The Fulfillment of Advent


Since Genesis 3:15, God has been making several promises concerning His redemptive plan for creation. As I stated in my last Advent article, the Old Testament can be summed up redemptively as promises made and the New Testament can be summed up as promises fulfilled. It would take me quite a while and several other treatments to explain that all of God’s covenant promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. However, Luke’s account of the gospel helps us tremendously and succinctly.

After Jesus’ resurrection, two men approached the tomb of Jesus. While there, they were confronted by what appears to be angels, and were told that Jesus is not among the dead, but that He had risen from the dead. As they were walking on a road to Emmaus, Jesus appears to them and converses with them, unbeknownst to them. Toward the end of their conversation, Luke records these important words, 25 And he (Jesus) said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

Jesus himself declared that all that had been written from the writings of Moses to the Prophets concerned Him. Jesus was declaring that He is the focal point of God’s redemptive plan. He is the one who has come to fulfill the promises God made to His people. I listed several promises in the previous article concerning Jesus and He fulfilled each one of them. Several promises or prophecies were about places and times, which are important so we can clearly identify that it was indeed Jesus who fulfilled them. But what’s more important concerning Jesus’ promises is what He came to accomplish. Why did Jesus enter humanity? This is the question of utmost importance.

In Galatians 4:4-5, Paul said, “4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” These verses answers the question of why Jesus entered humanity. Jesus, the eternal second Person of the Trinity, entered humanity to redeem people deserving of the penalty of the Law. He came to gain possession of a rebellious people and call them brothers and adopted children of God! Our sin has caused a great rift between us and God and warrants eternal judgment. Christ came to fulfill the promise that God would defeat the work of Satan (Gen. 3:15; Col. 2:13-15; 1 John 3:8) and reclaim a people for Himself (Eph. 1:5). And how He did this was a promise fulfilled too. Christ came to redeem a people for Himself by His own blood. Jesus lived a perfect life according to the Law, but willingly died and drank the cup of his Father’s wrath for our sins. Jesus died for those who exercise faith in Him for the forgiveness of sins on the basis of His righteousness.

Over 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned these words concerning Jesus –

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Christ was pierced, crushed, chastised, and wounded for our transgressions and iniquities. This is what theologians call substitutionary atonement. Christ bore the wrath of the Father, not for His sin, but for our sin. We are transgressors. We have committed iniquities. We have gone astray. We have turned to our own way. But He was the faithful one! He was wounded for us that we might be healed. This is the fulfillment of Advent! Christ has come to reconcile to Himself a wayward people deserving of eternal condemnation and to lift the curse from creation (Rom. 8:21). Christ has come to restore harmony between Creator and creature and to establish His sovereign eternal reign (2 Sam. 7:13; Rev. 7:9-10).

May Christmas be a refreshing, sober, and joyful reminder of God’s love for His people in Christ!

Merry Christmas!

The Nature and Necessity of Advent

This year, December 2 marked the beginning of Advent. Advent is a period of four weeks in December that many Christians observe to prepare for the celebration of the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. While it is commonly known that Jesus was not born on December 25, His birth is traditionally celebrated on this day by many. Advent is the Latin word for “coming”, which makes Advent preparation to commemorate the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Lk. 2).

However, it’s obvious that all who celebrate Christmas are not celebrating the birth of Jesus. For non-Christians, the Christmas season is merely a time for winter trips, shopping, parties, decorations, exchanging presents, etc. For the retail industry, it is usually a time when businesses recover from financial deficits throughout the year. This profit surge usually starts on the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday. Corporate budgets typically shift from red (deficit) to black (profit) due to the increase of demand for their products. Certainly, Christians contribute to retail and travel industry profits during this time of year, but at large, the culture is not seeking to genuinely glorify Jesus Christ. For many, He’s a mean to a great financial end. This is just one of the reasons why Advent significantly matters and is so desperately needed.

Why the need for Advent?

As stated, the Advent season is a time to commemorate the coming of Jesus Christ. The most significant person ever to be born was Jesus Christ and part of what validates that claim is understanding why there was a need for Him to be born.

Everyday all across the globe we see and hear of terrible and tragic events. All one has to do is tune in to their local news or national news channel or social media outlets to see or read about various tragedies occurring non-stop, as it seems. Tragedies and sufferings are experienced by all of creation. These tragedies and sufferings are what the Bible calls the groans of creation longing to be free from the curse that it was subjected to.

Romans 8:20-23 says –
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

While Romans 8 is arguably one of the most encouraging chapters for the believer, it does explain why all of creation, including you and me, suffers. Let’s observe what this text says as it pertains to the present condition of creation, our response to these conditions and why this condition exists.

Verse 21 tells us that creation is in bondage to corruption. Though there is much beauty to behold in all of creation, it is marred by corruption. This corruption expresses itself in physical corruption and moral corruption. Every tornado screams corruption. Every stillborn baby screams corruption. Every cancer diagnosis screams corruption. Strife and deception among humanity screams corruption. Man’s rejection of his Creator screams corruption. Corruption and its effects are pervasive physically and morally.

Verses 22 and 23 tell us that all of creation, including humanity groans, but is awaiting an emancipation from our corrupted state (See v21 & 23b). These groans serve as a witness that all is not right and there is a deep desire for an emancipation from corruption.

However, verse 20 seems to be the most provocative verse in this passage. It says “creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it…..” The original word for futility means that which is devoid of truth or appropriateness or perverseness and depravity. Creation was subject to that which is devoid of truth or depravity, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it. Someone subjected creation to a condition of corruption or depravity. There has been some debate about who him is in this verse, but Genesis 3 settles that debate.

After transgressing the clear command of God to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God curses Adam, the woman and the serpent. With respect to the curse pronounced to Adam, creation would work hard against man’s rule and cultivation. All that man had dominion over would be subject to futility. Due to Adam’s sin, man’s relationship with God, with his wife (and all other human relationships) and with creation was broken. This was God’s judgment for Adam’s sin – futility. God subjected all of creation to futility as a form of judgment. Creation groans because of the curse we’re under and the corruption we experience every day. In fact, this is the whole point of Ecclesiastes. All of life without God is vanity or futility. Also, futility is our natural state (Ps. 51:5, Eph. 2:1-3). Due to Adam’s rebellion, we’re born in a state of moral corruption.  Our sinful nature is incapable of pleasing God in any way and only fit for His just wrath. We need liberation from sin and from God’s wrath. 

Thankfully, Romans 8:20b-21 reminds us that that futility is not the end. God subjected creation to futility “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom….”.

But how? How will creation be set free from its bondage to corruption?

Genesis 3:15 gives us a small hint of the one God would send to set man and the rest of creation free from His wrath and from the bondage to corruption to obtain freedom. The rest of the voices of the Old Testament grows progressively louder concerning the coming of this appointed emancipator.

May our Christmas season be a joyful gratuitous expression for the Christ who has come and brought freedom!

Thankfulness: The Melody of the Christian Soul

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:8)

As the holidays approached, my wife and I kept noticing how store decor went from Halloween to Christmas. In fact, back in July we were at a home decor store and we noticed Christmas decorations already being displayed. We asked one of the store employees why Christmas decor was already being displayed and we were told that many customers like to purchase Christmas decor in preparation for the Christmas season, but it was all for commercial marketing. The end goal was financial capitalization. However, what we also noticed was that there was very little attention paid to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Although there is much discussion about the origin of the Thanksgiving holiday, one thing that we must understand is that it was a day set aside to respond with gratitude. According to American Colonial history, the origin of Thanksgiving originated with praises to God for His benevolence by religious separatists from England in 1620 and was made an official United States holiday on October 3, 1863 by Abraham Lincoln toward the end of the Civil War.

Read Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation

It is clear from Lincoln’s proclamation that a day of thanksgiving was to be set aside nationally as a day to thank and praise God for His abundant mercies toward the United States, even in the midst of a Civil War. Not only was it a day of thanksgiving, but it was also a day to confess national sins seeking the mercy of God. Now, I’m not here to debate the theology of Abraham Lincoln or the sincerity of his Christian profession, but to reveal what the proclamation stated. It is important to understand that the Thanksgiving holiday was started as a response to the benevolence, grace and mercy of God.

The Grounds for Thanksgiving

Every year around this time something strange happens that I’ve noticed and I imagine you have noticed it too. I hear people say, “We’re so thankful!”, “I’m thankful for….”, “I’m blessed.” These expressions of gratitude lack an object of gratitude. In other words, there are expressions of thankfulness attached to no one. They are just impersonal expressions of gratitude as if the blessings for the things that people are thankful for occur in a vacuum. There is no one on the receiving end of those impersonal expressions of gratitude. Think about that. Isn’t it strange how the human heart can detach the origin of the blessings from an expression of gratitude? Does an expression of gratitude truly make sense apart from the provider of such blessings? In my loudest voice I want to shout out, “To whom are you thankful for such things?!!”

Scripture repeatedly reminds us that God is the source of all of our blessings. The epistle of James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

But we don’t have to get that far in the Bible to understand that everything that has been given to us has been created by God. We read of this in the very first book of the Bible. And this is a refrain throughout the rest of Scripture. The Lord reminds His people, and even those who oppose Him, that He is the Lord of all and He gives and withholds according to His discretion. He causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. He alone is the person we give thanks to for everything. Without someone ultimately to thank, gratitude is meaningless.

What Thankfulness Reveals

For Christians, thankfulness ought to be as normal as breathing if we truly have grasped the gospel and its implications. If we are a thankless people, either we have not truly grasped the gospel or we are really not part of God’s elect. Consider the gospel and some of its implications: we have been freed from the Father’s wrath, there is no condemnation for us, we have been reconciled to the Father through Jesus, we are the friends of Jesus, we will receive an eternal inheritance in the new heavens and the new earth, we are no longer dominated by sin, we will no longer be afflicted by Satan, we have the Holy Spirit, we have the word of God, we have the community of the church, we have spiritual gifts, God provides our daily needs and all of the effects of sin will one day be removed from our experience. We have so much to be thankful for! Praise be to God for his indescribable gift! (Romans 11:36)

To be thankless is to stand in opposition of all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus. However, genuine expressions of gratitude by Christians reveal the fundamental truths about our nature and God’s.

• Expressions of gratitude to God reveal that we are insufficient for all things.
• Expressions of gratitude to God reveals our recognition that God is wholly the source for all things.
• Expressions of gratitude to God reveal our humility.
• Expressions of gratitude to God reveal His benevolence.
• Expressions of gratitude to God guards our hearts from having a critical spirit against God.
• Expressions of gratitude to God are forms of spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons.
• Expressions of gratitude to God are ways of inducing joy to the heart.
• Expressions of gratitude to God is worship.

Because God’s mercies are new every morning, thanksgiving should be the melody of the Christian soul.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalms 118:1)

Grace and peace,


Why Christmas Matters

Luke 2:11I confess – I love Christmas! I love the sights and the sounds that are characteristic of this holiday season. I love gathering with family, eating well (probably eating too much), and shopping for that ‘perfect gift’ for loved ones.  Since we’ve been married, my wife and I have started new traditions such as driving around the city looking at Christmas lights, enjoying peppermint mochas, taking the train to center city with good friends and enjoying dinner together, and hosting a Christmas gathering. Most recently we started what I expect to become a lasting tradition – we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. I must admit that I was quite surprised to know that my wife had never seen it, but she really enjoyed it. I heartily recommend it to you.

At the heart of this cartoon lies Charlie Brown’s dire desire to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Disgusted with the trappings of materialism and capitalism, Charlie Brown yells out, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”  I suspect Charlie Brown wasn’t the first and will not be the last one to ask this significant question.  Also immediately, the hero of the story emerges. Charlie Brown’s faithful friend, Linus Van Pelt, steps in and consoles Charlie Brown’s conscience by explaining the meaning of Christmas from Luke 2:9-14.

9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them (shepherds), and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Think deeply about these five observations:

(1)  An angel appears and announces the birth of Christ to shepherds (v9-10).

(2) The angel calls the birth of Christ good news of great joy for all people (v10).

(3) Christ’s birth was a historical event in a historical city (v11).

(4) The angel says Christ is the Savior and Lord (v11).

(5) A multitude of angels join the angel and burst out in praise to God for this significant event (v14).

Now, let’s consider another angelic announcement concerning the birth of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel (1:18-23).

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Think deeply about these observations:

(1) An angel appears to Joseph to inform him of the unique conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit (v20).

(2) The angel confirms to Joseph what the baby’s name will be and what that child’s mission will be – He will save His people from their sins (v21).

(3) Matthew records that Jesus’ birth was a fulfillment of prophecy preordained by God foretold by Isaiah (v23).

(4) Jesus is God (v23).

What’s fascinating about these two announcements is that Christ’s ultimate identity and work was conveyed. He is the Savior and Lord (Luke 2:11) who has come to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), something only God can do (Matthew 1:23). This is not a matter of coincidence, but rather of utmost significance.  These two truths need to be proclaimed again and again and Christmas is one of the most opportune times to proclaim them.

The incarnation of Christ, or Christmas, is a reminder that God keeps His promises.  The promise of the coming of Christ was God’s promise to redeem creation, rescue a people from His wrath and bring them into everlasting fellowship with Him.  The only way that this could happen was by Christ living a life of complete obedience to the Father and then taking on the Father’s wrath for our sin.  Christ was born to live the life God requires of mankind and die the death mankind deserves for breaking God’s law.  Christ came to deliver us from God’s wrath and deliver us to God’s kingdom of everlasting joy and peace.  This is why the angels pronounced the birth of Christ as good news of great joy and this has always been God’s plan. From before the foundation of the world, God purposed to save a people from every tribe, language, people and nation (Revelation 5:9) for Himself and redeem all of creation through the atoning work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

This is the ultimate meaning of Christmas and why Christmas matters!


Christ Appeared

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

There is so much important truth packed into this one sentence. Three obvious truths are:

1. He (Jesus) appeared
2. Jesus took our sins away
3. He is sinless

His appearing is a reference to the incarnation. There are many religions that seek to deny the humanity of Jesus and they do so at their own peril. The incarnation of Jesus is absolutely necessary for Him to accomplish,
as a man, what no other person has been or will be able to do – obey the law of God perfectly as a human. Jesus is the perfect man and He is also divine. Let this be sweet to us!

We are not perfect. We are sinners. We deserve God’s wrath because of our rebellion against Him. We sin because we are sinners by nature. We are sinners by nature because our federal head, Adam, transgressed a clear command of God (Gen. 2:17, 3:1-13). Through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin and death entered creation (Rom 5:12). We must not only think of the act of eating fruit as sin. We must also think who was sinned against. Adam and Eve sinned against holy God. The offense was cosmic because of this reason. This is why the wages of sin is eternal death. Sin against eternal holy God deserves eternal righteous condemnation. Jesus’ humanity was necessary because as a man, He lived the life that we could never live and died the death we deserve. This is what the Apostle John meant when he said Jesus appeared to take away sins. It’s not that Jesus’ righteousness erases the sinful acts we have done. Rather, for those who cast themselves on God’s mercy and place their faith in Christ, their sins have been atoned for and the penalty for sin no longer remains. Christ has removed our guilt and our condemnation by becoming the guilty and the condemned one in our place. That was what the cross was all about. He became sin who knew no sin that we might become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)!

Only Christ is qualified to do this because He is perfect! His perfection is what John meant by in him there is no sin. Under the Old Covenant, the Law required a perfect sacrifice to be slain for the guilty and offered to God by the high priest. Innocent blood for guilty blood has always been God’s way of forgiveness. This preserves His holiness and magnifies His grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. Jesus is our sacrifice and our high priest (Heb.10:1-18) and He clearly proclaimed that He is the way to the Father (Jhn. 14:6).

Jesus came to die so that those who are dead spiritually might live. Jesus came to undo the works of Satan and redeem a people for Himself. This is why He appeared. This is why we have and celebrate Christmas.

Let us rejoice!

Grace & Peace,


A Few Thoughts on Redemption: Accomplished and Applied

redemption-accomplished-and-appliedIt is my conviction that if there is any doctrine worthy of study and repeated study, it is the doctrine of redemption or atonement, which is the focal point of the Christian faith. Before I offer my thoughts on the book, it is worthy to note the etymology of atonement.

The word atonement was created by the multi-lingual English Protestant reformer and scholar, William Tyndale. Realizing there was no English word to accurately describe God’s forgiveness and reconciliation, he described it as “at” “onement”. Let us not also forget, it was Tyndale who first translated the Scriptures into English in 1525 under severe persecution which he was eventually hanged and burned.

The last two years have been particularly rich for me regarding my soteriological studies, maybe almost to a fault, somewhat neglecting other doctrines of the faith. But since this is the centrality of the faith, logically I assume that it will benefit me in the other areas as I continue to study the Scriptures from this reference point. I admit that I am in awe of God’s grace toward us in Christ before time began and when mentally digested and meditated on, who wouldn’t be? The gospel is beautiful and taking time to gaze at the intricacies of that beauty does my soul well.

The title aptly describes the two perspectives of redemption which Murray richly explores: its accomplishment by Christ and its application for the believer.  Specifically, part one of the book looks at the necessity, the nature, the perfection and the extent of the atonement.  Part two takes the reader through the application of the atonement looking at the ordo salutis from effectual calling to glorification.  Murray’s reformed soteriological views are biblically linked with well thought precision.  Though his verbosity can make the read laborious, it is well worth the time and effort to understand and appreciate so great a salvation.

From whence does God work His own

redeeming plan to its end

From His sovereignty He did atone

and freed us from our sin


Part I – Redemption Accomplished

The onset of the book delves into the necessity of the atonement.  But Murray’s intent isn’t to elaborate on the necessity itself, but rather the necessity of the peculiar manner in which our redemption was met.  He calls it “consequent absolute necessity”. Concerning consequent, Murray’s point is that salvation arose merely out of the pleasure of God’s good will, though He didn’t have to.  Concerning the absolute necessity aspect, he labors from Scripture to show why Christ alone is uniquely qualified to secure the salvation of God for sin, which includes redemptive eschatological implications.

Next, Murray leads us to understand the nature of the atonement, highlighting in thoughtful detail, the propitious and reconciliatory nature of Christ’s sacrifice stemming from God’s love. (1 John 4:10)  Murray says, “God appeases his own holy wrath in the cross of Christ in order that the purpose of his love to lost men may be accomplished in accordance with and to the vindication of all the perfections that constitute his glory.”

It would do no man any good to celebrate atonement if for some reason it lacked security and could be perverted.  So as to establish men with confidence, from Scripture, Murray draws out the perfection of the atonement. Murray defends the perfection of the atonement from four perspectives: its historicity (Gal. 4:4-5), its finality (Heb. 1:3, 5:12, 25-28), its uniqueness and its intrinsic efficacious nature. (Eph. 2:4-5, Heb. 5:9) Murray stresses why Christ’s atonement is perfect in a few, but resounding words. “Christ procured redemption and therefore he secured it. He met in himself and swallowed up the full toll of divine condemnation and judgment against sin.”

Concluding the first part of the book, Murray now turns his attention to the extent of the atonement.  After defending the sufficiency of atonement, it is only natural to focus on to whom is the atonement applied.  In other words – For whom did Christ die?  Was Christ’s death meant to make men savable? Or was His death meant to actually save men from God’s wrath?  Both views contain the idea of limited atonement, but with contrasting ends in mind. From one perspective, Christ died for the sins of every person, but only those who effect the atonement by their resident faith will be saved. From the other perspective Christ died for those given to Him by the Father and procured salvation, including saving faith.  The first view is typically noted as the Arminian view which limits the effect of the cross while widening the scope of the cross.  The second view is typically noted as the Calvinist view which limits its scope but effectually saves the elect.  In his interbiblical defense of justification, Murray says, “Christ did not come to make people redeemable, but to actually redeem a people to Himself.”

Part II – Redemption Applied

After laboring to show the sufficiency and beauty of atonement in Christ, Murray turns his attention to the order of the acts and processes of each stage of redemption or ordo salutis.  The chief text that sheds light on God’s wisdom in salvation is Romans 8:28-30. Murray keenly points the reader to the first cause of redemption, namely the purpose of God as the end of verse 28 declares.  It is this fact that sets in motion the succeeding acts and processes of redemption in verses 29-30 : foreknew, predestined, called, justified and glorified. This unbreakable chain starts in eternity, continues in time and culminates in eternity.

Dutifully, Murray adds implicit links to this chain and spends a few chapters explaining how each implicit issue links to the explicit issues perfectly together to give us a detailed view of God’s redemption. Respectively and logically ordered, the chapters focus on effectual calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, union with Christ and glorification.

In my estimation, Murray’s thoughts on the believers mysterious union with Christ is the pinnacle of the entire book.  Murray draws out the trinitarian aspects of our union with Christ and makes this definitive statement:

Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.

Murray closes the curtain spending the last chapter discussing glorification and its Christocentric implications (Philippians 3:21). Murray says the congruity of redemption shall be revealed when the glory of Christ and the glory His body, believers, are revealed on that day. What an amazing scene!

If you have an appetite for understanding the doctrine of the atonement or redemption, I highly encourage you to purchase and thoughtfully read this book.

About the Author (from back cover)

John Murray (1898-1975) was born in Scotland and educated in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Princeton. He spent most of his distinguished career teaching systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  He also wrote Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics and the volume of Romans in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series.

The Redemption of Hip-Hop : My Introduction


Life is filled with memorable moments. You know, those moments which you’ll never forget where you were, who you were with, how old you were and certain feelings associated with that moment. Well, my hip-hop world was blown away as a believer when I first heard House of Representatives by The Crossmovement in 1999. It actually was released in 1998.  I came to find out later their first release was in 1997 titled Heaven’s Mentality, which I recommend.  Classic Christian hip-hop, yo!

I grew up in Houston, TX, but I always had what one fellow emcee told me was the east coast virus. He had it too and he’s originally from California.  The east coast virus is simply an affection for east coast music and style without having any roots or prior associations with that part of the country.  Funny, right?  I remember as a kid preferring Run DMC, LL Cool J, KRS-ONE, Whodini, Slick Rick, Eric B. and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Public Enemy over hometown emcees like the Geto Boys and The Convicts.

In the mid-late 90’s, as a radio DJ in college in San Marcos, TX, I was nicknamed “East Coast” by some of my peers because of the large amount of east coast hip-hop I played on my show.   So naturally, after I got saved, though I no longer desired the lyrics of secular hip-hop, I still longed for intricate lyricism, certain drum patterns, break beats and scratching.

It was quite a frustrating search and I thought I’d never find what I greatly desired – Christocentric lyricism packaged in east coast beats.  It’s not that it didn’t exist.  The problem was the lack of marketing and advertising.  While mainstream hip hop was the 2nd most popular music genre and the fastest growing genre in music in terms of annual sales increases, the Christian music community saw hip-hop as a sub-genre of the contemporary scene.  From a bottom-line dollar standpoint, there was no need to invest in the Christian hip hop market because there was no perceived audience.  Music history proves that notion wrong, especially hip-hop history.  Hip-hop evolved and existed for 5-6 years in the boroughs of New York City before it caught the attention of music executives. Once the street buzz was boomin’, music executives couldn’t help but to see this as a lucrative machine to wrap their hands around.  Remember Rapper’s Delight by The Sugar Hill Gang??

Aside from the business aspects, other tensions were prevalent. The Christian community was slow to receive Christian hip-hop because of hip-hop’s secular reputation. Likewise, the secular hip-hop community shunned Christian hip-hop because of its content.  Literally, it had no place and I identified with this problem and was often misunderstood. How can one love hip hop and Christ? In some people’s minds, these were the antithesis of each other.

Music in and of itself is not inherently evil. The intent and content of music’s lyrics draws the line of distinction between sacred and secular.

That memorable moment?  In 1999, there I was walking around in the Christian bookstore in San Marcos, TX looking for some good reading material and I decided to walk over to the music listening posts. Surprisingly, they had a hip-hop section and I immediately thought to myself, “I wonder how corny this is going to be?” But this album grabbed my attention. I saw 7 guys sitting at a semi-round table dressed up on their upper torsos, and dressed down on their lower torsos.  I saw sneakers, Timbs, and a slogan that said “Advocates Of The Theocratic Rule”. I was intrigued by the cover alone. Then I read the titles of the songs and I played the demo.


We brings the ruckus when we uplift the gift of salvation // It was He who came through forty-two generations // Logos invasion to planet Earth through virgin birth // The last Adam had come to reverse the works of the first // He became a curse to become a cure // The blood poured made sure // That he who enters by the door  will be eternally secured //  What shall I render? // Surrendered lives are due to Him // In due time the True Vine reconciled humans to the divine union of the Father // Hearts are altered to the altar // He died for all walks of life,  He’s the Lord of all cultures // Perfector, resurrector, all life is His //  Sin-disconnector,  eternal-holder of the sceptor of righteousness // Thunderous praise comes from his numberless fleet // The sovereign King all things are placed under His feet // The uncreated, incarnated creator of all creation  is to be celebrated in all occasions // ‘Cause He’s the glorious, victorious victor with the greatest victory of all history// Peep the unveiling mystery // Of the Chief Corner-stoner, The Atoner // May we present to this world the most generous blood donor  (Lyrics written by Juan “Enock” James)

I was rocked! This was it! This was what my heart and mind were looking for! These men looked like me, talked like me and yet it was undeniable that they were students of the Scriptures. You can’t write those kind of rhymes without having been soaked and saturated in Scripture. There is so much doctrine in that one verse.  The Lord used Christian hip-hop to whet my appetite for sound and weighty doctrine.  I wasn’t getting this in urban contemporary gospel music. Christian hip-hop at that point was for me the theological depth of hymns intertwined in urban musical ruggedness. Ah, what a dope blend!!!

Crossmovement, in many respects, has been graciously used to minister to and educate, primarily the hip-hop culture, as well as opened doors for this genre of music to be expanded and marketed better. There is still much work to be done in that aspect and the Lord will move in His time.

What I am blessed by the most is seeing the multifacetedness of redemption. Redemption not only involves people, but the things people do and create, even hip-hop. Hip-hop is not outside of the scope of Christ’s redemption! The beauty of Christ is displayed in array of ways, especially through the arts. And for now, we are only seeing a glimpse of His redemption. It is still unfolding and the culmination is forthcoming!

In future posts, I will highlight the artists that have been a blessing to me as they have endeavored to use hip-hop as their soapbox to magnify the excellencies of Jesus Christ.

Grace & Peace,