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Peter Boland

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A God-Centered Universe
In the age of the internet the world feels small, but the problems within the world feel large and insurmountable. Only the Bible accurately diagnoses all of the maladies of the world, describes their root cause, and declares their ultimate purpose and end. Furthermore, only the Bible tells us how what is wrong can be made right, both on a personal level and on a global level. Christ came to save individual sinners, (1 Timothy 1:15) and he is reconciling to himself “all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:20)

Yet, if we stop at diagnosing a problem and describing the cure, we fail entirely and completely miss the point. All this is highly personal. It’s not like getting an infection and having a doctor prescribe you an antibiotic which you simply use because it works. Beyond that, that kind of thinking would leave us at the center, where it’s all about us, our problems, and what can fix our ills. This is to make the entire world exist for us, but we live in a God-centered universe.

In other words, yes it is all highly personal, but the person it should focus us on is not ourselves, but the only true and living God, the triune God of Scripture. All of our pain and suffering as humans has its root in the original sin of Adam and our rebellion against God in Adam. All of our misery will be restored because of the love of God in Christ, through whom salvation has come.

So, our greatest need in this electronic age where the world feels incredibly small, and the problems within it seem innumerable, is to behold the glory of Christ. This fallen world with all of its sin and suffering ultimately exists to display the supremacy of Christ. Colossians 1:16 says,

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

Therefore, let us fix our eyes on the all-sufficiency of Christ, in whom is every spiritual blessing, both now and for all of eternity.

The All-Sufficiency of Christ
An incredible text which proclaims the all-sufficiency of Christ, and is therefore worthy of our deepest thoughts and meditation is 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. It says,

“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

What makes this verse so incredible is that it does not only say that Christ gives us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. That would be incredible enough and should cause us to worship him for all of eternity. However, that text goes even further and says that Christ himself is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. The believer lacks absolutely nothing in Christ. Jesus is all we need, and indeed, he is all that we have.

Therefore, we can’t merely look to the good gifts that God gives us. Such as the forgiveness of sins, but we look to Christ himself, who is the gift of God freely given to us. Every gift is the direct outworking of who he is. Every gift (such as justification) is a further revelation of the glory of God. We cannot separate the gifts of God from the person of God. In this way all glory truly goes to God alone, who’s saving work is a further revelation of his own fulness and all-sufficiency, as his grace is richly lavished on us poor and needy sinners through faith alone.

Union with Christ
As Reformed Protestants we glory in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In his excellent discourse on “Justification by Faith Alone” Vol. 1 of his Works, Jonathan Edwards defines this doctrine in this way,

“That we are justified only by faith in Christ, and not by any manner of virtue or goodness of our own.”

As we think about the sufficiency of Christ, the question we should now ask is: How does the truth (that we cannot separate the gifts of God from the person of God) related to that vitally important foundational truth on which the whole of Christianity either stands or falls? In other words, if Christ is all-sufficient in himself to provide us with all that we need for salvation, what is it about faith that it can be rightly said to be the sole instrument by which we are justified?

We saw in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (which was quoted up above) that the reason Christ is all-sufficient for us is that we are “in Christ Jesus.” It is that idea of being “in Christ,” or our union with Christ, that becomes the sole grounds of his sufficiency freely flowing to us even though we are completely unworthy of such kindness and favor in and of ourselves.

As Jonathan Edwards continues his discourse, he gives us an amazing insight on why it is that faith is unique in this matter of being the only instrument by which we are justified. He writes,

“And thus it is that faith is the qualification in any person that renders it meet in the sight of God that he should be looked upon as having Christ’s satisfaction and righteousness belonging to him, viz. because it is that in him which, on his part, makes up this union between him and Christ. By what has been just now observed, it is a person’s being, according to scripture phrase, in Christ, that is the ground of having his satisfaction and merits belong to him, and a right to the benefits procured thereby. The reason of it is plain; it is easy to see how our having Christ’s merits and benefits belonging to us, follows from our having (if I may so speak) Christ himself belonging to us, or our being united to him. And if so, it must also be easy to see how, or in what manner, that in a person, which on his part makes up the union between his soul and Christ, should be the thing on the account of which God looks on it as meet that he should have Christ’s merits belonging to him. It is a very different thing for God to assign to a particular person a right to Christ’s merits and benefits from regard to a qualification in him in this respect, from his doing it for him out of respect to the value or loveliness of that qualification, or as a reward of its excellency.”

Then he adds this important clarification,

“God does not give those that believe an union with or an interest in the Saviour as a reward for faith, but only because faith is the soul’s active uniting with Christ, or is itself the very act of unition, on their part.”

So, it is not that our faith is the one virtue which merits us favor with God, but because it is the sole means by which we are united to Christ who is sufficient in himself to bring guilty sinners into a perfect state of blessedness before a holy God. Edwards concludes,

“And thus it is that faith justifies, or gives an interest in Christ’s satisfaction and merits, and a right to the benefits procured thereby, viz. as it thus makes Christ and the believer one in the acceptance of the Supreme Judge. It is by faith that we have a title to eternal life, because it is by faith that we have the Son of God, by whom life is.”

This biblical understanding of faith, justification, and union with Christ removes us completely from the realm of self and places us entirely in the realm of Christ. We literally lack nothing in him. All of our sin and weakness belongs to him, and all of his infinite fulness belongs to us.

Comfort, Comfort My People
There is no sweeter contemplation than this for the person who is painfully aware of their own sin, failure, weakness, dullness, and inconsistency. When the heart knows its own darkness it can be easy to despair. ‘Why must I wrestle in this Romans 7 way every single day, waging a bitter war against the passions of my own sinful flesh?’ But the truth of Christ and our union with him turns us entirely away from ourselves and beckons us to look to Christ alone who is enough.

Such boundless and free grace is why Isaiah could prophecy in Isaiah 40:1-2,

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.”

This comfort and tenderness we freely receive from God is only possible because of the all-sufficiency of Christ and our union with him such as we saw in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. Therefore, let us fix our eyes on Jesus and find our comfort and rest in him alone.

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