Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: Jesus, Our Man in Glory

Jesus, Our Man in Glory: 12 Messages from the Book of Hebrews. A.W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith. 1987. Christian Publications. 136 pages.

Have you heard any sermons lately on the Bible truth that our risen Savior and Lord is now our glorified Man and Mediator? That He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavenlies? 

Jesus, Our Man In Glory is my first Tozer book, but it won't be my last. I already have plans to read at least two others. The book is a collection of Tozer sermons compiled and edited by Gerald B. Smith. (A.W. Tozer died in 1963.) These twelve sermons come from Tozer's teachings on the book of Hebrews. (Since finishing this one, I've learned that there are two more Tozer books about the book of Hebrews. One is Jesus, Author of Our Faith. The second is Experiencing the Presence of God.)

While I know not every reader will care to sneak a peek at the table of contents, I am not every reader. I find the table of contents of Christian nonfiction books very interesting. They often help me make a decision about a book.

  • Jesus, Our Man in Glory
  • Jesus, God's Final Revelation
  • Jesus, Heir of All Things
  • Jesus, God's Express Image
  • Jesus, Lord of the Angels
  • Jesus, Standard of Righteousness
  • Jesus, the Eternal Word
  • Jesus, Keeper of God's Promises
  • Jesus, Like Unto Melchizedek
  • Jesus, One Face of One God
  • Jesus, Mediator of the New Will
  • Jesus, Fulfillment of the Shadow

I found this to be a rich and insightful book. Tozer's style is passionate and straight-forward. His enthusiasm for the Lord, his enthusiasm for the Word of God, is contagious. His message is straight-forward and relevant. His urgings to the readers is heartfelt. He wants his readers to get it, he really wants his readers to understand what the Bible is all about. In this case, he wants readers to get Hebrews, to really, truly understand what this book of the Bible is saying. And since Hebrews is one of the most difficult books of the New Testament to understand--at least casually reading it without much attention or much study--this book is very needed. (What do you think? Do you find Hebrews harder to understand than most of the other books in the New Testament?)

The good news: I found so many passages that are quote-worthy! I found so many passages that spoke to me.

The bad news: There were a handful of passages that concerned me. Just a few paragraphs sprinkled here and there that made me question his theology a little bit. The passage that concerns me most is in the  last few pages. It sounds as if he's mistaken justification and sanctification. But these are doctrinal issues that divide denomination from denomination, not issues that divide Christian from non-Christian.

Here's the passage in question:
In many church circles today we are hearing about the "automatic" qualities attached to Christianity. A whole generation is being taught that a profession of faith in Christ brings automatic righteousness, automatic standing with God, automatic pardon and automatic eternal life. "Jesus has done everything that needs to be done," goes the argument, "all you have to do is say you believe. Believe and be justified! Believe and be accepted as righteous!"
This idea of automatically transferring the sinner's guilt to Christ is a little too pat to please my heart. The commonly held idea seems to be that I can be as vile as the inside of a green, mucky sewer, but if and when I believe, the Lord drops a mantle of judicial righteousness upon me and immediately I am accepted by God as perfectly pure. It is my conclusion that a holy God would have to contradict Himself to perform a transaction like that.
How does God justify a sinful person? He does so by taking the sinner's nature into Christ, who is the perfect, righteous One. His righteousness, in turn, goes to the sinner. Some teachers will argue for the judicial impartation of righteousness alone. But when by faith the sinner's nature is taken into the very nature of Christ, His righteousness becomes a part of the former sinner's nature.
Let me say it another way. I doubt very much that there is any such thing in the mind of God as justification without regeneration- new God-life imparted to the sinner. It is regeneration that unites us to the nature of Jesus. Jesus being righteous imparts new God-life from His own nature to us, and God is satisfied.
In that sense, the idea of the transfer of guilt is accurate. But we carry the concept too far until it becomes a plainly mechanical thing, like a commercial transaction. There must be a vital, living commitment. Righteousness is imparted to the believing sinner who is united to Christ. It is not imparted to the sinner who simply stands outside and receives a judicial notification that he has been "made righteous."
This adds some important light. As believers, we are accepted in the beloved Son. We can never be accepted out of the beloved Son. (133-134)
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he could merely be saying that faith without works is dead, that if someone who has at one time or another professed the faith fails to live a new life, fails to live a Spirit-filled life, a life committed to following God and doing God's work in the world, then that profession is not a saving one. That people should not assume that they are saved because they prayed a little prayer back in the day. That you should examine yourself to see if you are in fact in the faith. If he's merely warning against "easy believism" as MacArthur would say decades later, then perhaps those statements aren't so dangerous after all. Of course, if you don't give Tozer the benefit of the doubt, then who knows exactly what he's saying or not saying.

For the record, I believe that regeneration and justification are instantaneous at the moment of belief. When we first look to Jesus, we are saved, we are both justified and made new. We've been given a new Spirit, a new life. We've been "born again" or "born in the Spirit." And living by the Spirit and through the Spirit, our lives will change. Our lives and loves will change. Justification isn't a process or a journey. Justification is not the process by which we are made holy. That is sanctification. The process of being made holy, being remade by God, through God, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, decade by decade. Sanctification is an ongoing, never-ending process that does not stop until the grave. We will always be "in the process" of being transformed and renewed by God. We will always be "working" on being made holy. Because this is a struggle, this isn't instantaneous. Justification, on the other hand, is us being declared righteous by God because he is crediting Christ's righteousness to us. It is Christ's righteousness that saves us, that justifies us. God is not waiting for us to earn our own righteousness, to work out our own righteousness. Our good works cannot save us. No "good work" that we do can add to Christ's perfection. Christ's work done on our behalf is enough. In that sense, "it is finished." But that doesn't mean that God doesn't call us to do good works of our own. It doesn't mean that we're not to obey Christ. It doesn't mean that we're not to try to be holy because he is holy. We're told to be holy, to strive to have the mind of Christ, to bear fruit, to do the work of Christ on this earth. But it isn't our striving to attain perfection that saves us.

Conclusion: Like with ANY christian nonfiction book, it's best to read everything in light of Scripture, and to judge passages individually for soundness. Be discerning. But don't be too quick to judge either. It may be a matter that could easily be cleared up if you were just able to sit down and talk with a person and find out what they really meant. Of course, that won't always be the case, and won't always be possible!

My favorite quotes:

We must acknowledge that God's concept of the priesthood arose from man's alienation from God. It is based on the fact that man has strayed from God and is lost. This is a fundamental part of truth, just as surely as hydrogen is a part of water. You cannot have water without hydrogen. Just as surely, you cannot have Bible truth without the teaching that mankind has broken with God and fallen from his first created estate, where he was made in God's image.
God's concept and instructions are very plain. There has been a moral breach. Sinning man has violated the laws of God. In other words, man is a moral criminal before the bar of God. It is clear from the Bible that a sinful man or woman cannot return to God's favor and fellowship until justice is satisfied, until the breach is healed.
In an effort to heal the breach, man has used many subtleties and rationalizations. But if he rejects the cross of Christ, if he rejects God's plan of salvation, if he rejects Christ's death and resurrection as the basis for atonement, there is no remaining ground for redemption. Reconciliation is an impossibility. (7)

I have always felt that when we read and study the Word of God we should have great expectations. We should ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the Person, the glory and the eternal ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps our problem is in our approach. Perhaps we have simply read our Bibles as we might read a piece of literature or a textbook. (17)

In Jesus' death for our sins, God is offering far more than escape from a much-deserved hell. God is promising us an amazing future, an eternal future. We do not see it and understand it as we should because so much is wrong with our world. The effects of sin are all around us. The eternal purposes of God lie out yonder. I often wonder if we are making it plain enough to our generation that there will be no other revelation from God except as He speaks it through our Lord Jesus Christ. If we have ever confessed that we need a Savior, this letter to the Hebrews should be an arresting, compelling book for us. It is a great book of redemption with an emphasis that all things in our lives must begin and end in God. (18)

There is not a man or woman anywhere who can hold an adequate view of our human nature until he or she accepts the fact that we came from God and that we shall return to God again. (24)

Jesus Christ is God creating. Jesus Christ is God redeeming. Jesus Christ is God completing and harmonizing. Jesus Christ is God bringing together all things after the counsel of His own will. (29)

It is the character of God that is the glory of God. God is not glorified until men and women think gloriously of Him. Yet it is not what people think of God that matters. God once dwelt in light which no one could approach. But He desired to speak, to express Himself. So He created the heavens and the earth, filling earth with His creatures, including mankind. He expected man to respond to that in Him which is glorious, admirable, and excellent.
That response from His creation in love and worship is His glory. When we say that Christ is the radiance of God's glory, we are saying that Christ is the shining forth of all that God is. Yes, He is the shining forth, the effulgence. When God expressed Himself, it was in Christ Jesus. Christ was all and in all. He is the exact representation of God's person. (39)

I am convinced that a committed Christian will show a zealous concern for the cause of Christ. He or she will live daily with a set of spiritual convictions taken from the Bible. He or she will be one of the toughest to move--along with a God-given humility--in his or her stand for Christ. Why, then, have Christian ministers so largely departed from exhortations to love righteousness with a great overwhelming love, and to hate iniquity with a deep, compelling revulsion? (66)

People remark how favored the church is in this country. It does not have to face persecution and rejection. If the truth were known, our freedom from persecution is because we have taken the easy, the popular way. If we would love righteousness until it became an overpowering passion, if we would renounce everything that is evil, our day of popularity and pleasantness would quickly end. The world would turn on us. (66)

Go to God's Word and you will find that sin is the most pressing, the most compelling, the most imperative problem in human life and society. The most pressing problem is not sickness. It is not war. It is not poverty. Sin is the basic problem because sin has to do with a person's soul. Sin does not relate merely to a person's short years on this earth. It involves that person's eternal future and the world to come. (74)

It is Christ's unfailing intercession that makes it possible for us to tell each other that we believe in the security of the saints of God. No matter how weak we may be, we are kept because Jesus Christ is our eternal High Priest in the heavens. (99)

A person cannot be a Christian and deny that the living God has revealed Himself to our sinful race as the sovereign Father, the eternal Son, and the faithful Spirit. (103)

None of us can ever be fully pleasing to God if we are not willing to be well taught in His Word. (104)

Christ, being God, is for us. The Father, being God, is for us. The Holy Spirit, being God, is for us! That is one of the greatest thoughts we can ever hope to think. That is why the Son came to die for us. That is why the risen Son, our great High Priest, is at the right hand of the Majesty on high, praying for us. Christ is our advocate above. The Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts is the advocate within. There is no disagreement between Father, Son, and Spirit about the church, the body of Christ. (108)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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