Summary Notes for “Concise Theology” by J.I. Packer

Part 2concise-theology-a-guide-to-historic-christian-beliefs of 3

SECTION TWO: God revealed as Redeemer

Dr. Packer sums up the fall with the breaking of the covenant God made with Adam in the Garden.  The apostle Paul gives us the authoritative interpretation of Genesis throughout his inspired writings.  This original sin has passed onto all of humanity by Adam and is the universal “moral deformity” affecting our “thoughts, motives and desires.”  Sin is the lack of conformity to the will of God and we are born with a “motivationally twisted” heart making us totally unable, before we actually perform sin, to act outside of our fallen nature.

Free will is spoken of in two senses by Augustine, Luther and Calvin; “trivial” and “important.”  Dr. Packer writes that we are always to use free agency for the first sense.  Human beings are free agents making decisions based on the natural inclinations of the heart.  We are free to act within our nature answering to God for the choices we make.  These choices are voluntary.  “Free will, however, has been defined by Christian teachers from the second century on as the ability to choose all the moral options that a situation offers, and Augustine affirmed against Pelagius and most of the Greek Fathers that original sin has robbed us of free will in this sense.”  Due to original sin we have lost the ability to choose the good, to choose what is pleasing to God and conform to His will until an act of grace is perform within the heart of the individual giving them a new heart and new inclinations.  “I am the morally responsible free agency; I am the slave of sin whom Christ must liberate; I am the fallen being who only have it in me to choose against God till God renews my heart.”

The scriptures teach that a covenant is a binding “agreements, negotiated or unilaterally imposed,” and when God makes a covenant He alone determines its conditions.  The covenants made in pervious times set forth in types and shadows find their ultimate fulfilment in Jesus Christ.  All covenants are based on the Eternal Covenant (Heb. 13:20) made before time in the godhead and brings total redemption to members of the covenant community.

Man was made to live according to the Law of God but due to the fall we are in a state of rebellion against that Law.  The Decalogue is a summation of the moral Law binding on all mankind and teaches our duty to God and man.  Dr. Packer outlines the Law in Action by its traditionally defined threefold use.  It first shows us our sinfulness in light of the character of God, it restrains evil and guides the Christian into good works.  We are free from Law in one sense but under Law as a rule of life.  The Law works in the conscience of mankind.  The conscience is a faculty of the mind that gives us a sense of right and wrong and we then decide “whether or not to heed” what we sense our conscience is telling us.  It is written on our hearts (Rom. 2) and “Because of its insistence on judging us by the highest standard we know, we call it God’s voice in the soul, and to that extent so it is.”  This voice of God must be informed and educated in scripture.  It is through the shed blood of Christ that our conscience is made clean and we enter into communion with God.

Believers worship God as a response to what He has revealed about Himself to us.  Being amazed in worship and learning from His word is pleasing to God.  The basis for all worship is found in the covenant relation we have with God and the pattern of worship revealed in scripture.

Prophets were called by God to proclaim His oracles to His covenant people which included forth-telling and foretelling the future.

Jesus Christ is both truly divine and truly man.  He is the incarnation of God in the flesh.  Arianism began to teach that Christ was of the same “substance” with the father the church rallied to proclaim a distinction between Father and Son within the divine unity.  (Council of Nicaea)  Soon another false teaching was encountered by the church called Nestorianism.  Nestors followers taught that Christ had two distinct personalities, one of God and they other man.  Eutychianism suggested Jesus’ “divinity had swallowed up his humanity.”  The church rejected both ideas as false and proclaimed Christ is “one divine-human person in two natures.”  The two natures of Christ are allowed Him to fully experience all the pleasures, pain and uncertainties of human life assuring us that we have a saviour who understands our weaknesses and needs.  “Saying this does not contradict divine impassibility, for impassibility means not that God never experiences distress but that what he experiences, distress included, is experienced at his own will and by his own foreordaining decision.”  Dr. Packer explains in the following chapters how the Virgin Birth was accepted by most Christians, until liberalism challenged miracles in the 19th century, and is entirely consistent with the rest of the New Testament.

“Jesus was Son of God incarnate, and his teaching, given him by his Father (John 7:16-18; 12:49-50), will stand forever (Mark 13:31) and finally judge its hearers (John 12:48; Matt. 7:24-27).”  In Christ’s we find three theological teachings, the fulfilment of kingdom of God, the redemption of His people and how we now shall live as the redeemed.

Jesus’ sinlessness qualified Him to be the spotless lamb who died to take away our sins.  He was tempted as we are but had no inclination to fall and loved His Fathers Law and followed it wholeheartedly.  Christ’s whole life, His active and passive obedience, “secure the pardon and acceptance of those who put their faith in him…”  The second person in the divine Trinity, Christ showed obedience in relation to God the Father, in two stages: humiliation and exaltation.  By showing true humility unto death the Father exalted Him.

The vocation of Christ in relation to the Trinity is found in His baptism where he is identified with sinners and fulfils all of God’s requirements for righteousness.  The transfiguration revealed again His divinity and “it was a momentary transition from the concealing of his divine glory that marked his days on earth to the revealing of that glory when he returns and we see him as he is.”

The resurrection of Christ is distantly Triune.  The physical body was not just raised but renewed and raised in glory.  Jesus Christ raising from the dead is central to the Christian message.  “Jesus’ resurrection demonstrated his victory over death (Acts 2:24; 1 Cor. 15:54-57), vindicated him as righteous (John 16:10), and indicated his divine identity (Rom. 1:4). It led on to his ascension and enthronement (Acts 1:9-11; 2:34; Phil. 2:9-11; cf. Isa. 53:10-12) and his present heavenly reign. It guarantees the believer’s present forgiveness and justification (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:17) and is the basis of resurrection life in Christ for the believer here and now (John 11:25-26; Rom. 6; Eph. 1:18-2:10; Col. 2:9-15; 3:1-4).”  The ascension affirms the lordship of Christ, ascendancy, spiritual omnipresence and His heavenly role as intercessor.

Christ’s ruling or session is His active rule over and among His people from the right hand of the Father.  The Kingdom of God is found in the church where Christ’s rules over His people directly, but also in the state, where He uses secular means to maintain peace and order.

The mediation of Christ was initiated by the Father to draw God hating sinners to Himself, reconciling and satisfying the justice of God for our transgressions.  It is because of His sacrifice our relationship is now restored and covers all our sin.  This act of God leads to our definite redemption.  Christ died to save and not make men savable.  What Christ did on the cross for His people results in the perfection of them for whom it was offered.



Author: jm

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