Christ The Door of Heaven

“Oh, what a mercy that you are not already in hell, and that there is a door open to you into heaven! That door is Christ. “I Am the Door.” Cease striving to enter heaven by the door of your good works and religious duties; by the merits and intercessions of men, of saints, or angels. There is but one door into heaven—faith in the Savior, who died for sinners on the cross, and whose blood and righteousness supply all the merit God requires, or man can bring. Jesus came to save sinners—saves them now, saves them to the uttermost, saves there freely and forever. Why not you?”
–Octavius Winslow, Our God 

Jesus Christ / Jehovah’s Witnesses Q&A, part 1

Jesus Christ – The Answers to Our Questions

An Evangelical Response to the April 1, 2012 Watchtower

As an evangelical Christian, I count it a precious biblical truth that Jesus Christ is the Savior sent by the Father.  Jesus is a life-changer in the most profound sense. As a Christian, one of the deep impacts Jesus has had on my life is to give me a desire to speak truthfully about him. And so we arrive at the reason for this series of blog posts – a heartfelt desire to portray Jesus in the awesome light of truth contrasted with the tiny, confused, inaccurate picture of Jesus presented by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The April 1, 2012 edition of the Watchtower magazine focuses on Jesus Christ and presents the unique understanding of the Jehovah’s Witnesses concerning who he is.  Or as they have named the edition, “Jesus Christ – The Answers to Our Questions”.

The answers given in the Watchtower magazine are very condensed, too brief to be truly helpful.  God willing, I will seek to provide responses that are full enough to be helpful in seeing the truth about Jesus Christ. Rather than create an overly lengthy blog post, I will be breaking my response up into a series of shorter posts. I hope the format proves to be helpful to you, dear readers.

Before Getting To The Questions

In the introduction of their magazine, the editors of the magaine spell out their method for answering the questions that will follow.

“The truth about Jesus can be discerned in his
words and actions, which are recorded in the four
Biblical Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
That inspired record is the basis for answering our

questions about Jesus.”  (Watchtower, 4/1/2012, p.4)

Before we get to the questions, let’s spend a little energy considering the impact this method could have. The Watchtower has effectively truncated the full testimony of Scripture by exclusively focusing on the four Gospels.  Is this a wise approach?  Are there important truths about Jesus Christ presented throughout the Bible?  The Watchtower leads the reader to believe that their answers to the questions are well-grounded and fully-formed.  Later in the publication, they emphasize that what we believe about Jesus really does matter (and I wholeheaertedly agree with them on that point – it truly does matter what we believe about Jesus).

Has the Watchtower decision to restrict the source material to the Gospels short-changed their answers in this issue of their magazine?  Yes.  Yes.  A thousand times, yes!  When we dive into the Biblical record, we find a rich palette painted across the canvas of the Old Testament concerning his unique sonship (Proverbs 30, Psalm 2, Isaiah 7 & 9); his unique Messiahship (Genesis 3, 9, 12, 49; Deut 18; and many others); many types and figures foreshadowing his multi-faceted uniqueness (Melchizedek, Abraham & Isaac, Boaz, Jonah, Moses, David, the entire Jewish priestly and sacrificial system, the Day of Atonement) and the list goes on.

In the New Testament we find the length and breadth revolving around Jesus Christ, bringing forth treasured view after view of his person, ministry, kingship, and Deity. It would not be unfair to describe the entire Bible as the book of Jesus Christ; for it either prefigures, predicts, or proclaims his greatness.

The Watchtower’s approach in this issue of their magazine is overly-restrictive.  The truth about Jesus reaches far beyond the four Gospels, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation.  The Watchtower limits its investigation unwisely and, in so doing, creates an incorrect caricature of Jesus Christ. 

We will see where the Watchtower misses the mark in subsequent posts in this series.  Stay tuned.

How excellent is His love?

“This love of Christ to his people, both designs and effects the greatest good to those he loves. Among creatures there is a deal of love to little purpose. Either they intend but little by their love; or if they do design it, their love cannot reach it. But the greatest good, eternal life, is not only intended by Christ in his love to his people, but it is surely attained. All that Christ loves, are saved: why? because his love is saving. Salvation is designed by this lover, and is perfected by this love.

Let me therefore exhort you to love Jesus Christ. Is his heart set upon having all his people with him where he is? Surely we ought to return love to him back again. Most of those that pretend to the name of christian, think they make some conscience of it as being a most just debt and duty to him; and will be ready to say with Paul, ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha,” 1 Cor. xvi 22. But as the love that Christ bears to his people, is not so well known and believed as it ought to be; so the love his people owe to him is not so well paid as it ought to be.”

Robert Traill, Sixteen Sermons on the Lord’s Prayer, pp.111

Jesus’ Character Displayed

“In considering the association of Jesus with the people at large, we are struck at once with the fact that though pure and sinless, he did not shrink from contact with the most sinful and the most despised. He was in this respect the very opposite of the Pharisees. Their name signifies separatists. Fundamental in their conception of a pious life was the idea of scrupulously avoiding any social intercourse, or even the slightest contact, with persons who habitually violated the ceremonial law, as well as with those guilty of gross immorality. This was the idea of personal purity materialized, and pushed to an utter extreme. Accordingly, the Pharisees found it hard to believe that one could be a prophet, a teacher come from God, who would consent to eat at the table of a publican, or would allow his feet to be washed with the tears of a fallen woman.

“Jesus often found it necessary to explain and vindicate his course in this respect; and it was for this purpose that on one occasion he gave the three beautiful parables which tell of joy at the recovery of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. Contact with vile people is proper or improper according to our aim and the probable results. It must be avoided or carefully limited if of such a character as would probably assimilate us to them. But the thoughtful and consistent followers of Jesus have been moved by his example and teachings to far more of kindly effort to redeem the vile than ever existed in the world beyond the influence of Christianity; and to do still more in this direction would only be acting according to his spirit.

“Jeremy Taylor has said that Jesus moved among the despised of humanity like sunshine, which falls among foul things without being itself defiled. To imitate this in our measure must be an attainment full of blessedness for us and rich in blessing to others. Jesus was very weary with months of earnest teaching as he sat that day beside Jacob’s well; yet he aroused himself to speak most kindly with one who came to draw water, and that a woman who was living sinfully with a man not her husband. His conversation with her is a suggestive model of skill in the introduction of religion into private conversation – one of the finest of all accomplishments for Christian men and women. The delicate tact with which he aroused her conscience and thus turned her thoughts away from the mere satisfaction of bodily thirst to the water of eternal life, is among the most wonderful touches in his consummate teaching.”

Leon Morris on the Person of Christ

I have been helped immensely by the writings of the late Leon Morris. Here is a 1960 article he wrote about Jesus. He lays a foundation of sober thinking of our situation before launching into the riches of the person of Christ.

“The Bible makes it abundantly clear that as we live out our lives we are not engaging in some light-hearted parlour game, with no particular importance. Our actions have eternal significance. What we are in the next life is determined by what we are in this life. Since all men are sinners (Rom. 3.23) the prospect is very bad.”

HT: Church Society

Putting Jesus In His Place

Jeff Miller gives a helpful review of Bowman’s and Komoszewski’s book Putting Jesus In His Place. Obviously, I think this is a book worth reading. I’ve read it through entirely once and have returned to it multiple times on specific questions. The HANDS acronym has stuck with me and serves to turn my mind towards contemplation of Jesus in worship and wonder.

A Walk Through Philippians – #4

For God is my witness that I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8, ESV)

Paul commits himself to the Philippians with a most solemn vow. Words can be easy, but these are not easy words. These are words with a long history of action behind them. They are words carried along on the blood, tears, and suffering which Paul paid out in his care for the Philippians and others. Paul isn’t handing them a bagful of good intentions as yet unfulfilled. No, those would be easy words.

In this brief little verse I come under conviction again and again. How often I find myself offering heaping portions of good intentions to those around me but never fulfilling them in action. The royal robes of Christian love must be fitted to the body of Christian servanthood, else they are empty and useless.

So often we have it backwards. We want to speak, then act. To say ‘I love you’ and then put it on display. Oh how different our testimony could be if we lived love first, rather than merely stating our as yet unfulfilled good intentions. Which are blessed, the feet of those who bring good news or the lips of those who talk about bringing good news someday?

The Philippians themselves have each witnessed Paul’s love for and commitment to do good to them in the way he has lived. Their heartstrings, tuned by the gospel of Christ, ring in unison for their beloved apostle as they help him in chains, in beatings, in lack. In Christ, their love has extended beyond their means but they continue to give help to Paul again and again, as he has also helped them. Why? Because Paul has loved them with the love of Christ.

Even though Paul has proven his love in action many times, he calls upon God as his witness. The Philippians themselves are eyewitnesses of Paul’s external acts of love but this is not enough. Paul seeks to assure them that his love for them lives in the heart, which they obviously cannot see or know. Think about it for a minute… calling God as his witness. The ultimate Witness from whom nothing is hidden, before whom the hearts of men are laid open. The Witness who sees all, including Paul’s own heart. Paul calls on Him as witness of his genuine longing for the Philippians. And even here, normal patterns of speech fail Paul. He longs for the Philippians, not merely with his own affection, as deep as that is. Rather, he longs for the Philippians with the bottomless affection of Jesus.

Christ and His affection are what brought Paul to and through all he has experienced with the Philippians. It is not a mere abstract concept or even Paul’s own affection. It is the sacrificial love of Jesus himself, moving within Paul and moving Paul to serve them. What a profound commitment Paul has made, calling God to witness his love, which wasn’t even his. It was the supernatural love of Christ.

In all of this we have an example to follow. May we seek to act in Christ’s love for others before saying it. What does this look like in your specific circumstance? I will not attempt to reduce this to some sort of rudimentary checklist. It is lived in your life, not merely or only in your thoughts and heart. It is Christ at work within you, dear Christian, to live love towards those around you. Then, when you finally say it, no one wonders what you mean. They already know.

Haldane, Atonement, and the Watchtower

James Haldane wrote the following in his 1845 book, The Doctrine of the Atonement. He sees, as if by prescience, the tomfoolery of the Watchtower concerning the atonement, and destroys their vain imaginings with the glory of our Creator Redeemer.

No creature could have made an atonement for sin, or have magnified the law either by obedience or suffering. Had a body been prepared for the highest angel, his incarnation must have been an act of obedience to his Creator; and after all his humiliation, and all his sufferings, he would have been an unprofitable servant; he could have done no more than his duty. His righteousness, therefore, could not have extended to another; he could have had no superfluous merit, neither could he have offered himself a voluntary sacrifice; he could not have laid down his life, for no creature has power over his own life. No created being could have endured the curse of the broken law, or have stood as the substitute and surety of another; for every creature must bear his own burden. But the Creator, in whom was life, of whose sovereign will the law is but the expression, appeared in the form of a servant; by his obedience unto death, he magnified and made honorable the law which his people had broken; thus restoring what he took not away. In obedience to his Father’s commandment, he laid down his life, that he might take it again, and rose to the power of an endless life, as the first-born of many brethren, to whom he was in all things conformed.

Such is the foundation which God has laid in Sion for the hope of the guilty. Such is the everlasting righteousness in which Christ’s people shall stand unrebukable. It “differs entirely from the righteousness of men and angels in its AUTHOR; for it is the righteousness not of a creature, but of the Creator. I the Lord have created it. It is a divine and infinitely perfect righteousness, wrought out by Jehovah himself, which, in the salvation of man, preserves all his attributed inviolate. The Father created it through the Son, in the same was as by the Son he created the world.

J.A. Haldane; The Doctrine of the Atonement; pp 44-45