Born into the Fall

Letters to Our Dear Children #4

Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,

I remember a somewhat unhappy incident that occurred in our family a little more than 50 years ago.  Our neighbor across the street was in some distress and had asked for my help.  Two of my little girls followed me out of the house and I asked the five-year-old to hold onto the two-year-old so that she would not follow me into the street.  When I came back across the street a few minutes later I found the five-year-old crying at the top of her lungs while holding tightly to the two-year-old. Continue reading

Born into Covenant Relationships

Letters to Our Dear Children #3Communion

Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,

I believe that all four of you will remember that family worship at our house was often a rollicking-frolicking good time.  We worshiped God together as a joyful celebration, not as a legalistic duty.  We would, for instance, sing scripture songs like “I May Never March in the Infantry” and the four of you would march from the living room through the dining room and kitchen back into the living room.

We often read straight through the Bible but skipped chapters that were beyond your maturity level.  We liked to memorize both scripture and catechisms during devotions, but we tried to make that a part of our celebration rather than a heavy-duty obligation.

Your mother and I were convinced that all children are born into a worshiping relationship before the God of the Bible.  Worshiping Him is a key part of the fundamental joy of being born in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26-28).  Mom and I believed that God had created us as parents so that we could lead you into this joyful, basic relationship with God.  As scripture teaches we were “prophets, priests and kings” serving you gladly in those offices which God gave us as your parents.

Our study of scripture persuaded us that God gave us three of these basic Covenantal relationships with Himself.  These three relationships are first revealed in the second chapter of Genesis.  They are three basic relationships with God that give beauty, meaning and purpose to our lives.  They are (1) Worship, (2) Work, and (3) Wedlock. Notice those three “W’s”.  I discovered that helpful “3 W” way of outlining our Covenant relationships in a book titled Genesis 1-4 by Dr. C.  John Collins.1

God’s infinite love for us is marvelously displayed in these three Covenantal relationships. God is actively loving us throughout our lives, meeting all our needs through these relationships which He has established with us and for us.  It is so very important to see that God did this right at the time of our creation in His image.  My fear is that some make the serious mistake of thinking God did not start loving us until Jesus came and redeemed us through His death and resurrection.

As important as the redeeming work of Jesus is, we should see that God has always loved us and has always been providing for our needs since the moment He created us. He has always been “our Father, who art in heaven”.  He has always loved us supremely, and that began wonderfully when He established us in those three amazing Covenantal relationships.  The redeeming work of Christ simply restores us to those relationships.  Studying them in their original Biblical setting is a helpful reminder of the beautiful shape God gave to our lives through those Covenantal relationships.

So, let’s review them briefly as God first gave them to us.  Hopefully the diagram above may help you visualize God’s great plan for us.  His three-relationship plan is designed to lead us into ever deepening delight in God Himself and in His fabulous purposes for our lives and our world.

With this diagram, I am also giving  you a brief survey of those three Covenantal relationships in our Reflexions below.

With all our Love,

Mom and Dad Alexander

REFLEXIONS

(1) WORSHIP: Genesis 2:2-3: COVENANTAL RELATIONSHIP #1

COVENANTAL COMMUNION WITH GOD

God’s completion of creation called for a Celebration – a day of celebrative rest. Though Adam is not even mentioned in this text, it is unthinkable that God would have ignored him and left Adam out of His life on this 7th Day, the first day after God had created him.  We are fully justified in assuming that this God who “is love” (I John 4:8 and 16) would have, in effect, taken Adam by the hand on this seventh day and led him into the awesome joy of keeping the Sabbath holy with Him.

Though the full meaning of this wonderful reality is only implied in this passage, later scripture such as Exodus 20:11-18 and the whole 23rd chapter of Leviticus make this implication abundantly clear: On the first full day of his life, Adam is drawn into celebration of Sabbath life and joy right alongside God Himself.  This is an absolutely remarkable reality.  Clearly, at this point, Adam is already in Covenantal Communion with God!  That means that God’s love for Adam and Adam’s love for God are the key dynamics in their relationship with one another.

This is a wonder of absolutely immense proportions. For a mere creature to live in loving Communion with God is the highest privilege imaginable.  God had lifted this creature made of dirt into the heavenly realms!  From creation onward Adam was able to enjoy the eternal glory of God.  What a wonder of God’s infinite love!

Surely we should see this as an important part of God’s plan, impressing Adam/Mankind with the grand reality that COVENANTAL COMMUNION WITH GOD was the very foundation on which his whole life would be built.  This is an important measure of God’s love for mankind.  For God Himself is recognizing man as the primary object of His love and therefore a central figure in the whole of Creation.2

(2) WORK: Genesis 2:15 & 19-20: COVENANTAL RELATIONSHIP #2

COVENANTAL DOMINION FOR GOD

In this passage of scripture, we see God assigning Adam his key task – DOMINION over the earth.  Because Adam lives in COMMUNION WITH GOD, he can be trusted to exercise DOMINION FOR GOD.  In his book Far as the Curse Is Found, Dr. Michael Williams repeatedly refers to mankind as God’s “steward”.3  Williams also frequently uses the word “Priest” (pages 113, 138, etc.) to describe the role God has given mankind in relation to the world.4  As God’s designated Steward, he is more than a farmer.  He is a Priest mediating the glory and majesty of God to every creature and to every part of the world, making our world into a Temple filled with the awesome presence of God.

With these considerations in mind it becomes clear to us that mankind’s DOMINION task is the logical extension of the COMMUNION WITH GOD dynamic at work in the heart and life of Adam/Mankind.   The Garden of Eden would have been the perfect work environment.  Collins remarks, “such work under such conditions must have been sheer delight for the man!”.5  Adam’s work of naming the animals and cultivating the garden would be a great pleasure to him – something like an extension of the Sabbath, a different kind of celebration, but still a celebration.  We might say that Adam moved from CELEBRATIVE REST to CELEBRATIVE WORK.  Life without sin was a continuous celebration of the pure joy of living in the presence of God and finding pleasure in doing the will of this high and holy Being, the living God.  Sabbath set the tone and Work extended the celebration into every day of Adam’s week.

Living, as WE do in this period after the moral disaster of Adam’s Fall into sin, we tend to paint work with a tar brush, seeing it only in terms of the frustration and drudgery that characterize work since the Fall.  This was not God’s original idea of work.  God intended Adam’s work to be the means of beautifying Eden first and then to continue what we might call the “Edenizing” process throughout the world.  God’s command to “have dominion, vs 26” and “subdue the earth” in vs 28 was not limited to Eden, but extended to the whole world which could become God’s Temple under the sinless Adam.

(3) WEDLOCK: Genesis 2:23-24 COVENANTAL RELATIONSHIP  #3

COVENANTAL MARRIAGE BETWEEN MAN AND WOMAN

                        The marriage of Adam and Eve is a fitting climax to chapter 2 of Genesis. It may even be seen as the climax of God’s entire work of Creation.  As the first chapter rises to a kind of preparatory climax in the creation of man in God’s image, so the second chapter rises even higher to a full climax in the uniting of Adam and Eve in marriage.  Though the word “covenant” is not used here, the Bible identifies marriage as a covenantal relationship in a text like Malachi 2:14, rebuking a man for forsaking his marriage partner because she is “the wife of your marriage covenant.”  We are pleased to recognize, therefore that Adam and Eve were joined in that beautiful covenantal relationship which we call marriage and that God Himself presided over this grand event. There can be no question that the marriage of the man and the woman was a part of God’s original plan.

Covenantal Marriage between Man and Woman was necessary to complete the “Covenantal Relationships Plan” evident in Genesis 2.  We should see “marriage love” as a unique creation of God.  This love establishes a bond between the genders and personalities of man and woman that goes beyond human ability to define.  It is another one of the mysterious wonders that God has created for us to celebrate with joy, though there is no way we can fully understand it.

As wonderful and mysterious as marriage love is, moreover, we should see it as a cornerstone of all human society.  Families are the building blocks in all human culture.  It is the quality of love that exists in Biblical marriage that gives grace to our relationships in all of civil society – schools, governments, industry, science, art, music, and athletics, all our endeavors that include human relationships. This God-created wonder of “marriage love” then reaches out from the family and embraces the whole world, creating in turn all the tenderness, gentle care and thoughtfulness that characterizes Godly people and ennobles all human life.

In a beautiful and powerful way, “marriage love” speaks to us two other remarkable realities which God reveals to us in scripture.  First, marriage love reflects the love within the Trinity, and second, marriage love is prophetic of the love we will experience throughout eternity.  I plan to speak of these two grand realities in my next letter.

Feel free to comment on the diagram I am giving you above.  I am always open to improvements and I enjoy your responses.

  1. Collins, C.  John. Genesis 1-4. Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. 2006, Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
  2. By drawing mankind into His Sabbath, God is distinguishing man from everything else He created, crowning man with this key Covenantal Relationship.  For fuller treatment of this important truth, I heartily recommend the reading of chapter 12 of Creation and Change, page 237, Dr. Douglas Kelly’s excellent study of the “incomparable significance of the Sabbath day.”
  3. Page 60, Williams, Michael D. Far as the Curse Is Found, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2005.
  4. Ibid., pages 113, 138, etc.
  5. Op. cit. page 138.

 

 

 

Proclaiming Jesus Lord of History

(Sermon preached April 10, 2016)

We have been watching a TV commercial recently that features a man walking across the top of a skyscraper.  While he walks, he is most appropriately describing the dangers of this life, while he is himself doing a very dangerous thing – walking toward the edge of the skyscraper roof!  Then, just as you were expecting he steps off the roof and begins falling to the street below.

Of course he has a parachute strapped to his back and lands safely.

In this text, Jesus is doing something like that TV ad man.  Not walking across the roof of a skyscraper but walking right into the Pharisee-Sadducee-High priest DEATH TRAP! DEATH as certain as falling from a skyscraper, His crucifixion absolutely inevitable!

KEY!   Jesus wants His disciples to see Him do this! Important for them to see it happen!

  • To see Him tried by the High Priests and Pilate!
  • To see Him horribly abused and then Crucified!
  • Finally to see Him Risen from the dead, and

then ASCENDING INTO GLORY – TO BE ENTHRONED ON THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD!!!

BY THESE EVENTS

JESUS WAS BECOMING THE LORD OF HISTORY

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ENTIRE COSMOS

ABSOLUTE LORD OF ALL IN THE FULLEST SENSE….AND 

THEIR SEEING THIS AWESOME DRAMA UNFOLD BEFORE THEIR EYES

WAS A MEANS BY WHICH

THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS MAKING THEM LORDS OF HISTORY

NOTE WELL, NOTE CERTAINLY: JESUS BECAME THE LORD OF HISTORY, and

 THE APOSTLES WERE BECOMING SUBORDINATE LORDS OF HISTORY, UNDER JESUS

                             JESUS BECAME LORD OF HISTORY WHILE

MAKING THE APOSTLES LORDS OF HISTORY – US, LORDS OF HISTORY

Jesus is saying to the Apostles, “Listen to the Holy Spirit after I ascend to the throne”

Vs 13 “He will guide you into all truth” THE TRUTH OF HIS LORDSHP!

  • The Holy Spirit was doing this in Apostles whole time Jesus with them before his ascension to Glory, Slowly, Step by Step raising them into this WONDER!
  • Then at Pentecost, they were BAPTIZED INTO THE HOLY SPIRIT, which means
  • Among other things, that The Wonder of His Majestic LORDSHIP

      Absolutely overwhelmed them, Captivated them   – Beauty, Power, Joy,

HELD THEM SPELL-BOUND for the rest of their lives

  • Filling their hearts with His lordship, shaped them into Lordship under Jesus.
  • RESTORING THEM TO DOMINION ON GRAPHIC – DIAGRAM, (Thanks Brendan)

I. JESUS OVERCAME THIS WORLD BY MAKING HIMSELF LORD OF HISTORY

  • Jesus was at war with Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests and Pilate.

A War that had been raging throughout O.T., still going on in N.T.

  • JUDAIZERS/Pharisees/Sadduccees/Priests seemed to win this war by Crucifying Jesus!

WRONG!  They played into His hands. He was controlling them/history

  • Judaism had unwittingly sided with the Roman/Greek consensus.  Thesecular

Humanistic consenus against the only true God revealed in scripture.

HEART BEAT OF SCRIPTURE: “There is a powerful philosophy pulsating through  Scripture, intent on the enthronement of the Messiah.”

            Acts 2:34-36   NOW HE IS ENTHRONED AND ACTIVELY RULING HIS OWN WAY

  • An Accomplished fact at Pentecost – MAN on God’s Throne
  • Then amplified through all Epistles to Revelation.
  • Specific at Philippians 2:9-11 HIS OWN WAY!!!! Bob Dylan, Mike Joyce
  • WAR STILL RAGES: – Modern form of war: Do you know the word “Enlightenment   You should!  If you don’t even know the name of your enemy – can’t fight him. “Islamic Extremists”.
  • Enlightenment is the name of that key group of Agnostic/Atheistic intellectuals who began to rise in the late 17th, early 18th century.
  • DISTINGUISHED  themselves by attacking the authority of the Bible and setting themselves up as the new ruling authorities over all of life – religion included.
  • MEN LIKE: Voltaire and Rousseau in France, David Hume in Scotland. Later joined by the churchman Immanuel Kantin the German church And then Friederich Hegel in the Philosophical world

MANY THOUSANDS OF LIKE-MINDED MEN AND WOMEN HAVE JOINED THER RANKS

  • They are the intellectually elite of our world today   And I do mean WORLD – Every nation is suffering under theirrule
  • With few exceptions, our Governments and our Universities are led by these  People who deserve the name ANTI-CHRIST – all of them!

I am going to quote just one of them who earned his place among them by his truly brilliant expressions of their VIEWS OF LIFE.  Not new name. Both I and your Pastor Curtis have quoted these very lines (sometimes abbreviations thereof).

Bertrand Russell Quote: 1872-1970

“That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought  and feeling, can preserve an individual beyond the grave; that all the labor of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins – all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

          Only within the scaffold of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”  (page 17, SET FORTH YOUR CASE, Pinnock) 

DREADFUL HORROR IN CONTRAST TO NEXT POINT

II. JESUS IS RESTORING THIS WORLD BY MAKING US LORDS OF HISTORY

  • Having become LORD OF HISTORY in the fullest sense!  He is now qualified to make you and me subordinate Lords of History – Eph 2:6 (He)raised us up and seated us with Him in the Heavenly places in Christ Jesus
  •   This wonderful fact is then assumed throughout the rest of New TestamenT.  By his Amazing Grace we are now restored to the position we lost in the Fall.

EXAMPLES? Maybe Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?

  • TRUE EXAMPLE: Maggie Gobran, Doctor’s wife, successful business woman until 35  Visited garbage slum, saw something moving under garbage- baby boy, rescued him. This Coptic Christian woman captured by little boy – began giving her life to slum kids.  Visited them frequently , began washing their feet, gave them shoes, clothes,  
  • Organized: STEPHEN’S CHILDREN – schools, orphanages, medical clinics – Cairo first, then other Egyptian cities, now spreading to nearby nations, 1,000’s of kids
  •  Next: to the world, Read P. 234, ff.

I submit MAMA Maggie as my nominee, Mother Teresa, William Franklin Graham, Host of humble Bible believing people I have met in many nations.  

BACK TO SCRIPTURE: v. 14 “HE WILL GLORIFY ME!”

            Holy Spirit magnifies Jesus as LORD OF HISTORY!!

  • Apostles and Epistles Maximizing Jesus for us: Spell-binding discovery in the upper room, ultimate confession of Thomas  “My LORD and MY GOD!”
  • Historic Declaration in Phil 2:6 ff
  • So did he become Lord of History in order to make us Lords of History
  • Book of Revelation: Our grand discovery of His infinite glory
  1. Awesome picture Rev. 1:12-16
  2. Rising glory to Rev. 22

Quote from T. F. Torrance, frequently quoted by our Dr. Douglas Kelly. Prof, RTS, Charlotte NC.

 “The Church must learn to take into its mouth the Good News of the resurrection and new creation, for that must be its primary note, one of limitless joy and thanksgiving.  That’s how the Church began its mission at Pentecost where the dominant emphasis in all its preaching was the resurrection of the crucified Christ and the astounding fact that because of Christ the Spirit of God Himself was poured out upon men.  They knew that the Last Times had overtaken them and that they were caught up in the onward and outward thrust of the resurrection of Christ toward the new creation in which all nations and peoples and all times would be brought to share. (105, Space, Time and Resurrection)

  1. Torrance is pointing toward the Savior’s “March to Conquest” beginning with the formation of the – Creeds: Nicene 325 – Chalcedon 451- Basic science of life

Creating the kind of Freedom that enabled the Reformation, Puritanism,

    -Missionary advancement that enabled cultural advancements in the WEST.

            -Victory NOW becoming evident in Middle East and India

                   – 1,000’s coming to Christ, enabling “scientific DOMINION”

                        Minds no longer under the bondage of witchcraft/magic, Creating  –                                     Einsteins, (referred to “The Religious spirit in Science”, said “you                                                must have faith to discover anything”.

  • Present Technology an “attendant wonder” of Christ Science

Maybe a better word “DERIVATIVE” wonder of “Christ Science”           

Progressive discovery of Jesus Christ first by Apostles

            Then by Creedal scholars

                        Then Reformation Leaders

                                    Puritan Pastor-scholars

 liberated mankind to become LORDS of every field of science

            Every variety of Art

                        Every type of Music

                                    Every branch of Law and Government

CONCLUSION :

“Take heart, I have overcome the world”

 Once the blessed christ of glory was veiled off from human view

But through suffering, death and sorrow he has rent that veil in two

O behold the man of sorrows,

O behold him in plain view,

Lo, he comes, the mighty conqueror

Since he rent the veil in two.

 

 

Letters to Our Dear Children # 2

 

 The Wonder of “Persons” and “the Covenant”

Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,

“Persons” are like snowflakes: every one of them is unique!

That was one of the amazing things your mother and I discovered after each of you were born.  Because you were born first, Junia, you were able to fix yourself in our minds as the exact image of what a baby is supposed to be.

What a remarkable surprise awaited us when you came along, Charysse! Of course there were many things about you that were just like your sister, but you were also remarkably different from Junia.

Then you came along, DeAnn, and finally you, Greg.  Similarities in all of you, yes, indeed!  But differences that made you so unique that we were at one and the same time, challenged, bewildered, and charmed.

Only God could do such a thing!  Only God could have made you so much alike and at the same time so fabulously unique.  That God made you in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27, 5:2) was plainly demonstrated to us by this very uniqueness.  It seems that the infinitely varied glory of God must be demonstrated in this unique way in every child that is ever born: snowflakes – personalities! Magnificent!

And we haven’t said it all when we talk about the “image of God” in every person.  We also need to recognize the beautiful significance of the “Covenant.” Since our discovery of the “Covenant” under Dr. Buswell’s instruction at Covenant Theological Seminary, I have become deeply convinced that the “Covenant” is as foundational to the nature of mankind as the “image of God.” I am further convinced that by creating us in His image, God received us into a Covenant relationship with Himself.  Though the word covenant is not used in the early chapters of Genesis, our covenantal relationships with God are clearly implied from the very beginning.

This is particularly clear in Genesis 2:15-17.  The phrase “covenant of life” is used to interpret this passage both in our Westminster Shorter Catechism 12 and Larger Catechism 20.  This reflects the broad consensus of Biblical scholarship, that though the word covenant is not used in this passage, the idea of covenant is clearly present.  We may conclude with delight that God created us “in His image” and entered into a “covenant of life” with us at the same moment.

So how do these grand scriptural truths apply to the four of you?

This is an intriguing question.  It cannot be answered with any simple formula, but it is important to make an attempt.  We must begin by noting that for each of you to be “created in the image of God” and for each of you at the same time to be “in covenant relationship with God” is a sheer wonder.  What a magnificent potential this creates for each of you!  We may be confident that God is intent upon developing each of you within these awesome parameters set by His image in you and His covenant with you.  And this is wonderfully true for all those who belong to the family of God.

These were themes that frequently got into my preaching from many different texts.  Mother and I often engaged you in conversations about these fabulous Biblical ideas while you were growing up in our home.  I have to confess that I frequently felt like a stumbling babbler when I was trying to preach and I suspect that our conversations about these grand Biblical truths were not all that compelling.   Yet our gracious Lord worked in us and in you to accomplish the grand purposes of His Kingdom through our family.  God is working in the same way in your own families and in the families of many of your church friends.  We can enrich and bless each other by frequently considering such truths together in the body of Christ.  Then we simply continue living self-consciously in this “image of God” identity and “covenant relationship with God” reality.  On the basis of solid scriptural teaching, we treasure these magnificent truths about ourselves and rejoice in the privilege of living according to such great Revelations from God.

There is so much more to say, but I will leave it for our next letters.

With all our Love,

Mom and Dad Alexander

RFLEXIONS  

Would it be helpful for us to define the covenant at this point?

I am inspired to make the attempt by a letter I received from an old friend, who was questioning the meaning of this Biblical word.

Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, Dr. Michael D. Williams prefers to stay with what he calls a “rough description”1 of the concept rather than a more exact definition.  Williams is right to complain that it is most difficult to accurately define such a broad and grand Biblical concept.  He supports his objection by quoting Dr. O. Palmer Robertson’s remark, “Asking for a definition of ‘covenant’ is something like asking for a definition of ‘mother’”2.

I must differ with Dr. Williams.  Difficult as it is to define the covenant, I believe there is value in making the attempt.  So did O. Palmer Robertson in spite of the quotation above. After that appropriate quote, Robertson straightway proceeded to give a definition of the covenant on page 15 of the book cited by Williams.  Here is Robertson’s definition:

A Covenant Is a Bond in Blood, Sovereignly Administered

            I like Robertson’s definition and have occasionally used it in my teaching.  It goes beyond the “covenant of life” idea drawn from Genesis 2:15-17 by including the “bond of blood” feature that was only necessary after Genesis 3 and the Fall. I think it is important to include in our definition the full sweep of the Covenant based both on this Genesis 2 text and then on that multiplicity of scriptures that describe the Covenant throughout the rest of the Bible.  I hope this is not too ambitious.  Write me back if I need to work more at clarifying this point.  It is MOST important to me.   Here is my fuller definition:

The Covenant of Grace Is God’s Promise to Fallen Man to Restore Him (Us)                     To Glory Through the Redemptrive Acts of Our Lord Jesus Christ

This definition is very important to me because so much of what I will say in future “LETTERS” will reference the Covenant as well as the “image of God”.  It is a strong conviction in my heart that the Covenant is a fundamental reality of human life.  The Covenant is just as real as our flesh and blood.  It is a dynamic at work in our lives through our direct and continuous relationship with God.

If we do not understand this, we become hopelessly lost in the vast sea of human speculation about what we are and where we are going.  If we understand the Covenant and follow God’s leading through the Covenant, life unfolds before us like a blooming flower, revealing all the beauty and glory of God’s great love for us and His magnificent provision for all our needs all the way into Heaven.

 

  1. Williams, Michael D., Far as the Curse Is Found (Zondervan, 2005), 45
  2. Robertson, O. Palmer, The Christ of the Covenants (Grand Rapids: Baker), 1980, 3

Letters to Our*1 Dear Children #1 God’s Gift of Persons

Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,

Your Mother and I see the four of you as wonderful gifts of God to us.  We have loved each of you from the moment we knew that you were on the way to our house.  What an amazing thing it is for a baby to be born!  For a new person to come into a family!  Only God can do this wonderful thing.  And of all the remarkable things that God does in this world, this has to rank up there right near the top.

Greg, when your first baby was born, Mom and I had the high privilege of being there at the hospital with you and Rachel in Carollton, Georgia. I will never forget the expression on your face when you saw baby Gabrielle for the first time.  I forget the exact words you used, but you said something like, “Daddy, this is a real person!” It wasn’t so much the words you said as it was the unforgettable way you spoke them, all aglow with the pure delight of this grandest of grand occasions.

I believe we should recognize two wonderful things that happen at the same time whenever a baby is born.

First, is simply the arrival of the baby, that “real person”.  The natural process which God uses to bring this new little “personal” being into our world is absolutely phenomenal.  Eve got it right when she remarked at the birth of her first son, “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man”, Genesis 4:1. 2.

We make a bad mistake if we read these simple words as if they were rather boring and common-place.  Simple words they are, indeed, but there is every reason to hear in them the sheer wonder that Eve must have felt.  She was the first person in history to experience the natural but awesome process of conception, gestation and birth.  She had to be amazed, astounded, and delighted all at once.

Like other women after her who would bear children, Eve may have experienced excruciating pain and may have wondered whether she would live through the ordeal.  Then, when she saw that amazing little creature outside her body, heard him cry and felt him move, a great torrent of joy and thanksgiving to God must have filled her whole being.  Yes, those words she speaks are simple, but they were surely filled with a towering reverence and thanksgiving for the God who had helped her bring forth a man.

This was the first wonderful thing that happened to Adam and Eve, the birth of their baby. Another “real person” entered their home, forever changing their lives by bringing them into the world of parenthood with all of its delights and challenges. There is so much more to say here, but for the moment I will hurry on to that second wonderful gift of God.

Second, God gave us the gift of love for all four of you. We did not generate that love in our own hearts. Because we are sinners, God had to work a miracle in our sinful hearts so that we could love you. That love which God gave us for you is magnificent beyond words. This gift of God is the key to our raising you.  Through this amazing gift, God enabled us to nurture and bless you in all the joys of living before God as His dear children.

Not that we did this perfectly!  The sin that remains in our nature made us stumble and err seriously many times.  We had to apologize often.  But God’s love for us, His great grace at work in our hearts, overcame our sin sufficiently to enable us to guide you to Godly maturity.  A wonderful result of His work both in us and in you is that we have become good friends. I believe that we are “best friends”, and that is one of the greatest blessings that parents could ever hope for.

How sad that so few parents today recognize the wonderful blessing this gift of God can be in their homes. Because of our fall into sin, parents can refuse to receive this great gift of God, His gift of love for their own children.  We see the unhappy results everywhere.  Parents do not live in a reverent and loving relationship with God, so it is impossible for them to live in a loving relationship with their own children. Fierce quarreling and hatred seems to characterize the lives of so many married couples and their whole families.  Parents abuse each other and their children, so that even murdering their own children has become increasingly common. The murderous act of inexcusable abortion has resulted in approximately 55,000,000 infant deaths in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision in 1974. This kind of abortion is now legal in most of the world.

In a future letter I will try to speak helpfully to these great sorrows so common in families today. I will mention the problem here, just to underline for all of us the great importance of receiving from God His wonderful gift of love for our children.

Now I want to tell you how our gracious Lord led your Mother and me to receive this wonderful gift from God. We see this as a “special providence” of God which He worked in our hearts.  This is the era of history when God works such miracles in the hearts of those who believe in Christ as Savior.

It happened this way:

We fell in love with each other during my second year in Faith seminary near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The next summer in August, 1956, we were married in Sandstone, Minnesota, Mom’s hometown. We then moved to Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, arriving in that city with $8 in our pockets, a car payment coming due and no place to live.

We both got jobs, found an apartment, eked out a bare living (like many of our fellow students), and I began to study at the seminary.   That is where it happened!!

I discovered the love of God in a special way in what the Bible calls: THE COVENANT!

Dr. J. Oliver Buswell was the teacher who led me, along with other students, into this discovery.  “The Covenant” was just one of many subjects we learned under his able instruction from scripture. His teaching had the special value, moreover, of demonstrating that The Covenant is a central theme that binds the entire Bible and all of life together. The Covenant certainly included that gift of loving our children, but it was presented as far more than that.

I began to see The Covenant as a grand and glorious exercise of God’s love for the whole world. It was God’s means of saving lost people and then building them up in His own image.  It was God’s love at work in believers to hold them in His redemptive embrace, enabling us to love God “with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds,”…“and our neighbor as ourselves”.  The Covenant is beautifully summarized in the so-called “golden text” of the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

It was a great pleasure for me to bring Dr. Buswell’s teaching home with me. Your Mother and I had many valuable discussions on the Covenant and began to regard it as one of the keys to our life in the Lord. We also found these truths to be pervasive in the seminary. Because Mom had frequent contacts with the family of Professor Bill Sanderson, she became quite impressed by the way he and his wife were using Covenant teachings to train their children in the love of God.  We began to observe this beautiful kind of family life in other seminary leaders and other Christians in our church world.

I will conclude this initial letter by reminding you that our lives were profoundly and wonderfully changed, first, by your births into our family and second by our discovery of God’s Covenant love for us.

We pray daily that God will continue to work His wonders of grace in your hearts and lives.  And we rejoice daily in the evidence we see in you and your families that God is answering our prayers.

With all our love,

Mom and Dad Alexander

*1. Take note: I am changing the pronoun “My” to “Our” in this title.  My introductory letter proposed: “Letters to My Dear Children”.  I prefer that to be: “Letters to Our Dear Children”.

*2. Commentators on this first verse of Genesis 4 have frequently speculated on a variety of meanings that might be given to Cain’s birth here.  I stand with those who give the simplest explanation, that Eve is remarking with delight that a baby boy has been born.

RFLEXIONS

      While the four of you were still living at our house, I started using a diagram in my Sunday evening preaching that you may remember.  I am still using that diagram in an effort to graphically portray the Covenant at work in Jesus.  Before I explain it, however, I want to mention a side trip I took during my own high school and college years.

During those high school years I became quite interested in Edgar Allen Poe, a writer whose message stood out in sharp contrast to “the Covenant” truth that I learned under Dr. Buswell.  I believe it will be helpful for us to see the Covenant from that contrasting perspective, Poe’s perspective.

To be perfectly honest I became genuinely fascinated with both the poetry and the short stories of Poe. His mastery of the English language was amazing to me, but it was his preoccupation with the morose aspects of death and dying that truly captivated me.  I got so interested in his “The Raven” that I memorized part of it. Then I found his “The Fall of the House of Usher” to be an unforgettable adventure into the macabre.  In college I memorized my own abbreviated version of his “The Black Cat” and occasionally recited it at Halloween parties.

Why all this interest in this sadly unchristian author?

My interest in Poe took a somewhat psychological/spiritual turn.  Throughout his life the poor man suffered one disappointment and sorrow after another. Through all this pain he never seemed to have meaningful contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ or the church.  The joy of living under the care of a loving God, therefore, never touched his brief life (1809-1849). To the contrary his fascination with the morose, the terrifying, and the downright horrible got such a grip on the man that the brighter side of life never occurred to him as a subject worthy of his literary efforts.

Here I want to make my own private and abrupt observation.

Edgar Allen Poe desperately needed to discover the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave!

Poe’s life and writing might have been so different if this grand reality of the gospel had come into his life.  If he had heard good preaching of this gospel truth or had been befriended by a Christian brother or sister who had given him clear witness of it, things could have been different.

Permit me an observation about our own present historical situation.

A sad reality of our present culture is that Poe’s dark, unhappy writing seems to be prophetic of much that is happening in the artistic, the literary and the film-making world today.  The highly gifted artists who are leading in these important ventures today reflect a kind of “Poeism”.  Like Poe, they desperately need a clear view of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Through that grand miracle they could witness the whole gospel of our Lord Jesus, transforming both their lives and their art.

This is the point that I hope we will see in our consideration of the Covenant.  The Covenant is God’s means of leading us into the gospel, into the forgiveness of our sins, into a grand view of Jesus rising triumphantly from the grave in order to create a new world.  That is the climax of the Covenant. I want to give a fuller definition of the Covenant in the next letter, but for the moment it is sufficient to see the Covenant as a promise of God’s love for us. It is a promise of His love which comes to glorious climax in the Savior’s redeeming work on our behalf.

On the next page, I am giving you that diagram I mentioned above. It is based on II Corinthians 4:6. Here I am using the “face of Christ” as a figure of speech for five redeeming acts of Jesus.  The first four are His (1) Crucifixion, (2) Resurrection, (3) Ascension, and (4) Outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church.  Number (5) is His promised Second Coming.   I call these five things “the face of Christ” because we recognize Christ in them.  These five redeeming acts are His face “shining” the glory of God into our lives.  By faith we receive God’s Covenant love for us through these loving acts of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do I need to clarify that?  Drop me a note if you think I need to say more.  Meanwhile, I will doubtless say more myself, because the truth I am trying to demonstrate in this picture is so central to my thinking and teaching even today.

 

PA_03

 

 

Pastor Paul Alexander Announcing:

“LETTERS TO MY DEAR CHILDREN”

And

Your Cordial Invitation to Eavesdrop

Dear Friends,

I am embarking on a letter writing adventure!

I plan to write a series of letters to my own four children.  The Lord has wonderfully blessed me and my dear wife Lorraine through all the years of our marriage and I want to pass on to my own dear children a small part of the counsel our gracious Lord has given us over these years.  Our Risen Lord and Savior has enabled us to discover His grace over our years together.  Through His written word and by the power of his Holy Spirit He has been speaking the life of His gracious word into our hearts.

Now I am praying that the Risen One will empower my humble effort to “pass it on”.  I hope to strengthen our own beloved children in their ministries to their own children and grandchildren and to their fellow church members and friends wherever they may meet.   Our Savior-King has commissioned all of us with this Royal task of spreading life through His Word to any and all whom we may meet.

And you are cordially invited to eavesdrop!

I want to send these letters to anyone who might be interested, and I will also put them on my clay2glory.com   blog. Though the letters are first addressed to our own four children, they will be appropriate for members of our WIDER family to read.  That WIDER family especially includes all our dear brothers and sisters who served alongside us both at Westminster Presbyterian Church and at Westminster Christian Academy in Huntsville, Alabama.  You are especially dear to us because of those 43 years we spent among you.

Our WIDER family also includes our Ukrainian Christian brothers and sisters whom we dearly love.  You blesse us greatly while we were serving among you and hope these letters might be some blessing to you.  Then while I was Interim Pastor at North Hills in Huntsville and finally Assistant Pastor at Trinity in Union, Missouri, we were privileged to minister alongside some of God’s choice servants.   May our gracious Lord bless all of you and ANY others who may receive these “LETTERS TO MY DEAR CHILDREN”.

Below are two recent pictures [only in email version] of our children, grand-children and great-grand-children.  We hope you will join them in reading these letters.  We will not try to give you names which were printed in our Christmas letter.  I give you both pictures because we were not able to get everyone there at once.

What You May Expect in My Letters

 I believe it may be helpful to you if I divide my letters into two distinct parts for easier understanding:

FIRST, I will try to give you a “main thought” that will run through both sections.  In the first part I will develop that  ”main thought” in a popular style for easy reading  adapted to children and adults alike.  Hopefully this first section of each letter will be uncluttered by theological or other kinds of technical terminology.  It might even be read as a part of “family worship” because of its adaptability to all maturity levels.

SECOND, I will (usually if not always) add a section simply entitled: REFLEXIONS.  In this “reflexions” section I will try to lead you through the Biblical and Theological basis for what I have just said in the FIRST section.   This might be a bit technical so that it could be helpful to give quotes from other writers, even documented quotes so that you could pursue the sources on which I base my remarks.

Prepare for a Recurring Emphasis

My own pilgrimage through life and through the Bible has led me to deepening convictions on the importance of  the resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This reflects my conviction that Peter, Paul and John had this emphasis in all their writing and preaching.   Not that they ever minimized the cross or the crucifixion.  They just saw the resurrection and ascension as illuminating the crucifixion and the whole gospel message.   This resurrection/ascension emphasis characterizes the entire New Testament, and it comes to a beautiful climax first in Acts 2 and then in the whole book of Revelation.

This emphasis has become an increasing joy to me as I have discovered it in scripture.  I hope it will help meet the needs of your heart and the hearts of those whom you may influence for Christ.

 And I want to invite your response.  You are welcome to correspond with me about these letters.  I will do my best to reply and might even do so by writing one of these letters so that everyone might benefit from your question.

But please pray for me in this new adventure in the ministry.  I sincerely want to be a blessing first to my own dear children, then to any and all who may read these “LETTERS”.

May our ever gracious Lord continue to bless our KINGDOM MINISTRIES while we wait with joyful anticipation for our great King to return for the perfection of His Kingdom in eternal glory.

For the glory of the Lion/Lamb

Pastor Paul Alexander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexander Family Chronicle 2016

“Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Psalm 127:3

The names below can be fitted to the main picture that we sent by email.  You may be able to match these if you go to the website noted in the first paragraph.  Happy  providence on that effort.  Other names are in the body of the letter.

Standing in back rows: Sisi, David holding Lydia Spanogle, Rachel and Greg, Heather and Jeff Spanogle, Ethan and Brian Yount, Adam Hancock; Seated adults: Junia Haas, Lorraine, Paul, DeAnn Yount; Seated children: Greg and Rachel’s five – Adrienne, Ben, Gabriele, Natalie holding Vivienne.  Happy Providence on names in other pictures.

Dear Family and Friends,

The annual Christmas picture above does not include everyone.  Some arrived later; so I am also sending you a web-site: https://goo.gl/photos/BgHoYZruef644qt26.  This will have a variety of shots including nearly all family members for 4 generations.  Our gracious Lord continues to bless our growing tribe.  I will mention just a few things about each family to help you pray for us as we do for you.  You have blessed us with many pictures and special greetings in your Christmas cards and we hope that our letter to you will lift you up in praise to our dear Savior.

David and Junia Haas continue their service to our Lord through their ministries in our Spring Hills Presbyterian church where Junia is Music Director and David is a Ruling elder and teaches an adult Sunday school class.  David is in his 35th year of teaching math at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis.  Boarding with them to attend WCA this year is “Sisi” from mainland China and Kris (not in picture) from Korea. Junia also remains active in teaching piano to children and youth.

Charysse Alexander continues to serve as executive director in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Atlanta, Georgia where she is also active in All Souls Fellowship church, now part of the EPC. Along with her office duties in Atlanta, she frequently travels to give lectures to fellow lawyers on various aspects of the law.  Runing is her key hobby these days.  She has run both the New York and Boston marathons, a number of half-marathons and runs in other events that keep her challenged and in shape. Her nieces and nephews greatly enjoy her periodic visit to their home cities.

Brian and DeAnn Yount live nearby and are active in Trinity Presbyterian church with us in Union, Missouri.  Brian continues his labors as an architect, though he has now completed his Master’s degree in a field that qualifies him to work in government intelligence.  DeAnn teaches counselling at UMSL and does part time family and child counselling in public schools.  Son Ethan just turned 16 and is enrolled with his 13 year old brother Jacob at Heritage Christian school.  Jacob has been suffering from undiagnosed health problems that have kept him out of school this year.  Please pray for him.

Greg and Rachel Alexander are still living in Sugarland, Texas, a suburb of Houston, where Greg is employed in the senior management of engineering firm, CDI.  His job demands are enormous, demanding much more travel than he likes.  Though the family was all active in a PCA church, they are now considering a move to another congregation where they see opportunities for fuller involvement.   The three older girls are now enrolled in public school and Gabrielle works part time as a hostess in a nearby restaurant.   The girls are all superb swimmers and I was privileged to watch them competing in events when I visited there last June.

A glimpse at David and Junia’s family: Heather (Haas) Spanogle and her husband Jeff now live in Wheaton, Illinois, where Jeff is working to get his Th.D. in Old Testament at Trinity Seminary.  Heather works at ESL, teaching English to foreign nationals and helping them get citizenship.  Joanna (Haas) Hancock and her husband Adam, live a few miles from us in St. Louis, where Joanna works as a nurse in a clinic.  Adam was recently elected a Deacon in their small PCA congregation and has an interesting job as a “bullet salesman” (don’t ask me to explain that).  Sarah Haas continues to work in films, a job that keeps her travelling to interesting places like Utah and nearby Colombia, Missouri.  She is promising to publish that documentary film on my last trip to Ukraine and we are waiting with baited breath.  Since his recent graduation from college, Philip Haas travelled for a year with a Sony contracted Christian music group that performed for churches, camps and conferences.  He tells us that changes are coming for him and we are enjoying watching where his “percussionist” career will take him.

Lorraine and I are also busy.  We stay fully engaged in the lives of our children and grandchildren who live near the Louis area.  It seemed wise to me to resign as Assistant Pastor at Trinity church, though we remain fully involved in that congregation.  I am now more free to write and blog and pursue a fascinating reading regimen.  I frequently teach Sunday school classes and supply the pulpit both at Trinity and at other nearby churches.   Lorraine’s back remains a problem but that hardly ever keeps her from participating both in church activities and family events – birthday parties, holiday dinners, school musicals etc.

The current election campaigns remind me of a great Christmas text from Isaiah 9:7: “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” This grand text is telling us that we are not limited to whatever these campaigners promise us. When Jesus came at Christmas, He came both to die for our sins, and to “increase His government and peace” throughout this sinful world.  Mysterious and almost unbelievable as this seems to us in our current historical circumstances, scripture authorizes us to believe that our “wonderful counsellor (Is. 9:6)” is at this very moment “governing”  this whole historical process toward His own ultimate Triumph and our ultimate Joy.

JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD HAS COME!

For the glory of the Lion/Lamb,

Paul and Lorraine Alexander

 

Conclusion: Many Splendored Thing #40

Conclusion: Many Splendored Thing #38

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION OF CHPATER 3

            What a magnificent provision God has made for man!

            He has loved us with a love so immense and so completely adapted to our needs that simple gratitude requires an eternal song of praise from “All people that on earth do dwell”, Psalm 100:1.     My prayer is that everyone reading these first 3 chapters is becoming more and more aware of the sheer greatness of God and His glorious provision for His beloved creature made in His image: mankind.

Yet there is such widespread misery, profound sorrow, and dreadful hatred among these persons made in His image. I have used my dear sister Georgianna and beloved brother Jim as examples. To me these dear ones have been something like a lens through which I have seen the struggling world, congregations to which I preach and foreign nations where I have traveled as a missionary. These are all people in such enormous need that we feel overwhelmed and desperate when we try to help.  A real danger is that we can become cynical, so intimidated by the horrors we see all around us that we sink into despair.  Why should we even try to do anything about it?

There is a good and Biblical answer to that despairing question.

The Holy Spirit keeps speaking to us through scripture, reminding us that He is presently at work.  He is telling us wonderful things in the Bible about Jesus working right now to restore all things to its original glory. Remember what God the Father said to Jesus, His only begotten Son, in Hebrews 1:13.  He said to Him  “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”  We should not have to scratch our heads long to figure out that this verse is telling us that there is an active conspiracy within the Trinity itself to transform our whole world.

Wonderful, optimistic texts like this abound in our Bibles, but I am not going to quote anymore, just advise you to be on the lookout for them.  Fill your heart with this kind of expectation and then you will be able to do whatever little thing that helps you help those struggling people, knowing you are part of that divine conspiracy. What we accomplish may seem small, but it is part of God’s sweeping plan to restore all things.

This optimistic approach which the Bible itself encourages is my own personal reason for being hopeful in behalf of people like my sister Georgiana and my brother Jim. It is why I keep right on preaching and teaching the “wonderful words of life” that I find in the Bible. Let’s join together in our hope and in our ongoing efforts to be a blessing to struggling people.

And stay with this book!

            We have just got started.

Next we are going to look at a man whom God used to change the course of history.

Chapter 4 will focus primarily on God’s work in the life of Abram/Abraham.  God loved Abram/Abraham and took a grand initiative with him, drawing him into a Covenantal Relationship with Himself.  Then God began using Abram and his descendants to bless our whole world.  The COVENANT takes on powerful new meaning through God’s amazing use of this sinner called Abram/Abraham.

            Chapter 4 will also begin to suggest some reasons why my sister Georgianna and brother Jim had to deal with the great sorrows that plagued their lives. It  will begin to show us how our Lord works by his miraculous grace through sinners like Abraham and like you and me to help our fellow sinners through these crises into “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).”

 

 

 

THREE COVENANTAL RELATIONSHIPS #39

I see Genesis 2 as the inspired account of God revealing the three Covenantal Relationships of mankind created in the image of God.  This is a bit lengthy, but it seems best to me to keep  it all together so that you can see the scope of God’s amazing work here: 

Root #2: The Splendor of Our Three Covenantal Relationships -Genesis 2

Though Genesis 2 covers a variety of subjects, I want to focus on a particular phenomenon that deserves more attention than it seems to have received to date. That phenomenon is the pattern of Covenantal Personal Relationships which I believe we should regard as key to this chapter. There are three of these, all of them characterized by God’s great love for His people.  These relationships occur in an order that is important in itself.  We will note this order as we study these Covenantal Relationships revealed in chapter 2.  The diagram on the facing page corresponds to the three Covenantal Relationships described here.

  1. Covenantal Relationship #1 – Covenantal Communion With God: 2:2-3

            “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” 

            God’s completion of creation called for a Celebration – a day of celebrative rest. Though Adam is not even mentioned in this text, it is unthinkable that God would have ignored him and left Adam out of His life on this 7th Day, the first day after God had created him.  We are fully justified in assuming that this God who “is love” (I John 4:8 and 16) would have, in effect, taken Adam by the hand on this seventh day and led him into the awesome joy of keeping the Sabbath holy with Him.

Though the full meaning of this wonderful reality is only implied in this passage, later scripture such as Exodus 20: 11-18 and the whole 23rd chapter of Leviticus make this implication abundantly clear: On the first full day of his life, Adam is drawn into celebration of Sabbath life and joy right alongside God Himself.  This is an absolutely remarkable reality.  Clearly, at this point, Adam is already in Covenantal Communion with God!  That means that God’s love for Adam and Adam’s love for God are the key dynamics in their relationship with one another.

This is a wonder of absolutely immense proportions. For a mere creature to live in loving Communion with God is the highest privilege imaginable. God had lifted this creature made of dirt into the heavenly realms! From creation onward Adam was promoted into the eternal glory. What a wonder of God’s infinite love!

Surely we should see this as an important part of God’s plan, impressing Adam/Mankind with the grand reality that COVENANTAL COMMUNION WITH GOD was the very foundation on which his whole life would be built. This is an important measure of God’s love for mankind.  For God Himself is recognizing man as the primary object of His love and therefore a central figure in the whole of Creation. For fuller treatment of this important truth, I heartily recommend the reading of chapter 12 of Creation and Change, Dr. Douglas Kelly’s excellent study of the “incomparable significance of the Sabbath day.”  By drawing mankind into His Sabbath, God is distinguishing man from everything else he created, crowning man with this key COVENANTAL RELATIONSHIP.

  1. Covenantal Relationship #2 – Covenantal Dominion For God: 2:15, 19-20

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it…

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

In this passage of scripture we see God assigning Adam his key task – DOMINION over the earth.  Because Adam lives in COMMUNION WITH GOD, he can be trusted to exercise DOMINION FOR GOD. In his book Far as the Curse Is Found, Dr. Michael Williams repeatedly refers to mankind as God’s “steward” *18.  Williams also frequently uses the word “Priest” (pages 113, 138, et. al.) to describe the role God has given mankind in relation to the world *19.  As God’s designated Steward, he is more than a farmer.  He is a Priest

mediating the glory and majesty of God to every creature and to every part of the world, making our world into a Temple filled with the awesome presence of God .

With these considerations in mind it becomes clear to us that mankind’s DOMINION task is the logical extension of the COMMUNION WITH GOD dynamic at work in the heart and life of Adam/Mankind.   The Garden of Eden would have been the perfect work environment.  Collins remarks, “such work under suchconditions must have been sheer delight for the man!”*20.  Adam’s work of naming the animals and cultivating the garden would be a great pleasure to him – something like an extension of the Sabbath, a different kind of celebration, but still a celebration. We might say that Adam moved from CLEBRATIVE REST to CLEBRATIVE WORK.  Life without sin was a continuous celebration of the pure joy of living in the presence of God and finding pleasure in doing the will of this high and holy Being, the living God.  Sabbath set the tone and Work extended the celebration into every day of Adam’s week.

Living, as WE do in this period after the moral disaster of Adam’s Fall into sin, we tend to paint work with a tar brush, seeing it only in terms of the frustration and drudgery that characterize work since the Fall.  This was not God’s original idea of work.  God intended Adam’s work to be the means of beautifying Eden first and then to continue what we might call the “Edenizing” process throughout the world.  God’s command to “have dominion, vs 26” and “subdue the earth” in vs 28 was not limited to Eden, but extended to the whole world which could become God’s Temple under the sinless Adam.

  1. Covenantal Relationship #3- Covenantal Marriage between Man and Woman: 2:23-24

23 The man said,“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

                The marriage of Adam and Eve is a fitting climax to chapter 2 of Genesis. It may even be seen as the climax of God’s entire work of Creation. As the first chapter rises to a kind of preparatory climax in the creation of man in God’s image, so the second chapter rises even higher to a full climax in the uniting of Adam and Eve in marriage. Though the word “covenant” is not used here, the Bible identifies marriage as a covenantal relationship in a text like Malachi 2:14, rebuking a man for forsaking his marriage partner because she is “the wife of your marriage covenant.”  We are pleased to recognize, therefore that Adam and Eve were joined in that beautiful covenantal relationship which we call marriage and that God Himself presided over this grand event.
There can be no question that the marriage of the man and the woman was a part of God’s original plan.             Covenantal Marriage between Man and Woman was necessary to complete the “Covenantal Relationships Plan” evident in Genesis 2. We should see “marriage love” as a unique creation of God.  This love establishes a bond between the genders and personalities of man and woman that goes beyond human ability to define.  It is another one of the mysterious wonders that God has created for us to celebrate with joy, though there is no way we can fully understand it.

As wonderful and mysterious as marriage love is, moreover, we should see it as a cornerstone of all human society. Families are the building blocks in all human culture.  It is the quality of love that exists in Biblical marriage that gives grace to our relationships in all of civil society – schools, governments, industry, science, art, music and athletics, all our endeavors that include human relationships. This God-created wonder of  “marriage love” then reaches out from the family and embraces the whole world, creating in turn all the tenderness, gentle care and thoughtfulness that characterizes Godly people and ennobles all human life.

In a beautiful and powerful way, “marriage love” speaks to us two other remarkable realities which God reveals to us in scripture.

First: We should see human marriage as A Reflection of Trinitarian Relationships.

            Relationships within the Trinity are relationships of perfect love enduring through all eternity. John 17 is a beautiful statement of this kind of love. The love of God the Father for God the Son, and of God the Son for God the Father.  In verse 24 of this chapter Jesus is telling his Father in Heaven that he wants his disciples “…to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”  That glory that Jesus wants his disciples to see is the glory of that perfect love between the members of the Godhead.

Though the Holy Spirit is not mentioned here, there is every Biblical reason to believe that the love the Father and Son shared was normative for all three members of the blessed Trinity.  I John 4:9 and 16 both tell us that God IS Loveand this obviously includes all three persons within the Godhead.  We may conclude that the three persons of the Trinity are bound together in an eternal bond of perfect Love.  What a wonderful, truly glorious model this is for human relationships as reflected in the quote from Anthony Hoekema  (footnote 16 above).  And this is exactly what God intended to be the keynote of marriage.

Yes, there are 3 persons in the Trinity and only 2 in Marriage.  But we are not saying that there is anything like identity between Biblical marriage and Trinitarian love, only that there is similarity.  And this similarity is the grand reality of that eternal love that binds Father, Son and Holy Spirit together.  This kind of loving marriage is the cornerstone of human society and a model not just for marriage but for all relationships throughout the world.  It is the reason why God says in Malachi 2:16, “I hate divorce”.  The fact is that God hates not only divorce but all distortions of Biblical marriage.

The first reason, therefore, that marriage is the climax to this second chapter is because it is such a beautiful picture of God’s loving COVENANTAL relationship with man.

Second: We should see human marriage as An Eschatological Model.

            Sorry, but I cannot apologize for using that long theological word – Eschatological.  Rather than apologize, I want to explain it as another “theological shorthand term”.  It really isn’t hard to learn what it means. Eschatological – is theological shorthand for “the doctrines of last things, all the things that are going to happen because the Kingdom of God is coming.”  Writers and speakers use the word Eschatological so they will not have to constantly repeat everything included in the bold print between the quotation marks. I hope that explanation helps to show the value of using this word.

Then I am ready to say that marriage which we find in this 2nd chapter of Genesis is given a truly grand eschatological significance in the 19th chapter of Revelation.  The point is that the gift of marriage which God gave to Adam and Eve at the very beginning of history is once again featured in a most beautiful way at the very end of human history. These two uses are like book-ends around history!!  What a wonder this is!  When God needed his highest and best symbolic language to communicate the glories of Heaven, he chose marriage to convey his meaning. .  This is why we must recognize marriage between a man and a woman  as so unspeakably grand and agree with all our hearts that it is the great climax, not only of Genesis 2 but of the whole of creation and finally of the whole of history.  We read in Revelation 19, verses 6-8:

“Then I heard what seemed like the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, Hallelujah!

            For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns.Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, For the MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB has come,   And his bride has made herself ready; It was granted her to clothe herself with white linen, bright and pure”

Then and angel appears to John the Apostle who is writing these amazing words and says to John:  “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”

But history does not end with the wedding invitation mentioned here.  History ends with the wedding itself and the marriage supper of the lamb that lasts for all eternity.  This is the glorious future of all who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  All the wars, all the troubles and sorrows of history, all the pain and grief and even all the joyful occasions of our earthly lives are completely swallowed up in this grand ESCHATOLOGICAL occasion. We will enter the fabulous “city foursquare” (Revelation 21) with its pearly gates, its golden streets, its bejeweled walls and then we will and spend all eternity delighting ourselves in the company of our great God, three in one, one in three. HALLELUJAH!

            There are no words in any human language that can even approximate the grandeur and the glory of our eternal sojourn in that city of eternal Joy.

(Next blog will be my conclusion of this third chapter)

 

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.