13 March 2009

First Address: The Great Exchange, Jerry Bridges (PCRT 2009 Sacramento)

by Dan Phillips

We reconvene at 7:00pm for the "First Address," which is given by Jerry Bridges.

Bridges is well-known to all Pyro readers, I'm sure. He is an Alliance Council member and a staff member of The Navigators Collegiate Ministry. In fact, Bridges has been with The Navigators since 1955. You all know his very helpful books on holiness, godliness, grace, trusting God, and other vital aspects of Christian living.

This was more of the nature of a service, with singing (A Mighty Fortress! and hymns I've never heard of!), call to worship, reading of 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 and all - and then, Jerry Bridges.

Bridges opened by saying that 2 Corinthians 5:21 is his favorite verse. It was the foundation for his message.

First: "He knew no sin." This could be said of none of us, but it can be said of Christ. He perfectly obeyed, and knew no sin in word, thought, or deed. 1 Peter 1:22 says he committed no sin, to which Paul and John agree. The greatest testimony, though, is from Jesus' lips. In John 8, Jesus confronts self-righteous Jews and tells them that they are of their father, the Devil. And in that hostile environment, He dares to ask, "Which of you convicts me of sin?" (John 8:46). None could bring a charge that would stick.

Second: "He made to be sin." This truth is under severe attack by so-called evangelicals, which boggles Bridges' mind. See Isaiah 53, another favorite passage — it is the Gospel in the OT. It clearly depicts penal substitution: Christ bore our sin in His own body. 1 Corinthians 15:1ff says Jesus' death for our sins is of the essence of the Gospel.

Why do people evade the plain sense of such passages? Because they bring their presuppositions to the Bible and make it fit, rather than humbling themselves and accepting instruction from God through His word.

In 1962 or 1963, Bridges was serving the Navigators in Holland. Bridges went through some severe personal struggles, and temptations and attacks on top of those ("How can you try to serve, when you're having these temptations?"). Isaiah 53:6 was his lifeline and hope and plea.

Jesus asked if the cup could pass from Him. What was in the cup? Such passages as Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17, 22; and Revelation 14 indicate that it was the cup of the wrath of God. He was going to bear our sins. He'd long known it, and now it loomed. And drink it He did.

The word for that is propitiation, a beautiful and wonderful word. Every first-grader should know it, Bridges insisted. It means to appease. But Jesus did not appease God's anger, He bore it; He exhausted it. It was poured out in full strength on Him.

Third: "so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." As Jesus was not made a sinner in His character and conduct, so neither are we made righteous in character and conduct. That is not Paul's meaning. The exchange is the same. Our sin is transferred and credited to Christ, His righteousness is transferred and credited to us. That is the Great Exchange.

In 1 Peter 1:19, Christ was the lamb without blemish. This harkens back to OT sacrifices, where the lambs which foreshadowed Christ had to be without blemish. Thus He has the perfect righteousness which we need. Everywhere where we failed, Jesus obeyed.

Bridges said to picture a moral ledger sheet with every word, thought, deed and motive entered on that sheet. Most people hope the good will outweigh the bad. The problem is that all of our deeds are stained, all are unclean and impure. There is no such thing as a positive ledger sheet.

Except in the case of Christ. His ledger sheet was perfect. So our ledger sheet was charged to Christ, all our sin; and so His ledger sheet is credited to us.

"Justified" is not "Just as if I'd never sinned." That is a great truth. But the reality is better: "Just as if I'd always obeyed." God has credited the very righteousness of Jesus Christ to every believer.
"Isn't that wonderful? That's the Gospel. That's justification, dear friends."
Dan Phillips's signature


Jonathan Ginn said...

Dan, you may not know me. I am more of a reader of your blog, than a poster/commenter. I was sitting in the front row on the left-hand side when I saw you walk past me, wearing the famous "Pyromaniacs" shirt. It took several moments before it dawned on me that you were the live-blogger for the PCRT 2009 Conference.
I truly enjoyed Bridges' address today. It served as both a reminder and an encouragement of the powerful, foundational doctrine of justification in Christ's atoning work on the cross. I eagerly look forward to the many addresses that shall be given throughout tomorrow.
And perhaps, if circumstances would have it, maybe I will be able to meet you!

Stefan Ewing said...

It seems like it must have been a powerful address—similar in impact or depth, perhaps, to R.C. Sproul's at T4G last year.

His citing of those passages referring to the cup of the wrath of God—as describing the cup that Jesus asked our Father to let pass from Him—has blown me away, quite frankly. Yeah, yeah, I knew it already in an abstract, theological sense, but rereading Psalm 78 in all its vividness:

...It is God who executes judgment,
     putting down one and lifting up another.
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
     with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
     and all the wicked of the earth
     shall drain it down to the dregs.

in light of the knowledge that this is what Christ bore on the Cross for us, out of a love for us that we can never, ever earn or deserve being wholly unrighteous sinners, and all for the glory of God...

Truly, to God alone belong all glory and power and dominion, forever and ever. Amen!

Mike Riccardi said...

When I think about the Gospel, I think about 2 Corinthians 5:21. I know all the "The-Gospel-is-too-small" folks say we're all supposed to think about 1 Corinthians 15 when we think about a bare-bones Gospel, but 2Cor 5 too wonderfully captures that "Great Exchange" that Bridges talks about.

Messages like his and notes like yours cause me to fall to my knees in worship and thanksgiving.

Phil Johnson said...

What an amazing day of liveblogging!

And it's got to be a record day for our blog. That's surely more words than any one of us has ever written for the blog in a single day--including the day we took on the no-lordship antinomians.

And I've gotta make some new graphics. Soon.

Thanks, Dan. I have thoroughly enjoyed the conference. Wish we could have been there.

Instead, Darlene and I are going to see Frank Turk today. Wish you could be here.

DJP said...

Oh, that is so great. I wish I could too. Give each other & wives my love!


(Lots more words to come today)

Strong Tower said...

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."

Too often we under appreciate the work of Christ. Too often our baptism is couched in what we have done and yet need to do. The renewing to walk is a work of the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us that we are his craftmanship, created to do good works, that he works in us both the willing and the doing of his good pleasure, prepared for us before the world began. How then can it fail? Only by denying that it is not finished.

The power of newness of life which we "dedicate ourselves" to, is the same power that "caused us to walk" in his statutes, that same power which raised Christ from the dead and will also give life to our mortal bodies. What a wonder we miss when we do not reckon in Christ's obedience, his life. His resurrection, our regeneration, will produce life in us, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, now. Therefore we make it all the more our goal to live lives pleasing to God.

Baptism is not about us, as Titus shows, it is about Christ and him alone. We understand this thing, that if that is true and we have died with Christ, then we will also live in Christ. That is the magnificence of this Cup: that it not only removed from us the wrath of God, but in doing so restored us to fullness of life. That truth, we should never diminish by placing ourselves into focus in baptism. It is about him, his finished work in securing the promises that will fall to the heirs of promise. How is it we dedictate then, by knowing it is finished and that confidence in him carries us by His Spirit, that even though we are not righteous, we have become the righteouness of God in Christ Jesus.

Nice work Dan.

Lockheed said...

Great message, I really enjoyed it and meeting you there. God bless!