Archive for September 2011

He should have killed me in seminary

27 September 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 41. Why was our Mediator called Jesus?

A. Our Mediator was called Jesus, because he saves his people from their sins.

One of the most wretched experiences that God can grant a man is to ordain that he should go through seminary single. I tell you the truth, there is hardly a more miserable man on the earth than a single seminary student. By the grace of God, they are as blissfully unaware of their miserable condition, but every sane person around them know, and can smell it a mile away. I'm afraid young seminarians reek of desperation and boredom like boys reek of cologne at the eighth grade dance. The only thing that smells worse is an internet troll.

I know a lot of guys, and I have some friends in seminary right now who are single -- so I know of what I speak. This is not meant to be a total slam against seminary guys and girls who are studying to serve in the ministry. I love these people. I pray for them. I was one of them, and the only reason I know of the trial they are in is because, by God's grace, I survived it, was given a wife, a pastorate, and two children by an all-loving God who should have killed me in seminary.

The poor, young, seminary student is often under the erroneous impression, like the internet troll, that what he really needs is more knowledge and a position from which to dispense it. Mixed up in this longing to tell people all the mysteries of God is the longing, wishing, and hoping that God will finally grant him a wife. On a seminary campus, the ration of guys to girls seems to be about 42:1. This means that any hapless, single, relatively attractive young lady on that campus is being circled by (self-ignorant) predatory seminarians from the time she leaves one class until the time she sits through another. Some of the guys are oblivious to the fact that they are doing this. Some are embarrassed by the awareness that they are but feel they have little choice. Some call their pastors and tell them that they believe God wants them to be single forever because the humiliation of becoming one of those circling sharks is too great to bear.


This is why these guys wind up excommunicating one another over where one lands on the question of whether Jesus was able not to sin or not able to sin. As if that answer is going to revolutionize the evangelical church and explains why evangelicals are in such a state of disrepair. They have too much knowledge, too much testosterone, and no outlet for any of it. God bless their hearts.

All of this is by design. God will let his man burn for awhile with the passions of his flesh. He will let his man cry out in despair, become despondent, and wonder whether or not anybody cares, if God will ever grant him a wife, and whether or not he will ever be called to a church. These questions will drive him to near madness, like some kind of crazed bull who gets a whiff of a herd of cows but finds himself on the other side of a 8 foot fence.

For what reason does God do these things, and a million more, to his own servants? The reason is simple: until a man feels the wicked, unruly fire in his own flesh he can never have sympathy for another man caught in the throes of his own. Young men, full of potential, talent, and love for God are put through the fire that they might learn to be gentle with God's precious flock. God isn't seeking zealous men who love to fuss and beat others about the head and shoulders for their nincompoopery. We have plenty of those guys already. He is looking for a shepherd who is patient with the flock, who is able to bear their sorrows, and who knows that deliverance is at hand for all the trouble that a bleating sheep will encounter.  I truly hope that you serve with a church full of men and women that know exactly what I am talking about.

But above all, God is looking to make leaders who understand why He named His beloved son Jesus. God named Him Jesus "because he saveth his people from their sins." Pastors need to know that. Missionaries need to know that. Pastor's wives need to know that.

You need to know that.

To Do Everything

26 September 2011 by Neil

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.

The Son of God became incarnate (i.e. human).  Why did he become one of us?  It seems radical.  There must have been another way.  Mustn't there?

The path to the answer tracks directly through Matthew 5:17-22, where Jesus tells us that the Mosaic Law, the covenant of works with all its constituent commands and penalties, remains operative and valid until past the world's end, and that it must be fulfilled and kept.  Kept by man.  Kept completely by man, not dropping the ball even once.

Yes, the Law was a tutor to inform us of our sin and to leave us without the pretense of excuse.  No, none of us can keep it.  Yes, that's a catch-22.  We're toast.  Baptists, Zoroastrians, Methodists, Tom Cruisians, Solomon Porchdwellers, Dawkins Disciples, mormons, and calvinist gadflies... we're all lost.  None of those labels describe anyone that comes close to keeping the old covenant of works, and the consequences for breaching the covenant are fatal.

But, Jesus also tells us in Matthew 5:17-22 why he came to earth as a human: to do everything that the covenant of works demanded... to fulfill the Law.  Jesus did this impossible thing as a man, the second Adam, on behalf of man, to qualify himself as a mediator for humans, in order to save humans.  He would have accomplished nothing if he weren't God (see question 38), but because he was also 100% human, his lawful life and sacrificial death in their stead saved humans.

But not all humans (Luke 13:22-30).  The raw fact is that Jesus himself plainly taught that most people will not enter into the kingdom of God.  And the famous John 14:6 tells us that Christ is the only way.  He's the only human that never dropped the ball.   There is no one else that can save you (Acts 4:11-12), there is no one else that will judge you, and there is no one else that will decide whether you get to approach the Father. If your get-to-heaven plan relies even the teensiest bit on the merits of anyone other than the man Christ Jesus, then your afterlife will be icky.

Before Us

21 September 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.

We are in a sad, sorry state. Every last one of us is going to die. We all know this in a theoretical way, in the same way you know that passing a kidney stone hurts even if you've never passed one. But at some point in life, we all come to the startling realization that "middle-aged" means "halfway to dead", and once the birthdays start to click past 35 we begin to panic.

Maybe you looked in the mirror this morning and you saw more lines around your eyes. Maybe you've noticed more gray in your hair than you used to see. You've also noticed that your spouse isn't getting any more handsome or lovely. Both of you, frankly, are getting a little pudgy. You can't keep your original hair color, the vigor of your youth, or your silky smooth skin. It doesn't matter. (You really weren't as great as you think you used to be anyway)  So before you reach for that Grecian hair formula, get in hock for that convertible, or God forbid, ditch the wife of your youth to troll for younger women, remember that Jesus turned death into a finish line, not oblivion. He ran this race before us, as a man just like us, and he beckons us to run well to win the prize.

Two years ago, I ran my first half-marathon. My wife took pictures of me along the way. At mile two, I looked happy. I was smiling and waving to the camera, and generally hamming it up. At mile eleven, I looked like I was running out of a concentration camp I had stayed at for too long. I had no smile. I didn't wave to the camera. It was agony. The wretched course designers decided that mile 11 to 12 would be uphill! But an amazing thing happened at mile 13. I had only a tenth of a mile to go. I began to run faster despite the pain. I wore a sort of grimace that could actually be mistaken for a smile. See, my wife was on the other side of that line, and she was cheering for me, as were my kids. There was free pizza on the other side of that line, and all the sports drinks I could consume.

Here is the best part of it all: the next year, my wife ran the half-marathon with me. We bought an obnoxious little "13.1" sticker to go on the back glass of our Jeep to commemorate our accomplishment.

Don't get stuck on the glories of mile 2, brothers and sisters. I know you were smiling back then, and you were waving to the camera. But it still hurt, and you had a long, long way to go. The point of the race is to finish it. Finish well. If you do, Jesus Himself will crown you victor.


Unquenchable Life

20 September 2011 by Daniel

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.


When we speak of the Christ as being eternally the Son of God we are not saying God created the Son or that the Son was born in some way; what we are saying is that God who ordains commands God who obeys through the power of God who performs. To convey that notion to creation, God has described God who ordains as "God the Father", and God who obeys as "God the Son" and God who performs as "God the Holy Spirit". Though the language is imperfect, I think we have enough to understand that Christ was eternally God "the Son", equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, having no beginning, and no end.

The scriptures tell us, in perhaps the greatest recorded understatement ever written, that the Son of God emptied Himself, allowing Himself to be "made" in the likeness of man (cf. Philippians 2). Don't get confused by the language there either, the "likeness of man" does not imply that He looked like a man but wasn't - it means He was made, in every way, a man. In the moment that Mary conceived, the Son of God entered into creation as a living man with a living soul.

The Son of God had become the incarnate Christ. In doing so He did not stop being the Son of God. He became the second Adam: a man born into this sinful world who was free from Adam's curse. It follows therefore that all that was true of Adam before the fall would have been true of Christ in the incarnation, and this not because of the Christ's divinity, but because of His humanity; for God originally created man to be in fellowship with Him. So the Christ grew up in the presence of God, and aware of God, not because He was God the Son, but because He was a man who was not under Adam's curse.

But Jesus was not only a man, He was also God the Son. He had possessed as God (in eternity) an unquenchable life - and it was this same unquenchable life that those who were joined to Christ were baptized into when they were born again (i.e. from above). This creation was cursed and will be destroyed, but God is going to make a new heavens and a new earth after these are no more. To get from one to the other we need a boat capable of sailing between the two creations - an ark if you will; an ark made of materials that transcend this creation, lest it be undone, along with those in it, when this creation is likewise undone.

Christ, being the eternal Son of God, possessed the only life that capable of transcending the destruction of this present creation. His death satisfied God's wrath for our sin, but without His life - a life that transcends this creation, He could bring no one into the new creation. It was therefore necessary for the Christ to be both the Son of God and a man, for only in this way could He "mediate" our salvation.

Is this even possible?

16 September 2011 by Tom Chantry

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.


Editor's note: today, after many threats of violence and exposure to grief, beloved internet troublemaker Tom Chantry joins the rolls of Gadfly contributors.  His wife and I are proud of him; he, on the other hand, is certain nothing good will come of it.

The doctrine of incarnation has seemed to some less than vital, but to suggest this is to misunderstand the interconnections of theology. Questions 38 through 40 of the WLC indicate that this misunderstanding is nothing new: “Why was it requisite…?” “Requisite” is a more precise word than “necessary”; its necessity relates to the accomplishment of a particular end. The Deity and Humanity of our Lord are requisite to the end of redemption; without them, we would not be saved.

To understand this, we need look no further than the doctrine of the atonement.

“Jesus is only one person; how could one person’s death pay the penalty for the sins of many?” That is a question I have been asked both by well-educated adults and by kids on their first pass through the "Catechism for Young Children." A number of other questions lurk behind this first and most obvious inquiry: Jesus was only dead for a few days; how is that a fair exchange for the sinner’s eternal death? Jesus' death was terrible, but then He knew that He was going to rise again; how is that a fair substitution for any “normal” death?


Indeed, the doctrine of the atonement is one which indirectly points to Christ's deity, insofar as the substitution of one for many requires the One to be extraordinary. The teaching of Scripture is that when Jesus had suffered for a few hours on the cross and expired, the Father’s wrath was propitiated - wrath which otherwise would have sent untold thousands of His people into eternal fire. Further, the atonement was sufficient for all the sins of the human race, from Adam forward.

This is so because His Deity “gave worth and efficacy to His suffering.” Were He not very God of very God, there is no way in which He could have redeemed the elect, unless the Father had been willing to accept a token sacrifice. The whole Old Testament points to the inefficacy of token sacrifices, though. Christ’s death was no token; His infinite worth lent efficacy to His terrible death.

Yet can God suffer and die for man? Is this even possible, let alone just?

Indeed, it was requisite, if the wrath of God against men was to be assuaged, that the sacrifice be a man. Thus God the Son became man that He might “suffer and make intercession for us in our nature.” So our advocate is a Man, but one possessed of the infinite worth and power of God.

The stated goal of redemption was the rescue of sinners from the wrath of a holy God. Certain conditions were necessarily met before that end could be accomplished without any rupture in the perfect justice of the Almighty Judge: namely that the Mediator be God, and that He be Man.

Try That, Tinker Bell

15 September 2011 by David Regier

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.


This summer our family was able to do more than the usual amount of theme-parking around Southern California. All in all, I had a great time introducing the little ones to new gradients of fear and stomach churning. And if you want to understand how church works in Southern California, you would do well to visit the theme parks first.

That said, the various Lands and Worlds that grasp for our pocketbooks have a tremendous fascination with the number One. Wherever you go, it's unity. I mean, it's a small world, after all (aren't you glad I got that going through your head?). At Sea World after one of the big production numbers, my son said to me, "It seems like they want us all to worship the ocean." Because that's what connects us all, you see. One world, one people, one ocean.

But if I sin against the ocean (and who can fail to sin against the ocean), who's going to defend me? Shamu? It should be noted that even his gentle handlers may no longer swim with him. Not even their friendship can assuage his wrath against us all, no matter how many times we sing the mantras. And what happens in the small world to Cruella deVil, Captain Hook and Jafar? They are forgotten forever, and no amount of imagineering can revive them.

But God, our God, does not work in this way. He does not save by a mantra. He does not rescue with an idea. He instead gave us His Son, who took on flesh, laying aside His privileges, becoming like us and then dying on a cross. In doing this He was reconciling the world to Himself, not by our penance or a carbon offset, but by His own blood.

And somehow the result of this flesh and blood redemption is a unity born not of the will of man, but of the Spirit of God. And this unity is in Christ; fully God that we might be saved from His wrath, fully man that we might receive the adoption as sons. In Christ, our unity has been purchased for us.

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a break from explaining every mystery

14 September 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.

So tell me, Christian, how exactly did the eternal Son of God become a man? No, really. How did the infinite God of the Universe stoop to become a real man? He did an all-knowing, all-powerful God wind up as a real baby who needed his diaper changed? How did it come to pass that he needed to learn obedience? Or to speak Aramaic? Did Joseph have to smack toddler Jesus on the hand to keep him from grabbing the razor sharp planer? Or did you think that Jesus instinctively knew not to touch dangerously sharp objects because he was and is God?

The Eternal God became man, really? The Greeks believed that Zeus was a god, and that he turned into a bull to chase women around the Parthenon, right? Isn't that ridiculous? Do you really think the Son of God came down from Heaven and became a cooing, diaper-wetting baby named Jesus? How is it that Christianity's wild claims about the God-man are any different that Zeus' ill-begotten offspring like Hercules?


I'm not trying to disturb you, brother or sister. I'm trying to rock you and me out of the doldrums of an unthinking and less-than-spectacular faith. You believe in a God-man. You believe in a God who is three persons and one being. You believe that your God made worlds and stars out of nothing. His speech flung stars into flight and made the "space" for them to stay in. You believe a Jewish man, born in a little hamlet in the Middle East with a population 300 or so, grew up to conquer death for you.

You believe in the fantastic! When the naturalist comes to you and tut-tuts because you say you believe in a "literal" Adam, and original sin, or sin at all for that matter, don't worry about it. You believe all kinds of things that would offend his little natural mind all sorts of ways -- and it doesn't cause you any trouble. 

I can imagine someone asking me, "Brad, how did your wife come to love you?" I suppose if I were so inclined, I might talk to you about how the brain works, and how certain neurons fired, and I might pontificate about certain chemical reactions that took place at our first meetings and conversations. We might even look at real-time brain scans of people falling in love and say, "Behold the science of love!" But seriously, is that all there is? And would that answer the question of why it was me she loved and not her previous boyfriend? (God forbid!) See, I like that it was magic from God that made my wife desire me. I like to think that it was something other than a mere chemical reaction that made her want to kiss me. If the naturalist wants to say that's all it was, he can go hang for all I care. I know better.

There are lots of things that I don't know that I do not really feel all that compelled to explain. I don't know what it means for there to be nothing before there was something. I don't know how God can be three persons and one being. I don't know how it is that all of God became Jesus. I don't know how it is that toddler Jesus (if we may say this reverently) was potty trained. I don't understand how after the glory got out on the Mount of Transfiguration that Jesus managed to pull it all back in.

The catechism doesn't really explain how Jesus became a man. It simply says that 'he took to himself a true body, a reasonable soul, was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and was born of her without sin'. There are more "how did he do that?" questions in the answer than there was in the original question, right? Sometimes, Christian, we ought to relax for bit. We ought to allow ourselves a break from explaining every mystery of God so people can "get it". We ought to sit back and say, "I know these things are true, and that they are lovely, and that they add up to a far, far better and more satisfying explanation for why I am here and what I am supposed to be doing while I'm here, and that's good enough for me."

The Little First Word

13 September 2011 by Neil

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.

Thirty-Seven is one of the hinge questions of salvation and redemption. It may actually be the hinge question of the entire Bible. But to illuminate this, we have to take another look at the little first word "how".

You know we be gittin' too erudite when we wanna poke the entrails of the first word of the question. But it is beneficial in this case. The sense of some of these anglo-saxon utility words has morphed since the Long Parliament of treasonous squires commissioned the Larger Catechism. Even today, "HOW" could mean a lot of things, at least according to dictionary.com:

how
1.in what way or manner; by what means?: How did the accident happen?
2.to what extent, degree, etc.?: How damaged is the car?
3.in what state or condition?: How are you?
4.for what reason; why?: How can you talk such nonsense?
5.to what effect; with what meaning?: How is one to interpret his action?
6.what?: How do you mean? If they don't have vanilla, how about chocolate?
7.(used as an intensifier): How seldom I go there!
8.by what title or name?: How does one address the president?
9.at what price: How are the new cars going, cheaper than last year's models?
10.by what amount or in what measure or quantity?: How do you sell these tomatoes?
11.in what form or shape?: How does the demon appear in the first act of the opera? How does the medication come?

And that's just the contemporary adverb form of the word. Let's plug a few of these definitions into question #37 and see what we might be asking.
  • In what way or manner and by what means did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
  • To what extent or degree did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
  • In what state or condition did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
  • Why? For what reason did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
  • To what effect and with what meaning did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
  • At what price did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
  • By what amount or in what measure or quantity did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
  • In what form or shape did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
The catechism writers certainly didn't have every one of these variants in mind, but they're good questions all, don't you think?  We could do a lot worse in the 2 Timothy 2:15 part of our walk than to pursue their answers, even though the questions are mighty and difficult.  Spirit-directed study of the Word should be our engine to tackle them. Yet, wise church councils were wrestling with the weightier ones seventeen hundred years ago and you may want to think about standing on their shoulders.  But this side of the glass, the complete answers to some of these questions are simply beyond us... the full nature and implications of the incarnation are too marvelous.

But don't let that stop you.  God became human flesh (John 1:14).  God grieved, sorrowed and faced death as a human (Matthew 26:38).  God put aspects of his exalted overeverythingness in his pocket, and instead set to serving his creation as the lowest of all of them (Philippians 2:7).  God was an impossible zygote implanting in a virgin's uterus (Luke 1:27, 31, 35), and then he was a toothless newborn in a barn (Luke 2:7).  God inhabited sinews and synapses, bones and glands, and a body full of arteries coursing with blood, for the sole purpose of spilling that same blood in order to free slaves (Hebrews 2:14-17).  God did this. The Son of God became human, and he still is.

He Appoints Himself

12 September 2011 by Matt Gumm

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.

When God created human beings, we had a single representative in Adam. Scripture records his failure, and the result for us all. As time goes by, God deals with other individuals, in various means and in various ways. Then, when the time is right, God does something extraordinary: He appoints Himself as our representative.

Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians. After giving his wonderful Gospel summary in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, Paul goes on to expand his theme of the resurrection of the dead, and compares the “first Adam” who brought death upon humanity to the “second Adam” who brings life to all who believe (1 Cor. 15:21–23).
Just as Adam’s death sealed our physical fate, Christ’s resurrection is the bloom of the promised redeemer and the hope of the future reconciliation. In Paul’s words, just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will bear the image of the man of heaven. And all of this is made possible through God’s representative—the one and only mediator—the man Christ Jesus.

That He May Not Fail Us

09 September 2011 by Frank Turk


Jesus lays down three titles, as if he had said that he is the beginning, and the middle, and the end; and it follows that we ought to begin with him, to continue in him, and to end in him. We certainly ought not to look for higher wisdom than that which leads us to eternal life, and he testifies that this eternal life  -- "the life" -- is to be found in him. Now the method of obtaining life is to become new creatures. He declares that we ought not to seek it anywhere else, and, at the same time, reminds us, that he is the way, by which alone we can arrive at it. For example, in order that he may not fail us in any respect, he stretches out a hand to those who are going astray, and stoops so low as to guide even babies. Presenting himself as a leader, he does not leave his people in the middle of the course, but makes them participants in the truth. And as they partake, he makes them enjoy the fruit of it, which is the most brilliant and wonderful thing that can be imagined.

As Christ is "the way", the weak and ignorant have no reason to complain that they are left out by him; and as he is "the truth" and "the life", he has in himself also what is fitted to satisfy perfectly. In short, Christ now affirms, concerning happiness, what I have also said concerning the object of faith: all believe and acknowledge that the happiness of man lies in God alone, but they afterwards go wrong in the same way. Seeking God somewhere other than in Christ, they take away his true and solid Dignity.

Regarding “The truth,” some believe it means the revelation from Heaven of salvation; others say it is the substance of all spiritual blessings as opposed to shadowy figures since John said, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, (John 1:17.) My opinion is that the truth here means the perfection of faith as “the way” means its beginning and first elements. The whole may be summed up thus: “If any man walks away from Christ, he will do nothing but be lost because he is off the way; if any man does not rest on him, he will toil forever as if vainly blown around by the wind because he is without the truth; and if any man is not satisfied with him alone, and wishes to go farther, he will find death instead of life.”

-- Commentary on John 14:6

Not that Kind of Mediator

08 September 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 36. Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace?


A. The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fullness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.

Let us consider what a mediator is and why it is important to see that Jesus has two natures. A mediator is someone who gets between two parties in order to bring about reconciliation. The Lord Jesus Christ, as both God and man, is able to understand and represent men because he is himself a man. He is able to understand God because he himself is God. This is why Paul writes in Colossians, "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross" (Col. 1:19-20).

Jesus, as the God-man, is and can be the only mediator. The Father gave to Adam's race a simple and just command: Do Not Eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or You Will Surely Die! Adam broke that command and all his progeny with him, and we have been clamoring for forbidden fruit ever since. We love sin so much that we have come to think that erring is human. It isn't. Sin is not an essential part of what it means to be human; sin is an aberration. It is a subtraction from humanity, and it makes us all less than we should be.

Far from being a mediator who overlooks and downplays our sins, Jesus is a mediator who has "in every respect been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Jesus was tempted, as a man like me, and he said, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve" (Matt. 4:10). Jesus, the son of man, never bowed to sin. He never rose to the bait; no matter how sorely his flesh vexed him, he remained sinless. His humanity does not excuse our sin in the least; it makes our sin appear utterly sinful. Jesus can say, "Your humanity, your frailty, is no excuse. I, too, am a man." Jesus will not abide any excuse for sin; he is not that kind of mediator.

Jesus as mediator wasn't working on a compromise at Calvary whereby wretched men would give up a bit of their wretchedness in exchange for the favor of a justly angry God. He came to mediate in an earth destroying, family splitting, heart rending manner. He came to deliver a final ultimatum: repent or perish. He doesn't have to say that as God only; he can say it as a man who has no need of repentance.

The terms, then, are simple and very gracious. Jesus, as the representative of Adam's sinful race, has sacrificed himself to the just wrath of God for the justification and sanctification of wicked men. God has declared that anyone who will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, repent from their sin, and love his darling Son will be justly and immediately reconciled to himself. To refuse him means facing the righteous indignation of both the Mediator and the God who sent him. In the end, whether one is a saint or reprobate, all will be reconciled to the fact that Jesus is Lord of All.

In Spite of 100,000 Seminarians

07 September 2011 by Frank Turk

Q. 36. Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace?


A. The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fullness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.



In spite of being a blogger, with the reputation of being a little rabid, you'll be relieved to know that I suspect that most of you who are reading are Christians -- that is, like the people in Antioch who were first called by that name, you have heard the Gospel even if it's only the Gospel a guy like Barnabas would preach as opposed to an apostle like Paul, and you believed it, and you have been trained up in some way. And you're might be in something like ministry, right? Maybe it's not full time, but you're at least committed to your church and your elders or pastors to try to do what's right for people. And let me say that if you're not one of the people I just described, you should be.

But why? Why should you be anything in particular rather than someone who is doing what is right in his own eyes, and then calling that "Christian" or "Christian Ministry"? My opinion here is that it's not because I have a really clever argument, or that 100,000 Westminster seminarians and professors can't be wrong. It's because Jesus of Nazareth is a real person.

But hold on -- I know that sounds obvious, OK? But here's what I'm thinking: at some point, everything that we do which is clever or confessional has to get put in the same box as the man Jesus, who was crucified.

My brother-in-law David tells a story about the first time he visited Boston. David's ex-military, and he says that he can remember all through school people told him about American history -- about the events that happened that caused us to be a country, the list of facts. But in Boston, he found himself out in the harbor looking down into the water, and when he looked into the water and out at the harbor he realized: "Wow. This is were they dropped the tea into the harbor." And at that moment, all those men and all the stories about them weren't just facts or true statements anymore: the real people became obvious to him, and it changed the way he thought about our country and his part in it.

It reminds me of the end of the story of Job, after all the boils and marauders and donkeys and friends telling Job how it was all his fault, Job tells God, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you, and I repent." For My brother-in-law David, American history became real when the facts weren't just facts; for Job, God stopped being a story when he finally saw YHVH with his own eyes.

That's why we have to see Jesus as a real person. I mean, Jesus is God, but he didn't try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Jesus was humble the way only God can be humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. And when we say this, and we must say that Jesus died on a  cross, when we tell people this, they should get it -- as if we said something like, "this is where they dropped the tea into the harbor."

Jesus is not just some icon of spiritual truth; his story is not just a story about truth: he's the one guy who understands our weaknesses because he has suffered through them, and then he died for them.

It wasn't just a game-changer when the angels sang, "Glory to God in the Highest! And on Earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests!" It was God becoming man.  It was something bigger than we can ever imagine, but that we can in fact receive and rejoice in.  And now it's our problem to catch up with that -- to live as if that really happened, so we can make much of this Jesus, and enjoy him forever.

If we forget that, the rest of this stuff is just a hobby that makes us look pathetic -- or worse, a way we make ourselves look good and feel good in spite of who we really are. But the people in Antioch, when they heard about the real Jesus according to Barnabas, they stuck with it. They wanted to know more, and Barnabas had to send for Paul -- a guy who knew the Scripture, and knew the real Jesus -- to teach about this real guy, and to live as if he really did walk out of the grave and now sits at the right hand of the father -- because the simple proclamation was not enough. They needed someone to teach them well, so that in Antioch the disciples could be first called Christian.

Those aren't just big words: that's the way God changed the game for the whole world, and now you and me have to do something about it -- because he's real.
-- Edited and republished from 2010, The Nines

Pile Upon Pile

01 September 2011 by David Regier

1 Shortly after the beginning was the Idea, and the Idea was about WHWH(a), and the Idea was Weh-weh. 2 It was in the beginning, about Weh-weh. 3 Nothing really came into being through the Idea, but apart from it we really wouldn't have had Weh-weh. 4 In it was an explanation, and the explanation gave men something to do with their time. 5 The Idea flickers in the darkness, and the darkness is just fine with that.


6 There came a bunch of men throughout history who thought about Weh-weh, and their name was legion. 7 They came as deep thinkers, to proclaim the Idea, so that the Idea might have their names attached to it. 8 They were not the Idea, but they talked about it as if they were.

9 There was the Big Idea, which, hanging around in the world, captures the fancy of every man. 10 It was in the world, and though it didn't have anything to do with the making of the world, the world jumped all over it. 11 It popped into their heads, and they went for it. 12 And as many as thought about the Idea, they asserted the right to be little Weh-wehs themselves (though not by that name), 13 even though they were pretty much like everybody else, only more mystical-looking.

14 And the Idea rejected flesh as being unbecoming of an Idea, and we saw that it was special, as if it were an Idea straight from Weh-weh, full of sound and fury(b). 15 Everybody talked about the Idea and cried out, saying, "This is the Idea that is greater than me, but be sure you attach my name to whatever religion comes after me, for I thought of it first." 16 For to its fullness we have all contributed, pile upon pile. 17 For the world keeps on working the way it does, but the Idea promises us some kind of escape. 18 Positively everyone has entertained the Idea at some time; but Weh-weh, well, he pretty much explains everything.


(a) In all probability pronounced Weh-weh, with a nasal whine like a fussy baby’s cry. Some scholars prefer Wha-wha, in descending tones, similar to the sad trombone sound.
(b) Some manuscripts say, "Full of piss and vinegar."

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