definition simply because of the sheer “splendor” of this “many splendored thing.”

The wonderful fact about the COVENANT is that it is a product of the love of God both for lost sinners and for struggling saints. This is what makes it just too grand for a brief definition.  The Gospel itself unfolds from this definition.  Then the gospel breathes the life-giving love of God into our lives through this splendid wonder of God: His COVENANT OF GRACE.  Perhaps it is also helpful to notice that the Covenant and the love of God are so closely intertwined that you cannot really define one without including the other.


It is also important to recognize Genesis 3:15 as the first expression of GOD’S COVENANT OF GRACE.  Some Godly scholars fail to see this, primarily because the word “covenant” is not used in this text.  Many careful students of scripture, however, see this text as God’s initial statement of the COVENANT.  I will  postpone fuller development of this important fact until later in our study, but it is valuable to note at this point that GOD’S COVENANT develops out of Genesis 3:15. Then the Covenant simply adds other significant features as the story of our redemption unfolds.   It is the beautiful story of God’s love for us.

I am proposing this definition as a means to help us develop a practical understanding of God’s love for us, a practical understanding of His Covenant of Grace at work in our lives, our marriages, our families, our churches, our entire world.  In this way we can continue the process of Discovering God’s Love as we work and pray our way through this life.  Notice the Revelation 21:3 text cited above in this regard.

This verse from Revelation 21 is the last specific allusion in the Bible to the Covenant.   Occurring so late in scripture it is pointing to the ultimate goal of this promise, that glorious point in history when “God himself will be with them as their God.”  This will be the ultimate success of the COVENANT, the moment when God will draw us into perfect communion with Himself forever.  G.K. Beale appropriately calls this the “consummate blessing of God’s people”*5.  God’s love for us will triumph through His COVENANT OF GRACE.  What a challenge just to attempt a definition!  We must cry out with the Apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.” II Corinthians 9:15

Chapter 2: Of Songs and of Sorrows #34

“Come, Let us sing for joy to the Lord;

                    “Let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.” Psalm 95:1

               Most of my childhood memories are quite happy.  My sisters and I were gifted with wild imaginations and we enjoyed enacting dramatic events that we invented.  I remember spreading a blanket under the elm tree in the front yard of our home in rural Kansas, and pretending that the blanket was the deck of a ship under attack by fierce pirates.  With swords held between our teeth (lathe sticks) we would leap onto the ship of the desperate foe and utterly destroy the wicked villains.  I think C.S. Lewis would have approved.

            Then we would frequently be in our little country church because we were the preacher’s kids. Along with attacking imaginary pirates, we learned to sing real hymns.  Singing became one of our great pleasures.  We sang in church, we sang at family devotions and we sang riding along in the car on trips.  I remember walking home alone at night down a dark dirt road on the Kansas prairies and singing at the top of my lungs to keep the coyotes at bay.  I am convinced that this kind of singing is characteristic of those who believe God loves them.  God’s love for us flows out of our heats in joyful singing as reflected in so many of the Psalms.

I believe that our singing was a key to our childhood happiness, far surpassing our involvement with those pirates.  Not just singing any kind of songs but singing hymns, songs that celebrated our faith in God.   In singing these songs we were being carried along by those “thermals of God” which I described in the first chapter.  We soared together on the wings of those hymns which we had learned in our earliest years.  Without even knowing what the word “covenant” meant we were celebrating together God’s great “covenant love” for us.  I still cherish the memory of our singing together as a family.  It is precious to me.

A Growing Sorrow

But our family also had its problems, problems that would bring us great sorrow.

There were six of us children and I was the second, born two and half years after my sister Georgianna.  Georgianna was my favorite childhood companion. She taught me how to make mud-pies, climb trees and catch frogs. She taught me how to run through mud puddles and how to escape getting a spanking when I had misbehaved.  She was my best friend.

But as the years passed, Georgianna began to have problems with a kind of moodiness that I could not understand.  When she was 17 and a junior in high school, her dark moods led to serious maladjustments in social relationships and inability to cope with school life.  She ate less and less, could not sleep well and seemed to lose all capacity to function normally.  My parents had no idea how to handle this and we children were completely dumbfounded. She had been my best friend but now I was out of touch with her.   I began to feel utterly unable to relate to her or help her in any way.

After consulting with our doctors and other friends, my parents decided that it would be best for Georgianna to be admitted to a mental hospital many miles distant from us.  Under the care of psychiatrists she was subjected to the kind of treatment current in psychiatric hospitals at that time, the mid 1940’s.  She underwent many hours of psychotherapy and periodic electroshock treatments as well as drug therapy with  heavy doses of thorazine and other such anti-depressants.  She was diagnosed as schizophrenic with periodic alternating episodes of manic and depressive moods. The doctors informed us that her prognosis was uncertain and that she would have to stay on the drugs they had prescribed.

About three months later, Georgianna seemed well enough to return home.   She was genuinely delighted to be back with the family and we all enjoyed our reunion.  She was able to return to High School,  graduate, and then begin a college career.

But things were never quite the same after that.  Georgianna had to stay on drugs, suffered the manic-depressive episodes the doctors had predicted and struggled hard with maintaining healthy relationships with others. About 3 years after her first episode in the mental hospital, she had to return.  There was another round of psychiatric counselling, electro-shock treatments and strong drugs.

And there was deep consternation both in the hearts of my parents and in our whole family.

 The Snake Pit

During this time of our sorrow, my father discovered a book entitled, The Snake Pit, written by   Mary Jane Ward and published in 1946, shortly before my sister’s illness.  Dad was captivated by this book and drew us into many conversations referencing the sad, even terrifying details of mental illness and the kinds of treatments psychiatrists were using with patients at this time in history.

Before writing her book, Ms. Ward had spent eight months at Rockland State Mental Hospital in Orangeburg, New York, where she had been diagnosed as a Schizophrenic.  Though she denied that her book had been an autobiographical account of that experience, literary critics disagreed, seeing too many specifics reflecting the realities of her stay in the hospital.  Ward’s references to scalding baths and electroshock treatments were the methods used in these hospitals at this time and my Dad’s description of these practices were most impressive, even terrifying.  Wikipedia reports that Ward’s book became the basis for an Oscar-winning film The Snake Pit, starring Olivia de Haviland. A flurry of reforms occurred in state mental hospitals resulting from the book and film.  A journalist, Herb Stein, wrote in the Daily Variety that Wisconsin had become “the seventh state to institute reforms in its mental hospitals as a result of The Snake Pit.”

Of course this was no comfort for our family.  We continued to be deeply troubled about Georgianna’s perplexing problem and about the hospitals where she had to stay in search of relief and healing.  Though we had been a happy family, we ourselves seemed to be sinking into a kind of “snake pit” of despair that allowed little hope.  I believe it was true that our singing was not quite as bright and full of Christian joy as it had been before this sorrow came upon us. We still sang, but with nagging sorrow in our hearts.  God’s Covenant love for us was not as deeply felt or as fully enjoyed.

My Own State of Mind/Heart

I must go back to Georgianna’s second stay in the mental hospital.  It was January of 1952 when my parents called to inform me that she had been hospitalized again.  I was a sophomore at Bob Jones University and had already known that her condition had been deteriorating.  To hear that she had been incarcerated again in one of those “snake pits” was more than I was able to handle easily.  I did nothing particularly demonstrative but was unable to concentrate on my college work.  My grades suffered.

This was not just because of my sympathy for Georgianna.  It was for fear that I would be overcome by the same conditions that were destroying her.  I was from the same family with the same genetic makeup and the same environment.  Why wasn’t I just as vulnerable to the mental illness “snake pit” as she was?

In a kind of despairing hope to find an answer for myself, I turned to reading psychology.  I found a copy of Sigmund Freud’s “Oedipus Myth and Complex” (book now out of print)  in the BJU library. The version I was reading included brief accounts of the writings of Freud’s early associates, Otto Rank and Gustav Jung.  At first I was absolutely fascinated by what I was discovering in these early practitioners of psychoanalysis.  It seemed to me that these men were uncovering the “mysteries of the unconscious mind” through their study of dreams and their speculations about “depth psychology.”  My admiration for these men soon began to fade, however, as it began to dawn on me that there was so little evidence for their proposed answers to the problems of what they called “mental illness”.

The proposals of Freud himself seemed utterly outlandish to my untrained 19 year old mind.  Suggesting, as Freud seemed to be doing, that every boy was born with an innate desire to murder his father and marry his mother was an outrageous proposal and I began to understand why both Rank and Jung soon abandoned their master to form their own separate schools of psychology and psychotherapy.  It appeared to me also that this was an ongoing kind of divisiveness that was continuing to plague the psychiatric world and discredit its practitioners.

At the same time all this was going on in my mind/heart, I was struggling with a terrible uncertainty about my relationship with God.  At one point I became convinced that if I, Paul Alexander, were to try to find hope in Christ by acknowledging Jesus as my Savior and Lord, this would be nothing more than an act of self-centered desperation which God would not honor.  In other words, I could not become a new creation in Christ because a profession of faith from such a self-centered egotist as I was could not possibly be genuine.  It would just be another selfish grasping after hope.  God would not respect such selfishness and I would be doomed to die in my sins, mean-while deteriorating into schizophrenic madness in the process.   This was a truly titanic struggle in my mind and heart.  I would sit for hours in a dark room in the alumni building mulling over the horror of my condition, convinced that I was beyond any kind of redemption.

A Surprising Dawn

            It was not much more than six weeks or two months that I endured this kind of Hell.  But I felt like it was going to go on forever.  I saw no light at the end of the tunnel.  How my hopelessness changed to hope is still a mystery for me, a wonderful mystery, a wonderful surprise.

To this day, I cannot understand how it began to happen, but for some reason the words of Romans 5:1 pressed themselves into my consciousness as I lay sleepless one night in my dorm room. It would have been about mid-March of 1952, around 11:30 at night when those remarkable words began to captivate me:

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 This is not a particularly personal text, full of evangelistic appeal, urging me to take action.  Rather, it is a flat statement of fact about the doctrine of justification by faith.  And the Apostle Paul is not using verbal pyrotechnics or fiery oratory in this verse, just stating a plain reality.

But it gripped my heart! I was astounded by what God seemed to be saying to me here.  God by His Holy Spirit was using this plain old ordinary and familiar text to assure me that He loved me and was giving me peace in my heart “through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

As I said above, “I cannot understand how it began to happen”.  But I am absolutely convinced that it was the Holy Spirit Who “pressed these words into my consciousness.”  This was nothing short of an act of God.  The Holy Spirit had performed a miracle in my heart against the determined resistance of my self-centered will.  By that simple unadorned text in Romans 5:1 the Holy Spirit slew my sinful nature and created a new nature in me, after the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:10).

Outwardly this was not a dramatic event at all.  I was lying on the flat of my back in bed, not going forward in an evangelistic meeting after an emotional appeal.  I never got out of bed that night.  I just lay there marveling at what I knew had happened in my heart.  Finally, after all my struggles I had genuine “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It was the kind of peace that let me sleep well.  And I did.

I am not really sure my experience was a conversion.  It may have simply been God talking to me to assure me that I had already been converted, I already belonged to Him and He just had to remind me.  That fits better with my experience of those thermals in chapter 1.  I had already known God and his love for me, but desperately needed Him to remind me.  At any rate, it gave me peace, lasting peace that is still in my heart these 63 years later.  I was wonderfully surprised and still am.

Dawn is seldom a loud event.  The next morning was no exception. That morning came quietly, no fanfare.  But it found me with new and deep peace in my troubled heart.

 Call to Pastoral Ministry

This was a major turning point in my life.   Though a quiet, private experience I was convinced that the Holy Spirit had spoken to me from Romans 5:1. Before this crucial experience I had been uncertain about whether I should study for medicine or for the ministry.  That uncertainty vanished and I began to feel certain that God had called me to the ministry.  It seemed completely certain to me that I now had an obligation to everybody I saw to tell them the wonderful reality which I had discovered in this great text: “ We can be certain that we belong to Christ who died for our sins and rose again to give us eternal life.”  I was hearing God call me to proclaim this grand truth.

The fact is that God was calling me to a ministry that was also informed by my sister’s awful problem.  During her worst times it was sadly evident that she had no hope in God.  She had no awareness that God loved her or cared for her.  She was hopelessly lost in a sea of meaninglessness and endless conflict.  And I was becoming aware that Georgianna’s problem was no rarity in our society.  From such a heart of hopelessness springs every variety of sin, every kind of pain and misery – alcoholism, drug addiction, pornographic involvement, sexual immorality, divorce, crime of all sorts – the list goes on and on.   My  call to preach the gospel was a call to tell poor sinners how to find their way out of this terrible darkness into the light of God’s love, the light of his Grace, the light of His provision for all of their real needs.   It is a wonderful calling.  My calling itself began to fill my heart with joy that made me want to sing.

From Sorrows Back to Songs

            Yes! It is true!  During the darkness of my time of dreadful doubt in early 1952, I nearly forgot how to sing.  In this sad period of my life, I was barely able to open my mouth when the church stood to sing.  But when the Holy Spirit assured me that I belonged to Christ, hymn-singing became a great delight to me again.  I used all those grand old songs to vent my joy, celebrating the wonders of eternal life.  I believe the Holy Spirit lifted me out of my dreadful sorrows and enabled me to “shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.”  I have been singing joyfully ever since and hope to enter heaven “shouting glory.”

But why had this happened to my sister?  Why was joyful singing left so far behind in her life?  Why the many years of Thorazine, Zoloft, and  psychiatric treatment of many varieties?

Through all my years in the ministry I have puzzled over the fact that Georgianna came into all her dreadful sorrows right while she was living in a Christian home.  How could what psychiatrists call “mental illness” overtake her when she was hearing the gospel preached every Sunday and hearing hymn’s sung and prayers prayed every day of her life.  My parents were faithful in habitually conducting family worship.  How could first my sister Georgian and then my brother Jim both fall into the inconsolable miseries of schizophrenia?

I have lived with this question all my life and pursued the answer as faithfully as I know how.  I have regarded this issue in a very personal way.  It is as though God gave me a personal assignment to study preaching from the point of view of Georgianna’s particular problem, and my brother Jim’s almost identical struggles.  Our Fall into sin is at the root of all such pain and struggle. I but for all those who struggle against sin and its consequences.

I am further convinced that God called me to preach his precious gospel in order to help deliver my fellow suffering sinners out of those miseries.  But how do I do that in a way that really reaches the hearts and needs of the Jills and Carls out there? The Georgiannas and my brother Jim?

To get at this question has been a great challenge for me.  And it has been very rewarding.  The Lord has helped me “Discover His love” through my study of His Word, the Bible and through the study of the life that surrounds me.  My next chapter is my best shot at helping you define God’s love, discover it in such a way that it becomes the key means by which we gain peace with God and enter into the eternal life He is offering us.

This may take a little work on your part.  I am going to define God’s love in the light of His COVENANT OF GRACE.  That is a theological term, but it is not complicated or difficult to understand.  I am going to describe again as “theological short-hand”, a brief phrase that may help you get grasp on this beautiful and comprehensive way God offers His love to sinners.

Maybe you will struggle a bit with some of the terms and phrases, but you will discover that it will be well worth your while to focus on this key to understanding God’s love.   My prayer is that my explanation will help you get a firm hold on the Love of God and then that the Love of God will get a firm hold on you.

So here we go.

















“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

          When I was a boy in rural Kansas I liked to watch the hawks flying high above me.  I would lie in the green alfalfa field near our house and watch those great birds riding the thermals, gentle winds that lifted them higher and higher into the sky.  It is true that they were merely looking for prey creeping across the fields below them.  But I liked to think of those giant birds as just enjoying the way those upward currents of wind supported them in their gliding flight. Yes, they needed to catch an animal for dinner now and then, but the sheer delight of soaring through the skies had to be a happy distraction even though they were only chicken hawks.  Even chicken hawks need a little fun now and then.

I believe that I was born into one of God’s thermals.   My parents loved God and that is because God loved them.  The grace of God was the “wind of the Spirit” (John 3:8) lifting my Father and Mother into a saving relationship with our Lord through the New Birth and sustaining me also by His amazing grace from the moment of my birth. God’s love for our family was a powerful “breath of God” that lifted my parents up in habitual worship of God.  Of course they were sinners like all the rest of the human race, but they were redeemed sinners, sinners who had become saints by the grace of God. Like the saints in Isaiah 40:31 my parents could “soar on wings like eagles”.  And by the grace of God I was born into a “soaring” family, a family so captivated by the majesty and love of God that we were daily lifted into the true joy of knowing him as our Lord and Savior.

In our home, family worship was a habit which my parents followed on a daily basis – usually after our evening meal (which we called “supper”).  Dad and/or Mom would lead us in scripture reading, the singing of hymns and scripture songs and prayer.  It is also true that our “supper” meal had something of the aura of the Lord’s Supper because my parents were skilled in leading us into topics which focused on our Savior and his Love for us.  Thus we enjoyed “Holy Meals” together (Exodus 24) and closed the meal with that quiet and joyful celebration we called “family worship”.  How I thank God for this wonderful blessing, which God used in my life to bring me into eternal communion with our Lord.  Thank you, Dad and Mom, for your faithfulness in this practice.

Family Worship is just one beautiful manifestation of what the Bible calls the COVENANT OF GRACE.  Please don’t let that somewhat “theological term” put you off.  It is a shorthand term for God’s love for us, one of the most wonderful realities in the Bible and in Creation, and it is what this book is all about.  I will give this wonderful reality fuller Biblical definition in the third chapter, but first I want to tell you another story.  I want to tell you about how I saw the COVENANT OF GRACE affecting life in another country.

The Covenant of Grace at Work in Another Land

While serving as a missionary in Ukraine, I was occasionally asked to teach seminary in another nation which will go unnamed in order to protect our labors there.  In November of 2005 I was teaching about 25 students in that other nation on this very theme, the COVENANT OF GRACE.  During one class I asked a student in our class, to tell us how he had personally discovered God’s grace in his own life.  I will call that student Pasha (again, not his real name as his son below).  He told us the following story:

“I was raised in another faith but always allowed my children to associate with friends of their own choosing, whatever their faith.  My 11 year old son Sergei began attending a back yard Bible class taught by an American Christian missionary.  I was not aware of this.   I was totally surprised and deeply offended, however, when Sergei came to our evening meal one night and announced to the family ‘I have just received Jesus as my Savior.’

My reaction was sudden and violent. I slapped him so hard that I knocked him off his chair and I warned him never to call ‘Jesus’ his Savior in our presence again.  He was silent and seemed to comply with my demands at first, but then I found him reading a Bible and discovered that he was periodically in contact with those missionaries and other Christians who had forsaken the Muslim Faith.  I struck him again when I discovered this, and was deeply distressed when he continued to resist my will and maintain his Christian faith.  To my consternation this conflict continued for 3 full years.

Then one day, in the middle of one of our unhappy confrontations, Sergei surprised me again with a statement that seemed unbelievably strange.  He simply said to me through his tears, ‘Jesus loves you, Daddy, even when you treat me this way.’

I was absolutely dumbfounded by such an idea and immediately stopped my attack on him.   Then, when he left the house, I found his Bible and began reading it.  At first I was utterly skeptical but began finding passages which I discussed with my wife.  Then I became absolutely captivated as I read the gospels.  I became convinced that I was one of those sinners for whom Jesus died and I began attending the little church with my son.  Very soon my heart was wonderfully transformed. I realized that I was saved by grace and had become a new creature in Christ.”

Pasha’s story held me and the whole class spellbound even though I had to listen through a translator.   Then it was my turn to be surprised when he told us the end of the story.  Only six months after his conversion, the members of the church confronted him with the amazing news that they had just made him their pastor.

They had done this because his diligent study of the Bible had made him the most knowledgeable student of scripture in their native ranks.  That is why he had traveled quite a distance from his home city in another country to attend our little underground seminary.  He was dedicated to learning more about the Savior and how to preach the wonderful gospel of God’s love for lost sinners.

Now, that, dear friends, is another example of God’s love at work through the COVENANT OF GRACE. Like God’s Thermals lifting me up in the wonderful love of God in my own native United States, so our great God is lifting sinners up into the worship of our Savior in every land.   “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The Wind of the Spirit in Your Own Life

I have given here two simple examples of the way our Lord works in human hearts through His COVENANT OF GRACE.  To me this is an unspeakably wonderful display of God’s love for people who are hopelessly lost in sin.  At the same time it is God’s means of sustaining Christians in their daily walk with our Lord.

How are you responding to God’s display of his love for you in His COVENANT OF GRACE?  May even this preliminary glimpse of the Covenant bless your heart and create in you a desire for deepening discovery of our Savior and his great love for us.

Moving Toward Definition of the Covenant, and God’s Love for Us

In chapter 2 I am going to tell you a brief story about myself and my family.  This is my own personal story about how God’s infinite love, His Covenant love, helped me through a serious problem that threatened to overwhelm me and our whole family.  I need to tell you about this crucial event so that you can see how highly I value God’s Covenant love and why it is so important to me to define it carefully and fully.  Then in chapter 3 I will invite you to think with me as we pursue a definition of God’s Covenant and God’s Love for us.



Foreword to Book #32

Your First Opportunity for a “Brutal Critique”

Foreword: Discovering God’s Love for Us,

            George Barna has given us an excellent description of a typical American couple today.  In the Prologue of his 2001 book, Boiling Point, Barna imagined Jill and Carl into existence and then described their hopes, dreams and daily habits. They were lost, wandering souls, searching for meaning, hope reality.  In their early 50’s they had both been through a divorce and a few live-in arrangements before deciding to marry each other.  Their efforts to blend their families were not entirely successful but they stumblingly continued their search for meaning and reality in their lives.

I recognize Barna’s imaginary couple.  People just like them attended the church I pastored in Huntsville, Alabama, and they occasionally joined.  It should not surprise you that I met Jill and Carl just as often while I was a missionary in Ukraine.  Only the language and the economics were different. There they were on the streets of Odessa and Kiev struggling to make some kind of sense out of life – just like Jill and Carl in Huntsville.

Barna wrote his book in an effort to help the Jills and Carls of this world.  That is why I am writing this book.  I am convinced that God also wants to help the Jills and Carls of this world.  I am convinced that he wants to help them because he has helped me; and I was just like Jill and Carl, stumbling around in the dark, looking for “meaning, hope and reality”. In that sad state of confusion, I did not find God: He found me. He found me because He loves me, and His love for me has become the joy of my life.

God found me when I was facing a terrifying dilemma in my 19th year, my sophomore year in college.  That dilemma was mental illness in my own family.  It is sadly appropriate to bring it into a book where Barna’s Jill and Carl play a part because mental illness is such a common threat in the average American family as well as those Ukrainian families whom I knew.  I am convinced that we must regard mental illness like we regard alcoholism, drug abuse and a variety of sexual abuses.  These are all dreadful behavioral dysfunctions which overwhelm us with a kind of sorrowful confusion which seem to defy all hope of finding true happiness in this life. There appears to be little help in secular psychology with its dismal record of failure becoming so clear in our day.  I am fully convinced that only God can meet our needs when we face these kinds of horrors.

The great good news is that God does meet our needs.  He loves us and reveals that love to us!

Because God has so wonderfully revealed His love for me in the Bible, and because he tells us in scripture that He loves all mankind, I have become convinced that God is doing wonderful things for us on a world-wide scale “God so loved the world” John 3:16.  That means me, Jill and Carl and all our fellow strugglers.

The Bible, God’s Key Initiative 

The Bible, of course, is God’s grand initiative, his gracious offer to love us forever and to give us eternal life.  It is possible that I could leave it there, emphasizing the glorious reality of scripture as all we need to find God and discover meaning in our lives.  I could do that, but I want to go one step further.  I want to signalize a powerful theme that runs through scripture, a theme that can captivate your heart and hold you spell-bound for the rest of your life.

That theme is what we recognize in scripture as God’s Covenant of Grace.  It begins to develop in response to man’s need in the 3rd chapter of Genesis, near the beginning of the bible. In brief the Covenant of Grace is God telling Adam and Eve that he loves them and their children in spite of their fall into sin.  This theme shows itself in the story of Noah, Genesis 6 – 9. It then becomes the dominant chord in the life of the patriarch Abraham, Genesis 17.  Throughout the rest of the Bible the Covenant is the instrument God uses to show the fullness and grandeur of his love for sinners.  God’s Covenant comes to its beautiful climax in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ – his victory over sin and Satan on the cross, his glorious Resurrection from the grave and his grand Ascension into Glory.  Then by that same wonderful Covenant God’s Holy Spirit continues to display God’s love for us in the Epistles, finally revealing to us the eternal glory of heaven in that magnificent final book of the Bible,  Revelation.

Now that was a really quick trip through the entire Bible.  Did you stay with me?


Admitted Complexities of the Bible 

My fear is that people can read their Bibles, but lose their way in its complexities. Yes!  I am admitting that there are complexities in the Bible, complexities that can seem overwhelming to honest people, genuinely seeking for a way through its intricate and often puzzling narrative.  It is God’s COVENANT OF GRACE that helped me sort this all out.  It is the Covenant that helped my wife and I build our marriage and our family.  It helped us follow a calling in life, a calling that helped us enable  the Jills and Carls whom we met in my pastorate and on the mission field.  And it is that same Covenant that I believe can be a great help to you.  Through the Covenant of Grace you will discover God’s love as an ever deepening river of his grace at work in us struggling sinners.

But why should you trust us to help you in this way?  I will not give you our Academic pedigrees, but I will just tell you briefly about our working career, 57 years of it to this date.  I spent 43 years as senior pastor of one church, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama.  My wife Lorraine was my close working companion in this labor of love.  While we were in Huntsville, we helped start a K-12 Christian day school which now enrolls over 700 students.  In 2001 I resigned from the pastorate and accepted the Directorship of our Mission to the World ministry in Ukraine.  My wife and I were there with some breaks for 11 years.  And that is about the shortest summary possible for the 54 delightful and challenging years which God gave us together in ministry.

I am convinced that the COVENANT OF GRACE can be like a roadmap through the Bible for you as well as a roadmap through life, a roadmap at last to eternal life.  Give it a chance!  Read this book!

Facing the Challenges of an Unbelieving Culture

            Along with the Jills and Carls of this world, you and I are living in an age of deepening doubt regarding the Bible and all the awesome realities it describes. The question this age is posing is: Is God’s love for us a reality?  Is his Covenant a reality or are God’s love and his Covenant just a fantasy-land invented by religious dreamers?

Contemporary atheistic thinker Richard Dawkins says it all a fantasy-land. He has expressed his view that in our universe there is “no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference”. 1.  Most people today such as Barna’s Jill and Carl would reject such an idea as way too radical, and quite beyond the pale of the average citizen, the common man.  I think most of us feel that way.

But the sad fact is that so much of the world seems to be carried along by the kind of awful cynicism represented in Dawkins’ opinion: “no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference”. Neither politicians nor Supreme Court justices, nor even most college professors would ever say such dreadful things, at least in public, but, at the same time, many of these leaders seem to act and vote this way and much of our electorate follow these ways that reflect the hopelessness described in Dawkins’ dreadful statement.

This is the BAD news!  And that bad news is hurting us and our world.

But there is also GOOD news!

The good news is that the Kingdom of God is alive and well.  God’s Covenant helps us believe this good news.  It is a wonderful truth that people in God’s Kingdom recognize Satan as the great LIAR in our world.  He is a great liar who has led atheists like Dawkins to believe such BAD news, and to inflict massive horrors on each other all over the world because they believe such BAD news.

God is the TRUTH-TELLER who is giving us magnificent good news through the Bible and through the Covenant.  This good news is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the reality that God’s Kingdom is coming.   Through the love and power of the Risen/Ascended Lord Jesus Christ, God is building his Kingdom.  While  the old serpent Satan experiments with one lying failure after another, our gracious Lord quietly and modestly continues to build his Kingdom – in the church, in missions, in charitable labors among addicts and all kinds of suffering, struggling people of every race and language all around the world.

The people of the Kingdom simply use the promises of God’s Covenant to win poor sinners to our Lord.  Then together we use those same wonderful promises to build each other up in our understanding of the beautiful life we share together in His Kingdom.  Our gracious Lord is giving his people victory after victory through the power of His Covenant.

With the help of my dear wife and many friends I have written this book: Discovering God’s Love for Us.  My prayer is that many of you will use it to deepen your relationship with our great God by the continuous process described in this title.

In Case You Want to Read More:

            First, I will recommend a recent book, The Gospel as Center, edited in 2013 by Dr. Tim Keller and Dr. D. A. Carson. This book is a valuable description of several key issues in the contemporary church.  The Gospel as Center will help you see the beauty and power of Jesus as he continues to do his great work of redemption in present history.  It could help you choose a church where GOD’S COVENANT GRACE is clearly taught as I have tried to describe it in this book.

Second, I am going to give you a partial list of the books that have influenced me and helped me to understand the grand reality of the Covenant.  About a third of these books go back to my early years in the pastorate; the other two thirds are books I have read in the last 10 or 12 years.  I see all of them as part of God’s GOOD NEWS!

Read, enjoy, be blessed!  And keep praying: “THY KINGDOM COME”.


Geerhardus Vos 1862-1940: 1. Biblical Theology, 2. Pauline Eschatology

  1. Palmer Robertson: The Christ of the Covenants

Michael D. Williams: Far As the Curse Is Found

Andrew Murray: How to Raise Your Children for Christ

Horace Bushnell: Christian Nurture

Walter Kunneth 1901-1997:  The Theology of the Resurrection

Leslie Newbigin 1909-1998:  Truth to Tell

George Eldon Ladd 1911-1982:  The Gospel and the Kingdom

Richard Gaffin: 1. Resurrection and Redemption, 2. Perspectives on Pentecost, 3. By Faith, Not by Sight

Sidney Greidanus: 1. The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, 2. Preaching Christ from Genesis

Graeme Goldsworthy: 1. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, 2. Goldsworthy Trilogy

Bryan Chapell: Christ-Centered Preaching [Covenant Seminary Textbook]

G.K. Beale: 1. Commentary on Revelation, 2. A New Testament Biblical Theology, 3. The Temple and 

                       the Church’s Mission  

  1. T. Wright: 1. Trilogy, 2. Paul, 3.The Climax of the Covenant

Christopher Wright: The Mission of God

Sam Storms: Kingdom Come

Cornelis Venema The Promise of the Future

John V. Fesko  Last Things First

  1. John Collins Genesis 1-4, Commentary

Oliver O’Donovan: Resurrection and Moral Order

  1. F. Torrance: 1. Space Time and Resurrection, 2. Theological Science, 3. Incarnation

Gerrit Scott Dawson: Jesus Ascended

Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow: The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God

Richard Bauckham: Jesus and the God of Israel


                                                                                                Paul H. Alexander, August, 2015



  1. Page 56, The Dawkins Delusion? by Allister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath, Inter-Varsity press, 2007.

Proposed Book: Discovering the Love of God #31

Apology and Invitation to Help Me

            Please accept my humble apologies for delaying so long between blogs.  My lame excuse is that I got badly distracted by my sputtering efforts to write a book.  I submitted my first three chapters to an agency that may publish it eventually, but I have run into a snag.  My prospective publisher is making a suggestion that is going to stress my enfeebled 82 year old brain.

He told me that my book sounds like good preaching, but needs to adapt itself more to a reading audience.  To him it appears that I leave too many thought gaps between thoughts that are typical of good preaching, but not allowed in writing a book.  For this reason, he is encouraging me to send what I have written to prospective readers and ask them to “brutally critique” my writing from that perspective.

So, after neglecting you all these months, I am going to have the unmitigated gall to ask for your help!  Can you imagine that!  I can hear you saying, “Just like that preacher to drop this bomb on us!!!”

Well, awful as this is, I am gonna do it.   I am going to start sending  parts of this book to you, requesting your critiques.  First I am going to send you the Foreword which  is about 4 pages long – probably straining the edges of what may be tolerated in a blog.  Then I will send the chapters a few pages at a time, trying to select discreet sections that will be comprehensible.

Please write me by email and let me know if you will be willing to do as this editor is asking –“brutally critique” my writing, complaining where you see the kind of gaps he is complaining about.  How does this sound to you?

You now have the opportunity to make a major contribution to my feeble brain before it utterly succumbs to encroaching alzheimers.

I hope to get the foreward on the blog site by tomorrow at the latest.


My email address is