August 19, 2014 Broadcast

The Trinity

A Message by R.C. Sproul

What are the differences between Christianity and Islam? In today’s culture, the distinctions have been obscured. In this investigative series, Dr. R.C. Sproul and former Muslim Abdul Saleeb demonstrate how Christianity stands in stark contrast to the claims of Islam.

In discussing the differences between Christian and Islamic theology, Dr. Sproul and Saleeb examine views on God, Christ, Scripture, salvation, and man, and they explain why orthodox Christian theology is fundamentally distinct on every point.

From the series: The Cross and the Crescent

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. blog-post

    Who Has Clean Hands and a Pure Heart?

  2. article

    Seeing God Face to Face

  3. devotional

    Blessed are the Pure in Heart

Who Has Clean Hands and a Pure Heart?

Anthony Carter

In Psalm 24, the question is raised: "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart" (vv. 3–4a). The requirement for ascending to the place of God in worship is that our hands are clean and our hearts purified. The question then becomes, "Who has clean hands and a pure heart?" Whose worship in thought, word, and deed does God find fully acceptable? Whose service is perfectly pleasing to God? The only One who has such hands and such a heart is Jesus our Lord. Appropriately, the Bible reminds us that He has ascended the holy hill. He has entered the holy place, not by the temporary washing of the blood of goats and calves (Heb. 9:12), but by His own blood. By entering in, He has made a way for you and me to enter in as well (Heb. 10:19). Does Jesus have clean hands? Yes, and so do all who have been washed in His blood. Is Jesus of a pure heart? Yes, and so are those who have been scrubbed by His blood. Through the blood of Christ, our hands and hearts have been cleared and cleansed. This means that, because of the blood of Christ, we are able to serve and worship God.

When Jesus freed the woman caught in adultery, He asked her: "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, Lord." Jesus then said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more" (John 8:10–11). When God has freed our consciences, it does not matter how others try to bind them. When Christ has washed our hands and hearts, it does not matter what other people say about them. We only must make sure that Christ has freed us, and that our consciences, hands, and hearts have indeed been washed in His blood.

Does Jesus have clean hands? Yes, and so do all who have been washed in His blood.

Nevertheless, we must remember that we do not cleanse our own consciences, hands, and hearts. This was the arrogance and condemnation of Pontius Pilate. He tried to wash his hands of the guilt of Christ. The Bible says, "So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man's blood'" (Matt. 27:24). While the dirt may have been removed from his hands, his conscience could not be cleansed with water. Ironically, the blood that he tried to wash away was the only blood that could have made him clean. Contrast that with Paul, who said that he served and worshiped God with a "clear conscience" (2 Tim. 1:3). The difference is that Pilate proposed to wash the blood of Christ away from himself, while Paul knew himself to be washed in the blood of Christ.

This post is an excerpt from Anthony Carter's new book, Blood Work.
Buy it now for only $12.

Seeing God Face to Face

Kim Riddlebarger

I suppose that if you were to ask Christians whether or not they would like to “see” God, most would say “yes.” Human curiosity often wins out over our knowledge of biblical passages such as Hebrews 12:29, which informs us that “our God is a consuming fire.” While Scripture promises that the pure in heart will see God (Matt. 5:8), Paul makes it clear that such sight cannot come until death, when believers enter God’s presence. It is God alone who “has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). But one day — at the appearing of Jesus Christ — Paul says we will see that which our sin and finitude currently prevents us from seeing (6:14–15).

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes that the beatific vision (to see God as He is) is promised to Christians when Jesus returns at the end of the age: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). In Paul’s day, a mirror was formed from polished metal, usually bronze, tin, or silver. One’s reflection in such an object was dim at best. Yet Paul promises that the dim image reflecting back from polished metal will give way to a face-to-face encounter. When Jesus comes back, we will see Him with our own eyes. On that day, our imperfect knowledge will give way to sight. We will know, even as we are fully known.

While Paul directs us ahead to that glorious day when the Lord returns, the beatific vision has its roots in the Old Testament. In Genesis 32:30, we read that Jacob saw God: “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’” Moses also saw God. According to Exodus 33:11, “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” The same thing is found in Deuteronomy 34:10: “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

In the Exodus 33 passage, Moses asks to see God’s glory — a request that God graciously grants. But God must protect Moses so that Israel’s leader is not consumed. As we read in verses 18–23: “Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.’” Moses could see God’s back, but not His full glory (that is, His face).

In the New Testament, we learn that Moses and Jacob did not see God in some abstract, intangible way. As John opens his gospel, he informs us that “no one has ever seen God,” but that Jesus, “the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). This echoes Jesus’ statement in John 6:46: “Not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God [that is, Jesus]; he has seen the Father.” Since Jesus is God (the second person of the Trinity), He alone has seen the Father, meaning that Jacob and Moses saw the pre-incarnate Jesus, whose glory was still too great for sinful humans to see.

Just like Moses, one of Jesus’ disciples, Philip, desired to see God. In John 14:8–10, we read the following exchange between Jesus and His curious, but clueless, disciple: “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?’” Since Philip had seen Jesus, Philip had already seen God. Jesus’ divine glory was veiled with human flesh. It is likely that Philip wished he could recall his question just as soon as he asked it.

But the hope remains for the people of God (those reckoned righteous through faith in Jesus) who have been rendered holy and pure of heart. For us the promise remains: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). This promise will be fulfilled on that day when Jesus Christ returns. What is now quite dim will become crystal clear. Faith will become sight.

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

On Friday we saw that the connection of the mercy we receive with the mercy we show to others can be a scary prospect indeed apart from the mediation of Christ. If we were to consider the potential of Scripture to strike us with fear more fully, however, we would doubtless include the sixth beatitude as a frightening passage as well. Jesus promises that the “pure in heart” will “see God,” but who among us is pure in heart?

Again, our only confidence is in Christ, who has sanctified His people by His blood (1 Cor. 6:11). He has set us apart definitively as holy and pure, and we prove this status by striving after personal holiness until in glory we are perfected and freed from all sin. This purity is guaranteed by the effectual work of our Savior, and so we who are in Christ Jesus know that we will one day experience the Beatific Vision — we know that we will one day see God as He is.

In Exodus 33:20, the Lord tells us that no man can see His face and live, but this is not due to God making His image-bearers inherently unable to bear His presence. Before the fall, humanity experienced intimate, face-to-face communion with the Creator when He walked with us in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). But this fellowship was lost when we fell into sin. The barrier that keeps us from seeing the Lord now is our fallen character. Once this fallenness is removed, there is no reason why we would not be able to gaze on God’s incomparable beauty.

This, indeed, is the Lord’s greatest promise to us, that we will be able to gaze upon Him, the most beautiful, awe-inspiring, worthy, holy, loving being that ever was, is, and will be. We will, as 1 John 3:1–3 tells us, see Him as He is. The Apostle is making reference to Christ: not the human nature of Christ alone but also the divine nature that is perfectly united with humanity in the person of our Savior. And to see the divine nature of the Son of God also means that we will see the other persons of the Trinity as well, for the Son dwells in the Father and the Father in the Son, just as the Holy Spirit mutually indwells the Father and the Son (John 10:37–38). What seeing God face to face means precisely is not for us to know today, but we do know that seeing Him will fully satisfy our souls.

Since the beginning,

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