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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)

Anti-Scriptural Theories by Charles Hodge


Heathen Doctrine of Spontaneous Generation.

The Scriptural doctrine is opposed to the doctrine held by many of the ancients, that man is a spontaneous production of the earth. Many of them claimed to be γηγενεῖς, αὐτόχθενες, terrigena. The earth was assumed to be pregnant with the germs of all living organisms, which were quickened into life under favourable circumstances; or it was regarded as instinct with a productive life to which is to be referred the origin of all the plants and animals living on its surface. To this primitive doctrine of antiquity, modern philosophy and science, in some of their forms, have returned. Those who deny the existence of a personal God, distinct from the world, must of course deny the doctrine of a creation ex nihilo and consequently of the creation of man. The theological view as to the origin of man, says Strauss, “rejects the standpoint of natural philosophy and of science in general. These do not admit of the immediate intervention of divine causation. God created man, not as such, or, ‘quatenus infinitus est, sed quatenus per elementa nascentis telluris explicatur.’ This is the view which the Greek and Roman philosophers, in a very crude form indeed, presented, and against which the fathers of the Christian Church earnestly contended, but which is now the unanimous judgment of natural science as well as of philosophy.”1 To the objection that the earth no longer spontaneously produces men and irrational animals, it is answered that many things happened formerly that do not happen in the present state of the world. To the still more obvious objection that an infant man must have perished without a mother’s care, it is answered that the infant floated in the ocean of its birth, enveloped in a covering, until it reached the development of a child two years old; or it is said that philosophy can only establish the general fact as to the way in which the human race originated, but cannot be required to explain all the details. 5

Modern Doctrine of Spontaneous Generation.

Although Strauss greatly exaggerates when he says that men of science in our day are unanimous in supporting the doctrine of spontaneous generation, it is undoubtedly true that a large class of naturalists, especially on the continent of Europe, are in favour of that doctrine. Professor Huxley, in his discourse on the “Physical Basis of Life,” lends to it the whole weight of his authority. He does not indeed expressly teach that dead matter becomes active without being subject to the influence of previous living matter; but his whole paper is designed to show that life is the result of the peculiar arrangement of the molecules of matter. His doctrine is that “the matter of life is composed of ordinary matter, differing from it only in the manner in which its atoms are aggregated.”2 “If the properties of water,” he says, “may be properly said to result from the nature and disposition of its component molecules, I can find no intelligible ground for refusing to say that the properties of protoplasm result from the nature and disposition of its molecules.”3 In his address before the British Association, he says that if he could look back far enough into the past he should expect to see “the evolution of living protoplasm from not living matter.” And although that address is devoted to showing that spontaneous generation, or Abiogenesis, as it is called, has never been proved, he says, “I must carefully guard myself against the supposition that I intend to suggest that no such thing as Abiogenesis has ever taken place in the past or ever will take place in the future. With organic chemistry, molecular physics, and physiology yet in their infancy, and every day making prodigious strides, I think it would be the height of presumption for any man to say that the conditions under which matter assumes the properties we call ‘vital,’ may not some day be artificially brought together.”4 All this supposes that life is the product of physical causes; that all that is requisite for its production is “to bring together” the necessary conditions.


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March 10, 2014  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Understanding 2 Peter 3:9

From Chapter 9 of the book, "Twelve What Abouts - Answering Common Objections Concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election" by John Samson

Without doubt, this is the single most popular verse used to dismiss the biblical doctrine of election, bar none. The meaning of the verse is simply assumed, and because of this, no time is taken to study it, which is the very hallmark of tradition. I have to admit that I did this for many years. Those most enslaved to tradition are those who think they do not have any.

First of all then, let us read the verse in its context:

2 Peter 3:1-9––“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

The first thing we notice is that the subject of the passage is not salvation but the second coming of Christ. Peter is explaining the reason for the delay in Christ’s second coming. He is still coming and will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night (v. 10).

The second thing to notice is that the verse in question (v. 9) speaks of the will of God. “God is not willing” for something to happen.

Theologians have long recognized that there are three ways in which the will of God is spoken of in Scripture.

There is what is called the Sovereign Decretive Will. This refers to the will by which God brings to pass whatsoever He decrees. This is something that ALWAYS happens. Nothing can thwart this will. (Isa. 46:10, 11).This will is also known as the secret will of God because it is hidden to us until it comes to pass in the course of time.

Secondly, there is the Preceptive Will of God. This is God’s will revealed in His law, commandments or precepts. As the course of human history reveals, people have the power to break these commandments and do so every day. It is important to state though that, although men have the power to break these precepts, they do not have the right to do so. His creatures are under obligation to obey all His commandments and will face His judgment for not doing so.

Thirdly, we have God’s Will of Disposition. Dr. R. C. Sproul states, This will describes God’s attitude. It defines what is pleasing to Him. For example, God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, yet He most surely wills or decrees the death of the wicked. God’s ultimate delight is in His own holiness and righteousness. When He judges the world, He delights in the vindication of His own righteousness and justice, yet He is not gleeful in a vindictive sense toward those who receive His judgment. God is pleased when we find our pleasure in obedience. He is sorely displeased when we are disobedient. (Essential Truths of the Christian Faith)

Continue reading "Understanding 2 Peter 3:9" »

December 14, 2013  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Allowing Romans 9 to speak for itself

bible06

As the Apostle Paul transitions into what we now call Romans 9 we should recall that there were no chapter and verse divisions in the original text. He is not starting a new theme but answering the question … if (or rather, since) God has an elect people who can never be separated from the love of God (which is what Romans 8 has just stated), what happened with the Jews? Weren’t they God’s elect people too?

History records that most of the Jews failed to recognize their own Messiah when He came… How can what Paul has written be true if God’s own people failed to receive Messiah when He came (and therefore are unsaved - Romans 10:1)? Hasn’t God’s promise failed to materialize for these people? What about the Jews Paul?

Paul was no ivory tower academician who had merely great intellectual acumen but no heart felt concern for people. Paul had a very real sympathy and compassion for his fellow countrymen and if it were possible (which of course it was not) he would have forfeited his own salvation if it would mean that his own people would be redeemed. He felt the issue very deeply.

Romans 9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

The Jews had unique privileges which were enjoyed by no other people on earth. Paul lists eight distinct and unique benefits:

4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Much time could be spent outlining all the things the people of Israel had going for them. So why is it that we observe such a great many Jews rejecting Messiah? Paul wants to answer that question and does so by stating in very categorical terms that God has not in any way failed to keep His promise.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,

Notice what Paul is doing here in this verse. He tells us that God’s word has not in any way failed and now explains WHY this is the case. The word “for” is used to show the reason why the word of God has not failed.

Why has the word of God not failed?

The answer: because “not all Israel is Israel” or “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.”

That is quite a statement and one we must understand because Paul is about to take the next many verses to illustrate and prove this exact point.

He is about to show us that it in biblical history, it has always been this way.

More at this link.

July 14, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Best Commentaries for Each New Testament Book

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Acts

Romans

1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians

Galatians

Ephesians

Philippians

Colossians and Philemon

1 & 2 Thessalonians

Pastoral Epistles

Hebrews

James

1 Peter

2 Peter and Jude

Epistles of John

Revelation

May 15, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Harmonizing...

“And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”—John 5:40.

“No man can come to me except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him…. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me”

“Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not: and he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”—John 6:44, 45, 64, 65.

This is how Andrew Fuller harmonized the above passges:

First, There is no way of obtaining eternal life but by Jesus Christ….

Secondly, They that enjoy eternal life must come to Christ for it….

Thirdly, It is the revealed will of Christ that everyone who hears the gospel should come to him for life….

Fourthly, The depravity of human nature is such that no man, of his own accord, will come to Christ for life….

Fifthly, The degree of this depravity is such as that, figuratively speaking, men cannot come to Christ for life….

Sixthly, A conviction of the righteousness of God’s government, of the spirituality and goodness of his law, the evil of sin, our lost condition by nature, and the justice of our condemnation, is necessary in order to our coming to Christ….

Lastly, There is absolute necessity of a special Divine agency in order to our coming to Christ…. Upon the whole, we see from these passages taken together, first, if any man is lost, whom he has to blame for it—himself; secondly, if any man is saved, whom he has to praise for it—God.[1]

[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 667-69.

HT: Evan Burns

May 04, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

eBook Sale - NIV Application Commentary


May 1, 2013


Kindle eBook editions of the popular-level NIV Application Commentary series are now on sale for just $4.99 each.


Genesis; Leviticus, Numbers; Deuteronomy; Joshua; Judges and Ruth; 1 & 2 Kings; 1 & 2 Chronicles; Esther; Job

Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs; Isaiah; Jeremiah, Lamentations; Ezekiel; Daniel; Joel, Obadiah, Malachi; Hosea, Amos,

Micah
; Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah; Haggai, Zechariah; Matthew; Mark; Luke; John; Acts; Romans1Corinthians;

Galatians
; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians & Philemon; 1 & 2 Thessalonians; 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus; Hebrews; James;

1 Peter
; 2 Peter & Jude; 1, 2, & 3 John; Revelation.


May 01, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

eBook Sale - NIV Application Commentary


May 1, 2013


Kindle eBook editions of the popular-level NIV Application Commentary series are now on sale for just $4.99 each.


Genesis; Leviticus, Numbers; Deuteronomy; Joshua; Judges and Ruth; 1 & 2 Kings; 1 & 2 Chronicles; Esther; Job

Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs; Isaiah; Jeremiah, Lamentations; Ezekiel; Daniel; Joel, Obadiah, Malachi; Hosea, Amos,

Micah
; Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah; Haggai, Zechariah; Matthew; Mark; Luke; John; Acts; Romans1Corinthians;

Galatians
; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians & Philemon; 1 & 2 Thessalonians; 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus; Hebrews; James;

1 Peter
; 2 Peter & Jude; 1, 2, & 3 John; Revelation.


May 01, 2013  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

God's Role in Regeneration

The new birth is necessary and in fact vital before a sinner can enter God's kingdom. Unless he is first born again he can in no way enter the kingdom of God. However, in making this very clear, Jesus does not then provide a "hot to" list for Nicodemus to become born again. This new birth is impossible to achieve, humanly speaking, and requires an act of God without any human merit, will or cooperation. Yet most of the Church in our day, though very familar with the John chapter 3 passage, has missed this essential point completely, and even devise entire evangelistic strategies and outreaches instructing people to "pray a prayer" so that they might be "born again."

Dr. John Macarthur, in a teaching series on the Gospel of John, exposes popular falsehoods and informs us as to the true teaching of Jesus in John chapter 3, verses 1-10:

March 06, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Exile to New Creation in John's Gospel (Part 2)

In the first entry of this series we looked at the theme of a return from exile that is present as a theological backdrop to the Gospel of John. With the second entry we will look at those who are part of the exilic return to the New Creation.

The Lord Jesus is described as the "Light" who has come into the world and the darkness has not overcome the light. Consequently, those who follow Jesus are those who do not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12). Meaning, those who are disciples of Jesus, or those who follow him, have been liberated from the realm of darkness, sin, and death and no longer comport themselves as such. Instead, they have the light, which is life. The Greek construction is an genitive of apposition. This means that the second word identifies the first. It could be equated to drawing an equal sign between the two words. The light of which Jesus speaks is life. This, however, leads to a key question approached in John. Who participates in this exilic return?

It would seem to be a simple answer to the question if one looks at John 20:31. Those who believe in the name of Jesus are those who have life and are those who participate in the exilic return. Obviously, this is a true statement. The deeper question relates to who are those who believe.

The exilic return is not a specifically isolated to Jewish people. It is to all those who are believing. Those who are believing include believing Jews, but also believing Gentiles. The light came into the world and came to his own (that is Israel), but his own did not receive him. Later in the gospel "his own" becomes redefined as disciples who are with Jesus in the Upper Room and then those who would believe their message (see John 13-17). Furthermore, those who do receive Jesus are given a particular title; "children."

Who are these believing "children"? Contrary to those who advocate that any person without distinction is a "child of God," the title is reserved for those who believe in Christ and it is something that is granted versus something that is simply innate.

According to John, the children (of God) are those who have been born of God. This is what accounts for the reception of Christ. This is what accounts for believing in Christ. This is something that is all grace. It is all within the good and sovereign prerogative of God. The emphasis is obscured a bit in the English, but John 1:13 would read something like this: "who, not from blood and not from the will of the flesh and not from the will of man, but from God have been born." The emphasis is upon what God has done versus the instigation or machination of man.

The emphasis is on what God does. It is not from our own will or power. It is not simply by conventional birth that you become a child of God. It is because God has granted this to you. It is a passive verb meaning that those whom this is referring to were not doing the action, but the action is done to them. Just as a baby doesn't bring themselves into the world by their own will or under their own power, they are passive. So we are not born of God by our own power. It is God who grants it and those whom he grants are those who believe and those who believe are given the right to become the children of God. This is truly the evidence of the grace of God. We are the children of God and we are the people of God and those who believe have been given life (birth) and will have life (eternal).

This birth comes about by the sovereign agency of the Spirit of God. One cannot see the kingdom of God "unless one is born from above" (John 3:3). This birth is not orchestrated by the efforts of man, but by the Spirit who is likened to the wind. One can see the effects of the wind, but one does not control where the wind blows.

If this birth from above is according to the sovereign work of God, who are those who receive this birth? In the "Bread of Life" discourse, Jesus says that those who come to him will never hunger or thirst (6:35). This is another way of saying that those who come to Jesus will have eternal life. Those who come to Jesus are those who have been given to him by the Father (6:37). Furthermore, those who come to Jesus are those whom the Father draws. Without the drawing of the Father individuals are unable to come to the Christ and thus have eternal life. These people have been given to the Son by the Father in order that the Son would give to them eternal life (17:2).

In other words, those who participate in this exilic return are those who have been given to the Son by the Father. Those who are given to the Son by the Father will most certainly come to faith in Jesus Christ because the work of the Holy Spirit ensures they will. The Spirit causes the new birth in those who have been given the Son by the Father. Thus, they come to faith and have eternal life. Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ have been born of God (1 John 5:1). The ones who believe are granted the right to become the children of God. It is the children of God who are part of this exilic return.

In the third installment of the series we will turn our attention to the substance of the exilic return; namely the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.


February 17, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Romans Chapter 9

Romans 9 stands like Mount Everest - a majestic, spectacular, lofty and immutable testimony to God's supremacy and sovereignty in salvation. Here's a 36 minute video teaching I did on the chapter - JS.

Twelve What Abouts - Session Three from Runway Productions on Vimeo.


January 26, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Election, Evangelism and the Golden Chain of Redemption

Covering Scriptures in Matthew 11 and Romans 8:28-30, here's a 27 minute teaching I did on Divine election and how it relates to evangelism, as well as what is referred to as the Golden Chain of Redemption. - JS

Twelve What Abouts - Session Two from Runway Productions on Vimeo.


January 08, 2013  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

John Chapter 6

A 27 minute video teaching on John Chapter 6:35ff:

Session One-for Web from Runway Productions on Vimeo.


January 07, 2013  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

"You Always Resist the Holy Spirit"

RESISTING THE HOLY SPIRIT?

I have often heard Acts 7:51 as a so-called proof text against the biblical doctrine irresistible grace. It reads, "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit..." But this is a profound failure of exegesis that has quite conveniently overlooked the whole first part of the verse. This is because it is the nature of those who are "uncircumcised in heart and ears" to resist the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They have no ears to hear or heart to understand. Circumcision of heart and ears, which can alone be done by the Spirit of God, is the act we speak of that disarms their resistance. Circumcision of heart is another way in the Bible to describe the Spirit's work of regeneration, and obviously no man can regenerate or resurrect himself.

J.W. Hendryx

November 30, 2012  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

A Concise Exegetical Defense of "Particular Redemption" in the Gospel of John

Here is a concise exegetical defense of "particular redemption" in the Gospel of John. Please follow the train of thought to the end.

Jesus said, "All that the Father gives me will come to me" (John 6:37) - From this text we understand that all that the Father gives to the Son will believe in him. It does not read "some" of those given by the Father will believe but reads "all" of those the Father has given the Son will believe. Note that it also teaches that the giving to the Son precedes their believing in Him. Lets make some other connections here ....

Please notice how this text relates directly to a passage by the same author in John 17, the High Priestly prayer. Jesus uses the same language of "those the Father has given me" when he says "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours" (John 17:9) So He makes a clear distinction of those He prays for and those He does not before going to the cross for them .... and of these same people in verse 19 Jesus prays "And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth." That is incredible ... He sanctifies Himself so "those the Father has given Him" will also be sanctified ... and in verse 24 he establishes that he further is speaking not only of the immediate disciples but of others who the Father has "given him" who hear their word. This exegetically demonstrates the truth of particular redemption, especially since Jesus is praying for all those the Father has given him just prior to going to the cross to sanctify them.

J.W.H.

November 29, 2012  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Does Hebrews 6 Teach that a Christian Can Lose His Salvation?

There are those who teach that Hebrews chapter six is a clear statement that Christians can fall away from the faith and thereby lose their salvation. The purpose of this short reflection is not only to show this to be a erroneous interpretation, but also that the persons making such assertions are in danger of making the very error which the passage is warning about. Lets take a look at the passage together:

"....it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.: - Hebrews 6: 4-8

Continue reading "Does Hebrews 6 Teach that a Christian Can Lose His Salvation? " »

November 26, 2012  |  Comments (35)   |  Permalink

Love for God and for each other

If we truly love God it will show itself in our genuine love for one another. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

It did my heart much good to listen to my friend, Pastor Bruce Brock teach on this vital theme. Along the way, Pastor Bruce deals with a number of false concepts about God's love, and by means of the Scripture, points us to the real thing found in Christ. Pastor Bruce leads a Reformed congregation in Tucson, Arizona called Faith Community Church. - JS

Love for God and for Each Other from Faith Community Church on Vimeo.

October 30, 2012  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Ephesians 1; Romans 9; John 6

by Dr. James White

Numerous biblical passages can be cited that plainly teach the divine truth that God predestines men unto salvation. John 6:35-45, Romans 9:10-24, and 2 Timothy 1:8-10 all teach this truth. But I shall focus first upon the classicus locus, Ephesians 1:3-11, for my initial exegetical defense of this divine truth. As space permits, I will then briefly address Romans 9 and John 6. I invite the interested reader to follow along. I shall use as my base text the Nestle-Aland 27th edition of the Greek New Testament. English translations are my own.

Ephesians 1

Paul begins this tremendous introduction to his letter1 with a word of blessing addressed to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:3). All of salvation comes from the Father, its source, and its end. It is the Father who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Immediately we encounter three vital truths: 1) God is the one who has blessed us (we did not bless ourselves); this is seen in recognizing that ho eulogasa refers to the Father specifically; 2) that Paul is not speaking of all mankind here, but specifically of the redeemed, for he uses the personal pronoun hama (us) when speaking of the scope of the blessing of the Father; we will see this is continued throughout the text; and 3) the phrase en Christo (in Christ) or its equivalent in Him, is central to Paul’s thought. All of salvation takes place only “in Christ.”

Verse 4 is central to our subject: “just as He chose us in Him before the creation of the world so that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”2 Again the Father is in view, for He is the one who chose us (hama, accusative, indicating direct object of “to choose”). This choice is exercised only in Christ (there is no salvation outside of the Son). It is vital to recognize the personal aspect of this choice on the part of God the Father. The passage says that we were chosen by God the Father, not that a mere “plan” was chosen, or a “process” put in place. The choice is personal both in its context (in the Son) and in its object (the elect). Next, the time of this choice by the Father is likewise important: before the creation of the world. This is a choice that is timeless. It was made before we were created, and therefore cannot possibly be based upon anything that we ourselves do or “choose.”3 This is sovereignty-free and unlimited.

God does nothing without a purpose. Both the means, and end, are in view. God chooses the elect to the end that they should be “holy and blameless before Him.” God is redeeming for Himself a people, and no power in heaven or earth can stop Him from accomplishing His intention.

Paul continues to expand upon the nature of the Father’s choice: “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (v. 5). This is the first appearance of the word “predestined” in the text. The exact same term (proopizo) is used in verse 11 as well. The meaning of the term is not ambiguous, no matter how hard some might try to avoid its impact. It means “to choose beforehand” or “to predestine.”4 In this context, it is unquestionably personal in its object, for again we find hama as the direct object of the action of predestination. This is truly the key element of this [issue], for grammatically there is no escape from the plain assertion here made: God the Father predestined us. He did not predestine a plan, He did not merely predestine a general conclusion to all things, but He chose us and predestined us. The “us” of Ephesians 1:5 is the “we” of Ephesians 1:11 and the “elect” of Romans 8:33 and those who are “given” by the Father to the Son in John 6:37.

Continue reading "Ephesians 1; Romans 9; John 6" »

October 17, 2012  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Peter and the Keys

Question: The Roman Catholic Church claims that the Apostle Peter was the first Pope. Much is made of the passage in Matthew 16 regarding Jesus giving Peter the keys of the kingdom. Do you have anything that would help me rightly understand this Matthew 16 passage?

Thank you for your question. It is a very important one. You are right to say that Roman Catholics make much of this passage claiming that it teaches Rome's position on the Papacy in clear terms. In my opinion, the best treatment of the passage in question is found in Dr. James White's book "the Roman Catholic Controversy." The entire book is immensely helpful, and while written back in 1996, is just as relevant to the situation in our day. Roman Catholics, for all their claims, actually do not have history on their side in this debate. This article addresses this in summary form. However, regarding the Matthew 16 passage, rather than summarizing Dr. White's words, let me quote directly from the book, from Chapter 8 "The Claims of the Papacy", pages 115-118:

Few would argue that the foundational passage on which the entire Roman Catholic claim for the Papacy rests is found in Matthew 16:13-20, verses 18-19 in particular. We are told that their plain meaning supports the concept. It should be noted that Rome has infallibly interpreted these verses in the words of Vatican I. It is one of the few passages of Scripture that have in fact been infallibly interpreted by the Roman Catholic Church (John 21:25-27 being another). Let’s look at Matthew’s record.

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”


No one will deny that this is a singularly important passage. Here the Lord Jesus leads His disciples to a confession of faith in himself; the Father from heaven reveals the true nature of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Yet we find these verses being used to support a concept seen nowhere else in Scripture. We are asked to believe that not only is the impetuous and frail Peter made the very foundation of the Church itself, but that this foundational position creates an office of Pope, and that this office involves successors who will sit in the seat of bishop in the city of Rome, 1,500 miles distant.

Continue reading "Peter and the Keys" »

May 10, 2012  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

Understanding John 5:39,40

Pastor John, I have a friend (who is a Christian) who warns me about studying the Bible too much. He says the Pharisees spent all their time studying the Bible and Jesus had very strong words of condemnation for them. My friend says, "Look at John 5:39,40. The Pharisees loved the Bible but were not even saved. Don't become like them." I still believe I should study the Bible but his words ring in my ears as a constant dampener on the joy I feel when I look into God's word. Is he right?

"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." - John 5:39, 40

I seek to provide an answer here. - JS

November 22, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Q&A Regarding Regeneration

Visitor: You can't randomly redefine Biblical terms. Regeneration is not a supernatural change in a man to enable him to believe. Regeneration occurs when Jesus Christ comes to live in a man's heart to give him the gift of eternal life. When Jesus was telling Nicodemas about the new birth, the discussion goes beyond verse 8. Jesus tells Nicodemas the coming of God's gift of eternal life parallels Moses lifting the serpent in the wilderness, when people were dying from the snake bite, they looked to live. And in the same way the Son of Man had to be lifted up, so that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life.

There are not two additional kinds of life to receive after the life given in the flesh. (Men are not given one sort of 'spiritual life' to enable them to believe and then after they believe then they receive eternal life.) There are only two births. There is the life given in the flesh and the life given in the new birth, which is eternal life. That life is given to us when Jesus Christ comes to dwell in our hearts. Only the ones who have the Son have the life (1John 5:11, 12). Jesus tells Nicodemas He came to give men eternal life and salvation (John 3:15-16). Men were not indwelt by the Lord Jesus Christ before His resurrection. At just the right time Jesus was sent by the Father to redeem them from the Law so that they could receive the adoption as sons (Gal 4:4). Men needed to be set free from the Law before they could be joined to Christ (Rom. 7:4). Redemption is through His blood (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14). Only after men are redeemed and receive the adoption as sons does God send the Spirit of His Son into their heart (Gal. 4:4-6) to give them the gift of eternal life, and the gift of salvation in the new birth. Faith precedes Christ coming to dwell in our hearts, the gift of eternal life, and salvation-- all of which we are given in the new birth. Faith precedes the new birth.

Reformed Theology is built upon an unbiblical definition of regeneration. Additionally, faulty presuppositions require an unbiblical 'new birth' to enable men to believe clear back in Genesis: at least the time of Abel, since Abel was commended for his faith (Heb. 11:4). Reformed Theology is also dependent upon many erroneous interpretations using the redefinition of "regeneration": interpreting many critical verses in the book of John as though men were already being born again. But nobody was "born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" before Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Nobody had been born again in the book of John (except Christ being the firstborn out of the dead). Therefore it can be objectively proven that these verses are erroneously interpreted. In addition, the verses used to establish "total depravity" have also been taken out of their context and given an erroneous interpretation. You can't build a true doctrine upon unbiblical definitions, erroneous interpretations, and faulty presuppositions (i.e. slavery to sin = bondage of the will.... and as we see, no man was set free from slavery to sin until they were united by baptism (given by Jesus Christ, not water) into Christ's crucifixion and death).

How do you place regeneration before the resurrection when Peter tells us clearly that men are born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?

Why do you neglect the entire context of John 3 (vs. 9-18) when you teach about the new birth?


Response:

Actually, John 3 demonstrates the necessity of regeneration to enter the kingdom. Read it again. No one can either see or enter the kingdom unless they are first born again.

All men are required to believe the gospel. God commands everyone to repent and believe the gospel. A command (imperative) does NOT tell us what man can do but what he ought to do. John 3:19, 20 puts it all in perspective. Men are required to believe BUT men love darkness and hate the light and will not come into the light. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out (wrought) in God."

Are you going to honestly tell me that a person can obey the command to believe the gospel apart from any grace... apart from the work of the Holy Spirit? Because this is what you are, in fact, doing.

Also as for the timing of regeneration, all people in both old and new Testaments were saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To declare otherwise is to trust in human merit and achievement as if salvation occurred differently in old and new Testaments. One by works and the other by grace. But the Bible declares that the gospel was preached to Abraham beforehand (Galatians 3:8). And God explicitly declares in the book of Deuteronomy the necessity of regeneration by the people of the Old Testament to obey him. "...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." (Deut 30:6) Notice clearly the order. Circumcision of the heart comes prior to obedience and life.

Lastly, I would challenge you to interact with the clear declarations of Jesus that regeneration precedes faith.

"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." (John 6:37)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. (John 6:44)

It is the Spirit who gives life (quickens, regenerates); the flesh is no help at all. ..."This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:63, 65)

Simply put, no one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it and all to whom He grants it will believe. The Spirit quickens [regenerates], the flesh counts for nothing. See my essay here on these verses in John 6 which demonstrates that regeneration is intimately tied to (and the direct cause of) faith and that salvation is by Christ alone, utterly abolishing any remote possibility of synergism. Christ not only commands us to believe but gives us what He requires of us: a new heart to believe. The reason why one person believes the gospel and not another is not because one person was more prudent or wise but because of the grace of God in Jesus Christ alone.


October 15, 2011  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Romans 10:9

"if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)

What exactly does that mean?

Paul Washer explains:

September 07, 2011  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Acts 13:48

Sometimes, the most profound truths are captured in a single Scripture verse; sometimes, in half a verse. The great and essential salvation doctrine of justification by faith alone was based on half a verse in the book of Habakkuk, chapter 2 and verse 4, namely "the just shall live by faith"; a statement repeated in the New Testament at Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.

In the same way, a phrase in Acts 13:48 is loaded with profound insight for us. In context, the apostles had preached the word of God, and simply as a commentary on the event, Luke (the writer) tells us the result he observed:

"...and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

Luke does not stop to explain this statement. It seems to be just a casual observation on Luke's part. Now Luke is ready to go on to the next thing. Pen (or more likely quill) in hand, he is ready to record for us the next event in the history of the ancient church.

But wait! Before we rush on to see the next thing that transpires in this exciting drama, lets just stop for a moment to think through the implications of Luke's statement. Luke wrote it, but it was the Holy Spirit who inspired it, and no word here is waisted or superfluous. God intends us to see this event through the lens of His own perspective. He wants us to see something very powerful here.

What do I mean?

Well as we pause to consider the phrase, lets ask ourselves three questions:

"...and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

1. WHICH comes first - believing or being appointed to eternal life?

There is no getting around it, first there is the appointment to eternal life, and then there is the belief. There is a cause and effect relationship. The cause is the secret and unseen heavenly, eternal decree of God - the setting of an appointment; the effect is what is observed on the earth - the people responding in faith to the gospel. The cause is the appointment by God; the effect is the exercise of faith by man.

2. Do any MORE believe?

"... and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

The answer has to be "No." The number of people who believe are NO MORE than the many who were appointed to do so.

3. Do any LESS believe?

"... and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

Once again, the answer has to be "No."

ALL who had the appointment, made the appointment.

Selah. Think, pause and meditate.

- John S

August 30, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

When You Pass Through the Waters, I Will Be With You

In late June of 2011, Minot, North Dakota experienced the worst flooding in its history. Thousands of homes and business were destroyed, and thousands of people are still displaced.

Slideshow

More than half a year earlier, I had agreed to preach five sermons during the month of July at Trinity Church in Minot, while our preaching pastor was away. The text I had decided upon? A five-part series on the Christ-centered message of Isaiah.

I didn't know when I agreed to preach that I would be addressing a congregation that had just seen their homes destroyed. But God knew. And he knew that the message they needed was exactly the message that he had given to his people thousands of years earlier, when they were about to undergo an even worse tragedy. Isaiah portrays the sovereign God of eternity with an unparalleled splendor; but he does not just show that God high and lifted up; he also shows him stooping even to the shame of the cross, to save his afflicted people. There is no more powerful gospel-balm to be had for those going through tragedy than the glorious prophecy of Isaiah. If you or someone you know is passing through some deep waters, flee to the God of the Evangelist-Prophet; his grace is always deeper than the floods rise against us.

Notes for my series, The Gospel According to Isaiah, are available here. Below, I've excerpted a brief portion introducing the central theme of Isaiah, from the first sermon.

Continue reading "When You Pass Through the Waters, I Will Be With You" »

August 25, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Intention and Result of Christ’s Sacrifice

Hebrews 9:24 - 10:14 in the New American Standard Bible (Updated) reads:

24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,
“SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME;
6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE.
7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’”

8 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

Over the last two weeks, my friend, Dr. James White has preached four sermons on this tremendous passage of Scripture (above). They contain extremely rich and powerful insights into what the cross of Christ actually accomplished for the people of God. Knowing these things is the necessary antidote to so much false religion that masquerades under the banner and guise of Christianity in our day.

These sermons are now available to hear at the sermon audio site at the following links (below) and are VERY HIGHLY recommended. - JS

Continue reading "The Intention and Result of Christ’s Sacrifice" »

August 08, 2011  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Those Pesky Arminian Verses

This blog title is written with a big "tongue in cheek" as I am convinced that the Bible presents a consistent message and that when properly understood, there are no "Arminian verses" in God's word. However, in my discussions with Arminians, four verses are normally raised as proof texts for their view: John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4 and Matthew 23:37.

For those who like videos, here are some that have been made to specifically address these verses in their context. The first three are by Pastor Jim McClarty of Grace Christian Assembly, Smyrna, Tennessee. The last one is by Dr. James White of www.aomin.org. Enjoy! - John S

John 3:16


Continue reading "Those Pesky Arminian Verses" »

August 05, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Gospel according to Zephaniah

I have enjoyed Pastor Mike Bullmore’s ministry for a number of years. Prior to leading the launch of CrossWay Community Church in Kenosha County, Wisconsin in 1998, Mike served for 15 years as an Associate Professor of Homiletics (preaching) and Pastoral Theology, as well as chairman of the Practical Theology Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

His sermon from April this year at the Gospel Coalition Conference (below) was an outstanding model of how to preach the gospel of Christ from a book of the Old Testament. - JS

God's Great Heart of Love Toward His Own - Mike Bullmore - TGC 2011 from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

HT: JT

July 22, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Jesus is Knocking

Revelation 3:20. Its a verse many of us not only know but can quote by heart. Its also a verse that is almost always used out of context.

For some time I have been thinking of writing a short article on the context and meaning of the verse, not only for the good of my own soul (my own thoughts tend to become much clearer when I write them down) but hopefully, for the benefit of others too. Yet today, as I made my morning venture out into the blogosphere, I came across an article that said all I ever wished to say about the verse and said it very well. So, I thought to myself, "Self... rather than taking the time to try to say the same thing using different words (to avoid plagiarism), why not simply quote the article and let all be blessed by it, the same way you were?" So, that is what I do here. I found the article to be a real blessing and pass it on, trusting it will be the same for you. - JS

The Thirsty Theologian writes:

On the wall of one of the churches I attended as a child hung a picture of a fair-haired gentile knocking on a door. We all knew it was Jesus, seeking entrance at our heart’s door, as in Revelation 3:20.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

Time and time again, we were taught that Jesus was standing, waiting, knocking, waiting, knocking, just hoping to be invited into our hearts.

Time after time He has waited before
And now He is waiting again
To see if you are willing to open the door
Oh, how He wants to come in.

This image of the pathetic, pleading Jesus has no doubt coaxed multitudes down aisles to dubious conversions. But what if it’s all fiction? What if Jesus is not standing at some door to our hearts? Rather than pulling one verse out of context because it looks so nice on a tract, let’s examine the entire passage.

14 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Revelation 3

The church at Laodicea was very much like a great many churches today. It was an apostate body, unregenerate, no true church at all. The Lord points to their deeds, observing that they “are neither cold nor hot.” This figure is a metaphor for water, which, when hot or cold, has many uses, but when lukewarm is not good for much. He wishes they were one or the other, because that would indicate the good fruit of a good tree (Matthew 7:16–20). But they are, figuratively, lukewarm — not good for washing, not good for drinking — so Christ will spit them out like warm, stagnant water. Bad trees get cut down, bad water gets spit out on the ground. This was the Laodicean church.

To make matters worse, they were self-righteous. They thought themselves rich when they were, in fact, spiritually “poor and blind and naked.” This is the state of the unregenerate. They are naked, and blind to their nakedness. This, again, was the Laodicean church. They were spiritually naked, but they thought they were dressed in rich robes of their own making.

At this point, Jesus could have simply passed judgment. If the Laodiceans didn’t deserve to be cut down and burned, no one ever would. But Christ extended grace, delayed the day of judgment, and called them to repentance. Notice now that this is no pleading Savior. His knock is a command, and spare me the “Jesus is a gentleman” nonsense. This is a take-it-or-leave-it command to turn to him in repentance and faith. Notice also that this is not the door to any individual’s heart.

Though this verse has been used in countless tracts and evangelistic messages to depict Christ’s knocking on the door of the sinner’s heart, it is broader than that. The door on which Christ is knocking is not the door to a single human heart, but to the Laodicean church. Christ was outside this apostate church and wanted to come in—something that could only happen if the people repented.

The invitation is, first of all, a personal one, since salvation is individual. But He is knocking on the door of the church, calling the many to saving faith, so that He may enter the church. If one person (anyone) opened the door by repentance and faith, Christ would enter that church through that individual. The picture of Christ outside the Laodicean church strongly implies that, unlike the Sardis, there were no believers there at all.

Christ’s offer to dine with the repentant church speaks of fellowship, communion, and intimacy. Sharing a meal in ancient times symbolized the union of the people in loving fellowship. Believers will dine with Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:9), and in the millennial kingdom (Luke 22:16, 29-30). Dine is from deipneo, which refers to the evening meal, the last meal of the day (cf. Luke 7:8; 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25, where the underlying Greek is rendered “sup,” “supper,” and “supped,” respectively). The Lord Jesus Christ urged them to repent and have fellowship with Him before the night of judgment fell and it was too late forever.

—John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1–21 (Moody, 1999), 140.

I thank God that Jesus was never waiting for me to let him in, for if he had been, he still would be. I would never have let him in. And this is should be an obvious tip-off to the error of the popular interpretation of verse 20: nowhere in Scripture is there any hint that Christ needs our acceptance. No, it is we who need to be made acceptable to God. My salvation was never dependent on me accepting him, but on him making me acceptable to the Father. That is what the gospel is all about. It is what Christ accomplished on the cross.

May 11, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Romans from 30,000 Feet by Michael Horton

"The problem that all of humanity faces is the wrath of God, which is entirely justified because the Gentiles know God according to general revelation and the Jews know God according to special revelation. Yet both have failed to truly acknowledge God since they have violated His law. Since everyone is under sin and God's wrath the only way out is the Gospel, the announcement that in Christ God has provided a righteousness that satisfies his holy requirements. Christ has absorbed God's wrath in His death and justifies the wicked in his resurrection. All of this is received by faith alone apart from works as the examples of Abraham and David demonstrate Yet God has not only secured our life from the condemnation of the law, but also from the dominion of sin and death. Baptized into Christ's death and resurrection we are made new creatures and yet we continue to struggle throughout our lives with indwelling sin and the only hope we have is to look outside of ourselves to Christ, with the indwelling Spirit testifying in our hearts to our free adoption and keeping alive within us the hope that not only we but the whole creation will share in the final redemption.

"In the light of all this, nothing can separate us from God's love. But how then can we trust this gospel if God has been unfaithful to his early promises to Israel? Well, God has always maintained his prerogative of Election, even among the physical descendents of Abraham. So salvation isn't a matter of physical decent or of human decision or effort, but of God's mercy alone. God has been faithful to His promises, because even now an elect remnant is being saved from among Jews and Gentiles and after God adds alien Gentile branches to the tree of Israel he will finally bring in the fullness of the Jews as well. In view of all these mercies that stagger our imagination, we can now offer, not the dead sacrifices of animals for atonement, but our own bodies as living sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. In that light, stop judging each other about things indifferent and get on with the business of loving and serving each other." --Michael Horton, from an Overview of the Book of Romans, WHI 2006

April 07, 2011  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Two Types of Religion

The story of Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter 4 typifies the two types of religion in the world. One is acceptable to God, the other is not. More here. - JS

March 21, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Eight audio sermons now posted

Thanks to the technical expertise of a man far smarter than myself, eight of my sermons are now posted here, covering a wide range of themes. I trust they will be a blessing. – JS

February 28, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Romans 9:6-24

This last weekend, Dr. James White was speaking in Dublin, Ireland at the Arann Reformed Baptist Church there. He spoke on a number of themes. One of his sessions was on Romans 9:6-24 and for those who wish to hear exegesis of this famous passage, you might want to add this to your listening material. The audio has now been posted here and I recommend it highly. - JS

February 08, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

"You don't believe in Limited Atonement do you?"

In a recent video teaching, Dr. James White mentions an incident when a Christian lady came up to him after one of his sermons asking him the loaded question, “You don’t believe in limited atonement do you?”

Dr. White responded by saying, “Yes, Maam, I believe that Jesus Christ saves everyone for whom He dies and He intercedes for them. Maam, who do you think He is interceding for today? …. the High Priest in the Old Testament, when he offered the sacrifice, he had to present the blood of the sacrifice in the holy place – everyone for whom he offered the sacrficie was those for whom he interceded, and He is interceding in heaven today in the presence of the Father specifically for those He is going to save. Do you really think he is interceding for those who are going to spend an eternity in hell and failing in His intercession?”

I think the answer is obvious. In what we refer to as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer in John 17, He made it clear that His intercession was not for everyone. Is it not logical to suggest that His intermediary work as Mediator is done for the exact same people He died for? Note His clear words, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:9). More on this here. - JS

December 31, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Understanding 2 Peter 2:1

I recently was asked this question: In 2 Peter 2:1 it speaks of false teachers who "deny the Master that bought them.” Is this not a clear verse teaching universal atonement – that Christ died for everyone?

I attempt to answer that question here. - JS

December 30, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

If you love Jesus, read Him in context

Jesus' words recently took center stage on The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News, as Bill O'Reilly quoted Jesus and Stephen Colbert responded, quoting.. errr.. Jesus. But before we get too excited about this, it must be pointed out that both men missed the meaning Jesus intended because they failed to take His words in context. Here’s a very good article by Shane Rosenthal where he explains this. I think he does a fine job. - JS

December 23, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Spirit of Christmas: "O Tidings of Comfort and Joy!"

"O Tidings of comfort and joy," many will sing so happily at Christmas to declare that believers have rest from sin and have found salvation in Jesus Christ ("God rest ye merry gentlemen..."- -and believing ladies, too, of course!). Let us thank God for the Holy Spirit and His ministry that makes this comfort and joy meaningful and real as He teaches us about "Immanuel, God with us" in the Person and Ministry of Jesus Christ.

In Luke 2:21-35 we have the Old Covenant time period meeting the New Covenant fullness of the times. In this overlapping time and fulfillment of two eras, we are called to behold the glorious work of God's Spirit in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just a few days after Jesus is born in a lowly manger, the Lord graciously grants a righteous man named Simeon an opportunity to behold with his eyes, and embrace with his arms all of the hopes and longings of the Old Testament people. Simeon lived every day with hopes that one day he would see the fulfillment of God's Word.

The Holy Spirit is Christ-centered; He is focused on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Believers who have been regenerated and led by the Spirit (like Simeon) are also Christ-centered; our lives are lived focused on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. How should we understand this focus on Jesus this Christmas?

How do we learn about the work of the Holy Spirit and see His focus on JESUS in Luke 2:21-35:
1. The Holy Spirit gave circumcision to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.
2. The Holy Spirit gave the Law to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.
3. The Holy Spirit gave the inspired word of God's promises to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.
4. The Holy Spirit gave hope of forgiveness to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.
5. The Holy Spirit gave Jesus Christ to God's people to teach them about their need for a change of heart before Jesus.
6. The Holy Spirit has given the Church and the Sacraments to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus. (Continued...CRB)

Continue reading "The Spirit of Christmas: "O Tidings of Comfort and Joy!"" »

December 22, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Every The One Believing Meaneth Me

When teaching on the subject of Divine election, there are certain questions people have that always come up without fail. One of the first is to ask how the concept of God choosing can be reconciled with John 3:16. This has been addressed a number of times here on the blog but in that I was recently asked the question again and there are always new readers who may not have seen the material, some might be interested in a short answer I provided today here. God bless. - JS

December 21, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Understanding 1 Timothy 4:10

What does the Bible mean in 1 Tim. 4:10 when it says that God is the Savior of all men, especially of believers? I seek to provide an answer here. - JS

December 06, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Understanding 1 Timothy 2:4

I was recently asked, "how can election be true when 1 Timothy 2:4 clearly says that God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth?" I sought to provide an answer here. - JS

November 29, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Understanding John 12:32

Question: John, I read your recent article on John 6:35-45 entitled "The Perseverance of the Saints," and I understand the following to be a brief summary of Jesus' words regarding God's Sovereign purpose in election from John 6:35-45: Unless it is granted, no one will come to Christ. All to whom it is granted will come to Christ, and all of these will be raised up to eternal life on the last day. So, this being the case, can you please explain to me the meaning of John 12:32, where Jesus said: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."? Its a very good question and I seek to give a brief answer here. - JS

November 26, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

False Faith and the Perseverance of the Saints

There is such a thing as false faith - a temporary excitement and affection for Christ - something that to outward observance, looks exactly like the real thing. But Jesus is never fooled by it as He makes clear in John chapter 6. Here's a brief article on it here. - JS

November 24, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

2 Peter 3:9 - Two Approaches

Question: The Bible seems to teach Divine election very clearly, and yet 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. How do you explain this verse?

I have found two main ways this verse is dealt with by reformed people. There's the way Dr. R. C. Sproul and Dr. James White (and myself) would approach it and there is the way others such as Dr. John Piper do. I have just posted a short article about it here.

November 23, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Spiritual Dyslexia

Dyslexia warps reality: the consequences of which can be catastrophic. It is something that causes great hardship to multitudes in our day. People with normal or even above normal intelligence suffer from dyslexia as the brain oftentimes reverses numbers, letters or words. It is a huge learning handicap and in severe cases can greatly limit education and employment opportunities. I also believe there is also a spiritual form of dyslexia. I wrote an article on this here. - JS

November 19, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Arm Yourselves

“Dad’s make sure you have a loaded gun handy… while you are at it, get one for your wife so she can defend herself.. and don’t forget the kids, they need weapons too. Oh and don’t forget single people, or the elderly.. or the young people.. no one can be left out… the battle is on… everyone needs to have access to weaponry.” Peter is using this kind of imagery in talking about our attitude to suffering. That's because what we think about suffering really matters. I wrote a brief article on it today here. I trust it would be a blessing. - JS

November 09, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Reality of Apostasy

Dr. James White exegetes 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."

September 29, 2010  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

The Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit

Based on Acts 5 and 1 Corinthians 12, here is Dr. James White in a 24 minute teaching on the vital subject of the Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit.

July 09, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

"Lord, Lord" "I never knew you"

"“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ - Matthew 7:20-23 (ESV)

Dr. James White teaches on a text very familiar to us, responding to a Muslim apologist who says the verse can only be applied to Christians. (approx. 25 minutes)

May 21, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

"...nor of the will of the flesh" (Jn. 1:13)

"...who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (Jn. 1:13). The Bible declares there are only two states of being: flesh and Spirit, (regenerate or unregenerate) and that it is only those who are born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:6, 6:63)* who will infallibly come to Jesus (Jn. 6:37, 6:65)**. The native resources of the flesh are, therefore, morally impotent to meet God's humbling requirement to believe the gospel. (1:13)

* "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
* "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all..."

** "All that the Father gives me will come to me"
** "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."

May 18, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Objection Raised in Romans 9:14

First, Paul asks in verse 14, "What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part?" And he answers, "By no means!"

Where did the objection in Romans 9:14 come from? Paul knew the kind of objections that were typically raised against his teachings. He had preached and taught publicly for years in synagogues and churches and market places. He knew what he had to deal with. So he raises the questions that people typically raise and dealt with them.

What had he said to raise this objection that God is unjust or unrighteous? The main thing he had said was that God chose Isaac not Ishmael, and Jacob not Esau before they had born or had done anything good or evil. That was the point of verses 7-13.

Recall verses 11-13, "Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not [conditionally] because of works but [unconditionally] because of him who calls - 12 [Rebecca] was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ 13 As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’" The point is that God’s favor in election is not based on what we do or what we think or what we feel or what we choose, but on God alone - the one who calls.

And we need to stress - because it is so often denied - that the issue Paul is dealing with in this chapter is election for our personal, eternal destinies - individual Jews and Gentiles, not just the Jewish people as a whole and the Gentile peoples, and eternal destinies, not just historical roles. The problem he is wrestling with is stated in verse 3: many of his Jewish kinsmen are accursed and cut off from Christ. That is what creates the crisis - not the historical role of a nation, but the eternal destiny of individual Jewish people who rejected the gospel as he preached from synagogue to synagogue.

So the answer to our first question is that the objection in verse 14 rose from Paul’s teaching of unconditional election - that God chooses whom he will graciously save before we are born or have done anything good or evil. Our election to eternal life is not based on what we choose or what we do. It is based on God alone. Which person chooses to trust Christ and be saved, and which one chooses to reject Christ and be lost, is finally God’s choice.

And so some of Paul’s listeners objected and said, "God is unjust - he is unrighteous - to base his election on nothing in us. It is unrighteous in God to choose who will believe and be saved or who will rebel and be lost. So goes the objection that Paul raises in verse 14. "Is there injustice on God's part? Is there unrighteousness with God?" Paul answers, "By no means." There is no unrighteousness with God when he unconditionally elects whom he will.

(excerpt from John Piper's sermon on this passage found here)

April 20, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Translation into Italian and the Indian dialect of Malayalam

Back in January I wrote a short article about the thief on the cross here. It was very encouraging to understand that the article has been translated into Italian on a blog here. Now today (Good Friday) I have just received the following note from a Pastor friend who I have known for more than 20 years out in Cheppad, Kerala, India called Pappy Daniel. He writes:

Dear John,

I am making a translation of your article on the thief crucified with Christ.

If the Lord provides for the printing, we shall take 10,000 copies to be inserted in the newspapers in the morning of Good Friday next year. I am also looking for an appropriate picture for the front cover of the tract.

Thank you for the article.

In His abundant grace,

Pappy Daniel
Mercy Home, Kanjoor, Cheppad Post 690507, Kerala, India

I have visited Pappy Daniel in India 4 times, holding large crusade meetings and preaching in many of the churches. I have seen the tremendous work he is doing first hand, especially in his extensive ministry to orphaned boys and girls. I am praying that indeed the funds will come in for this Gospel outreach he mentions next year. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Lord chooses to use this short article as a tract to bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ? May I invite you to join me in praying for Pappy Daniel and the great Gospel ministry out there in India? - John Samson

April 03, 2010  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

2 Sermons on Hebrews 6

In depth teaching from Dr. James White (www.aomin.org) on this familiar but so often misunderstood passage here.

March 29, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Big Three

Matthew 23:37, 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 are the three main "proof texts" quoted by Arminians to deny the reformed doctrines of election and predestination. In this video below, Dr. James White provides exegesis of these verses in their proper biblical context and the result is the exposing of many man-made traditions.

January 15, 2010  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

I remember a time (May, 1981) when as a teenager, I was given the privilege of representing my High School in a soccer penalty shoot out competition. I survived the knock out rounds and ended up playing at Anfield, Liverpool's home ground in England before a crowd of more than 17,000 people. This was a very memorable night for me, to put it mildly - one I still remember with pleasure. At the time, Liverpool were the greatest soccer team in Europe. Three weeks later, they won the European Cup. As a boy I had stood on the terraces and watched my favorite team play so many times. Now it was my turn to play there and my emotions were mixed. I was both very anxious and extremely excited.

On the Sunday before this big event, a Christian brother, knowing what I would face and knowing that I was more than a little nervous to play in front of such a vast crowd told me to focus on the text mentioned above, namely Paul's words to the Philippians in chapter 4, verse 13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

At the time, the text was a real comfort to me and without doubt it became the object of my focus. But now years on, though I was inspired by the text, I do not believe it was a correct application of the text. Paul was not referring to sporting events in that text.

In our day, we are far too keen to rush to make application of the text. People want "practical" sermons and practical messages. Well there's nothing wrong with that. The Bible is intensely practical, yet we need to rightly interpret a text before we attempt to apply it. The one thing comes before the other. False interpretations lead inevitably to false applications.

Continue reading "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" »

December 04, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

The Certain Triumph of Christ

Now that we have seen the universal opposition to God and his Christ, we will examine the certain triumph of Christ. It would seem that the threat which the world has to offer the godly is very great: Satan is furious against Christ and all who are in him, and he has subverted the whole world to working out his designs for their evil. And yet, when we enter the eternal counsel of God, all this fearful opposition is lighter than chaff, it is so small and insignificant a threat that God laughs at them in derision. From this, we must learn that, if we would comfort ourselves in any opposition, we must take firm hold in our minds of the eternal decree of God, for when we are firmly rooted in this immutable counsel, we too may laugh at the designs of the wicked, knowing that God will infallibly work out all things for our eternal good. For not only does the rest of the psalter speak in several instances of how God will laugh at all his enemies (e.g. Psalm 37:13; 59:8; cf. also Prov. 1:26), but it also teaches us that the righteous who trust in God may laugh at all their enemies’ designs, even as the psalmist says elsewhere, “The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, “See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!” But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever” (Psalm 52:6-8, ESV).

When we look to God who reigns upon his throne, we see that he is neither surprised nor ruffled by this universal opposition. They are dashing themselves against the immutability of his purpose, and can no more budge his decree than a gnat can budge an anvil when he flings his little body against it in rage. They will destroy themselves in their mad uprising, and he will only laugh in contempt. But will you see the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy? Then look to where all the forces of the world raged the most wickedly, where they put the Lord’s Christ to a shameful and bloody death: but even in this they were so far from preventing God’s eternal decree, that they actually accomplished it, and did all that his sovereign plan had predestined to take place. For this Jesus, against whom the nations raged, and who was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,” was delivered up to them “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Act 2:23, ESV).

But not only is God unruffled by such worldwide opposition; he has also determined, and he will not revoke it, that he will actively pour out his wrath and judgment upon all this world of ungodly men. He will judge them reasonably, as is signified by that expression, “he will speak unto them in his wrath” — for in that he will speak to them, it is clear that he will declare to them precisely why and for what reason he is about to send them into torments; but that judgment will not only be reasonable and just, it will also be horrible enough to terrify and overwhelm them forever; as indeed it should be, seeing they have raged against so high and exalted and eternal a God, before whom there is no other. This prophecy was fulfilled, in one sense, when God in his anger destroyed Jerusalem, where his Christ had been slain, and did not leave one stone upon another when he overthrew the temple where men had despised their Maker and the true Temple of God; but even that unspeakable horror of AD 70 is but a foretaste and hint of the fearful judgment to come. For soon, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10, ESV); and ah what horrors of darkness await the enemies of Christ on that day I could never express. -- from Kiss the Son

November 21, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

John 6

In his concluding message from Great Falls, Montana, Dr. James White expounds the sixth chapter of John's gospel. Jesus' words, heard here in their context and in progression, proclaim much the same revelation as Paul's words in Romans 8 and 9. God is truly Sovereign in the matter of salvation. (Approx. 46 minutes youtube video below)

Continue reading "John 6" »

October 22, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Romans 9

What convinced me that reformed theology was correct was not the logical arguments (as good as they were), nor the fact that a great majority of the church's great Bible scholars through the centuries believed and propagated it (as impressive as that is). What convinced me was the clear teaching of Holy Scripture.

Having read many counter positions on passages such as John 6, Ephesians 1, and Romans 8 and 9, I was amazed at what people needed to do to try to avoid the clear teaching of the passages. They could not just stay in the same passage and work through the verses one by one, allowing the writer to flow from one thought to the next. Instead, they had to argue that the writers were at one point talking about one thing and then in the next verse or even in the middle of the same verse, were speaking about something completely different. It was hard to follow, but not because of what the text said, but, as I came to understand it, because of the elaborate methodology being implemented to avoid what the text was actually saying. They ("they" being those who opposed reformed theology) would say that in one phrase he is referring to "nations" while in another he is referring to specific individuals, and then in the very next verse it referred to something else. Even if this was the case, what are "nations" but a large group of individual people? The "problem" they had of a Sovereign God choosing people for salvation does not go away. God still does this if he chooses one nation and not another. If God chose one nation, he is choosing individual people who make up that nation, and is therefore by this act, also not choosing other people. As I say, the "problem" does not go away.

In contrast to this, when the Scripture writer is allowed to "speak for himself" as to what he means, by simply taking his words, in context, allowing the words to flow from one statement to the next in the passage as he addresses his overall theme, a consistent correct interpretation emerges. This became so very clear to me. I am reformed in soteriology (the study of salvation) because bottom line, this is what I believe Scripture teaches.

On these issues, I used to have my feet firmly planted in mid air. What I mean by that is that I just didn't know where I stood on these things. Not only did I not know, I thought it was a display of humility to say so. Now, it would be humble if the Scripture was vague, elusive and impossible to understand on these things. Some things are clearer than others in holy Scripture. But when God has made His truth clear, it is actually the height of arrogance to say otherwise. Because there is a God and because He has revealed His existence to every man (as Romans 1 teaches) it is arrogance to be agnostic on the question of God's existence. It would be like standing in God's face and saying "You did not make this clear at all." In the same way, I believe God has addressed the issue of His Sovereignty in the matter of salvation in passages such as Romans 9 and that His truth is clearly revealed here.

One of the men of God who helped me (under God) to see this, is a man who became my friend in this whole process, the man in this youtube video, Dr. James White. How thankful I am now to be able to see (although much mystery remains) something of the stunning and majestic glory of God in the Sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners. Here (below) is Dr. James White speaking for approximately 55 minutes in Great Falls, Montana, on the Romans 9 passage. I recommend it highly. - JS

Continue reading "Romans 9" »

October 21, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Theodoret on Lamentations 4

Introductory Note: To the best of my knowledge, most of the exegetical writings of Theodoret have never been translated into English. His expositional works are available in the original Greek, however, and I have recently employed them in my study of the fourth of Jeremiah's Lamentations. I took the liberty to translate his interpretation of this lamentation, in order to make it available to the English-speaking reader. Please take a moment to glance through this brief, straightforward, and delightful exposition, and if nothing else, pay attention to Theodoret's explanation of the twentieth verse!

If this portion of his works has indeed been previously translated, contrary to my current knowledge, I would love to know about it -- so please let me know if I am wrong.

The Interpretation of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, by the blessed Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus

Chapter Four

How the gold has become dimmed, the good silver has been changed! Have the holy stones been scattered out from the top of all the streets?

He likens the godliness of the forebears to these materials, and mourns the change which has come about in the descendants; for this he makes evident in the following things.

Continue reading "Theodoret on Lamentations 4" »

August 10, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Matthew 23:37 and the Role of Tradition

"Traditions, everyone has them and those most blinded to them are those who do not believe they have any." - Dr. James White

In this audio recording, made available through you tube video (which lasts approximately 27 minutes), taken from yesterday's Sunday School class at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, Dr. White exposes the traditions normally associated with the Scripture text of Matthew 23:37:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!"

Continue reading "Matthew 23:37 and the Role of Tradition" »

June 15, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Keeping Power of God

Jude: 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (ESV)

This small but powerful letter is Jude's only contribution to the New Testament. He was the brother of James (head of the Jerusalem church), and half-brother of Jesus. His full name was Jude Thaddeus.

As He concludes his letter, Jude expresses his total confidence in God's ability in keeping the believer in Christ secure in his salvation. It is certainly interesting to note that Jude both begins and ends his short letter with this same theme about God's keeping power. In verse 1 he describes believers as "kept for Jesus Christ" and here in verse 24, he describes God as the One “who is able to keep you from stumbling...” In starting and finishing his short letter with this theme, it is clear he did not wish for this point to be missed. Obviously the fact that God keeps His children safe in salvation is something frequently highlighted in the Scripture. Jesus expressed it clearly in many places, perhaps most clearly in John 6:39 where He described the will of the Father for Him as that of losing nothing of all His Father had given to Him. In John 10: 27, 28, Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." Then in John 17: 11, Christ prayed for this same group (those that the Father had given to Him), "Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:11), and again "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one." (John 17:15)

Continue reading "The Keeping Power of God" »

June 10, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

The Severe Warning Passages in Hebrews

In the New Testament book of Hebrews there are a number of "severe warning passages." Many Christians have been perplexed and confused when reading them. How exactly are these passages to be interpreted and understood? Can we in fact be sure of what the passages mean? If, as Scripture teaches elsewhere, Jesus the great Shepherd never loses any of His true sheep, and as Paul states in Romans "these whom He justified He also glorified" (Romans 8:30) who are these passages aimed at? Is the writer to the Hebrews seeking to teach that true Christians can lose their salvation?

Continue reading "The Severe Warning Passages in Hebrews" »

June 07, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Hebrews 6:4-9 (revisited)

from a previous blog article:

Hebrews 6:4-9
4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
6 if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.
8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things- things that belong to salvation.

Invalid interpretations of this passage in Hebrews chapter 6 has resulted in much confusion on the issue of the perserverance (or preservation) of the saints. Here are some words on this from Vincent Cheung who was responding to someone who said that they still tended to read passages like this as an Arminian:

Question/Comment: "I have been thinking about Hebrews 6:4-6, and I am still struggling to be more impartial with it…. I recall that you have talked about these verses, but I am still struggling…

Response: Besides my own remarks, there are a number of commentaries that adequately address Hebrews 6. It is good to read and review them. After that, the struggle is not in attaining exegetical precision with the passage, but it is in the part of you that still tends to read it as an Arminian — as a self-centered rebel — when there is no warrant for it.

Consider the example of John 3:16. It says that whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life, which both Calvinism and Arminianism affirm, but it does not say who will believe or why they will believe. Thus the verse affirms only salvation by faith, and has no relevance to the disagreement between Calvinism and Arminianism until you bring other biblical passages into the discussion. However, many people want to read it as Arminians, and so they think that Arminianism is what it proves. They take the words "whoever believes" to mean something so different as, "Every man has free will, and anyone can by his free will believe in Christ apart from God's foreordination and direct control." I might as well deduce the entire Alice in Wonderland when someone says "Good morning" or "Have a nice day."

Continue reading "Hebrews 6:4-9 (revisited)" »

May 02, 2009  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Understanding 1 Timothy 2:4 by Pastor John Samson

God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:4

I have often times heard people quote 1 Timothy 2:4 to dismiss, out of hand, the biblical teaching on Sovereign grace or Divine election. In quoting the verse they have told me that God has no interest in electing certain people to salvation but that His desire is for every person to be saved. Yet, we must remember that the word "all" always has a context. It can sometimes mean all people everywhere - many times it does - but it sometimes means "all" in the sense of "all kinds" or "all classes, types" of people or at other times it refers to all within a certain type or class.. For instance, we do the same thing in our English language when a school teacher in a classroom may ask the question, "are we ALL here?" or "is EVERYONE here?" She is not asking if everyone on planet earth is in the classroom, but because of the context in which the question is framed (the school teacher's classroom) we understand she is referring to all within a certain class or type - in this case, all the students signed up for the class.

I believe 1 Tim 2:4 is speaking of all in this sense of "all types."

What is my biblical basis for saying this?

The context. Lets read the passage:

1 Timothy 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Who are the "all people" of verse 1? I believe the "all people" of verse 1 are the same "all people" of verse 4, as the subject matter does not change in any way at all in the intervening verses.

Continue reading "Understanding 1 Timothy 2:4 by Pastor John Samson" »

April 24, 2009  |  Comments (12)   |  Permalink

"WORLD" - John's Ten Uses of the Word by Pastor John Samson

The word “world” (Greek: Kosmos) appears 185 times in the New Testament: 78 times in John, 8 in Matthew, 3 in Mark, and 3 also in Luke. The vast majority of its occurrences are therefore in John’s writings, as it is also found 24 times in John’s three epistles, and just three times in Peter.

John uses the word “world” in ten different ways in his Gospel.

1. The Entire Universe - John 1:10; 1:3; 17:5

2. The Physical Earth - John 13:1; 16:33; 21:25

3. The World System - John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11 (see also similar usage in Gal 1:4 – Paul)

4. All humanity minus believers - John 7:7; 15:18

5. A Big Group but less than all people everywhere - John 12:19

6. The Elect Only - John 3:17

7. The Non-Elect Only - John 17:9

8. The Realm of Mankind - John 1:10; (this is very probably the best understanding of the word "world" in John 3:16 also)

9. Jews and Gentiles (not just Israel but many Gentiles too) - John 4:42

10. The General Public (as distinguished from a private group) – not those in small private groups - John 7:4

Seeing this list can be very helpful – especially when traditions reign supreme in some people’s minds that "world" always means all people everywhere. Sometimes it does, but most of the time, it does not. It is a tradition that is very strong but one that cannot survive biblical scrutiny. It is the context that always establishes the meaning of words and their usage.

April 06, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

‘The Growing Seed' by Terry Johnson

Mark 4:26-29

Growth through God’s Word

And He was saying, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."

The second half of the twentieth century saw an unprecedented interest in principles by which the church grows. When Donald A. McGavran founded the Institute of Church Growth in Eugene, Oregon in 1959, which in 1965 because Fuller Seminary’s School of Church Growth, a movement was born. The ‘Church Growth Movement’ has spawned thousands of articles and books, and has been exceptionally influential. Focusing on measurable results, it has constantly asked the question, what causes the church to grow? What practical steps can be taken to produce growth? What methods and techniques, what strategies and programs are more conducive to the growth of the church?

These are important question and answering them can be fruitful. Every church should constantly be evaluating its ministry and asking if it can’t be doing things more effectively than they are currently being done. But one of the unintended consequences of this movement has been the gradual secularization of church-building. Increasingly the business of growing the church has been understood in increasingly secular ways. The same method by which businesses and institutions grow have been applied to the church. Management and marketing principles have taken on greater and greater importance. Demographic surveys and focus groups have been used to fine tune the method by which the gospel has been presented, and even the message itself. Sometimes in the name of relating to the culture, sometimes in the name of removing what might offend, revolutionary changes have been made in the public ministry of the church, all in the name of growth. The motives have been noble, but many of these changes have been ill-considered. Most important, the line separating what God does and what we do, between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, has been blurred. At times, it has seemed that the progress of the kingdom has been reduced to a natural process that can be engineered by human agents. The supernatural and spiritual character of the church has been dismissed in the process.

Is the growth of the church fundamentally a work of man or a work of God? If things have gotten seriously confused, we should not be surprised. Most, if not all, of the error in the history of the church, from the ancient Arians and Pelagians, to the modern-day Schleiermacher-inspired liberals, to New England’s Unitarians, has been perpetuated in the name of evangelism. Positive motives do not guarantee biblical results.

more...

February 09, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

What is "that"?

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)

In these words, the Apostle Paul destroys all notions of salvation by works. We are saved by the grace of God which is received through faith, and works play no part at all. As the next verse (v.10) makes clear, God has indeed planned for believers to do good works, but as this and many other passages in scripture would affirm, the works are the fruit and not the root of our salvation. True believers do good works, but works play no role at all in how we receive salvation, for it is "not as a result of works."

This much is clear, but questions have arisen as to what exactly is meant by the one word "that" in Ephesians 2:8. We know that whatever it is, it is the gift of God, but can we determine exactly what this gift is?

Some say that the gift is "faith" while others say it is "grace" and still others say it is "salvation." What may be a point of dispute from the reading of the English translations becomes settled when looking into the original Greek text.

Continue reading "What is "that"?" »

February 06, 2009  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Regeneration in the ESV Study Bible

For visitors to Monergism.com who are considering the purchase of the ESV Study Bible, the following may be of particular interest to you. Ever since the ESV Study Bibles have come out I have been reading through some of the notes on various texts and skimming the theological articles so I could report back to you what I found. As you might have guessed, one of the first things looked for was whether the ESV Study Bible would take a clear Christ-honoring stand on the vital doctrinal issue of regeneration. Expecting to find an amorphous commentary that neither monergist nor synergist would be offended by, I am very pleased to report to you that the notes from editors of the ESVSB unambiguously affirm divine monergism in regeneration. Because we believe this is a vital biblical doctrine to understand correctly, we wholeheartedly applaud those editors who decided not to be vague on this issue. We are also thankful for the effort and time it must have taken to put the incredible resources available in this Bible together in one place. May the Lord be pleased to use it to His glory

Here are a few samples of ESVSB comments on the doctrine of regeneration:

On page 2531 of the ESVSB in the article entitled "Biblical Doctrine: An Overview" under the subheading of "salvation" it reads as follows:

From God's vantage point salvation begins with his election of individuals, which is his determination beforehand that his saving purpose will be accomplished in them (John 6:37–39, 44, 64–66; 8:47; 10:26; 15:16; Acts 13:48; 16:14; Romans 9; 1 John 4:19; 5:1). God then in due course brings people to himself by calling them to faith in Christ (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 2:9).

God's calling produces regeneration, which is the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in which a spiritually dead person is made alive in Christ (Ezek. 11:19–20; Matt. 19:28; John 3:3, 5, 7; Titus 3:5). The revived heart repents and trusts Christ in saving faith as the only source of justification.

Notice that the editors clearly affirm that a regenerated, revived heart precedes repentance and trust in Christ. It goes on to describe saving faith as follows:

Continue reading "Regeneration in the ESV Study Bible" »

October 20, 2008  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Our God and Savior, Jesus Christ

"...looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." Titus 2:13,14

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:" 2 Peter 1:1

According to 1 Peter 3:15, we have a mandate from God to provide a reasoned defense of the faith to anyone who asks us for it. The Deity of Christ is certainly a doctrine at the heart of the Christian faith. The enemies of the Gospel are all around us and some of them, like Jehovah's Witnesses, attempt to appeal to the original language of the New Testament to dismiss the idea that Christ is God. At this link here you will see (on a youtube video) New Testament scholar, Dr. James White provide a brief response to a caller who was challenged by a Jehovah's Witness concerning the Granville Sharp Rule in Greek and its application in Titus 2:13. Although brief (just over 7 minutes in length), it is an excellent response and well worth seeing.

September 23, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Helpful Links 9-17-08

Fads, Schemes, And Gimmicks - The Spurgeon Fellowship Winter 2008
Essays from Art Azurdia, Sinclair Ferguson and James Sweeney on methodology and defining evangelicalisms boundaries in ministry.

A Prolegomenon To Biblical Exposition by R. Kent Hughes - two excellent lectures which should be required for all pastors. Introductions . . . Illustrations . . . Transitions . . . Outlines . . . Conclusions. The acquisition of communicative skills seems to dominate present day discussions of preaching. But before a preacher ever seeks to master certain techniques he must be mastered by certain convictions. What are the foundational presuppositions indicative of a biblically informed commitment to preaching?

The Book of Leviticus - major update to the Leviticus sermon manuscripts page at Monergism.com. Anyone studying or preaching through this book will find this a great resource.

Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World (35 Free Downloadable MP3 Classes) by Dr. Edmund P. Clowney and Dr. Timothy J. Keller- Requires iTunes.

Difficult Questions, Certain Answers (.pdf) by Nathan Pitchford.
Many Reformed folk often ask for good gospel presentations. Here's one. Its a Reformed, Redemptive Historical Gospel Tract

September 17, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Eternal Treasure of the Unshakeable Kingdom

KINGDOM DISCIPLESHIP 101:
THE ETERNAL TREASURE OF THE KINGDOM
LUKE 12:13-34
REV. CHARLES R. BIGGS

In today’s text from Dr. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples more on what it means to live our lives in light of who God is, his character, and his revealed Kingdom (as we learned in our last sermon on Kingdom Discipleship 101: Knowing God). As Christians, our treasure is located in heaven with Jesus Christ.

Now I realize that the title of the sermon today ‘The Eternal Treasure of the Kingdom’ may sound like the subtitle to an Indiana Jones adventure movie. That is not all that accidental! As with adventure or fantasy movies such as this one and with other classic stories, there is man’s search or attempt at attaining riches here in this present world (that we all identify with)- -only for the treasure and riches to be stolen or lost through foolishness (I think of Treasure of the Sierra Madre).

This “search for treasure story” is an archetypal or model kind of story that all can relate to because of an inherent desire all humans have for permanence and security. This “search for treasure story” is one we learn throughout Scripture as well: Man seeks and searches all his life to build a kingdom and live with lots of riches, but at the end he either loses the riches, or he dies (and then they do him no good).

In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon called this “vanity” or “meaninglessness” or “chasing after the wind”.

Now many of us do not perhaps get involved in formal search parties to the end of the world for “lost pirate gold” or diamonds, or seek to move westward in an attempt at a great gusher of black gold.

We are tempted to live in this life as if there were no accountability to God with regard to what he has given to us. We are indeed tempted to live as if our possessions could never rust, perish or be stolen, and we are tempted to live like this because we seek permanence and security as those made in God’s image. When we do not have the permanence and security that we think we should have, we grow anxious, worried and insecure.

Continue reading "The Eternal Treasure of the Unshakeable Kingdom" »

May 07, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Incarnational Infiltration- Meditation on the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Philippians


During wartime, a very strategic maneuver is to infiltrate the enemy's people and get inside the enemy's gates, so that the opposition can be defeated from within their own territory (Infiltration is defined in my dictionary as moving into or permeating). This is exactly what our God, the Divine Warrior does in his gospel warfare against Satan the deceiver and enemy of our souls.

When we think of Paul's letter to the Philippian Christians, we rightly think of such things as rejoicing in Christ and how we ought to live our lives in Him. Additionally, we should also notice the letter's focus in chapter one on how the gospel infiltrates the enemy's territory. Before we read our passage from Philippians chapter one, let us be reminded that Paul was a prison in Caesar's dungeon in his household, the Praetorium in Rome. He is in chains and possibly facing death soon. He is writing the letter of rejoicing in Christ to Christians who live in the Roman Colony of Philippi, a retirement community for former faithful Roman officers and soldiers. This is important to keep in mind.

Paul takes up his pen to encourage the Philippian Christians to know their union with Christ and with each other (2:1-5); to be reminded that they are to pray and praise God for his kindness and mercy (4:4-7); to think on certain things because of Christ, knowing his peace, and to know how we can be content in Christ Jesus because he supplies all of our needs according to his riches in glory (4:8-19). He also tells these Christians who live in this Roman Colony that they are now ultimately citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven (3:20-21).

Because of this new identity and citizenship, regardless of their privilege at one time of being Roman citizens, or citizens of the kingdom of man, they are now highly privileged members of the Kingdom of Heaven and await a greater inheritance because of their service in Christ's militant army.

Continue reading "Incarnational Infiltration- Meditation on the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Philippians" »

March 13, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Blessed Man of Psalm One

Just a few days ago here on the blog Eric Costa wrote a brief but very insightful article about Psalm 1. I was very stirred by his writing and in fact am teaching a group of people tonight on this exact theme. I have made some written notes and share them on the blog here, in hope that it will be a blessing to you. - Rev. John Samson

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. - Psalm 1:1-6

We have all heard a preacher use Psalm 1 to say "Be like the prosperous man who delights in the law of the LORD and not like the wicked who will perish." Yet, when we actually examine the text, it is interesting to note that there is no prescriptive language whatsoever. Read the Psalm through again and you will discover that the text does not actually tell us to DO anything. There are no imperatives, no commands. Psalm 1 is entirely descriptive language.

Eric Costa is quite right when he asks, “What is being described here in Psalm 1? The life of those called "righteous" in contrast with those called "wicked." What is the main difference between the righteous and the wicked? Is it the object of their delight? Is it the fruit of their labors? Is it the eternal destiny of their souls? No, the first thing that makes the righteous differ from the wicked is that the righteous are "blessed." The starting point of the "way of the righteous" is the blessing of God.”

As in the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, the book of Psalms opens with a blessing. Blessed means supremely happy or fulfilled – Dr. James Montgomery Boice states that the Hebrew word for blessed here is actually plural, which “denotes either a multiplicity of blessings or an intensification of them. The verse might be correctly translated, “O the blessednesses of the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.”

Continue reading "The Blessed Man of Psalm One" »

February 16, 2008  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Does 2 Peter 2:1 Deny Particular Redemption?

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

When someone tells me that they are a 4 point Calvinist, it is almost always the case that their struggle is with the "L" in the famous TULIP acrostic, namely so called "Limited Atonement." "Definite Atonement" or "Particular Redemption" might be better terms to use (though they destroy the acrostic TULIP into "TUDIP" or even worse, "TUPIP" - hardly good memory devices).

Concerning the letters of Paul, the Apostle Peter was right when he related that some things are "hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:16). Sometimes it takes a good deal of prayer, hard work and study to determine what the Bible is teaching on certain matters. For my part, I have not always been a 5 point Calvinist and have great sympathy for those who struggle with these very vital "doctrines of grace." I tend to think however that many do not struggle with them nearly enough.

Our traditions can be so strong that we are often blind to them in our own thinking. We all have our blind spots. Part of my own intellectual struggle with the doctrine of Limited Atonement stemmed from a faulty understanding of certain biblical texts. One of them was 1 John 2:2, another being 2 Peter 2:1. For many years, I thought that these verses were irrefutable texts that rejected the idea that Christ died to infallibly secure the salvation of a certain group (His people, His sheep, His friends, His elect - Particular Redemption) and were proof that Christ died for all people, at all times, in every part of the world (Universal Redemption). I wrote an article some time back called "The Divine Intention of the Cross" found here, in which I made a case for Particular Redemption from scripture.

Continue reading "Does 2 Peter 2:1 Deny Particular Redemption?" »

January 26, 2008  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

The Superiority of the New Covenant Blessings Consists Entirely in the Coming of the Son of God

In his letter to the Hebrews, the author goes to some lengths to describe the superior position, and the many greater blessings and assurances, that God's people enjoy today, which their fathers did not possess to nearly so great a degree; and everywhere throughout the letter, he makes considerable effort to show how that superior position is founded upon the coming of an eminently superior person, and in consequence of the eminently superior office which he has entered into. In the first four verses of his letter, which in the original comprise a single introductory sentence, he accordingly lays out the basic premise which will take the rest of the letter to unfold, viz., that God has never dealt so well with the saints before the coming of Christ as he has with those who lived afterward; and that the coming of Christ itself is the sole factor by which this latter superiority of blessedness has come about. From these verses, we may derive the two following heads of doctrine:

1. That the dispensation and gifts of God to mankind are better in this age than in all ages previous, by as much as that which is perfect is better than that which is desultory and incomplete;

2. That the sole reason for this culminative advance in blessedness is the coming of the eternal Son of God, and his entering into his redemptive office.

Both of these propositions in turn we will now demonstrate by an examination of the text before us.

Continue reading "The Superiority of the New Covenant Blessings Consists Entirely in the Coming of the Son of God" »

January 08, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Christmas on the Isle of Patmos: "A Christmas Revelation"

REVELATION 12

REV. CHARLES R. BIGGS

Introduction
The Book of Revelation is saturated with the Old Testament in its truth and symbolism. This book declares to readers a blessing that makes it unique out of all the inspired books (although there is indeed a blessing when you read them as well).

ESV Revelation 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

At the risk of being simplistic, but attempting to be simple, the Book of Revelation, written by the Apostle John is to give a visual picture of the great cosmic conflict between the Seed of the Woman (who is ultimately Christ), and the seed of the serpent (the Devil and the enemies of God).

Many people look in the Book of Revelation for the key to certain significant future events, but it should be argued that the book’s purpose (and purpose of the Apostle John who wrote it) is more concerned with making sense of the past redemptive-acts and revealed truths of God, and bringing it into the story of God’s people today (whenever and wherever that “today” applies).

Here in Revelation 12, we have a wonderful “Christmas” passage and it is considered by many sound interpreters of the book to be the central summary chapter of the entire Apocalypse of John. Dr. Vern Poythress calls this chapter a “symbolic history” of God’s redemption in Christ (The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, pg. 133-34).

The story of God’s redemption of his people came to a great climatic crescendo in the fullness of the times when God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 14). Christmas is the time we should remember and celebrate as the birth of the “Seed of the Woman” who would crush the head of the serpent as God promised in Eden when the Gospel of God’s grace was announced for the first time (Gen. 3:15-16).

Continue reading "Christmas on the Isle of Patmos: "A Christmas Revelation"" »

December 12, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Understanding 1 John 2:2

From the archives on this blog (from October 2005) by Rev. John Samson

Many of you know something of my struggle in coming to understand and appreciate the doctrines of grace. One of the biggest hurdles I encountered was my traditional understanding of 1 John 2:2. For a long time, it acted much like a roadblock in my thinking, preventing me from believing what I now consider to be the clear and consistent teaching of scripture.

How are we to understand the verse then?

Let me start by affirming that scripture is explicit in saying that Jesus died:

for God's people ("He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of My people" - Isaiah 53:8; "He shall save His people from their sins" - Matt. 1:21);

for His sheep ("I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." - John 10:11 - note that Jesus categorically states that some are not His sheep - "but you do not believe because you are not My sheep." - John 10:26)

for His friends ("Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you." - John 15:13-14;

for the Church ("... the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood." - Acts 20:28; "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her..." - Eph. 5:25, 26).

Indeed, as God allows us to gain a glimpse into the future, Revelation 5:9 reveals the song of the throngs of heaven as they sing to the Lamb upon His throne, "And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." Notice that it does not say that He ransomed everybody in every tribe, etc., but that He ransomed people for God from every tribe, tongue, people and nation.

Yet at least at first glance, 1 John 2:2 seems to strongly deny this idea that Jesus' death was designed for a particular people. The verse states, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

I don't believe that scripture contradicts itself. That is in fact why we are told to study the word of God in order that we might rightly divide it (2 Tim. 2:15) rather than simply throw up our hands saying a particular verse contradicts others on the same subject. "All Scripture is God breathed" (2 Tim. 3:16) and because there is one Divine Author of Scripture who does not contradict Himself, I am convinced that hard work and careful study will eliminate apparent contradictions.

Continue reading "Understanding 1 John 2:2" »

November 09, 2007  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

The Spirit and the Truth of the Gospel- John 16:1-15

THE SPIRIT AND TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL
490TH CELEBRATION OF THE REFORMATION OF THE 16TH CENTURY
JOHN 16:1-15/REV. CHARLES R. BIGGS


This passage in John is the last of Jesus' recorded words to his disciples, and therefore they are extremely important to remember. The Apostles are filled with sadness because Jesus is going away from them, but Jesus is encouraging them to rejoice in the Helper (or “Comforter”) the Spirit of Truth who will come and teach them and make Christ known in a better and fuller way than they have experienced with Jesus while living with him in the flesh!

Even though Jesus is leaving his Apostles to die, to be resurrected and ascended to God’s right hand, he will send the Holy Spirit, or the “Comforter” to them to do two important things:

1) The Spirit of Truth, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity will guide them into all truth (v. 13). Implication: There will be objective Truth from God concerning the Christian doctrine (theology) and life.

2) He will glorify Christ by taking from what is his and declare it to them (v. 14). Implication: Christ and His Gospel will be the focus of the Holy Spirit’s ministry.

Continue reading "The Spirit and the Truth of the Gospel- John 16:1-15" »

October 29, 2007  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The Gospel According to Galatians, Part 1

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO GALATIANS
Scripture Text: Galatians Chapter 2
Rev. Charles R. Biggs

HAPPY 490TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION!

REMEMBER:
“CHRIST WILL DO ALL FOR YOU, OR NOTHING FOR YOU.”
–J. GRESHAM MACHEN (GAL. 2:21)

Are you able to define the truth of the gospel which is the doctrine of justification by faith alone?

This month is the 490th anniversary of the Reformation of the Sixteenth century. Has the Church today forgotten the truth of justification by faith alone that God in his grace allowed his people to fully recover and boldly preach in the Reformation? Do Christians today even know what the biblical importance of the Reformation was all about? Do Christians today care?

Beating a Doctrine into Our Heads?
In the next two studies, we want to consider the important doctrine of Justification by faith alone. In part one, we will consider Paul’s doctrine in the context of Galatians 2, and then we will look at the doctrine from more of a theological point of view derived from Scripture, exegesis, and the Church’s historical and faithful reflection on this important doctrine in part two.

Justification by faith alone in Christ alone is the heart of Paul’s Gospel;
it IS the “good news”!

Martin Luther wrote this about justification by faith alone in his Commentary on Galatians: “[Justification] is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consists. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into our heads continually.”- pg. 101 (quoted in Stott).

Continue reading "The Gospel According to Galatians, Part 1" »

October 26, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Mutual Submission

... giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 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 5:20-27 ESV

From the website of the council on biblical manhood and womanhood, Drs. John Piper and Wayne Grudem respond to the following question: Do you believe in "mutual submission" the way Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:21, "Submit to one another"?

Yes, we do. But "the way Paul teaches" mutual submission is not the way everyone today teaches it. Everything depends on what you mean by "mutual submission." Some of us put more stress on reciprocity here than others. But even if Paul means complete reciprocity (wives submit to husbands and husbands submit to wives), this does not mean that husbands and wives should submit to each other in the same way. The key is to remember that the relationship between Christ and the church is the pattern for the relationship between husband and wife. Are Christ and the church mutually submitted? They aren't if submission means Christ yields to the authority of the church. But they are if submission means that Christ submitted Himself to suffering and death for the good of the church. That, however, is not how the church submits to Christ. The church submits to Christ by affirming His authority and following His lead. So mutual submission does not mean submitting to each other in the same ways. Therefore, mutual submission does not compromise Christ's headship over the church and it should not compromise the headship of a godly husband.

Go here for more questions and answers on this theme

September 27, 2007  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

1 Timothy 4:10

"For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers." - 1 Timothy 4:10

This verse has had many interpretations. Here are a few of them:

(1) The idea that "God is the Savior of all men" means that all who have ever lived will be saved. This of course is contrary to all sound doctrine. If this was true, the rest of the verse would have no meaning when it says "especially of believers."

(2) God wants to save everyone but His desire is many times thwarted by the obsinate free will of man (the Arminian view). Note though that the passage does not say He wants to save, but that He actually saves: He is actually the Savior (in some sense) of all men. Also, God's will is never frustrated (Isaiah 46:10).

(3) God is able to save all men, but though all can be saved, only believers actually are. Again, this is not what the text says.

(4) God is the Savior of all men (in one sense) and especially of those who believe (in another sense).

I believe this is the correct interpretation....

Continue reading "1 Timothy 4:10" »

June 23, 2007  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Exposition of Revelation 5:9 - Particular Redemption

"Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

The scope of Christ's work of redemption is both universal and particular: universal because it includes people of every ethnicity and nation; particular because Christ redeems a people for Himself from out of these nations, having had an eye for a remnant of mankind from every tribe. Here is the climax of God's redemptive purpose, fulfilling God's covenant to Abraham to bless the children of promise through his seed (Gen 12:2; Rom 9:6-13). This is why God has commanded the church to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matt 28:18, 19) that He might gather those he has set apart for Himself in every city and town (Acts 18:10; John 17:9, 20)

The great, ultimate, and final exodus is here (Rev 5) being declared in song. There are three (3) reasons which define the lamb's worthiness to open the scroll

1) you were slain,

2) with your blood your purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (That is the meaning of the event). and

3) v10. You have made them to be a kingdom of priests and to reign on the earth. (That is the consequence of the event).

What is actually in view here? It is the final exodus and the ultimate, eternal establishment of a covenantal relationship between God and His people. It is what we see at the end of the Revelation. "Now I will be their God and they will be my people..." This event also uses language similar to the Exodus of the Jews. It not only points forward to the final consummation but also points back to that Passover event. This passage actually lifts language from the Book of Exodus, interpreting its ultimate meaning. What actually took place on the evening of the first Passover? A lamb was slain and painted on the doorposts of every Jewish home. That was the event. But what was the meaning of that event?. The Text is clear. The purchase of the firstborn for God. The firstborn in Israel were just as guilty as any Egyptian. The Jews were not saved because they were more righteous than anyone else. They were saved because God made them a provision of atonement. They too were liable to the death blow of the angel, but were purchased by the blood of an unblemished sacrifice that pointed to the ultimate sacrifice. To what end, and with what final consequence in mind? In their language: "That out of all the nations of the world they would become the personal possession of God, purchased out of Egypt to be made a kingdom and priests" (Ex 19).

Continue reading "Exposition of Revelation 5:9 - Particular Redemption" »

June 05, 2007  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Engaging Culture - John 17:17-19 by Arturo G. Azurdia III

This last weekend I had the great privelege to attend a men's conference at Estacada Christian Church which was led by Dr. Arturo G. Azurdia III. He delivered three phenomenal sermons, which he and the church have generously given me permission to post at Monergism.com in MP3 format.

All three sermons were an exposition of a section of the High Priestly Prayer in John 17:17-19. He pointed out many things in the Text I had not previously considered, especially with regard to our Lord's prayer to sanctify us that we might engage the culture. I especially want to recommend the third sermon which is one of the best expositions of particular atonement I have ever heard. I highly recommend all three sermons and hope you benefit as much as I did.

May the Lord richly bless you by opening your heart and ears to His word preached through a gifted servant.
Click here to go to the conference page on Monergism.com

April 26, 2007  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Predestination for God's Glory: A Study of Ephesians 1:3-14

charles-biggs-small-file.jpg

Today's study focuses on the sovereignty of God revealed in the salvation of His people.

Question: Why are we ultimately saved?

To escape the torments of hell?

To be like Christ?

To be with God eternally and to be His people!

All of these are correct answers! However, Ephesians 1:1-14 sets the focus of our salvation ultimately on the God who saves us!

The ultimate reason for our salvation is God's Glory!

In our study of Ephesians 1:3-14, and particularly the biblical doctrine of our salvation in Christ, let us always have the correct God-centered perspective as we begin.

If we begin with merely focusing on ourselves, our understanding of our salvation might be blurred and become out of focus for us. In fact, we might completely misunderstand the reason for which we are saved as his people.
We might be tempted to think that the gospel is somehow something we do for God rather than something he graciously does for those who cannot do!

Ephesians 1 teaches the predestination and electing love of Our Sovereign God in our salvation. Our Sovereign God desires to glorify Himself in redeeming a people for himself. God desires to redeem a people who cannot earn, merit, desire or will their salvation, but those who will trust in Christ alone for help (John 1:9-11).

In this study on Ephesians 1:1-14 we will focus on this aspect of God's work in our lives, what it means to us today, and we will glimpse the reality of our Sovereign and Trinitarian God in the salvation of our souls for His glory!
Ephesians 1:1-14

Continue reading "Predestination for God's Glory: A Study of Ephesians 1:3-14" »

April 13, 2007  |  Comments (12)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 15: Jesus' Resurrection)

I. Introduction

When Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished,” he was making a definite assertion that no price remained to be paid for our redemption; he had suffered God's full wrath against our sins, and he had satisfied the law's fullest demands for justice. However, this did not mean that the story of redemption was complete: for even though Jesus had made satisfaction for sin, the final seal of the efficacy of that satisfaction and of his eternal victory over death and the grave (sin's bitter effects), was yet to come, three days later. The resurrection of Christ is the necessary conclusion to his sacrificial death. If his death really did overcome sin and its results; if it really did deal the death blow to the Serpent who had waged war against mankind by tempting them to sin; then it was impossible that death should hold him (see Acts 2:22-28). Jesus won the victory on the cross; but the victory that he won was displayed three days later in his resurrection from the dead. In his death, he won for all of his children an eternal, resurrection life. To borrow the title of John Owen's outstanding work, we have certainly encountered “the death of death in the death of Christ”.

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April 07, 2007  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 14: Golgotha)

I. The Day of Atonement and the Climax of History

So far, in our journey through the tabernacle, there is only one place we have not been; and that one place is so holy that only the High Priest could enter it, and only once a year, bringing sacrificial blood for his own sins and the sins of the people. This is the Holy of Holies, a room behind the veil which separated it from the Holy Place, in which was the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat, covered with solid gold. This is where God's glory and presence specifically dwelt, in the days before the Temple, and, as the furniture in the room suggests, it was only because of divine mercy that the Holy God could even dwell among his people; and furthermore, it was only because of the divine covenant that he had made with them.

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April 01, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Passion Week Meditations: "Hosannas and High Expectations"- John 12

WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT
"Hosannas and High Expectations"- Rev. Charles R. Biggs

This Palm Sunday, let your cry of "Hosanna!" become your joyful shout of "Maranatha!"

Introduction

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.

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March 28, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 13: Jesus' High-Priestly Prayer)

I. The Altar of Incense

During the course of our journey through the gospel of John, we have also taken a journey through the tabernacle, and we have seen how all of its imagery is fulfilled in Jesus. He is the Lamb of God, offered upon the brazen altar at the entrance to the courtyard. He is the laver by which the priests were cleansed, and in him is the water of everlasting life. He is the table of the bread of the presence, nourishing those who eat of him with the true life of fellowship with God. He is the candlestick, the tabernacle's only source of light. And now, just before he offers himself up for our sins, we see that he is likewise the fulfillment of the symbolism in the altar of incense.

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March 23, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

"Worship in Spirit and Truth"

WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT
________________________________________
"WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH"-
REFORMED AND ALWAYS REFORMING
JOHN 4:20-24
REV. CHARLES R. BIGGS

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Are you Reformed in your worship? Are you Reformed and always reforming in your worship? Do you truly know what it means to worship Jesus in spirit and in truth?

In the Reformation, the people of God learned that it was not enough to merely be "Reformed" in name, but that the Church must also be "Reformed" in theology and in principle. That meant that for a congregation to call itself "Reformed" required the constant need to be consistently, ceaselessly, constantly, and carefully "REFORMING" as the people of God and returning to Scripture for answers to every question and to fully know how to be the Church of the living God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Since we are approaching the Lord’s Days when we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) as well as Christ’s glorious resurrection from the dead (Easter), it is worthwhile to remind ourselves as Christians to practice this continuous reforming, by looking once again at what the Scriptures teach us about true worship.

I realize that this can be such a controversial topic, but it must and should be continually be addressed. Just because it can be controversial and even a divisive, we still should seek by God's grace to understand what true worship is according to the Scriptures. (And if you are interested in an article that discusses traditional and contemporary worship, this is not the one! You may find insight into which worship “style” is best, but this is not a study on styles necessarily!).

There is no better place to begin to consider Jesus’ heart and mind on true worship than in John 4:20-24 in his dialogue with the sinful, Samaritan woman. There are a few points I would like to make from observing this text and these are by no means the last words on the subject, just a small attempt at understanding what this means for us as the people of God who call ourselves "Reformed".

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March 21, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 12: The Farewell Discourse)

I. Introduction

In the previous chapter (thirteen), John related the last major event that took place between Jesus and his disciples before he went to the cross. In the following three chapters, John will relate the last major discourse that Jesus gave to his disciples before he went to the cross. These three chapters are probably the clearest and fullest record of Jesus' own teaching about his death and the things which should follow that we have anywhere in the scriptures – although, we should probably include chapter thirteen, verses thirty-one through thirty-eight, as part of the same discourse. There, as we observed last week, Jesus began to instruct his disciples by telling them that his impending death would ultimately be for his glory, and the glory of the Father; and furthermore, that the one great application of this work, in the life of his followers, would be a self-sacrificing love which imitated Jesus' own love. At that point, it is becoming clear that he is speaking as one who is about to leave – and so Peter interrupts to ask him where he is going. Of course, in the discussion which ensues, Jesus predicts Peter's imminent denial. Now, Jesus has told his disciples that he is going where they cannot follow, and he has told Peter that he would deny him; these are such heavy and sorrowful truths, that he breaks off, and begins to give them words of comfort, words which explain the purpose of these difficult tidings. Eventually, he will pick up again with his themes of true discipleship, and so on; but for now, at the beginning of chapter fourteen, his message is one of explanation and comfort.

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March 16, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 11: The Last Supper)

I. Introduction

Throughout the first twelve chapters of John, we have noticed a definite pattern: Jesus performs a miracle, and then gives a discourse that brings out the spiritual significance of that miracle. In the second portion of John's gospel (chapters thirteen through twenty-one), the same basic pattern occurs, but in reverse, and on a larger scale. Here, the first segment (chapters thirteen through seventeen) brings out the significance of the greatest act of all that Jesus performed – his substitutionary death on the cross, together with the corresponding resurrection and giving of the Holy Spirit. And the following chapters (eighteen through twenty-one) relate those events in detail. And so, as we look more closely at the text for this week and the next week, we must keep in mind exactly what they are teaching us about the events which would follow, Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection, and final acts before his ascension.

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March 11, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 10: The Triumphal Entry)

I. Introduction

As we mentioned in the first lesson, the gospel of John may be divided into two major sections, the first of which emphasizes Jesus' sign-miracles and connected discourses; and the second of which emphasizes the true meaning and manifold effects of Jesus' death and resurrection. In this lesson, we will look at chapter twelve, which is the final chapter in the first major section. It makes sense, then, that in this chapter many loose ends are tied up (in a manner of speaking), and many themes that we have noticed time and again, in the previous twelve chapters, are brought up once more, and developed as fully as they ever will be. In a way, this is both a summary and climax of the great theological truths which John has been intent on teaching throughout the first half of his gospel.

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March 04, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 9: The Resurrection of Lazarus)

I.Lazarus Dies (John 11:1-16)

Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus' sign-miracles have been growing ever more extraordinary, and his related teachings have become ever more explicit. Finally, in this last sign, we see the climax of Jesus' sign-revelation, and the last miracle that John would record before Christ's own death on the cross. Previously, we have seen everything necessary for life – eternal life – and we have seen it in Christ alone. He alone can give the water which springs up into everlasting life. He alone can give the true bread – his own body – which sustains eternal life. He alone can give the light which is the life of men – that is, he alone can produce the faith which leads to forgiveness and life in fellowship with the Father. And now, finally and climactically, we see him giving life itself; and so teaching that he alone is “the resurrection and the life” (vs. 25). But just as Jesus' signs and teachings increase, so does the opposition of the Pharisees. And so we find that, at the end of the chapter, they are earnestly seeking to find where he is living, so that they can arrest him and put him to death.

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February 26, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 8: The Healing of the Man Born Blind)

I.The Golden Lampstand

We have already noted that, when one entered the tabernacle, he would immediately see the table of the bread of the presence on his right. If he turned and looked to his left, he would see the golden candlestick, which would have been the only source of light in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-37). This imagery, as well as that of the table, is perfectly fulfilled in Christ. In our last lesson, as he was teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles, he made the monumental claim, “I am the light of the world”; and in this lesson, he will illustrate that claim in the next of his sign-miracles – the healing of the man born blind. But before we look at this miracle, let's think about the significance of the golden candlestick, particularly the way in which John applies it to Jesus.

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February 20, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 7: The Feast of Tabernacles)

I. The Feast of Tabernacles

It is by no means a mere coincidence that the events of this week’s lesson, and Christ’s subsequent teachings, took place during the Feast of Tabernacles. For, as we have already noted with respect to the tabernacle furniture, so we will find that Christ likewise fulfilled all the symbolism of the great religious feasts of the Jews. But before we can understand how Jesus was the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles, we need to go back and read about why and how it began.

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February 12, 2007  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

THE CHRIST OF ROMANS: A Devotional Overview of Paul's Letter to the Romans- Rev. Charles R. Biggs

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Have you ever read a story with your family or with others and you begin to think and act within the story as one of the characters? You have this place in the story where you find your identity and understand yourself better as part of the story.

You should remind yourself that you are part of a real story of grace and redemption. Your relationship with Jesus Christ by faith is part of a grand story and narrative that God has been telling to the whole world since the foundation of the earth.

This amazing story of God’s redemption in Christ is exactly where the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Christians at Rome. Paul understands himself and wants all Christians to understand themselves in the grand story of redemption. So Paul begins with the gospel of God that was told all through the Old Covenant and has now climaxed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ!

“Paul…called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ…”

Paul writes the Book of Romans to explain this story better and to teach how both Jews and Gentiles (all the nations) are part of this grand and amazing story by faith of God’s salvation in Christ!

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February 02, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 7: The Feast of Tabernacles)

I. The Feast of Tabernacles

It is by no means a mere coincidence that the events of this week’s lesson, and Christ’s subsequent teachings, took place during the Feast of Tabernacles. For, as we have already noted with respect to the tabernacle furniture, so we will find that Christ likewise fulfilled all the symbolism of the great religious feasts of the Jews. But before we can understand how Jesus was the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles, we need to go back and read about why and how it began.

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January 24, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

"Does God Love Me?"- A Review of 'Assured by God'

Reviewed by Pastor Charles R. Biggs

The Apostle Peter exhorts all believers in his second letter to be diligent to make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). The Apostle Peter writes with a desire for Christians to have assurance of their right standing before God in union with Jesus Christ, and to experience the joy, comfort, and hope of this special favor of God.

A new book edited by Burk Parsons entitled ‘Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of God’s Grace’ seeks to help Christians in knowing that there truly is no condemnation for those who are united to Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1), and that if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31). Many Christians struggle with their assurance and whether they are loved by God. If you have ever asked (or are asking presently in your life):

“I believe God loves, but does he love me?” then you should read this book prayerfully and carefully.

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January 23, 2007  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 6: The Feeding of the Five Thousand)

I.The Table of the Bread of the Presence

When one first entered the Tabernacle proper, after having passed through the courtyard, he would immediately notice the table of the bread of the presence on his left (Exodus 25:23-30). This table, especially in light of the name that God had given to it, would immediately call to mind the same principle displayed in the observance of Israel's joyful feasts; that, in consequence of the blood sacrifice which God had been pleased with, his people would be invited to enjoy fellowship with God, in the manner of a great and joyous feast. Hence, it was not just bread, for feasting – but the bread of the very presence of God, for feasting in blessed fellowship with him.

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January 16, 2007  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 5: The Nobleman's Son; The Pool of Bethesda)

I. The Nobleman's Son (John 4:43-54)

After Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman, he returned to Galilee, where he had performed his first recorded miracle. In this account, it seems as if John is bringing a unified and tightly inter-woven section to a close; the direct allusion to Cana and the turning of water to wine, in verse forty-six, suggests that the first miracle in Cana, together with this second one, were meant to stand as bookends to a literary unit with a common theme. And, just as John brought out the insufficiency of a faith which looks just to the sign-miracles themselves, without embracing the person of Christ, at the end of the wedding account (John 2:23-25); so here, he is going to make the same point, but even more forcibly. Of course, this is in accordance with John's purpose –– to establish the truth about the person of Jesus, through the miracles that he did, so that people might have faith in him, and so pass into eternal life (John 20:31). But it is vital to note (as John will insist upon over and over again in his gospel) that for one to have eternal life, he must believe, not in the miracles themselves; but because of the miracles, come to believe in Christ, as the Messiah and the true Son of God. But the sad truth is, for the Jewish people at large, faith in signs did not progress to a living faith in the Son of God.

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January 07, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 4: The New Kingdom – Substantial and Universal)

I. The Promised Kingdom

Before we really understand the importance of the Kingdom that Jesus announced to the Jews, we must be aware of some Old Testament prophecies. Although it is common to think of the Bible as a diverse and loosely connected compilation of sacred writings (which does have an element of truth); in reality, the scriptures tell one unified story from Genesis to Revelation – and that story is all about a promised King, and his everlasting Kingdom.

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January 02, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

What does Hebrews 6 actually say?

The Hebrews 6 passage has been addressed on this blog a number of times. Here are some words on this from Vincent Cheung who was responding to someone who said that they still tended to read passages like this as an Arminian:

Question/Comment: "I have been thinking about Hebrews 6:4-6, and I am still struggling to be more impartial with it…. I recall that you have talked about these verses, but I am still struggling…

Response: Besides my own remarks, there are a number of commentaries that adequately address Hebrews 6. It is good to read and review them. After that, the struggle is not in attaining exegetical precision with the passage, but it is in the part of you that still tends to read it as an Arminian — as a self-centered rebel — when there is no warrant for it.

Consider the example of John 3:16. It says that whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life, which both Calvinism and Arminianism affirm, but it does not say who will believe or why they will believe. Thus the verse affirms only salvation by faith, and has no relevance to the disagreement between Calvinism and Arminianism until you bring other biblical passages into the discussion. However, many people want to read it as Arminians, and so they think that Arminianism is what it proves. They take the words "whoever believes" to mean something so different as, "Every man has free will, and anyone can by his free will believe in Christ apart from God's foreordination and direct control." I might as well deduce the entire Alice in Wonderland when someone says "Good morning" or "Have a nice day."

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December 20, 2006  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 3: The In-Breaking of the Kingdom)

I. The Laver

After the children of Israel celebrated the first Passover, in which they applied the blood of the innocent sacrificial lamb to their homes so that the angel of death, having seen that substitutionary blood, passed over them without exacting the required death; they then went immediately out to the Red Sea, and, having passed through its waters, they were separated from all their enemies. Paul later tells us that, in this event, they were “baptized unto Moses” (I Corinthians 10:1-4). And it was only after this application of the blood and passing through the water that they were able to eat the manna which continually sustained them in the wilderness.

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December 18, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 2: Behold the Lamb of God!)

I. The Brazen Altar

When God called out Abraham from his native land, it was to give him a special, covenantal relationship with himself, which he summed up like this: “I [Yahweh] will...be a God to you, and to your seed after you” (Genesis 17:7). Four hundred and thirty years later, when God brought up Israel from the Land of Egypt, it was to fulfill that covenant promise he made to Abraham – and, to signify the nature of his relationship to his people, he gave detailed instructions to build a tabernacle (later replaced by the temple), which would symbolize the very presence of God among Israel (Exodus 25-31; 35-40). This tabernacle signified in many beautiful ways how a sinner might have fellowship with a holy God; but it was never actually sufficient to bring men to God. Something as amazing as that demanded the actual accomplishment of what the tabernacle and its furniture and rituals only symbolized. As we looked at John 1:14 last week, we recognized that Jesus came “to tabernacle” among us. He was the one who took all of the rich, tabernacle symbolism, and made it a reality (see Hebrews chapters six through ten for an extended treatment of this concept).

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December 11, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Studies in John (Lesson 1: Introduction and Prologue)

I. The Purpose of John’s Gospel

When one begins to read the gospel of John, after he has read Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he quickly realizes that this gospel is, in several ways, different from the other three. The first three are called the “synoptic” gospels (from a Greek term which indicates a “looking together”), because they have basically the same point of view. They all talk about many of the same events and time periods in Jesus’ life. But most of the miracles and discourses that John includes are not found in the other three. The synoptics emphasize Christ’s Galileean ministry, but John talks mostly of his time in Jerusalem. The synoptics emphasize Christ’s parables, his teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven, and his eschatological (end-times) discourses. John emphasizes his teaching on who he is, and the related sign-gifts which demonstrate his claims about his own person. So the question must arise, “Why is John so different from the other three gospels?”. “What specific purpose did he have in mind that the first three had not already accomplished?”

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December 04, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink