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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 4

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 4

By John Piper - Copyright 2003 by Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org, published by Multnomah Books

A Study Guide prepared by Milt Reynolds

Part 1: Introduction...How I became a Christian Hedonist (page 7)

Part 2: The Happiness of God

Part 3: The Goal of God in Redemptive History (page 308)

Part 4: God Delights in His Glory (page 41)

What do you think? Cite an event from the Bible that obviously shows God acting for the sake of His own glory, or His Name's sake.

A brief survey of the high points of redemptive history supports the conclusion that God's own glory is uppermost in His own affections. He puts a greater value on His own glory than on anything else. He delights in His glory above all things.

God's glory is His infinite greatness and worth. It could be a bright and awesome radiance sometimes seen, or the infinite moral excellence of His character.

God loves His glory infinitely. He loves Himself infinitely. He Himself is uppermost in His own affections.

God would be unrighteous (just as we would) if He valued anything more than what is supremely valuable. But He Himself is supremely valuable. If He did not take infinite delight in the worth of His own glory, He would be unrighteous.

God Delights in the Glory of His Son (page 43)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 (ESV)

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily... Colossians 2:9 (ESV)

If God loves His glory infinitely, the Son of God is Himself God, so God delights in the Glory of Jesus.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature... Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)

When the Father looks at Jesus, He sees the exact representation of Himself. Jesus is the perfect reflection of God's glory.

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:24-26 (ESV)

God delights in His Son's glory.

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Matthew 3:17 (ESV)

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights...Isaiah 42:1 (ESV)

Is God for Us or for Himself? (page 44)

If God is so utterly enamored of His own glory, how can He be a God of love? How can we have any hope that He will do anything for our sake? Doesn't Paul say that love "does not seek its own"?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way... (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (ESV)

The answer to this question forms the great foundation for Christian Hedonism.

Is God Vain or Loving to Command our Praise? (page 45)

God commands us to praise Him because this is the ultimate goal of all He does:

...to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed." 2 Thessalonians 1:10 (ESV)

Three times in his letter to the Ephesians Paul proclaims God's glory or glorious grace:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-12 (ESV)

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV)

The climax of God's happiness is the delight He takes in the echoes of His excellence in the praises of the saints.

But many people stumble over this truth. People do not like to hear that God is uppermost in His own affections, or that He does all things for His own glory or that He exalts Himself and seeks our praise. Why?

We don't like people who exalt themselves - the Bible teaches us not to exalt ourselves

Is God a Second-Hander? (page 46)

Inauthentic people are called "second-handers". They live for the compliments of others. It seems they need to shore up their weaknesses and compensate for their deficiencies by trying to get compliments.

We know, however, that God is not weak.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. Romans 11:36 (ESV)

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24-25 (ESV)

But how can God be loving and yet be utterly devoted to seeking His own glory? The Bible teaches that we are not to seek our own (1 Corinthians 13:5).

The answer is that the rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator. If God should turn away fro Himself as the Source of infinite joy, He would deny the infinite worth of His own glory...He would imply that there is something more valuable outside Himself...He would commit idolatry.

Consider this question: What could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself!

A Great Discovery: "Reflections on the Psalms", by C. S. Lewis

But the most obvious fact about praise---whether of God or any thing---strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it.

The world rings with praise---lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game---praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least...

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.

Source: "Relections on the Psalms", C. S. Lewis (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1958), 93-5.

There is the solution! We praise what we enjoy because the delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise.

God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking His own praise is the ultimately loving act. When He does all things for the praise of His glory, He offers to us the only thing in all the world that can satisfy our longings.

What do you think? Piper writes, Because God is unique as an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, He must be for Himself if He is to be for us. Restate each part of this sentence in your own words in a way that both makes sense to you and genuinely reflects Piper's intended meaning. (pp. 48–49)

Summary (page 49)

God is absolutely sovereign.

"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases." Psalms 115:3 (ESV)

God is not frustrated. He rejoices in all His works. He is an unshakeably happy God.

His delight is the delight He has in Himself. He does everything He does to preserve and display His glory and in this His soul rejoices.

The climax of His happiness is the delight He takes in the praises of the saints, and this praise completes our own joy in Him.

God's pursuit of praise from us and our pursuit of pleasure in Him are the same pursuit. This is the great gospel! This is the foundation of Christian Hedonism.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 3

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 3

By John Piper - Copyright 2003 by Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org, published by Multnomah Books

A Study Guide prepared by Milt Reynolds

Part 1: Introduction...How I became a Christian Hedonist (page 7)

Part 2: The Happiness of God

Part 3: The Goal of God in Redemptive History (page 308)

In Chapter One, the author asserts that God's own glory is uppermost in His own affections. In everything He does, His purpose is to preserve and display that glory...He puts a greater value on His glory than on anything else...He delights in His glory above all things (page 41)

Appendix 1 presents the biblical evidence for this assertion.

First, glory of God in the Bible refers to the visible splendor, or moral beauty, of God: His unveiled magnificence and excellence.

The name of God signifies much the same. In Scripture, something done for God's name sake means the same as for His glory. The name of God is not merely a label, but a reference to His character.

What follows is an overview of some high points of redemptive history, God's acts toward man described in Scripture. The goal is to discover the one goal of God in all that He does.

Creation (page 309)

Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

  • Man is created last, as the highest creature
  • Only man is described as created in the image of God
  • Creation is described as very good after man is created
  • Man is given dominion, told to subdue and fill the earth.

The world is a display, an image, of God. God's purpose in creation was to fill the earth with His own glory.

All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. (Numbers 14:21)

I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. (Isaiah 43:6-7)

The Tower of Babel (page 309)

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-4)

This passage describes a goal completely opposite to that of God: man sought fulfillment through human genious, not by trusting God.

God's purpose was that man would depend upon Him, exalting the glory of God.

The Call of Abram (page 310)

Now the LORD said to Abram, Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:1-2)

In contrast to those building the tower of Babel, seeking to make their own name great, here God is the one making Abram's name great.

When God makes a person great, the only proper response is trust and gratitude, giving glory back to God.

Abram, and his children, were chosen by God to be a people who trust Him and give Him glory.

No distrust made him [Abram] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21

You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified. (Isaiah 49:3)

The Exodus (page 311)

God's purpose in choosing the people of Israel and bringing them into a glorious land is seen in Ezekiel:

On the day when I chose Israel, I swore to the offspring of the house of Jacob, making myself known to them in the land of Egypt; I swore to them, saying, I am the Lord your God. On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. Ezekiel 20:5-9)

Psalm 106 records the confession of the people of Israel, recognizing God's purpose:

Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power. (Psalms 106:6-8)

Both passages describe God's purpose as being for His name's sake.

Deliverance from Egypt was not due to the worth or work of the Israelites, but to the worth of God's name:

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord...And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.
Ex 14:4,18)

God's purpose is to act in a way that causes people to own up to His glory and confess that He is the only Lord of the universe.

The Giving of the Law (page 312)

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me. Exodus 20:3-5 (ESV)

God's first aim in giving the law is for us to accord Him the honor He alone is due.

To love God does not mean to meet His needs, but rather to delight in Him and to be captivated by His glorious power and grace and to value Him above all other things on earth.

The Wilderness Wandering (page 313)

But the children rebelled against me. They did not walk in my statutes and were not careful to obey my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; they profaned my Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness. But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. Ezekiel 20:21-22 (ESV)

Again, the Lord treats the nation of Israel graciously for His own name's sake.

Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin, lest the land from which you brought us say, 'Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.' For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm. Deuteronomy 9:27-29 (ESV)

Moses appealed to God's promise and argues that God surely did not want scorn to come upon His name. In allowing Moses to pray this way, it's plain that God's decision to spare Israel His wrath is for His own name's sake.

The Conquest of Canaan (page 314)

And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant. Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Joshua 24:12-14 (ESV)

God's purpose in giving Israel the land of Canaan was that they would fear and honor Him alone. This purpose is confirmed in David's prayer:

And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? 2 Samuel 7:23 (ESV)

The Beginnings of Monarchy (page 315)

And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 1 Samuel 12:19-23 (ESV)

Despite the people's sin in asking for a king, God preserved the nation in order to display the honor of His name. This is His supreme goal.

The Temple of God (page 316)

Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name. If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause. 1 Kings 8:41-45 (ESV)

Notice the emphasis placed here on God's name. Solomon's purpose in building the temple was in accord with God's own purpose: that God's name should be exalted and all the nations should know and fear God.

The Life and Death of Jesus (page 319)

Jesus said to them, My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. John 4:34 (ESV)

The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. John 7:18 (ESV)

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. John 17:4 (ESV)

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again. John 12:27-28 (ESV)

The purpose of Jesus in His life and death was to glorify the Father. At the center of salvation is not God's love for us, but the infinitely valuable glory of God.

God put forward His Son on the cross to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. Romans 3:25 (ESV)

By forgiving sin in the Old Testament and tolerating many sinners, God had given the impression that His honor and glory were not of infinite worth. To vindicate the honor of His name and the worth of His glory and to satisfy the just demands of the law, He required the death of His own Son. This demonstrates the righteousness of God because God's righteousness is His unswerving allegiance to uphold the value of His glory.

The Christian Life (page 320)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (ESV)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)

Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11 (ESV)

God's purpose for His new redeemed people, the church, is that our life goal should be to glorify God in Christ.

The Second Coming of Christ and Consummation (page 321)

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24 (ESV)

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 (ESV)

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. Revelation 21:23 (ESV)

The return of Christ and the final salvation of His people will glorify Himself, causing all who believe to marvel.

The consummation of God's goal in all of history will be His glory for all to see and praise.

Conclusion (page 321)

This survey of redemptive history shows that the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever. He stands supreme at the center of His own affections. For that very reason, He is a self-sufficient and inexhaustible fountain of grace.

Part 4: God Delights in His Glory

What do you think? Can you think of other examples in biblical history where God tells us he was acting for the sake of his name?

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 2

The Happiness of God

By John Piper - Copyright 2003 by Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org, published by Multnomah Books

A Study Guide prepared by Milt Reynolds

Part 1: Introduction...How I became a Christian Hedonist (page 7)

Part 2: The Happiness of God (page 31)

God is uppermost in His own affections. The Westminster catechism could well be written from the viewpoint of God:

The chief end of God is to glorify God AND enjoy Himself forever.

Redemption, salvation, and restoration are not God's ultimate goal. These he performs for the sake of something greater: the enjoyment He has in glorifying Himself.

What do you think? What are some reasons why we might be more accustomed to think about our duty rather than God’s glory?

The Sovereignty of God (page 32)

The foundation of God's happiness and ours, is His sovereignty. God has the right and power to do whatever makes Him happy:

"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases." Psalm 115:3

If God is sovereign and can do anything He pleases, then none of His purposes can be frustrated and He must be the happiest of all beings.

God's purposes cannot be thwarted: (page 33)

"I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'" Isaiah 46:9-10

His sovereignty covers calamities (page 34)

"Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?" Lamentations 3:37-38

This was Jeremiah the prophet's confession after seeing the destruction of his people, laid in ruins, babies fainting in the streets from hunger and young women and men slaughtered without pity (Lamentations 2)

The murder of Christ (page 35). The betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a morally evil act, yet it was part of God's ordained plan:

"This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." Acts 2:23

What do you think? How much of what occurs in the universe is owing ultimately to God’s sovereign purpose? What are some examples in history that even the morally wicked decisions and actions of human beings are part of God’s sovereign design? (pages 33–36)

There is no such things a mere coincidence: (page 37)

"For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. Psalm 135:5-7

The struggle with God's sovereignty (page 37). How can we say that God is sovereign over all things, and so completely unfrustrated and happy, yet He permists much that is contrary to His own commands in Scripture? How can we say God is happy when there is so much sin and misery in the world?

Jonathan Edwards was full of objections against the doctrine of God's sovereignty, seeming a horrible doctrine to him. But he experienced a "wonderful alteration" in his mind, answering all objections and finding the doctrine "exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet." (page 38)

Edwards suggested that God is able to look at the world through two "lenses": narrow and wide-angle.

Looking at a painful or wicked event through His narrow lens, God sees the tragedy of the sin for what it is in itself, and He is angered and grieved:

"I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 18:32).

But when God looks at the painful or wicked even through His wide-angle lens, He sees the tragedy of the sin in relation to everything leading up to it and everything flowing out from it. He sees all the connections and effects forming a pattern or mosaic, stretching into eternity. This mosaic in all its parts, good and bad, brings Him delight.

This is related to distinguishing two kinds of willing in God. God's will of command is what He commands in Scripture, His revealed will. God's will of decree is what He infallibly brings to pass in the world, His sovereign will. (page 39)

God's will of command can be seen in biblical commands to love or obey or learn.

God's will of decree can be seen in His permitting sin, although hating it, for the greater purpose of holiness and mercy.

The death of Christ (page 40). The death of Christ was the will and work of God the Father:

"We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God... It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief" (Isaiah 53: 4, 10).

Yet surely God did not delight in the agony of His beloved Son and the wickedness that brought Him to the cross. Sin in itself, and the suffering of the innocent, is abhorrent to God.

With a narrow lens, God hates evil, but with a wide-angle lens, God is filled with joy in creating an eternal mosaic of redemption and righteousness.

What do you think? What other instances in Scripture describe wicked events that God uses to bring to pass a greater good?

God's Happiness is in Himself (page 41). God is absolutely sovereign over the world:

  • He can do anything He pleases
  • He is not a frustrated God, but a deeply happy God
  • He considers all His works in relation to redemption
  • He rejoices in all His works

What does make God happy? What one thing does God pursue in everything He does? What is uppermost in His affections? At this point is would be well to study Appendix 1: The Goal of God in Redemptive History. (page 308)

Part 3: The Goal of God in Redemptive History (page 308)

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