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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)

Why don't you still put to death people who break God's law like in OT Israel?

Why don't you still put to death people who break God's law like in OT Israel? Wouldn't you establish a theocracy and take over the state mechanism if you had the opportunity? Multi-tiered answer.

1) the death penalty still stands for the same sins committed, but with the coming of Christ there is now a delay in carrying out judgment as He holds out pardon in advance of His invasion for those who ally themselves with Him. When he bore the sin of many on the cross He died the death we all deserved. He paid for the sins of the Christians now living...and for those sheep he still intends to gather. So now is a time of mercy, today is the day of salvation ... but when Christ comes again such offers of clemency will cease forever .. and then their death sentence will be carried out.

2) As Christ grafted in the Gentiles into His olive tree (Rom 11), we no longer live under a direct theocracy but are cast and dispersed all over the world, called to live as pilgrims and exiles like Israel in the Babylonian captivity. In whatever country we live we are called to seek the welfare of the city where the Lord sends us, pray on its behalf (Jeremiah 29: 4-7) and obey the laws of the governing authority (Roman 13:1-7).

3) Even assuming that Christians wanted to take over the state-mechanism, in a democratic republic at least, if Christians are in the majority, then they aren’t “taking over” the state mechanism. Rather, majority rule is built into our form of governance. It's called popular sovereignty. Of course laws which more closely conform to justice would be established in a way that most honored God. In just the same way when secularists are in the majority they also establish the laws they think are just according to their worldview. That is largely what we see now. Also Christians have a huge range of views on on governance, viz., Lutherans (two-swords), Anglicans (Erastianism), Amish, theocrats, royalists, libertarians, social conservatives, disestablishmentarians, You name it ... you can’t generalize at all about Christian politics. Most Christians I know think that the free market of ideas is a good thing because it allows the best arguments to win in the court of public opinion. but that is far from what we have now in the US at least. But most importantly, politics is not very central on most Christian's radar sceen. it is not what gives us purpose. Life is meaningful because of God and things like church, family and friends. (Thanks to Steve Hays for some points on #3)

October 31, 2013  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

The "Unbelieving Christian"

The Carnal Christian doctrine of "eternal security" is a vastly different doctrine than the biblical doctrine of the "preservation of the saints." The Carnal Christian theory teaches that a Christian can lose his faith and yet still be a Christian so they actually use the term "unbelieving Christian". On the contrary, the Biblical doctrine of preservation declares that while we MUST persevere to the end (Colossians 1:21-23, 1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6 Hebrews 10:26-31, Hebrews 12:1) but it also teaches that GOD WILL preserve us to the end (Colossians 1:21-23, 1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6, Hebrews 10:26-31, Hebrews 12:1)

Here is what the carnal Christian doctrine comes to. Below is a list of quotes from Dr. Charles Stanley’s book Eternal Security:

1. ”Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy” (Chapter 10, p. 93).
”And last, believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation, for God remains faithful” (p. 94).
”Christ will not deny an unbelieving Christian his or her salvation because to do so would be to deny Himself” (p. 94).
In regards to the parable Jesus taught in Matthew 25:14-30, Stanley writes:

The final verse of this parable is so severe that many commentators assume it is a description of hell. It is not. (p. 124) Where is this place represented by the “outer darkness” in Jesus’ parable? To be in the “outer darkness” is to be in the kingdom of God but outside the circle of men and women whose faithfulness on this earth earned them a special rank or position of authority. (p. 126)

Additionally, below is a list of quotes from Dr. Stanley’s book Handbook for Christian Living:

You and I are not saved because we have enduring faith. We are saved because at a moment in time we expressed faith in our Lord (p. 190).

Discipleship has nothing to do with whether you will go to heaven or not (p. 505).

It is possible to be a child of God and never a disciple of Christ. We can live the Christian life with the assurance of heaven as our ultimate destiny but miss the process of maturing as a disciple (p. 505).

October 29, 2013  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Semi-pelagianism Masquerading as a Theology of Grace

The Carnal Christian doctrine (i.e. The theology of Zane Hodges, Charles Stanley and the grace evangelical society), is, at best, semi-pelagianism masquarading as a theology of grace. Fact is, it takes as much grace to believe as it takes grace to love and obey. Believing the gospel is no less difficult than obeying the law without Spiritual renewal of heart. ... But adherents of this view think that by stripping the gospel to bare bones faith they are promoting the most genuine form of sola fide, but since they reject faith as the result of something the Holy Spirit works in them (Ezek 36:26; John 6:63, 65) they hide their true identity as a religion which trusts in self ... ascribing their believing to their own wisdom and sound judgment, propelled by ones own native resources and not Christ alone. It is truly only grace alone when even sola fide is understood as the result of grace. We cannot use sola fide (faith alone) as a way to neglect sola gratia (grace alone). By allowing semi-pelaigianism at the front end (faith) they think they are in the clear with their antinomianism in the back end (life after faith). This is then how they can give a stamp of approval to shallow sinners' prayers and subsequent unholy living.

October 28, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Obedience Not in Order to Be Saved, But Because we are Saved

We believe, follow, love and obey Christ, not in order to be regenerate/justified (a completed action by Christ), but BECAUSE we are regenerate/justified. These add nothing to Christ's redemptive work but are overflow from a regenerate/redeemed heart. They are FRUITS of our salvation, not the root. While indeed the Bible teaches that we must come to Christ in faith to be JUSTIFIED but it also teaches that "everyone who BELIEVES that Jesus is the Christ HAS BEEN (past tense continuing action) born of God [REGENERATED]." (1 John 5:1) Therefore, from regeneration springs faith and a new desire to follow and love Christ. (see 1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, 5:4 for scriptural proof)

October 28, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

But Doesn't Rome Also Believe in Salvation by Grace?

Visitor: Rome also believes in salvation by grace: See Trent CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema."

ANSWER: ... Indeed we fully acknowledge that they affirm salvation by grace .. this was never in dispute ...but they do not affirm salvation by GRACE ALONE ... Rome only believes in the NECESSITY of grace but does not affirm the SUFFICIENCY of grace.

- Trent also rejects the biblical teaching of "grace alone" through "faith alone" in "Christ alone" here in the same document:

CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.

CANON IV. If any one shall affirm, that man’s freewill, moved and excited by God, does not, by consenting, cooperate with God, the mover and exciter, so as to prepare and dispose itself for the attainment of justification; if moreover, anyone shall say, that the human will cannot refuse complying, if it pleases, but that it is inactive, and merely passive; let such an one be accursed"!

CANON V.- If anyone shall affirm, that since the fall of Adam, man’s freewill is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing titular, yea a name, without a thing, and a fiction introduced by Satan into the Church; let such an one be accursed"

Ironically, these directly contradict many of the declarations of the early church by Augustine and the Council of Orange

October 27, 2013  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Christ Alone

We affirm salvation is by Christ alone - its all of grace. We reject anything beyond this for salvation: Good will, works, obedience and merit add nothing to our just standing before God (Rom 9:16; Gal 3:3; Eph 2:9). Neither these nor anything else can help us attain or maintain our just standing before God. It only as we are joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit that we have life and are declared righteous in His sight - and all our sins, both now and forever are forgiven on account of His name alone. AMEN

October 27, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Question for Those Who Teach Universal Prevenient Grace

If God grants all men a universal grace which precedes, enlightens and enables the first stirrings of a good will or inclination toward God , all the time, (as some erroneously teach) then who are the carnal people described in 1 Cor 2 who have heard the word and do not have the Spirit to understand the word of God? (v. 14) And what of these passages which clearly distinguish between the gospel coming only in word and the gospel which comes in both word AND Spirit (1 Thess 1: 4-5; 1 Cor 1:23)?

"For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." 1 Thess 1:4, 5

"...we preach Christ crucified [outward call], a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles [universal rejection], but to those who are called [inward call], both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." 1 Cor 1:23

"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." - 1 Cor 2:14

October 26, 2013  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

A Reason for Unbelief

In Deuteronomy 29:2–4 Moses summons all of Israel and says, "You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear."

i.e. Left to themselves (to their own native resources) they are blind, deaf and hard-hearted. This is the condition of ALL MEN unless God grants eyes, ears and a new heart.

October 25, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Regeneration (excerpt) by Matthew Barrett

Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit to unite the elect sinner to Christ by breathing new life into that dead and depraved sinner so as to raise him from spiritual death to spiritual life, removing his heart of stone and giving him a heart of flesh, so that he is washed, born from above and now able to repent and trust in Christ as a new creation. Moreover, regeneration is the act of God alone and therefore it is monergistic in nature, accomplished by the sovereign act of the Spirit apart from and unconditioned upon man’s will to believe. In short, man’s faith does not cause regeneration but regeneration causes man’s faith.

In Deuteronomy 30:6 we read, “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” If the circumcision of the heart refers to regeneration (cf. Rom. 2:25–27), then to what purpose does God promise to circumcise the heart? He circumcises the heart “so that” his people will love the Lord. The Lord does not circumcise their hearts “because” they acted in repentance and faith by loving the Lord. Rather, it is God’s sovereign act of circumcising the heart that causes the sinner to love him. Nowhere in Deuteronomy 30:6 do we see any indication that God’s sovereign act of circumcising the heart is conditioned on the will of man to believe. Rather, it is quite the opposite. The Lord must first circumcise the heart so that the sinner can exercise a will that believes.

- Matthew Barrett, from his booklet, What is Regeneration? by P&R Publishing

October 25, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Is Faith a Work? (Revisited)

Faith is not considered a work because we attribute our faith to the work of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit as He opens our heart to the gospel. By the mercy of God, we are granted a new heart which can look away from self to Christ alone for salvation. However, faith WOULD IN FACT BE A WORK if it were not recognized as the result of the Lord opening the heart - or the regenerating work of the Spirit. As such a person would be ascribing their believing (at least partly) to their own wisdom, humility, sound judgment and good sense but not to Christ alone. As J. I. Packer once said, "the saving power of the cross does not depend on faith being added to it; its saving power is such that faith flows from it."

"It is because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Cor 1:30-31

Related Resources
Why Is Faith Not a Work? by Matthew Barrett

October 23, 2013  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

Is Assurance of Salvation Presumptuous?

Roman Catholics consider assurance of salvation one of the greatest of Protestant heresies. They believe such certainty is presumptuous. Yet when a person rejects assurance they reveal that they are trusting in something other than (or something in addition to) Jesus Christ for their right standing before God. Is not trusting partly in self for salvation the very biblical definition of pride and presumption?

It is the very nature of assurance that we look to Christ for what He has done for us, not what we have done (or will do) for Him. Christ alone makes us right before God and to believe the truth of assurance is simply to believe God's promise to us, that He is completely satisfied when He sees us in Christ. I can think of no greater presumption than to disbelieve God's promise that he has forgiven our sins in Christ.

October 22, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

"But Adam Had a Free Will."

Attempting to demonstrate that man has a free will, synergists will often say that the will of Adam was free and there is no reason in the divine reckoning to change His design, that of choice on the basis of the free offer of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ who gives light to all men.

To which we respond, Adam existed before the fall so OF COURSE his will was not in bondage to sin. The entire debate about free will has to do with the condition of man's heart AFTER the fall. Indeed God's character and commands do not change but our relationship to them do. We now owe a debt we cannot repay. The Bible teaches that after the fall, the natural man is spiritually dead (Eph 2: 1) and cannot and will not understand Spiritual truth (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 8:7) until God sends his Spirit to change the disposition of his heart. Christ did FOR US what we were unable to do for ourselves.

Next, contrary to your charge ... we robustly teach that the church must indiscriminately proclaim the gospel to all men. We never said otherwise. But do so remembering that only God can open a person's heart to understand and believe it (1 Thess 1:4, 5; John 6:63. 65).

October 21, 2013  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

But what about "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved?

Indeed. We all affirm wholeheartedly that "whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." and that is what we declare to all men; but therein lies the difficulty. Are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? "Whosoever will" it is a conditional statement asserts nothing indicatively. Statements like "believe the gospel", "whosoever will", "if thou art willing", "if thou hear", "if thou do" declare, not man's ability, but his duty. By failing to see this It appears you are confusing imperatives (commands) with indicatives (what God does for us). By doing so you end up ignoring half of the Bible which gives you the content to read this in.... the Bible which declares "whosoever will" also asserts that no man will come to Christ unless God grants it (John 6:65). And all those He grants will come (John 6:37) We indiscriminately call all men to believe the gospel but the Bible also teaches that no one will come apart from grace.

Synergists teach that 'salvation depends on human will', but the Bible teaches that (and I quote) 'it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Rom 9:16)

Synergists teach '... and as many as believed were ordained to eternal life.' but The Bible teaches (and I quote) 'AND AS MANY AS WERE ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED.' (Acts 13:48)

Synergists teach that 'you are not Christ's sheep because you do not believe', but Jesus teaches that 'you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.' (John 10:26)

Many seem to invert this clear biblical order. Grace is not a reward for faith, but the cause of it. To invert this is to confuse imperatives and indicatives. By doing so you end up ascribing your repenting and believing to your own wisdom, humility, sound judgment and good sense and not to Christ alone. Then it becomes, not a gospel of grace, but of meeting conditions in order to win God's grace. That is nothing less than salvation by merit.

October 19, 2013  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

The Gospel and Changing Cultural Perceptions

Up until a few years ago the culture seemed to understand that Christians preached the gospel because they honestly cared about those to whom it was directed. Even if they rejected the truthfulness of the message and thought Christians might be deluded, they understood that Christians were giving a message of liberation in love. Even in a popular show like Seinfeld, Elaine, at one time, had a boyfriend who was a Christian and she asked him why he never warned her about hell, even though she did not believe she was going there. She said "if you cared about me you would warn me." Her boyfriend delivered the punch line, "well, you are the one going there, not me." In other words, Elaine may have rejected the truthfulness of the gospel, but at least she understood that its true motive was sincere and in love.

No more. For whatever purposes, the culture has turned good into evil. Especially when it comes to topics such as sexual orientation, Christians' motives are now often spun and bigoted, hateful and homophobic.

But let me use a film analogy as a response to this to expose the absurdity of it. Can you imagine if Neo were to go back into the Matrix to help liberate the people who were still in bondage there and yet decided to leave all the homosexuals there, while helping everyone else. Under any definition this would be called discrimination or hatred, yet this is what the current culture would have us do with the gospel. For millennia we have called all men to to forsake their self-righteousness and repent of their sins (whatever they are); some would resist and some, by the grace of God, would come to Christ... but now when we proclaim liberty to the captives, the culture is patient enough in most cases, but adamantly declares that homosexuals are out of bounds and it is must be due to hatred or bigotry that we do so...

No actually, it would be due to hatred if we didn't.

October 19, 2013  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Is the Outward Calling of the Gospel a Mere Formality Since No one Can Respond?

Someone recently told me that the outward calling of the gospel (in Reformed theology) is merely a formality (and not genuine) since no one can respond to it. But this is like saying it is vain (or a mere formality) for a farmer to cast seed on the ground since it will not sprout on its own without rain and the right weather conditions. The Scripture declares that Word and Spirit work together. We indiscriminately cast the seed of the gospel and some falls on fallow ground while others on ground that has been plowed up (by God). Yet. even then the word by itself will still not be fruitful unless God showers it with blessing from above and the Spirit works by germinating the word in people's hearts (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)

Election does not save anyone, but is a blueprint of what God intends to do in time through the redemptive work of his Son, proclaimed by His church, and applied by the Holy Spirit on those He has set his affection on (Eph 1:3-5)

October 18, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Some Confuse the Meaning of the Words "Faith" and "Grace"

I occasionally run across Christians that mistakenly use the words "faith" and "grace" interchangeably. It could be argued that this has led to a large number of errors in the church including the carnal Christian heresy. This error asserts that faith is a mere perception of and assent to the facts of Christianity, without allegiance, love or gratefulness to God (all of which are thought by them of as additions to the gospel) But it must be remembered that faith and a grateful heart that desires to obey God are all impossible apart from regenerating grace. We are not saved because of a grateful, obedient faith but saved UNTO a grateful, obedient faith. All spring from a heart renewed by God (Ezek 36:26; John 6:63-65, 37). Grace is not the reward for faith or obedience but the fountain from which they spring.

“Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live." Deut 30:6.

"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." - Ezekiel 36:25-27

October 17, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Sample Debate Between a Humanist and Covenantal Apologist by K. Scott Oliphint

covenantal.pngA sample exchange between a humanist (H) and a covenantal apologist (CA)

H: So humanism, I think, is the best expression of modern science. It’s the scientific outlook, using the rigorous methods of the scientific inquiry in order to test hypotheses about nature.
CA: Well, I agree that scientific inquiry is important. Science depends on certain universal laws. One of those laws is that every event, everything that comes to be, has a cause.
H: Okay. Then I suspect you want to say, “The universe has a cause,” and I take it that you would say that God caused the universe. My question then is, if every event has a cause, what caused God?
CA: The problem with that question is that it seeks to turn a scientific law into one that must be universally applied to all that exists. That use of the law is no part of what I have affirmed. I have affirmed the law of causality as a scientific law, not as a law that applies to all that exists. Everything that comes to be has a cause . . . that’s the principle. The universe came to be, and therefore the universe has a cause. Now, if God always existed, he didn’t “come to be” . . .

Continue reading "Sample Debate Between a Humanist and Covenantal Apologist by K. Scott Oliphint" »

October 15, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Ad Hominem - "to the man"

Ad Hominem refers to a logical fallacy, or in other words, a bad argument. This short video shows 4 ways this can happen:

October 15, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Parable of the Sailboat

sail

Dr. Michael Horton, from a Q & A session, December 7, 2007, Evangelism Conference, Phoenix, Arizona:

Imagine you have a sailboat which has all the "bells and whistles" on it (a radio, fish finders, satellite, the most advanced mapping system imaginable, so that it can literally steer you to your destination).

You head out of the harbor under full sail.

After some time you find yourself in the middle of the ocean and there is a dead calm (there is no wind). Your radio tells you that there is a large storm coming.

It could be a very dangerous situation and you are now in trouble because right where you are, there is no wind at all and you are "dead in the water". You do not have an engine, you depend on the wind - so you start paddling.

You are thrilled to have all the necessary technology to navigate your course, but all this technology can only tell you the depths of the trouble you are now in. What you need is the wind and the sail to get you back to the harbor.

A lot of Christians speed out of the harbor under full sail and get lost out there in the middle of the sea. They love the technology and want to hear of a new place to go, something to do because they are genuinely filled with gratitude for what God has done for them, but then eventually, the directions become another yoke of bondage if they do not get the wind (of the Gospel) in their sails.

What we assume is that we need the wind of the Gospel to get us out of the harbor; now people need the right equipment. But what we need to say is "no... they need the wind and the equipment, ALL the time."

We need them for different things.

The law cannot do anything more in sanctification than it did in justification, but my relationship to the law is different than it was before - so that now, I am happy with the instruments and technology, because I WANT to follow where these instruments are directing me but ONLY the gospel can fill my sails and get me there.

So we do not live a law driven life, we live a GOSPEL driven life and a law directed life. The law directs but it cannot save. It tells you where to go but it cannot get you there. That is why we need to have the Gospel preached regularly.

Sermons that end with "how are you doing with all this?" do not put wind in your sails. That's because on a good day, whatever the specifics of the question are, my answer is "honestly, what you are saying does not describe me, but it does describe Christ and His perfect righteousness, and He is not only given for me but indwells me by His Spirit."

Sanctification is living out the effects of our union with Christ.

Whenever we say "we need more practical preaching" we are saying "we need more law" - now maybe we do need more law... more guidance as to what indeed is the will of God for our lives, but just know what you are saying when you say you need more practical preaching.

"Practical" means direction.. and maybe you do need this, but just realize what you are getting. If you think that "practical" is going to drive the Christian life, you've got another think coming.

If the GOSPEL is not plastered right, front and center, even for Christians who FAIL at those directions (Romans 3:20), then it is only going to lead to deeper and deeper despair.

October 13, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Calvin's Maladies and the Longing for Heaven

storms-s

Dr. Sam Storms writes:

On August 5, 1563, John Calvin wrote a letter of encouragement and counsel to Madame de Coligny, the wife of one of the more important leaders of the Protestant Reformation in France. She had recently recovered from a struggle with numerous physical afflictions. In direct reference to her diseases, and all of ours as well, Calvin said:

“They [that is, our physical afflictions and diseases] should, moreover, serve us for medicines to purge us from worldly affections, and retrench [i.e., remove] what is superfluous in us, and since they are to us the messengers of death, we ought to learn to have one foot raised to take our departure when it shall please God” (John Calvin, Selected Works, Vol. 7; 1551; ed. H. Beveridge and J. Bonnet [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983], 331ff.; emphasis mine).

We ought to learn from our physical afflictions, said Calvin, to live every day with “one foot raised” to take our departure into heaven when it shall please God. Do we live every day with one foot lifted ever so deftly off the ground in constant alert and anxious expectation of the moment when we will depart this world and enter into the splendor of heaven and the presence of God himself? I strongly suspect that Calvin did, and that there is much about living now in expectation of that day that we can learn from him.

Calvin is a remarkably helpful guide, a man of great wisdom, insight, and personal energy when it comes to thinking about the resurrection of the body and our anticipation of eternal life in the New Heavens and New Earth. We see this in no fewer than four ways.

First, Calvin was in the truest sense of the term a pilgrim on this earth. Calvin knew from personal experience what it meant to be a sojourner and an exile in this life. In his commentary on 1 Peter 2:11, Calvin describes the children of God, “wherever they may be, as “only guests in this world” (Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, translated and edited by the Rev. John Owen [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2005], Vol. 22, p. 78). As he reflected on Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:1 that we “seek the things that are above,” he argued that only in doing so shall we embrace our identity as “sojourners in this world,” that is to say, people who “are not bound to it” (Commentaries on The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to The Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, translated by the Rev. John Pringle [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2005], Vol. 21, p. 205).

Nowhere does this emphasis in Calvin come out with greater clarity than in his comments on Hebrews 11 and 13. Calvin concludes from 11:16, where the author mentions the patriarchs’ “desire” for “a better country, that is, a heavenly one,” “that there is no place for us among God’s children, except we renounce the world, and that there will be for us no inheritance in heaven, except we become pilgrims on earth” (Commentary on The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews, translated by the Rev. John Owen [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2005], vol. 22, p. 285 [yes, Calvin believed Paul wrote Hebrews]). His observations on 13:14 are especially instructive. There the author of Hebrews describes the perspective of all believers in saying: “For here [i.e., on this earth] we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” In light of this, says Calvin, we should consider that

“we have no fixed residence but in heaven. Whenever, therefore, we are driven from place to place, or whenever any change happens to us, let us think of what the Apostle teaches us here, that we have no certain abode on earth, for heaven is our inheritance; and when more and more tried, let us ever prepare ourselves for our last end; for they who enjoy a very quiet life commonly imagine that they have a rest in this world: it is hence profitable for us, who are prone to this kind of sloth, to be often tossed here and there, that we who are too much inclined to look on things below, may learn to turn our eyes up to heaven” (ibid., 349).

This keen sense of being a pilgrim and sojourner on earth was reinforced in Calvin’s heart by the harsh realities of his life. Forced to flee Paris because of his inflammatory remarks about the Roman Catholic Church and the need for reform, Calvin is reported to have descended from a window by means of bed-sheets and escaped from the city disguised as a vine-dresser with a hoe upon his shoulder. The next two years were spent as a wandering student and evangelist. He settled in Basel, hoping to spend his life in quiet study. Calvin returned to Paris in 1536 to settle some old financial matters. He decided to go from there to Strasbourg to be a scholar, but as a result of his famous encounter with William Farel ended up in Geneva. Trouble erupted when he and Farel sought to administer church discipline and to restrict access to the Lord’s Table to those who were spiritually qualified. The two were literally kicked out of town in April of 1538.

The rest of the article is found here.

October 12, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Distinction Between Law and Gospel

Martin Luther declared of the person ignorant of the distinction between Law and Gospel that “you cannot be altogether sure whether he is a Christian or a Jew or a pagan, for it depends on this distinction.” – Hermann Sasse, Here We Stand: Nature and Character of the Lutheran Faith, trans. by Theodore G. Tappert, (New York: Harper & Bros., 1938). p. 114.

Elsewhere Luther wrote, “Whoever knows well this art of distinguishing between the Law and the gospel, him place at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Scripture.”

I was just interviewed for almost an hour on the "Knowing the Truth" broadcast with Kevin Boling on the subject of Law and Gospel. The program is now available online at this link. - John Samson

October 10, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Ministry in South Africa

Dr James White was in South Africa the past weekend where he held a Biblical worldview seminar addressing topics which are very appropriate for our time.

Session 1 - Homosexuality: Choice or Wired?
Session 2 - Sovereignty versus Free Will
Session 3 - What Every Christian Should Know About the Qur’an
Session 4 - Q and A

You can download the messages at the link here.

October 09, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Do I have to know the date?

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Pastor John, I was greatly troubled in a service recently when the preacher said that unless each person could identify the specific day that they prayed "the sinner's prayer" they were not converted. He then said that if in fact they were not sure of the date, they should walk forward in the service, pray the prayer and then sign the date and time in the front of their Bibles. I feel sure I am converted but this preacher has unsettled me enormously. What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks for your question. My opinion? What the preacher told you was pure, unadulterated hogwash! Both you, and those in attendance in the service were victims of gross error and a total misunderstanding of biblical conversion perpetuated by this preacher.

Nowhere in Scripture are we told to record the day we pray a prayer and if we should somehow forget the date, we are not truly saved. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest such a thing. Instead, we are told to simply examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith - in other words, to look for signs of spiritual life.

The Scripture says, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" - 2 Cor. 13:5

If you have ever seen the movie "Crocodile Dundee" (which is set in a backwater area of Australia, very much unaffected by urban culture) you might recall an incident where the leading figure, Mick Dundee, recounts the story of him asking his tribal elder when he (Dundee) was born. The answer from the elder was simple, "In the summer time."

Because that is all the information he received, Dundee went through life never quite sure of how old he was. Yet as frustrating as that may have been for him, it would be totally erroneous to conclude that Dundee was never born (just because he did not know the day or even year of his birth). It is obvious that Dundee had a birth by the very fact that he was alive, living and breathing, in the present day.

In the same way, spiritually speaking, there are many Christians who although are very much spiritually alive, can only speak in vague terms about the date of their conversion. Some can indeed identify the day and the hour of their conversion, as it happened in a very dramatic way. Others however might say "I was converted to Christ somewhere between my 5th and 8th birthday." Another might say "it was somewhere around the age of 14."

The fact is that the New Testament does not tell people to look back on a date when a prayer was prayed as a ground for assurance, but the presence of spiritual life in the here and now.

Just as when paramedics encounter a person at the scene of an accident and immediately check to see if there are signs of physical life (by checking for a pulse, etc.) we are to look for signs of spiritual life.

I realize that this task is a subjective one, and none of us at any given time, live a single day with an absolute love for Christ, love for His word, or love for the people of God; yet if we understand what the Bible teaches about the spiritual condition of unregenerate man, we know that none of these components exist in the heart of stone. Only a truly converted (regenerated) person has any discernible love for Christ and His gospel. The stony heart is incapable of such love.

If someone is spiritually alive now because they show signs of spiritual life (they have a love for the Biblical Christ, and believe and embrace the Gospel), it is evidence of the fact that a spiritual birth has taken place, even if the day and the time of this birth are facts known only by God Himself.

My advice to you is to forget what the preacher told you you and instead, simply do what the Bible says and examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. If you believe the gospel and have turned to Christ in repentance and faith, and if your heart looks to Him alone to save you, that would be sure evidence of true conversion. We are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and we know this based on the sure foundation of Scripture alone, all to the glory of God alone.

- JS

October 07, 2013  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Common Exchange on Hell

A sad comment we now all-too commonly hear within the visible church:

Karen (lurker on a blog): All this dickering on the details of hell or atonement make me tired. No way a loving God would send majority of old to hell if they did not know to say or believe some magic words! Look at Oprah’s life compared to yours and see who may be closer to the truth. God has truly blessed her and her endeavors to follow what she feels is his guidance in her efforts to help others. Historical, verifiable Jesus just lived a life of love and inclusion of all kinds of sinners, never making them first repeat some phrase or belief. Just go live your life, sharing the love of God because you are forgiven, period. Tis was before the “atonement”! I don’t need anyone or any religion’s stamp of approval on my relationship with God, even though I attend a Christian church every week!

Michael Kruger Responds: Thanks, Karen. It is clear you do not believe in the doctrine of hell. You are free to believe what you want. But, Jesus, and the Bible, were very, very clear about the reality of hell. Not believing it does not make it go away. So, in essence, you are saying, “Jesus is wrong and the biblical authors were wrong, but I (and Oprah) know best.” So, let me ask you, why do you think you know more about eternal issues like heaven and hell than Jesus did?

October 06, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Top 10 Books on the Bible's Authority by Michael J. Kruger

One of the most enjoyable aspects of speaking to different groups on the reliability of the New Testament is the Q&A time. It is an exciting (and risky) affair because you never know what you are going to get. Then again, sometimes you do know what you are going to get. Over the years, one question has been asked more than all others combined: "What are the best books to read on the authority of the Bible?"

Due to the popularity of that question, I have compiled an annotated list of the 10 best books on this topic. It goes without saying that such a list is highly selective (and debatable). So many good books deserve to be included. But my list is guided by these main criteria: (a) books that focus on the theological side of biblical authority and not as much on the historical evidences for the Bible's history (though some overlap is inevitable); (b) books that are "modern," meaning they have been written sometime between the Reformation and the present (otherwise, many patristic works would make the list); and (c) books that are rigorously orthodox (Karl Barth's Dogmatics is not on the list despite the fact that it has been influential on the modern church's view of Scripture).

With these criteria in mind, let's take a look at the top 10:

10. D. A. Carson and John Woodbridge, eds., Scripture and Truth (Baker, 1983); idem, Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon (Zondervan, 1986).
Even though this first entry technically includes two books, I am regarding them together since the same authors edited both of them. I appreciate that these books gather together some of the best evangelical scholars who cover a wide variety of contemporary issues related to biblical authority. There are essays from theological, philosophical, historical, hermeneutical, and exegetical perspectives. Although some of the essays need to be updated (some are 30 years old), they constitute an indispensable treasure trove of material on the authority of the Bible.

9. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena (vol. 1): Part IV: Revelation (Baker Academic, 2003).
I don't prefer to use systematic theologies in this list, but Bavinck's work is too important to pass up. Bavinck originally published his Gereformeerde Dogmatiek from 1895 to 1901, and we are blessed to have it translated into English. It provides the quintessential introduction to a Reformed view of Revelation and Scripture, and one can hear echoes of Bavinck for generations to come in major scholars such as Geerhardus Vos, Cornelius Van Til, Herman Ridderbos, and Louis Berkhof. If you find these Dutch theologians difficult to understand then go back and read the one on whose shoulders they are standing: Bavinck.

8. E. J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth (Banner of Truth, 1963).
Young was a vigorous defender of the authority of Scripture, and this book embodies the ethos of his scholarship. It focuses primarily on the extent of inspiration (against those who try to limit it), and the doctrine of inerrancy (against those who suggest the Bible makes mistakes). This book lays out the foundational truths about the authority of the Bible in a clear and compelling manner. Young even covers a number of alleged contradictions and offers helpful solutions. All pastors should read this book.

7. Ned Stonehouse and Paul Woolley, eds., The Infallible Word: A Symposium by the Members of the Faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary (P&R, 1946).
This fine collection of essays by the faculty of Westminster is too frequently overlooked. With articles from Murray, Young, Stonehouse, and Van Til, and a foreword from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, it is difficult to know how it has been forgotten. The most important article is the first, by John Murray, where he lays out the self-attesting nature of Scripture and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit that helps God's people identify Scripture. In a world where most defend the authority of Scripture purely on the basis of historical evidence, Murray brings a refreshing and welcome perspective. Our doctrine of Scripture needs to include serious reflection on the issue of Scripture's self-authentication, and this volume is the place to start.

6. J.I. Packer, 'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God (Eerdmans, 1958).
This little book is one of my all-time favorites. It is small, but it packs a punch. The book is written in the context of the early 20th-century controversies over "fundamentalism" and whether we can (or should) still embrace traditional beliefs about the authority of the Bible. Carefully, patiently, and methodically, Packer walks through all the key issues related to these debates and impressively defends the traditional view. This is a great book to give to a fellow Christian struggling with these issues.

5. William Whitaker, Disputations on Holy Scripture (Soli Deo Gloria, 2000).
Don't let the date of this book fool you. Whitaker lived from 1547 to 1595, during the height of the Protestant Reformation, and dedicated the book to William Cecil, chancellor of Cambridge University. This book is a masterful defense of the Protestant view of the Bible. Whitaker spends considerable time defending the self-authenticating nature of Scripture and contrasts it effectively with the Roman Catholic approach. This book is also overlooked in many discussions and deserves a much wider reading. Thanks to Soli Deo Gloria publishers, we don't have to try to read it in Latin.

4. John Owen, The Divine Original: Authority, Self-Evidencing Light, and Power of the Scriptures, vol. 16 of Owen's Collected Works (Banner of Truth, 1988).

Moving forward one century from Whitaker, Owen provides one of the finest articulations of the Reformed doctrine of Scripture from the Puritan era. He too focuses on the self-authenticating nature of Scripture and the role of the Holy Spirit, contrasting it with alternative models, particular Roman Catholic. This is vintage Owen: thorough, meticulous, verbose, and utterly profound. Be warned: this is no light beach reading. It is a heavy slog to get through anything Owen writes. But the reward is worth it.

3. Meredith Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority (1971).

Kline is one of the most original Christian thinkers in the last century, and this book is no exception. He approaches the issue of biblical authority from a distinctive angle, namely the covenantal structure of the Old Testament. Kline argues that the idea of an authoritative text derives directly from God's covenant-making activities. You can't understand the authority of the Bible if you don't understand the nature of the covenant. This is a no-frills book (I still have my original copy from when I had Kline as a professor; pea-green cover and all), but it is truly ground-breaking.

2. John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God (P&R, 2010).
If you are looking for a comprehensive, profound, and utterly biblical treatment of the authority of Scripture from a Reformed perspective, then this is the book. This is the fourth installment in Frame's series, A Theology of Lordship, but is really the most foundational volume (although The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God is right up there). There is hardly an issue Frame doesn't cover, or a question he doesn't answer. And his answers are so clear and balanced that it makes you wonder why you ever had that question in the first place. No one is better than Frame at making complex ideas simple (some scholars seem to have the opposite gift). This book is a treasure trove of wisdom that every pastor needs to have on the shelf ready at hand.

1. B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, with intro by Van Til (P&R, 1948).

Classics are classics for a reason. Warfield's work still stands out today as one of the most cogent, insightful, and helpful works on the authority of Scripture. It aptly represents the ethos of Old Princeton and is the gold standard for a distinctively Reformed view of the Bible's inspiration. Warfield's insights are so applicable to modern-day issues that it is easy to forget the content is more than 100 years old. In addition, Van Til's introduction (68 pages long) is immensely helpful. It provides a presuppositional context for Warfield's work, and reminds the reader that Van Til and Warfield had more in common than some people assume (though there are still differences).

Michael J. Kruger is professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the author of Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Crossway, 2012). He blogs regularly at Canon Fodder.

HT: Gospel Coalition

October 06, 2013  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

God Regularly Interferes with Human Wills by Robert Bernecker

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Who's Your Father: Returning to the Love of the Biblical God by Robert Bernecker (posted with permission)

From Genesis to Revelation, God freely interferes with human will to accomplish his own eternal purpose. Even the great sinful rebellion seen in Revelation 17 is said “to carry out God’s purpose” (v. 17). In regards to the choices and actions of the ten sinful, rebellious kings described in this passage, we are told explicitly that “God put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose” (v. 17), which in this case will be his inevitable conquering of these rebellious kings and people (v. 14).

The collective preponderance of these many Scriptures thoroughly dispels the notion that God is somehow a “gentleman” that is either unable or unwilling to turn the hearts and wills of humans (and thereby their choices) to accomplish his own purpose. In fact, Psalm 33:10 (NASB) teaches us the exact opposite: “The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.” We do not read that the Lord honors the counsel of the nations and carefully respects the plans of the people. Instead, we are told, “The Lord reigns, let the people tremble!” (Psalm 99:1). We should learn from Jeremiah, who declared his awareness of this glorious truth in Jeremiah 10:23: “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.”

Contrary to much popular teaching of our day, our Father clearly can and regularly does interfere with human free will. To our great loss, we have drifted far from the historic confession of God’s sovereign involvement in every facet of his creation. In fact, Augustine made no effort to conceal his disdain for any such suggestions that would artificially limit God’s ascendancy, and he wrote bluntly that it was “blasphemous” and “foolish” to assert that God does not change the wills of men whenever and however he chooses.4 We must repent of such foolishness, and we should instead praise our God that he does change our will! Many who profess that “God is a gentleman” have probably never considered the consequences of a world where God, for whatever reason they may assert, did not actually influence, change, and interfere with humanity’s fallen will. How horrible indeed that would be!

Read the entire essay here: The Illusion of a Gentleman God by by Robert Bernecker

October 01, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink