Reflections – The God Who Suffered

Surely he was taking up our weaknesses,
and he was carrying our sufferings.
We thought it was because of God
that he was stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
but it was because of our rebellion that he was pierced.
He was crushed for the guilt our sins deserved.
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:4-5 (EHV)

How often do you have days where you just feel off? Maybe there’s a lingering pain in your back, or your brain feels foggy, or there’s simply a lingering sensation of “something’s just not right” in the back of your mind. I think we’ve all experienced days like this, some of us more frequently than others. When we experience the pain or inconvenience that comes along with being human, it angers us. We feel sorry for ourselves. We feel that we deserve better.

Do we?

The Problem

“So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, so also death spread to all people because all sinned.” – Romans 5:12

We live in a fallen, sinful world. Because of this, things don’t always turn out the way we would like. People hurt one another. Tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes cause destruction. Every so often, a new pandemic claims the lives of thousands and shakes the world economy. But it hasn’t always been this way. This isn’t how God created it to be.

I think there is a tendency for us, if we are honest with ourselves, to claim innocence when it comes to the fall of creation. After all, Adam was the one who got us into this situation, not me. If only he hadn’t acted out in disobedience, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

Yet Adam was given a specific role by God: as the first man, he was the head of the entire human race. In Adam’s fall, the entirety of mankind with him. Whether or not we personally would have committed the same original sin is a moot point: we are bound to him in the fact that we share our human nature with him. We are told that sin entered the world through Adam, but death spread to all of us because all of us sin.

However, this very same principle of headship – the one that caused all mankind to fall – is the same mechanism by which God would choose to redeem us.

Enter Jesus

“For as in Adam they all die, so also in Christ they all will be made alive.”  – 1 Corinthians 15:22

Scripture tells us that Jesus is the second Adam. Jesus was the one who would reverse the curse that Adam had brought upon the world. In order for Jesus to be the second Adam, he had to be a man. Not just in appearance, but in nature. When Jesus became incarnate, he became one with us in our humanity. But therein lies the paradox: humans die. By taking on human flesh, Jesus would also have to die the death of a man.

Jesus is God, but God can’t die.

But God did die, in Jesus.

This is the mystery of all mysteries. All of the other unfathomable aspects of the Christian religion point back towards this one. The notion that the Eternal Creator of the universe could and would die the death of a sinner is foolishness to the world, but it is the foolishness of God. And the foolishness of God is wiser than man.

However, before Jesus could make his atoning sacrifice on the cross, he had to become one with mankind in our sufferings. And I think this part of Jesus’ life is often overlooked: Jesus didn’t only suffer on the cross – every waking moment of his life was spent suffering with us.

In the incarnation, Jesus took on human nature – our sinful human nature – all while being without sin himself. And living in a sinful fallen world has its consequences. Indeed, the Eternal God experienced bug bites and headaches. He felt the sting caused by the death of friends and family. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept because he knew it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Jesus was there in the Garden of Eden before the fall. He understood and experienced the perfect design of God’s creation. He was fully acquainted with a world where death didn’t exist. Every day of his life on this earth was tempered by the knowledge of how far this world had fallen.

Christ in the Wilderness.jpg

And he endured this all that he might redeem humanity from the curse of sin. Jesus’ atoning work was accomplished at the cross, but his redemptive work began long before that: not only did Jesus bear our sins in his death, he also bore our sufferings in his life. As the one who took up our weaknesses, Jesus offers true rest for the broken, sick, weary, and dying.

As we humbly and reverently contemplate the mercy and compassion of Christ this Good Friday, reflect also on the sufferings you experience in this life. Thank God that you are counted worthy to share in the cross of Christ, having been crucified and buried with him in your baptism. Rejoice in your sufferings, knowing that Christ has freed you from them – eternally.

Reflections – Galatians 3:21-24

“Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:21-24)

Have you ever despaired over a certain sin you committed, convinced it was too horrible for God to forgive? Christians shouldn’t go about life doubting God’s ability to forgive, be we certainly should always be contrite and repentant when we sin against God. The Christian life is a constant struggle between our identity in Christ and our sinful nature. Even on our best days, when we put forth every conscious effort to live as Christ lived, we still don’t reach the perfect standard that God has given us in the law. No matter how much we struggle, our sinful thoughts and desires are a part of us until we are taken home to Christ (Romans 7:18-25).

Paul, in his epistles, writes fervently and emphatically about the importance of justification by grace through faith. This is the central doctrine of Christianity, and it is where Christians place all of their hope. The certainty of our salvation does not depend on us. If it did, we certainly would not be able to justify ourselves before God. Rather, our hope of salvation rests on Christ and his saving work. God did this by placing the burden of sin and death on His son, Jesus Christ. As Paul tells Christians in 2 Corinthians 5:21 –

For our sake God made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.


Christ died so that we would be released from our captivity to the law and sin. The law is not a means with which we can justify ourselves. The law’s true purpose is to point us to Christ, as said in Galatians 3:24 above. The ESV translation uses the word “guardian” to describe what the law does for us. The KJV translation uses the word “schoolmaster.” Combining the characteristics of both a guardian and a schoolmaster makes an accurate depiction of the original Greek word used, paidagōgos Strong’s Concordance describes a paidagōgos in this way:

“Among the Greeks and the Romans, [the term paidagōgos] was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood.”


This word gives a very accurate portrayal of how the law works. All humans, because of their sinful nature, are under the strict supervision and oversight of the law. Before one is brought to faith, he is chained to the standards of the law and is condemned before God. In this way, the law shows us what we can never live up to. It shows us how we are not free from the law (and sin) unless Christ has freed us. The law gives us the picture of what Christ’s life and death fulfilled. When we sin, and in turn see how sinful our hearts truly are, the law drives us to repentance and draws our hearts to Christ’s crucifixion.

Ultimately, the gospel of Jesus gets the final word in our salvation. If we think we can justify ourselves through the law, then why did Christ die for us? Paul states this very plainly – “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:21)

When we compare our sinful selves to the perfect standards of the law, we don’t come even close to perfection. But Christ became perfection for us. His perfection has made us heirs to God’s kingdom, for which we wait humbly and faithfully.

Theological Reflections – Romans 13:1-2

The following is an excerpt from my second essay written for my summer theology class on Romans. I hope that by reading this, your knowledge of God would increase, and your faith would grow in His grace.

Links to the sources I used are at the end of the post.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Context and Content

These two verses are Paul’s introduction to his fairly brief exhortation for Christians to remain subject to their government (13:1-14). This portion is part of what is commonly known as the “practical” portion of Romans (12-16), wherein Paul starts by urging Christians to live their lives in service to God. He states specifically in 12:1 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” [NIV 2011] Panning, in his commentary on Romans, gives 13:1-14 the title “Obedience to authorities,” which is a subset of the larger portion spanning 12:1-15:13, entitled “Righteousness practiced.”[1] Paul wishes for the Christians in Rome to reflect on the grace of God written about in chapters 1-11, and to serve both God and men in light of God’s mercies.

Including an exhortation to submit to the government is not an uncommon theme throughout the Pauline Epistles[2], and must have been a point that he commonly wanted to emphasize. It is somewhat striking that Paul writes these words while underneath the rule of a government that was growing increasingly hostile to Christianity. Regarding the nature of Roman government during the writing of Romans, Panning notes:

In the context in which Paul is writing, his directives to the Romans especially include respect for secular government. That is perhaps the more remarkable when we realize that in Paul’s day the civil government of Rome was undoubtedly totally pagan. In fact, if we were right in assuming, as we did in the introduction to this commentary, that this letter to the Romans was written from Corinth in the winter of A.D. 58, then Nero would have been the Roman emperor—hardly a model of kind and benevolent leadership![3]

Paul wanted to make it clear that although all forms of human government are flawed, the ultimate purpose of rulers and authorities is to carry out God’s judgment.[4] Obedience to the authorities put in place by God is also necessary to maintain peace and order in society, something that Christians always strive for. From what scripture teaches about the Church and civil government, it is plainly seen that Christians are subject to two different “kingdoms” during their life on earth. The Church rules over spiritual matters concerning the gospel, and the government rules over civil matters by protecting its citizens and punishing those who do evil.[5] Much can be said about the nature of Church and government and the dangers when one institution assumes authority given only to the other. To put it simply, The Apology of the Augsburg Confession states:

[The distinction between the two kingdoms] can be easily explained if we keep this in mind: The Gospel does not introduce laws about the public state, but it is the forgiveness of sins and the beginning of a new life in the hearts of believers. Besides, the Gospel not only approves outward governments, but also subjects us to them (Romans 13:1).

There exists a fairly clear and obvious caveat in a Christian’s obedience to the government. When a Christian is asked by the authorities to act contrary to God’s Word, he must “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This calls to mind the noble and faithful actions of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found in Daniel 3, who resisted the king’s command to bow down to a false idol, even though they knew their lives were in danger.

Reflection and Application
Obedience to governmental authorities has always been an issue of contention in the United States, going back to the very birth of our country. Regardless of whether or not the rebellion was justified, the United States of America was born from disobedience to England and rebellion against the instituted government. There is a residual spirit of resentment towards authority apparent in society today, where disobedience can often been seen as a noble cause. However, Christians are given a very clear command in Scripture to submit to the government, even to the laws and statutes we don’t necessarily agree with. Whether dealing with local authorities or the Federal Government, we must always remember that they were placed into that position of authority by God himself, and he will always see fit that they carry out his plans for the sake of the gospel. God speaks of his ultimate authority over all creation in Isaiah 55:8-11, emphasizing the point that the gospel will always prevail and accomplish its purpose:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. [ESV]

Christians must also keep in mind that God did not ordain the government to advance to gospel message, as Christians in some Evangelical circles may believe. It is true that the government’s purpose is to punish those who do evil, and we pray that the government’s definition of “evil” would be synonymous with God’s. Some Christians take this too far and advocate the establishment of a “Christian” government that subjects its citizens to certain Christian moral laws. Koehler states in A Summary of Christian Doctrine:

For as the power of the Word was not given to the state, so it the power of the sword not given to the church, papal claims notwithstanding. The church as such has not right to rule land and people, to enact and enforce laws, and to do any of the things that properly belong to the domain of civil government. Christ refused to act as judge and arbiter in a civil suit (Luke 12:13-14); His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). There is no scriptural reason for a church state, even as there is no scriptural reason for a state church. Wherever a church state or a state church exists, they exist not by the will of God but by the will of people. It is the mark of the antichrist to claim supremacy over all civil authorities (2 Thessalonians 2:4).[6]

To briefly summarize this notion, we recognize that the government has been put in place to carry out justice in society, whose laws are often aligned with God’s moral law which has been instilled in the hearts of men. (Rom 2:15) It is good and right for the authorities to punish those who do evil and reward those who do good. It is not correct, however, for the government to have control over spiritual matters or the advancement of the gospel. While God certainly does use these human institutions for his purposes, he has solely commissioned his Church to make the gospel known to all nations. (Mt 28:19-20)

[1] Panning, Armin J. Romans. St. Louis: Concordia, 2000. 8-9.
[2] See Ti 3:1, 1 Tm 2:1-2
[3] Panning, Armin J. Romans. St. Louis: Concordia, 2000. 212.
[4] Hoerber, Robert G., ed. Concordia Self-Study Bible. New International Version. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 1986. 1737. (See notes for 13:1)
[5] McCain, Paul Timothy. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord. 2nd ed. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 2006. 194-195. (Apology, Article XVI)
[6] Koehler, Edward W. A. A Summary of Christian Doctrine; a Popular Presentation of the Teachings of the Bible. 3rd Rev. ed. St. Louis: Concordia, 1971. 380-381.