They provide us with a mirror in which we see our created destiny lying behind us almost unrecognizable. We were made by God for His glory and to enjoy Him—in a word, for fellowship with Him and doxology to Him. But now we find ourselves Isaiah-like overwhelmed by the discovery of who God is—the holy One—and we realize we are, like an ancient Scottish castle that has become a ruined heirloom, destroyed by the assaults of Satan. We are derelict, incapable of self-restoration, undone, and unclean. None of us is capable of opening a scroll that might contain a plan for our salvation and restoration (Rev. 5:4).
But this is not how our theology ends. God wants His image back. True, we must discover we are ruined before we can see our need for restoration work. But then our Isaianic-Johannine theology tells us that it is not a different God, but one and the same thrice-holy God whose messenger brings restoration through an altar-of-sacrifice burning coal that first incinerates and then restores. And this biblically crafted theology tells us that in his vision Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord Jesus (John 12:41). Then, since our theology holds that revelation is both progressive and cumulative, we understand that the person to whom Isaiah’s vision points is none other than the Lion of Judah, the slain Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Rev. 5:6–10). And as we delve deeper to “learn Christ” (Eph. 4:20), we contemplate His one divine person in His two natures united in that one person, in His two states of humiliation and exaltation, and in His three offices as Prophet, Priest, and King—one Lord Jesus Christ.
In this context, we discover that something happens to us: by the seraphic Spirit, our lives are brought into living contact with Christ in His atoning sacrifice. We are forgiven and justified from the guilt of sin. And in that same moment the burning away of sin in us is inaugurated. It cannot be any other way, for as Calvin regularly noted, to think that we can have Christ for justification without having Him for sanctification is to rend Him asunder since He has been given to us for both. The Spirit unites us to one Christ who is both “righteousness and sanctification” to us (1 Cor. 1:30). Therefore, the sinner who is justified also and simultaneously shares in His death to the dominion of sin and His resurrection to a new life to God (Rom. 6:2–4). To have any other theology is to misunderstand how grace reigns “through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (5:21).
No wonder that the transcendent vision of Isaiah ends in unconditional obedience: “Here am I! Send me” (no matter how rough the road; Isa. 6:8–13). And no wonder that the vision of Isaiah echoes in John’s experience of the heavenly chant: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8); and climaxes in endless adoration: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever” (5:13). It is no accident that Ligonier National Conferences traditionally end with the singing of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”
Yes, this is our theology. It has been Ligonier’s heartbeat from the earliest days of “The Teaching Fellowship of R.C. Sproul”—expressed now for fifty years in a multitude of ways. Here we all become part of that teaching fellowship. And this theology, our theology, becomes the divine repair shop, bringing us from ruin through redemption to final restoration. Soli Deo gloria!