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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • Rev. John Samson
  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « Talk to Yourself by Martyn Lloyd-Jones | Main | My Journey Into Grace by Pastor John Samson »

    Cryptic Emails by John Hendryx

    Each day at Monergism.com, if you can imagine, we receive all kinds of email. These include a lot of sincere questions, encouragement, testimonies, challenges and the occasional cryptic messages. A couple of days ago I received one of the latter. The title of the email was:

    "What must I DO to be saved?"

    Then the body of the email only had the following Scriptural reference and no other text or explanation:

    30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

    My first response to the text was "Amen!". What more could be said?

    But as I thought it through I realized that perhaps the gentleman who wrote it (whom I had never had contact with before) was either offering some kind of proof against something he had read in the site and/or challenging me in some way. The first clue is the title of his email in which he CAPITALIZED the words "I DO" in "what must I DO to be saved?"

    In other words, he is asserting that yes, there is something man must do in order to be saved ... proof against your websites' claim that salvation is by God's grace alone, a monergistic work of God's grace without any cooperation of man.

    The first thing to notice about the text he sent is that it only tells us what man must do, that is, what God's demands are for man. But nowhere does the text speak of man's ability to carry out the command. If what the visitor means by presenting this text is that the natural man can believe the gospel apart from any illumination, conviction and quickening from the Holy Spirit then we run into serious difficulty and are flirting with the semi-pelagian belief that the natural man can believe the gospel using only his natural resources, apart from the Spirit. This is really where many persons in modern evangelicalism, I believe, have gone wrong in their method of exegesis. An isolated verse is presented as a proof text without consideration for what else the Scripture says about a thing. When we have a doctrine, in other words, we must consider the whole counsel of Scripture.

    For example, when Jesus indeed says, "come to Me" we must not also forget that elsewhere he also says "no one can COME TO ME UNLESS God grants it" (John 6:65) So "come to me" and believe in me" are commands given to men of what they must do to fulfill God's requirements of them. But Scripture is clear that the command to "believe in Christ" (Acts 17:30) which we herald to all persons indiscriminately only reveal spiritual impotence. But it is only the Spirit who can bring persons to that utter despair of self that they might trust in Christ. It is otherwise unnatural. To believe that the text provided by the visitor means that we can believe the gospel in a void while still left to our natural selves and our darkened affections, is to misapprehend the degree to which the natural man is corrupted, unspiritual and dead in sin. Unspiritual man simply does not think spiritual thoughts (1 Cor 2:14) and to believe in Christ is antithetical to human nature.

    In his sermon Free Will- A Slave CH. Spurgeon once asked,

    "...did you ever meet a Christian man who said, "I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?" If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, "My dear sir, I quite believe it-and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity."

    Spurgeon also said (in his sermon Human Inability) that many synergists say,

    "men may be saved if they will." We reply, "My dear sir, we all believe that; but it is just the "if they will" that is the difficulty. We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it--"Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;' and as long as that "ye will not come' stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will." It is strange how people, when talking about free-will, talk of things which they do not at all understand. "Now," says one, "I believe men can be saved if they will." My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful. supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ.

    So whenever persons use commands in the Bible to believe on Christ as proof that man has the spiritual ability to cooperate with God apart from the Holy Spirit, ask them if the Holy SPirit has any role in their coming to faith? If He does, then he must recognize that man, left to Himself, has no capacity whatsoever to believe the gospel. Then the discussion turns more profitable toward things such as "what is the nature of God's grace in Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit to save sinners?" Then take them to John 6:63-65, 37, 39, 44 etc. and put any end to the belief that the natural man cooperates with God in regeneration.

    Related Essay
    Responsibility, Inability and Monergisc Grace

    --

    This is an aside ... We wanted to ask for all of your prayers for this ministry. We live, I believe, in a very dark corner of the United States. I do not simply mean that it rains a lot here in the Northwest, but that there is precious little interest in the gospel here. As far as I know there is not historically been any great work of the Spirit to awaken people here. The crime statistics here also bare this out. Well, aside from our ministry constantly being hit from the Synergists on the left and the TRs on the right, we need you to hold us before the Lord when you come to Him in prayer. Your prayers for us are needed that we would maintain perseverance, have wisdom, continue to promote the right biblical balance and contend of the faith once delivered to the saints. Pray the Lord continue to excise wickedness from our own hearts that we might be instruments in His hands and align with His redemptive purpose. We thank you for your support for this ministry.

    Posted by John on March 6, 2006 11:41 AM

    Comments

    To build on this theme, I will pose a question. Say you are talking to someone in your home or wherever, and you are proclaiming the gospel. This person is convicted by the Holy Spirit and looks up to you and asks how they may be saved.

    It is apparent to me that a sinner's prayer is not the answer, nor is anything that man can accomplish apart from God. So how do you respond to them in that moment?

    I work with youth in the Awana program, and have had opportunities like this. Usually, the children have their books, which is a good thing because so many of the verses in there are evangelistic. I will open the book and read the verse with them, doing a very short exposition. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" is one such example.

    I ask them to answer this question for me. I say to look at the verse and tell me what they must do to be saved. After they say to believe, I go through the things that they affirm, the deity of Christ, the substitutional atonement, the resurrection. If they affirm these things, I pray with them that the Lord would grant them assurance.

    The other leaders will do a quick sinner's prayer and have kids ask several times to do it all over again. I too have had "repeat customers." While I do not condemn the ongoing requests for the grace of God, I wonder if I am not leading them the way I ought.

    Could you respond by e-mail, follow up comment or another post? Through recent discussion (within the last week) I know that there are many with similar thoughts.

    How do you approach a question such as this?

    John,

    I appreciate your humble and sincere request for prayer. I will commit to pray for you and your ministry on a daily basis. I minister in the Southwest of the United States, Las Vegas NV, and face a very similar situation as you. Not simply holding to the Gospel, but a non-descional regeneration gospel, has proven to be one of much controversey not only in the culture but also amongst other professing Christians. I share your concern and heart to see the Lord move in the hearts of those we are ministering to. Might the Lord grant you strength, perserverance, and boldness in your ministry. Keep on doing the Lord's work for His glory!

    Blessings in Christ,

    Luke Snowden

    Great post John!

    I am praying for you ministry.

    Just one question. You said: Well, aside from our ministry constantly being hit from the Synergists on the left and the TRs on the right..."

    For the life of me I don't know what a "TR" is. Could you elaborate that for an old okie like me?

    Doug, that is a great question...

    I might say something like..."If you have the desire to believe in Christ (seeing the truth, beauty and excellency of His person) then you can know for certain that God, the Holy Spirit, is doing as work of grace in you. If you right now believe that you justly deserve the wrath of God save in Christ's mercy alone, and have no hope from your own resources ... that He rose physically from the dead and believe His promise for you of eternal life than I declare to you on scriptural authority that your sins are forgiven."

    There is more that could be said, of course, but perhaps something like that. We simply hold out the commands and promises of Christ to all people. The work of the Holy Spirit will be evident when the desire for Jesus Christ is formed in a person.

    Consider Peter's first sermon after Pentecost. After preaching about redemptive history and what Christ had accomplished he said:

    "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself."

    His gospel explains that all who believe the promises receive the forgiveness of sins, these promises, which are for "as many as the Lord will call to Himself" This extra note shows the particularity of God's bringing only the elect to faith...that the internal calling of the Spirit is a necessary prerequisite for salvation, not just the external call of the gospel by itself. In other words, the gospel is a seed which the Spirit must germinate, so to speak. (see 1 Thess 1:4, 5)

    Luke and Mike. Thank you for your willingness to pray. It means a great deal to us. More than you know.

    Mike: TRs are Truly Reformed. You know the "I am more Reformed than anyone else" crowd. :) The right wing of our camp.

    John,
    I have emailed you before, but this is my first post.
    I remember the night I first believed. It was like when you wake up from a dream. You think you are awake until you wake up and then you realize you were asleep. I thought I believed until God opened my eyes through Christ.The only way to really believe is to just receive the gift of belief from God. After that,the only prayer I did was a prayer of thanksgiving to my Savior!It is all God. The verses quoted above are some very precious verses.
    Thnk you for your ministry, I will continue to pray for you.
    Marc

    As I read Marc's comment I was stunned. He said in just a few sentences what I have beent trying to express about my own testimony since I can remember. Yes, I didn't "DO" anything except receive the gift either.

    I am convinced that one of the reasons so many are synergistic in their theology is they can't see how anyone can be saved unless they take the initiative and "DO" something. Yes, we must believe but the ability to believe is a gift.

    Thank you my Lord for my salvation.

    John, I greatly appreciate your ministry and thank our great God and Father for it. I have and will continue to hold you before Him in prayer, and that you will be one of many elements He uses to bring about a modern reformation. Your web site has already been used of Him to bring about further reformation in my life and in others I know. Everyday, I look forward to what may be newly posted on the site. Of the twelve or so sites I look at daily reformationtheology.com is at the top of the list. Your labor has not been in vain. Thank you for your faithfulness to our Lord Jesus as one of the teachers He has given to His church to build up His body of saints. Michael Boyd

    Marc, Mike,

    yes....that is a good analogy. One could perhaps also say it is like all of the sudden a new pair of glasses were put on and what was once indecipherable due to poor eyesight is suddenly clear and then faith is simply the seeing, understanding and embracing of what now makes perfect sense, something impossible when unregenerate.


    Michael: Wow thank you for the encouragment. It is a delight to hear when people find the content of the site to be meaningful. May the Lord continue to work through you to multiply his kingdom.

    Meaningful? Are you kidding? :)

    Monergism.com is the first place I go whenever I have a question about anything pertaining to the Bible, theology, history, or pretty much anything else religious! It's been extremely helpful to me in writing a term paper for my seminary class, and I've forwarded the link to many people at my church. Whether they use it or not, I can't say, but they're aware of it.

    You and your ministry are in my prayers. Maybe you're not having much success out on the west coast yet, but here in Ohio, you're helping more than you know!

    I second that.

    Monergism.com is my home page on my browser. I have a friend who is in his first year at seminary. Before he started, his theology was typcial SBC, but I could tell he had questions about it. Meanwhile I became fully reformed. The other day we were talking and he told me his theolgy had changed since he started seminary, however, he still had a lot of questions. I directed him to www.monergism.com. Now he raves about it everytime I see him.

    It is an wonderful resource. Meanwhile ReformationTheology.com seems to be the solid, calm voice of graceful Reformed Theology. There is truth without abrasivness and arrogance.

    I thank God for all of those involved in these two ministries.

    Hey! What I have found is helpful in those circumstances is taking people to 1 John 8-9. Of course, we believe God must do the work and man is unable, but the child obviously has some desire to be saved. Demonstrate that if they have confessed their sins that God says that He will forgive them, and then have them confess their unbelief. I heard this suggestion from Sproul on Renewing Your Mind.

    I think this verse needs more publicity: Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent" John 6:29

    The comments here were so encouraging. As one who would perhaps called herself "newly Reformed," I have gotten over the more difficult tenets of Reformed theology but still wondered how the sinner's prayer I grew up with fit into the whole mix... I felt sure there had to be something else that could be said, but wasn't sure what until I read these comments. God bless you!

    John,
    I am preaching this Sunday, and would like to ask your permission to use your words at the end. This proclamation is so simple and so Biblical. I really love how you put this! Also, while I'm thinking about it, I'd like to amend my gospel presentation on my own site with this, but would prefer to do so with your blessing.

    "If you have the desire to believe in Christ (seeing the truth, beauty and excellency of His person) then you can know for certain that God, the Holy Spirit, is doing a work of grace in you. If you right now believe that you justly deserve the wrath of God save in Christ's mercy alone, and have no hope from your own resources ... that He rose physically from the dead and believe His promise for you of eternal life than I declare to you on scriptural authority that your sins are forgiven."

    Doug

    Great! Thank the Lord. I am delighted for you to use it in any way that you think might be helpful. Didn't know you were a preacher. That is a great gift. May the Lord abundantly bless your ministry.

    John

    Part time preacher would be more accurate. The Lord has blessed me to proclaim His word, but I am not employed by a church. If that happens, it will be a wonderful thing, but for now I must be faithful in the role I have been granted.

    I am a deacon at the present. I teach Sunday School and AWANA. I am called upon to preach occasionally. For now, that is my role. I pray that God would open more doors for me, and leave that up to Him.

    Thanks again!

    rev. 15
    song of moses
    song of the LAMB

    the LAMB OF GOD
    is JESUS

    the sons of david are solomon and JESUS

    solomom wrote the song of solomon
    if solomon means peace... and JESUS is the PRINCE of PEACE

    in essence the song of solomon is the song of the LAMB

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