David Schrock

The Sayings of Jesus Christ’s Cross: Introducing George Smeaton and His Two Volumes on the Doctrine of the Atonement

Smeaton offers over 70 pages on the universal impact of a particular atonement. Lest anyone accuse Calvinists of restricting the impact of the cross to the elect only, Smeaton shows how a particular redemption touches all creation. As an aside, Smeaton employs the language of Christ’s lordship over “every square foot” years before Abraham Kuyper’s more famous “every square inch” quotation.[3] Not restricting himself to the Gospels, however, Smeaton went on in his second volume to expound every place from Acts to Revelation where the Apostles speak of the cross. Yet, instead of merely giving exegetical notes on each passage, he brings the full weight of his Westminster theology to the text of Scripture.

What do you get when you combine exegetical precision, theological clarity, and dedicated churchmanship? In 2024, Thomas Schreiner or G.K. Beale might come to mind, as these two well-respected New Testament scholars join together biblical acumen with a deep and abiding love for the church. If you asked the same question in nineteenth century Scotland, however, you would get George Smeaton (1814–89). After serving faithfully as a pastor in the Free Church from 1843–54, he went on to assist Patrick Fairbairn in divinity at Aberdeen before assuming his final role, Professor of New Testament Exegesis at New College in Edinburgh from 1857–89.
For those who are unfamiliar with Smeaton, you would do well to acquaint yourself with him. You can find a brief biographical sketch by John W. Keddie in the Sermons and Addresses of George Smeaton. Keddie has also written a larger biography of Smeaton. I would commend both.[1]
Still, my acquaintance with Smeaton is not located in any biography, but in a bookshop. Somewhere near the beginning of my doctoral studies (circa 2010) I took the train to a series of bookstores near the University of Chicago. Walking past one of them, I began to peruse the dollar rack, where I stumbled across a worn out Zondervan edition of George Smeaton’s The Doctrine of the Atonement As Taught By Christ Himself (1953; Edinburgh, 1871), now retitled and republished as Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement. Studying the cross of Christ myself, I immediately picked up the book and proceeded to find its pair on a shelf inside, The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement (1957; Edinburgh, 1870).
Little did I know what awaited me in Smeaton’s two volumes, or the way these two books would unlock others published in nineteenth-century Scotland.[2] Personally, I am persuaded that Presbyterians and Baptists who lived in nineteenth-century Scotland, those who followed the Marrow Controversy, produced some of the best exegetical theology on cross in church history. Standing at the head of the line is George Smeaton’s work.
Totally 1,050 pages (in my two volumes), Smeaton addresses every passage in the New Testament which touches on the cross of Christ. In his first volume, he argues that Christ had a rich theological understanding of the cross, a debated subject for those who study the historical Jesus. Additionally, in that volume, Smeaton offers over 70 pages on the universal impact of a particular atonement. Lest anyone accuse Calvinists of restricting the impact of the cross to the elect only, Smeaton shows how a particular redemption touches all creation. As an aside, Smeaton employs the language of Christ’s lordship over “every square foot” years before Abraham Kuyper’s more famous “every square inch” quotation.[3]
Not restricting himself to the Gospels, however, Smeaton went on in his second volume to expound every place from Acts to Revelation where the Apostles speak of the cross. Yet, instead of merely giving exegetical notes on each passage, he brings the full weight of his Westminster theology to the text of Scripture. And in the end, he provides a historical sketch of the doctrine of the atonement too. In all, Smeaton’s approach is a near-perfect example of exegetical precision conjoined with confessional theology. And thus, the reader is rewarded with more than a thin list of proof-texts; he is given a rich feast of all the glories of Christ’s cross.
Back in the Summer of 2010, after picking up Smeaton’s two volumes, I would wake up early, make coffee, go outside, and read his chapters on the cross. If there is any one book that shaped my views on the cross or how to engage individual texts in light of biblical theology, Smeaton would be the one. And so, I commend his two volumes to you—you can get both from Banner of Truth or you can find a PDF at Monergism. I also want to encourage you to sample the way he introduces the four Gospels and their relationship to the cross.
As the editors of Christ Over All discussed the formation of this month, we wanted to show how each Gospel provides a different angle to the passion of the Christ. And in what follows, George Smeaton gives us exactly that. In the opening pages of his first volume on the cross, The Doctrine of the Atonement as Taught by Christ Himself, he explains the way the four Gospels present Christ and his cross, and this month they help us get our bearings as we begin to get into the details in the days to come. Take up and read. I pray you enjoy George Smeaton’s work as much as I have.
(This selection has been reformatted from the Monergism PDF).
******
Section I.—The Four Gospels the Sources of Our Knowledge as to the Sayings of Jesus.
The Gospels, a record of facts, and of memorable sayings intended to explain those facts, are constructed in the way best adapted to set forth the design of the Lord’s death. A brief notice of their constituent elements will suffice for our present purpose.
As no one mind was competent to the task of delineating the divine riches of Christ’s life, we have a fourfold mirror presented to us, in order to reflect it on all sides. The four biographies, with each a distinct peculiarity, constitute a perfect harmony and an adequate revelation of the God-man. This explains why the apostles were, during His public ministry, placed in His immediate society. They were to be fitted, according to their divine call, to prepare, as eyewitnesses and earwitnesses, for the edification of the church, a faithful record of His deeds and words. And intimations of this occasionally occur before they were fully aware of all that was intended (Matt. 26:13; Acts 1:21). The precious record was for nearly thirty years suspended on their oft-imperiled lives. But it came forth in due time, when it could be committed to the Church already prepared to welcome and appreciate it as part of the oracles of God.
Though some men presumptuously talk of the entrance of myths, such a supposition is forestalled by the circumstances of the case. What was at length transferred to writing had been, for near a generation, orally rehearsed by the apostles in the churches which they founded. The Gospels were the productions of immediate eye-witnesses, or of men who wrote in their society and under their sanction. The fact that the apostles still presided over the churches when the Gospels were issued secured a twofold result the authenticity as well as faultless accuracy of the documents, and their unimpeded circulation.
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A Dangerous Calling (pt. 2): Five Steps to Self-Promotion

Those who promote themselves without God’s authorization (i.e., recognition granted to them by the church – see Acts 13:1–3), gain position by giving it to themselves or taking it from others. Instead of waiting on the Lord to receive a ministry at the right time in the right way, those who are committed to making themselves great are unconcerned for how their ministry might impact others. They see a path to service and the popularity found from others is sufficient cause for continuing.

Throughout the Bible we find a divide between wisdom and folly, righteousness and sin, givers and takers, children of God and children of the devil. As Jesus said, he did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matt. 10:34–35). And that sword not only divides humanity, which provides the context of his words in Matthew’s Gospel, it is also a sword that judges the thoughts and intentions of men. Indeed, God’s Word does more than declare behavior right and wrong; it does surgery on the heart, exposing why we do what we do.
In the Bible, and in the church, few things are more difficult to discern than motivations for ministry. For truly, as many good motivations as there are, there are also bad motivations. There is ambition that is godly and ambition that is anything but godly. And in every child of God who serves faithfully, there will be both impulses.
Just consider the Apostle Peter, who could confess Jesus as the Christ at the same time that he would deny him his cross (see Matt. 16:13–23). Indeed, at one time or another, all the disciples had a mixture of true and false ambitions, which is why Jesus had to correct their views on greatness (Mark 10:42–45). Truly, we are fickle creatures. And the best of men is both taught by God and tempted by the devil. Again, read Matthew 16.
So, knowing that, we should always be open to examining our motivations for ministries, and that is what this series is about. It aims to address false ambitions and to set a course towards true ambitions for ministry.
In Part 1, I offered two lessons from the life of Adonijah.

We should not seek positions in ministry; we should seek the righteousness to receive such a place of service.
We should abide by the word, and wait for an invitation to serve.

And now, in Part 2, I will suggest a third lesson from Adonijah’s life:

When kingdom-seekers exalt themselves, their ambition follows a discernible pattern.

This pattern consists of five actions that Adonijah pursued in his attempt to be king in Israel. And, as the story goes, he nearly succeeded. What ultimately prevented him from claiming the throne illicitly is that genuine servants of God stood to oppose him. His false ambitions were thwarted because the ambitions of others were rooted in God’s Word.
Sadly, this sort of conflict continues today.
In truth, only when righteous men and women stand against falsehood will truth prevail. Yet, this is exactly why it is vital to learn the pattern of those who exalt themselves. For in ministry, when good works are pursued with bad motives, it can be very difficult to discern. Often, the falsehood of good works takes years, even decades, to discern. Yet, Scripture does give us light, if we are willing to look. And that is what we find in Adonijah’s play for David’s throne.
Adonijah’s Ambition
When Adonijah exalted himself to a position of royal authority, he followed a pattern of action that many have followed before and since. Indeed, this pattern of self-exaltation is the exact opposite of Christ’s self-effacing, self-sacrificing service (see Phil. 2:5–8). Instead of humbling himself and waiting to be exalted, Adonijah used his resources to collect a following. And then, he attempted to build a kingdom with his followers. From his sinful example, we are warned of an ambitious nature that seeks ministry by means of self-promotion.
Now, of course, the pursuit of gospel ministry does not look like glory-seeking for most people. Yet, among those who worship in David’s rebuilt house (i.e., the church), there remains a temptation to self-exaltation. And tragically, those most skilled for ministry are most easily tempted. As with any good thing, it can become a god-thing (an idol). And that is one of the warnings that the story of Adonijah offers. For those seeking ministry and for anyone who might encounter someone promoting themselves in ministry. (And I would put myself in the camp of those who have had to learn to put selfish ambitions to death.)
Indeed, self-promotion is often covered by words of truth and acts of service. As a result, recognition of such self-serving can be missed or dismissed. Even more, many in the church can be deceived by zealous “servants” who exalt themselves with their service in ministry. This pattern of selfish ambition in God’s kingdom is not easily spotted, but it does have certain discernible patterns. For nothing is new under the sun, and in Adonijah we can see at least five steps to such self-promotion.
By examining his life, may we learn to seek new life in Christ.
Five Steps of Self-Promotion
1. Self-actualization.
In Adonijah’s case, he not only exalted himself, he vowed to himself, “I will be king” (v. 5).
The power of a self-made man is in his secret vow to do great things. In truth, not everyone who achieves great things is self-seeking, but many are. And when they are, they are often driven by some inward compulsion.
That compulsion may come from any number of family situations (e.g., the absence of a father, the neglect of a mother, competition with a sibling), or it may come from somewhere else. But wherever it comes from, the need to actualize self is not a godly motivation to serve from a heart overflowing with God’s love. It is profoundly human motivation, one that comes from a heart needing to find love or praise or glory from others.
And thus, the first step of self-promotion is a subterranean urge to be great. This urge may come forth viscerally in verbal statements marked by pride, competition, envy, or self-glorification. Or, it may be more subtle. It may be hidden and only seen in promises made to self or hidden in a diary.
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What Is the Mission of the Church in a Racialized World?

If the church is to be on earth what it is in heaven, the church’s mission is to see sons of Adam become sons of God by the preaching of the gospel. More predestinarian, the mission of the church is to find the lost sheep in every fold (i.e., in every nation), and by so gathering God’s elect this increases the divide between sheep and goats. Truly, the truth of two races— one natural, one spiritual—is so important today, because there is a spirit of Babel that wants to unite the human race and eliminate the divide between sheep and goats.  

Here is the thesis that I want to argue: Your race is more important than your ethnicity.
When defined biblically and not sociologically, one’s race is more important for identity formation than one’s ethnicity. And by extension, the mission of the church is to help you make that statement true. Which raises the question. What is race? And do you know what your race is?
As insulting as that question may sound at first, I am going to suggest it is an easy question to mistake—especially if we have fused biblical ideas with worldly ideologies. At the same time, if we can answer this question from the Bible and the Bible alone, then we have hope for knowing and growing the mission of the church. This is the point that I will argue here, and here is how I will proceed.
I will show why the concept of racialization in America is popular and pervasive, but ultimately unhelpful—if not harmful.
I will attempt to draw the lines of race and ethnicity according to the Bible.
With those lines in place, I will demonstrate that the mission of the church helps men and women, who hold PhD’s in ethnic Partiality, ethnic Hostility, ethnic Discrimination, grow up into Christ, who is the head of a new chosen race, redeemed from nation (ethnē).
So that’s where we are going today.
Racism (Re)Defined as Racialization?
If you have not seen or heard this word before, you probably have not been reading the newer books on the subject of race and racism. Not that I am counting, but this term has been used by John Piper (Bloodlines),[1] Jarvis Williams (Redemptive Kingdom Diversity),[2] Irwyn Ince (The Beautiful Community),[3] and many others. And importantly, all of these works point to Michael Emerson and Christian Smith in their landmark book, Divided by Faith.[4]
Irwyn Ince is a wonderful brother who has been a PCA pastor for years. He has served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the PCA. And most personally, I met him a few years ago when I sat in on one of his classes at Reformed Theological Seminary. After that, he preached in our church’s pulpit and delivered an edifying message from the book of Hebrews. So I deeply respect Dr. Ince and there are many parts of his book I appreciate. That said I find his use of the idea of racialization unhelpful.
In The Beautiful Community: Unity, Diversity, and the Church at Its Best, Ince describes the effects of Genesis 11 on America. And in that discussion, he cites Ibram X. Kendi and Kendi’s thesis that racist policies in America have always come from racist ideas (pp. 75–76). Affirming this sociological perspective, Ince makes a theological connection. He says, “Put in theological terms, our racialized society is an outworking of our ghettoization at Babel. And the devastating reality is that groups of people still seek to serve the interests of their ghetto.”[5]
Ince continues:
“Kendi’s point about the changing nature of racialization in America reinforces what Christian Smith and Michael Emerson explained in 2000 when they wrote: “The framework we here use—racialization—reflects that [post-Civil Rights era] adaptation. It [Racialization] understands that racial practices that reproduce racial division in the contemporary United States [are] (1) increasingly covert, (2) embedded in normal operations of institutions, (3) avoid direct racial terminology, and (4) invisible to most Whites.”[6]
Without getting into all the details of racialization, we need to consider where this new, Post-Civil Rights racism comes from. If you look at Ince and all the other evangelicals who use this term, almost all of them cite Emerson and Smith. And where do Emerson and Smith get the definition of racialization, the idea of racist ideas hidden in plain sight?
The short answer is Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a sociology professor at Duke and a leading proponent of Critical Race Theory (Divided by Faith, 9–11). What is important about Bonilla-Silva, is that racism after the Civil Rights movement has been transformed and is now embedded in social, political, and legal structures. The result is that racism can now exist without racists. That’s the title of his book (Racism with Racists), now in its sixth edition. This book was published after Divided by Faith, but Emerson and Smith cite an unpublished paper that he wrote in 1997.
Here’s the point. Without getting into the details of CRT, when you use, or hear, or see the word “racialization,” take note. It is not a concept that comes from the Bible, nor is it a word that comes from a sociology grown from biblical stock. Racialization is a term that comes from a view of the world that is wholly inconsistent with the biblical narrative. And thus, Christians should take caution whenever that word is used and should seek a biblical definition of race and ethnicity, as well of the universal sins of ethnic pride and hostility.
In what follows, I will argue that if we are going to rebuild our understanding of race, ethnicity, and the ministry of reconciliation, we must not borrow the idea of racialization. Instead, we need to go back to the Bible itself. We cannot simply employ the tools of CRT, or any other religious ideology (e.g., White Supremacy, Black Power, or anything else), to assist biblical reconciliation. Instead, we must mine the depths of Scripture to find God’s perspective on fallen humanity, its sin, and God’s plan of reconciliation in Christ. Because Scripture is sufficient to handle any type of sin, importing the concept of “racialization” does not give us a better understanding of Scripture. It only confuses the problem.
For not only does racialization, a concept drawn from the quarries of CRT, identify sin with groups of people—specifically, people with power—but it also ignores human agency in sin. Even more, it gives a view of the world that comes from sociology—and not just any sociology, but a sociology that redefines biblical words and concepts, so that in talking about race, ethnicity, justice, and the church, we end up talking the language of Babel. Therefore, we need to go back the Bible.
One Human Race, Or Two?
With our eyes fixed on Scripture we need to see what the Bible says about race, ethnicity, and the pride, hostility, and discrimination that arises in the heart of every son or daughter born of Adam.
The first thing to observe is that the Bible identifies two races, not just one. This might sound strange, if you have been schooled in the biology of Darwin and his kind, because various Darwinists have argued that different races came from different origins. This was the scientific rationale that supported the racial inferiority of blacks.
By contrast, Paul declares there is one human race, derived from one man. “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26).
Still, this singular human race, with one common ancestor, does not deny a second race in the Bible—namely, a people born from above (John 3:3–8). As Scripture presents it, every child of God has a Father in heaven and an older brother in Christ, not Adam. In Romans 5, these two races are set against one another. There is the human race whose head is the first man, and there is the new human race whose head is the last man. Maybe we do not think of Adam’s family and Christ’s family as two separate races, but we should. Peter does. Just listen to 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
So, does the Bible teach us about race? Absolutely. Race is a biblical concept. For all the ways that sociology has (wrongly) defined race, there is something in Scripture that speaks to this very issue. The word “race” is the word genos, a word that can mean descendent, family, nation, class or kind. Indeed, it is a word that deserves its own study, but in 1 Peter 2:9, it is clearly speaking of a new humanity, chosen by God, redeemed by the Son, and made alive by the Spirit. And this “chosen race” is set against another “race,” the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.
In this way, we should see in Scripture one fallen human race and one redeemed human race, thus producing two peoples, or as Genesis 3:15 would have it, “two seeds.” From the beginning, there was a single divide in humanity, producing two kinds of people. And in the fullness of time (i.e., when Christ came), this divide manifested in the two races referenced in 1 Peter 2:9. Today, all biblical thinking about race begins with this fact—there is not one human race, but two.
A Biblical Theology of Race
Moving across the canon helps us take the next step in a biblical theology of race. If we had more time, we could consider all the ways that the Law divided Jew and Gentile as two “races.” Indeed, if the language of Scripture means anything, it is striking that in Acts 7:19, Stephen speaks of Israel as his “race” (genos) not his ethnicity (ethnos). Indeed, because the divide in the Law separates Jew and Gentile as two peoples, set under different covenantal heads, the division between Jew and Gentile stands in typological relationship to Adam and Jesus. To put it in an analogy,
Jew : Gentile :: Christ : Adam
More fully, we can say that the legal division between Jew and Gentile, did not create a permanent, spiritual, or lasting division in humanity, but it did reinforce the divide created in Genesis 3:15, when God set at odds the seed of the woman against the seed of the serpent. Ever since, the biblical story carves out one people to be God’s chosen race. In the Old Testament, this was the nation of Israel according to the flesh (see Exod. 19:5–6). And during the time of the old covenant, there were two “races”—the Jews and the Gentiles. Typologically, these two races were roughly equivalent to the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, even though not every Israelite was truly a seed of the woman (e.g., Saul) and some Gentiles would become members of the covenant community (e.g., Rahab and Ruth).
In the fullness of time, however, this covenantal difference would be brought to an end, and the real, lasting, and spiritual divide, of which God promised in Genesis 3, and again in Genesis 12, would be created in the new race of men created by the firstborn from the dead, Jesus Christ (Col. 1:18). And this again is what makes two races.
Therefore, “racism,” according to Scripture alone, should be defined as the hostility that stands between seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Indeed, what is commonly called racism today is not racism at all, but ethnic hostility, ethnic pride, ethnic partiality. Moreover, what is called diversity, equity, and inclusion is actually an affront to the very division that Jesus is bringing into the world (see Matt. 10:34).
Now, in redefining racism according to Scripture, I am not trying to ignore the fact that our world is filled with pride and partiality amplified by color-consciousness. America’s history is filled with hatred and violence due to skin color. If there is anything redeemable in Divided by Faith, it is the selective but shocking history of slavery and Jim Crow that it reports. Those who deny the horrors of history should listen to the testimonies of Frederick Douglass (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), Booker T. Washington (Up from Slavery), and Solomon Northrup (Twelve Years a Slave).
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Feet and Inches: Christ Rules Over All Things

Reintroducing George Smeaton and Abraham Kuyper

Writing on different subjects, in different language, but at roughly the same period of time, George Smeaton and Abraham Kuyper used synonymous language to describe Christ’s reign over the earth.  In our first post, we introduced them; today we will compare and combine their statements to give a more full-orbed understanding of Christ’s universal dominion. But before doing that, let me supply their quotes again.

First, in 1871 in Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement, Smeaton wrote concerning John 12:31 and Christ’s universal reign,

On the contrary, this testimony shows that every foot of ground in the world belongs to Christ, that His followers can be loyal to Him in every position, and that in every country and corner where they may placed they have to act their part for their Lord.  The world is judicially awarded to Christ as its owner and Lord (p. 300).

Ten years later, Kuyper in a speech concerning “sphere sovereignty,” Kuyper make the famous statement,

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!“

Clearly, the resonance between Kuyper and Smeaton is unmistakable, but there are a number of differences in context and nuance that make it worthwhile to take up both statements as we consider Christ’s universal dominion.  Let’s consider three that develop this truth.

Feet and Inches: Smeaton and Kuyper on the Universal Reign of Christ

First, Christ Rules Over Satan and Scholars.  In Smeaton, Christ’s rule over the earth is contrasted with that of Satan.  While Satan stole possession of the earth from Adam and Eve, and ruled as the god of this age for generations; Jesus Christ came and dethroned the serpent of old.  Thus, while he still flails, Jesus is the one resting on the throne and delegating his Spirit and his Church to have dominion over the whole wide earth.

At the same time, one of the areas in which this dominion ought to occur is in the academy.  Kuyper, a brilliant theologian, author, educator, politician, and spokesman for a Reformed worldview, advocates the need for the disciplines of law, medicine, science and so forth to be undertaken not in disjunction from faith or from the reign of Christ, but rather in connect with him.  The reason?  Just as Christ reigns over Satan and in the church, so he is the creator, sustainer, and inventor of all life.  Thus, to rightly understand anything in creation demands that a person sees how that individual theory, molecule, or bacteria strain relates to the whole.  Only with Christ reigning on the throne can such a vision of research be conceived.

Second, Christ Rules Over Space and Studies.  In Smeaton, we find biblical proof of the fact that Christ died for people from every tongue, tribe, language, and nation.  At the same time, his death defeated the cosmic reign of Satan.  Therefore, every square foot has now been reclaimed, officially, by Christ, and in time all creation will be re-made and re-seeded as Christ brings the New Creation.  At the same time, Kuyper rightly sees Christ rightly seeds his world with thinkers and thoughts that benefit all of humanity.  These come not only from Christian scientists and philosophers, they are also developed by unbelievers.  Nevertheless, Christ rules over the nations and their various schools of thought in order to effect all of his purposes in the world.

One example of this would include the political theory that permitted Israel to dwell in the land of Palestine under the auspices of the Roman Empire.  While not apparent to the Romans or even the Jews, God permitted the toleration of the Roman Empire to provide a way of life in Israel that facilitated the coming of Christ (cf. Gal 4:4).  All the orchestrations and political machinations were at one level governed by various thinkers and philosophies, but at another level, God used them in order to effect his causes.  In this way, God is sovereign over the geographic nations and the way they run.  Smeaton points to the former, Kuyper more the latter.

Third, Christ Rules As Redeemer and Creator.  In Smeaton’s work, he is insistent on Christ’s atoning work.  Because of Christ’s death, he defeats Satan and redeems or reclaims the earth.  In this way, he is functioning as a Redeemer who has authority over all the earth.  For Kuyper, it seems that his sphere sovereignty is more connected with his role as creator and sustainer.  While not denying the special work of redemption, in any sort of way, he emphasizes Christ the Creator.

Truth be told, both of these things are truth and should not be set against one another.  Rather, they work in tandem and rightly relate Christ to all the earth.  As John 17:2 mentions, Jesus has authority over all flesh, but he only gives eternal life to the ones who have been given to him (i.e. the elect).

In the end, Smeaton’s statement balances Kuyper’s statement and gives added texture and depth to the beautiful reality that Christ reigns over all things.  Christ reigns over all the earth as Creator and Redeemer, as the one who has subdued Satan and who subverts scholars.  He rules space and time, measurement and rhyme.  He is God over all, and in the works of Smeaton and Kuyper, one can find an excellent pair who help us think through the way Christ governs his universe.

A Final Curiosity

Smeaton published his words before Kuyper proclaimed his.  While it would be natural for Smeaton to assimilate Kuyper’s well known words–at least well known today–it seems more odd that Kuyper would have borrowed his most famous utterance from another. And it probably is unlikely. The contexts in which the statements occurred and the provenances from which they were written, accompanied by the difference in languages, makes it unlikely that these two statements had any organic relationship.

It is more likely the case, that the allusive echo found in their statements are simply the product of two men studying the same Scriptures, influenced by the same Spirit–coincidentally, both men produced mathom works on the Holy Spirit (Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit; and Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit), living under the same king whose rule is seen in Edinburgh and Amsterdam.

While Smeaton measured Christ’s reign in feet and Kupyer marked his off in inches, the reality for both of them, is that Christ rightly possess all his inheritance and is reigning over it all today.  This glorious truth bears repeating, and as often as we quote Kuyper, perhaps we should also cite Smeaton, who not only precedes the Dutch theologian and prime minister, but who also connects the universal reign to the cross of Christ.

Thoughts? If anyone does have any connections between Smeaton and Kuyper, I would love to know.  If not, it will remain an interesting coincidence, another example that there is nothing new under the Son.

A Tale of Two Fishermen: Peter, Jesus, and the Meaning of 153 Fish

Fear of allegory has also plagued the church. Due to the faulty ways allegory has been employed in church history, many have refused to see any symbolism in Scripture. Confusing allegory with typology, they have thrown out the good fish with the bad. And as a result, when they come across a number like 153, they cannot see how John is using this figure symbolically. And so, we to follow John’s lead, we should return to the tale of two fishermen in John 21.

If you have ever fished, or known someone who has, then you know the temptation to embellish. What began as a small catch, becomes a medium catch, becomes a large catch. Maybe this is a stereotype, but fishermen are notorious for letting their stories grow over time.
The same can be true with Scripture, especially in books like Revelation, Daniel, or John. When a biblical author uses symbolism to portray his message, the true words of God can be enlarged, exaggerated, or embellished over time.
This method of embellishment often is often associated with something called allegory, as interpreters of Scripture take something in text of Scripture and interpret it by something outside of Scripture. This extra-biblical ‘thing,’ might be a philosophy, a moral imperative, or a doctrinal truth. But what it is not is something that immediately comes from the text of Scripture.
Historically, this allegorical method of interpretation has taken a number like 153—the number of fish in Peter’s catch (John 21:11)—and turned the fish into a symbol for something else. For instance, Augustine, who is at times helpful and at other times allegorical, derived from this number a proof text for the Trinity (See Klink, John, 902). How so?
Well if you add 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 all the way up to 17, you arrive at the total of 153. One hundred fifty-three is a perfect triangle number for 17. Even more, when you add the 10 Commandments to 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, you get 17, which gives you a triangular number of 153 that symbolizes the Trinity.
It’s as simple as that. Can’t you see it? No? Neither can I.
Beware of Allegory and Let the Scripture Speak
That said, this method of allegory infiltrated the church for generations, and as a result, it created a caste of priests who had to interpret the Word for the people. Clearly, you had to be trained by experts to misread the Bible like this.
In the Protestant Reformation, such allegory was largely rejected and the Bible was put into the hands of the people. Meaning, the authority of the Bible, as well as its interpretation, came not from an allegorical approach to the Bible, or from a class of mystical priests. Instead, biblical interpretation came from a grammatical and historical approach. Discovering the author’s intention led to understanding God’s Word.
In the Reformation, Scripture once again possessed its full and final authority, and with that authority, faithful pastors, theologians, and layman alike interpreted Scripture by reading it in context and comparing it to the rest of the Bible. To be sure, the church then, like now, needed teachers, creeds, can confessions. Sola scriptura never meant and shouldn’t mean solo scriptura. Rather, in the Reformation  and today, faithful teachers submit themselves to the Bible. And more, points of doctrine or application must come from points in the passage, not from flights of fancy or any kind of allegorical method.
Beware of Overreaction and Let the Symbols Speak
At the same time, fear of allegory has also plagued the church. Due to the faulty ways allegory has been employed in church history, many have refused to see any symbolism in Scripture. Confusing allegory with typology, they have thrown out the good fish with the bad. And as a result, when they come across a number like 153, they cannot see how John is using this figure symbolically.
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George Smeaton And Abraham Kuyper On The Universal Reign of Christ

Solomon advises us that there is nothing new under the sun.  Indeed, in the history of Christian thought, one would expect that under the Lordship of Christ and his church, the essentials of the gospel would remain consistent over time.  Thus, while they need repeating in every generation because slippage is always a threat, there remains a kind of harmony that exists among theologians who make the Bible first order.  Likewise, as one dives into reading pastors and theologians from different eras and different places, one can expect to find echoes.  Sometimes these are organically related, sometime they are not but cause for curiosity how it is possible that two statements made by independent thinkers could be so similar.

George Smeaton on Christ’s Universal Reign

Such an occasion happened a few months ago as I read George Smeaton’s eminently helpful book, The Doctrine of the Atonement As Taught By Christ Himself (Edinburgh, 1871) now retitled and republished as Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement.  In it, Smeaton gives his final exhortation from the text John 12:31, which reads, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”  In his thorough exegesis, the nineteenth-century Scot shows how Satan’s overthrow means simply, that Christ is the sole possessor of all things. He has stripped the god of this age of his title to this world, and he now rightly possesses the earth (cf. Matt 28:18). Therefore he writes,

This text [John 12:31], important in many aspects, is capable of being viewed in many applications.  It throws a steady light on the great and momentous doctrine, that the world is, in consequence of the vicarious work of Christ, no more Satan’s, and that Christ’s people are now to be far from the impression that they are only captives in an enemy’s territory, and unable warrantably to occupy a place in the world, either as citizens or magistrates.

Moving from Christ’s substitutionary cross to the the universal themes of victory and dominion, Smeaton makes this final, global and glorious statement,

On the contrary, this testimony shows that every foot of ground in the world belongs to Christ, that His followers can be loyal to Him in every position, and that in every country and corner where they may placed they have to act their part for their Lord.  The world is judicially awarded to Christ as its owner and Lord (p. 300).

This is a glorious truth that deserves time for consideration and meditation.  Yet, in first hearing it, I could not help but think of Abraham Kuyper, who said something almost identical.  Yet, as it will be shown, Kuyper’s context is different than Smeaton, and Kuyper actually spoke his word’s later.

Abraham Kuyper on Christ’s Universal Reign

In his lecture on “Sphere Sovereignty” delivered on October 20, 1880, Kuyper uttered what is today his most famous quotation.  It reads:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!“  (Abraham Kuyper, “Sphere Sovereignty,” in Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998], 488). 

In context, Kuyper’s statement comes at the end of a long list of academic sciences–medicine, law, natural science, letters– which the great educator of the Netherlands argued should be brought underneath the rule of Christ.  Since all wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ (Col 2:3), all mental disciplines should find their origin and telos in Christ. In full context, he states,

Man in his antithesis as fallen sinner or self-developing natural creature returns again as the ‘subject that thinks’ or ‘the object that prompts thought’ in every department, in every discipline, and with every investigator.  Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ (488).

This concluding statement has been repeated again and again.  It is a favorite of Reformed thinkers and others too.  It is wonderful thought to realize that all things have been and should be put in submission to Christ.  But interestingly the application of Kuyper’s words (as I have used them and have heard others use them) are slightly out of context.

Often Kuyper’s turn of phrase is used in spatial, geographical ways, as if he was explaining Psalm 2 which says that all the nations have been given to the Son.  Since the Lord possesses all the earth, he has a right to put his finger on it and exlaim “Mine!”  However, in context, Kuyper’s statement is more specific.  He is speaking more exactly of the “mental world,” not the spatial world.  I doubt he would deny the broader application, but to read Kuyper closely, we find that his statement is more narrow. This point does not mean that we need to abandon the use of Kuyper’s quote, so much as perhaps we should include Smeaton’s, too.

In the next post, we will pick up how and why we should incorporate Smeaton’s quotation into the discussion of Christ’s universal reign.

The Priesthood of All Believers: A Call for All to Proclaim the Gospel

Now that the veil has been torn, all children of God are given access to pray and to present Gentile converts to the Lord as living sacrifices. Wonderfully, such a ministry does not require a seminary degree or a clerical robe. It does require that the knowledge of the Lord would be on our lips and that we would prayerfully share Christ with others. 

When we think of the priesthood of believers, we often think of 1 Peter 2:5, 9–10, and rightly so. In addition to defiling the high priest’s servant when he cut off his ear (N.B. Jesus does not heal Malchus in John’s Gospel), Peter also picked up the sword of the Spirit to positively articulate a vision of the church as a royal priesthood. And in what follows, I will reflect on his thoughts from his first epistle.
At the same time, Paul too had a vision for the priesthood–a vision for priesthood that is often under-appreciated. And so, in the second portion below, I will highlight the one place where he uses the word “priest,” actually “priestly” (hierourgounta). From his usage, and Peter’s, we learn a key lesson, that the priestly ministry of the church means evangelism for all. Let’s consider.
Getting into the Priesthood
As the true and better high priest, Jesus is doing what the unfaithful priests of Israel never did—he is ensuring that all his people hear the good news of the new covenant (cp. Isa. 54:13; John 6:45). Through the evangelistic witness of the church, Jesus is circumcising hearts, and through the Holy Spirit, he is purifying a people for his own possession—a people who will serve as priests.
It is to these evangelistic matters that we turn, in order to show how Christ’s priestly service impels the church to carry out their priestly service.
Royal Priests Preach the Gospel (1 Peter 2:5, 9­–10)
In the New Testament, there are six explicit references to the priesthood of believers (see Rom 15:16; 1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). The most famous of these may be 1 Peter 2, where Peter tells the “elect exiles” that they are individually “living stones” who “are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (v. 5).
Then, just a few verses later, he reiterates the same point, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (vv. 9­–10).  Don’t miss what the priests do—they proclaim the mercies of God.
Significantly, the priestly role is not just related to the tabernacle/temple and sacrifices for atonement, as in 1 Peter 2:5. Rather, like the priests of old taught the people the Law of Moses (see Lev. 10:11; Deut 33:8–11), new covenant priests will proclaim the gospel—the law fulfilled in Christ.
Wonderfully, the priests depicted here are those who will pronounce the good news to those who were once not a people (i.e., the Gentiles estranged from the covenant promises of God). Thus, the ministry of these priests is not defined by sacrificial offerings, nor temple access, but by gospel proclamation.[1] What does it mean to be a kingdom of priests today? It means that the citizens of the kingdom go into all the nations and proclaim the true king.
Priestly Service Offers the Gentiles as Living Sacrifices (Romans 15)
An evangelistic understanding of the priesthood is not restricted to Peter either. In Romans 15, Paul makes the same point, as he declares himself “a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God.” Here, more than any other place in his letters, Paul equates the ministry of the gospel with that of a priestly ministry. As John Stott comments,
Paul regards his missionary work as a priestly ministry because he is able to offer his Gentile converts as a living sacrifice to God. . . . All evangelists are priests, because they offer their converts to God. Indeed, it is this truth more than any other which effectively unites the church’s two major roles of worship and witness. It is when we worship God, . . . that we are driven out to proclaim his name to the world.[2]
Surely, Stott is on solid ground when he says that “all evangelists are priests,” but let’s look at the surrounding context, where we discover that all priests are evangelists and that all of us are priests.
Looking at the context of Romans 15:14–21, we find a number of related statements that develop the ministry of the church as a band of gospel-proclaiming priests. First, in the preceding verses (15:1­–13), Paul details the way that the gospel has been “confirmed” to the Jews and offered to the Gentiles (v. 8). This is the explicit point of verses 9–13, which quotes four Old Testament texts. Remarkably, while each is taken from a different section of the Tanak (Hebrew Old Testament), they all affirm the gospel reaching the “Gentiles.”
Accordingly, these opening verses (vv. 1–13) function as the foundation of Paul’s own ministry to the Gentiles. The significance for our considerations is that the context of Romans 15 speaks directly to the issue of the gospel moving from Israel to the ends of the earth. In other words, this crucial passage explicates the relationship between priestly service and the universal offer of the gospel.
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The Egalitarian Beachball is a Church Wrecking Ball

Did God actually say, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man?” Or is this verse the invention of a man, trying to deceive women? When Paul disallowed women from teaching or exercising oversight in the house of God, and he grounded his argument in the Garden of Eden, what part is he playing? Is Paul deceived like Eve, trying to win one for Adam? Or, is Paul the serpent, deceiving the female pastor, telling her that the fruit she wants is not good? Or is Paul speaking for the Lord when he tells the woman to put down the pulpit?
This month at Christ Over All, we will consider these questions as they relate to the church in the twenty-first century. And more, we will put these questions to the test, as they relate to the rise of female pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Why the SBC? Keep reading, and you’ll find out.
Trouble in America’s Largest Protestant Denomination
In the 1980s, a “Conservative Resurgence” swept through the SBC. And if we boiled that movement down into two theological issues, they were the inerrancy of Scripture and egalitarianism, an idea that includes women serving as pastors. In those days, Bible-believing Baptists stood up to say that God’s Word is inspired, authoritative, and inerrant. This movement followed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and galvanized the SBC to stand on God’s written revelation—all of it, including the parts that spoke about women and preaching. Returning to its biblical roots, the SBC moved away from being a denomination that accepted women as pastors and preachers to a denomination that believed that Paul spoke for God when he wrote, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12).
This recovery of biblical orthodoxy and Baptist ecclesiology took place more than two decades ago, and yet in recent years, the debate about women serving as pastors has returned.[1] Presumably, the questions about the inerrancy of the Word of God have not returned, but the question of the hour is this: Has God really said that women cannot preach or be pastors?
Infamously, Beth Moore, before departing for the Anglican Church, celebrated her preaching in Southern Baptist pulpits. Likewise, another Moore, former ERLC President Russell Moore, renounced his previous patriarchal convictions when he wrote for Christianity Today.[2] More to the point, in response to recent events in the SBC, SBC President Bart Barber has promised to bring this question of women pastors to the 2023 SBC Convention. And accordingly, Christ Over All wants to return to the Bible to see what it says about men and women serving in the church.
Most specifically, we will consider the arguments in favor of women preaching and pastoring in local churches—arguments that have come to us from dozens of SBC pastors. These Southern Baptist pastors, both men and women, have voiced their opposition to a proposed amendment to the SBC Constitution that disallows women from preaching or pastoring in accordance with 1 Timothy 2–3. That amendment will be introduced below, but first let me get to the data, and also to the “Egalitarian Beachball.”
The Egalitarian Beachball
Mike Law, an SBC pastor in Virginia, is the author of this constitutional amendment. And in response to his amendment, over thirty ministry leaders of SBC-affiliated churches sent him emails condemning his proposal and arguing in various ways why women should be pastors and preachers. And by sifting through these negative responses, we saw seven different arguments for women in the pulpit, as you’ll see in a graphic further below.[3] Keep in mind, since the year 2000 the SBC has held to a view that states, “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
This view is found in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BFM2000), which is the document revised and ratified in 2000 that outlines the doctrinal beliefs of the SBC. While this document affirms the myriad of ways women can and do serve in the church, it also made the clear statement above about who may serve in the office of pastor. Yet, as becomes the plasticity of our postmodern world, it is not surprising that the egalitarian spirit of our age has formed the hearts and minds of many in and around the SBC. As a result, this new amendment has driven out into the open many who are abiding by egalitarian principles, even as they inhabit an SBC, which affirms biblical complementarianism. Complementarianism is the view that men and women share the same dignity, value, and worth before God, but that God has created men and women with distinct and complementary roles in the church and home. For the church, this means that only qualified men may serve as pastor/elders. In the home, this looks like men leading their families in a Christ-like way while women graciously follow their husband’s leadership.
Now, were the issue of egalitarianism a tertiary matter (e.g., taking the Lord’s supper once a month or once a week, or preaching topical sermons instead of expository) it would not be a matter for breaking fellowship. Certainly, the frequency of the Lord’s Supper and the style of sermon are matters related to Scripture and church health, but they are not matters that rise to the level of denominational agreement in the SBC. The qualifications for the pastoral office, however, are explicated in the BFM2000 as a necessary marker for the churches who are in “friendly cooperation” within the SBC. With that in mind, Christ Over All is looking to call Southern Baptists—and all Bible-believing Christians—to abide by the Scriptures, and to exercise integrity with respect to their ministerial allegiances.
To this end, we put forward the Egalitarian Beachball as a graphic that captures seven of the main arguments in favor of female pastors made by SBC-affiliated church leaders. While this is not an exhaustive catalogue of arguments and is anecdotal in nature, it represents a cross-section of popular reasoning used to advocate for women pastors. Many advocates of this position use more than one argument to advance their reasoning, as reflected below. The first six arguments often come from those who self-identify as egalitarian, while the seventh argument usually comes from those who self-identify as “thin” or “narrow” complementarians (which is a type of functional egalitarianism).[4]
Over the course of this month, we will be addressing these points and more. Indeed, these are arguments swimming in the larger culture today and in churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond. Because it’s important to give biblical arguments, not just hasty tweets, we will go back to Scripture and see what it says.
In truth, we will go back to ground already tilled by faithful pastors and teachers in previous generations. But as Paul says in Philippians 3:1, “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” Indeed, if the church needs to find a safe space, it is found in God’s Word. And so, with Mike Law, we are calling the church back to the Bible. And what follows is a bit of recent history to explain why this is necessary.
The Need of the Hour
Recently, I attended an Evangelical conference in sunny Florida, and as I walked outside beside the conference bookstore, two young seminarians bounced a conversation in front of me. At the conference, Crossway had given more than 2000 copies of their book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to registered guests, and these two young men were quite impressed. Here’s a summary of their conversation:
Student #1: Hey, did you see this giveaway book? It’s called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Ever heard of it?
Student #2: No, never heard of it. Is it new? It must be.
Student #1: Yeah, I think so.
Student #2: I bet it is a response to the SBC debate about women preaching.
Me: Well, actually, let me tell you about the 1980s and something called the Danvers Statement . . .
As Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun,” and this was especially true on that sunny day in January, when the beachball of egalitarianism was at issue.
As readers of this website may know already, the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is not new, nor is it a response to the recent questions about women preaching in pulpits or serving as pastors in the SBC. Rather, this is the book which defined biblical complementarianism in the 1980s after a group of pastors and scholars penned the Danver’s Statement in 1987.
Indeed, for most of church history, there was no question that the office of pastor—whatever it was called (bishop, elder, overseer)—was for qualified men only.
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For the Kids Nobody Wants: Longing for and Loving the Little Ones

We certainly cannot say, “We don’t know what is happening.” We do know. Fueled by a social imaginary devoid of children, unwanted children are not treated as God’s beloved image bearers. They are treated as “life unworthy of life,” and accordingly, we who have received life in Christ must protect babies who are unwanted. Therefore, for all the reasons outlined above, we do well to remember that the children formed in the womb are people whom God loves. And thus we must not shrink back, but press on to rescue the perishing—the kids that nobody wants. 

If the problem in our country is the fact that children are portrayed as inconvenient and are justifiably purged when “unwanted,” we need more than a campaign that says, “Don’t do that.” If the moral fiber of our country has run out, and Genesis 1:28 has been laughed out, then we need to do more than shout down the wickedness of abortion. We need to rehabilitate an entire view of the world. That is to say, we need to go back to the God who has made us in his image and hear what he says.
In what follows, I offer four steps for rehabilitating a social imaginary that values children in a way that mirrors the heart of God. Indeed, I do not intend to deny legal efforts to block abortion or political policy-making that defends life. In God’s mercy, there remain in our country laws and lawmakers who are committed to protecting life. But because expressive individualism has become America’s civil religion, there is a rising belief (or feeling) that one man and one woman bound together in covenant marriage with the goal of raising a family filled with children is not just unattractive, but offensive or even immoral.
We need to consider what Scripture tells us about the blessedness of children and why we must protect the unborn and offer a new set of images, stories, and celebrations, which reform our social imaginaries in ways that honor God and his command to be fruitful and multiply. For this reason, I want to wade upstream where the waters of God’s Word are life-giving. And there, from the pages of Scripture, I want to pour out four truths that we need to protect life.
Four Life-Giving Truths
1. Love God
At root, the problem of abortion is not political, medical, or cultural; it is theological. As A. W. Tozer famously quipped, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[1] This point has been oft-quoted, but what he says next is equally telling.
The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.[2]
Rightly, Tozer connects what a man knows to what a man worships. But as Psalm 115 reminds us, the context of idol worship is national, not just individualistic. The nations who worship idols “become like them,” and “so do all who trust in them” (v. 8). Indeed, what a people beholds with affection they will become like in action.[3] And this is exactly what has happened in our nation.
Today, the person looking in the mirror (or posting the selfie on Instagram) is the expressive individual loved in our nation. The therapeutic mindset has told people that they cannot love others unless they love themselves. And conversely, if someone puts another ahead of himself, he is inviting harm and may be denying his only chance at happiness. Tragically, such self-directed hedonism flies in the face of biblical truth.
In Scripture, Christ commands his followers: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30–31). Love, as God defines it, is the summary of the law (Rom. 13:8–10). And this love necessarily requires self-sacrifice, not self-expression (Phil. 2:1–4). As Jesus says in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” With a touch of divine irony, this call to “hate” fathers, wives, and children does not impair one’s ability to love, but actually makes true love possible, not to mention holy. True love requires that we put God first and love what is true. And this is where we need to begin when we consider abortion.
If our actions follow our affections, then we must engage public ethics and the protection of life with something more than the law. That is to say, we must call our neighbors to repent and turn to the Lord. Whether or not America is a “Christian nation” is immaterial here. The message of Christianity is a universal call to turn from sin and trust Christ. If anything in our nation proves the need for a message of repentance, it is our nation’s civil religion of self-worship. Abortion is the most pernicious fruit hanging on that poisonous vine, but it is a fruit, not the root.
Indeed, to get to the root of abortion, we must get to the heart. We must call everyone, from those who picket abortion clinics to those who pay for abortions inside them, to love God first. To say it another way, we must preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone. Only God’s life-giving Word can change the heart (2 Cor. 4:4–6), renew the mind (Rom. 12:1–2), convict of sin (John 16:8–11), and empower lovers of self to become lovers of God. To say it another way, our goal is not merely for people to be pro-life, but for people to be pro-Christ (and therefore pro-life).
As Paul frames it, Christ has “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15). Among other things, salvation sets sinners free from self-love. Paul warns of those who are “lovers of self,” “lovers of money,” and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:2, 4). Indeed, this self-love is why Christ had to die. On the cross, he paid the penalty for every kind of sin. And in his glorification, he sent his Spirit to empower his children to love God, which entails an abiding and self-sacrificing love for the image of God.
2. Love God’s Image
Essentially, God’s law commands us to love God and to love those made in his image (Mark 12:30–31). In the second commandment of the Decalogue (Exod. 20:4–6), Israel is forbidden from making and worshiping images. On the surface, this commandment denies golden calves (Exodus 32) and other false images of the true God, but underneath it implies something greater—namely, that God has already made an image of himself and that, in the fullness of time, he will bring forth the true image of God, Jesus Christ, God the Son incarnate (Col. 1:15).
Going back to the beginning, Genesis 1:27 tells us that “God created man in his own image—in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Accordingly, men and women, boys and girls, are not to be worshiped—they are to be begotten! As the next verse continues, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it’” (v. 28). Here, we return to that creation mandate which is so mocked and misunderstood.
If we are going to love God, we must love what God loves. And what does he love? He loves his glory and everything in creation that reflects his glory. In creation, everything from the heavens (Ps. 19:1) and their starry host (1 Cor. 15:40–41), to the earth and its various inhabitants (Ps. 65:9–13; 104:31–35) reflect something of God’s glory, but David is fundamentally correct when he says of mankind that God has “crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5). Mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation (Gen. 1) and the embodiment of his glory (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7). And thus, if we are going to see abortion ended, we must reimagine a world overrun with God’s glory—a glory enfleshed with human eyes, ears, fingers, and toes.
Truly, when God made mankind in his image, he made a vessel fit for royal glory. That is, God created the first Adam to have dominion over the earth (Ps. 8), with such authority passed on to his offspring (Gen. 5:1–5). Though Adam forfeited his royal glory by sin (Rom. 3:23), the story of redemption has centered on the promise of ‘sons’ inheriting the kingdom (see e.g., Gen. 17:6, 16; 2 Sam. 7:14; Isa. 9:6–7).[4] In Christ, this storyline finds its terminus. Jesus Christ, as the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18), becomes the true and last Adam (1 Cor. 15:20–28) and the one who has authority over all creation (Matt. 28:19). Indeed, even in his birth announcements, the royalty of Jesus is proclaimed (Luke 1:32–33), thus confirming the fact that God is going to restore the kingdom of God, as well as the image of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
In this history of royal heirs, therefore, God the Son would have to be born of woman (see Isa. 7:14; Luke 1:35–37). For in no other way could God redeem his children, except for God the Son becoming like us (Heb. 2:5–18). Indeed, through the incarnation, the glory of God assumed a human nature (John 1:14–18), and even today the glorified Christ indwells a human body that shares certain physical properties common among all humanity (Rev. 1:12–16). Knowing the plan from the beginning, God made Adam and Eve as vessels fit for glory. And when this royal glory is understood as a universal property of humanity, it changes the way we look at fetal status and abortion. Let me explain.
Until sin shattered the world, the command to bear children was a command to bear “kings and queens.” The language of “subdue and rule” in Genesis 1:28 is language primarily used for kings, and/or the nations they rule (see 2 Sam. 8:11; 2 Chr. 28:10; Num. 24:19; 1 Kings 4:24; Pss. 72:8; 110:2). God is the first king, and Adam is the original “son of God” (Luke 3:38). As Genesis 1–2 recounts, God put the man in the Garden of Eden to be a royal king. Moreover, with his royal helpmate (Gen. 2:18–25), the first man and woman were commissioned to have children who would reflect the glory of God and spread the beauty of Eden throughout the world. That was the original plan—God’s glory would cover the earth as Adam and Eve ruled the world with their royal children.
Tragically, this plan was halted when sin entered the world (Rom. 5:12–19). God multiplied the pains of childbirth for the woman, cursed the ground in which the man labored, and subjected all humanity to the constant threat of death (Gen. 3:14–19). Long story short, what God had intended for good, man had upended for evil. And from Genesis 4 on, the marred image of God not only shed innocent blood (Gen. 4:1–7), redefined marriage (Gen. 4:19, 23), and repurposed sex (see Genesis 16, 19, 38), but they also began to prey on children. For example, the Law warns of imitating the nations, and explicitly applies this to killing children: “For they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deut. 12:31; cf. Jer. 7:30–34).[5]
Returning to the Decalogue, the second commandment warned against worshiping images, but the fifth commandment forbade killing the image of God (Exod. 20:13). Previously, God told Noah that “whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:6).
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Lawful Love: How the Law Preserves and Propels Our Love

What is love? Love for others is treating them as God would have us treat them. It is law-keeping, with a glad and believing heart, that seeks the good of others in the goodness of God. Indeed, we may see glimpses of “love” in fallen humanity—as in the way a father loves his children (Luke 11:11–13)—but ultimately, true love stems from a heart cleansed from godless selfishness. Such love is demonstrated on the cross of Calvary, and has been “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.– Romans 13:8 –

What is love?
In our day, love is often defined by some sentimental feeling. Some emotional experience. Some pitter-patter in your chest. Or some dance-beat, à la A Night at the Roxbury. (Blessed is the man who has no idea what I’m talking about). But rarely is love associated with law-keeping, rules, or righteousness. Which is to say, rarely is love defined according to the Bible.
In our “if it feels right, do it” sort of society, love does not shack up with legal requirements. But in the Bible where love is defined by God (1 John 4:8) and demonstrated on the cross (1 John 3:16), love is regularly related to the God’s law. In fact, Romans 13 says, “Love is the keeping of the law” (v. 8) and “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Likewise, Galatians 5:14 reads, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
In those places Paul reiterates Jesus’s own view of the law. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). And later in the same Gospel (22:36–40), Jesus explained that the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments: to love God (Deut. 6:4) and to love neighbor (Lev. 19:18). Indeed, against popular opinion, the Law was not given to merely enforce rules. It was given so that the people of Israel might love one another with absolute righteousness. To say it differently, God’s love is defined and delimited by covenantal laws.
The Third Use of the Law: Love
Against modern versions of uber-autonomous selfish “love,” the Scriptures portray a kind of love that commits itself to the other person even at the expense of personal freedom and comfort (see Ps. 15:4). This is why Paul quotes from the Decalogue in Romans 13:9: “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” To love your neighbor implies rejecting all actions that might steal, hurt, or take advantage of others.
But more than that, lawful love is modeled after God’s faithfulness to Israel. Just as Yahweh commands his people to be holy as he is holy (Lev. 19:2), he also commanded them to love one another as he loves them. Leviticus 19:18, the verse cited by Paul (and quoted by Jesus in Matt. 22:40), says “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Importantly, this command is not an exception to the rest of the Mosaic commands. Rather, as Jesus said, it synthesizes the message of the Law and Prophets (Matt. 5:17; 22:40).
When striving to love one another, we must go to the Law to see what love looks like. But first we must recall that before the Law directs us how to love, it reveals the holy character of God and the misshapen character of man.
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