John 6:44, 45 and Free Will
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. "It is written in the prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me." John 6:44, 45 (NASB)
Back in January, I posted a link to an article here by a friend of mine, Brian Bosse, on the logical conclusions of John 6:44. The article proved, I believe, that John 6:44 teaches either Calvinism or universalism (which is of course a concept the Bible negates very clearly elsewhere), but it does not allow for Arminianism.
So, how do those who boast that man's will is the determining factor in salvation get around the obvious implications of John 6:44. Well, they go to the next verse, v. 45, and read into the text a view of free will which is then used to dispel the logic of the previous verses. It is an illigitimate way to handle the text, as Dr. James White points out in a response to someone who had challenged him on his Reformed understanding of John 6:36-45. From the mail bag at www.aomin.org then, here's the interchange, starting with the person challenging Dr. White's reformed understanding of the passage:
Opposition to the Gospel by A.W. Pink
The love of God which the gospel publishes, and the sufferings of Christ for sinners, ought to melt the hardest heart and cause every hearer fervently to cry, "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift." This message of glad tidings proclaims peace. It tells of deliverance from condemnation, and promises eternal life to all who receive it. Yet the fact remains that the great majority of those who hear it are scarcely affected and obtain no lasting advantage to their souls; and that perplexes many Christians. But the total depravity of man fully explains that lamentable state. In a heart that is desperately wicked there is nothing whatever on which the gospel can seize that will evoke any echo of it. Its message is directly opposed to the opinions and inclinations of the fallen creature....a holy gospel does not appeal to them, being foreign to their tastes....If God were to leave men entirely to themselves in their response to the gospel, it would be universally rejected. There is a deeply rooted contrariety to God in men's very nature which makes them turn a deaf ear to His voice, though they are ready enough to listen to the least whisper of Satan. As there are plants which are attractive to the eye but poisonous to the stomach, so even though the gospel is a pleasant sound to the ear it is repulsive to a corrupt heart. The gospel requires men to renounce their own wisdom and become as little children, to repudiate their own righteousness, and accept that of Another, to turn from self-pleasing and submit to the will of God. The gospel is designed to transform the inner man and regulate the outer man, and this is quite unacceptable to the unregenerate. No exhortations will reconcile a wolf and a lamb. No logical arguments will tame a fierce lion. Though man is a rational creature, he follows the promptings of his lusts rather than the dictates of his judgment. One who is wholly in love with sin and Satan does not desire to enter the service of Christ. To turn to God in Christ is altogether contrary to the stream of corrupt nature, and therefore it needs to be overcome by a flood of almighty grace, as the stream of the river is overcome by the tide of the sea.
- A.W. Pink (Our Accountability to God pg 231, 232)
On The Doctrine of Human Depravity & The Doctrine of Man's Impotence
The Together for the Gospel Statement
We are brothers in Christ united in one great cause â€“ to stand together for the Gospel. We are convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many churches and among many who claim the name of Christ. Compromise of the Gospel has led to the preaching of false gospels, the seduction of many minds and movements, and the weakening of the church's Gospel witness.
As in previous moments of theological and spiritual crisis in the church, we believe that the answer to this confusion and compromise lies in a comprehensive recovery and reaffirmation of the Gospel â€“ and in Christians banding together in Gospel churches that display God's glory in this fallen world.
We are also brothers united in deep concern for the church and the Gospel. This concern is specifically addressed to certain trends within the church today. We are concerned about the tendency of so many churches to substitute technique for truth, therapy for theology, and management for ministry.
Assenting to the Gospel through Our Natural Powers?
As we cast forth the seed of the Gospel, the fallow ground of the natural heart does not receive it. The Farmer must first come plow it up and give blessing if it is to grow (Micah 6:15; 1 Cor 3:6). The Word does not work by itself but requires the application of the Spirit who brings forth life through the Word (1 Thess 1:4, 5). When the Holy Spirit germinates that seed, He quickens the hearer to life, opening spirtitually blind eyes, unpluging deaf ears, convicting of sin, and turning hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. We affirm that this initial grace of the Holy Spirit working in us is independent of any human cooperation.
With the historic biblical church of all ages we confess that God does not await our unregenerate will to be cleansed from sin, since even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the effectual working of the Holy Spirit in uniting us to the Person and work of Christ (John 1:13; 6:63-65, 37; Rom 9:16). That even the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly comes to us through regeneration -- and this belongs to us NOT by nature but by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, for the Apostle Paul says, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). We confess that it is by the work and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we even have the faith, the will, or the strength to believe and obey as we ought. The assistance of grace does not depend on the humility or obedience of man but it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble. The Apostle Paul again says, "...What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
We confess that due to the bondage of the natural man to a corruption of nature, we cannot assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination, inspiration and quickening of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament communicates this when it speaks of circumcising and softening otherwise stubborn, unholy and hardened hearts (Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:26). It is spoken of as the act of Godâ€™s writing his law on the human heart (Jer. 31:33). In the New Testament, this work of the Holy Spirit is represented as making us a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), being brought from death to life (Rom. 6:13), being called out of darkness into Godâ€™s wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9), or being born again (John 3:3).
Some Quotes from Together for the Gospel
"The most insignificant sin that has ever been committed would ruin the entire cosmos, for it would mar the perfection that God created to reflect His glory. We steal Godâ€™s glory by every sin. We do not grasp the weight of our sin. Until we can bring home the ugliness of sin, Satan has another weapon in his locker. " (Duncan)
"Pastors think there must be a light tone throughout the message which makes it impossible to discuss serious matters such as sin." (Dever)
"If the average evangelical pastor would be held captive by terrorists and would need to give an adequate definition of justification to escape alive, well, weâ€™d have a lot of dead pastors." (Mohler)
"Sin and the wrath of God go together; you canâ€™t have a Biblical doctrine of sin without the wrath of God." (Mohler)
"One of the most effective evangelistic series our church has ever done was when I preached through everyone that God executed for sin." (Mahaney)
Live Blogging by Tim Challies
As most of you already know, the Together for the Gospel Conference is taking place this week, finishing later today. Tim Challies is serving many of us who are not there (but would like to be) by live blogging at the main sessions. Here are his notes for Dr. Sproul's session yesterday afternoon. For more, go to www.challies.com.
This afternoon we have the privilege of hearing R.C. Sproul speak on "The Center of Christian Preaching: Justification by Faith Alone." It seems to me that if we could want to hear any man in the world today speak on the subject of "justification by faith alone," it would be Sproul. Few men have dedicated more time to understanding and preaching this critical doctrine. Few men are more qualified to speak to share with us this: the very heart of Christian doctrine.
Justification is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls, and ultimately, the doctrine upon which you and I stand or fall. This doctrine is the "Atlas" upon which the whole of Christianity rests. Were Atlas to shrug, the entire structure of the Christian faith would fall to the ground and be shattered. This is not a common understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith alone in our day. It is now considered, tragically, the small print of the gospel. The battle over justification by faith alone is considered, by so many, a tempest in a teapot. Many have declared the Reformation to be over since Catholicism and Protestantism have supposedly mended their fences and now stand together. The New Perspective tells us that both sides completely misunderstood Paul's true teaching on justification. Yet it should not be surprising that we see a minimalist attitude being expressed about this doctrine.
Towards the end of his life, Martin Luther warned (rightly it seems) that in every generation the gospel will have to be reaffirmed because this doctrine, when proclaimed boldly and accurately, will produce conflict. We are those who, when faced with the options of fight or flight, prefer to flee conflict even if the stakes are as low as being burned not at the stake but at the payroll of a local church. With this increasing significance comes an eclipse of the understanding of this doctrine. Dr. Sproul will discuss the Roman Catholic understanding of the doctrine of justification so we can understand the Reformation understanding up against the Roman Catholic.
Renewing Your Mind with Dr. R.C. Sproul launches on DirecTV Â®
Orlando, Fla., April 22, 2006 â€” Renewing Your Mind (RYM) is embarking on a new era of outreach by broadcasting on the NRB Network, channel 378 on DirecTV Â®, with a potential audience of more than sixteen million subscribers. This new broadcast will contribute quality programs that provide a platform to expand the kingdom of God by increasing the reach of biblical truth. RYM will feature teaching by Dr. R.C. Sproul, airing for thirty minutes at both 7:30 EST in the morning and evening.
Since Americans are watching television now more than ever, the need for solid Christian programming with content that rivals secular channels has increased. John Duncan, executive producer for RYM, said, â€œThe opportunity on the NRB Network brings the ministry to its knees in prayer, because we are at the threshold of something that has the potential to be as effective as the radio outreach. As we did not realize the profound impact that the radio ministry would have in the world, so the new television ministry opportunity has also opened up endless possibilities.â€ For the first time, Dr. Sproul will be invited into viewers homes, while they come face-to-face with his deep theological knowledge and characteristic, practical teaching style.
The NRB Network â€œexists to represent the Christian broadcastersâ€™ right to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.â€ Senior vice president and chief operating officer of the NRB network, Troy Miller, said, â€œAs of yet, there is not a Christian network seeking to compete with the secular broadcasters such as the Hallmark Channel, the Discovery Channel, Bravo, Fox News, PBS, PBS Kids, and so on. The NRB Network enters the market to answer the challenge â€” bringing a solid biblical world and life view, coupled with a modern and more mainstream programming approach.â€
Dr. R. C. Sproul is featured on RYM, an international radio broadcast that has aired for more than ten years with an estimated two million people tuning in every week. Dr. Sproul is a respected teacher, theologian, and pastor. He is currently serving as the director of Serve International, and senior minister of preaching at Saint Andrewâ€™s Chapel in Sanford, Florida. He has had a distinguished academic teaching career, written scores of articles for national publications, is general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, executive editor of Tabletalk magazine, and he has written more than 60 books, produced more than 300 lecture series, and recorded more than 80 video series â€” which will be prepared to air on the RYM television program. For more information please visit www.ligonier.org.
On William Cowpers Grave Site
It is a place where poÂets crowned may feel the heartâ€™s decaying;
It is a place where happy saints may weep amid their praying;
Yet let the grief and humbleness as low as silence can languish:
Earth surely now may give her calm to whom she gave her anguish.
O poÂets from a maniacâ€™s tongue was poured the deathless singing!
O ChristÂians, at your cross of hope a hopeless hand was clinging!
O men, this man in brotherhood your weary paths beguiling,
Groaned inly while he taught you peace, and died while ye were smiling!
And now, what time ye all may read through dimming tears his story,
How discord on the music fell and darkness on the glory,
And how when, one by one, sweet sounds and wandering lights departed,
He wore no less a loving face because so broken-hearted.
With quiet sadness and no gloom, I learn to think upon him,
With meekness that is gratefulness to God whose Heaven hath won him,
Who suffered once the madness-cloud to His own love to blind him,
But gently led the blind along where breath and bird could find him;
And wrought withÂin his shattered brain such quick poÂetic senses
As hills have language for, and stars, harmonious influences:
The pulse of dew upon the grass kept his withÂin its number,
And silent shadows from the trees refreshed him like a slumber.
Wild timid hares were drawn from woods to share his home-caresses,
Uplooking to his human eyes with sylvan tendernesses,
The very world, by Godâ€™s constraining, from falsehoodâ€™s ways removing,
Its women and its men beÂcame, beside him, true and loving.
And though, in blindness, he remained unconscious of that guiding,
And things provided came withÂout the sweet sense of providing,
He testified this solemn truth, while phrensy desolated,â€”
Nor man nor nature satisfied whom onÂly God created.
Excellent Reformed Resource on Da Vinci Code !
The Truth about Da Vinci
On Good Friday, Westminster Theological Seminary launched www.thetruthaboutdavinci.com, a response website to the best-selling novel by Dan Brown and forthcoming movie The Da Vinci Code. "We have been struck by the great number of people whose faith has been shaken by the mixture of fact and fiction portrayed in this tale," says Dr. William Edgar, professor of apologetics and faculty coordinator of the project. "We want to help them as they confront this phenomenon. While a number of 'rebuttal sites' exist, ours is meant to combine responses to distorted facts with our understanding of the spiritual and presuppositional issues that inform them."
Among the resources provided on the website are articles, audio, videos, and book recommendations that set the record straight and commend the historic Christian faith. Additional features will be added soon. Use this website to answer any questions that you may have, as well as those who ask you, particularly in light of the immensely popular book and the upcoming film directed by Ron Howard.
"Let Me Tell You A Story": Finding Yourself in God's Story, Pt. 1
Introduction: "The Story of My Life!"
What do we mean when we say: "That's the story of my life!" Usually it is a reactionary phrase of response that means that a certain event, or certain happening or occurrence is a consistent or recurring reality in our lives. We may not think about, or unpack this phrase much when we say it, but what we are really revealing about ourselves is that whether we acknowledge it or not, we are "actors" or "players" in a narrative world, or narrative universe.
Allow me to introduce my thinking on the importance of story, or a storied context in which we all live. I would like to focus on this "narrative world" in which God the Father wants all of us to imagine ourselves in the Bible as Christians. The Bible teaches us the true story of creation, fall, redemption and new creation. We are to see ourselves as people in this Grand Story that God has communicated in his holy inerrant and infallible Word.
[Note: I do not use the word "imagine" in this post to imply that it is an "imaginary world" in which God calls us, in the sense of "not real", but a place of truth where are imaginations are actively engaged with and by God's truth (a "narratable world"- Robert Jenson, 'How the World Lost It's Story', First Things, 36 (Oct. 1993): 19-24).
This is a two-part study that will be concluded later this week on finding ourselves in God's Truth, or His Story!
Playing Marbles with Diamonds by Pastor John Samson
(This title is inspired by a song by Steve Camp, of the same name)
Is the way you study the Bible offensive to God? Did I get your attention? What!!? God can be offended when we study the Bible?
As Christians gather together for a Bible study, often what happens is that the leader reads a verse or short passage of Scripture, and then he turns to each member of the group, asking for their comments. Starting with the man next to him on his right, he asks, "Bill, what do you feel this means to you?" Bill struggles to think of something to say, but stumbles through the ordeal, and relates an incident he experienced at work that he thinks the passage might relate to. He seems to be encouraged by the reaction of the group because most people seem to be grateful for his comments.
Next up, its Mary's turn to answer the question. She feels very differently to Bill about the passage, and her answer takes the group in a completely different direction. This is all very exciting to some in the group. They marvel about all the different "facets of truth" being brought out in the Bible study. Yet, if we analyse what was said, what Bill said actually contradicts what Mary said, and what Michael says (who had the third turn) shows that there's yet another way to understand the passage being cited. Once each person in the group has taken their turn, the leader announces the end of the study, and thanks everyone for their participation. They'll meet again next week, and perhaps may even invite friends to come study the Bible with them.
But what was all this? Did each in the group experience new depths of understanding? Is everyone leaving the study with a greater knowledge of God's Word? I don't want to sound unkind, but the scenario I described here merely allowed for the pooling of the ignorance in the room.
Speaking of answered prayer...
Speaking of answered prayer, we should all pause in awe of our most wise and holy God for the great works He has done in China. Cumulative prayers of millions of intercessors in the last 150 years has broken through the rock hard wall of a country which, just 60 years ago, was almost totally closed to the gospel. It gives us great hope about what God is about to do with those in Muslim countries as well. In fact it is clear that God's sovereign work of grace in the hearts of millions of Chinese was one the most decisive spiritual events of the 20th century. Since the Chinese Communist Party has taken over, there are no known revival events in church history to be larger in scale. About 1 million Christians in China in 1949 has now blossomed to at least 50 million, with some estimates up to 90 million. Although Mao basically suppressed Christianity wherever it reared its head, He became the unwitting instrument in the hands of our sovereign God and somehow, in spite of kicking against the goads, "oversaw" the greatest religious revival known to man. So we could even say, what Mao meant for evil, God meant for good.
The purpose of writing this piece here is simply to remind us all to continue praying for this great nation of China. God has just begun there and I expect we will be seeing a lot more action from the Chinese church. Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission planted the seeds of new churches there. Prayers followed. The church mushroomed and now do not be surprised if God raises up Chinese believers who will finish the task of the great commission by sending them out to proclaim the Gospel to set free those still caught in the bondage of Islam. I rejoiced when I heard that many among the new generation of Chinese Christians are now seriously considering this. Let us pray for them that the Lord would use them as a mighty instrument for missions as the church in the west wanes. But also pray that believers will not be led astray by the temptations of materialism. Let us pray God also raise up leaders in the church there, for there are way too few, and heresies are common. Also I would encourage you to pray specifically for the Chinese Communist Party and its leadership:
How's Your Prayer Life? by Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones
What is the place of prayer in your life? What prominence does it have in our lives? It is a question that I address to all. It is as necessary that it should reach the man who is well versed in the Scripture, and who has a knowledge of its doctrine and its theology, as that it should reach anyone else. What part does prayer play in our lives and how essential is it to us? Do we realize that without it we faint?
Our ultimate position as Christians is tested by the character of our prayer life. It is more important than knowledge and understanding. Do not imagine that I am detracting from the importance of knowledge. I spend most of my life trying to show the importance of having a knowledge of truth and an understanding of it. That is vitally important. There is only one thing that is more important, and that is prayer. The ultimate test of my understanding of the Scriptural teaching is the amount of time I spend in prayer. As theology is ultimately the knowledge of God, the more theology I know, the more it should drive me to seek to know God. Not to know about Him, but to know Him. The whole object of salvation is to bring me to a knowledge of God. I may talk learnedly about regeneration, but what is eternal life? It is that they might know Thee, the only true God in Jesus Christ whom God has sent. If all my knowledge does not lead me to prayer there is something wrong somewhere. It is meant to do that. The value of the knowledge is that it gives me such an understanding of the value of prayer, that I devote time to prayer and delight in prayer. If it does not product these results in my life, there is something wrong and spurious about it, or else I am handling it in a wrong manner.
GOD MOVES IN A MYSTERIOUS WAY By William Cowper
â€œYou do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.â€ John 13:7
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
Man's Responsibility, Inability & God's Enabling Grace by Pastor John Samson
As some of you know, I wrestled for quite some time with the doctrine of God's Sovereignty in election (a sure evidence of my total depravity). All Bible believing Christians have some doctrine of election. Of course, its a biblical word, found many times in the Bible. The question is not "should we have a doctrine of election?", but "what is the biblical doctrine of election?" Its a question we all have to answer.
In sorting through the issues in my mind, and wrestling with my own traditions on the subject, I first had to see what the traditions were, and what Scripture actually said. To do this can be an emotionally painful process. It is not an easy thing to allow for your thinking to be held up to the light of Scripture. Why? Because to do so may confirm your tradition as valid (biblically), but on the other hand, it may prove the exact opposite - it may show it to be unbiblical and therefore opposed to God.
As I minister, even more is at stake. The emotional stakes are raised to a whole new level when you might have to admit that some of the things you have taught over the years may have been error. That is not a comforting thought at all, and might explain why some ministers are not willing to look into these issues. However, it is far better to deal with the unscriptural traditions now rather than to go on for another 20 years or so believing and teaching falsehood, making matters a whole lot worse.
As I say, this process was not an easy or a short one for me. It took more than a year of indepth study. However, I began to find clarity when I sought to find out only what Scripture taught. I did this by asking myself this question, "what can you say that Scripture teaches on this subject with such clarity that you cannot deny it." Over time, I came to see three propositions which I found to be undeniable:
1. God holds man entirely responsible for the choices he makes
2. Man is unable to make the right choice (Christ and salvation) while in a spiritually dead condition
3. God, by an act of sheer grace, has to directly intervene to raise a person from spiritual death, giving him a new heart (regeneration), before he will ever come to Christ
I've put together a brief chart that displays these things visually here. I trust it will be helpful for those who are seeking clarity on these vital issues.
Should we say...?
â€œShould we say, "perhaps you should try Jesus as you savior" ...almost with a consumer market oriented mentality"?. "There are lots of religious options and if you try this particular religious option you might like it." No ... rather, Jesus is Lord and He will soon be invading with His armies. He is offering pardon in advance of His invasion and should you receive the pardon and ally yourself with Him now before He invades, when He comes you will be considered His ally and He will raise you to Kingship. The alternative is to be under the wrath of the king. It is not some kind of religious option. It is an announcement that a new king is on the throne and he'll be invading. The gospel is not an invitation to an array of a buffet style choices, it is a command. Will you heed the command? Jesus is Lord, repent and believe.â€ - William Wilder
The Reformed Faith (Quote) Loraine Boettner
There are in reality only two types of religious thought. There is the religion of faith, and there is the religion of works. We believe that what has been known in Church History as Calvinism is the purest and most consistent embodiment of the religion of faith, while that which has been known as Arminianism has been diluted to a dangerous degree by the religion of works and that it is therefore an inconsistent and unstable form of Christianity. In other words, we believe that Christianity comes to its fullest and purest expression in the Reformed Faith.
The basic principle of Calvinism is the sovereignty of God. This represents the purpose of the Triune God as absolute and unconditional, independent of the whole finite creation, and originating solely in the eternal counsel of His will. He appoints the course of nature and directs the course of history down to the minutest details. His decrees therefore are eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise and sovereign. They are represented in the Bible as being the basis of the divine foreknowledge of all future events, and not conditioned by that foreknowledge or by anything originating in the events themselves.
The Wonderful Cross By Isaac Watts
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
See, from his head,
his hands, his feet
sorrow and love flow mingled down
did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross
bids me come and die
and find that I may truly live.
O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross!
All who gather here by grace
draw near and bless your name.
Were the whole realm
of nature mine,
that were an offer far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross
bids me come and die
and find that I may truly live.
O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross!
All who gather here by grace
draw near and bless your name.
O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross
bids me come and die
and find that I may truly live.
Sanctification via Union With Christ
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. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 cor 1:28-31)
I often think that our sanctification is very much like our original conversion experience. The more we grow in grace, the more we lose all confidence in ourselves. It seems, somewhat ironically, that as Christ works sanctification in us, the greater is our recognition of our own sinfulness. And it seems this is done for a purpose, for as we come face to face with our own corruption, we are driven to Christ as our righteousness, holiness and redemption, our all in all...our only hope before God. So sanctification is not so much about our own spirituality as it is about Christ and Him becoming greater. Christ commanded us to partake of Communion "till He come" and perhaps the reason for this is to continually focus our eyes less on what we do for Him, and more on what He has done for us and relish it. What we do in response to Him is only penultimate or secondary. The most critical error we make as believers is to look in ourselves for something that can only be found in Christ.
Understanding Mark 11:23
Mark 11:23 "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him."
The faith movement is alive and well on planet earth. As Christian television continues to expand around the world, much of its content comes from these so called faith preachers. With Bibles in hand they preach a message of hope.. no, much better than that... certainty. There's nothing inherently wrong with that; for the promises of the Bible are certain of fulfillment. Unbelief is a sin and we should pursue true faith in God with all our hearts. In fact, without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). But these preachers often go way too far... perhaps not because of a lack of sincerity (though I can't read their hearts as God does), but because of the lack of sound exegesis. Here's the problem in a nutshell: DECEIVED PEOPLE DECEIVE PEOPLE.
We would be horrified to hear of a surgeon who had just 2 weeks of training operating on someone's brain. As vital as brain surgery is (in terms of salary, society pays brain surgeons many times what the average preacher receives), I believe the job of the preacher is far more important. Paul told Timothy, "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Tim. 4:16). Eternal souls hang in the balance, and great care and attention is needed to ensure that a teaching is sound, healthy and accurate. Unbiblical tradition and poor theology have severe consequences.
One of the key texts used by the faith preachers is Mark 11:23. For those caught up in this movement, and for those who simply want to understand what the verse really teaches, I commend to you the following short section from a longer series of articles by Vincent Cheung called "Faith to move mountains." I trust it will be a blessing. - Pastor John Samson
Election and Fairness...One More Time!
I am thankful as a pastor to get theological questions daily from my congregation. Here is another question on election and the question of fairness that I submit to those who are still wrestling with what the Apostle Paul said they would wrestle with!
The other day my friends and I were discussing predestination and the elect and we started talking about essentially 'fairness'. The issue was brought up about how if everyone was given a chance for salvation, by Jesus dying on the cross for all of mankind, then how is it fair when tribes that are secluded from civilization never hear the word and yet are condemned to hell. I brought up that the Bible says the law is written on our hearts, meaning we know the difference between right and wrong, but I didn't know if that fully explained it. Another issue of babies and small children who don't have the capacity to understand the word was brought up. I really have no idea about that, but the argument was brought up that 'if God was just, He would save them.' In a broader sense, if God was just, why choose merely a few and not all.
I wanted to be able to answer these questions, but I had no verses to back them up so I was gonna get your input on the Bible's view of this. There's no hurry to respond, just at your earliest convenience. Thanks.
Dear Young Brother in Christ,
You have asked an excellent question (s), and these are questions that many Christians caringly have asked before in the history of the Church. In fact, these are the questions the Apostle Paul himself said WOULD be asked.
A Recommendation for those new to these issues
"There is so much to learn. Where do I start?" I've heard this kind of comment many times when it comes to the doctrines of the Reformation. Many established Christians have never been exposed to these central issues in our day, and when they are, the whole experience can be more than a little overwhelming. Not only are highly technical theological phrases bandied about with great regularity but Latin ones at that! Sola Scriptura; Sola Gratia; Sola Fide; Solus Christus; Soli deo Gloria... simil iustus et peccator... err.. Excuse me? Your what hurts?
Hearing this new language without the aid of an interpreter can cause many folk to just give up on the whole thing... But wait! I believe with all my heart that these issues are not just for academic theologians. These are vital issues for all of us. One of the chief purposes of God in the Reformation was to get both Scripture and a true understanding of its teachings into the hands of ordinary people. So, before you give up or throw in the towel, my counsel would be, "hold on brother/sister... help is on the way!"
George Whitefield on Effectual Calling
â€œCome, ye dead, Christless, unconverted sinner, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out, bound hand and foot with graveclothes, locked up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone placed on top of it. View him again and again; go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him, Ah! how he stinketh. Stop there now, pause a while; and whilst thou art gazing upon the corpse of Lazarus, give me leave to tell thee with great plainness, but greater love, that this dead, bound, entombed, stinking carcase, is but a faint representation of thy poor soul in its natural state;...thy spirit which thou bearest about with thee, sepulchered in flesh and blood, is literally dead to God, and as truly dead in trespasses and sins, as the body of Lazarus was in the cave. Was he bound hand and foot with graveclothes? So art thou bound hand and foot with thy corruptions; and as a stone was laid on the sepulchre, so there is a stone of unbelief upon thy stupid heart. Perhaps thou has lain in this estate, not only four days, but many years, stinking in Godâ€™s nostrils. And, what is still more effecting, thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the power of thy boasted free will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments (which, without doubt, have their proper place in religion); but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much vigor, will prove quite fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said â€˜take away the stoneâ€ and cried â€œLazarus, come forth,â€ also quicken you. This is grace, graciously offered, and grace graciously applied. Or as the Confession originally puts it, â€œgrace offered and conveyed.â€
Evangelical: A Brief Definition
Visitor: I am after a brief biblical definition of the "Evangelical Christian" that would not be confusing to the average born again person.
Response: That is a great question and of late has been somewhat controversial. How do we define "Evangelical Christian" -- I will assume you are after the meaning of this in a traditional, rather than contemporary sense. Also the terms meaning in a positive rather than negative light. If so, then it has historically meant someone who believes and heralds the Gospel of Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Scripture and that there is no hope for them in the world save in being united to HIm in his life, death and resurrection. In the past this was the unifying factor for persons from a vast array of church traditions, but now the word has, unfortunately, come to mean many things.
The contemporary use of the word "Evangelical" often refers to an amorphous mass of people with different convictions, confessions and beliefs about the Gospel. Sometimes this even includes persons who do not believe in the authority of the Bible and, like liberal theology of old, believe in a theology based on consensus, modern psychology or worldly politics.
A Brief Definition:
To the reformers it was related to gospel recovery, that is, one who adhered to the Reformation's tenets, which means that historically, Evangelicals confessed a belief in the truth of the five solas:
Sola gratia, Sola fide, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria. In short, they confessed that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Person and work of Christ alone as revealed in the Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. For further exploration of this subject I highly recommend that everyone study the short online document called The Cambridge Declaration. It is really quite helpful. But let's now move into some particulars:
God as Judge (Quote)
Do you believe in Divine judgment? By which I mean, do you believe in a God who acts as our Judge? Many, it seems, do not. Speak to them of God as a Father, a friend, a helper, one who loves us despite all our weaknesses and folly and sin, and their faces light up; you are on their wavelength at once. But speak to them of God as Judge and they frown and shake their heads. Their minds recoil from such an idea. They find it repellent and unworthy. But there are few things stressed more strongly in the Bible than the reality of Godâ€™s work as Judge. Paul refers to the fact that we must all appear before Christâ€™s judgment seat as â€œthe terror of the Lordâ€ (2 Cor. 5:11), and well he might. Jesus the Lord, like His Father, is holy and pure; we are neither. We live under his eye, He knows our secrets, and on judgment day the whole of our past life will be brought under review. If we know ourselves at all, we know we are not fit to face Him. What then are we to do? The New Testament answer is: Call on the coming Judge to be your Savior. As Judge, He is the law, but as Savior He is the gospel. Run from Him now, and you will meet Him as Judge then â€“ and without hope. Seek Him now, and you will find Him, and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now â€œno condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesusâ€ (Rom. 8:1). - Dr. J. I. Packer, Knowing God
Before the Throne of God By Charitie Lees De Chenez
I often believe it to be helpful to look and examine ourselves in light of such rich Christ-Centered Worship. This just happens to be my favorite.
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, and perfect plea:
a great High Priest, whose name is Love,
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
my name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God, the Just, is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me.
Behold him there! the risen Lamb!
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM,
the King of glory and of grace!
One with himself, I cannot die;
my soul is purchased by his blood;
my life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ, my Savior and my God.
Jesus Actually Saves by C. H. Spurgeon
Matthew 20:28 "Even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Some preachers and professors affect to believe in a redemption which I must candidly confess I do not understand; it is so indistinct and indefinite â€” a redemption which does not redeem anybody in particular, though it is alleged to redeem everybody in general; a redemption insufficient to exempt thousands of unhappy souls from hell after they have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus; a redemption, indeed, which does not actually save anybody, because it is dependent for its efficacy upon the will of the creature; a redemption that lacks intrinsic virtue and inherent power to redeem anybody, but is entirely dependent upon an extraneous contingency to render it effectual. With such fickle theories I have no fellowship. That every soul for whom Christ shed his blood as a Substitute, he will claim as his own, and have as his right, I firmly hold. I love to hold and I delight to proclaim this precious truth. Not all the powers of earth or hell; not the obstinacy of the human will, nor the deep depravity of the human mind, can ever prevent Christ seeing of the travail of his soul and being satisfied. To the last jot and tittle of his reward shall he receive it at the Fatherâ€™s hand. A redemption that does redeem, a redemption that redeems many, seems to me infinitely better than a redemption that does not actually redeem anybody, but is supposed to have some imaginary influence upon all the sons of men. - C. H. Spurgeon ("Christ's Great Mission," Published 10/5/1916, delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle)
Free Will, Election & Foreknowledge
Those who affirm the libertarian "free will" of man often teach the doctrine of ELECTION as follows: God, before He created the world, foreknew, from eternity, who would yield to the Spirit, and therefore elected to salvation all those whom He foresaw would do so. In other words, God looks down the corridors of time to see who will believe and then "predestines" them based on the exercise of their autonomous free will to choose Him. In this system of belief the absolute free will of the natural man is necessary to preserve human responsibility. But this concept of foreknowledge ironically ends up destroying itself. There is no person who believes in free will that can consistently believe this theory of foreknowledge, and still go around teaching his views as to God's salvation. Why so? Consider the following:
1. No Libertarian free will theist can consistently say that God foreknew who would be saved and then also teach that God is trying to save every man. Surely if God knows who will be saved and who won't be saved, then how could anyone argue that He is trying to save more? Certainly, it is foolish to assert that God is trying to do something which He knew never could be accomplished. Some embracing the free will or foreseen faith position charge Augustinians that preaching the gospel to the non-elect is mockery since God has not elected them. If there is any validity in that objection, then it equally applies to them as well who preach to those who God knows will never be saved. To the Augustinian, God commands that the Gospel be preached to all, because, when we indiscriminately cast forth the seed of the gospel, the Spirit germinates the seed of those He came to save (1 Thess 1:4, 5 John 6:63-65). People are not saved in a void but under the preaching of the Gospel and the Spirit brings forth life through the word of truth.
2. No Libertarian who embraces the foreseen faith position can consistently say that God foreknew which sinners would be lost and then say it is not within God's will to allow these sinners to be lost. Why did He create them? Let the libertarian freewill theist consider that question. God could have just as easily refrained from creating those that He knew would "freely" choose to go to Hell. He knew where they were going before He created them. Since He went ahead and created them with full knowledge that they would be lost, it is evidently within God's providence that some sinners actually be lost, even in the libertarian scheme. He, therefore, has some purpose in it which human beings cannot fully discern. The libertarian freewill theist can complain against the truth that God chose to allow some men a final destiny of Hell all they want, but it is as much a problem for them as for anyone. As a matter of fact, it is a problem which libertarians must face. If he faces it, he will have to admit either the error of his theology or deny foreknowledge all together. But he might say that God had to create those that perish, even against His will. This would make God subject to Fate.
Wisdom and the Whore in Proverbs 1-9
The two outstanding characteristics of the Proverbs with which I associate my childhood, neither legitimate but both having a pervasive influence in my surrounding circles, are fragmentation and moralism. The former of which gave rise to the latter: as long as the individual proverbs were seen as disconnected and de-contextualized, that is, as long as they were seen as a series of random thoughts, it was easy to make such character qualities as honesty, industry, and diligence the foundation and fountainhead of the Christian life. When will God be pleased with me? When I am honest and industrious. How do I encounter Godâ€™s blessings? By being honest and industrious. And so the reasoning ran. The more foundational question, â€œHow can I, a depraved sinner, hope to become honest and industrious?â€, if acknowledged at all, was glibly passed off with an exhortation to try harder. I found all of this exceedingly confusing, as it appeared to contradict everything that was said when one was speaking of the gospel â€“ but considering it a necessary and appropriate shift when dealing with a corpus of â€œpracticalâ€ material, I managed by compartmentalizing my conception of Christianity to muddle along without serious reservations, albeit equally without any precision of thought concerning justification, sanctification, and the relationship between the two.
More On The Gospel of Judas
Being an elder/shepherd in the Body of Christ is certainly a multi-faceted responsibility. According to Titus 1:9, one of the elder's functions is to hold fast to the faithful word so that "he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict." A shepherd has a double calling. He must both nurture and protect the flock. I believe the following short article provides a very good pastoral response to the current media frenzy over the Gospel of Judas, from Pastor Steve Weaver's excellent blog.
- Pastor John Samson
What I Told My Church about The Gospel of Judas
During the Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study at the church where I pastor (West Broadway Baptist Church, Lenoir City), I discussed the significance of the recent publication of the so-called Gospel of Judas. While I don't think anyone present was about to abandon the faith because of this document, I still felt it to be my duty to inform the people whom God has entrusted to me about this new/old attack upon historic Christianity. One reason this is so important is that our church members are working and/or living alongside people who are influenced by these types of reports in the news media. It is my sincere desire that people will be better equipped to respond to such people as a result of this study.
Faith Not Without Reason
Why should anyone believe in the Resurrection of Jesus? It seems a popular question to ask around Easter. The disciple, Thomas, said in John 20:25, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe" (ESV). He emphatically states that he will NEVER believe, unless he sees (and touches) proof.
We all want empirical evidenceâ€”we're taught to look for it in school using the scientific method (observe & describe phenomena; formulate hypothesis to explain; predict; experiment & refine hypothesis). We sympathize with Thomas, wanting not to find blame with him, but to exonerate him by saying, "it's natural to doubt." And it is natural to doubt, as every human is a natural-born doubter of God's truth. That doesn't mean doubting is innocentâ€”when we doubt God's Word, it's sin.
Isn't Divine Predestination and Election just Fatalism?
Question: I'm really wrestling with this whole idea of predestination and election. Isn't the idea of election just another word for fatalism?
Thank you for your question. Let me say first of all that you are not in any way the first person to wrestle with the weighty issues of Sovereign election over against free will. Many have walked this road before you. In fact, I too have not always believed what I now believe. You can be sure that much mental and emotional wrestling took place as I was in the process of learning what I believe to be the Biblical doctrine in this area. We all have traditions, and as a friend of mine, Dr. James White says so well, "the people most enslaved by their traditions are those who don't believe they have any." If you'll allow me, I'd like to share something of my story in this regard.
When I first heard the message of Sovereign Grace and election taught, I have to admit that I resisted it. Though the teaching I heard was backed up with Scripture, I thought I had other Scriptures that would negate the ones I heard. Then I went to a question and answer session on the subject (the first of many, I might add). This proved to be invaluable for me, because many of the questions I had were raised, and, I had to admit, were answered from Scripture, in their proper Biblical context.
The Divine Exchange by Pastor John Samson
Surely he has borne our griefs (lit. sicknesses) and carried our sorrows (lit. pains); yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 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. - Is. 53:4-6
The cross was no accident, but the center point of a plan devised by God before time began. The plan culminated in a divinely ordained exchange which would take place at Calvary. All the wrath and punishment due to us for our sinfulness was to come upon Jesus; and the good due to Jesus due to His sinless obedience was to come upon us. The innocent would bear the just punishment of the guilty, and the guilty would receive all the benefits due to the just.
I remember around two decades ago, hearing a sermon regarding this divine exchange. What I heard still affects me greatly today. For His glory, and out of His love for us, God met all of our needs at the cross: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, material, financial, temporal and eternal. As we think about these eight declarations concerning what Christ achieved for His people in His death, burial and resurrection, let us celebrate the perfect and finished work of the perfect Savior:
Another Meditation for Good Friday
Today we commemorate one of the most extraordinary events in the history of the cosmosâ€”the crucifixion of the God-man, Jesus the Messiah. Extraordinary in part because it is at once among the WORST and GREATEST events ever to take place. WORST because it was the conspiracy of all humanity to kill the most righteous man, even God. GREATEST ("Good" Friday is also historically known as Holy Friday or Great Friday) because of the wonderful things Christ accomplished for his people in his death.
The Centrality of the Cross
If there is one theme that runs the entire course of scripture, binding everything together in a united whole, it is the fundamental truth of all reality that, what God does, he does for his own glory. All that God created, he created for his glory (Revelation 4:11, Isaiah 43:7); and all that God does with his creation, he does, ultimately, so that he may be glorified (Isaiah 46:9-13). Every rivulet of history is so planned out by the sovereign God of the universe that, when its course is ended, it will issue forth with all of creation in a mighty tide that testifies to nothing other than the glory of God. This is true of the final outcome of the wicked, who will glorify Godâ€™s wrath and justice (Proverbs 16:4; Romans 9:22); and especially of the final outcome of the people of Christ, who for all eternity will glorify the greatness of Godâ€™s faithfulness, love, mercy, and grace (Romans 9:23-24; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2:7).
Resurrection and the New Creation: An Easter Sermon - Rev. C. R. Biggs
THIS EASTER REMEMBER THAT EVERYTHING CHANGES BECAUSE OF THE EMPTY TOMB, THE WOMB FROM WHICH WOULD COME THE NEW CREATION RULED BY THE GLORIFIED GOD-MAN!
The tomb was sealed. A huge stone rock covered the opening to the tomb. No one could come in and no one could come out. As Jesus was laid in the tomb, and the sky grew darker, the bright hopes of all the disciples dimmed with each passing moment. Bleak. Despair. Mournful. Blackest darkness. This described the failed hopes and dashed dreams of the disciples of Jesus as he was laid into the tomb.
Three days had been spent with great sorrow as the disciples mourned the loss of their friend and Master. Yet what the disciples did not understand, nor remember because of the dullness of their hearts and their slowness to believe was that Jesus had told them that this night of his atrocious death must come, in order for the dawn of joyous life to begin. Jesus had told his disciples clearly:
"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."
..."Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men." But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying. (Luke 9:22, 45-46)
This present world characterized by sin, misery and the rule of the deceiver must end in the death of God's Son, in order that the new world to come characterized by holiness and the awesome presence of God could be fully realized. The third day of the old world would begin the first day of the new world! The old creation began to come to an end, as the new creation dawned on the third day!
The resurrection of Jesus didn't merely occur on the first day of the week (Luke 24:1), but it was literally the first day of the new creation characterized by resurrection life!
Christ loved the Church... (Quote) by Dr. John Piper
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. - Ephesians 5:25-27
"There is a precious and unfathomable covenant love between Christ and His Bride, that moved Him to die for her. The death of Jesus is for the bride of Christ in a different way than it is for those who perish. Here's the problem with saying Christ died for all the same way he died for his bride. If Christ died for the sins of those who are finally lost, the same way he died for the sins of those who are finally saved, then what are the lost being punished for? Were their sins covered and canceled by the blood of Jesus or not? We Christians say, "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3). And we mean that his death paid the debt those sins created. His death removed the wrath of God from me. His death lifted the curse of the law from me. His death purchased heaven for me. It really accomplished those things!"
"But what would it mean to say of an unbeliever in hell that Christ died for his sins? Would we mean that the debt for his sins was paid? If so, why is he paying again in hell? Would we mean that the wrath of God was removed? If so, why is the wrath of God being poured out on him in punishment for sins? Would we mean that the curse of the law was lifted? If so, why is he bearing his curse in the lake of fire?"
"One possible answer is this: one might say that the only reason people go to hell is because of the sin of rejecting Jesus, not because of all the other sins of their life. But that is not true. The Bible teaches that the wrath of God is coming on the world, not just because of its rejection of Jesus, but because of its many sins that are not forgiven. For example, in Colossians 3:5-6, Paul refers to "immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed," and then says, "On account of these things the wrath of God will come." So people who reject Jesus really will be punished for their specific sins, not just for rejecting Jesus."
Monergism v. Synergism (Quote) by R. C. Sproul
The doctrine of justification by faith alone was debated during the Reformation on the deeper level of monergistic regeneration. This technical term must be explained. Monergism is derived from a combination of a prefix and a root. The prefix mono is used frequently in English to indicate that which is single or alone. The root comes from the verb â€œto work.â€ The erg of monergy comes into our language to indicate a unit of work or energy. When we put the prefix and root together, we get monergy or monergism. Monergism is something that operates by itself or works alone as the sole active party. Monergism is the opposite of synergism. Synergism shares a common root with monergism, but it has a different prefix. The prefix syn comes from a Greek word meaning â€œwith.â€ Synergism is a cooperative venture, a working together of two or more parties.
When the term monergism is linked with the word regeneration, the phrase describes an action by which God the Holy Spirit works on a human being without this personâ€™s assistance or cooperation. This grace of regeneration may be called operative grace. Cooperative grace, on the other hand, is grace that God offers to sinners and that they may accept or reject, depending on the sinnerâ€™s disposition.
Must Reading for your Theological Edification & Education
The following are considered among "great works of theology." This collection of books are must-have editions for your library: Highly recommended reading for your journey in the Christian life. This list is, of course, far from exhaustive (so don't get upset if I did not pick a favorite) but a good place to start if you have not read them. Once you read some of these you will wonder why you spent your precious time on lesser things. I assume you already have a Bible of your own so that is not on the list:
Anselm, Why God Became Man
Bonar, Horatius, The Everlasting Righteousness
Brown, John (of Edinburgh, 1784-1858) Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 3 volume
Charnock, Stephen. The Existence And Attributes Of God
Fairbairn, Patrick Typology of Scripture
Sibbes, Richard, The Bruised Reed
Spurgeon, Charles, Lectures to My Students
Turretin, Francis Institutes of Elenctic Theology 3 vol. set
Warfield, B.B, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield
Watson, Body of Divinity
Another Common Objection to Augustinian Soteriology
[It seems to be a current fad among Arminian laymen and scholars to attempt to refute Calvinism by claiming that since most of the early church did not believe in irresistible Grace, limited atonement, and unconditional election (before the time of Augustine at least) then it cannot be true. An Arminian yesterday wrote me an email appealing to this very line of reasoning. He said that since we cannot prove that the historic church before Augustine held this view, our appeal can only be to the early church of the Apostles which, they say, we exegete through an Augustinian or Calvinistic grid.
Three things we might say in response to this argument:
1) The early Church was rightly more concerned and focused on matters of the Trinity and Christology. There were more basic anti-Trinitarian, Christological heresies to contend with. Among believers at the time there was a simple faith in Jesus and further matters of soteriology had not been worked out. Soteriological heresies would later force the church to deal with the issues of grace and faith head on. At the time, the Holy Spirit, no doubt, moved in individuals to understand salvation by grace alone through faith alone as well as ideas of divine election on some rudimentary levels, but this was not yet hammered out church doctrine.
Three Common Objections to Election Addressed
Although it is certainly inexcusable, it is nevertheless to be expected that the world, lying in the power of Satan, should take offense at the doctrines of Godâ€™s free and sovereign grace in the gospel. But it is even less excusable, and certainly less understandable, that among professing evangelicals, the same sort of reaction is likely to occur. True, evangelical Christians dress up their objections in different ways, viewing them as a vindication of Godâ€™s character, or even as an adherence to biblical truths; but the plain fact of the matter is that anyone whose eyes have been opened by the Spirit to understand the scriptures, if he is honest in his pursuit of biblical teaching, must admit that such foundational gospel principles as election are shouted in the clearest of terms throughout the entire gamut of scripture. Hence, those Christians who are opposed to the doctrines (due to natural human ways of thinking), tend for the most part to skirt over exegetical and textual arguments, and immediately bring to bear certain logical arguments against the doctrines of Calvinism. This is not true of every non-Calvinistic Christian: but I think it is a fair observation for the bulk of Arminian Christianity in America. From this group in particular, I have innumerable times heard the following three arguments against the precious and biblical doctrine of election: (1) Godâ€™s choosing us makes him an arbitrary and unjust dictator; (2) Godâ€™s choosing us destroys personal responsibility; and (3) Godâ€™s choosing us eliminates the motivation to evangelize the lost. In this brief article, I hope to demonstrate that these objections are not logical â€“ and they are certainly not scriptural. My desire is that these simple thoughts may be used by God to convince some of our dear Arminian brothers that their view of God is not biblical, and hence to give them a more accurate glimpse of the Lord in his sovereign majesty. Because to see him for who he is is to love him more deeply and passionately.
Why Do You Speak to Them in Parables?
He who has ears, let him hear.
And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"
Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted."
"For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
"Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
"In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;
FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES,
OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.'
"But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear." (Matt 13:9-16)
27"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
The words of Jesus Christ in all their glory and solemnity.
"Hosannas!" and High Expectations
This Palm Sunday, let your cry of "Hosanna!" become your joyful shout of "Maranatha!"
Expectations. How many times have your high expectations of others gotten you into big trouble and disappointment?! You had high expectations of another, yet when that person did not live up to your expectations you grumbled, felt anger, were discouraged, and decided that you would think twice about expecting anything from someone again. We all become disillusioned (and oftentimes demanding!) when we have expectations of others and they do not come through.
This is even true of our expectations of God. Sometimes, in God's mysterious providence, he does what he knows to be best for us, yet we do not understand (Romans 8:28). We have expectations that we think God should live up to, but we have yet to begin to understand that God's ways are so much higher than our ways!
God works all things out for our good, for our best, yet we fail to trust his thoughts and ways and remember that even our highest expectations that we have of God, if different from his will, are never high enough!
Isaiah 55:8-9: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Remember, as the Apostle Paul teaches, that
"No eye has seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love him."
We should be cautious of placing high expectations on others, but when it comes to God, I think we need to be reminded that our so-called "high expectations" are never high enough!
Today, we shall look at the high expectations of the crowd when Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem in John 12:12-23, and how these high expectations were simply not high enough.
Spiritual Discernment is for the Spiritual
"the things of the Spirit of God ... are spiritually discerned" ( 1Cor 2:14)
"he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24"45)
I would like to challenge each one of you to take a friend from work out to lunch; someone that you know is not a Christian. This person preferably is a someone with whom you developed some degree of a good relationship with. During the course of your meal, when it seem appropriate, you can lead the conversation toward the Gospel. Tell him or her that God Himself has truly entered into human history from the time of Israel through the time of Christ, and not only has made himself known to us in the Person of Jesus Christ but has redeemed us from our sin and rebellion against the Creator. He Himself fully endured the wrath we justly deserve for sin by His death on the cross. Living the life we should have lived and dying the death we deserve. Then, vindicating the truth of what He accomplished God raised him physically from the dead on the third day. There were over 500 witness to this historic event and different witness to the same event wrote down their testimony which now makes up the Holy Scripture.
Then when you are done explaining the unfolding drama of redemption in history ask him or her whether they acknowledge the truth of these factual claims. If he responds that these events are something less than historical, just a myth or a fairy tale, I challenge you to consider the question of why he rejects something that should be as plain as day. it is true is it not. It is not that he lacks sufficent data so one thing you can be assured of is that he/she is spiritually blind in some way and cannot see the plain truth as put before them. Their eyes are closed to the gospel, but why? If you have also shown them great love and patience and presented these facts with warmth and a genuine spirit with great eloquence and done so till you are blue in the face, your effort, while it may leave a seed, does not convince and will be of no avail if the Holy Spirit does not remove his blindness and give him new spiritual eyes to see the truths you presented him/her. All your exegesis, proclamation and logical persuasion will have no effect unless the Spirit remove the veil of darkness, clearing the way for them to believe the truth of the message you put before Him (John 6:63-65). This means if the Lord is to use us to win souls to Christ we must pray that the Holy Spirit disarm their innate hostility, overcome their lack of faith (heal their faithlessness), remove the barricades erected in their heart and enlighten the truths we herald from the Scripture. The reason they reject is, not simply because the evidence you provide is not strong enough, but because their affection remains set on the darkness (John 3:20).
The Gospel of Judas
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few days, I am sure you would be very much aware of the media frenzy concerning the Gospel of Judas. The subject is filling the news right now.
In seeking to give a defense of the Christian faith against the claims of this second century "Gospel of Judas" (it was not written by the Judas of the Gospels) I have to say, there really isn't too much to worry about here. One way to find that out is to read the thing for yourself. It is very disjointed, and in all honesty, well... just plain silly. Its a fairly short document, so it won't take too long to read. When the topic comes up in conversation, as with most things of this nature, it always helps to be able to say that you have read it. Here's where you can read the Gospel of Judas.
- Pastor John Samson
Preaching for the Glory of God by Pastor John Samson
Last year, in the Fall, I was asked to teach a 50 minute seminar at a Ministers' Conference on the subject of preaching. One 50 minute session does not allow for a comprehensive overview, but it at least allows time for a good introduction to this vital subject. A new reformation is needed in our Churches and it must begin in our pulpits.
The feedback I've received since the Ministers' Conference has been very positive with a consistent comment being, "we especially enjoyed the hand out notes you provided." Because of this encouraging feedback, I post these hand out notes here, knowing that I am merely a gatherer of helpful material on this subject, over many a year. I claim no exclusivity of insight. Hopefully we can all see a little further because each of us stand on the shoulders of giants.
Because we as preachers collect much information along the way, from many different sources, it is often times very easy to quote someone and fail to identify the quote or even realize that someone else is being quoted.
The humorous story is told of a preacher quoting a fellow preacher. The first time he did so he said, "As our brother, Rev. Brian McDonald once said..." The second time he quoted him, he said, "As someone has wisely said..." Then, the third time... "Like I always say..."
"Mistakes" such as these happen all too frequently, and, believe it or not, they are not always intentional. If such is the case below, I apologize beforehand if I have failed to identify any of my sources. I do know that much of the content comes from Bryan Chapell's excellent book, "Christ Centered Preaching", which continues to instruct and inspire me, a number of years after I first read it.
If these brief notes can be used to encourage just one fellow preacher/teacher out there in the greatest of all tasks of preaching the very oracles of God, then I will be more than happy.
Soli Deo Gloria!
The Historicity of the Resurrection
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28:18)
As mentioned previously, as Easter approaches I hope to take a closer look at the historical and theological significance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Often as we consider the Gospel, many of us rightly focus in on the importance of Christ's substitutionary atonement. But as I re-read through the Gospels and Epistles of Paul I am struck by the fact that at the center of the gospel is the message of the resurrection. Both the atonement and the resurrection are inseparable and, by God's grace, I hope to shed some more light, beyond a mere apologetic, as to why the resurrection itself is significant to our salvation. Considering how infrequently we hear sermons on this, perhaps many of us have missed the fact that the message of the resurrection is the power of the Gospel to us. We may have also overlooked its historical significance ... but the early church heralded the resurrection as the central historical redemptive act in the Gospel. Next time I hope to begin talking about the theologial significance of the resurrection to our faith, but today, the historical factor is where we will start.
Prior to the time the Lord opened my heart to the gospel, some of you may know that I was deeply involved in a new age hodgepodge of religions that included the tenents of various aspects of most world religions. Some religions are based on nature, some on mythology, some on mysticism. As I reflect back on what I believed, I recognize that my most cherished presuppositions were utterly devoid of any historical grounding. In fact, at the time, I did not even think to ask how we knew what we believed was true. Instead I simply experienced it through meditation, mystical visions and what I thought to be higher consciousness. Mine was an Oceanic religion, meaning I was was the drop of water merging into the ocean, so to speak.
What is the Gospel? by C. J. Mahaney
The following was posted today by C. J. Mahaney (left in the photograph, along with Al Mohler, Mark Dever and Ligon Duncan, and pictured in the back row, C. H. Spurgeon) on the "Together for the Gospel" blog. I believe it deserves to be widely read, and so I post it here for our mutual edification.
- Pastor John Samson
Recently, someone on this blog asked two excellent questions:
(1) What is the gospel?
(2) What is the most serious threat to the gospel?
The following is my attempt to answer these important questions with the help of those much smarter than myself:
1) What is the gospel?
No question is more important, and biblical clarity in response to this question is critical. Sadly, confusion about the gospel is quite common among professing evangelicals today. I find Graeme Goldsworthyâ€™s comment all too relevant: â€œThe main message of the Bible about Jesus Christ can easily become mixed with all sorts of things that are related to it. We see this in the way people define or preach the gospel. But it is important to keep the gospel itself clearly distinct from our response to it or from the results of it in our lives and in the world.â€ So here is my attempt to heed the counsel of Dr. Goldsworthy and keep the gospel â€œclearly distinct.â€
The following definition of the gospel, provided by Jeff Purswell, the Dean of our Pastors College, seeks to capture the substance of the gospel: â€œThe gospel is the good news of Godâ€™s saving activity in the person and work of Christ. This includes his incarnation in which he took to himself full (yet sinless) human nature; his sinless life which fulfilled the perfect law of God; his substitutionary death which paid the penalty for manâ€™s sin and satisfied the righteous wrath of God; his resurrection demonstrating Godâ€™s satisfaction with his sacrifice; and his glorification and ascension to the right hand of the Father where he now reigns and intercedes for the church.
â€œSuch news is specific: there is a defined â€˜thatnessâ€™ to the gospel which sets forth the content of both our saving faith and our proclamation. It is objective, and not to be confused with our response. It is sufficient: we can add nothing to what Christ has accomplished for us--it falls to us simply to believe this news, turning from our sins and receiving by faith all that God has done for us in Christ.â€
Resurrection, Not Human Potential
Today, I wanted to begin a series on the Resurrection, and hoped others on the blog would also post some of their own thoughts on it since we are close to Easter. Originally I was going to start with a posting on the physical resurrection and its relation to history, and how this historic event itself sets Christianity apart from all other religions, who either speculate or believe in mysticism. But since I was having a discussion with a visitor about our spiritual resurrection (regeneration) I wanted to post some of the questions posed to me on free will, human potential, and the difference between monergistic and synergistic regeneration (i.e. spiritual resurrection).
In response to our belief that salvation is by "grace alone" a visitor who embraces synergism questioned me about how faith, then, related at all to salvation:
Visitor: What is faith to you? And what do you make of Godâ€™s repeated references to faith and belief in the context of salvation? And is your interpretation one which makes faith and belief meaningful? A word should
not be interpreted to be redundant or without meaningâ€”I think this would apply especially when speaking of Godâ€™s inerrant and holy word.
I affirm with the Bible, together with those in the Reformation tradition, that God freely offers/commands unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit (who Jesus sends), to disarm their natural hostility, to open and soften their hearts to the gospel that they may be willing, and able to believe. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are effectually enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word. (WCF) The preacher casts forth the seed of the gospel and it falls on dormant soil. Our naturally hardened hearts will reject the gospel unless and until the Holy Spirit plows up the fallow ground, and germinates the seed of the gospel through regeneration. Faith is not produced by an unregenerate heart. Jesus says, "come to me", but he also says "...no one can come to me" How do we reconcile this? Because the next word is UNLESS God grants it. Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 6:63-65)
Council of Orange CANON 6 in the sixth century said.
If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or 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).
Visitor: I suppose I have a higher view of human nature (and its potential in Christ) than you do. [the visitor asked this of me in the context of a discussion of their belief in a "free will"]:
Fun Stuff by Pastor John Samson
This is a serious blog. We as contributors are very serious about what we do. However, I was sent this today and thought I would post it here. I realize I am taking a great risk in doing so. There are some Christians who have not been Sovereignly, unconditionally and irresistably graced with a sense of humor, nor did common grace step in to fill the void. Sadly, the following will be totally lost on these people. I need to point out to them ahead of time that in no way do we as contributors believe that God will recant of His oath not to flood the earth again, nor do we believe in some way off eschatological fulfillment of biblical prophecy that would allow for Noah being alive and well in our day, living in the United States. No, I post this only to cause chuckling, smiles and laughter. Honestly.. that's all this is!!
REFORMATION THEOLOGY WARNING: Absolutely no theological insight can be gained from the following. Cessationists: Do not despair. This is not a parable!! It contains no deep or veiled insights that only non-cessationists can understand. No, this is, quite simply, a joke.
The Greek word for joke is... oh forget it! A merry heart does good like a medicine.. The Hebrew word for "medicine" is.. oh forget that too... People who have not laughed since the death of the 12 apostles, may just need to look away right now. O.K. - look away...
God is at the Center by Pastor John Samson
Rev. 4:11 â€œThou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.â€
The 16th Century was famous for at least two monumental events: The Protestant Reformation and the Copernican Revolution. No doubt, you have heard of the Reformation when men such as Martin Luther, were raised up by God to bring the one true biblical Gospel back to the Church. That's what this blog is all about. With the Reformers of old and with Scripture alone as our sure foundation, we affirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone â€” for the glory of God alone.
In 1543, Nicolas Copernicus published his treatise De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (The Revolution of Celestial Spheres) where a new view of the world was presented: the heliocentric (sun central) model. Before Copernicus, people believed that the earth was the very center of the Universe. But Copernicus was able to prove otherwise - that it is the sun (not the earth) that is central in the solar system. This discovery shook both the religious and the scientific world. The ramifications were extremely dramatic. Man's view of the world was forever changed!
Copernicus' theory was not at all popular initially. Even though the new treatise was dedicated to the Pope, it was considered heretical both by the standards of religion and science. Such was the outrage at such a thought (that the world was not the center of the Universe) that many scientists, and sadly, even many a theologian, would not even look through Copernicusâ€™ telescope! The traditions of men, in the arenas of both science and religion, were that strong.
Yet Copernicus was right and his revolutionary idea was needed if forward progress was to be made. In the Church today, I believe a similar revolution is neededâ€¦
Bottom Up Vs. Top Down Theology
"In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor 5:19).
Does not that one text of Scripture pretty much sum up the central truth of our faith? This is the heartbeat of the Christian religion for it speaks of the Divine act that takes place at the decisive climax in the unfolding drama of redemptive history. Good theology is about what God has done for us in Christ. We can only do theology at all because God, out of sheer grace, has chosen to unveil Himself (to make Himself known) through His acts and speech on the stage of the world. He does this through a series of acts and verbal communications, which He freely initiates, specifically in the events of the history of Israel and ultimately in the Person of Jesus Christ. The acts of God are all redemptive and they all ultimately point to Christ. After the series of redemptive events recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus Himself enters the drama as one of us in the culminating and decisive act of the Play so to speak. This covenantal focus of the Bible helps us to rightly understand that true religion consists in what God has done for us in Christ.
The Gospel is about God acting on and speaking to us onto the stage of world history. A truly orthodox evangelical theology affirms the priority of the Word and Acts of God in Christ (ultimate) over our response of faith, obedience and spiritual experiences (penultimate). The Divine Word revealed in Christ is supreme over all man-made religions which would speculatively formulate a 'bottom-up' theology of fallen human actions over Divine actions. What is most distressing is, although the most urgent task and function of the church is to make known the gospel to men and women in the world, there is still utter confusion in the world as to what the Gospel is. I am not someone who likes controversy and I have a burden for souls. But unfortunately the confusion about the gospel is not confined to people outside the church, but rather, has itself been produced by those within its walls. This means that the Word of the Gospel must be proclaimed as clearly to those in and outside the church. The re-evangelization of the church is, therefore, itself one of our greatest tasks, if not the greatest. Many Christians evangelize with a four-point presentation gospel, thinking the job is done when someone prays a prayer, but fail in the arena of continued discipleship to those who believe. It is little wonder why this has been so ineffective for creating long-term zealous Christians who are used of God to themselves reproduce.
How has the Gospel affected you today? by Pastor John Samson
Do you live in the good of the Gospel? If so, how exactly does the Gospel affect you each day? How does it affect your relationships? How does the Gospel affect the way you do business? How does the Gospel affect your finances or your emotional well being? Can people tell that the Gospel is shaping your conduct?
I recently had the privilege of hearing Pastor Mike Bullmore, of Crossway Community Church, Kenosha, Wisconsin teach on this theme at a seminar. He was making the observation that there if often times a huge gap between the Gospel itself and the way Christians live their daily lives. People don't see the relevance of the Gospel in their everyday affairs. In this regard, he said "a local church is healthy to the degree that: (1) its pastor-teachers are able to accurately, effectively, and broadly bring the gospel to bear in the real lives of their people; and (2) its people have a deep personal understanding of and appreciation for the gospel, so as to be able to live in the good of the gospel daily." That's a profound statement and one with which I wholeheartedly agree. The Gospel is not merely something we believe, but something that should affect our behavior.
Pastor Bullmore also gave this insightful illustration, which I'd like to share with you here on the blog today: "Imagine three concentric circles. In the center is the gospel itself, perhaps best represented by the words of 1 Cor. 15:3 â€“ â€œChrist died for our sins.â€ This simple phrase speaks of the reality of our sin, the necessity of divine punishment, and the wonderful provision of salvation from divine wrath by God in Christ. Paul speaks of this â€œgood newsâ€ as the matter of â€œfirst importanceâ€, and we know well the priority he gives this message in his preaching and writing. It is central. But in order for it to have a functional centrality it must be connected to areas where people live their lives."
A Meditation on 2 Tim. 2:10
The following is a short meditation on 2 Timothy 2:10 by Dr. James White.
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of the elect, so that they also might experience the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, and with it, eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10 - translation by Dr. James White)
The context is important. 2 Timothy is Paul's farewell letter to Timothy. You don't waste words when writing your farewell to a dearly beloved son in the faith. He is encouraging Timothy to be strong. He calls Timothy to "share in suffering" with him (2:3), to compete, work hard, and remember Jesus Christ. Then, in verse 9, he mentions his own suffering as a criminal for the gospel. This is the context lying behind Paul's statement that he "endures." Endures what? Everything. All the opposition and attacks and beatings and imprisonment and long days of toil and labor--he endured it all for what reason? Oh, surely, we could say "the glory of God," but that isn't Paul's answer here. Instead, he says he endures all of this "for the sake of the elect." Many may wish this term did not appear in Scripture, but it is right there - "the elect," "the chosen ones." Paul uses the same term in Romans 8:33 "Who will bring a charge against God's elect?", and significantly in Colossians 3:12: "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Notice that Paul refers to the professing believers in Colossae as "those who have been chosen of God." Not those who chose God (they did that, but they did so as a result of being chosen by Him: the Christian gospel is God-centered, not man-centered!). It is important to see the source of the "choosing" in election here: "chosen of God." God chooses. God disposes. God is sovereign in this matter.
And so back in 2 Timothy 2:10, Paul endures the sufferings of his apostleship "for the sake of the elect," but the reason he does so should not be missed, "so that they also might experience the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, and with it, eternal glory." Paul sees his sufferings, his ministry, his tireless work, as means God has used to bring His elect to salvation. As I have said many times, God ordains the ends as well as the means. Preaching, teaching, ministering, defending the faith--all are means used by God to bring His elect to salvation. Just a few more quick notes:
God - the Goal of the Gospel
"... all the saving events and all the saving blessings of the gospel are means of getting obstacles out of the way so that we might know and enjoy God most fully. Propitiation, redemption, forgiveness, imputation, sanctification, liberation, healing, heaven - none of these is good news except for one reason: they bring us to God for our everlasting enjoyment of him.... And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God."
- John Piper, God Is The Gospel