Faith That Works (part 1)

By Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church, Founding Pastor

This past weekend, several people asked me questions about the nature of faith and works. I was asked, “If we are saved by faith and not by works, then why did you talk so much about our need to do good works?”

James 2 speaks to us about the relationship between our faith and our works. What follow is a 3 part series of blog posts to answer the question,  “Is my profession of faith real?”

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”-and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

James 2:14-26 (ESV) 

Faith without work… is futile. vv. 14-16

(14) What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

The obvious answer to the question is “No!” When we come to faith, we get a new life. If being a believer doesn’t change your life, you aren’t a believer. The problem isn’t that you lack works but that you lack saving faith.

Here is a person who looks like he has real religion. He shows up at church and says all the right stuff.

(15) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

Our words can’t address the hunger or cold issues that someone we know might be facing. A person of genuine, saving faith cannot actually ignore the poor. It’s unthinkable. Something is desperately wrong with us if our faith allows us to ignore needy people.

Words without works are worthless. Profession without possession is pointless. Repeating words never saves a soul. (Amen) Rattling off a little prayer will not save you. Words without works are worthless. Profession without possession is profitless.

faith without works is futile… is fatal. vv. 17-19

(17) So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (18) But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Someone is arguing that faith and works can be separated. James says, “No. Faith can be shown only through righteous deeds.” 

It’s like the man is saying, “There’s the works way to be saved and the faith way to be saved.” If you think you can choose one or the other you don’t understand the gospel. If there is no change in your life, then there’s no saving faith. If there is no transformation in you, then there is no justification for you.

19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder!

“God is one” is the Jewish Shema from Deuteronomy 6. Jewish people quoted it every day. He’s saying, “Big deal that you believe that. The demons believe that. And it makes them afraid because they know they have never submitted to this one God.”

Today, James might say, “You believe the Apostles Creed? You chant it every time you’re in church? You do well. But even the demons believe that.

No matter how many times you say the Apostles Creed, if there are no works then your faith is no better than the demon’s faith.

And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. Luke 4:41

 Suppose some demon were to try to join Cuyahoga Valley Church as a member. We could question him:

  • “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” “Yes I do.”
  • “Do you believe He is the Messiah?” “Yes I do.”
  • “Do you believe He is holy?” “Yes I do.”
  • “Do you believe He was born of a virgin?” “Yes I do.”
  • “Do you believe He died on the cross?” “Yes I do.”
  • “Do you believe He was raised from the dead?” “ Yes I do.”
  • “ Will you work in the church?” I will be glad too. I will be a staff member if you will let me.” “I will be glad to preach.”

See, the Bible says Satan is transformed as an angel of light. A demon could pass all of these tests, but he doesn’t have saving faith. “Demon, I have asked you a number of questions, let me ask you one more question. Will you bow the knee to Jesus Christ and crown Him King and Lord of your life?” “No, I won’t.”

Churches are filled with people who have gone through a little routine, who have gone through a little theological exercise. And they think because of their profession they have possession. But they have never bowed the knee to Jesus Christ and made Him Lord. They are going to miss heaven by eighteen inches. They have head knowledge,  but not heart knowledge. 

Some might be thinking, “Well, I am saved because I know the plan of salvation.” You are not saved by the plan of salvation. You are saved by the Man of Salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. The demons know the plan but they have never bowed the knee to the Man.

faith without works is futile, fatal… is foolish. vv. 20-26

(20) Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

Next we’re going to meet two figures in Jewish history. James chooses two people from the opposite ends of the spectrum. Abraham: Someone who’s respected, the father of the Jews. Rahab: Someone who’s despised, a gentile prostitute. They both were known for their faith. James says that the proof of their faith is their works. And in that sense, they are justified by their works.

This might sound shocking to some of us. But he’s talking about the fruit of faith.

(21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? (22) You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; (23) and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”-and he was called a friend of God.

In Genesis 15:6, the Bible records that Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. That’s when he was saved. That’s when God said, “Abraham; I’ve put you in My book. You are righteous.” Why? Because of faith. Abraham believed God. He put his faith in the coming Messiah. He believed in God.

Now, 30 years later – 30 years after his faith was imputed unto him for righteousness, 30 years after God said, “You are saved; you are righteous – 30 years later, Abraham offered Isaac on Mount Moriah. That wasn’t when he got saved. That’s simply when he showed he was saved. His willingness to offer Isaac did not save him. It was not the means of his salvation. It was the mark of his salvation. It was not the root of his salvation. It was the fruit of his salvation.

“Completed” (Gk. eteleiōthē) often means “bring to maturity.” Full-grown and genuine faith is seen in the good deeds it produces.

(24) You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

For James, “faith alone” means a bogus kind of faith, mere intellectual agreement without a genuine personal trust in Christ that bears fruit in one’s life.

 (25) And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?

 In Joshua 2 we see the story about Rahab. She uses Old Testament word for Gods saving love.

Rahab the prostitute believed the stories of God’s saving work for the Hebrews (Joshua 2:8–11). So, at some personal risk, she hid the Jewish spies from her own people, then lowered them on a rope so they could escape (Joshua 2:15). Thus she became a model of faith completed in works.

Rahab preferred the honor of God and the good of His people before the preservation of her own country. Her former acquaintance must be discarded, her former course of life entirely abandoned.

What do we learn from both Abraham and Rahab? Saving faith says, “Lord, you can ask me to do anything for You.” That kind of faith demonstrates that we are in a right relationship with God.

(26) For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

The work that a human body does doesn’t make the body alive. The work that a human body does reveals that the body is alive. Without life the body can’t work. So, a body without works is dead. No corpse can work his way into life. He just can’t do it. He is dead. He has got to receive the life before he works. But once the body is alive, it can work.

So, are you alive? Do you have new life in Christ? Well, I think so. How can I know? You say you have faith, but you have no works? Your faith is a dead faith.

But if you have works, it’s proof that your faith is alive and real and active.

faith without works is futile, fatal, and foolish

2 Corinthians 5:10. If we are saved by grace thru faith, why does God judge our works? He judges our works to test the authenticity of our faith.

  • Faith is the root of salvation. Works are the fruit of salvation.
  • Faith is invisible, the root beneath the ground. Works are visible, the fruit above the ground.
  • Faith is the foundation of our faith. Our work is the building that is built on that foundation.
  • Faith is inward. Works are outward.
  • Faith is the provision of our salvation. Works are the proof of our salvation.
  • Faith is the means of our salvation. Works are the marks of our salvation.

Ready for Judgment Day

[God] has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.
It occurred to me that I don’t think enough about The Day – Judgment Day.
Especially when I played pro baseball, there was a sense in which “judgment day” was everyday. Baseball is a game of stats. Every at bat is recorded. Every box score is published. The stats are complied and published throughout the season, at the end of each season, and then at the end of every career.
When our youngest son, Evan, was 12, we visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Maryanne wanted Evan:to see my baseball stats. She called the Hall of Fame staff in advance. They were very helpful. When we arrived, they had a folder all ready for us with many of my stats from my five years of pro ball.
Since I never made “the show,” you can imagine that some of my stats were not what I would have liked for them to be. See, published baseball stats can work for you… or against you. For Hall of Famers, the stats work for them. For me, well…
But here’s my point: The fact that baseball stats measured my productivity as a player served as a motivator for me to play hard. Unfortunately, my ability didn’t match my desire.
Think about it. In an infinitely more significant way, the fact that we will one day be judged by God ought to motivate us to live righteously.
The world, the flesh, and the devil all conspire against us to make us forget about Judgment Day. But the word of God is full of reminders. Here are a few.
  • I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. Matthew 12:36
  • The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. Matthew 16:27
  • They will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. I Peter 4:5
  • If you say, “See, we did not know this, “Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work? Proverbs 24:12
  • Each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:12
  • Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. I Corinthians 13:3
  • We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. II Corinthians 5:10
  • Whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord. Ephesians 6:8 
  • He who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Colossians 3:25
  • All the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. Revelation 2:23
  • I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. Revelation 20:12
  • Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. Revelation 22:12
So, I’m praying that God will remind me often about The Day that is coming. And that I will be ready. There is a sense in which “spiritual stats” are being compiled by God as He watches our lives moment by moment, day after day, year after year. And these “spiritual stats” will either work for us or against us. I want to be found being filled with the Spirit, abiding in Christ, and being busy inviting people to new life in Christ.

I want to be ready. I want you to be ready, too.

What Jesus Said about Judgment

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

The great British professor and writer, C. S. Lewis once wrote about hell, “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of our Lord’s own words…” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 118).

Really? Jesus talked a lot about hell?

Based on everything we know about Jesus – so loving, so kind, so merciful, so forgiving – we might expect Him to maximize heaven and minimize hell. We want a. Jesus who has a friendly tone all the time. We want a Jesus where there’s not really any wrath or anger or judgment. Surely Jesus is going to highlight the love of God and lowlight the justice of God when He talks about judgment day. Right?

If we will just read what Jesus says about hell, we’ll find that His words are stronger and more straightforward than most of us would like.

Consider His words from Luke 13.

22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them,

The Jewish religious leaders in Jesus’ day taught that only Jews would be eternally saved and that only those who tried the hardest, did the most, and kept the rules the best would be saved. Are those religious leaders right who say only a few people – like them – will be saved?

24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

Jesus says, “Yes, the way to be saved is narrow. But a lot of you religious leaders who think you are good-to-go will be on the outside.”

26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’

Those on the outside are negotiating now. According to those who believe there are 2nd chances after death, Jesus should reconsider right? He would need to answer, “Come on in!” He has to say that, right? He’s Jesus! I mean to think that He’d answer any other way is heartless and unloving and unjust. Could Jesus actually say, “Sorry. Door’s locked. If you had been here earlier, I could have done something. But now, it’s too late!” Yes. Actually, He could say that.

27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.

The people who think they are “in” because of their nationality and religious performance aren’t “in”! Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the patriarchs of the Jewish people – got in by grace through faith. But the current crop of self-righteous religious leaders are cast out. And then Jesus says something stunning to a Jewish crowd.

29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Luke 13:22-30

That’s Jesus – opening the door to heaven to the last, the least, and the lost from the east and the west (from places like China and Spain) and from the north and the south (from places like Russia and Africa). Salvation isn’t just for the Jews. It’s for the last and the least. And that’s good news for you and me.

Did you catch what Jesus said? “You won’t be able to enter. You will be outside, cast out. Depart from Me… to a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Weeping and gnashing of teeth?

When we read stories like this like we are reading them for the first time, we think, “Wow, Jesus was really pretty hardcore.”

We would open the door at any time for anyone, but Jesus won’t do it. He gives no hope that the door will reopen. If Jesus believed in 2nd chances for those who reject Him in this life, then this story is really misleading. How scary is this for people who find themselves on the wrong side of the door begging?

Jesus told this story is to impact our souls. There will be people on the outside in a place called hell.

You might remember what Pastor Chad has told us, “Heaven is not the default destination. Hell is.” We all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). So, no one will enter into the presence of a holy God unless we are radically changed – unless we are born again, made never the same. Until our sin problem is resolved, hell will be our default destination.

God gives us opportunity after opportunity to turn to Him in this one life. A great 1st Century leading thinker, Paul, wrote in Romans 1 that God has revealed Himself to us in the creation and in our conscience so that all “men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). If people respond to God and want to know more – I believe He will send them further revelation of Himself through missionaries or angels or dreams or visions… or whatever else He might choose to do.

God gives us 2nd chances and 3rd and 4th and 5th and 100th chances every day of our lives. Every breath is an opportunity to respond. And if people don’t respond before death, then it’s too late.

If we read through the gospels and we’ll find that Jesus says terrifying things about judgment. Here are just a few examples:

And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 25:30

He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Matthew 25:41

These will go away into eternal punishment… Matthew 25:46

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. Mark 9:43-48

And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. Mark 9:47-48

Jesus isn’t talking about a hell-on-earth – that our suffering here is our hell. He’s talking about the afterlife in a place called hell.

So, let’s put all this together. How did Jesus describe hell?

  • A place of weeping
  • A place where there will be gnashing of teeth
  • The outer darkness
  • The eternal fire
  • Eternal punishment
  • The unquenchable fire
  • Where the worm does not die

Most Bible scholars would say that these are figures of speech – metaphorical ways of describing an unimaginable nightmare for all eternity. But remember. We use metaphors to describe realities that are beyond explanation or comprehension. Fire means something worse than we can imagine.

The words in the English language we use to describe hell are inadequate. The reality is worse than the image.

Clearly Jesus – the most kind, compassionate, sacrificial, servant-hearted, loving person who ever lived – believed that a loving God could send people to an eternal hell, that a loving God could also be a judging God, and that the very idea of people experiencing hell for all eternity is not cruel and excessive.

Jesus used terrifying language when He talked about hell. Why? He loves us! He’s warning us! He uses strong language to stir up a fear in us that would make us take hell seriously and want to avoid it at all costs and that would make us want to run to Him for safety!

And, after He saves us, He wants us to join Him in His mission to take the gospel message to the entire world.

On the Judgment of Christ

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

This past weekend, we spent time and energy focusing on the phrase from the Apostles’ Creed “from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.”

Meditating about the judgment to come is not the most popular of topics. But Christians who have gone before us have summarized the judgment in some helpful historical documents.

One of those is the Second London Confession. You can read the entire Confession of Faith online. Below is the section about the judgment with scriptural references. We provide this for you on our Cuyahoga Valley Church blog as a helpful summary statement. We encourage you to read it carefully and to look up all the scriptures. Afterwards are a series of questions to help you process and apply.

Chapter 32 – The Last Judgment

1. God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given by the Father. In that day, the apostate angels will be judged.  So also, all people who have lived on the earth will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds and to receive a reckoning according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.

Acts 17:31; John 5:22, 27. 1 Corinthians 6:3; Jude 6. 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:10, 12; Matthew 25:32–46.

2. God’s purpose for appointing this day is to manifest the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect, and of his justice in the eternal damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For at that time the righteous will go into everlasting life and receive fullness of joy and glory with everlasting rewards in the presence of the Lord. But the wicked, who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, will be thrown into everlasting torments and punished with everlasting destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.

Romans 9:22, 23. Matthew 25:21, 34; 2 Timothy 4:8. Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:48; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–10.

3. Christ desires that we be firmly convinced that a day of judgment will come, both to deter everyone from sin and to comfort the godly more fully in their adversity.  For this reason, he has determined to keep the day secret, to encourage people to shake off any fleshly security and always to be watchful, because they do not know the hour when the Lord will come and so that they may always be prepared to say, “Come Lord Jesus; come quickly. Amen.”

2 Corinthians 5:10, 11. 2 Thessalonians 1:5–7. Mark 13:35–37; Luke 12:35, 36. Revelation 22:20.

  • Which of these truths/concepts stood out to you the most?
  • What was encouraging? What was challenging?
  • What questions did this raise for you?
  • How will you find answers to those questions?
  • Based on these truths, what changes need to be made in your life?
  • When will you make those changes?
  • Who will help you?

Song of the Week – Before the Throne of God Above

by Kevin Lorow, Cuyahoga Valley Church Worship Arts Assistant

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This song is rich and deep in theology, and it connects so well with where we’re at in “The Creed” sermon series, it was an easy choice to use this beautiful song in our services this past weekend.

Before the throne of God above 
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav
en He stands 
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

Screen Shot 2018-11-07 at 11.25.28 AM.pngThe throne room of God might seem like a vast and intimidating thing to you.
That’s probably a good thing too. The might and power of God can be greatly diminished in our minds if we fail to meditate on it. When we consider our relationship with the Lord, this is perhaps what we must first consider. God is the Creator of the universe! Psalm 104 begins to cover some of the “hugeness” of God’s nature. “He established the earth on its foundations.” At Your rebuke, the waters fled from the mountains.” “The mountains rose, and the valleys sank down to the place which You established for them.”

Isaiah 40 says that he has “measured out the waters in the hollow of His hand. With the breadth of His hand He has marked off the heavens.” Scripture serves us with the reminder that God is the Creator of the universe, and that His very creation exists to scream out the greatness and glory of its Creator! (Psalm 19:1) When God is so big, why would He care about us who are so small? Psalm 8:3-4 “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

God is huge and holy. We are small and wicked. God in His perfect nature cannot be in communion with that which is sinful. Israel had this represented to them in their temple as Pastor Chad reminded us this past Sunday.

In Israel’s temple, they had an inner room called “The Holy of Holies”. It was in this space that God physically manifested His presence as a testimony to the nation of Israel that He was with them. However, no one could go into the Holy of Holies save the High Priest. He could only approach the glory of God after performing many cleansing sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. If he failed to do this, he would be struck dead for failing to be right in the presence of God. Separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was a giant curtain. This curtain ran from floor to ceiling and barred the entry into the presence of God. This curtain served as a physical representation that the people’s sin separated from God. They could not have communion with God in their sin.

What a dreadful and miserable place to be. Separated from the great Creator by our sin with nothing to do to fix things. But as we often discuss at Cuyahoga Valley Church, that’s where Jesus changes things.

Hebrews 4:14-16 says “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Jesus serves as our High Priest and our offering. When He died on the cross, the veil in the temple split in two, symbolizing that through His sacrifice we can have communion with God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth! We can run to Him as a Loving Father in complete confidence, knowing that our debt has been paid through the blood of His Son, and that He will provide us with what we need!

When Satan tempts me to despair 
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Verse 2 reminds us of the temptation of Satan, to believe that our sin is too great for us to have a relationship with God. But, when we are reminded that the blood of our sinless Savior, the fear-mongering and despairing devil’s words are hollow and powerless, because the redemption of Jesus is complete and powerful!

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb 
My perfect, spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God

Finally, Verse 3 reminds us of the permanence and security that we have with Christ as our Savior and God. He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through him, because he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Our lives are permanently protected and safe in the Hands of our God. And that dear brothers and sisters is the most reassuring of thoughts.

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Song of the Week – Death Was Arrested

by Kevin Lorrow, Cuyahoga Valley Church Worship Arts Assistant

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“Alone in my sorrow and dead in my sin
Lost without hope with no place to begin
Your love Made a way to let mercy come in
When death was arrested and my life began…”

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We first started singing this song in our services at Easter this spring. We quickly grew excited about the rich theology and the upbeat celebratory nature of the song! We loved declaring this together on that day and on many days since. But why does this song stand out from others in our hearts?

There are a lot of songs that talk about the resurrection, and several of those are upbeat. But “Death was Arrested” is unique in the depth of how it discusses the theology of our depravity and the lengths of what Christ did to bring us our freedom!

“Our savior displayed on a criminal’s cross
Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost
But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand
That’s when death was arrested and my life began.”

What a sobering reminder it is to consider the lengths that Christ went to on our behalf. That he suffered, bled, and died on a cross so that we could be free from the sin that we lived in.

Romans 6 contains much of the theme used in this song:

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

In 2 Timothy 1, Paul exhorts Timothy to live in a certain way after He has considered the life Christ has brought Him.

“…Share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Praise God that Jesus did not remain in the grave! The resurrection is the tangible proof that Jesus was who he claimed to be! Anyone can die, but God Alone has the power to reign over death! As we discussed in our services this last Sunday, since we know that Jesus triumphed over death, we have no reason to fear it! We are truly free!

Praise God for the freedom He has given to us! We trust you’ll be encouraged as You consider the New Life we can find in Christ!

As a parting word, consider John 8:36 “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

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The Descent Into Hell

by Rick Duncan, Founding Pastor

Josh Stone preached an excellent message this past weekend. I fully agree with his landing application. Josh said, “You will die. Death is your enemy. You are in the process of dying right now. Jesus has defeated the power of death by dying. So, you can go to Him with your fears, your questions, your anxieties about death, because He has been there and He knows what it’s like… Is death an impending reality for you? Are you staring death in the face? Are you scared because death is coming? Jesus has already been there, and He knows what it’s like. And He will be there with you every step of the way. No one but Jesus can say this… Jesus Christ knows what it’s like to go the grave. You can trust Him with everything, even your death… Because Christ died and went to the place of the dead, you don’t have to… If Jesus was willing to go to death, the Sheol, to bring you to Him, there’s nowhere He’s not willing to go to get you.”

To this application, I give a hearty “Amen!” But while I wholeheartedly affirm Josh’s application, I do have some respectful reservations about some of Josh’s interpretations. Let me quick to point out that what Josh taught was clearly in line with orthodox beliefs. Many great Christians down through the centuries have taught what Josh taught. So, I share an alternative view while remembering, “In essential things, unity. In non-essential things, liberty. In all things, charity.” What we believe the phrase “He descended into hell” means is clearly a non-essential.

Josh has asked me to share via this blog post some of my alternative views regarding the question “Did Jesus descend to hell?”

If you were to ask me “Did Jesus descend to hell?” I’d ask you what do you mean by that? If by hell you mean “Did He experience separation from God?” then I would say, “Yes! After all, He prayed “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” But if by hell you mean, “Did Jesus spend 3 days in some shadowy place of the dead in a compartment of Sheol with the righteous dead?” then I would say “I don’t think so!”

  1. Barton Payne, who wrote The Theology of the Older Testament, challenges the view that when the Bible says the Old Testament saints went to Sheol, it means to a shadowy place of the dead. Payne was an active member of the Evangelical Theological Society. He was a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary, The Wheaton Graduate School of Theology, and Trinity Evangelical School. He says that the word Sheol can refer merely to the grave, the tomb, the place where the body, not the soul, goes. “When Sheol  is used in a local sense with reference to the righteous, it’s meaning is consistent with that of the grave” (p. 447). The body of the Old Testament saint goes to Sheol – the place of the dead, the grave. But, in Payne’s view, the soul of the Old Testament saint went to be with God in paradise.

Payne refers to Mark 12:27 where Jesus says that since the scriptures teach that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Therefore, the Old Testaments saints Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not dead, but living. That’s significant. Where were they living? In the place of the dead? That doesn’t seem likely, at least to me. So, where were they living? With God.

Consider a few Old Testament texts:

Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, and old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Genesis 25:8

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness. Psalm 17:15

O LORD, You have brought up my life from Sheol; You restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Psalm 30:3

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Psalm 49:15

You guide me with Your counsel. and afterward, you will receive me to glory. Psalm 73:24

In the path of righteousness is life, and in its path there is no death. Proverbs 12:28

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27

… man is going to his eternal home… Ecclesiastes 12:5

… the spirit returns to God who made it. Ecclesiastes 12:7

Any of these texts by themselves would not carry enough weight to conclude that for Old Testament saints to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But the cumulative effect of these texts at least help us think that the biblical evidence makes it possible to believe that the Old Testament saint went immediately to be with God after death.

The Old Testament saint was saved the same way we are in the New Testament days: by grace through faith. Abraham believed and was made righteous (Romans 4). Once the righteous die, their souls go to be with God. They were saved by the grace of God through the promised merits of Christ. Forgiveness and imputed righteousness were granted to the Old Testament saint just like they are granted to us. They didn’t have to go to some kind of a waiting place for Jesus to come and preach to them. The merits of Christ’s coming death and coming resurrection were applied to the Old Testament saints before the events of the cross and empty tomb had actually happened.

This is why Jesus could say on the cross to the penitent thief, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” “Today” means today, not tomorrow… or in 3 days. And remember, on the cross Jesus said, after He had been forsaken by His Father, “It is finished!” There was no more hell to pay. He was ready to be received into the Father’s presence. And I believe He was. Immediately.

So, in my view, when Jesus prayed to his Father, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit,” He went directly to be with His Father. He didn’t have to wait three days. To be sure, His body was in Sheol, the grave. And on resurrection Sunday, God raised Jesus’s body from the dead, giving Him a resurrected, glorified body to house His soul.

The hell that Jesus experienced was when He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me. The spiritual, psychological, and emotional agony of being separated from His Father was an agony that could rightly be called hell. For some period of time while on the cross, Jesus was unable to see His Father‘s face, hear His Father’s voice, or enjoy His Father’s fellowship. After experiencing an eternity past of perfect fellowship within the Trinity, that certainly would have been hell for Jesus.

Should the phrase “He descended into hell” have been included into the Apostle’s Creed? Maybe not. But I can recite it with spiritual integrity, when I remember that being forsaken by the Father was a kind of hell for Jesus. For more on this topic, read theologian Wayne Grudem articles “Did Jesus Descend Into Hell?” and  “He Did Not Descend Into Hell”.

Why does this matter? Josh’s point is well made: “Because Christ died and went to the place of the dead, you don’t have to… If Jesus was willing to go to death… to bring you to Him, there’s nowhere He’s not willing to go to get you.” And here’s my additional point: “If the soul of Jesus went to be with the Father immediately after His death and if the souls of all the Old Testament saints went to be with the Father immediately after their deaths because of their faith in the future work of Christ, then I can have confidence that when I die my soul will go immediately to be with the Father, too. Because Jesus lived – immediately after His death – I can face my own death with greater faith, hope, and love.”

So, Josh and I agree to disagree on an interpretation. But I know Josh and I agree with me about this: For all who believe, death is defeated and life is attained by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It always has been. It always will be.

Did Jesus Really Descend Into Hell?

by Josh Stone, Pastor of LifeGroups

For those with more questions about Sunday’s Sermon on whether Christ really did descend into hell. Here are my full (and unedited) sermon notes as I prepared for week 6 of the Because We Believe series on Sunday, October 28, 2018. I hope you’ll find them helpful.


Did Jesus really Descend into Hell? Cultural View

  • I’d like you to participate in a quick self-test:
  • Grab your worship Guide and a pen
    • In a moment I’m going to say a word, and I want you to draw when comes to mind. Ready? “Hell”
      • Whatever pops up, draw that in the box in your worship guide. I’ll give you a second.
    • What comes to my mind is a man in a red suit with a pitchfork, horns, and sharp tail
      • Utter darkness, a lake with fire, demons that have people locked up in cages, grotesque depictions of creatures half-human, half animal
      • This week we will be inundated with images of hell and the demonic because of Halloween
    • Almost all of the things that we think of when we think of “hell” have come not from the Bible but from these two men: Dante Aligiehri and Gustave Dore
      • Dante wrote The Inferno in the 14th century as an allegorical tale of Dante being guided by Virgil, the famous Roman orator, through the nine circles of hell
        • The book is powerful, dramatic, grotesque, and was incredibly popular
      • Later, in the 19th century, Gustave Dore created a series of illustrations of The Inferno bound in a book that were a sensation and best seller
        • The Inferno was the Star Wars if its day
      • We are continuing our series on the Apostle’s Creed, and today the section we are looking at is “He Descended into Hell; and on the third day he rose again from the dead”
      • The resurrection is something that is familiar to us, that we preach on regularly. But what about this descended into Hell part? What’s that all about?
      • Today we are going to deep dive into the phrase “He descended into hell.”
        • Before we get started I want to ask this question, “Why do I always get the hard topics!”
          • “Descended into hell! Are you serious?”
        • There are two obstacles you and I face on this topic
          • 1st: There are many misconceptions about the afterlife that this message cannot possibly address
          • 2nd: There are a lot of different views on this section of the Creed
            • We will talk about them but can’t possibly address all our questions about this topic in 35 minutes
            • But, if you have questions about the message today, please email us at rickducan@cvconline.org
          • If you follow along with me today, you will:
            • 1) have a clear understanding of what this phrase means
            • 2) have greater reason trust in Jesus Christ

 

Did Jesus descend into hell? Yes… sort of.

  • Did Jesus descend into a world of pitchforks and red men and scurrying demons? No.
  • Understood properly, “Did Jesus really descend into hell?” My answer is Yes … sort of.

 

Pray

 

Text of John

  • John 19:28–30
    • After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
  • John 19:40–42
    • So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

 

Did Jesus really Descend into Hell? Four Theological Views

  • In the next few minutes, I want to give you a fly-over of the various views of “He descended into hell”, then I’d like to share with you why one specific view seems to be the most faithful, and has been the view of most Christians for most of history
  • I’m going to list them from the view held by the least Christians throughout time to the one held by the most
  • Don’t try to write all this stuff down. I’ll put my full notes and research online this week. And, Rick Duncan will include a blog post highlighting some differences he and I have on this topic
  • The key passages that the Descent hinges on is Acts 2:27; Rom 10:6-7; Eph 4:8-9; 1 Peter 3:18-20; Hebrews 11, and 12, among others
  • The “Discard” View
    • There are some modern scholars that think this phrase got inadvertently slipped into the Creed later than other articles, or that the decent simply isn’t biblical. So, we should take it out.
    • This is the view held by the fewest Christians but by some scholars that I really appreciate and recommend at our church, like Wayne Grudem takes this position.
  • The “Buried” View
    • This view says that the descent was simply an illustrative way of describing the burial of Jesus in the earth
  • The “Second Chance” View
    • There are some, including some Eastern Orthodox theologians, that believe Jesus went down to the place of the dead to preach the Gospel to those who did not believe before Christ came. For example, those who made fun of Noah when he was building the ark.
    • Jesus really descended into hell in order to give people who had died a second chance to believe in the promise that God would send a Savior.
  • The “Pain on the Cross” View
    • This view says that Jesus experienced “descended into hell” in that he experienced the physical, psychological, and spiritual anguish of hell on the cross
    • The famous reformer John Calvin held this view, Matt Chandler takes this view, and the Heidelberg Catechism, a tool developed in 16th century to teach the faith, says that the descent was “which He suffered in His soul on the cross and before.”
    • Hell = pain on the cross

 

Theological Views Assessed

  • Before I present to you the most common view, and the view that I believe, let’s assess the above views briefly
  • The “Discard” View
    • Scholars contend that this view doesn’t take in consideration a number of biblical passages and thousands of years of theological analysis
    • Suggesting that, after 2000 years, a specific theologian has come to a position different from the early church but biblically correct seems presumptuous to many, including myself
  • The “Buried” View
    • Though it is true that Jesus was buried, the Creed mentions Jesus’ burial in the previous phrase. It would seem odd to just restate what was already mentioned directly before.
  • The “Second Chance” View
    • This view seems to go against the clear teaching of a number of biblical passages, especially Heb 9:27 which says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that face judgement.”
    • Also, it inadvertently teaches that everyone goes to heaven when they die, which is clearly not taught in Scripture
  • The “Pain on the Cross” View
    • This view is certainly legitimate, but this doesn’t seem to make most sense for at least two reasons.
      • First, it disrupts the chronological order of the Creed.
        • If the descent is the agony on the cross, wouldn’t the Descent be positioned after crucifixion rather than after burial?
        • Meaning, wouldn’t it read “Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, He descended to hell, dead, and buried.; the third day He rose again from the dead;
      • Second, it doesn’t address the verses that seem to point to something other than merely the agony of the cross
        • No one disregards Christ’s agony on the cross, but it seems that the descent is more than merely agony on the cross
      • It includes, but is not limited to, the agony on the cross
    • I am not saying that all these views are stupid or have no credibility, but I believe they are not the view most in line with Scripture

 

The “Place of the Dead” View

  • The majority view throughout the history of the faith is the “Place of the Dead” view
    • This view was held by the early church fathers and the majority of Christians today
  • This is the view that, upon Jesus’ death, Jesus actually died and went to the place of the dead, the same place that Moses and David went, which we confusingly call hell
  • The problem is, we don’t have a biblical view of what the word “hell” is talking about
    • Our minds go to Dante rather than Scripture
  • In order to understand the Descent, we need to understand a little bit about the languages that the Bible and the Creed was written in
  • The Apostles’ Creed was written first in Latin.
    • The word we translate “hell” is the word Inferna
    • The New Testament was written in Greek, and Inferna is the Latin translation of the Greek word Hades.
      • In the New Testament, there are two Greek words that have traditionally been translated at hell: Hades and Gehenna
        • Gehenna is the name of a trash dump outside the city of Jerusalem. This name is used as a place of punishment and torment.
        • Hades is different because is refers back to an Old Testament concept
      • The word Hades is from the Hebrew word Sheol.
      • שְׁאוֹל -> ᾅδης -> Inferna -> Hell
    • What is Sheol?
      • In the Old Testament, Sheol is a general term for the place where dead people go
        • It is described often in allegorical terms as a shadowy existence not of punishment necessarily but of waiting
          • The Old Testament describes that all people, both good and bad, go to Sheol, the place of the dead.
        • Psalm 88:3
          • “For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.”
        • Jacob, after he heard of the death of Joseph, said
          • Genesis 37:35 “I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.”
        • David, in Psalm 19 says he will go to Sheol
        • Sheol is simply the place of the dead
      • So, did Jesus descend into hell? Or, better question, “Did Jesus descend into the place of the dead?”
      • When Jesus died on the cross, Jesus went to the place of the dead. He legitimately died.
      • That means he experienced death, and he took on death in our place in order to remove the eternal consequences of death
        • Jesus fully experienced death, just like David and Moses, and at the call of “It is finished!” Jesus went to the place of the dead
        • Jesus gave up his spirit, his body was limp, and he descended into the place of the dead.

 

Devil and Disciples

  • The belief that the dead just go to the place of the dead explains the responses and the thought processes of both the Disciples and the Devil
    • The disciples watched Jesus’ agony on the cross, hoping and praying that God would do something to get Jesus off that cross because, if Jesus died, he was gone
      • Thus when Jesus cried, “It is finished”, the disciples thought, “It’s all over, all hope is lost. Jesus is gone. This Messiah thing is finished.”
    • The Devil worked in every way possible to get Jesus to the cross.
      • If he could kill Jesus, then Jesus would be gone.
      • Tempting Judas, Pontius Pilate, hardening the hearts of the guards.
      • When Jesus said, “It is finished” the Devil thought, “I won. I got rid of him. I killed the Son of God. I am the Almighty.”
    • They were both wrong

 

Resurrection

  • John 20:19–21
    • On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
  • Jesus’ death paid for sins, but if that is the end of the story, then death wins.
    • If Jesus died and went to the place of the dead and stayed dead, then death, sin, and the Devil win.
      • The cross would have been the crowning achievement of Satan.
    • But Jesus didn’t stay dead
  • He rose again, emptying Death and Hades of its possessions and power
    • That is why Jesus says:
      • Revelation 1:17–18
        • “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
      • Matthew 16:18
        • “I will build my church, and the gates of hell (Hades) shall not prevail against it.”
      • I don’t know how long Jesus was in Hades or about the thief on the cross where Jesus said “today” he would be with him in paradise
        • I don’t know how long Jesus was in Hades, but it was long enough to get the keys and rip off the gates
      • In Jesus’ death, he pays for the penalty of sin, and, in his resurrection, he destroys the power of sin

 

So, What? Jesus Knows What Death is Like

  • “Josh, this is an interesting theological concept, but why is it important for my life?”
  • This concept is vitally important to every single person, whether you are a Christian or not, for two reasons:
  • Every person’s greatest fear and greatest enemy is death. And we will all face it.
    • It doesn’t matter how much kale you eat, how many health shakes you drink, how many miles you run, how many essential oils you put on in the morning
    • You are in a slow process of dying
  • If you are here with your spouse, grab your spouse’s hand. Give him or her a little squeeze.
    • If you are here with a friend, give them person a fist bump or a head nod
  • Married couples, say you have the best marriage in the world, stuff that fairytales are made of, the best you can possibly hope for in this life is to one day weep over you spouse’s coffin, or for them to weep over yours
    • Children, you will bury your parents, or you will break their hearts by dying before them
    • You will die. Death is your enemy. You are in the process of dying right now.
  • Jesus has defeated death by death.
  • So, you can go to him with your fears, your questions, your anxieties about death, because he has been there and he knows what it’s like
  • You can go to him, because Jesus knows what it is like
  • You can go to Jesus for everything
    • Have you been abandoned? Jesus knows what it’s like
    • Are you physically suffering? Jesus knows what it’s like
    • Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? Jesus knows what it’s like
    • Are you realizing that you will soon die? Jesus knows what it’s like
    • Before the end of the year, one of our pastors will officiate one of your funerals. Jesus has already been there, He has been through death, and he knows what it’s like. And he will be there with you every step of the way.
  • No one knows what it’s like to die but Jesus! You can trust him.

 

Illustration: Birth

  • In my position I spend a lot of time with young families and couples expecting their first child
    • My wife Deborah has had two children naturally. I was present for both of the births.
    • One tip I give expecting fathers about the labor is this: “Do not give your wife any labor advice. You don’t know what you are talking about.”
      • Fellas, I don’t care how many books you’ve read or buddies you’ve talked to, you do not know what labor is like
    • That is why it is comforting to a woman to have women in the labor room who have had children herself.
      • She knows what it is like
    • Jesus Christ knows what it’s like to go the grave. You can trust him with everything, even your death.

 

Heaven is Opened Up

  • This part of the Creed is so important because:
  • 1) Jesus knows what it’s like
  • 2) Heaven is open for sinners like you and me
    • In Jesus’ triumphant descent to the dead, then his resurrection, he, as Ephesians 4:8 says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives and he gave gifts to men”. Jesus brought the dead saints of old to heaven to be with Christ
  • Because Christ died and went to the place of the dead, you don’t have to.
    • If you put your faith in Jesus Christ, the moment you die Jesus ushers you into his presence
      • That is why the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 that “being absent with the body is present with the Lord.”
    • We don’t have to fear death anymore, because Jesus has defeated death for our sake
    • He took the punishment of death so that we could have the prize of life

 

Gospel Call

  • If Jesus was willing to go to death to bring you to him, there’s nowhere he’s not willing to go to get you
    • Do you feel far from Jesus today?
      • “Because this Lion, that is, Christ, of the tribe of Judah, descended victoriously to hell, snatching us from the mouth of the hostile lion. Thus He hunts us to save us, he captures us to release us, he leads us captive to restore us liberated to our native land.” – Ceasarius of Arles[1]
    • Trust Jesus today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a list of my notes from my research. They are not exhaustive because many of them I read in my commentaries and books. But, here is a good starting off point for being a Self-Feeder

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Aquinas

  • Accordingly in order to take upon Himself most perfectly the punishment due to sinners, Christ not only suffered death, but also His soul descended … He, however, descended for a different cause than did the fathers; for they did so out of necessity and were of necessity taken there and detained, but Christ descended there of His own power and free will… The others were there as captives, but Christ was freely there.”

Structure:

  • Intro
  • Jesus’ death paid for our sins
  • He descended into hell
    • John passages
      • For that which He has not assumed He has not healed
    • Jesus’ resurrection promises us new life
    • And on the third day he rose again from the dead
      • 1 Cor 15
    • Holy Spirit is down payment
    • Labor illustration

 

Descent good news:

1) Jesus knows what it’s like

2) Jesus has purchased heaven for us

 

 

Questions for Creative:

  • Adam illustration
  • Intro Video
  • Les Miserables
  • Heather Capone
  • Creative: Jesus can be trusted with every experience
    • Extended time of worship

 

Significance:

  • Only Jesus knows what it’s like to die
  • Only Jesus was willing to go there freely
  • Death removes sin. Resurrection promises new life

 

Why did he descend into hell? In order that he might take on all of humanity and remove death’s final power over us.

  • Taking on death

Why did he rise again? In order that he might defeat death and show his power and victory over sin.

  • Promises us new life

 

HS is a guarantee:

2 Corinthians 1:21–22

 

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (ESV)

 

Research

 

My view of “he descended into hell”

  • Jesus descended into hell in order that 1) he may take on all of humanity’s consequences due to sin
  • Jesus died as all people died. When he died, he did not go to be with the Father. Rather, he experienced death and in rising from the death, he made a final death blow to death. Death could not hold him. Thus, he experienced the spiritual death and the physical death that is both representative of hell. Thus, he experienced hell (physical and spiritual separation from God) in order to purchase our eternal life

 

My Eschatology

  • Before Christ’s death, those that died went to Sheol, the shadowy place of the dead. This is both saved and unsaved alike. After Jesus death, those that were saved were ushered into heaven to be with God. Now, those that depart and are saved go to heaven, an incomplete but good resting place with God (i.e. not apart from God as in Sheol and not in judgement as in hell/Gehenna)

 

 

Gregory of Nazianzen; 4th century

To Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinarius

 

If anyone has put his trust in Him as a Man without a human mind, he is really bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation.  For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.

 

 

From JND Kelly’s Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed:  https://www.amazon.com/Early-Christian-Creeds-J-N-D-Kelly/dp/0826492169/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1540842434&sr=8-1-fkmr1&keywords=jnd+kelly+creed

 

Important Information:

  • Apostle’s Creed simply extrapolation of the Old Roman Creed, which dates from early third century as a way to affirm conversion in baptism, provide devotional material, and teach the core of the Christian faith as more and more pagans are entering into the faith
  • “descended to hell” is a later addition to the ORC
  • “The belief that Christ spent the interval between his expiry on the cross and his resurrection in the underworld was a commonplace of Christian teaching from the earliest times.” Re Ignatius, Polycarp, Ireneaus, Tertullian, and others
    • Also, Rom 10:7, Acts 2:27-31, 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6, Col 1:18
  • “It was no more than the natural corollary of Judaeo-Christian ideas about the condition of the soul after death. To say that Jesus Christ had died, or that He had been buried, was equivalent to saying that he had passed to Sheol.”
  • The Descent was coming to be viewed as the occasion of the redemption, not just of the patrarchs of old, but of mankind in general.

 

From JI Packer:

The English is misleading, for “hell” has changed its sense since the English form of the Creed was fixed. Originally, “hell” meant the place of the departed as such, corresponding to the Greek Hades and the Hebrew Sheol. That is what it means here, where the Creed echoes Peter’s statement that Psalm 16:10, “thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades” (so RSV: AV has “hell”), was a prophecy fulfilled when Jesus rose (see Acts 2:27–31). But since the seventeenth century, “hell” has been used to signify only the state of final retribution for the godless, for which the New Testament name is Gehenna.

 

Grudem has an extensive post that is pretty helpful:

https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/did-jesus-really-descend-into-hell/

 

Aquinas’ commentary on Apostle’s Creed: https://dhspriory.org/thomas/english/Creed.htm#5

  • Therefore, before the coming of Christ all men, even the holy fathers after their death, descended into the underworld. Accordingly in order to take upon Himself most perfectly the punishment due to sinners, Christ not only suffered death, but also His soul descended to the underworld. He, however, descended for a different cause than did the fathers; for they did so out of necessity and were of necessity taken there and detained, but Christ descended there of His own power and free will: “I am counted among them that go down to the pit; I am become as a man without help, free among the dead” [Ps 87:5–Vulgate]. The others were there as captives, but Christ was freely there.

 

 

  • Because this Lion, that is, Christ, of the tribe of Judah, descended victoriously to hell, snatching us from the mouth of the hostile lion. Thus He hunts us to save us, he captures us to release us, he leads us captive to restore us liberated to our native land. – St Ceasarius

 

He descended into hell:

  • A few options:
    • First: he literally went to what we think of as hell and either preached or set captives free or whatever
    • Second: He descended into Hades/Sheol, which is the place of death. “He went down to the place of the dead.”
      • Or, he, simply, could mean “buried, i.e. he descended into hell”
    • Third: He experienced hell in the condemnation of the cross
    • Fourth: This article in the creed should be removed

 

My take: probably a mix of all three

  • Jesus died as all people died. When he died, he did not go to be with the Father. Rather, he experienced death and in rising from the death, he made a final death blow to death. Death could not hold him. Thus, he experienced the spiritual death and the physical death that is both representative of hell. Thus, he experienced hell (physical and spiritual separation from God) in order to purchase our eternal life

 

 

 

  • In the early church, there was a phrase used to talk about the importance of Jesus being fully God and fully man
    • The phrase was, “For that which He has not assumed He has not healed”
  • That means that whatever Jesus assumed, or took on, he healed.
  • If Jesus didn’t die, and if Jesus didn’t experience all of what it means to be human – including human death – then he doesn’t really know what it’s like
  • Thomas Aquinas (13th century)
    • Accordingly in order to take upon Himself most perfectly the punishment due to sinners, Christ not only suffered death, but also His soul descended … He, however, descended for a different cause than did the fathers; for they did so out of necessity and were of necessity taken there and detained, but Christ descended there of His own power and free will… The others were there as captives, but Christ was freely there.”
  • But he went to that place, hell, so that we do not have to

 

Explanation of Sheol From Evangelical Dictionary of Evangelical Theology :

https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/sheol.html

 

Also, Good article on Sheol from The Oxford Compantion of the Bible: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-oxford-companion-to-the-bible-9780195046458?cc=us&lang=en&

 

Good blog posts on a traditionalist position:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/he-descended-into-hell

 

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/death-has-been-swallowed-up-by-death/

 

John Piper does not believe in the Descent:

https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/did-christ-ever-descend-to-hell

 

Here is a Scholarl Article by John Yates on why he believes in the Descent:

https://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/churchman/102-03_240.pdf

 

 

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit;

born of the virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate;

was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended to hell; the third day

He rose again from the dead;

He ascended to heaven and sits on the

right hand of the Father Almighty, From whence He shall come to

judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, The holy catholic church,

the communion of saints, The forgiveness of sins, The resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen.

 

 

[1] Sermon 119

God as Father

by Chad Allen, Lead Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church

Last weekend I taught about God as our Father and us as His children.  There are times when we may doubt our salvation or identity as God’s child, or performance and works thinking will flood our minds or heart, or we slip back into letting our sense of worth and value be determined by our successes and failures in this life rather than what God has said is true of those who have come to faith in Christ.

When that happens , it is very helpful to read, meditate and even pray back Scriptures that affirm that those who are in Christ are truly children God. The title and status of being God’s child and rests not on our character and faithfulness, but on Gods.

If this has been something you have been wrestling with or want to learn more on, I recommend these verses to read, reflect on a pray through:

To drill down even more on this topic of Assurance, I highly recommend reviewing Week 1 (pages 1-18) in our Living New book on Amazon or download the Chapter 1 for free..

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Parenting Through Galatians

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

Conscientious parents often fill up their shelves with great books on how to parent well. That’s not a bad idea. But we know that the best book on parenting is the Bible. When you explore the Bible, however, you will find only a few passages of scripture that deal directly with the topic of parenting. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make application from other sections of the Bible.
I want us, in this blog post, to read through a bit of Galatians 3 and make an application to parenting. As we work our way through the text,  I hope you will see how you can make application of other sections of scripture to your heart as a parent. Let’s start with Galatians 3:2.
2 Let me ask you [parents] only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? [Are you seeking to perfect your child by the flesh – by demanding obedience, by threats and coercion, by your rules that force change from the outside in?]
5 Does He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Galatians 3:2-3, 5 
Do you want a miracle in the life of your son or daughter? Parent them in the Spirit and not in the flesh. Live your own life by grace through faith and not by rules, rituals, and regulations.
10 For all [parents] who rely on works of the law [to parent his or her child] are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Nobody can keep all the rules. The best child can’t keep all the rules. So, if you set up a system that subtly communicates that your approval of your child is based on their keeping the family rules, then you are creating a “no-win“ situation for both you and for them.
You have to ask yourself, “What am I trying to produce? Am I trying to produce someone who makes me look good to my mom and dad or my brothers and sisters? Or am I trying to equip someone to follow Jesus? Am I trying to produce someone who will be a success in the eyes of the world? Or am I trying to raise someone who will be pleasing to Christ because they know how to trust and love Him? Am I trying to produce someone who will turn out to be a self-righteous little Pharisee? Or am I trying to encourage someone to be able to humbly walk with their God?
11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law [by keeping the household rules], for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
What we want is for our children to be truly righteous. And the only way they can be truly righteous is not by a “do more, try harder“ life. The only way your child can be righteous is by grace through faith in Jesus.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God?
Are family rules a bad idea? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. If a family rule could bring life to child, then that child would be right with God through self-effort. There would be no need for Christ, then.
We just need to understand that the family rules have no power to give life to a child’s heart. Instead, the rules serve to expose the rebellion that’s in a child’s heart so that the child will run to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and for an ability to live the kind of life that he or she knows they have to be living.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law [the do’s and don’ts of the family rules], imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
24 So then, the law [the family rulebook] was our guardian [showing us right from wrong] until Christ came [until Christ enters into the heart of your child], in order that we might be justified by faith.
Your family rules are there to show your children their need for Christ so that they might be made right with God through their faith in Jesus.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian
Your kids after coming to faith in Christ have an internal guidance system. The family rules no longer dominate or dictate everything].
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Your child can be a beloved children of God, alive, and well, and led by the Spirit to keep the rules not from the outside in but from the inside out – not because he or she has to but because he or she wants to.
You can parent in the flesh. Or you can parent in the Spirit. Which do you choose? The choice is obvious, right?
If you are going to parent in the Spirit then you have to stay in step with the Spirit. “A Spirit-led parent will have a fruit filled-home,” says Chad Allen.
  • What other section of scripture do you think you could use in a similar way to help you as a parent?
  • Would you take your time to work through a text, write down your thoughts, and apply the truths to your life as a parent?