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Indelible Grace Church Blog

Mercy as Social Justice

Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

As Christians, we understand that engagement with the poor is a matter of extending Christ’s mercy to the lowly. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Christ, though he was rich, for our sake became poor, so that we by his poverty might become rich. This is gospel reenactment.

But less familiar to Christians is the idea that engagement with the poor is also a matter of justice. We typically think of justice and mercy as opposed to each other. After all, don’t the poor deserve their poverty and the rich merit their wealth? The Bible says it is a lot more complex than that. Poverty, for many, is the result of laziness and immorality. But the Bible also understands poverty as a function of injustice. This is not widely accepted among Christians.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose you have two children. One is born to wealthy, highly-educated white parents who are professors at UC Berkeley. The other is born to a black single-mother on welfare struggling with a drug addiction in East Oakland. Can we predict the paths of these two children? Sadly, yes – with alarming accuracy. Why should the fate of these two children be so strictly determined simply by the circumstances of their birth? We may flatter ourselves that our station in life is largely the result of our own individual effort, but the reality is that wealth and poverty is largely generational. Which means the deprivations of the poor are fundamentally unjust. This is the profound insight of the Bible. Helping the poor is not simply a matter of mercy, but of fairness and justice. Thus you have passages like:

Psalm 146:5-7
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.

Isaiah 58:6-8
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Isaiah 1:16-17
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Without understanding the biblical framework of social justice, these verses seem to confuse upholding righteousness and helping the poor. But in the biblical worldview, all these things are connected – doing justice, correcting oppression, pleading the widow’s cause.

In the biblical understanding, pursuing justice is rectifying the fundamental unfairness that poverty inflicts on the poor. Consider Proverbs 13:23: “The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.” What is this proverb telling us? That the poor work hard but their labors are often in vain because poverty itself works against them. Unlike the rich, the poor don’t have a wide margin to make mistakes. A single illness, a few months of unemployment, a small emergency, and the family finances will go down the drain. Or consider the disparate realities of wealth and poverty in Proverbs 10:15 – “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin.”

According to the Bible, the righteous life is not simply to abstain from criminality, but to be deeply concerned with and immersed in the problem of chronic poverty. This is at the core of the Christian life.

If you would like to hear more, you can visit our Sunday School page for a two-part series on Mercy Ministry. Look under the dates Feb. 27 and March 6, 2011.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 June 2011 12:51

The Gospel: Power through Weakness


One of the remarkable things about the gospel is that God saves us, not through strength and victory, but through the weakness and defeat of Christ on the cross. Not only is this how God saves us, but the pattern of how God works through us. This has a profound effect on the way we look at life.

Take for example, the realm of storytelling. On the one hand, you have a Christian like J.R.R. Tolkien whose fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, centers around four unassuming little hobbits. As anyone familiar with the story knows, hobbits are not particularly remarkable for anything other than their large appetites and unusually hairy feet. But it is precisely their weakness and frailty that equips them to fulfill the quest of slipping past the vast armies of Mordor to destroy the one Ring of Power and so save Middle Earth.


On the other hand, consider another popular fantasy story – Conan the Barbarian. The creator of the series, Robert E. Howard, who tragically committed suicide at age 30, was not a Christian. You can see how this influenced his storytelling. Conan also goes on epic quests, but it is the very fact that he is a muscle-bound swordsman that enables him to best all his opponents. This was captured well in the movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the reoccurring motifs in the movies, which is somewhat comical, is that before Schwarzenegger’s Conan does battle with anyone, he first does a series of muscle poses with his broadsword. It’s silly but it perfectly captures the spirit of Robert E. Howard’s unflinching worldview. There’s a classic line where someone asks Conan the Barbarian what is the greatest pleasure in life. He answers without skipping a beat, “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.” This is a worldview without space for weakness or failure.

But the Apostle Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthian church:

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2011 14:00

Harry Chan at The Gospel Coalition


Harry Chan has recently joined Indelible Grace Church as a pastoral intern. He will be studying at Western Seminary in San Jose starting this Fall. Below are his reflections on attending the 2011 The Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago. The title of the conference was "They Testify About Me: Preaching Jesus and the Gospel From The Old Testament."

"This was my first time attending any sort of Christian conference. I've known about other annual conferences such as Passion for younger adults but I was never motivated enough to spend all that money on airfare, hotel, registration, and food to experience first-hand the huge corporate worship for three days. I settled for watching this past year's Passion conference through the free live-stream on the internet. I thought this was good enough to learn and experience the conference. And so I was going to do the same with The Gospel Coalition conference.

My father-in-law called me up one day and said that Lauren, my wife, told him that I was thinking of flying out to Chicago for the conference. He told me he had a free airplane ticket that I could redeem from his rewards card. I jumped on the opportunity and buckled down to paying the conference registration fee.


Though my initial thoughts about attending The Gospel Coalition conference were to worry about the costs involved, I was excited and fired up to go to Chicago. I was both eager to learn and be fed and to worship with the crowd. I was excited for the chance to listen to many of my heroes of faith preach truth and the gospel from their assigned passages in the Old Testament.

I was not disappointed.

I've been exposed to preaching Christ and the gospel in all of Scripture prior to this conference, so the idea was not new to me, however, to see these godly men to do it with such passion and conviction to a crowd of 5,000, most of whom were pastors, was very inspiring, encouraging, and uplifting. To gather in a huge auditorium with all these godly men and women who hunger and desire for God and His glory, and sing praises to our Father as a body of believers was a moving experience. The many workshops and various discussion panels were helpful in stirring up my thoughts on different matters.

Each day of the 3-day long conference was completely filled. There were multiple sessions, workshops, and discussion panels going on throughout the entire time. Each morning I took the train from my hostel in downtown Chicago to arrive at McCormick Place, where the conference was held, at around 7-7:30 am, and I didn't get back to my room until 11 pm each night. With the exception of lunch, dinner, and an occasional mid-day break, I was always in a session of some sort and singing worship to end the night. I was tired but I loved every minute of it. I was soaking it all in.

Though the majority of these sessions and workshops are posted online, one thing I got out of being there in person was the opportunity to meet several different pastors and leaders from around the country who were also in attendance for the first time. It was encouraging to hear their stories and to be able to draw wisdom and insight from them.


I may easily be wrong about this, but I thought that The Gospel Coalition conference was heavier than normal, thinking of the non-Christians or newer Christians that were attending. I met a person at the conference who told me that it was a bit much and a lot of things went right over his head. I understood where he was coming from. It seemed as though much of the conference could be a bit boring if people did not already have a deep love for God and His Word.

But the greatest encouragement was seeing how these godly preachers love Christ and preach the gospel so faithfully, as famous as most of them are amongst evangelical circles. Their humility in themselves and their proclamation of Jesus Christ and the gospel in all of Scripture, both the Old and New Testament, and in their talks and messages was extremely powerful and moved me to a much greater love for God, the gospel, and His Word.

The Gospel Coalition conference was an awesome experience and I would definitely tell people to go at least once. But if you can't afford it, there's always an abundance of very rich online resources to encourage and stir up your affections for God."

Last Updated on Friday, 20 May 2011 18:48

Year in Review

IGC as a church plant is now a year old.  It’s a remarkable thing.  Not that all of us involved are so capable and adept, but rather that God in his goodness and graciousness sustained us and displayed his glory through us. 

Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthian church, reflecting on the mystery and wonder of God proclaiming his majesty through broken and weak vessels, said this – “but we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  Soli Deo Gloria!


Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 May 2011 11:49

Seeing Christ in the Old Testament


We've been going through Ephesians 5 on marriage in our Sunday sermons. The Apostle Paul makes an incredible statement in verse 32 – "this mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." What is this mystery? Paul, of course, is referring to his quotation of Genesis 2:24 in the immediate preceding verse – "therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."

Here's what's profoundly amazing about what Paul is teaching us. Genesis 2:24, which on the surface is the story of Adam and Eve and the world's first wedding, is really about Christ and the church. This was unbeknownst to Adam, Eve and the writer of Genesis – thus a mystery! Only with the coming of Christ was this mystery revealed.

In the sermon series – I unpacked what this means for our understanding of marriage and salvation. But here, I want to explore what this says about how we read the Old Testament. Paul is showing us how to read the Hebrew Scriptures. The New Testament gives us new eyes to reread the Old Testament and see Christ in all those old familiar stories. Do we not see this again and again? Jesus says – "the story of Jonah. Don’t you realize that’s a picture of me?" (Matthew 12:39) Paul says – "the rock Moses struck in the wilderness. That was Christ!" (1 Corinthians 10:4) On the road to Emmaus, Jesus instructs his disciples – "and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus interpreted to his disciples in all the Scriptures [Old Testament] the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27)

In formal theological terms, this is called Biblical Theology or Covenant Theology. It gives us a paradigm for reading the OT, not as moral parables (a la Aesop's Fables), but as pictures of salvation in Christ. It informs how we read the Old Testament, even in those stories where the New Testament does not explicitly spell out how Christ is the real story. In other words, we read the Old Testament through the lens of the gospel.  As Augustine once wrote, "The New Testament is concealed in the Old Testament; and the Old is revealed in the New."

If you would like to learn more, here are a few good resources:

The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones (difficulty level: easy)

According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible, Graeme Goldsworthy (medium)

Preaching Christ in All of Scripture, Edmund Clowney (medium)

Biblical Theology, Geerhardus Vos (advanced)

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, Sidney Greidanus (advanced)

Last Updated on Monday, 04 April 2011 20:39

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