Monday, November 03, 2008

Eulogy for My Dad -- God Finally Rest His Soul (or, the hardest day of his and my life)

An extended version can be found HERE

“O’ Sweet Exchange”

I love the smell of Scripture. It even smells like grace. In fact, we have a smell to, 2nd Corinthians 2:15 says that “because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God.” We are truly a new creation, even down to our aroma! And I have seen Pastor Andre after he has worked on one of his tanks, so I am sure this substitution of aroma wrought by Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary is much appreciated by him.

Many of you probably know by now that I am Ron’s son. I will always be his boy, but am nonetheless a man with my own family. And the very recent passing of my father got me thinking about our lives and the promises we have in scripture in regards to our eternal security. Now let me confess that there is no “holy theology.” Man is corrupt from the inside out and we tend to corrupt most things we touch, even the plain and simple promises of the Word. All one has to do is study church history or read the letters to the churches to get a good grasp at how quickly we can goof things up. One example is found in Galatians 1:6 where the apostle Paul admonishes the church in Galatia when he says: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.” Another version reads, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” Yet another version says the apostle was amazed. Why amazed? Paul was writing the Galatians in A.D. 49, a church he founded on his first missionary journey only three years earlier.

You see, we tend to corrupt things quickly and efficiently, and it takes the Holy Spirit daily infecting our lives through the Word of God and the body of Christ to keep us focused on the goal that Paul says we are to strive for. My father had a clear understanding of this goal and I have no doubt he is present with the Lord because he is definitely absent from his body. My goal here then is not to mourn his gain, that would be futile. My goal is to bring a deeper understanding to something he struggled with here that may offer some clarity in your own walk.

You see, we do not see as clearly as my father now does for he has lived on both sides of 1 Corinthians 13:12, which the Message translates thusly: “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

My father see’s as he was once seen. He fully realizes the cost for his soul that Christ suffered on the Cross for, which we still only dimly see. Isaiah speaks to this in chapter 53:4-5: “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Matthew Henry (my Dad’s favorite Commentary) says of Isaiah 53 that,

Sin is not only a crime, for which we were condemned to die and which Christ purchased for us the pardon of, but it is a disease, which tends directly to the death of our souls and which Christ provided for the cure of. By his stripes (that is, the sufferings he underwent) he purchased for us the Spirit and grace of God to mortify our corruptions, which are the distempers of our souls, and to put our souls in a good state of health, that they may be fit to serve God and prepared to enjoy him.

Bible scholars John Walvoord and Roy Zuck comment that Isaiah here “refers to illnesses of the soul. His healing many people’s physical illnesses (though not all of them) in His earthly ministry anticipated His greater work on the Cross. Though He does heal physical ailments today (though not all of them) His greater work is healing souls, giving salvation from sin.” 1 Peter 2:24 & 25 sheds some light on this promise:

who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Walvoord and Zuck make mention that this verse “does not refer to physical healing for the verb’s past tense indicates completed action, the “healing” is an accomplished fact. The reference is to salvation. Christ’s suffering and death accomplished ‘healing,’ the salvation of every individual who trusts Him as his Savior.” They continue:

1. The apostle Paul couldn’t heal Timothy’s stomach problem (1 Tim. 5:23);
2. nor could he heal Trophimus trof-i-mus at Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20)
3. or Epaphroditus ee-paf-ro-DAI-tuhs (Phil. 2:25–27).
4. Paul spoke of “a bodily illness” he had (Gal. 4:13–15).
5. He also suffered a “thorn in the flesh” which God allowed him to retain (2 Cor. 12:7–9).
6. God certainly allowed Job to go through a time of physical suffering (Job 1–2).

In none of these cases is it stated that the sickness was caused by sin or unbelief. Nor did Paul or any of the others act as if they thought their healing was guaranteed in the atonement. They accepted their situations and trusted in God’s grace for sustenance.

It must be noted as well that on two occasions Jesus said that sickness could be for the glory of God (John 9:3; 11:4).

Other Scriptures as well reveal that our physical bodies are continuously running down and suffering various ailments. Our present bodies are said to be perishable and weak (1 Cor. 15:42–44). Paul said “our outer man is decaying” (2 Cor. 4:16). Death and disease will be a part of the human condition until that time when we receive resurrection bodies that are immune to such frailties (1 Cor. 15:51–55).

Going back though to Isaiah 53, let us suppose that these verses did teach the panacea or elixir of physical healing some claim it does. This interpretation carries an unwelcome corollary. That is… If healing is in the atonement and is accessed by faith, then those who die due to lack of faith must remain in their sins. They die without hope. Why? Because if both healing and salvation are included in this passage, they must be accessed in the same way. And if one does not have enough faith to make oneself well, it follows that he cannot have enough faith to be saved.

This logical conclusion of faith teachers I reject of course, but I reject it based on Scripture telling us in Romans 8:22-25 that:

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

The Message Bible paraphrases these verses thus:

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

This healthy-well-balanced understanding of Scripture and the atonement led famous hymnist Thomas Chisholm (1866-1960) to pen this song about Isaiah 53:

Verse 1
He was wounded for our transgressions,
He bore our sins in His body on the tree;
For our guilt He gave us peace,
From our bondage gave release,
And with His stripes,
And with His stripes,
And with His stripes our souls are healed.

Verse 2
He was numbered among transgressors,
We did esteem Him forsaken by His God;
As our sacrifice He died,
That the law be satisfied,
And all our sin,
And all our sin,
And all our sin was laid on Him.

Verse 3
We had wandered, we all had wandered
Far from the fold of the Shepherd of the sheep;
But He sought us where we were,
On the mountains bleak and bare,
And brought us home,
And brought us home,
And brought us safely home to God.

Verse 4
Who can number His generation?
Who shall declare all the triumphs of His Cross?
Millions, dead, now live again,
Myriads follow in His train!
Victorious Lord,
Victorious Lord,
Victorious Lord and coming King!

D.A. Carson concludes that the meaning of Isaiah 53 “grows in clarity through these verses: the pain Christ is bearing in verse 4 is ours; it is the punishment of sin in verse 5a; it is the price of salvation in 5b.” Warren Wiersp takes notice that to say there is “healing in the Atonement,” and that every believer has the “right” to claim it, is to misinterpret Scripture. He goes on to say of 1st Peter 2:24 that “God is not obligated to heal all sicknesses. He is obligated, however, to save all sinners who call on Him.” It is this obligation of salvation of the man and healing of the soul that my father did take God up on, I hope you will as well.

End of “O’ Sweet Exchange”

At the end of others talking about my father, I had a recording of my father which he apparently recorded on accident during one of his church services on his camcorder. With some help from Pastor Russ from my church the two video files were joined into one audio file. This posthumous find is a very special find and was equally so at the end of the service… enjoy: