Posted by Nathanael Szobody on

Where might be found the presence of divine

There found is calling burdensome to me.

What he would have beyond the pow’r of mine

Has driven far upon the pagan sea

This heart from love and tender conscious faith

Unto that fiery sermon of the deep,

Unto the very throat which right portrayeth

Mine own engorging habits where I sleep

Unknowing quite the storms which rage without

On me and on those of like fearsome plight

Unknowing or unwanting but to doubt

The worth of other man in heaven’s sight.

Now fall from God of earth and sea and land

On all who sin what mercy’s willed ‘forehand.

Baptism, Illustrated Edition

Posted by Nathanael Szobody on

Jesus baptism is ours. To understand our own baptism we have only to look at that of Jesus for its illustration and explanation.

The Law and Prophets all spoke of the coming redemption of Israel, the Savior of Israel. For her sins God provided a sacrifice. As Isaac, in whom all of Israel was represented, was saved by the death of the sacrificial lamb, so all of Israel in her vast numbers were covered by the blood of lambs at the Passover. Both of these events illustrate how Jesus, as the Lamb of God, himself covers Israel.

In addition to being the Lamb, Jesus is also the high priest who represents the people. In him is all of Israel, for he is the seed of Abraham. All who believe in him are the children of Abraham by faith. In Christ is both Israel, and her sacrifice. For what did God demand but Israel herself as a living sacrifice. This relationship is typified by the Sabbath day, where his people are his and his alone, enjoyed by him (his “rest”).

When Jesus goes to the waters of baptism he is uniting these two images, that of Israel, and that of Savior of Israel. He is baptized by John, the last and greatest of prophets. John called the people to repent of sins. Jesus had no sins of his own, yet he identified with the people as their representative head

Judgment and Grace

Posted by Nathanael Szobody on

per Rob’s inquiry.

There are two reasons given for the judgment of a sinner: 1, his sin, and 2, his choice to reject the gospel.

Passages such as Romans 3:11-18, echoing Psalms 14:1-4, 5:9, 140:3 and 10:7, show how clearly the human heart is already bent against God because of sin. This underlines humanity’s dependence on God’s mercy extended to it through the cross of Jesus.

In the epistles there are found many people, even some in the church, who have heard the gospel and seek to undermine it, actively working against God’s will for salvation (Philippians 3:18,19). These people are judged for rejecting the gospel, or not “obeying” it, as the apostle Peter says (I Peter 4:17), meaning that they do not submit their hearts to repentance and joyfully receive the gift.

This gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the reconciliation of all people to their God is a message that goes out into the entire world. Many are cut to the heart through the conviction of their sins by the Holy Spirit and repent and become recipients of the salvation purchased for them on the cross. Others harden their hearts as they are disposed to do through sin and do not receive the free gift of eternal life in Christ.

For those who are saved they are judged righteous in God’s sight because God has chosen to place his name upon them so that through faith in Christ they share in the blessedness that is Jesus’ eternal inheritance. God has chosen to work in their hearts through the Holy Spirit to bring them to salvation which he prepared for them in Christ. Though they are guilty of sin, and God’s just verdict for that sin is “guilty”, yet that sentence falls upon Christ, and the guilty are forgiven. This is the meaning of the saying “at the same time saint and sinner”. Because of the human’s nature, they are sinful, but because of God’s grace, they are forgiven, washed clean and given God’s very name in baptism. This is the paradox that the Christian lives in: guilty, yet forgiven and free of guilt.

For those who are damned to death are so damned because of their persistent rebellion against God and the rejection of his gospel. For those who have not heard, they reject God because they are living in rebellion of him from the day of their birth. For those who have heard the gospel and still reject it, they are condemned for that as well. As Paul says of such people “their condemnation is just” (Romans 3:8).

In summary, let those who have received the gospel of Jesus Christ rejoice for the marvelous gift which God chose to bestow on us. For those who have rejected the gospel or who live in sin apart from God, they are damned for their sin. Let them not blame God for their predicament; let God be true though every man were a liar.

Because of Sin

Posted by Nathanael Szobody on

Per Rob’s request

Could there not have been another way? Could God have saved us from our sins without sending Jesus? Why couldn’t God just forgive us without Jesus death? Why does death have to be the punishment for sin if God is merciful? Such questions are very common in Christian discussion and are indeed natural to our human curiosity.

It has been said that true Christian reformation always comes about by a renewed understanding of the doctrine of sin.

If sin is the way things are not supposed to be, perhaps we should seek to understand the way things are supposed to be. Humans were created to glorify God, to obey him, enjoy his creation, live in it, care for it, and give back to him all the praise for his marvelous gifts. This is living in God’s life; living in all that he creates and provides. God himself is life, so living is defined by being in him.

God foretold that should Adam and Eve eat of the tree they would die. Yet when they had eaten they did not die for many hundreds of years. But they were cast out of the garden, and this separation from God’s presence is the first definition of death. In God is life, so away from God is not life; is death. This is what scripture means by “the wages of sin is death.”

Physical death also follows. The cells of one’s body degenerate from the time they are first formed, and are replaced by new ones. But this whole process of replacement is a degenerating one so that over the years one’s entire body slows down until it can no longer keep up, and dies. Again, outside of the garden, without the Tree of Life to eat from, the body dies because it lacks the sustaining presence of its creator.

This is the two-fold death of sin: because of sin the body and the soul are separated from the author and sustainer of life. But why should sin bring this about? Sin is defined by the Apostle Paul as anything that does not proceed from faith. Faith relies in God’s providence, submitted to his will for all of creation and for the individual, trusting that his will is best. As is intended in Creation, all things live, move and have their being in the Creator, but if they rebel against this, they are rebelling against life; they are seeking death. The Creator is life and he gives life; to live in him is to live truly and to reject him is to reject life.

This life is characterized by its gift. In the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit we see the eternal society of life as it is given amongst three persons; life exists in giving it, in loving. So this is God’s desire for creation: that humans participate in this divine life-giving love, submit to it, receive it, and share it with one-another. This is the hope expressed by Christ’s prayer in John 17; that we might be one in him and share in the life that he shares with the Father. This is the creation restored.

But before creation restored we must realize why it needs to be restored. When humans rejected this God they rejected necessarily life itself. When a person acts out of selfishness, pride, negligence, carelessness, malice, etc., he places himself above and outside of this love in his own heart and leaves himself in the life-less domain that is outside the presence of God; east of Eden. Since creation was the scene in which God expressed his relationship with humanity, creation now naturally reflects the same death that humanity has desired upon itself by sinning. This is why a sinner rightly deserves death: sin is the demand to be excluded from life.

So then, on what basis does Jesus pray that we all may be one as he and the Father are one? Whence this hope? This prayer is called the high-priestly prayer because Jesus is filling his role as priest by interceding to the Father on behalf of sinners. But more importantly he is also priest because he is about to go to the cross to offer the sacrifice of his own blood for the sins of the world. If we do not understand sin, we must look again to the cross: there it is; separation from the Father, suffering, death. It is by the right of this sacrifice that he can look forward to the day when they will be “pure and blameless”. This day is referred to in the epistles as the day of Christ, or the day of the Lord. It is in view of the hope of this day that all Christians live because the death of sin will finally be no more when our bodies will be resurrected by him, just as he rose.

But until that day, humans remain in this sin ridden world and struggle against its temptations and the guilt of our own sin. This is why we must continue to hear the law and the gospel. The law is what told us that we have sinned. It said “You shall” and we didn’t. It said “You shall not” and we did. Indeed, outside of the supply of God’s life, we cannot but live according to this realm of sin. This is law: that we are only capable of sinning, if we do not dwell in God.

Is God then unjust to make such demands of us? Well let me ask you this: is it unjust for God to desire what is good? Indeed, to give us the law is to show us what is good. So the vision of what is good condemns us who are sinful. But the vision of what is good is not an end in itself; it points to the goodness revealed in Christ, when he gave himself to the last drop of his blood. Though the law could not save us, it points to the one who can and does. Jesus’ blood did cover all sins.

It would be wrong to say that God was obligated to provide a way for sins; if it were wrong for God to destroy all sinners, then it would certainly be wrong for him to kill his own perfect Son! No, he did so out of his desire to unite his creation with himself. And indeed, he will. Because of his work of death and resurrection for us, and because we have been baptized into his death “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies to be like his heavenly body through the same power that enabled him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3).

So in our Christian walk we still need law and gospel. The Law reminds of our sin so that we do not comfortably begin to live in death again, it convicts us of when we do sin, and gives us the vision for goodness, the way we will live with God in eternity. But we live by the gospel: God was not obligated to save us yet he did out of love, so we also are set free from the law in the Spirit and are obligated to no nothing, yet we live according to the life given us and do all things that are beneficial to eternally life in Jesus. This is life defined by God’s love as seen in Jesus’ gift on the cross. So we see that the cross is where sin is best seen, alone, dying, and where love is best seen, giving life, to the last drop of blood.

God of Promise

Posted by Nathanael Szobody on

We have this three letter word, God. And we all think we know what we mean by it. Jonah described him best to the sailors who were trying to figure out what sort of God would send such a storm upon them: “I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” So if we take that definition then Muslims, Native Americans, etc. do indeed seek the true God. Of course they have some wrong ideas about him but if we were to analyze our understanding of God then likely we would find anomalies or errors; this does not mean we don’t know God. So what’s the difference?

To know God in the general sense is to be condemned by him. Any sinner who knows a stitch about the true God knows that they are not good enough for him. That is why every human religion is a set of rules on how be good enough for God, how to serve him, how to please him, how to atone for sin. These are the concerns of humans before a righteous God

The Enfleshed Christ

Posted by Nathanael Szobody on

The Incarnation is at the root of all of Christian belief, practice, and hope. Often, however, its emphasis is lost. When Christians speak of the incarnation they are often referring primarily to the Virgin Birth; they are thinking of the moment in time when the Word of God became man. Indeed, this is the Incarnation, but to restrict our discussion of the Incarnation to this event would be to miss the whole point and application of the Incarnation.

Incarnation means “enfleshment”, it means that the eternal Word of God became and still is in human flesh. To the apostles, this enfleshment described Jesus’ entire work and ministry, death and resurrection.

The faith of the Apostles, and especially Peter, was expressed in a new way when they could affirm, by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, that the man standing in front of them, Jesus, was the Son of the living and eternal God. At the time of Peter’s confession “you are the Christ” they presumably knew nothing of the Virgin Birth. They observed the relationship that Jesus had with the Father; they observed the way he related to the people, the words that came from his mouth, the “words of life”, and they said “to whom else shall we go?” They said “yes” to God in the flesh. In this affirmation is the recognition of God’s power to make us into a new community in the Divine.

There are two tenants of belief in Christian cosmology:

1) God created all things out of nothing.

2) God created a new creation in Christ out of the emptiness of sin.

Both of these creations were in the proceeding of the power of his Word with the result of life in the flesh

Daddy’s Shoes

Posted by Nathanael Szobody on

Right love and faithfulness meet each other

Both peace and righteousness kiss each other

Faithfulness will spring up from the ground

Righteousness from above look down

The Lord will give what is good

And our land will give it’s food

Righteous will be before him

And will set his feet on the road

-Psalm 85

It is said that Christian virtues have been divorced from each other. Righteousness, love, faithfulness, peace, have been set against each other. The one who advocates love does so at the expense of justice. For the sake of peace the assertion of right and wrong are sacrificed. Love knows nothing of faithfulness, and faithfulness has nothing to do with love.

Who hopes in the life to come? Hope in this my friend: that Right love and faithfulness will meet each other, and peace and righteousness will kiss each other. How hard it is to be faithful; in that day, faithfulness will spring from the ground!

For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you might follow in his steps. For he committed no sin, nor was there deceit in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile back. When he suffered he did not threaten, but continually gave himself up to the one who judges the righteous. He himself took up our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to our sins and live to righteousness; by his wounds you are healed.

-I Peter 2:21- 25

There is yet one who was faithful and is faithful; him in whom all is at peace, and whose righteousness is love

Universal Grace and Grace Alone

Posted by Nathanael Szobody on

Calvinist doctrine teaches that the doctrine of Salvation by Faith Alone (sola gratia ) and the doctrine of Universal Grace (universalis gratia) contradict each other. They say this because, since humans are saved by the grace of God alone, then it must follow that if God’s grace is for all, then all must be saved. Though clearly all are not saved.Their conclusion, then, is that grace must not be universal, it must only be for the elect. First we must say that Scripture advocates both doctrines and so they must both be believed, even if our reason is not satisfied on all points.

Secondly one may observe that scripture approaches doctrines from two perspectives; one is that of humans and the manner in which human nature interacts with God, and the second is the immutable nature of God and his eternal will for the fullness of time, revealed in Christ. These two perspectives are presented in various places in scripture for their respective pastoral purposes. The immutable will of God that all should be saved is revealed to us to impress upon our hearts the character of God which is love and to bring us to glorify Jesus’ death and resurrection as supremely sufficient for the salvation of all people, hence the term ‘second Adam’. Whereas the perspective of sola gratia is a teaching that is spoken to us in a position of those who have been saved and so it moves our hearts to glorify God and his son Jesus for his unilateral and unconditional gift of salvation to us apart from our merit. So sola gratia and gratia universalis find their proper exposition not in the grid of a systematic but when spoken appropriately to the heart.

Worship’s Harmonious Tension

Posted by Nathanael Szobody on

The human is insignificant in one respect. Lives are born and destroyed every day. A human is literally a speck of cosmic dust in the vast universal expanse.

The human is the center of creation in some respects. Both physical and spiritual, uniquely able to reflect not only on itself, but even upon its own act of reflection (according to Kierkegaard). It names and defines all of nature, observable phenomenon, exploits its properties and governs its use.

The humans psyche can in one moment be at the height of ecstasy in its accomplishments and the joys of its discoveries and in the next be beaten down with the despair of helpless anxiety at its insignificance in the face of the external forces in this world.

So what is the human’s call; to be a humanist or an ascetic? How can one be both? And how can one be neither? In worship only is it possible to live in the tension.

In worship the individual is encompassed by God himself and his glory and the very words and thoughts which God has given are proceeding from the worshiper. He is humbled by the work of Jesus his Son who accomplished what no other human could. In worship also the soul is lifted up to the very throne of God and given its full worth as a son and daughter of God himself, one who’s value was appraised in the death of God’s own Son. Here alone is the human properly nothing and everything in perfect harmony.


Posted by Nathanael Szobody on

When I was with a friend once driving through the countryside, we passed a field of daisies. I remarked that there were many young girls who would love to stroll through just such a field. My traveling companion replied that the dry stubble on the ground would only cut their feet, adding that the romantic is all in the imagination. I was troubled by this statement, but said nothing.

Many months later I was walking along a street in Europe and passed a poster with the photograph of a woman. The photo was clearly intended to catch the eye of the masculine sex–which, of course, it did. And I thought to myself: “how many other women are there on this very street of comparable beauty? And yet the mind is drawn to this particular photo.” The answer is that the woman in the photo was portrayed in such a way as to provoke the imagination. This disturbed me, but not quite as much as the statement of my traveling companion several months previous.

There would be no great buildings, colorful paintings, astounding achievements, apart from the projections of the imagination. Such things must first be seen in the mind, and desired, for them to come to fruition. So the imagination has the incredible power to bring forth reality, not on its own, but by its command of all the powers of the human psyche and body.

If it is the image of God to create, and so humans are builders and creators in their own right, then is it not also the image of God to be imaginators? If the Holy Spirit is God’s working agent, his indwelling and efficient doer, and if the Son is God’s word, his communicator to creation, we could say in one sense that God the Father is the divine imagination.

The tree of life is incomparably beautiful in that it prompts the imagination toward all that is in God, all that he desires to give. Yet Eve’s imagination was turned to the knowledge of good and evil, seeing that it was desirable. So then our sanctification is being renewed in the hope of the new creation in Christ, that is, obtaining a beatified imagination through faith in its perfect embodiment, the beautiful lamb, the crucified and risen Son.