Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones on Modern Man and the Gospel
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is interviewed by Joan Bakewell in December 1970:
What About Lost Loved Ones?
Let me address this question by telling you a story from history. In the 4th century, there was a very devout Christian lady named Monica. She was married to a prominent man who did not share her Christian faith. He was often very cruel to her, causing her physical abuse. Every day she would go to the church and pray for his conversion. Later on in his life, he did in fact become a Christian.
Yet the pain and anguish her husband caused her seemingly paled into insignificance compared to that which she suffered because of her oldest son. Her mother’s heart was broken, time after time, seeing the reckless life her son was leading. He not only did not share his mother’s faith but would join himself to anti-Christian groups, using his sharp mind to seek to convince others to follow him. He lived a very immoral life. He had a mistress but left her for another and had a son born out of wedlock, named Adeodatus. Monica was not personally able to convince her son of the truth claims of Christianity, but she determined never to stop praying that he would turn to the Lord.
For two decades this went on, with Monica persisting in prayer for her son, seemingly seeing no results. Her son was later to write about all this and tells us that she wept more for his spiritual death than most mothers weep for the bodily death of their children. Distraught, she went to see the well known Bishop Ambrose of Milan to speak about her plight. Knowing her anguish of soul he said, “Go your way and God will bless you, for it is not possible that the son of these tears should perish.” She accepted the answer as though it were a word from God Himself.
Monica’s prayers for her son were answered very suddenly. One day he was in a garden experiencing much agony of soul because of his sin. God the Holy Spirit was certainly working on him. In his own writings he recalled what happened next––suddenly he heard the voice of a boy or a girl, he was not sure which, coming from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again, “Tolle Lege, Tolle Lege” a Latin phrase that meant ‘Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.’
Later, in his own writings, he recounted, "Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon….
The Anatomy of Obedience (4-Part Sermons Series) by Brian Borgman
The Texts preached through in this series demonstrate that obedience is necessary for eternal life. But remeber, we are not saved by our obedience, but we are obedient because we are saved. Although we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, but such faith in Christ is not alone, it is a faith which obeys because it earnestly appeals to God for the strength to obey. These texts in question must be twisted, ignored or whited out of our Bibles if we are going to say that obedience is optional for the Christian.
The Anatomy of Obedience Notes - Heb. 5:9 (,pdf)
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Rightly Distinguishing Law and Gospel Changes Everything
One of the primary reasons for the division in the church over free grace vs. free will is the failure of one side to distinguish between law and gospel. Synergists erroneously reason (outside of Scripture) that if something is commanded in Scripture then man must have the moral ability to do it. Instead, after the fall, the Bible uses the holy commands as an instrument of God to strip man of all hope in himself and behold his own moral bankruptcy (Rom 3:19, 20).
"The commandments are not given inappropriately or pointlessly; but in order that through them the proud, blind man may learn the plague of his impotence, should he try to do as he is commanded." Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, pg. 160
"By the law is the knowledge of sin' [Rom 3:20], so the word of grace comes only to those who are distressed by a sense of sin and tempted to despair." Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, pg. 168
All the commands of our Lord were given to us to obey. We cannot twist Scripture to somehow ignore the weight of the responsibility this puts on each one of us. Grace does not somehow give us a trump card to ignore the commands. No, we appeal to grace, not in order to cancel out, avoid or do away with God's commands. On the contrary, we appeal to the grace of God in Christ in order that we might have the strength and power to do them. For apart from grace we can do nothing (John 15:5, 3:27, 6:63; 1 Cor. 4:7, 15:10; 2 Tim 2:25) If God commands us to love him with all our heart how do we do this? By grace. If God calls us to love our neighbor, how to we do this? By grace. If God summons us to believe the gospel, how do we do this? By grace. This is the message found on every page of the bible.
"Does it follow from: 'turn ye' that therefore you can turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love with all your heart? What do arguments of this kind prove, but the 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power...But it does not follow from this that man is converted by his own power, nor do the words say so; they simply say: "if thou wilt turn, telling man what he should do. When he knows it, and sees that he cannot do it, he will ask whence he may find ability to do it..." Martin Luther, 164
A Response to Shawn McCraney
The folk at Apologia radio write, "We are saddened by Shawn McCraney’s attempts to abandon the biblical view of God’s grace by publicly teaching against ‘The Doctrines of Grace’. However, we love God’s Gospel and the incomprehensible nature of His grace enough to defend those truths whenever attacked: whether by cults (like Mormonism) or by professing brothers. Theology matters. Shawn McCraney’s attack on the biblical view of grace, the sovereignty of God, and the truths surrounding election have far reaching implications. The Gospel is at stake with issues related to grace, our condition before God, and our works. McCraney’s views are not helpful- they are not founded upon the Word of God."
In this two hour show I was asked to respond to Shawn's attack on Reformed theology. You can hear the program at this link. (The response to Shawn McCraney begins around the 23 minute mark) - John Samson
The Moral and Immoral Both Alienated from God
Both moral and immoral people are alienated from God. God is offended by both. This may be counter-intuitive but moral people are lost because of their "goodness". Why? It is often the case that goodness keeps people from God. In fact many people avoid Jesus by avoiding sin because they are trying to become their own saviors ... attempting to justify themselves. But the gospel is neither moralism nor relativism so it is equally offensive to the moral and the irreligious. But Christ calls us to repent of both our good and bad works, for we have no righteousness of our own.
As an example of Jesus dislike of people who trusted in their own morality, Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains." (John 9:41) Those who think God will accept us based on goodness actually understand only part of the truth. Yes, God loves what is good. But since He also loves the truth, we must confess that, in light of God's holy law, we are not good and have woefully failed to do what is pleasing to God, replacing God with worthless self-pleasing idol substitutes, and so we justly deserve to be punished for it. Those who think they have done enough to please God have not understood or considered the seriousness of their condition. John Calvin once said, "Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God's majesty." In light of the holiness of God all persons, even the best of us, would become undone. This was the case even with the holiest of the saints of the Bible. When it pleased God to reveal himself to them, they fell at his feet as though dead. God created us to enjoy and glorify Him, but humans voluntarily rebelled against God falling into the bondage of the self-centeredness of sin and cannot help themselves out of it.
For clarification, no one would here dare to somehow reason that because we cannot trust in morality that we thereby should be content to be immoral. Those who are regenerated by the Spirit of God will want to obey God and the commands are not burdensome because such persons have been born of God. (1 John 5:1-4). We obey because we are saved, not in order to be saved.
Are You Trusting In Your Own Ability to Persevere?
Those who think they can lose their salvation are not trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation but partly trusting in their own righteousness. Such teaching would have you believe that the sacrifice of Jesus was insufficient to make his people perfect forever (Heb 10:14) or save them to the uttermost (Heb 7:25) [i.e. that Jesus is not enough]. ... such that, in addition to what Christ did, they must join their own ability to persevere in order to maintain their own just standing before God. The book of Hebrews and Galatians severely warns against this and all teaching that rejects the sufficiency of Christ alone (Heb 6 & 10; Gal 3:3).
Those things that ARE Revealed
While we wholeheartedly affirm that there are indeed many mysteries about God we were not meant to understand this side of eternity, and perhaps will never fully comprehend. But the Bible declares that those things that ARE revealed WERE MEANT for us and our children (Deut. 29:29). In other words, if Jesus talked about something and He put it in Scripture, He meant that we should hear it, talk about it, think about it, form our understanding with regard to it, preach about it, apply it, and obey it on THIS side of eternity. The refusal to want to take the time to learn more about Jesus in the Text is really so much of what is wrong with Christianity today. Certain evangelicals appear to have no interest in applying themselves to Scripture and would rather believe in a generic Jesus who we form in our own image.
I would much prefer to have a heated but irenic debate with a theological opponent than to hear someone say, "we should just love Jesus and forget about the rest", as if you could love a Jesus whom you don't really know. Which Jesus should we love?
Redemption Both Particular & Trinitarian
The work of redemption is both particular and it is Trinitarian. The Father elects a particular people for Himself (Eph 1: 4, 5); Christ dies for all those the Father has given Him (John 17:9, 19). and the Spirit applies the effectual work of Christ on the same (John 3:8; 6:63). However, those (amyraldians) who reject particular redemption introduce a conflict between the Divine Persons. The Triune God becomes disjoined from one other in their saving intent. In this case the Father elects particular individuals, but the Son, on the other hand, dies for all, and the Spirit again seals those the Father elected. Such theology would have us believe that the Son works in disharmony with the other two Members of the Trinity. But Christ is not the author of confusion but rather (the bible declares) came to save all those given to him by the Father (John 6:37,63,65; 17:9; 19, 24)
"Circumcise the foreskin of your heart"
Question: "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn." Deut. 10:16 --> If God commands the Israelites to circumcise their own hearts in this verse and in Jer. 4:4, how can we reconcile these two verses with monergistic principles?
Answer: Good question.
Let me first answer with a question. God commands you love love Him with all your heart mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Can you do so apart from grace?
When Adam fell in the garden God did not change his holy standard for him or us. Although corrupted, God still commands all men everywhere to be holy, and he punishes men for not obeying his law perfectly. This demonstrates that our inability does not alleviate our responsibility - God commands holiness even though we are impotent to be holy. This is the whole point of the gospel where He extends grace in Jesus Christ - TO GRANT WHAT HE COMMANDS. And we see this very principle later in (the book you cite) Deuteronomy 30:6 where God declares: “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live."
He grants in Deuteronomy 30:6 what he commanded in Deuteronomy 10:16.
Remember Romans 3:19, 20 teach us the purpose of the commands in the Bible >>> "through the law comes knowledge of sin"... In other words, the purpose of commands is not to show our ability but our inability. Carried over to Deut 10:16 this means the command to circumcise our own hearts is God's holy requirement for us, but can only be fulfilled by grace.
God commands us to circumcise our hearts because this is his holy requirement for us. And then in his mercy He grants the very thing he commands (Deut 30:6). Jesus came to do for us what we were unable to do for ourselves.
As for Jeremiah we see the same principle, The entire book of Jeremiah is about a prophet sent to people who, God tells him, will not listen. "So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you." (Jeremiah 7:27) So the command to circumcise their own hearts is going to people who God declares will reject his message.
Like Deuteronomy 30:6, there are also similar promises for regenerating grace in Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
Hope this helps