Finally Blameless: Thomas Brooks on the Christian’s Final Judgment

Christian Living, Church History, Devotional, The Gospel, Theology

It’s a foundational tenet of Christianity that all people are destined for a final judgment at the end of this age. Gospel hope hinges on this fact: those in Christ will pass that judgment and be found fit for heaven. The reason for this is the gospel itself, the spiritual reality that Christ satisfied the curse on his people’s behalf when he was crucified on the cross, and furthermore, that his righteousness is imputed to them as a free gift by faith. On the basis of this gloriously good news, a Christian knows that his final judgment day need not be a terror, it is the day when God will fulfill all the final promises of the gospel. This is Christianity 101 (which is typically the most important part).

Yet there is a question related to this final judgment that Christians sometimes ponder without full clarity. The question is this: on the final day of judgment, although we know that all who are in Christ will be found in the final analysis to be cleansed of sin, covered by Christ’s righteousness, and thus be blameless in the sight of God; in the process of that verdict being rendered, will a Christian’s sins, both before and after conversion, be publically made known to all creation?

In my ministry as a pastor, I’ve been asked this question more than once. Sometimes the person is asking because of a guilty conscience from hidden sin, and so the best answer is to examine the call to mortify sin in our lives. Gospel promises can never be biblically used as a cover for unrighteousness (see Romans 6:1).

But other times, the question is being asked because even in a regenerate mind, the staggering reality of the grace of God can be hard to believe.

How forgiven are we, really?

How thorough is salvation?

How complete is my justification?

In other words, does the gospel really clean my record out completely, or are there still indictments that remain? Luther was right when he said the Christian is simultaneously righteous and a sinner, but do we sometimes so emphasize the latter half of that maxim that we miss the full grace of the former?

In my life as a Christian, I’ve asked these questions in my own heart. Since you’re reading this article, I assume you’ve asked them too, or that if you haven’t, they have at least piqued your interest enough in this article that you’re still here reading. You are, after all, still reading.

We’re not the first ones to ponder this. Thomas Brooks, a Puritan author and pastor of the seventeenth-century, addressed this question directly. Brooks wrote:

But here an apt question may be moved… Whether at this great day [the final judgment at the end of the age], the sins of the saints shall be brought into the judgment of discussion and discovery, or no? Whether the Lord will in this day publically manifest, proclaim, and make mention of the sins of his people, or no?[1]

Let’s look at how Thomas Brooks answered the question. Although the following thoughts belong to Brooks, I have updated the language, condensed the content, and edited for modern readability.[2]

*****

I humbly judge, according to my present light, that he will not; for the four following reasons:

  1. From the description of the final judgment in Matthew 25:31-46

This first reason is drawn from the Christ’s judicial proceedings in the last day, as they are described so clearly in Matthew 25. There Christ brings to light only the good works his sheep have done, but takes no notice of their spots and blots, their stains and blemishes, nor the infirmities and weaknesses and wickedness of his people (Duet. 32:4-6).

  1. From Christ’s vehement objection that any of his people should ever come into judgment

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)[3]

Notice that none of the gospel writers use this expression truly, truly, except for John, and he never uses it unless it is a matter of great weight and importance. He uses it to show how earnestly his spirit yearns for the thing said, and to grab our attention, and to put the thing said beyond all question and all contradiction. He is saying that it is absolutely out of the question that true believers will come into judgment, truly, truly it shall not be!

  1. Because not exposing our sins is most in keeping with the many precious expressions that we find scattered like shining and sparkling pearls throughout all Scripture

These glorious passages are of seven main types:

(1) Those passages which speak of God blotting out the sins of his people

I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25)

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)

Who is this that blots out transgressions? It is the one who has the keys of heaven and hell on his belt, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens; it is the one who has the power of death and life, of condemning and absolving, of killing and making alive – this is the one who blots out transgressions. If some servant blotted out an indictment, that may do a little good; but when the king and judge himself blots out the indictment with his own hand the indictment is gone forever. This is the reality and joy of every believer.

(2) Those passages which gloriously assert that God remembers our sins no more

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

By this God means that our sins will be completely forgiven, never again mentioned, never taken notice of, and not mentioned ever again. God has a memory of iron and never forgets the sins of the wicked; yet he promises to never remember the sins of the righteous.

(3) Those passages which speak of our sins being cast into the depths of the sea and behind the back of God

He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)

When sin is pardoned, the remission can never be repealed. Pardoned sins can never be brought before God against a pardoned man ever again; this is what these figures of speech are meant to teach. If our sins were cast into a river, they could perhaps be brought back. If they were cast upon the sea, they might be found in the drift and brought back to land. But when they are cast into the very depths, to the very bottom of the sea, they shall never again float back up to the surface.

In this metaphor the Lord is teaching us that pardoned sins shall rise no more, they shall be seen no more, they shall never count again; indeed, God will drown them so deep even he will not see them a second time.

Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. (Isaiah 38:17)

This last phrase is again a figure of speech, borrowed from the way that men cast behind their backs things they do not care to see, regard, or remember. Although our own sins are ever before our face, the Lord casts them behind his back. An earthly father soon forgets and casts behind his back the sins that his child keenly remembers. So too it is with our Heavenly Father.

(4) Those passage which sweetly speak of God pardoning the sins of his people

I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. (Jeremiah 33:8)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18)

The Hebrew word here translated pardon means a taking away. When God pardons sin he takes it completely away: even if you search for it, you wont find it.

In those days and in that time, declares the Lord, iniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none, and sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant. (Jeremiah 50:20)

As Micah said above, God passes over the sin of his people. Like a man deep in thought, or a busy man caught up in business doesn’t notice what’s right in front of him; like David didn’t notice Mephibosheth’s physical defects because he saw so much of his dear friend Jonathon in him; so too God beholds in his people the glorious image of his Son, and takes no notice of all our faults and failures. This is what enabled Luther to say, “Do with me what you will, since you have pardoned my sin.”

And what is it to pardon sin, but not to mention it?

(5) Those expressions of forgiving and covering

The blessing of Psalm 32:1 (Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sins is covered) is, in the original Hebrew, in the plural: blessednesses. It is a plurality of blessings, a chain of pearls. A similar statement in made in Psalm 85:2, again using the metaphor of covering.

Covering is the opposite of disclosing. That which is covered is hidden. This metaphor is all around us: the dead are covered up in the ground, clothes cover up our bodies, The Egyptians were covered over by the Red Sea, a great cleft in the earth is filled up and covered over with dirt, the mercy seat as well was presided over by a symbolic covering. All these metaphors show the same essential truth: the Lord will not look, he will not see, he will not notice the sins he has pardoned; he will never again bring them to his judgment seat.

Like a rebel pardoned by a gracious prince, the pardoned person will never hear of and never have to give account for his sins, ever again. When Caesar was painted he would conceal his scars and blemishes by covering them up with his hands. God puts his hands over all his people’s scars and blemishes; all that remains is what is good and lovely.

(6) Those expressions of not imputing sin

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:2, see also Romans 4:6-8)

To not impute iniquity is to not charge it against a person, to not credit it to them. This is the precise blessing of pardon: that I will not have my sins brought against me.

(7) That particular promise of Psalm 103

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)

What a vast distance there is between east and west!

These seven categories of precious promises form the third reason that God will never again bring our sins against us in judgment.

  1. Because Christ exposing our sins seems out of place on that great day, for three reasons.

(1) It seems out of place, given the great glory and solemnity of the day, which for God’s people will be a day of refreshing, a day of restitution, a day of redemption, a day of coronation, as we have already seen. Now, how suitable to this great day of solemnity the exposure of the sins of all the saints would be, I leave the reader to judge.

(2) It seems out of place, given the relationship of Jesus Christ to his people. He is their father, brother, head, husband, friend, and advocate. Now, are not all these relations bound rather to hide and conceal the weakness of their loved ones, at least from the world at large? And is not Christ so much more? He is more a father, brother and friend to us in his spiritual love than the best of all human relationships.

(3) It seems out of place, given what the Lord himself requires of us in this world. The Lord requires that his people cast a covering of love, wisdom, and silence over one another’s weaknesses.

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. (Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8)

Love’s covering is very large; love finds a bandage for every wound.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:5)

Would Jesus Christ have us to act toward one another in one way, while he acts in a completely different manner? If it is an evil to expose the weakness and faults of saints in the world, how could it be a glory and virtue for Christ to do the same on the final day of this age?

*****

Brooks goes on to briefly discuss the glory of passing over a transgression, and then ends his answer with this concluding paragraph, which is presented here without major editing or updating of the original style:

The heathens have long since observed, that in nothing man came nearer to the glory and perfection of God himself, than in goodness and clemency. Surely if it be an honor to man, ‘to pass over a transgression,’ it cannot be a dishonor to Christ to pass over the transgressions of his people, he having already buried them in the sea of his blood. Again, saith Solomon, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a thing,’ (Proverbs 25:2). And why it should not make for the glory of divine love to conceal the sins of the saints in that great day, I know not; and whether the concealing the sins of the saints in that great day will not make most for their joy, and wicked men’s sorrow, for their comfort and wicked men’s terror and torment, I will leave you to judge, and time and experience to decide. And this much for the resolution of that great question.

As Thomas Brooks writes, it is for you the reader to judge his view of the final judgment. Is it biblical or not? If you answer no, at least take care upon what grounds you reject it. Never settle for a shallow view of the forgiveness of sins in Christ. The sea of his blood is deep indeed. The cross is bloody and the tomb is empty. The Christian’s final hope is to be finally blameless in Christ, to his gracious glory, and by his glorious grace.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

[1] Thomas Brooks, The Works of Thomas Brooks, 220.

[2] The full original can be read on pages 220-24 in the Banner of Truth’s The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1.

[3] All Scripture references have been updated to the English Standard Version.

Untitled design

Non-Biblical Literature and the Bible: The Apostolic Fathers (Sixth Post)

Books, Christian Education, Christian Living, Church History, Devotional, Discipleship, The Church

My Junior year of college I was approached by Dr. Michael Holmes to be his Teacher’s Assistant. You can’t pass an opportunity like that up, even if you have no idea why he would chose you. So I took the job. That year, perhaps the best flat-out teacher I ever had was working on his now standard apostolic fathersThe Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. The work is now several editions newer, but it still retains the same basic set of books.

Who were the Apostolic Fathers? As Holmes puts it, “The term ‘Apostolic Fathers’ is traditionally used to designate the collection of the earliest extant Christian writings outside the New Testament. These documents are a primary resource for the study of early Christianity, especially the post apostolic period (ca. AD 70-150). They provide significant and often unparalleled glimpses of and insights into the life of Christians and the Christian movement during a critical transitional stage in its history.[1] While it is possible, perhaps even probable that the OT Pseudepigrapha contains Christian redaction (editing) from this era, the Apostolic Fathers are complete books written by the very earliest Christians apart from the Apostles themselves.

The collection usually contains a bit over a dozen books/letters. These consist of:

1 Clement (c 96), 2 Clement (c100?). Written by Clement of Rome (d. 99 AD, Clement served as Bishop of the church at Rome from 92-99 AD), 1 Clement is a sermon, twice as long as Hebrews. It contains some of the very earliest thinking on how to interpret the OT, with Christ and typology being at the very forefront of his thought. It is an amazing little letter.

Eight letters of Ignatius (c35–110). This is not the famous Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1556) who founded the Society of the Jesuits, but a remarkable (and third) Bishop of Antioch who wrote these letters on the way to die in a Roman Colosseum at the hands of Emperor Trajan. Some of these were written to churches that Paul wrote to (Rome, Philippians, Ephesians) and that John wrote to (Philadelphia, Smyrna).

Martyrdom of Polycarp. This book is both a letter and a martyr act which contains the account of Polycarp of Smyrna (c.69–ca. 155). Irenaeus famously says, “Polycarp also was not only instructed by the apostles, and conversed with many who had seen the Lord, but was also appointed bishop by apostles in Asia and in the church in Smyrna” (against Heresies 3.3.4), Eusebius adds that Irenaeus had, as a boy, listened to “the accounts which (Polycarp) gave of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, V. 20).

Didache. Written as early as AD 50 to the early 2nd century, this contains some of the earliest Christian instruction. If it really goes back to 50 AD, it would be far and away the oldest of all the Apostolic Fathers, and one of the very earliest of any Christian writing, including the books of the NT.

The Shepherd of Hermas (2nd century). Ah, the good Shepherd. This fascinating book contains five visions, twelve mandates, and ten parables. It uses allegory (its allegory of Christian baptism is especially interesting, as it is clearly immersion), and pays special attention to the church, calling the faithful to repent of the sins that have harmed her.

Epistle to Diognetus, Fragments of Quadratus and Papias. Dating perhaps to 130 AD, the Epistle to Diognetus is one of the earliest works of Apologetics known. The other two are fragments. Papias (c. 70-163) is an important source for learning about the origin of some of the NT books.

I highly recommend these books, especially 1 Clement which is a personal favorite. It is one thing to read people talk about the Apostolic Fathers (secondary sources). But there is no substitute for knowing original sources first hand, especially sources so close to Christ himself. Ours is a religion rooted in real history, and the Apostolic Fathers get us as close to that history as we can get, outside of the Scripture itself.

(by: Doug Van Dorn)

[1] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 3.

The Cemetery and The Shopping Center

Christian Living, Culture, Devotional, The Gospel

I’ve always been fascinated by graveyards. This stems, I think, not from an undue interest in the macabre, but rather with the sense of solemnity and connection to previous generations that a cemetery holds. Today as I walked from home to my office at church I stopped off at something that I only noticed yesterday even though I’ve passed it almost daily for the last two years- a small cemetery delineated by crude and crumbling stack-stone walls.

Here’s the first of several pictures I took:

IMG_0176

IMG_0179

As you can see it appears this graveyard is a small family plot dating at least back into the mid 1800s. As such, it is not much of a novelty in a state like South Carolina; yet for a recent transplant like myself who hails from a region of the country where anything older than about a hundred years tends to be Native American and thus tragically neglected and ill preserved, such distant dates hand-chiseled in stone still hold a real appeal.

Yet even more than the graveyard itself, I was struck today by the fact that this solemn little place has become something of a sacred island in a sea of secular advance. It sits perched just feet from a sprawling parking lot and shopping center. In fact, the edge of the cemetery is only about five feet away from the closest building, meaning that it might actually be closer to the people inside than the people below, if you go by the traditional six foot reckoning.

Observe:

IMG_0182

IMG_0180

Three reflections seem apropos.

1. Remember how Quickly We Will Be Forgotten

The names on these headstones once conjured up a lifetime of memories and feeling at their mere mention. December 25 (!), 1774 was probably a date of intense joy for many. May 8, 1853, was probably a date of intense mourning and loss. Now they are just dates on a weathered slab of stone most people will never notice.

I doubt that even the descendants of the departed feel much of an emotional attachment to the names inscribed. Everyone who knew them is also dead. The world has moved on, quite literally, all around their final resting place. The most important events in their lives are forgotten. Their most precious moments don’t matter anymore. No one knows, no one remembers, and so no one cares.

We make way too much of our own staying power. It’s like the old quote (with various attributions) says:

You are going to die. They are going to drop you in a hole. They are going to throw dirt in your face and go back inside the church and eat potato salad.

The point is not the detract from the dignity of death and the solemnity of the moment, the point is to arrest our own self importance. We let controversy and conflict ruin our lives, but after we’re dead it’s very likely no one will even remember what we were fighting about, let alone care. Remember how quickly we will all be forgotten, and try to care about the stuff that actually matters.

Which leads us well into the next reflection.

2. Don’t Gain the World at the Cost of Your Soul

Remember that building that’s about five feet away from the graveyard wall? It’s actually a fitness center. It’s full of people running and jumping and lifting and trying desperately to stave off the inevitable. With hard work you can make yourself look ten years younger, but you can’t really stop the clock. That chiseled physique is going six feet deep.

Jesus asked:

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his soul?

The answer to the rhetorical question is obvious: nothing. It gains you nothing to be the fittest, richest, most powerful person on earth if you neglect the one thing you actually can take with you after death- your eternal soul. You are not merely a body, you have a spiritual life that death can never kill. That’s how God made you, and one day you’re going to stand in his presence.

This isn’t a sentimental post about trying to motivate you to spend more time with family or give money to charity, noble as those efforts may be. This is about you and God, face to face. It will happen. You will be there. And all that will matter in that moment is your sin. Your sin will condemn you and you will go through something that feels like a second death- only it will go on forever and ever into eternity. Hell is for real.

But the gospel held out to you (from God himself, no less) is that Jesus Christ has lived a perfect life in your place. He never sinned, and he offers his perfect record to you for the taking. It’s free. Furthermore, he has suffered on the cross the penalty that sin requires. He suffered it until it killed him, but after three days he rose from the dead. He fought sin on your behalf, and he won.

Having the things that Jesus did applied to you so that you will go to heaven instead of hell is what salvation is all about. God has graciously provided a way to to saved, really and truly saved.

Please, please, please go to a church that preaches this gospel and talk to them about it. Don’t chose the escapism of the shopping center and ignore the cemetery that’s only five feet away.

What a blessing it is to have this third reflection:

3. Christians Do Not Need to Sorrow as Others Who Have No Hope

It only seems fitting to end these reflections with a quotation of what the Apostle Paul wrote to Christians as they struggle with the sorrowful reality of death’s awful advance:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 ESV)

If you are trusting in this gospel for your forgiveness and living a life a faith in Jesus Christ, be encouraged. If you are not, be encouraged to come and meet Jesus in a real and saving way for the very first time. Don’t put it off.

Don’t be so focused on the shopping center that you ignore the inevitable cemetery. Be ready.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

Anti-Psalm 131

Devotional

Psalm 131 reads:

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;

my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord

from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 131, ESV)

If you take Psalm 131 and rewrite each clause in its basically opposite form, you get an anti-psalm. Here is my example:

O Lord, my heart is swollen up with pride;

My eyes dart around in anger;

I am obsessed and consumed

with matters I cannot understand.

I am full of doubts and questions, I am in turmoil with no rest until I get my answers,

Like a child crossing his arms in rebellion against his mother;

Like a child screaming is my soul within me.

O fellow strugglers, we have no hope

All is darkness and despair, from this time forth, and forevermore.

Read them both and take your pick. I know my choice. I choose hope.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

In The Family of Jesus

Devotional, The Church, The Gospel, Theology

Usually when we read that Jesus had a wife and kids it is one of those ridiculous news magazine cover stories that quote some tired old 8th century forgery as an authentic Apostolic autograph or in a sensationalistic documentary claiming to unearth the “family tomb” of Jesus.  An *ahem* Biblical studies expert is usually called upon to hypothesize eloquently about Jesus and Mary Magdalene and what may or may not have been.  Why are these so-called discoveries always unveiled around Easter and Christmas?  Is is possible that their may be a slight profit motive behind it all?  I’d not like to give account for that on the final day, speaking personally.

It is certainly true that Jesus had a family in the BIble.  His relationship biologically to His mother was no different than yours or mine.  And he had an adoptive earthly father in Joseph.  His earthly brothers of course figure prominently in the New Testament.

And from another perspective it is also true that the intra-Trinitarian relationship of Persons is partially revealed to us in familial terms- the Father and the Son. But it is not Jesus earthly, nor intra-Trinitarian next of kin which is the focus in this post.  Rather, I want to share three ways we are spiritually related to Jesus in the pages of Scripture.

1. We are the siblings of Jesus.

…That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers… (Hebrews 2:12)

…I will tell of your name to my brothers… (Hebrews 2:13)

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. (Matthew 12:50)

Several beautiful truths are highlighted here.  By becoming incarnate the Son of God has become the brother of men.  He was made humanly like us in every respect but our sin.  And because of what He did in the flesh, He has so redeemed you that He is not ashamed to look at you (if you, reader, are His) and call you brother.

In our redeemed lives we are so closely identified with Him and His mission that it even takes priority over our earthly blood-bonds.  When viewed on their own merits our earthly relationships are precious and ordained of God.  Yet when viewed in comparison to our relationship to Christ, it is as though they do not even exist.  And truly the wonder of the thing is that Jesus identifies that way with us.  He turns away from even precious earthly ties and says here is my closest family- those who do the will of My Father in heaven.

2. We are the bride of Jesus.

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready (Revelation 19:7)

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)

Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And  he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:9-10)

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)

Rather than attempt to immediately sort out the already/not yet dynamics at play in these verses, can we not simply be quietly overwhelmed by what God is saying to us in His Word?  The redeemed people of God, those purchased by the blood of Jesus, His church- we are called His bride.  A man is called to leave father and mother and cleave to His new wife, and similarly Jesus left the comforts of heaven on a redemptive mission of love.  He came after His intended bride and laid down His life to win her.   His work on her behalf has won many things we could list and rehearse- but among his trophies of grace we must say that He has certainly won her heart.  He has indeed won more that that- glory for Himself, propitiation for us, so much more we could list- but there in the midst of the great roll of the redemptive victories won by Christ is this: he has taken the dead hearts of these spiritual corpses and knit them together into a living spiritual Bride fit for a King, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.  He has resurrected, cleansed, redeemed and thoroughly won the heart of his bride- His Church.

3. We are the children of Jesus.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for guilt,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:10)

Sometimes lost in the midst of this beautiful account of the Suffering Servant is this prophetic promise- after Christ is crushed and put to grief for the iniquities of His straying sheep and after his soul makes an offering for guilt, there is the promise that he shall see his offspring.

The Bible describes us as the spiritual children of Jesus.  Notice that in the gospels Jesus again and again refers to his disciples as children (Mark 9:42; 10:24; John 13:33-35; 21:4,5).  How good it is to look to him with the quiet expectation and trust of a child.  In Isaiah 53 the picture is that the Servant will endure the Sufferings and afterward he shall be raised up.  Several pictures of the end to which he will be stricken are offered, and the first one listed is that He will see those who once were straying sheep are now his devoted children.  What a glorious and neglected truth- believers are the spiritual children of Jesus.  He is their Federal Head, their Covenant Lord, and their Spiritual Father.  To call Him such is not to introduce Trinitarian confusion of persons, nor to neglect his place as our Spiritual Brother and Spiritual Husband.  It is simply to continue to follow Scripture in the beautiful familial metaphors it paints for us.  

The family of Jesus is about much more than the cheap opportunistic hack jobs thrown up around Christmas and Easter in the secular press.  There are multiple levels of glorious truth to consider.  Jesus was a real man, and he really had a human family.  He was made like us in so many ways.  And the Bible does not hesitate to use the image of a family to describe us as the spiritual siblings, bride, and children of Jesus.  Each of these spiritual bonds draws out and expresses with new depth and clarity the union we have with our Lord.  Although he had no earthly wife and no earthly children, His family is real and it is growing.  If you are in His family, rejoice with me today.  If you are outside, why?

(By: Nicolas Alford- with some heavy influence from Pastor Greg Nichols on point 3)