The Cup of Wrath

In the Gethsemane Garden Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). Then He prayed again, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done” (verse 42). A few verses later Matthew says, “Leaving them again he went away and prayed for a third time, saying the same words.” What is the “cup” that He would drink?

Just a little earlier in the evening he “took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave to them saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28). Was Jesus praying not to drink the cup of His blood? No.

Jesus prayed and came out of the garden ready to drink the cup that the Father had for Him (John 18:11). This was the cup of the Father’s wrath. This frequent metaphor in the Old Testament prophecies referred to judgment as a bitter cup to swallow, something forced down the throat of rebellions men and nations. Some Caesars took the idea literally and invented tortuous ways to kill others through over-the-top wine drinking. The cup Jesus would drink was the bitter cup deserved by all His elect. That was the cup He drank for us.

The cup He gives to us represents His blood, blood that took God’s wrath in our place. He voluntarily offered Himself as a substitutionary atonement for all who believe.

Again we confront a tension at this table. On one hand, we cannot drink this cup without considering the cup we deserved and what Christ drank in our place. On the other hand, He did drink the cup of wrath so that we are delivered from wrath into righteousness and life and joy. The bitter becomes sweet in Christ. So let us eat and drink in His name.

September 20th, 2014 | TOPIC: liturgy | TAGGED: communion

An Appetite Gone Wild

Everyone in hell will suffer unending, painful, grievous punishment for his or her sin. And everyone in hell will know different levels of punishment according to his or her deeds. Hell is God’s judgment and His judgment is always just. Just judgment is not blind, blanket, vindictive infliction of pain. Judgment matches the sort and degree of offense.

We know this from Jesus. We get a man’s imagined portrayal in Dante’s Inferno. He cleverly shows sinners bearing the fury of their specific sin. For example, gluttons whose appetite on earth could not be sated, “feast” on sludge in the 3rd circle of hell. An appetite gone wild is a judgment itself.

Dante’s poem is helpful as it reminds us about both the seriousness of sin and the certainty of punishment. But he gives no inspired revelation. His is a fictional account. Jesus provides a non-fiction warning.

Jesus pronounced Woe on the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because those were “cities where most of his mighty works had been done” yet “they did not repent” (Matthew 11:20). Jesus explained that if Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom would have seen His works, they “would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (verse 21). Then He says, “it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon then for you,” and “it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (verse 24).

Jesus does not explain how the punishment will be worse, but He does explain why. Here is one area that Dante represents well. Those who receive greater revelation are more accountable for it and will be more severely punished for rejecting it. Let none among us be guilty of ignoring the great waves of truth what wash up on our shores week by week. Let us repent from our sin and trust Christ who suffered particular punishment for us.

September 19th, 2014 | TOPIC: liturgy | TAGGED: confession, hell, Dante

A Superior Education

Hardly any sphere of life was off the radar for Abraham Kuyper. Establishing a new denomination for the Reformed Church in Holland was just the first.

School: A New University

Kuyper organized a network of Christian elementary schools and started a new university in order to educate Christian scholars.

He truly believed that Christ is sovereign over all the world. He was no dualist, dividing the sacred and the secular, because he knew that Christ is not divided in His interests. Christ created all things and in Him all things are held together (Colossians 1:16-17). What the Word made He maintains, and He does this because He cares about all His stuff. That means that Christian education, education that consciously acknowledges that Christ is Lord, is not just a safe education, it is superior.

To put it mildly, our undertaking bears a protest against the present environment and suggests that something better is possible. (“Sphere Sovereignty”, 463)

It grieved him that the state schools promoted a godless education and did not allow Christians, or any other religious group, to have support for their world- and life-view.

As truly as every plant has a root, so truly does a principle hide under every manifestation of life. (Lectures on Calvinism, 189)

There is no neutrality. Either a teacher starts teaching believing that God is central or that man is central. “Christian and non-Christian world-views begin with mutually exclusive assumptions which lead necessarily to a contest for dominion in all areas of life” (McGoldrick, 143).

[T]he only two mighty antagonists that plumb life down to the root [are God’s sovereignty or man’s sovereignty]. And so they are worth people risking their own lives for and disturbing the lives of others. (“Sphere Sovereignty”, 469)

Non-Christians have “lost the gift to comprehend the true context, the proper coherence, the system of the unity of things” (“Common Grace in Science and Art”).

If we console ourselves with the thought that we may without danger leave secular science in the hands of our opponents, if we only succeed in saving theology, ours will be the tactics of the ostrich. To confine yourself to the saving of your upper room, when the rest of the house is on fire, is foolish indeed. … Everything astronomers or geologists, physicists or chemists, zoologists or bacteriologists, historians or archeologists bring to light” must be done for Christ. (Lectures, 139)

So Kuyper began to speak and write for the place and support of Christian grade schools. He worked to establish a base of support, then to establish government laws and also to educate educators. He rallied parents at school convention meetings.

He also realized that Christians needed a place for even more training, a place for research. In other words, Christians needed a university. He believed that true scholarship would not be hindered by faith but that worship of Christ enabled better scholarship. It makes a difference if you believe man is created in the image of God or if he came from monkeys. The antithesis is unavoidable. What kind of medicines and treatments will you provide? Will they respect image-bearers? It makes a difference if there are objective morals or not in the field of law. Every subject, not just theology, should be pursued for Christ: philosophy, medicine, law, literature, politics, science.

So he helped to found the “Free University” (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) in that it was free from the controls of state and church.

It was in his opening address for the Free University in Amsterdam that he gave his thumb’s width quote. He knew that they were mocked, that they didn’t have many resources, and he knew that they must work and sacrifice for it anyway.

As surely as we loved Him with our souls, we must build again in his name. And when it seemed of no avail, when we looked upon our meager power, the strength of the opposition, the preposterousness of so bold an undertaking, the fire still kept burning in our bones. (“Sphere Sovereignty”, 489).

Could we permit a banner that we carried off from Golgotha to fall into enemy hands so long as the most extreme measures had not been tried, so long as one arrow was left unspent, so long as their remained in this inheritance one bodyguard—no matter how small—of those who were crowned in Golgotha?

To that question—and with this I conclude, ladies and gentlemen—to that question a “By God, Never!” has resounded in our soul. (ibid., 490).

For convocation in 1880 there were only eight students and five professors (Bratt, 123), but the school is still running today (even though it has abandoned Kuyper’s core convictions). Whether it starts small or not, and whether they can guarantee the faithfulness of future generations or not, Christians should not neglect their opportunities to provide a superior education.

September 18th, 2014 | TOPIC: biography | TAGGED: Kuyper, classical_ed