The Transfiguration: several brief thoughts

The Transfiguration by Raphael

Image is The Transfiguration by Raphael

JP: Occasionally I comment on something Kathee and I have read in the Bible. Here’s another one of those!

We have finished the Old Testament and are now in the New. Last night we read Matthew 17 and 18.

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” 10 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:1-13)


  • Believers will someday have glorified bodies like the Lord Jesus Christ! (Romans 8:17,29,30; 1 Corinthians 15:49-55)
  • I find the disciples’ question in vs 10 unusual – “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”. Why? because Jesus previously stated, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead” (vs 9). Jesus had previously informed the disciples about his death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21-23). In Matthew 17:22,23; Jesus again testified of His future death and resurrection and the disciples did not seem to appreciate the significance or fact of this. I would think that with that state of mind they would have asked about his resurrection as a response to Christ’s statement in verse 9!
  • 17:5, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” is what scholars call a bath qol, a “voice from heaven”. Also seen at Christ’s baptism (Matthew 3:17, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”).
  • Lessons from that voice:
    • It is a heavenly testimony to the Messiahship of our Lord!
    • The Son was actively doing the will of His Father and it pleased God the Father.
    • A message for mankind: “Hear Him!”

Music in Plymouth

Music in Plymouth

  • What: Music in Plymouth
  • When: After our Bible study on Wednesday July 1st
  • Details: Connect up at church and make your way there
  • More details: parking, events, shuttles, etc.

The Unbreakable Chain

The Unbreakable Chain

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

JP: I found this helpful illustration from Romans, an Interpretive Outline, p 70.

Notice the chain of events: Those whom God knew or fixed His heart upon in ages past, He marked out or ordained, and in time He called (effectively), and He justified, and He glorified. “So indissoluble is the chain that the last link is here viewed as an accomplished fact because the first links are so.” (*)

* Moule, Romans, p 157

From Sufferings to Glory

Christ in Glory c. 1660

Image above is Mattia Preti’s Christ in Glory

JP: Our Bible study this Wednesday (July 1st, 2009) will be from Romans 8:18-30.

My notes are available here (PDF for online viewing or printing).

The “Golden Chain”: Romans 8:29-30

Above: Flower of the Laburnum (also called Golden Chain)

JP: Two worthwhile messages on this text:

Benjamin B. Warfield: Election


Read Rom. viii. 29, 30, and see “the golden chain” which, as a fine old divine, John Arrowsmith, puts it, “God lets down from heaven that by it he may draw up his elect thither.” “For whom he foreknew”–that is election, the setting upon his people with distinguishing preoccupation and love, according to the pregnant use of “know” in such a passage say, as Amos iii. 2, “You only have I known out of all the families of the earth” –“for whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son”-this is the high destiny prepared for us!–“that he might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Count these five golden links, all acts of God’s own, working our salvation, and note how they are welded together in one unbreakable chain, so that all who are set upon in God’s gracious distinguishing view are carried on by his grace, step by step, up to the great consummation of that glorification which realizes the promised conformity to the image of God’s own Son. It is “election,” you see, that does all this; for “whom he foreknew, . . . them he also glorified.” That fine old divine to whom we have just referred tells us further that “election, having once pitched upon a man, will find him out and call him home, wherever he be. Zacchaeus out of cursed Jericho; Abraham out of idolatrous Ur of the Chaldeans; Nicodemus and Paul out of the college of the Pharisees, Christ’s sworn enemies; Dionysius and Damaris, out of superstitious Athens. In whatever dunghill God’s jewels be hid, election will both find them out there and fetch them out from thence.” “Rejoice,” our Savior cried (Luke x. 20), “rejoice in this- that your names are written in heaven,” in, that is, the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. xxi. 27), which the same fine old divine counsels us always to remember, is “a book of love-the writing of our names in which is the firstborn of all God’s favors.”

James Boice: A Golden Chain Of Five Links


When I was writing about Romans 8:28 in the previous study, I said that for most Christians that verse is one of the most comforting statements in the entire Word of God. The reason is obvious. It tells us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That is, God has a great and good purpose for all Christians and he is working in all the many detailed circumstances of their lives to achieve it.

Wonderful as that verse is, the verses that follow are even more wonderful, for they tell how God accomplishes this purpose and remind us that it is God himself who accomplishes it. The last reminder is the basis for what is commonly known as “eternal security” or “the perseverance of the saints.”

Some time ago I came across an amusing but apparently true story. In 1966 the Hindu holy man and mystic Rao announced that he would walk on water. This attracted a great deal of attention, and on the day set for the feat a great crowd gathered around a large pool in Bombay, India, where it was to occur. The holy man prayerfully prepared himself for the miracle and then stepped forward to the pool’s edge. A solemn hush fell over the assembled observers. Rao glanced upward to heaven, stepped forward onto the water, and then immediately plummeted into the pool’s depths. Sputtering, dripping wet, and furious, he emerged from the pool and turned angrily on the embarrassed crowd. “One of you,” he said, “is an unbeliever.”

Fortunately, our salvation is not like that, because if it were, it would never happen. In spiritual matters we are all unbelievers. We are weak in faith. But we are taught in these great verses from Romans that salvation does not depend upon our faith, however necessary faith may be, but on the purposes of God.

And it is the same regarding love. The apostle has just said that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. But lest we somehow imagine that the strength of our love is the determining factor in salvation, he reminds us that our place in this good flow of events is not grounded in our love for God but on the fact that he has fixed his love upon us.

How has God loved us? Let me count the ways.

These verses introduce us to five great doctrines: (1) foreknowledge, (2) predestination, (3) effectual calling, (4) justification, and (5) glorification. These five doctrines are so closely connected that they have rightly and accurately been described as “a golden chain of five links.” Each link is forged in heaven. That is, each describes something God does and does not waver in doing. This is why John R. W. Stott calls them “five undeniable affirmations.”1 The first two are concerned with God’s eternal counsel or past determinations. The last two are concerned with what God has done, is doing, or will do with us. The middle term (“calling”) connects the first pair and the last.

These doctrines flow from eternity to eternity. As a result, there is no greater scope given to the wonderful activity of God in salvation in all the Bible.

Michael Jackson: The Celebrity Culture and “a chasing after the wind”

JP: A Christian perspective on the “the Celebrity Culture”

Reflections on Jackson, Death, and the Celebrity Culture


Tim Challies: Michael Jackson was in so many ways a product of this sick celebrity culture (that he helped create) that will never rest satisfied until it has both created and then destroyed the newest celebrity. We want our celebrities to start strong and finish weak, to begin with a bang and then fizzle, pop and sputter, all for our enjoyment and entertainment (Susan Boyle stands as the most recent example of this). Jackson gave us so much to talk about, so much to enjoy. More than any other celebrity he embodied the “vanities” of Ecclesiastes. He was at one time known for what he did so well and then was known for being a freak; he was at one time fantastically wealthy and then utterly broke; he was once loved and then despised. He had it all and yet, it seemed, he had nothing. All of it was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Dan Phillips: What Jackson did to himself is what we all do to ourselves outside of Christ. The difference is that Jackson’s failed attempts were all worn obviously, in public view, on the changing tapestry of his face, while we may mask ours better.

As you shrink from the Frankenstein shock of Jackson’s visage, reflect: mankind was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28), and still bears that image (Genesis 9:6). But in seeking to take God’s place and make themselves gods (Genesis 3), our foreparents did to their whole beings what Michael Jackson did to his face: they horridly disfigured themselves and all of us, leaving a repulsive mockery of what we were meant to be.

The only solution for us is not a succession of endeavors to remake ourselves. Each attempt leaves a worse spectacle than the previous, and moves us further from what we truly need.

The only solution for us is the solution to which Michael Jackson never submitted himself, as far as is known: to be born anew, under the good hand of our Creator. We do not need new faces. We need new natures. We need the miracle of regeneration, not the tragedy of manmade makeovers.

Piper on TV & film: “the entire Christian life is threatened by [its] deadening effects”

JP: Worthwhile read by John Piper on TV & movies.

Why I Don’t Have a Television and Rarely Go to Movies


There are, perhaps, a few extraordinary men who can watch action-packed, suspenseful, sexually explicit films and come away more godly. But there are not many. And I am certainly not one of them.

I have a high tolerance for violence, high tolerance for bad language, and zero tolerance for nudity. There is a reason for these differences. The violence is make-believe. They don’t really mean those bad words. But that lady is really naked, and I am really watching. And somewhere she has a brokenhearted father.

I’ll put it bluntly. The only nude female body a guy should ever lay his eyes on is his wife’s. The few exceptions include doctors, morticians, and fathers changing diapers. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). What the eyes see really matters. “Everyone who looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Better to gouge your eye than go to hell (verse 29).

Brothers, that is serious. Really serious. Jesus is violent about this. What we do with our eyes can damn us. One reason is that it is virtually impossible to transition from being entertained by nudity to an act of “beholding the glory of the Lord.” But this means the entire Christian life is threatened by the deadening effects of sexual titillation.

All Christ-exalting transformation comes from “beholding the glory of Christ.” “Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Whatever dulls the eyes of our mind from seeing Christ powerfully and purely is destroying us. There is not one man in a thousand whose spiritual eyes are more readily moved by the beauty of Christ because he has just seen a bare breast with his buddies.

But leave sex aside (as if that were possible for fifteen minutes on TV). It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ. Television takes us almost constantly in the opposite direction, lowering, shrinking, and deadening our capacities for worshiping Christ.