But I don’t think that you could have a complete cross story without this seventh saying. Part of the reason is the symbolic significance of the number seven. In the Bible seven represents perfection, fulfillment, or completion.
For instance, in the Bible, the seventh day is the Sabbath day, the completion of the week. By week’s end you were to have fulfilled your work so that you could dedicate the seventh day to the Lord.
So you can sort of see that the number seven carries this idea of completion or perfection.
And it is with this seventh word that Jesus perfects his work as our Redeemer. And when you understand what Jesus says here, you understand that is exactly what he is saying.
When he says, “Into you hands I commit my spirit,” he insinuates that two things are being brought to their completion. He’s announcing the completion of his obedience and his sufferings.
I. Jesus completes His obedience (i.e. his active obedience)
In speaking these words, Jesus wants us to know that he is bringing his obedience to completion. Jesus came to earth to “fulfill all righteousness.” If he did not fulfill every jot and tittle of the law, we could not be counted as righteous before God. As lawbreakers, we need someone to fulfill the law on our behalf.
And that is exactly what Jesus does here. The evening is drawing nigh for Jesus. The Sabbath day is almost upon them. And for the Jew, the fourth commandment required a day of holy rest. And after this word, Jesus enters into a state of rest. He dies, and subsequently, he is laid in a tomb. And there he will remain undisturbed throughout the duration of the Sabbath.
But I want you to understand that physical rest was not the only thing required in the Sabbath command. It was supposed to be a day of spiritual rest too. As a matter of fact, that is the real purpose of the fourth commandment. The Sabbath was designed to be a day given over to God and devoted specifically to him. It was to be a holy day—a day where men spend time refreshing their souls in the worship of God.
Do you see what I mean? The Sabbath command calls men to cease from their labors and other worldly activities and so that one can spend as much time as he can enjoying communion with God.
And that’s exactly what Jesus tells us he is going to do here. When he says, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” Jesus pushes us out of this realm. He pushes us into the realm of heaven. He basically says, “Father, I have been agonizing on this cross all day. I have been doing the work you have called me to do. But in just a moment I am going to die. My body will be put in a tomb, but my spirit is going to come to you. And I look forward to being there with you, spending the whole Sabbath in your presence.”
So you see? By his voicing this word, Jesus shows us that even in his death he has fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf.
This is good news for you and me because we are Sabbath breakers!
Sure, we do not recognize the seventh day of the week anymore. Ever since the resurrection, the first day of the week is one God has appointed as his day of worship. But how many times have we squandered the Lord’s Day on ourselves rather than giving God the priority he deserves?
You know that time you skipped church so that you could go golfing? Do you know how much that offended God? Ladies, instead of seeking to commune with God, you played hooky so that you can go shopping with the girls.
You might not know it, but these are egregious sins in the eyes of God. If anything, it shows how tepid your love for God really is and how much you value your job or your recreation over him!
But friends, the last words of Jesus are, “into your hands I commit my spirit.” With His dying breath he expresses the anticipation he has for that communion with His heavenly Father. And by doing so he brings to completion his obedience and he fulfills that righteousness that we so desperately we lack.
But you’ll notice that it is not just his obedience that he completes. In these words we also see that he brings his sufferings to completion.
II. Jesus completes his sufferings
What is said here is something radically different than what we have witnessed so far in our service. The whole notion of Jesus coming into the presence of God to enjoy communion with him is a radical juxtaposition to all that the cross represents.
For the last several hours we have seen nothing but the rejection of Jesus. Here on this cross God has stripped him of every earthly blessing and completely abandoned him. The Father has essentially said, “You are utterly repulsive to me and I want nothing to do with you!” We even have Jesus’ own testimony. We heard him cry out and say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
But here in these words we see something radically different. Jesus says, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” The idea is that Jesus will no longer be pushed away—they will no longer be separated! Instead, he knows that in just a moment his spirit will ascend to heaven where the Father will open his arms to receive him.
And that can only mean one thing: Jesus has completed his sufferings. He has endured the totality of God’s wrath and curse and come out the other side. Or, as one theologian has said, Jesus expresses the fact that he is already begun to taste the sweets of his victory.
This is why those who trust in Jesus need not fear being condemned by God.
You need to understand that when you die, your body will be laid in the tomb, but your spirit will live on. If you have not turned from your sin and trusted Christ, you will awaken to find yourself in hell receiving the just punishment for your sins.
But if you place your faith in Christ, you can be assured that you will not suffer the least prick upon your soul. Jesus Christ has born it all and he has opened the way to the Father so that sinners like you and I may enter into the presence of God when our life on this earth is done.
The beautiful thing about these last words of Jesus is not words of departure; they are words of entrance.
And they are here to remind us that though we have lost fellowship with God, through the redemption of Christ we may have it restored.
This seventh saying of Christ heralds the perfect work of our Mediator: The curse of sin is broken…completely.
I recently had to do a google search on myself because I was looking for an article I had written some time ago. It came up with some fun results! It seems that I ruffled the feathers of some of the local atheists.
You can have fun counting the mistakes there are in this issue of The Mid Ohio Atheist, the atheist newsletter. The author tried to take me to task for one of the old Town Crier Show episodes I did on polygamy. The author waxes eloquently on how the Bible actually permits having multiple wives!
This one from the Center for Inquiry Northeast Ohio, is fun too. I remember having the interaction with this lady. She could not understand how her views as an atheist cannot produce a defense against cannibalism.
Christians do think that atheists have morals (if you have met one who says otherwise, then they really are way out there). The point that Christians make is that atheists do not have a legit. foundation for their morals.
If one wants to preserve the gospel, one must also seek to preserve the ministry of the gospel. That is why we must refrain from ordaining women to the offices of minister, elder, and deacon.
We understand that a light bulb will only light when electricity strikes it. But what if the conduit through which that electricity must pass is corrupted? Will it then do its job? Of course not! Sure, there may be bright glimmers from time to time, but the whole of it is faulty and it will not be as effective as it ought to be.
The same is true for the kingdom of Christ. The gospel is that which lightens the mind and converts the sinner. The main conduits of the gospel are those who are ministers, elders, and deacons in the church. Therefore we ought to do our best to have the right people in these positions. If we do not, we ought not to expect the gospel light to burn as brightly and efficiently.
The Scripture tells us that those who are to hold office in the church are to be godly men. In 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul says, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." This verse, of course, needs to be properly understood from an exegetical point of view. It does not mean that women are not allowed to teach at all. If that were true, Paul would contradict what he said elsewhere. At another place Paul would say that the older women should teach the younger.
1 Tim. 2:12 has to do specifically with the office of elder and minister. The teaching and the exercising of authority should be seen as two parts of the office. To be an elder is to have authority to rule over the people of God, to teach them and guide them according to the Scripture. This, Paul says, is the duty of men.
The same is true for the office of deacon. This is a position distinctly for men. We might see a perfect example of this in the book of Acts where the first deacons are ordained. It is not a passing matter that the early church set apart only men for this task. They could have easily picked a woman or two. After all, these deacons were tending to the widows, and wouldn't it have been best to have some females who could more aptly sympathize and minister to the needs of women?
However, this is not the case. Men were chosen.
It is true, that there is some argument over the verses in 1 Timothy 3:11. In the context of speaking of deacons Paul says, "Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things." Some argue that it ought to be translated, "The women must be dignified." On the basis of this they say that it implies women were permitted to be deacons (deaconesses) as well.
They will also point to the fact that Pheobe is called a deaconess in Romans 16:1.
To this I respond by saying, first, that the word deacon has both a technical and a general use. Sometimes it is used in its technical sense to refer to the office of deacon. At its base though, it simply means someone who serves.
Secondly, to properly understand the role of deacon (and elder) one must have a proper understanding of biblical manhood. The Scripture is filled with indications of man's role as a leader in the home.
The first indication comes from the fact that God created Adam first. It was only after a period of time that the woman is created. As Wayne Grudem points out, this was not so with any of the animals. They were all created male and female, at the same time. Grudem rightly says that this seems to be unique for the purpose of emphasis. Man is created first because his role as head.
Secondly, in that same narrative, we see that woman was made to be man's helper. She was to come along side him and assist him in his work of taking dominion. Helpers, of course, are not the leaders. While they are no doubt indispensable to the work, they do play a secondary role and are in a position of subservience.
The woman is also named by the man. Naming is a right given to those who have authority. So it is significant that it is not God who names her or that she chooses her own name. She, like the animals before her, must derive her identity from the man.
More could be said regarding the opening chapters of the Scripture. For instance, the fact that humanity is held under the sin of Adam (and not Eve, who sinned first) says much about the man's role of leadership. But it would be good to see some other places in Scripture that indicate something of the leadership role of men.
In the book of Numbers we see that men were the ones who were to be numbered for combat. This demonstrates taht they were the leaders and protectors of their homes and families.
In the book of Proverbs we find that it is the duty of the father to instruct the children. While the mother may certainly do a lion's share, the Proverbs show clearly that the father is the primary instructor (and therefore leader) of the home.
When you come to the New Testament, the amount of material is immense. One only need to look at all the passages of Scripture that talk about a woman's submission to her husband (Eph. 5:24-25, 1 Peter 3:1-6; 1 Cor. 11:1-10). There could probably be no more clear indication of man's headship than that.
Understanding what the Scripture says about the nature of man's leadership then gives credence to the role of men in office. If he is the leader of the family, and a church is simply a group of families, then men ought to be the leaders of the church.
Having understood this, we may then ask can a woman be a deacon? The answer is a distinct no. For men are the ones called to be the leaders. To be a deacon is to be invested with authority (the doctrine of ordination), and therefore women are not to undertake it.
With this background we can also understand Paul's prohibition of woman from the office of elder. He is simply recognizing the divine design that is at the core of all social structures.
If we want the church to thrive, we must then make every effort to maintain this God ordained structure in our churches. Men in churches must begin to see their calling and rise up. Women who are currently serving in these positions must step down from them and begin to plead with God to raise up men in their places. Pastors must be willing to take a stand and say to their congregations that their current policies need to change.
If this kind of repentance does not take place, the church will be in danger of becoming a lifeless bulb. The gospel will cease to energize souls because the main conduit of the gospel is askew.
The people of Providence enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship and instruction this past Sunday evening as we participated in a Seder Meal.
Seder is the Hebrew word for "order" and refers to the order of the Passover meal that Jews would have observed during Jesus' time. The meal is organized around four cups of wine which correspond to the four promises God makes in the Passover.
As you can see from the picture, I got to dress as a Jewish Rabbi in order to fill the role as the leader of the night. Other members participated in the readings and character parts which explained the drama of the supper and how the New Testament sacrament of Communion comes to be instituted through it.
All in all, it was a fun and informative evening!
One person has said that attempting to define postmodernism is as easy as nailing Jell-o to a wall. That is true. Postmodernism is very difficult to define. One reason is because no one is usually consistent in their postmodernism. Another reason why it is difficult to define it is because to define it would violate the postmodernist's premise that no definite terms, boundaries, or absolute truths exist.
Normally, we have begun these lessons by looking at the question of theology. We will not do so this time because the key feature of postmodern thought has to do with truth--the study of truth and how we know truth (or, if we can know truth at all!).
What is often said is that we shouldn’t talk about truth (or Truth), but truths. That is to say, truth is not an eternal constant on which everyone can agree. If it exists, it changes and is different for different people and different cultures.
Let’s put it this way: In the study of humanism we said that truth could be understood through investigation and reason. Existentialism was a reaction, saying we know truth only as we experience it. In the postmodern mind, truth is questioned altogether.
In the end, the postmodern worldview says, “The only thing of which we can be certain is that we cannot be certain.” The thrust of post modern thought then calls you to question the conventional.
If there is a truth it is perceived as a construct of one’s culture and time. The language and culture that you are in shapes you—just as the language and culture of the African bushman shapes him.
Yep. That hits the bulls eye. If we just eat enough organics and stay away from the tabooed corporate processed foods, then we will enjoy eternal life. That what is being proclaimed in households (especially home school households) all across our land.
Don't be fooled though. With each bite we commend ourselves to the care of God. This is why we pray before and after meals. We acknowledge that no matter what we eat, we are at the mercy of God.
I always say, the same quail that fed the Israelites in the wilderness was the same quail that God used to kill thousands of them. It was the best bird, coming directly from God (and free range at that!). It is simply a reminder that even the most healthy carrot can be a poison to us if God does not add his graces to it. Likewise, the sugared cereal or the processed meat can provide health and satisfaction if the Lord would deem it to be so.
The Bible tells us to beware of gluttony, and Christian prudence says that we ought to seek the best care of our physic. However, we would be fools to erect a system of uninspired food laws.
This bit is drawn from the opening chapter of Steven Lawson's book, The Expository Genius of John Calvin. Tis a most appropriate word to accompany my earlier post on the minister and the reading of God's word.
The reading of the Word of God in public worship is part of the authority of the church. This authority belongs rightfully to those who have been called to the offices of minister & elder. This is why the Scripture always tells us that men who had been ordained were the ones who read the Scriptures in the corporate assembly. Look at Ezra, Moses, Timothy. They all were invested with the authority of God as shepherds in the church. They took upon themselves the duty of executing that office by reading the word when the people of God assembled for worship.
One of the things that Jesus does in these words is remind us that he is coming again. He says that he will drink this cup anew with us in the kingdom of heaven. And that means that as we partake of these elements today we should remember that one day we will have opportunity to sup with Christ in a more true manner.
Yes, we believe that we really and truly commune with Christ during this meal. But it is in a spiritual way. Our communion with him is facilitated by the Holy Spirit. One day we will actually dine with him. We will be able, like Thomas, be able to put our finger in the hole of his hand. In other words, he will be present physically at the table.
And that reminds us that someday our sufferings will cease. One day we will be ushered into that glorious kingdom where there shall be no more tears. At that table there will be perfect happiness.
This meal today is a foretaste of that glorious day. It is here to tell us that all who come to Jesus, pleading for his mercies, are guaranteed a seat at that great banquet. You might think of this as an appetizer—the first serving in a full course meal. It is that which tells you that a reservation has already been made.
And it is this gospel truth that should serve to stir you on. If you are weak, find in this your renewal. If temptation has gotten the best of you, come here and be reminded that Christ has cast all your sins away. If you question the truth and legitimacy of your salvation, let this be the anchor that keeps you from bobbing in the sea of doubt.
It is also my solemn duty to warn the uninstructed, the profane, the scandalous, and those who secretly and impenitently live in any sin not to approach this table. You ought not come to this ordinance without discerning the body of our Lord, for to do so would be to eat and drink condemnation unto yourself.
Nevertheless, this warning is not designed to keep the humble and contrite from participating. This meal is set for those who know that they are guilty sinners who no hope of eternal life apart from the saving work of our Lord Jesus.
Let us therefore pray, and in doing so, examine ourselves so that we may partake to the glory of God and our growth in grace
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.