Ishmael and Immanuel: Learning to Wait Upon God


Read Genesis 16.

“Behold…you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael” (Gen. 16:11). “Behold…[you shall] bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

God teaches us to wait so that He will fulfill His promises for us. This is to exalt God’s power and grace; this is to teach us that He is trustworthy and always faithful! Like a gracious and generous father who wants to bless his children, often by surprise, so God desires to bless and surprise His dear children (cf. Luke 11:13). Sadly, it is often the temptation of believers having begun with the Spirit of God, to desire to be perfected by the “flesh” of their own desires and endeavors immediately, rather than waiting on God (Gal. 3:2-3; 4:23). Abraham was promised a son by His gracious God and Father: “Behold…your very own son shall be your heir…number the stars…so shall your offspring be” (Gen. 15:4-5). God graciously commits Himself to a blood covenant (“a bond in blood sovereignly administered”) that He will be faithful to Abraham (Gen. 15:12-18). Yet Abraham acts impatiently, and this is what he learns the hard way:

“Behold…you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael” (Gen. 16:11).

Though Immanuel was God’s ultimate intention for Abraham (through Isaac, see Matt. 1:1-3, 23), he first received Ishmael because of sinful impatience. “Laughter” (Isaac means “He laughs”, Gen. 21:1-3) was to be God’s merciful gift, but heartache and sorrow came through Abraham’s sin (persecution and many problems, Gen. 21:8-14). What but sin can we ever expect from our impatience? We are taught that God’s people are those who must learn to wait upon the LORD and for the realization of His promises (Psa. 27:13-14). Abram lived in an “Advent” season of waiting upon the coming arrival of the Lord’s promises in the person of his very own son (Gen. 15:4), yet there was great temptation to hurry the “delay” of God. We are to believe God by His grace, and to cultivate patience which is a fruit of the Spirit of the Christ (Gal. 5:22-23). Our God and Father has been patient with us, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance (cf. 2 Pet. 3:8ff), and yet we so easily forget His promises, grow impatient and set about to “make things happen” when we think that God has forgotten us (or particularly His promises).

How is your patience coming along? Are you cultivating this virtue and fruit of the Spirit (cf. 2 Pet. 1:5-9)? How are you doing in waiting upon the LORD? Waiting doesn’t mean to be passive, but actively believing, trusting, walking, serving, loving, and growing. If God is sovereign, and rules and reigns over heaven and earth with wisdom and love, and knows what is best for us all, then why do we grow impatient waiting upon Him? Throughout Scripture, God is revealed as a faithful, trustworthy, committed, loving, gracious, generous, merciful God and Father that will keep His promises! In fact, we are taught that all of God’s promises are available to us every day in Christ (“All of God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ- 2 Cor. 1:20).

What decisions have you sown in your life carelessly and impatiently, rather than waiting on God, that have caused you to reap the weeds of division and turmoil in your life and the lives of others? How can you learn wisdom and wait upon the LORD in the future? Children, how does your impatience with God and your family cause specific tensions and miserable conditions at times in your home? How might the impatience of your life be ruining all of the joy and peace that God has promised for believers in Christ? One of our forefathers, George Swinnock, wisely wrote:

“To lengthen my patience is the best way to shorten my troubles.”

Try to think of anything worthwhile and satisfying, something really worth having, and you will find few things that describe as immediate, instantaneous, streaming, and quick (can you imagine ever being satisfied with instant grits, for example?!)! Rather, you will find that the things worth living and dying for are those things cultivated by Godly patience: sowing seed, and waiting on the harvest; friendship, and relationships that grow over time; sanctification and character; the vintage of a fine wine; waiting for the development of a baby in the womb, and patiently raising children to adulthood. All of these wonderful gifts of this life take patience, and thus why God often tries our patience. These trials are ultimately, so that we might share Christ’s holiness (Heb. 12:11-12).

Though Abram and Sarai were impatient, God did not forsake them. He disciplined them as a loving Father. Ishmael is a historical, redemptive-historical reminder of God’s discipline that is extremely painful but by God’s grace also an instrument through which His people become sharers in His holiness (Heb. 12:7-14; cf. Psalm 119:67, 71). Though there is much sin of impatience in our lives, look ahead to Genesis 18, and then many years later to Luke 1:30-35 and Matthew 1:1, 17, and remember that God is faithful though we are faithless at times (cf. 2 Tim. 2:11-13). The name “Ishamael” means “God hears” and he is born in redemptive-history not merely to show our Father’s discipline, but also as a living reminder that God hears—and cares! God hears our prayers. God promises to keep His promises. The reason we act impatiently and impulsively, is because we think God doesn’t hear our prayers, that God doesn’t care, and we act to “help Him out a bit”. But this is wrong.

Do you daily seek Christ at the throne of grace to be broken and humbled just because you know that you are more than able (and often willing) to impatiently disobey God to accomplish your own desires? Shouldn’t you seek Him now (“These things [in the Old Covenant] took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did…” 1 Corinthians 10:6, 12- “Take heed, lest you fall…”).

“Behold…you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael” (Gen. 16:11). The hand of discipline.

Behold…[you shall] bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). The fruit of godly patience.

If we are in Christ, we are the children of promise—children of Abraham through Immanuel, not Ishmael (Gal. 4:28). In Galatians 4 (21-31), the Apostle Paul reminds us that Ishmael should remind us of slavery and the terrible works of the flesh, but Immanuel has come to set us free from slavery to sin (including impatience!) in order that we might live freely as the sons of God!

So when the culture around you seeks to promise you everything NOW, when you’re tempted to “instant messaging” (without first thinking compassionately and prayerfully), to “instant credit” (where you will stretch yourself thin for a hope immediately granted because you cannot wisely wait), when aggressive driving is the norm and there is no leisurely “Sunday drive” (and you are seeking to conform to the aggressiveness), when folks even are tempted to judge a sermon by how long it takes to be communicated, and when we unfairly expect our children to know and understand everything important immediately, let us cultivate patience with God and one another. Let us learn to wait upon the LORD our God who is always faithful to His promises, and let us live confidently and expectantly upon the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has promised to come and ransom captive Israel completely soon. The Spirit and the Church says: “Come, Lord Jesus!”

The Advent season should be an important time for us to learn patience as God’s people!

Immanuel is God with us and for us. And if God is for us, who can be against us?!


In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

Real Gospel Hope: A Savior for Sinful Sentimentalists and Cynics

“…You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

…“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)….And he called his name Jesus.” –Matthew 1:21-25

Christmas is about Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus the Savior of sinners, God “with us”, God in the flesh who came to us as a child in a pitiful manger equipped for cattle not for Deity. Christmas is about Jesus who came to be born to live for His people, to die for them, to be raised from the dead for them, and to be exalted in His ascension-enthronement at God’s right hand as Eternal Lord and King on David’s Throne.

At Christmastime, we need a bold and enduring biblical faith in Christ to be realists about our situation in this present age and to have true hope to behold what God has done for us in Christ. Biblical hope in Jesus Christ should be our focus at Christmas. Yet oftentimes at Christmastime, we can be tempted to be either bloated with sentimentalism or tainted with cynicism concerning hope in our lives.

What are sentimentalism and cynicism you may ask (and I’m more concerned to define these terms with how people actually live and act, not by formal definitions of these two things)? Both sentimentalism and cynicism are wrong and unbiblical responses to the world as we know it. Sentimentalism tends to see only the good in the world and tends to overlook the bad; cynicism tends to only see too much of the bad without acknowledging any of the good. A person characterized by sentimentalism is one who thinks (or better, feels!) too highly of sinful man and what man can actually achieve for good in this world. Those given to the temptation to sentimentalism are those who gush with unrealistic hope for good times and good change that is possible in and through man, or by peering back to some nostalgic time that they feel better achieved this.

Though the Bible gives great hope, sentimental folks are not grounded in the truth and reality of God, and so their “hope” is nothing more than a feeling (and sadly when sentimentalists do not see their “hopes” fulfilled in their lives, they then idealize, or idolize and worship the past, imagining that things were better “Back then…alas”). Sentimental folks don’t talk a lot about sin and sinfulness and the offense to God and the misery it has brought with it, and they don’t necessarily see the world clearly and realistically in all its troubles. If sentimental folks do see the world in its troubles, they often choose not to really look closely and honestly at all.

Folks who tend to be characterized by cynicism claim and often act as if they have lost hope and no longer expect that good times and change can or will come. This hopelessness is not grounded in God’s truth and reality any more than sentimentalism. Cynicism is often more of a reaction to sentimentalism; you see this reaction at generational levels today. Grandparents that were sentimentalists might produce grandsons who are cynics. Oftentimes young people tend toward more sentimentalism, and they grow into cynicism after experiencing pain and difficulties in a cold world. Cynicism often masquerades itself as self-realized maturity, whereas sentimentalism might masquerade as wide-eyed, child-like innocence and the goodness of man.

You can hear sentimentalism in Christmas songs all around us an on the radio and in the “air” at this time of year. Crooners croon: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Listen in for a moment:

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap- happiest season of all…”

“With the kids jingle belling?” Is there anyone at your home “jingle belling” right now? Honestly.  “It’s the hap-happiest season of all…” Is it really? For all?? Have you seen the poor and destitute? Have you peaked into the homes past the well-lit trees in the windows to behold the people full of strife and rampant dysfunction? Have you seen the people with the Rudolph antlers and the shiny nose after the Christmas party dealing with depression and loneliness and alcoholism seeking change in clinical therapy and recovery programs? Have you seen the little the rest of the world has in comparison to the riches we have as Americans, and how impoverished many people are who have never owned one of Disney’s “princesses” (and never will)? Sentimentalism sings “Fa-la-la-la-la” when there is sadness and misery all around us. Sentimentalism sings “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” forgetting that many cannot afford chestnuts, and are barely staying warm by a fire- -if they have one at all!

You can *hear* sentimentalism better at Christmas than cynicism, because cynics don’t necessarily sing about Christmas at Christmastime, unless they are singing about grandma getting run over by a reindeer coming home from a Christmas visit, or a man seeking to seduce his girl because it’s cold outside, or the one-horse open sleigh turning over and seriously injuring Frosty the Snowman, or wanting an alien for Christmas. But most real cynics typically don’t “do Christmas” and therefore they don’t sing much about it.

Another example of hearing sentimentalism is to recall the great Jim Reeves’ Christmas song from the 1950s: “A long time ago in Bethlehem…And man shall live forevermore because of Christmas day.” Now I’m not going to criticize the great Jim Reeves (and for those who know not of Jim Reeves, well you should know this wonderful singer of times past—there’s my sentimentalism for you!), but Reeves’ song teaches us that mankind will live forever just because of Christmas; this is not true; this is classical liberalism. This famous song “Mary’s Boy Child” seems to be saying that just the knowledge of Jesus being born at Christmastime will make everything all right at Christmas. He sings “…And man shall live forevermore because of Christmas Day…” (and I don’t know what kind of person Reeves was so this is not criticism of the man, just the message).

But Christmas is so much more than merely a message of man trying to change himself, or being overwhelmed with “Christmas-ey” sentimental thoughts and feelings of Jesus in a manger that will make us all nice, comfortable people. Sentimentalism will not hold out true hope for anyone; sentimentalism will just not do.  Sentimentalism too easily embraces classical liberalism which is summarized in this way: “A God without wrath brought [good] men into a kingdom without judgment, through a Christ without a cross (H. R. Niebuhr).” No. The message of Christmas is more than merely getting Linus to tell us what Christmas is all about, and then we change in response to the commercialism, etc., and we decide to get a small and meek Christmas tree rather than a great and shiny one, and we are all changed- –and we all do it ourselves.

No, we must be changed. We must be changed by a sovereign work of Almighty God. The raw and wonderful and glorious truth of Christmas is that God was born into the world and took upon human flesh to be redeem sinners so that we would be given the power by His grace and Holy Spirit to be transformed into new people; a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Mere sentimentalism will not do. We must be changed from the inside out; sinful man must be changed from the heart. We are not good; we must be made good. By. God’s. Grace. Alone.

Now those characterized by cynicism are onto this, but they don’t have the answer either. Hopelessness is not the answer for misguided hopes!

Usually folks who are cynics (not in the formal philosophical, Marcus Aurelius sense) are those who are “converted” from sentimentalism, but they find that the “hope” that they had in the future, and in the love of human beings never appeared, and that their warm-feelings of the brotherhood of man and peace and kindness faintly faded into a memory, and this “hope” never manifested itself in their heart nor in the hearts of others. Cynics thought at one time things might get better, but they have now lost hope that good times and change will never come, and so let’s just mope knowingly. But this cynical hopelessness is not grounded in the truth and reality of God any more than sentimentalism.

Cynical folks think they know. Better. They are always giving “knowing glances” and looks and sneers to those who are especially eat up with sentimentalism. Imagine two people are having coffee at a local coffee shop. One is a sentimental person, and the other is a cynic (who formerly was a sentimental person). Bob the sentimentalist says: “You know, I just love Christmas, the lights, the good cheer, the ‘decking the halls with boughs of holly’, and gathering with family- -don’t you just love it?! If only it would be Christmas all through the year?” The sentimentalist will think on the bright lights and surface things of Christmastime, with false hopes that good can come and will come through people. The sentimentalist forgets the loneliness, poverty, grief, guilt, and funerals that still take place on and around December 25th!

Maria, the cynic responds: “Get a life, Bob! I don’t do Christmas. It is all fake and surface. No one really cares and after the lights are taken down off the freshly cut trees (those trees could have continued to grow by the way!), and no one cares for others, and the good cheer is all conjured up with hopes that someone will give me a present (but they just give it to me so that I will give one back to them in return; I know). At Christmas, I think of those who suffer, and those who are lonely, and when I think back to my memories of Christmas, all I can recall is a big turkey on the table surrounded by gluttonous dysfunctional family members who had too much to drink, and did not care a lick about anyone but themselves.”

But Christmas is about Jesus, and Jesus came to save both sentimentalists and cynics–all who will believe in Him shall find true hope and life with the forgiveness of sins.

What do we find in both the sentimentalist and the cynic that is biblical and true and worth noting? Both the sentimentalist and cynic are trying to find hope in this world of sin and misery. We are image-bearers all, who were made to be happy and hopeful. We were created to live in God’s presence and find the “happy ever life”. We were created to live in paradise, and we find that we have indeed put up a parking lot and much more, and we are far from our original home, and lost with regard to our true destiny. The sentimentalist is trying to seek hope in man’s ability to change and do good; the cynic has given up hope, but deep down would like to find hope, but would never (or rarely) admit it. Both are missing Jesus, and the important fact that Christmas is about Jesus.

Both sentimentalists and cynics are imbalanced and wrongheaded. Jesus came to give the true hope in Himself for the sentimentalist, and to tell them that the nostalgia that they look for was found in paradise with God, but man fell into sin and rebellion and needs salvation. Jesus came to give true hope in Himself to the cynic who sees so clearly through everything and everyone that he fails to see anything at all. He looks not at, but through and thus is blinded (C. S. Lewis), and the Gospel says: “Behold” (“look here”) there is a Savior to give you what you do not deserve, to cause you to really enjoy life, to give real hope, and to teach you to not be afraid to give of yourself to others.

You must see Jesus Christ as your only hope; Christmas is about Jesus your only real and enduring hope. His name is “Jesus” for He will save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). This we must emphasize. God would become flesh and seek and save sinners. God would not overlook sinfulness and the selfish deeds of mankind, but would indeed judge them. However, he would send Christ Jesus, His only Begotten Son to be cursed and judged in the stead, or in the place of all who would believe. God sent Jesus into the world not to condemn the world but so the world might be saved from both unbelieving, imbalanced sentimentalism and unbelieving, imbalanced cynicism.

Jesus came to live for sinners; Jesus came to die for sinners on the accursed cross; Jesus came to shed His blood for those who believe, and grant to all who believe a perfect righteousness before God that is received by faith alone; Jesus came to be raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand. God offered Jesus to be judged in place of sinful man; God justly and righteously punished sin in Christ, but God justifies or makes right sinners who believe in Him (see this great hope in Romans 3:23-26):

ESV Romans 3:23-26: “…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The biblical truth is that God disagrees with and contradicts the sentimentalist that man could change on his own or have any hope ultimately apart from Christ; the Bible teaches that man is cursed by sin and under the condemnation of God, described as being “without God and without hope in the world” (Eph. 2:12ff). God disagrees with and contradicts the cynic who thinks all is hopeless, because God graciously offers true and enduring hope for mankind, and salvation and peace with God for helpless, hopeless sinners in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ name “JESUS” means God saves. God comes into our dark and miserable state, and grants us hope in Jesus. Jesus comes to rescue us out of our sinful estate by living and dying for us.

This is true hope. This is real and lasting hope that changes man from within. This is the hope that can turn our false hopes and blurred dreams of what man can do into realizing the power of the Holy Spirit and how He transforms us by His grace, and can give us hope and make all our dreams come true in Christ. Even as we live in a fallen world characterized by sin and misery, pain, suffering, death, poverty, and helplessness, there is hope for us in Jesus Christ. Hope to have peace with God, and great joy in the midst of whatever affliction He call us to live through. Even after all the lights come down, and we move into the “bleak mid-winter” we can know the burning, shining, painfully and deeply satisfying, joyful hope that is possible through Jesus Christ no matter what time of year!

We can embrace the tension of the reality of living in a world with great hope (as the sentimentalist sings about at Christmas), and in a world still tainted by the disease which is sin and misery (as the cynic refuses to sing about at Christmas). For the sentimentalist, I would say that you must stop painting things too rosy in this world even at Christmastime. This world is fallen, and although it is a good world created by God, it is infested with many sinfully selfish and greedy people who care only for themselves, and it is a world much characterized by misery and enslavement to sin and the devil.

And Jesus came to cure us; Jesus came to remove the curse as far as it is found! For the cynic, you must stop painting things too hopeless in this world especially at Christmastime. You, too, are a hypocrite and part of the problem. You sneer at the sentimentalists “knowingly” but you too have no answers, you too, have no hope. You are right that things are wrong, but you are infested with this sinful dis-ease too- -and Jesus is your only hope.

Stop hoping in something like a Christmas season that is not rooted in God’s truth and reality; stop the hopeless rant about the Christmas season that is not rooted in God’s truth and reality. Notice the sane and biblical balance between the imbalances of both sentimentalism and cynicism in Isaac Watts’ Joy to the World; there is both sorrow and love; hopelessness and hope!:

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.”

Christmas is about Jesus. But I’ve said that already.


Love in Christ, and Merry Christmas!

Pastor Biggs


From Your Pastor: A Biblical Theology of the Incarnation – “Immanuel: God with Us”

* Image of God (Gen. 1:26-28; Eph. 4:17-24; cf. Heb. 2:5-18) – In the beginning, God dwelled with man created in His image. Adam was not “God in the flesh” but he was “like God in the flesh”, and he enjoyed the “Immanuel presence of God” in the Garden. Man was made in God’s image and given the Holy Spirit (Gen. 2:7; cf. John 20:22), but was not exalted and confirmed in his righteousness through obedience (Ecc. 7:29; cf. Psa. 8; Heb. 2:5ff). Rather, man sinned and rebelled against his good Heavenly Father and Supreme Lord. Man lost the Immanuel presence of God. But this was not the end of the story…

* Seed of the Woman (Gen. 3:15) – Though man brought the curse upon Himself through sin and rebellion against God, tarnishing the image of God upon him, and losing the Holy Spirit, God promised hope for the future. This reveals God’s graciousness and steadfast love toward His own. Though sin has broken the relationship, God would restore the fortunes of His people through grace (Jer. 30:3, 18; Hos. 6:11; Amos 9:14). God would dwell with His people again. God would be “Immanuel”, God with us again!

* Son of Abraham (Gen. 12) – God promised to be a God to Abraham and His offspring, and to bless the whole world through him (Gen. 12:1ff; 15:1ff; 18:18; 22:18). The Spirit of God would be received in the fullness of the times to be God with us and to renew the corrupted image of God, and to lead Abraham’s children to their Heavenly Home (Gal. 3:14). Here is an overview of how God’s promise to Abraham is realized through promise over redemptive-history:

Abraham à Isaac (son of promise) à Jacob/Israel à Judah à Servant of God/Servants of God à God’s church, God’s people, God’s children, True Israel (Gal. 3:16, 26-29; 6:16)

Through Abraham, God would bring a son through His supernatural working and power. From Abraham would come Isaac (“Laughter” that God gives to His own because of His power and grace! See Genesis 21:1-6), and Jacob/Israel. From Israel, God would bring forth a servant to redeem Israel from sin and to rescue His people from their enemies (Isaiah 50:4ff; 52-53; Zech. 12:1ff; Luke 1:55, 73).

* “God with us” in the Old Testament: Immanuel Theophanies and Christophanies – In the Old Covenant, God granted a “prelude” to the Incarnation (J. Calvin) in making temporary appearances in human form in the Old Covenant to be God with us. God the Son appeared as the “Angel/Messenger of YHWH” to Abraham (Gen. 18), Moses (Exodus 3), and Gideon and Manoah (Judges 6, 13). Throughout Israel’s pilgrimage in the wilderness, the Angel of the LORD led them, fed them, blessed them, and mediated on their behalf before God (Num. 22; Judges 2:1; cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-4). These appearances were temporary, not permanent as the Incarnation would be. Yet God prepared Israel through prophetic promise for one who would be a faithful Israelite, who would be obedient unto death as God’s faithful servant, but who would also be the LORD Himself (Isaiah 42, 49, 52-53; Zech. 9:9ff; 12:13-13:1; cf. Matt. 1:1-18, 23).

* Son of David: Messiah- “Anointed King” (2 Sam. 7:12-17) – God prepared Israel through a promise of a “Messiah” or “Anointed King” from David’s offspring, who would also be the Son of Man and the LORD of glory (2 Sam. 7:12ff). “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…” (Psalm 45, 110); “For unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given…” (Isaiah 9:6-7); “…One like a Son of man…” (Daniel 7:13-14; cf. Hebrews 1). True Israel awaited this “visitation” of God in the flesh, the One who would be her Consolation, and her Great Davidic King as God with us (Luke 1:31-35, 68; 2:25; 7:16).

* “The Mystery of Godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16) – Revealed, yet concealed. The mystery of godliness is revealed in the fullness of the times (Gal. 4:4), when God the Son was united permanently to our human nature in the womb of the virgin (Luke 1:31-35); He was “born of a woman, born under law, to redeem…” (Gal. 4:4-6). Although God the Son had appeared occasionally and temporarily, now God would come permanently in the flesh “…And the Word was made flesh and dwelt in our midst…” (John 1:1-3, 14). All of the Old Testament is about Jesus Christ, HIs life, death, resurrection and ascension. All of the Old Testament revealed “…Things Concerning Himself [Jesus Christ]” (Luke 24:25-27; John 5:39). Though this had been “kept secret…[it has now] been made known…” (Romans 16:25-27). This teaches us that God is revealed and at the same time, He is hidden to a certain degree. God chose to make Himself progressively throughout redemptive history. The “mystery” is that it was revealed in the Old Covenant, but not as clearly understood as it would be when Christ Jesus would come to make full sense of it all by His Spirit as God with us (“In the Old concealed, in the New revealed…,” Augustine).

* Creation Restored (Rev. 21-22)- God dwells with Man as Glorified Man forever and ever. The Son of God became flesh to live perfectly on our behalf, to die in our place for our sins, to be raised for our vindication, and to be exalted as Prophet, Priest, and King at God’s right hand! Through Jesus’ perfect and completed work, the restoration of all things has begun by His Spirit. Though now we suffer in and with Him, we shall be glorified in and with Him, too! (Rom. 6:1-11; 8:29). This glorious appearing we await with patience and eagerness, living holy lives for Him in service to God and one another! Rejoice, the LORD is Come!! (Tit. 2:11-14). He will be God with us forever!!


In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs


* Please see Graham Coles’ excellent book ‘The God Who became Human’ for many more biblical-theological insights! (IVP, 2013).


From Your Pastor: The Spirit of Holiness

“…Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…” – ESV Ephesians 1:4

When the Eternal Son of God, the One who is eternally begotten, not made, who is very God of very God, became man, he took to Himself our nature, conceived by the Holy Spirit, from the substance of Mary (Luke 1:31-35). It is hard for us to understand, but the Scriptures teach that the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Redeemer of God’s people, became man, and so was, and continues to be, God and man in two distinct natures (human and divine), and one Person forever (see Shorter Catechism, Q&A 21).

This means that while the Eternal Son did not change in His Being or substance or power as God in the Incarnation (Heb. 1:1-3), by assuming our nature into permanent hypostatic (personal) union with Himself, He did become something He was not before, namely man (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:16-18). As our Redeemer, Jesus Christ serves as our Mediator, and we must seek to honor the One Person, and acknowledge properly and biblically the two natures of Christ.

In considering the Spirit of Holiness, we will focus on the human nature of Christ today. What was done by the human nature was done by the one Person, so that we understand that the Eternal God does not die, yet He who was God did die, as man. The one Mediator died for sinners, the one Mediator between God and man who is both God and man in one Person. Jesus was God-Man. How does the Spirit’s work on Jesus Christ, God-Man, help us understand our holiness before God that we find in Him? Let us understand this in a time when the true humanity of Jesus Christ is begin undermined or misunderstood. While our Mediator was God and Man, He was truly God and truly man.

As a man, he was our representative in permanent-personal union with the Eternal Son, and He had to perform perfect obedience before God as man. There is to be no confusion, or mixture of His divine and human natures, but careful distinctions made. We should want to stress in understanding Christ’s true humanity, that like us He depended upon the Holy Spirit for grace, although He was without sin, He was truly man, dependent as a creature upon Almighty God. As Joel Beeke writes: “Christ’s obedience in our place had to be the real obedience of a human being. He did not cheat by relying on His own divine nature while He acted as the second Adam. Rather, by receiving and depending upon the Spirit, Christ was fully depending upon HIs Father (John 6:38).”

John Owen wrote: “The Lord Christ, as man, did and was to exercise all grace by the rational faculties and powers of His soul, His understanding, will, and affections; for He acted grace as a man….His divine nature was not unto Him in the place of a soul, nor did [the divine nature] immediately operate the things He performed, as some of old vainly imagined; but being a perfect man, His rational soul was in Him the immediate principle of all His moral operations, even as ours in us…. [Christ’s] growth in grace and wisdom was the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit; for as the faculties of His mind were enlarged by degrees and strengthened, so the Holy Spirit filled them up with grace for actual obedience” (John Owen, Works, 3:169-170). Puritan Richard Sibbes  wrote similarly: “Whatsoever Christ did as man, He did by the Spirit” (R. Sibbes, Works, 1:102).

The Spirit of God that Jesus received from the Father is the same Spirit that the Father and the Son have sent to be within His people. What the Holy Spirit helped Jesus to do: live by faith, resist temptation, endure by grace, be a faithful servant, be comforted in affliction, etc. is what the Spirit still does for God’s people united to Jesus. The ministry of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus Christ has tremendous implications for believers’ holiness in Christ (Psa. 133; Isa. 61:1ff).  Jesus is our sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). As theologian Mark Jones writes: “Jesus Christ, in His human nature, is the holiest man ever to have lived on earth. He exercised faith, hope, and love in a manner so extraordinary that if there were millions of worlds of loving creatures, they would not have, combined together, the same degree of love that was in the heart of our Savior. These graces bestowed upon Jesus did not remain on Him alone, but trickled down, as oil on His forehead, to His bride.” Jesus as exalted King poured out His Spirit upon His people (Acts 2:33).

We should understand that there was a twofold mission of the Triune God to secure the salvation of God’s people that are intimately (covenantally!) related, but should be distinguished: 1) The sending of the Eternal Son by His Father to become man and to perform and accomplish as Mediator of God’s people all of the acts of obedience unto death as Prophet, Priest and King; 2) The sending of the Eternal Spirit by the Father and Jesus the Enthroned King at God’s right hand to His people to enable them to follow Him in obedience and suffering and holiness until they would meet safely in heaven, and behold the Son face to face. This is the grace we speak of when we say that we do all things for Christ “because of His grace, by His grace, through His grace, in light of His grace, etc. The grace is particularly the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” given to us by God’s Spirit to enable us (although sinful) to make progress in obedience and holiness (we are saved by faith alone but not a grace that is alone; we are saved to be holy and obedient unto God, Eph. 1:3-5, 2:10; Phil. 1:6, 2:12-13).

John Owen wrote: “If Christ is our mediator, our union with Him means not only that we must be holy (that it is necessary), but also that we will be able to be like Him (and in our motives desire this), and, of course, that we will enjoy being holy (in communion with Him).” The grace we need for sanctification as believers is the grace of God that is given to believers in and through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 13:14). Whatever grace we received for our holiness first belonged to our Savior who is “full of grace” (John 1:16). To be holy is both to look at Christ’s substitutionary work for us in reconciliation, but it is also to labor after conformity to His image because of, and in dependence upon His grace in Christ (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4).

Although Christ was sinless and needed no grace as sinners need grace, nevertheless, Christ Jesus lived by faith in his estate of humiliation. Christ is the holiest man who ever lived and the greatest “believer” (or man of faith) ever to have lived (Heb. 12:2). There has never been, nor will there ever be, a more perfect example of living by faith than Jesus. By faith, He believed the word and promises of God. If Christ had not had faith, His people would remain in their unbelief; if Christ had not been vindicated (1 Tim. 3:16), adopted (Psa. 2:7; Rom. 1:4), sanctified (Rom. 6:9-10; John 17:19), and glorified (1 Cor. 15:35-49), His elect would not receive these blessings!

There is no grace we received by the Spirit that was not first present in Christ Himself, particularly the grace of faith. The Holy Spirit bestows all the blessings of Christ upon the members of His church only because they were first bestowed on Christ. Richard Sibbes wrote: “We have not the Holy Spirit immediately from God, but we have Him as sanctifying Christ first [not from sin, but consecrating him as man to the Father’s will], and then us, and whatsoever the Holy Spirit does in us, He does the same in Christ first, and He does it in us, because of Christ.”

The life of holiness is the life of faith. The way we begin the Christian life with faith is the way we continue in the Christian life until we get to heaven and faith becomes sight. Those who belong to Christ are as dependent upon the Spirit for their holiness as they are dependent upon air to breathe.  Just as Christ lived by faith and depended upon the grace of the Holy Spirit to work on His human nature, so we are likewise to live by faith and depend upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs


* For further reading: ‘A Puritan Theology’, ed. Beeke and Jones; ‘Holy Spirit’, S. Ferguson; John Owen, ‘Works’, Vols. 1-4; ‘Hebrews’, Vol. 3; ‘Works’, R. Sibbes; ‘Antinomianism’, M. Jones.