Psalm 110 Three Portraits of the Messiah

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Jesus had many debates with the Pharisees, who were always seeking to entangle him in his answers, so that they would have an excuse to silence him.  The debate often centred around the Old Testament – the whole OT pointed to Jesus’ work (see Luke 24:27).  In Matthew 24:41ff the debate concerns Psalm 110, one of the most clearly messianic of the psalms, most often quoted in the NT.  We consider Psalm 110 Three Portraits of the Messiah.

1. The Messiah as King (v1-2)

Though most of the psalms first refer to the psalmist’s own day, this psalm is different.  ‘The Lord says’ (v1) – the words of God revealed to David by the Holy Spirit.  This is a solemn authoritative utterance of God regarding the Messiah.  Note:

  • His dignity: ‘Sit at my right hand’ – the place of highest honour, sharing the glory of the ruler.  The Father is addressing the Son.  The NT shows the fulfilment of these words in the exaltation of Christ after his resurrection.  Peter quotes the verse on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:36).  The eternal Son always possessed such dignity, but now he has it as the God-man, the incarnate Son, the Mediator, as a result of the work of redemption.
  • His dominion: The Son reigns with the Father – ‘until I make your enemies a footstool’.  The Father rules through the Son and so the Messiah’s dominion is universal (Matthew 28:18).  Note John’s vision of the final state – he sees ‘the throne of God and of the Lamb’ (Revelation 22:1).  ‘He must reign’ (1 Corinthians 15:25) – none can frustrate him.

2. The Messiah as Priest (v3-4)

This King often executes his rule through his people.  He requires obedient servants and the provision of a people is bound up with the Messiah’s priestly work.  Note:

  • His work: ‘You are a priest for ever’ (v4).  He has the task of making a unique sin offering, with himself as the sacrifice (Hebrews 9:14).  He holds a unique priesthood, not Aaronic but ‘in the order of Melchizedek’.  He sits because his offering is complete, but his priestly work continues as he draws sinners to salvation and intercedes for them (Hebrews 7:25).  ‘The Lord has sworn’ – there is no possibility of failure.
  • His people: The result of Christ’s work is a redeemed people (v3).  As the Spirit imparts new life, they are made willing (there are various ways to translate v3).  They are ‘a free-will offering’, giving themselves entirely to the Messiah.  By grace they are holy people and are like ‘dew’ – continually refreshed and renewed to be like the Lord.

3. The Messiah as Judge (v5-7)

Father and Son work together (v5) – the right hand now is the place of power, action, help and support.  As Judge the Messiah pours out ‘wrath’ – enemies are called to account for refusing to submit to him.  There is no contradiction between the love of Christ and his holy judgment on the unrepentant.  All must appear before him (2 Corinthians 5:10).  There is no doubt about the Messiah’s total victory.  God’s holiness will be vindicated.  Even nations and rulers will be judged (v6).  Christ is always fresh for the battle – lifting his head (v7).  He is sure of final victory and every knee will bow to him (Philippians 2:10).

1 Corinthians 1:2 Biblical holiness

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The Bible often speaks about holiness.  God makes his people holy; God expects his people to be holy (see 1 Peter 1:15 and many other verses).  But among Christians there is confusion: some passages seem to say we are holy, whilst others seem to say we must become holy.  How can we reconcile these two views?  As always, we need to pay close attention to what the Word of God says.  Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:2 Biblical holiness

1. The gift of holiness

Note the description ‘those sanctified in Christ Jesus’ – the verb tense shows this is a single completed event in the past.  (Paul addresses the Corinthians on the basis of what they profess to be – although later it is clear some are hypocrites).  It is crucial to see how this sanctification has taken place – it is ‘in Christ Jesus’.  It is a consequence of the believer’s union with Christ, as set out in Galatians 2:20 and at greater length in Romans 6.  The Christian life can be described as a dying and rising spiritual with Christ.  This is clearly spiritual, not physical – Paul is saying that the life, death and resurrection of Christ are in a profound sense reproduced in the experience of believers.  We benefit from what Christ has done for us as our representative.  It is as if we lived that life of perfect obedience to God’s law, died that death on the cross and rose to new life.  We benefit from what he has accomplished (2 Corinthians 5:21) on our behalf.  The result is twofold:

  • Our standing in the sight of God is transformed.  Once we were ‘children of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:3), now we are ‘sanctified’, set apart for God as holy.  This relates to our legal standing before the holy Judge.  The Judge declares us ‘righteous’ (‘justified’ Romans 5:1).  This is possible because God imputes the work of Christ to believers (Romans 5:17).  We stand as holy in the court of heaven and are ‘sanctified’.
  • Our bondage to sin is broken.  Our slavery to sin and Satan is broken once for all.  This too is God’s gift.  We are not sinless (see 1 John 1:8) but at conversion the bondage of sin is broken and we are set free from the prison of sin – ‘sin shall not be your master’ (Romans 6:14).  This is ‘definitive sanctification’ true of every Christian.

2. The pursuit of holiness

We read in Hebrews 12:14 ‘Strive…for the holiness without which no-one will see the Lord’ (ESV).  This is an unequivocal command, as is 1 Peter 1:16 ‘be holy’.  The holiness of the Lord as separation from all sin is to be reproduced in his people.  Thus the imputed holiness that changes our status before God is to be matched by acquired holiness that changes our lives and conduct.  We are to become in daily living what we already are in terms of our spiritual status.  This too is dependent on our union with Christ.  As the fruit of that union we have all the necessary resources for growth in holiness: ‘His divine power has given us all we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him’ (2 Peter 1:3).  All the means of grace we need have been provided – the Word. prayer, fellowship, the sacraments, even trials.  These must be used faithfully and in reliance on the Spirit’s blessing.  We live in this world united to Christ – ‘in Corinth…in Christ Jesus’.  We pursue holiness in this present world.

1 Peter 5:10-11 The God of all grace

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The Lord never promised that the Christian life would be easy – he warned his people that it would be tough (John 16:33).  One of those who heard Jesus’ warning was Peter.  In 1 Peter he warns of the devil’s hostility (5:8) and earlier refers to ‘the fiery trial’ (4:12 ESV).  Though these are fearful things, the Christian need not feel overwhelmed.  We consider the encouragement offered in 1 Peter 5:10-11 The God of all grace.

1. The gracious call

The starting point must not be our experience but the truth about God.  The reference to ‘the God of all grace’ is crucial.  ‘Grace’ is freely-given favour to those who deserve condemnation.  Grace is closely linked to the love of God, a demonstration that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:16) and ‘all grace’ covers every conceivable form of favour to undeserving sinners.  God is the possessor and source of ‘all grace’, and is also the giver of it.  This God ‘called you to his eternal glory in Christ’.  The call is his sovereign, effectual call brought home to the heart by the Holy Spirit which conveys new life and always results in faith and repentance.  It is all ‘in Christ’ – designed to unite us to him.  We were ‘chosen in him before the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:4).  Salvation’s goal is ‘his eternal glory’ – we will share the glory that Peter glimpsed at the transfiguration (2 Peter 1:17-18).  We will be fully ‘transformed into his likeness’ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

2. The limited suffering

Peter introduces what may seem a jarring note – ‘after you have suffered a little while’.  God’s call and the prospect of glory do not mean for Christians a life free from suffering.  Jesus warned of ‘tribulation’ (John 16:33).  Christians face the same trials as others (illness, loss, etc), and also the spiritual battles that result from our belonging to Christ.  These, however, are for ‘a little while’ – limited by the sovereignty of God.  Our times are in his hands (Psalm 31:15) and glory will ultimately be revealed in all believers (Romans 8:18).

3. The full restoration

Beyond the suffering, God ‘will himself restore you’.  The word is used of a doctor setting a broken bone and of fishermen repairing nets.  God repairs what is broken in us and restores us to useful service.  The work of the Holy Spirit is to restore us so that we reflect the likeness of Christ, reversing the damage dome by sin.  The Lord will ‘confirm, strengthen and establish you’ – as we use the means of grace he provides, we have a solid foundation for life.  Even suffering leads to growth when received in the right way (Romans 5:3) – a big challenge to us.

4. The hearty praise

It is appropriate in the light of all that Peter has said that he ends with praise.  It is essential that our whole spiritual life is God-centred – ‘to him be the power for ever and ever’ – A heart acknowledgment of what he possesses.  God is able to do all he plans for us.  We have assurance of the certainty of salvation.  ‘Amen’ – ‘so be it’ – is the voice of faith.