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

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

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  • « Love, Unity, and Doctrinal Precision | Main | For whom did Jesus taste death? by John Piper »

    Question about Forgiveness/Arminianism

    Received this important question this morning from a visitor:

    Question: Hi, About 2-3 weeks ago my church taught from the pulpit through the Lord's Prayer and when it got to Forgive as you are willing to forgive others, the teaching was if you don't forgive someone and you die, you lose your salvation and go to Hell. I took issue with this teaching, and started researching, and I've been on your web site for all this time since looking for answers, but it's still unclear to me. I'm open to your views. I immediately asked the pastor questions and it's clear even though he didn't tell me the answers to my questions that he's Arminian in his thinking. He thinks all kinds of things that I dont' see. I believe in total depravity and he doesn't teach that. I'm considering leaving my church over this, and I want to make sure I understand before I decide to leave. It's not really something I want to do, but I feel that I need to go somewhere the doctrine is better. I just can't understand why someone can think God could save a person and then toss them to Hell. It makes no sense to me. I know I'm a sinner, I know Christ died for me. Isn't that enough?

    Response:

    Hi ____ Thank you for your email and for your willingness to in explain your current situation. The short answer to your question is no, God will not forgive us if we fail to forgive others, but if we are in Christ, He will forgive us for Jesus' sake. Yes, Christ is enough. This kind of preaching is a classic example of a failure to read a Text in relation to Jesus Christ. If we read a Text in isloation without relation to the whole, and without relation to Christ, we almost always end up with a disconnect to the whole purpose of the passage.

    Your concern about your pastors' sermon is right on target because the work of Christ is indeed enough to save you completely. In searching the Scripture, it should become clear that any church that teaches that the sinner can either ATTAIN or MAINTAIN their own justification before God is not teaching the gospel. If someone says that we can lose our salvation, it is the same as teaching that what Jesus did for us on the cross was insufficient. That our sin is somehow greater than His grace. If we can lose our salvation then what Jesus did was not enough, which would mean that WE must pay part of the price of our own redemption. The Bible teaches, rather, that Jesus work is sufficient (Heb 1:3; 4:12-16; 10:11-12). Therefore, anyone who teaches that the crosswork of Christ is not enough to save you completely, and that we must add our own works or moral ability to Christ's merits (like your pastor) I am afraid, is teaching false doctrine. It is a low view of Christ and what He has done for us and a failure to read the Bible with Christ's own Hermeneutic (John 1:43-45, John 5:39, 40, John 20:31; Luke 24:25-27 & 44-46). No one can obey the Law perfectly, only Christ has done so, and He did for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. His blood "reminds" God not to treat us as our sins justly deserve every day. That is the whole point of the gospel ... that we are set free from the fear that our performance is what determines our destiny, Christ does. For if our merit was intermingled with Christ's work then our redmeption is incomplete and we will never know if what we have done is enough. We trust, rather, in Christ and His finished work, not ourselves and our ability to keep the law. He kept the law because we could not. The gospel teaches that we justly deserve the wrath of God save in Christ's mercy alone.

    Remember that the purpose of the law is to reveal sin (Rom 3:19, 20). The demands of the law are way beyond the moral capacity of any person. But God does not, because of this, lower His expectations toward us. The Law stands and should strike us dead as soon as we read it, but it's purpose is to drive us to Christ who fulfilled the law on our behalf. While the regenerate will forgive those who have unjustly treated them, we cannot expect anyone to be able to perfectly obey this command. To do so is to have a low view of God's holiness. God demands that we forgive perfectly, yet we have this perfect obedience to this law in Christ, and nowhere else. That is why He sent Him in the first place. The whole Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) begins telling by us that the poor in spirit are those who receive kingdom blessings. This means that those who recognize their own spiritual impotence, by God's grace, and trust in the sufficiency of Christ alone, will be blessed. As long as the framework of our thinking is that God will only accept us if we fulfil his law perfectly, has forgotten that the law was meant to be a schoolmaster that drives us to Christ.

    Since no one forgives perfectly, nor obeys God's Law perfectly, apart from our grace in Christ, God accepts a contrite heart. This Easter Sunday in church our corporate confession, I believe, expresses clearly what our attitute shoulld be before God:

    Almighty Father, God of gods and Lord of lords, Father to the fatherless, Husband to the widow, Defender of the helpless, Judge of all the earth, have mercy on us. We have not sought freedom for the oppressed, even though you freed us. We have not bound up the broken, even though you healed us. We have not forgiven others, even though you forgave us. We withold kindness from the needy, even though you freely gave us your own Son. We are without exceuse, but not without hope. By your power and grace, account our sins to Jesus' bloody death and amend our ways by the power of his glorious resurrection.

    We need to be put on the glasses of the Holy Spiirit and have eyes to see Christ in all of Scripture. This means that preachers need to emphasize that the primary application of all Scripture is in Christ, not in us or in some other thing. The New Testament teaches us that we are to be conformed to the image of Christ. All applications of sermons to us must be arrived at via the person and work of Christ. If anything points to us in the Scripture it is only by virtue the Holy Spirit bringing us into union with Christ. Many contemporary preachers have the pietistic tendency to go straight to personal application, but when it is read in relation to Christ the problems this raises can be done away with. This way we preach the Bible in such a way the fulfils the purposes for which the Holy Spirit originally intended.

    May the Lord richly bless you and give you wisdom as you face this difficulty.
    Solus Christus
    John Hendryx


    Posted by John on April 6, 2007 12:08 PM

    Comments

    Thank you for your answer to the "common" but most latent thought lingering in all of our minds!

    It, in my opinion comes clearest near the long road to death!

    Instant death leaves no room to linger in doubts with confidence!

    I am more convinced now the more I understand that I really don't understand that God would ever consider leaving my soul in my hands to get me safely from here to Him!

    This passage extracted and highlighted from the whole grows louder and louder the longer my walk towards my last natural breath:

    Joh 5:17 But Jesus answered them, My Father works until now, and I work.


    I see that Jesus works too!

    Just consider what He was doing here:

    Luk 24:13 And, behold, two of them were going on the same day to a village being sixty stadia distant from Jerusalem, which was named Emmaus.
    Luk 24:14 And they talked to each other about all these things taking place.
    Luk 24:15 And it happened, as they talked and reasoned, coming near, Jesus Himself traveled with them.
    Luk 24:16 But their eyes were held so as not to recognize Him.
    Luk 24:17 And He said to them, What words are these which you exchange with each other while walking, and are sad of face?
    Luk 24:18 And answering, one of them whose name was Cleopas, said to Him, Are you only one who resides in Jerusalem and do not know the things happening in it in these days?
    Luk 24:19 And He said to them, What things? And they said to Him, The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a man, a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people;
    Luk 24:20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the judgment of death, and crucified Him.

    I TOO NOW FIND I BETRAY HIM EVERYTIME I TALK LIKE THOSE TWO TALKED TO JESUS!

    And still, He WAITED!

    Oh, the Love of God grows more and more for sinners like you and me!

    My Father works until now, and I work.

    Oh yeah, one more thing!

    I heard this story by a wonderful Preacher, Dr. J Sidlow Baxter, gone on before us to Our Lord about something an aged man of Scotland answered to a question he asked him while he and the Pastor of the church he just concluded the Preaching for walked by him.

    They were walking down the pathway back from the Church to the parsonage. As they walked they came by this old man sitting in a chair on his porch enjoying the morning sunshine.

    Dr. Baxter acknowledge the old fella and asked: HOW ARE YOU DOING?

    The old fella replied: "I'm kept, you?

    Jud 1:1 Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to the ones called in God the Father, having been set apart, and having been kept to Jesus Christ:
    Jud 1:2 Mercy and peace, and love be multiplied to you.

    So the "no mercy for the unmerciful" is law? Is that what this post is trying to say? In other words, it should make us flee to Christ.

    Geoff

    What is it saying is that all Scripture points to Jesus Christ. To somehow suppose that we can fulfil God's requirements of us, apart from Christ, is to forget the gospel. Anything done apart from faith is sin.

    We've got to remember, too, that though Jesus' commands (to forgive, love, etc.) are only perfectly kept by himself, and though we benefit from his active rightousness being imputed to us, the commands of Jesus are still binding on us as believers as the fruit of our faith and, in that sense, if we are not bearing fruit (forgiving, etc) we aren't showing evidence of having been forgiven.

    Paul

    Yes, indeed, agreed 100%. All the commands are binding on us as believers and we will show evidence of faith by our obedience.
    Those who are indwelt by Christ will forgive. But we forgive and obey Christ because we are justified and indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, not in order to be, nor to maintain that standing. His insures our faith and our preservastion to the end. So we trust not inourselves but Jesus Christ.

    Dear Mr. Hendryx,

    you wrote:

    "...Therefore, anyone who teaches that the crosswork of Christ is not enough to save you completely, and that we must add our own works or moral ability to Christ's merits (like your pastor) I am afraid, is teaching false doctrine..."

    My comment:

    Yes and such a man and his false gospel (Salvation = Christ + X) and his destiny is described in Galatians 1, 6-9.

    Yours in the PERFECT Saviour who FULFILLED,
    André Kirsch

    I think that we should always remember that Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, yet genuine saving faith is never alone.

    Thus, although I wholeheartedly agree with John, we should be careful not to give false hope where there is none in the first place.

    If someone consistently and stubbornly refuses to forgive, then there is a good chance that this person is not regenerate. We shouldn't allow such a person to continue deceiving himself by telling him that the only thing he has to do is to rest at the perfect work of the Saviour.

    One in Christ,
    Theo K

    If I might, I happily disagree with Theo K.

    I would for just the reason you put forward hereon "TURN" them over to Jesus!

    Who better to turn them over too?

    He is Our Lord and Savior.

    He said this:::>"...Mat 18:34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
    Mat 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."

    I have a question:

    WHO BETTER TO DO THAT, YOU, ME, THEM OR GOD HIMSELF?

    Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
    Heb 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
    Heb 12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
    Heb 12:9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
    Heb 12:10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.


    Michael,

    Perhaps I didn't make my point clear enough. Yes, by all means, speak to them about Jesus and His perfect work. Help them understand that they need to repent (forsake their sins) and believe (trust) in Him. Just don't tell them that no matter what their life looks like they are saved because once, a long time ago, they "asked Jesus into their heart". I hope this is clearer.

    Also, if I am not mistaken, the quoted passage of Hebrews refers to regenerate people and God's discipline. I am talking about people that aren't, and yet happily live with the deception that they are. Isn't this a sad reality of our times?


    My mother, my sister, and I were talking about this very thing. Mother held to the standard of unforgiviness costing a person their salvation while my sister and I were on the side of Christ being enough. This article is excellent.

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