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God put forward His Son on the cross “to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Romans 3:25). In other words, by forgiving sin in the Old Testament and by tolerating many sinners, God had given the impression that His honor and glory were not of infinite worth. Now to vindicate the honor of His name and the worth of His glory and to satisfy the just demands of the law, He required the death of His own Son. Thus, Christ suffered and died for the glory of His Father. This demonstrates the righteousness of God because God’s righteousness is His unswerving allegiance to uphold the value of His glory.2 The Christian Life The work of Christ for the glory of God leads inevitably to the conclusion that God’s purpose for His new redeemed people, the church, is that our life goal should be to glorify God in Christ.
And when Jesus was instructing His own disciples what their goal should be in their daily living, He said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
2. For a further development of this understanding of God’s righteousness, see John Piper, The Justification of God, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1993).
The Second Coming and Consummation In 2 Thessalonians 1:9–10 the second coming of Christ is described as hope and
terror. Paul says of those who do not believe the gospel:
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
Jesus Christ is coming back not only to effect the final salvation of His people, but through His salvation “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” A final comment concerns history’s climax in the book of Revelation: John pictures the new Jerusalem, the glorified church, in 21:23: “The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” God the Father and God the Son are the light in which Christians will live their eternity. This is the consummation of God’s goal in all of history—to display His glory for all to see and praise. The prayer of the Son confirms the final purpose of the Father: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
CONCLUSIONWhat may we conclude from this survey of redemptive history? We may conclude that the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever. He stands supreme at the center of His own affections. For that very reason, He is a self-sufficient and inexhaustible fountain of grace.
Is the Bible a Reliable Guide to Lasting Joy?
DOES GOD EXIST?
Whole books have been written on why the Bible is trustworthy.1 But for the sake of our own sense of integrity, we ought to review in a brief space why we bank our hope on the message of this book. I hope I can steer a course in this appendix between unsupported dogmatism on the one hand and apologetic overkill on the other.
Let’s start at the most basic level of religious faith. I believe in God. There may be social and family reasons for how I got to be this way, just as there are social and family reasons for why you are the way you are. But when I try to be reasonable and test my inherited belief in God, I cannot escape His reality.
Suppose I try to go back a million billion trillion years to imagine the nature of original reality. What was it like? What I see is the stunning fact that,
1. For example, B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (London: Marshall Morgan and
Scott, 1959); F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Eerdmans, 1943); J. Norval Geldenhuys, Supreme Authority (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1953);
J. I. Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God (London: InterVarsity, 1958); Edward J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1957); J. B. Phillips, The Ring of Truth (New York: Macmillan, 1967); John W. Wenham, Christ and the Bible (London: Tyndale, 1972); James Boice, ed., The Foundation of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1978); D. A.
Carson and John D. Woodbridge, eds., Scripture and Truth (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1983);
Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1987).
Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1992).
I S T H E BI B L E A R E L I A B L E G U I D E TO L A S T I N G JOY ?
on the far side of reality so to speak, there was a fifty-fifty possibility that original reality was a Person rather than a gas. Just think of it. Since whatever originally was has always existed, there are absolutely no causes that could have disposed that original reality to be a gas rather than a person. Every reasonable person must admit that, from the far side of past eternity, it was, you might say, a toss-up. Maybe some undefined stuff would exist—or maybe a Person!
Admitting the reasonable possibility that ultimate reality could be personal has a way of freeing you to consider subsequent evidence more openly. My own inescapable inference from the order of the universe and the existence of human personhood and the universal sense of conscience (moral self-judgment) and the universal judicial sentiment (judgment of others who dishonor us)—my own inference from all this is that Ultimate Reality is not impersonal, but is indeed a Person. I simply find it impossible to believe that the human drama of the centuries, with its quest for meaning and beauty and truth, has no deeper root than molecular mutations.
MANY RELIGIONS, MANY GODSSo when I consider where enduring happiness is to be found, I am driven to search for it in relation to God—the personal Creator of all things. Nothing seems more reasonable to me than that lasting happiness will never be found by a person who ignores or opposes his Creator. I am constantly astonished at people who say they believe in God but live as though happiness were to be found by giving Him 2 percent of their attention. Surely the end of the ages will reveal this to be absurd.
But once we begin to seek our happiness in relation to God, we are confronted with many different claims and religions. Why should we bank our hope on the claim that the Christian Bible is a true revelation of God? My basic answer is that Jesus Christ—the center and sum of the Bible—has won my confidence by His authenticity and love and power. I see His authenticity and love in the record of His word and deeds, and I see His power especially in His resurrection from the dead.
LISTENING WITNESSES CHRISTTO THE TO You need not believe the Bible is infallible to discover that it presents a historical Person of incomparable qualities. On the contrary, the reasonable way to approach the Bible for the first time is to listen openly and honestly to its various witnesses to Christ, to see if these witnesses and this person authenticate themselves. If they do, the things they and Christ say about the Bible itself will take on new authority, and you may well end up accepting the whole Bible (as I do!) as God’s inspired, infallible Word. But you don’t need to start there.
THE INCOMPARABLE CHRISTLet me try to illustrate what I mean by the self-authenticating message of Christ and His witnesses. The biblical accounts present Jesus as a man of incomparable love for God and man. He became angry when God was dishonored by irreligion (Mark 11:15–17) and when man was destroyed by religion (Mark 3:4–5). He taught us to be poor in spirit, meek, hungry for righteousness, pure in heart, merciful, and peaceable (Matthew 5:3–9). He urged us to honor God from the heart (Matthew 15:8) and to put away all hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). And He practiced what He preached. His life was summed up as “doing good and healing” (Acts 10:38).
He took time for little children and blessed them (Mark 10:13–16). He crossed social barriers to help women (John 4), foreigners (Mark 7:24–30), lepers (Luke 17:11–19), harlots (Luke 7:36–50), tax collectors (Matthew 9:9–13), and beggars (Mark 10:46–52). He washed disciples’ feet like a slave and taught them to serve rather than be served (John 13:1–17). Even when He was exhausted, His heart went out in compassion to the pressing crowds (Mark 6:31–34). Even when His own disciples were fickle and ready to deny Him and forsake Him, He wanted to be with them (Luke 22:15), and He prayed for them (Luke 22:32). He said His life was a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), and as He was being executed at age thirty-three, He prayed for the forgiveness of His murderers (Luke 23:34).
Not only is Jesus portrayed as full of love for God and man; He is also presented as utterly truthful and authentic. He did not act on His own authority to
I S T H E BI B L E A R E L I A B L E G U I D E TO L A S T I N G JOY ?
gain worldly praise. He directed men to His Father in heaven: “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood” (John 7:18). He does not have the spirit of an egomaniac or a charlatan. He seems utterly at peace with Himself and God. He is authentic.
This is evident in the way He saw through people’s sham (Matthew 22:18).
He was so pure and so perceptive that He could not be tripped up or cornered in debate (Matthew 22:15–22). He was amazingly unsentimental in His demands, even toward those for whom He had a special affection (Mark 10:21). He never softened the message of righteousness to increase His following or curry favor.
Even His opponents were stunned by His indifference to human praise:
“Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God” (Mark 12:14). He never had to back down from a claim and could be convicted of no wrong (John 8:46). He was meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29).
But what made all this so amazing was the unobtrusive yet unmistakable authority that rang through all He did and said. The officers of the Pharisees speak for all of us when they say, “No man ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46). There was something unmistakably different about Him: “He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29).
His claims were not the open declaration of worldly power that the Jews expected from the Messiah. But they were unmistakable nonetheless. Though no one understood it at the time, there was no doubt that He had said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19; Matthew 26:61).
They thought it was an absurd claim that He would singlehandedly rebuild an edifice that had been forty-six years in the making. But He was claiming in His typically veiled way that He would rise from the dead—and by His own power.
In His last debate with the Pharisees (Matthew 22:41–45), Jesus silenced them with this question: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They answered, “The son of David.” In response, Jesus quoted David from Psalm 110:1: “The LORD said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Then, with only slightly veiled authority, Jesus
asked, “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” In other words, for those who have eyes to see, the son of David—and far more than the son—is here.
“The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41–42). This kind of veiled claim runs through all Jesus said and did.
Besides that, He commanded evil spirits and they obeyed Him (Mark 1:27). He issued forgiveness for sins (Mark 2:5). He summoned people to leave all and follow Him to have eternal life and treasure in heaven (Mark 10:17–22;
Luke 14:26–33). And He made the astonishing claim that “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32–33).
AM I ARGUING CIRCLE?