Wednesday, June 30, 2010

such that the Father seeks

If you've heard Pastor Alistair Begg before, perhaps, like me, you feel that it is almost worth listening to his teaching solely by virtue of the sound of his voice (i.e., sweet Scottish accent). But it is truly the content of what he says, and not the manner in which he says it, that draws me to listen, as rich theology is typically the norm for his sermons. Earlier today I caught one of his teachings on the radio, of which I wanted to share a portion. The full message, entitled "Examining Our Motives" (ID: 1052), is from a series on evangelism called Crossing the Barriers, and can be accessed at The section I wish to highlight, italicized below, is in no way exclusively restricted to evangelism, but rather relates in part to the core of life in Christ.

"A deep rooted concern for God's glory is the example of the Apostolic church. And right alongside that, that biblical evangelism never puts a full stop after conversion, but regards conversion as a prelude to worship. 'Now, where do you get that from?', says somebody. Well, right from the words of Jesus when He spoke to the lady at the well, when He was involved in personal evangelism, if you like. You turn to it in John chapter 4 and verse 23. And Jesus makes clear to this lady, who's trying to sidetrack Him concerning the discrepancy between Samaritan and Jewish worship, and He says 'listen, lady, the time has come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.' So, here's the deal tonight: the Father is seeking worshippers. God does not need us; there is no gap in God that we must fill up. God is entirely Self-existent. But God has purposed that glory should come to His name, and He is seeking worshippers. So, when we go about the business of evangelism, we are aligning our wills with the God who is seeking others to add their voices to His song. Therefore, the evangelist should look beyond the benefit which comes to the convert who is saved to the glory which comes to the God who loves him. And, finally under this, worship expresses itself in witness, and witness expresses itself in worship."

When we worship God (in evangelism or in praise or in any area of life), is our motive such that we are incorrectly (and vainly) trying to fill in gaps of which God really has no need?

Or, when we worship God do we humbly bow before His presence knowing that, even in our gift and sacrifice to Him, we are indeed being filled by Him?

The Father seeks worshippers to worship Him in spirit and in truth, for there is no higher Good with whom we may have communion, and He desires our good. Indeed, "Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and to fully enjoy him for ever" - and this in Christ and by virtue of His death and resurrection (The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Assembly, Question 1).

(Also with regard to motive in evangelism, Pastor Begg proposes another pair of poignant questions later in the message on a somewhat different topic, but wholly worthy of contemplation (may God search and know our hearts!): Do we love people because we want them to get saved? Or, do we want people to get saved because we love them?)
The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Assembly. (1998). Glasgow, Scotland: Free Presbyterian Publications. (Original work published 1648)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

a holistic approach to the Person and work of Jesus (de incarnatione, pt. 1/3)

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

When we read the Gospels, it is quite remarkable to view the perspective that each writer provides concerning the Person and work of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as they join together as a coherent whole in beautiful harmony. Nevertheless, while they are complete in the sense that they supply all we need to know about Jesus, they are not "complete" in the sense that they provide a minute-by-minute detail of Jesus' life from the moment He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, until His appearances to the disciples post-resurrection. With that in mind, it is important that we attune ourselves to what is said, rather than fancy ourselves about what is silent, as the words preserved in Scripture are "inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). That which we encounter in Scripture is written for a purpose, and since we are dealing with part of God's self-revelation, it is paramount for us to bear in mind what it is that God is revealing about His Person and work, say, in a particular passage, when we seek to derive meaning, wisdom, and understanding.
Now, if I am successful, I will make apparent that I, too, have a purpose in bringing these points up here. Briefly comparing the introductory accounts of all four Gospels, we find essentially the following sequences for each book (in very broad and simplistic categories):

-Matthew: 1) Jesus' Genealogy, 2) Jesus' Birth, 3) Jesus' baptism, 4) Jesus' temptation in the wilderness...
-Mark: 1) Jesus' baptism, 2) Jesus' calling of His disciples...
-Luke: 1) Jesus' Genealogy, 2) Jesus' birth, 3) Jesus' baptism, 4) Jesus' temptation in the wilderness...
-John: 1) Jesus' eternal nature, 2) Jesus' incarnation, 3) Jesus' baptism, 4) Jesus' calling of His disciples...

After Jesus' birth, barring minimal exceptions (for example, Luke 2:40-52), we know virtually nothing of Christ until His baptism, which is immediately followed by His temptation in the wilderness. Further questions arise, questions such as: Why are these events so closely associated in the Gospels? Why did the Holy Spirit lead Jesus to be tempted by Satan? How could Satan validly offer to Jesus "the kingdoms of this world and their glory" (Matthew 4:8-9). In Hebrews 2:14-15, the writer conjoins two themes that are often (mistakenly) viewed as related only tangentially. Namely, the author alludes to Jesus' incarnation (in that He partook of humanities' flesh & blood) as corresponding to His death and resurrection, along with the principal figure Jesus defeated through death, Satan ("that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death"). If we look back to the Gospels, however, we find that these themes are in no way unrelated. That is, and while there is not room here to discuss the importance of differences between each account in terms of scope and focus, Matthew and Luke both notably position the event of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness by Satan in relative nearness to the event of Jesus' incarnation or birth (only His baptismal account interrupts an immediate juxtaposition). The temptation of Jesus by Satan brings to mind Jesus' death because the cross of Christ, His passion, death, and resurrection, is the pivotal point wherein Jesus definitively "bruised the head" of the serpent by overcoming death through death. The questions I wish to introduce, then, is why, out of all the possible events to begin speaking of Jesus' life after He was born a man and partook of flesh and blood, do these gospel writers start with Jesus' baptism and temptation? What is God revealing about Himself in the relationship between the incarnation and Jesus' death and resurrection? The answers to these questions are, in part, touched on in our present verses in Hebrews, again repeated here:

"Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

In short, we may (to our great detriment) lose sight of the unity of Christ's work, along with its scope and aim, when we dissect it into neat, but seemingly unrelated categories (e.g., category 1 = incarnation, category 2 = miracles, category 3 = crucifixion, etc.). Before coming across as hypocritical, these "categories" are indeed important; still, when we treat one, we must bear in mind its relatedness to the others, so that we are continually reminded of Christ's Person and work as holistic. Accordingly, in Hebrews 2, the writer expects of the reader to understand the connection between Jesus' incarnation and His death, wherein He effected our freedom from the "slavery" of sin and death - so-called "powers" that no longer have hold for those who are in Christ, "being", as Paul writes, "conformed to His death" (Philippians 3:10).
In Jesus' partaking of "flesh and blood", that is, in the incarnation, we encounter the embodiment of Jesus the eternal Word of God in human flesh without suffering any loss of His divine nature (see the post on hypostasis for more on this topic). Through the work that was only in a loose sense "begun" in the incarnation, Jesus initiates the effecting of a new creation upon His own creation. As St. Athanasius famously writes, "the renewal of the creation has been the work of the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning" (De Incarnatione Verbi Dei "On the Incarnation of the Word of God", II, in Schaff & Wace 2004a:36). The goodness of creation, though still extant, was disturbed by the entrance of sin in the fallen angel that deceived Adam and Eve, through whom death passes to all humankind. Yet in all this, our sovereign and omniscient God was never without a plan, and that "plan" was the Person and work of Jesus Christ who would become God incarnate "in order to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). This is the purpose, according to St. John, for which "[t]he Son of God appeared."
It should, therefore, no longer be surprising to see the conjunction of the birth of Christ with the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, wherein Christ overcame Satan. And while Satan "left [Jesus] until an opportune time," Jesus totally conquered Satan, along with death and hell, through the cross, upon which He died in order to rise again (Luke 4:13). So the incarnation is intimately associated with His having "rendered powerless" the devil. Of course, what I'm writing is in no way novel, and we find expressions of this notion today in predicating about Jesus that He was "born to die that I might live." John Behr evidences the connection between, as he puts it, "the tomb and the womb" in the early Christian writings of Bishop Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) and St. Ephrem the Syrian (AD 306-373) (Behr 2006:134). For example, in one of St. Ephrem's hymns we read:

"But in Thy Resurrection Thou persuadest them concerning Thy Birth; since the womb was sealed, and the sepulchre closed up; being alike pure in the womb, and living in the sepulchre. The womb and the sepulchre being sealed were witnesses unto Thee.
The belly and hell cried aloud of Thy Birth and Thy Resurrection: The belly conceived Thee, which was sealed; hell brought Thee forth which was closed up. Not after nature did either the belly conceive Thee, or hell give Thee up!" (Hymns on the Nativity, VIII, in Schaff & Wace 2004:241)

And again:

1. Adam sinned and earned all sorrows;
likewise the world after his example, all guilt.
And instead of considering how it should be restored,
considered how its fall should be pleasant for it.
Glory to Him Who came and restored it!

2. This cause summoned Him that is pure,
that He should come and be baptized,
even He with the defiled,
Heaven for His glory was rent asunder.
That the purifier of all might be baptized with all,
He came down and sanctified the water for our baptism.

3. For that cause for which He entered into the womb,
for the same cause He went down into the river.
For that cause for which He entered into the grave,
for the same cause He makes us enter into His chamber.
He perfected mankind for every cause.

4. His Conception is the store of our blessings;
His Birth is the treasury of our joys;
His Baptism is the cause of our pardon;
His death is the cause of our life.
Death He alone has overcome in His Resurrection.

9. His Birth flowed on and was joined to His Baptism;
and His Baptism flowed on even to His Death;
His Death led and reached to His Resurrection,
a fourfould bridge unto His Kingdom; and lo!
His sheep pass over in His footsteps. (Hymns for the Feast of the Epiphany, X.1-4, 9, in Schaff & Wace 2004:280)

Christ, then, in His incarnation and death, but also His baptism, resurrection, and ascension, along with the life that He now lives, destroyed the power of Sheol and the power granted to the devil through the fall of humankind. Indeed, "His death is the cause of our life" and "He alone" "has overcome" death through death "in His Resurrection as "the gates of Hell" could neither keep Him out nor keep Him in. And as He is alive, so He has made us "alive together with Him," as Paul writes to the believers in Collosae:

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him" (Colossians 2:13-15, emphasis added)

Still, while there is a clear and lucid finality to what Jesus has accomplished, there is, from our perspective governed by the creation of time an anticipation of the full realization of what Jesus has completed and made effectual. For this reason, we on the earth still wrestle with the "rulers and authorities" that Jesus Himself "disarmed" and triumphed over. But although we do not fully experience release from this "struggle," we are to be encouraged in Christ to:

"Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:11-13a).

Furthermore, while we are still called to suffer in the flesh in accordance to the example that Christ provided for us (1 Peter 2:21), we cannot help but affirm in our tribulations:

"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? [...] But in all things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:35, 37). And how did He "who loved us" demonstrate that love? St. John records the words of Jesus Himself with regard to this question: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Jesus, the eternal Word of God, took upon Himself our nature, being born of flesh and blood by the Virgin Mary so that He could not only call us friends, but demonstrate and forever prove that love and friendship by paying the penalty for our sins and conquering death through death. God "manifests" His love for us in that He "has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9). That entrance into the world was through the incarnation; the life that we have through Him was wrought by Jesus in His death and resurrection, so that death and fear of death no longer holds us as its slaves. And so Paul continues, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

By Jesus' having "part[aken] of the same [flesh and blood as humanity], that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives," He has granted and enabled for us both an individual/ecclesial and a universal/cosmic vision. With regard to the individual/ecclesial, we say with Paul:

"Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! [...] Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 7:24-25; 8:1-2, emphasis added).

And, with regard to the universal/cosmic, we see with John that:

"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15). Amen, and amen!

Behr, John. (2006). The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.
Schaff, P. and Wace, H. (Eds.). (2004). Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. (Original work published 1892)
Schaff, P., and Wace, H. (Eds.). (2004). Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 13, Part II: Gregory the Great, Ephraim Syrus, Aphrahat: Second Series. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. (Original work published 1898)

Icon of the Resurrection copyright Marie Lavie, and courtesy of

Thursday, June 24, 2010

the sacredness of the mundane: reflections on the Father's love

Not that this is necessarily unique (in terms of experience) or profound (in terms of newness), but, before returning again to the Epistle to the Hebrews, I wanted to briefly share a concrete example of how God readily reveals Himself to us through seemingly "mundane" actions in daily life. All too often we reject the "common" and the "material" for that which is perceived to be more "spiritual"; this morning served as a quaint reminder of what we might lose when we hold to such a strict dichotomy.
Late last night/early this morning (in the wee hours), our son woke up crying. Although I feel so sad for him when I hear that sound, I love to see his small hands and face stretching over the top of his crib, peering over just barely with his big eyes, so he can be on the lookout for when one of us is coming to rescue him. What started as "my turn" to check on and comfort him soon ended up as me changing his clothes and diaper while my wife tended to cleaning the crib sheets (does she ever get a break?). Anyway, this morning after he ate, no effort on his part could hide how worn out he was from his lack of sleep. And, regardless of how playful he was being and/or wanted to be, he couldn't help but stop to rub his tired eyes every few moments or so. So, while my wife got ready for the day, I took our son to put him down for his morning nap. He was out almost immediately.
Nevertheless, as he is not one to be predictable, about 6 minutes later he lets out an intense scream from his room, having been woken from his short-lived slumber. My wife and I look at each other a bit surprised, each smiling, each jokingly giving the other the "what did you do?" look, so I go in to check on him while she finishes getting ready. As I walk over to the crib, I see the image of our helpless child half-poised to either sleep or stand, his eyes closed, his face red, his lips trembling, and his pacifier clinging to his lips for dear life. He opens his eyes and sees me moving toward his bed, so he gathers as much energy as his tired body can muster to inch toward the railing and pull himself up, seemingly crying to/for me now, as he extends his hand toward my face. I know he is tired, though, and no matter how much I want to hold him (and, really, just wake him up to play!), I know he needs to sleep. With reticence (only because I desperately want to hold him), I tenderly stroke his forehead, speak softly to calm him, and pat his back as he gently lays down again, his cries removed by silence.
But, not for long. Before I even make it to the door (about 5 feet away) his screams return at full volume. Now, at this point, something inside me actually exclaims "Yes!" because now I feel I have justification for picking him up to comfort him, holding him closely to my chest. I mean, he's not really going to go right to sleep anyway, right? We both quietly relish in our victories for the moment.
Then he turns our silent party into active celebration as he pops his head up quickly with this adorable expression that says "Is it time to play?" I just smile. But he can't hold his head up for long, as his tiredness works against him with resolute stubbornness. Still, I know he won't give in easily, so we go to the living room and look at some pictures while I rock him slowly and steadily; he laughs at the pictures of himself, betrayed by the silliness that always signals to us he's too tired to be awake. A few minutes later he rides on my arms back into his room, and he lets out a whimper at the realization of what is happening. He burrows his head into my shoulder as I sing "Here is Love", and he quickly falls asleep in my grasp, slowly and progressively witnessed by his head falling further down my chest. I lay him in his crib and pat his back - this time he is out for good.
Now, any parent reading this is blatantly aware to the commonality of such circumstances. Still, at the moment when our son looked up at me trembling from his bed, I recalled something of the nature of our Father that I could not easily dismiss, nor let go all too soon. Here's what I learned from this so-called "mundane" or "common" event:

1) God is always present
2) God is always near
3) God is always love
4) God cares for our good

Let me make clear from the outset that we need to take care that we do not anthropomorphize God by thrusting our attributes upon Him, and this is not what I am attempting here. Rather, only by the Triune God's grace and because of Christ and His merit can I even look at my life and see semblances of the Father's infinite love who calls us to "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in [us] both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). So, as I share this personal event, know that it is with humility. For, I believe the purpose of this was for God to glorify Himself by His self-revelation, as I recalled His nature through how He has revealed Himself in the past, for example through Scripture. In this manner, I believe that God uses such things to both reveal His perfections and to encourage us toward what we are called to, which we can never fulfill apart from being in Christ as we abide in Him and are being perfected by His sanctifying and saving us.
In the moment when our son first awoke from sleep, as I looked upon him, two thoughts entered my mind that changed my perspective on the situation: 1) I wondered what our son must have been thinking and feeling as he cried out to me, and 2) I wondered (here I intend both senes of the word, that of "inquiry" and of "awe") at God's love and compassion toward us as He hears our cries to Him. When our son first began to cry, perhaps he felt alone as he looked to see that there was none to comfort him; yet we were present - just outside the door. And this presence is not some abstract notion, but I was near, even though our son might not have realized it. Moreover, even as our son was crying, and perhaps questioned our ability and or willingness to meet his need, what he could have perceived as not reacting fast enough was indeed love as I sought to care for him while not only having his ultimate good in mind, I desired it and wanted to see it fulfilled.
At this point, some interesting analogies can be made that bear upon circumstances in our lives and how we relate to God the Father, along with how He relates to us. How frequently do we cry for Him, and yet falsely regard His action as inaction and distance? Or, perhaps we incorrectly view God's sovereign patience and longsuffering as apathy? Further still, do we not imply that God does not care for us or our good when we assume Him to be aloof? Notwithstanding, our unfaithfulness to God can never inhibit His faithfulness to act in accord with His eternal nature. Even the tersest glimpse of the psalms displays not only His ability to hear, but His willingness and longing to do so as He always condescends to meet our needs and care for us. Moreover, as we read the Scriptures we do not find a silent God who is absent, but, as the title of one of Francis A. Schaeffer's books declares in agreement with God's self-revelation, "He is there and He is not silent" (Schaeffer 1972). God is ever-present, and though it may initially sound redundant, He is always near, and we who are His know that the nearness of God is our good (see Psalm 73:28). God is patient, and while we may see immediate resolution to our problem as the only solution, God knows the end from the beginning; He knows how to act toward us in perfect love with our good in mind, even though our sense of immediacy frequently blinds us to the ways of God for whom "all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26; Mark 14:36). We must entrust our lives "to Him who is able" (see Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:20; Jude 1:24). We may be in a specific situation crying vehemently to God, fearing that He may be absent, that He may be distant, that He does not love us or that He wishes to do us harm. Yet God would have us know, and goes to great detail to reveal about Himself, that He is always present, He is always near, He is always Love (& loving), and He always desires our good, which is ultimately being satisfied in and with Him.
Not surprisingly, we can look to Jesus to see perfect realization of all these attributes (and many others, as well). For, Jesus has "explained" God to us, and as "He is the image of the invisible was the Father's good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in [Jesus]," and for "the fullness of Deity" to dwell in Him "in bodily form" (John 1:18; Colossians 1:15, 19; 2:9). Jesus embodies the attributes of God in a tangible fashion, realizing God's presence, nearness, love, and desire for our good. We have no need to look further than Jesus to understand that our deepest needs have been met through His Person and work in His Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Glorification. If God did not withhold, but gave for the world His only-begotten Son, where is the substance of our questioning His presence, nearness, and love?
Schaeffer, Francis A. (1972). He is There and He is not Silent. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

ecology, evangelicalism, & big 'o' orthodoxy

Briefly departing from our discussion of the Epistle to the Hebrews, this post is a reaction to a separate post by Father Andrew Damick (pastor of Saint Paul Orthodox Christian Church in Emmaus, Penssylvania), which was itself a reaction to another blog post by Dr. Russell D. Moore (Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky). If you're confused at present, at least this gives us an appreciation of the nexus of weblogs! But enough with bad jokes; below are links to the two posts, listed in order of chronological appearance:

-Ecological Catastrophe and the Uneasy Evangelical Conscience (by Dr. Moore at Moore to the Point, June 1, 2010)

-Deepwater Horizon: Why Evangelical theology is helpless in the face of a catostrophic oil spill (by Fr. Andrew at Roads from Emmaus, June 17, 2010)

(I also recommend some additional readings and/or broadcasts by each of these authors. For Dr. Moore, see his Global Warming Testimony before the U.S. Senate, and for Fr. Andrew, listen to This Holy Earth: Ecological Vision In the Cosmic Cathedral, Part 1 and Part 2, from his Roads from Emmaus broadcast on Ancient Faith Radio, as well as reading his various posts related to ecology on his blog.)

Now that you've done the necessary reading, let me attempt to justify (or excuse, depending on your viewpoint!) my contribution to this discussion. I wish to mainly treat some of Fr. Andrew's arguments, which of course relate directly to those of Dr. Moore, by adding another component that I feel crucially impinges on the ecological issue(s). Essentially, there are two main aspects of Damick's arguments that I wish to highlight: 1) the priesthood of all believers, and 2) the holiness of creation. In case you haven't read his blog, here are some relevant portions, quoted at length:

"Evangelical theology really does stand helpless in the face of ecological disasters like the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, because it has no cosmic vision, and it has no cosmic vision because it has no sacramental vision. In Orthodox Christian theology, the goodness of God’s creation is not simply as a nice backdrop and useful set of natural resources for human beings to use in getting on with their lives. God’s creation certainly does have man at its center, but the creation does not exist for essentially utilitarian reasons. Rather, creation’s true purpose is to convey divine sanctification, to manifest the divine energies of God. And man’s proper relation to creation is as its priest. But there are no priests in Evangelical theology, except the “priesthood of all believers,” which certainly has believers, but not really any priests."

"Without any sense of any thing or any place at all being holy, then how can one see the whole earth as holy? With the absence of the particular, the universal is even more elusive. As such, Evangelical theology can only retreat into its limited anthropocentricism with its emphasis on disincarnate, legal arrangements. Salvation in most Evangelical theology is in terms of a “status,” and so the theological language of “justification” (what gets you your ticket to Heaven) is precisely in those terms. One is either saved or not, and one gets saved by fulfilling certain requirements."

The first of these quotes pertains to the notion of universal priesthood, and I take this to relate directly to the sacramental emphasis in Fr. Damick's writing. That is, and here I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that Fr. Damick relies on Alexander Schmemann's argument in For the Life of the World that God created humanity to live in and among His good and holy creation as priests by offering the world to God through eucharistic sacrifice. The second quote is positioned in opposition to the Evangelical emphasis of the world in its present state of having been marred by sin, and therefore not necessarily holy in the sense that the Orthodox define it (the reader should note that I will not enter into any discussions about panentheism, which Orthodoxy maintains, though it is indeed relevant to the present topic). While I would not agree that Fr. Damick has represented the core of Evangelical theology in an entirely accurate manner, he does bring up some crucial differences that relate to our understanding of cosmology and ecology, as well as note a problematic aspect within the Evangelical framework as far as ecology (and ecological responsibility) is concerned.
However, as I see it, we need to take even a further step back in order to understand the root of the issue with regard to ecology and Evangelicalism, and how Evangelicals are not necessarily poised to uphold a biblical ecology. By doing so, we can actually get at something that can be viewed as common to both Evangelicalism and Orthodoxy, though the former has, I argue, departed from a biblical view. That is, rather than speaking of sacrament, priesthood, and the sanctity of creation, I wish to emphasize the essence of the created realm as it derives from the relationship inherent to the most basic ontological distinction for all that is: that between 1) the Creator and 2) the created. Note that even this basic division implies relationships that hold not only between the two categories, but, for the focus of this post, this implies a special relationship among all members of the second group. When we view the creation account in Genesis 1-2, we read that God created all things, that God uniquely created humanity in His own image, that God gave a singular command to humanity with regard to their "rule over" the created realm, and that God declared the finality of His creation to be "good" (Genesis 1, especially vv26-28, 31). But how we ought to manifest such "rule over" is, I feel, the critical issue in the present discourse. For Evangelicals in America, this has largely been interpreted eisegetically from the Modernist/Western notion of "stewardship" and its expression surrounding the Enlightenment movement. Fr. Damick hints at this in saying that "God’s creation certainly does have man at its center, but the creation does not exist for essentially utilitarian reasons." This Modern conceptualization does not reflect properly the intended relationship that should hold between members of the that-which-is-created category.
The so-called Enlightenment was indeed a movement and, in many respects, it was one both away from ecclesial authority (along with abuses of such) and toward secularism, and perhaps, we might add, the predecessors of humanism. What originally started then as strange bedfellows (Christian theology/philosophy and secular philosophy/theology) is often, from our point in history as Americans, taken for granted as a natural and beautiful union. The result is that Western theologies, of which Evangelicalism is but one expression, and their adherents fail to discern between the biblical principles held and/or popular during the Englightenment and the various ideologies that arguably do not resonate with sound Christian doctrine. This much-needed discernment is especially difficult now because of the philosophical foundations of Western American culture and society, consisting of both Christian and secular components, which are perceived as having become "one flesh" for a large portion of the American mind.
So then, the guilt of the Evangelical, if existent, is guilt by association. This association, that is, the nonseparation of secular philosophies from biblical philosophies and theology, is not, however, intrinsic to Evangelicalism, or so I claim. The indiscernability (or, rather, failure to discern) of potentially contrary ideologies does not inhere to Evangelicalism, regardless of how much it does or does not pervade the American Evangelical conscience. This, then, is the point that I wish to enter in the dialogue with regard to ecology. For, I argue, Fr. Damick rightfully observes the continued association between those Western philosophical frameworks (e.g., Utilitarianism) that are non-Christian with Evangelical teachings, but he fails to recognize the nature of this relationship, which is not inherent or necessary. If I am correct, then the problem may well lie with Evangelicals, but not Evangelicalism per se. That is, the root is to be found in shifting and pluralistic identities among American Evangelicals that need to be delineated and, at times, rejected (e.g., instead of 'Christian and Utilitarian', perhaps we might consider 'Christian or Utilitarian'). An analog to this in Orthodoxy could be, for example, to (when necessary) separate nationalistic movements within predominantly Orthodox nations from Orthodox theology itself.
For the American Evangelical and, in addition, many other Christians in Euro-American traditions, the notion of "stewardship" has found a narrow and exclusive definition situated within the Modernist discourse and related notions, such as private property and ownership, labor, discovery, utility, inalienable rights, the pursuit of happiness (which itself was often wed to the aforementioned concept of private property), etc. The earth and other nonhuman aspects of God's creation (and, at times, many humans falsely and racially conceived as either nonhuman or not "fully human") are viewed almost exclusively as objectified resources within an anthropocentric understanding. Perhaps it should not surprise us that, for example, the Industrial Revolution with its impressive ability to exploit peoples and resources followed (relatively) shortly after the Enlightenment. And, though we ought to be ashamed, it should not surprise us that, within the last several centuries, the nationalistic/imperialistic/colonialist powers that have had the most devastating effects with regard to almost all aspects of creation on Earth have been by and large of American and European stock.
By uncritically emphasizing and not distinguishing Modernist (or any other) ideologies that can run counter to the Christian worldview, we in America (and everywhere in the world) fail to understand what is really and singularly Christian. We must take care that we do not implicitly support the proposition that the Gospel is/was somehow perfected (thus entailing that the Gospel has such a need in the first place) by, say, the American Constitution. Or, in a similar fashion, we should not favor an argument that such documents are a perfect expression of the Gospel. I doubt that any (or, perhaps many) Evangelicals today would even explicitly agree that this is what is believed, but is not this the outcome or at least the latent ideology behind the common argumentations that are so tied to notions of progress and American modernity? We have become, as Fr. Damick puts it, so "anthropocentric" in our mindset that the means by which "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are achieved are justified by their utility, even if this results in the destruction of God's creation by the drive for excessive consumption as the created realm becomes exploited to satisfy our every desire (and this, too, as Dr. Moore notes, will neither be for the good of humanity).
We have become deaf to the dissonance that is produced from attempting to hear from both biblical theology/philosophy and secular philosophy/theology simultaneously, and ecology is but one realm wherein today this is strikingly evident, especially for American Evangelicals. It is not the lacking of cosmic vision or sacrament that leads to failure among Evangelicals to approach ecological issues effectively; it is our failure to interpret exegetically the relationship between humans and the entirety of creation. This ought to be primarily theocentric, not anthropocentric. Furthermore, our actions toward creation should be defined by the parameters set by having been made in the image of God. Our "rule over" and "stewardship" should mirror His; our actions should reflect His nature and perfections. Consequently, by doing so we will cease to approach creation irreverently, that is, in an exploitive manner which views it purely as an objective (or objectified) resource whose purpose is understood solely by utility and a selfishly defined, maleable notion of "for our good."

Monday, June 14, 2010

the sanctifier & the sanctified

For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers (Hebrews 2:11, ESV).

Out of all the "practical" questions that arise concerning the Christian life, one I hear repeatedly (and have often asked myself) is, "What is God's will for my life?" This typically gets cashed out in further questions such as: "Should I take job X or Y?", "Does God want me to go into missions?", "Is it God's will for me to get married?", and "What is God's will concerning children for our family?", along with a host of other inquiries. One thing that these questions, and ones like them, reveal is a desire to submit to the will of God and to acknowledge His sovereignty in our lives. Also, we might say that such requests exhibit the desire for God to be intimately involved in every aspect of our lives and decisions, which is quite an admirable quality to be sought by any and every Christian. Yet, if we are not careful, this apparent dependence on God and desire for His will can become a farce. One way in which this might take place is by narrowing so much on details of "life" (so-called) that we lose sight of the broad sense of God's will evidenced explicitly in the command "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:45; 19:2). In this command we find life. Of what import do any questions concerning our lives have when viewed in the light of eternity if we neglect this aspect of sanctification?
In Hebrews, however, the author is not yet concerned so much with "practical application" as the substance of He who sanctifies, including an aspect of Christ's nature that unifies Him with those whom He calls "brothers and sisters." Still, we should not take the mentioning of sanctification as a random utterance, for in it we see displayed the nature of Him who is the author of our salvation, made perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10).
The verse presently treated has (at least) two sound interpretations that can, I believe, be supported biblically. The first is evidenced in the NASB, which reads, "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father" (2:11). Although 'Father' does not appear in the Greek, this wording positions both the sanctifier and the sanctified in a direct relation to God the Father, with the latter (the sanctified) bearing such a status on the merit of the former (the sanctifier, that is, Jesus Christ). This also illustrates well the notion that we who are in Christ have become children of God, and are therefore esteemed as brothers and sisters of the only begotten Son, who Himself has a divine origin. Therefore, it can be said accurately that we "are all from one Father" by virtue of the filial relationship we possess in Christ and, in addition, this familial relationship is also expressed fraternally. The emphasis here would be on the fact that we have become Jesus' brethren.
On the other hand, there is a second reading that the majority of modern translations in English take, which puts the emphasis on the fact that Jesus has become our brother. The distinction may initially seem too slight to deserve any attention, but I will try to explain what I mean by that. In the ESV translation of Hebrews 2:11 that I quote above, the verse reads, "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin" (2:11, ESV). This resonates well with the original Greek, which can be translated to say that the sanctifier and the sanctified are "all of one." As is evident, this reading is somewhat ambiguous, and the NASB has explicitly added one option aimed at resolving this uncertainty with regard to reference. The second, and also quite valid, option is that this verse speaks of the nature of the Incarnation by which Jesus unites Himself with our human condition. As a result, it can be properly predicated that we are "all of one," that is, we all derive, by virtue of our humanity, from Adam (and Eve). This, too, receives Scriptural support (see, for example, Romans 5) and, furthermore, concords well with the context of Hebrews 2 wherein the Incarnation of Christ is in focus both before and after this verse (see verses 5-9 as well as 14-18).
But, you might ask, "Why should I care about such a distinction?" (and, we should note, this distinction holds regardless of which interpretation is actually intended in Hebrews, since both options are taught elsewhere in Scripture). The reason, I believe, is found in much of what Hebrews 2 explains about Jesus, His nature and His work. At first it might seem tenable to overlook the second interpretation and favor the emphasis towards our becoming Jesus' brothers and sisters. In this sense, we are exalted by God and lifted up from our lowly state into a higher one. Indeed, this is the case, but, according to the Christian Gospel, it is not exclusively the case. For, if it were possible for God to unite us to and in Him exclusively and straightforwardly in this manner, we would effectually render the Incarnation, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ as arbitrary at best and disposable at worst (since all of these are inextricably bound to one another). We have in the previous post seen by Jesus' own declaration the necessity of His suffering (click here to read more). And, we also alluded to a forthcoming statement from Hebrews 2 wherein the author asserts that Jesus "had to be made like His brethren in all things" (2:17, NASB, emphasis added). Apart from being an arbitrary facet of how-God's-plan-just-happened-to-turn-out, Scripture teaches that the Incarnation was, in a sense, obligatory. Given that this statement is soon to follow, with the added argumentation that Jesus "gives help to the descendant of Abraham" and not angels, it would appear that the author rightly emphasizes the condescension of God Incarnate, who "became flesh, and dwelt among us" as being one of us in every way so that He could sanctify us and "bring us to God" (John 1:14; 1 Peter 3:18). Thus, Jesus Christ realized communion between that which is, has been, and always will be intrinsically holy, and we who are by nature needful of "the sanctification, by which no one shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). Sanctification, being made holy, is (in part) both the end of the Christian life as well as the manner in which God brings about the end.
Why? - because part of God's goal is to make us one with Himself (John 17), to enjoy intimate communion with Him, and it is this notion that is embedded into the plan of redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ. However, this union is impossible without sanctification, and sanctification is not truly possible outside of the Incarnation. God is wholly "Other" - this is why the two most basic ontological categories of "all that exists" are 1) that-which-is-God and 2) that-which-is-not-God. Although God created us for communion with Him, because of our sinfulness, there exists a relational separation between humanity and God. Still, we have a desperate need, if not burning desire, to draw near to Him (or, rather, for Him to draw near to us and to draw us near to Him). How do we "bridge the gap," so to speak? Perhaps we can attain some level of perfection that causes us to draw near to God? Yet, even the briefest consideration of this proposition reveals the foolishness and uselessness of such an endeavor; no matter how "close" we get to perfection and purity, we are still infinitely different from Him who is Other because absolute perfection is, in and by ourselves, entirely out of our grasp. This is why the Gospel is so marvelously beautiful, and why so many receive its message in humility and thanksgiving, breathing an immense sigh of relief as the weight of sin is replaced by the weight of glory (of which we, in and through Christ, may now partake). Jesus Christ, being Himself eternally divine, took upon Himself "the form of a bond-servant," becoming "in the likeness" of humanity in every way, so that He, the sanctifier, might sanctify us and raise us up to new life in Him (Philippians 2:7).
It is this aspect of Jesus' having "come down" that is in focus in Hebrews 2:11, so that He might "bring us up" with Him, in Him, and through Him. And, in His humility, He is "not ashamed to call us" brothers and sisters; He is not ashamed to be united with our humanity, for He has overcome our weaknesses and enabled us to become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). So, while we are so quick to move on to "the will of God for our lives," such as where to live, what to do, who to marry, what job to take, etc., etc., perhaps God would have us know that which He spoke through Paul to the Thessalonians: "this is the will of God, your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Before we jump over the "basics" to the more "important" things of "life," we do well to ask ourselves: "Am I pure?" "Am I holy?" "Am I living in such a way that exhibits sanctification?" Know again that without it - without sanctification - "no one shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 2:14). And, crucially, know that apart from Jesus, the sanctifier, true sanctification and true life are impossibilities; any attempt at such outside of Him amounts to vain grasping after a substanceless and misguided wish. Perhaps, then, the greatest prayer we can ever utter, then, is "Father, make me holy, as You are holy." God grant us the humility to recognize our need for Him in order to be more like Him. As He transforms us, He will transform our desires as we submit completely to Him and His will of sanctification in our lives.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

perfect through sufferings

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)

As, in this portion of the letter, the author in the epistle to the Hebrews has been affirming the supremacy of Christ in that He is "better than the angels," it is not surprising that Jesus' suffering is brought into focus as the writer continues to exalt Christ in His humanity. Here, we read that "it was fitting for [God] bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10). While it was "fitting" for God, we should bear in mind that this was in no way arbitrary or accidental. What is striking about the nature of Christ's suffering is its necessity: it could not have been any other way. So, similarly to the argumentation explicit in verse 17 wherein we read that Jesus' Incarnation was, in a sense, obligatory, these truths are not simply descriptive of reality itself - they place limitations by negating certain seemingly possible events. Turning to the words of Jesus Himself, He asks, "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" (Luke 24:26, emphasis mine).
However, before delving into the necessity of Christ's suffering "in bringing many sons to glory" directly, the writer reminds us of the nature of God, "for whom are all things, and through whom are all things" (Hebrews 2:10). This concept radiates throughout Scripture and God's plan for salvation, which has (in part) as its end goal "that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28). The phrases in Hebrews "for whom are all things" and "through whom are all things" appear in similar forms elsewhere in two separate Pauline texts. For example, in discussing the consumption by Christians of "foods sacrificed to idols," Paul justifies the acceptability of such an action by declaring that "there is no God but one," and afterward writes, "[Y]et for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him" (1 Corinthians 8:4, 6; note: similar things that are mentioned exclusively of the Father here are also predicated of Jesus, who is "the image of the invisible God" in Colossians 1:16-17). A second passage from Paul also makes use of of the aforementioned phrase(s). After discussing "Israel" and the mercy God shows, Paul begins a doxology that culminates with "For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen" (Romans 11:36). Though I struggle to find a manner with which to articulate the relatedness between God's being "all in all" and Christ's being perfect "through sufferings," the conjunction of these two concepts is by no means mere coincidence, as the former thought informs the latter in Hebrews 2:10. God realizes His being "all in all," that is, being the one for whom and to whom and through whom are all things, significantly through the suffering of His only begotten Son, who suffered on our behalf for the purpose of bringing us to glory, the glory which God gave to Jesus, Himself being God Incarnate, and which Jesus imparts to us (John 17:22). By bringing us "to glory," as Hebrews states, Jesus enables us to be "perfected in unity" with each other, with Himself, and with the Triune Godhead, so that God may be all in all (17:23).
Additionally, we read that those whom Christ brings "to glory" evidence a filial relationship that they have been endowed with (for further discussion on 'filiality', click here). Jesus brings us to glory as "sons[1];" that is, we have become the children of God in Christ, the True and eternal Son. The Apostle John marvels at this gift when he writes, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we would be called the children of God" (1 John 3:1, emphasis added). And, to "as many as received [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13, emphasis added). Indeed, we have need (and are privileged to) be "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us [as daughters and sons] to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light" (Colossians 1:12). For, it is Christ who has not only instructed, but enabled us to refer to God as "our Father" in a real and abiding sense (Matthew 6:9; see also Galatians 4:6). And it is Christ who, in His suffering, had the object of our glorification. As the Apostle Paul writes, "we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
So then, the suffering of Christ had a definitive purpose in the plan of salvation that relates to humanity "by bringing many sons to glory." But, in addition to this, we read in Hebrews 2:10 a specific feature that pertains directly to Christ Himself and His voluntary self-sacrifice: Jesus, "the author of our salvation" was made "perfect...through sufferings." This is in no way a move from imperfection to perfection, but rather an expression of the completeness of Christ's Person and work; this is the Christ who declared of Himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus that He must suffer (Luke 24:26). When we consider the suffering of Jesus, we should not neglect the importance of recognizing that Christ conquers death by death, as Behr rightly emphasizes, "in no other way" (2006:32). Christ's suffering leads to His voluntary self-sacrificial death on the cross; it is not some arbitrary facet of His life that we analyze in retrospect. We see then, God revealed through the cross (the climax of Christ's sufferings), or, rather, we see God revealed through Jesus (see John 1:18; 14:7) on the cross, for "the LORD has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God" (Isaiah 52:12). This prophetic declaration in Isaiah appears immediately before the well-known Hymn of the Suffering Servant, which, if I may be given leave, I will here quote in its entirety:

Behold, My servant shall prosper,
He shall be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.
Just as many were astonished at you, My people,
So his appearance was marred more than any man
And his form more than the sons of men.
Thus he will sprinkle many nations,
Kings will shut their mouths on account of him;
For what had not been told them they will see,
And what they had not heard they will understand.
Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to him.
He was despised and forsaken by men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face he was despised, and we did not esteem him.
Surely our griefs he himself bore,
And our sorrows he carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon him,
And by his scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused
The iniquity of us all to fall on him.
He was oppressed and he was afflicted,
Yet he did not open his mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
And as for his generation,
Who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet he was with a rich man in his death,
Because he had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in his mouth.
But the LORD was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief;
If he would render himself as a guilt offering,
He will see his offspring, he will prolong his days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
As a result of the anguish of his soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By his knowledge the righteous one, My servant,
Will justify the many, as he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot him a portion with the great,
And he will divide the booty with the strong;
Because he poured out himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet he himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

While the above chapters in Isaiah are perhaps unique in the breadth to which they describe the suffering Messiah, they are not unique in terms of the occurence of such content. Again turning to Jesus' conversation with the disciples on the Emmaus road after His death and resurrection, we see Jesus rebuke their ignorance (which we share apart from Christ opening our eyes to recognize Him), saying:

"O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in the Scriptures." (Luke 24:25-27)

That which was contained in the Scriptures (the sacrificial system ordained by God to be performed through the Levitical priesthood, the Hymn of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, etc.) foreshadowed the necessity of Christ's suffering which culminated in His death, a death that He overcame by death. To borrow Paul's words, these things were "a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ" (Colossians 2:17). The Scriptures declare that the Christ must suffer, and in that He did (in fulfillment of these Scriptures), Jesus offers Himself as a perfect sacrfice through His voluntary suffering, securing our eternal redemption by taking our curse upon Himself (Galatians 3:13; see also Matthew 16:21; 17:12; Mark 8:31; 9:12, 22; Luke 17:25; 22:15; 24:46; Acts 3:18; Acts 17:3; 26:23 for the necessity and Scriptural fulfillment of Christ's Passion/suffering).
There is yet one final aspect of Christ having suffered, and suffered for us, that pertains to us in a way that, at first, may seem contradictory: we are called to suffer. A crucial theological difference, however, distinguishes His suffering from ours by focusing on the reason for such suffering. As the Nicene Creed affirms, "for our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died, and was buried." Jesus suffered to overcome our sin and death, and He does so in such a way that His suffering applies to us as He takes our place on the cross, being Himself a perfect substitute, and offering to God the required perfection that we (outside of Christ) can never display nor perform. On the other hand, Christ calls us to suffer in that He offers an example by which He brings us unto Himself:

"For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was their any deceit found in His mouth, and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to the One who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." (1 Peter 2:21-24, emphasis added)

Jesus suffered for us and gave Himself to be our example, that we might be made more like Him. And in such suffering we affirm our filiality and inheritance, as Paul writes:

"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." (Romans 8:14-17, emphasis added)

Again, we return to the theme in Hebrews that "in bringing many sons to glory," Jesus, the origin and "author of our salvation" was made "perfect...through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10). But, as children and heirs with Christ, we do not suffer for sin; rather, we are invited to suffer to be made more into the image of Christ as we proclaim the one who suffered not only on our behalf, but as "He is the propitiation for our sins," so is He the propitiation "for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). As Jesus suffered to bring us to God, so we suffer for the sake of His name by achieving the temporal missional goal of the church, so that the chief end is realized when God is worshiped and glorified by all (Piper 2003). And, as Jesus "kept entrusting Himself to the One who judges righteously," so He encourages us to do the same, offering our lives as "a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service of worship" (Romans 12:1). "Therefore, those also who suffer for the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right" (1 Peter 4:19).

[1] The Greek term huios does not here exclusively refer to men, but may be used to highlight physical, genealogical descendance from Adam, since it is often used of the offspring of men. If this is the case, the term fits well with the prhase in the following verse, wherein it is said that the sanctifier and the sanctified are all from "one," stressing the humanity of Christ, being both fully human and fully divine.

Behr, John. (2006). The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.
Piper, John. (2003). Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.