Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

May 20, 2016
by Paul Tautges

If God Is Sovereign, Isn’t Prayer Superfluous?

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin gives us 6 reasons the providence of God does not render prayer unnecessary.

“But, someone will say, does God not know, even without being reminded, both in what respect we are troubled and what is expedient for us, so that it may seem in a sense superfluous that he should be stirred up by our prayers—as if he were drowsily blinking or even sleeping until he is aroused by our voice? But they who thus reason do not observe to what end the Lord instructed his people to pray, for he ordained it not so much for his own sake as for ours. Now he wills—as is right—that his due be rendered to him, in the recognition that everything men desire and account conducive to their own profit comes from him, and in the attestation of this by prayers. But the profit of this sacrifice also, by which he is worshiped, returns to us. Accordingly, the holy fathers, the more confidently they extolled God’s benefits among themselves and others, were the more keenly aroused to pray. It will be enough for us to note the single example of Elijah, who, sure of God’s purpose, after he has deliberately promised rain to King Ahab, still anxiously prays with his head between his knees, and sends his servant seven times to look [1 Kings 18:42], not because he would discredit his prophecy, but because he knew it was his duty, lest his faith be sleepy or sluggish, to lay his desires before God.

Therefore, even though, while we grow dull and stupid toward our miseries, he watches and keeps guard on our behalf, and sometimes even helps us unasked, still it is very important for us to call upon him:

  1. First, that our hearts may be fired with a zealous and burning desire ever to seek, love, and serve him, while we become accustomed in every need to flee to him as to a sacred anchor.
  2. Secondly, that there may enter our hearts no desire and no wish at all of which we should be ashamed to make him a witness, while we learn to set all our wishes before his eyes, and even to pour out our whole hearts.
  3. Thirdly, that we be prepared to receive his benefits with true gratitude of heart and thanksgiving, benefits that our prayer reminds us come from his hand [cf. Ps. 145:15–16].
  4. Fourthly, moreover, that, having obtained what we were seeking, and being convinced that he has answered our prayers, we should be led to meditate upon his kindness more ardently.
  5. And fifthly, that at the same time we embrace with greater delight those things which we acknowledge to have been obtained by prayers.
  6. Finally, that use and experience may, according to the measure of our feebleness, confirm his providence, while we understand not only that he promises never to fail us, and of his own will opens the way to call upon him at the very point of necessity, but also that he ever extends his hand to help his own, not wet-nursing them with words4 but defending them with present help.

On account of these things, our most merciful Father, although he never either sleeps or idles, still very often gives the impression of one sleeping or idling in order that he may thus train us, otherwise idle and lazy, to seek, ask, and entreat him to our great good.

Therefore they act with excessive foolishness who, to call men’s minds away from prayer, babble that God’s providence, standing guard over all things, is vainly importuned with our entreaties, inasmuch as the Lord has not, on the contrary, vainly attested that “he is near … to all who call upon his name in truth” [Ps. 145:18, cf. Comm. and Vg.]. Quite like this is what others prate: that it is superfluous for them to petition for things that the Lord is gladly ready to bestow, while those very things which flow to us from his voluntary liberality he would have us recognize as granted to our prayers. That memorable saying of the psalm attests this, and to it many similar passages correspond: “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears toward their prayers” [1 Peter 3:12; Ps. 34:15; cf. 33:16, Vg.]. This sentence so commends the providence of God—intent of his own accord upon caring for the salvation of the godly—as yet not to omit the exercise of faith, by which men’s minds are cleansed of indolence. The eyes of God are therefore watchful to assist the blind in their necessity, but he is willing in turn to hear our groanings that he may the better prove his love toward us. And so both are true: “that the keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” [Ps. 121:4, cf. Comm.], and yet that he is inactive, as if forgetting us, when he sees us idle and mute.”[1]

[1] Calvin, J. (2011). Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. (J. T. McNeill, Ed., F. L. Battles, Trans.) (Vol. 1, pp. 851–853). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

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May 20, 2016
by Paul Tautges

Nuggets [5/20/16]

5 Reasons to Join the Global Summit – “Even if you cannot travel to the Chicago area, that doesn’t need to stop you from experiencing the blessings of learning about how God is using biblical counseling to expand his kingdom purposes all over the world.”

Plain Preaching – I’m totally with Joel Beeke on this. Evangelicalism desperately needs more plain preaching. In my opinion, it is our greatest need.

Why Are We Flushing Thousands of Years Down the Toilet?  – “Why would the President and his supporters want to obliterate thousands of years of the most basic distinction of the planet? We’re left shaking our heads utterly perplexed. Why, why, why? Here are the only reasons I can think of…”

What’s the Compassionate Approach to the Transgender Bathroom Debate? – “Compassion is needed, that is for sure. But the discussion needs to center on the real protection of women and children rather than protection of the transgender movement. Compassion calls for wisdom and recognition of whose rights are actually being trampled.”

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May 16, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Working Out Our Own Salvation

Working Out Our Own Salvation

As believers, we long to be more like Christ but some days we feel we are taking three steps forward and two steps back. How do we approach the Christian life? How do we make steady progress in our spiritual growth? How can we overcome sin and become more like Christ? The teaching in Philippians 2:12-13 is key to answering these questions. But first, let’s think about two unbiblical extremes, popular imbalances in our understanding of sanctification.

Error #1: “Let Go and Let God” (Quietism)

The first unbiblical extreme we must avoid is the “Let God and Let God” approach that is also known as Keswick theology. According to an article written by New Testament professor Andrew Naselli, entitled “Why ‘Let Go and Let God’ Is a Bad Idea,” Keswick theology comes from the early Keswich movement, named after the small town in northwest England which has hosted an annual weeklong meeting on the deeper spiritual life since 1875.

Keswick theology is “one of the most significant strands of second-blessing theology. It assumes that Christians experience two ‘blessings.’ The first is getting ‘saved,’ and the second is getting serious. The change is dramatic: from a defeated life to a victorious life; from a lower life to a higher life; from a shallow life to a deeper life; from a fruitless life to a more abundant life; from being ‘carnal’ to being ‘spiritual’; and from merely having Jesus as your Savior to making Jesus your Master. People experience this second blessing through surrender and faith: ‘Let go and let God.’”[1]

This theology is “appealing because Christians struggle with sin and want to be victorious in that struggle now. Keswick theology offers a quick fix, and its shortcut to instant victory appeals to genuine longings for holiness….You can tell that Keswick theology has influenced people when you hear a Christian ‘testimony’ like this: ‘I was saved when I was eight years old, and I surrendered to Christ when I was seventeen.’”

This kind of theology is sometimes put in the category of Quietism. Quietists believe that the will of the Christian is quiet, or passive in sanctification. Concerning Quietism, John MacArthur writes, “Quietism tends to be mystical and subjective, focusing on personal feelings and experiences. A person who is utterly submitted to and dependent on God, they say, will be divinely protected from sin and led into faithful living. Trying to strive against sin or to discipline oneself to produce good works is considered to be not only futile but unspiritual and counterproductive.”[2] In short, Quietism is a less than biblical approach to pursuing holiness.

Error #2: Pietism

A second unbiblical extreme is known as Pietism. Pietists are “aggressive in their pursuit of correct doctrine and moral purity. Historically, this movement originated in seventeenth-century Germany as a reaction to the dead orthodoxy of many Protestant churches. To their credit, most pietists place strong emphasis on Bible study, holy living, self-discipline, and practical Christianity….Yet they often stress self-effort to the virtual exclusion of dependence on divine power.”[3]

Pietism, as a movement, emphasized many good things in the area of spiritual disciplines and the mutual encouragement and exhortation of believers. However, it has its downsides as well. Pietism is often the parent of legalism, which is a false measurement of spirituality stemming from a dependence upon adherence to the law in place of resting in faith. Pietistic tendencies also tend to feed what I like to call “The New Pharisaism,” which is an over-emphasis on externals, and the addition of extra-biblical rules and regulations to the neglect of the internal issues of the heart. The New Pharisaism is also characterized by a hyper-critical spirit toward believers who fail to conform to the Pharisee’s demands.

Both Quietism and Pietism fail. Both of these unbiblical extremes fail in the same way: They place importance upon only one side of the process of sanctification. Quietism places emphasis upon resting in God by faith, while Pietism places emphasis upon the diligent, unrelenting pursuit of holiness. But growing in Christ requires both personal responsibility and a dependence upon God in faith.

I am personally indebted to Jerry Bridges who helped me to understand the importance of keeping these two equally true concepts in tension with one another. Now, keeping them in balance continues to be a journey for me. In his first book, The Pursuit of Holiness (1978), he emphasized every Christian’s personal responsibility to be diligent in godliness. God expects us to wage war against the remaining sin in our lives and run the Christian race with great effort. We are not to flirt with sin, but fight against it. In a later book, Transformed by Grace (1991), he wrote of the energizing power of God’s grace to transform us into Christlikeness. In that book, he warned believers to beware of the “Performance Treadmill,” the never-ending tendency to base our relationship with God upon our personal, spiritual performance. Then, in 1993, he wrote The Discipline of Grace, which combined personal responsibility and divine empowerment into one. The book’s subtitle says it all: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness. Philippians 2:12-13 keeps before us—in equal balance—both of these two truths: personal responsibility and divine empowerment.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We are fully responsible for our own spiritual growth.

We are commanded to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, with sober-mindedness (1 Peter 1:13-16; 4:7; 5:8). The apostle links what he is about to say with the emphasis upon the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Remember from last Sunday, no one makes Jesus Lord. He is Lord. The response of biblical faith is to recognize that and submit to His rightful rule over our lives.

The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battlefield. It is a race to run. It is a fight to fight. It is a war, and we are called to be good soldiers. There are other Scriptures which emphasize our personal responsibility in the pursuit of holiness (Matthew 5:27-30; Ephesians 4:17; 22-24; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:21-22).

We are also fully dependent upon God for our spiritual growth.

Verse 13 affirms that “it is God who works in you.” His work is in two areas: to will and to work for His good pleasure. God gives us the desire to become holy (“to will”) and He also provides the power “to work,” to do the things that please God. Other Scriptures that emphasize God’s work of sanctification (John 15:5; Galatians 5:22-25; Ephesians 2:1-10; 2 Peter 1:3, 5).

The apostle Paul testifies that it was this balance of two truths that governed his own progress in Christ. First Corinthians 15:10 says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” And so it must be the same with us.

[Adapted from yesterday’s sermon Work Our Your Salvation.]


[1] Andrew Naselli, Why “Let Go and Let God” Is a Bad Idea.

[2] John MacArthur, Philippians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 2001), p. 152.

[3] MacArthur, pp. 152-153.

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May 13, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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Suffering and Singing

Singing to the Lord is a significant means of ministering to our own souls in times of suffering. That’s one reason why we are so drawn to the Psalms, and why Suffering and Singing is a fitting title for a little book that walks us through Psalm 44.

This Psalm was written by the sons of Korah, who were musicians. After reminding us that Psalms 42 and 43 both end with a message of hope, but no end to their suffering, John Hindley writes, “God is in charge, Christ is Lord and so when terrible suffering comes we cannot pretend it has nothing to do with him. We must either run from him—shaking our fist in bitter agony, and hating the Jesus who brought such evil and hurt into our lives, homes, families and hearts—or we must run to him in hope, trust, faith and love. Psalm 44 shows us how we can do this.”

Here are a 5 lessons which Hindley draws out for us to remember in times of pain and heartache.

Keep your pain set squarely in the context of God’s faithfulness and love. The sons of Korah reminded themselves of the love of God for His people. “God’s love is the care of a husband and the compassion of a father, not the fickle feeling of a romantic teenager.”

The kingship of God is a great comfort. “He is a king who sweeps into battle to save his people. He sweeps into battle to save you. His victories are not won to merely prove his might; they are won as an outworking of his love for those he rules.”

Suffering causes us to feel slaughtered by God and, therefore, draws us closer to Christ. “As you suffer, you begin to feel something of what Christ felt; your heart begins to beat along with his. This is where we begin to see why the Lord might give such suffering to his people, to you his child. It is a door to seeing his love for us.”

The pain of suffering often produces a desire to run from God and suffering, but instead we need to run toward God. “The impulse to run is right, but we so often run the wrong way. We should run to the Rock, to our Refuge and Shield: Jesus. He is the one who helps us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Suffering is not a mark of God’s indifference toward us, but the opposite. The message of Psalm 44 is this: “God has sent our suffering for his sake. We do not suffer primarily because we may have sinned; we suffer because we are his. Suffering is not a mark of God’s indifference towards us, or his hatred of us. Suffering is a mark of his love for us. It shows us that we are his….This is not easy to take hold of, and we need to stop and pray for the Spirit’s wisdom and the eyes of faith. But the terrible pain of your present, ongoing and suffocating suffering is a mark that the Father loves you.”

Suffering and Singing is a blessed little book that will encourage your heart and stir your faith. I recommend you read it. Its nine tiny chapters serve as a devotional guide through Psalm 44.

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May 13, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Nuggets [5/13/16]

Nuggets [5/13/16]

The BCC Global Summit is coming soon, June 5-7.

12 Principles for Disagreeing with Other Christians – This is an excellent post adapted from a new book on the conscience.

Who and What Is an Evangelical? Evangelicals and Politics, Part 2 – “Evangelicals are marked by the gospel with accompanying theological convictions, they are not primarily defined politically, socially or culturally. This does not mean Evangelicals cannot be identified in any of these latter ways. They can be and they are. But it misses the mark of who and what Evangelicals are.”

A Plan for the Problem of Pornography – “Pornography diminishes our capacity for the human relationships God wants us to share for his glory. Sexual intimacy is designed to serve as the covenant cement that binds one woman to one man in a love relationship for life. But when our sexual experience is privatized through pornography, we treat sex as a means of selfish gratification rather than a joy to be shared with the man or the woman God has called us to love.”

Johns Hopkins Psychiiatrist: “Transgendered Men Don’t Become Women,” They Become “Feminized Men,” “Impersonators” – “The idea that one’s sexuality is a feeling and not a biological fact “is doing much damage to families, adolescents, and children and should be confronted as an opinion without biological foundation wherever it emerges.”

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May 10, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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Every Pastor Must Counsel the Flock

In Colossians 1:24-29, the apostle Paul reveals his unceasing commitment to work toward the spiritual development, i.e. maturity, of believers. Paul was not content to simply lead people to saving faith in Christ and then leave them to fend for themselves. But he walked through life with them, suffering alongside them, and speaking the truth of Scripture into their lives and situations, which always includes suffering to some degree.

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (v. 24). Paul believed that the price of authentic ministry is a willingness to endure suffering on behalf of others. This requires attachment to people. It demands that pastors be involved in others’ lives far beyond preaching to them each Sunday. It discourages us from keeping a distance from our people, especially from those we may consider to be “special-needs” disciples who require a large investment of time and energy. In Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, Lance Quinn makes a case for this to his fellow ministers:

Our role as pastors also demands that we be disciplemakers. We cannot be pulpiteers who preach at our people but have no involvement in their lives. The process only begins with the proclamation of Scripture. It finds its real fruition across the entire spectrum of the shepherd’s work—feeding, leading, cleaning, bandaging, protecting, nurturing, and every other aspect of a tender shepherd’s loving care. This is the process of discipling.

This vital connection to the lives of people is often birthed out of the common grounds of pain and suffering. In Paul’s case, he was writing from a prison in Rome. Epaphras had traveled there to visit him and to report on the progress of the believers in Asia Minor. No doubt Paul was encouraged to learn of the Colossians’ “love in the Spirit” (1:8), but he was also concerned to hear how the heresies of Gnosticism were drawing these Christians away from the reality of the fullness of their new life in Christ (2:1–3). Therefore, he wrote this letter and sent it to them by his “fellow bond-servant in the Lord,” Tychicus (4:7). But in spite of “the daily pressure on [him] of concern for all the churches” (of which he testified in 2 Cor. 11:28), Paul rejoiced in his suffering because he knew that it stimulated growth in others.

Paul would not have been able to say these things if he did not believe the ministry of the Word consists of more than preaching. To be a faithful minister of the gospel, a man must also be committed to the personal ministry of the Word–a ministry we simply refer to as counseling.

[This post is adapted from an excerpt from Counsel Your Flock: Fulfilling  your role as a teaching shepherd.]

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May 9, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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Some Favorite Quotes from “The Whole Christ”

While at the Shepherds’ Conference in Los Angeles, in March, I purchased a copy of Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance. I devoured it in a couple days, finishing it before our plane landed back in Cleveland. It’s been a long time since I have read a book that has impacted me as much as this one. I hope to post some thoughts later, but for now here’s just a few sentences that I underlined.

“The benefits of the gospel are in Christ. They do not exist apart from him. They are ours only in him. They cannot be abstracted from him as if we ourselves could possess them independently of him.”

If we, as believers, do not think of ourselves as being in Christ, “If this is not the overwhelmingly dominant way in which we think of ourselves, we are not thinking with the renewed mind of the gospel.”

“[T]he gospel offer is Christ himself in whom the blessings are found.”

When the focus is mainly on the benefits of the gospel, “this focus on benefits has a profound impact on how we understand and preach the gospel, and, almost imperceptibly, Christ himself ceases to be central and becomes a means to an end.”

Under the section, “Believing the Lie,” Ferguson writes: “The lie by which the Serpent deceived Eve was enshrined in the double suggestion that

  1. this Father was in fact restrictive, self-absorbed, and selfish since he would not let them eat from any of the trees, and
  2. his promise of death if they were disobedient was simply false.

Thus the lie was an assault on both God’s generosity and his integrity. Neither his character nor his words were to be trusted. This, in fact, is the lie that sinners have believed ever since—the lie of the not-to-be-trusted-because-he-does-not-love-me-false-Father. The gospel is designed to deliver us from this lie. For it reveals that behind and manifested in the coming of Christ and his death for us is the love of a Father who gives us everything he has: first his Son to die for us and then his Spirit to live within us….The reason our Lord’s severest words were addressed to [the Pharisees] was that they shared the theology of the Serpent.” (Jn 8:44).

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May 5, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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Nuggets [5/5/16]

Here are some articles to chew on.

My Son’s Autism Changed Everything–Even Our Church – Sandra Peoples writes, “Like in our small church that rallied around my son following his autism diagnosis, many churches will soon realize it doesn’t take as much work as they fear. It just takes the body of Christ working together to meet the needs of each family who walks through their doors.”

Two election-related articles: Trump or Hillary? How Can a Christian Vote – Fred Zaspel exhorts us to remember where we live. Albert Mohler writes on the Crisis in American Democracy.

10 Tips for Visiting New Parents in the Hospital – Brian Croft offers sound advice.

Four Ways to Comfort a Grieving Friend – Kelly Needham bares her soul about grieving multiple miscarriages. “Each time someone tried to cheer me up by minimizing what I had lost, my soul was screaming, ‘But it mattered to me! That life was precious to me!'”

The Danger of “Fast Food” Conversation – Julie Lowe of CCEF asks, “How many families coexist for long periods of time living on “fast food” interactions? These conversations are quick, easy, and immediate. We talk about what is necessary to keep the family going. We say enough to make decisions, get through the day’s busy routine, or to provide correction to a child’s behavior. But we rarely stop and offer something constructive or something that edifies or gives grace.”

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May 3, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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There Is a Fountain

This past Sunday, we closed our communion service by singing what has become known as the “redemption anthem” of the church. It was written in the late 1700’s by an Englishman named William Cowper, one of the most famous poets of his day.

Like others whom God has used in powerful ways, William suffered throughout his life with periods of deep depression, despair, and even insanity. At least one bout with despair was so severe he was committed to an asylum. It was there he came face to face with the Scriptures and was converted to Christ.

During his stay at the asylum, William found a Bible on a park bench and began to read it. Seeing the mercy of Jesus in the raising of Lazarus, Cowper’s heart began to soften. Being drawn to the Scriptures, again, he turned to Romans 3:25 and read of Jesus “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

Later, he wrote, “Immediately I received the strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement He had made, my pardon sealed in His blood, and all the fullness and completeness of His justification. In a moment I believed, and received the gospel.”

A few years later, God brought John Newton into William’s life. Newton was the author of Amazing Grace and 200 other hymns and, for 13 years, served as William’s pastor, faithfully walking with him through dark valleys of fear and despair. Complete deliverance from periods of intense mental suffering never became a reality for William, but God used those times to draw him closer and closer. And from the crucible of that mental suffering came some of the church’s richest, best-loved hymns. There Is a Fountain is one of them.

There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains,
Lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in His day;
And there have I, though vile as he,
Washed all my sins away:
Washed all my sins away,
Washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its pow’r,
Till all the ransomed church of God
Are safe, to sin no more:
Are safe, to sin no more,
Are safe, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God
Are safe, to sin no more.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die:
And shall be till I die,
And shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

When this poor, lisping, stamm’ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save:
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save;
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save

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May 2, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Horror of the Cross

The Horror of the Cross

We live in a culture that does not understand the symbol of the cross. Today, the cross has become a mere religious symbol. We do not see its horror. D.A. Carson writes,

[T]he cross has become for us such a domesticated symbol. Today many women and men dangle crosses from their ears. Our bishops hang crosses around their necks. Our church buildings have crosses on their spires, or stained wooden crosses are backlit with fluorescent lights. Some of our older church buildings are actually built in cruciform, and no one is shocked.

Suppose you were to place in a prominent position in your church building a fresco of the massed graves of Auschwitz. Wouldn’t everyone be horrified? But in the first century, the cross had something of that symbolic value. Scholars have gone through every instance of the word “cross” and related expressions that have come down to us about the time of Jesus and shown how “crucifixion” and “cross” invariably evoke horror….Crucifixion was considered too cruel—so shameful that the word itself was avoided in polite conversation.

The early Christians would not have understood our fascination with the symbol of the cross. The cross as a piece of decorative jewelry would have been unthinkable, since the cross meant only one thing to them—DEATH. And not mere death, but horror, violence, shame, utter humiliation.

Crucifixion was the most humiliating, degrading death anyone could ever have imagined—conceived and invented in the depraved mind of man. This is why—when describing the humility of Jesus—the Apostle Paul does not merely say Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, but EVEN death on a cross (Phil. 2:8). The apostle’s point in using the word “even” in verse 8 is this: The humility of Jesus Christ is most vividly displayed by the kind of death that He endured. Here, Paul provides two adjectives to describe the death of Jesus. It was obedient and it was humiliating.

Jesus died an obedient death.

It was the Father’s will that the Son of God die for our sins. In eternity past, the Triune Godhead laid out the plan of redemption and the Son of God agreed to pay the price of that redemption. This submission of His mind was expressed many times by Himself, verbally (John 3:14-15; 8:28).

In the garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “O, My Father. If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Luke 22:42). His earthly obedience was preceded by the surrender of his mind, heart, and will to the Father in heaven. Hebrews cites an Old Testament agreement of the Son to take on the body prepared for Him by the Father (Heb. 10:5-7).

The obedience of Jesus unto death brought glory to the Father. How is that? You ask.

  • The obedience of Jesus unto death testified of God’s truthfulness. The cross demonstrated that God is not a liar. From the moment Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to send a deliverer who was born of a woman and who would crush the Serpent’s head. But first, the Serpent would bruise His heel. From the time of Abraham, God had promised to send one from the line of Abraham to bring blessing to all the nations of the world. Through the prophets God promised to send one who would deliver His people from their sin. He would be a suffering Savior before He would be a victorious King.
  • The obedience of Jesus unto death is evidence of God’s justice. God is holy and God is love. But His love is not greater than His holiness. Therefore, He could not—out of love—simply choose to overlook our sin. That would be unjust. A just God and a righteous Judge cannot do that. If He had overlooked our sin without judging it, we should cry out “The judge is unjust!” So, He found a way to display both justice and love in the very same moment, in the same event.

Without the death of one who had never sinned, there would be no way for the righteous and holy God to allow us into His presence. But now, through the sacrificial blood of Jesus, we are brought near to God—we are accepted by God in Jesus.

Jesus died a humiliating death.

The phrase “even death on a cross” illustrates the extent of Jesus’ humility and the depth of His obedience to the Father. Christ, the Son of God, infinitely worthy of honor and worship, took His obedience to the ultimate display of humiliation—crucifixion, the most shameful, disgraceful form of execution. So high is the glory of Jesus, but so low was His death.

It is one thing for us, as sinful creatures, to be humiliated. It is another thing altogether for the sinless Son of God, who had previously dwelt in the fullness of glory, to lay aside that glory by veiling it in human flesh in the form of a slave. By using the phrase “even death on a cross,” Paul is drawing attention to the nature of crucifixion as the ultimate disgrace.

  • The cross was a disgraceful death. Crucifixion was practiced in public place for all to see. The Romans chose the busiest intersection to publicly humiliate their victims, which they believed also was a strong deterrent to other slaves who may steal or runaway.
  • The cross was a painful death. The suffering was intense. In addition to the sheer pain of being nailed or tied to a beam, the victim endured exposure to the elements of weather and insects. The stretching of the body as it hung led to intense pain in the wounds and sometimes caused severe headaches and convulsions. The ultimate cause of death was usually gradual suffocation.
  • The cross was a slave’s death. To the Romans, crucifixion was “the slave’s punishment.” Cicero, the famous Roman orator, said: “Let the very name of the cross be far away not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts.”
  • The cross was a wretched death. Hundreds of years before the Romans perfected the torture of crucifixion, the Holy Spirit led David to describe his own suffering in terms that later would be fully understood. Psalm 22 prophesied “all my bones are out of joint” (v. 14), and “They pierced my hands and my feet” (v. 16).

The Jewish historian, Josephus, who witnessed many crucifixions during the siege of Jerusalem, called it “the most wretched of deaths.” The essence of crucifixion was its slowness of torture. As horrible and humiliating as crucifixion was, the death of Jesus pleased the Father because it paid the price that His holiness and justice required in order to pardon and purchase sinners (Isa. 53:10).

What about you? What is your response to this truth? Scripture commands every one of us to turn to Christ, to look to him with eyes of faith. Romans 3:23-25 makes this clear: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

First John 5:11-13 makes it crystal clear there are only two options before each one of us. There is life in Jesus or there is death outside of Jesus. “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

If you’ve never turned from your sin to Jesus, do so today. Today is the day of salvation.

[These thoughts are from yesterday’s sermon, Even Death on a Cross.]

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