Heartfelt Questions about Christ (VII)

Question: What does it mean to know the Mediator?

Abraham Hellenbroek said that we must know the Mediator “in His names, offices, natures, states, and benefits” (A Specimen of Divine Truths, 38).

What are these?

His offices are prophet (Deut. 18:15), priest (Heb. 5:6), and king (Luke 1:32–33).

His natures are divine as the Word and Son of God (John 1:1, 14), and human as the Seed of the Woman (Gen. 3:15) and Son of Man (Luke 9:22).

He came to earth in the state of humiliation to be the suffering servant of the Lord (Phil. 2:6–8), and now reigns in the state of exaltation as Lord over all (Phil. 2:9–11).

His benefits are many. For example, He is the light of the world (John 8:12), the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).

How many names, titles, and symbols are found in Scripture?

James Large found 280 titles and symbols of Christ in the Bible, and there are probably even more.

Why does He have so many names?

Every name of Christ is an act of God revealing Himself to us. Every name is a gracious gift whereby God lowers Himself to meet sinners like us. In the names of Christ, the gospel is preached in its richness and glory.

What is the difference between His names and our names?

Our names only represent us. We identify closely with our names, but other people also have the same name as we do. Sometimes we don’t live up to our names. Absalom means my father is peace, but he proved to be a son of war. Judas means praise, but he betrayed Jesus instead of glorifying God.

Jesus holds His names in a unique fashion. He not only uses His names as a label to identify Him. The Lord’s names are who He is. He and His names are one. In Scripture His name is His glory and the object of our worship (Ps. 148:13). His name is His presence near to us (Ps. 75:1) to judge (Isa. 30:27) and to save (Acts 4:12).

Thus we must fear the name of the Lord and love the name of the Lord (Isa. 56:6; 59:19). What have you done with the name of Jesus? Perhaps you know much about Christ. Perhaps you know little. Either way, what place does the name of Jesus have in your heart? Do you delight to fear His name? Or do you take up His name as a vain and empty word?

Heartfelt Questions about Christ (VI)

In previous posts in this series (Sep. 28; Oct. 2, 3, 5, 12), I talked about Christ’s work as the Mediator. The Lord Jesus made satisfaction to God’s justice for the sins of the elect. I began to discuss the topic of particular redemption in the last post. Now I continue that subject.

Question: Why don’t you believe that Christ died for every person?

The Bible teaches that Christ died to save “many” (Isa. 53:11; Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Heb. 2:10), but not to save each individual sinner. Christ came to save “His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). He gave His life for those given to Him by the Father (John 6:37–39; 10:14–15, 27–29). His blood purchased “the church of God” (Acts 20:28). His death expressed His special love for the church, as a husband loves his wife (Eph. 5:25). This is an exclusive love. When the Father gave His Son for His elect, He guaranteed that He would also give them all things and nothing can condemn them because Christ intercedes for them (Rom. 8:31–34). That cannot be said of those ultimately lost. Christ said that He does not intercede for the entire world, but only for those whom the Father gave to Him (John 17:9).

How does Christ’s particular redemption of His elect fit into the bigger picture of salvation?

G. H. Kersten explained it in this manner (Reformed Dogmatics, 267).

(1) Christ’s death for His people fits together with the Father’s sovereign predestination of some unworthy sinners to eternal life (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 9:10–18). If Christ were to redeem every sinner, then He would not be doing His Father’s will.

(2) Christ’s death for His people fits with the complete and perfect accomplishment of His death. If Christ died for every sinner, then either every sinner will be saved, or we must add something to Christ’s death. Did Christ really do all He could to save Judas, yet still lost him? Far from it! Christ’s death does more than make it possible for us to save ourselves. Christ’s blood makes complete satisfaction to God for the sins of His people, and in due time they shall be saved through faith.

(3) Christ’s death for His people fits with the particular work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate some sinners and make them alive towards God (John 3:5; 6:63). The Spirit applies what Christ accomplished, being poured out through Him (Titus 3:5–6). If Christ died to save a sinner, then how could the Holy Spirit not give him life?

(4) Christ’s death for His people fits with the inability of fallen man to choose God. Most people who believe in universal redemption do so because they think man’s will trumps God’s will. If this were so, then no man could be saved, for sinners are unable to trust in Christ unless God supernaturally draws them (John 6:44). Thanks be to God, God’s will rules over man’s will! God’s will is to save out of the world by the blood of Christ a vast number of sinners whom no one can count from every nation (Rev. 5:9; 7:9–10, 14). Christ knows them by name (John 10:3, 11, 14–15).

What does this mean for me personally?

It means that Christ must become everything to you. You must see Him as a full Savior for the total sinner who is so dead that He cannot even receive Christ without Christ’s grace. You must look to Him as the One who has done everything when we could do nothing. We had no legs to run to Him, no arms to embrace Him, no lips to kiss Him. He purchased all for us by His obedient suffering, and He applies all to us by His Spirit. Therefore He will receive all the praise and glory forever and ever.

Learn to pray, “Lord, let room be made for Christ in my soul. Reveal and apply Him within me by the Holy Spirit. Grant me faith to trust and embrace Him. Let me know Him more fully in His Person, benefits, natures, offices, states, and names. Grant that I may live in Him and draw life out of Him. May He become my all-in-all, and I become nothing at all. Amen.”

Heartfelt Questions about Christ (V)

Question: You have said that Christ made satisfaction to God’s justice for the sins of the elect. Did Christ do that for every person or only for the elect?

Christ made satisfaction to God’s justice only for the elect. By the “elect” I mean those whom God chose in Christ before the creation of the world.

Paul said that those for whom Christ will certainly be saved, and they are God’s elect. In Romans 8:30–34 he wrote, “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

That is not to say that there is anything lacking or insufficient in Christ’s blood. Christ’s death would have been sufficient to save many worlds of sinners, if God had willed it to be so. But though Christ’s blood would have been sufficient for all and every sinner, it is efficient only for God’s elect. God chose them; Christ died for them; they will be completely saved.

But doesn’t the Bible say that Christ died to save “the world”?

Yes, the Bible says that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ is the propitiation “for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). It also says that Christ is the only Mediator, for He gave Himself “a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5–6). We affirm and rejoice in these truths.

Doesn’t that mean then that Christ came to save every person?

No. The Word of God uses the terms “world” and “all” in a variety of ways; each usage must be understood in its own context. “World” can refer to (a) the created earth (Matt. 13:35), (b) sinners in a general way (John 15:18), (c) people from among both Jews and Gentiles (Matt. 26:13), (d) persons of all social and economic classes such as kings and subjects (1 Tim. 2:1–2), (e) a great number of people (John 12:19). Similarly “all” has a variety of applications defined by context (Matt. 3:5). We cannot force each use of “world” and “all” into the strait-jacket of meaning every individual person (Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:6). For example, in Romans 8:32, “us all” is clearly “God’s elect” (v. 33), those “whom he did predestinate” (v. 30).

Therefore we should not believe in universal redemption.

Could you define universal redemption please?

Universal redemption is the idea that Christ died to redeem every person without exception.

In its most unrestricted form, universal redemption is the teaching that all men (perhaps even the devils) will one day be saved. It is especially prevalent when people imagine God to be only love and ignore His justice. This doctrine denies eternal damnation in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46).

In a modified form, universal redemption teaches that Christ made satisfaction to God for every man’s sins, but their salvation hinges not on what Christ did but their free will. Salvation is pictured as a gift God bought, wrapped, and offers to all men in the death of Christ, but that gift has no power to do anything until each one accepts it. This doctrine denies God’s election, the Son’s finished work of accomplishing our total salvation, and the Spirit’s effective work to draw sinners to Christ (John 17:2; 19:30; 6:37, 63).

If universal redemption is not true, then how can we do evangelism?

We must do evangelism in a biblical way. We repeatedly hear today in evangelistic messages, “Christ died for you. What will you do for Him?” But where in the Bible do we ever find someone being told, “Believe that Christ died for you”?

Rather, we find faithful witnesses explaining the work of Christ and calling everyone who hears them, “Repent and believe the gospel.” The gospel message is not, “Believe that Christ died for you,” or, “Believe that you are one of the elect.” It is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

There is more than enough in Christ’s death to save you if you will but trust in Him. He does not need us to add anything born of our free will. The only thing we contribute to our salvation is our bondage. But Christ is not defeated by the chains that bind us. He has purchased a full redemption for all who trust in Him, including their very faith. Glory be to God!

Heartfelt Questions about Christ (IV)

Question: You have said that Christ’s death for our sins was a satisfaction to God’s justice. Why don’t all professing Christians believe that?

Some professing Christians have rejected the historic understanding of Christ’s death as a satisfaction for sins. This is nothing new. Faustus Socinus (1539–1604), a forerunner of modern Unitarianism, raised a number of objections against this doctrine. The Socinians made Christ more of a teacher and example than a redeemer and priest.

What reasons do they give against the doctrine that Christ satisfied God’s justice?

G. H. Kersten outlined Socinus’s objections, and explained why they are false (Reformed Dogmatics [1980], 261, 263).

Objection 1: The satisfaction of God’s justice by Christ is not necessary. God is not bound to do justice. He is merciful and can simply forgive.

Objection 2: The satisfaction of God’s justice by Christ is absurd. How can the innocent one be punished, and the guilty one be acquitted? This would set a bad example and corrupt society.

Objection 3: The satisfaction of God’s justice by Christ is impossible. No one can pay someone else’s moral debt to God. No one can obey in someone else’s place.

Objection 4: The satisfaction of God’s justice by Christ is harmful. It makes Christ’s love greater than God’s mercy, because Christ was willing to pay when God was not willing to forgive. It also opens the door for people to sin because Christ paid for their sins.

How do you answer those objections?

1. The satisfaction of God’s justice by Christ is necessary because God is righteous and just in His very being. The Bible insists that God is just and the justifier of sinners who trust in Christ’s blood (Rom. 3:25–26). Forgiveness does not mean God pretends that no evil has been done. God forgives the guilt based on the satisfaction that He Himself paid in His Son.

2. The satisfaction of God’s justice by Christ is not absurd but most wise because glorifies both God’s mercy and justice. It shows that God’s righteousness and love do not compromise each other or fight against each other, but operate in perfect harmony. It does not corrupt society, but it saves corrupt men and makes them like God in both mercy and justice.

3. The satisfaction of God’s justice by Christ is possible because Christ, as a divine Person, has the power and freedom to lay down His life and take it up again (John 10:17–18). He therefore could be the Surety, binding Himself to pay our debts to God, for He as God the Son was free from all debts.

4. The satisfaction of God’s justice by Christ is beautiful and helpful because it displays God’s mercy in Christ’s dying love. Christ did not give Himself against the Father’s will, but was sent by the Father because of the Father’s love for sinners (John 3:16). This does not give people permission to sin, but, if they truly receive Him, motivates them to also give their lives in service to others (Eph. 4:32–5:2).

Therefore, it is biblical and right for us to say that Christ acted as a substitute for His elect. He stood in their place to obey God’s law, bear the curse of sin, and pay the full price required to satisfy God’s justice.

God is mercifully just and justly merciful. Let us not fall into the error of Jacob Arminius, who said that God has a throne of mercy and a throne of justice, and His throne of mercy is exalted above His throne of justice. God has one throne, and there mercy and justice dwell together in infinite brightness and joy.

Both justice and mercy shine forth from the cross of Jesus with unspeakable beauty. Yes, His mercy shines all the brighter when seen in the light of His justice. His mercy is for hell-deserving sinners. Nor is it a reluctant mercy. God delights in mercy. That is why, as Luther said, Jesus Christ was reckoned the greatest sinner who ever lived. He that knew no sin became sin to satisfy the justice of God. God’s mercy did not ignore the debt, but paid the price.

Heartfelt Questions about Christ (III)

Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Gen. 18:25)

Question: I am starting to see why I would need a Mediator between God and me. But what do you mean by Him making satisfaction for my sins?

Satisfaction means to perfectly satisfy divine justice, that is, to make complete payment so that God’s justice is satisfied or appeased. In His passive and active obedience Christ gave perfect and complete satisfaction to the justice of God. That’s why He said He came “to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He died in the place of many as the payment of the price to set them free from what they deserved.

Why would God’s justice need to be satisfied?

God’s justice requires that sin receives punishment. Sin provokes God’s righteous hatred. Psalm 5:4–5 says, “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” Psalm 11:6–7, “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.”

Most people don’t believe that.

Sadly, no, they do not. The clear teachings of the Bible have little effect on their hearts. By nature we are prone to think God is like us. We want to hear only about God’s love but ignore His righteousness. But the sinner experiences something of God’s justice when God begins to work in his heart. For the first time in his life he does not excuse himself by looking at other people or outward circumstances. He sees into his own heart by the light of God’s Spirit and compares himself with God’s holy law. He experiences that no man shall be justified by that law, and says, “I am guilty. I really do deserve to go to hell forever.” God’s justice becomes solemnly real. In this way the sinner realizes that he needs a righteousness he does not have.

Doesn’t that drive men to despair?

It drives them to despair of themselves. It cuts off their hopes of saving themselves or making themselves worthy of heaven. No amount of prayer and good works can compensate God for our sins. All our prayers and works are stained by sin. It would be like trying to get out of debt by taking on more debt to pay the bills.

But it does not lead them to absolute despair. Instead it moves them to begin casting about for some hope outside of themselves. They cannot make satisfaction to God by their own obedience, so they look for someone else who can make satisfaction for them. By faith they look to Jesus Christ, whose passive and active obedience satisfies God’s just demands on men.

What is Christ’s passive and active obedience? How does it make satisfaction?

His active obedience means that Christ actively and perfectly obeyed and fulfilled the law of God in both its literal commandments and its spiritual intent, loving God above all and loving His neighbor as Himself for the full duration of His 33 years of life. He obeyed in the stead of His people who had disobeyed, thereby meriting their right to eternal life. Thus Romans 5:19b says that “by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

His passive obedience refers to Christ’s suffering or passion (Latin passio), patiently bearing and willingly drinking the full cup of God’s wrath against the sins of His elect. He took the full punishment due to their sins upon Himself in hellish sufferings and agonies, thereby satisfying the justice of God and removing the curse of the law from them. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”

So there is a way, a glorious way, a fully-paid way for a sinner to escape God’s punishment by the work of Another. God looks upon the obedient sufferings of His Son and His justice is completely satisfied. As Christ said on the cross, “It is finished!”

Heartfelt Questions about Christ (II)

No man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

Why is it absolutely necessary that there be a Mediator between God and man?

Our sin has built a high wall and dug a vast gulf between God and us. Our greatest problem is the offense of our sins against God’s justice. As we saw from the Heidelberg Catechism (Q. 1) in the last post, we need a mediator “who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins.”

What qualifications must this Mediator meet in order to make satisfaction for my sins?

As the Canons of Dort (2.4) remind us, He must be truly man, perfectly holy, and the Son of God, possessing the same eternal, divine essence as the Father. Hebrews 2:17 says that he had to be truly human, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 7:26 tells us he was holy and pure of all sin: “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” And Hebrews 1:1–3 says that this One who made “purification for sins” is God’s Son, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

Couldn’t Jesus just pray for God to forgive us?

We do need Him to intercede for us. But we also need Him to be the sacrifice of propitiation to satisfy God’s justice and turn away His anger. The Bible says in 1 John 2:1–2, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Abraham Hellenbroek said in his Specimen of Divine Truths (12.2) that Christ is the Mediator of intercession and also of reconciliation. He must not only pray, but also give Himself as the “ransom” (1 Tim. 2:6).

How does that comfort your soul?

It is a wondrous comfort to know that I belong to the Savior “who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins.” How comforting are those words “fully” and “all”! Ephesians 1:7 says, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Colossians 2:13 tells those made alive in Christ that God has “forgiven you all trespasses.”

How can I know that this is true, when I am so very guilty of sin?

You must rest your hope on Christ’s blood (Rom. 3:25; 5:9). The blood of Christ is exceedingly precious. By the blood of a sacrifice atonement is made for sin (Heb. 9:22). This is the blood of a perfectly righteous man who gave His life for sinners. This is the blood of a divine Person, the inseparable God-man whose life has infinite value. This blood is an acceptable sacrifice to the Father because it glorifies all God’s attributes in a beautiful harmony of divine justice, mercy, wisdom, and love. Thus this blood is precious in the experience of believers, who find all of their hope, all of their refuge, all of their salvation in His blood.

Heartfelt Questions about Christ (I)

No one is more precious than Jesus Christ. In this new series of blog posts, I would like to meditate on the office and work of this glorious Person whom the Father sent to be our Jesus—that is, as His name means, the One who saves His people from their sins.

Christ is the Mediator of the covenant of grace. All revolves around Him and depends on Him.

What is a mediator?

A mediator is one who stands between two disagreeing parties to reconcile them. Our Mediator with God is Jesus Christ, the only door and way through the high and thick wall between the holy, triune God and the unholy sinner. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5–6, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

What difference does it make to have Christ as your Mediator?

It makes all the difference in the world. The Heidelberg Catechism reminds me that my “only comfort in life and death” is “that I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.”

What does that mean on a personal level?

On the one hand, this is a painful confession. It is a painful thing to learn to say, “I am not my own.” It brings the outward pain of persecution. The Heidelberg Catechism was nicknamed “the martyr’s catechism” because of the way those who held to it suffered persecution from wicked men. But it also brings an inward pain, for one must die to self in order to belong to Christ. Christ’s crucifixion becomes my crucifixion, especially the crucifixion of my self-righteousness and self-will. I must see that all my works are stained with sin like filthy rags. I must become a poor, lost sinner so that I can become rich and found in Christ. And I must die to my delusion of independence and learn that I do not exist for myself, but to live unto God.

On the other hand, it is a glorious confession. Falling down at the feet of Jesus with nothing in ourselves, the Holy Spirit reveals through the Word that Christ is everything, the answer to all my dilemmas and fears, all my discomfort and misery, all my iniquity and sin, and all my unrighteousness and powerlessness. There is no greater comfort than to say that I am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. For He becomes my all.

This series, “Heartfelt Questions about Christ,” will explore what it means to belong to Christ in the riches of His grace. May God bless it to your soul.

Conference Opportunity

Let me introduce you to the G3 conference taking place January 24–26, 2013, in the greater Atlanta area. The abbreviation G3 stands for gospel, grace, and glory. The theme for this conference is The Gospel: Message and Mission. I will be preaching there on the subject of what is the true gospel. Other speakers will address the subjects of the exclusivity of the gospel, the evangelistic power of the local church, the preaching of John Calvin, the importance of doctrine, the penal substitution of the atonement, the abandonment of Christ on the cross, and the priority of prayer in missions.

The G3 conference has made a generous offer for students at the seminary where I teach. Ordinary registration is $119 for seminary students or ministers and $139 for others through November 5th. Students at PRTS may email my teaching assistant for information about a special reduced price.

Consider Christ in Affliction (VIII): The Plan of Christ

Finally, when you face affliction, consider the plan of Christ. Highly exalted, there is no name like His. At His name, every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10). The eternal plan lying behind all His affliction was eternal glory.

Eternal glory—not only for Himself, but also for you. He returned to His Father differently than He came. He returned with His blood-bought bride, just as He planned in His eternal covenant with His Father. His church, figuratively speaking, ascended into glory with Him, accepted by the Father in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). Oh, then think more of God’s eternal plan for you and your eternal end in glory if you would be more submissive under affliction and learn to praise God in trial!

Your trials in this life are but for “ten days” (Rev. 2:10). Your life-to-come glory is forever. The “ten days” here are preparation time for glory to come. Affliction elevates your soul to heaven (Heb. 11:10); it paves your way for glory: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Your rainy days on earth are nearly over. Don’t overestimate them. Think more of your coming crown and your eternal communion with God Triune, saints and angels. “He that rides to be crowned,” John Trapp wrote, “will not think much of a rainy day.”

Light after darkness;

Gain after loss;

Strength after weakness;

Crown after cross;

Sweet after bitter;

Hope after fears;

Home after wandering;

Praise after tears.


Sheaves after sowing;

Sun after rain;

Sight after mystery;

Peace after pain;

Joy after sorrow;

Calm after blast;

Rest after weariness;

Sweet rest at last.


Remember, you are but renting here; your personal mansion is reserved there. Expect no heaven on earth (apart from spiritual foretastes by means of sanctified affliction!), but trust that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Be assured: the Shepherd’s rod does have honey at the end. Don’t despair. Your afflictions are imposed by a fatherly hand of love in the context of grace, not (as you are too prone to think) by a punitive hand of judgment in the context of works.

Keep your eye on Christ. Consider Christ—His passion, power, presence, perseverance, prayers, purposes, and plan. Seek grace to live Christianly today through and in your afflictions, and you will soon discover with the apostle, “For me to life is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).

Consider Christ in Affliction (VII): The Purposes of Christ

When suffering affliction, consider the purposes of Christ. He lived to do His Father’s will, to be sanctified through suffering, to merit salvation for His own, to present His church without spot or wrinkle to His Father. In a word, His life was God-centered.

His God-centered goals are numerous for you, too, in sanctified affliction: Sanctified affliction humbles you (Deut. 8:2), teaches you what sin is (Zeph. 1:12), and causes you to seek God (Hos. 5:15). Affliction vacuums away the fuel that feeds your pride. Bell-like, the harder you are hit, the better you sound. You learn more under the rod that strikes you than through the staff that comforts you. You discover the truth of Robert Leighton’s words: “Affliction is the diamond dust that heaven polishes its jewels with.”

Sanctified affliction serves to keep you in Christ’s communion, close by His side—to conform you to Him, making you partaker of His suffering and image, righteousness and holiness (Heb. 12:10–11). Stephen-like, the stones that hit you only knock you closer to your chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ, opening heaven the wider for you. Affliction rubs the rust off your locked heart and opens your heart’s gates afresh to your King’s presence-chamber. Yes, the rod of affliction is God’s pencil for drawing Christ’s image more fully on you.

Sanctified affliction serves to wean you from the world and to cause you to walk by faith. A dog bites strangers, not homeowners. Perhaps affliction bites you so deeply because you are too little at home with the Word and ways of God, and too much at home with the world. “God,” says Thomas Watson, “would have the world hang as a loose tooth which, being twitched away, does not much trouble us.” In prosperity, you often talk of living by other-worldly faith, but in adversity, you live your talk.